Product Review: Peeps, Part 2

It’s stocking stuffer season.  While candy canes are a solid traditional choice, and you can never go wrong with chocolate, Just Born has an array of “everyday” and Christmas-themed Peeps for your favorite sugar-coated marshmallow lover.  Because one (by which I mean me) cannot live on whole grains and seasonal vegetables alone, I’ve taste tested the Sour Watermelon and Strawberry Creme varieties of the everyday Peeps minis and two of the Christmas flavors, Candy Cane and Red Velvet.

Peeps Minis

Peeps Minis

In theory, these are a good idea: bite-sized Peeps that can be enjoyed year-round.  However, to steal a phrase from Chopped, the execution is flawed.  Instead of the adorably plump chicks we know and love, Peeps Minis are curiously flat and oblong.  Although the miniature size makes for a favorably high sugar coating to marshmallow interior ratio, the marshmallow is far softer than a standard Peep, with a strange spongy texture.

Peeps Minis come in four flavors, Sour Watermelon, Strawberry Creme, Chocolate Creme, and Vanilla Creme.  I sampled the Sour Watermelon and Strawberry Creme varieties, which left me sadly disappointed.  The Strawberry Creme Peeps Minis tasted absolutely nothing like strawberries, or even artificial strawberry flavoring, but they did taste vaguely familiar.  After the consumption of several Minis I was able to nail it down: they taste just like Trix breakfast cereal (and I’m feeling pretty good about my junk food palette, since the various artificial fruit flavors of Trix do not include strawberry).  The Sour Watermelon Peeps Minis were slightly better, with a hint of sourness and a somewhat pleasant flavor instantly recognizable as artificial watermelon.

Candy Cane Peep

Candy Cane Peeps

This festive Peep gets high marks for its dusting of red shavings to make it resemble a candy cane.  Unfortunately, the candy cane flavored marshmallow has an assertive toothpaste-like mint flavor, which combined with the dark chocolate bottom to give me that gross feeling of eating dessert right after brushing my teeth.  For the record, Mike thought these were okay, and “everything I would have expected from a candy cane Peep.”

Red Velvet Peep

Red Velvet Peeps

Although I’m not sure how red velvet cake is holiday-themed, this was the taste test winner by far.  The marshmallow is a fairly decent approximation of red velvet cake.  The “cream flavored fudge” on the bottom doesn’t taste like much of anything besides cloying sweetness.  This actually is reminiscent of the buttercream frosting that often tops red velvet cake and added to the effect.  Although they might not be for everyone, and they definitely won’t be confused with the genuine article, I found the red velvet Peep quite delectable in a guilty pleasure sort of way (which is pretty much how I feel about Peeps in general).

 

Lebkuchen

This weekend, I found myself in need of a Christmas-themed costume and a potluck contribution for the annual German Christmas party.  Since the last time I dressed up was Halloween 2001, I was quite proud of my costume idea.  I wore a Goodwill-sourced slinky evening gown, borrowed a faux fur scarf from a co-worker, and perched some antlers on my head to go as Vixen.  Mike was Rudolf, with matching antlers and a red face paint nose.  It was kind of adorable.

Rudolph and Vixen

Mike’s nose had worn off by this point, but you get the idea

Next up was the food.  I wanted to go with a German theme, and after a bit of Internet research I settled on lebkuchen, a traditional German Christmas cookie that is basically a more complicated version of gingerbread.  It is traditionally baked in rounds and flavored with honey, spices, nuts, and candied fruit.  I adapted a simplified recipe from King Arthur Flour that is baked in bar form and flavored with fresh grated lemon and orange peel and candied ginger in place of the more typical candied citron.  Lebkuchen are a bit of an acquired taste, more the sort of thing that you nibble with a cup of coffee than binge eat while watching Christmas movies (I recommend no-bake cookies for that).  But sometimes, when you’ve spent the past evening gorging on American-style spätzle, pretzels, M&M cookies, and alcoholic gummy bears, nibbling on a leftover understated Christmas cookie is exactly what you need.

I did find the cloves and nutmeg in this recipe to be somewhat overpowering; next time I make this, I plan to reduce them to 1/2 teaspoon each.  For the glaze, make sure to use apple juice–it mellows out the spices of the cookies, and you can buy a little personal-sized container at a convenience store if apple juice isn’t something you typically have on hand.

