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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fair, Glorious Fair...

This year at the great Minnesota get together, we did not shy away from trying our fare share of fried goodies. I have decided to make my own rating system to compare foods. 
The rating system is as follows:

*       Wouldn't touch again with a ten foot pole!
**     Filled my stomach, but wouldn't return 
***    Not too shabby, thinking about having another
****  Blog worthy, dreaming of it in my sleep!

Sweet corn ice cream with honey butter bacon topping from the Blue Moon Diner
Scotch eggs

Onion blossom

Strawberries n' Creme

"Alligator" and fries

My husband Adam ;)

Haute dish on a stick
** 1/2

Maria's Beloved Corn Pancakes

It's not everyday that you fall in love. I can say whole heartedly that I have fallen into a deep love with Maria's Cachapas Venezolanas, also known as corn pancakes. Five years ago I came to Maria's with a few girlfriends and tried these mouthwateringly sweet, savory cakes. Ever since, I have been scheming up ways to crack the top secret recipe. Owner Maria Hoyas originally from Columbia has been in the restaurant business here in Minneapolis for over 20 years. She and only she holds the recipe. I have been told that she comes into the kitchen after closing to whip up a batter for the pancakes and then hides the ingredients as to not leave a single trace. Corn pancakes are also considered to be an arepa, a corn patty popular all over South America. Maria's pancakes are nothing like the traditional arepa, because the dough is much softer and contains whole corn kernels. The cakes are a beautiful golden color, with a custard like consistency. A critical part of the pancake experience for me has to be the cotija cheese topping. Cotija cheese is a Mexican cow's milk cheese which is dry, firm and salty. The salty cheese pairs fanatically with the sweet and savoy cake. I like to drizzle a tiny bit of syrup over the top to create an even moister bite. Eating these cakes for me is almost a euphoric experience. I normally dine at Maria's with a friend, but when the cake arrives- the chatter shops and all of my attention is then focused onto the beautiful eatable in front of me. Over the years I have tried my best to uncover the recipe. My assumptions are that the cake contains: butter, buttermilk, corn flour, corn kernels, creamed corn, sugar, baking powder and soda. Just want to put it out there to anyone with the recipe: $500 REWARD FOR MARIA'S CACHAPAS RECIPE!! Yup, it's that good. 

Click here for a link to Maria's Cafe 
My foodie bestie, Natalie!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sweet Corn Spaetzle with Raclette Cream

Inspiration for tonight's dinner was taken from a Today's show food highlight. They had an Austrian chef come onto the show to demonstrate how spaetzle is made. I first tried spaetzle at the Blackforest restaurant in Minneapolis as a child with my dad. I remember loving the consistency of the dumping like noodle, small yet chewy almost like crepe dough. Tonight was the first time I made spaetzle and certainly won't be the last. Made popular in Austria, Germany and Switzerland this dish can be transformed into almost any flavor profile. Because sweet corn is currently in it's prime, I knew I wanted to incorporate sweet corn into dish. Spaetzle is normally combined with a simple cream sauce and topped with a schnitzel or sausage link, so I decided a sweet corn cream sauce with a side of grilled bratwurst would foot the bill! While shopping for ingredients I stopped off at Surdyks to buy cheese for my sauce. At the cheese counter I sampled a few cheeses which melt quickly and blend well for sauces and fondues. My favorite was a French raclette, a semi-firm cows milk cheese with a high fat content. Raclette is especially popular in Switzerland and the Savoy region of France.

Now begins the fun part... I found the recipe for spaetzle on the Today's show website, which I will link you too below. The sauce recipe is of my own creation and can be found below as well. I hope you enjoy this recipe, I certainly did. As a tip, I recommend grilling meat to place over the spaetzle for a richer meal. I used grilled beer brats which were fantastic but unfortunately didn't make the cut for the photo shoot ;) 

Click here for a link to Today's show spaetzle demo!

