Here I am, the day before Thanksgiving, not talking about Thanksgiving food. This would be a perfect breakfast for an otherwise long weekend full of heavy dishes and indulging, and it would be particularly great to serve if you have guests in the house, but that’s just a coincidence. The main point is that this is a wonderful breakfast for when you have a bit of time in the morning – partially because it needs some time in the oven, but mostly because its very nature seems to most fit a slow, cozy, restorative sort of start to the day.
It’s rare, these days, that we have those sorts of mornings at home – between working, house guests, and out-of-town weekend plans, only once or twice since we’ve been in Madison have we had a morning with nowhere to be. So, when two weekends ago we had a cold, gray day with nothing on the schedule until the afternoon, I knew immediately that I’d turn to this recipe. Oatmeal, baked slowly with spices, maple syrup, milk, and an egg, plus fruit and/or nuts and/or any other toppings you might think to add. I knew going in exactly what I wanted to add – cubes of persimmon, toasted coconut, pumpkin and flax seeds, and vanilla. I’d been adding those things to my regular, everyday oatmeal in the mornings, and I couldn’t get over how well they all went together.
I’ve been feeling a little remiss in my duties as a Minnesotan lately, considering how little I’ve talked about wild rice over the years I’ve had this site. We don’t eat it as often as we should, and that’s probably where the guilt actually lies, but I’m determined to remedy the situation and so here I am.
I know I’ve mentioned wild rice here and again, but let’s back up and get a good handle on the whole business. Wild rice (which is not actually a rice, but we’ll get to that) looks like very long long-grain rice covered by a thin brownish-blackish skin. When properly cooked, that skin breaks open and most of the grains begin to curl in on themselves, which many recipes refer to as “blossoming.” The grains still have their bran intact, which gives it a toothsome, chewy texture similar to brown rice and other whole grains. It has a toasty, nutty, earthy flavor, and can often smell and taste slightly like black tea. The flavor and texture it adds over other rices and grains is worth the extra effort required in cooking it, and it’s interesting to add to soups, breads, salads, and other dishes in a way that other grains seem to act more as mere filler or heft.
That said, I’m from Minnesota. I get it. I’ve eaten wild rice my whole life, and in a million different ways. I’ve always known the difference between real wild rice and the other stuff, just like someone from the Northwest knows about wild salmon and someone from New Mexico knows about real green chile. Wild rice isn’t nearly as pervasive of a thing as those other two, so don’t feel bad if you have no idea where I’m going with this – just know that there’s a difference. Read more
Fairly often, things wiggle their way into my life and hang around for a while. Sometimes it’s a craving that won’t quit, or an activity that becomes a routine, or an idea or flavor or experience I become a little fixated on. I go through phases with foods I want to eat all the time, I get addicted to TV shows, I listen to albums non-stop, I wear certain outfits whenever they’re clean, and there’s usually some cocktail or other that I’m ordering. These things stick around for a while until something – a change in the weather, a random craving, or a need for change – steers me elsewhere.
And right now, it’s this humble little honey gimlet.
We’re entering that brothy, stewy time of year I love so much, and this recipe has been added to our rotation for the season since it’s delicious, relatively simple to put together, and perfect for making in larger batches to divide over a few meals. We don’t cook a lot of Asian food at home, but this is definitely one of the most delicious and simple ones we make. It’s inspired by one I made last spring in a cooking class in Central Vietnam, where they fill clay pots with vegetables, aromatics like garlic and lemongrass, and a sweetened fish sauce broth, and cook it all over a low fire. These were unlike any of the other dishes we ate in Vietnam – warming and filling like Pho and other noodle soups, but instead packed with vegetables, intensely flavorful, and served over rice – and I knew the concept would be more easily adaptable to making back at home. Read more
I did something exciting to these brussels sprouts. I did something fantastic to them, in fact, though in a way that might make some people feel a little nervous. “Gratin” means cheese and cream and butter, see, and sometimes those things induce a bit of anxiety. There’s also gussied-up breadcrumbs and caramelized onions, which don’t tend to turn people away, but the rest can b ea bit prickly.
But if you’ve been here for a bit of time you’ll know that I’m a pretty fervent defender of the butters and creams of the world; always ready to push for the sorts of things our great-grandmothers would have eaten (was that not someone’s – Michael Pollan’s, perhaps? – advice; to eat only things made of ingredients our great-grandmothers would have understood as a child?). I just have trouble getting worked up over something made with ingredients I could (at least conceivably) get from a farm, and I generally choose to fully immerse myself in and enjoy these things rather than worry about how much or how little I’m allowed to have. I live a pretty healthy lifestyle, in general, and a gratin here or there will not be my undoing.
So, here I am turning perfectly innocent brussels sprouts into something a bit devious. If your eyes and hearts are turning toward the holidays already, then by all means let me kickstart things for you. Read more
Did I just realize, after writing this post, that this is the third apple recipe in a row? Yes. That said: yesterday no fewer than 10 different people came into the store where I work specifically to get gear for making things with their overflowing apple stores. There were cider makers and people drying apple rings and everyone giving recommendations for apple picking places and so many conversations about apple pies that I could barely find the time to figure out what type of apple pie I was going to make upon returning home from work. It is apple season, everyone, and Wisconsin takes that seriously, and I will definitely not let you forget it (apparently). Apples apples apples.
