Minnesota’s winter can break a person down, particularly on the ragged cusp of spring, when warm temperatures drift into the region for a week or two before being replaced by a cruel, cutting scythe of Arctic air.
One of the challenges is a lack of local edible greenery — the state’s vibrant farm system understandably tends to shut down between November and April. Revol Greens, a greenhouse farm located in Medford, Minn., is doing its bit to push back against the dearth of fresh produce. Founded by a team that includes three former partners in Bushel Boy, Revol looks poised to give wintertime greens a distinctly local spin.
The farm, which debuted its products on shelves in February, grows its greens year-round in an energy-efficient 2.5-acre glass greenhouse supplemented with LED lighting and irrigated with a gutter system that captures snow melt and rain from the roof and stores it in a water-retention pond. Revol’s product travels to markets that are four hours away (or closer), in contrast to the typical four to six days it takes for California produce to reach the Upper Midwest.
We tried samples of four varieties of the greens and found them universally crisp and vibrant, a step above most of the California-grown bagged salad mixes. The greens come in 4.5-ounce plastic tubs, in five varieties: Baby Spinach, Spring Mix, Mighty Spring Mix, Romaine Crunch, and Romaine Twins. They are typically priced around $4.
Revol Greens are (or will soon be) available at Lunds and Byerlys, Kowalski’s, Coborn’s and CobornsDelivers, Jerry’s Foods, some Cub Foods locations throughout the metro, and at local restaurants via Bix Produce.
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.
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.
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
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
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.
This post is sponsored by Chef Camp.Want to learn more about Chef Camp? Come down to the Fulton taproom tonight (Wednesday, July 12) — the Chef Camp team will be hosting a meetup and answering questions. The first 10 people to come say hi will get a free Chef Camp T-shirt!
Burdock plants are stunningly common. They’re regarded as an invasive species, and they’re also potentially a side dish for dinner.
“I’ve lately become obsessed with burdock,” writes Noah Barton. Barton is the camp cook for Chef Camp (he’ll be at both the Sept. 1-3 and Sept. 8-10 sessions), and is opening the Matty O’Reilly/J.D. Fratzke restaurant Delicata later this summer. “It’s an invasive species that is highly edible, so we can feel good about pulling it out of the ground by its roots. The whole plant is edible, even the burrs when they are young, although I’ve honestly only tried eating the root.”
“You can find it just about everywhere, I’ve been pulling it out of the yard at my mom’s house in Inver Grove Heights, but I see it all over in the parks in my neighborhood, especially around Minnehaha Falls.” (Editor’s note: Burdock can’t be removed from public land without a permit.)
“Burdock leaves basically look like rhubarb, but they aren’t as shiny as rhubarb leaves. They almost appear fuzzy. The roots can be really hard to get out of the ground, but they look like long, skinny white carrots when you do get them out. The flavor is slightly grassy, not unlike a woody version of a parsnip.” In its first year burdock is short, like rhubarb. In its second year, burdock growth has annoying burrs that catch on your clothes or get stuck in your dog’s fur. Those are the seeds that spread the plant everywhere. The roots are edible from both first- and second-year plants, but are smaller and more tender on first-year plants.
Barton adds that the recipe is an opportunity to make good use of an invasive species, and that if you’re hiking somewhere where its harvest is legal, it could be an ideal foraged food from the trail.
“One could make the dressing ahead of time and then head out with a shovel in tow,” he writes. “Upon returning to their campsite [foragers] could quickly peel and shred the roots using just a vegetable peeler and blanch them in boiling water before marinating. It’s like ‘one less thing to pack’ salad. Of course, you could also add other vegetables, carrots, cabbage, or whatever to the mix.”
Kathy Yerich contributed to this story.
SPICY BURDOCK SALAD
12 ounces burdock root
¼ cup rice wine vinegar (seasoned)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
½ tablespoon sambal oelek
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Combine rice vinegar, sesame oil, sambal, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, and salt and mix well. Set aside.
