Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What's On the Side: Asian Tri-Color Coleslaw Salad

Right before Easter, I bought a giant head of red cabbage to make a natural dye for eggs, but then we had a little egg shortage, and I decided our few egg-buying friends would probably rather purchase non-dyed eggs. So . . . long story short, I had a red cabbage on my hands just waiting to be used in a recipe.

Ergo, this tri-color Asian coleslaw. The bright colors come from the red/purple cabbage, green Brussels sprouts, and orange carrot. First, I shredded the vegetables in my food processor using the metal blade attachment. Then, I made a simple Asian-inspired dressing to add a jolt of flavor to the shredded vegetables. A quick toss in the dressing, a garnish of black sesame seeds, and you've got a stunning coleslaw salad to add to your dinner table.

Asian Tri-Color Coleslaw Salad (printer-friendly version)
makes 2-4 servings

For the coleslaw:
1 cup shredded carrot (about 1 large carrot)
1 cup shredded Brussels sprouts (about 10 small-medium Brussels sprouts)
1 cup shredded red cabbage (about 1/2 small head of cabbage)

For the dressing:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar

fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
black sesame seeds, for garnish

1. Add the shredded carrot, Brussels sprouts, and red cabbage to a large bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lime juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar.
3. Pour the dressing over top the shredded vegetables. Stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with black sesame seeds.
4. Chill in a covered container in the fridge until ready to serve.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Made From Scratch: Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

While I might not be too stoked about our recent snowfall and the fact that our temperatures are still bouncing around the below-freezing mark, one benefit of this weather is that it is prime conditions for sugaring season. Up here in the Northwoods, you'll spy metal pails, plastic buckets, blue bags, and clear bags hanging from sugar maple trees, all collecting sap to be evaporated down into maple syrup.

It typically takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup -- making the final product a bit of a labor of love. We have several sugar maple trees on our property and planned to tap them this spring, but unfortunately we neglected to mark the trees before all the leaves fell off in the autumn. So, next year! Luckily, Dustin has a friend that taps a huge sugarbush (sugar maple grove) near town, so through the time he puts in helping to collect sap, he "earns" several jugs of finished syrup that last us the year.

While I primarily use our maple syrup for pancakes, it also makes a great alternative sweetener. And, with a few other ingredients, you can use it to make a delicious salad dressing or glaze. I recently used this maple-Dijon vinaigrette as both a marinade for salmon roasted in the oven and as a dressing for a salad of spring greens. The maple syrup adds a complex smoky sweetness to the vinaigrette which balances the robust bite of the mustard and vinegar.

What is your favorite way to use maple syrup?

Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette (printer-friendly version)
makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. In a small jar with a tight lid, add together the maple syrup, Dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, pepper, and salt. Place the lid on the jar and shake vigorously to combine. Alternately, place all the ingredients in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine.
2. The dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

On the Radio: Maple Syrup and Cold Weather's Silver Lining

My latest WXPR segment is now available online. This month I talk about sugaring season, which occurs when winter transitions into spring, and one of my favorite ways to use maple syrup. You can listen to (or read) the story by clicking here

Monday, April 6, 2015

What's Baking: Blueberry Crumb Cake

It snowed again last night, and while the tree branches caked with snow admittedly do look kind of lovely, I am so ready for spring to arrive and stay for the long haul.

So, instead of basking outside in the warm sunshine of spring, I am getting my springtime fix in the kitchen by baking this blueberry crumb cake and reliving memories of picking blueberries last summer in Bayfield.

For me, coffee cake is quintessential weekend food. My love for blueberry coffee cake can be traced back to the Sunday morning breakfasts of my childhood. While my Dad cooked up eggs ("a little bit leaky" for me, please!) and hashbrowns, I would help my Mom make a blueberry coffee cake. My job typically involved making the crumble topping, which I took very seriously. Particularly since, after the coffee cake was baked, I would attempt to surreptitiously pick off and eat all the giant crumbles. 

I still love those giant cinnamon-sugar crumbles, but I try to restrain myself from picking them off the top of my freshly-baked coffee cake. In addition to a tasty crumble topping, this cake is generously studded with juicy blueberries and gets a zing of citrus flavor from a generous amount of fresh lemon zest.

The cake tends to get moister as the days progress, but it is best eaten within three days of baking. 

Blueberry Crumb Cake (printer-friendly version)
makes 8-10 servings

For the topping:
5 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For the cake:
2 cups minus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic 1% milk
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment round. Set aside.
2. To make the topping, in a small bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Use a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingers to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture until large crumbles form. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the sugar, lemon zest, and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg until combined. Then beat in the vanilla.
5. Reduce the speed to low and stir in about 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by about 1/4 cup milk. Repeat, finishing with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepped pan, and use the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to smooth out the top. Sprinkle evenly with the crumble topping.
7. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
8. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then insert a knife around the edge of the pan to gently release the cake from the sides. Carefully flip the cake over to remove the pan bottom and parchment paper. Set the cake right-side up on the wire rack and allow to cool completely.

(lightly adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What's For Dinner: Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

When it comes to lazy-night dinners, pizza is first on the list. Back in the day, for ultimate laziness, we would rely on the frozen variety, but after realizing how simple it is to make pizza dough, these days our pizzas are made from scratch. 

However, as much as I love pizza, I H-A-T-E stretching out the dough. Pretty much every single time I attempt to make a pizza, I let loose with a string of words that would make a sailor proud (and that no amount of Life Buoy could make clean) when holes form and the dough stubbornly refuses to stretch into the shape I want it to. 

