Monday, June 27, 2011

i've been a bit busy lately. nature adventures, beach time, and general summertime lolly-gagging has taken priority over my intent to cook a healthy dinner for the family each night. i've found that watermelon on the shore under the warm sun to be just as tasty as homemade savory chicken cobblers around the dinner table. it has taken me quite some time to reach this realization. i get stuck on wanting to make dinner every night, and i feel a bit failed when i lack to provide this. don't get me wrong, it's not like i am giving up cooking dinner, but i'm able to substitute melon, sunshine, and good ol' fashion fun for the later here and there. this weekend provided such opportunities.

we live in a unique area, full of magic and wonder. i feel as though it would take me decades to explore all there is to explore here. so i need to get going. i've put away plenty of adventures, but moving around cook county gives me new areas for discovery. currently residing in grand portage i have picturesque adventure spots at my fingertips non-stop! this weekend we explored a red rock beach about a mile from our home. it was amazing! woodsy trails to hike, cozy coves, small pebble beaches, and a rock skipping competition that lasted most of the afternoon. for such adventures we need sustenance. we went prepared.....

at the bottom of a backpack, between the heart shaped rocks we've collected and the random feathers and driftwood bits you will usually find cheese. most cheeses travel well. a few of our favorites from the weekend; caramelized onion cheddar from england, eichten's smoked gouda, and widmer's 6 year cheddar. all are very unique. all are very tasty. casual beach meals with a three year old are usual very, very casual. i have plenty of time to ponder the dynamics of flavor for every morsel i'm savoring, while addie is usually smearing hers into a sandcastle. so these cheeses. we have a small but progressive cheese selection at the co-op. we try new varieties based on wants vocalized by our customers/ owners. i thought i'd share a favorites list this week in replace of a recipe!

Widmer's 6 year Cheddar- this fabulous cheese is distributed by Widmer's Cheese Cellars in theresa, WI. They make younger cheddars, but this one....this one has flavor crystals as we like to say- bits of condensed cheese goodness in tiny flecks of magnificent cheese magic speckled throughout the cheese. it's awesome. the best cheddar we carry. it's a little spendy, but a little goes a long way.

English Caramelized Onion Cheddar- this is my favorite cheese! i often reference it as 'cheese candy'. something about the sweet caramelized onion jam which is infused with the creamy, salty, tangy cheddar that makes me have to take a time-out every time i eat the stuff. we've started cutting smaller wedges and stashing them in a basket in the deli cooler for quick grabs for the picnic basket. do not let the seagulls nab this one!

Eichten's Hidden Acres Gouda- we have several varieties of this one- herb, caraway, wild rice, sundried tomato, smoked, etc. all of them contain the classic gouda goodness. a creamy, cow's milk cheese which is milder than cheddar, but still containing character and flavor. it goes melty very well. think fondue.

Cypress Grove Chevre- 'Purple Haze' is the variety we currently carry. it's a goat's milk cheese infused with springtime herbs such as lavender buds and wild fennel pollen. it is great eaten on it's own with a bottle of pinot griggio. you could also slather it on everything from grilled asparagus to artichoke raviolis.

Manchego- ours comes from spain. it's a sheep's milk cheese, and we actually carry a younger variety which is aged over 3 months. this is a slightly harder cheese, and it's bright, parmesan-ish personality is an over all splender. it's great grated on spicy pork tacos, or with most of your favorite spring time veggies.

Ski Queen- Gjetost Cheese- yes, there is a cult-like following from the scandinavians. this is made in norway of a blend of cow's and goat's milk. it's creamy, nutty, tangy, buttery, and unusually addictive. it is packaged in bright red packaging in a perfect cube shape. it's coloring is that of milk chocolate or coffee and cream, and i visualize those flavors when i'm eating it.

those are just a few varieties that i very much enjoy, but we have a variety of raw milk cheeses, goat's milk cheeses, and also a variety of tasty bites that go very well with our cheeses. try the marcona almonds in rosemary infused honey- good stuff! the fig jam and our olive selection rock the house too! belly up!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

aged cheddar & pickled onions

i am in the middle of moving right now, but i wanted to write a little bit about the food that gets me through the move. moving is always hectic. there's packing and un-packing and endless hours of cleaning. i am greatful to be moving into a beautiful house, and i will be even more thrilled when there is running water! amungst the boxes and furniture i always make sure to have a clear path to the kitchen. when i am obsessively cleaning windows and pacing around in circles wondering what to do next, i always retreat to the kitchen. there, i take inventory of what's available and today, i must admit, it's slim pick'ns!

a few days ago, a season of jamie oliver's 'oliver twist' arrived in my mailbox via netflix. yes, i think jamie oliver is entertaining. i appreciate his enthusiasm and energy towards food and its preperation. i really have been hung up on some of the 'junk' food snacks that he sneaks into a few episodes to satisfy his cravings. the one that i can't get outta my head is a cheese and pickled onion sandwich. he makes a quick snack of toasted bread and butter, wonderful aged cheddar, arugula, and pickled onions. i have some wonderful raw-aged cheddar in my fridge. it's one of the few highlights in there. so instead of moving, i started pickling onions. we've all done it-come on...

