Finally got to try some Food52 Recipes!

Have you heard of Food52?  I'm not sure how I found it. Pinterest maybe?  In any event, they post some recipes that look simply amazing.  I've pinned dozens of them but tonight was the first time I had time to make one, well actually two of them!

These recipes were paired in a posting, they are both from Lucy Mercer.  Here is a link to the posting, Dinner Tonight:  Lemon Herb Quinoa & Roasted Spring Root Vegetables.  Both dishes sounded like something Dave and I would really like.  We roast vegetables all the time and love new sauces or seasonings to try.  We also really like quinoa and I love peas!

We were at the St. Paul Farmer's Market this morning and we picked up some farm raised trout from Brook Park Fish Farm so that was going to be our main course.  There was a new vendor there this morning, Joe's Garlic Sauce.  We tried it and really liked it so we bought some thinking it would go really well on the fish.


Dinner was set.  The trout was easy, I just pan seared it with a little lemon infused EVOO, from where else but The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company.  I put just a little lemon pepper seasoning on it too.

On to the sides!  Both are super simple.  I started with the veggies.  I cut them up and tossed them with olive oil (this time I used the Picual variety), salt and pepper and put them in a 425 degree oven, on a preheated pan.



Then I started the quinoa.  Cooking quinoa is a little like cooking couscous.  If you can boil water, you can make it.  It's a bit more forgiving than rice I think.  While the couscous was cooking I cooked the peas, chopped up the basil and measured out the hemp hearts.  Yes, hemp hearts!  

 

I'd never had these before and wasn't quite sure what to expect.  To me they just tasted a bit nutty.  They were nice and crunchy too.

I also made the dressing for the quinoa which consisted of whisking together a little olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard, maple syrup, sea salt and pepper.


Then I started the sauce for the veggies.  Again, super simple.  Saute up a little butter, horseradish, thyme, vinegar, salt and pepper and that's it.


When the veggies were done, roasted through and just starting to caramelize (YUM!) I tossed them with the sauce.  I could tell by smell I was going to like it!


I tossed the quinoa, basil and peas with the dressing.

I drizzled a little of the garlic sauce on the fish and viola, dinner was served.


How was it?  Um, awesome!  The garlic sauce was a perfect complement to the lemon pepper on the fish.  The vegetables were so good my husband went back for seconds!  The heat from the horseradish with the tang of the vinegar then thyme on top of that, yes, we'll be having these again!  The quinoa was equally delicious.  I was amazed at how such a small amount of mustard could come through.

Now I can't wait to try some of the other recipes I've pinned from Food52.  They don't just look pretty they taste good too!  And on top of that they, at least these two, were easy to prepare so on a busy work night we can still enjoy them.  I encourage you to check out Food52 on Facebook, Twitter or at www.food52.com.  I think you'll get hooked like I did!


 

Chocolate with Fish, who knew? Sanctuary the Restaurant

Last week I found another restaurant I wanted to try on Twitter of all places.  I don’t know how I found them but I did.  The restaurant is Sanctuary the Restaurant in Minneapolis.

Being from the SE metro, we don’t venture over to Minneapolis that often and if we do it’s usually Hell’s Kitchen or Oceanaire then over to Manny’s for that amazing bread pudding for dessert!

When I mentioned Sanctuary to Dave, he knew right where it was.  It wasn’t far from his old office at the VA and he said he’d wanted to try it too.

After a couple of Tweets back and forth, I made a reservation for last night.  This week is going to be crazy busy for me.  It’s the week of my Easter Breast Cancer 3-Day fundraiser.  By Sunday I will have made and decorated 10 Easter cakes like the ones pictured below and I will have made four and a half dozen cupcakes as well!  I’m going to be tired on Sunday!



Our reservation was for 6:00 and there was ample parking in the lot next to Sanctuary at that time on a Monday.
 
The restaurant is beautiful, warm and cozy.  We were greeted by one of the owners, Roger Kubicki, and seated right away.  Once again, we’ve found someplace with fabulous service.  Our server, Kim was knowledgeable and funny and was attentive without being annoying.



