A Tomato Salad of the Moment

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Maybe perfect tomatoes are meant to be worshiped simply — sliced and sprinkled with good salt, a few drops of real balsamic, and some torn basil.

That non-recipe has the best effort-to-benefit ratio I can think of. But around a decade ago, I first tasted an idealized version at Lucques, a restaurant in Harold Lloyd’s old carriage house in Los Angeles, and since then, when it’s tomato season (now) and I have the time (as often as possible), I make the amped-up salad (published in Sunday Suppers at Lucques and in a variation below). It’s a mix of as many varieties of the best heirloom tomatoes you can find, freshly made croutons, an herbal vinaigrette, and burrata to balance the acidity and add depth. It’s a cousin of the panzanella and the Caprese but really is something different.

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Preparation involves several steps, but none is difficult. The dressing holds the recipe’s flavor-boosting secret: garlic, oregano leaves, and coarse salt pounded to a paste. If you want to simplify, make the dressing and mix it with tomato wedges.

Now that burrata is made by BelGioioso in Wisconsin, it’s easy to find in the metro area. Burrata has a fuzzy history. It seems to have arrived in Los Angeles around 1993 with a cheesemaking immigrant from Puglia, Italy, where it originated in the last century (anytime from 1920 to 1970, depending on the source). The name means either “buttered” or “bag,” again depending on the source. I vote for buttered (burro is butter in Italian, after all). In any case, it’s a thin shell of mozzarella holding a filling of mozzarella scraps and cream. It’s best very fresh, so look for the latest pull date.

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

When your vines or favorite farmer present you with colorful, delicious heirloom tomatoes, consider this recipe, and have fun tearing bread into leaves, cutting open a mildly explosive ball of burrata, and relishing a perfect salad.

HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD WITH BURRATA, TORN CROUTONS, AND BASIL
Suzanne Goin
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Serves 6

⅓ pound ciabatta, levain, or baguette
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
½ clove garlic
1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ pint (6 ounces) cherry tomatoes
3 pounds large heirloom tomatoes (feel free to use more cherry tomatoes and fewer large tomatoes; go for a variety of colors and sizes)
Maldon or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh basil, rolled together and sliced (green and opal mixed is especially beautiful)
¾ pound burrata (look for the latest pull date)
½ cup thinly sliced shallots (optional)
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, rolled and sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Cut the crust from the bread and tear the insides into leaflike shards around 1½ inches long. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Squeeze the bread so it absorbs the oil. Bake until the croutons are light brown, but not necessarily crisp to the center. Watch carefully. This should take around 10 minutes.

3. Add the oregano, garlic and ¼ teaspoon of salt to a mortar and pound to a paste. Alternately, chop with a knife, occasionally running the knife over the mixture, mashing and flattening it. Place the paste in a small bowl and add the vinegars. Stir. Then gradually beat in 6 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Cut the large tomatoes into wedges and halve the cherry tomatoes. (Optional: I like to peel the large tomatoes, but this is not necessary. If the tomatoes are quite ripe, you can peel them without employing the usual technique of immersing them in boiling water for 10 seconds.) Place in a large mixing bowl. Add the optional shallots. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt, some grindings of pepper, and half the basil. Toss once or twice. Add about ¼ cup of the dressing and toss again. Taste for seasoning.

5. Add the toasted bread to the bowl and briefly toss the salad.

6. Turn the salad onto six plates. Cut each ball of burrata in half, or into 4 wedges, depending on size, and carefully arrange it around the edges of each salad. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining basil and the parsley.

The Perfect Arnold Palmer

James Norton / Heavy Table

This summer, it has slowly but inevitably dawned upon me that a scratch-made Arnold Palmer is the ultimate nonalcoholic summer beverage. It’s an ideal balance of sweet, tart, and astringent, and it has both depth of flavor and brute chugability. It brooks no challengers.

Chance circumstances resulted in the creation of the best-tasting Arnie Palmer I’ve ever slammed. While making a batch of the beverage for a grill-out, I used the fruit I had on hand: lemons, yes, but also a couple of ripe oranges. The mellow depth of the orange juice married perfectly with the earthiness of the black tea and bridged the ade and tea halves of the beverage creating the tastiest version of the drink I’ve had to date.

