Late spring potato salad with lovage

Last weekend Dan, half-moon and I ventured up to the square to go to our first farmer’s market of the season. I really had an ulterior motive, which was to go to Field Table for doughnuts and iced coffees. I was never much of a huge doughnut lover, but when visiting my cousin in Brooklyn a couple of years ago, I kind of fell in love.

IMG_1450

The doughnuts at Field Table were crazy good. We got one of each- Raspberry, Miso Butterscotch and Maple Bacon (that was just Dan’s.) And then one more Raspberry. I can’t stop thinking about that frosting.

image

After a quick stop for cheese curds from Bleu Mont Dairy (the best, in my opinion) we ducked in and out of the crowds to grab some spinach and organic potatoes from Driftless. Later that day we were headed to a get-together and I wanted to make potato salad. So this is the potato salad I started to write about the other day, when half-moon decided to bang some club soda against the floor and then I told you about rhubarb shrub.

image

While I didn’t clearly state this in my last post, but  may have seemed obvious, I love vinegar. I prefer it to mayo in salads any old day. I also had some lovage that I wanted to use; it was the lovage that my mom gave me after she had waved it around in half-moon’s face while the two were sitting in her yard. Waving leafy green things (dandelions, chives, etc.) in his face is one of her favorite activities and he likes it, too.I also threw in some capers for good measure. I could have cooked the potatoes for two more minutes, but it was a hit, and it was a lovely afternoon in our friends’ backyard. Half-moon ate cheese curds for the first time, had his first apple juice box (straws are tricky!) and we lingered into the evening. Welcome, summer.

_______________________________________________

Late Spring Potato Salad with Lovage and Capers

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds organic potatoes (I used a combination of fingerling and yellow)
One handful of lovage and garlic greens (the shoots that come up before the scrapes), chopped (I think chives would be good here, too)
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons capers
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Wash and cook the potatoes. Cover the potatoes with water in a stock pot (I don’t peel them) and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender, but not falling apart (I guess if they are falling apart, it’s too late… I don’t claim to be a recipe writer.) Drain the potatoes and allow to cool. If you are in a hurry, run cold water over them and let them sit in some cold water.
Mix the remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper) in a large bowl. Adjust the amounts of vinegar, olive oil,mustard and capers to your liking.
When the potatoes have cooled, cut them into bite-sized chunks and toss them into the dressing. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper, if you like. Take it to a party, or eat it all yourself.

______________________________________________

Happy long weekend.

Advertisements

Keep me on my toes

This post started as one thing and now has turned into something else entirely, but that’s how things go sometimes, isn’t it? I was going to write about potato salad, but fate intervened in the form of a mobile half-moon, and now I am going to tell you about rhubarb shrub (the drinking vinegar, not a bush.)

IMG_7303

Half-moon has been cruising around for a little while now, but he’s really gotten interested in everything lately and has a certain hankering for the cat food bowl, beer bottles, kitchen cabinets, the contents of the blender, dresser drawers and dirt. Now for a montage.

So this morning when I had my back turned, half-moon happened upon a bottle of fancy club soda and by the time I got to him, he had somehow managed to partially open it. Not wanting it to go to waste, my mind worked quickly (not something that happens much lately)… I have rhubarb!* I have vinegar! There is ice in the freezer!

IMG_7429

And that’s how I ended up typing one-handed, listening to this much-needed spring rain, and sipping a delicious and refreshing rhubarb shrub and club soda. If I didn’t have yoga later, you can bet there would be some booze in it.

*All credit goes to my friend Allison, whose wonderful neighbor, Tom, gave me the rhubarb last weekend and Allison for suggesting I make a shrub out of it.

___________________________

Rhubarb Shrub

Ingredients:

5 or 6 large rhubarb stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (organic) sugar

Directions:

Place rhubarb, vinegar and sugar in a medium-sized sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring a bit, until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20-30 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the liquid into a bowl and allow to sit for about 30 minutes to make sure you get all the liquid. (I plan on saving the rhubarb mixture to mix into yogurt. Editor’s note: Don’t do this- super vinegar-y rhubarb mush does not taste good in yogurt.) Mix the liquid (the shrub!) with club soda, or club soda with a splash of gin or vodka. Serve over ice and enjoy! Keep the leftover shrub in the fridge for up to a week or so.
____________________________

I hope something is keeping you on your toes these days… you never know what unexpected good things might come from it.