Adapted from the recipe by King Arthur Flour

Yield: one 9 x 13 pan of bar cookies.  Cut them as large or as small as you want for whatever yield your heart desires.

Ingredients:

Cookies

Lebkuchen Ingredients

1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
heaping 1/4 cup crystallized ginger (I found some in the bulk section at the co-op)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 egg
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (about one lemon’s worth)
2 teaspoons grated orange peel (about one half orange’s worth)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Glaze

Lebkuchen Glaze Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup apple juice

Place almonds and crystallized ginger in a food processor.

Almond and Crystallized Ginger Before Processing

Process until finely ground.

Almond and Crystallized Ginger After Processing

Combine brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and cool until warm.

Honey and Brown Sugar Mixture

In a large bowl, combine the cooled sugar mixture, egg, lemon peel, and orange peel.  Add the almond mixture, flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda and mix thoroughly until a stiff dough forms.  Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Lebkuchen Dough

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9 x 13 pan.

Using a rolling pin lightly dusted with flour, roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface into your best approximation of a 9 inch by 13 inch rectangle (it will be about 1/4 inch thick).  Transfer dough rectangle to prepared pan.

With a sharp knife, trim any excess dough and lightly press it into the pan to fill any gaps.

DSC_0211 Lebkuchen Before Baking

Bake until surface has set and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes.

While the lebkuchen are baking, combine the powdered sugar and apple juice in a small bowl and mix until smooth.

Once the lebkuchen are done baking, remove from pan immediately and place on a wire rack for cooling and glazing (you may want to cover the surface below the rack with wax paper to catch the dripping glaze).  Using a pastry brush, thickly coat the lebkuchen with glaze.  Allow the glaze to soak in, about 5 minutes, and then brush with another thick layer of glaze.

Lebkuchen

When glaze has set and lebkuchen are completely cool, cut into rectangles.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature with a slice of apple to keep the lebkuchen moist.

Lebkuchen

Peruvian Potato-Bean Stew

There are certain recipes that I am fairly confident in at first glance: they contain a favorite ingredient (portobell0 mushrooms, asparagus, chocolate) or riff on a classic flavor combination (olive oil, rosemary, and garlic).  But my favorite new recipes are the unexpected wild cards, those that catch my eye despite their ordinary ingredients, unusual seasoning profile, or homely presentation and yield a delicious result.  Sometimes I pick out wild card recipes because I’m trying to use up a particular ingredient; occasionally it’s because I’m looking for a quick weeknight dinner to add my rotation.  But usually, it’s because I trust the author.

After spending the past six months cooking from The Heart of the Plate, I’ve become a big Mollie Katzen fan.  I finally found a cauliflower recipe I enjoyed, and spring farro has become one of my all-time favorite dinners.  But where The Heart of the Plate really shines is with recipes like lablabi, a Tunisian chickpea soup.  The ingredients are simple: a bag of dried chickpeas; onion; some cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice for seasoning; and a finishing garnish of parsley and crushed red pepper.  Nothing flashy, nothing I haven’t tasted before–but the combination, the cooking method, something makes it into one of those dishes that’s great the night you make it, but even better for lunch the next day when you have all morning to look forward to it.

Peruvian potato-bean stew is another sleeper of a recipe.  Potatoes and beans–does it get more basic than that?  But the addition of chili powder, cumin, a poblano pepper, and lime juice give this hearty dish zest.  Be sure to cut the potatoes into half-inch pieces, so that they cook in a reasonable amount of time.

Adapted from The Heart of Plate, by Mollie Katzen

Serves 5

Ingredients:

Peruvian Potato-Bean Stew Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
large poblano pepper, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
4 medium potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (about 4 1/2 cups)
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
dash of black pepper
sour cream for serving (optional)

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add oil and tilt to evenly coat.  Add onions, chili powder, and cumin and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.  Add the bell pepper, poblano pepper, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup water, cover again, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Gently stir in the beans and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until beans are warm, about 5 minutes.  Season with lime juice and black pepper.

Serve with sour cream, if desired.

