51 meatless things to try in Madison before Lake Mendota thaws

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Several weeks ago I stumbled upon Andre Darlington’s blog where he listed 50 things that are quintessential Madison. And then last week I discovered this blog and a woman named Holly who took Darlington’s list on as a challenge. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. And that somebody is not me (too meat-centric). However, I have decided to riff on their idea and simultaneously one up them with my list: 51 Meatless Things to Try in Madison Before Lake Mendota Thaws. And because it is one of my favorites, I will borrow Darlington’s #15 and make it my #1.

51 Meatless Things to Try in Madison Before Lake Mendota Thaws

1) Walnut Burger at Harmony Bar (add blue cheese and fried onions)

2) Veggie Ramen at Umami Ramen and Dumpling Bar

3) Blueberry Scone at Lazy Jane’s (or Raspberry or Blackberry)

4) Whiskey Old Fashioned Press at Weary Traveler

5) Three Cup Tofu at Natt Spil (the best tofu dish in Madison, in my humble opine)

6) Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar at Batch Bakehouse

7) Sweet Potato Fries with Tarragon Mayo and Jalapeno Blackberry Jam at Alchemy

8) Margherita Pizza at Pizza Brutta

9) Popcorn at Graze

10) Cesar’s String Cheese at Willy Street Co-op

11) Black Bean Tacos at Burrito Drive (don’t forget to add pickled onions!)

12) Any Tapper (preferably post-Packer victory) at Laurel Tavern

13) Butter (really more like savory frosting) at Tornado Club (bread optional)

14) Spinach Nan at Taste of India

15) Bottle of Miller High Life and Bag of De-lish-us Chips at Old Duffer’s (a hop, skip and jump from Madison out Highway 18/151)

16) Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Avocado at Lazy Jane’s

17) Plantains at Cafe Costa Rica

18) Big Country Bread from Cress Springs Bakery at Dane Co. Farmer’s Market (tastes even better if you take it home and eat it while listening to ‘In a Big Country’ by Big Country)

19) Warm Beet Salad at Graze

20) Frites at Jacs

21) Margarita at Pasqual’s

22) Asian Slaw at Restaurant Muramoto

23) Pineapple Curry with Tofu at Lao-Laan Xang (Atwood location)

24) Rejected Truffles (any flavor) at Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier (free samples!)

25) Macaroni and Cheese at The Old Fashioned

26) Sardine Caesar* at Sardine (*has anchovies, which technically could be considered meat… I guess I like to live on the edge)

27) Bottomless Cup of Tanzanian Peaberry Coffee (and a game of cribbage or Scrabble) at EVP

28) Wedge Salad at Tornado Club

29) The Ramblin’ Vegan’s Chili at Weary Traveler

30) Sake Bomb at Karaoke Kid (where I once witnessed a rousing rendition of aforementioned ‘In a Big Country’ in the VIP lounge)

31) Bella Burger at Alchemy

32) Steamed Tofu Dumplings at Ha Long Bay

33) Dark & Stormy at Cafe Costa Rica

34) Aloo Chana at Taste of India

35) Onion Bagel  at Bagels Forever

36) Sexy Fries at Mickey’s Tavern

37) The Smell at Fraboni’s (just walk in and inhale.. you’re welcome)

38) Frozen Cheese Pizza at Crystal Corner

39) Kale, Lemon, Green Apple and Ginger Juice at Willy Street Co-op Juice Bar

40) 2% Latte at Bradbury’s* (*only attempt if you have the moxie to attempt the maze of hipsterdom)

41) Maize Salad at Alchemy

42) Egg Sandwich (hold the bacon) at Crema Cafe (so good I had to eat it twice this weekend)

43) McLovin Irish Red Ale at Vintage Brewing Co. (go on a Wednesday and check out the Madison Blues Co-op blues jam!)

44) Vegetarian Antipasta Platter at Greenbush Bar

45) Whole Wheat and Cheddar Scone from Cress Springs Bakery at Dane Co. Farmer’s Market

46) Mediterranean Plate at Jacs

47) Red Beans and Rice at New Orleans Take-Out

48) Veggie Empanada at Victory

49) Cucumber Salad at Sa-Bai Thong

50) Gruyere-Filled Roll at Batch Bakehouse

51) Rathskeller Ale and Bag of Popcorn at Memorial Union (watch the ice thaw)

Did I forget anything? Please add any favorites in the comments!

