Norwegian Pancakes

IMG_3977

Mika decided to shed herself of the abnormally normal sleep routine imposed by her lackadaisical authoritarian parents, choosing instead to put head to pillow long after Mom, and at an hour often eclipsing her Dad. Usually, there is dancing. A tap routine across a pillow top mattress, a few pirouettes through Mom’s hair, a high kick, jump and unintentional curtsy followed by uproarious belly laughs. Of course we made the mistake of encouraging this behavior by setting the routine to music.  But, we find these actions more tolerable than blood boiling screams soliciting passive aggressive window slamming from the neighbors (they of the brick building across the alley). We tried to remedy this situation – the protests, screams and cries – when Mika first showed signs of usurping independence. My wife obsessive compulsively researched sane methodologies to address sleep issues in toddlers. We developed a routine and flow charts aimed at empowering a 20 month old. This worked, briefly. And then Mika figured out that she could protest the parts of the routine. The light was fun to turn off one day, the next? It needed to stay on. Tucking her stuffed bunny alongside in bed inspired her to fold ALL of her plush animals in a quilt so that one of her parents could read the same book to each and ever animal in bed. I tried ignoring her. Heeded advice to “cry it out,” yet, the cries,  once fake, evolved into fits of panic, a fear of being abandoned by the people that brought her into the world.

We delved into the world of quackery. Created pseudo online accounts so we could rub shoulders with “starrymom420” and “naturaldadofsunandmoon.” They upward marketed us essential oils and advised us to cleanse our house with lavender.  “You must rid yourself of bad chi. This is the only answer.”

I started to question where, in the span of 20 months, did I go wrong. Should I have napped in bed with Mika more? Less? When she was very young, I would read her the books I was reading. Maybe this explains why Mika wants to read every book in her library? Should she played have with the kid whose parents who unironically wore MAGA hats? Maybe all those protest marches I took her doomed her to a life of as a contrarian.

Eventually, we stopped trying to address the problem. Not because we are comfortable with a toddler shedding articles of clothing around the house while delightfully screaming at our annoyed cats. Rather, we hope this is a phase. That if we let her be, our headstrong daughter will fall into a habit by adapting parts of the routine we exposed to her. That, she will realize that perpetually avoiding a set of conventions, is in fact a routine.

Recipe!

If there is a parallel to Mika’s lack of sleep and a crepe like pancake common in Noridc cooking, it is this: For two consecutive days, Mika grabbed a Knaussgaard book (she was drawn to the close up photo of the author gracing the cover) at nap time and feel asleep before I could finish a paragraph.

I’ve made Mika traditional crepes, which she used as a straw for what was folded/rolled inside. She either loved the ham/spinach/gruyere/reggiano, or hated the crepe. (Probably both!) Pancakes/crepes/etc are great because if Mika is protesting foods from her father’s homeland on a Tuesday, chances are, she will be enamored with the thin sheets of fried egg batter the next.

Scandinavian pancakes use more eggs and includes sugar, which is the only remarkable difference with a crepe. I suppose you could add cardamom, dill, and reindeer if you really wanted to embrace Norwegian ingredients.

Anyway, the batter keeps for a few days and the pancakes even longer (and can be frozen). Fill them with what you desire: cheese, greens, an egg, fruit, jam, or pickled herring.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Process!

Combine the eggs and milk in the container of a blender. Add the flour, salt and sugar, and blend until smooth.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray or butter. Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet, and tilt the pan to coat the bottom. Cook until the top looks dry, about 30 seconds. Carefully slide a spatula under the pancake and flip. Cook for a few seconds on the other side, just until browned. Remove to a plate, and repeat with remaining batter.