We started with a bottle (yes, I know, school night, but really how could we not?) of Artesa Merlot.  We’ve been to the vineyard, we love the wine, and we were thrilled to see it on the menu here in “fly over” country.
 
Kim went over the menu with us then left us to hash out what we wanted.  As we read the menu more carefully we found a couple of thing about which we needed more information, the chipotle macaroni and goat cheese and the 5 course tasting menu.  The mac and cheese was a must have!  Unfortunately the tasting menu included a lamb course, and, well, I don’t like lamb.  I’ve tried it numerous times, just don’t like it.

Kim mentioned that the steak was her favorite thing on the menu.  There was no question that Dave would be having that.  I opted for the Cobia, which is a fish much like sea bass.

 
As is usual for us in a new place we split an appetizer and soup and had our own entrée’s then split dessert.
 
Before our appetizer came out, we were served bread with edamame hummus and spiced almonds.  The hummus was lighter (not as thick) as regular hummus and had a nice light flavor.  The nuts, well, we fought over the last one!


We couldn’t pass up the “garlic, spinach, and parmesan artichoke tartlets, provencal olives, cornichons (that would be pickles) and a shot of white verjus” appetizer after hearing that the chef had “rules” about how it was to be eaten.  The “proper” way to eat them is to put a little of the lavender that had been sprinkled on the plate on your tongue, then a bite of pickle, then a bite of olive, then a bite of the tart so all of the flavors mix in your mouth.  You follow that with a sip of the white verjus, which is the pressed juice of unripened grapes.  We followed instructions!  The tarts were delicious, creamy from the spinach and parmesan, crunchy and a little tart from the pickle and a little salty from the olive.  The crust was light and flaky too.  The downside for me was the lavender.  I’ve never liked eating perfume.  So I just left it off the rest of my bites!


This was the first time we’ve had verjus (you’d think with all the trips to Napa/Sonoma we would have had it before).  It’s interesting.  It doesn’t taste like wine, but it’s not “grape juice” either.  It was light and refreshing, and yes, we finished it.

For our next course we picked the “lobster bisque topped with crème fraiche and black tobbiko caviar.”  I love lobster bisque and I’ve never had caviar before so this was a must try.  The bisque was very good; I’ve only had better one other place, Medrona Manor in Healdsburg, CA.  And the caviar, well, it was ok, but I’m going to be honest I don’t know why people spend a lot of money for it.  It just tasted fishy to me.  Not bad fishy, but like fish.  I’m not sure what I was expecting since its fish eggs!
 

 
Next came our entrees and the chipotle pepper macaroni and goat cheese.  I’ll start with the macaroni and cheese.  This most definitely wasn’t something that came out of a blue cardboard box.  The smoky flavor from the chipotle pepper came through nicely.  It was delicious!  And there was enough left for my lunch today!


My dinner was the “cobia, hazelnut cocoa spread, star fruit salsa, curried carrot, sweet torta de aceite.”  Who would have thought chocolate would go well with fish?  Apparently Chef Patrick did!  It’s delicious!  The curried carrot was to die for. I couldn’t tell what it was at first (I’d had enough wine I couldn’t remember what it was).  Mixing that with the chocolate and the fish was one incredible bite.


Then there was the “sweet torta de aceite.”  Wow.  Oh my.  I loved this!  It had a texture between a biscuit and a cracker, not as hard as a cracker but not as soft as a biscuit, sort of cookie-like I guess, but it had an anise flavor that I just love!  And lucky me, it paired amazingly with the Artesa merlot!  I nearly licked the plate clean.


Dave had the “16 oz. certified black angus bone-in new york strip, marble potatoes, crudités, green peppercorn compound butter and sundried tomato tapenade.”  Of course the chef recommended medium rare, but Dave asked for medium and it was done perfectly, pink all the way through but no blood running out!  Dave was generous enough to share one of his marble potatoes with me.  They were delicious, a little crispy on the outside and deliciously creamy inside.  The crudités included peppers, celery and a hardboiled egg.