The food that fueled a revolution

All of this protesting has been making me hungry!

Ian's Pizza: Feeding the masses

While Ian’s Pizza is now known around the world and will probably be opening a franchise in Cairo sometime soon, I wanted to mention a few other places where I have been fueling up to fight the good fight.

Ground Zero Coffee, 744 Williamson Street

Ground Zero

Dan and I have been stopping at Ground Zero every day for coffee to go as we walk to the Capitol. There are always friendly people inside who want to discuss our current state of affairs and the oat fudge bars are out of this world.

Roman Candle Pizza, 1054 Williamson Street

Roman Candle

About a billion years ago, Dan and I went to Roman Candle after our first night of protests at the Capitol and discussed the possibility of a teacher “sick-out” with some other teachers who were sitting at another table. Since that night, Roman Candle has started offering a 10% discount to union members and teachers. In a show of solidarity, my cousin, a teacher in the Denver public schools, and her colleagues ordered my elementary school staff Roman Candle pizzas for lunch last week. My favorite protest pizza? Make your own: Firecracker sauce, banana peppers and green olives. Yum.

Lazy Jane’s, 1358 Williamson Street

Lazy Jane's

It’s all good, really, but my favorite is the grilled cheese and avocado sandwich on wheatberry bread. Put sriracha on the potato chips and order a pineapple juice with fizzy water to quench your thirst from yelling, “This is what democrazy looks like” about 412 times. The bakery items are delicious, too. Yesterday I had an orange coconut white chocolate chip scone that was fresh out of the oven and oh so good.

I’m off to school and then back downtown to check out the scene, so, for now, Solidarity through scones!

Lasagna Mia!

This past Saturday at 12:01 a.m. I sat staring at these letters during a tight Scrabble match at the Weary Traveler:

Yijuxy?

On their own those letters have a lot of scoring potential- but having them all at once, not so much. I came in last. But that’s okay, I was too busy enjoying my Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, the banter with Dan and Dr. Hotbody and eavesdropping on the guy behind us who had a completely backwards and twisted definition for karma (No, I don’t think you acquire good karma by getting drunk before asking your co-workers to cover your shift for ‘personal reasons’ so that you can continue drinking.) After the tavern Dan and I listened to his Rick Danko record and then it was off to bed.

The next morning unable to sleep I grabbed the closest book to me which happened to be Eat, Pray, Love. I read this book a few summers ago and found the India praying section to be a bit long-winded, but I love reading about food so I opened up to Italy. I read about gelato, olives, asparagus, pasta, pastries and pizza and repressed Americans and before long I had to wake up Dan for a walk down to Batch Bakehouse where we purchased 12 dollars worth of baked goods, including a gruyre-filled croissant and one of the best scones that I have ever had in my life (it had walnuts, raisins and cinnamon glaze). From there we walked to the Willy Street Co-op to pick up ingredients for dinner- I had a hankering for lasagna. We bought whole milk ricotta! And 2% milk! And Nutella (still unopened and sitting on the shelf)! No repressed American here!

After a run, (do Italians believe in exercise?) I started dinner. I had intended to follow a recipe from my January issue of Bon Appetit. When I glanced at it I noticed that it was vegetarian and had swiss chard and mushrooms. When I sat down to read the actual entire recipe it lost me at ‘Turkish bay leaf.’ It might be time for me to admit that I don’t have a lot of patience for following recipes- this is always true for baking and sometimes true for cooking. I also realized that the recipe didn’t call for tomato sauce. What?! And they wanted me to blanch the swiss chard before sauteing it. I’m out. Let the creative process begin.

This is my adaptation of a recipe for lasagna loosely based on a recipe from Bon Appetit that wanted me to travel to Turkey in order to obtain a bay leaf. I call  it, ‘Lasagna Pile,’ in honor of the fact that I have no clue how to evenly spread ricotta over the rough terrain that is all of the other ingredients (why don’t they keep lasagna noodles in 9′ by 13′ sheets?) and as an homage to the great song, ‘Dutch Pile’ by the Happy Schnapps Combo.

