Lemon-Herb Chickpea Casserole

As I’ve moved towards a mostly-vegetarian diet, my dinner repertoire has become more diverse.  Since my motivations for going meatless were primarily based on health and environmental concerns, replacing meat with copious amounts of cheese (as a friend puts it, “a cheese pizza vegetarian”) would have missed the point.  Instead, I tend towards vegetable-based meatless recipes, and I try to rely on what produce is in season.  During the summer and fall, I work through my calendar of recipes as the various crops ripen.  Linguine with asparagus becomes linguine with tomatoes or zucchini and then the growing season draws to a close with gnocchi with butternut squash.  As winter settles in, I cook from my extensive collection of dishes that rely on root vegetables, canned beans, or sturdy produce that tastes halfway decent after a cross-country journey (cabbage, leeks, and squash feature prominently).  And finally, when the snow has mostly melted and I’ve switched to my lightweight winter coat, I pull out my it-should-be-spring-already-but-I-live-in-Minnesota recipes.  These are foods that taste light and fresh, but are still hearty enough to sustain you through the inevitable April snowstorm.

This is the perfect-not-quite spring recipe: the zest and juice of a lemon provide an invigorating zip, and the herbs used (parsley and rosemary) seem to reliably travel well from distant climes.  It’s a nice change of pace from the the typical vegetarian casserole: instead of pasta and lots of cheese, it’s packed with chickpeas and bound together with yogurt, cottage cheese, and a bit of brown rice.  This recipe does take a while to prepare, so if you’re making this on a weeknight you may want to prepare it the night before and add the bread crumb topping before baking the next day.

Adapted from The Kitchn recipe by Faith Durand

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Lemon-Herb Chickpea Casserole Ingredients

1/4 cup uncooked brown rice (about 1 cup cooked)
2 eggs
1 cup low-fat small curd cottage cheese
3/4 cup full-fat regular (not Greek) plain yogurt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
3 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 large shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced and zested (about 1/4 cup juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Prepare rice according to package directions.

Meanwhile, beat eggs in a medium bowl.  Stir in cottage cheese, yogurt, 1/2 cup Parmesan, parsley, and rosemary and mix until well-combined.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (if cooking the casserole the same night you are preparing it).

Combine chickpeas, shallots, garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper, and prepared rice in a large bowl.  Stir in the cottage cheese mixture and mix thoroughly.  Pour mixture into prepared dish (at this point, you can refrigerate the casserole until the next day if desired).  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and bread crumbs.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until bread crumbs are golden-brown.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Lemon-Herb Chickpea Casserole

Review: The Wedge & Wheel

Stillwater’s The Wedge & Wheel cheese shop and bistro is initially daunting to the cheese ignoramus.  And by cheese ignoramus, I mean myself.   I purchase the majority of my cheese pre-shredded (the exception is feta, which is pre-crumbled), and our fridge door is home to a green plastic cylinder of grated Parmesan.  Artisan cheese is something that I appreciate on the same level as symphonies and Pilates: I can see the intrinsic value, but I don’t really get it.  So The Wedge & Wheel’s gleaming white subway tile, refined black and white color scheme, and case with unpronounceable expensive cheeses were all a bit much.  But if I never stepped out of my culinary comfort zone, I would still be subsisting on instant ramen noodles, so we settled in to try some fancy cheese.

Besides the retail side of the operation, the shop offers a small daily-changing menu of reasonably priced cheese and charcuterie (cured meat) flights, along with sandwiches, salads, beer, wine, and cider.  The cheese flights feature three different cheeses, bread, and accompaniments, and there is enough food to be shared by two as an afternoon snack (or enjoyed as a meal by one, if you really get this artisan cheese thing).

