MN Masala: Online Resources

By Jane and Chux: We are always looking for new ideas for things to make.  We like variety and enjoy trying new recipes.  Even though we have an extensive cookbook collection and love having a book in hand, we have also come to appreciate a number of online cooking resources.  Following is a list of some of our favorites:

1) 101 Cookbooks: This site was created by Heidi Swanson (a cookbook author, photographer, and world traveler) in 2003 when she decided to do something with her large cookbook collection, instead of just looking at them.  This site is well organized with good articles, beautiful pictures, and lots of recipes.

2) Post Punk Kitchen: This site was created by Isa Chandra Moskowitz in 2003 and is dedicated to  vegan cooking and baking.  This site is rich with great recipes and videos.  You can also purchase Isa’s cookbooks if you want one in hand.  Really nice site.

3) Smitten Kitchen: Deb Perlman created this site with a focus on the home cook with simple ingredients to which most of us have access.

4) Jamie Oliver: Jamie Oliver has cooking shows, cookbooks, magazine and endorsements.  I really like his TV show called “15-minute Meals.”  I love how Jamie promotes healthy, family home cooking with local ingredients.

5) Yotum Ottolenghi: Yotum Ottolenghi is a chef, restaurateur, writer and cookbook author (he and Sami Tamimi created the very popular “Jerusalem” cookbook).  His website also has recipes with a Mediterranean focus.  You can also find Yotum Ottolenghi’s food articles in the London Guardian newspaper.

MN Masala: Nell’s Finnish Fruit Pudding (Velia)

By Jane and Chux: A few years ago, Chux planted black raspberries in our backyard.  These plants have flourished, and last summer we had a bumper crop of berries.  We had so many, we were able to freeze some of them.

Given our cold and snowy “spring” this April, we wanted to make something with these berries.  A reminder of the summer to come.  These black raspberries taste like sunshine.  They are also extremely complex in flavor with sweet and sour notes.  Since these berries taste good on their own, we decided to make my grandmother Nell’s Finnish berry pudding.

As a kid, I would spend time with my grandparents at their cabin in Michigan.  We would go wild blueberry picking at their top secret place with coffee-can pails in hand, handles made with bent coat hangers.

We would make this fruit pudding as well as pie with these fresh blueberries.  This pudding can be made with any fresh or frozen berry including blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries.

Today, I’m copying my grandmother’s recipe as she sent it to me in a letter over 30 years ago. 

For our black raspberry pudding, we used four cups of frozen berries, added ¾ cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of tapioca, and ¼ cup of water.  You can adjust the sugar and thickener in your fruit pudding depending on how many berries you are using and how sweet you like it.  The pudding is delicious on its own, or over pancakes for brunch, or with ice cream for dessert. Continue reading

MN Masala: Turkish Baked Veggie Fritters

By Jane and Chux: For the past couple of years, I have been attending monthly local Turkish cooking classes sponsored and facilitated by the Turkish American Society of Minnesota.  I wrote about these classes here.

Today, I am sharing one of my favorite recipes from these classes: baked vegetable fritters (firinda sebzeli mucver). This dish is loaded with vegetables and can be made for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack or appetizer.

You can make this dish your own by adding any vegetable or cheese you like or have on hand at the time.  The key to this recipe is to grate or chop the vegetables finely.  We made this our own by adding chopped red pepper, grated zucchini, Italian parsley, and manchego cheese (instead of the mozzarella), and omitted the leeks.

This recipe has some prep work with the grating, sautéing, and cooling of the vegetables before adding it to the egg mixture, but it’s worth it!  Really delicious!

It bakes up in a 13 x 9 pan, so there are left-overs for another day.  And you can decide if you will have left-over fritters for breakfast, lunch or dinner!  I want thank my good friend Esra for this recipe. Continue reading

MN Masala: The Minnesota Meat Raffle (& Greek Pastitsio)

By Jane and Chux: Minnesota is a unique place to live.  We have days of sub-zero weather in the winter time (which is a misery that creates hearty souls and bonds us as Minnesotans), many beautiful fresh water lakes, ice fishing, and meat raffles!