Peruvian Potato-Bean Stew

Minneapolis Holiday Market 2014

This year, Minneapolis has replaced the underwhelming Holidazzle Parade with the German-inspired Minneapolis Holiday Market.  Located along Nicollet Avenue at Peavey Plaza, the market features vendors selling German Christmas decorations, European decor items, Turkish soaps, fair trade clothing, and locally made artisan products.  In the evenings, strands of Christmas lights and live music set a festive atmosphere.  But obviously, the highlight is the food.  There are German favorites like glühwein, potato pancakes, bratwurst, pretzels, and spaetzle, as well as a few American options like tomato soup with grilled cheese and deep-fried cheese curds (this is Minnesota, after all).

Mike and I spent a couple hours on a  Thursday evening eating and shopping our way through the market–I definitely recommend visiting on a weekday if possible.  The footprint of the market is small, and while this makes for cozy experience on a weeknight, I suspect it would be congested during the weekend.  Also, bring cash (there are ATMs on site if you don’t mind withdrawal fees), and be prepared to spend it–while not ballpark exorbitant, food prices are on the high side.

Minneapolis Holiday Market

Clockwise from upper left: Beer cheese soup in a pretzel bowl from Sponsel’s Minnesota Harvest; stroganoff over spaetzle from Venus Spaetzle Haus; apple strudel from Sponsel’s Minnesota Harvest; stalls at Minneapolis Holiday Market; potato pancakes from Kartoffelhaus Potato Pancakes

  • Sponsel’s Minnesota Harvest was hit and miss.  The beer cheese soup was satisfying–the fermented tang of the beer cut through the richness of the melted cheddar–but unfortunately the pretzel bowl was a bit flimsy.  The traditional pretzel tasted suspiciously mass-produced, with a gummy texture and bland flavor; its only redeeming feature was that it was warm.  However, the apple strudel was a thing of beauty, with layer after layer of pastry yielding to a modest filling of spiced apples and raisins that make you feel like you’ve chosen a virtuous dessert, although the drizzle of icing hints otherwise.
  • The Black Forest Inn’s stall features the best deal at the Market: a large serving of warm German potato salad for $3.  Tangy and fortified with chewy hunks of bacon, it will keep your energy up on a cold night.  The menu also includes decently priced bratwursts, weisswursts, and chicken curry sausages.
  • Although the offerings at Solomon’s Bakery are for the most part typical American baked goods (chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, cinnamon twists, chocolate croissants), the price is right.  A giant chocolate chip cookie is only $2.  Baked with butter, it’s on the crunchy side, perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.
  • My favorite food at the Market was the potato pancakes from Kartoffelhaus Potato Pancakes.  Fine shreds of potato are fried before your eyes and topped with your choice of sour cream and green onions or applesauce (I recommend the sour cream, since the applesauce is of the institutional variety).  The crisp, delicate potato cakes are the sophisticated cousin of diner hash browns–deep fried deliciousness without gratuitous grease.
  • Another tasty and authentically German food choice is Venus Spaetzle Haus.  For vegetarians, the spaetzle can be ordered topped with garlic and Parmesan, while meat lovers can enjoy the stroganoff version.  The servings are generous, making for a hearty meal.
  • Although you can only sample it at the market, another highlight was Brunkow Cheese’s Finnish bread cheese.  It’s a thin block of mild cheese that is baked to form a toasted crust and served warm, and it comes in several flavors including garlic, cranberry, jalapeno, and pizza (of course, we bought the garlic version).

The Minneapolis Holiday Market is located in downtown Minneapolis at the corner of Nicollet Mall and 11th street.  It’s open every day until Christmas Eve from 11 am to 9 pm; on Christmas Eve, the hours are 11 am to 6 pm.  If you visit, be sure to save your ticket–it’s good for the rest of the season, so you can make a return trip for more shopping and another round of potato pancakes.

Butternut Squash Salad with Sriracha Lime Dressing

Over the past few months, baked squash has become my default weekend lunch.  In past years, I’ve used up our weekly CSA allotment of squash in stuffed acorn squash, coconut squash rice, and baked barley risotto with butternut squash.  But although Mike is extremely tolerant of my healthful, vegetable-based culinary efforts, he is not much of a squash fan (with the exception of Thai butternut squash soup).  Since it just didn’t seem fair to inflict months of squash entrees on him, I used up our CSA squash by making it for my lunches on the weekends.  My method is simple: halve, seed, bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, spread with little butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and eat more squash in one sitting than I did in my entire childhood.

