Brussels Sprouts Salad

I wanted to post just a quick recipe that I made tonight. A few weeks ago, my friend Evan and I went to a Locavore Dinner, where we had this amazing and simple brussels sprouts salad. I’ve been dying to recreate it. How can finely shredded brussels sprouts taste so good? Just trust me.
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Brussels Sprouts Salad

Inspired by MK The Restaurant

1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts (on the stalk, if you can find it) (for me, this was between 10 and 15 sprouts)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
heaping teaspoon fresh pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese

To start, slice the brussels sprouts in half, then finely slice into super thin shreds. Think coleslaw, only thinner. In a bowl, combine the shreds of sprouts with olive oil, lemon juice, grated cheese, salt, and fresh ground pepper. Toss to combine and eat! That’s it!



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Friday Nights

Remember when you were young, and school was ending, and if you lived in Cadott, you took the bus home and ran up the driveway on that last day of school for the year? Remember that feeling? Freedom, yes, it was freedom. Well, that’s how every single Friday night feels now.

Except you know at the end of summer, when you’ve had enough freedom, and got a new haircut and fancy new shoes, and you’re so ready to go back to school? Well, come Sunday night, I’m still not ready to go back to work.

Nonetheless, I love love love Fridays. This past Friday, I wanted to stop at Saigon Sisters – a new favorite of mine that serves some of the very best Banh Mi in the city – but you see, when you sneak out of work early and show up before 5pm, you have to change your plans. Lucky for me, right around the corner in the French Market, where the sistahs also happen to have a stand. Unlucky for me, the French Market is dangerous.

Yes, dangerous. The moment I walk in, Delightful Pastries in staring me in the face. Around the corner, Pastoral is screaming cheese at me. City Fresh Market’s seafood counter is calling my name, and Flip Crepes has me wondering if I really want banh mi tonight. What do you do when faced with so many choices? Buy it all, I tell you – buy. it. all.

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And that my friends, are the ingredients for a glorious Friday night. A superb salame with whole peppercorns.

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Some seriously amazing double cream cremont cheese from Vermont.

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Wine. Banh Mi. Pho.

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Pho.

Like I said, I love Fridays.

Colombia Soon and DC Photo Recap

A quick update on the wanderlust aspect of this blog… my trip to Colombia is coming up in a week! Our time is short, but we’re spending one day in Bogota, two days in Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, and two days in Cartagena de Indias… oh lovely! I’m debating about bringing the “big camera” (ie, flashy, expensive camera) – I’m thinking that since we’ll primarily be in tourist areas, it will probably be ok. Still on the fence. Either way, I’ll be sure to share some beautiful pictures!

On another note, we were in DC a couple weekends ago… here are a few snapshots I took.

We spent a day touring the District and monuments…

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And another day in some neighborhoods – specifically, most of these pics are from Capitol Hill and the Eastern Market…

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And another day hanging out with Eric’s aunt and uncle, exploring Annapolis, MD and eating yummy food…

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Figs with Blue Cheese and Proscuitto

Sorry about the timing on this. I wasn’t really sure if I should post this tonight – after all, fig season is long gone – but I found dried figs at the store last night and it reminded me that I forgot to share one of the prettiest, easiest things I’ve ever made. This dish was inspired by an appetizer we ordered at Cafe Spiaggia – the restaurant whose more sophisticated sibling is a famous favorite of the Obama’s. It was a wonderful, simple dish composed of fresh figs, proscuitto, and shaved parmesano. When I found figs in my market not long after, I instantly snatched them up. The mild taste of fresh figs is really beautiful and they pair perfectly with the salty of the proscuitto and tangy of the blue cheese.

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So anyway, bookmark this recipe and wait until next year. It’s worth it.

Figs with Blue Cheese and Proscuitto

inspired by a dish at Cafe Spiaggia

I’m finding it very difficult to list measurements for this recipe, so I’ll just list the ingredients and you can estimate the amounts on your own.

Fresh Mission figs
Good quality blue cheese (I happened to have Maytag, but others will work well also)
Thin cut slices of proscuitto
Extra virgin olive oil
Agave nectar or honey
Salt and pepper

To assemble, cut the blue cheese into small chunks and the proscuitto into strips about an inch wide. Cut the figs into quarters, then wrap each segment with proscuitto, enclosing the blue cheese. The proscuitto will stick together pretty well on its own, so wrap it tightly to hold in the cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and just a drop of agave nectar. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

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A Tomato Test

It was time for a test. Every blog and every recipe and every TV chef recommends using the San Marzano canned tomato. But really, is it necessary to seek out this special tomato? Is it that much better than any other canned tomato? I wasn’t convinced, so I pulled a classic engineering move – I conducted a quasi-scientific study.

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I bought two cans of tomatoes. To be fair, they were different in more ways than one. There was no control group, just two cans of tomatoes cooked in exactly the same way. One can was of the San Marzano variety, of course, which is an Italian variety of tomato that is, supposedly, a perfect tomato for sauce. The other can was organic, but it did not list the variety of tomato – I assume it was a plum tomato or something similar. Both cans were skinless, whole tomatoes – not diced, pureed, or processed in any other way. The big difference, besides the variety, was the addition of citric acid and calcium chloride to the organic tomatoes. These chemicals are firming agents and preservatives – they keep the tomato in that recognizable tomato shape. The San Marzanos I bought did not include these ingredients, though always check the labels because even places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry canned tomatoes that use these chemicals.

