Lettuce turn up the beet

Well look at that. I wrote my first ever Wisconsin fun next exit (b)log post seven years ago today. I was just going to start off by talking about how it takes Half-moon and me, on average, 4.62 hours to get ready to leave the house (just to make it into the backyard) but I guess I’ll keep my mouth quiet about time. Because it can fly and it can drag but either way we never seem satisfied with it. Let’s talk about roasted beets instead.

I recently decided that there is nothing better than slicing into a warm beet and eating it while standing at the kitchen counter. Beets taste like the earth; like dirt and minerals. Beets are the real deal. My current stash of beets were dug out of the ground just past Magnolia, Wis. at Raleigh’s Hillside Farm. Nice work, Lauren and Kyle. While I like beets raw and shredded into a salad with citrus and herbs, in the fall and winter beets demand to be roasted. Lately I’ve been following my mom’s method, which is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees, wrap indivdual beets in aluminum foil and bake until they are tender and the skin peels right off with a paper towel (depending on the size of the beets, this is usually 40-50 minutes.) If you are feeling industrious, save the dark pink liquid that pools in the foil and use it to dye some cloth or something, just like I’m sure they would do in the Little House on the Prairie. Or at some hipster mercantile general store in Portland or Brooklyn. Once cooled, if they make it that long, the beets can be sliced and added to a jar with vinegar and water and stuck in the fridge to snack on later. Or they can be added to a salad, like the one I made recently, with a dressing of maple syrup and cayenne pepper that was inspired by a Driftless Organics farm recipe for squash. A word of warning: beets are messy. Half-moon loves them, especially with his favorite lunch of a mustard sandwich, which has led to a number of his bibs turning a slight shade of pink. But you can be strategic with this- the red one with the white polka dots is a good bet. Cutting boards, counters and fingers might also get smudged but I think it’s worth it.

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Roasted Beet Salad with Greens and Spicy Maple Syrup Dressing

Ingredients:
2-3 roasted beets, sliced
A bunch of arugula, spinach, or a crunchy lettuce (or a mix)
Optional toppings: crunchy celery, sesame seeds, hard boiled egg

Dressing- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, chili powder or cayenne pepper (or both), salt and pepper to taste, a squeeze of lemon works, too

Instructions:
Wash and dry greens and place in salad bowl with sliced beets. Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well, toss with greens + beets. Top with something crunchy- seeds or celery (or both) and enjoy.

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Happy November.

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Take your time

 

I love stories about food, but you probably know that by now. There’s a recipe at the end of this post, but if you’ve got a second, here is a story about fennel: Last December my sister and I went to a winter solstice fire and ran into our longtime family friend, Gillian. While we huddled near the low light of the dying bonfire, Gillian told us about the summer solstice party that she used to throw in June, complete with a bottle of Aquavit frozen in a block of ice with floating flowers. In the darkness, we dreamed of fresh dill, rye crackers, vinegary cucumbers, gravlax, and a long, drunken dusk under the willow tree of Gillian’s backyard. We hadn’t been at these parties, but we could picture ourselves there.

Several snow-less, gray months later, my friends and I started to make plans for a July weekend getaway to the Driftless area of Wisconsin. When we started to talk about menus, I thought back to Gillian’s summer solstice party spread. So for our Friday evening meal, my friend Morgan brought smoked salmon, crackers and cheese, and I decided to make a fennel salad. Gillian hadn’t mentioned fennel, but I could see the green, wispy-fronded vegetable fitting right into the mix. I had read about a salad with fennel and olives in Bon Appetit and wanted to recreate for our mid-summer meal.

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And now for a brief interlude- here is something that you need to know about my sister and me: while we love to think about, prepare and eat food, we are the world’s slowest cooks (just ask our mom.) Once when my sister was visiting my roommates and me in Wyoming, she decided to make us beef stroganoff for a Sunday meal. After an afternoon trip to the grocery store, I believe dinner was served just after midnight… But it was some of the best beef stroganoff you could ever have, as this was back in my meat-eating days.

Back to the old farmhouse in the middle of July and the fennel salad that I began preparing around 6 p.m. Several hours later, as more friends had arrived, I was still grating orange peel, chopping fennel fronds, sipping on gin and tonics, listening, talking, crushing an olive, laughing, slicing a fennel stem, and looking again at the recipe I had scribbled down in my notebook to loosely follow. When the salad was ready around 10 p.m., it was a hit.

Next in July came a vacation to a cabin on the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota (it was a good month.) Reunited at last, my sister and I decided to recreate Gillian’s menu for one of our nights at the cabin for a belated summer solstice party.

 

Again I decided to make the fennel salad to accompany smoked salmon from Grand Marais, boiled potatoes with dill, pickled beets, marinated cucumbers, and a bottle of Aquavit. I picked up the pace a bit this time as there was a hungry family to feed.

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Fennel Salad with Green Olives

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

2 large fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves discarded, bulbs, stems, and fronds separated
1 cup Castelvetrano olives
¼ cup olive oil (lemon-infused olive oil is nice)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
Flaky sea salt

Preparation

Slice fennel stems crosswise (not too thin) and place in a medium bowl. Coarsely chop fennel fronds (you want about ⅓ cup) and add to bowl. Crush olives with a flat-bottomed cup or side of a chef’s knife and remove pit. Coarsely chop olives. Add olives, oil, vinegar, orange zest, and red pepper to bowl; season with kosher salt and black pepper, then toss to coat.

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I realize it is now October, but we often get a brief period in southern Wisconsin in the fall when fennel is being harvested on our farms again, so live it up! Get yourself some fennel and carve out a few hours to slowly make this salad for some people with whom it’s fun to take your time. Cheers.

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.