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Friday, August 31, 2012

The Pizza Delivery Debacle

Or, "My Punishment for Ordering Pizza" 

We rarely do this. At least in recent history. But, on a Thursday night, after a long day at work, where I sustained a minor injury due to my own clumsiness, my husband suggest we order pizza to be delivered. I succumbed, against my better judgement. We discuss who we should call, because we live in something of a pizza delivery wasteland, where the only options are chains, so we attempt to select the best of the worst...Sarpino's. 

We used to order Sarpino's when we did order delivery pizza, and it wasn't bad, and their service was decent. We stopped about a year ago when all that changed. We suspected this particular franchise might be under new management, which caused the quality and service to go downhill. It happens. We just started making pizzas on the grill, and we like them a lot. But, on this ill-fated day, we decide to give them a second chance. 

Sarpino's has an online ordering system that gives you updates on the status of your order. Very cool, except that it sets an expectation of when your dinner should arrive. We received an email at 7:11 stating our pizza was "out for delivery." In my world, that means in the driver's car, on the way to my house. And in the past, that usually meant he was at our house in 10-15 minutes. So, tick, tock.... 

Thirty minutes pass, then forty...we start peeking out the door, wondering if the delivery driver is at the wrong house. I am just about to call the store, when we hear a knock. Hooray ! Pizza ! My husband answers the door, takes the credit card slip from the driver, and asks "So, what happened, that it took 45 minutes to get here ?" The driver, stands there, stunned. Ray signs the slip, and asks, "Has the pizza been riding around in the car for 45 minutes?" The driver then says "Just give me the receipt!" grabs it, and the pizza, jumps in his car and drives away. Huh ? 

We stand there, stunned. What just happened? Our pizza took 45 minutes to get to our house from a storefront 10 minutes away, and now we stand here, credit card charged, and no pizza. I call the store, ask to speak to the manager. A nice, young man, by the name of Alex, comes on the line. I explain what happened, and Alex says, "I don't know why he took the pizza." OK, me neither. I ask that he make sure our credit card doesn't get charged, and ask if he can explain why it would take 45 minutes for a pizza to get to our house from his shop. Alex tries to explain that the email is automatic (of course it is), and that just because it goes out, doesn't mean the driver actually left with the pizza. This makes no sense to me. 

I tell Alex we have a problem now, because we have now been waiting over 2 hours, we have no dinner, and we're upset. He offers to send the driver back to the house with the pizza, but quite frankly I don't want a pizza that has been sitting now for well over an hour, nor do I want to wait another hour for a fresh one. I tell him just make sure the card isn't charged, and email me confirmation of this (which he claims he can't do). Again, he offers to have the driver bring out the receipt. I don't want this driver anywhere near my house, he wasn't scared when he left here, he was ANGRY! So, we agree the best course of action is just to leave it at that. 

We order another pizza, from another place, and the waiting begins again. Approximately 45 minutes later, there is a knock on the door, and we think it is our fresh, new pizza from the newly selected restaurant. No, it is someone from Sarpino's ! A nice, more mature gentleman presents us with a pizza and a gift certificate and says, "Alex would like you to have this, with our compliments" and leaves. I am stunned. It was a nice gesture, yes. But now we have another pizza on the way. We are ravenous by this point, so we open the box, and each take a slice. It's horrible tasting, undercooked,  and slimy. And at some point, Ray looks at me and says, "You know, they might be angry with us, and messed with this pizza in some way." We both put down the slices of pizza and grimace. And now we have a gift certificate for a place we really have no interest in patronizing again. 

The whole experience kind of put us off pizza in general. We had a ton of left over pizza this morning as I left for work, my original plan being to take some for lunch. I couldn't stomach it, but I am not sure if it was the actual pizza or the experience that made me feel that way. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Birdtown Cafe in Robbinsdale

We are always looking for an interesting place to go for breakfast, close to home. I was very excited to see, a few weeks ago, Birdtown Cafe open on the main drag in Robbinsdale which is just minutes from our house. 