You’d think after all that we wouldn’t have room for any more, but we did!  For dessert we opted for the “apple cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and allspice liqueur crème anglaise.”  The bread pudding was a dense bread pudding almost like a cake.  The flavor was excellent, not too much cinnamon or too much apple but just right.  I will admit we like the bourbon soaked, flaming bread pudding at Manny’s better, but this was very good.


We had a wonderful evening.  The venue is inviting, the music has great variety and isn’t too loud or too soft.  There is a great wine list and the bar well stocked.  Dave checked out the bourbon selections!  The service is superb as well.  We’d love to go back when the weather is nice and sit on the patio.

Ward 6 in St. Paul - You have to try this place!

A few weeks ago Dave and I visited Ward 6 for a Sunday lunch.  They were serving their brunch menu at the time.  We really were more in the mood for lunch but we decided to stay anyway.  There was a wait.  The place was full and there was a line, but we were still seated pretty quickly.



As luck would have it, there were burgers on the brunch menu.  I had the spicy black bean burger, Dave had a "regular" burger.  I say regular because this burger was a locally sourced, grass fed beef burger, not some pre-made, who knows where it came from burger.  Both burgers were amazing.  The veggie burger was the best I've had.  It had a good bit of spice and was filled with beans and vegetables, not just rice like some are.  It was as good or better than those delicious black bean burgers I used to get at Mill City Cafe in Minneapolis before they closed forever.  Dave's burger was equally delicious, hand-pattied and perfectly cooked.  And the fries!  Did I mention the fries?  Hand cut, perfectly fried fries accompanied these burgers.

Dave, of course, had a beer.  I had a Spanish Tempranillo that paired perfectly with my spicy burger.

The place was hopping with a constant line at the door but the service was still excellent so we decided we had to go back for dinner one evening.  That evening was last night.

I had visited family in Wisconsin and returned home last night.  I was too pooped to cook after the long drive so I called Dave from Hudson and said "how about Ward 6 for dinner tonight".  His response "oh that sounds good."  It was decided.

When we got there the place was packed.  I mean packed.  Every table seated, many people waiting, folks at the bar were two deep.  The wait was about 45 minutes.  We knew it was worth it.  So did others that came in after us.

Even families with small children didn't even blink at the wait.  Apparently the word is out!  For those of you with small children, not only is there a kids menu, but there is a big box of Goldfish crackers behind the bar and the little ones get a little cup of them while they wait for their table.  Everyone is taken care of here.

Ward 6 is not a large place.  It's a cozy venue that I believe was once the tap room for the Hamm's brewery.  The building dates back to 1885 and the bar is hand-carved and was added by the Hamm’s Brewery in 1903.  We've yet to get a good look at it because both times we've been to Ward 6 it's been crazy busy.

The wait staff had to bob and weave between tables and waiting guests, excuse me, pardon me, can I just get behind you here.  They helped each other clear tables and passed dirty dishes back like a fire line through the crowded restaurant.  All of the staff was in a great mood and took all of this in stride.  

We overheard Bob say "that darn paper" while we were waiting for our table.  I'm sure he was referencing the numerous fabulous reviews the restaurant (I mean bar with good food) was getting and I'm also quite sure he was joking.  Sorry, Bob, I have to tell people about you too!

We waited about 30 minutes for a table which we didn't think was that bad for 6:00 on a Saturday night.  Even though there was a constant stream through the door, I don't think anyone really waited the full 45 minutes to get seated.  Our waitress, Michelle was outstanding.  The table next to ours was seated at the same time we were.  It was wobbly.  The guests at the table were perfectly OK with the wobbly table but Michelle insisted on fixing it and she did so with great humor.

We love that the menu has "Food for Drinking."

 
We had a very difficult time deciding what to order.  So many things on the menu sounded so good!  We knew the burgers were good, maybe we'll just get those again?  But wait, look at the description of the Fish and Chips!