The Wedge & Wheel

American Cheese Flight

Our American cheese flight featured Humboldt Fog, a blue cheese, and a mild, slightly buttery firm cheese whose name I neglected to note (possibly Toma).  The range of flavors and textures made the flight accessible to the uninitiated–I started by sampling the mild, firm cheese, then moved on to the spreadable Humboldt Fog, and finished up with an enjoyable bite of the pungent blue cheese that I initially thought I would dislike.  In between bits of cheese, I nibbled the thoughtfully paired accompaniments: almonds lightly coated in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, and pickles and olives that put the aggressively salty mass-produced grocery-store versions to shame.  The shop’s owner was on hand to bring us two rounds of extra bread and enthusiastically answer our rudimentary cheese questions, all while also chatting up customers at the retail counter and assisting other dining patrons.

Whether you’re a cheese aficionado or a hesitant novice, The Wedge & Wheel has something to offer–a wedge of cheese from across the ocean or a local farm, the most gourmet cheese sandwich you’ll ever come across, or the chance to sample a flight of cheeses and step beyond your comfort zone.

★★★ out of 4 (recommended)

The Wedge & Wheel
http://wedgeandwheel.com/
308 Chestnut Street East
Stillwater, MN 55082 USA
(651) 342-1687

The Wedge & Wheel on Urbanspoon

Overnight Oats with Blueberries

Breakfast: my most monotonous meal of the day.  Since I’m really not an early morning person, I rely on the convenience of cold cereal–Wednesdays and Sundays are reserved for All Bran, and the rest of the week features a rotating selection of Vanilla Almond, Maple Pecan, or Ginger Almond Cashew Trader Joe’s Just the Clusters Granola cereal.  On Saturdays, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I make oatmeal.  My usual method is to microwave some quick oats and water, but lately I discovered overnight oatmeal.  Instead of cooking the oats, you let them soak overnight in the refrigerator with milk and your choice of flavorings.  The texture is slightly chewier than cooked oats for a nice change of pace.  I prefer them on the soupy side, similar to cold cereal with milk.  For thicker oats, try reducing the milk to 2/3 cup.  The sweetness level is moderate and can also be adjusted to your liking.

Ingredients:

Overnight Blueberry Oats Ingredients

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

The night before, mix oats, sugar, and cinnamon in a small container (about a 2-cup capacity) with a tightly-fitting lid.  Stir in the milk and blueberries.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, stir thoroughly and eat cold.

Overnight Oats with Blueberries

Review: Birchwood Cafe

Like many contemporary American restaurants, the Birchwood Cafe is committed to serving local, seasonal produce.  In Minnesota, the land of an all-too-brief growing season, this level of commitment in the root-vegetable-intensive winter months is a bold move.  However, the Birchwood Cafe delivers admirably with a menu of standard favorites with some interesting twists.  The menu changes eight times a year and features a few seasonal entrees (for our March visit, there were pork ribs, monkfish stew, turkey pot pie, and sweet potato latkes).  On the “classic” section of the menu, the dishes stay the same year round—salad, vegetables and rice, handpie, and savory waffle—but the ingredients change with the seasons.  Finally, the dinner options are rounded out by a selection of sandwiches and pizzas.

Birchwood Cafe

Vegetable Pizza

The vegetable pizza is topped with many of the usual suspects: mushrooms, onions, Parmesan, and provolone.  However, the more unconventional  sprinkling of kale, dollop of cream cheese, and unexpected dash of lemon zest take center stage, while a mild garlic spread solidly performs its supporting role.  What looks like a mishmash of strange toppings on paper becomes pizza perfection when applied to a marvelously chewy crust.

Birchwood Cafe

Crostini Plate

Birchwood Cafe

Root Vegetable Hand Pie with Winter Salad

Our other dishes fell just short of the high bar set by the vegetable pizza.  The crostini plate appetizer featured deliciously thick slices of grilled birdseed bread, a bright arugula pesto, and pickled Brussels sprouts that would win over a vegetable skeptic, but the cauliflower sweet potato and garlic lentil purees were disappointingly bland.  The root vegetable handpie included several stellar components: an inspired combination of kale and feta, a tender crust, a bold blood orange sauce, and a well-composed miniature salad with grapefruit and sheep milk cheese. Unfortunately, the handpie’s jarringly strong parsnip notes kept the other flavors from coming together cohesively.

