Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Minneapolis Food Frenzy Part 1, Pubs and Buns

My mom, stepdad, husband and I spent a long weekend mid-August in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and to my great food-centric pleasure, we encountered a slew of culinary delights. This is part one of our fabulous food frenzy. Each establishment I mention can be found by clicking on it's name (grey link). 

We arrived on Thursday evening and made our way from the fabulous Foshay tower, W Hotel, to Nicolette Mall two blocks up. There we found Brit's Pub and Eating Establishment, a gorgeous british pub replica complete with cherrywood paneling, roaring fireplaces, and button-dimpled leather armchairs. 
Ann and Al at Brit's 
The first thing I think in a British pub is Fish and Chips, which made it a no-brainer for ordering. It always amazes me how hot the battered fish remains as I eat it, which admittedly happens pretty quickly. Fish and chips done right, sits high up on my list of favorite guilty pleasures - lemon and malt vinegar taking turns...oh yes. The chips at Brit's don't stand out in my memory as anything more than chips, but whoa that crispy beer battered fish, piping hot, light and golden, perfectly cooked, prevails as some of the best I have ever had. 
Speaking of guilty pleasures, my number one of all time may indeed be the next thing on our Minneapolis eating list...cinnamon rolls. I'll admit it now, if I could eat one thing for the rest of my life and have no repercussions, a glorious piping hot sugar, cinnamon, doughy mess the size of a toddler's head, kissed with a stream of  cream cheese glaze would win hands-down. 

Welcome to Isle's of Bun and Coffee on 28th and Hennepin, Uptown, a one room establishment where mixing, assembling, baking, and selling happens each day like a sugar dance. My fantasy bake shop looks just like this place, and the buns headline the dream. We hit this place on the morning of day two in Minneapolis, and couldn't help but return on our last day before hustling to the airport. 
Mom's Pecan Sticky Bun - took her 24 hours to eat

Took me about 20 minutes to eat mine...too good to last. Alex had a bun, and Al had Pizza. 
This door opened to the street so I snuck a shot

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fishing for Fast Food

Cooking, for me, comes it fits and spurts. Some days are crazy creative storms of flour, eggs, pastas, meats, vegetables, and several varieties of sugar, and other days leave me feeling desert dry to anything food related. No, that is not true, I should clarify - cooking related. My appetite for food rarely deserts me; blessing or curse, I don't know. 

Amazingly, food takes on the characteristics, the mood, the essence of its creator, and like a dog can smell fear, food can tell when you don't want to make it. It shows. 

Alas, like most of us 'servant-free' Americans (nod to Julia Child), we must still get food on the table somehow or another. Siren songs call from frozen connivence meals a la Costco...so easy...so fast...so NOT cooking. In-n-Out anyone? Know how many times I would have LOVED to buy a pizza from Costco for dinner? Feels like I am in confession. 

The American in me loves boxed mac and cheese and Hebrew National hotdogs, canned baked beans and takeout pizza, but my family, my commitment to making fresh food, limits those indulgences. Drat. Modify and adjust...

One of my very, very best fast (as in fast and easy to make) food recipes: broiled fish or chicken with panko bread crumbs and lemon-pasely-tyme sauce drizzled over after cooking. So extremely easy, delicious, impressive - you won't believe how gorgeous these flavors are, how crisp and crunchy the panko crust. No matter how much you don't want to cook, this simple recipe won't give you up. It is a soldier. 

The catch: do not substitute any other bread crumbs - Panko only. Broil the meat or fish an a parchment lined baking sheet. You will know when it is done by checking the internal temperature with a digital meat thermometer, but most likely it will be done when the panko crust browns. I have made this dish with thin chicken breast fillets, Dover Sole (thin white fish), and most luxuriously of all, wild Alaskan salmon filet. I can't imagine a better combination of flavors than trio salmon, panko and sauce in this recipe. 

Oven Roasted Salmon with Parsley and Thyme Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 6-8 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • Medium pinch of dry thyme
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds wild Alaskan salmon (if you can't get wild salmon, try harder to get it. Just kidding, any salmon will do, but wild can not be beat.)
  • 3 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs                                      

1. Preheat oven broiler.
2. Put the lemon juice with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt in a small bowl, and mix until salt is dissolved. Chop parsley and add thyme. Add the herbs to the bowl. Whisk in 4 tablespoons of olive oil until emulsified.
3. Season the fish with salt and pepper and coat with the bread crumbs. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil on the fish and place it on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Check the fish for doneness after 15 minutes. A thermometer will register 145 degrees F. when done.
4. Transfer to a serving platter, pour the sauce over it and serve at once.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Power of Plums

Food directly links us to who we are, past and present. Like us, it evolves, grows and changes with each generation, and sometimes it is lost all together.

At the local farmer's market grocery store this afternoon, the twenty-something cashier looked at my goods and asked, "Are you having a party or something?" Well, some of the groceries are for the big shebang concert happening at my mom's Saturday, but not many of them. I replied, "No, not really, these are just my groceries." We talked for a brief moment about cooking and how he has no idea how to do it. The young man only realized this after he moved away from home, and boiled noodles have been on his dinner plate every night since. My piles of veggies, fruits, base ingredients,  and the chuck roast (oh, and two bottles of Italian wine) struck him as party worthy, which seems strange in a Farmer's market style grocery store.

Is cooking becoming more magic than anything else? Mysterious that a person buys two different types of cabbage, four beautiful cantaloupe, broccoli AND cauliflower? But food is life - three times a day or so it fuels the body, energizes or depletes, revitalizes, ravishes, elevates, and sometimes disastrously devastates too. Devastating that we don't really get the connections. So many functions, feelings, hormones, actions, diseases are influenced by what passes over our lips, into the mouth and beyond.

This morning my Italian mother-in-law picked purple to the pit plums from my mom's abundantly fruited tree.  Two pounds from the big box of tangy-sweet contents needed to become a plum crisp. How pleasing the purple stains on my plum pitting fingers struck me, how delightful the contrast of bubbly fruit with butter, oat, walnut, and sugar topping, blond and brown all over, how completely wholesome and clean in the best, messiest way. Odd and amazing to pick luscious plums in the morning and turn them, by magic almost, into crisp the likes of this one a few hours later.

I am sorry for the young clerk and his noodles. I wouldn't trade this little power-of-food-knowledge for anything. I will, however, gladly share my recipe for Plum Crisp with you.