I had the opportunity to try out the breakfast menu finally, last weekend, when my parents were in town. I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive, taking them to a new place without having "previewed" it myself. And, I tried to at least look at the menu online, but only found a Facebook page and two Yelp reviews. I was on my own... 

The interior of the restaurant is nice and clean, simple. On entry, I noticed an enormous cinnamon roll in the display case, which I pointed out to my mother. She loves these, but decided maybe not this day. We were seated promptly, everything was fine, the server even took the ribbing my dad always gives the servers wherever we go! 

The menu is pretty standard diner fare, nothing exotic, except for something called a "Fill-it Skillet: Challenge", an eating contest we weren't ready to partake in this day. My husband chose Eggs Benedict, because, well, it's his favorite thing for breakfast, and I chose Cinnamon French Toast. 
Eggs Benedict from Birdtown

The meal was served very quickly, which was nice on a Saturday morning at 10am, as we expected it to be a longer wait. 

So, the Eggs Benedict. The hollandaise was fine, although difficult to tell whether it was made from scratch. The eggs were perfectly cooked, and Canadian bacon was a nice slice, in proportion with the rest of the serving size. Ray thought the English muffins were a little tough, and wished he had another option than hash browns for a side. Actually, this is a common issue at breakfast establishments. Does everything have to come with hash browns ? At any rate, they were hash browns, cooked well, a successful breakfast dish. 

Cinnamon French Toast

The real star was this Cinnamon French Toast. I hesitate to call it that, because it was one of the GIANT cinnamon rolls from the front bakery case, sliced, lightly battered, and fried. It was delicious, and didn't need syrup at all. And the portion size was enormous! I ate one piece, let everyone else at the table have a taste, and still took some home. My husband loves French Toast, and he thinks this is the best he has ever had. 

The Birdtown is open for breakfast and lunch, but according to their Facebook page, they will open for dinner September 10th. I am interested enough to try it, but we will definitely be back for the French Toast. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shrimp and Grits with Sweet Corn

I can see now that my "Chopped Refrigerator Challenge" may need to become a weekly installment on my blog! My parents were up from South Dakota for a visit this weekend, and brought us a treat of some fresh sweet corn. I grilled several ears for Sunday dinner, but we had some left over, and I can't waste it! 

This shrimp and grits casserole is one of my Ray's favorite dinners, he can (and did) eat almost the entire pan. I changed it a bit this time to use up some other leftovers we had as well. It was creamy and delicious with the addition of goat cheese, queso fresco, and cream. So, it is no longer a "light" dish, but still comfort food for a busy week. 

Shrimp and Grits with Sweet Corn 
1 1/2 cups milk 
1/2 cup cream 
3/4 cup chicken stock 
1/2 cup chopped red onion 
1 cup quick cooking grits 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (to taste) 
1 pound medium, uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped
1 cup roasted sweet corn
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1/4 cup chopped scallions 
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled 
2 ounce queso fresco, crumbled 

Preheat oven to 375. In a large pot, combine milk, cream, chicken stock, and onions. Bring to a boil, and add grits. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until thick, but not completely cooked. Add remaining ingredients. Pour entire mixture into an 11 by 7 inch pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 45-60 minute until golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-7 minutes. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two Brothers: Outlaw India Pale Ale

I was given the opportunity to review a beer by Barley's Angels, so I headed over to my favorite craft beer store, TC Craft beer, and asked what was new in the store. This was one of the beers he pointed me toward, and I was not disappointed. 

The can says it's "As bold as the name suggests but as friendly as the masked man." Which, of course gave me no hint as to how the actual beer might taste. This is Two Brothers first foray into canned beer, and I think they got it right. The first pour into the glass yielded a nice, bubbly head, appropriate for an IPA. It has a strong, citrus hop aroma, and the first taste was a very strong, piney hop. Outlaw is a solid, hoppy IPA, but it also has some nice malty backbone, which makes it different than a lot of the more hop-forward beers. 

