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It’s been sort of chilly here lately, with temps falling to freezing at night and barely reaching into the fifties during the day. I thought spring had sprung — turns out Mother Nature has different ideas of when Spring will stick around. I was looking around in my cupboards for something warm and hearty to make for dinner, and found a package of lentils, a mostly-used package of orzo, and a can of tomato paste. Lentil Soup, I thought! But, I don’t like vegetarian soups much, so I searched around in the freezer for something to add. I came up with a couple of Polish sausage, made from venison, that my brother had given me. Perfect!
You can substitute any sausage you’d like — I’d stick with the smoked or cured varieties like Polish sausage or Kielbasa, or any smoked variety in a casing. You could also use Chorizo. I’d stay away from things like salami, thuringer, or bratwurst. But, that’s only my opinion. You could also skip the sausage entirely.
Lentil & Sausage Soup (8-10 hearty servings, 15 min prep, 45-90 min cooking time)
1. Saute vegetables in oil over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 10 min.
2. Add sausage, continue to saute another 5 mins until sausage has started to brown.
3. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil, then
4. Add lentils and seasonings. Return to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 20 - 90 minutes, until lentils are done to your liking. Less time means crunchier lentils. I like mine fairly mushy, so I let them go for 1-1.5 hours. Lentils (and the orzo you add next) absorb a LOT of liquid, so you may need to add 1/2 - 2 cups of water during cooking.
5. When lentils are done to your liking, add orzo or other small pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Last night, two friends and I went to a new restaurant in Minneapolis called Butcher and The Boar. It’s a locally-sourced charcuterie where they smoke all their own sausages and meats, and serve them up with southern sides like grits, sweet potatoes, and greens. They also have a large selection of bourbons (over 60) and at least 40 beers on tap.
The selection of bourbons and beers is outstanding. Not being terribly knowledgeable about bourbon, I let one of my friends select three from the list. What a delight! Scents of caramel and vanilla, with a nice bite going down and ending with a smooth finish. I have to say, I think I may drink more bourbon. Good stuff.
We sampled some of the sausages and cured meats. From the cold meat selection, we sampled Venison sausage and Boar ham. The ham was delicious — smoky and nicely salted, it was served with home made bread and butter pickles, gingerbread, and basil butter. The Venison sausage was under-seasoned in my opinion, but still good — served with a spicy brown mustard, home made Cheez Whiz (a little odd but tasty), and home made wheat crackers. These dishes were made to share, nicely proportioned for the three of us.
For the rest of our meal, we tried two of their sausages and two side dishes. The serving size for the sausages was 1. On a plate with some fancy garnish… more of a tapas size serving. Still shareable, but… one sausage link? For $12 plus per plate? While impressed with the quality of the meats, I was miffed at the price per serving. We tried their Bourbon 101 sausage, which was served with a smoky pepper sauce on a bed of lettuce with a fried egg. We also tried the Berkshire Pork & cheddar sausage, served with one quartered pickled Brussels sprout, two smallish pieces of broccoli and four matchsticks of green apple in a cider vinegar sauce. Good — really quite tasty, I thought. But again — the price and serving size irked me.
The two sides we tried were the Dirty Wild Rice (delicious and different), and a coal-baked sweet potato. The prices for the sides were better but still a single serving. If they’re meant to share, serve a bit more, please!
Overall, while I thought the food was good and the beverage selection was great, our bill of $94 was just too much for what we got.
'Tis the season for citrus! Since we don't see Blood Oranges very often, I decided to make some marmalade to preserve them and use them all year. Blood Orange Marmalade is very easy to make. The recipe I used can be found at the blog Food In Jars. It's delicious on toast, on ice cream, or even with a slightly tart cheese, such as chevre, on a cracker. Try it! Here's how:
1. You’ll need about 2 pounds of blood oranges, about 10 golf ball size or 5 tennis ball size. Wash the rinds thoroughly, then slice off the ends of each orange.
2. Now, cut each orange in half and remove the core. Set aside — we’ll use these later.
3. Next, slice each orange half as thin as you can. You may want to sharpen your knife before doing this! Then, half the half slices so you have thinly sliced quarters.
4. Now, put all the oranges in a large bowl and add 3-4 cups water, enough to cover the oranges but not less than 3 cups. Use a piece of cheesecloth or a cloth bouquet garni bag to tie up the orange cores. Place this in the middle of the bowl. Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or use its cover if it has one, and refrigerate overnight.
