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I got to use my kitchen. It was fantastic.
I’m definitely not used to the stove though. It was a learning process last night, but the good news is that I didn’t burn anything!
Sighed with happiness at all the natural light streaming in from everywhere.
It might be summer where you live, but here in Missoula we’re still in the midst of a rainy, gray spring. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome that everything is so green. And we haven’t had any major wildfires yet this year. And there have been one or two absolutely gorgeous, take-your-breath-away it’s-finally-sunny days. But the solstice is next week, and we haven’t been able to go swimming, or play outside all day even once.
This bright flavored stew brought back memories of last year. It was so hot, the last thing we wanted to do was turn on the stove–but come on! Eggplant, tomatoes…red pepper? That screams summer, my friend.
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1 large eggplant, cut into cubes
1 large red bell pepper
28 oz canned diced tomato (with the juice!)
3/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground fennel
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
juice from one lemon
3 cups fresh spinach
Feta, salt & black pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil and saute the onions until translucent and tender.
Add the eggplant and stir thoroughly to combine. Add the bell pepper, tomato (with juice), water, salt and ground fennel. Cover, and allow to cook until the eggplant is tender. About 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often.
Add the fresh dill, lemon juice and spinach. Stir until the spinach just begins to wilt, then serve over couscous or Quinoa.
I know, I know. I’m not supposed to like pork.
Here’s the thing–I can admit when I’m wrong. About food. I can totally admit when I’m wrong about food.
This was one of those recipes that I’ve never tried before, and hadn’t really put much thought into, and didn’t exactly involve a recipe.
But really, how can you go wrong with freshly squeezed orange juice, soy sauce and ginger? You can’t, really. It’s pretty much a sure thing. Little of this, splash of that, shake here and there. Voila, dinner.
Grilled Pork with Citrus Glaze
4 pork chops
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp ginger powder
Combine the pork chops, soy sauce, and the juice of one orange in a container. Allow the pork to marinate at least two hours (all day is best).
Grill the pork, occasionally adding the leftover marinade to keep things juicy.
Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of the remaining two oranges into a pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, corn starch and ginger, whisk to combine. (This is when you should also cook the quinoa or rice, according to package directions)
Allow the sauce to thicken, stirring regularly. When it reaches the desired consistency, remove from heat and let it cool.
When the pork is cooked completely, drizzle the sauce over it and serve.
This is a great mix of sweet and savory. If you want to spice things up a bit, add some red pepper flakes to the sauce.
PS: Pretty soon I’ll have progress shots of the new kitchen! w00t w00t!
I love sushi! There, I’ve said it. Now everyone knows.
Right now the vast majority of my family is cringing in disgust. If only they knew!
How on earth do I know about sushi, seeing as how I live in a land-locked state? Fortunately for us, Missoula has not one, but two excellent sushi joints. And each has not one, but two dollar nights–making dollar sushi possible four nights a week, if one is so inclined.
The staff is amazing, too. More often then not, Nick will ask the server to surprise him, rather than just ordering from the menu. They don’t get flustered or angry at him, they just smile and nod and bring something amazing from the kitchen. Now that’s service! I wouldn’t recommend doing this every time you go in, but when you’re feeling adventurous it’s definitely worth the mystery.
There are some places that, despite being a business or restaurant, make you feel like family. We walk in and we know we’re going to get an excellent meal, but we also know they won’t glare at us if we have a fussy kid–he might just get rice candy or a toy to borrow. We know that they won’t rush us out of our table, even if it’s a dollar night in July and there’s a line out the door. We know that after a hard day, nothing beats great sushi and a shot of warm sake.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never tried sushi. Just go visit Nara out on Reserve.
Go ahead, I’ll wait. No really, go eat some sushi!
What food makes your family shudder?
Ok, so not Helena, exactly. A review of a few places we visited when we were there recently. Generally, I’m pretty biased against Helena. Not that there’s anything wrong with it per se, I’m just so in love with Missoula that it’s hard for me to give Helena a fair shot. I grew up there, and there’s generally better restaurants, more things to do and cooler people in Missoula. I kid, I kid! Oh, and hippies! I love the hippies. (I’d never kid about that)
Anyway, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find a better range of local restaurants and cafes than historically present. Helena seems very corporate to me, and I think that’s where the turn-off comes from. Most of the local places I frequented in high school closed down quickly after graduation, and all that was left were chain style restaurants and short-lived coffee shops. Not a ton of healthy eating options, either.
There are a few notable exceptions to my biases:
Riley’s Irish Pub
Although the menu is not groundbreaking, the food is predictably, consistently good. The strong Irish roots of this menu don’t smother it, and fresh ingredients seem to be a top priority. Not vegetarian friendly, but not many Irish American restaurants are. (Fortunately for me, I’m not actually vegetarian )
And like me, the cooks at Riley’s aren’t as concerned with presentation so much as taste. My “BLAT” sandwich (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) and salad with poppy seed vinaigrette was exactly how I thought a well done pub sandwich should be.
A moose after my own heart.
I’m a sucker for funny food/drink names. And any place that can make my son’s face do this:
gets an A in my book. The barista was incredibly friendly and polite, and he even let my son watch him make the designs in all of our drinks. We ended up coming here more than once during our visit, and it was excellent every time.