Birchwood Cafe

Clockwise from upper left: Key Lime Pie; Mexican Pot de Creme; Coconut Cream Pie

As all good meals do, ours ended on a high note with a sampling of desserts.  A Mexican chocolate pot de crème had an I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan creaminess, with bittersweet chocolate, a touch of cinnamon, and a coconut whipped cream providing complex layers of flavor. The biggest disappointment of the evening was a one-note key lime pie that lacked freshness.  Luckily, our spirits were restored by a generously-sized slice of coconut cream pie with an intense nuttiness and hint of dark chocolate that kept each bite interesting.

If the Birchwood Cafe can create local food this good during the deprivation of a Minnesota winter, a return visit in summer or fall is definitely in order–I want to see what flavor artistry can be created with a richer produce palette.

★★★ out of 4 (recommended)

Birchwood Cafe
http://birchwoodcafe.com/
3311 East 25th Street
Minneapolis MN 55406
(612) 722-4474

Birchwood Cafe on Urbanspoon

Chocolate Layer Pie

DSC_0495

Back in my pre-food blog days, I spent a pleasant four years studying mathematics at a liberal arts college in northern Minnesota.  The original plan was to become an actuary, but that scheme died in an unhappy struggle through Probability and Statistics II.  Plan number two was graduate school, but by the end of my junior year I realized that wasn’t a good fit either.  The backup backup plan was an accelerated teaching certificate program to become a high school math teacher, which sounded good on paper but was revealed to be a very bad idea after actually observing a high school math class.  Ultimately I graduated with a B.A. in mathematics, minors in Computer Information Systems and German, and joined the legion of people whose jobs have absolutely nothing to do with what they went to school for.

But even though I never pursued a mathematical career, I still have a soft spot for numbers.  And today is basically Christmas for math geeks, a.k.a. Pi Day.  As you hopefully remember from your middle school math class, pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.  No matter what size your circle is–a dime, a hula hoop, a cross section of planet Earth–the ratio will always be approximately 3.14159, or pi.  Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 (3/14), representing the first three digits of the number, and this year is the “Pi Day of the Century” since the date (3/14/15) represents the first five digits.  For extra credit, you can time your celebration for 3/14/15 at 9:26:53, representing the first 10 digits.  (Fun fact: pi is an irrational number, which means that its decimal representation goes on forever without repeating.)  According to Wikipedia, the first Pi Day was observed in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium with a symbolic march around a circular space followed by the consumption of fruit pie.  We’re skipping the circular march at our Pi Day of the Century celebration (Mike was markedly unenthusiastic about walking around the kitchen table), but oh, there will be pie.

This recipe is adapted from Betty’s Pies Favorite Recipes, by Betty Lessard.  Betty’s Pies is a northern Minnesota institution, a must-stop on any drive up Highway 61 on Lake Superior’s North Shore.  Mike got me the official cookbook last Christmas, probably in the hope that it would lead to more pie in his life.  This chocolate layer pie is one of the restaurant’s best sellers, and it’s easy to see why: a baked pie crust is lined with cinnamon meringue, spread with melted chocolate and cinnamon whipped cream, and finally chocolate whipped cream is added for a crowning touch.  The crust recipe below is my mom’s, and I’ve previously shared it in my maple cranberry pie recipe–refer to that post for step-by-step pictures.

Adapted from Betty’s Pies Favorite Recipes by Betty Lessard, founder of Betty’s PiesIngredients:

Pie Crust Ingredients

Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 scant teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1/4 cup cold water

Chocolate Layer Pie Filling Ingredients

Filling:
2 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

Prepare the the crust:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9-inch glass pie plate.

