Archive for October, 2007


I can’t take credit for these beautiful cupcakes, but I still wanted to show how beautiful they are. The artistic director from a non-profit client made them and I snapped a picture when I stopped by their offices today.

Aren’t they fun? There are skulls, and rats and a finger. Even candy pumpkins and a skeleton crawling out of one. Beautiful.

Happy Halloween everyone!!

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A Warm Autumn Soup and a Fun New Toy.

This Carrot-Ginger soup made a great Sunday lunch on a cool day, after raking the leaves. The carrots provide a subtle flavor and the ginger surprises you with its bite. And like most of the recipes I make, it was easy. Some chopped garlic and ginger, sliced carrot and chicken stock, and simmer. Then I got to use the new Cuisinart Cordless Immersion Blender I picked up at the Chef’s Gallery in Stillwater, MN. I had longed for one of these each time I made soup, and now, well, it’s just that much easier. No pouring hot liquid into a blender and no exploding blender when I turn it on.

And it makes wicked quick smoothies too!

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A favorite (spicy) weeknight meal.

I found this recipe a couple of years ago and immediately fell in love with it. It’s called Broiled Tilapia with Thai Coconut-Curry Sauce and I found it in Cooking Light.

And the best part? It’s really easy. Shhhh, don’t tell your guests that.

Start with a dash of sesame oil, garlic and fresh ginger. When it starts smelling really delicious and you can’t pull your nose from the pan, throw in red pepper and green onions (they make it really pretty). A reviewer on the CL site recommended adding shitake mushrooms and unfortunately I forgot them this time, but think they’re a great addition. Their soft texture is a contrast to the crunchy red pepper. Saute the vegetables for a minute then throw in curry powder, red curry paste (yum), and cumin. After a minute add a touch of brown sugar, a can of coconut milk, a bit of salt and soy sauce. Warm it all up and toss in some cilantro. Meanwhile, brush the tilapia with sesame oil and salt and broil it for 7 minutes. Serve over rice with a lime wedge.

The sauce has some spice, but not enough to make you uncomfortable (sister didn’t agree). Tilapia is an eco-friendly fish, see here, which is really important to me. And of course anything curry has got to be good, right?

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Halloween Candy Made Better!!

Who would have thunk, but Chow.com has recipes for our favorite Halloween Candy from childhood. Yes, the Almond Jay (Almond Joy) is/was one of my favorites. They also have my Mother’s favorite, the Snickles (Snickers), my second favorite, the Twixt (Twix) and, of course, PB Cups (Reese’s). Chow has recipes (and directions) for each. And now that I’m not traveling to Mexico City for Halloweed/Day of the Dead, maybe I’ll try to whip something up. Regardless, it’s a great article.


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City Pages’ Iron Fork!

We made it over to the Iron Fork last night. I guess this is the second year of the event, which is a local chef cook-off to benefit Second Harvest Heartland. And it was fun. We got there at 530 when the doors opened to avoid the crowds, and I’m glad we did. The food was really much better, and there was much more, than we expected. Obviously, we headed right towards the wine table.

Yellow Tail was the wine sponsor and was serving pinot grigio, chardonnay and some reds (which we didn’t try). We did try plenty of the white. And then we started eating. We had “Marinated pork wraps served with picled carrots, onions and lettuce” from Ngon Vietnamese Bistro. Then “Fresh vegetarian spring rolls and long-grain Hom-Mali rice braised in coconut milk” from Naviya’s Thai restaurant. Then we really kicked it into gear. Torta’s from Manny’s Torta’s (Husband’s new favorite sandwich shop), Balina smoked salmon served with creamy dill cucumber sauce from O’Donovans, an amazing Grilled miniature lamb chop (I don’t eat lamb) marinated in a balsamic vinagrette from Jake O’Connor’s Public House, Chicken Chimilttrufias from Salsa A La Salsa, BBQ Fischer Farms pork and wild mushroom pasty from Jay’s Cafe and Fresh, live schucked oysters from our favorite restaurant, Sea Salt.

