Bon hiver

And it snows.

Huck snow

It might be wet and icy, but it’s snow- something the rest of the world seemed to have until now but us. And Half-moon is asleep on my lap and this morning the new kitten got the closest he has gotten to snuggling with our old guy, Muddy, since he came to us right before Thanksgiving. And there is a chance- a small chance- that I might get to take the skis out tomorrow. So I guess what I am saying is that things seem pretty nice today, except that my sister- the one who ties packages with black and white string and has the best sticker collection and makes the most delicious salads- is headed back to Seattle and I wish she were still here.

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On Christmas Eve we walked with Half-moon to the bar to fill a growler of porter beer before heading to our parents’ house to devour the cheeseball and make a radicchio and belgian endive winter slaw for dinner. I washed the leaves while she pickled the onions in red wine vinegar. We ate the salad along with fish stew and a baguette from Batch Bakehouse (that I had to fight for after our morning yoga class… Next time I’ll be sure to get there earlier!) After dinner and peppermint custard, we sipped hot water and whiskey while my sister read us “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “The Gift of the Magi” by the light of her headlamp. We wrote our letter for Santa and went to bed. I’m nostalgic for it already.

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Radicchio, Belgian Endive and Naval Orange Winter Slaw with Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients

1/2 small radicchio, sliced thinly
3 belgian endive, sliced thinly
2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise (into rounds)
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
small bunch fresh parsley, torn into pieces
red wine vinegar
olive oil
salt

Directions

Slice the red onion and soak in a bowl of cold water for ten minutes. Meanwhile, slice the radicchio, endive and oranges and toss together in a big salad bowl. Drain the onions and cover with red wine vinegar. Add the onions, vinegar, parsley and olive oil and toss again. Season to taste with salt.

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Happy winter.

Lemon essence

Happy citrus season.

When I was a ten or eleven-years-old, I wanted to start a restaurant called Lemon Essence. Everything on the menu would involve lemon. I can still picture the list of food that I would serve that I wrote in my adolescent handwriting on a small Clinique pamphlet. Lemon rice, lemon pasta, lemon chicken, lemon pie, lemon bars, lemonade. Inspired by a recent trip to Hawaii, the restaurant would be a giant screen porch illuminated by tiki torches.

I remember making my signature lemon pasta dish for my friend Meagan. I think we were at our friend Laura’s house. I sauteed garlic in butter and added flour (making a roux) and then added lots of fresh squeezed lemon juice and served the sauce over linguine. I think Meagan’s exact words when she ate it were “it hurts!” Not everyone loved the acidic sourness of the lemons as much as me.

I wonder if my fascination with lemons started when we visited our family friends, Bumps and Frannie, who lived in the hills above Berkeley. We took the train to visit them when I was four and eight-years-old. Bumps and Frannie had a lemon tree growing in their courtyard and the air around their home was citrus-scented.

I now have zero desire to open a restaurant, but I still love lemons. So does my sister who recommends this recipe for lentil soup (she doubled the amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice.) I am including two recipes for lemon-y salads. The first one comes from Bon Appetit and was one was served at a recent gathering of Wisconsin Whisk-ers. I think I ate the entire bowl. With shredded kale and brussel sprouts, it reminds of a really healthly caesar salad.

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The second recipe is for a dressing made with meyer lemon and heavy cream. I’ve written about these two ingredients before. I made this dressing for a salad for Christmas last year and it was so good.

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Kale and Brussel Sprouts Salad

From Bon Appetit

Ingredients

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large bunches of Tuscan kale (about 1 1/2 lb. total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
12 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

Directions

Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld. Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
Measure 1/2 cup oil into a cup. Spoon 1 Tbsp. oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in cup into lemon-juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds.

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Meyer Lemon Cream Salad Dressing

From Sunset Magazine

Ingredients

2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
About 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
About 1/8 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

Put shallot, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in oil, then whisk in 1/2 tsp. more salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, and the cream. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like. Stir before using.
Make ahead: Up to 3 days, chilled.

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Lemons + greens = love.

 

Homemade

Happy Valentine’s Day from very sunny, very cold Wisconsin. This morning I’m eating onion bagels smothered in cream cheese, nursing a lukewarm cup of coffee and re-reading sections of (my newly autographed!A Homemade Life, looking for the pink cookie recipe that broke my hand mixer four years ago. Four years ago. It was just a couple of days before the protests started. And I’m pondering trying that recipe again and if I do, I’ll tell you about it, because I never did. But today I wanted to tell you about homemade hot chocolate.*

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Last weekend Dan and I ventured up to Bayfield in search of snow and to check out the Apostle Island Sled Dog races. We stopped in Chetek on our way where my cousin had arrived earlier that day to start a fire and heat the cabin. The next morning Nancy spoiled us- with a capital s- with a breakfast of coffee, yogurt, just-whipped cream, berries and powdered sugar, fried purple sweet potatoes, eggs, toasty warm french bread and butter from the Hope Creamery in Hope, Minnesota (I mean, geez…)