The recipe below will get you a good Arnold Palmer, but you may want to tinker with the proportion of tea to citrus-ade, and potentially add less sugar (this is a reasonably sweet recipe, and it could work with three-quarters or even half of the sugar, depending upon your tastes).

James Norton / Heavy Table

THE PERFECT ARNOLD PALMER
James Norton
Yield: 2 quarts

Juice from:
4 medium lemons
2 medium oranges

3 cups just-brewed black tea (I like Lipton loose-leaf Yellow Label tea, which you can find in most Indian markets)
4 cups water
1 cup sugar

1. Combine the fruit juice, ½ cup of sugar, and the 4 cups of water in a pitcher or bowl. Mix well.

2. Pour the hot brewed tea into a second pitcher or bowl along with ½ cup of sugar. Mix well and give it 10-15 minutes to cool down.

3. Add the citrus-ade to a larger pitcher (8+ cup capacity), and add some or all of the tea mixture. Taste for sweetness and balance, adding more tea and/or sugar as needed.

4. Refrigerate and enjoy.

Variants: You can add a handful of cut strawberries (4 or 5) to this drink, and you’ll be staggered by how much flavor they impart after a day or two in the fridge. It’s a really nice variant.

Garden mint is another optional addition, probably no more than 2 teaspoons finely chopped.

James Norton / Heavy Table

Much Depends on Dinner: Thoughts on Homegrown Foods and Other Meal-Delivery Services

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Have we heard the last word on meal delivery services? Are you really hoping we have?

Permit me one more — or 800 more — because I have been thinking a lot about my family’s subscription to Homegrown Foods. Specifically, I have been thinking, “Why on earth do we pay for this service? And why do I love it so much?”

I am not the target demographic for meal delivery services. I’m way too old to have been shopping online since birth. I did not grow up expecting every imaginable good or service to come directly to my door.

I’m not new to the kitchen or intimidated by techniques or ingredients. I am a dedicated, obsessive meal planner. I make grocery lists that are the shopping equivalent of targeted tactical airstrikes. I keep pantry staples on hand that cover most of the world’s major cuisines.

Moreover, there’s no shortage of high-quality food coming into our house. We have year-round CSA shares. We fill our freezer with meats from Ferndale Market. You should see my collection of dried beans.

So, a service that does my meal planning and shopping for me? Why would I outsource the only part of my life I feel like I’m any good at?

That was my thinking when Homegrown Foods offered me a trial box last year. Everything was delicious. But I couldn’t figure out what hole it would fill in my life. Still, every Saturday morning, when I sat down to plan meals for the week, I would think about the convenience and comfort of that box. One particular Saturday this spring, I asked the other three dinner eaters in my household what they might like to eat in the coming week. And all three shrugged their shoulders. “Whatever you make.”

Within three minutes of the last shrug, I was a new Homegrown Foods subscriber, demographics be damned.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

And now, every other Wednesday, three pre-planned, pre-prepped meals show up in a cooler on our doorstep. Someone else has done all the shopping, a lot of the mixing, some of the chopping. But most importantly, someone else has already done all the thinking.

So much thinking goes into dinner. So much.

Dinner is a big deal in my life. It’s my anchor. If I know what’s for dinner, I can figure everything else out. On Monday morning, when nobody can find their permission slips or their shoes or the almond milk, and I realize I’m not prepped for a 9 a.m. meeting, I can look at the menu on the fridge and know that, no matter what, we are all going to come home at the end of the day and eat something nourishing together.

But sitting down with a whiteboard, a family calendar, a blank grocery list, and a cup of coffee, as I do every Saturday morning, is both a soothing ritual and an exercise that bares all of my privileged 21st-century self-doubts. I can knot myself up a thousand different ways: Are we eating too much meat? Too many carbs? (The easiest solution to that is more meat.) Should we be eating more legumes? (Yes.) More vegetables? (Yes.) More fish? (I give up.)

Lessons from a “Devil in the White City” Feast

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

In late March he had been feted at a grand banquet arranged largely by Charles McKim and held in New York at Madison Square Garden — the old Garden, an elegant Moorish structure designed by McKim’s partner, Stanford White. McKim assigned Frank Millet to secure the attendance of the nation’s finest painters, and these took their seats beside the most prominent writers and architects and the patrons who supported them all, men like Marshall Field and Henry Villard, and together they spent the night lauding Burnham — prematurely — for achieving the impossible. Of course, they ate like gods.