Turning a corner

It feels like we’ve turned the corner. Suddenly everyone is smiling on the bike path, shedding off the damp, gray cloak of winter and turning faces toward the sun. The trees are budding and the water in the lake is moving again; always a startling, impossible sight after so much stillness. It hasn’t exactly been easy to live in Wisconsin the past few years, for a number of obvious reasons for those of us who believe in logic and reason, nature, public education, fairness, humanity and snow in the winter… you know, those things. But the past few days serve as a reminder of why we do it. There’s that day. The one where everyone is outside and everyone is beautiful and everyone has a speckled cattle dog and all of a sudden you remember what green looks like. And all you want to do is get your hands in the dirt or sit in your friend’s backyard in the sun, beer in hand, soaking in the warmth. And walk for hours. And remember that there are people who put dinosaurs in their yard and knit electrical poles; the kind of people who help you remember that you are not alone in this fight to feel like things can be right in the world again.

And when you get home from that walk, you need to eat. Something nurturing but light, something simple but delicious. I have been making these broccoli melts from Smitten Kitchen at least once a week. Broccoli or broccolini lightly steamed and then doused in lemon, garlic and red pepper flakes, covered with provolone and lightly toasted on good bread; served with a slaw of red cabbage, shaved carrots and celery, it makes a perfect light spring dinner.

I have made the recipe from memory several times, but I recommend following the directions at least once- it’s really good just the way it was written.

_______________________________________________

Broccoli Melts

From Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 8 small-medium open-faced melts

1 pound broccolini or regular broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few pinches red pepper flakes, to taste
Finely grated zest, then juice, of 1/2 lemon (juice before zesting only if you enjoy being grumpy)
Coarse salt, to taste
1/2 cup finely grated aged pecorino romano cheese
8 thin slices totally unfancy deli provolone
8 slices bread of your choice

If using broccolini, cut it into 2-inch segments. If regular broccoli, peel the stems with a vegetable peeler first so that they cook evenly, and cut the rest into large chunks.

Pour about 1-inch puddle of salted water into a large sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and cover with a lid and boil/steam for 2 minutes. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels, wringing out as much extra liquid as possible. Chop into small (roughly 1/2-inch) bits.

Wipe sauté pan dry and heat over medium. Add olive oil and let it heat for a full minute. Add garlic and pepper flakes, cooking for 1 minutes, or until the garlic is just beginning to turn golden. Add the broccoli and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, seasoning with salt. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add lemon zest, juice, pecorino and more salt and pepper flakes to taste.

Heat broiler.* Arrange slices of bread on a tray and lightly toast on both sides. Scoop broccoli mixture onto each slice of bread, lay a slice of provolone over it and run under the broiler until cheese has melted and begun to blister. Eat. Repeat.

*We’ve been using our new toaster oven- thanks, mom!

______________________________________________________

I hope today finds you knitting an inanimate object or digging in the dirt or simply walking, in awe of the buds and basking in the warmth. Happy spring.

Smashing eggs

I wonder if it’s possible to run out of words. That is a bit how I am feeling these days, although it could be the _______ (fill in the blank) weather/ state of affairs/ lack of sleep. So witty banter aside, I don’t know about you, but I have been eating a lot of egg salad these days. Making a properly hard boiled egg is a much debated subject, one that has caused arguments in my family and maybe yours. I am not going to take sides here or attempt to tell you how to do it, but I will say that after an embarrassingly long amount of time, I figured out that I like to put the eggs in the pot and then fill it with water- I have cracked too many eggs the other way. Do you have a favorite way to boil eggs? If so, please share!

IMG_6329

The reason for the abundance of eggs was because my sister convinced me that we should dye eggs for Half-moon’s first Easter.

Half-moon was excited because he likes to smash things against the ground. Like eggs. So, in retrospect, it was a really good idea.

IMG_6413

Growing up my dad would write elaborate rhyming clues that would lead us on a wild chase for eggs and, ultimately, our darling baskets filled with candy. I vividly remember one spring-like Easter afternoon sitting outside and listening to the Brewers broadcast on the radio while devouring pastel-colored candy corn. Thrown together at the last second, my egg hunt for Half-moon wasn’t nearly as planned out and it all led to a basket of stuff that he had already had, but now I get to eat a lot of egg salad.

IMG_6365

When making something for the first time or looking for a recipe, I often turn to Smitten Kitchen. When I looked up egg salad and saw that her recipe included pickled celery, I knew I needed to look no further.