2. Wash burdock root well. Using a vegetable peeler, remove outer skin.
3. Use vegetable peeler to cut burdock into thin strips.
4. Blanch burdock in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, or until just tender.
5. Place blanched burdock into dressing mixture and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
It’s a noble idea: Build a quick-service eatery that’s a lot healthier than the average fast food place. The North Loop’s Crisp & Green (another branch is in Wayzata) opened its doors a couple of months ago with the idea that people want plenty of fresh vegetables in the form of salads.
If you’re thinking of salad as the sad, throwaway dish some eateries add to the menu out of a feeling of obligation, the good news is that you’ll find that Crisp & Green has put care and thought into developing its salad-based menu (along with a couple of seasonal soups). Salads fall into two categories: signature, which are greens-based, and grain bowls.
On a recent visit, we tried the No Prob Cobb ($12.75) from the Signature menu. It was a hearty mixture of spinach, kale, chicken, avocado, tomato, bacon, queso fresco, and jalapeño, tossed in a jalapeño green goddess dressing. The vegetables were all fresh, with nary a wilting, slimy spinach piece in sight. The roast chicken was tender and juicy. The dressing tasted strongly of fresh tarragon — not a bad thing — and there was a surprisingly generous amount of avocado. The only major qualm we had was that there was a high number of raw jalapeño pieces and a low number of crispy bacon (real bacon) pieces; that’s an equation we’d like to see reversed.
The Minnesoba Bowl ($10.50) was a congenial take on an Asian salad. A bed of soba noodles was topped with spinach, pickled shiitake mushrooms, Persian cucumber, carrots, and bean sprouts, sprinkled with wasabi furikake, and tossed with a yuzo-miso-sesame dressing. The softness of the noodles (cooked past al dente) paired well with the crisp veggies, giving a nice balance of textures, and the cool salad benefited from the prickles of heat from the furikake and the tangy dressing.
When ordering a salad, you’ll be asked if you want the “regular amount” of dressing; we said yes, and found the salads to be overdressed. If you like extra dressing, you’ll be fine; otherwise, ask for a lighter dressing portion, or for dressing on the side.
We had mixed results with Crisp & Green’s beverages. The Purple Rain smoothie ($6.75), with blueberries, strawberries, banana, apple, and unflavored pea protein, was not overly sweet, as its description might imply. But one in our group thought the smoothie was — well — smooth, while another found an unpleasant grittiness with each sip. The cucumber-lime Agua Fresca ($2.75) tasted aggressively of cucumber, with the lime disappearing or leaving a slight aftertaste that was somewhat vinegary in nature, and not in a good way.
Still, the salads were of good quality (overdressing aside), hearty in size, and prepared in front of the customer by friendly, knowledgeable staff. The big question is whether or not spending $10-$12 for a custom-made salad (or you can concoct your own, starting at $7.25) is something people will want to do, especially when winter returns and people look for warmer foods. There’s also the question of whether people want to pay those prices when they can go to pretty much any grocery store, from Cub Foods to the co-ops, and build a salad themselves, for less money. No, the self-built salad won’t be as good and you won’t have access to as many unique ingredients (you don’t often see furikake at a grocery-store salad bar), but there are trade-offs. Regardless, it’s nice to see another stab at quick and healthy in the food market.
428 Washington Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Daily 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $7-$13
NOISE LEVEL: High
PARKING: Some free parking spots; street meters
In our experience, the trouble (if any) with Blue Plate Restaurant Company establishments has generally come down to the food. Service is warm and enthusiastic, decor is comfortable without being sloppy, menus are approachable without being boring, and then it happens: the $14 entree that tastes as though it were decanted from a vacuum-sealed plastic bag rather than being cooked in a kitchen by a person. (Or worse: Soon after opening, Freehouse served us a lobster mac and cheese that was so bad it was downright magnificent.) If all you’re looking for is a comfortable place to hang out, that’s not a deal breaker, but it’s kept us from revisiting a number of Blue Plate spots.