We'd seen the chicken dinner come to several tables while we were waiting.  It looked amazing and people were raving about it.

Then there was the pot roast sandwich with blue cheese sauce on ciabatta bread.  That sounded very good to me.

But wait, there's a grilled camembert sandwich.  It is a grilled cheese sandwich with pears, walnut butter and arugula on sourdough.  Maybe I want that?!


And what's this Cicero stew?  I asked Michelle why it was called Cicero stew and she didn't know the origin of the Cicero part.  Later in the evening I stopped Bob and asked him.  His partner in the restaurant, Eric Foster, used to teach Latin.  Apparently Cicero is Latin for chickpea!  All these years as a Cicero and I didn't know that.  Dinner and an education!
 
 

So we asked Michelle for some help with our decisions.  She admitted they were all delicious but she really liked the fish and her description of the pot roast sandwich sealed my decision!  Dave ordered the chicken dinner, then changed his mind to the post roast sandwich, then changed his mind to the fish!

While we were waiting for our dinners to arrive, burgers arrived at the table next to us.  The bacon smelled so good!  Maybe we should have gotten burgers.... 

We watched the hustle and bustle of the restaurant.  The staff was buzzing around like bees helping each other out and we never felt that we were left for too long without being checked on.


It took less than 15 minutes for our meals to arrive.  I'm amazed at the efficiency coming out of such a tiny (you can see it from the restaurant) kitchen!  Both meals were piping hot and perfectly plated.

Dave's fish came with what was called "malt vinegar mayo" on the menu but it was decidedly garlic flavored, roasted garlic more than fresh.  It was delicious and yes, I "borrowed" some for a few bites of my sandwich.  


The beef on my sandwich was tender, juicy and had great beef flavor and the blue cheese sauce was amazing.  It was smooth and creamy and had great blue cheese flavor without being overpowering.


Both sandwiches came with a portion of hand-cut fries, perfectly fried to golden brown, soft in the middle, with just enough salt.  


While we were waiting to be seated we saw several orders of beignets come out.  I've never had a beignet so we decided to try them.  I have to disagree with Mr. Buffet.  I don't think they are too much sugar and dough.  I like them!  They may have been helped out by the delicious dark chocolate sauce and creamy soft serve vanilla ice cream with which they were served.
 


As we were leaving we had the chance to have just a little chat (the place was still hopping) with Bob.  He said they had wanted to open a bar with really good food and they ended up with a restaurant.  We asked when their slow night was and he just smiled and shook his head.  He said things slow down early on Sunday nights.

Those of you who know Dave and I know we like to sit at the bar.  That's where you'll find us at our favorite haunts like Joan's in the Park, San Pedro Cafe, Barker's, and of course the Officer's Club.  We really want to sit at the bar and chat with the staff and Dave really wants to get a good look at all those taps!

We will definitely be back.  I need to try that grilled cheese sandwich!

I can't say enough good things about Ward 6.  The venue is great, the staff is well-trained, friendly and knowledgeable, oh yea, and funny even when there isn't a second for them to breathe!  The food is amazing and they have a great beer and wine list.  There is a small parking lot behind the building and plenty of street parking available.

And for us, we love that there is such a great place so close to home.  I think we may become "regulars" at Ward 6.



My First Sourdough!

I've been curious about making sourdough bread for a long time.  I'll admit it was a bit intimidating.  You have to have a starter and you have to feed the starter, whatever that meant.  So I just bought sourdough.  It was easier.

Well, my friends at King Arthur Flour send me an email with a $10 coupon in it.  I couldn't let it expire, right?  I ordered the sourdough starter and waited patiently for it to arrive.

It arrived last Tuesday.  I read the directions.  Then thought maybe I should just go buy a loaf of sourdough!  The initial feeding of the starter is almost as bad as getting a new puppy!   It's not as loud or messy but it takes a lot of care and "feeding."

