Monday, August 31, 2009

Maple Ice Cream - No Ice Cream Maker Required!

I love ice cream, especially homemade ice cream. However, I'm also lazy. Lugging out the ice cream maker, running to the store for ice, getting out the rock salt, making a custard base - sometimes I just can't be bothered with it.

Can you relate? If so, you need to make this right now. I'll give you three reasons:

1. Only three ingredients and 10 minutes of your time is required
2. You don't have to lug that ice cream maker out of your storage closet!
3. Oh, and it's DELISH.

Still not convinced? Then reason #4:

You know you want it.

Maple Ice Cream
Listed as "Maple Frango" in the fantastic midwestern cookbook Savoring the Seasons by Lucia Watson (check out her restaurant Lucia's in Minneapolis), it was served up at the downtown Minneapolis Dayton's store restaurant in the 1950's - and I'll bet any midwestern woman harbors a weak spot for the now defunct Dayton's retail chain. I halved this recipe and it worked perfectly. Serve with fresh blueberries, sliced bananas, sauteed apples or pears, or chopped toasted nuts - or just grab a spoon and dig in!

1 cup maple syrup (the real deal - no Aunt Jemima this time, please)
4 eggs, separated
2 cups heavy cream

In medium saucepan, warm syrup, then whisk in egg yolks, one at a time. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool.

In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Separately, whip cream. Fold both egg whites and whipped cream into maple mixture; don't overmix so that it's completely blended, you should still see some white streaks. Pour into deep pie dish or 8x8 cake pan, or individual serving glasses. Put in freezer until very firm but not frozen solid (if it gets too hard, remove from freezer to soften before serving).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Baked Pasta with Corn, Zucchini and Basil‏

I know what you're thinking. Oh, please, not another zucchini pasta dish. I know, I know. But I have to. It's for my mom. She can't stop talking about this stuff and makes it constantly. CONSTANTLY. And that means that we're constantly sent home with leftovers. Precious, wonderful leftovers.

It's quite apparent now that my mom thinks we're starving. Don't all moms think their kids need to eat more? Step into her kitchen, and she'll proceed to list of the contents of her kitchen, hoping something will strike your tastebuds. "Well, we have popcorn and brownies, there are apples in the fridge, or I could make you a ham sandwich..." When I call her to see if she can watch baby Ben for a few hours, she interprets that to mean "Can you watch Ben and also clean out your kitchen to give us more food than we could ever eat since we can't locate a grocery store?"

I secretly love it, though. And we always eat it up.

Exhibit A: Our fridge before visit to mom's house.

Exhibit B: Our fridge after visit to mom's house.

Yes, that's Julia Child's chocolate spongecake with BUTTERcream frosting. Baking inspiration from the movie and a BIG step for my cake-from-the-box mother. Bonus points to her for that little number.

Thanks mom.

Baked Pasta with Corn, Zucchini, and Basil
Adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe. I would describe this dish as baked summer on a fork. And it uses up a ton of zucchini. Practical and delicious, just like we like it.

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb. penne or rotini
6 Tbs. olive oil, plus more as needed
Kernels cut from 2 ears of corn
6 zucchini, about 2 lb. total, cut into half-moons
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 Tbs. sliced garlic
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat an oven to 400ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

In a 12-inch nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 3 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the corn, season with salt and black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and warm the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil. Working in batches, add the zucchini, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add to the bowl with the corn. Repeat with the remaining zucchini, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

Set the pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, 1 tsp. salt and black pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and begin to form a sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the wine has reduced and the sauce is fairly thick, about 3 minutes more.

Add the pasta, tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano to the bowl with the vegetables and stir to combine. Transfer to the fry pan and sprinkle the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fresh Tomato Salsa

I am thrilled to report that unlike last year, tomato season has begun and I am not pregnant, meaning no morning sickness with a pregnancy-induced aversion to my most favorite garden vegetable/fruit/whatever. Huzzah!

Tomatoes are my favorite simply because there is a huuuuge difference between supermarket tomatoes and garden tomatoes. Everyone always says, “Oh, garden (insert vegetable name here) is so much better.” But frankly, I can’t really perceive much of a difference between homegrown butternut squash and a store-bought variety. But then again, I’m not Alice Waters.

