Cookery Maven Blog

Indian Spiced Carrot Pickles

I've had a thing for pickles ever since I can remember; the salty tang of the brine and the crunch of the vegetables gets me every time. Our CSA boxes have had carrots in them for the past couple of weeks and I had a bunch of them, sitting in the fridge, waiting for something to do. Since I am not a fan of floppy cucumber pickles (and I haven’t found the perfect pickling recipe that delivers a cuke pickle with some crunch), I decided to pickles carrots instead — they would stand up to the heat of canning without turning to mush.

Indian Pickled Carrots (Adapted from Amy Pennington's Urban Pantry)

2 cups apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup raw sugar
3 peels of lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick, broken in 3 or 6 pieces (one for each container)
1/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
1/2 tsp black mustard seed (I used brown mustard seed)
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp coriander seed (I used fresh 1/4 cup cilantro)
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1 inch long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 poblano or jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
1 pound of carrots, washed and cut into uniform match sticks


Preparation
Prepare jars for canning. In a medium-sized sauce pot, bring the vinegar, sugar, lemon peel and cinnamon stick to a gentle boil and hold over low heat.

In another sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat until hot. Stir in the fenugreek, mustard seeds, fennel seed, chile flakes and cumin seeds. When the spices begin to pop (about 4 minutes), add the ginger, garlic, salt, poblanos and onion, stirring until soft and slightly caramelized, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Pack the canning jars with the carrots and cilantro, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Pour equal spoonfuls of the spice mixture into each jar. Pour the hot vinegar over the carrots, submerging them and leaving about a 1/2 inch of head space. The contents should sit right below the bottom ring of the glass jar.

Process the jars in a water bath for 15 minutes. Make sure the seals are secure and store in a cool, dark cupboard for at least three weeks before eating.

Roasted Onions

_DSC9179.jpg
_DSC9181.jpg

Sometimes simple is best. These onions are incredibly easy to throw together and are the perfect accompaniment to the Porchetta Pork Chops recipe I posted a few days ago. They are surprisingly rich-tasting, given the abbreviated ingredient list, and are good at room temperature as well. 

_DSC9186.jpg
_DSC9188.jpg
_DSC9191.jpg

These onions are going into heavy rotation in my kitchen this holiday season. They are just hedonistic enough to hold their own but confident enough to play second fiddle to porchetta, roasted chicken, or a beef tenderloin. You could substitute shallots, if you want to get fancy! 

_DSC9204.jpg

Roasted Red Onion with Butter, Honey, and Balsamic Vinegar

4 red onions, halved
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (don’t use your expensive vinegar, grocery-store balsamic is just fine)
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the butter, vinegar, honey, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes, until it’s reduced slightly. 

Place the onions, cut-side up, on the sheet tray and brush half of the butter mixture over them. Roast for about 20 minutes and then brush the remaining butter mixture on and back for another 25 minutes, or until they are soft and caramelized. 

A Really Good Vegan Tomato Soup

_DSC9960.jpg
_DSC9963.jpg

I really like to have soup in the freezer. It's kind of like an insurance policy -- it gives me peace of mind when I'm either fresh out of ideas for lunch/dinner or I'm too lazy to get crackin' in the kitchen. And since our family includes vegetarians and dairy-free types, I figured -- why not shake it up a little and go vegan??

_DSC9969.jpg

In this case, we had a bunch of canned tomatoes from 2016 that needed a purpose and I was hungry for a tomato soup on the lighter side.....which was the perfect starting place for a vegan soup. I've found that Indian and Thai are my go-to starting points when I'm looking for dairy-free and vegetarian meal ideas. I have a fantastic vegetarian cookbook called Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen and I figured she'd have a good recipe. And I was right -- seriously good tomato soup, vegan-style!