— from The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

This passage — written about the organizers of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago — is fairly stirring by itself. Even more interestingly, it’s followed by a reprint of that night’s menu, an extravaganza containing something like 35 different tastes, everything from soup to beef to fish to cakes to cigarettes.

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

Fully aware that what we were doing was madness, our team (see below) committed to recreating the menu verbatim in a St. Paul feast we dubbed The Devil in the Twin Cities. What followed was a 19-person, six-hour, 10-course odyssey of cooking, eating, drinking, and general insanity. (Suffice it to say that when around 10 p.m. one of our cooks was drinking alcoholic punch out of a massive stainless steel mixing bowl, the impulse was honest, not a mere jest.)

What follows is a richly annotated and linked summary of our menu, plus some lessons from the evening that you can apply to the next insanely ambitious meal you attempt (or should you never attempt something like this, let the wisdom of your choice be a comfort to you).

CREDITS: Dan Norton (above, bottom photo left) came up with the idea of executing the menu, soup to nuts (or oysters to cheese, as the case may be), cooked a challenging course, and brought many of the after-dinner treats. Karsten (above, top photo far left) and Lauren Steinhaeuser agreed to host a throng of 19 people in their home, while Karsten shouldered some of the most difficult bits of cooking. David Friedman (above, bottom photo right) and Rose Daniels provided the lovely, complicated duck course that was the single most involved plate of the night. Various guests pitched in and saved our bacon over the course of the night. Chief among these was John Derscheid, whose mastery of hollandaise and command of the kitchen more generally elevated several dishes from mundane to divine.

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

LESSON 1: HAVE A BACKUP PLAN

The dough was going through the pasta maker, but it looked as though it was going through a document shredder: It was emerging from the steel rollers torn to bits, sporting gaping holes. I held the tatters in my hands, cursed them, folded the dough back up, and tried again.

Dan had suggested the day before that buying backup pasta wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I had scoffed — haughtily scoffed — at his idea, as I’d executed fresh pasta a dozen times in the past without a problem. “Seriously,” I said, “nothing can go wrong with this.”

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

Several hours after the pasta debacle, Dave gave me something like a shout-out for the pasta as we idled in the kitchen, bottles in hand. “You died on that hill,” he said. He said it for two reasons: one, to spotlight the fact that I’d beefed it all up, hilariously, in the thick of the action, and two, to pay me a backhanded compliment — I’d run all of that dough into the ground, swearing and sweating, finally wringing about 10 plates’ worth of good pasta out of the effort.

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

A guest named Ryan actually jogged to Kowalski’s to get store-bought fresh pasta to kit out the last nine plates. It wasn’t pretty, but we’d made it work. And we’d learned that my brother Dan had been 100 percent right that there was no harm in buying some fresh pasta as a backup. Just in case. You may wish to act similarly when the risk is high and the expense is low.

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

LESSON 2: PREP IS EVERYTHING

Any professional chef will tell you that you live or die by your prep, and we came into this meal with that maxim in mind.

The Nordic Ware Square Bundt Lab

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

This story is underwritten by Nordic Ware.

Over the past year or so, we at the Heavy Table have been falling in love with the concept of “labs,” multi-person jam sessions revolving around an ingredient or a family of flavors or a particular entree. When we saw Nordic Ware’s new Bundt Squared Pans, we were struck with the potential to play around in the kitchen and bake up some new-wave cakes that take advantage of the pan’s stylish appearance and hefty capacity.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

For our Square Bundt Lab we gathered a couple of stalwart Heavy Table contributors (myself and Becca Dilley) and two local bakers whose work we know and respect: Eva Sabet (above left) from the Swedish Crown Bakery in Anoka and Emily Rheingans (above right) of Mon Petit Chéri in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.

