My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Monday, May 30, 2011

Strib Taste 50: My Faves

Woo hoo, the Taste 50 is out! For the sixth year in a row, the Star Tribune released its list of 50 people, places, products and ideas that reinforce our great Minnesota food culture. The list serves both as a reminder of what I already know to be great picks and as a resource for finding new things to explore.

Here are five of my favorites from the 2011 Taste 50:

Peace Coffee Shop at Wonderland Park
One of my favorite coffee shops because of the great coffee and open atmosphere. Plus, I had always wondered why Peace Coffee didn't have a shop of their own. Now they do! Here's my take from when they first opened.

Hello?! Did you read Ryan's post on the Bittercube class at Kitchen in the Market? Not only are the guys at Bittercube creative and fun, but they are helping everyday people transform everyday cocktails. Yum.

Smack Shack
I really like lobster, but rarely dine at restaurants that offer it. Smack Shack offers a convenient and delicious alternative straight out of a food truck in the form of their hard-to-resist lobster rolls.

Image Credit: Smude Enterprises

Smude's Natural Sunflower Oil
I discovered this product at the Homegrown Experience last year and love using it in salad dressings and slow-roasted vegetables as adds the nutty flavor of sunflower seeds.

Des Moines
It's so exciting that Des Moines made the list as I've been touting it as a foodie town and a great getaway for quite some time. In fact, check out my post from our last road trip to Des Moines. It was a blast!

Be sure to read the rest of the Taste 50 here. What are your favorites from the list?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Review: Cooking Up the Good Life

I love cookbooks. I have a ton of them, mostly focused on vegan and vegetarian recipes. My collection is constantly growing and I recently added Cooking Up the Good Life by Jenny Breen & Susan Thurston. I've been aware of Jenny's dedication to nutritious meals over the past couple decades, so I was eager to see what great recipes the cookbook contained.

Cooking Up the Good Life: Creative Recipes for the Family Table

While I was a bit disappointed by the absence of pictures throughout the book, I did find quite a few vegetarian recipes that looked good based on ingredients. The Polenta with Tomato Jam combined with Lemony Olive Sauce with Grilled Vegetables went very well together. It took awhile to make, but the results were fantastic! The people at the University of Minnesota Press were nice enough to let me share the recipes with you.

Polenta with Tomato Jam
(makes about 2 dozen)
Excerpted from Cooking Up the Good Life, University of Minnesota Press
Print Recipe

3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups polenta or coarse cornmeal

Tomato Jam:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup maple syrup or sugar
1 tsp salt
Chevre (optional)
Fresh thyme or microgreens (optional)

Bring the salted water to a boil, then slowly add the polenta, whisking regularly to remove lumps. Simmer mixture and continue stirring it for about 5 minutes. Remove the polenta from the heat, pour it into an oiled 9x13-inch pan, and spread it so it is about a half inch thick. Let the polenta cool. Then cut it into the desired shapes using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and jalapenos for about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, maples syrup, and salt and simmer on very low heat until quite thick, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let the jam cool for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator if possible. (I served it warm and it was great.)

When jam is cooled, spoon it onto the cut polenta. To dress up this dish, you can top each piece with a small dollop of chevre and a sprig of thyme or a pinch of microgreens.

Lemony Olive Sauce with Grilled Vegetables
(makes 8 to 12 serving)
Excerpted from Cooking Up the Good Life, University of Minnesota Press
Print Recipe

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
Juice of 2 lemons
Zested rind of one lemon
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp minced fresh fennel greens
6 cups seasonal vegetables such as beets, onions, green beans, and zucchini, peeled (if desired) and sliced in large, thin pieces (I used onion, zucchini, and green beans.)

Whisk together the olive oil, honey, and lemon juice, Stir in the lemon zest, garlic and fennel. Place the cut veggies in the sauce and marinate for up to 4 hours.