5. When you’re ready to make your marmalade, use the widest, shallowest cooking pan you have. I prefer my 5 quart non-stick chili pot or one of my Le Creuset pots. You need to be able to boil the orange mixture and let the water evaporate as quickly as possible, so don’t use too small of a pot. Also, the shallower the vessel, the more quickly water can evaporate. Bring the mixture to a boil then stir in 3c granulated sugar. Stir occasionally — but keep an eye on it! You will need to reduce the mixture by more than half, until you get a thickened mixture that runs in sheets off the back of a spoon and has reached 220 degrees F. If you’re not sure when your marmalade is ready, look up the Ball Guide for food preservation on Google.
6. While your mixture is cooking away, you’ll need to assemble your canning supplies, unless you intend to use all of your lovely marmalade right away. You’ll need 3 or 4 8-ounce jelly jars, canning lids, canning rings, a ladle, a wet rag or paper towel, a tongs to lift the jars in and out of boiling water, and the lid-picker-upper magnet tool is also handy. In addition, you’ll be processing these jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. The pot you use will have to hold the jars plus enough water to cover the jars by at least an inch. A stockpot works well. If you have a large canning stock pot with a jar rack, that works best.
The canning process is not hard. If this is your first attempt at canning, I’d recommend you read a guide to home food preservation first — and highly recommend the Ball Book of food preservation. My instructions are good, but be sure to familiarize yourself by reading a guide first, or at the very least read through all of my instructions!
First, start heating the water for your boiling water bath. That much water takes a while to heat up.
Next, wash the jars and rings — inspecting rings for rust. If you use rusty rings, your jars may not seal properly or the rings will stick when you try and open your marmalade. Toss out any bad rings and use blemish-free ones instead.
Next, prepare your items. You’ll use the small sauce pan to heat your rings and lids and to sterilize the jars. Lay out your tongs, your magnetic lid-picker-upper, your wet rag or towel, and your funnel.
Bring the water in the sauce pan to a boil. Add the rings and lids. The water should simmer for 5 minutes before you use the lids, so try to make sure this step is being done close to the end of cooking your marmalade.
When your marmalade is ready to can, place one jar in the hot water to sterilize it and heat it. Putting hot food into cold jars can cause the glass to break or fracture, and you can’t eat glass! Heat the jars by putting them in the hot water first (use your tongs.) Remove the jar and drain the water out of it, then use your funnel and place the hot marmalade into the jar, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the treads and rim of the jar with your rag to remove any food, then use your lid magnet thingie to pick up a lid from the hot water and place it on the tope of the jar. Take a ring from the hot water and screw it onto the top, just so it’s tightened but not super-tight. You want to be able to remove it later!
Yay! You’ve canned your first jar of marmalade! Continue to fill the jars until your marmalade is gone. You cannot process a jar that is not full to within a quarter-inch to the top, so if you have any leftovers, use a small bowl and keep it in the fridge. Use within 2-4 weeks.
Now, place your filled jars into your hot water bath. Once the water returns to a boil, process for 10 minutes, then remove the jars and let cool completely. As they cool, you’ll hear a “ping!” that lets you know the jar has sealed. Once jars are cooled, check that the lids are indented and do not make a sound when you press on them. If any of the jars have not sealed, place that jar in the fridge and use within 2-4 weeks.
We had a lot of fun pruning some of our 16 apple trees this past weekend. Here’s to fewer, bigger apples!
Winter at Minnehaha Falls Park, Minneapolis, MN. Taken on a “warm” January day last week, the falls were still running but partially frozen, and quite beautiful.
Photos from my meal at Travail Kitchen and Amusements, Robbinsdale, MN.
This week, I had an adventure in dining. My good friend Beth and I went to try a new place near Minneapolis called Trevail Kitchen and Amusements. (See their FaceBook page, https://www.facebook.com/Travailkitchen.) The new and innovative cuisine reminded me of things I watch on The Food Network shows “Iron Chef” and “Chopped”. The team is so collaborative and looks like they are having a blast, working to produce some pretty neat things, using different techniques that you would expect to find in a Haute Cuisine-type restaurant — not in a tiny restaurant in sleepy Robbinsdale, MN.
We ordered their 10-course tasting menu, and while I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of all of our courses, I did capture quite a few. Can’t seem to post them here along with the text portion, so they will be in a separate Photo post. Sorry about that. But, here’s what we had to eat:
-3. The first item we were served was an aperitif to clear the palate. It was a lemon water flavored shot with this gel-ball filled with rosemary infused liquid. Very odd — I wasn’t expecting a “gel ball”, but the texture and flavor was surprisingly good as it burst in my mouth.
-2. Next, we were served a small, warm serving of a mildly spiced yellow curry, in a shot glass.