However, tomatoes? Lordy lordy, even a hick like me can tell that there’s no comparison. I get a little squeamish at the idea of buying those nasty little buggers that infiltrate my local grocery store in the middle of February. All hope is lost if they sat a moment too long on the truck on a frigid winter day. A frostbit tomato does not happy Beth make.

I was talking to a co-worker the other day about gardening, which quickly turned into tomato talk. Her mom was complaining that her dad planted four tomato plants when she specifically told him to only plant two. “Now she doesn’t know what she’s going to do with all those tomatoes,” said my co-worker.

Not know what to do with tomatoes? Really? I’m having trouble computing this. I have sixteen tomato plants this year (not counting the two volunteers in the cucumber patch), and between my crack-addict fresh tomato consumption and tomato canning experiments next month, I’m not sure it’ll be enough. Beefsteaks, Lemon Boys, Early Girls – I consider them all my plump little tomato children. And can you ever have too many children?

Wait, don’t answer that.

If you have two tomato plants or twenty, I’m willing to bet your little tomato babies will be happy mingling in a fresh tomato salsa. And happy tomatoes make happy people.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
We used this as a topping for grilled walleye, but go ahead and try it with chips, chicken, scrambled eggs – hell, I’ll just slurp it up with a spoon like chunky gazpacho.

1 large tomato, chopped
Handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and finely chopped
½ small red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup corn kernels
Small handful cilantro, chopped
1 glug EVOO
Juice of ½ a lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix and serve.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pickle Love

5 pm - I come home after a long day at the office and look what greets me when I walk through the door.

Pickles. My hubby made pickles. He just decided hey, I want to make pickles, looked it up on the internet, thought it was simple enough, picked the cucumbers out of the garden, and presto! Homemade mason jar pickles.

Mind you that he was also taking care of our son yesterday. I'm envisioning this masculine buzz-cut hunter type of guy in an apron, canning in the kitchen with a baby on his hip. Now that's hot.

Note to self: find camouflage apron.

I knew I married the right man.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Venison with Curry Sauce

When I was a kid, “Asian” food at home meant either ramen noodles or beef and broccoli stir-fry. That’s it.

Granted, I still love ramen and that stir-fry, but it’s amazing to think that the culinary traditions of an entire continent got modified and whittled down to those two items by the time they hit NoDak. I picture pad thai falling off the boat in the Pacific, tandoori chicken getting stranded somewhere in California, Korean BBQ getting left behind in Wyoming – a trail of panko breadcrumbs thinning out until just two remaining dishes land on the front steps of my childhood home as the sole survivors in the Darwinian test of meat-and-potato Midwestern palates along the way.

Mmm. Meat. (Note the paper towels: new technique a la Julia Child - dry the meat before cooking for better browning. So simple. So smart.)

It should be no surprise, then, that I have a hesitation to try my hand at anything outside my Anglophile, Euro-centric, more-cheese-please kitchen repertoire. Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean – I love this stuff, but it’s all foreign territory when trying to cook it on my own. So forgive me if I take baby steps, one ingredient at a time.

I finally got a bottle of fish sauce. I can’t tell you how many times I saw an interesting Asian recipe, but then saw fish sauce in the list of ingredients and just passed it by. What is fish sauce, you ask? You really want to know? From what I gather, it’s fermented anchovy juice. I wouldn’t chug the stuff (although my younger college-attending brother probably would for five bucks), but in small doses it’s supposed to add a level of umami, of savoriness to the dish. Italians use parmesean and anchovy paste for this, Thai people use soy sauce and fish sauce. I gotcha.

We’re still hooked on curry thanks to Mr. Delicious curry wraps, but I’ve had trouble getting a decent curry flavor at home. Finally, I think I’m getting darn close. The key: curry paste instead of curry powder. Using coconut milk as a base, I mixed in fish sauce, curry paste, and lime juice – ta-da! Venison with curry sauce.

Yes, we ended up dipping pieces of venison right into the gravy boat. It was that good. Promise I’ll keep my fingers out of the sauce when you come over for dinner, k?