For preparation, I used the standard recipe of tomato sauce with onion and butter – I figured, the simpler the better – that way, it’d be easier to clearly taste the differences. Both cans bubbled along for equal amounts of time, with exactly equal amounts of salt, pepper, onion, butter, and garlic. The results were a bit surprising.

I was expecting both tomatoes to taste exactly the same – I really didn’t think there could be that big of a difference. For one, the tomatoes without the citric acid and calcium chloride actually broke down in the cooking process, making for a nice consistency in the sauce. The organic tomatoes, on the other hand, required a blender to achieve the same consistency, as the tough ends of the tomatoes would not succumb to my prodding. That was probably the biggest difference… but what about the flavor?

In short, the flavor was really different. The San Marzanos tasted almost fresh. They were bright red, juicy, and had a great tomato-y flavor. The organic tomatoes, on the other hand, tasted almost a bit tinny – sort of like the flavor I expect in canned tomatoes. It reminded me, in a subtle way, of tomato juice from concentrate. It was also a deeper red color – not nearly as saturated as the San Marzanos.

But I didn’t hate it. In fact, I’d buy them again if I didn’t have the time to make an extra trip to find San Marzanos. And truly, if I weren’t tasting them side-by-side, I’m sure any can of tomatoes will do. And while the addition of citric acid and calcium chloride urk me, there will still be times that I buy canned tomatoes with those ingredients. Of course, if our regular grocery store ever starts stocking San Marzano’s or any other canned tomato without these ingredients, I’ll make the switch in a heart beat.

By the way… I used the sauce on a great caprese-style pizza in the end. Whole wheat pizza crust, sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, and some shreds of Parmesan. Easy.

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

This stuff is so good. I won’t bore you with words. Just look, drool, and then head straight to the kitchen. You must make this immediately.
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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

recipe courtesy of Tasting Table

1/2 gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, bring the milk, cream and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add the lemon juice and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to curdle (about 2 minutes).

Line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let the cheese curds drain, at room temperature, for one hour. You can save the water the strains out – it’s loaded with protein and apparently you can add it to soups or anything else that calls for water or stock.

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The original recipe said to whip the ricotta with olive oil and salt and pepper in a blender. I did not do this – I couldn’t be bothered. I’m sure it would taste amazing, but to be honest, this cheese is good as is. I just drizzled it with olive oil and topped with fresh ground pepper, then served with a really nice whole wheat ciabatta bread and tomatoes.

Roasted Pumpkin and Cauliflower Salad

Last week was a great week. Wednesday I managed to snag a steal of a deal for dinner using Foodie the App (I think this is just a Chicago thing) – 2 tickets to a Locavore Dinner at MK restaurant for the price of one! And how much was one ticket? $85! Yes, $85 off our bill, basically. It was awesome, and dinner was awesome, and the service was awesome, and the beer pairings (yes, beer pairings included!) were awesome. What a fun night. Since Eric was in class, I brought my second husband Evan. We laughed and complained about work and sat in our food-snob corner devouring every last bite… when I finally looked at the clock, I realized it was way past my bedtime! That’s a good thing.

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It was also a productive week – booking flights in Colombia, finalizing bookings in Borneo, and even getting discounts for these bookings! We decided to splurge a bit on our accommodation in Borneo, but I was still feeling guilty about it when hostels are so cheap there. I decided to ask for a discount at the expensive places – and they all gave us one! Just like that. “Can I have a discount?” “Why yes, you can.” I mean, how great is that?

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Anyway, I made this salad Friday night. We received a bunch of squash and pumpkin in our CSA box; I have been bombarded by squash soups, so the last thing I wanted to do was puree these pretty orange veggies with my immersion blender. A shopping trip to Trader Joe’s inspired this salad – pomegranates, apple cider, and cauliflower all lent themselves to a nice late fall salad. Smoky pancetta, diced and crisped, and a sweet and tangy apple cider vinaigrette rounded it out and made it a pretty filling meal. It was so seasonal tasting and the pomegranate seeds added the perfect bit of sweetness and freshness.

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Roasted Pumpkin and Cauliflower Salad

a Wanderlust and Foodstuff original

1 pie pumpkin
1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup apple cider
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp granulated garlic
few sprinkles of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 pomegranate
pancetta, diced, as much as you like!
3-4 sage leaves
handful or more of spinach

Begin by roasting the veggies. Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds (but save them! roast them!), and roast the pumpkin halves for 30-40 minutes in a 450° oven. Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower by chopping it up and coating it in olive oil and salt and pepper. Pop it in the oven for 25-30 minutes with the pumpkin.

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While those are roasting, prepare the dressing. Whisk together the apple cider, vinegars, olive oil, yogurt, cayenne pepper, granulated garlic, and salt and pepper. Crisp up the pancetta. About halfway through that process, toss in the sage leaves to crisp in the bacon fat.

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When the pumpkin is soft and you can pierce it with a fork, cut it into cubes. To assemble the salad, layer of a bed of spinach, pumpkin cubes, and cauliflower. Top with pancetta, pomegranate seeds, and crispy sage. Pour dressing over the entire salad.