After three or four hours of slaving away in a hot and impossibly fragrant kitchen, we had before us a forest of cakes ranging from a delicate Earl-Grey-infused Bundt to a double chocolate dreadnought. We’re excited about these recipes, and we hope you’ll give them a try – if you do, leave us a comment and let us know how they turned out. They should work in a regular bundt pan as well, although the capacity is slightly different (10 cups for square, 12 for normal.) Now: get baking!

horizontal_bundt-square-bannerNordic Ware, now in its 69th year, is a family-owned, American manufacturer of quality cookware, bakeware, microwave and barbecue products, and specialty kitchenware distributed worldwide. The Nordic Ware Factory Store is frequented by home cooks, chefs, and restaurant owners and hosts twice-monthly evening classes. 4925 Highway 7, St. Louis Park, 952.924.9672, www.nordicware.com.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

BITTERSWEET DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BUNDT

Baker: Emily Rheingans

Baker’s Notes: What can I say: I adore chocolate. One of the things that I love about it is the fact that you can create an incredible depth of flavor without cloying sweetness. That’s the case with this bittersweet double chocolate Bundt. It’s subtly sweet, as a good chocolate cake should be, but rich in flavor with the addition of melted bittersweet chocolate and strong coffee.

Cake:
1¼ cups brewed, medium-­dark-roast coffee
¾ cup Dutch process cocoa
2¼ cups sugar
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1¼ cups buttermilk

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar, whole eggs and yolk, canola oil, and vanilla extract.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together by hand the cocoa powder and the brewed coffee.

4. With the mixer running, slowly pour the coffee and cocoa liquid into the egg mixture.

5. Stop the mixer and add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well combined, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.

6. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the buttermilk.

7. Pour the batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake for 45­ to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Glaze:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chopped, or chips)
¾ cup butter
½ cup sour cream
2½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup brewed, medium­-dark-roast coffee

1. To make the glaze, melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a small saucepan on very low heat, making sure to stir frequently.

2. Pour the butter and melted chocolate into a bowl with the sour cream, and whisk until combined.

3. Add the powdered sugar and whisk again. Once combined, slowly add about ¼ cup of coffee, until the glaze reaches the desired sheen and consistency.

4. Pour the glaze over the cake as soon as the cake has been flipped from the pan.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

ALL-IN-ONE BUNDT CAKE WITH FRESH FRUIT

Baker: Eva Sabet

Baker’s Notes: We found this recipe when we were cooking at the Grass Roots Cooperative and we were looking for a great dessert. It is from a baker/cook in Sweden and her recipes always seem to be foolproof. So we tried it, we loved it, and so did the customers. What is so wonderful about this cake is that it can be made with any fruit or no fruit at all. The flavor combinations can be endless and what I like the most is that it goes quickly – everything into one bowl, and mix.

Cake:
11 ounces fresh strawberries, blackberries or raspberries
8.8 ounces butter at room temperature (preferably salted)
Zest from 2 lemons or limes
6 tablespoons lemon or lime juice fresh
6 eggs
16.9 ounces flour
1 cup milk, at room temperature
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
Butter and unsweetened, shredded coconut for the pan

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2. Butter the Bundt pan and line the inside with the shredded coconut, shaking out any excess.

3. Clean the strawberries and cut them into quarters, or leave whole if very small.

4. Put all the ingredients except the fruit in the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

5. Pour the mixture into the pan. Distribute the fruit evenly over the top and press it down lightly into the batter.

6. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the cake is dry in the middle. Turn the cake upside down and let it cool before taking it out of the pan.

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ tablespoon lemon juice
¾ tablespoon elderflower syrup, or other fruit syrup.

1. Mix the glaze ingredients together while the cake is cooling. Spoon the glaze evenly over the cooled cake.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

BACON BREAKFAST BUNDT

Pie Cherries Were Meant for Buckwheat Crepes

North Star cherry tree and closeups.
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

For the past few years, I’ve looked forward to early July as a time to gather sour (or pie or tart) cherries from a friend’s tree or to catch their fleeting presence at the farmers market. When the cherries arrive, I want to make a free-form cherry tart and cherry-filled buckwheat crepes.

Last year we purchased a North Star cherry tree, and this season it provided us with a pound and a half of fruit (plus an offering for the birds). We’ve supplemented our harvest with cherries purchased at the Mill City Farmers Market from Prairie Hollow Farm. The fruit has also been available from Davidson’s Farm at the Kingfield market. If you miss the short and unpredictable cherry season, Jean Davidson makes a fine cherry jam, and her first jars of the year ($5 / 8 ounces) will be for sale on Sunday. Frozen Montmorency cherries (a classic varietal) can be found at Whole Foods for $7 a pound. If you do find fresh sour cherries at a farmers market, they freeze beautifully.

