Salt Cellar, Dining in St Paul

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I discovered a great blog recently. Chef Alan Bergo of the Salt Cellar restaurant in St Paul writes as the Forager Chef. He likes to use indigenous Mid-western ingredients and local purveyors. He cooks with dandelions, knotweed, ramps, spruce. burdock root and nettles. He writes about hunting for mushrooms, cooking methods and recipes. The recipes look fabulous – Spruce Brined Poussin with Apple Mustard Sauce and Beef Tartare with Dead Man’s Fingers and Ramp Vinaigrette are a couple that caught my eye.

View into the kitchen

View into the kitchen

I don’t remember seeing them on the menu at the Salt Cellar. A friend of mine was raving about the meat so I went there for the first time the other night. There is a large glass window into the kitchen from the main dining room so you can watch the chef in action. The meal started with homemade potato chips and pimento cheese with warm fresh rolls that melted in your mouth.

The beef steaks were tender and flavorful. They came with a small cup of wild mushrooms and a cup of their own special béarnaise sauce with a little tomato added. Our sides were the market vegetable medley which were nicely seasoned and the beef fat pommes frites. I think I ordered the roasted potatoes but the pommes frites were sinfully delicious.

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Chocolate Mousse with Shortbread

We finished the meal with a chocolate mousse and a Boston cream pie. Our waiter insisted we try the spruce ice cream that was offered as part of the daily ice cream selection. It was unexpectedly delicious. Very fresh and light.

Manu

Manu

Our waiter’s name was Manu and he had a strong French accent. Usually when I ask people where they are from, they will tell me the country or the continent and I have to ask several times to find out where exactly they are from. He told me he came from Toulouse, France right away and was happy to chat. His mother’s family was from Catalan across the border in Spain and his grandmother had called him Manu, short for Manuel and it stuck.

My dining partner and I had been speculating about how he got here. My friend was sure he followed a woman. I thought he might have come for school. Of course it was a woman. He said he followed a woman here and then fell in love with Minnesota and could not leave. The restaurant was empty on a Friday night and I asked him if it was always like that. The explanation was that the restaurant has no outdoor space and in the summer Minnesotans like to be dining outside if in town but many were probably at their summer cabins. We consoled each other for not having a summer cabin.

 

 

Indian Boarding School to Green University

Last weekend I drove up to Morris, Minnesota, population 5,000, which is about a three hour drive north of the Twin Cities.

On the way we stopped in Glenwood for a DQ ice cream and spent a few moments enjoying the view of Lake Minnewaska. It was a beautiful day and the lake was inviting. That night we dined at the Bella Cucina in downtown Morris.

It has an extensive menu and very good food. We enjoyed artichoke dip with grilled ciabatta as an appetizer and then dug into such things as lasagna, Tuscan rigatoni with goat cheese, lobster mac and cheese, penne Corsica with shrimp and artichokes, and chicken scallopini. All were delicious although probably too much because we were all stuffed.

We couldn’t find a bed for the night in Morris due to some track meet so we had to drive another half hour to Benson. Benson is a town of about 3,000 people, how hard could it be to find our hotel? We got lost, drove all the way through town, turned around, got out the phones and finally found our hotel. By this time we were ready for a nightcap. We headed to the bar attached to the hotel. It was packed, not a free seat in the place, and the DJ was a maniac with loud, loud music. It was time for bed instead. DonsCafe-300x300[1]

The next morning we headed back to Morris and Don’s Café for breakfast. Don’s has been around since the 1940s and serves good homemade slow cooked food. The bread is made on site every morning. On the wall above us was a plaque presented by the local CBS affiliate to Don’s for having the best grilled cheese sandwiches in Minnesota. We decided it must be the bread.

Morris’ main claim to fame is the University of Minnesota – Morris which was founded in 1960 as a public liberal arts institution. About 1,900 students enroll each year. The campus is on 130 acres and is part of the state university system. In the Liberal Arts College category, Morris ranks in the top 20 along with three other Minnesota colleges, Carlton, Augsburg and Macalester as LGBTQ friendly campuses. Morris has a long standing commitment to fostering diversity, intercultural competence and environmental stewardship. The campus is a national leader in green initiatives and on its way to becoming carbon neutral.