Venison with Curry Sauce
Beef is the obvious substitute here. The sauce is another wonder adapted from Fine Cooking mag. Fish sauce and curry paste can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket. Check the natural foods section for coconut milk, if you don't see it in the Asian section as well.

1 to 2 lbs. venison steak
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 Tbls. canola oil
2/3 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbls. mild curry paste
1 Tbls. lime juice
1/2 Tbls. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Crushed red pepper to taste (optional)

Dry steak with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the steak until browned but still quite pink in the middle. Don't overcook venison or you'll get hockey pucks!

Transfer steak to a platter. Keep skillet on the stove and turn heat down to medium-low. Add 1/3 cup of water and scrape up any brown bits. Add coconut milk, curry paste, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and fragrant, about 5 mins. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve up steak, sliced and covered with curry sauce.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sushi Night

There are a lot of things we do without in Bismarck. No Whole Foods. No Trader Joe's. No Costco. No one really complains about it, either.

Well, some people complained that we didn't have an Olive Garden for the longest time. Then a couple years ago, Olive Garden finally opened here and it was bombarded by hungry Bismarckians craving authentic American Corporate Chain Italian food. Then the bad reviews started rolling in: my food was cold, the service was slow, we had to wait 90 mins for a table, my kid got his drink in a Red Lobster cup (yes, all true). The glimmer has faded.

We also do not have a sushi restaurant. However, a few restaurants will have Sushi Night. As I do love the occasional plate of sushi, I partake in the luxury of imported raw fish. So last night I put on colored lip gloss (big night, you know), my husband traded his usual cargo shorts for khakis, baby went to grandma and grandpa's house, and we went to the patio of Mr. Delicious for sushi night. And I sucked meat out of a fried prawn head. All told, it was an adventurous (and delicious) meal. Mr. Delicious strikes again!

I couldn't find a website for Mr. Delicious, but it's located on 3rd street by the downtown post office. They are best known for cheesecake, but get the chicken curry wrap for lunch - highly addictive. Sushi night is one weekend each month, $35 for two plates of sushi, two drinks, and dessert. Call for dates and reservations at 701-258-2598.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pasta with Zucchini, Herbs, and Garlic

North Dakota is basically one massive wheat field. Ok, there is sunflower, canola, barley, soybeans, and a lot of pasture and hay for cows, but wheat is the (*ahem*) bread and butter. Considering this, I usually reach for the ND flour and pasta at the store, my grocery dollar casting a vote for the local guy.

But then I found protein pasta.

I try to get protein in every meal. Maybe I'm a little OCD to have food rules like that, but it works for me, even though it can be a struggle. I’m not a daily meat eater, despite the freezer full of organic, free-range, doesn’t-get-more-natural-than-this wild game and fish. I’m not usually a milk drinker, either. You can only eat so many eggs (fifty, to be exact – or at least that’s one of the many things I’ve learned from Paul Newman). With a husband that doesn’t really enjoy beans, I guess that leaves peanut butter.

I eat a lot of peanut butter.

I’m not usually into gimmicky foods like this, foods that didn’t exist in my grandmother’s day, but the idea of protein pasta was too appealing to pass up. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it under my beloved Dakota Growers Pasta label, so I picked up a couple boxes of Barilla Plus, cooked it up, tossed it with olive oil, garlic, zucchini, herbs, and parm…and it was good. Very good. Like I-think-I’m-converted-to-this-stuff good.

Or maybe it was the recipe that made it so yummy. Hmmm, I’ll have to investigate further. In the meantime, here’s a quick dish to use some of those zucchini that you have coming out of your ears. Use the small sweet zucchini - save the big ones the size of your forearm for the shredder and bake up some classic zucchini bread or chocolate zucchini cake.

Pasta with Zucchini, Herbs, and Garlic
Adapted from Fine Cooking mag and infinitely adaptable to whatever you have on hand. Well-salted pasta water and a heavy hand with the olive oil are key. If I were more patient, I would've cooked the zucchini longer to brown it, but c'est la vie.

