Archive for January, 2008

I know, I know, I kind of tore into Padma and her new cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet, but some of the recipes looked good. We tried to Tamarind-Glazed Cod the other day, and unfortunately, were again, disappointed. Not sure if it was the cod, or maybe the tamarind, but the result was bland.

So, I ask all of you out there, was it the Tamarind? I bought this little jar of Tamarind at an Indian grocery in Boulder, Colorado. The recipe called for a golf-ball sized ball of the Tamarind Paste. When I opened my cute little jar, I realized mine is in the liquid form. Given its a thick liquid, but there was no way I would be making ball out of it unless it was frozen.

Here are a couple links to more information on Tamarind; on wikipedia and gourmetsleuth.com.

So could that have been the problem? The flavor was there, it was just weak. The recipe comments say that you’ll be liking the thick, sticky sauce from the plate. I didn’t see much of a sauce, and it certainly wasn’t thick.

The good news were the green beans. It’s one of the decent looking vegetables I can find in the depths of winter. I’ve been sauteing them with just a touch of olive oil and a drop of sesame oil. When they get charred and tender they’re ready to go. Toasted pine nuts add a final, special touch.

Give it a shot, let me know what you think:

Tamarind, ginger and honey-glazed cod

1 oz (golf-ball size) knob of tamarind pulp

4 6-oz code fillets, skin on

2 T toasted sesame oil

Black pepper and sea salt

1/2 cup diced onions

2 T minced ginger

1 1/2 t honey

1. cover the pulp with 1 1/2 cups boiling water, breaking up the mass with a form to make a gravy

2. preheat the broiler

3. place the cod fillets , skin sides down, in a broiling pan. Brush the fillets with 1 T of sesame oil to coat well. Season with pepper and salt to taste and aside.

4. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of toasted sesame pil. Add the diced onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes, and then stir in the ginger. When the onions begin to soften, through a fine-mesh strainer, pourin the tamarind gravy. Reduce the sauce by half to about 3/4 cup, and add the honey after 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

5. Place the cod in the upper rack to broil for 2 minutes until the fillets just start to color. Remove the cod and turn the oven to 425°F.

6. Pour the tamarind glaze over the fish fillets, grind some black pepper over them, and return them to the oven, on a high rack. Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Serve immediately with noodles, rice, or sautéed vegetables. Serves 4.

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Girls Weekend Salad Recipe

Finally, Lori sent the recipe for the amazing salad she made Up North. I’ve been trying to mimic it this last week and now I know the missing ingredient… brown sugar. Huh.

For those who inquired, here is the recipe for the SKANK spinach salad:


2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar

colovita oil (blended olive and vegetabe oil)

balsamic vinegar

chopped garlic

brown sugar

(all to taste)


quartered Roma tomatoes
slivered red onions

(heat up with dressing)

all over a bed of fresh spinach

add goat cheese

and candied walnuts

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Lunch and Art

I met a couple friends for lunch the other day and I enjoyed a very lovely little plate of sushi. There was tuna, hamachi, salmon, white tuna and shrimp sashimi, as well as a california roll. It was good, not the best I’ve ever had, but a pleasant break in an otherwise busy (and cold) day.

We then walked over to the Minneapolis Library and checked out the current exhibit in the gallery. For those of you from out of town, the downtown library was recently rebuilt, from a pathetic 1960’s building that Mike Brady might have designed, to a beautiful, building full of windows and unexpected architecture. If you haven’t been there, its really amazing. Regardless, there’s a gallery on the second floor and the current show is of Altered Books. I’ve played around with handmade books in the past and love the idea of book as Art.

Then, the next day, Jen sent me a link to a story about high levels of mercury found in tuna. I hope that a little sushi restaurant in the warehouse district of Minneapolis doesn’t purchase the same tuna that the high-end restaurants in New York do. But I might keep an eye on it… mercury bad, tuna good.

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The Paper Has Never Made Me So Hungry!!

Yesterday, in the Taste section of the Star Tribune,
Rick Nelson reviewed three new Asian restaurants in SE Minneapolis. And if you saw it, you’ll understand how my paper got all wet and gooey. I was drooling, really, seriously, dangerously drooling. And almost ran out the door to go try them, but it was after 9pm, I was wearing flannel pants, had just eaten dinner and it was a balmy 2 degrees outside. So, I stayed put. But in the next month, I hope to hit the three places for lunch, as they’re all within an easy drive of my office, and coincidently, on the same black as my Chinese Doctor.

The most appealing of the three was the adorably-named Obento-Ya Japanese Bistro. They have bento boxes (fun), sushi (yum) and something I’d never heard of, called Robata.