We must now address the pitting of cherries. I use an Oxo cherry pitter. I think it’s fun. I often read that you can open up a paperclip and use the curved portion to scoop out the pit. Even Alice Waters recommends this method. But I can’t get it to work. Or you could cut the cherry in half, twist the halves, and extract the pit from the part it sticks to … really tedious. Another source recommends simply pushing the pits out, but I think this would leave you with a squishy mess. In France, the cherry clafoutis, a baked rustic dessert, is often made with the pits in. This is the real reason “French women don’t get fat”: too much effort eating around the pits.

Cherry jam beginning to cook
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Buckwheat crepes are a specialty of Brittany, which juts out into the Atlantic from the edge of France. There you can buy premixed batter in a milk carton to pour directly into your pan. The simplest scratch recipe for the crepes contains only buckwheat flour, water, and salt. Recipes often call for the addition of all-purpose flour. And the wet ingredients may include oil, butter, eggs, milk, or beer. My recipe uses all buckwheat flour. It’s moistened with a rich combination of milk, water, eggs and butter. I like the way the butter plays off the nuttiness of the buckwheat. Buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum, is not actually a grain, and is therefore gluten free. Local co-ops sell fresh, organic buckwheat flour from Whole Grain Milling, and packaged buckwheat flour from Bob’s Red Mill can be found at some grocery stores.

To make a classic Breton dish, you would place a largish cooked crepe back in the pan, good side down; add cheese, a raw egg, and maybe some ham; and cook until the cheese is melted and the egg is done. You would then fold the crepe like a loose envelope, leaving part of the egg peeking out the center.

Here are my recipes for the basic crepes as well as an appetizer of stacked crepes filled with mushrooms and creme fraiche, and a dessert of folded crepes filled with sour cherry preserves and topped with fresh cherries and ice cream.

Buckwheat crepes

Ingredients for making buckwheat crepes
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Yield: 20 or more 7″ crepes.

Be sure the pan is thoroughly heated, in step 4, before beginning to cook the crepes. Don’t be discouraged if your first crepe or two is not a success. You may substitute all-purpose flour for half the buckwheat flour, in which case you should let the batter rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour to relax the gluten. The mixed-grain version will be easier to work with but milder in flavor. The recipe can also be prepared in a blender or food processor.

Braised Butternut Squash Kaddo

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

For Thanksgiving (or Febgiving) comfort food with a modern twist, you really can’t beat kaddo. This Afghan dish of sweet, sliced pumpkin served with a yogurt sauce and a tomato-meat sauce can be labor intensive. We skip the meat and keep this as a warm squash dish with a refreshing yogurt sauce; it’s a great alternative to sweet potato, an excellent vegetarian entree, and an exotic crowd-pleaser. We adapted the recipe for butternut squash, which is more readily available throughout the year than pumpkin, and easier to work with.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

We have made versions of kaddo in a Dutch oven and a baking dish, but choosing a Nordic Ware braiser made all the sense in the world. Because braisers have tall but slightly sloping sides (think a cross between a Dutch oven and a wok), they are generally used for braised meat dishes that require searing and then a long braise in liquid. Using a large braiser, we could sear all the squash slices at the same time, with some stirring (air circulates well with the sloped sides), and then finish the dish in the oven.

Kaddo
1 large or 2 small butternut squashes, peeled, seeds removed. Cut squash in half lengthwise and then cut into ½-inch slices
1½ c brown sugar
1½ c water
¼ c vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2. Put vegetable oil into braiser over medium high heat and let warm. Place the squash into braiser, and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes, allowing pieces to start to brown on each side.

3. Add sugar and water, and stir to distribute. Put lid on braiser, and place into preheated 350°F oven. After 20 minutes, stir contents. Return to oven for another 20 minutes, or until squash is soft.

4. Remove from oven and serve with yogurt sauce.

Yogurt Sauce
In small bowl, mix together:
1 c plain yogurt (Greek yogurt works well)
1 tsp chopped garlic
½ tsp chopped ginger
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

The Heavy Table Winter Pasty Laboratory

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Few edibles are as skilled as the pasty when it comes to addressing the key problems of winter — namely that it’s cold, and you could eat a horse or two after a typical walk to the post office. This globetrotting British Isles native pops up everywhere Cornish mine foremen swung a pickaxe, including Minnesota’s Iron Range and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and its bulletproof (figuratively and very nearly literally) blend of tough-as-leather crust and heavy, meat-and-potatoes filling is a supreme example of nourishing comfort food.