Chux and I attend a monthly “Third Friday” event organized by a good friend.  Third Friday is a casual get together at a local restaurant/bar where about 40 friends and family members meet to socialize, eat, have a few drinks and play the meat raffle.

You can find meat raffles in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Canada and the United Kingdom.  In Minnesota, meat raffles are regulated by the state gambling board.  National Public Radio recently did a story on our unique tradition of meat raffles, which you can read here.

Last month at the Third Friday event, I had five one-dollar bills in my wallet to play the raffle.  Time after time, I lost another dollar.

On the last raffle of the evening, I hear a familiar voice say “I won!”  It was Chux.  He was on the other side of the room and had won on his only bet of the evening and on the last draw.  He is so lucky!

For the winning ticket, he got two pounds of ground hamburger, a ham steak and a pound of bacon.  We used the ham steak in a frittata and one pound of the hamburger to make adult mac and cheese, or Greek Pastitsio (recipe below).  We froze the bacon and the remaining hamburger for another day.  The Greek Pastitsio was delicious!   We will try our luck in another week at the next Third Friday meat raffle.  Maybe this time, we’ll get the beef tenderloin. Continue reading

MN Masala: Good Eats Honolulu

By Jane and Chux: While vacationing in Honolulu, Hawaii recently, we sought out local good eats. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Food Court at Shirokiya department store, Ala Moana Center. This place is almost overwhelming. The entire top floor of this Japanese department store is a food court. We recommend taking a walk around the place before making a decision. There are many options to choose from, including sushi, dumplings, salads, grilled meats, noodle soups, and a beer garden. Their food and beer prices were very reasonable.

Grilled Ono

2. Dean’s Drive Inn: We had fresh grilled Ono with ginger/soy sauce, salad and brown rice. One entrée had more than enough food for both of us to share.

We also shared one of their mocha cupcakes. Fresh, healthy and delicious. Continue reading

Nell’s Christmas Prune Tarts

By Jane and Chux: My brothers and I would look out the front window of our house anxiously waiting for our Grandparent’s to arrive for Christmas.

“Are they here yet?  When are they coming?”  We would excitedly ask our parents.

They would say, “Soon, soon they will be here.”

When they finally did arrive, my grandmother would be holding her round clear container with perfectly shaped little pinwheels. After hugs, she would show us these prized cookies.  They were like little jewels.  This was the one treat we all looked forward to every Christmas.

Grandma Nell’s Finnish prune tarts, perfectly shaped pinwheels of slightly sweet buttery pastry with a prune/date filling.

Our tradition was to have them at breakfast on Christmas morning with grapefruit and scrambled eggs.  My Grandmother Nell was a wonderful cook, and she taught me how to bake.  I continue the tradition she started and make these tarts for Christmas every year.

Now it’s Chux who anxiously waits for me to make these delicious little jewels.  “Are they ready yet?  Why do they take so long?  Is the oven on?”  Merry Christmas! Continue reading

MN Masala: Turkey Enchilada Hotdish

By Jane and Chux: After Thanksgiving, we like to make sour cream enchiladas with our left-over turkey meat.  In the past, this was a very laborious dish since it called for frying the tortillas in oil prior to rolling them up with the sour cream filling.

Over time, we have deconstructed this entrée into a very simple, quick “hotdish.” Hotdishes are a Minnesota traditional one-dish meal typically hearty to fend off the cold weather.

According to the Wiki write-up, hotdishes started with church suppers and family gatherings.  Growing up in Michigan, we called them casseroles, but in Minnesota they are hotdishes.  Even though there are many different varieties of hotdish, they usually have cream of mushroom soup as a base and a rich topping like cheese, tater tots, or crushed potato chips.

This turkey sour cream enchilada hotdish has chilies for a little bit of heat and flavor.  We like to use canned roasted Hatch chilies, which can be found at Trader Joe’s.

Hatch chilies (also called Anaheim) are not as hot as jalapenos but use what you have available in your area – no matter what you add in, it will still be a hotdish.  If you want more heat, you can add hot chilies or serve them with a hot salsa.