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Lasagna Pile

serves 1-6, depending on if you plan on entertaining Clay Matthews

Béchamel sauce:

 2 cups 2% milk

4 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Swiss chard, spinach and mushroom layers:

 1 bunch Swiss chard

handful spinach

4 Tablespoons olive oil

1 1/3 cups chopped onion

1 large garlic clove, chopped, divided

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Coarse kosher salt

1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced

Lasagna:

8-10 whole wheat lasagna noodles

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese (preferably organic),

8 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

tomato sauce (I like Muir Glen)

For béchamel sauce:
Bring milk to simmer in medium saucepan; remove from heat. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk to blend. Cook 2 minutes, whisking almost constantly (do not let roux brown). Gradually whisk milk with bay leaf into roux. Add 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and nutmeg and bring to simmer. Cook until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, whisking often, about 3 minutes.

For swiss chard and mushroom layers:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, half of garlic, and crushed red pepper. Sauté until onion is tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in chard and spinach and season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over medium- high heat. Add mushrooms and remaining garlic. Sauté until mushrooms are brown and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Season with coarse salt and pepper.

For lasagna:
Cook noodles in medium pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Brush 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with oil to coat. Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel sauce thinly over bottom of dish. Arrange 3 noodles in dish to cover bottom. Spoon some tomato sauce over the noodles. Spread half of chard mixture over pasta and sauce, then half of mushrooms. Drop half of ricotta over in dollops and spread in even layer (good luck with this). Sprinkle with half of Parmesan cheese; spread 3/4 cup béchamel over. Repeat layering with 3 noodles, sauce, remaining chard, mushrooms, ricotta, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup béchamel. Cover with 3 noodles and remaining béchamel. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover with foil. Let stand at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake lasagna covered 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until heated through and top is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

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For photos of this recipe, please see Wordless Wednesday: Lasagna pile. I served the lasagna with a baguette from Batch Bakehouse, steamed  kale, and red wine.

Bon appetit! And don’t forget to do something unrepressed this weekend!

They’re like doughnuts for rich people

It is getting to be that time of year where we think a lot about food. But let’s be honest, I always think a lot about food. Yes, Thanksgiving is upon us. Please forgive me if I seem a little shallow here, but I have consumed a total of about 372 calories today and so I am thinking about what I am grateful for in terms of things that I like to eat. I am grateful for my sister who introduced me to kale about one year ago. Since she first uttered the words, “kale and pasta,” I have eaten that for dinner approximately 42,000 times. Here is a summary of what she told me that she likes to do:

Throw a couple of glugs of olive oil in a saute pan with some garlic and red pepper flakes. After washing and drying some kale, rip it into bite-size pieces and throw that in the pan, too. Saute it for several minutes (I like mine to get a little crispy) and add some diced canned tomatoes, if you like. Tonight I might add some freshly squeezed lemon juice at the end, instead of the tomatoes. Stir in some whole wheat pasta (I like to use penne) cooked al dente and- if you’ve got it- shred some good parmesan on top. Voila. Yum.

Cooking up some kale last Friday for the 42,001st time

Tonight I am also grateful for my boyfriend who says things like, “They’re like doughnuts for rich people,” when asked to clarify “scones” to a friend of mine on the phone this past weekend (I was in the midst of kneading the dough for the first batch of scones that I ever attempted to make- more on that later). And I am also grateful that Dan- who apparently believes that I am secretly rich- makes pizza once a week on an undisclosed night (sorry dear neighbor, you told me not to tell you which night).

The whole wheat scones, or doughnuts for rich people, that I made this past weekend (I can make things without cheese-what you see on top is butter)

Finally, tonight I am grateful to my parents for many, many reasons, but one of those reasons is the Le Crueset cookware they gave me last year for my birthday. This pot has changed the way that I cook. Everything tastes better when it is cooked in my lovely green enameled dutch oven, including the gratin that I made last night. Before my sister gave me a huge vegetarian cookbook last Christmas, I don’t think I had ever paid attention to gratins, but then I started hearing about gratins everywhere. So, with my new trusty Le Crueset and after much heckling from Dan that I would never actually make a gratin, I have now made this recipe twice. Here is a warning about the following recipe: It is delicious, but it is rich. I recommend saving this one for a day when you have shoveled at least four feet of snow or skiied the Birkebeiner. You have been warned.

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This recipe comes from the cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini.