Salmon Cakes With Cucumber Sauce

IMG_3677

The Italian farmer I was an indentured servant for spoke in a decaying patois whispered behind a discolored tongue routinely pushing a single front tooth upright. I never understood his mumbling agrarian demands and tried to read facial expressions to decipher the urgency and importance of directions delivered via a countenance which perpetually resembled a mime about to cry. Our inability to communicate beyond grunts and finger pointing contributed to the times when the farmer would nap under a fig tree while I invited heat stroke in a garden strategically plotted on the south face of a mountain. Was the overweight farmer grunting  an urgent need to place sheep shit on anemic shelling bean sprouts? Or, were his dramatic gesticulations a passionate plea to avoid work and thus, preserve my health? The latter is doubtful, mainly as the old man drove a Fiat which regurgitated caustic exhaust to whoever was sitting in the backseat and for whatever reason, “mumbles” insisted I occupy the space behind an open passenger seat, allowing me to choke on carbon monoxide and second hand smoke from the off-off brand of cigarettes the farmer chained smoked while in a car absent inoperable windows.

I would busy myself with some god forsaken task that had nothing to do with cultivating tomatoes. The sun would evaporate spf 99 and “snaggletooth” would down a Peroni as he drifted to a siesta and began to…lactate. Or so it seemed.  An hour nap, the farmer would rub his eyes, emerge from a well worn patch of grass and have two wet ovals acting as pasties worn outside of ones clothes. The man had swoob. Or swreast. Possibly swipples? If he slept in unusual position: sweavage.

This inspired a system where I would gauge the heat/humidity index by what part of my body was sweating. There was: Swack (sweaty back) for moderately tolerable days. As in: “I’ve got a bit of swack from picking rocks from a patch of the garden we never planted in.” Also: Swass (common), Swears (sweaty ears), Swenis (more frequent than you’d like or expect – variation: swagina), Swaint (usually when squatting for extended period of time), and finally, childishly, Swesticles (Used once, when I was in a hostel ripe with Germans afraid of having a window open lest a mosquito fly inside).

Point? I hate summer. Or, summer in Minnesota and/or places where the dew point is on par with what the thermometer struggles to read. Which is why I took ingredients common in Norway (which probably has perfect weather) and made something ridiculously simple, requiring one to spend minimal time hovering over an open flame, swenising.

Recipe.

I adapted this from one of my favorite cookbooks, “Notes from The Larder” (Nigel Slater), the author of which also has a love/hate relationship with summer (On one hand: abundant produce, the other: you start inventing new words for sweat).

  • 10 – 12 oz salmon, skinned
  • 1c bread crumbs
  • 3 tbs dill fronds, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, whisked

Finely chop salmon in a food processor. In a bowl, add bread crumbs, dill and egg. Mix well. Form patties!

In a cast iron skillet, heat a few tbs of olive oil. Once bubbling, slide the patties and cook for 2 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional two minutes.

For the Cucumber sauce:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 c plain yogurt
  • 1 tbs dill, finely chopped

Slice cucumber into match sticks. In a bowl, mix yogurt, cucumbers, and dill. Season with salt.  Serve.

 

 

Steamed Buns

IMG_3626

Our oven broke. According to the horizontally blessed repairman, the problem is “Grunt (burp) mumbling mechanism” and will be fixed when “Grumble grumble (sigh) fart.” (audibly passes gas) It’s been several days since the wheezing repairman’s sausage fingers deftly tickled the Frigidaire, thus leaving us with an inability to cook food unless it is a)boiled (so much rice) b)fried (limited, our apartment’s kitchen doesn’t have a residential hood, and lacks basic methods (windows) required to ventilate smoke and/or smells oft associated with food immersed in hot, splattering oil, which, in turn sets off a temperamental smoke alarm, or, c)blowing our budget on blandly seasoned curries portioned to feed 1/2 a person. And, while I am not particularly eager for the virulent repairman to sweat through a thin sheet of plastic he begrudgingly totes like a yoga mat, the thought of Postmates delivering another unintentionally comical “interpretation” of something one shouldn’t “interpret” or screw up is more nauseating than our Maytag man.

