Home Cooking!

Even though eating out in Jerusalem has been a lot of fun (as evidenced by my several ‘Jerusalem Cafes‘ posts), there’s always something fun about cooking at home. In the past week or so, I’ve had fun turning the contents of my fridge and impulse buys at the fruit-and-vegetable stands into good dinners.

Earlier in the week I made a sweet potato, egg, and cheese melt. I started by roasting slices of sweet potato (about 25 minutes at 450º):

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After roasting, I removed from the oven and added two sliced chopped tomatoes, 6 eggs, and shredded mozzarella cheese:

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I broiled in the oven until the egg whites were completely cooked and the cheese a little browned (it took a little more than 10 minutes in my oven, but my broiler is not very good, so it would probably take a lot less with a better broiler):

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I served with sliced peppers and hummus (in total, this was enough for 3 servings):

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Later in the week, Noah and I made an eggplant tomato sauce to go with goat cheese-filled beet gnocchi. The sauce was extremely easy to make. I finely chopped two shallots, two cloves garlic, and put them to heat in a skillet with a little butter. After just a couple minutes, I added half an eggplant, 1 tomato, and half a can (15 oz) of tomato sauce:

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Noah was on skillet duty:

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The gnocchi was from a nearby bakery and it looked awesome! The beets gave it a purple-ish tint:

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The gnocchi only needed to cook for two minutes, so I waited until the sauce was nearly done (about 10-15 minutes) to put them up. In total, the meal came together in twenty minutes or less.

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Finally, I made beef and parsley burgers for lunch. For the burger patties, I mixed about a 1/2 pound of ground beef with 1 egg, 1 T whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. I mixed everything together and cooked on a skillet for about 3 minutes on each side. We ate the burgers on whole wheat rolls with an assortment of salatim and vegetable toppings:

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It’s amazing how the internet enables everyone to have access to an essentially unlimited collection of recipes and food ideas! Every day I add more recipes to my ‘to cook something like this’ list…so there are a lot more dishes on my mind to make in the upcoming weeks. 🙂

Passover Essentials: Brisket and Tsimmes

In addition to foods that are an integral part of the Passover seder, there are other dishes that have no literal significance for the holiday’s celebration but are customary dishes for the occasion. This is the turkey on Thanksgiving. No, you don’t NEED it…but what would the holiday be without?!

Two examples of such gotta-have-it dishes on Passover are brisket and tsimmes. Brisket is standard fare even outside the world of Jewish holiday observance, and anyone who doesn’t love melt-in-your-mouth, moisture filled, slow cooked beef has got to be a little nutty. Or vegetarian. Tsimmes is a traditional Ashkenazi dish made with sweet potatoes, carrots, and dried fruit. There are, surprise!, several varieties.

I made my brisket this year in my trusty slow cooker and borrowed the recipe from the trusty Smitten Kitchen blog. The recipe was stellar, although if you read the full original post I will comment that many non-orthodox Jews (myself included) avoid corn syrup during the holiday. This full recipe for this is HUGE, so I made only 2 lbs of meat and reduced everything else in the recipe to about 1/3 of the original quantity.

Here’s the rundown of the brisket magic from my kitchen. 

Cook the onions with oil, garlic and spices:

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Prepare the sauce with beef broth, ketchup, chili sauce (corn syrup free!!) and brown sugar. I didn’t put very much sugar in…maybe a 1/4 cup.

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Place the brisket in a slow cooker and then cover with onions and sauce:

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Cook on low for 10 hours:

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When it’s done, transfer to a pan to marinate in the fridge for one day before reheating to serve:

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This brisket was great, and the sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.

And now moving on to tsimmes…

This is always a favorite dish of mine given my overwhelming adoration for both sweet potatoes and dried fruit. There are several types of tsimmes, some resembling something more like mashed sweet potatoes with mix-ins and others more like a roasted potato dish. I decided to go the roasted route this year and made something along the lines of this recipe with a few tweaks. To begin, I baked two thin-sliced sweet potatoes for 25 minutes at 450º.

While the potatoes cooked, I sauteed a 1/2 onion and two carrots:

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Once softened, I transferred the onions and carrots to a large bowl and added one chopped apple, prunes, apricots, cinnamon, ginger, and orange juice:

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When the potatoes finished baking I added those to the mix and stirred it all up:

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I spread the mixture on an oiled baking pan and baked for 45 minutes at 350º.

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Wow! This was world class delicious and went great with the brisket.

Having these dishes fulfilled my base level of Passover craving and left me open to do some experimentation during the rest of the week. Check back soon for some less-standard Passover dishes!

Eat Street and Baked Breakfast Sweet Potatoes

In Minneapolis, ‘Eat Street’ refers to 17 blocks on Nicollet that house some of the most unique, authentic, and delicious ethnic food you will ever have. In the past few weeks, I’ve visited two notable Eat Street locations.

The first is Evergreen, which is generally considered one of the best Asian restaurants in the Twin Cities. It has this reputation for a reason.

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The menu is comprised of authentic Asian dishes, so don’t come looking for deep fried lemon chicken. Everything is cooked to order by the chefs (and most likely a family member of the owner if not the owner himself). As soon as we were seated, we were served tea along with our water:

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After perusing the menu, we decided to order steamed vegetable  dumplings, orange chicken, and chow fun noodles. The prune juice was hard to pass up though.

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If you like Asian food, this is must-visit.

