I’ve written before about how much I love brunch. While going out for brunch is always a real treat, the past two weekends I have stayed in for brunch, sharing leisurely Sunday midmorning meals among good friends. I have to admit that, unlimited refills of coffee aside, these homemade brunches just might trump the restaurant versions. One of the main reasons is because they have given me an excuse to have my hands deep in dough at 7:30am on a Sunday morning.
Vanilla Bean Cream Scones
(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes about 24 mini scones
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp half and half (or heavy cream)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Add sugar to a large bowl and scrape vanilla bean seeds into it. Rub mixture with your fingers to create a vanilla sugar. Add flour, baking powder and salt to sugar mixture. Add whipping cream and stir just until dough forms. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together. Form dough into 10-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick round. Cut into 12 wedges and then cut each wedge in half to create 24 mini scones. Place scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to rack to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, to make glaze, scrape seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean into a small bowl and combine with powdered sugar and half and half until smooth. Add more sugar or cream as needed to create desired texture. Spoon glaze over scones while they are still warm and allow glaze to set as scones cool completely.
“I started a list of potential things to do this weekend… so far it’s 15 restaurants, 3 bars, and 3 actual things to do.”
Thus began an email from Anna (mentioned here before for her Pimm’s cup skills) on the eve of our spontaneous weekend jaunt to the Twin Cities. And I’m proud to report back from an amazing tour de food in the Land of the Wind Chill Factor. We ate and we ate and we did pretty much no actual things and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Here are the highlights:
I made a pitstop near Madison at “da apple orchard vit da Norvegian exposure” (per Eplegaarden’s absolutely hilarious website). There was a sign on the gate that said “No cell phones. Loud talking disturbs the Norwegians.” I came away with 23.5 pounds of apples. Orchards exacerbate my struggles with moderation. Applesauce recipe forthcoming.
This cafe-by-day/bar-by-night was our first stop when we rolled into town. This place has some of the best bar food in MPLS and the chances are good that you’ll spot a local celebrity before you finish your beer. We saw nobody famous on Friday but were consoled by Mushroom and leek pizza, pear and brie grilled cheese, and pints of Surley.
Bryant Lake Bowl:
Cozy pub/ brunch spot in the front, old-school bowling alley in the back. Lemon ginger scone + broccoli and white cheddar scramble. But it was way too beautiful a day outside to stay inside and bowl.
Common Roots Cafe:
Afternoon coffee with a view…
Every time I go to Eat Street, a famous row of restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, I swear I will go somewhere other than Jasmine Deli. But I always end up at Jasmine Deli because it’s my favorite. “Okay,” I think, “at least I’ll order something different this time.” And then I get the exact same thing as always, noodle salad with tofu. I can’t really imagine a trip to Minneapolis without it at this point. I’ll bear the title of creature of habit with relish.
Can’t pass up ice cream at S.Joe’s, even on a winteresque evening. With great trepidation, I forwent my favorite (banana/coffee/chocolate chip) in favor of pumpkin spice. I was not disappointed. Neither were Anna and Daniel.
Victor’s 1959 Cafe:
The upper midwest is probably the last place on earth that I’d expect to find delicious Cuban food. Joanna was not surprised. “Cubans are everywhere. We’re taking over,” she tells me. My black beans, scrambled eggs, and guava jam were gone before I could take a picture for the blog.
Isle Bun and Coffee:
Having been raised on homemade, from scratch and nothing but the best, I’m choosy about my cinnamon rolls. Isle Bun is one of the few places I’ve ever had a roll that can hold a candle to Grandma Kay’s. The smell at this place was enough to make me want to drop out of med school and convince Joanna to open a bakery with me. But that’s probably just the sugar talking. When I asked the bakery lady to box up a roll to go so I could take it back to my people in Chicago, she said, “you better put it in the trunk so it survives the drive without you eating it.” Sage advice.
As I hope is abundantly clear by now, you should let me know if you ever find yourself in the fine city of Minneapolis and in need of a restaurant rec. I’m your girl. If you want ideas for actual things to do, though, you’re on your own.
1 bag fresh cranberries
Here we have some quantities that are slightly excessive:
1) Bean/legume recipes on sugarcured lately. Lentils+chickpeas+chili+stew= a sure sign that the season of hibernation fare is upon us.
2) Cups of coffee I consumed this weekend. I am mostly incapable of studying on cold days unless I have a warm drink close at hand. I should probably learn to like decaf.
3) Pharmaceutical agents I need to memorize in the next 2.5 weeks
4) Onions caramelized in my kitchen in the last 48 hours.
