Saturday, June 27, 2009

Simple, Good and Tasty: A Meal

A month or two ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to a meetup with other local food bloggers, hosted by Jim Norton of The Heavy Table. It's always fun to meet others in the blogosphere (especially when it comes to food) and get their advice on where to eat, what to order, who to talk to, what's in the works, who is closing shop. One of the individuals I met was Lee Zukor, "Instigator" for Simple, Good, and Tasty. Lee is diving into the world of local, organic, and responsible eating and wants you to come with him. In addition to his garden, CSA and farmer's market extravaganzas, he's started organizing meals at restaurants that focus on using local ingredients.


I was a little late in the game on finding out about his first meal (I read too many blogs and therefore often end up skimming even my favorites) but made sure to get my name on the list to his second, scheduled to take place at Heartland Restaurant in St Paul.


Lee invited me to come a bit early to tour the kitchen, which I gladly obliged. I enjoyed a nice glass of Cremant Rose in the bar while discussing what it takes to quit your job and become an organic farmer with one of Lee's previous co-workers. Then we were whisked off the the dinning room which was reserved solely for Simple Good and Tasty dinner participants.




While I didn't cook anything "new" this week, I did experience a first. It was a challenge to pass up the vegetarian menu that was featuring duck-egg pasta ravioli with local sheep's milk ricotta (oh god my mouth is watering just typing that) but I had to dive into the house made headcheese, which I had never officially previously consumed (I am certain I had one version or another during my time in Italy, but never knowingly called it headcheese).

head⋅cheese [hed-cheez]

a seasoned loaf made of the head meat, sometimes including the tongue or brains, of a calf or pig and molded in the natural aspic of the head.

Hey, I'm always up for a challenge

I was dining solo (shocking, right?! Kyle started Grad School two weeks ago, so the occasional dinner without him is inevitable) and had a great time getting to know my dining neighbors, Steve and Ben, a couple of dads from Lee's neighborhood and Joan and her sister, from A Backyard Farm. Fortunately, Joan ordered the Flora option, so I was able to take pictures for both meal options.

Before the meal Lee talked a little bit about his mantra, announced that Simple, Good and Tasty is officially a business according to the State of MN, and thanked everyone involved for being a part of the evening.


Next up was Chef Lenny Russo who also talked about his local food mantra, explained a bit about his business practices (like the fact that they purchase and utilize a whole pig, hence the headcheese portion of the evening)



This led to an amuse bouche (I'm not sure there are any other two words in the world that I love more... especially when I'm not expecting to hear them... or maybe foie gras) of Walleye Mousse on Kohlrabi slaw with a chervil aioli. Yums.


For us omnivores the 1st course was the much awaited headcheese. If you like ham, you'd love headcheese. It's creamy and rich, and the idea of internal organs being in there is the farthest thing from your mind when it hits your tongue. I was immediately brought back to the time Kyle and I spent on the pig farm in Italy. There is an undeniable earthy character to properly raised pork. I have to admit I kind of missed the concept of the chrysanthemum salad while eating it but the dish was delicious.


The vegetarian eaters got a very brightly colored fruit soup that looked incredibly refreshing (a good thing on any 90 degree day).


Next up was the Poussin (which may or may not just be a young chicken)
It was incredibly tender, rich, and in sum, delicious. Additionally, I could eat about 20 of those wild rice-pumpkin seed cakes and ANYTHING that has been drizzled with bit of Glace de Viande (fancy pants description for boiled down meat juice) gets two thumbs up from this girl. Well done Chef!





I already talked about how great the vegetarian option sounded. This picture makes me seriously hungry.


The dessert was delicious, and I love love love pepper with my chocolate. It's my new obsession. Last winter I was making chipotle hot chocolate for my crew in the cold blustery mornings. Sadly since this is Minnesota only a few appreciated the heat in their belly's from the spicy pepper addition. I'm not always a chocolate and cherry fan, but the cherries were mild, and are definitely in season so it works in my book.


I would have really liked to try the veg option, but probably didn't need a 2nd dessert. Damn it looks good though.


All in all, I highly recommend you go to one of Lee's up and coming dinners. Next month is at (my all time favorite, and impeccably close to me) Red Stag Supper Club. The price is right, the company is light hearted and good natured, and hey, it's local! Email Lee if you're interested in learning about future events!

Monday, June 22, 2009


In honor of my 215th post (yeah, well.... my 200th was a while ago, so we're sticking with 215) I've decided to treat you to the opportunity to personally benefit from reading my blog EVEN MORE than you already do (ha ha).