In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour and salt.  Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles wet sand.  Beat the remaining 1/4 cup flour with cold water in a small bowl.  Pour into shortening mixture and mix until a soft dough forms.  Form dough into a ball.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle approximately 11 inches in diameter.  Transfer dough to prepared pie plate.  Trim away any excess crust, fold over edges, and flute.

Prick the bottom of the crust in several places with the tip of a sharp knife.  Line bottom of crust with foil, and place pie weights or dried beans on top of foil.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove foil and pie weights or beans and bake for an additional minute.  Cool crust on a wire rack.

Prepare the filling layers:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the vinegar and continue beating until soft mounds form.  Gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Continue beating until meringue can hold stiff peaks.  Spread the meringue on the bottom and sides of the baked crust, and bake until meringue is lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Allow to cool on a wire rack (meringue will collapse as it cools).

Meringue Layer

Clockwise from upper left: stiff peaks in meringue; meringue layer before baking; baked meringue layer immediately after removal from oven; baked meringue layer after cooling.

Lightly beat the egg yolks.  In a small saucepan, combine the egg yolks, water, and chocolate chips and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until chips are melted.  Evenly spread 3 tablespoons of the melted chocolate mixture over the cooled meringue.  Set aside remaining melted chocolate to cool.  Place pie in refrigerator to chill chocolate layer.

Chocolate Layer Pie

Chocolate layer

Whip the cream until thick enough to hold soft peaks.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated  sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and whip until sugar and cinnamon are evenly dispersed.  Spread half of the whipped cream over the chocolate layer.

Chocolate Layer Pie

Whipped cream layer

Gently fold the remaining melted chocolate into the remaining whipped cream.  Spread over the pie.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

Chocolate Layer Pie

Completed pie with final chocolate whipped cream layer

Janine’s Soft Sugar Cookies

Sadly, my job as a paralegal has absolutely nothing to do with food: I fill out forms, draft letters, and spend an inordinate amount of time scanning in documents to electronically file them with the federal government.  However, my workdays do feature the occasional culinary highlight.  My summer and early fall Thursday lunch breaks are spent at the Nicollet Mall farmer’s market, admiring squash and determining how many pounds I can lug  back to my office without losing sensation in my arms.  Throughout the year, my firm has a popcorn cart that appears in the lounge on special occasions, producing popcorn for all from 11 am to 4 pm (I am such a popcorn addict that I make twice daily pilgrimages to the popcorn cart.  My sister once told me, “You realize that you can never leave your law firm, right?  Because where else are you going to get a popcorn cart?”).  But the best workplace food event happens only once a year, on Valentine’s Day: Janine brings in her sugar cookies.

Janine’s sugar cookies are uniquely pillowy, somewhat similar in texture to grocery-store variety soft frosted sugar cookies.  But Janine’s cookies are infinitely better, fresher and not as sickeningly sweet, an honest indulgence reserved for special occasions.  The dough, prepared in advance and chilled overnight, is much stickier than your average sugar cookie dough–when rolling out the cookies, have at least a cup of extra flour on hand and use it liberally.  Janine notes that this recipe makes excellent large cookies, but due to their richness I prefer a smaller size.  The cookies puff up considerably while baking and don’t brown on the top, so check the bottoms for doneness.

Finally, the frosting recipe is adapted from one of my vintage cookbook finds, the 1962 Sugar Spoon Recipes published by Domino Sugar.  It makes just enough to frost the whole batch of cookies.