The first feeding required 8-12 hours.  Cool, I can do that overnight, right?  Oh wait, there's a second and a third required before I can actually use the starter!  Unfortunately for me I have not won the lottery and I need to go to work.  So I decided I would do that initial 8-12 hour feeding while I was at work, then I could do the second two and maybe not too far after my bed time it would be ready to go.  Oh wait... then you have to wait for the bread to rise, twice, then bake it.  Maybe I'll just go buy that loaf of sourdough!

Thanks again to King Arthur Flour I found a recipe for sourdough bread that called for allowing the sponge to sit overnight or up to 24 hours.  Perfect.  I could give it 24 hours!  I had a plan, and it no longer included heading to the store for a loaf of sourdough bread.

Here's the cute little container of starter from KAF.  It wants to be fed.



The first feeding is a little water and a little flour and let it sit for 8-12 hours.  It is supposed to be at 68-70 degrees F.  We don't keep our house nearly that warm normally but I didn't want this to flop considering the time it was going to take so I set the thermostat to hold at 68 and went to work.  This was Wednesday morning.

When I got home, I gave my starter another feeding of a little flour and water.  This time it had to sit for 2-4 hours or until it started to show bubbles again.  Lucky for me it didn't take the entire 4 hours!  At this point you split the starter in half and either give half away or throw it away.


While I was looking for a good bread recipe, I found a recipe for sourdough popovers that called for fed or unfed starter.  So I kept the other half and decided to use it for popovers the following weekend.

The half that isn't given or thrown away is then fed again with a little more water and a little more flour.  After another 2-4 hours the starter can be used or refrigerated.  I wanted to use it!
 
 
The recipe I found for sourdough bread was also from King Arthur Flour.  It's called Merlin's Magic Sourdough bread and it seemed to be very forgiving to timing of rises, specifically you could go over the suggested times without ruining the dough!

In a large bowl, you mix together the starter, water, yeast and vital wheat gluten (which I actually stock in my pantry!).  To this you add 3 cups of flour and cover the mixture with a damp towel.  This "sponge" can sit overnight or for as long as 24 hours.  According to the recipe, the longer it rests, the more sour your final bread will be.  Sounded good to me!  Goodnight, see you Thursday morning!

When I got home from work on Thursday, I added the salt, oil and more flour to the sponge so that it made a dough.  This has to rise for 2 hours.  Time to walk the dogs!
 
 
Two hours later you punch the dough down.  I was a little worried, there wasn't much to punch.  I'm used to really deflating a dough during a punch down.  Oh well, I had to much invested at this point to give up.  I divided the dough in half, made two loaves and let them rise.  Again, the recipe suggests an hour, but more is ok.  Thursday night is yoga night so off I went to yoga, not worried that my dough would rise for too long!
 
Finally!  Time to put the dough in the oven.  I slashed the dough and placed it in my oven with my fingers and toes crossed, hoping a couple of good loaves of dough would come out.
About 20 minutes later I started to smell it!  And a little over half an hour later it was done!

Now the hardest part of all, waiting for it to cool!  Now at this point it's 9:30 or so at night.  My alarm clock goes off at 4:15.  This is late for me!  I was able to wait until about 10 and then I had to try it.  Was it going to taste like sourdough?

Whew!  Yes, it tasted like sourdough!  It wasn't as sour as I expected with all the resting my dough did, but it was definitely sourdough!  I did it!  I made sourdough!

On Friday when I got home from work I tried another piece.  Amazingly it was even better.  Maybe I was too tired the night before?  But I think the flavors just develop more as the dough cools.  This is good bread!

On Saturday afternoon we finally got to enjoy it in a sandwich.  I made a smoked turkey and Mona Lisa Gouda panini.  My husband wanted a cold sandwich so he had roast beef.  We both agreed it was good bread.
 

Will I continue to feed my starter and use it?  I will.  At least for a while.  According to Michael Ruhlman (who was gracious enough to answer my sourdough newby Tweets) the starter will say good almost indefinitely in the refrigerator.  And I found out, thank you Michael C. Zusman, also on Twitter, that you can even freeze it as a backup if the one in your frig does go bad.