The second is called Pagoda, and the review says there are 249 items on the menu. It will take more than a few lunches to work my way through that.

The third restaurant, the ChinDian Cafe, is a unique mix of Asian heritage; Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysan and Indian. Could it really get any better than that?

Not that I really have to ask, but who’s up for lunch?

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Writing About Food.

Almost as much fun as cooking and eating, but with a fraction of the calories.

There’s an article on Chow.com today food and literature. Or more about literature that talks about food. Some of the books I’ve read, some I’ve only heard of, some are new to me. I’d love to know if you’ve read them, or if you thought they had some foodie aspect to them.

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More Food at Girls Weekend, Part 2

And then there was more….
After dancing and wine until 2 in the morning, we woke and started eating again. I learned that a Bloody Mary and super huge apple fritter do not make for a healthy breakfast. But after an hour of snowshoeing in the -25 windchill and a few trips down the big slide at the INDOOR pool, I felt much better. Even good enough to eat cheese.

Our lovely ornamental (long story, it’s funny) brought some lovely cheese, including the biggest hunk of Saint Andre I’d ever seen, a beautiful baked brie loaded with fruit and we think nuts, and then this grainy gouda that was a nice complement to the sweet soft cheeses. (Anyone remember the name of the gouda)?

We properly stuffed ourselves and then moved onto dinner. T had a brainstorm in the middle of the afternoon and roasted some sweet potatoes with blue cheese and pecans. Now that was a good idea. the sweetness of the potatoes was offset with the tart saltiness of the cheese, and nuts make everything better, as well as provide texture.

The super yummy entree was made my Jen, and is called Lake Cuomo Pasta. A blend of twisty pasta, vegetables and cheese. What could go wrong? The recipe is at the bottom of this post, and I believe she found it in Vegetarian Times.

And then Berg put together this lovely salad. (I’m still waiting to get the recipe from her, but stayed tuned.) Essentially, she took a whole lot of sliced red onions and mixed them with a whole lot of fresh tomatoes and then mixed that with a whole lot of balsamic goodness and threw it all in the microwave. She served it on top of a bed of fresh spinach and made all of us drool. The warm vegetable wilted the spinach just a tiny, tiny bit and everything melted together. I’ll bug her for the recipe, I promise!!

So until next year, it will just be memories, and hopefully more cheese!!

Vegetarian Times, recipe developed by Elizabeth Yarnell

3 cups (8 oz) radiatore pasta (rotini or fusilli are fine as well)
3 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs basil, chopped
6 small zucchini, sliced in rounds
3 cups low-fat ricotta cheese (I use 2 cups, then add 1 cup cottage cheese)
9 cloves (3 Tbs) garlic, minced
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups porcini or shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Generously spray inside of 5-1/2 or 6 quart Dutch
oven with cooking spray.

2. Spread pasta in even layer in bottom of pot. Add enough water to tomato
liquid to make 1 cup. Stir liquid into pasta with olive oil. Toss tomatoes
with basil in separate bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spread over pasta.
Top with half of zucchini rounds.

3. Combine ricotta, garlic, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and salt in small
bowl. Spread over zucchini. Layer mushrooms and remaining zucchini over
ricotta mixture. Cover pot, and bake 53 minutes, or about 3 minutes after
aroma wafts from oven.

Note: I added grated parmesan when it was done, and stuck it back into the
oven for about 2 more minutes.

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(meet Tom, he spent the weekend on the refrigerator)

Girls Weekend Means Lots of Cheese and other Goodies, Day 1

The annual girls weekend was this past weekend, and among other things we tend to eat a lot. In fact, from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, there’s always some snacking going on. Everyone brings some snacks and cheese and wine and other munchies (M&Ms, Hot Tamales, and Cheetos made the list this year), but the highlights are the dinners. There are usually eight of us, so we divide into two teams and create a meal for eight thats vegetarian friendly and can be made without garlic.

My team, The Hot Tamales, made dinner Friday night. We started with a bowl of guacamole, which is also good, no matter where we are. I started with four avocados (which I was nervous about, because they sat in my car for four hours in -5 degree weather), but they were fine. I added some chopped red onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice and about half of a jalapeno. With a touch of salt and pepper, we were good to go.

For dinner, my lovely teammates put together amazing enchiladas without a recipe. Guess we all figured we’d bring a copy, nope, but they figured it out anyway. We had roasted vegetables and chicken. Our team also put together a lovely salad with radishes (Yummo) and a lemon dressing.

Somehow, we found room for dessert and celebrated a birthday.

