Madison Eats, part 2

Seriously, Madison has too much good food to limit it to just one post. Which isn’t to say that everything we ate was wonderful – we had some downright lousy coffee, for example, and tried to get drinks at a couple of places that turned out to be too upscale (while also smelling really weird) or too dive-y – but there were plenty of places that were just right.

Breakfast, day 2: Marigold Kitchen

Veggie Scrambler

French Toast

Photos by beautifulcataya

There are two things I would like you to notice in these photos: the breakfast potatoes in the first, and the exceptionally decadent French toast in the second. We ate all of these things. My scramble of the day was kind of wet and disappointing, but the incredibly flavorful breakfast potatoes more than made up for it. I don’t often want potatoes – they can be really hit or miss – but these were worth the risk: crispy and salty, fried up with onions and a lot of rosemary. Amazingly good. Shane had a different French toast than is pictured here, but it was no less wonderful.

Lunch, day 2: Chautara

Chautara - sunny spot on a cold day

Photo by humbletree

Tofu Buff at Chautara restaurant

Photo by John Kannenberg

Max had his first samosa, and I had the ridiculously flavorful seitan buff. I have fond memories of this place, even moreso now that I’ve shared it with Shane, Jenn, Bill, and Max.

Dinner, day 2: Natt Spil

lively up yo'self

Photo by mkebbe

We had planned on having a really nice dinner while in Madison, but neither of us were particularly hungry or decisive when it came to making a plan on our last night in town. While Shane moved the car, I decided on Natt Spil, which was supposed to be sort of dive-y and intimate while also having good food and music. The cuisine is somewhere between Chinese and Italian – really, I’m not sure what you’d call it. Not fusion, as that suggests a melding of the two flavor sets. Really, it’s a place where you can get dim sum and also pizza and also cocktails. I like all of those things. We were a little underwhelmed by the food and definitely by the service, but that didn’t stop us from devouring a small pizza and a plate of shrimp cakes. My cocktail was delicious, though I couldn’t tell you what it was. It seemed like the sort of place we’d definitely go with friends – like the Galaxy Hut, except completely different.

Drinks, day 2: Merchant Madison

Merchant cocktail list

Photo by jumbledpile

I spotted Merchant while we were walking around the first night in Madison. We didn’t love their food menu, but decided to stop in for a cocktail as a majorly scary storm rolled in over the lake. You’ve gotta love a cocktail bar where the menu is reputable enough that you’re happy to go with the “bartender’s choice” option. There were so many good things, but I’d already started down the bourbon road, so it seemed like folly to stray.

I was right. And the drink the bartender made me was even more right but unfortunately I will never know what it was because when I went to order another, he was gone! I know that it had at least five ingredients, one of them bourbon, another absinthe, and that I really shouldn’t have had another after that. I also know that Shane had two delicious cocktails, perhaps made with gin, perhaps citrussy? I don’t know.

What I do know is that we ordered toast with lardo – another good idea – and then I ate all of the toasts. OK, not all the toasts. But most of the toasts. And they were good.

Toast

Photo by jumbledpile

1115 Meatloaf: An Improvisation

Mark your calendars: today was the first time in over two weeks that I prepared meat at home.  And oh, what a glorious portion of meat it was!  That’s right, I made meatloaf.

I understand that there are many who have misgivings about meatloaf.  It’s more of a food concept than a tangible thing – I mean, it’s a loaf of meat, but what do you know conclusively about it otherwise?  You don’t know what’s in it.  You don’t know what’s on it.  You don’t know if it’s going to be moist or dry, rich or flavorless.  Even if you’ve prepared the meatloaf yourself, you still have no guarantees.

We haven’t made meatloaf since March – for no good reason – but we’ve both been craving healthier versions of family classics, so I gave a new recipe a try tonight.  And by ‘a new recipe’, I mean that I just made something up and was terribly pleased when it turned out well.