I went to their website to try to find out more about this beer, and there is a big question mark about the August release beer. Disappointing, but now I feel like I might be on the cutting edge for once in my life.They apparently also have a homebrewing store at the front of the brewery, which is very cool to me, since I also homebrew!

After sipping for a bit, I enjoyed it more and more for the complexity of the hops, as they played against the malt. It only has 60 IBU's which is deceiving, because the hops are so aromatic you would think it was higher. Overall, a very nice, drinkable IPA. Thanks, Two Brothers ! And, as it says, on the can...Giddy-up!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chana Masala with Heirloom Tomatoes

I have been wanting to craft a recipe for chana masala for quite some time, and just hadn't gotten around to it. I didn't think the flavors would be significantly different than the tikka masala I have made with lamb and chicken, and so I proceeded. 

I had to use up the last of my beautiful heirloom tomatoes before they were no longer edible. I am not sure if they were the perfect choice for this dish, but it looks beautiful while you are cooking! They are definitely sweeter than the normal Roma tomatoes I would have chosen, so if you like it a little more tart, you could add lemon juice to the tomatoes while cooking. It made a massive batch, so we have some extra in the freezer for some night we are in a hurry for dinner. Curry in a hurry !

Chana Masala with Heirloom Tomatoes 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced finely 
2 serrano peppers, diced finely
5 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1 tablespoon cumin 
1 tablespoon coriander 
1 tablespoon garam masala 
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika 
1/2 teaspoon cloves 
1/4 cup tomato paste 
2 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes 
2 cups water
2 cups cooked chick peas
1/4 cup cream 
In a very large saute pan, melt together butter and olive oil. Add onion, peppers, ginger and garlic, and saute together until onions are soft and translucent. Add spices and tomato paste, and cook together until tomato paste becomes dark, almost brick red in color. Add tomatoes, water, and chick peas. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer 30-40 minutes until tomatoes are soft and mixture has thickened. Add cream just before serving. Serve over basmati rice.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grilled Chicken Tenders with Arugula Pesto

This was my husband's pick for dinner, after a 14 hour day. I think he just wanted something comforting, and tasty. Of course, I just couldn't leave it simple.

I am still working on using up my haul from the Minneapolis Farmer's Market this weekend, and I grabbed this nice bunch of arugula from Dehn's Herb Garden. It was fresh, peppery, and I had no idea what to do with it. Ray wanted these grains that he is in love with, from Trader Joe's, so as my friend Tim used to say, I could have put the butt of a skunk with it, and Ray would eat them. 

Finally I decide that any green could be pesto (can't it?) and mix it together with olive oil, lots of garlic, pine nuts, know the drill. Grill some chicken tenders, cook up the Holy Grail of grain, and...dinner !
Grilled Chicken Tenders with Arugula Pesto 
For the pesto:
3 cups fresh arugula, stems trimmed
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
In a food processor or blender, mix together arugula, garlic, olive oil and half of the pine nuts. Add extra olive oil if needed to make smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients, and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Here is the shot of the grain:
I cooked basically according to the package directions, except I used chicken stock rather than water, and added extra butter at the finish. Ray can eat half the package in one sitting.

For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
Mix spiced together and rub onto chicken tenders. Preheat grill to high, and place tenders on grill. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Serve with grains and pesto as a dipping sauce.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tri-Colored Carrot Ice Cream

My original inspiration for this dish was this post: 
It was extremely complicated, but the picture was so beautiful I wanted to try it. When I told my husband and several friends I wanted to make carrot ice cream,  the reactions were, well, less than favorable. 

Then, after my trip last week to the Minneapolis Farmers Market, I came up with the idea to use the little tri-colored carrots to make it, wouldn't that be beautiful ? And, not so much... 