However, on a recent episode of The Splendid Table podcast, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, managing culinary director of Serious Eats, described a method for making pizza in a cast iron skillet. I heard this recipe while walking the dogs in the afternoon, and since I happened to have some pizza dough in the fridge, I immediately set to making a cast iron skillet pizza for dinner later that night. 

This is just the technique I was looking for -- no more pizza dough drama, as you just pat the dough into the bottom of the skillet, and voila, it's ready to be topped. The crust cooks up nice and thick and golden brown; if you find the bottom hasn't been cooked crisp enough, after taking the pizza out of the oven, you can cook the pizza in the skillet over the stovetop for a few minutes to achieve the crispness you desire. Like any pizza, the flavor combinations are endless. Though I am partial to a margherita with tomato and basil, for this pizza I went a little more savory with sliced mushrooms and black olives. And cheese. Never forget to use lots of cheese. (Because pizza is really just an excuse to eat a whole lotta cheese, right? That's why I tend to top my pizzas with a ton of vegetables, so I don't feel quite as bad about the massive cheese intake.)  

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza with Mushrooms and Black Olives (printer-friendly version)
makes one 10-inch round pizza

For the crust: 
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3/4 cup water, plus an additional tablespoon or two if necessary

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and water. The dough will be pretty shaggy and sticky; if it seems too dry, add in a bit more water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place and let the dough rise for six hours, or until doubled in size. The dough can be refrigerated up to three days before using.

To make the pizza:
1/4 cup pizza sauce
1 cup aged mozzarella, shredded (sold in bricks, not balls)
2 cups sliced mushrooms, sauteed
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1-2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 550 degrees.
2. Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to the cast iron skillet and swirl or brush to coat the sides and bottom of the skillet.
3. Press the prepared pizza dough into the skillet, completely covering the bottom.
4. Spread 1/4 cup of the pizza sauce over the pizza dough.
5. Top with about 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, 2 cups sauteed mushrooms, and 1/4 cup sliced black olives.
6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and grate 1-2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over top the pizza. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Monday, March 30, 2015

What's On the Side: Oven-Baked Potato Crisps

Dustin and I were in Madison on Saturday as he was enrolled in a whole hog breakdown class at Underground Meats in the afternoon, and I was there to, uh, get my shop on and run errands while he learned the art of butchery. Once we arrived in town, we stopped for brunch at Weary Traveler Free House. Along with two eggs and toast, D's breakfast came with garlic fried potato slices. And, oh, were they good. (And yes, the egg-wich I ordered was also delish, but sadly potato-less.)

As much as I enjoy fried food, I figured I could bake some just-as-good -- or, okay, perhaps in the very least, nearly-as-good -- garlic potatoes in the oven.

These potato crisps get a toss in olive oil, dried herbs, and minced garlic followed by a sprinkle of salt and pepper before roasting in the oven for 30 minutes. We ate our potato crisps alongside a green salad and oven-roasted salmon.

It's been about a million years (slight exaggeration) since we last had salmon at home-- the salmon at our local grocery store's seafood case is typically the poster child for "what not to buy" when it comes to fresh (or, okay, more likely "recently thawed") fish. So, during my requisite visit to Whole Foods in Madison, I was stoked to see some gorgeous wild-caught coho salmon fillets for sale in the seafood department; I quickly snatched up two fillets for our Sunday dinner. Nothing like a little fish and chips (er, crisps) to end the weekend on a good note!

Oven-Baked Potato Crisps (printer-friendly version)
make two hearty servings

1-2 cups thinly sliced russet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
2 cloves garlic, minced
fine sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sliced potatoes, olive oil, herbes de Provence, and minced garlic. Toss to coat.
3. Place the potato slices on the wire rack; it's okay if they slightly overlap. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden and slightly brown on the edges. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What's For Dinner: Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese

I have to admit that when we are strapped for dinner ideas, more than once I have headed to the pantry and come back to the kitchen with a box of macaroni and cheese. I try to justify the choice in that at least it's the "organic" brand, but, still, powdered cheese? Probably not the most wholesome dinner choice. Even if it is delicious and filling.

But, honestly, making macaroni and cheese from scratch really isn't that difficult. The only real difference is that, in lieu of using a packet of cheese powder, you have to make a simple b├ęchamel sauce instead. While a classic b├ęchamel sauce requires butter, this recipe (adapted from a recent issue of Real Simple magazine) uses olive oil.

This macaroni and cheese gets a big lift in flavor from the addition of roasted vegetables. I'd say it could be one of those "fool your kids into eating vegetables" kind of meals, except, aside from the cauliflower, nothing is really hiding out in this dish.

While, of course, the typical pasta in macaroni and cheese is elbow macaroni, there's really no reason why you couldn't use a different pasta shape. I'd recommend using something with plenty of nooks and crannies to hold onto as much of the cheesy sauce as possible -- for my version, I used campanelle.

This recipe comes together in less than 45 minutes, making it ideal for a weeknight dinner. Looks like I have no more excuses when it comes to eating macaroni and cheese from a box -- particularly since this veggie-stuffed version is quite a bit more wholesome.

Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

2 cups small broccoli florets
2 cups small cauliflower florets
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 ounces dried pasta (shells, campanelle, penne)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups organic 1% (or low-fat) milk
1 1/2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, toss together the broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables onto the prepped baking sheet. Roast until tender, (flipping halfway through), 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from the oven.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drain and set aside.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and, while whisking, cook for 30 seconds. Then slowly whisk in the milk. Cook until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese, vegetables, and pasta. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
6. Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch square (or 2-quart) baking dish. Top with the remaining half-cup cheddar cheese and broil under golden and bubbly, about 2 minutes.

(adapted from this Real Simple recipe)
© A Less Processed Life. All rights reserved.