Much like this:

FullSizeRender 3
Never trust restaurants selling cream cheese wontons

What is it? A fat, fluffy tortilla folded over a scant amount of vegetables? A deconstructed attempt of a hamburger? An Asian steamed bun folded over an oily mess of reconstituted mushrooms slithering among slimy green onion fronds? A dish, which, when ordered, drew consternation from the dim witted that I did not, in fact, want the “wasabi three pepper mayo?” An unholy alliance of the aforementioned?

[Admission: If we had not moved to the middle west, I would not have tried to cook 75% of the things that I have. Example: These steamed buns, the recipe for such would have been deemed too time consuming when weighed against the fact that I could walk a few blocks from my apartment, spend a few bucks at the dim sum place, a few more at the wine shop, and not be required to do dishes in an apartment lacking counter space.]

Minneapolis affords a glut of downtime (even as a parent). One can’t walk to a Chinese restaurant. And so, the town can lend itself to self experimentation in the kitchen: Once you realize the majority of restaurants are regurgitating a watered down middle american fusion, you can understand that even if you mess up a mole, curry, or fresh pasta, that you will, at minimum, successfully recreate a plate of food currently being photographed as a rare specimen.

Was I happy with the steamed buns? Not entirely. I didn’t roll the dough out as thin as it should be, so the tops of the buns were thick and could have been steamed longer (though this would have made the bottoms soggy & weak); the filling/bread ratio was inconsistent; and I probably cooked the vegetables longer than necessary (didn’t account for the steaming part!).

Recipe!

For the bun:

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 tbl vegetable oil
  • 2 c AP flour
  • 2 tbl cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda

Combine water, oil and yeast in a bowl and let stand for 15 minutes. Sift the dry ingredients and mix with the yeast/water. Once you have formed a ball, knead until the dough is soft and supple. If it seems too wet/dry, and flour/water.

Place in a clean bowl & drizzle with oil. Cover until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down and knead to eliminate air bubbles.

Filling:

  • 1/2 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped (discard the darker green parts)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c broccoli florets, finely chopped
  • a handful of spinach, finely chopped
  • 4 tbl sesame oil
  • 2 tbl soy sauce

In a saute pan, heat sesame oil and cook garlic for 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn/brown. Add the remaining ingredients (minus soy sauce) and saute until the mixture is al dente. Add soy sauce, stirring to coat, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, allowing the vegetable mixture to cool to room temperature.

How to form a bun:

Roll out a 6-8″ disc, it should be very thin (1/8 inch). Place a dollop of the filling in the middle of the dough. With the dough in one hand, make a pleat by bringing a portion of the dough to the center. Continue this process until you have formed a bun. (Watch this video, better explained with visuals)

Place the finished bun on a small square of parchment paper.

Heat a large steamer and steam buns for 8-10 minutes .

 

Flax Teething Biscuits (Crackers).

FullSizeRender 2

Mika’s front teeth broke through as we were boarding a plane to celebrate her first birthday in California. The mountain range building on pink gums didn’t seem to upset her, at least not in the “When your baby finally begins to teeth, she will scream, run a fever, forget motor skills,  and require an endless supply of gauze and frozen, plastic, cancer causing rings” which several parents boasted about the longer it took for us to see glimmers of an incisor. Mika was fussy, sure, but was it the teeth, or breathing recirculated air at 35,000 feet?  Was the low grade fever a product of her oral development, much like the rivers of drool rolling across an in-flight magazine Mika thought wise to gnaw on? Or, did a disruption in a sleep schedule weaken an immature immune system, thus allowing microbes sneezed from the boorish oaf in seat 16A to take up residence in my daughter?

Cautious doses of liquid Tylenol alleviated the ills associated with whatever was causing Mika’s discomfort and I was never able to figure out if the erupting enamel was influencing more than a night of uncomfortable sleep. Bland biscuits were lodged in the gums of a sleeping cat. Cold towels, frozen bananas, and teething rings were playfully skipped across the bedroom floor. Mika’s refusal of products designed to alleviate pain inspired us to purchase a new set of comfort aids (in case the one’s we already owned did not meet the standards of our fickle daughter), the presence of which drew an eye roll.