I’ve been improvising each time I make it, but adding pickled celery every time. I like to mix it with spinach, for a nice salad for lunch.

_________________________________________________________

Egg Salad with Pickled Celery

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Makes one serving for a quick lunch or dinner- feel free to double or triple.

Ingredients

One hard boiled egg, chopped
One spoonful mustard
One spoonful mayo
One spoonful pickled celery*
One spoonful capers
Fresh parsley, chopped
Spinach
Bread, optional

Directions

Mix all ingredients- except bread- in a bowl. Eat as a salad, or, if you prefer, put mixture on bread and eat like a sandwich.

*Pickled Celery (from Smitten Kitchen):

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 stalks celery, trimmed, diced tiny

Pickle your celery: Combine vinegar, water, Kosher salt and sugar in a jar and shake it until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add diced celery to jar, cover it and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, ideally one hour and up to one week.

____________________________________________________

Bring on spring.

 

Batch no. 740

I have been sitting on this jar of fig and black tea jam for way too long. A billion years ago in September, I won a contest at the Willy Street Co-op and acquired a haul of local products, including this jar of Quince of Apple preserves.

To be honest, I forgot about it until I was inspired by the third installment of all whisked up! to make a recipe from this seasonal blog. There were lots of recipes on Liz’s blog that tempted me, including the beet butter, but I couldn’t resist the oat and jam bars. I eat oatmeal almost every morning and it’s the one thing that Half-moon will eat these days, too. The original recipe calls for cranberry sauce, but Dan remembered the fig jam and that was that. The thing I like about this recipe is that it’s not too fussy or too sweet (especially if you skip the glaze, like I did.)

IMG_5886

And I think it’s perfectly acceptable to eat these for breakfast along with a big cup of coffee. Happy almost March.

_____________________________________________

Oat and Jam Bars

From Inspired by the Seasons

1 c of cranberry sauce or your favorite jam heated to a spreadable consistency
1/2 c cold butter cubed into small pieces
1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp molasses
2 large eggs
1 c rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8″ baking dish with parchment paper to allow for easy removal of the cooked bars.

Work the butter into the flour with your fingers until it reaches a course crumb consistency.  Using a fork, stir in baking powder, sugar, vanilla and molasses. Mix in eggs and oatmeal.

Take 2/3rds of the dough and press to the bottom of your baking dish, using the greased bottom of a measuring cup to press the dough into place makes this step a lot easier.   Spread the jam in an even layer and top with remaining dough by dolloping with spoonfuls of the remaining dough.

Bake until golden, about 45 minutes.

__________________________________________________________

Click on the frog below to see all of the other Wisconsin Whisk all whisked up recipes!

Not a food blog

I talked to my mom a couple of days ago and she said she really enjoys reading my blog but that it doesn’t always have to be about food. “You used to write about other things, too,” she said. “Like… Two Rivers.” So this is not a post about food (but doesn’t everything always go back to food?*), it’s a post about pictures.

I have always had a thing for pictures. Growing up my dad turned all of his kodachrome film into slides (thousands and thousands of slides) and one of my favorite things was our family slide shows. We would gather in the living room for the event. I remember the excitement I felt as my dad clicked the tripod screen into place. I remember the whir of the projector as it warmed up and the dust particles that danced in the lightbeam. My dad would sit on a chair next to the projector, beer in hand, and click the slide tray into place. My mom, sister and I gathered on the couch with popcorn. There was usually a theme: “Moscow, 1977,” “sunsets through the years,” “birthday parties,” “camping trips,” “California,” or “road trips.” I’m sure I always begged for one more tray of slides when the screen went blank.

At some point I got my first camera and my parents happily supported my new hobby, even as I had a habit of overshooting the same subject. I remember developing an entire roll of film of the Statue of Liberty, looking approximately the size of a flea in the photos, that I shot from the deck of the Staten Island Ferry. There was also the time that my dad paid upwards of $40 a roll to develop my pictures for me when we were in Slovenia (thank goodness I now use digital.) I still have a tendancy to fixate on certain subjects with my camera, like the time I took 300-400 photos just of the golden retriever at a family reunion in Montana.

But I love photography, as amateur as I may be. I love taking pictures of floors and what’s under my feet.

 

I love taking pictures of my feet.

 

I love taking pictures of other people’s pictures.

IMG_4996

And recipes.

IMG_4988

I love taking pictures while traveling.

And closer to home.

Apparently I love taking photos of blue stools.

And I love taking pictures of food (*see- it all comes back to food).

