Happy one-year anniversary to Wisconsin Fun Next Exit.
It was a year ago this weekend that I was seeking spinach and scones and deciding to follow the advice of Orangette’s Molly Wizenberg and create my own little corner of the internet universe. I have been feeling nostalgic for the giddiness that I felt when I sat down with a bottle of wine to write that first post late on a Saturday night one year ago. I have truly enjoyed writing this and I’ve been thinking about how nice it is of you to join me here. So, thank you.
This past year has been a memorable one marked by an uprising,
a (temporary) job teaching third grade, a Packers super bowl victory, the Brewers in the playoffs, a train trip to Seattle,
road trips, old friends, new friends, an honest effort at really loving yoga (although my triangle pose is still a disaster), a new-found love of cats, specifically the two 10-year-olds who became my roomates in June,
moving to the east side, an attempt at growing a vegetable garden and cooking. Lots and lots of cooking.
Oh have I got some recipes for you. There’s an incredibly easy and delicious one for whole wheat pasta with a sauce made of butter, cream and blue cheese (go for a run first!) and tonight (while talking to my dear friend Jenn who lives in D.C. but aspires to move back to Madison) I made a vegetarian version of french onion soup with toasts and melted swiss cheese that tasted rich and hearty on this blustery day in Wisconsin. I plan on telling you all about these and more but for now it’s off to bed. Tomorrow I’ve got a date with Lambeau Field and Tuesday marks the first day of the campaign against Walker. I’ll provide the soup recipes and you provide the signatures. Tis the season for a recall. Let’s do this, Wisconsin.
This afternoon as I sat idling in sweltering contruction traffic on Willy Street my eyes were drawn to the sign posted outside the gas station that stated: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” Pondering this, I decided no truer words have ever been spoken. At least not today.
It’s been a week since Dan and I rolled up in my dusty car after 23 1/2 hours on the road from our trip to Wyoming. I’ve got loads of stories and even more photos, I’m not even sure where to start. So I’ve decided to begin at the end, with Ashley’s breakfast.
Ashley was one of our two lovely hosts when we were in Jackson and she made us a delicious breakfast of egg sandwiches with truffle aioli and arugula the morning that we had to skip town. The truffle aioli made the sandwich and I intend to pick up a bottle of black truffle olive oil as soon as I win the lottery this week (maybe from the aforementioned gas station).
Forgive me for not having the exact recipe, but all great recipes are meant to be experimented with and modified (for example, I asked Ashley to hold the bacon on my sandwich.) Any way you slice it, it’s going to be delicious…
Ashley’s sayonara egg sandwiches with truffle aioli
black traffle infused olive oil
Fry an egg over medium. Mix together a small amount of truffle olive oil (maybe a tablespoon) and a couple of tablespoons of mayo (to taste). Toast an english muffin. Spread the truffle aioli on both sides of the english muffin. If you feel so inclined, slice a piece of white cheese and place on one side of the muffin. Place the egg and a layer of arugula (the spicer the better, says Ashley) on the muffins. Make into a sandwich and eat. Enjoy.
Greetings from the equality state, where Dan and I have been visiting our dear friends in Cheyenne and letting them spoil us with meals like salmon burgers and spinach naan pizzas (recipes and photos to follow). We celebrated the fourth of July with a traditional meal of paella, lobster tails and sangria (isn’t that what everyone has on America’s birthday?) When we haven’t been watching this fascinating program that Derek introduced us to about looking for sasquatch (‘squatch’ as it’s called in the industry), we have been enjoying our meals and evenings in their lovely backyard.
If you are looking for a special way to celebrate something this weekend whip up a batch of Sangria and play the Wisconsin game, which Dan and I invented on I-80 (minus the drinking part) and played last night with our Wisconsin ex-pat hosts: Sit in a circle and name off as many cities/ towns in Wisconsin until you can’t think of anymore, take a drink if you repeat one that has been said. Cheers the person who comes up with Trego, Chicag or Rio. Wisconsin fun this exit.
Our Wyoming adventures continue to Casper and then my old stomping grounds, Jackson, where I can’t wait to sit outside at Teton Thai and order the chocolate bread pudding at Rendezvous Bistro… Stay tuned.
When Mr. Obama gave his state of the union speech last winter he discussed winning the future. I love this. I mean, who doesn’t want to win the future? It reminds me of the time that I was an archery instructor (?!) at a summer camp and a young man named LaTroy declared in a boastful voice: “I won archery.” You know what LaTroy? You did. So let’s win obscure things today, shall we? Here are a few tips for winning the summer.
Tip #1: Enjoy a delicious lunch. One with cheese, sauteed kale and a sliced tomato with sea salt. Yumtown. Population: you.
Tip #2: Avoid swimmer’s itch… I lost at this one.
Tip #3: When the temperature hits the 90s, chop four inches off of your hair.
Tip #3 part 2: Go to Thorps on Atwood for said haircut. They give you a can of pbr upon your arrival.