Meatloaf: An Improvisation

1 lb pork (we used an fresh (i.e. not smoked) ham steak, which I then ground in the food processor)
A couple of thick slices of day-old bread (we used a heel of Zingerman’s Farm Bread), torn or ground into crumbs
1 small onion, finely diced (or tossed in the food processor as well!)
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable broth (could sub any other kind of broth, water, beer?, milk – just some liquid to keep it moist)
1 generous teaspoon fennel seeds
1 generous teaspoon oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 and line a loaf pan with parchment paper (optional but highly recommended).  Take off your rings and thoroughly mix all ingredients together by hand in a big bowl.  You can use a spoon, but it won’t be as effective or tactile.  Form the mixture into a loaf and place in the pan.  Bake for 45 minutes, then check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer – it should reach 160 and come out clean when inserted in the center of the loaf.  Remove from oven, then remove loaf from pan and let it cool on a platter for a few minutes before serving.

This should make 4-6 portions, depending on how hungry you are and what you’re eating with it.  Tonight we had boiled red potatoes from our garden, but this loaf would also be killer with mashed potatoes or some crisp green beans.

1015 Roadhouse Dinner with Mom

Mom picked just about the most beautiful weekend of the year to come visit.  It’s sunny, the days are in the 60s, and the leaves are brilliantly colored.  Tomorrow we’re going to the Iowa game – my birthday present to her – but tonight we stuck closer to home, and indulged in what Laurie Colwin might call “nursery food” and I call just damned good: dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse.

Zingerman's Roadhouse
Photo by Debs Leigh

For me: Salisbury steak. I don’t know that I’ve ever had Salisbury steak before, but it’s what jumped off the menu at me, despite Mom’s memories of it as a gross school lunch. In this case, it was a thick burger patty topped with a rich mushroom gravy and served with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach. I ate every last bite, sopping up the last of the gravy with a slice of buttered bread. I’m sure it went straight to my arteries, and I didn’t care.

Mom had the pulled pork with greens (not green beans, as she expected) and mashed potatoes. The server brought her two extra sauces so that she could try all three, and was happy to bring some extra pork out when her portion turned out to be very fatty. Shane had some amazing scallops – tender, sweet, and perfectly grilled – along with mashed potatoes and spinach.

We left full and happy, and after a quick stop by the Deli, we spent the rest of the evening on the couch with Toy Story 3: a nice end to a nice night!

0925 Corn Chowder and an Attempted Robbery!

Another quiet Saturday.  Shane got home last night, tired and sick after a week away.  We went to Corner on our way back from the airport, had beers and fish tacos, and went to bed early.  Seriously, he was sawing logs by 9pm – well deserved after a long day of travel while under the weather.

To his credit, he dragged himself out of bed in time to go to the market with me – on the condition that we go to Comet first so that he could get his first good coffee in a week or more.  Apparently Viennese coffee is all weak or sweetened or both – not the bracing fantastic espressos and cappuccinos from SF, alas.  Comet cappuccinos followed by pumpkin donuts and several random friend meetings at the market makes for a nice fall morning.

And so we spent the Saturday – a few chores, a little moped work, a lot of getting caught up on new tv, and another batch of corn chowder with more sweet ears of market corn.  I’ve been buying a few extra each time so that our freezer is nicely stocked for the months to come.  I just hope we have enough…

Oh, and because several people have requested more biography and less straight-up food blogging, I should mention that at the end of a very relaxing and laid-back fall day, some JERK tried to steal one of the mopeds off the porch!  I was in the bathroom, so I didn’t witness any of this, but Shane was sitting on the couch and heard a weird noise outside, and when he got up to check on it, he found some dude trying to pick up one of the mopeds.  That alone is a feat since they aren’t light vehicles and they’re kind of packed in on the porch, and probably should’ve indicated his frame of mind.  Shane yelled at the guy, who backed off of the porch as if he were getting kicked out of the club “yeah, yeah, I’m going”.  Some further yelling took place as the guy walked away down the driveway and Shane followed, phone in hand and dialing the cops all the while.

By the time I looked outside to see what the hubbub was about, both Shane and the dude were across the street and Shane had reached the cops – in time for the dude to sort of attempt to chase Shane off?  I guess?  The cops were at our place within about 10 minutes, reporting that they’d caught the guy – a homeless(?) teen or 20something from an area familiar to the cops – so all’s well that ends well, though we’re newly paranoid about the (locked up) mopeds on the porch and our general safety in the area.

