Market Musings Blog

A condiment that brings the heat – Giardiniera

Okay, I won’t lie, in my house, we’re a little less than patient for spring to really be here.  Thinking about warm weather makes me think of grilling, which in turn makes me think about condiments.  About a year ago, I discovered my new favorite: giardiniera.

giardiniera soakingIn traditional Italian cuisine, this is simply a medley of pickled veggies, such as carrots, cauliflower, mild peppers, and beans soaked in salt and vinegar.  What I’m talking about, though, is actually a variety that originated in Chicago: some of the veggies above with a healthy dose of hot peppers, soaked in brine and then oil.  This type of giardiniera can is often found as an option to top Italian beef sandwiches, but adding it to most any sandwich/burger/sausage is tasty.  Or steak or chickenOr fish or eggs…or anything, really.  Also, it’s quite easy to make as home, allowing you to put your own unique twist on it.  Last summer, I tried my hand at making giardiniera, and just a few days ago emptied the last jar of that batch—time to make more!

Wanting to make my own, rather than just buying the standard, simple options from a big box store, I did my research into recipes, and opted to synthesize ideas from a handful.  I used this one from Jeff Mauro, but some of my additions or changes are below.

Giardiniera - colorful

  • 1 cup small-diced carrots
  • 1 cup tiny cauliflower florets
  • 4 to 8 serrano peppers, sliced into rings (depending on how much heat you want)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced small
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup diced olives (I used a plain green, but any of the olives we sell by the deli would work well)
  • ~2 cups olive oil or olive/canola blend, though most any cooking oil will work.
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prep is easy, though a tad time consuming if you decide to make a large batch, like I did today.

    • Slice the serranos into coins (leaving in all that wonderful spice of seeds) and dice the rest of the veg up nice and small—getting the carrots cut up took the longest, but having big chunks isn’t ideal in the finished product.
    • In a non-reactive bowl, pour on the salt and add enough water to the bowl to just cover everything.  Give this a couple good stirs and let it sit in the fridge for a day or two.
    • After the soak time, drain in a colander and rinse well—the first time I did this, I didn’t rinse as well as I had thought and ended up with a saltier batch than anticipated.
    • Toss the pepper and veggie mixture with fresh ground black pepper and whatever herbs you want to use, and spoon it into mason jars.
    • Add enough oil to the jars to cover, close ‘em up, and let sit for another day to fully marinate.

While most recipes I’ve seen suggest using your fresh giardiniera within a few weeks, I’ve not had any problem with leaving my not-in-use jars at the far back of the fridge—the cold here might solidify the oil (which makes it pretty easy to spread, actually), but a few minutes at room temperature liquefies it pretty quickly.

Giardiniera - jars

Like most anything by way of homemade condiments, giardiniera lends itself well to personalization.  Want some extra heat?  Toss in some red pepper flakes or a little of your favorite hot sauce.  If you’re a fan of smokey flavors like this guy, try substituting some of the regular salt with the applewood smoked salt that we have available in both packaged grocery and bulk herbs (I tried this this time around—haven’t tasted it yet, but brining in smoked salt certainly imbued the veg mix with the aroma!).  If your household prefers more mild flavors, nix the serranos in favor of sweet peppers.  Grab some small jars and use this as homemade gifts for family and friends—if you can bring yourself to sharing!

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As mentioned above, you’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.

Kickin’ it with kimchi

green cabbage

Napa or Chinese cabbage is traditionally used for making Korean winter kimchi, but it’s far from the only vegetable you can use for that purpose. At this time of year, good old green cabbages are available from Minnesota and Wisconsin growers in sizes ranging from the very small to the immense. While making kimchi from these is a little different from using the thinner-leafed, flexible napa cabbages, it can be done, and the results are just as tasty.