But really, I will try to write the next post about something other than apples. Seriously.
I’ve been taking photos of food for a few years now, and for the most part it’s been going pretty well. Lumbering the tripod around the kitchen can be a bit of a hassle and the idea of taking out my camera at restaurants makes me pretty uncomfortable, so I primarily take photos only when it’s a recipe I want to document (for here or elsewhere) or when something looks particularly pretty (like the onions Brett browned today to put in the venison stew we made). I knew absolutely nothing about photography before I started this website and would only claim to know a very small amount now, but I’ve been learning a lot and it’s all worth it for that moment when a shot seems to grasp everything I wanted it to – the way the light looked, the feeling and intention I had in making and serving a dish, or the spirit of the food. Read more
Two months in and we’re settling into our new life here in the Midwest. After a while of time with things sort of up in the air, I have my situation fairly figured out (more on that in a bit) and Brett’s pretty entrenched in his first semester of his PhD program. We’re slowly meeting people and finding folks to share our time with, and we’re trying to bite off snippets of time to go explore our new town and the surroundings.
And, it’s fall. Even in the first few days of it, it’s the sort of fall I’ve been waiting for since I left Minnesota over a decade ago. That first fall away was a big swirl of college freshman activity and I didn’t have a chance to think much about it, but by sophomore year I would catch myself lingering over photos – photos of anything, from anywhere – that somehow reminded me of the falls I was used to. This continued and intensified for years, and one time just a couple of years ago I caught myself fawning wistfully over a photo of what amounted to a fairly barren park, all leafless and windswept and well into its waning pre-winter days. I couldn’t stop looking at it and feeling nostalgic, and I knew it was time to go back. Fall is one of the things I missed most about being in California, and one of the main reasons I’m happy to be back.
It also means I can add more to the Fall Cocktails category of this website, woefully neglected amongst the palms.
What if I said I made three of these cakes in two days?
There was a reason, see, and a pretty good one at that – a waxed cardboard box full of apples from Minnesota, bequeathed to us by my grandmother on Labor Day and rapidly softening thanks to the hot streak that followed. (Even Midwestern basements can’t store apples well in 95-degree heat.)
So I made 16 cups of apple pectin stock and 3 different types of apple jelly (Jameson, chili, and red wine/bay leaf), each of which was re-branded a glaze after utterly failing to set (whoops). But even that project used up only about half the apple stores, and with only a few days of usability remaining I turned my eye to desserts. So I opened up the usual suspects – a few favorite websites and books – to find inspiration, only to be almost immediately questioned by Brett as to why I would make anything other than this apple cake that I first made a few years back. It’s actually been on this site since back then, but tucked in the archives under the relatively unassuming name “Simple Apple Cake,” and after this binge I figured it deserved an updated page and a new title. Read more
A frittata is a beautiful, easy meal to make. Combine eggs with meats, vegetables, herbs, cheese, or pretty much any other prepared ingredient you have around, and within 20 minutes you have a delicious, healthy, fancy-seeming meal. As an added bonus it’s perfect for making ahead, since you can wrap and freeze it for up to 1 month or at the very least save the leftovers (which are equally good room temperature or warm) for breakfast or lunch the next day. (A slice of frittata and some bread make a pretty delicious sandwich, I might add.)
And this is exactly the sort of dish I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve mentioned on the site before that I’ve been putting together a guide to these sorts of basic, foundational recipes, all of which act as a backbone or a stage for whatever vegetables, proteins, grains, or other items I happen to have in my kitchen or that look good at a market stand. These recipes make it easy to eat seasonally and help me avoid the sort of puzzle-piecing anxiety that results from grocery shopping without a plan in mind, and for most people having these sorts of recipes around can open a new world of quick, easy, healthy home-cooked meals. I love to talk about these sorts of “anything goes” recipes because they do wonders at making people more interested in cooking, more comfortable in the kitchen, and more at-ease with letting go of recipes and diverging from planned-out shopping lists.
First: Welcome to all new readers who have found this site through the Capital Times article published yesterday! I’m excited to make contact with a new audience in Madison, and would love to hear about things you’re interested in, either for new classes or new site content. Stay in touch! I look forward to meeting many of you as I settle into this new part of the country. (Also, know that I don’t usually post recipes with such uncommon ingredients … this is a slight diversion from my normal sort of recipes. Stay tuned for a simple smoked salmon frittata recipe, coming soon!)
First Second: I can still post a “summer cocktail” recipe, right? I’ve started organizing my photos into a “Fall 2013″ folder, as I usually do after my birthday, but here in Madison the intense heat of the end of summer is only now threatening to break, and I know Southern California is still feeling the heat.
Second Third: I generally do a pretty good job of picking recipes to post here that would be easy enough for most people to make at home, whether it’s a matter of finding the ingredients or of the complexity of the techniques involved. Today, however, I’m breaking that rule.