Remove the vegetables from the marinade and reserve the leftover marinade. Place the veggies on a hot, oiled grill and turn as needed. Using a grill basket or grill wok will make grilling easier. Top with the remaining sauce before serving.

Disclosure: This book was a review copy sent to be by the University of Minnesota Press.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spargelfest is Back

Can you believe it? Asparagus is finally here and Black Forest Inn is kicking off the season with their annual Spargelfest, a celebration of asparagus, which starts today and goes through May 29th. This year, Black Forest Inn will go through 300 pounds of asparagus during Spargelfest. That's a lot of asparagus!

Last year I sampled the Spargelfest menu and loved all of the dishes so I was eager to see what they had on the menu this time. I brought Ryan along as my second stomach.

We started with a crunchy snack: quick-pickled asparagus, mushrooms and carrots to boost our veggie intake.

Our "bar food" went well with the Royal Spargeltini, a combination of asparagus vodka, cocoa nib vodka, and Cointreau. Black Forest Inn makes the vodkas in house and they are quite tasty.

The puff pastry wrapped asparagus had a thin layer of Fischer Farms ham baked into the pastry. It was served with romesco sauce which was a mild yet warming partner.

Another healthy veggie-based dish is the spargel brown rice salad, dotted with sweet apricots and fragrant mint.

A traditional German meal is a thick slice of ham and sautéed asparagus spears with hollandaise sauce drizzled over the plate. Simple, but great.

Every dinner deserves a dessert and every Spargelfest dinner deserves a spargel dessert. The spargel and rhubarb strudel is a great match to the season and was surprisingly delicious. The asparagus added crunch while the rhubarb lent a bit of tartness.

It isn't often that a restaurant has a whole menu dedicated to asparagus, but I think it's really cool. They do a great job of balancing the menu and offer a bit for everyone…well, unless you don't like asparagus (there's always the regular menu).

Disclosure: Black Forest Inn provided a free preview dinner and I was not obligated to write about it. I just love asparagus and want you to love it too :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cooking Club: Grilled

It's been a busy week filled with new things and I couldn't resist adding one more activity: cooking club. Yep, I joined a cooking club! It is something I've been wanting to do for quite some time, so when my friend, Steph, asked me if I was interested in joining, I had to say yes.
We had our first meeting/dinner on Saturday and it was a success! Our whole goal is to cook with friends and try new recipes in a casual environment. Once we choose a name, we'll start a blog for recipe sharing, so I'll let you know when that is set up.

Until then, check out our first dinner:

The spread
Karen's Corn, Pepper, Avocado Salad
Greg's Cheesy Breadsticks
Greg's Grilled Brussels Sprouts
My Broiled Parmesan Tomatoes
Randi's Bread Salad
Greg's Ginger Peanut Noodles
Dave's Amazing Grilled Rosemary Flatbread
Steph's Bloody Mary Flank Steak
Greg's Chocolate Pudding Cake with Mint Chip Ice Cream
I think we all did well for our first cooking club!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New WCCO Morning Show Segment

Just in time for the farmers markets to start heating up, I partnered with WCCO-TV to show you what's fresh each week in a new morning show segment called Bite of Minnesota. The segment will air each Friday at 5:15am and 6:20am and will also be available online, handy for us late-risers.

I was really nervous to be in front of a camera as I'm usually behind a camera, but with a little help from the camera man, I worked through it. The first segment aired on Friday and I think it turned out pretty well. Check it out for yourself:

Hope you enjoyed my TV debut! Click over to my WCCO blog (also named Bite of Minnesota) for seasonal recipes and events.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cocktails in the Market: Bittercube Bitters

Hey there, Cafe Cyan readers! It's been a few years since Ryan (my husband) posted on this blog and I'm happy to say he is back for a guest post. I recently sent him to a cooking class armed with the camera.. I never imagined he'd have SUCH a great time. Check it out:

Ever since a visit to Town Talk Diner in the summer of 2009, I have appreciated a great cocktail. Crystal and I bellied up to the bar that day with limited cocktail knowledge and a good appetite. Lucky for us, Nick Kosevich was ready to expand our knowledge of all things cocktail related while Chef Tommy Begnaud had some very tasty food items on the menu.

