Recipes

The art of the quick pickle

quick pickle

Whenever I make up a batch of quick pickles, I think about my grandmother, who had such a lush, amazing garden, and the food preservation skills to match. She had little in the way of finances, so she was always very frugal about using whatever was on hand so we could enjoy the tastes of her garden throughout the long, cold Minnesota winter months. I remember zucchini, squash, tomato salsas, even fruit pickling. If she grew it, she canned it.

 

When I grew up and became a chef, I never forgot the way my grandmother would make sure to use produce wisely so that there wasn't any waste, and of course, I never forgot her quick pickles. 

 

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Don't fear the kohlrabi — it comes in peace

kohlrabi

Kohlrabi. That often-massive light green orb with tentacles, excavated from under your piles of chard and kale at the bottom of the CSA box. “Weird,” “alien,” and “compost pile-bound” can be heard when describing it. But beneath its rough exterior lies a tasty ingredient for your stir frys and slaws that will leave you wishing for more.

 

A member of the same family of vegetables as cabbage and kale, kohlrabi is high in both vitamins C and B6, as well as many other vitamins and minerals. It’s readily available during Minnesota summers at farmer’s markets, co-ops, and occasionally more traditional markets, and it’s usually inexpensive.

 

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Make This Now: Red raspberry sorbet

raspberry sorbet

In honor of an upcoming visit from Jeni Britton Bauer (frozen dessert genius), we provide this snippet from her new book. Hello, summer desserts...we sure do love you. 

 

Raspberry sorbet is easy to find, and many cookbooks have recipes for it. I include it in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts for two reasons. First, raspberries are an example of a perfect fruit, like really great peaches (harder to find than raspberries), black currents, and ripe apricots. Sometimes you just want to respect that and leave well enough alone. Will tarragon or spices or mix-ins make the sorbet better? No. They may make it interesting, but nothing can make fresh raspberries more delightful.

 

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A trio of grill-worthy veggie burgers

veggie burger

Let's face it: soy burgers and tofu hot dogs might be tasty if prepared just right, but they're not exactly perfect for grilling. Unlike their meaty counterparts, the vegetarian options don't boast that juicy-inside-grilled-exterior combination that makes everyone swoon. Plus, the aroma? Meh. 

 

During my long stretch of vegetarian living, I often forgot this, and thought that maybe this time the Boca burger would magically transform into a succulent dinner worth all the charcoal-heat-up time. Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. He was also a vegetarian for a time, so maybe that insight stemmed from his own grilling experiences.

 

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Sage fritters

sage fritters

Several years ago, my mom loaned me her little cookbook called The Herb Cookery for ideas on different ways to use fresh herbs. Needless to say, that cookbook is still on loan, and as my herb garden grows bigger every year, I need more ideas than ever.

 

When my sage was growing like crazy and threatening to take over the neighboring herbs, I sought some advice from the cookbook and this recipe for sage fritters caught my eye. While I was leery of eating sage leaves pretty much on their own, I was amazed at how the cooking process really neutralized the otherwise overpowering flavor of the leaves.

 

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Seasonal Pick: Garlic scape chimichurri

garlic scape chimichurrie

Ah, summer. Farmers markets are hopping, CSAs start up again, and access to über fresh and local produce is finally easy once more. Except that in the first days of summer, the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash we love to gobble up aren’t ready yet. Instead, vegetables and herbs that may be less familiar — pak choi, fiddleheads, ramps, and garlic scapes — still grace the stands. 

 

I’ve learned two tricks over the years when it comes to approaching cooking with new foods and both have served me well. First, ask the vendor. What is this? To what is it similar? How do you like to cook with it? They almost always steer you in the right direction.

 

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Kitchen DIY: Pickled eggs

pickled eggs

A few years ago, I made the long drive across the entire state of North Dakota to my hometown with my four-year-old and my two-year-old. Two small kids, in a car, for over 8 hours. I was so proud of myself for having arrived with my little kids and sanity intact that you’d have thought I split the atom. 

 

While heading back to my roots, I had plenty of time to think about the treasured moments from my own childhood, and one memory that kept coming up was pickled eggs. I grew up with jars of these treats sitting on our counter. While pouring over childhood pictures recently, I noticed that there was an egg jar in the background in so many photos, and that's because my mom made the best pickled eggs — we absolutely loved ‘em.

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Hunting for Dinner: Netting the elusive smelt, with beer batter as a reward

smelt

As a hunter and fisherman, I understand that not every day is going to be a success in terms of putting meat on the table. I spend way more time in the field pursuing game and fish than I do catching or killing something. That said, I do have successful days and almost always bag my intended quarry, eventually. This is not the case with smelt; nothing has eluded me more than these tiny little fish. On my most successful smelt fishing excursion, I only managed to catch fourteen smelt. Fourteen, which is barely enough for an appetizer, and there were four of us out netting that night. 

 

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Kitchen DIY: Homemade harissa

homemade harissa

If you’ve spent much time reading food blogs or magazines, you probably know what harissa is, but for those of you that don’t (hi Dad!), let me fill you in.  

 

Harissa is a North African condiment made mostly from peppers and spices. And it is amazing. Like, a punch-of-flavor-to-your-tongue amazing. It’s often found on Moroccan tagines, but I’ve found so many more day-to-day uses for it. I love to slather it on sandwiches. Try it on meatloaf with a bit of mayonnaise and some hot peppers. Heavenly. It’s also fantastic on an egg sandwich where the yolk is still a bit oozy. Crunchy salads, or paired with carrots — harissa transforms an ordinary meal into something divine.

 

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Arctic Char Challenge: Being in a landlocked state doesn't mean skipping new seafood choices

arctic char

When it comes to beef, chicken, and pork, it's fairly easy in the Twin Cities to find local vendors. Whether it's buying a quarter of a cow, fresh pork sausage, or a carton of eggs at the farmers market, or even at some local grocery stores, it's within reach with a little bit of effort. It's also pretty simple to decipher the labels and figure out if you're buying quality meat or not. Seafood, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. 

 

Since it's difficult (um, impossible?) to find a local tuna or salmon farmer in Minnesota, instead we have to look at labels and talk directly with the source who buys the fish to ensure we are buying sustainable fish.  

 

Seafood can be considered sustainable if the species is abundant naturally or through responsible practice (farm-raised), and the harvesting methods aren't harming natural habitats with pollutants or destroying the habitats in which the species lives. 

 

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