Although our CSA ended in mid-October, the squash obsession continued thanks to the Nicollet Mall farmer’s market, with its piles of bargain priced, adorably lunch-sized butternut squashes.  But after several weeks of baked-and-buttered squash, even I was starting to get sick of it.  It was time for a change of pace, in the form of seasonal salad of arugula, seasoned squash, beans, and a Sriracha lime dressing.  This slightly spicy, very citrusy dressing transforms squash from something that you’re eating because it’s good for you into something that you’re eating because it tastes good.

If you’d like to save one of the servings for later, store all the components (dressing, arugula, squash, and beans) separately, and reheat the squash before serving.

Adapted from the Cookin’ Canuck

Serves two as an entree

Ingredients:

Butternut Squash Salad Ingredients

Salad

small butternut squash (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 ounce package (about 4 cups) arugula
3/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

Sriracha Lime Dressing Ingredients

Dressing

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey
dash of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place squash in an 8 x 8 baking dish.  Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, sprinkle with cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper, and toss until evenly coated.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Meanwhile, whisk together lime juice, sriracha sauce, honey and dash of salt in a small bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and whisk until combined.

Just before serving, place arugula in a large bowl and toss with prepared dressing.  Serve black beans and prepared squash over the dressed arugula.

Butternut Squash Salad with Sriracha Lime Dressing

Product Review: Crisp Kitchen Tools

I attended the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), held September 19-21, 2014 in Seattle.  In exchange for registering for the conference at the discounted blogger rate, I agreed to write three posts about the conference.  Additionally, as a sponsor of the conference, Crisp provided zesters to attendees, and I also received a peeler and paring knife to test and review on my blog.  The content of this post and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

 

Crisp Kitchen Tools

Crisp kitchen tools–straight paring knife, straight peeler, and zester

The recently launched collection of Crisp kitchen tools features 27 different tools (knives, peelers, tongs, strainers, etc.) for fruit and vegetable preparation.  The tools can be purchased on Crisp’s website, which offers free shipping on orders over $49.  I ran shipping estimates for an order of one item (the peeler) and all three tools I tested (peeler, paring knife, and zester); in both cases the shipping cost was $7.99.  All tools are dishwasher safe, and the three tools I tested were made in China.

Straight peeler

Straight Peeler ($8.99 plus shipping): Hands down, this is the best peeler I’ve used.  The ergonomic handle was easy on my wrist, while the angled head and very sharp blade made it easy to exert consistent pressure and peel in one pass.  The peeler also comes with a plastic blade cover.  Since the cover fairly small and made of clear plastic, it may be easy to misplace, and it took a few tries to fit it over the blade.  However, the peeler itself is an efficient tool that I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase.

Straight Paring Knife

Straight Paring Knife ($11.99 plus shipping): Unfortunately, this knife was a bit of a disappointment.  It comes with a nifty cover that includes a sharpener, but the cover fits so tightly that it was extremely difficult to slide the knife inside.  The tapered knife handle felt awkwardly small in my hand (Mike also tested it and had the same experience).  While this isn’t a bad knife, I wouldn’t recommend it due to the ill-fitting cover and uncomfortable handle.

Zester

Zester ($12.99 plus shipping): The zester is a four-in-one tool, with blades for zesting, scoring, and garnishing and a fine zesting grater blade that swivels out from the handle, and  includes a plastic blade cover.  The zester performed all of its functions perfectly: the scoring blade cuts through peels with ease, the garnish blade produces a thick curl of peel, the zest blade produces slightly thinner pieces of peel, and the fine zest grater leaves you with a pile of peel shavings in no time flat.  The ergonomic handle felt especially comfortable when using the grater.  Although I personally don’t have a need for the zesting, scoring, and garnishing blades, I would recommend the zester solely on the strength of its efficient grating functionality, ergonomic design, and compact size.

Zested Orange Peel

Clockwise from upper left: orange peel zested with the garnish, zest, and fine zest blades

Thank you to Crisp for providing me with the peeler, paring knife, and zester to test and review.  All these tools, plus the rest of the line, can be purchased on Crisp’s website.

 

Review: Black Sheep Pizza

Although we don’t have a namesake style like New York or Chicago, the Twin Cities does have lots of good pizza.  If you’re in the mood to pay homage to America’s original pizza (baked in early 1900s New York City in coal-fired ovens), there’s Black Sheep Pizza.  The Minneapolis North Loop location features an industrial chic decor scheme, with bare concrete floors and minimalist light fixtures.  Diners can watch the flames dance in the open kitchen’s coal oven, which provides a welcome source of heat on a cold November night and a warm contrast to the stark surroundings.