However: Good and unexpected things are happening at Bottle Rocket, which went into the former Scusi location on St. Clair Avenue in St. Paul. There’s nothing particularly ambitious about Bottle Rocket’s menu, which revolves around familiar sandwiches, burgers, salads, and appetizers, but everything is given a welcome twist.
We weren’t asking much of our Gorgonzola Chicken Salad ($12.60), featuring ham and roasted chicken, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, cheese, and a simple vinaigrette. And yet this was one of those salads you can’t stop eating, because the ratio of greens to proteins to properly made dressing is so happily aligned. Well-composed bites are what you get every time you stab your fork, and that’s a rare pleasure.
Our Freehouse Brew Burger ($11.60) was built from a couple of properly cooked (medium rare, as ordered) patties slathered in Velveeta, provolone, “brewer’s mayo” (something akin to special sauce), piquant and lovely slices of house pickles, and served on a rich but delicate toasted egg bun. Much like the salad, a good sense of balance (acid versus fats, bun versus meat) makes this a compelling burger even in a market that’s increasingly glutted with them. The fries that came on the side tasted distinctly of potatoes, and were crisp without being brittle. In all, a burger (and fries) to return for.
Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.
Butternut Squash Daiquiri at Cafe Alma A butternut squash cocktail doesn’t sound like something you would want to order, especially in favor of the other great cocktail choices on Cafe Alma’s menu, but this one is worth trying. The squash notes are subtle, but add a wonderful earthiness to the drink. There is a burst of lemon for freshness and acidity, which balances the mild sweetness of the squash. If that isn’t enough, the drink is served in an adorable hollowed gourd, and topped with a velvety sage leaf, making it one of the best looking cocktails around.
[Debuting on the Hot Five |Submitted by Varsha Koneru]
Moon Tea from Sacred Blossom Farm Tony DiMaggio grows, dries, and blends the herbs that go into Sacred Blossom tea at the Gilmanton, Wisconsin farm of the same name. We tried the lavender- and chamomile-forward Moon blend and found it to be profoundly soothing – it’s a bright floral touch of summer, and lacks any of the dusty or weedy notes that sometimes mar herbal teas. You can order this local brew via the farm’s Kickstarter campaign, which wraps up in about week. Dogwood Coffee and The Produce Exchange at Midtown Global Market will also begin carrying retails packs of Sacred Blossom tea next week.
[Debuting on the Hot Five |Submitted by James Norton]
Beef Tagine at Moroccan Flavors A speedy, elegant lunch from a warming tray? Yes. In the heart of the Midtown Global Market, you can get an authentic, slow-cooked tagine. The beef is rich, sweet and mildly spicy, served with apricots, prunes and almonds over rice. Or choose chicken and squash, served over couscous. [Debutingon the Hot Five |Submitted by Bruce Manning]
Cry Baby Burger from Jimmy’s Billiards The Cry Baby Burger from Jimmy’s Billiards is as feisty as its name sounds. Jalapeño peppers, pepper Jack cheese, and a small but mighty dose of hot sauce will clear those sinuses in no time. Spring for the sour cream for the fries as a heat-reducing dairy product.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #4 | Submitted by Amy Rea]
Apple, Grilled Cabbage and Prosciutto Salad at Burch This salad was a nice balance of sweet, tart, and slightly salty … an excellent complement to most of the rich menu items at Burch. “Grilled cabbage” suggests a salty and/or smokey flavor profile, but there was no hint of the grilling in either taste or temperature. Below the mound of green apple bites and shredded cabbage was a generous layer of thinly sliced prosciutto. A touch of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few chives on top enhanced each of the individual flavors.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]
Salade nicoise isn’t exciting, but when done right, it’s a really satisfying meal — and never more so than when paired with iced tea on a sweltering late summer day. It’s not that we’d forgotten this classic, but in tracking down the latest trends we had sort of forgotten it. The loss was entirely ours. Over a recent lunch at the French Meadow Bakery & Cafe in Minneapolis, we rediscovered the French bistro classic (“in the style of Nice”) and its many pleasures.
