Monday, August 27, 2012

Eating from the Garden

In late May, you plant some tomatoes.  Of various colors and varieties.  16 plants is a good idea.

And around the same time, you put about 6 plants of basil in your herb garden.

Along the fence of your herb garden, you stick a bunch of nasturtium seeds in the dirt.

So you wait.  And you marvel at the God of the sun and the rain and the dirt.

Then one day in August, when the moon is about half full and the temperature is around 84 and you are grilling a flank steak (or two), go ahead and wander into your garden.  Pick about 5 tomatoes, some yellow and some red.  Grab a few crowns of basil off your plants.  And pick a handful of sweet, peppery nasturtium flowers.

Bring the mess into the house.  Blow off the bugs, rinse off the dirt.  Slice, chiffonade, arrange on a pretty and cheap sunflower plate from the dollar store.  Drizzle with olive oil, add a few grinds of salt and pepper.

Then smile.  And inhale.  And smile some more.

Go ahead and eat it.  Let the oil dribble down your chin.  But by all means, make sure you have a hunk of crusty white bread, so you can mop the tomato-juice-olive-oil-salty-glory off the bottom of the platter.

Because you know you want to.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Brindisi's Pub

Our little community of Chanhassen boasts many features that make it the perfect place to live, work, raise a family, go to school, shop, eat, and be entertained.

One of the largest feathers in the cap of our town is the Chanhassen Dinner Theater!

Recently I wrote a post about seeing the new musical "Xanadu" there, which, like all their other productions, was wonderfully fun, entertaining, professional and delightful.  Add in a delicious dinner to your theater experience, and it's hard to find a better night out.


has added a great new place to enjoy an evening out - Brindisi's Pub!

Of course the word pub got my attention at the get-go.

But it's not Irish.  Michael Brindisi is Italian.  And delightful, warm, generous and enthusiastic about everything that is going on at his theater, restaurants, and in his community.  He's reason enough to go to the pub for a hearty hello and handshake!

I digress.

Eric and I had a nice dinner and outdoor summer experience there a few weeks ago.  It was a perfect, warm evening, and we sat at one of their many outdoor tables in a courtyard.  I told Mr. Brindisi it felt like a piazza in the middle of a European town.  Twinkle lights, umbrellas, wrought-iron tables and chairs, plants and trees.  So very welcoming and secluded, yet completely part of the energy of the town and dinner theater life.

The photo only shows about half of the seating area.  It's lovely!

We started out with their Big Ginger drink.  Now we're talking Irish.  Two Gingers Irish Whiskey and ginger ale.  A terrific summer drink.

Not that it always matters, but I was astonished at their simple menu and amazing prices.  Yes, prices.  Where can you get a pub burger and fries for $5?  Hmmmmm?  Brindisi's, that's where!

I ordered the Penne Bolognese, which had Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, and a very nice, light Parmesan tomato sauce, on the slightly creamy side.  It's rare for me to order pasta at a restaurant - but I am so glad I did!  Yum!

I took some home for the endlessly hungry teen - it was a generous portion.

Eric, being the of the male species, opted for the Boneless Buffalo Wings - also great - not too spicy, no bones, rich sauce.

We had such great service, enjoyed a tour of the theater building from Kris Howland, heard all about the great new things going on at the facility like Disco Nights, other dance events, plans to expand the pub to serving lunch and Sunday brunch, maybe add some outdoor heaters and a fire pit to make the season extend into the Minnesota fall months, and more.  She is also such a delight!

And guess what?  They ARE serving brunch, and lunch!  Every time we drive by, it's packed out there.  If you live near the area, you'll probably bump into someone you know when you go.

"Xanadu" is still showing at the theater.  I am GIDDY that "Bye Bye Birdie" is opening in October.  Never before produced at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, and I know I don't want to miss it - neither should you!

Stop by Brindisi's for a drink and appetizer after work, stay for dinner, or grab a bite of lunch in a pretty setting to break up your work week.  You'll be so glad you did!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roasted Ratatouille Soup

So you've got blossom end rot.

And a bit of powdery mildew.

Throw in a wet spring, hot dry summer, and various other factors, and you have again, a garden that does less than the gardener had hoped.

I'm getting tomatoes.  And zucchini.  Some cukes.  Green onions are good.  Carrots are still doing their thing.  We ate a lot of green beans.  But hey!  My zinnias are colorful and beautiful.

I adore garden tomato soup.  Throw some cored maters in a pot, add oregano and basil and salt and pepper and sugar and red wine vinegar, maybe some extra tomato juice to round it out.  Simmer, smash, taste, puree, stir in a pat or three of butter.

But I LOVE ratatouille.  The eggplant-tomato-zucchini-pepper-onion-garlic fabulous late summer casserole bliss that melts in your mouth and makes you glad that some French or Italian person had the foresight to plant all those things together.

I had a few tomatoes today, and some zucchini, and a boat load of herbs.  I lacked eggplant and more tomatoes and peppers.  The solution is the farmer's market.  I went to the one in Excelsior.  Bought tomatoes and corn from my friend Tom.  Bought eggplant and peppers from the dude next to him.  Had onions and garlic at home.

If vegetables are good, roasted vegetables are better x10.  Caramelized, sweet, smoky, savory, soft, perfect little morsels.  A baking sheet, some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a 375 degree oven are your only tools.

My haul:

Your basic recipe, WIDE open to improv.

Roasted Ratatouille Soup

One large eggplant, cut into 1 inch wedges
two medium green bell peppers, cored and seeded, one inch wedges or strips
2 medium zucchini, one inch wedges
8 large tomatoes, cored, cut into 6-8 wedges
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 red onion, quartered
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
salt & pepper
extra virgin olive oil
handful of fresh basil
handful of fresh parsley
handful of fresh oregano
handful of fresh lemon balm (if you have it)
splash of white wine
1 cup tomato juice
1-2 cups water

Place all vegetables on rimmed baking sheets.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast at 375 for 30-45 minutes.  The garlic will finish first, remove it to a large soup pot.

Scrape all vegetables, along with the accumulated juices, olive oil, and brown yummy bits into the soup pot.

Add tomato juice, a splash of white wine (1/2 cup, probably), and 1 cup of water.

Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Add the herbs, roughly chopped.  Simmer for another 10-15 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Remove from heat.  Either use an immersion blender or a regular blender, and puree the soup until smooth.  Of course you can leave it "chunky" if you like, but smooth is oh-so-nice.  Add more water if it seems too thick for your liking.

A dollop of sour cream, or creme fraiche, or a swirl of heavy cream, and maybe a tiny pinch of hot pepper flakes, elevates this soup from the sublime to the divine.