Traditional Korean kimchi varies by season, as you’d expect, but it usually includes several common elements: ginger, garlic, and a pleasing array of colors. Some incorporate fruit; others are limited to vegetables; many incorporate fish or fish pastes. One of the delights of kimchi is tailoring it to your own taste or to that of the people you feed. I’m fond of kimchi that’s heavy on ginger, garlic, and chiles. But because most of the folks I feed homemade kimchi to are Minnesotans, I add less heat than I did in California.

Traditional Korean kimchi that uses dried peppers incorporates varieties grown in Korea (gochugaru). You can buy gochugaru at United Noodles, Shuang Hur, Dragon Star, and other Asian groceries in Frogtown. Contemporary Korean kimchi plays with the much wider variety of dried peppers now available worldwide. A visit to El Burrito Mercado on the West Side will reward you with an amazing array of dried chiles from Mexico, some mild and deeply flavored, others medium or very hot, all flavorful.

kimchi ingredientsIf the thought of incorporating chiles into your kimchi makes you feel faint, don’t bother with them! You can create zingy kimchi with nothing more formidable than fresh ginger, some Wisconsin hardnecked garlic, and scallions to spice it up. This wonderful ferment can be as traditional or as personal as you want it to be. Just be sure to choose vegetables that create a lively melange of colors.

Like other fermented foods, kimchi needs to be kept away from air while it undergoes its transformation. To start with, I suggest you use a 1-quart/liter lightning jar (the kind with a glass lid attached with a wire bale). With green cabbage, salt the cabbage first in a big bowl so it becomes flexible enough to cram into a jar, add the other vegetables/fruit and seasonings, then pack everything into the jar as firmly as possible. Within 24 hours, the brine should provide a cap to the ferment. Keep the jar as close to 60° as you can; a counter near a north window is a pretty good place, as is a cool basement. Your kimchi should be ready to taste in about 3–6 days; as soon as you like its flavor, simply refrigerate and enjoy it.

Kimchi is the food of a thousand uses: you can add a dollop of it to scrambled eggs, omelets, tacos, burritos, vegetable and/or meat stir-fries. A bowl of rice or rice noodles with kimchi and some soy sauce makes a quick, tasty, and healthy lunch or breakfast. Add a little kimchi brine to a soup to brighten its flavor. A jar of homemade kimchi in the fridge is like having a culinary ace up your sleeve!

A simple & mild green cabbage kimchi

This kimchi is quite mild—its heat comes chiefly from ginger, not chiles. Don’t overlook other vegetables when you assemble it. You can add bok choy and other greens, radishes other than daikon, carrots, turnips, scallions, tat choi, fennel. If you’re a chile head, go for dried reds, but be sure to grind them into small bits before adding them.
Makes 2 quarts.

Ingredients
1 pound of green cabbage
1 pound of daikon or other radishes (e.g., watermelon, black Spanish), sliced thinly
3 tablespoons of kosher salt
3 tablespoons or more of finely minced, peeled fresh ginger (I use about half a cup)
1½ tablespoons or more of tasty minced garlic
5 scallions, white and green parts, finely crosscut
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1½ teaspoons of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of ground pepper , Mexican chiles, or fresh hot peppers, slit
lengthwise and left whole

Method
1. Core cabbage and cut crosswise very thinly; place in a large mixing bowl, add salt, cover, and allow to sit until salt pulls the moisture from the cabbage, leaving cut cabbage flexible (about 3–4 hours).

2. Peel radish, cut in half lengthwise, then into narrow crosswise slices.

3. Mix ginger, garlic, scallions, brown sugar, and salt in second bowl; add cayenne or peppers and mix well. Mix in with cabbage.

4. Sterilize two 1-quart (or one 2-quart) canning jars at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Cool on a wooden surface or towel.

5. Push the cabbage mixture into the jars as compactly as possible; cover with enough of the brine to top the kimchi. Leave at least 3 inches head space below lip of jars. Attach a lid, loosely; stand the jar in a glass bowl or saucer, because it may drool while fermenting.