Mika’s toothy grin arrived without fanfare, seemingly overnight. Many times we’d notice warning signs of an emerging denture after a newly minted cuspid made puree food tiresome.

“Mika has another tooth?”

“She was drooling a bit more this week.”

“Did you notice she has two more teeth?”

“Really? She did wake up more than once a few nights ago.”

“Mika has a molar?”

“She did dance when eating flax crackers, I thought she was excited to eat something healthy. ”

“They probably felt good to chew.”

“She did have at least ten within the span of two hours.”

“When did you notice the tooth?”

“After the crackers.”

“I’m sure it was the healthy snacks.”

Recipe

Flax crackers are wildly simple to make. This is important because Mika is at an age where she wants to be included in everything, and therefore, meals with 80 different components are impossible (or more so).

  • 2c Flaxseed Meal
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 tbls Sesame Seeds
  • 2 tbls Poppy Seeds
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powedr
  • 1 c Water

Process

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Spread a 1/4 inch layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut into desire squares/triangles, Bake in a preheated oven at 375 until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.

 

 

Meal Boxed.

IMG_3498
Not a meal box recipe.

The local grocery recently implemented a change in how one purchases meat from the butchery counter: (most) every cut of meat or fish is painted with glow in the dark marinades fostering dental caries, or use a “secret” spice rub applied as if one were breading for the deep fryer. There is no bread. Or panko crumbs. Trays of ground beef and pork were replaced with platters of preformed patties. Cooked shrimp balance ramekins of dipping sauces to create ready made meals at a premium. Do you want to make a ceviche? Too bad, the sea bass has been glazed with soy and injected with wasabi because Wednesday is Asian night dammit, the chicken is teriyakied, and everything else is kung powed. Forced Suggested meal planning aims to assist the overworked, the lazy, and those (like me) who purchase a chicken breast only to have said bust as a semi-permanent fixture in the icebox until you question if the flesh smells “normal.” (It never does) And while I’ve succumbed to $25.00 lemon pepper (?!?) salmon filleted for those on a shocking low caloric diet, I have always been embarrassed that I was duped into purchasing a meal for one at restaurant prices but without the comforts of a restaurant.

This is why I have been leery of subscription based cook it yourself meal services marketed to those who think tracking down a bottle of red wine vinegar is an act of selfless courage: At the end of the night the drain is clogged with dirty dishes and you’ve spent $20.95 to make pasta with red peppers and three kalamata olives arrabiata.

But, then you move to a food desert, have a child, and those endless pleas to “try now and get $40 off!” from companies sponsoring podcasts appeal to your sleep deprived senses. I suspected my box of ingredients proportioned in a manner befitting small time narcotics would be deconstructions of the “Honey Blu Cheese Kiev Ham” monstrosities available on “exotic” themed nights at the locally owned grocery store. I was right. Kind of.

The meal subscription service we tried (and promptly cancelled) provided us with the precise amount of ingredients required to create three meals drawing inspiration from the kitchen of Rachel Ray. They were easy to make. But did they satisfy Mika?

  1. Aforementioned faux arrabiata pasta with shrimp and squash. Mika, bored with zucchini, slyly fed shrimp to the cats, treated fusilli pasta as a utensil to deliver tomato sauce to her mouth.
  2. “Authentic” Cajun rubbed “jerked” chicken with potato salad. The spice was a “bold” mix of paprika and black pepper which cooked off the chicken breast and ended up encrusting the skillet. Mika wanted no part of it (which isn’t out of the norm, she has always had an aversion to chicken). Poked her fork around the potato salad, ate a few bites, begged to be nursed.  Mixed the left over chicken with rice for breakfast.
  3. Original recipe was basically steak and potatoes. I was, admittedly, bored with the constraints thrust upon me via glossy recipe card detailing the proper way to scrub a potato, so marinated the steak with spices common in Mexican cooking and made fajitas. Mika, always receptive to burritos, tacos, et al, ate most of her Mother’s fajita and then tried to assemble her own.

