Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Food and Football

Cool crisp mornings and colorful foliage, especially on the maples, make fall my favorite time of year. In addition to pulling out sweaters from the back of  the closet, I pull out recipes for my favorite pot roasts, soups and chilis. Most of these foods are easily to serve at a Tailgate Party.

When tailgating with friends, I prefer to bring food that is already cooked. Pack hot foods in insulated carriers or plan to reheat in a slow cooker. Have lots of beverages, both hot and cold, depending on the weather. Some great foods for tailgating are Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Italian Beef Sandwiches and Sloppy Joes. A bowl of chili with assorted toppings is always a hit. Sandwiches are a favorite because they are easy to eat and filling.

Before the main course, try serving some chips and dip. The recipe below is one of my favorites. Heat it in a heavy pottery pie plate that will retain the heat until you get to the game. I keep a well-stocked pantry and usually can pull most of these ingredients together at the last minute.

Espinacha Dip             

Makes 6 cups (12 servings)

 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 (10 oz.) can chopped tomatoes and green chiles, drained

1 (8 oz.) package light cream cheese, softened

1 (4 oz.) can sliced ripe olives, drained

1 cup light sour cream

1 cup shredded cojack cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Hot pepper sauce, to taste

Corn chips, tortilla chips or toasted baguette slices

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Spray a shallow baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the dip into the dish. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Serve warm with corn chips. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Urban Experience: Chicago for a Week

My husband and I drove to Chicago last week to visit my daughter and her husband. They live in the city and work in the Loop. For us, it was a week of urban living. There are many great restaurants near their home so it was an easy walk to dinner. When Michelin published their guide for Chicago, they published a list of Bib Gourmand restaurants, similar to honorable mentions. Both of the restaurants below were on the list.

Our first night there we went to Glenn's Diner, one of the restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Glenn's Diner features fresh seafood and many dishes recall Glenn's favorites from New Orleans. Fresh seafood specials are posted daily on blackboard. We started with smoked trout dip served with crackers and New England Clam Chowder, heaped with clams and potatoes and surrounded with a thin but rich and creamy broth. I enjoyed lake trout lightly sauteed and served topped with a pecan butter for my entree. We were tempted by the fresh pies listed on the board but instead walked across the street to Marie's for ice cream. And Glenn's serves breakfast all day long, another favorite of the owner!

A few nights later we met friends for dinner at Ceres' Table, another short walk away. Wednesday night was Prix Fixe night at the resturant and we had 3 courses and a glass of wine for $40. The best part was that our choices were straight from the menu and everyone agreed that the food was delectable. I started with an heirloom tomato salad with basil and balsamic that captured the unique flavors of several locally grown tomatoes. We were so busy talking that I didn't notice what everyone was eating until dessert.

This was a meal that justifies "eat dessert first" but we managed to enjoy it at the end. I had a carrot cake with a light creamy cream cheese frosting, a velvety caramel sauce and topped with fried carrots strips. I've added the photos because the carrots were unique but didn't have much flavor.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Local, Seasonal and Memorable

I had dinner out last week, at a restaurant that features local, sustainable foods. Dinner was excellent and captured the essence of the seasonal foods that will soon be gone and unfortunatley the fleeing summer.

My girlfriends treated me for my birthday at In Season in South Minneapolis. It was a warm, not humid, breezy evening and the reason many of us put up with winter in MN! We sat outside to savor the evening. When we first saw the limited menu, I was concerned that the entrees were different than what we normally see and our choices were limited. We all started with "Fried Squash Blossom", filled with ricotta and mint, lightly battered and served with tomato aioli. The delicate squash blossom contrasted nicely with the spicy garlicky aioli.

For a main course I opted to have "Braised Pork Crepinette with Tomato, Creamy Polenta and Swiss Chard". A mound of shredded pork was wrapped in Swiss chard and baked, and served on top of polenta with a San Marzano tomato sauce. I noticed that all plates were clean when clean when the server removed them!

The chef sent out a salad course "he's perfecting" and we thought he had it right. It was heirloom tomatoes and tender kernels of sweet corn in a mild balsamic vinaigrette topped with cucumber sorbet. What a treat.

We ended the evening with two unconstructed desserts, Peach and Berry Napoleon and Carrot Cake. Both were almost too pretty to eat but once again, clean plates!