We’re big fans of the pasty (the Dilley-Norton household regularly orders a dozen frozen pies from Lawry’s in Marquette, Michigan), but we thought it would be fun to put the dish through its paces with some modern fillings. Thus, our Pasty Laboratory: seven cooks, one very busy kitchen and dining room, and five original pasty variants that traveled Europe, Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Illinois in search of inspiration.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Wedge Co-op kindly underwrote our enterprise, and thanks to their support, meats, fruits, veggies, soups, and a variety of other savory items were laid out on our dining room table for consideration by our small army of cooks.

Our process was as simple as the cooking was chaotic. We brainstormed a half-dozen pasty recipes that captured the “meal in a crust” ethic. Different cooks took the lead on different recipes, and we started sauteing, rolling, and baking.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

What we’re calling pasties here are far from traditional although well within the norm of pasty-focused innovation on display at places like Potter’s Pasties and Turtle River Pasties of Turtle Lake. They’re organized around the principle of a one-dish meal, combining complementary flavors to evoke an appetizer and a main, or dinner and dessert. Spiritually, these hearty pastry pockets evoke the strengths of the traditional north country Cornish pasty, but they also represent some serious departures.

First and foremost: traditional pasty crust is lard-based and tough as tails. It’s less a gastronomic flourish than a hardy sheath designed to bring lunch down to the mine intact, with industrial-strength crimped edges that can be used as a handle by a miner in chemical-stained gloves and then discarded.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

We instead went with a butter-based empanada crust that was flaky and tender, strong enough to contain the innards of the dish but yielding enough to complement the filling without overwhelming it. The recipe we used (and have loved over the years) is Cafe Azul’s Pastry Dough, which should be adequate for seven or eight pasties.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Without further ado, the recipes. Keep in mind that we winged these frantically over the course of an evening — you’ll want to fine-tune as you make them, adjusting seasonings and proportions to suit your own sensibilities. Think of these less as scientific formulas and more as creative guidelines that have been tested by a gaggle of passionate home cooks and found to be successful.

Most of the filling recipes will make between 2 and 4 pasties, but this will vary by recipe and according to how large and stuffed you like your pasties. A certain amount of improvisational bravado is a must.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Chana Masala Samosa Pasty: Indian Spice Creates a Meat-Free Flavor Bomb
Filling for 2-4 pasties
Created by James Norton and Letta Page

This pasty is a combination of two satisfying dishes: the potato-and-pea comfort of the samosa plus the creamy, tomato-tangy kick of saucy chickpeas.

For the Crust: Approximately ⅛ recipe Cafe Azul’s Pastry Dough, rolled out slightly larger than 8″ and trimmed into a circle using an 8″ lid as a guide.

For the Samosa:
1 tbsp butter
1 small onion
2 large potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 c of frozen peas
1 tbsp of garam masala, or 1½ tsp each of cumin, salt, and hot paprika
2 tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro

Saute the onion in butter at medium-low heat until soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Bring heat up to medium-high. Add potatoes, and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to soften and brown a bit (10-15 minutes). Stir in the spices, peas, and cilantro, and remove from heat.

Thanksgiving Hacks: Thanksgiving Salad with Brown-Butter Vinaigrette

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Thanksgiving, for many of us, stretches out from a single day into a mini-season. You probably already have a couple of Thanksgiving dinners behind you — maybe at work, maybe a Friendsgiving or two. You might be making the rounds this weekend, hitting both sets of in-laws, with a stop at a divorced parent’s or two.

After a while, you realize you really can have too much perfectly lacquered turkey skin and that maybe it’s a bit excessive when the side dishes outnumber the people seated around the table — again.

You could, of course, cut down on the family obligations — but that decision would be on your head, not mine. So, what if you could change up the menu instead? I don’t mean plunking a ham next to the green-bean casserole; I mean changing up the whole meal, the whole pacing and tenor of it.

