Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cranberry Walnut Bars

Baking Basics and Beyond has a recipe for Cranberry Walnut Tarts which are easy to make, and filled with the festive flavors of autumn. I've used the recipe when I've done classes and demos. Because in a class or demo there are time restraints and the need for numerous servings, I've developed Cranberry Walnut Bars. The bars are baked in a 13x9 inch baking pan. If you bake either recipe, be sure add a dollop of creme fraiche before serving. Creme fraiche is a thick cream, similar to sour cream but a milder flavor and very rich and creamy. (Locally it is available at Byerly's and Lunds.) When it is served with the Cranberry Walnut Bars the flavors sing.

The recipe for the bars was posted on October 11 in my blog titled Fall Baking at the Mill City Museum. Let me know if you like the flavors.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

660 Curries

Raghavan Iyer, author of 660 Curries, spoke last night at The Barnes and Noble near my home. I know very little about Indian cooking and he is a great teacher. His knowledge of his subject was all encompassing and as he wrote the book as a teacher, it very easy to use. He defines curry as any food with or without a sauce that gets flavor from a combination of spices and/or herbs. Surprisingly the heat that we associate with curries comes from hot chilies that came to India via the Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th century. Masala means a wet or dry blend of seasonings and there are as many combinations as there are Indian cooks. The main spices used in Indian cooking are mustard seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, tumeric, fennugeek and black peppercorns. These seeds can be whole or ground, toasted or not, cooked with liquid, fried and manipulated other ways- which explains the infinite combinations. After his talk we tasted two Indian dishes that were well seasoned, with a kick, but not too hot. His web site is

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dinner with Friends

Monday night I had dinner with friends at Cafe Ena, a casual neighborhood restaurant in south Minneapolis. The food was a new experience for me. It was called Latin Fusion Cuisine, a term that was new to me. But the combinations of flavors combined into a delicious whole. Jumbo shrimp were wrapped in prosciutto and grilled, then served with red pepper mashed potatoes, sauteed artichokes, grilled asparagus and surrounded with a lemon caper sauce. My only complaints were that I didn't find any capers which I love and the prosciutto was a little too salty for the shrimp. Two salmon entrees and a pork entree must have been delicious because everyone cleaned their plate. For dessert we shared Blueberry Empanandas, accompanied by creme anglaise and roasted corn ice cream. I couldn't taste any corn in the ice cream but it was rich and creamy. We shared a Portuguese vinho verde that had just a bit of a sparkle. I'll be back.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lunch by the Sea

Two of our favorite meals in Ireland were very casual. One was at a picnic table at Loop Head- the sign at the pub said "last pub until New York". It was a beautiful day as we looked westward to the Atlantic. Another day we had lunch in a hotel pub at Killary Harbor during an incredible drive in County Mayo near Westport. In addition to glorious vistas we saw mainly black face sheep high, high up on precarious hills and a black lake. Yes, the water actually looked black. The food was simple- seafood bisque and a grilled cheese sandwich but we didn't need anything more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More About Ireland and Fabulous Food

Last night my daughter called to report on her trip to Montreal. She and her husband ate at two highly rated restaurants and had the tasting menus at each. One had a seven course and the other a five tasting menu.She had taken notes so she could describe both in detail. They have a wide variety of foods and several courses were developed to highlight contrast in flavors and textures. It reminded me of the fabulous food we enjoyed in Ireland.

At the Lemon Peel in Westport, I had a pumpkin risotto with red onion and a drizzle of balsamic. Mascarpone cheese in the sauce made is very creamy and rich. For lunch one day in Dublin, we ate at Davy Byrne's Pub. I had Dublin Bay prawns wrapped on phyllo, deep fried and served with a slightly sweet spicy chili sauce. My husband had deep-fried brie with cranberry coulis served on a wild greens salad. This is pub food? It was delicious.

Another meal of not occurred at The Winding Stair (it really was a winding stair to the restaurant on the second floor). I sat facing the window looking across the Liffey to Temple Bar and watched the lights slowly twinkle on as the sky darkened. We started with Potted Crab, a classic dish, that really wasn't to American tastes or at least, not exciting to us. I had fresh lake trout from Lough Nenagh that was meaty on flavorful. Everywhere our entrees were served with fresh vegetables. Unfortunately we end the meal with Mixed Fruit Trifle- I asked about the fruit and was told it was apples, pears and plums but it actually was canned fruit cocktail. A massive (we'd say huge) disappointment.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall Baking at the Mill City Museum

This afternoon I did three baking demos at the Mill City Museum. I adapted two recipes from Baking Basics and Beyond for samples. I baked the Chocolate Zucchini Bread in mini-muffins pans and baked Cranberry Walnut Tarts as bars (13x9 inch pan) so it was easy to give samples. It was hard to get the bars done for each demo but we made it, although the samples were warm. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Here's the recipe for the Cranberry Walnut Squares.

Cranberry Walnut Squares

As soon as I see fresh cranberries in the fall I can’t wait to start baking. Because they are easy to freeze you can bake with them year round but they always seem to taste best in the fall. These impressive squares are easy to make- and the crust doesn’t need to be rolled. Be sure to try them with crème fraiche- the flavor combination is incredible.