Root Vegetable Gratin with Cheddar and Horseradish Rye Crumb Crust

1 pound rutabaga, peeled* and cut into chunks

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 pound turnips, peeled and cut into chunks

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup apple cider or wine

1 tablespoon minced garlic

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour**

2 cups whole milk, heated

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons horseradish

4 ounces grated aged cheddar cheese

1/2 cup rye bread crumbs

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread vegetables in large baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and cider or wine, scatter on the garlic, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes, then remove foil and continue to roast until vegetables are brown-tipped and tender, 20-35 minutes longer. Meanwhile, make a white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan; stir in flour and cook over low heat several minutes. Whisk in milk, bring to simmer, and cook gently 10 minutes, stirring often. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in nutmeg. Gently fold the sauce into the roasted vegetables. Transfer to a buttered baking dish (or leave in the same dish the vegetables were roasted in). Mix horseradish, cheddar, and bread crumbs with your fingers and scatter the mixture evenly over the vegetables. Continue to bake until bubbly, 20-30 minutes. Makes 6 servings.***

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*The recipe says to peel the vegetables but I just washed them well (I’m afraid of peeling off all of the good stuff!)

**I used whole wheat flour

***The recipe claims to feed six people, I am telling you that it fed two, but one of us ate A LOT

I served this gratin last night with a mixed green and spinach salad with some sliced onions and yellow peppers. I dressed it with olive oil and lemon juice in an attempt to cut the richness of the dish. This sort of worked.    

 

Delicious root vegetables

 

Bubbly gratin

Tomorrow I am off to lovely Manitowoc County where I will have the opportunity to visit some of the finest establishments that area has to offer. Stay tuned. Until then, I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday.

The beach in Two Rivers, November 2009

Seeking spinach and scones in the cold November rain

We sat next to each other at the picnic table the other day. Me: Disheveled hair. Brown eyes. Aspiring writer. You: Nice laugh. Pizza lover. Prospective reader. Coffee?

Wading in Lake Michigan, June 2008

 

And so it begins. Inspired by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette fame, I have decided to, as Molly wrote, “stick my neck out there” and hold myself accountable to something. With a Journalism degree in my pocket that was put on the back burner, I still crave the rush of seeing my name in the byline. While I used to fantasize about being the next Woodward or Bernstein, I then began to picture myself as Carrie Bradshaw, staring blissfully out of the open window of my walk-up apartment with a martini in my hand and a brilliant revelation at my fingertips. I now want to write children’s books, food articles and everything in between. I love to cook and take photos. I stopped eating meat (besides fish) one year, one month and three days ago. When it comes to pizza, I believe what my boyfriend, Dan, says and that olives are the new sausage. I love swimming with my family in a lake in Iowa in the late summer afternoon when the sun starts to hang lazily in the sky, ready for happy hour, not quite ready for bed.

On this site I hope to write about food, Wisconsin, road trips, music and the things that make me (and hopefully you) happy, like seeing dogs being driven around in bike trailers intended for children. Or blasting this song at exceedingly loud volumes. Let’s get this party started.

I woke up today to a gray and rainy morning desperately seeking spinach and scones. The last farmer’s market on the square was last weekend and so Dan and I begrudgingly (after retrieving coffees from EVP) drove downtown to go to the indoor market at the Monona Terrace (after parking the car we got to play with an eight-month old corgi). The indoor market is disorienting for many reasons, including the hallucinogenic orange carpeting, the fluorescent lighting and the fact that I no longer know where to find my favorite vendors. Dan managed to find the spinach man and after purchasing spinach and a rutabaga we fled the indoor market and escaped back into the cold and blustery day. I had my heart set on a scone from Lazy Jane’s Cafe but first we decided to stop by the memorial dedicated to Otis Redding whose plane crashed in Lake Monona in 1967. A million years ago- before Dan and I were dating- we attended a wedding at the Monona Terrace and a group of us left the reception to find the memorial and ceremonially pay our respects to Mr. Redding. This visit was a bit more brief. And sober.

Otis's memorial

And we were off to Lazy Jane’s where we sat upstairs- in the sweltering heat- and were joined by Stosh, who is visiting from Pittsburgh. I laughed as Dan and Stosh told stories about Ford’s Gym and nibbled at a lemon cream scone while we waited to hear the cooks downstairs yell my name throughout the cozy house-turned-cafe telling us that our food was ready. And when that happened, I devoured a curry tofu scramble with a side of some damn good potatoes. Yum.

Lazy Jane's

Lemon cream scone and coffee

Nice kitties

 And there you have it. My first entry. In the coming months I hope to share recipes, photographs, and tales of my adventures around Wisconsin. For now, sweet dreams.