When I grated the carrots and cooked them, according to the instructions in the original recipe, I just didn't like the texture. It didn't say how long to cook them, so perhaps that was my error, but I already had a significant amount of time invested, so I had to save it somehow. Thus, my version of the carrot ice cream. It has a really delicate flavor, and a strange, lilac color. I really like it ! 

Tri-Colored Carrot Ice Cream 
For the carrot base:
1 1/2 cups tri-colored carrots (yellow, orange and purple) grated 
1 tablespoon butter 
1 cup whole milk 
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of saffron 
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk 
In a saucepan, saute carrots in butter until soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain out the carrot bits, and press through a sieve to remove all the liquid. 

Ice cream base: 
1 cup cream 
1 cup half and half 
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk 
1/4 cup sugar 
Mix all ingredients together, then add the carrot mixture. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze for 6 or more hours until sold. Serve with pistachios on top. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pizza Bread Pudding

Every week or so, I have to play "Chopped Refrigerator Challenge" at home, and make dinner out of what is left in the refrigerator, because I hate wasting anything. This dinner was a product of that desire to use up the remains of our camping trip. 

I know, this is leftover biscuits, but you could easily use any leftover bread you have on hand. And this could just as easily be a breakfast dish as dinner, but I was using up the leftovers from our pizza grilling extravaganza on our camping trip. It was really good, and I am looking forward to the leftovers for lunch tomorrow !
Pizza Bread Pudding
1 tube pop open refrigerator biscuits (or 2 cups leftover bread, cubed) 
1 cup mild Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled 
1/2 cup onion, chopped 
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped 
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided 
6 eggs 
2 cups marinara sauce, divided 
Preheat oven to 375. Spray an 8 by 8 pan with non-stick spray. Cut biscuits into bite size pieces, and spread half into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle half of the sausage, peppers, onions, and cheese over the top. Add the remaining biscuits on top, then the remaining sausage, peppers and onions. Whisk together the eggs, and 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, and pour over the top. Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, top with remaining cheese and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Heat remaining marinara sauce, cut pudding into individual servings, and serve with marinara. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Farmers Market Dinner Challenge

Dinner from the Farmers Market
We went to the Farmers Market on Saturday, August 17th, to watch the Country Chef Challenge, and I was inspired to create my own meal entirely from ingredients purchased at the market. I have thought about doing this before, but watching the chefs create these fabulous meals was just the motivation I needed. 

Admittedly, my meal was probably nowhere near the caliber of theirs, but nonetheless, there is definitely some pride and inspiration involved in creating something entirely from fresh, local ingredients. I did allow myself some "pantry ingredients" like spices, and I used my own balsamic vinegar, although you could buy that at the market as well. So, hats off to the 75th Anniversary of the Minneapolis Farmers Market, here is the meal I created with your ingredients !

Farmers Market Dinner Challenge 

Grilled Buffalo Steak
2 six ounce New York strip buffalo steaks (from Eichtens Farms) 
Worchestershire Sauce 
Chicago steak seasoning 
Bring steaks to room temperature. Lightly sprinkle with Worchestershire sauce, and steak seasoning. Grill over high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, for medium rare steaks. 

Grilled Brussel Sprouts
1 pound small brussel sprouts, washed and trimmed 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon black pepper 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
3 stripped bacon, cooked and crumbled 
Toss brussel sprouts in olive oil, salt and pepper. Preheat grill pan over medium heat on the grill. Place sprouts in the pan, and grill, stirring frequently until tender and lightly charred on the outside. Remove from grill, and toss lightly with balsamic vinegar and bacon. 

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad 
1 pound heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced in half 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

10 fresh basil leaves, chopped 
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled 
Toss tomatoes with vinegar, salt and pepper. Let marinate for 1-2 hours. Just before serving, add basil and goat cheese. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Perfect Steak Dinner

As a gift last year, some friends from Indiana gave us a year's worth of beer from 3 Floyd's Brewery in Munster, because we are huge fans. In order to pay proper tribute to the gift, each month I tried to prepare a special meal to pair with the 12 varieties of beer we had received. The flagship beer at 3 Floyd's and the hardest to obtain, is Dark Lord, a very rich, intense Russian Imperial Stout. It begs to be paired with a thick, hearty steak meal. 