So I'm feeding my starter again this morning.  This will be a weekend thing until my starter goes bad or I give up on it.  I have a whole bunch more recipes I need to try!

Oh yea, and I did make those popovers! 

I mixed a little of the starter with eggs, flour, milk and butter.  Even though the recipe didn't call for it I let it rest 30 minutes.  My "regular" recipe (thank you Ruhlman's Twenty... you need to buy this book if you don't have it!) is rested for an hour but I had places to go this morning!
 

The recipe said to fill the popover pans and that it made 6 popovers.  My pans weren't quite full.  Not sure if this had an impact or not.  Like all popover recipes you start with a really hot oven, then after a few minutes you cool it down a little to finish the baking.
 

They looked beautiful and they had that distinctive popover aroma.  Do you feel the "but" coming?  But they weren't as big as my normal popovers and they were very doughy inside.  They tasted very good.  In fact, our lab who was given a little taste, liked them so much she started drooling.  She's not a drooler normally.
 



They smelled great and tasted good but both my husband and I thought "regular" popovers are better.

Seaweed isn't seaweed

Note to self, look at the quantity of a recipe before making it.

That out of the way, today I made a recipe from Tasting Table called Tuscan-Style Beans with Bacon and Kombu, adapted from Jesse Koide of Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco.

This recipe found its way into my inbox and it sounded so good.  It has some of my favorite ingredients like fennel, rosemary, garlic, sage, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the rind even!) and, last but certainly not least, bacon!

It also had ingredients I'd never heard of like Kombu, which is dried Japanese kelp seaweed, and borlotti beans.  I couldn't find either of these in my local grocery store.  The recipe gave cannellini beans as an alternate to the borlotti. I could only find those in cans so I used great northern beans.


As for the Kombu, I thought seaweed is seaweed right?  Apparently I got that wrong.

Here's a link to the recipe:
Tuscan-Style Beans with Bacon and Kombu

This is a two-day recipe.  You start by soaking the seaweed for about 20 minutes.  The next step is to cut slices in the seaweed so it looks like a comb.  Um.  My seaweed turned into mush.  Here is where I figured seaweed wasn't just seaweed.  Oh well, we'll keep going anyway.




Beans are added to the seaweed and more water is added.  Go to bed.  They need to soak over night.

Next you strain the beans and transfer the kombu to a soup pot along with the smoky bacon (Chef Koide likes Neuske's too!).  Well, there wasn't much left of my seaweed but I scraped what I could off of the beans and put it in the pot with the bacon.  Ten cups of water are added to the seaweed and bacon and this is simmered for about 20 minutes or until it becomes cloudy.  Well, with my mess of seaweed my water was cloudy immediately so I just simmered 20 minutes!


What you really want is the bacon infused water so you have to strain the seaweed out.  I didn't have a colander with small enough holes so I had to use my handy Ruhlman towels to strain the bits of seaweed out.

The water smelled amazing!  It was bacon water!


Then the real fun started.  The bacon is browned in a little olive oil and to this onion, celery, fennel fronds, sage, by leaves, rosemary, garlic, red pepper and black pepper are added.  The aroma coming out of the pot was divine.  I could have just eaten this mixture!  Once these have cooked a little, 8 cups of the bacon water, a rind of parmesan and the beans are added to the pot and it is simmered until the beans are tender, about an hour and 15 minutes.


Each time I lifted the lid to stir the beans and make sure they were still covered in water I couldn't believe the aroma.  I'll admit when I was picking bits and pieces of seaweed out of my beans I thought about ditching the whole plan.  I'm so glad I didn't.

To serve just place some beans and broth in a bowl, sprinkle with flaky salt and shredded parmesan cheese.  I took a spoonful.  Then another.  Then I walked downstairs and made my husband try them.  With a look of surprise on his face he said "those are good".  Yes they are.  These beans would be a great side to just about anything or on their own with a good piece of crusty bread. 

Oh, and it makes 10 cups of beans.  That's a lot of beans.  You may want to half or quarter the recipe if you aren't feeding a crowd!


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