_DSC9982.jpg

A Really Good Vegan Tomato Soup

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium yellow or red onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 28-ounce tomatoes, crushed or diced
2 cans coconut milk
1 cup water
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons samba oelek (red chile paste)
2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice

Preparation
Over medium heat, heat the coconut oil in a stock-pot and add the onions and cumin seeds. Cook until the onions are soft, about 8 - 10 minutes. Stir in the spices, ginger, garlic and sauté for a few minutes, until the spices are fragrant, and then add the water. Simmer for 5 minutes. 

Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, sambal oelek, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine, cover the stockpot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Very carefully add the soup in batches to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add the pureed soup to stockpot and add lime juice. Taste for seasoning and serve (I served it with cilantro and crumbled queso frsco but it's equally as good without cheese). 

_DSC9989.jpg

Spicy Pepper & Ginger Jam

I just finished my last jar of this sweet and spicy jam yesterday and I'm really wishing I had persevered in my late summer canning marathon and made a few more pints of this stuff. I remember the day I took these photos -- it was about 100 degrees in my kitchen and the air was thick with pepper fumes....even the dogs beat hasty retreat when I started chopping these bad boys up.

I can't recall the names of all the peppers I used; it was a mixture of super-nuclear Bulgarian Carrots (those little orange ones), mature Hungarian Wax, plain-old Jalapeños and a sweet pepper or two. This recipe is super easy and adaptable -- you should use a combination of peppers that suits your taste-buds and tolerance for heat. This summer I'm going to strap on my ski-googles, put my gloves on, let the dogs outside, turn the fan on, and persist....I need a double batch of this jam next time around! 

Spicy Pepper and Ginger Jam

1 pound of hot peppers, seeded and finely chopped (add a handful of seeds if you like it hot) 
1/2 pound sweet peppers (like bell peppers or sweet Italian), seeded and finelychopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cups white sugar
2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
2 packages (1.75 ounce) Sure-Jell

Preparation 
Prepare jars and lids: place 4 half-pint jars on rack in a large pot. Add enough water to cover jars, and bring to boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and allow jars to rest in the hot water. Meanwhile, put bands and lids in small saucepan and cover with water. Heat over medium heat until the water is simmering, then remove pan from heat and allow bands and lids to rest in hot water until ready to use.

Add all ingredients, except the Sure-Jell, to a large stockpot, bring to a boil over high heat and then simmer for 20 minutes. Bring back to a rolling boil, add the Sure-Jell, and boil for one minute. Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims of the jars, cover with lids, and screw bands on until just barely tight. Place jars on rack in pot and cover completely with water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, uncover pot, and allow jars to rest in water for five minutes. Remove jars from pot and allow them to rest undisturbed on countertop for six hours or overnight. 

Cardamom and Orange Cookies

Cardamom was the name of the game in my kitchen this winter. I haven't cooked much with it in the past but I made up for lost time with Swedish meatballs, cakes and cookies. Orange and cardamom are the culinary version of Laverne and Shirley or Starsky and Hutch -- totally different flavors but perfectly matched. Cardamom requires a light hand, too much and it goes from lyrical to over-powering....which in the case of these cookies, is not a good thing. 

I found some vanilla beans in my cupboard that were getting a little long in the tooth and needed a purpose before they bit the dust. Vanilla sugar is about as simple as it gets: find a Mason jar, put in 4 or 5 vanilla beans and fill the jar with raw sugar. I let it sit for about 2 weeks and I add fresh sugar (give the jar a couple shakes to mix the old and new sugar) every time I use it. It adds a nice layer of flavor to cookies, cakes and pies. 

Orange Cardamom Cookies (adapted from Food 52)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 sticks ( 1 cup) butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 yolk of large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Zest of one large orange
Raw vanilla sugar, for rolling

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir the butter and sugar together till just combined, about 30 seconds. Add the egg and egg yolk; stir to combine. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest, stir again. Gently add in the dry ingredients a little at a time, stirring just until they are combined, about 30-45 seconds.

Scoop the dough with a tablespoon and roll into balls. Roll the cookie balls in the vanilla sugar. Place evenly on parchment lined cookie sheets and flatten slightly with the back of a spatula. .

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until cookies are brown on edges and still soft in the center.