Although the baking method may be traditional, Black Sheep’s topping list includes unorthodox choices like harissa, oyster mushrooms, and Persian beef.  You can build your own pizza, or pick from a thoughtful selection of preselected combinations including several vegetarian options and a cheese-less pie.  The coal oven produces crusts so thin they almost veer into cracker territory, with a brittle shell and a thin layer of chewiness within.

Oyster Mushroom, Smoked Mozzarella, Rosemary & Garlic

Oyster Mushroom, Smoked Mozzarella, Rosemary & Garlic Pizza

Instead of a traditional sauce, the oyster mushroom and smoked mozzarella pizza skips the tomatoes and just includes the flavor components: an abundance of fresh rosemary and paper-thin slices of garlic.  The oyster mushrooms are applied with a generous hand, providing a meaty depth that your garden-variety white mushroom can only aspire to.  Although the smoked mozzarella is good, it unfortunately lacked a detectable smoky flavor.

Fennel Sausage, Hot Salami, Onion & Cracked Green Olive Pizza

Fennel Sausage, Hot Salami, Onion & Cracked Green Olive Pizza

The fennel sausage pizza expertly combines assertive ingredients–the aforementioned sausage, salami, onion, and olives–in a ratio that manages to highlight each of them.  The sausage and salami are of a well-spiced quality that will satisfy any discerning diner, while the olives and onions play solid supporting roles.

If you like your pizza crust crackling thin and your toppings unique–especially if you’re seeking an intriguing vegetarian pizza–Black Sheep Pizza should be your pizzeria of choice.

If you go:

★★★½ out of 4 (recommended)

Black Sheep Pizza
http://blacksheeppizza.com/
600 Washington Avenue N
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 342-2625

*Additional location at 512 N. Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

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Indian Pudding

A few years ago, Mike and I took a fall vacation to New England.  Even though it was pre-food blog, the things that stand out most about that trip are food related.  Boston’s tourist highlights are intertwined with culinary memories of the mysteriously named “Eight Delight” that Mike ordered at a little restaurant in Chinatown (it ended up being rice mixed with a variety of animal proteins, including miniature octopuses); a bowl of clam chowder at Faneuil Hall; pumpkin cake doughnuts from the Dunkin’ Donuts that seemed to be located on every street corner; and of course, the infamous Oatmeal to Go.   Maine’s Acadia National Park has beautiful ocean vistas, but just as memorable was the “tea” of popovers and ice cream we had at the Jordan Pond House.  Fittingly, I experienced my first whole boiled lobster at a quirky restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine and I had to use my iPhone to look up instructions for how to eat it.

Clam Chowder at Faneuil Hall

Clam chowder at Faneuil Hall

Eating my first boiled lobster in Bar Harbor

Eating my first boiled lobster in Bar Harbor, Maine

But the highlight of the trip was a dinner at Bass Harbor, Maine’s Seafood Ketch, a restaurant Mike remembered from annual childhood trips to Acadia.  Their marvelous lobster roll, heavy on the lobster and light on the mayo, has become the standard against which I compare all other lobster rolls.  Mike got a steak, because despite a childhood in Maine, he is inexplicably lukewarm about seafood.  As we ate, we watched the sunset from our harborside table.  And then, because nearly all good meals end with dessert, we split an order of Indian pudding.

Indian pudding is a traditional New England dessert made of cornmeal seasoned with molasses, cinnamon, and ginger, and optionally topped with whipped or ice cream.  Although the low-and-slow baking time means you need to plan this dessert in advance, the ingredients are probably already in your pantry and the preparation is simple (and speaking from experience, there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating dessert at 9:30 pm, if the urge to make Indian pudding suddenly strikes you after dinner).

I’ve tried several Indian pudding recipes over the years, and this one is my favorite.  It’s not terribly sweet, but the molasses gives it a satisfyingly rich flavor.  I suspect that you can use whatever type of milk you please–I’ve had success with whole, skim, and soy milks.  To ensure a smooth texture, it’s important to continuously stir the pudding while it cooks.  Refrigerate any leftovers and reheat–I think it’s even better the second day.