Cookie recipe slightly adapted from my co-worker and baker extraordinaire Janine; frosting recipe adapted from Sugar Spoon Recipes

Yield: 6 1/2 dozen 2-inch by 3-inch cookies

Ingredients:

Janine's Soft Sugar Cookie Ingredients

Cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling out the cookies
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla

Frosting Ingredients

Frosting
4 cups confectioner’s sugar, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons milk, divided
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
food coloring, optional

Janine's Soft Sugar Cookies

(1) Mixed dough before chilling; (2) Dough ready to be rolled out; (3) Cutting out the cookies; (4) Cookies before baking; (5) Completed cookies

Cookies

The night before, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Stir the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla into the sugar mixture.  Gradually stir in the flour mixture and mix until a loose, sticky dough forms.  Tightly cover and chill in refrigerator overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thoroughly flour the working surface.  Working in batches (I rolled out about one-quarter of the dough at a time), place a portion of dough on the floured surface.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out shapes with a floured cookie cutter and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.  Form any scraps into a ball, roll out, and continue to cut out cookies until all the dough has been used.  Frequently re-flour surface and rolling pin to prevent sticking.

Bake cookies until very lightly browned on the bottoms, about 8-9 minutes.  Cool completely on wire racks and frost with buttercream frosting.

Frosting

In a large bowl, cream together two cups of sugar and butter. Mix in two tablespoons milk, vanilla, and salt. Add the remaining 2 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons milk and mix until all the sugar has been incorporated. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. If necessary, add additional sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency. Stir in food coloring if desired.

Frost cookies. Allow frosting to set until firm to the touch.  Store cookies tightly covered at room temperature.

Janine's Soft Sugar Cookies

Review: Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant

At Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant, the décor is comfortably rundown: a not-very-convincing fake palm tree in one corner, a toy parrot hanging from a perch on the ceiling, and assorted tourist kitsch from the proprietor’s native Trinidad.  But the walls are covered in accolades from the past couple decades–Best Caribbean Restaurant, One of the 99 Best Meals for Under $10, Best Cheap Eats–and Harry Singh himself takes your order, brings you a pitcher of water with your jerk pork because he knows you’ll need it, and presents you with a handwritten receipt at the end of your meal.  There’s not much in the way of elegant presentation or locally-sourced free-range artisanal ingredients.  Instead, Harry Singh’s is where you go when you want a plate of Caribbean comfort food, served with a side of calypso music that will have even staid Minnesotans swaying in their seats by the end of the meal.

Trinidad’s cuisine reflects its diverse population, with East Indian, African, Creole, European, and indigenous influences.  Harry Singh’s signature item is a 12-inch circle of roti, a flatbread made of ground peas and rolled out to a paper thinness to order.  It’s served folded around your choice of about a dozen fillings (half of which are vegetarian), from mild curries to spicy jerks.  The menu also features Creole and curry rice dishes and an interesting selection of tropical fruit juices and punches.

Harry Singh's

Potato and Chickpea Roti

The curry potato and chickpea roti is as basic as it sounds: curry-seasoned potatoes and chickpeas, wrapped in roti.  However, the textural contrasts and comforting flavors make this a vegetarian dish well worth your while.  The potatoes are well-done, cooked almost to the point of mushiness, while the chickpeas retain a solid bite.  The curry flavoring is mild, and deceptively simple at first.  But on the second bite, and the third, the warming spices spread across your mouth and give you a feeling of contentment.  The roti provides an additional boost of slightly nutty flavor, besides taking on the seasonings of the filling–the highlight of my dinner was coming across little chewy folds of doubled up roti that had soaked up bits of smashed potato.

Harry Singh's

Jerk Pork Roti

The jerk pork roti was generously portioned (and priced the same as the potato and chickpea roti, making it a bargain), with broccoli, cabbage, and onions in addition to chunks of chili-seasoned pork.  The heat level was manageable if you enjoy spicy food, but go slow–you’ve got a big job ahead of you.  Like the curry potato and chickpea roti, the best part of the dish is how the excess roti is saturated with the jerk pork juices.

I tend to be unenthusiastic about comfort food–it usually seems to connote an overabundance of cheese and a bland heaviness.  But a potato and chickpea curry, wrapped in a skillfully handmade roti and served to you by a man who has been doing what he does very, very well for a very long time?  That’s comfort food I can get behind.