Sweet Corn and Raclette Cream Sauce
(serves 4)
2 ears sweet corn 
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 lb French raclette cheese, or any soft cheese such as gruyere or fontina
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup minced chive
1 tbsp minced garlic
Salt, pepper

Husk corn and place kernels in shallow pan over med heat with 1 tbsp butter and 2 tsp olive oil. Let simmer until you start to smell an aroma of corn. Lower heat to low and place half corn mixture in a food processor with a splash of the cream. Pulse until well combined and place back into pan. Pour cream over corn and simmer on low for 2 minutes, then add garlic, chive, salt and pepper. Once the sauce has begun to bubble, grate cheese over the top until melted well into cream and corn mixture. Continue to mix adding 1/4 milk to thin out- adding more if desired. Finish by melted 1 more tbsp butter into sauce and combine with finished spaetzle. Plate with chive for garnish and any grilled meat you like. Bon appetite! 

Spaetzle noodles 

Friday, August 26, 2011

General Tso's Beef and Vegetables over Broken Scallion Rice

Traditionally, General Tso sauce is combined with chicken and deep fried, but I decided to use grilled flank steak instead. Instead of making a sauce from scratch, I used a bottle of General Tso stir fry sauce from Trader Joe's witch was fantastic. If you want to make this sweet and spicy sauce from scratch, a great recipe is as follows:

General Tso's Stir Fry Sauce

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup hot chicken broth

To Make Sauce: In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup water. Mix together. Add garlic, ginger, sugar, 1/4 cup soy sauce and white wine vinegar. Then add chicken broth and stir all together until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until needed.

Aside from the stir fry sauce, I started out by preparing my flank steak the night before with my own special marinade- which created incredibly tender beef for any preparation. Check it out:

Rachael's Special Beef Marinade
1 tsp chili paste
1 tbsp sesame oil 
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp ketchup 
2 tbsp green onion or diced red onion

Blend all ingredients in bowl until dissolved. Place beef strips or cubes in ziplock bag, pouring marinade over and seal overnight, turning bag around once to ensure all meat as been coated. 

Amazing Scallion Broken Rice
Broken rice popular in Vietnam, is often broken in the transport and processing of the rice from the field to the pot. Machinery is available to separate the broken grains from the whole grains. 
(Makes about 3-4 servings)

1 cup broken rice
2 cups water 
1 tsp sesame oil 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup diced scallion 

In small sauce pot, combine rice and water under medium/high heat and cook until boiling. When pot begins to boil, lower heat to low and put the top on pot for 15 minutes without lifting lid. After 15 minutes, turn heat off and let sit with the lid on for another 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, take off lid, add sesame oil, salt and green onion and fluff rice gently with a fork. This is by far the best rice I have ever had, and I am sure you will love this recipe!

Prepping vegetables in wok

Scallion rice after cooking

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Made from Scratch Red Wine Marinara Pasta

Last week, my husband's grandmother gave us a dozen beautifully ripe tomatoes from her garden. I am not a fan of tomatoes alone, so I decided to make better use of them by cooking  homemade pasta sauce. I have never made a homemade pasta scratch completely from scratch, so I used a bit of experimentation to perfect the recipe. The pasta sauce ended up rich and sweet from the addition of red wine and tomato paste. The proportions of ingredients will change depending on how many tomatoes you have on hand so I will give you the basic ingredients and link to a great demo on cooking down the tomatoes. 

Basil, thyme, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes 
Olive oil 
Italian sausage
Tomato paste
Red wine 

Click here for a demo on cooking a homemade tomato sauce:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Taco Bar!

Grilled Shrimp Kebab Marinade
Olive oil 
Fresh squeezed lime juice
Taco or southwestern seasoning

Refrigerate shrimp in marinade overnight. 

Grilled Chicken Kebab Marinade
Olive oil 
Summer beer 

Refrigerate at least two hours. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dinner Tonight: Grilled Asian Beef Salad

Dinner tonight was inspired by a grilled beef salad I had at Naviya's, the new Thai restaurant in Linden Hills. Their salad had a wonderful sweet and spicy dressing I will have to try to recreate. For tonight's dinner I had some Soyaki marinade from Trader Joe's I decided to use up instead. For the beef, I simply thawed flank steak, cut it into strips and soaked the meat in Soyaki marinade overnight. You could use just about any salad dressing you like as long as you're keeping in line with Asian flavors. Here is a simple dressing I know you'll love:

Simple Asian Sesame Dressing 
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar 
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup sesame oil

Simply blend ingredients in food processor, pouring in sesame oil slowly to absorb. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