Makes 15 squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs, beaten
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
Crème fraiche

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Place a piece of aluminum foil across bottom and up long sides of a 13x9 inch pan. Lightly spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form and butter is coated with flour. Press the dough into the bottom and slightly up sides of pan. Extending the dough above the sides helps prevent the filling from sticking. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until crust is slightly browned.

Combine the brown sugar and flour in a medium bowl. Add the corn syrup, eggs and vanilla. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. No lumps of brown sugar or flour should remain. Add the butter, walnuts and cranberries. Stir until the butter is incorporated. Pour the filling into the pan. Gently even out the surface so that the nuts and cranberries are evenly spaced.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean in the center. Crust should be golden brown. Center will no longer jiggle when the pan is shaken. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Carefully loosen the bars from the short sides of the pan. Lift the all of the bars from the pan using the foil. After placing on a work surface, cut into 15 squares using a large sharp knife. Serve the squares with crème fraiche. Be sure to remove foil after cutting the squares.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

All About Apples: KARE 11 Showcase Minnesota

Tuesday I appeared on KARE 11 Showcase Minnesota with apple recipes from Baking Basics and Beyond. I prepared Caramel Apple Crisp, Apple-Pear Brown Betty, Apple Blondies, Apple Praline Coffee Cake. As soon as the show ended, everyone from the station cam into the studio for samples. I also demonstrated how to use an "apple peeler" that pares, cores and slices in one step. Once it's attached to the counter it is very easy to use. They're actually on sale this week at a local discount supermarket. Rob Hanson, the host, said they loved having me and I should come everyday. My response "Maybe not every day, it's a lot of work!". After I said can we edit that, but "no"- it's live TV.

Here's the link to Showcase MN web site.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Roly's Bistro in Dublin gets Four Stars from us!

My husband and I had the best meal of our trip at Roly's Bistro. When we arrived the restaurant was full but fortunately we had booked ahead.Besides great food, Roly's is known for their 3 course pre fixe menu with choices from the main menu. The best part of pre fixe is that I don't have to debate whether or not to have dessert!

I started with Colin's Prawn Bisque (Dublin bay prawns) that was a deep red color with a blend of seafood flavors. It was served with a shot of brandy that sparked the flavors. Duncan had a Cashel Blue Cheese and Oven Dried Tomato Salad with Organic Rocket,Tomato and Basil Relish. Thinking about the large chunks of creamy blue cheese still makes my mouth water. Dinner was Roast Breast of Corn Fed Chicken with Coriander (cilantro) Cream Potatoes in a Lemongrass Scented Broth, and Traditional Kerry Lamb and Vegetable Pie with Roasted Parsnips and Thyme. Here is a link to the Lamb Pie Recipe. My chicken was moist and tender but the "cilantro mash" was a new taste. As always we had two side dishes served family style- the ubiquitous combination of zucchini and carrots was the best I've had. The thin slices of carrots were cut like scalloped flowers. The second side was a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber and olives in a delicate pastry cup.

But dessert! I had "Raspberry Cheesecake" which sounds ordinary but was unique and delightful. The cheesecake was a 3-inch round of what Americans would call a Bavarian, thickened with gelatin and topped with a raspberry juice glaze. It was accompanied with Meringue Ice Cream, vanilla bean ice cream with crispy bites of meringue. Duncan went for the Chocolate Trio dessert which included a brownie, sorbet and a small malt. The brownie was very dry but, as I learned on a recent recipe project that's the European style.

Our service but attentive but not intrusive. We agree that Roly's Bistro is one of Dublin's top restaurants. If you are reading this Monday, check back for photos tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sunny Ireland and Soup Weather in MN

We returned from Ireland on Monday night and are still readjusting from jet lag. It's been cold since we've been home, but I have a new Aran wool sweater that I'm happy to wear. We were so fortunate in Ireland- 6 sunny days, no rain anywhere. Everyone said we brought the sunshine with us as they had a rainy, rainy summer.

I had done my research and we had fabulous meals at great restaurants. Especially in Dublin, even pub lunches were good. My husband drank Guiness in the pubs and I discovered Bulmer's Hard Cider. Ireland has gained a well-deserved reputation for high quality restaurants and fresh local food. The seafood was usually caught the same day. Every meal had fresh steamed vegetables on the side or the entree was served with a salad of fresh greens- sometimes both. In the next few days I'll describe our meals in detail.

For now, I'm posting a soup recipe I taught in a class last winter. As the leaves change colors and the days become cooler, soups are one of my favorite meals.

Italian Wedding Soup

Fresh vegetables, especially spinach, contain lots of antioxidants which are important for good health. Ground turkey is a good substitute for ground beef because it is much lower in fat and cholesterol. I look for lean ground turkey and use low sodium chicken broth. Most soups taste even better the second day but the orzo soaks up much of the broth, so I just add a little water.

Serves 4 to 6

¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
6 cups chicken broth
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
½ cup orzo pasta
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, torn
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan cheese

10 oz. ground turkey
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
¼ cup dried breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. kosher salt

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the onion and carrots and cook until softened and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and broth and cover. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and orzo and cook until the pasta is tender, about 8-9 minutes.

Meanwhile make the meatballs. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Shape into small meatballs, about ¾ inch across.

Heat the remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet and add the meatballs. Cook 3 to 4 minutes until browned, turning once. Drain on paper towels.

Add the meatballs and the spinach to the soup and simmer 5 minutes. Just before serving stir in the basil. Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan cheese. Copyright Pat Sinclair, 2008