3/4 lb. rotini
1/4 cup EVOO
3 small to medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise then cut into half-moons
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbls. fresh chopped basil
2 Tbls. fresh chopped lemon basil
2 Tbls. fresh chopped parsley
2 Tbls. fresh chopped mint
1/3 cup grated Parmesean cheese
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Boil pasta according to package instructions in salted water until al dente.

Heat oil (don't skimp!) in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, cook until just tender (about 5 minutes), then add garlic and cook until softened, another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

In large serving bowl, toss drained pasta, zucchini mixture, fresh herbs, and Parm cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper and serve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ezekiel Bread

Just want to give an old-fashioned shout-out to my favorite breakfast of late: toasted Ezekiel bread with cream cheese and apricot jam. What a fantastic way to start the day.

Ezekiel bread is flourless (!) bread made from sprouted grains - the ultimate crunchy hippie Birkenstock bread. Named after a Bible verse telling people to gather whole grains and make bread from them, even those of us who typically sleep in on Sunday mornings can appreciate it. Chewy, nutty, hearty, I can't get enough of it. It's a little dry, but makes great toast.

Lately, between reading Dr. Gott articles in the local paper and admiring the natural foods blog 101 Cookbooks, I've decided to make an earnest effort to get away from white flour and white sugar. Better for me, better for my family and friends, better for the planet. One of my first steps is to have this bread on hand more often.

Has anyone made Ezekiel bread at home? I suppose you'd have to have sprouted grains on hand to start - something I haven't yet explored.

If you are curious about Ezekiel bread, check the freezer case in the natural foods section of your local grocer. That's usually where you'll find it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Four Minute Clean-Up

Dear Mr. Pollan - or can I call you Mike?

Mike, hey, listen buddy, I love your stuff. I really do. In Defense of Food was great, and I couldn't stop talking about The Omnivore's Dilemma. I get it. I'm picking up what you're throwing down. We click (*snap, index finger point*).

So I read your latest article on NYTimes with interest. Why do we spend so much time watching cooking shows on TV, yet so little time cooking ourselves? Your argument is a bit of a stretch trying to connect the two, but yes, there is an irony there.

However, I have one big hang-up with it. Right here you say that the average American spends four minutes a day cleaning up in the kitchen. My question to you is, on exactly what planet is that version of America? I imagine the name of this planet starts with "Happy Land". Wherever it is, all I know is that I want to go to there.

I can't even throw out a pizza box in four minutes, since I stand there for three wondering if it can be recycled, despite the cheese crust and grease stains. Sandwich clean-up? Definitely hitting the seven or eight minute mark, especially if we're talking about cleaning up the crumbs rather than just dusting them off the counter and onto the floor like I usually do.

Maybe if I watched more infomercials and purchased a ShamWow like the rest of America...maybe that's the secret.

So Mike, an idea for your next book: How to Clean Up Your Kitchen in Four Minutes. I'll be first in line to pick up a copy.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rainbow Chard Frittata

This year I planted some rainbow chard. I’ve always liked the brightly colored ribs on this green leafy veg, enough that I’m considering planting it as a decorative (yet edible) addition to my front yard flower garden. But I thought I’d better try it out in the backyard garden first, see how it grows, like a mini-audition for the big time.

Other than a few bug bites and rabbit nibbles, it’s grown beautifully. I finally got out in the garden the other day and ended up harvesting a bounty.

With these gorgeous greens and some goat cheese on hand, I had visions of galettes. In Praise of Leftovers sings about galettes, how practical and easy they are, a perfect vehicle for using up the tidbits of whatever is laying around in your fridge. So I thought yes, I shall make a galette. And it will be good. Amen.

I cleaned the greens. I cut the leaves off the ribs. I chopped them and sautéed them in olive oil and garlic, fragrant and lovely…and then life interrupted. Or more specifically, my sweet baby interrupted by waking up from his nap.

No worries. I’ll just go with the flow and put my prepped greens in the fridge. I’ll get around to making the galette dough and rolling it out soon enough…

This was all on Sunday. Now it’s Thursday and those greens were still sitting in my fridge, needing to be used asap. And I wasn't seeing a free 20 minutes anytime soon to get that dough thrown together, rolled out, and then baked in a 400 degree oven in the middle of a 100 degree day.