I started this blog right after Kyle and I celebrated our Honeymoon in Wine Country, California. A few months prior we marked our calenders and with great luck (and extreme perseverance on my part using TWO cellphones at once) Kyle and I got reservations at The French Laundry. Food Snobbery Heaven! I remember learning about The French Laundry a LONG time ago when I was browsing through the cookbooks in my parent's kitchen (you think I just became a food snob on accident?) when I stumbled across one that looked like a piece of art.

My mom explained to me how Thomas Keller served his patrons a 13 course dinner. THIRTEEN COURSES? My young mind couldn't wrap itself around the concept. But then she continued to explain. They are all very small, well thought out and incredibly detailed courses. Look at the details in those recipes; the ingredients; the time it takes to make each course. I was intrigued. And the pictures. Oh god the pictures! They are enough to make any omnivore's mouth water.

SO! In honor of the marriage that lead to the dinner which was part of the honeymoon that started this blog, I give you:

The French Laundry Cookbook Giveaway!


Simply leave a comment about what you'd like to see me cook and blog about in the future OR if you're NYC savvy leave a comment about what restaurant (big, small, gourmet or taqueria) I should visit in my upcoming trip to The Big Apple.

If you blog, tweet, tumble or facebook (or any other form of social media for all I care) about this give away, leave a SECOND comment linking to your shout-out and enter to win a second time.

The winner will be selected with a random number generator and the giveaway will close on July 3rd, 2009 at 12pm Central Time.
Good luck!

UPDATE: Comments are now closed. Winner TBA!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


They blew up the bridge in my backyard today. I didn't get as good of a shot as this (damn you Chuck Olsen), but snapped a few of it falling anyway.


this was that OH SHIT IT'S HAPPENING moment

and down she falls











The End.

(sorry I didn't take the time to so much as straighten out my pictures. I had a long day yesterday and today it's back to work).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Croissants: A How To

A while back Jim Norton from The Heavy Table was on stage for Salon Saloon. The subject was food and he, along with Andy Sturdevant and Chris Olson talked extensively talked about the food of France, including of course, croissants. I don't remember the exact phrase that was used but someone labeled the making of croissants a daunting task.

Remember how I have a competitive edge? I don't really care if I ever win, but I sure do like to compete. Alas:


Homemade Croissants, Courtesy of Kate and Kyle: A Short Story

Prep time: 24 hours, give or take
Bake time: 18-20 minutes

Okay, yes, it takes a long time to make these little bundles of love, but if you have patience, some room in your fridge, no fear of butter, and a good rolling pin you can DO THIS! I swear!

Kyle and I took turns at the fun, so whoever was working, the other was photo documenting (at one point I thought "man, Kyle has some feminine looking hands, and then I realized they were mine having forgotten Kyle took a picture or two... ha!)

We used the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook that Kyle received for his birthday a few weeks ago. They turned out fabulously (as has every recipe I've ever made from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook collection) and I would encourage you to get out there and buy it, or subscribe to Cooks Illustrated online for the best recipes for... just about anything you're looking for. I have some guilt about recipe copyright issues (especially from cookbooks I respect) so I won't post the exact recipe here, but this epicurious recipe is pretty similar. EDIT: If you're savvy you can find the recipe here


Mix together warm milk, sugar, yeast, flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth, about 8 minutes.


If the dough is too sticky at 5 minutes, add more flour 1 tbsp at a time until it forms a soft ball. Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with saran wrap and chill for an hour.


Lay 3 sticks of butter side by side on a sheet of parchment paper making a rectangle.


Sprinkle the butter with a couple of tablespoons of flour and cover with another sheet of parchment paper.



Pound the butter with a rolling pin until the butter is fully incorporated and is softened, then roll into an 8" square, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for one hour.



Turn out the ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an 11 inch square.




Place the butter square diagonally in the square and bring the corners together and pinch to seal.


This is when we started getting excited

Gently tap the square until it becomes larger and the butter softens. Gently roll into a 14 inch square.



Fold the dough into thirds to form a rectangle, and again to form a square.




Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours. Again tap until butter softens and roll into another square, repeating the folding step and chilling another 2 hours.

Can you see the butter? I can... and it makes my mouth drool.

Roll the dough into a 20 inch square.





Cut the dough in half and then into thirds



Cut each rectangle into a triangle. Gently stretch each triangle to even out the sides.


Cut a one inch strip at the wide end of the triangle and fold up the edges (aren't you glad I documented this with a camera?) Gently roll the dough from the wide end of the triangle to the tip. Place the individual croissants on a parchment lined baking sheet (I recommend one with a lip, as these suckers LEAK during the baking process), making sure to keep the tips against the sheet and curving in the ends to form a crescent shape. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-16 hours.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat one egg and gently brush over the croissants.

Bake croissants until golden brown.

Then eat all twelve. Don't let anyone judge you for it either. You deserve it!