Bittercube bitters: Bolivar is the most versatile for an introduction to bitters

I could tell that Nick had a strong passion for creating perfect cocktails as he took us through a journey of handmade specialty bitters and liqueurs. Each vial of elixir was carefully stacked and sorted behind the bar. The level of satisfaction was unexpected as we enjoyed amazing cocktails crafted and explained to us by Nick and fantastic food prepared Chef Tommy.

Town Talk may have closed earlier this year, but the great cocktails and fantastic food live on. Nick joined forces with Ira Koplowitz, formerly of the Violet Hour in Chicago, to form Bittercube Bitters.

Drink legacy: Check!

Chef Tommy Begnaud is now the executive chef at Prairie Ale House in Eden Prairie where the brat burger lives.

Food legacy: Check!

As luck would have it, last week I was able to relive the summer of 2009 Town Talk experience at Kitchen in the Market. Crystal signed me up for Cocktails in the Market with Bittercube Bitters and I was instantly looking forward to the event.

The following is a sampling of the photos I snapped during the event, visit the Cafe Cyan facebook page here:

Nick and Ira create the opening cocktail: a raw sugar cube with a few drops of cherry bark vanilla bitters, topped with champagne, and a drop of orange bitters to finish.

Hand-created bitters add many complexities to this seemingly simple opening drink.

Chef Begnaud and sous chef Brian, team up to produce our first course of Citrus Cured Salmon. This dish was prepared using Bittercube orange bitters and paired nicely with the “Windsor Forrest #2” that contained Rehorst gin (1.75 oz), green chartreuse (.25 oz), fresh lime juice (.75 oz), simple syrup (.75 oz), and Bittercube orange bitters (15 drops). Combine all and shake…mmm.

This the finished Citris Cured Salmon, a very refreshing bite. I don’t have a picture of the “Windsor Forrest #2,” but you can see the one taken by Joy, of Eating the Mineapple here.

The next dish was Smoked Mushroom and Goat Cheese Strudel topped with a poached egg. Oh, did I mention the poached egg was fried?

After digging into our final dish, I took a sip of the “Ms. Cromwell.” This drink contained Roaring Dan’s Rum (2 oz), Fennel Pollen Honey Syrup (.25 oz), Bolivar Bitters (15 drops), and a rinse of Amerique 1912 Absinthe Rouge. It was stirred with ice, strained into the chilled Absinthe-rinsed glass, and garnished with a small lemon shaving. A refreshing end to the evening.

Nick, Ira, and Tommy entertained, informed, and all in attendance appeared to leave satisfied. This was a great time and I couldn't leave without getting a pack of six Bittercube bitters. Time to experiment!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Book Club Fare

Last week, I hosted book club. We read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett and I couldn't put it down.

The Help

I put together my book club menu and posted it on the chalkboard:

And set up a card table in the living room for easy food access:

Since the book was set in the south, I wanted to make pimento cheese sandwiches. After learning that Kitchen in the Market was fresh out of pimento cheese, I gave it a try on my own and loved the results.

I spruced up a couple containers of Holy Land hummus with a sprinkle of feta cheese and chopped pimentos.

LindaLicious' olive tapenade (found at Kitchen in the Market) accompanied an assortment of crackers.

If you've read the book, you know that a scandalous chocolate pie is made. I couldn't resist making a "surprise" chocolate pie, using banana slices to line the pie crust.

What do you serve at your book club meetings?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy 5 Years of Blogging!

A surprise arrived in my mailbox last week, hidden inside this magazine:

Cafe Cyan is listed as one of the "75 People, Places & Trends To Get You in the Know" in the May issue of Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine. (On newsstands now.)

What a great present to celebrate 5 years of blogging! Cheers!

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