IMG_3499

 

 

 

Lengua De Gato (Lengua De Bagno!?)

IMG_3366

The flirtations with terrible not quite two tantrums were slyly winked by way of an exaggerated charade of weak legs and heavy feet made immobile after a wrinkled thumb mashed an elevator button and not, as Mika was accustomed to, her own. There were intimations in the tremolo of her cries and the strength of her tears that Mika was experimenting with ways to exploit the emotional weaknesses of her parents. A sly grin flashed upon being rescued from tiny feet tapping creaky wooden floors. Stuttering screams of “No” yielding to belly laughs after Mika found a way to pit clueless parents against one another to get what she wants. Sometimes, Mika’s tantrums were gentle expressions to understand concepts we had no way of explaining. A bobbing balloon slowly floating in a sky dripping humidity brought disbelief and a quivering lower lip attempting to understand why something would abandon her.

The tantrums –  once obliviously attributed to bad parenting from nervous types festooned with dated political beliefs and wardrobes – were now rapidly approaching footsteps. We were terrified of the day Mika would figure out that by chaining together negative actions – ones we could diffuse with distractions – she could humiliate her parents to ultimately get what she wants.

This inevitability was ignored.

The whines and refusals to be separated from Mom were overlooked. We disregarded plastic knives triumphantly lobbed at pastry cases as we were told to ignore negative behavior. Crawling on the floor of a pastry shop was amusing. Slyly nibbling each of the two dozen biscotti was silly.  And cute.

Then, the cries. At first a dull whimper directed at Mom’s audacity to purchase cookies and therefore, be a few feet away. Arms pushing me away, hands grabbing glass cake domes. Silly jokes piss Mika off, inspire her to climb my chest in attempt to grab anything not bolted down. To escape. I remove her from temptation. And Mom. Mika is silent. This perceived peacefulness is to conserve energy so that in a few seconds, her screams will be that of a teenager and her tears will be inconsolable fountains. Pastry shop patrons whiplash to glare, to judge me as a horrible parent incapable of soothing his daughter.  Mom is nervously trying to make eye contact with frustrated Mika and simultaneously pay for cookies which are moribundly being packaged by an indolent teen. Screams and kicks of delight at the site of Mom skipping towards us and… straight to the restroom. Mika grabs a bolt of Mom’s hair, refusing to be tortured by my loving arms, Mika is riding piggyback to the an empty, filthy bathroom stall.

I cannot, obviously, give an accurate account of what happened next. I can only say that my wife exited the restroom with clinched jaw as a despondent Mika grabbed air, pleading to go back to a harshly lit public bathroom to retrieve a box of cookies she overturned, sending $10 of  various biscotti to bounce across a urine dappled floor.

Recipe!

We were without cookies we can only purchase in a town we seldom go to. Our pantry also had 1c of flour and a bag of powdered sugar, which reduces what one is able to bake. What to do? Lengua de Gato, or Cat Tongues! Simple, mostly egg white cookies that are versatile (dip in chocolate, add anise, vanilla, almond!).

  • 1 c Flour
  • 1/2c Soft Butter
  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 3/4 c Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

In a bowl, whip butter and powdered sugar until creamy. Slowly add flour until well incorporated. Add egg whites and vanilla, beat until batter resembles cake frosting.

Fill a pastry bag with batter, and using a 1/2 inch tip, squeeze 5 inches of batter on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Repeat, spacing each 1/2 inch apart.

Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 10-12 minutes

Lebanese Eggplant

FullSizeRender

I haven’t figured out if Mika enjoys the flavor of eggplant, or, if her aubergine preference is inveterate in the elongated vegetable’s sponge like ability to absorb whatever liquid and/or fat one decides to cook the purple egg in. Does Mika find steamed/grilled/roasted eggplant enhances ingredients she prefers, or, does the mild, meaty flesh simply add an ambivalent texture that doesn’t get in the way of tomatoes and mild curries? Mika shrugged her shoulders at baba ganoush and rejected a dish which put eggplant at the fore. Conversely, my daughter treated thin slices of grilled eggplant like potato chips – yet, she gleefully slathered marina sauce on the limp circles before they entered her mouth.  We haven’t broached breading the vegetable, and rollatini is on the list of “things we’ll get around to when it isn’t so damn hot and therefore standing in a windowless kitchen is only mildly oppressive.”

