Monday, May 25, 2009

A Trip to Grassway Farm (New Holstein, Wis.)

One sunny summer day, you should go on a road trip to New Holstein, Wis. Your destination is Grassway Organic Farm; your hosts, Kay and Wayne Craig. They tend the farm and run the Grassway Organics store. Oh, they also give tours to city kids with cameras. Your tour starts with "awws." Who can resist these calves? Don't get too close, though, or they'll spook.

Watch for cats roaming the property. We spotted this bundle of cuteness under a bush near the owners' house.
Follow your hosts through the fields to check out the cows. (Hint: wear comfy shoes that you don't mind getting dirty.)

A few cows come up to us and lick our fingers. We melt. Why, hello, gorgeous.

This is where the cows are milked, twice daily, at 6:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

If you're more into chickens, there's 300 of them, more or less, plus a couple of roosters--all free-ranging. Yes, Grassway Farm does sell eggs.

We also saw goslings and chicks.

The tour ends at the farm's Grassway Organics store, which sells fresh eggs, frozen beef, chicken and turkey, cheese, yogurt, some fruits and vegetables, spices and grains. By this time, Kay and Wayne are like old friends. Load up the car and tell 'em you'll be back.

Grassway Organics Farm Store and Farm, N600 Plymouth Trail
New Holstein, WI 53061
(920) 894-4201

More on Grassway Farm: My friend Anna blogged about this trip here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Moroccan Carrot Salad

There was a time when I liked complicated cooking. The early days of this blog featured a lot of intricate stuffed vegetables, multi-step baking recipes and so on. I guess I’ve had it with endless peeling, chopping and sautéing, because these days I’d rather have carrot sticks or grilled vegetables rather than a carrot salad or stuffed zucchini. Despite my new minimalism, I do have a soft spot for a few favorite multi-step recipes, including this Moroccan carrot salad. Here’s my take on this dish, with a few updates based on a similar recipe from Sendik's markets’ surprisingly good food magazine.

First, make the dressing. Heat a small skillet, and sprinkle in ¼ tsp. each of the following spices: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, black pepper, red pepper flakes, turmeric and ground cardamom. Heat the spices for 30 seconds, then place in a small bowl and combine with 2 tbs. olive oil, 2 tbs. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp. sugar and a healthy dash of salt.

Peel 1 pound of carrots; slice into ¼-inch thick rounds. Place the carrots in a saucepan, cover with water and add 2 grated or pressed garlic cloves. Bring to a boil and cook over low heat about 5 minutes, just until the carrots are crisp-tender. Be careful not to overcook.

Drain the carrots and place in a bowl. Toss with the dressing right away. Very finely chop a wedge of red onion (about ½ cup) and a small handful of fresh parsley; add to the carrots. Add ¼ cup halved and pitted Kalamata olives; mix. Let stand at room temperature for a few hours, or refrigerate overnight and bring to room temperature before serving. Add more lemon juice, salt and sugar to taste.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Farmer's Cheese Cake with Apples

I did some tweaking in my old and all-time popular post: how to make your own farmer's cheese (also known as curd cheese and, in Russian, tvorog). Check it out and give cheesemaking a shot. What can you do with a few cups of farmer’s cheese? Make cheesecake. Cakes and pastries with farmer’s cheese are very popular in Russia and Eastern Europe.

One of my favorite dessert recipes comes from the excellent Estonian food blog Nami Nami. It’s for an airy curd-cheesecake with grated apples. I’ve made it once before, for Thanksgiving. Here's a slightly revised version:

Preheat the oven to 370. Grease a 9-inch pie pan.

Finely chop 1/4 cup each of apricots and dried plums (don’t call them prunes). Place in a small bowl, along with 1/4 cup raisins, and cover with boiling hot water. Put aside.

Combine 60 grams flour, ½ tsp. baking power, 50 grams sugar and ¾ tsp. cinnamon in a bowl. Peel, core and finely chop two large apples, preferably a tart variety like Granny Smith. Separate two eggs, and beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

In another bowl, mix 250 grams farmer’s cheese, 100 grams sour cream or Greek yogurt and ½ tsp. vanilla extract. Fold in the dry ingredients. Add the apples and the egg yolks; drain the dried fruit and add to the mixture; then add the egg whites. Mix well.

