Thursday, June 30, 2011

Picnic Time

Well, if July 4th isn't upon us already. Wasn't it just cold and rainy?

Somehow the weather heated up just in time for a great 4th of July picnic. Sometime back in December when it was cold, I was doing research for an article that just got published in Madison Magazine (yay! my first!). It features recipes from a few of Madison's favorite chefs. I loved all of the recipes that the chefs submitted (many did not get into the article:(. The Black and Bleu Tenderloin sounds especially yummy right now, so I printed that recipe below.

What are you taking on your picnic?

Black and Bleu Tenderloin Sandwich

From Andy Drobac, executive chef, Brocach Irish Pub

1 sourdough baguette (Madison
Sourdough makes a good one)
2 lbs. beef tenderloin
1/2 lb. of your favorite bleu cheese (we
use Cashel Bleu)
1 stick butter at room temp
Baby arugula
Olive oil

Season tenderloin liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot. Sear tenderloin on four sides, for two minutes a side. Remove tenderloin from pan and allow to cool (this can be done a day ahead of time, store tenderloin in cooler). Mix bleu cheese and butter and spread on both sides of baguette. Slice tenderloin and place on baguette. Dress arugula in olive oil and place on top of roast beef. Close sandwich and wrap tightly. Eat within a couple of hours.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blueberry Crumb Bars

I admit I have a little competitive side. (I hear some of you saying little?). In all fairness, I am usually competing with myself. I want to be a better dancer, stronger, a better writer, and of course a better chef.

When my husband asked me to make something to take to a work meeting I felt the heat. (Although my competition is mostly baked goods from Costco, I hear). It took me only a few minutes of browsing to decide on blueberry crumble bars, and the recipe on Smitten Kitchen looked perfect.

They turned out delicious, if I say so myself. Picture perfect and tasty with warm whole berries sandwiched between a slightly crunchy crust. I added a layer of homemade blueberry jam since I didn't quite have enough berries. I'm pretty sure I have Costco beat. Hope you and you co-workers enjoy them, babe!

Here's the recipe direct from Smitten Kitchen's site:

Blueberry Crumb Bars
Adapted from

Recipes like this make me wonder why I don’t use more. After seeing a blueberry crumb bar on another site, I immediately wanted to make them but the first recipe seemed overly fussy. I knew there was a simpler way to do it, and lo and behold, All Recipes had it. Once I swapped the shortening for butter–of course–and dolled it up with some lemon juice and lemon zest, they were just as heavenly as the 176 commenters promised they’d be.

I could imagine easily swapping another fruit or berry for the blueberries–I’m especially thinking something tart like sour cherries or cranberries in the fall (I’d use orange instead of lemon with cranberries). But if you have blueberries on hand, do not miss a chance to make these.

These are easiest to cut once chilled, and store even better in the fridge than they do at room temperature–something unusual for cookies!

Yield: I cut these into 36 smallish rectangles

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 10 to 15 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Culinary Tour 2012 - Cooking in the Land of the Gods

Plan now for your culinary and cultural adventure! Up to $100 off the tour price if you book before June 30, OR book with a friend and receive up to a $300 discount! Ask for details....

2012 Culinary Tour to ISLA MUJERES and VALLADOLID, Mexico FEB 11-22, 2012

**EARLY BIRD SPECIAL**REGISTER BY JUNE 30th and receive $100 off your trip cost. Register with another person and receive $300 off the total cost for two people.

Rates from $2399 (double or twin beds)-$2550 (king bed on Isla Mujeres) / person

Enjoy Isla Mujeres and Valladolid, Feb 11-22, 2012

from $2399 OR choose from either destination:

Isla Mujeres, Feb 11-18 (7 nights, 8 days)

$1799 or $1950 (oceanview king room)/person. $500 extra for single occupancy, $200 less for non-cooking companion

Participants will stay at on Isla Mujeres, Mexico in Casa de las Palmas. It is an incredible, luxurious villa that looks out over the ocean. The multi-level salt water pool is the perfect place to take a refreshing swim, or relax in a hammock under the palapa. Each exquisitely decorated bedroom has a private bath. The villa includes a kitchen and large dining table so we can have cooking classes on the premises. Classes emphasize a variety of traditional Mexican food as well as Latin fusion cuisine. Take a look for yourself

Valladolid, Mexico, Feb 18-22 (4 nights, 5 days)

$799/person ($599 if participating in Isla Mujeres tour). $500 extra for single occupancy, $75 less for non-cooking companion.

Participants will stay in the quaint and “undiscovered” town of Valladolid, just one and a half hours from Cancun. Casa Hamaca offers luxurious Mayan-themed rooms just a few blocks from the town square, where we will have Yucatecan and Mayan cooking classes, and observe traditional Mayan cooking techniques. Enjoy festive dancing and celebrations during Mardi Gras, the ancient Ek Balam ruins, or walk to the local food and craft market, before retiring to your peaceful room. Book a massage or facial at the hotel, and enjoy swimming in the nearby cenotes.

