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Monday, September 17, 2012

Ground Cherry Chutney

I saw these little fellows at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, and I wanted to try them. I wasn't quite sure what they were, or how to prepare them, so I asked. They tasted (at least to me) something like a mango, only not quite so sweet. I purchased a bunch, husked them, and set about figuring out a way to incorporate them into our menu. 

My initial thought was jam, but we honestly don't eat very much jam, so that was out. That was what led me to chutney ! We do like the sweet, savory taste of mango chutney, so it seemed like a natural transition. When it was complete, I paired it with some pan seared fish, that I had seasoned with some Hipster Dust. This is a seasoning mix I was asked to try by it's creator. You can find it at It is actually a vegan spice blend, but I used it on meat. If I made an error, I probably used too much ! I underestimated how much kick this little rub has, and I quite liked it ! I will need to find a way to incorporate it into more dishes!

Ground Cherry Chutney
3 cups ground cherries, husked and rinsed 
1 cup sugar 
1/4 cup water 
1/2 cup champagne vinegar 
1 cup red onion, chopped 
1 cup purple bell pepper, chopped 
1 tablespoon coriander 
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder 
1 tablespoon sriracha 
1 teaspoon salt 
In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water, and slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add vinegar, onion, and pepper, and cook until onions and peppers are soft. Add remaining ingredients, and simmer over low heat until most of the cherries have burst and mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pastrami and Goat Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf

I was inspired to make this by a recent visit to the Maple Tavern, where we had a meatloaf sandwich stuffed with pastrami, pepper jack cheese and bacon. Since we had our homemade pastrami, I thought I could make my own version. 

Our pastrami was pretty smoky, so I didn't want to add more smoke with the bacon. And it was peppery on the outside, so pepper jack cheese probably wasn't the best addition either. I had goat cheese on hand, so I opted to add that. It was really tasty!

Pastrami and Goat Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf
2 pounds ground beef 
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs 
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning 
1/2 cup onion, minced 
4 ounces pastrami, shredded 
4 ounces goat cheese 
1/2 cup ketchup 
Preheat oven to 375. Soak bread crumbs in milk until all milk is absorbed. Combine with meat, and add eggs, Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning and onion. Press half of the mixture into a loaf pan. Combine goat cheese and pastrami, and make a "tunnel" down the middle of the meatloaf. Top with the remaining meat mixture. Top with ketchup. Bake for 1 hour until brown on top. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pierogies for Dessert at Maruso

I think I am going to stop trying new places when I invite friends out to dinner. Especially a place like Maruso, that had so much promise from their website. 

I loved the concept, street food brought inside, and a mish-mash of cultures all on one menu. So, I suggested it for a pre-show outing we were planning with another couple. We previewed the menu online and saw plenty of things that all of us would enjoy. I thought it was a perfect night out.

When we arrived, there were very few people in the restaurant. It was early, so no panic ensued. My husband arrived, and we were waiting for another couple, so we ordered cocktails and a couple appetizers off the happy hour menu. Ray had been anxious to try the XXX Bubble Tea they have on the specialty cocktail menu. When he ordered, our server said, "OK, but it's going to take awhile, those are hard to make." That should have been our first sign of things to come. I ordered a raspberry mojito, which apparently took the same amount of time.

The other couple joined us before our drinks came. Strangely, the "Angry Eggs" appetizer we ordered came before our cocktails (apparently he wasn't exaggerating the amount of time required for the preparation of the bubble tea). We did enjoy the Angry Eggs, which are wasabi infused deviled eggs with a piece of bacon on top (although we all agreed they could have been more aggressive with the wasabi). We had also ordered  some "bar nuts" which were supposed to be some crispy seasoned chick peas, they had yet to arrive.

Our drinks finally came, and our guests ordered theirs, and we ordered some dinner (which included pierogies, ordered by our friends, this will come into play later). Now, let's talk about bubble tea. The "bubbles", in my experience, are normally like large tapioca, and do have some flavor. These were like small balls of rubber, and had no flavor whatsoever. If you had too much to drink, you could easily choke on one! My husband wasn't even interested in drinking the liquid portion of this cocktail, which, at $8.00 a pop, says something about the quality of it. And we were still waiting on the bar nuts, which I requested a second time.

We were enjoying our conversation, and the other cocktails. One of my friends asked for a second glass of wine, and the server brought the bottle to the table and refilled her glass. I thought this was strange, I have never seen this practice before. But, assuming this to be a more "edgy" place, I just went with it. Dinner arrives, before the pierogi appetizer...strange. We figure it is lost in the same place as our bar nuts.