Continue reading here

 

 

Lamb Stew

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My brother gave me an electric crockpot and my son was begging for some lamb so this turned out to be a great marriage. If you don’t have a crockpot, simmering on the stove would probably work just as well.

Once I got into the recipe I discovered I didn’t have any coriander so I threw in some cinnamon instead. Of course, I must have just gone brain dead because obviously coriander is cilantro and I always have cilantro. In spite of it all, it turned out to be a tasty dish.

Lamb Stew

1 lb lamb shoulder chops, trimmed and cut into smallish chunks

Mix together and toss with the meat:

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp coriander (cilantro)

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (I would put a little more)

¼ tsp salt (don’t really need it if you are using the full strength chicken broth)

Several turn of the pepper mill

 

1 large onion, chopped (I used a red one)

 

28-oz diced tomatoes

¾ cup chicken broth (I used half a cube in boiling water)

4 cloves minced garlic

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1 can cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Mash about ¾ cup of the beans

 

6 oz fresh spinach, chopped

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Put the spiced up meat into the crockpot, top with chopped onion.

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Heat tomatoes, chicken broth and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

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Pour the tomato mixture over the meat.

Cover and cook 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low, until meat is tender.

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Mix in the mashed chickpeas, whole chickpeas, and spinach

Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until headed and spinach has wilted.

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Serve over rice.

Leftover note. We had this the next day as a sauce for gnocchi and it was really pretty good.

 

 

 

Cooking in Colorado

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I recently spent some time in Boulder, Colorado with an old friend of mine. We both have frequented the Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam and gorged ourselves on Rijsttafel. I hadn’t had Rijsttafel in ages and when he volunteered to make it, I was very excited. After a quick trip to the Asian store he assembled all the ingredients and spent the afternoon cooking.

Many many ingredients

Many many ingredients

Rijstaffel means rice table. It usually consists of rice with multiple small dishes, appetizers, and condiments. The dishes can come from anywhere in Indonesia from spicy curries to dishes with Chinese influence. The Dutch colonists who had been living in Indonesia brought the Rijstaffel back to the Netherlands. Today it is virtually unknown in Indonesia but is still going strong in the Netherlands.

We had beef in red sauce with tomato chili and coconut cream, chicken Bali with lemongrass and coconut cream, Gado Gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), two kinds of Satay, rice and multiple condiments.

It was a feast and all delicious. I am going t have to try to make the chicken one day soon.

Toasted coconut and peanuts for sprinkling on dishes

Toasted coconut and peanuts for sprinkling on dishes

Beginning of beef in red sauce

Beginning of beef in red sauce

Starting chicken Bali

Starting chicken Bali

Chicken Bali almost done

Chicken Bali almost done

Condiments with Gado Gado

Condiments with Gado Gado

My plate is full!

My plate is full!

Women’s Day Torte

Happy International Women’s Day! For some reason this day reminded me of a torte I have made several times and associate with Women’s Day. Probably because it is so delicious.

Turkey is the top producer of Hazelnuts but they are also grown commercially in Europe, Iran, and the Caucasus. The hazelnut-chocolate spread, Nutella, accounts for about 25% of all hazelnut production.

Hazelnut Torte

½ lb shelled hazelnuts

8 eggs, separated

1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup breadcrumbs

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup whipped cream

1 cup tart jelly

Grind the unblanched hazelnuts very fine. Put 2 tablespoons of the ground nuts aside for the outside of the cake.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar till very light. Add the breadcrumbs, lemon rind, lemon juice, vanilla and ground nuts. Fold in the egg whites whipped very stiff but not dry.

Bake in 2 layers, 30 minutes at 325 degree F. Cool in the pans.