6. Put your jar in a cool corner of the kitchen for 3 days. Watch for bubbles, which should start rising in your kimchi; fermentation is slower at this time of year because houses tend to be cooler. Once you can see bubbles at work, wait 3–4 days, watching for the bubbles that signify fermenting. Thereafter, you can start tasting your ferment. When it tastes good to you, store it in the fridge. Kimchi is almost immortal: it keeps well and becomes more complex and tasty with time.

Find more recipes for kimchi in our 3 Days, 3 ways recipe program - cooking tips designed to help your food purchases go further, featuring a new ingredient each month.

Put hot sauce on it!

Dans Prime hot sauce web

While Mississippi Market staff cannot come to a consensus over which hot sauce is the best (Cholula? Dave’s Prime? Sriracha?), we CAN agree on this list of our favorite foods to adorn with hot sauce when we’re feeling the need to spice things up.  It may only be just starting to warm up outside, but our bellies are on fire!

  • Eggs
  • Mac & cheese
  • Breakfast sandwiches from the deli
  • Corn chips
  • Pork tacos
  • Curry
  • Rice, beans & greens deal from the deli
  • Fried chicken (or any kind of chicken)
  • Alexia sweet potato waffle fries
  • Pizza
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Fried fish
  • Peanut butter + hot sauce on noodles
  • Literally, everything
  • Popcorn
  • Bloody Mary
  • Banh Mi sandwiches
  • Celery sticks and carrots
  • Nachos
  • Mangos
  • Barbecue anything
  • Steak
  • French fries
  • Hash browns
  • Ketchup + hot sauce for dipping
  • Mayo + hot sauce for dipping
  • Ranch dressing + hot sauce for dipping
  • And finally, ice cream?

Tea – finding the perfect mug

That great warming morning beverage, that iced and sun-brewed afternoon cup, or that mug at the end of the day to help the sleep come.  Mmmm, tea.

tea plantNot being able to stand the taste of coffee, in high school I turned to tea to help get that morning caffeine kick or power through the night-before-the-due-date papers, and in the years since, I’ve really tried to develop a wider appreciation for the drink, its history, and its various forms.  Given the variety of flavors and styles out there, it’s very surprising to remember that it all tracks back to one species of plant, and it’s up to the drying, cooking, aging, and flavoring to get to that final, unique product.

When thinking about tea, most people might first name the bitter green teas or the standard black or earl grey blends (hot or iced), or perhaps mention some of the health benefits to tea drinking.  Mississippi Market has a wide selection of teas, ranging from the classic stand-bys to herbal blends with extra, healthy characteristics to the occasional seasonal specialties.  Looking to try something new, or have a favorite style and want to get a lot at one time?  Check out the bulk teas, by the herbs and spices.  Bulk vs. bagged?  I usually buy bulk, because when I sit down to get school work done, I’ll often go through a pot as a time.  Also, I find that loose-leaf tea has a stronger flavor than the bagged varieties.  However, sometimes nothing beats the convenience of being able to drop a bag in a mug of hot water while getting groceries stocked out in the morning!  Many of my favorite teas can be found on the co-op’s shelves; here are some suggestions on what to check out next:

Lapsang Souchong has become one of my morning standbys ever since I moved to working early shifts because it’s hard to over-steep and it’s got a pretty high caffeine content.  This tea is one of very few to be dried by smoking, and the pinewood used in the process imbues a bold smokiness that comes across in both aroma and flavor (very reminiscent in this to another brown beverage I enjoy from Islay.  Somewhat sadly, we don’t currently offer a smoked tea in bulk, but I’m a fan of the Taylor’s of Harrogate box—50 tea bags for under 9 bucks!

pu-erh tea brick

A pu-erh brick

Second on my favorites list is also my newest passion: Pu-erh.  This ancient Chinese-style tea (which you may find in a variety of spellings) is processed in a fascinating way.  Leaves are usually air-dried, then lightly pan-toasted to stop the natural enzymatic processes within them.  At this point, the leaves are allowed to ferment over the course of multiple months, during which time the chemicals that give tea it’s normally characteristic bitterness are all but eliminated and the anti-oxidant levels rise in replacement.  The end product steeps into an incredibly smooth, earthy-tasting tea, often looking as dark as coffee.  We offer pu-erh in bulk loose-leaf, and at specialty tea shops you might be able to find bricks, where the leaves have been highly compressed to preserve the flavors.