Tip #4: Sit close to the fridge.
Tip #5: Meet up with some friends and enjoy a tall glass of iced tea from Mermaid Cafe.
Tip#6: Take a road trip. And if you find yourself on Highway 20 in eastern Iowa on a Sunday morning, take the exit near Dyersville and visit the field of dreams before anyone else arrives. Run the bases. Yell, “Go the distance” at a father and son playing catch as you flee the parking lot.
Tip #7: Make beergaritas. My sister and I made them for the first time last summer after our cousin told us about them. Delicious.
1 can frozen limeade
1 1/2 cans pbr
1 limeade can full of tequila
2 limeade cans full of club soda (or Squirt)
Mix ingredients in a pitcher. Serve over ice. Cheers to winning stuff.
Okay, potatoes. When Dan and I were on our trip in Washington last month, my sister took us to Bellingham to visit her dear friends, their two cute kids and their adorable dog, Chester, aka ‘Butter.’ This was a fun adventure that included a ferry ride to Lummi Island, an extended happy hour on the beach, an encounter with a beavare, and, because we reveled too long on the beach, missing dinner on the island and ending up at a taco place/ bar in Bellingham where my sister, in a moment of brilliance, discovered that you could order a bowl of nacho cheese to accompany your burrito.
The next morning, our lovely hostess made an asparagus and egg frittata for breakfast and enlisted my help in making the roasted potatoes. I had been roasting cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts all winter, but it had never occurred to me to roast potatoes. So while my sister nobley fumbled with the coffee maker, I had to ask for guidance in making the potatoes (I’d like to think that what sometimes comes off as our ditziness is really just a profound desire to ask questions and to make sure that we do things right!) Now, I can’t stop making these potatoes… It’s the easiest thing and they turn out oh so delectable.
I’ll give you the same directions that were given to me. Pre-heat the oven to 375 or 400 degrees. Rinse off and dry organic potatoes (I’ve been using yellow ones from Willy Street Co-op and picking out the smallest ones I can find.) Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, minced garlic and whatever savory spices or herbs that you have on hand. I have used oregano and Penzey’s country french vinagrette. My neighbor has been keeping me in the fresh basil the last few weeks, thanks to his indoor herb garden, and I have been using this too, but adding it after the potatoes come out of the oven. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and place them in the oven and roast for 25-35 minutes, or until the skins just become golden brown crisp; you may want to give them a good shake a couple of times during the cooking process. Place the potatoes in a bowl and toss with freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste. Serve these potatoes as a breakfast side dish, a light meal with a salad and bread, or any way you want, really… I don’t think you could go wrong. Enjoy.
Well hellooooo there. It feels like it’s been ages. How have you been? Since we last spoke the lilacs have bloomed, I have written a few concert reviews, celebrated my birthday (in a tent outside of Viroqua), found a new place to live (a house! with a yard! and chickens next door!), attended my first music festival of the summer season, obtained my first sunburn, and made a few new dishes that I want to tell you about. There’s more that we need to catch up on, but I’m going to start with the recipes for now.
The first two recipes that I want to tell you about come from a cookbook that I have had for longer than I would like to admit, because I am just now finally starting to use it. The book is Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson and it’s a very good thing that the pages are now starting to look splattered with oil and stained with fingerprints. I have had my eye on this one recipe for lime-bathed peanut salad (mainly because of the name) for awhile, but finally busted it out two weeks ago an a Tuesday evening when I was in the mood to celebrate (it has to do with a long and convulated housing situation, I’ll spare you the details, but it resulted in the aforementioned house where we will move into in June). This salad is the epitome of flavorful. As soon as I prepared this dish, Dan and I proceeded to eat 3/4 of it out of the bowl with one spoon, before dinner was even served.
This recipe comes from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
Lime-Bathed Peanut Salad
2 cups usalted raw peanuts
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large jalapeno chile, seeded and diced
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the peanuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice along the way. If the peanuts have skins, rub them clean in a dish towel to remove the skins, but don’t obsess over this. I acually like the visual texture you get from having some peanuts with skins and some without.
Combine the tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro in a bowl. In a separate small bowl, wisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Add to the tomato mixture and gently stir to combine. Just before serving, fold in the peanuts. Taste and adjust the seasonings with more salt if need be. Serves 4 t0 6.*
*Yeah, right. More like two, if you are anything like us.
To accompany the peanut salad I made a main dish called otsu that has soba noodles, tofu, cucumbers and a citrusy-gingery sauce. This recipe also comes from Heidi’s book and is equally delicious.
This recipe comes from Super Natural Cooking
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, peeled, and grated
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned brown-rice vinegar
1/3 cup shoyu sauce (wheat-free soy sauce)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
12 ounces dried soba noodles
12 ounces extra-firm nigari tofu
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.
Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.
While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (½ inch thick and 1 inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the ¼ cup cilantro, the green onions, cucumber, and about ⅔ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and the toasted sesame seeds.
A serving of otsu with sauteed spinach from the farmer’s market