Although he is most likely biased, my husband always says I grill the perfect steak. The fact is, I grill steaks the way I like to eat them, so if you like yours cooked past medium rare, you won't like eating at my house! And, part of a perfectly grilled steak is starting with good product. Since I was raised in South Dakota, we always had access to top of the line, fresh off the farm, Black Angus beef, and it was reasonably priced. To say I am a bit of a steak snob would be an understatement! Getting a big, aged ribeye is definitely a treat, but if you want the perfect meal, this is the way to go. 

The second key to the perfect steak dinner is to not mess with the meat too much. If you have an excellent cut of steak, simple seasoning is best. I like just a light sprinkling of Worchestershire sauce, and barely sprinkled with Canadian steak seasoning. Too much, and the seasoning will take over the lovely taste of your beef, and if you did have to spend a little extra for the good stuff, you will want to taste it! 

The third key step is a really hot grill. You want those nice grill marks to get a good char on the outside of your steak. This particular ribeye was just over a pound, and with the grill blazing at about 450, I needed about 4-5 minutes per side to get it just between rare and medium rare, which is where I like it. To get the cross hatch pattern (to make it more like a restaurant), just give it a quarter turn on the same side after about 3 minutes. 

I personally don't use a meat thermometer to test when my steak is done, I use the "touch" test. I can tell by the texture of the meat whether it is done to my liking. When my steak feels like the part of my hand between my thumb and first finger, it's time to take it off the flame.If you want to use a thermometer, make sure you are testing in the middle, at the thickest part of your steak, to get an accurate reading. Then, you must let it rest.

As tempting as it is to cut right into that blazing hot steak, in order to keep it nice and juicy, you will want to let it rest for 5 minutes or so before you eat. Now, for the side dishes...

Steaks are pretty much an open book, you can serve just about anything. In summer, I like fresh vegetables, but we usually try to serve a balanced plate, with a starch as well. This was served with a light tomato salad, just fresh tomatoes from the garden, onions, green peppers and a light vinaigrette with oregano. The starch I chose was a multigrain pilaf, made with chicken stock, onions and butter. Served with the Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, it was a perfect meal.

I am sad to see the end of our year of beer, but excited to do so pairings for another brewery. Any takers?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ray's Truck Stop, Baldwin WI for Indian Food !

Paneer Tikka Masala
We decided to celebrate our first wedding anniversary by revisiting the campground where we were married last year, in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. On the way there, I wanted to stop at Ray's Truck Stop, because I heard they had excellent Indian food. My husband's response was, "Really?" I don't think he wanted to try it. Fortunately for me, we were in the middle of a downpour when we hit the Baldwin exit.We really had no choice but to pull over, so, why not give it a try?

The actual restaurant is a little difficult to find, it is in a Mobil station, and you have to walk through the convenience store to get to it. When we were seated, we were handed a menu, and told the daily special (hot turkey sandwich). We looked through the menu, and saw no Indian food, even though there was a post on the window that said "Curry" when we arrived. When our waitress came back, I asked if they still served Indian food, and she said, "Oh, I'll get you the other menu." For future visitors, remember to ask! The menu is massive, 3 full pages of all  different kinds of dishes. Although, the idea of beef vindaloo might be a bit disconcerting to a true Indian food afficionado, they have just about every Indian dish you can think of. I selected Paneer Tikka Masala for my lunch, and was given the choice of mild, medium or spicy. Of course, I chose spicy, because I was thinking I was in Wisconsin, it wasn't going to be all that hot. 