Place cookie sheet(s) on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cookies with spatula and place them on wire racks to cool completely.

Swedish Meatballs in an Irish Kitchen

Swedish meatballs -- the final frontier in my meatball journey. A few years ago, I set out to make as many kinds of meatballs that I could dream up. I made Italian, Asian, Indian, Moroccan and even Reuben meatballs but for some reason, I stopped at Swedish. Until a few months ago when Mary came over to show me how to make lefse and she brought a container of Swedish meatballs so we could make Swedish burritos. Those meatballs, with their cardamom flecked pork/beef mixture and creamy gravy, were a game-changer for me (the freshly made lefse wrapped around the meatballs didn't hurt either).

I decided to tackle the iconic Upper Midwestern meatball in my own kitchen and I have to report, these meatballs passed muster at our monthly Let's Do Lunch cooking class at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Bayfield. And that's saying a lot for a Swedish meatball recipe developed in an Irish kitchen! 

Swedish Meatballs

1 pound pork sausage
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided
1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Gravy

4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 cups beef stock
1 cup sour cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs, salt, pepper and spices, and then add the milk, set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large skillet and cook the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. After the onions are cooked, place all meatball ingredients in a large bowl and, using your hands, thoroughly combine. Shape into small meatballs. Heat the remaining butter in the skillet you cooked the onions in and gently brown the meatballs on all sides (about 7 minutes). Place them on a sheet tray in the oven to keep warm. 

To make the gravy, blot the grease form the skillet (leaving most of the browned pan drippings behind). Add the butter and melt over low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, or until brown and bubbly. Stir in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Slowly stir in the stock and cook until gravy is thickened and does not taste 'floury'. Stir the sour cream into the gravy and  cook for another 3 - 5 minutes. Put the meatballs back into the skillet, cover, and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes. 

It was a Dark and Stormy.....Molasses Gingerbread Cake

Okay, this cake isn't exactly stormy but it is dark and spicy and that makes it a good choice for these cold winter nights. Cake baking is not my strongest suit but this recipe is incredibly easy and requires one whisk and one bowl....which is a bonus when the kitchen looks like a bomb hit it but I want something sweet-ish.   

This cake dense, rich and not terribly sweet...and gets better after it sits for a couple of days (covered, of course). 

I've served this cake with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream but it's really good on its own with a cup of black tea or coffee.

Molasses Gingerbread Cake

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons candied ginger, minced
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups molasses
2/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 8-inch spring-form pan and place a round piece of parchment paper on the bottom and fold it so it covers about 2/3 of the sides. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda and backing powder into a large mixing bowl. Add all the spices, orange zest, candied ginger and salt, whisking to thoroughly incorporate. Melt the butter in the boiling water and then whisk into the flour/spice mixture. Add the eggs and molasses and whisk until well-blended. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer plunged in the center comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, mix the orange juice, powdered sugar and vanilla and set aside. Immediately after you remove the cake from the oven, poke a number of holes into the cake and then pour the orange juice/sugar mixture over the top. Allow to cool completely and then remove from the pan. You can serve it immediately or store, covered, to serve later. This cake improves with age...you can serve it up to 3 days after you baked it and it'll taste fantastic! 

A Winter Salad with Roasted Oranges

Even though it was 46 degrees outside today, it's still winter (at least according to the calendar) and the fresh fruit and vegetables in my kitchen have taken a turn towards hearty greens and citrus fruit. I usually throw some thinly sliced lemons in with the potatoes, onion and carrots that accompany my roast chickens and I wondered- what would a roasted orange taste like? Would it taste good in a concentrated/caramelized way or bad in a burnt/bitter way? There was only one to find out and since we were still working our way through a huge box of oranges from the middle school fruit sale, I had plenty of raw material to experiment with. Turns out, it was a good idea and adding an avocado, oil-cured olives and some feta made for a complex wintery salad that will definitely make an appearance on our table again soon! 