From Jakeeno’s we had a beautiful garlicky tomato pesto bruschetta, asparagus wrapped in proscuitto and olives (eaten).
Then we found some more wine and dessert. The View Restaurant and Bar was offering “Chocolate Dreams: Bread pudding with chocolate flavoring and an ice cream center.” The Chocolate part was great, but where was the ice cream? And then, the Afton House Inn offered “Mini pumpkins with pumpkin custard (creme brulee), pumpkin seed and spiced anglaise.

And then they started cooking. Five chefs took to the floor and had to create one dish, two plates with the secret ingedient from Pepin Heights orchard. Can you guess what it might be?

There were chefs from Restaurant Alma (not our favorite, its a long story), The Art Institutes Culinary Program, Barbette, Harry’s Food and Cocktails, and one other place I had never heard of. They chefs were given an hour to prepare two servings of one dish. So, after about twenty minutes it got boring. But the smells were worth it. There were fresh herbs, and halibut, something being smoked and lots and lots of local, juicy apples. I couldn’t see what the chefs across the way were working on, but it was still pretty cool.

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I finally made it to Common Roots Cafe

I made it there early this morning and brought a dozen beautiful bagels and some scrumptious cream cheese to the Office. First impressions are important, and the interior of Common Roots is all I could have expected. The atmosphere is clean, and airy and very inviting. The baked goods and pasta salads all looked divine, as did the vegan chili and the cherry tart. It was all I could do to not still the whole thing in my purse. Made with Door County cherries, it was the size of a medium pizza and could have fed me for the day. But, no tart for me today, just the bagels.

There has been a lot of hype around this cafe and these bagels, and I have to say they were good. Now, I’ve never had an authentic New York bagel, so I have nothing to compare it to, but these were good. They (yes, I had two) are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. I smothered mine in Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese (which I could have eaten with a spoon, but my coworkers would have been skinned me for taking it all). Reviews were good. One person said they needed to be microwaved, but others appreciated the tough exterior. I didn’t try the toaster, but that may have made them even tougher. Despite the picky people, most people really enjoyed them, or maybe they were just happy with free food.

I’ll be going back, next time to for lunch. And a bite of that tart.

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Again, Cafe Maude

Again, Cafe Maude

We went out for girls night the other day, and again tried the lovely neighborhood hotspot, Cafe Maude. I went there for my birthday a few months ago and was very impressed. And this time, although service was spotty and slow, the food was well worth the wait. There were seven of us, and K started the evening by sharing a great bottle of champagne. Just celebrating our friendship.

And then we started with cheese plate. The cheese plate was my favorite dish last time I was there and I was glad to see they hadn’t changed it. It included a grilled haloumi, Saint Pete’s blue with honey and pine nuts, Saint Andre with mushrooms and Bucheron; it was soft and slightly stinky, but just warmed up my insides. Served with a warm baguette, its a fabulous start to a meal.

After the cheese plate, and a glass of chardonnay, the plates started hitting the table furiously. T&K ordered the crab cakes and the ahi tuna brushetta. M ordered the Greek salad with zucchini and goat cheese fritters (that she was gracious enough to share).

L on my right ordered the tomato bisque, which she said was good, but it was the goat-cheese-grilled-cheese that she said sent her to her happy place. Just looking at it made me drool, and at some point, I’ll be making that combination at home.

When the main dishes arrived, I knew I had made the right decision. I was torn about what to order; stuck between a burger with avocado, or one of the flatbreads. And then our server told us about the specials. There were a few of them, but it was the grilled prawns with lobster and saffron risotto that stopped my heart. The plate was beautiful when it arrived, and the taste was even better. My only complaint, that the shrimp were served full, with their heads on. Sorry, I know that’s the fancy way, but it kinda creeps me out. T gave me dissection instructions and I found the whole meal very delicious and like L’s goat-cheese-grilled-cheese, it sent me to a very rich happy place.

Everyone else’s food look great.