Sometimes I get flavors stuck in my head the way normal people get songs stuck in their heads and this weekend caramelized onions were on repeat.
The lion’s share of those vegetables-in-candy’s-clothing went into this frittata. The recipe was loosely adapted from Marcella Hazan and largely governed by the ingredients I had in my fridge. It turned out so nice that I made it twice- for both Saturday and Sunday brunch.
This frittata is ridiculously simple. The only key to success here is to really caramelize these onions. I wish I had gotten around to writing a rant about the way recipes suggest that onions can be properly caramelized in 5 minutes before this author beat me to the punch. Figure on at 30 minutes to get the onions sufficiently soft and delicious.
Tomato and Caramelized Onion Frittata
1 T butter
3 c onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 t sugar
1 c thin slices of zucchini or summer squash
1/2 c crumbled feta or goat cheese
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
First, you’ll need a heavy skillet that is safe to go under the broiler. It should be 8-9″ in diameter and nonstick or cast iron.
Preheat the broiler on high heat.
Heat said skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onions, stirring to coat, and continue to cook until they are very soft and beginning to brown. If they start to get crispy before they are soft, turn down the heat. When they start to soften significantly (after 15 or 20 minutes of cooking), add the sugar and a pinch of salt and continue to cook until golden brown.
Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and whisk thoroughly. Add half the cheese and whisk again to combine. Set aside.
Add the zucchini and cook for about 4 minutes until it is tender but not soggy. Add the eggs and stir to mix the liquid with the vegetables. Place the tomato slices on top in a single layer and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let cook about 6 minutes over medium low. The bottom half of the egg mixture should cook through but the top will still be liquid.
Transfer the skillet to the broiler and cook another 3-4 minutes until the eggs are solid and the cheese begins to brown. Be careful not to burn yourself when you remove the pan from the oven- it will be flamin hot (not that I have ever done anything klutzy like that). Let cool at least a few minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm, or at room temp, cut into wedges.
As I watched thousands of disgruntled Braves fans hurl trash at the umpires l during the crazy wild card play-in game on Friday night, I couldn’t help but think, “Sheesh, I kinda understand how that ump feels.” This week the universe has leveled a few souvenir pop cups and hot dog wrappers right at my head. I’ve been cramming nonstop to memorize an impossibly long list of pharmaceuticals and brain structures, I can’t reliably see out of my right eye, and I have discovered (over the course of three trips to the pharmacy in the last 36 hours) that the employees of the 55th Street Walgreens have made it their mission to make me as miserable and disgruntled as possible. I don’t want to scare you away with my whining, but I like to think that all of this would be enough to make anybody crabby.
As I try to dodge this debris and keep my whining to a relative minimum, I think about a favorite response to this kind of self-pity in my family’s vernacular:”you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
Pretty much every time I get an unfair call from whoever/whatever is calling the cosmic balls and strikes of life, my instinct is to throw the kind of fit that would get me a 3-game suspension and an unflattering clip on SportsCenter. Step two: remind myself that you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Step three: throw a tiny fit but make it short and then start planning what kind of comfort food you’re going to make for dinner.
This mujadarra calmed me down from the verge of fit-throwing on more than one occasion this week. How could copious amounts of caramelized onions AND carbs not be anti-anxiety? It manages to be incredibly simple but not at all boring and its only ingredients are things that always have in my pantry: onions, lentils, and rice. It also allows me to burn things on purpose, a well documented source of joy for me and a damn good stress relieving technique. I highly suggest adding it to your comfort food repertoire. Or your “it’s Wednesday night and I have nothing in my fridge and I really shouldn’t order takeout again” repertoire. A few bites of mujadarra and you’ll be feeling like life pitched you a hanging curveball instead of a beer can doubling as a projectile missile.
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
6 c onions (don’t skimp!), halved and thinly sliced
1 c jasmine rice
1 c green lentils or French lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 t salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Put lentils, 1/2 t salt, and 4 c water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile*, cook the rice. Add rice, 1/2 t salt, and 1 1/2 c water to a heavy, oven-proof pot. Bring to a boil. When rice begins to boil, cover, transfer to the oven, and cook for exactly 17 minutes. Yep, I doubted this technique too, but it worked like a charm for me. And I’m sort of inept at cooking rice, so I’ll take any zanily successful techniques I can find.
Meanwhile, cook the onions. Melt butter with 1 T olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and toss to coat. Cook over medium low- slow and steady is important here – for about 5 minutes or until the onions start releasing juices. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and a deep golden brown. This took about 20 minutes for me. Add the last tablespoon of olive oil and turn the heat to high. Cook 3-4 more minutes until the bottom layer of onions starts to get very crispy/burnt. Try not to stir too much or they won’t get crisp.