Roasted Orange and Avocado Salad

2 oranges, cut in half, seeds removed, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces arugula
8 ounces baby spinach
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1/2 cup oil-cured olives, pits removed and chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the orange slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and place on a parchment lined sheet tray. Place in oven, toss occasionally and roast until the orange slices are starting to caramelize a bit, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. 

Combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup and Dijon mustard and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Add the oranges, arugula, spinach, cilantro, onion, olives, feta and salad dressing and toss to combine. Add the avocado slices and toss gently. 

Curried Peanuts -- My New Favorite Snack

I love candied nuts but sometimes they are a little too sweet for me. These peanuts have a nice balance of spice, heat and sweet....plus, they are a really good snack when I want something crunchy and salty. I used Maldon sea salt (my favorite) but kosher salt is a perfectly acceptable substitute. 

Curried Peanuts
makes 3 cups


3 cups roasted and unsalted peanuts
1 shallot, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 tablespoons Maldon sea salt (if using kosher salt, reduce to 1 tablespoon) 
½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, divided

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saute pan, add all ingredients except the peanuts, coconut and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the oil and honey are melted. Add the peanuts and 1/4 cup coconut and stir to thoroughly combine.

Pour coated peanuts onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Stir in remaining shredded coconut and sprinkle with the salt. Bake for an additional 2 minutes to slightly toast the new coconut.

Remove from oven and remove from the baking sheet. Allow to cool completely in a single layer before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

Chicken B'Stilla for a Double-Header Birthday Dinner

How does a Moroccan meat pie, typically served at festive occasions, end up on the menu for a double-header birthday dinner for two dear friends with December birthdays? Well, it all started with a box of oranges purchased for a middle-school fundraiser, took a left turn at a bag full of spices from Tanzania from Gen's latest African safari, merged with a CORE cooking class featuring Janel's phyllo dough recipes and then ended with an addicting spice mixture called Dukkah from Ellen. And somehow, those unrelated events and ingredients joined forces to create a dinner table filled with individual chicken b'stillas -- seriously good Moroccan comfort food. 

My first exposure to Moroccan food was a pound of oil-cured olives from Bill's Imported Foods in Minneapolis. I was stocking up on French feta and Greek Diamond olive oil when I spied a bin of wrinkled black olives in the deli case. I asked to try one and was blown away by the intense, almost prune-like flavor. I had never tasted anything like it before. Kiki, the matriarch of the Bill's Imported Food clan, suggested I throw a handful into my next batch of olive tapenande  or add them to a chicken tajine. I was immediately intrigued and bought a pound of the glossy, shriveled olives, went to Barnes and Noble to find a Moroccan cookbook (this was before all recipes were a Google search away), and made my first chicken tagine (made in a conical tajine pot and everything) that evening. I've been hooked on Moroccan cooking ever since -- the preserved lemons, olives and aromatic spices are perfect for dinner on a cold and snowy night.  

Over the years, my Moroccan food journey went from tajines to harissa (a hot chili pepper paste) to chermoula paste (a lemony/garlic/cilantro marinade used for fish) to b'stilla. I have to admit, I made my first chicken b'stilla because I loved the word (both saying it and how it was spelled) but it didn't disappoint when I took my first forkful. The combination of cinnamon sugar dusted phyllo dough surrounding tender chicken covered in a richly spiced lemony gravy was really something special. Growing up, chicken a la king was our version of comfort food but the b'stilla, while much more intensely flavored, has become a 'grown-up' version of my childhood favorite. 

Phyllo dough can be a fickle beast and tends to break and rip when I'm working with it. Of course, it could be user error because I have little patience for carefully peeling each paper-thin, dry piece of pastry off the pile and it's likely that if I took my time, it would cooperate. At any rate, don't be put off by the phyllo dough -- it's not that difficult to work with (as long as it's completely thawed). Chicken b'stilla is typically made in one large pie but I like making individual b'stilla pies because it doesn't matter as much if the phyllo is mangled when you place it in the dish....and everyone gets plenty of the buttery/sugary phyllo crust! 