The second place along Eat Street I’ve visited in the recent past is Icehouse. Icehouse has been on my list to try since I saw its veggie burger featured in Mpls/St Paul Magazine over the summer. Icehouse is a bit more upscale, and their dinner menu is a bit on the pricey side. The chef was super nice though and offered to make us the veggie burgers (usually offered only at lunch time) for dinner anyway.

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It is no wonder this veggie burger has gotten rave reviews. I’m not sure of all the ingredients but there were mushrooms, spinach, cheese, deliciousness. The fries were top notch too. I would highly recommend both of these eat street restaurants!

And last but not least…here’s a recipe for baked breakfast sweet potatoes! *full recipe below

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet, add one chopped onion, and saute for about five minutes, seasoning with garlic, basil, allspice, and cumin:

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Meanwhile, chop two sweet potatoes.

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Once the onions have begun to softer, combine with the sweet potatoes and add to a 9×9 pan:

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Cover and cook for approximately 30 minutes at 350° or until potatoes are cooked through:

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Baked Breakfast Sweet Potatoes
Ingredients
 - 2 medium sweet potatoes
 - 1 large onion
 - 1 tbsp butter
 - 1 tsp basil
 - 1 tsp minced garlic
 - 1/4 tsp allspice
 - 1/2 tsp cumin
Method
1. Melt butter in a skillet and add onions and spices
2. Cook for 5 minutes or until onions start to soften
3. Chop sweet potatoes and combine with chopped onions
4. Distribute mixture into a 9x9 pan, cover with foil, and 
bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft

Sweet Chicken Curry and Nico’s

A little while ago, I posted a recipe for Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens soup. I also made a curry out of the same base ingredients and it turned out really well. Once again, I started with two chopped sweet potatoes in a large pot:

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I added a can of coconut milk plus an equal amount water:

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Two tablespoons curry and one tablespoon cinnamon:

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And let simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes:

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Add approximately 4 cups dandelion greens and cook for about 10 more minutes:

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I shredded three cooked chicken breasts, added to pot, and removed from heat to warm through:

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This curry turned out really well! I wasn’t quite sure how much curry/cinnamon to put in, but I thought the final flavor worked well – it was sweet with the curry flare, but not too much.

Sweet Chicken Curry, serves 4
Ingredients
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 can coconut milk plus equal amount water
- 4 cups dandelion greens
- 3 pre-cooked chicken breasts
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
Method
1. Chop sweet potatoes and add to a large pot
2. Add coconut milk, water, and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Add dandelion greens and simmer for another 10 minutes.
4. Shred chicken and add to pot, remove from flame to warm through.

I also recently went to the new taco joint in Uptown: Nico’s Tacos.

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Nico’s is located on Hennepin in the ever-changing storefront next to Namaste Cafe. In the last 2.5 years, this spot has been home to Duplex Restaurant, The Birdhouse, and now Nico’s. Nico’s is owned by the same folks behind Amore Victoria – one of my favorite Minneapolis eats. Yet, I don’t think that fact alone can tell us much about Nico’s fate given that Birdhouse was owned by Heidi and Stewart Woodman (Heidi’s acclaim).

A few friends and I went to Nico’s for guacamole and tacos. The guac was delish (but when is that not true?):

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There’s a nice selection of taco fillings, and I selected one vegetarian (with cactus!), fish, and beef:

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Tacos are not a go-to food for me, so I might have been less impressed than a big taco fan, but I don’t feel the need to go running back here soon. They are open later though (1am daily), so if you’re in need of a late-night Uptown munch, this could be a good spot to put on your rotation.

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup

My weekly trip to the Wedge Coop last weekend resulted in me coming home with several large sweet potatoes and a humongous bunch of dandelion greens. Now, nearly a week later, I still have both of those items in bulk. What to do? After flipping through a few cookbooks, the Gypsy Soup recipe in Moosewood caught my eye. The original recipe calls for sweet potato, tomato, onion, and green peppers, but Mollie Katzen says in her recipe notes that any orange and green vegetables will work. So, I modified the recipe heavily and made my own….

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup *full recipe below

To start, I chopped up three stalks celery and two sweet potatoes and added them to a large pot with a little bit of olive oil:

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I didn’t think they were cooking much since they were piled so high, so I added a little bit of water in the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes. After a few minutes, I added three cups water along with paprika, turmeric, basil, cinnamon, cayenne, a bay leaf, and some soy sauce:

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After simmering for about 15 minutes…

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I added a half bunch of roughly chopped dandelion greens:

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I simmered for another 10 minutes and then added some leftover cooked chicken. I used one wing, one breast, and three legs, but you could use whatever you have on hand!

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As soon as I added the chicken, I turned the heat off, stirred to combine, and left in the pot to heat through:

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I had the soup for lunch with a cheesy tortilla. I wasn’t familiar with dandelion greens before making this, and they were a little bitter – perhaps a sweeter green, like spinach, would be a bit better. Nonetheless, the soup was delicious with a good spice level. Plus, anything with sweet potatoes is fine by me.

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup, serves 4
Ingredients
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 cups water
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch cayenne
- half bunch dandelion greens (approximately 5 cups)
- leftover chicken (approx. three cups or whatever you have)
Method
1. Chop sweet potatoes and celery and heat in large soup pot with oil 
for approximately 5 minutes. Add a bit of water depending on size of 
the pot.
2. Add 3 cups water and spices and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
3. Add dandelion greens and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
4. Add chicken (shred or chop, according to preference), stir, and turn 
off the heat. Let sit until chicken heats through.

And…since I was in the kitchen I also made a batch of Tina‘s no-bake Almond Joy Cookies. I haven’t had one yet, but they look good!

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