We are a collection of Minneapolis folks cooking, preserving, and harvesting local, seasonal foods. This blog-share is meant to inspire greater culinary genius, as well as continued local food invention. What are YOU concocting in that kitchen of yours?


Sour Cherry Crisp

I have an abundance of sour cherries! Some are from trees in the park, some are from the former northside homestead, and most are from my neighbor, who generously shared her bounty. This is me picking them by the handful!

The most time consuming thing about sour cherries is pitting them. I generally enjoy it, though I've found my fave thing is to sit and watch a Lynx game while pitting. I just use my fingers to push the pit out - be aware that bright red juice sometimes squirts out, covering any nearby surface (it washes off easily). 6 cups of cherries takes me about half of a game (30-45 minutes).

I have made a few different versions of this crisp - and this is my favorite version so far. I am also attempting to make a tart cherry vishniac (Romanian sour cherry brandy) that includes fermenting the cherries in sugar for 2 weeks before adding vodka, which I'll post if it turns out.

Sour Cherry Crisp
6 cups pitted sour cherries
1/2 c. sugar
1-2 T cornstarch (opt)

1 1/4 c gluten free oats
stick of butter, softened
1/2 c sliced almonds
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375. Mix cherries, sugar and cornstarch together. I have made this both with and without cornstarch: I usually pit my cherries a day or two before making the crisp, in which case I can pour off excess juice (which is delicious) and thus have not really needed the cornstarch. I did use it in this most recent batch because I was making it a bit bigger. Pour cherry mixture into large baking dish (9").

Mix topping together, creaming the butter into the oats/sugar/almonds with a wooden spoon until the mixture is very course and crumb-like. Spread the topping evenly over the crisp, and bake at 375 for 50 minutes. The cherries will bubble up through the topping a bit.  Let crisp sit for 15 minutes before eating to allow it to set/cool.

This is delicious warm or cold, served with some kind of dairy/faux dairy product (cream, whipped cream, coconut cream, ice cream...you get the idea), though it is good plain too.


Wild Nettle Soup with Jeruslem Artichokes

This is the first time I have not had a spring boundary waters trip in 5 or 6 years. Prepping for those those trips is a time-consuming process - dehydrating food, making jerky, packing everything, planning routes, etc. Inevitably garden stuff got delayed some, and I was not always here for some of the markers of spring, including the time to harvest nettles. So this year I am here! I made two nettle foraging trips in the past week, and have been eating them every day, if not more. My vitamin, calcium, and iron levels are becoming extra robust. If you want to harvest nettles, see my older post here about what to look for.

Yesterday morning I gathered a bucket full of the prickly greens, and decided to try making pesto, and also a soup because this rainy, cool weather seems to call for it. I created the recipe from what I had around, including jerusalem artichokes from the garden (dug up as soon as the earth was diggable and now living in a bucket in my fridge), and chicken bone broth, made over the winter from all of my roasted chicken thigh bones. It turned out really nice and was a beautiful green. If it was just a bit earlier I'd have been able to use green onions from the garden, but they are already starting to produce their offspring, so I'm leaving what I have left to re-populate.

Wild Nettle Soup
5 c. chicken bone broth
1/2 lb. jerusalem artichokes, quartered (potatoes would also work)
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, sliced
6+ c fresh nettles (use tongs!)
sea salt to taste

Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes)
1. Bring broth to a boil in a large pot. Add jerusalem artichokes to broth to cook. They will impart a nice sweet, nutty flavor to the soup. Boil jerusalem artichokes until soft, 6-10 minutes.
2. As that is happening, saute onions and garlic in butter or olive oil until soft.
3. When jeruslem artichokes are tender, add onion/garlic, salt, and fresh nettles to the broth. Nettles will cook down (and will lose their stinging properties once they wilt). I had a hard time measuring the nettles, but you have some room here to use more or less than I've suggested.
4. Process the soup with a burr whip thing or in batches in your food processor.
5. Serve as is, or stir in some cream!


Rhubarb Shortcake (with almond flour biscuits)

It's been a long time since I posted. I don't know if I am going to post regularly or not, but I made some delicious shortcake this week and I want to preserve the recipe. There has been much change afoot. I am back in my southside house and am working to make it more homestead-ish. Bit by bit. I keep staring at the yard space trying to figure out how to convert more of it to garden. 