The birthday dinner was a success. Aldo was dressed up in his red bow (which he chewed up right after I took his picture), the b'stillas were a hit, the vegan roasted vegetable couscous was surprisingly good (I finally found a good vegan bouillon), I found the birthday candles, and Julie and Peter were properly fêted with cakes, candles, and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. All in all, it was the perfect way to close out 2016...with a good meal, good friends and a relatively well-behaved puppy named Aldo. 

Chicken B'Stilla
makes 10 individual b'stilla pies

8 - 10 chicken thighs, skin removed
8 - 10 chicken legs, skin removed
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons Dukkah (recipe here)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Big pinch of saffron threads
4 cups chicken broth, preferably home-made or low-sodium
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
5 large eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
One 16-ounce box of phyllo dough (about 40 sheets)
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
Cinnamon sugar, for dusting

Preparation
Put the chicken pieces, onions, garlic and spices into a Dutch oven and stir thoroughly with your hands or a large wooden spoon (you want to make sure all the chicken pieces are covered with the spice mixture). Cover and let the chicken marinate overnight in the refrigerator. 

Add the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so that the liquid simmers, cover the pot, and cook for about an hour. You know it's done when the chicken is falling off the bone. 

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Strain the broth, saving both the liquid and the onions. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred it.

Clean the Dutch oven and pour the broth back into it. Whisk in the the lemon juice, bring to a boil and cook until you have about 2 cups liquid (takes about 20 minutes). Reduce the heat to low.

Beat the eggs with the honey and add to the broth, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk the sauce until it thickens enough that your whisk leaves tracks in it, about 5 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Stir the chicken, sweet potatoes, cilantro, and reserved onions into the sauce. Set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Open the phyllo sheets package and cover with a kitchen towel (this helps keep them from drying out and breaking). Generously brush each individual oven-safe crock with melted butter. Brush 1 sheet phyllo with butter, center it in the dish and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar onto the phyllo. Brush two additional sheets with butter and press them into the dish. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of almonds over the phyllo, spoon in the saucy chicken and fold the overhanging phyllo over the chicken. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle about another teaspoon of cinnamon sugar over the top. Repeat with the remaining individual crocks. 

Bake the b’stillas for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for 20 minutes more. If the top seems to be getting too brown at any point, cover it loosely with foil. Remove from the oven, let rest for about 5 minutes and then enjoy! 

Life in a Northern Town

Well, it's official -- I've written a book. It seems a little unbelievable that I pulled it off (with a lot of help from my editor, Kate Thompson) but I did and I'm incredibly excited to share it with you in September 2017!

Like most of the good things in my life, the book wasn't exactly planned but was the result of a 'what the hell, let's go for it' decision. My friend, Demaris, owns Apostle Islands Booksellers in Bayfield and she suggested I pitch a cookbook based on my blog to the Wisconsin Historical Press. After a few gentle reminders, I finally agreed and sent an email in October 2013 with a subject line of "A Cookbook, Of Sorts, From Bayfield" and a helluva opening paragraph that included, "I'm not sure what goes into writing/publishing a cookbook but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?" Needless to say, I was shocked when Kate got back to me with a request for more information...in the form of a book proposal with five or six pages of questions.  

Paperwork and Mary D is not a recipe for success, on a good day, and it was particularly intimidating to sit down in front of a bunch of questions about a cookbook (of sorts) that I hadn't planned on writing. So, I did what I always do and plowed through it, answering the questions as best I could....except for one VERY important question, "percentage of manuscript now completed". I figured any author worth their salt would have at least 50 percent of a manuscript completed before pitching a book, so I answered 50 - 60 percent -- never dreaming they would ask to see it. But they did and I had to come clean in January 2014 with an explanation that, "50 percent of the book is done but it's in my blog format and I would like to tighten it up before I send a manuscript version your way. What if I pulled it together and sent it off in two weeks?" 