L across from me had the burger, which looked perfectly done. G had a chicken flatbread and M continued with the hangar steak. And finally, the fries showed up. These are real fries, made with real potatoes, and they’ve never seen the inside of a freezer. And, to make them even better, they’re served with a cheese fondue, which I could swear had a hint of truffle in it. It’s impossible to just eat one. And even more impossible to believe that when our server offered us a (free) second order, we said no. NO! Wow. We were either drunk, or were truly, truly full.

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St. Paul Farmer’s Market

I know I’ve written about the market before, but this time I’m dedicating an entire post to my favorite farmers market. Located in the lowertown part of downtown St. Paul, I find the market much more manageable, with much better products, than the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. The unique thing about the SPFM, is that anything sold there, must be grown or made within 50 miles (I can’t find anywhere that states this, but it’s well known. If you can prove it, please leave a comment). That means in May, the produce selection is slim, but in October the tables are loaded with everthing from second round lettuce, to canning tomatoes, to brightly colored squash.

I met J there yesterday, as she was on a quest to find a Jarrahdale pumpkin. We found them at one of the stands, and learned (to our relief) that the flesh is bright yellow, and not the gray-green on the outside. We didn’t want to image a gray-green pumpkin soup. But I did pick up a couple of baking pumpkins for pumpkin soup.

I also picked up a huge head of cauliflower, for only $2. I could have gone larger, but where would I store it? Still no basil, or I should say, no basil again, for the season. I’ll have to depend on the weak plants in my garden for the winter supply of pesto. But I did pick up a bunch of cilantro to try out a cilantro pesto. I’m not sure how the flavor will differ, but I’m sure it won’t be bad.

I’m looking forward to the witner market, that’s starting on November 3. Produce will obviously be limited, but there will still be meat, cheese and eggs available. My weekly trips will probably turn into biweekly trips. I’m just glad they’re open year-round.

PS: Check out the size of these cabbages. Now, that’s a lot of cole slaw!!

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Seasonal Ingredient: Figs

(A new thing here at The Write Ingredients; We’re going to try to post on a seasonal ingredient once a week. We’ll provide information you don’t need to know, but will like.)

In New York a week ago, I passed a street vendor who was selling pints of fresh figs for $2. Two dollars I asked him, in a high-pitched, shrieking voice. Just last fall I paid about a dollar a piece at my neighborhood Lund’s. But I couldn’t buy them. Our hotel didnt have a refrigerator, and try to explain a pint of figs to the TSA agents at JFK. Okay, yes, I brought Thai Eggplants to Denver in my carry-on, but that doesn’t seem quite so strange. Eggplants must be harmless. Regardless, I walked about from the vendor without the figs, or the durian fruit, or the fresh basil that was just so beautiful. But since then, I’ve been thinking about those figs, and wondering, really, what is the deal with the little fruit. (Is it even a fruit?)

So I turned to Google.

The first listing brought me to a site listing the health benefits of Figs. They’re full of fiber. Who knew?

And they grow on a Ficus tree. Huh. And, they’re not truly considered a fruit, but instead the flower of the fig (ficus) tree.

So last year when I bought the figs at Lund’s, I only bought half the amount the recipe called for. It was for a salad of baby greens and other good stuff. So instead of cutting them in half, I cut them in quarters, and my dinner guests were none the wiser. What I love about figs is the unexpected taste. The idea of figs reminds me of my grandfather and his obsession with Fig Newtons. I think I ate one once, expecting a sweet cookie, while instead this strange flavor came through. That was a long time ago, and while I still avoid Fig Newtons, I adore fresh figs. The flavor is fresh and fruity, yet earthy at the same time.

I’ve linked here to a couple recipes, that I have yet to try. If you get a chance, let me know what you think:

Crostini with Honey, Gorgonzola, and Figs

prosciutto and brie sandwiches with rosemary fig confit

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So, there’s this new cafe in town with real bagels.

And this morning they were featured on MPR.

It’s the Common Roots Cafe. I’ve been meaning to get there, it’s just that it’s in a crowded part of town that’s not really on my way in (or out of town, for that matter.) In addition to creating real bagels, they offer food from local farmers and space for community groups to meet. I just need a community group now and a few extra minutes in the morning to swing by there.

PS: The photo is from the MPR site.

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