I read a couple of books recently about a woman who lives in the Taiga in Russia. It's unclear if the story is fiction or not, but I enjoyed them and they are making me even more intrigued about my relationship to my garden and plants. She talks about how walking barefoot in your garden (among other things) shares information about your body and what it needs so that as fruit/vegetables grow, they will take in that information and pick up from the universe/the earth the optimum blend of energies for you. She says that the food cultivated in this way can give you the very things you are needing for your wellness.

I have no idea if this is "true" or not, but I've been going out each morning to greet my seedlings/plants, and have even more appreciation for the things that I grow and then eat. It makes me feel happy and grounded. And in this time of change, that feels like a welcome companion.

I have just one rhubarb plant, but it loved all this rain and the bright sun and is bigger than I've seen it before. I don't think any of it was harvested in the past two years, and there were several fat stalks for me to pick. With just the one plant, it feels quite sacred! I made rhubarb shortcake in honor of my dear friend who is now making her way to California, where she will spend the summer. She and I had near weekly Sunday dinners for the past 8-9 months, and yesterday was the last until she returns. I also got to share the shortcake with my sisters and my dad: none of us have been in a room together more than a couple of times in the past 5 years. None of us are taking for granted that it will happen again. Rhubarb shortcake as present moment awareness: change, loss, and love.

The rhubarb compote is not one I've made before - I used raisins and fresh ginger. With the biscuit it became almost ginger-bready, a little spicy. These biscuits are also my favorite gluten-free/paleo biscuit yet. They were delicious.

Rhubarb Compote (a la Martha Stewart)
2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup raisins
1 cup packed light-brown sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 tablespoon peeled minced fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks or 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is soft (about 6-8 minutes). The rhubarb will quickly let out moisture, so no need to add extra water.

Almond Biscuits (from the Nourishing Home) makes 8
2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp butter, melted (or melted coconut oil)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp milk or coconut milk
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda and salt.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter (or coconut oil) and honey, until smooth. Add the coconut milk, eggs and vinegar, whisking together until well combined. Using a spoon, stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture until thoroughly combined.
3. For quick and easy drop biscuits: Drop biscuit dough by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, placing the biscuits approximately two-inches apart,
4. For classic-style rolled-looking biscuits: Scoop a large spoonful of batter into your hands and roll into a ball about the size of an apricot. Then place the dough balls on baking sheet and gently flatten using the palm of your hand.
5. Bake about 15 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

For shortcake: Slice biscuit in half. Spoon compote on top of bottom biscuit, and sandwich between biscuit halves. Top with either whipped cream or coconut cream. (This is all especially good fresh and warm, but the biscuits also refrigerate well.)


Apple Pie with double (grain free) crust

This year I poted to go for a gluten free Apple Pie for Thanksgiving (I seem to flip flop between pumpkin and apple on alternate years.) I neglected to get a photo, but want to remember this recipe because it tasted great. The crust got a bit soggy by day three, but still tasted good - it was almost like it just had a crumble top.

I used a recipe from Comfy Belly, a blog whose grain free biscuits are also great. This Apple Pie recipe is a double crust with apples that you cook in a saucepan. Note to self: cut apples in large pieces so they don't get too mushy when cooking. Also, press the bottom crust into the pie plate, and use care when rolling out the top crust. Mine tore a bit, but it actually looked good that way in the end - I just layered it a bit. It was rough and homemade looking that way.

I used only a Tablespoon or so of honey in the whole recipe split between crust and filling, and about 1 1/2 Tablespoons truvia (1 T for the filling). It was not overly sweet, but was sweet enough and will not elevate blood sugar!

(We also brought squirrel organ pate and cauliflower mashed potatoes to dinner. The pate was a initially met with some doubt, but all gave it some thumb's up after trying it.)


Spleen, and Pork Belly Rillons (together)

I happened across some fresh pork spleen at the co-op on Friday, and it looked really beautiful and was only $2. I have to say, offal is very affordable in addition to being good for you. I had no idea what to do with spleen so came home and searched my "The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating" and "Odd Bits" cookbooks. Both had good options, but I went for the latter. (I will definitely try the former though, as soon as my sage comes in: Rolled Pig's Spleen with bacon and sage sounds great.)

Spleen rolls and 2 Rillons chunks!
It turns out the spleen is like a very mild liver, really soft and buttery on the inside and tastes more like chicken liver. It comes as one long organ with fat on the inside, and both cookbook recipes were suggesting a long/slow braise of rolled up spleen. McLagan of Odd Bits says her fave way to eat spleen is to cook as Rillons (rillons being chunks of pork belly caramelized on the outside, then cooked in seasoned fat until they are moist and tender on the inside). I happened to also have pork belly, and had tried the rillons recipe one other time but overcooked them. This time they came out perfectly: melt-in-your-mouth goodness. They are higher maintenance than my regular roasted pork belly (which I make at least once or twice a month), but definitely fancier. These would be great dinner party appetizers.