Please go to or email me for further details about the trip, or for registration forms.

Looking forward to winter in paradise!


A World of Flavors, Culture and Cuisine

Find me on Facebook!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lao-Laan Xang's Mobile Fare

As if all the reasons we already love Lao-Laan Xang weren't enough—the delicious mango sticky rice, the savory curries, and the great atmosphere—there are more. If you need still convincing, just go and eat the food:)

Mobile Lunch

They have a food cart! I visited their fire-engine-red cart today on UW-Madison's southeast campus, and devoured some mango-pineapple curry with tofu. Sone Inthachith, co-owner of Atwood's Lao-Laan Xang, started his mobile food operation only two weeks ago. The cart is located just east of the corner of Mills and Johnson.

Ethnic and Local

Lao Laan Xang buys as much produce from local farmers as they can during the summer season. “We go to the farmer's market twice a week and stock up. We have farmers who are growing peppers and squash for us,” Sone explained. Their specialty items have to be shipped in, of course.

Curry for the Community

Sone was ready to pack up as I arrived today—he was on his way to the protest at the Capitol Square to donate his delicious fare to the protestors. (You might still get some if you hurry!)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Malian Seasoned Rice

Zamé (Malian Seasoned Rice) w/ Piri Piri

The first bite of the tomato-infused rice took me back to the year I spent in Mali studying dance. Just as they are here, weddings are huge and joyous occasions in Mali. Shade tarps are set up on the sides of dusty streets, under which families, musicians and friends gather to celebrate. The drumming resonates for miles, seemingly carried on the red dust that is kicked up by the dancers’ feet. During the course of the celebration, prayers and blessings are said for the couple, praise songs are sung by the griot, and all but the most elderly participate in the dancing. The bride is usually inside her husband’s house during the wedding ceremony, starting her life as a married woman inside the place where she will spend most of her time. A wedding in Mali provides an opportunity for people to dress in their finest clothes, usually wax-pounded cotton brocades for the women, adored with intricate embroidery, and suits for the men, or long tunics and pants.

As the drumming continues, the high heels and sandals get kicked off, and everyone takes a turn dancing in front of the drummers, both solo and as a group, each demonstrating their best moves. When the sun sets, the food comes out, large bowls of seasoned rice, or zamé as it is called in Mali, and frozen bags of ginger juice and dableni, a hibiscus juice whose Bamana name means literally “red mouth”. The bowls are placed on the ground and groups of friends and family gather around each bowl, scooping up handfuls of the delicious rice. In Mali, zamé is usually served with fish and vegetables such as carrots, eggplant and pumpkin. The Malians told me that eating with your hands from a communal bowl represents the equality of all people in the community. It definitely felt that way.

Ingredients (serves a crowd)

1 cup canola oil

½ lb beef stew meat

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

5 peeled roma tomatoes (fresh or canned)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 small carrots, peeled and chopped

1 yucca root peeled and cut into large wedges (can sub potatoes)

6 okra pods

1 cabbage quartered

1 small piece squash, pelled and seeded

5 habanero peppers

3 buillion cubes

6 garlic cloves minced

3 sprigs flat-leafed parsley

1 green bell pepper

6 bay leaves

2 tbsp mustard

salt, black pepper

3 scallions chopped

½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped.

2 tsp vinegar

6 cups or so broken rice (Asian markets)

6 cups water


Heat 1 cup oil in a pot

Peel and slice yucca, and fry wedges in the oil.

Remove from oil and place in bowl to drain

Add beef and onion to oil

Let brown a few minutes

Add tomatoes and paste and let fry a few minutes.

Add veggies and about 3 cups water (to cover veggies), 2 buillion, and habaneros,fried yucca and cover.

Let simmer until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile in mortar, pulverize garlic cloves, green bell peppers, parsley top,

Remove veggies that are soft, leaving meat and hot peppers.

Add bell pepper mixture to sauce and about 6 cups of water and 1 bullion, 1 tbsp salt. Bring back to a simmer.

Rinse broken rice and set in a colander over boiling stew to steam. Tie a cloth around edge of colander, cover lightly, steam about 15 minutes.

Remove rice and set aside.

Add salt if needed, black pepper and about 1 heaping tbsp mustard and 6 bay leaves.

When it comes to a boil, remove habanero peppers, and add the par-steamed rice and cover.

Remove stems from habaneros and mash with 2 tbsp mustard in mortar. (THIS IS HOT!!!!!add a bit of garlic, lemon and olive oil to dilute).

Mix scallions, cucumber and vinegar in separate bowl.

To serve:

Spoon rice onto plate. Top with veggies and a bit of hot pepper sauce, if wanted.

Garnish with green onions-cucumber mix.