Jen’s sister bakes cakes. And she bakes really good, really pretty cakes (see above). We celebrated T’s birthday, and instead of struggling over a cake for two days, I asked Jen’s little sister to help me out. We requested Chocolate Raspberry, and this is the part I love. The Raspberry is invisible. Its just the essence of the fruit, embedded in the most amazing chocolate glaze.

Can you see the four layers? And the adorable little white dots on the top? So cute. And so good. I’m trying to stay away from the leftovers….

As you can see, there were no recipes. Well, just the recipe for the enchilada sauce. The rest was an impromptu meal. And the cake, well the cake is a secret. Don’t think our favorite baker will share her secrets. Then, well, they wouldn’t be secrets!

More about the next day tomorrow, with recipes!

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Mashed Potatoes vs. Smashed Potatoes

I grew up eating potato buds. Yep, the flakes out of a box. I think this was due to the fact that my mother is just not fond of potatoes. She and my father are also not fans of peas or asparagus, both of which I eat regularly. Okay, I can understand avoiding a vegetable, especially a green one, but a potato? Anyway – I have grown to love potatoes, in any format. When I was cooking and waiting tables at the short order establishment, I fell for their mashed skin-on-baby-reds. They were loaded with butter and sour cream and some spices, and I could never really get enough of them. I would often just order a side. Forget the meat, or the soggy green vegetable, I needed those chunky potatoes.

That is until Husband started mashing. Not sure when it started, but there was probably an occasion where I was trying to finish up 3 or 4 dishes and the potatoes needed to be mashed. I probably asked him, and after grumbling, he probably took the masher (which belonged to my grandmother, by the way) and proceeded to mash the little dickens into smooth bowl of heaven. We add whatever is in the refrigerator, sour cream, butter, heavy cream, and always some wasabi paste.

And they’re like heaven. They’re so easy, and so quick. And really not that all bad for you, right?

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Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet and Full of Ego.

I’ve heard a lot about the new cookbook by Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef fame. I even heard her interviewed on two of my favorite radio programs, Satellite Sisters and The Splendid Table. She sounded warm and humble, and truly interested in food. Even so, I couldn’t part with the 30 bucks to own a copy. Instead I went the old fashioned route and checked it out of the library, and I’m glad I did.

Padma is beautiful. We know it, the Top Chefs know it, the radio hosts now it, and apparently Padma knows it as well. Throughout the book, which did have some interesting and tasty recipes, there are photos of lovely Padma. There’s a photo of her biting into fried chicken, and the one above of her thinking really deep thoughts while eating a salad. Yes, there are photos of the food, but only every few pages, and not necessarily of the recipe on the adjacent page.

Don’t get me wrong, I did copy a few recipes out of the book, including one for roasted peas and one for smashed potatoes, but I also found it hard to read. I have pretty young eyes, but I’m also a graphic designer, and I would really like to know what the designer was thinking when he/she chose the font. It’s a serif, which is a good choice, but their is too much contrast between the horizontal and vertical strokes and the serifs are rather bulky. (For you designers, imagine a paragraph written in Bodoni Bold). After a while, the letters blur together and are truly hard to read. Maybe that’s another reason for all the photos of our beautiful Padma.

Anyway, I was disappointed. Next time your in a book store check it out, look at the photos of the food and the rare ingredients and of course, the author, but don’t try to read too much.

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I Love Tivo (and Jamie at Home!)

Obviously, I watch a lot of the Food Network. And lately, they’ve been hyping their new shows. (On a side note, there’s been some upheaval there, and that’s lead to some interesting reads). But anywho, there’s this one show that caught my eye. Not because of the chef,whose been around for awhile, but because of the name and that fact that the chef is cooking out of “his garden” and in “his home.” And it actually looks like he’s having fun (and getting dirty) while doing it.

The show premiered at an inconvenient time, so we set the Tivo and finally watched it the other night. Husband was with me, and since there is so little on TV right now, sat and watched it. Let’s just say that I’m becoming a fan of Jamie Oliver. I’ve always thought he looked like a sloppy version of Ewan McGregor, yum, but now he’s got appeal of his own. Maybe it’s because he’s older, or more confident, or just really knows how to cook. Something changed in my head and I know have a season pass on Tivo for his show.

So, this first episode was all about peppers and chilies, both of which I adore. And he did make some tasty dishes. I took some photos of the TV and the one above is the only one that really turned out. Unfortunately, the recipe for these stuffed peppers is not on his site. Sure would love it though. The other recipes, the Pepper and Pork Goulash and the Smoked Salmon with Salsa, both looked amazing. I hope to try one or both of them, and soon.

I’ll keep you posted on his other episodes, because until this writers strike is over, there will be little else to watch.

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