That's where the wheels fell off my book-writing wagon and two weeks turned into five months. The thought of trying to cobble a manuscript together from my disjointed blog essays and recipes seemed like a huge task and I found all sorts of reasons not to sit down and do it. Until Kate emailed me on May 23, 2014 and asked, "Are you still thinking about doing a book project? I’d love to hear more about it." Like most of the good and unplanned things in my life, Kate's email came at the perfect time. 

That morning, Ted and I decided to take the Karl out for a quick spin before the kids came home from school and we cruising between Basswood and Hermit Islands when I saw Kate's email. I was still thinking (every now and then) about the book but, to be honest, I wasn't sure if I was up to the task of writing an entire book. I have zero experience in anything author-related and the thought of throwing my inexperienced hat into the writing ring seemed far outside my area of expertise. These thoughts were bouncing around in my head as we were walking on the beach (self-doubt can be so damn persuasive when you start to feed it) and as I turned back towards the boat, those self-doubting thoughts were drowned out by another voice who told me to write the book because I'll be given the words. It was settled, I decided to try my hand at becoming an author.  

I sat down the last week of May and extracted, re-worked, and cobbled together 14 essays and 43 recipes from my blog and emailed it to Kate. At the beginning of August, another email from Kate arrived in my inbox with the sentence that marked the beginning of Life in a Northern Town, "We would like to offer you a book contract!" 

The writing and publishing process reminded me a lot of becoming a mother. It’s all good when that baby is safely tucked away in your belly but shortly after the birth, it becomes apparent there is more to motherhood than picking out cute little onesies and agonizing over the perfect name. And there certainly was a lot more to authorhood than I would have guessed when I signed my book contract during the summer of 2014.

It was a long process: full of deadline extensions, photo disasters (I accidentally deleted about 17,000 photos right before my manuscript was due in September 2015), revisiting grammatical nuances, realizing that consistency and brevity are not traits I naturally possess, appreciating why some authors drink (all that word nit-picking creates massive self-doubt that only a double tequila on the rocks can fix) and how a good editor is a writer’s best friend. In the end, the process of writing forced me to distill my thoughts and feelings about food, feeding people and why it matters where my food comes from. 

Food is love -- something I've always believed and experienced in my life. However, I never realized that more than when we were headed out to the BWCA in May 2016. Our dog, Seamus, had lymphoma and was nearing the end of his life but our trip had been planned for months and, after a consult with our veterinarian, we decided to leave him in the very competent hands of our good friend, Amber. My heart was heavy and I wanted to make sure Seamus knew how much I loved him while we were gone. So, I found myself where I often go when I'm sad, happy, worried or content.....at the stove, in my kitchen. 

I poured every bit of love I could muster into that pot of homemade dog food and it was at that moment I realized the power of cookery. The food I made for Seamus would nourish him, physically and emotionally (I hoped), until we returned home. It was a small thing but making his dog chow was a way to be present, even when I was away from home. Cooking is my currency; it's the way I connect, nurture and love the people and animals in my life....whether it's dog chow for a sick pup, cookies for a friend, or roasted chicken for my kids when I can't be home for dinner. 

And that's what I'm hoping to share with you through the words and photos in the book -- for me, it's all about home, love and connection. For more information about Life in a Northern Town, click here. I'm so excited to share the book with you in the fall!!  

Making Mary T's Mom's Lefse in Mary D's Kitchen

Up until a few weeks ago, lefse was an exotic Norwegian foodstuff unknown to the Dougherty kitchen. That all changed when Mary and I hatched a plan to make lefse (her specialty) and naan (my specialty) on a November evening. Mary showed up with all her lefse gear, pre-mashed potatoes, and an unexpected bonus, Swedish meatballs for a Nordic riff on a Mexican burrito. After I poured a couple of glasses of wine (a necessity when learning to make lefse), we got to work. 

I did a little research before Mary came over because I've heard that lefse is a tricky beast and between the rolling, transferring and flipping, there are all sorts of opportunities for disaster. And from what I gathered, it's the dough that holds the key to lefse success: only use Russets, don't overcook the potatoes, cool the potatoes completely before you add the flour, and don't overwork the dough.