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Then Nancy upped the ante by making me a mug of homemade hot chocolate for the road, which I sipped on all the way to Ashland. Homemade hot chocolate is such a treat, and one I never think to make for myself (until now.) It reminds me most of all of early mornings in my best friend’s kitchen after she had gotten her driver’s license. Newly liberated, Meagan would wake early on Saturdays to make us a thermos of hot chocolate to throw in her parents’ station wagon next to our neon K2 skis before we would head out Highway 151 to Tyrol Basin for the day. I remember sitting sleepily at her kitchen table, watching her heat the pot of milk on the stove.

If you want to spoil yourself- or someone else you love today- here is the recipe that Nancy shared with me:

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Nancy’s homemade hot chocolate

8-10 oz whole milk, hot (microwave or saucepan)
2 – 3 tsp organic dark brown sugar (recommended brand Wholesome Sweeteners)
1 Tbsp -4 tsps Ghirardelli unsweetened baking cocoa (not their hot chocolate mix)
Heat milk. Add brown sugar and cocoa powder for each cup. Stir well.

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Enjoy!

P.S. I also highly recommend a mug from Toast Ceramics, made here in Madison. Dan got me the one on the right in the top photo for Christmas and then I got the one on the left to send to my sister in Seattle. They are the perfect shape for holding cupped in both hands on cold winter days.

*It turns out I was channeling Molly Wizenberg in more way than one today- she was also writing about hot chocolate on orangette today.

Endless summer salads

I have a new mantra. It’s “THERE CAN BE NO LEFTOVERS!” I declared this loudly to Dan as we served up our late lunch today- bowls full of protein-packed buckwheat noodles in a citrusy sauce with greens that were taking up valuable real estate in our refrigerator.

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I have been making a riff on this salad for some time now- it’s pretty foolproof. My number one suggestion is to cook the soba noodles first thing so that they have time to cool and dry off- I just let them sit in the colander. And don’t skimp on the sauce. The sauce is the boss. I’m sure I’ve also mentioned this before, but I don’t measure anything, so use this recipe more as a guideline and be creative with whatever you might have burning a hole in your fridge.

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Soy-Citrus Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
Sauce:
Garlic clove, make into a paste with a pinch of salt
Soy sauce or tamari
Juice of 1 or 2 limes or lemons (or a combination)
Chili sauce
Fresh ginger, minced
1-2 Tbl. sesame oil
Cilantro and basil, chopped
Green onions, minced
Jalapeno, chopped

Salad:
Soba (buckwheat) noodles (about a handful the size of quarter per person is a good bet)
Greens (any combination of collard greens, kale, beet greens, swiss chard, spinach…)
Cucumbers, sliced thinly
Snow peas, chopped into thirds

Garnish:
Peanuts
Cilantro
Lime wedges

Directions:
Boil water for the soba noodles and cook according to the directions. I like to give the noodles time to cool and dry off so the sauce sticks better to the noodles. Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a large bowl. Start with the garlic paste and stir in the other ingredients. Taste as you go along and adjust as you like (I like A LOT of citrus, fresh herbs and heat.)
Saute the greens for the salad over medium low heat just until they are tender and starting to cook down. I saute them in organic canola oil or coconut oil and a little more chili sauce. Slice the cucumbers and chop the snow peas. To assemble the salad toss the all of the ingredients into the bowl with the sauce. Garnish each serving with peanuts, cilantro and a squeeze of lime, if you like.

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Enjoy!

Block party

Growing up on the near-west side of Madison, the fourth of July always meant a block party in our dear friends’ neighborhood. We dug for prizes in kiddie pools of sawdust and watched our parents compete in the water balloon toss. There were long tables set up in the middle of the street where neighbors placed bowls of potato, bean and pasta salad. After the communal meal we held matches to light the black snakes lining the sidewalk and waved sprinklers in the air, waiting for the adults to pop the corn and take us to watch the fireworks. And there was, of course, the parade. I remember distinctly sitting in my bedroom on the morning of the fourth creating my Rosie the Riveter costume for the 1985 parade. In a stroke of genius, I turned a colander into my helmet and someone handed me a drill to carry. I believe that was the year I won a prize- a $10 gift certificate to Michael’s Frozen Custard.

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Today I’m using a colander to wash lettuce. It’s my turn to contribute to the potuck. I’m marinating cucumbers, fennel and garlic scapes in equal parts apple cider vinegar, sugar (or honey, if you open the cupboard and find yourself without sugar) and water.

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After consulting with my salad guru, my sister, I’m making a light dressing of olive oil, salt, mustard and parsley and will toss this all together with a head of red lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces (remove the cucumbers, etc. from the marinade before adding to the salad). I need to hurry, because I don’t want to miss the water balloon toss. Happy Fourth of July, my friends. May there be a block party in your future.

