Archive for August, 2010

8th August
written by Loren

Photo courtesy of A Sweet Pea Chef

Well, summers almost here so it seems like a good time to start gathering your recipes for the fresh veggies of summer. Wait… what’s that you say? Summer’s almost GONE?! Damn it, this happens every year.  So what are you waiting for? Grab your shoes, keys and a $20 bill and get yourself to the nearest farmers market! There happens to be one in downtown Minneapolis about a block away from where I work, so every Thursday is a new culinary adventure.

I absolutely love the farmer’s market; it reminds me of my Dad’s garden when I was growing up. Just a huge bounty of everything I could ever want: squash, cucumbers, green and red peppers, jalapenos, cilantro, sweet corn, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, the list goes on and on. And then there are the fake vendors who, should be banned outright from ever stepping foot in a farmer’s market. You can identify them by the fact that their fruit comes in the same packaging you see in the super-markets, and they have produce which is ridiculously out of place for the season and geographic location (note to self: pineapples are not grown in Minnesota).  I see no reason why my money should go to some schmuck who got a sweetheart deal from a produce distributor rather than the local farmers who have put in countless hours of backbreaking labor in order to bring their food to the market.

Anyways, this week’s haul included a  few bunches of basil, some garlic, yellow squash  and bag of Wisconsin cheese curds which didn’t even make it back to the office with me, they were so squeaky fresh and delicious. But for this post we’re going to focus on the basil and garlic because with those, and just 3 more ingredients, you can make a world class pesto.

You will need:

  • 2 packed cups of basil leaves
  • 1/2  cup grated/shredded parmesan cheese (buy a wedge of the good stuff, it’s worth it)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic depending on your taste for it.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Pack the basil into a food processor, along with the cheese, pine nuts and the garlic which you have peeled and quartered. Add good drizzle of the olive oil, and pulse it about 5 times with the processor. You could probably do this by hand, but who the hell has time for something like that? After pulsing, gradually add the remainder of the olive oil while keeping the processor running.  Don’t puree the hell out of it though; it shouldn’t be a homogenous paste. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and you’re done! I guarantee that after one taste of this, you will never again buy store bought pesto.


Transfer the pesto to a jar and pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top to prevent oxidation.

Just a few suggestions for enjoying your pesto, because you will have a fair amount of it: mix it with fresh cooked pasta and any grilled meat or fish you like, spread it on slices of artisan bread and top with mozzarella before broiling, make a pan sauce with pesto, creams and white wine before adding sautéed mushrooms to go with chicken or pork chops, throw together some halved cherry tomatoes and small fresh mozzarella balls with farfalle pasta for a caprese pasta salad. Be creative with it!

Tags: , ,
3rd August
written by Arthur

I’ve been in New York for almost two years now and, while there are a million new culinary delights out here on the east coast, there are some things from Minnesota that I just can’t replace. The top five culinary absences in my transplant life are:

5. Isles Bun & Coffee:

This place has the best cinnamon buns and scones I have ever had. But the real find is the coffee cake—crispy on top, fruity, not overly sweet, and perfect with a cappuccino. I don’t normally have a sweet tooth, so my love for this place says a lot about how great they do morning pastries. You can find this gem in Uptown Minneapolis (which is south of downtown Minneapolis for some reason).


4. The Minnesota State Fair:

This isn’t just one food, but many. If you can put it on a stick and deep fry it you can find it at the Minnesota State Fair. My arteries clog with joy just thinking about it.

My simple favorite, dating back to childhood, is the corn dog. Crispy dough on the outside, followed by a layer of soft dough, followed by the hot dog—all covered in mustard and ketchup. But the great eats keep going: pork chops on a stick, cheese on a stick (fried of course!), cheese curds (no stick with this cheese but it’s still great), french fries, chocolate chip cookies and all you can drink milk, bison burgers, and mini-doughnuts. Sure, some would argue that eating any one of these foods is bad for you. But when you eat them all in the same day your body is surely so overwhelmed by calories that it doesn’t know what to do and you actually lose weight!


3. The Italian Pie Shoppe:

I don’t understand why New York doesn’t even try when it comes to deep dish pizza. And NO, Sicilian style pizza doesn’t count just because the crust crosses the quarter inch mark. Don’t get me wrong, I love the thin crust found on every corner, but I miss my deep dish.

The Italian Pie Shoppe makes a true deep dish pizza that is measured in inches, has a crispy bottom on the crust, with a soft and almost doughy middle. And, as is right, the cheese  goes underneath the simple canned tomatoes that top the pizza.


2. Summit Brewing’s Oktoberfest:

With the end of summer and the start of football season around the corner I can’t help but think of this great beer. The brew’s reddish-gold color perfectly matches autumn leaves and the flavor is sweet malt with some light fruitiness to it. I’ve found a lot of great New York beers during the last two years (with Brooklyn Brewery near the top of the list), but Summit’s Oktoberfest will always have a place in my heart.



1. Pad Thai Cream Cheese Wontons:

I don’t think that it’s been proven yet, but I am fairly certain that there is a genetic defect in people living outside of the Midwest. This defect has the tragic effect of making people see cheese and not wonder what it would be like somehow deep fried. Nowhere outside of Minnesota have I found the cream cheese wonton. Yes, there are crab rangoon wontons to be had in New York, but it’s just some perfectly good cream cheese polluted by crab.

The best of the cream cheese wontons can be found at Pad Thai Café in St. Paul. The cream cheese has a small addition of scallions to add a little depth. While they are nothing complicated, I could eat these every day.   I have a bias toward Pad Thai, with a strong sense of nostalgia, after eating there from 8th grade on. Still after eating cream cheese wontons at dozens of other places the gold medal for taste goes to Pad Thai’s wontons.

Still, even with those five greats, one foods need an honorable mention: The runner up is Jack’s Frozen Pizza. I think the best way to describe Jack’s is that it is truly the Taco Bell of frozen pizza. After a night on the town it’s there, waiting for you in the freezer, for you to cook and eat with that last nightcap. Sadly, my internet research tells me this not-so-fine, but still delicious, pizza is only distributed in the Midwest.