Take out and put together with whipped cream and a little jelly spread between the layers. Whip the rest o f the jelly with a fork and spread it over the top and sides of the cake. Powder with unused 2 tablespoons of ground nuts. Decorate the top of the cake with a swirl of whipped cream. Chill before serving.

 

Food and Beer with some other stuff thrown in – My Week

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I had an interesting week. After spending 12 years in the DC area and never going out or doing anything (at least very rarely), I know have a blooming social life. The DC area is spread across Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia. You often have to travel an hour or more to see people and with the horrid traffic, it can take you much longer. It was easier to make the long drive home after work and just stay there. The Twin Cities are much smaller in area and I would call the traffic “light”. I would guess I could be anywhere I want to go in 30 minutes or less.

My week started on Sunday back at the Walker Art Museum. A friend of a friend was visiting from out of town. She happened to be staying with people who live a block from my new place and also moved here recently. I am living in an up and coming trendy area where old buildings and warehouses are being converted into lofts and upscale apartments. My building is an old dry goods store but their building is brand new. We went over and saw their place after a quick tour of the Walker. The apartment is spacious and very modern. They have a view of a parking ramp. But I suppose the price was right. And the location is perfect.

From there we went to eat at the “best” Indian restaurant in the city, India House. Our new friends were vegetarian and this place had many vegetarian options with “homemade sauces and secret spices”. I had the Tikka Masala with chunks of chicken, green peppers and onions in a tomato sauce. My brother, who went to boarding school in India, said he thought Tikka Masala was a dish they made up for the British and not really Indian but, when served in India, it usually had chunks of vegetables in it. I had never had it with vegetables before. The best part of the meal was the onion pakora appetizers. I have no idea how they made them but they were clusters of onion fried in a batter. They are also called Kanda Bhaji or onion fritters. They were delicious. And of course we washed it all down with a Taj Mahal beer.

– READ ON at: http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/food-beer-stuff-thrown-week/2015/01/23#sthash.gn0fHZIb.dpuf

Christmas Snacks

IMG_1264I’m off to my cousin’s house for Christmas Eve dinner and I am making Pirozhki to take along for an appetizer. These are Russian pies made with bread dough. As a shortcut, I use ready to cook biscuits from the refrigerator aisle (in the US) and break them apart to make the smaller pies. This year I am making beef and mushroom pirozhki and I decided to try them with green onion and a little garlic instead of the yellow onion. I’m always experimenting…

Have a Happy Holiday!

 

 

Basic dough

1 package active dry yeast (1 Tbsp.)

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup milk

8 Tbsps. butter, cut into bits

1 tsp. salt

2 tsps. sugar

1 whole egg

2 egg yokes

4 1/2 to 5 cups flour

1 whole egg, beaten

Yield: 4 dozen

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Heat the milk to lukewarm and add the butter to it. Stir the milk and butter mixture into the yeast. Add the salt, sugar, egg and egg yolks, mixing well. Gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it lightly until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning dough to grease the top, and cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide it into 48 balls of equal size. On a floured board roll each ball out to a circle 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

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Place a heaping Tbsp. of filling on each circle, then press the edges of the dough together firmly to seal. Gently shape the pies into elongated ovals.

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Place the pies seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until they are just doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush each pie with the beaten egg. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.

 

FILLINGS

Beef

2 large onions, minced

2 Tbsps. butter

1 lb. lean ground beef

2 tsps. salt

pepper to taste

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Sauté the onions in the butter until transparent. Stir in the beef and cook until done. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Cool.

 

 

Cabbage

4 Tbsps. butter

2 large onions, minced

1 lb. cabbage, finely shredded

1 tsp. dill

2 tsps. salt

pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in the butter. Add the cabbage and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the cabbage is tender but not browned. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cool.

Mushrooms

2 Tbsps. butter

2 medium onions, minced

1.5 lbs mushrooms, chopped  (wild or tame)

6 Tbsps. minced fresh parsley

2 tsps. fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in the butter until soft but not brown. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing well.

Cool and Enjoy!