0911 Corn Chowder

It was rainy and cool today – a perfect opportunity to make soup.  With corn still in season, I was inspired to riff on my mom’s corn chowder.

Honestly, there’s nothing special about this recipe.  No exotic ingredients, no amped up flavors, no designated pairings – just the warmth and comfort of root vegetables, homemade chicken stock, and the crunch of corn freshly cut from the cob.  My family eats this soup out of bread bowls after Christmas Eve church.  There’s usually a platter of cheese slices and Pepperidge Farm crackers.  Later in the evening we might have a hot toddy.  Again, nothing fancy – just familiar, and after ten days away from home, familiar was just right.

Corn Chowder

2 tbsp butter
1 small white onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 small white potatoes, diced
1-2 small carrots, sliced into coins
kernels from 1 ear of corn (around 1 cup corn)
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp flour, or enough to reach desired consistency

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and saute until golden. Add the potatoes and carrots and continue to saute until soft. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and stir everything around, then add the corn, broth, and bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, then whisk in the flour. Start with one tablespoon and increase a little at a time until the broth thickens. You don’t want it to go all the way to a gravy – just a wee bit thicker, so that it clings to the vegetables a bit in the spoon. Let it simmer for a while – maybe 10 more minutes – stirring occasionally, then serve with crusty bread.

0818 Tom Collins: Official Drink of Knights of the West Side

Tom Collins
Photo by bichromephoto

I’ll be honest – I spent most of today looking forward to cocktails at the second meeting of the Knights of the West Side. I even did a little research as to what constitutes a classic cocktail, mostly to determine whether or not I should be able to order a Vesper martini. By the time we we got to Knight’s, though, I chickened out. I guess I didn’t want to have to explain a drink that I’d never had before? Either way, I had a dirty martini, while Shane and Matt had Tom Collinses (Toms Collins?), which I think is now the Official Drink of Knights of the West Side.

Side note: I’m still a little fuzzy on the punctuation of Knights of the West Side. Is it Knights, plural, because there’s more than one person going to Knight’s? Or is it Knight’s, with the same punctuation as the restaurant, which is named after the owner?  Regardless, we enjoyed our drinks and a quality old-timey steakhouse meal: pot roast, new potatoes and carrots, a salad, and gorgeous golden dinner rolls, so hot out of the warmer that we could barely tear them open.  We left full and happy – good food, and good friends.

0807 Shrimp Boil & Cheddar Biscuits

Though my siblings and I are enthusiastic carnivores, our parents don’t eat that much meat, so planning a dinner for the whole family can be tricky.  When mulling over our options this morning, though, Mom and I hit on an excellent plan: a shrimp boil.  And also cheddar biscuits.  And maybe cupcakes for dinner.  The sort of meal where you could pick and choose your preferred components – Pop could have mostly veggies, I could eat all of the corn on the cob that I could manage, and everyone could bathe everything in butter.  I like where this is going.  A LOT.

At Go Time, though, I was worn out from a night of lousy sleep, so Shane and Jenn did much more of the prep than I did.  I came upstairs in time to knead and form the biscuits, though, and to peel and devein a couple of pounds of shrimp with Shane’s nimble help.  And then we feasted:

Frogmore Stew

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Recipes:
Frogmore Stew, torn out of a magazine several years ago
Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits from The Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

0717 Tortilla with Beans

In honor of Spain’s recent win in the World Cup, I decided that I wanted to cook my way through a Spanish cookbook that has been lingering in my collection for several years.  I’m allowing myself to skip 10 (of 150+) recipes, with extra special dispensation given to pulpo gallego in honor of Paul the psychic octopus, who called the game in favor of España.  While I’ve made a few recipes from the cookbook, tonight marked the first meal since taking on this challenge.

AND unfortunately, it was a disappointment.  The fava beans were obviously past their prime, and so lacked the firm texture and fresh taste from earlier in the season.  The potatoes – harvested from our garden – crisped up nicely, but made for a super bland texture with the already bland beans.  The tortilla didn’t set in the middle, though I was able to easily invert it out and back into the pan.  We used medium eggs instead of extra large, which may have had something to do with how the dish set up, but shouldn’t have made THAT much of a difference.