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a food photography workshop at Drunk Lunch led by freelance photographer Paulius Musteikis known around Madison for his beautiful photographs often gracing the covers of Isthmus and Madison Magazine. Paulius, a self-taught photographer, offered lots of practical advice, like read your camera manual- something I have not yet done, and more artistic advice- where is the light coming from? What shapes do you see? What is the story your photo is telling?

IMG_5407

I loved his presentation and then enjoyed playing around taking lots of pictures of these plants.

And what I learned is, I have a lot to learn. But isn’t that true for most things? I feel lucky that my family instilled the love of pictures in me. Just like writing, it makes you look at the world differently. We all have a story to tell.

Book report

I have been devouring Tamar Adler‘s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace before bed, which might explain why I have been waking up famished. I really can’t recommend it enough. People often compare Adler to M.F.K. Fisher- patron saint of food writers- although I can’t attest to that because I am afraid I will knock myself- or Half-moon- out if I fall asleep reading the tome that is my copy of The Art of Eating in bed.

IMG_5404

I love that Adler makes me feel guilty for not pickling my kale stems. I love that she has the sensibility of a Depression-era housewife, often using the same pot of water four or five times for different purposes. I love that she writes things like this:

“I recommend buying a bunch of parsley whenever you can. Then, once you have it, act as children do when handed hammers and suddenly everything needs pounding.”

I love that she sounds like an eighty-year-old woman tucked into a Tuscan hillside but is really a thirty-something woman residing in a small apartment in Brooklyn (of course.) Most of all I love that she seems to believe that all of the world’s problems can be solved with stale bread and good olive oil.

IMG_5373

She keeps all of her food in glass jars and cooks all of her vegetables on Sunday. She turns her lemon peels into citrus syrup to mix with cold seltzer to make homemade soda. She pickles her kale stems. Adler gives advice so simple I want to slap my head and say Of course! Like how you should taste your food at every stage of the cooking process and that it should always taste good (it doesn’t taste good? add salt!) Reading this book has made me think twice about a trip to the store, instead improvising with what I already have. And it’s made me wonder why I don’t eat more meals like sauteed greens on toast. With parmesan cheese. And olive oil (of course.)

Adler also addresses a question I have often wondered when reading cookbooks and food blogs: When is a recipe borrowed? When is it “adapted?” And when is it your own? According to Adler, there are no original recipes, which reminds me of one of my father’s favorite sayings, “The last person to to have an original idea invented the wheel.” So here is a recipe. I made it up. Or I adapted it from one I read on Smitten Kitchen, another New Yorker doing incredible things in a tiny kitchen.

IMG_5310

This recipe utilizes the vegetarian workhorse, lentils. It also has a potato and a dressing made with lemon (or vinegar) and cilantro (or parsley.) Serve it with good bread and a glass of red wine. It’s comforting and wholesome. I think Tamar Adler would like it.

_____________________________________________

Warm Lentil and Potato Salad with Capers

Ingredients

1/2 cup French green lentils
1 Yukon Gold potato, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 or 3 kale leaves, washed, dried and chopped into thin ribbons
1 garlic clove, smashed and made into a paste with a little salt
1 small chunk of onion, sliced into thin pieces
lemon juice and/or red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
olive oil
a couple of tablespoons of capers (I don’t rinse them)
a bunch of cilantro + stems (or parsley), chopped
feta cheese, optional

Directions

Cook the lentils in a small saucepan on the stove until they are tender and water is absorbed (keep warm.) At the same time, cook the potato in a separate pot- cover the potato with water and cook until you can easily poke a knife into it (I have a bad habit of undercooking potatoes.) Keep the potato warm, too (I just let it sit in the pot of warm water and damn I just realized I should be telling you somehow you can use the potato water for another meal.) Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the lemon juice (or vinegar) and sliced onions in a shallow salad bowl and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk in the garlic paste, mustard and olive oil (taste it!). Add the capers and kale (taste it!) Next add the cooked lentils, cubed potato and chopped herbs (and crumbled feta cheese too, if you are using it.) Toss this all together and taste it! Adjust the seasonings, if you wish, adding salt or black pepper. (Or more lemon, capers or herbs- remember, it should taste good.)

_____________________________________________

According to Adler, M.F.K. Fisher said you don’t always have to balance each meal, just the day. Apparently Fisher used to frequent a beer hall where she would make a meal of cheese, onions, caraway seeds and crusty bread. I am so happy I found these women.