Adapted from the recipe by Devlin Burke

Ingredients:

Indian Pudding Ingredients

3 cups milk
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

Heat milk over medium heat in a small saucepan until bubbles form around the edges and the milk starts to steam, about 5 minutes.  Slowly stir in the cornmeal and molasses.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has the consistency of a thick sauce and has just started to boil, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Pour pudding into prepared casserole dish.

DSC_0146 Indian Pudding Before Baking

Bake until pudding has set and a thin skin has formed on top, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Indian Pudding

Serve warm, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Indian Pudding

Chickpea Waldorf Salad

In the time-honored but not terribly effective tradition of ignoring things in the hopes that they will just disappear, I have consciously not mentioned the weather lately.  We were hit with a snow storm in the second week of November, and due to unseasonably cold temperatures (highs in the mid-twenties instead of the typical mid-forties), the snow banks have stuck around.  On top of that, daylight savings time took away the last gasps of evening light, with the sun setting just as I leave work.  Psychologically, this is never an easy season for me, but this year my mid-winter slump is setting in two months early.

So instead of posting yet another soup recipe, or a new approach to roasting squash (there will be plenty of time for that in the months ahead), I’m going to write about salad.  Salads, particularly colorful ones, help me cope with the cold drabness of November (and December, January, February, and March).  Traditional, mayonnaise-laden Waldorf salad is the sort of thing I typically avoid, but this is not your grandmother’s Waldorf salad.  The yogurt dressing has a tangy spiciness, thanks to the addition of Dijon mustard and crushed red pepper (if you prefer your food mild, start with 1/8 teaspoon and add more to taste if desired).  The sweetness of the apple and grapes somewhat temper the spiciness of the the dressing, while chickpeas fill it out to an entrée.  Since you need to prepare the salad ahead of time anyway, it makes a nice workday lunch (it also keeps well–I made it on a Monday night and ate the last, still crisp portion for lunch on Friday).  Just be sure to keep the salad and spinach separate until serving.

Adapted from the Kitchn recipe by Andrea Bemis

Serves 4 as a light entrée

Ingredients:

Chickpea Waldorf Salad Ingredients

5.3 ounce container of non-fat plain Greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon pepper
15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
sweet, firm apple, such as Honeycrisp, Braeburn, or Gala, cored and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup red grapes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
5 ounce container fresh spinach (about 4 cups), for serving

Whisk together the yogurt, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, crushed red pepper, and pepper in a small bowl.

Chickpea Waldorf Salad Dressing

In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, celery, apple, grapes, onion, parsley, and walnuts.

Chickpea Waldorf Salad

Pour in dressing and toss until evenly coated.

Chill salad for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend and mellow and up to 5 days.  Serve over spinach.

Chickpea Waldorf Salad

Review: Sonora Grill

Since it’s tucked away from the central seating area, I’ve overlooked Sonora Grill’s Midtown Global Market stall on previous market visits.  But the slightly out of the way location is actually a plus, since the quiet dining area is conducive to relaxing conversation.  Likewise, although the menu is mostly made up of meat-based tacos and sandwiches, there is an intriguing vegetarian gem tucked under the “sides” section: the elote cilantro.

Elote Cilantro

Elote Cilantro

This vibrant dish is as appetizing to look at as it is to eat: bright yellow grilled corn, a vivid green cilantro aioli, auburn dollops of chipotle salsa, and a contrasting sprinkling of pale chihuahua cheese.  The corn that forms the base of the dish is lovely, the perfect balance of char and sweetness, while the punchy cilantro and chipotle sauces elevate it beyond your typical barbeque offering.  Meanwhile, the chihuahua cheese provides a mild tang that balances the sweetness and spice.  Although the side of Peruvian rice is somewhat nondescript, it’s a nice touch–it soaks up the excess cilantro aioli for later enjoyment, and fills out the dish into a light meal.

On your next trip to the Midtown Global Market, steal away from the hustle and bustle and try the Sonora Grill’s elote cilantro–corn on the cob has never tasted this good.

★★★ out of 4 (recommended)

If you go:

Sonora Grill
http://sonora-grill.com/
Midtown Global Market
920 E. Lake Street, Stall 126
Minneapolis, MN 55407
612-871-1900

*Additional full-service location with bar and weekend brunch menu located at 3300 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55406

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