IMG_3141

In the early days of trying to figure out if Mika wanted solids, I would focus my ambitions on foods which Mika’s mom adored. My rational was twofold: 1)nine months in gestation shaped my daughter’s culinary predilections, and (selfishly) 2)if Mika didn’t eat what was cooked for her, there would be leftovers, and thus I would be spared a day of cooking. [Ironically, I cooked eggplant once – in trimester one – and hormone influenced taste buds enhanced the occasional bitterness of eggplant and caused my wife to be ill]

IMG_3143

Anyway.

My flirtations with stuffed eggplant are mostly from garish 1970’s era cookbooks calling for several pounds of ground beef. Think: meatloaf wedged into a hollowed out aubergine spiked with a sprig of parsley for color. I assume the audacity of such a creation is perversely satisfying for a fork, yet depresses the diner into a state melancholia. Suffice, I incuriously assumed the worst and attached myself to blind declarations of creativity by substituting lasagna noodles with eggplant. (Again: I buried eggplant in a sea of sauces and cheese therefore, relegating eggplant to a condiment, so really, what does eggplant taste like?)

IMG_3144

I came across this Lebanese style stuffed eggplant recipe by accident: My original intent was to lazily riff on stuffed peppers using an embarrassing amalgam of ingredients (cheese, breadcrumbs, sausage, more peppers!), but assumed such a “creation” would inspire gag reflexes (everyone). I then went down a list of “foods” Mika liked: gazpacho and paella, and thought of combing the two (paella stuffed in eggplant, tomato soup, um, somewhere). This seemed ludicrously time consuming, so I did what I usually do when I have ingredients I want to cook with, but am bereft of ideas: I search google for ideas.

Recipe!

  • 1 Eggplant
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Shallot, chopped
  • 5-8 Tomatoes, grated
  • 1/4c Jasmine Rice
  • 1/4 tsp All-Spice
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4c Flat leaf parsley

Cut the eggplant lengthwise & scoop out the innards, leaving a 1/4 inch between skin and eggplant flesh. Sprinkle the eggplant shells with salt and set aside.

Steam eggplant innards for 10 minutes, or until soft.

In a saute pan, heat 2 tbl olive oil and fry garlic and shallot until soft. (5 minutes)

Grate tomatoes on a box grater, dividing the parts between two bowls. In one of the bowls, add 1/4c rice, steamed eggplant, spices and parsley. Mix well. Using this mixture, fill the eggplant shells.

In a dutch oven, add 2 tbl olive oil and pour in remaining tomatoes. Gently position stuffed eggplant shells within the grated tomatoes, be careful not to submerge. You should have enough tomatoes to cover the outside of the eggplants 3/4 way, if not, add more.

Bring pot to a boil and immediately simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Rice & Beet Patties (alt. We Do Not Own A Grill)

We do not own a grill, so are unable to join the free world honoring the fallen with slabs of grilled meat rapturously slathering greasy BBQ sauce over a rediscovered white wardrobe. The makeshift public park pits saddled with rusty grates are claimed by handcuffed overzealous carnivores refusing adherence to meteorological prophecies of rain. Our grill, a tiny black bubble, was absconded by overbearing landlords objecting to the tiny litigious embers sparking Russian Hill rooftop fires. We were able to extend our ill proportioned kitchen unto the rooftop once: On an uplifting patriotic holiday when the sum of San Franciscans ascend to similar parapets to grill and watch fireworks briefly illuminate the fog pink.

We do not own a grill, so am able to count the number of times I have channeled evolutionary ancestors and attempted to cook meat with untamed fire.