HOLA Arepa Food Truck

Once I caught wind that an arepa food truck was parked downtown, I obviously had to check it out! I first tried arepas in Brooklyn a few years ago and was in love with the crispy soft corn pita like sandwich filled with all sorts of savory delights. For those of you who aren't as familiar with latin cuisine, an arepa is a dish made of ground corn dough or cooked flour, popular in VenezuelaColombia and other Spanish speaking countries. Arepas are unique because they can take on many different flavors, textures and colors. My favorite arepas are crispy on the outside from the grill and soft on the inside. Now for the food truck business, I arrived about 12:15 to a pretty long line of folks waiting to try this Venezuelan classic. I am so pleased to know that Minneapolis is right in toe with the other foodie capitals and can draw a crowd for something other than beer and hot dogs! The menu is posted on a chalk board outside the truck and features 6 varieties of arepa sandwiches, chips, salsa and guac and a handful of refreshing drinks. I order the chorizo and pepper arepa with chips and guac. A short while later, my order is called and I make a b-line for the spicy salsas by the counter. You may want to be warned about the salsas, they are not joking around with the spice factor. I taste the guac, it's pretty darn good. The gauc is mild and has corn inside which is a nice touch for a corn patty food truck! The arepa is soft on the inside but not as crispy on the outside as I would have liked. Inside, the chorizo was delicious and spicy, as well as cotija cheese, black beans and pickled cabbage. I wish there had been more cotija cheese, a mild yet salty mexican cheese- which would have balanced out the flavor a little better. Also lacking in my opinion was a sauce on the inside- overall the arepa was a bit too dry. I left the truck satisfied yet not as pleased as I was with the Brooklyn arepa joint. Needless to say, I would like to come back and try another arepa possibly when they aren't as busy. 

Click here for a link to Hola Arepa food truck!

Click here for the arepa joint in Brooklyn! 

Pasta in a Pinch: Creamy Potato & Pea Linguini

Last night was one of those nights where you need to make something for dinner quick, and there is no time to run to the store for ingredients or to search for some fabulous recipe. In this scenario, it's best to turn to your pantry for help- look around and try to find a few ingredients that might pair well together. I needed to use some baby red potatoes, peas and cream cheese so I got to work on a super simple linguini. I chopped up the potatoes and fried them in a pan with olive oil and spices just like home fries. For the sauce, I combined olive oil, garlic, butter, milk and cream cheese. Add frozen peas to your sauce for color and texture. Toss everything together once the linguini has cooked and the potatoes are browned and plate with a generous sprinkling of parmesan! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shrimp & Corn Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing

You're going to love this salad I made for dinner tonight. The avocado dressing is creamy, sweet and spicy- the perfect combination for roasted sweet corn and juicy shrimp. This recipe makes extra dressing so that you can use it again. This dressing would be great as a dipping sauce, mixed with a chicken salad, or as a topping on your favorite sandwich. Here it is folks:

(serves 2 with leftover dressing)

1 bag lettuce
3 ears fresh sweet corn
1 tbsp olive oil 
1-2 cups raw shrimp, tail off

Spicy Avocado Dressing:
1 large ripe hass avocado
1/4 cup cilantro 
1 jalapeno, diced without seeds
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup light mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
Splash worcestershire sauce 

Preheat oven to 450. In food processor, blend all ingredients for dressing. Be sure to taste the dressing once blended and season to your liking, then chill in the refrigerator. Knife off corn from cobs and arrange on baking sheet with olive oil and roast until slightly browned, or about 10 minutes. Cook shrimp in skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper until done. Cool shrimp on cutting board and cut into bite size pieces. Once corn is done roasting, place lettuce, corn, shrimp and a dollop of the avocado dressing in large bowl and toss well to coat. Que delicioso! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dinner Tonight: Red Thai Coconut Curry with Seafood and Sticky Rice

Dinner tonight was inspired by a Sunset recipe I found. It turned out great, the aromas in the kitchen from the coconut milk and curry were worth the cooking process ;) The only thing I adding to my dish was cilantro. I love adding fresh herbs to any dish, and cilantro brightens the flavors of the rich coconut milk. The vegetables I used were green beans, carrots and red pepper. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Masu Sushi & Robata