Dinner was, meh. Both of my friends ordered the Grinder, which is basically a Philly Cheese Steak. It was nothing special, and underseasoned. And, we had no condiments of any kind on our table. My husband had a grilled steak salad, that came "deconstructed". I normally like this kind of thing, but he had an entire head of Romaine lettuce on the side of his plate, barely grilled just sitting there. The steak was nicely grilled, and the rest of the salad was interesting, but this large, uncut piece of lettuce on the plate made it quite difficult to eat.

I ordered the noodle bowl, which was pho, actually (not sure why they didn't just call it that). The server informed me it was best to put the side condiments in with the soup, it was much better that way. Of course it should be ! I think I had the best dish of the table, the broth was tasty, the noodles were cooked perfectly, and they have a house made soy sauce that is excellent. As we were finishing up our meals, the pierogies arrived. Maybe they are considered to be a dessert in some other cultures ? They were quite heavy and greasy, and we were already done eating, so I am not sure what the reasoning was behind bringing them at this point. They were wasted, no one wanted them.

We were headed to a show after dinner, and still had plenty of time.We would have probably stayed for a couple of cocktails, but we never saw the server again. That, and we had no interest in staying, with the slow and inattentive service, and really poor cocktails and food we received. We literally had to grab him as he ran by to get our check.

So this is my lesson: never take your friends with you to a new place, you should always "preview" it first, and you too, can avoid pierogies for dessert. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Maple Bacon Apple Crisp

I'm not competitive...hehehe....

I really am ! I love entering bake offs, chili cook offs, you name it ! And when I saw the Kingfield Farmers Market had an apple bake off, I wanted to enter, because I make a really awesome apple crisp. But I needed to kick it up a notch, to win, of course ! And I didn't...

But, I was so pleased with the recipe, I am posting it anyway! Maybe a little too adventurous for the folks at the Kingfield Farmers Market, but I would make it again in a heartbeat!

Maple Bacon Apple Crisp

For the apple base:
3 large Granny Smith Apples, peeled and diced
3 large Minnesota Zestar apples, peeled and diced
1 cup Minnesota maple syrup
6 ounces dried cranberries
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon Saigon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix together and place in a 9 by 13 pan coated with butter.

For the topping:
1 cup salted butter
2 ½ cups old fashioned oats
¾ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Saigon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pound good, smoked bacon, fried crispy and diced into small pieces
Mix all ingredients together until crumbly. Bake at 375 degrees  45-60 minutes until brown on top and bubbly. Let rest 10-15 minutes, before serving warm with your favorite vanilla ice cream.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Smoked Chicken Quesadillas

This could technically be an addition to the 'Chopped Refrigerator Challenge" Hall of Fame, since we had smoked chicken from Labor Day, but that shouldn't really count as a left over, since we specifically smoked a lot of meats to eat all week long, and freeze for future use. I love the whole smoked chickens, we used to go to a Hutterite Farmers Market twice a year near my home town twice a year to stock up on them. One of my favorite preparations was always smoked chicken salad sandwiches, which may make an appearance here later this week. I had some avocado just about to turn in the refrigerator, so I needed to make something with those, and salsa fresca is our favorite way to use those up. With the leftover tortillas from fish tacos, quesadillas seemed like a smart transition.

Smoked Chicken Quesadillas 
To smoke the chicken:
2 whole chickens, about 5 pounds each
3 quarts water
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup pickling spice
Combine these ingredients together, and immerse chickens in the brine. Let soak overnight. Remove from brine in the morning and pat dry.

For the rub:
2 tablespoons lemon pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon black pepper
Mix spices together and rub chickens thoroughly with spice mixture. Place on smoker, and smoke at 200-225 for 6-8 hours until meat reaches an internal temperature of 185. Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes.

For the quesadillas:
1 cup smoked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup queso fresco
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 tortillas

For the salsa fresca:
6 roma tomatoes, diced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, diced finely
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all the ingredients in a bowl just before you are ready to serve.

To assemble the quesadillas, place one tortilla on your board. place half the queso fresco on it, then half the chicken. Top with half the cheddar cheese, and another tortilla. Repeat for a second quesadilla. Heat a small non-stick spray pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Toast the quesadillas lightly on each side until warmed through, and cheese is melted. Place on a serving plate, cut in quarters, and top with salsa fresca.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pastrami from Scratch

Grilled Pastrami Sandwich
We made corned beef from scratch earlier this year for St. Patrick's Day, and specifically saved one with the intention of smoking one for pastrami. I had never tried this before, but I love a good pastrami sandwich. How hard could it be ?