Two.

Once, the aforementioned. The second involved hunting, butchering, and roasting an angry wild boar. (The cameras? Having survived unintentional Russian roulette from a member of our hunting party who was prone to crippling vertigo, my luck carried over to find myself edited out of an Academy award nominated film).

 

My wife uses liquid smoke to overcompensate for an inability to naturally enhance meat. I abstain from purchasing cuts of sirloin. Our range sputters natural gas. It’s impossible to cook anything but meat made grey, leathery, and overcooked.

We improvise and use internet click bait (Grilled Meat stunts development!) to justify our inability to embrace traditional American rites of passage. We slow cook shoulders until one can no longer differentiate between what is braising liquid or what it was we were braising. Hamburgers are an ubiquitous delicacy in Minnesota we’d prefer not to meet, so, we opt for hearty wild rice patties made rare by the deep red dye of beets. Mika loved them to the point of stuffing her mouth until cheeks puffed out. We briefly feared a gag reflex (hence, no photos!), but she was merely hoarding rice from us. In her mouth,

IMG_3090

Recipe

  • 2c Cooked wild rice
  • 1-2 Medium sized roasted beets, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Onion, chopped
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 egg, whisked.
  • 1/2 c Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350F

In a frying pan, cook garlic and onion until soft. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, mix to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add egg. Mix well.

Form rice into patties and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes.

 

 

Farro With Nettles and Puree of Carrot

IMG_2963

We’re predictably bored. Spring blossomed one weekend. Followed with glimmers of hot, swampy summers Minnesotans pretend to enjoy. We debated installing the air conditioners, only to be forced to turn on the radiators the following day. The farmer’s market sells roasted nuts and tie dye MAGA T-shirts. Crudely designed cards land in our palms, “Next week, we welcome back our growers!” Though next week is always next week.

Mika’s diet has been predictably boring. Stagnant. First, because Mika was exposed to patient zero drippy nose, and thus, a few days later Mika dripped contaminates around our apartment. We were sick enough to not be well, yet not ill enough to bed ridden. Mika had zero interest in food she could not smell, preferring to ingest pureed food pouches when her Mother wasn’t around to supply comfort. Nourishment. Noses free of obstructions, I’d lazily make a pot of stew. When the soup became too watery, I’d add brown rice and spinach to make a pilaf with too much liquid. Not matter, Mika, giddy to have regained control of her senses, gladly ate a meal reconstituted longer than it needed to be.

Having given up on the farmer’s markets selling something other than cheese curds, we extended out line of credit so we could visit the co-op. Painted windows declared SEASONAL PRODUCE IS HERE. It was, in the form of shriveled stone fruit picked before its time, anemic fava bean pods, and $9.00 packages of wild nettles. A week later, plastic bags of nettles were rotting under a 75% off sign.

We hoped that the black, wet leaves would reveal pockets of usable nettles underneath. Decomposing nettle leaves no longer sting. Nor do nettles having been plucked a month ago, apparently. We salvaged a few handfuls of nibbling green leaves and shelved our indolence.

Most nettle recipes involve eggs. Or soup. While I find both to be great uses for the  maligned vegetable, they fail to properly utilize the “mild spinach with a shot of cucumber” taste that make nettles one of my favorite things to cook with. (Never mind the masochistic tendencies of a plant gnawing ones fingertips). Taking into consideration the scarcity and curiously priced plastic sacks of the vegetable, I wanted to make nettles a)last and b)versatile. Nettle pesto!

IMG_2961

Recipe!

Sometimes a condiment, often used as a “sauce,” keeping a pesto variant in the larder, one can: add it to soups, rice, eggs, pasta, gnocchi, or smear on thick slices of toast.  This version forgoes standard pesto ingredients like pine nuts and cheese, making it more “liquidy.” Traditional pesto it is not.