Luckily for me, Mary is a lefse expert and she made the dough...which set me up for lefse success. They were much easier to roll out than I expected and I was feeling pretty cool when I pulled my first blistered, thin piece of potato/flour magic off the griddle. That said, I have yet to attempt making the dough on my own and chances are pretty good that my first solo lefse adventure could be troublesome.  Thank God, I know a lefse master who knows all the tricks of the trade! 

Mary's Mom's Lefse

4 cups mashed Russet potatoes (cook in salted water and mash with milk)
1/4 cup butter (add to mashed potatoes while hot so the butter melts)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preparation

Combine the mashed potatoes, butter, kosher salt and whipping cream in a medium bowl, mix thoroughly, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. 

Add the flour and sugar to the mashed potato mixture and mix until incorporated with a fork. Using your hands, roll the dough into a log and divide into 12 sections.

 Preheat the lefse griddle to 400°.

Dust a pastry cloth and sock-covered rolling pin with a small handful of flour (keep the pastry cloth floured and free of stray pieces of dough). Place the lefse dough ball at center of floured pastry cloth and, starting at the center of the patty, roll dough into a very thin pancake, trying to maintain a round shape.  Keep rolling, working from the inside out, until the red lettering of the pastry cloth is faintly visible through the lefse. 

Dust lefse stick with flour, then slide it under the middle of the lefse and carefully (and quickly) lift to transfer lefse to the griddle. Cook for 1 minute, or until lefse is steaming and small bubbles appear on uncooked side. Using lefse stick or spatula, flip lefse and cook for 45 seconds or so. Place lefse on a clean dish towel and cover with another. 

Lefse is best served right away with butter, sugar. If you have some Swedish meatballs laying around, I highly suggest a Swedish burrito...they are seriously good! 

Back in the Saddle

DSC_8776.jpg

Back in the saddle, indeed. It's been quite a while since I sat down to pull together a Cookery Maven post and I honestly don't know where to begin. So much has happened in the past year and a half: Will graduated from high school and is at UW-Madison, Jack is a senior at UW-Madison, Sadie is a senior and is filling out college applications, Charlie is headed to the Conserve School next fall, I finished my cookbook (which will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Press in fall 2017), Seamus (our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) passed on, Aldo (our new puppy) is learning the 'Dougherty dog' ropes from George and Gus, we went to the BWCA for a week (and I only fell out of the canoe once), I have a job fighting factory farms with Socially Responsible Agriculture Project and we have an Italian student, Joele, living with us for the school year. 

Technically, I never left the saddle but I definitely took a pause in the bloggery world. Between writing a cookbook, dealing with a huge factory farm proposal in Bayfield County and the usual chaos that's my constant companion, I rarely found enough bandwidth to sit down and try to transcribe what we've eaten or where we've been. But I missed this -- the act of putting these little snippets of daily life into some semblance of order on the internet. So, here I am -- ready to roll and to begin again. Life is still so very good but it's taken on a more bittersweet tone: the kids are growing up and I'm searching for the gifts hidden in the spaces they leave behind.   

DSC_8547.jpg

I have not been camping (like sleep-in-a-tent, no-running-water camping) for about 17 years. The last time we went to the BWCA, Jack was 6 and Will was 10 months....needless to say, I was a little out of practice. Ted and the boys have gone camping for the past couple of years and sometime last winter, when bug nets and pit toilets seemed mighty far away, I agreed to go along for the BWCA adventure. Ted is a camping wizard and I figured we'd be comfortable but what I hadn't counted on was how good, and I mean heart-warming good, it was to spend a string of days with the kids. It rarely happens anymore -- uninterrupted time with five of the most inspiring, funny and remarkable humans I know. I can't believe I'm writing this but I'm looking forward to next year! However next time, I'm definitely bringing along a different sleeping pad, more socks, sun-dried tomatoes, oil-cured olives and more gravlax. 