Pour the batter into the pie pan; bake 45-55 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm and golden-brown. Let cool before eating, but serve warm, if possible. Goes great with strawberry jam.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekend Notes

A family joke goes that my favorite food is shrimp dipped in chocolate. Not quite, but I do like both, separately.

*Turns out Fabian Seafood sells shrimp out of a truck on Milwaukee's Green Bay Avenue (Glendale) at the Mobile Gas Station. I've heard of this company selling never-frozen shrimp (so they claim) at local gas stations, but I had always assumed this was a Milwaukee urban legend. Guess not. Check their Web site to get on a mailing list.

*Chocolate with pop rocks is my favorite junk food of the moment. At first bite this stuff tastes like a Crunch bar, and then pop rocks start going off in your mouth. Weird and addictive. I haven't seen this chocolate in Milwaukee, but I did find Kras, a Serbian brand of pop-rock chocolate, at the City Fresh Market in Chicago.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Product Review: Rye Bread

Bad news first: It’s hard to find good Russian rye bread in Milwaukee. I’m talking real rye: dense, dark and faintly sour. Workaday rye that you can pair with a bowl of borsch for a complete meal. Sturdy rye for smearing with butter and layering with fatty sausage, like Russians do. Ignore cottony, faintly-brown rye that’s sold at supermarkets. Turn your nose at foo-foo versions made with cheese and nuts and whatnot.

Now, here’s the good news: Monastyrsky (monastery) rye is pretty close to the real deal. It’s trucked in from Chicago and sold at Spartak* in Whitefish Bay. It’s thick, heavy and hole-y. No, it’s not perfect. It’s almost five bucks per loaf. Sometime it's sold out. Other days it’s a bit stale. But when it’s good, it’s very good. Call Spartak to check when they’re getting a shipment.

Here’s how you eat Russian rye: Slice it thick, spread with butter and sprinkle with a bit of grainy salt. I like to dip it in sour cream. Goes great with borsch and schi.

*5587 N. Diversey Blvd., Whitefish Bay, Wis., (414) 332-3347.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Boozy Beet Salad

Some food bloggers never cook the same thing twice. I’m the opposite. My cooking repertoire includes a few dozen dishes that I make over and over. One of them is this creamy beet salad. I do tweak my recipes like crazy, but I’ve never messed with beet salad until today.

The Russian cookbook Please to the Table has an intriguing recipe for beets mixed with walnuts and cognac-soaked prunes. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a while because it gives humble Russian beet salad a pre-Revolutionary, French-tinged air. Actually, the final result isn’t so different from my usual version, but the boozy prunes and walnuts do give the salad a crunchy punch.

Here’s what you do: Wash a couple of beets, cover with cold water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the beets are easily pierced with a knife, 50-60 minutes. In the meantime, hard boil two eggs and prepare the prunes.

In a small saucepan, heat up ¼ cup cognac (um, Jack Daniel's is all I had on hand) until it boils, remove from heat and soak a handful of prunes in the warm alcohol for 30 minutes. Then finely chop the prunes (reserve the alcohol), mix them with a minced garlic clove and ½ cup of finely chopped walnuts.

Let the beets and eggs cool to room temperature; peel them; then grate over a large salad bowl. Add the prunes, nuts and garlic to the bowl. Peel and finely chop a cucumber, a handful of fresh dill and a small wedge of red onion; add to the salad. (I’m often tempted to add a little feta cheese to this salad, although it's not at all Russian.)

For the dressing, combine a few tablespoons each of sour cream and mayo; 2-3 tbs. of the reserved cognac; a tablespoon of sunflower oil; a good splash of vinegar; ½ tsp. sugar; and a dash each of salt and black ground pepper. Feel free to tweak the dressing ingredients to taste. Dress the salad and mix well. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
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