Rillons (with Pork Belly and Spleen)
Rillons before I added the spleen
2 1/4 lbs pork belly (or part pork belly part spleen)
1 T sea salt
2-4 T lard
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 large sprigs thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
1 tsp smoked paprika
pinch cayenne
1/2 c white wine (or vermouth)
1/2 c water
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut the pork belly into equal large cubes about 2 1/2" by the thickness of the belly (about 12 pieces). Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Toss together, cover, and refrigerate overnight. *If using spleen, salt the whole thing and refrigerate with belly.
2. Remove pork belly from refrigerator, pat pieces dry. (Spleen will not be browned and can stay in fridge for another hour or so.)
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
4. In a large, heavy frying pan melt 2 T of lard and brown the pieces of belly on all sides; they should get dark and caramelized. (A splatter screen helps here!)
5. Transfer the pieces to a casserole dish/dutch oven just big enough to hold them in a single layer (with room for spleen). Add garlic, thyme, bay leaf, paprika and cayenne. Strain the fat from the frying pan, leaving behind any debris, then pour it over the meat along with the wine and water. Season with pepper. Place in the oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
6. Lower the oven temp to 300 degrees. Check the amount of cooking liquid in the pan: it should be about halfway up the pieces of belly; if it's not, add some of the remaining lard and a little more water if necessary. Cover and return to the oven to cook for another 2 hours until the pieces are very tender; stirring a couple of times. *If using spleen, it cooks for 60-75 minutes. When ready to add, pat spleen dry. Cut into 3-4 pieces crosswise, and roll each piece up, fat side in. Secure with a toothpick and set alongside belly.
7. The rillons can be eaten warm, or set them out to eat at room temp. Refrigerate for up to a week (and eat them on salad, or reheat in a frying pan.) For the spleen: slice each roll into thin slices and eat just like that, or on salad. Yum.


Chia-Flax Crackers (Paleo and nut-free)

Well, it turns out I have become an Intermittent Poster. Perhaps that is because I am mostly eating recipes of things I've made before, with a little less culinary creating. But My Charming Companion discovered a new cracker recipe in the last week, and after making 4 batches, I want to preserve the recipe! It doesn't have any nut flours in it (all my previous crackers have used almond flour). This is more of a seed cracker - it's great with butter, with avocado, smoked oysters, and plain. This is the cracker I want to have when I next make gravlox - it seems a bit more rye-like and I imagine the combo to be quite delicious.

Original online recipe is here, My Charming Companion's version is below. These crackers were made on one of those flat edged baking sheets (which makes spreading the mixture really easy).

Chia-Flax Crackers
1/2 c.  flaxseed meal (we grind whole flaxseeds in a coffee grinder)
1/4 c.  chia seeds 
1/4 c. whole flax seeds
1 c. water
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp.  Tamari (or twice that amount of coconut aminos)
1/8 tsp. sea salt

1. In bowl, combine ingredients. Let stand for 10 minutes to thicken.

This is the blob on the parchment covered cookie sheet before spreading.
2. Evenly spread mix on parchment lined baking sheet. This takes some time - you want a thin layer that should cover your entire baking sheet.

You can see how gelatinous the mixture is!
3. Bake at 350°F  for 15 minutes, remove from oven and "cut" into squares (you are scoring more than cutting).
4. Return to oven for 15 minutes, then flip crackers over and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes (the parchment becomes necessary here as your agent to flip the crackers). You can also break them into their individual crackers now. They are done when they are crispy. If you did not have an even spread, some of the thicker crackers may need a few more minutes.

These cool almost immediately and you can eat them right away.


Paleo Mu Shu

Happy Solstice! I have not posted in a long while - definitely not since the days were much longer and the garden was still in full swing. A couple of months ago I began an experiment and moved up to the northside homestead full time. Now I am by the garden all the time, but it's got a layer of snow covering the whole thing. Snow that looks pretty mushy today! The harvest continued so late that I am only now finishing off the last of the tomatoes that have covered the kitchen table since November. Otherwise there are about a dozen carrots left, and 3 squash. I had to start buying vegetables at the store last week for the first time since summer!

The final carrot harvest! So pretty!