We’ve lightened this dish by cutting down on the number of tortillas, bypassing the need for frying tortillas in oil, using the Healthy Choice versions of Campbell’s soups, and using light sour cream.  This hotdish is easy to make and is pure comfort food.  Perfect for those Thanksgiving left-overs! Continue reading

MN Masala: Miso Luvs Apple Cobbler!

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: Being home to the famous Honeycrisp apple, we are able to buy a number of delicious varieties of apples in the Twin Cities area.  Every fall, we make a trip or two to the Minnesota Arboretum’s Apple House, which sells apples developed by the University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Center.

At the Apple House, you’ll often find varieties that have not yet been named; they just have a number.  These are the new apples in the search for the next best sellers such as Honeycrisp or SweetTango.

On a recent visit to the Apple House, I purchased a mixture of Haralson, McIntosh, and LaCrescent apples. Now I just needed to decide what I was going to make with these apples!  We like applesauce, crisps, cobblers, and pies.  I decided to try a new recipe for apple cobbler with a secret ingredient in the biscuit topping.

What secret ingredient you ask? It’s Miso!

Mild miso paste provides some saltiness and makes the biscuit crumb a little dense.  I adapted this recipe from an article I found a few years ago.  When making this cobbler, use unsalted butter and do not add additional salt. I cut the sugar in half, and it tasted great!

The addition of Haralson apples added a nice countering tartness to the dish (Granny Smith apples would also work).  If these apple varieties are not in your area, use whatever is available (if the apples are sweet, add extra lemon juice).

When mixing the biscuit topping, it should come together like cookie dough and not like a batter.  The topping bakes to a beautiful caramel color.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect fall dessert! Continue reading

MN Masala: Shrimp in Tomatillo Sauce

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: Have you ever had an amazing meal at a restaurant that you wanted to recreate at home?  We have had a number of those experiences during our travels over the years: Chocolate Pate in San Francisco; buttery, garlicky Shrimp Scampi at El Sid in Nogales, Mexico; rich, caramel Tart Tatin in Paris; and Shrimp in Tomatillo Sauce in Palm Springs, California. This amazing shrimp in tomatillo sauce was at the El Mirasol Mexican restaurant.

Ever since then, we have tried to replicate this dish at home.  We didn’t perfect it until this year!

In the past, we used either too many chilies that took away from the nice rich tangy flavor of the tomatillos, or we did not use the right cooking method.  This year, we cut back on the chilies and roasted both the tomatillos and the onion on a grill to boost the flavors.

We also used a little sugar and salt to balance the sourness of the tomatillos.  It was perfect!

We felt we were transported back to the colorful and festive atmosphere of El Mirasol.  All we needed now were El Mirasol’s extra-large margaritas.

P.S. If you have extra tomatillo sauce, add it to your cheese quesadillas or use as a spread on turkey sandwiches. Continue reading

MN Masala: Lamb Spiedies

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: I was first introduced to spiedies when I lived in Endicott and Binghamton, New York more than 30 years ago.  I quickly learned that spiedies are special to that region of New York and were served at local eateries, bars and summer festivals.

Spiedies are meat kabobs made with a marinade of olive oil, vinegar, spices and mint.  I recall they were the perfect snack for bars and festivals because of how they are traditionally served.  You take a slice of soft Italian white bread and wrap it around the cooked meat on the skewer and pull the meat off with the bread.  The kebab can then be eaten like a sandwich.  Delicious.

This summer while at the Minnesota State Fair, we purchased a spiedie from a visiting New York vendor.  It was exactly as we remembered all those years ago.  We were then inspired to make our own lamb spiedies as one of our last summer grilling hurrahs.

We used our Yakatori grill, which is perfect for grilling these small skewers of meat over high heat; however, spiedies can be made on any grill.  This marinade can be used for any meat you like (chicken, beef, pork, or lamb).   Spiedies tend to be very tangy given the amount of vinegar in the marinade.

We added some sugar to balance this out, yet some tartness is what makes it a spiedie.  After grilling these kebabs, take a fresh slice of Italian bread, pull off the meat and enjoy with your favorite beverage!  Or serve the skewers on their own with some sides (as pictured). Continue reading