When it arrived, it was an enormous portion, and came with enough rice to feed us for the weekend. The rice was nothing special, in fact, was quite dry and probably had been sitting for a bit, but the tikka masala was special, indeed! The amount of paneer in the dish was crazy, more than I have ever been served in any other Indian restaurant, and it was the best I have ever tasted. Nice texture, tart flavor, and solid. The tikka masala sauce was spicy, but well balanced. This was truly one of the best Indian dishes I have had. 

Chicken Vindaloo
My husband chose chicken vindaloo, and also ordered his spicy. Traditionally, vindaloo would be more spicy than tikka masala, but his was not as hot as mine. Nonetheless, he had a large portion of food, the same unimpressive rice, but an amazingly flavorful sauce. Again, as good or better than any of the Indian restaurants we have tried in the Twin Cities area.

Would I recommend this place? Absolutely. The only somewhat disconcerting thing happened was while I was paying the bill. I overheard the "chef" discussing the difficulty she had preparing our lunches, because she wasn't the normal person who prepared the Indian cuisine, so she was just going off the other person's notes. I told her we thought the food was excellent, and she said, "Good, because I kind of just guessed." So, maybe consistency might be an issue at Ray's Truck Stop? But I would give it another try, most definitely. 

Campfire Orange Cinnamon Rolls

These couldn't have been more simple, inspired or delicious if I had figured this out myself ! We were celebrating our first wedding anniversary with a camping trip, and one of the bridesmaids, Angie Makovec, made these as a special breakfast treat for all of us. She learned this trick from another of our mutual friends, Ann Sandstrom. 

I know I usually don't use pre-packaged foods, but when you are camping, convenience and size are big considerations, as well as taste. Taste wins here. These are the pre-packaged, pop open cinnamon rolls, baked over the campfire, in half an orange. If you aren't camping, you could also do this in the oven. I have to say, I was so impressed with the flavor, and simplicity, I had to share. So, here it is!

The conversation resulting was, what else could we bake in the orange halves? How about other citrus ? 

Campfire Orange Cinnamon Rolls
1 package small pop open cinnamon rolls (with frosting) 
6 oranges 
Cut oranges in half and juice, and remove the majority of the pulp. Save the juice to enjoy when your rolls are baked! Place one roll in the center of each orange. Put the orange halves on a cookie sheet and cover with foil. Place over the campfire, preferable on a grate, and let bake 10-15 minutes until rolls are golden brown. Remove from fire, and spread glaze over the top. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Creamed Tuna on Toast (Fisherman's SOS)

Why is this one of my favorite dishes? I am not sure, but it felt like childhood right when I started making it. Although I added more tuna than the way my mom used to make it. And onions, and hot sauce, and get the picture.

We always had this during Lent, for sure, and it also spilled its way to the rest of the year because it is simple, classic, comfort food. At Ray's request, I added cheese to the mix, and it is a welcome addition to my basic recipe. It is, however, another entry into the Beige Food Hall of Fame, even with a bit of fresh chive sprinkled on top.
Creamed Tuna on Toast (Fisherman's SOS)
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
4 cups whole milk
3 six ounce cans light tuna in water, drained
3-4 drops Tabasco sauce, to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 pieces wheat bread, toasted
4 pieces provolone cheese
Fresh chives, diced, for garnish
In a large sauce pan, melt butter, and saute onions until soft. Add flour, and combine until smooth and golden. Slowly add milk, and stir until smooth. Add tuna, and continue to stir until tuna is broken into smaller pieces. Reduce to simmer, and stir in spices. Simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, 20-30 minutes. Place one piece of cheese on each piece of toast, and smother with sauce. Top with chives.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Garlic Sauteed Smelt with Tomatoes

We received a couple packages of smelt (smelts?) from our friends Jenn and Jerry, and we had talked at great length about different ways to prepare them.

I have only had them deep fried, at the traditional "smelt feeds" when they are fresh here in the spring. Ray had ordered some when we were in Chicago last year at a Greek restaurant that came in a tomato sauce, that he enjoyed, but those were really BIG smelt, and the ones I received were small. This dish is a spin on that preparation.