Cheers.

Early summer soup

This morning a steady mist of rain spread out over the farm as I crouched in the mud snapping collard greens off their stalks. In jeans, a sweatshirt and a rain coat I felt cozy as the temperatures barely hit 60. As much as I love summer, I don’t mind the occasional cool, rainy day; they remind of summer camp- hunkering down in the lodge, a chance to don a sweater, a change of pace. Moving on to pull weeds from the winter squash, my mind wandered to soup. Making a deliciously simple potato soup for lunch is something that my mother pulls off on a regular basis, regardless the season. I think it is something that she inherited from her parents. When I picture my grandpa, it is often at the stove. Either the small gas one that sits in front of the brick-lined kitchen wall of the northwest Iowa cottage or the one sixty miles away at his home where I could hand-crank the bell on the door that led inside to the kitchen, announcing my arrival. At the cottage he popped his homegrown corn to perfection; at home he stirred his award-winning fudge. But I think he loved potatoes the most. To make a simple potato soup, cut up some potatoes and put them in a pot with just enough water to cover. Gently boil until the potatoes are cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Mash up the potatoes to the desired consistency and add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mine never tastes as good as my mom’s.

After returning home from the farm today I wanted to make an Iowa-inspired potato soup for lunch, but I have turnips haunting me from my crisper drawer and garlic scapes curled-up, hovering on the bottom shelf waiting for something extraordinary to happen to them. I also took home two beets today from the farm, deemed “farmer food” due to the fact that some worms also wanted a few bites, so into the pot they go. And don’t forget the neglected leek, long forgotten under kale and lettuces.

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So I chopped up turnips, a couple of potatoes and beets and added them to leeks and garlic scapes sauteed in olive oil and butter. I added dill and red pepper flakes. Right before serving I blended it all up, added salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

As the vegetables simmered on the stove, I sauteed more garlic scapes, dill and chives in olive oil and made herbed croutons from the 1/2 eaten loaf of sourdough bread leftover from my lunch a few days ago. Danger Boy watched the whole thing, perched under my muddy jeans and garlic scapes.

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Please use the following recipe as a guide- I don’t have a tendency to measure things- and adjust it to whatever vegetables are haunting you.

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Early Summer Soup with Herbed Croutons

Soup ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
4 garlic scapes, finely chopped (use only the part below the bud)
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
5 white turnips, cut into chunks
2 beets, cut into chunks
herbs (I used dried thyme, pepper flakes and fresh dill)
4 cups water (or veggie broth, if you like)
lemon juice
salt + pepper to taste

Crouton ingredients:

1/2 loaf of good, old bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used dill, chives and a chopped garlic scape)
salt + pepper

Directions:

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the leek and scapes and saute for a few minutes. Add the root vegetables and herbs and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rip the bread into bite-sized pieces. In a skillet, saute the fresh herbs in the olive oil. Remove from the heat and add the bread, tossing to coat. Pour the bread onto a baking sheet, making sure to spread the pieces out. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionaly.
When the vegetables in the soup are tender, blend it with an immersion blender until smooth. Add fresh herbs and as much lemon juice as you like (I like a lot, Dan likes a little, so I add more to my own bowl). Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a pour of olive oil, more dill and herbed croutons.

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Cultivating and cooking are in our bones. This soup will warm yours.

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

Dirt made your brunch

Today I found out some exciting news! This summer I will be spending 12 hours a week working at a local organic farm in exchange for a full share of produce, herbs and flowers. I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt.

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I also recently discovered my new (only) favorite farming blog, so the timing is pretty great. Let’s celebrate with a healthy brunch, shall we?

Fresh off an eleven and a half day cleanse (I couldn’t let National Pizza Week go by without celebrating last Friday night) I made this dish for brunch on Saturday (and again on Sunday). It is the perfect thing for a reformed vegetarian diet that will be heavier on the avocados and lighter on the cheese. With a hot cup of black coffee on the side (it was only warm water and lemon juice for 12 mornings), it tasted like spring.

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Garlicky Kale Toast with Avocado and Fried Egg

From Dishing Up the Dirt

  • Two large slices of a good quality baguette
  • 2 eggs (organic free range if possible)
  • 1 large bunch kale, stems removed and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 small ripe avocado, pit removed
  • 1 TBS olive oil plus 1 tsp for drizzling
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add kale and sauté for about 5 more minute or until kale is tender and bright green.
  2. Meanwhile, poach two eggs in boiling water for 4 minutes (you could also fry two eggs instead*)
  3. Toast two slices of baguette
  4. Spread a little avocado onto each slice of bread. Top with kale and poached egg. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

*Having never poached an egg, I fried the eggs in a little coconut oil

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Cheers.