Can we do a Zack Morris timeout right here?

I think I’m doing ok with the baby/work/marriage juggle. Well, maybe marriage isn’t getting the focus it should – thankfully my husband is a patient man. And Ben hangs out with grandparents and babysitters quite a bit. And frankly, work has been a mess lately too. Now that I think about it, maybe I’m not really doing anything well right now. But doesn't every modern American mom aim to be just a little bit better than adequate at everything? That's my goal right now, at least. Do it all, get it done, let's go go go.

It doesn’t help that I also have this habit of doing things The Hard Way. In my mind, The Hard Way is almost always equivalent to The Right Way, but in the end they are a string of self-inflicted time sucks.

Time Suck #1: the washable diaper.

I love these diapers, but it’s an extra load of laundry (two cycles, mind you) every other day. Maybe not the best use of my time, but I'm holding out for all the cash I'll earn someday from all those carbon credits I'm not using...wait, people aren't buying those yet?

Time Suck #2: pumping.

I am more intimate with my breast pump that my spouse right now. It’s the first thing I do in the morning, along with eating breakfast and checking my email. All at the same time (yes, I am the multi-tasker extraordinaire). I run home at noon to pump over lunch. I run home after work to pump yet again. I try not to think too philosophically about it, but you have to admit that it’s a strange thing to be hooked up to a machine to feed your child “naturally.”

Time Suck #3: the garden

I can’t imagine summer without it, but there is a time commitment to gardening. If you don't put in some time for maintenance, weeds will overtake your veggies. I’ve learned this from experience. Many Saturday mornings I am up before most people (and before my baby) puttering out there. It’s my only real chance to enjoy it.

We all make choices and priorities. I could be making the dough right now rather than blogging about not making the dough (yes, this blog is a time suck as well). But these are things I love, things that bring joy and beauty into my life. It may take a little more time, a little more energy, but these are my choices.

However, I can still complain a little about it, right?

Ok, time in.

Long story short, the galette dough just didn’t happen (I'll try it someday, Sarah, I promise). In the meantime, frittata to the rescue!

Now don’t mind me as I eat a slice while hooked up to the pump and the laptop.

Ah, modern motherhood.

Rainbow Chard Frittata
I made this with LOTS of greens. You could certainly get by with half the chard - or mix it up by throwing in whatever veggies and cheese you have on hand.

2 bunches rainbow (Swiss) chard, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 eggs, beaten
2-3 oz. goat cheese
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Heat a couple swirls of olive oil in a pot; add chard and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and saute for 10-15 minutes or until cooked down and softened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Heat a couple swirls of olive oil in a 9" cast iron pan. Add eggs; sprinkle egg surface with chard and then cheese. Season with salt and pepper and let cook until set on the bottom, about 5 minutes (egg will still be runny on top). Move oven rack to top position and turn broiler to High. Set the cast iron pan with the frittata under the broiler for a couple minutes until egg is set and surface is starting to brown. Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn!

Remove from broiler and let set a couple minutes. Loosen sides with spatula and then courageously flip frittata onto large plate, slice, let cool a bit, and serve.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Grilling Game with Julia

In case you've been under a rock the past couple weeks, there's a new movie out called Julie & Julia. It's about a food blogger as she cooks through every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I'd never seen an episode of The French Chef, Julia's infamous cooking show, but I certainly knew about Julia. She's about as iconic as it gets. Her unique voice, her squinty-eyed smile, her jolly demeanor. And yes, Julia could most definitely cook up a storm.

With all this buzz, I wanted to see an actual episode of The French Chef. I checked YouTube without much luck. Nothing on Food Network either. Finally, PBS came to my rescue. Full episodes right there for the watching.

With Ben down for a nap, I made myself a simple salad, sat myself in front of the laptop, and got acquainted with Julia. She is disarmingly friendly, I can definitely see how this woman made everyone feel more at ease in the kitchen. She occasionally fumbles over her words, and even fumbles over her food - it's honest, one-take TV. Best of all, she teaches you how to cook. Not how to open cans and dump them in a pot, not how to dress up a store-bought cake to look "semi-homemade"; how to cook real food, albeit with fancy French names.