How about just one dish for your next mini-Thanksgiving? How about a salad? Doesn’t that sound really refreshing right now, as we launch into the excesses of the season? Imagine putting one hugantic, show-stopping bowl in the middle of the table, pouring the wine (How about a nice Grüner Veltliner?) and enjoying the conversation. You might even have room for dessert.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

This isn’t a simple salad. You’ll bake, saute, deep-fry, blanch and blend. We’re not trying to take all the fun out of holiday cooking. And it does include just about all the must-haves on a Thanksgiving table: turkey, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and even gravy’s perky cousin, a brown-butter vinaigrette.

Granite Ridge Grilled Cheese

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table
Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

If you follow food trends, fall seems to have two dominant flavors — pumpkin and apple. We already saw the first creep up on us when Caribou Coffee started touting its pumpkin spice drinks before Labor Day, and now the apple brigade is picking up steam. In addition to apple crisp, apple cider doughnuts, and applesauce, apples pop up in sandwiches, too, particularly those starring cheese in some capacity. But rather than pay bucks for a fancy apple and cheese sandwich elsewhere, it’s just as easy (and probably cheaper) to make your own at home. But do us a favor: skip the usual cheddar, and go with a local goat cheese for a tasty twist on tradition.

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table
Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

Seriously, goat cheese? An ingredient many people associate more with delicate spring dishes than hearty fall ones? Absolutely. But it’s essential you pick a goat cheese with more heft and zest than your typical chevre. Luckily, we have such a one at our disposal: Granite Ridge, a cave-aged goat cheese made in Kimball, Minn., at Donnay Dairy. This bloomy-rind cheese offers more ooze — and goaty punch — than a light, lemony-fresh goat cheese, and thanks to its inherent softness, it melts much more smoothly than a firm cheddar.

Challah Variations from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Weekends are for pancakes. Or waffles. Or lining up warm loaves of bread on the counter, bulwarks of comfort against a difficult week. Any kind of putzing around in the kitchen, really. Big, project cooking. Meditative, repetitive cooking. Dishes that cook from breakfast until dinnertime.

Weekends in the kitchen might start at loose ends, but gradually they lead you through to purpose (those dishes to do) and satisfaction (provisions for the week).

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

So it was that we found ourselves glancing around the weekend kitchen looking for something that needed doing. But nothing too taxing, given the state of the weekend brain. And there — perfect — a big metal bowl in the fridge, full of bubbly, flat-topped dough, the result of an overly ambitious plan to make Friday’s challah at home. Folks, I know what we’re going to do today.

Upper Midwestern Oils and Vinegars for Spring Salads

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Spring  is coming – chives are beginning to peek up through the muck, and mounds of lush greens will soon be piled high in market stalls. But in the meantime, thank God for those stalwart farmers who have been coaxing lovely lettuces from their hoop and greenhouse flats. DragSmith Farms (Barron, WI) and River Root Farm (Decorah, IA) are delivering micro-mixes of broccoli, mizuna, choi, mustard, purple cabbage, kale, amaranth, beet, spinach, kale, sorrel, arugula, and sweet pea shoots to co-ops and eateries across the Cities through this bitter season.

Though delicate, these greens are power-packed with phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and they’re delicious dressed with local oils and vinegars.

Bruce Manning / Heavy Table
Bruce Manning / Heavy Table

Driftless Organic Sunflower Oil, pressed from organic sunflowers in Southwestern Wisconsin, is light yellow and tastes of sunflower seeds. It retails for $11.60 per bottle and is generally available at the Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops and some Whole Foods. It’s always in stock at the Wedge and Seward, and Grassroots Gourmet, Midtown Global Market, and Local D’Lish. (Also see our story on Smude’s Sunflower Oil, pictured above.)

Omega Maiden Camelina Oil, from Lamberton, Minnesota, is a more viscous, nutty tasting oil with lush golden hues. It retails for $13 per bottle and is available at most Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops, especially the Wedge and Seward, Grassroots Gourmet, Midtown Global Market, Local D’Lish, and online.

Hay River’s Pumpkin Seed Oil, from Prairie Farm, Wisconsin, is a rich, dark brownish green with a distinctly pumpkin-seed flavor that works beautifully with whole grains. It retails for $19 per bottle. It’s available at the Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops, Grassroots Gourmet, Midtown Global Market, and online.