-1. The third thing we were served was a prosciutto-wrapped bite of pineapple with a sage puree perched upon the top. The “bite” was just that - imagine one small segment about the size of a 2x6 Lego brick. :)
1. Our first course (of the ten course tasting menu) was a salad of apples with candied cashews, smears of cashew butter, bits of fried prosciutto, and some sweet bread croutons.
Now, each of these courses are really less than single servings which you share with your dining companion. I would estimate that the salad and pasta courses we were served were 3 ounces (or less) — and right about this time, Beth and I were both wondering how we could possibly be full after this meal. But, add up 10+ 1.5-ounce portions, and eventually, you will start to feel full. This happened around course 6 for us.
2. Our second course was a ceviche of scallops with arugula and oven dried tomato. There was a hand-made ravioli as well, along with an arugula puree and bits of fried pancetta. The kicker on this plate was a pancetta foam! Have you ever eaten pancetta foam? Nope. Didn’t think so. It was odd but good — looked like a small pile of shaving cream, but it definitely tasted like pancetta! Innovative, to be sure.
3. Our third course was Steak Tartar with German potato salad, chive sour cream, freshly cracked pepper and tiny bits of lemon peel. The innovative thing about this course was that it came wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. The server (who patiently explained each course) explained that, just prior to serving, they piped in hickory smoke to infuse the dish with flavor! And sure enough, there was smoke under the plastic wrap. When we pulled back the wrap, little puffs of great smelling smoke came out. The dish not only tasted fantastic, but the presentation on this one got the highest score from me for the entire meal.
4. Our fourth course was a potato leek soup served with a few home-made potato chips and deep-fried, smoked ham hock. This one had a leek foam sitting on the side of the chips and piece of ham. The server poured the warm, creamy soup into the bowl tableside. It was delicious!
5. The next course was a pasta course. Beth and I agreed that this was one of the least favorite. We got cheddar cheese filled ravioli sitting in a bit of ham broth. There was puffed wild rice on the top of an orange foam, and piece of candied orange rind. While the orange foam did indeed taste of oranges, the flavor combination just didn’t work for us.
6. The sixth course was a shellfish course — Mussels in the half shell perched atop whipped potato with bits of crunch prosciutto. The server poured a savory curry sauce over the top of the mussels tableside. Delicious.
7. The fish course was pan-fried sea bass with a “potato crouton”, which is about 8 thinly sliced 1” squares of potato baked to perfection with a crispy crust on one side. (Beth and I remarked several times throughout our dinner about how you can’t serve a potato the wrong way. No matter which way they served potatoes, they were always excellent.) The fish and potato were served atop a minestrone-type mixture of white beans cooked in ham broth with bits of onion and carrot. Not soup, but not dry either. Very delicious!
8. The eighth course gets lots of points for creativity and presentation! It was the kitchen’s version of “School Hot Lunch”, and it was actually served on a small blue plastic cafeteria tray! It consisted of a 1.5” square of grilled cheese (cut diagonally), whipped potatoes piped artistically over the tray, beef short-ribs topped with a ketchup glaze, and a deep fried macaroni and cheese ball that was so phenomenal, I’d go back for more of just that! For veggies, we had a dilled carrot slaw, brocoli spears, and carrot bread covered in a white sauce — we are not sure what the flavor was in the sauce. Perched atop the food in the middle of the tray was a tasty treat — a 3” square of hand-made pear fruit roll up!
8.1 To clear the palate before our main course was served, we had passion fruit “Dippin Dots”. Fantastic flavor and fun presentation.
9. Our main course was a Christmas-inspired Hangar steak with potato risotto. There were tiny spears of green asparagus, and whole cranberries as well as a sweet cranberry puree. The most innovative things on this plate were the “croutons” of sweet and spicy gingerbread, which complimented the cranberries so well, and smears of cedar-infused oil. The dessert on the plate was a sort-of flan, flavored with eggnog.
10. Our dessert course consisted of three sets of things:
10.1 First, tiny blueberry jam filled macaroons and pumpkin spice bread with vanilla cream - fantastic little bites!
10.2 Second, we were served a drink of hot chocolate flavored with peppermint, with home-made marshmallow bites floating in the top, served in a shot glass.
10.3 Finally, we finished our meal with a delightful lemon bar served atop a sweet lemon curd, and a meringue (caramelized with a blowtorch while we watched), sprinkled with lavender.
All in all, we tasted 16 different creations from the restaurant. Our meal was marvelous (I’m running out of adjectives here!) and I would most definitely go back again! Highly recommended.
And the cost, you might ask? A mere $35 per person. Very affordable.