★★★½ out of 4 (recommended)

Harry Singh's

Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant
http://harrysinghs.com/
2653 Nicollet Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 729-6181

Harry Singh's Caribbean on Urbanspoon

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls

While I grew up in a family that started each dinner with a formal grace, Mike comes from a non-religious background.  When we first moved in together I would recite a traditional grace while Mike looked on, but that always felt kind of awkward–food and ritual should be something that’s shared, not something one person does while the other spectates.  So a couple years ago, we switched to a Thanksgiving-style practice of listing something that we’re grateful for.  Since the PBS Newshour is on in the background while we cook, our gratitude tends to focus on the big things: thankfulness for shelter, for adequate food, for financial security, for freedom of speech, for our health, for our families, for each other.

But over this past week I’ve had lots of little things I’ve been thankful for, things that don’t seem weighty enough to mention after listening to reports of the Ukrainian civil war or ISIS atrocities.  I’m grateful that I have the luxury of being able to be thankful for smaller, non-essential things, like the heated seats in our new-to-us Prius.  I’m thankful that my freelance writing career has begun, and I have a few more pieces in the works.  I’m thankful that Mike met me over our Thursday lunch break for giant slices of Andrea Pizza (“The Biggest Slice in the Mini-apple”).  And I’m thankful that I have this space to write about life’s ups and downs, plus food, and that you’re sharing the journey with me.

And in that vein, I have a new recipe.  I wanted a simple whole wheat dinner roll recipe to pair with a pot of split pea soup, something hearty but not too dense.  These rolls, a streamlined version of Bea Ojakangas’ “Simple Savory Pan Rolls” from Great Whole Grain Breads, fit the bill, with an extra boost of flavor from the wheat germ.  The dough is quite stiff, almost clay-like, but don’t worry–they’ll turn out in the end.

Adapted from Great Whole Grain Breads by Beatrice Ojakangas

Yield: 16 small rolls (about 2 inches in diameter)

Ingredients:

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls Ingredients

2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Combine yeast, water, and sugar in a large bowl and let sit until yeast has swollen and small bubbles appear on the liquid’s surface (about five minutes).  Stir in the salt, eggs, wheat germ, and whole wheat flour and mix until smooth.  Stir in the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a very stiff dough forms.  Let dough rest for 15 minutes.

Knead dough until smooth.  Form into a ball and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

Punch dough down and divide into 16 equal pieces.  Evenly arrange in a greased 9×9 pan.

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls Before Rising

Allow rolls to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls After Rising

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake rolls until well-browned, about 16-20 minutes.

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls

Review: Glam Doll Donuts

For the past couple months, I’ve been eying up Glam Doll Donuts as an interesting dessert stop on Eat Street.  They’ve landed on a list of the best doughnuts in the U.S., their flavors are unique and cleverly named (i.e. the Misfit, a raised doughnut with orange, ginger & cinnamon infused glaze), and the shop has a retro-pinup-inspired shabby-chic vibe.  They source their dairy indgredients locally and even offer vegan versions of seven of their doughnuts.

Glam Doll Donuts

Clockwise from lower left: Flirty Frenchie cruller with espresso cream cheese; up close and personal with the Flirty Frenchie; Dark Angel chocolate iced doughnut with vanilla bean cream filling

But while the doughnuts look interesting on paper, in person they’re curiously lacking in flavor.  I sampled the Flirty Frenchie, a cruller topped with espresso cream cheese, and the Dark Angel, a chocolate-iced doughnut filled with vanilla bean cream.  While the texture of the cruller was perfect–light and flaky, with air pockets that would do any baguette baker proud–the bland cream cheese topping was devoid of any discernible coffee flavor.  Similarly, the Dark Angel was bursting with a filling that disappointingly tasted more like instant vanilla pudding than an actual vanilla bean.

The doughnuts aren’t bad, but after the hype and a high-end price tag ($3 for the filled doughnut, $2.50 for the cruller), I had hoped for something more than “not bad”.