If you haven't seen Julia in action, check out classic Julia making cheese souflee, or see Julia in her later years grilling game. They use an interesting cut of venison, and because of this episode I'm waiting to get my hands on some duck liver and rabbit. Here, bunny bunny bunny...

In the meantime, anyone want to go see a foodie chick flick with me? The last movie I saw in the theater was Batman last summer, so I'm due. I'll even sneak in the stovetop-popped popcorn.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Walleye Tacos

So my new buddy Doug. Kind of a crazy guy. Crazy enough to put a stuttering fool like me on the radio to talk about fish.

I'm always up for a talk about food, and Doug is always up for a talk about fishing, so why not, right? Maybe I'd learn something, especially since the last fish I caught was...well...let's just say we didn't have it mounted on the wall.

And no, in case you're wondering, I don't have weirdly hairy arms and large hands. My dear hubby always baits my hook and takes the fish off. Because he likes that kind of stuff.

So Doug and I had a little chat about the wonders of walleye, and I think it went pretty well, but now that all is said and done, I find myself hesitating to listen to it. It's like hearing my own voicemail message, or watching myself in old home movies - it's always strange, a little embarrassing and I find myself constantly critiquing.

However, if you're curious and want to hear the podcast, click here and push play on August 8 wknd Outdoors Live - Part 4. Actually, listen to all the parts of the broadcast. Doug does a great job getting the word out not only about hunting, but about conservation and enjoying the beauty that is North Dakota. My hat is off to you, Mr. Leier.

If any KFGO listeners stumbled here via the radio show, check out these links for more walleye ideas:

How To Fry Fish
Fish Chowder
Walleye Enchiladas

Y'all come around again soon!

Walleye Tacos
The marinade is your chance to experiment. Like it a little spicy? Add jalapeno. In a hurry? Skip the list of seasonings and just use a couple teaspoons of taco seasoning. Just keep the lime juice as a base. Sauce is adapted from Dieters can skip the batter and just grill the fish, but personally I think it's best pan-fried with a crunchy coating. Because c'mon, everything is better fried.

1 lb. walleye fillets
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

1 lime, juiced
1 Tbls. olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 cup flour
1 cup beer

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 teaspoon minced capers
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Taco fixings (Corn tortillas, salsa, shredded cabbage, chopped cilantro, chopped tomato, extra lime wedges)

In a small bowl, mix juice of one lime, cumin, chili powder, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Place fish in a shallow dish and pour lime juice mixture over it; let sit for at least 15 minutes (or refrigerate in marinade for a couple hours).

Meanwhile, mix up sauce ingredients and set aside.

Mix flour and beer in shallow dish with 1 teaspoon salt. Heat veg oil in a cast iron pan until the oil surface shimmers. Dip the marinated fish in the beer batter, then carefully place fish in hot oil. Fry until golden, a couple minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Assemble tacos and serve with sauce. Excelente!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer Pasta Salad

5:47 pm and I’m starving. Home from the office with a baby on my hip, a gorgeous evening outside, and a stroller parked at the back door just itching to get out. I want something quick, something fresh, something good.

I love this time of year with dinner growing right in the backyard garden. Save the slow-cooking for winter; right now, everything is so fresh and perfect, you just harvest and serve. The first cherry tomatoes and zucchini are ready to be picked off the vine – the calm before the upcoming veggie storm. The basil is growing a little too tall – time to pluck off the tops and use those little fragrant leaves. Oh, how I’ll miss this all six months from now…

I hold the basil leaves up to my baby’s nose, letting him take a sniff. His mouth opens wide, trying to eat it. An herbal connoisseur? Not quite, as he has the same reaction around petunias. And his blanket. And his own knuckles. Still, I’m charmed.

I find a bag of rotini in the cupboard, leftover dressing from the raspberry chicken salad, and it all comes together. Summer pasta salad.

Yes, this is exactly what I wanted.