Tonight's dinner was an attempt at Mu Shu, but rather than wrapping it in the traditional "Chinese pancake" I used steamed cabbage leaves. Mu Shu was the only thing I ever ordered at Evergreen restaurant, a really delicious, home-style Chinese place, and really all for the pancakes. I haven't eaten there in years because of my gluten allergy, but I trust they still make great Mu Shu. Other than the pancake, the only other thing to "paleo-ize" was the Hoisin sauce, which is a critical component to the whole thing since it is what gives the flavor.

The verdict: it was delicious, and the cabbage leaf made a perfect stand-in for the pancake. The Hoisin sauce was definitely different - instead of bean paste, I used nut butter (per various online recipes). It tasted really good, just more like hoisin-sauce-meets-thai-peanut-sauce. Which makes it sound weirder than it was, because really, it was great.

I adapted an online mu shu recipe and paleo hoisin recipe to get what is below. Because I was trying to be authentic, especially for the first go of this, I wanted to get bamboo shoots. You could substitute carrots if you wanted, but, My Charming Companion says part of what makes Mu Shu is the blandness of color - everything is white-ish/yellow except the green onions. Carrots would sort of ruin it. So, I went to Sun Foods up here in Brooklyn Center for bamboo shoots - I had never seen them fresh before, and was originally expecting to get them canned. But as I walked into Sun Foods, which is basically an international Cub foods that feels like a different world - I started seeing all kinds of produce that made me think, huh - is that a bamboo shoot? I walked by enormous yams and tubers that seemed of African origin, and then a bunch of cactus and plantains and yucca before getting to these long yellow things that were the bamboo shoots. Which then were sold in 4 different varieties! So, uh, no need for the canned ones. I was in a time crunch, so the only other thing I got was friend plantain chips (YUM!) but I am pretty curious to go back there and see what strange new fruit or vegetable I come home with.

Paleo Mu Shu, serves 2-4
3/4 lb. pork loin, cut into strips
2-3 T tamari (or slightly more coconut aminos)
1-2 T sesame oil
1/2 small head cabbage, cored and thinly sliced*
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
3-4 eggs, beaten
3-4 stalks green onion, julienned on the diagonal
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chinese mushrooms, stemmed and cut into strips**
1 cup bamboo shoots, cut into strips
5 T coconut oil/lard
Steamed cabbage leaves*
hoisin sauce
*Note: the taste will be superior if you have two separate cabbage heads - 1 for steaming and 1 for slicing for the insides. You will have leftovers from both cabbages, but one will be pre-steamed and won't be as crunchy in the mu shu!
**I just used regular mushrooms - we had some dried ones in the cupboard from a friend, so I re-hydrated those.

1. Steam cabbage leaves, aka mu shu wrapper: cut the core from one medium cabbage head. Steam the cabbage head in whatever steamer system you've got - it takes about 15 minutes before you can peel the outer 4-6 leaves, and another 10 minutes to get the next 4. The cabbage is hot when it comes out of the steamer, but use tongs to help you peel each of the leaves. It's easy so long as it steamed long enough. 8-10 leaves should do it. I set them aside in a cake pan, then 5 minutes before dinner, pop them into a 200 degree oven so they will be warm.
2. Prep your veggies and pork. Cut everything up because things go fast as soon as you get started. Put sliced pork in a bowl with tamari and sesame oil.

3. In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 T fat on med-high heat. When pan and oil are hot, pour in the beaten eggs. You are basically making one big flat egg sheet. Let the egg set until firm enough to flip in one sheet; flip it over for another 10 seconds or so, then flip the whole think out onto a cutting board. Slice the egg sheet into thin strips and set aside.
4. In the same skillet, heat 2 T fat over high heat. Add half of the green onions and stir for about a minute, until onions are sizzling. Add bean sprouts and cabbage. Saute until cabbage is wilted, but still crunchy (this took just a few minutes). Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.
5. Heat the remaining 2 T fat in the same skillet over high heat. Add the rest of the green onions and garlic and saute for a minute, until fragrant. Add pork and stir fry until just done. Add the mushrooms, bamboo shoots, cabbage, sprouts, and egg sheet. Stir fry for another few minutes.

6. Serve each mu shu cabbage leaf with a smear of hoisin sauce down the middle. Place several spoonfuls of mu shu inside and fold the sides in! (Really, we ended up cutting each cabbage leaf in half because they were so big - these do get a little messy, so be prepared!)

Paleo Hoisin Sauce, makes about 2/3 cup
3 T tamari  (or more coconut aminos)
3-4 T nut butter (I used part almond butter/part peanut butter)
1 T honey (or use part stevia)
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
freshly ground black pepper

Stir everything together until combined - make sure to work nut butter well!