★★½ out of 4 (recommended with reservations)

Glam Doll Donuts
http://www.glamdolldonuts.com/
2605 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 345-7064

Glam Doll Donuts on Urbanspoon

Mushroom Stroganoff with Cabbage Noodles

As you may have gathered from many previous posts, I am a big fan of Molli Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate.  The vegetable-focused recipes are interesting and vibrant, with careful combinations of flavor and texture.  But one thing the recipes aren’t is fast: they tend to be suited more for weekends than for the full-time worker with a long commute and hunger pains that start kicking in at 4 pm.

Nevertheless, last Friday I decided to try a stroganoff recipe I’ve had my eye on, with mushrooms standing in for the beef and cabbage in lieu of noodles.  The recipe featured lots of prep work–over two pounds of mushrooms to slice, three cups of chopped onion, breaking down a head of cabbage–but between Mike and I it seemed doable.  We bought the ingredients on our weekly grocery shopping trip and looked forward to a mushroom-intensive dinner.

Then life intervened.  Our primary car is a 2001 Toyota Prius Mike bought back in college, which has been an increasing source of contention in our marriage as my Scrooge-like frugality clashed with Mike’s desire for operational air conditioning.  After repairing the Prius’ brakes in December (and lots of arguing), I finally agreed that it no longer made sense to continue to pour money into an increasingly decrepit car, and the next sign of trouble would be the end of the road.  The end came on Friday morning, when the Prius refused to start, we were already running late, and a dusting of snow promised to snarl our commute.  Luckily, we had a back up plan, in the form of the 2001 Dodge Intrepid I’ve been driving since high school.  The driver’s door unlocks only sporadically, the back is dented, the gas mileage is lousy, and it’s a beast to park, but the engine is steadfastly reliable.  We made it in to work, after a commute featuring lots of tears (me, because I tend to break down when initially confronted with major life changes), smartphone Google searches for used hybrids (Mike, who in contrast was feeling pretty gleeful), and a resolution to buy a newer used car as soon as possible.

So instead of spending Friday evening prepping ingredients together, I sliced up a giant mound of mushrooms alone while Mike jump started the Prius for the final time, in the hopes of driving it to a dealership for a trade-in.  There are nights when cooking is something I do to unwind, when creating something delicious erases the problems of the day.  Friday wasn’t one of those nights.  Mike came in from the garage to find me frantically wiping sour cream off the counter as a pot of barley boiled over for the fourth time, wailing about my stress level in adult-themed language.

But it all came together in the end, an almost meaty mushroom stew with a smoky, creamy sauce that saturated the cabbage.  I was afraid that the “cabbage noodles” were some sort of diet gimmick, but they actually pair wonderfully with the mushrooms.  The recipe calls for a dry white wine, and I used chardonnay.  However, since there is so much depth to the stew from the mushroom juices, smoked paprika, and sour cream, I suspect you could use broth or water instead.  I served this with a side of barley, but you could also mix some cooked egg noodles with the cabbage before serving, halushki-style.  It’s a lovely recipe, and one that I’m looking forward to cooking again–just not on a weeknight.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

Mushroom Stroganoff with Cabbage Noodles Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
3 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
3.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 pounds white mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 head green cabbage, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
black pepper, to taste

Heat Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter and tilt to evenly coat and melt butter.  Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add paprika and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.  Stir in shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes.

Stir in the white mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cover and cook until mushrooms have given up their juices, about 5 minutes.  Add the flour and stir until dissolved.  Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Partially cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil cabbage in a stockpot until tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain thoroughly and return cabbage to stockpot.  Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir until cabbage is evenly coated.  Set aside and keep warm.

Stir the sour cream into the mushroom stew until melted.  Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes, and add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Season with black pepper to taste and add additional salt if desired.

Serve cabbage in bowls, topped with mushroom stew.

Mushroom Stroganoff with Cabbage Noodles