Combine rice, lentils, and onions and let sit for at least 15 minutes to marry the flavors. It gets better the longer it sits (mmmmm leftovers for lunch!) Yes, it’s really that simple. Serve with greek yogurt, and chopped onions and tomatoes.
*A note on the “meanwhiles”…if “multitask” is your middle name then 1) hey, we share a middle name! That’s cool! and 2) you can cook the lentils, rice, and onions pretty much simultaneously. If you prefer to cook at a more leisurely pace or are terrified of having 3 burners plus the oven going at once, feel free to take one step at a time.
A year in Chicago has brought a year of fantastic food exploration. Here, we share with you some of our favorite eats of the past year.
Khandhari Naan: pistachio stuffed naan bread – India House
Smoked Salmon – Calumet Fisheries
Pineapple Agua Fresca – La Chapparrita
Caldos and Churros with Homemade Soft Serve – Xoco
Carrot Muffin – Medici on 57th
Down on the Farm Sandwich: goat cheese, muhammara, carrots, raisins, mixed greens, and honey mustard on french bread – Z&H MarketCafe
Birria (goat meat) with Homemade Tortillas and Fire-Roasted Salsa – Birreria Zaragosa
Housemade Chorizo Taco with Avocado – Carniceria y Taqueria Tierra Caliente
Lemon Pancakes – Kingsbury Street Cafe
Kale & Cornbread and Carrot Salad Sandwich – Soul Vegetarian East
Polish fare (blintzes, pierogi, stuffed cabbage) – Podhalanka
Brisket – Smoque
Rib Tips – Lem’s Bar-B-Q
Oatmeal Shake and Chifrijo: black beans, chicharrones, veggies, and rice served served with chips – Irazu
Brunch in general – Lula Cafe
Grilled Sourdough Bread and Housemade Jam – Nana Organic
Tater Tots with Barbecue, Honey Mustard, and Ranch Dipping Sauces – Skylark
Late Night Tamales– The Tamale Guy
Falafel Bowl with all the toppings – BenjYehuda
Seared Scallops with Tomato Chutney and Madras Curry Oil – Sable Kitchen & Bar
Mango Sorbet & Pistachio Ice Cream – Paleteria el Portillo
Big Dat Glazed Donut – Dat Donut
Let us know some of your favorite places!
I love good words almost as I love good food. Almost. The best thing is when delicious things have delicious names and that is exactly the case with mirepoix. In the Official English Dictionary of Kate-isms (the good old OEDK), “mirepoix” is what you say when you cast a little spell over a pan of wholly mundane ingredients and turn them into something scrumptious. I think it was the favorite spell of Hermione’s foodie roommate (oh you don’t remember her? I think she’s in the eighth book…)
The real life definition of mirepoix isn’t that far from the OEDK definition. You take some humble carrots, celery, and onions, you chop the bejeezus out of them, and you have a mirepoix. Saute in butter, deglaze with white whine, et mirepoix! … you’re on your way to all things bright and beautiful.
Specifically – if you’re cooking with me – you’re most likely on your way to this stew. Its heart and soul is mirepoix, its substance is white beans and greens, and it is a heavy hitter in my line-up of satisfying cold-weather meals. To the surprise of no one who cooks or eats with me often, I usually double or triple the amount of tomatoes in the recipe. The solid base of flavors contributed by the mirepoix withstands tinkering with the ratios of the other ingredients. I’m partial to the slight crunch of kale in this dish, but I sometimes use chard or spinach in its stead.
White Bean Stew
1 large bunch of kale- cleaned, removed from stems, and chopped into large pieces (substitute spinach or chard if desired)
2 T olive oil
1 c chopped carrots
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped shallots (substitute onions if desired)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry white wine (I use cheap vermouth)
2 15 oz cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 c water and a square of veggie bullion)
1 c crushed tomatoes (I often double or triple this)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Several sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried thyme
Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the kale or chard (if using spinach, skip this step) and cook for just one minute. Drain and squeeze the water out of the greens. Set aside.
Dry out the pot, add oil, and heat over a medium-high flame. Add the mirepoix and garlic and cook for several minutes until everything is soft and the shallots are beginning to brown. Add the wine and cook until liquid is reduced by 3/4. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. You can simmer on low as long as you want- the flavors will only improve. Add the greens and cook 5 more minutes. Add more broth if you like a thinner stew. Serve with crusty bread and parmesan cheese.