Pork belly Ramen 
Bacon wrapped quail egg, pork loin & sweet corn

 Last week I finally got around to trying out the new Japanese joint in NE Minneaopolis. Masu is a sushi & robata restaurant which combines traditional Japanese cuisine & hospitality in a hip, modern environment. Robata is a method of grilling over coal-fired grills popular in Japan. The design of the restaurant incorporates Japanese culture with modern elements such as arcades, wall murals and funky lighting. Walking into Masu for the first time I was thoroughly impressed. Masu looks and feels like the new wave of cutting edge design and culture filtering into the dining world. Flat screen TVS's hang from the bar wall playing old Japanese flicks and decorative Japanese masks line colorfully and playfully along another wall. Rarely in my dining experience have I had such an overall feeling of success in a restaurant, and Masu hit all the bells and whistles. I went during happy hour and the place was bustling already on a Tuesday evening about 5:30pm. Our server was very attentive and sweet, never trying to sell us on the pricer options, which I appreciate having been a server. We order pork belly ramen, robata and shrimp tempura steamed bun. The robata arrives first. I have never tried traditional robata before and can now say that I am a fan! The bacon wrapped quail egg was my favorite for its smokey, creamy flavor. The sweet corn was delicious and the pork loin was average- a bit tough. Next we try the ramen noodles which arrive in a beautiful clay bowl accompanied by spinach, soft poached egg, pork shoulder, mock crab and togarashi spice, a beautiful blend of orange peel, black, white and toasted sesame seeds, cayenne, ginger, Szechuan pepper and nori. The broth had a wonderfully earthy full bodied flavor and not too salty. The egg was a rich addition to the broth and the added heat from the togarashi made this soup memorable. Lastly, we tried the streamed bun. The bun dough was so soft and chewy it felt like butter melting in your mouth- highly satisfying. the shrimp breaded in tempura was delicious and topped with a spicy mayo which brought the whole bite together into a cohesive concept. I loved every bite of what Masu has to offer and will certainly be back very soon!

Masu Sushi & Robata

330 East Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 332-6278

Shrimp tempura steamed bun

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dinner Tonight: Polenta Cakes with Sweet Sausage Ragu

For dinner tonight, I decided to use a few ingredients in my pantry to work off of. One of my favorite things to eat is polenta. Polenta is made from boiling yellow cornmeal. Polenta has been know as "peasant" food in Italy for centuries because of the relatively low cost of corn. Polenta is smooth and creamy and can absorb just about any sauce. Polenta also pairs nicely with cheeses. In addition to the prepared polenta I had on hand from Trader Joe's, I also had a few Italian sweet sausages. I used the polenta rounds as the base for my ragu by frying rounds in a bit of olive oil to crisp up. The finished product was super delicious and comforting. Here is the recipe: 

(Serves 3 with leftover sauce)
1 round of prepared polenta
3 saugage links 
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup store bought marinara sauce
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch basil, chopped
1 cup parmesan cheese
Garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, oregano, and thyme 

Heat large pot with olive oil and add onion over medium heat to sweat. In another pan, heat with olive oil over med/high heat. Thinly slice polenta into rounds and place in hot pan to crisp which takes about 5 minutes on each side. Add diced tomatoes into pot with the onions and simmer on low, adding marinara, basil and spices to your liking and simmer with the top on for 3 minutes. In another pan, add sausage broken up with your hand into bite sized pieces. Saute for 2 minutes and then add to ragu sauce and simmer until polenta has crisped. When plating, place 4 polenta rounds in shallow bowl spooning ragu sauce on top. Add parmesan cheese on top as well as a bit of basil for color and get to eat'n! 

Soyaki Pork Chops with Apple and Sesame Spinach

(Serves 2)
2 bone-in pork chops
Island Soyaki marinade from Trader Joes
4 cups fresh spinach 
2 tbsp Sesame oil 
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp garlic
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 thinly sliced apple

Place pork chops in ziploc bag with a good splash of Soyaki marinade and refrigerate overnight, turning over once. 

When you're ready with marinaded pork, heat skillet with 1 tbsp oil over med-high heat. Cook pork about 4-5 minutes on each side or until medium. While pork cooks, add 1 tbsp sesame oil to another skillet with spinach and toss over low heat. As spinach starts to wilt, add soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and apple to toss. Plate and serve with a side of Island Soyaki for dipping.