I have to admit I am not crazy about the little spines in the smelt. I know they are edible, but I found myself wanting to remove them as I ate. To each his own, I guess, but I imagine they would be difficult to filet based on their size. I did really like the taste of the fish with the garlic, tomatoes and capers. I would eat that again in a heartbeat!

Garlic Sauteed Smelt with Tomatoes 
1 pound smelt, cleaned
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 large roma tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon capers
1 pound fresh linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil
Put on a large pot of water for pasta, and liberally salt. In a large saute pan, melt butter and olive oil together,  and add garlic. Saute until garlic is soft, about 3 minutes. Add smelt, then cover with tomatoes, and reduce to a simmer. When water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook 3-4 minutes until tender, drain, place back in the pot and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil to keep it from sticking together.. Fish should be done about the same time as the pasta.  You will know the smelt is cooked when the meat becomes white in color and starts to flake. Add salt, pepper and capers to the fish dish, and serve over pasta.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sweet Corn Soup

A trip to South Dakota just wouldn't be complete without bringing back a load of sweet corn. We used to be able to buy an entire grocery bag full for a dollar, and you could cut your own with a machete in the field !
It's not quite the same, but it's definitely still as tasty. I bought so much, I decided to try to make a soup, which I have never done before. The corn was so sweet, the soup was almost more sweet than savory, but very, very, delicious. It does, however, appear to be in competition for my beige food hall of fame!

Sweet Corn Soup
8 ears of fresh sweet corn
8 cups water
1/2 cup fresh thyme
1/4 cup fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh horseradish, grated
2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove kernels from corn cobs, and cut cobs in half. Place cobs, water, thyme and rosemary in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 hour, then remove cobs and reduce until you have approximately 4 cups of liquid left.
In a separate pot, melt butter, and saute garlic and onion until soft. Add corn kernels, wine, and corn stock. Bring to a boil, then add horseradish and Tabasco sauce. Simmer 30-40 minutes until corn is tender. Blend with immersion blender until smooth, then stir in sour cream. Salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Spicy Swai and Creamy Polenta

OK, so it's beige. I admit it, sometimes the best comfort food doesn't take the prettiest photograph. On the other hand, when they finally invent something where you can reach out through the computer and taste the fabulousness of the beige foods, I WIN! 

Seriously, I was craving something comforting after having been away from home for the weekend, and polenta always fills the bill. I didn't have any parmesan cheese, however, which is one of the ingredients in my usual recipe. And Ray cleaned out the refrigerator this weekend, so options were somewhat limited. What do we always have on hand? Cream cheese ! I honestly couldn't believe the creamy, almost silky texture this had when it was done. I spiced some fish filets aggressively to compliment the polenta, and it was exactly what I needed to welcome myself home.

You will note that we use quite a bit of swai in our household. It is easy to find, tasty, inexpensive, tasty and sustainable. Here is some information regarding swai, for those who have been asking:

Spicy Swai and Creamy Polenta
For the polenta: 
5 cups water 
2 teaspoons salt 
1 cup cornmeal 
4 ounces cream cheese 
2 tablespoons butter 
Salt and pepper to taste 
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Slowly stir in the cornmeal, and reduce to a simmer. Stir frequently, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until polenta is desired consistency. I usually make it a little thicker than I want the end result, as the additions will thin it out some. Add cream cheese and butter, and stir until thoroughly combined. Salt and pepper as needed. 

For the fish: 
4 swai filets
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning 
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper 
1/2 teaspoon cumin 
1 tablespoon butter 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
Combine all the spices in a small bowl. Pat the fish filets dry, and rub with the spices. In a nonstick pan, warm the butter and olive oil until bubbly. Add fish filets, and cook 5-7 minutes per side, until golden brown. Serve on top of warm polenta.