Summer Pasta Salad

1/2 lb. veggie rotini
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
Handful torn basil leaves
1/2 recipe of salad dressing (optional; can use extra EVOO and white wine vinegar instead)
Chopped hard-boiled egg (optional)
EVOO and white wine vinegar to taste
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste

Cook rotini to al dente. Meanwhile, place thinly sliced zucchini in bottom of large bowl. Drain cooked pasta and add hot pasta to zucchini, "cooking" the zucchini with the residual heat from the pasta. Let sit for five minutes. Add tomatoes and salad dressing; toss and let cool (place in freezer for a few mins to cool down if needed). Serve on plates with chopped egg, drizzling plate with extra EVOO and vinegar, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Elk Hunting

After five years of hanging out with this guy, I finally found out what makes my husband giddy-happy, hit-the-ceiling excited, and break out the biggest ear-to-ear grin you ever did see.

It’s not a special meal. It’s not a trip to Disneyland (thank goodness). It’s not even (*censored*). All it takes is six little words.

“Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation just called…”

RMEF is a well-respected conservation organization, but around here, they may be best known for their annual raffle ticket prizes, which every ND hunter lusts after: once-in-a-lifetime hunting tags for elk and moose.

In North Dakota, hunting tags for “The Big Three” (elk, moose, and bighorn sheep) are rare. You can’t just buy a tag to hunt these animals here – you need to win the lottery. If you get lucky and snag one from the annual state drawing, you can never get a tag for that particular animal again – hence why it’s once-in-a-lifetime.

However, RMEF raffles off an elk tag and a moose tag each year as a fundraiser. And thanks to a lucky draw, guess who is going elk hunting in the Badlands this year? Mr. Tag-and-Brag himself.

That's him mixing up some brats during last season's sausage-making party. Remember that? Hard core.

And for the first time ever, I’m thinking about tagging along on a hunting trip.

I have always played the hunter’s widow, working on my little domestic projects while he chases deer and birds in the field. I’m ok with it when this all starts up in September, but by the time November rolls around, I get that feeling like I haven’t seen him in ages, wondering why he’d rather spend every weekend sitting outside in the cold looking for animals than hanging out with Yours Truly.

So maybe it’s time for me to go and see what all the fuss is about. It would take a minor miracle to get babysitting and work schedules aligned, but it might be fun to go out in the wilderness for a few days, get some fresh air, snap some pictures, try my hand at camp cooking. After all, it’s once in a lifetime. I mean, look at what I missed out on last season. C'mon, doesn't this look fun?

"No, Beth. It just looks cold. Really cold."

You have to understand that this is a huge shift in attitude. Really. Ten years ago, I would never - NEVER - have even thought this could be a possibility. Me and guns and animal slaughter just did not mix. But I get it now. If I'm going to eat animals, isn't it better to know where they come from? It is the ultimate in organic meat, ya know.

Maybe this is the first step in reenacting my Annie Oakley moment?

To be continued.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Raspberry Chicken Salad

Yup. Still loving raspberries. And I love fruit on salad. Lettuce and berries from the garden, leftover chicken from my fabulous in-laws. Add a creamy dressing, and bingo, it's a winner.

Raspberry Chicken Salad

For the dressing
1/4 cup whipping cream
A small glug of white wine vinegar (about 1 Tbls)
A squeeze of honey (about 1 tsp.)
A couple swirls of extra-virgin olive oil (about 2 Tbls)
Handful of chopped chives (about 2 Tbls.)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

For the salad
Leaf lettuce
Leftover roasted chicken
Fresh raspberries

Whisk all dressing ingredients together for a minute. Assemble salad on serving plates, pour dressing over, and serve.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dairy Queen

This is my local Dairy Queen. Not "DQ" as the kids are calling it nowadays. Dairy. Queen.

I love this location on the corner of Washington and Broadway for so many reasons. It's the only walk-up Dairy Queen in town - no indoor seating. It's seasonal - only open during the summer months. It's right next to the swimming pool, so there are always giddy children running around with wet heads. And it still has the old retro style - that same old reliable sign welcoming us on a leisurely Sunday evening.

My mom is a peanut buster parfait kind of gal. My hubby loves his hot fudge sundaes. I don't actually have a usual - I wonder what that means. Maybe it's a character flaw that I can't commit to one frozen treat. But tonight's Thin Mint blizzard? Killer.