  • 3 c Nettles leaves
  • 1 Shallot, sliced
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbl Olive Oil

In a saute pan over high heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic and shallot, cook until soft (about 3 minutes). Lower heat to medium and stir in nettles. Cook for 2 minutes until the leaves are wilted. Add 1c water and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour contents into a food processor. Pulse until mixture the leaves form a loose paste.

Nettle “pesto” w/Farro & Puree of Carrot

Using 2c of cooked farro, stir in 1/4c of the nettle pesto (recipe above).

Serve at room temp!

To make carrot puree:

  • 4 carrots, cleaned and chopped
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 4 tbl Olive Oil

In a food processor, add ingredients and puree. If the mixture is to dry, add a few tablespoons of water. Place a dollop atop the farro.

IMG_2962

Pappardelle With Beet Greens, Pancetta & Flora Nelle

IMG_2968

The first time Mika showed fear that was not steeped in the uncertain terror associated with life outside the womb, was when my wife squealed like a pig. Flared her nostrils, inhaled and (we thought) playfully grunted like our friends responsible for giving the world bacon. Mom oinked. Mika panicked. Inconsolable, she flailed limbs until she forgot why tears erupted salty down her face.

We refrained from imitating swine. When board books called for the reader to answer “Do you know what sound a pig makes?” we’d scan child friendly drawings, hopeful of finding a replacement. Clouds? Hay? A fence post? It mattered not. We invented ambient sounds for inanimate objects to avoid addressing Mika’s phobia.

Mika’s anxiety of having to see her method acting mother flatten her nose with a thumb to “become pork,” waned until a well meaning Aunt gifted our home with a plush pig. Playfully the pink stuffed animal danced at Mika’s feet. Gladly, Mika shuffled away, eyes glossy, lower lip quivering. Everyone was afraid of oinking.

Occasionally, the friendly pig warrants a hug. Often, pig whom we have not named, inspires a forceful shake of the head. Mika maintains a healthy distance.

Mika loves, loves, loves beets. She also delights in using long strands of pasta to whip Henry. (FYI: He usually enjoys this) Which is why I found it incredibly odd for Mika to scream through clinched teeth upon being presented a plate of pappardelle entwined with beet greens. More troublesome was her decision to kick out of her high chair and climb to straddle her plastic “table,” which was being used to balance a 23lb toddler. Mika limbs collided with a pool of pink-ish sauce studded with pancetta. Henry’s eager attempts to steal bits of food inadvertently caused feline paws to serve as load bearing weights.

Why the drama from a tot who slept through lunch, snacked on crackers, and, by all accounts would welcome a meal incorporating pantry staples she has been fond of since deviating from milk? Did Mika sense that her Mother was enjoying this dinner more so than those served throughout the week, and therefore wanted to please her Mom by heaping small plastic forkfuls of food on Mom’s lap? Possible. Lately, Mika has found amusement in the act of feeding her parents, but to treat a meal with abject terror? For food to serve as a catalyst to flight rather than fight?

IMG_2974

Was it the mild blue cheese emitting a fear inducing pungency? Smells can explain a refusal to ingest a cheese that has been politely described as “unique,” but, to be alarmed to a point where Mika does not tempt Henry by dangling long strands of pasta? Impossible.

Plausibility: Pancetta = Pig.  Mika’s  swine consternation is more complex than we imagined.

Recipe!

  • 1/2 Onion, chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 8-10 Beet Greens (use stalks, too!)
  • 3 Tbl Mild blue cheese
  • Pappardelle

Remove leaves from beet stalks, and finely chop the stems. Set leaves aside.

In a saute pan, heat 2 tbls olive oil. Cook onion and garlic until soft (3-5 mn). Add beet stalks. Saute over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until beet stalks are tender (they should break apart when touched with a wooden spoon). Add a few tablespoons of water if necessary.

Chop the beet greens and add them to onion/beet stalk/garlic. Saute until wilted over medium high heat. (10 minutes)

Along with the cheese, add 1/4 cup of pasta water to the beet green mixture. Stir over low heat until the liquid is reduced and the sauce becomes a creamy.

Toss with pasta!