here's the quick pickled onion recipe i used:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 medium red onions

combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, except the onions. place pan on medium heat. while the brine is coming to a boil, prep the onions. trim both ends of of the onions. peel, and slice into uniform slices as thin as you can, making sure the slices are less than 1/4 inch thick. when brine has come to a boil. add all of the onions, all at once. remove the pan from the heat and cover. allow onions to hang out in the brine, covered for about 25 minutes. Place the onions in a bowl and allow to cool to room tempature. when the onions are fully cooled place the onions and their brine in jars with tight fitting lids and store in the fridge. they are ready to eat when they are fully cooled!

for the pickled onion and aged cheddar sammy:
2 slices of bread. brioche would be awesome. i happened to have some caraway rye, which was very tasty.

butter for slathering

cheese-i used the raw-aged cheddar from the co-op

pickled onions

arugula or spinach

slather bread with butter and toast if desired. layer on remaining ingredients and inhale immediately. for a more civilized touch; make sandwich in a grilled cheese fashion. add caramelized apples. serve with a side of sassy mustard.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

i may not live at the end of the road, but i can see it from my house. entertainment is dependent on how much of it you can create on your own. this morning there was a house, or half of one at least, blocking my driveway. this is entertainment at it's finest. i never had moments like this when i lived in minneapolis or st. paul. i never imagined i would experience moments like this. as i stood outside with my cup of coffee, the reality of the situation becoming clearer in my head- i would never be able to drive around this home in my driveway, i won't be able to be to work on time, i will be late bringing my daughter to daycare, and the big bummer that i wouldn't be making it in time for my precious radio- food chat time. ugh. this is where the creating your own entertainment is very important. instead of wallowing in remorse because of all of the things that will be delayed and pushed back or aside in my busy day, i started reveling in the utter hilariousness of a house in my driveway. i made sure a few snap shots were taken for future postcard fun, and then started daydreaming about a bloody mary.

the night before as i was walking the dog, chasing after my 3 year old daughter, cleaning the house, making dinner, and trying to provide the best phone conversation that i could to a friend on a cross country motorcycle adventure, i decided to create the best bloody mary that i could. it was bothersome to me that previous bloody mary experiences were not that exciting. some were simply bland tomato juice with too much vodka. others had far too much pickle juice. i wanted a happy balance of fresh tomato, horseradish, and cracked pepper. i had a fresh bundle of locally harvested rosemary that i kept moving from table to counter to fridge. this is how it went down. i muddled the rosemary into the bottom of a large pitcher. dashes of tabasco, horseradish, and fresh cracked pepper followed the tomato juice and vodka. i rimmed the glasses with smoked sea salt, added plenty of ice, poured in the fresh and beautiful tomato juice and vodka blend, garnished with more fresh rosemary and a beef stick from thousand hills cattle company, and i had reached bliss. i served them up, and as we ate fresh snap peas and cherry tomatoes alongside our beverages i couldn't help but think that fresh peas and cherry tomatoes would be great garnishes. maybe even going with indian spices and fresh chilies in replacement of the horseradish, and fresh mint to substitute the rosemary. oh i have opened a can of worms as they say, and i will have to report back with the varieties that i create. any great bloody mary secrets anyone out there has to share? let us know!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

grilling the black fly blues away

black flies are a northern minnesota treat. i say that with complete sarcasm. and i know that some folks say that they pollinate blueberries but seriously, why can't this be left to the butterflies? as i'm typing this, peppered with multiple red spots from head to toe, black flies are all i can think about. there seems to be a bumper crop this season, and they kept me company while i planted my garden. my peaceful daydreams of county fair winning turnips and eggplants were replaced by annoying swarms of tiny biting flies making laps around my head. my hopes of spending relaxing, sunny afternoons with my gardening hat on, meddling over weeds and pampering my sprouts was soon over taken. i set record planting speeds as i tried to hurry myself and family out of the black fly fog that was engulfing us. what was actually planted is a vague memory. i remember negotiating with my daughter, daisies or swiss chard?, and i'm pretty sure we just threw in both before our retreat.

i am now happily starting my patio garden. i can mill around the patio, cocktail within reach, as i lazily lug around the watering can, gardening hat on. the outdoor grill will also be within reach, and so as i may not be growing a bumper crop of veggies, i will be grilling them....

inspired by an episode on the perennial plate (check it out @ the, where chef Daniel Klein documents socially responsible and adventurous eating, i decided it was time to grill up some shrooms. i choose portabella mushrooms because of their size and durability. i gave them a toss with a green garlic oil, smoked sea salt, and black pepper. we currently have wisconsin grown green garlic, which is basically a young form of garlic. it's garlicky fiest goes ever so well with the earthy mushrooms, and so macerating the young garlic with olive oil and slathering it on various foods is a great way to invite those flavors into your food. so with my mushrooms slathered and grilled, i started building. grilled, thick slices of tomatoes grown at Bay Produce in Superior, WI, slices of buttery avocado, thin slices of fresh radish, sprouts, blue cheese crumbles, and finished with a sunflower-green garlic vinaigrette to seal the deal. i was originally thinking that i was going to use horseradish, but it never made the team, however i think it would fit in very well. a little arugula salad or micro greens would be a great replacement for the sprouts as well.

happy gardening, er.., i mean grilling!