I was also perplexed by the serving size.  The tortilla recipe on the facing page called for fewer extra ingredients beyond the classic eggs, onions, and potatoes, but served 4-6.  This recipe, intended to be served in cubes as tapas, was supposed to serve 2.  We both had generous portions topped with a lot of hot sauce, and still had more than half of the tortilla remaining.

I’m including the recipe below roughly as written, and would love your ideas for how to improve it.  Or maybe we’ll just stick with frittatas.

Tortilla with Beans
Adapted from Spanish

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
11 ounces waxy potatoes, cut into dice
1 3/4 cups shelled and peeled broad (fava) beans
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, oregano or summer savory
6 extra large eggs
3 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh chives and fresh Italian parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and potatoes and stir to coat.  Cover and cook gently for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the onions are translucent.  Add the beans and thyme (or oregano or summer savory) and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well and cook 2-3 minutes.  Beat the eggs with salt, pepper, and the remaining herbs.  Pour over the potatoes and onions and increase the heat slightly.  Cook until the egg sets on the bottom, pushing the tortilla away from the edge of the pan so that the uncooked egg can run underneath.  Cover the pan with a large plate and invert the tortilla out onto it.  Add the remaining oil to the pan, then slip the now upside-down tortilla back in and cook for 3-4 more minutes.  Serves 4-6.

0701 Zucchini Potato Frittata

We ran a quick errand after work, and by the time we got home, we were starving.  I had planned to make a frittata from Local Flavors, but lacking the ricotta the recipe required, I opted to just fly by the seat of my pants.  And you know what, it was a damned good frittata.

Fritatta in the pan

Tonight’s frittata was a riff on the basic recipe I gave you last month.  We had a few boiled new potatoes, half an onion, and a knob of goat cheese left over from other meals, so the cheese was whisked in with five eggs, while the potato and onion were sliced up along with a yellow squash and sauteed in the last of the butter.  After adding the egg-cheese mixture, I ran a silicone spatula around the edges to keep everything from sticking, then transferred the pan to the oven for a couple of minutes under the broiler.

The frittata pictured above isn’t the one we ate tonight, but it’s pretty close.  I have to tell you, though, that in the moment of truth, tonight’s frittata flipped out of the pan beautifully.  And then we ate it right up.

0629 Platter Salad

So I’ve had Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors cookbook for about two years – around the time that we got really invested in buying and eating local – but in that time have only made ONE recipe from it.  I’ve been trying to be better about buying cookbooks, but this seemed like one I’d really use, you know?  Unlike Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes and The Farm to Table Cookbook, both of which were lovely but didn’t reflect our eating habits or the foods actually available to us locally in Virginia.

I suppose I can only spuriously say that I used the Local Flavors recipe for tonight’s dinner – a platter salad – for a variety of reasons.  First, I only followed about half of the instructions.  I didn’t boil or blanch in the right order, and owing to a moped emergency in the middle of prep, I also didn’t make Madison’s dressing.  Also a recipe? For a very deconstructed salad? Helpful, but kind of overkill.  In fact, the recipe was primarily useful for the gorgeous photo that I used to convince Shane that this was enough for dinner.  Our own salad didn’t look much like Madison’s, but it was pretty spectacular if I do say so myself.

Platter Salad

Moving clockwise, we have brand new red potatoes from the market, boiled in salted water for about 20 minutes or until soft.  Green beans from the market, safely kept away from Head Bean Eater Mina and blanched for about 7 minutes.  Carrots, long lingering in our crisper, peeled and boiled for about 10 minutes.  A sweet market onion, sliced into rounds and lightly pickled in red wine vinegar.  Line-caught Bonito tuna, tossed with a bit of the red wine vinegar.   And French breakfast radishes from our garden, all atop romaine lettuce from the market.

And we ate all of it, well, except some of the lettuce.

Recipe:
June Platter Salad of Green Beans, Potatoes, and Tuna from Local Flavors

NB: Zingerman’s is having a crazy summer sale on a handful of excellent items.  We’re REALLY irritated that we missed out on discounted fancy tuna, as we’ve just exhausted our stash.  If you’re local, you can save yourself some extra dough by ordering over the phone and picking up your goodies in person at the warehouse south of town.

Also hat tip to Sarah, who also cooked from Local Flavors tonight!