At $15, Fresh Meadow’s nicoise isn’t cheap. But it’s hearty and includes impeccable ingredients. A good-sized portion of expertly seared ahi tuna goes a long way toward justifying the price, as do the juicy, super flavorful roasted tomatoes (far better than the desiccated, sun-dried tomatoes so popular in the 1990s). A lemon-herb vinaigrette and a mixture of olives brighten the dish and add briny zip. Rounded out with purple fingerling potatoes and a whole, hard-boiled egg, the salad avoids the perennial problem of its genre by being substantial enough to make for a satisfying and filling entree. Oh, and we can’t forget the crisp-yet-tender French green beans that provide great texture and subtle sweetness.
French Meadow could make this delicious salad even better by adding or offering anchovies — a key element of traditional salade nicoise — for a touch of funkiness. But even though we missed the funky fish, we’ll be back for this straightforward, healthy, and delicious summer treat.
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.
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.
For many of us, salad is our meal starter because, well, that’s how we think it’s supposed to be. We shovel down several forkfuls of lettuce and raw veggies so we can indulge in a richer main course. And while choosing such a strategy at the Uptown mainstay Barbette makes sense — especially when your meal includes the hearty (and salty) steak frites — chef Sarah Master provides an excellent reason to appreciate the salad course on its own merits. Case in point: a generous plate of field greens ($7.50).
It may be hard to imagine why a dish featuring just four ingredients — a toss of greens, pickled onions, celery hearts, and a dill vermouth vinaigrette – is worth mentioning beyond a sentence or two. There’s nothing fancy about this salad: no crumbly cheese, no pieces of prosciutto, no vegetables that have been roasted, grilled, or otherwise coaxed into lending the salad the ubiquitous umami flavor invading menus everywhere these days. But what it does offer works to such a degree that you’ll be thinking about this dish the next time you run through the cafeteria salad bar, hoping to capture the same satisfaction that Master achieves in her simple and sublime starter.
While that dressing, which walks the line between the sweetness of vermouth and the more savory, grassy dill, is key to the overall success of the salad, it’s not the be-all and end-all of the dish. The vinaigrette needs the kind of green that readily absorbs, and doesn’t fight against, the dressing’s strong flavors, and the choice of light, curly lettuces is much more suitable than thicker spinach or iceberg. The pickled onions pack a subtly briny punch to temper the vinaigrette’s sweetness, and the celery hearts ensure that any greens that may have received a extra dousing of dressing are balanced with the crunch and neutrality of an often-overlooked vegetable.
It may not be as sexy as the salmon Niçoise or lardon-laden frisée options at Barbette, but don’t miss a chance to savor the field greens the next time you find yourself seated at one of Barbette’s cozy tables. Appreciate the simple, sweet flavors of a plate of greens, and get your umami fix elsewhere. That steak will wait for you.
Barbette, 1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis; 612.827.5710
All summer we pluck green things from our gardens, handle tomatoes like precious gems, and pop fresh things in our mouths without giving it a second thought. We want our food crunchy and cool, or — if it’s cooked — barely kissed with heat for a crisp exterior.
Then winter rears, bringing dreams of hibernation and all things fatty and toasty warm. It’s time for roasts and braising, creamy soups and flaky pies. It is so not salad season.
Unless you’re Hello Pizza, the slice shop sibling of Pizzeria Lola in South Minneapolis. We love their big, foldable slices of classic pizza combinations that practice delicious, “basic restraint.” And happily, the same can be said for Hello Pizza’s salads. From a humble list of three, try the Smokey Greens Salad ($7.50, $4 side order), a mixing bowl full of spring greens that feels right at home in the middle of November. The fluffy greens are piled with crunchy, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), crumbled blue cheese, and soft, sweet onions.