The Bagel Company
The Bagel Company has been around forever, or at least, as long as I can remember. Freshly made bagels, every day; tons of different kinds of cream cheeses, ranging from savory to sweet. And I’ve recently discovered how good their coffee is. One of my sisters used to work here, and I’ll never forget the time she introduced me to the cinnamon sugar bagel with cream cheese frosting. To die for!
I got adventurous and tried something new, and I loved it! This was the hummus and salsa sandwich on a sesame seed bagel. The bagels are soft, yet dense and chewy, the hummus was warm and so creamy! The salsa had enough kick to entertain my tastebuds without burning them off. This is a great place to meet friends for breakfast or lunch.
So there you have it! There are actually a lot more places in Helena that I’d like to tell you about, but I just didn’t have the time on my trip. Helena can’t be all that bad with places like these, right?
If you ever pass through, or you live there, let me know your favorite foodie hangouts in Helena. I’d love to discover some more hidden gems.
Ok, so the first post was called Pierogies. I was informed (by Nick) shortly after publishing the post that it’s actually Perogies. Subtle, but different. I swear I looked it up! But, I’m going to go with the “spelling that has been used for three generations of my Polish family.” Three generations, huh? I dig.
Anyway, writing the original gave me a major hankering for p(i)erogies, and Nick will never say no to them, so we went for round two. I won’t go into detail about the process, since you’ve seen it already, but I will show you how to put the dough together. Cause it’s super hard. Or something. :)
Put three cups of flour and six eggs into a bowl. Using your very clean hands, mix until “rollable.” (Not too floury, not too sticky. I had to add more flour a few small hand fulls at a time.) I found rolling the dough significantly easier after Nick told me to let the dough rest for a bit. Roll it out thinly, and then cut and assemble. Like so:
I seriously almost didn’t get pictures of the end result again! As soon as they were out of the water, we sat down to eat and I had already gotten one down before I remembered. P(i)erogies are that good, according to me. (And you can trust me, right?) After making everything in one go, I totally understand why this process is drawn out to an all day event on Christmas Eve. They’re simple, but time consuming to put together. But, when you’ve got friends in the kitchen and some grown up hot chocolate, the time goes by pretty quickly.
You could get all sorts of fancy with your fillings, but I really just love these the way they are. No matter how long they take. And no matter how they’re spelled.
I remember that first bite vividly. The whole family was staring at me, waiting with bated breath to see my reaction. This was an extremely important dinner, as it would be the deciding factor in shaping my future. You think I’m kidding, but I was specifically told that I couldn’t marry into the family unless I liked pierogies. It’s a lot of pressure for someone who’d never had sauerkraut, let alone heard of a pierogi.
I knew about pasties and pot pies (I am Irish, after all), but pierogies? My husband’s family is Polish by descent, and celebrates by eating pierogies every Christmas Eve.
And so I poured a little butter over the top, added a few shakes of salt and pepper, cut off a small corner piece and cautiously took a bite…
It was amazing, needless to say (as anything drenched in melted butter tends to be). I was surprised by the contrasting flavors–vinegary sauerkraut, moist, chewy shell. It was what I thought it would be: simple, recognizable; but I was surprised at how well the few ingredients complimented each other.
We’ve tried pierogies a few times on our own, to great success. But nothing compares to that family meal. During the holiday season when everything is so sweet-centered, it’s nice to have a meal that’s tart and savory.
And now I have some bad news. My mother in law starts this process first thing in the morning. And she’s a very early riser. I came up the stairs and the dough had already been assembled and she was rolling it out and cutting it into triangles. I don’t have the photo step-by-step that I normally include. The good news is that this means I’ll just have to make pierogies sometime soon. Darn, huh?
It starts with eggs and flour. A lot. To quadruple/billionuple her normal recipe, she used two dozen eggs and 12 cups of flour!! (Don’t worry though, we seriously love our pierogies, and that amount of eggs and flour gave us about 80 of them. You can use 3 cups of flour and 6 eggs to start) She also added a bit of salt and pepper to taste. You can start with a wooden spoon, but eventually combine with your hands to make a pie crust like consistency.
While that’s going on, start your sauerkraut in a frying pan with some buttah. We usually use a whole, very large, jar.
The frying time of the sauerkraut is a bit of a debate between my husband and his mother. She likes to cook it for quite awhile, but my husband likes to cook it just until the kraut absorbs the butter and is heated through. I tend to side with my husband, because I really like the flavor of the kraut to burst.
Fill each triangle with kraut, and pinch the edges to close. The kraut will be moist enough that you shouldn’t need to add water or egg wash to the edges. Make sure they’re really sealed though! You don’t want any of the good stuff to escape.
Here’s another point of “contention” between my husband and his mother. When she’s finished stuffing all the dough, she lets the pierogies rest between two damp towels for several hours (until dinner time) like so:
When it’s actually dinner time, bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add the pierogies in batches. You’ll know when they’re ready because the dough will change color and harden. Before you pull them out of the water, melt “some” butter.
To serve, place hot pierogies on a plate. Drizzle with butter, flavor with salt and pepper, and then keep track of how many you eat to know who the winner is. Oh wait, maybe that’s just us…
And now I have more bad/good news. We were in such a hurry to eat that I didn’t snap any photos of these beauties plated and ready for eating. Further reason to make them again, yes? I’ll just have to post a follow-up…and buy more butter.