Turns out, fairly simple, and really decadent. I put quite a bit of pepper on the outside of this one, because that is how I like pastrami when I purchase it. We smoked this slow along with all of our other goodies on Labor Day, and I had a hard time keeping my hands off it, as it was the first item off the smoker. 

You could use a store bought corned beef for this recipe as well. The real key here is to soak the corned beef in water for at least two hours prior to getting it on the smoker. You will want to remove some of the salt in which it was originally brined. 

Pastrami from Scratch
1 4 to 5 pound corned beef 
4 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper (not too finely ground) 
2 tablespoons ground coriander 
1 tablespoon whole coriander 
2 tablespoons paprika 
2 tablespoons garlic powder 
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme 
1 cup apple juice, plus more for basting 
Soak the corned beef in water for at least two hours. Remove from water and pat dry. Combine all spices, and generously rub into the corned beef. Place meat on smoker, and smoke at 200-225 degrees for 6-8 hours, until meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Place meat in an aluminum pan, add 1 cup of apple juice, and cover with foil. Place back onto the smoker, and smoke an additional hour or more, until internal temperature is 165. Remove from smoker, and from pan, and let it cool completely. Refrigerate overnight before slicing (if you can stand it!). 

For the sandwich: 
4 slices pumpernickel bread 
4 slices swiss cheese 
1/4 cup mayonnaise 
1 tablespoon fresh horseradish 
8 ounces sliced homemade pastrami 
2 tablespoons butter 
Mix together the mayonnaise and horseradish, and spread on one side of the slices of bread. Place a piece of cheese on each piece of bread. Divide meat in half, and place on one piece of bread, top with the other. Melt half of the butter in a pan, and place sandwich in the pan. Spread remaining butter on top of the sandwiches while they are cooking. Flip when they are brown, and brown the other side. Slice in half and serve. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Smoked Pork Tacos

This is the second holiday we have spent firing up the smoker, and experimenting with smoked meats. I really love pushing my creativity, coming up with new combinations of brine, rub and smoke. For the pork this round, I decided to bring in a simple combination of molasses, salt and water, and make the rub the real star. We used pecan and cherry to smoke. I didn't take the pork to the complete "pulled pork" stage, and left it to medium temperature. This left me with the good, smoked flavor, but the texture of a nice pork roast. 
For these tacos, I topped these with a simple jicama slaw, and some quesadilla cheese. They were perfect! 

Smoked Pork Tacos
For the pork:
One 5-8 pound pork butt (shoulder)
3 quarts water
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
3/4 cup molasses
The night before you are ready to smoke, mix together the water, salt and molasses. Place the pork butt in the mixture, and refrigerate overnight.

Rub mixture:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon ground garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
In the morning, remove the meat from the brine, and pat dry. Generously rub the seasoning mixture all over the pork butt. Smoke for 10-12 hours at 200-225 degrees, until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 180-185 degrees. Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes.
Check out the smoke ring on that baby!
For the jicama slaw:
1 medium sized jicama, cut into matchsticks
1 small red pepper, diced finely
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Mix vegetables and cilantro together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

To assemble tacos:
6 small flour tortillas, warmed
6 ounces quesadilla cheese
Smoked pork, diced
Jicama slaw
Salsa of your choice
Place meat on tortillas, add toppings as desired. Enjoy!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Palak Paneer

I think I could be addicted to paneer. I wanted to learn to make it from scratch, but we didn't have time to do that, and I found this GIANT package of it at the store, so I used it to recreate one of my favorite Indian dishes. 

Palak is sort of a spinach stew, and I really love spinach. When I told my husband I was going to make this, he said I better make a big batch, because he loves it too. So, I apologize in advance for the enormous proportions here, but it freezes beautifully, and I am looking forward to pulling it out of the freezer later on, and enjoying it again. 
Palak Paneer
1 two pound package paneer, cut into cubes
1/4 cup butter, divided 
1 large onion, diced 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
3 tablespooons ginger, minced 
1 serrano chili, minced 
1 tablespoon cumin 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 teaspoon garam masala 
1/4 teaspoon cloves 
1  14 ounce can fire roasted, chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 pound fresh baby spinach
1 six ounce container greek yogurt
In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Brown the paneer cubes until golden on all sides, and remove from pan. Add remaining butter to the pan, and saute onions, garlic, ginger and serrano pepper until soft. Add spices and cook until spices are toasted. Add tomatoes and water, and about half of the spinach. Cook spinach down, and add remaining spinach. Continue to cook until spinach is soft. Using an immersion blender, blend the stew until somewhat smooth, but still has some texture. Add yogurt, and stir paneer back into pan. Let simmer until paneer is warmed through.