DSC_8458.jpg

Will is midway through his first semester as a UW Badger and while I miss him like crazy, he's exactly where he should be. His senior year was a blur -- he took a geology class at Northland College, taught himself how to throw pots, grew a beard, let his hair get long and got a tattoo of Lake Superior. Somewhere between the days of Thomas the Tank Engine and Advanced Placement Calculus, he grew into a young man who I adore, respect and cherish. That old tired phrase where-does-the-time-go?, must have been coined by a woman who realized her kids were all growing up and leaving the nest. The days of endless diaper changes, Lego minefields and nap-time snuggles seem like another life when we talk now but I'm so tremendously proud and curious to see where Will's path takes him. I suspect it'll be a road less traveled...if the past 19 years are any indication. 

We rarely are all in the same city, let alone the same room and Will's graduation was the perfect opportunity to get a family photo. I am truly blessed (and not #blessed, I mean like what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this blessed) to have this family surrounding me. It blows my mind.  

DSC_8957.jpg
DSC_8959.jpg

 I planted this garden the first summer we were in our house. It's been 9 years now and the garden has hit its stride. The majority of the plants are in charge of the themselves -- they pop where and when it suits them, they grow and flower on their own schedule, and really appreciate a good, thorough weeding two or three times a summer. It's funny how you can get to know a patch of earth but I have and I swear to God, I can hear them talking to me when I'm working in the garden. The message this summer was 'steady on' and 'don't force growth, let it come'. Pretty good advice, if you ask me. 

DSC_8975.jpg

We had a banner year with our tomatoes. It was a bountiful and long-lasting harvest and I have piles of frozen roasted tomatoes and cans of tomato sauce to prove it! 

DSC_9175.jpg

Over the past year and a half, the name of the game for me was cookbook writing, photographing, editing, and recipe testing (in between fighting CAFOs, my other favorite past-time). I don't know what I was thinking when I first signed the contract -- I assumed writing a cookbook was like writing a blog post and oh boy, was I mistaken. Deadlines are serious, repetition is not cool and it's important to differentiate between broth and stock while writing a recipe. Kate, my patient editor, had her work cut out for her but thanks to her persistence, my cookbook, Life in a Northern Town, will be published in the fall of 2017.  I still can't believe it. 

DSC_9076.jpg

George has a serious thing for cookies.....he really, really likes them.

DSC_9291.jpg
DSC_9643.jpg

I think it's a good idea to have one epic meal a year and last summer, we took epic to a whole new level with lobsters, oysters and some mighty fine champagne. It was a warm summer night and it was about as perfect as those nights can be. I made gallons of lobster stock for a seafood risotto that's going to grace our table over the holidays. 

DSC_9787.jpg

I had this photo for the cookbook in mind well before I developed the recipe. Years ago, I did a Thai cooking class at Good Thyme and Becky took a photo of a trout tail hanging out of the pot.....and I loved it. Another trout in another kitchen but it's still one of my favorite photos in the book. 

DSC_1282.jpg

And finally, this little man is Aldo -- named after Aldo Leopold and a nod to Joele, our Italian exchange student (Aldo is an Italian name). He's from the Chequamegon Humane Association and they told us he's part Labrador and part German Shepard. I think he inherited a fair amount of Labrador DNA because he's even more food-obsessed than George, which is saying a lot. He's very sweet, loves to chew on socks, prefers to sleep on the couch and is learning how to be a good little brother to George and Gus. All in all, he's the perfect Dougherty dog.

Chicken Thighs with an Asian Flair

Sadie’s playing volleyball in Duluth, Meghan joined the swim team in Bayfield and Charlie’s developed a very busy social calendar in Washburn. Given the potential for a massive scheduling fiasco, quick and easy dinners are the name of the game. 

Read More

Building Bread & Community

I’ve always enjoyed making bread but hadn’t, until recently, taken the leap into bread made with wild yeast. Rebecca, my friend from Madison, posted a photo of a beautiful loaf of bread made from a starter that’s been living and growing for over 100 years and offered portions of the starter to anyone who wanted a jar of ancient, wild yeast in their kitchen.

Read More