Blue Flower Earl Grey is one of my wife’s favorites (as I think it appeals to her sweet tooth without actually being sweetened).  This blend is a standard Earl Grey (black tea with a touch of citrus oil) with dried petals of blue malva flowers.  The oils from the flower give an ever-so-light floral essence to the tea, which helps to mellow the boldness that often comes with the typical Earl Grey, and the ever-so-slight natural sweetness that’s hard not to enjoy.

Jasmine_PearlsJasmine Pearl is another slightly sweet tea you can find in the bulk set.  The fresh, still-green leaves are hand-rolled, dried, and then set overnight in a room of jasmine flowers at their peak of fragrance; even this short exposure is enough to turn the pearls from just green tea to something magical.  A fun aspect to steeping pearls of tea is watching them unfurl as they sit in water; I find this a reminder that tea is in fact a leaf, not a bag of dried herbs. Want to see what I mean?  Try some!

While talking about green teas, matcha also comes to mind.  Most people see the green powder and think of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, which makes prominent use of the fine-ground leaves.  However, having matcha around can help bring tea out of the mug; it’s strong flavor and light color lend themselves to a number of food uses, such as cakes, frostings, ice cream, smoothies, and light cream sauces for desserts, salads, and entrees alike.

Lastly, let’s not forget about chai.  While the chai lattes offered in many coffee shops today are often very milky and sweet, it’s really easy to make a calorie-friendly spiced tea bev for yourself at home.  We carry a couple different bagged forms (from Tazo and Tulsi, for example), as well as the 500 Mile Chai in bulk.  Prepare as directed, and add just a splash of milk and maybe a pinch of sugar—sweetened condensed milk works well, too—and this way you can control the interplay of the spice, sweet, and fat to make your perfect mug.

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As mentioned above, you’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.

Snow days!

snow_angel_e_news.1

Looking out the window, watching the snow fall makes many of us at the co-op want to be home, curled up on the couch with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.

Others of us want to be outside, feeling the flakes on our faces, because we know that our homes will feel so much warmer when we go inside.

No matter which of these camps you fall into, it’s hard to deny the draw to comfort that a snowy day brings. Here, we offer some tips to make your winter warmer.

hot_cocoa_enewsOur top 5 hot chocolate mix-ins:

  • For peanut butter cup hot chocolate, put a little spoon of smooth peanut butter in the pan while you heat the hot chocolate -let it dissolve.
  • Real. Whipped. Cream. (We love Cedar Summit organic.)
  • Stir the hot chocolate with an all natural candy cane for a minty essence
  • Make your hot cocoa with 1/2 Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk and 1/2 any other dairy or non-dairy milk. It’s lightly coconutty and oh so rich!
  • For adult hot chocolate, add a splash of Knob Creek maple bourbon. Enough said.

Board_Games_enewsGet cozy!

With that cup of hot chocolate warming your hands, it’s time to get cozy. Our favorite ways are:

  • game night!
  • movie marathon
  • work a jigsaw puzzle
  • finish that knitting project
  • spend some quality time in the kitchen. Visit our recipe page for inspiration.

Winter_Carnival_Logo_ba78a4The coolest!

Ready to go back out into the snow? Saint Paul’s Winter Carnival is just around the corner. You can purchase carnival buttons at both of our stores.

And, during the carnival, January 23-February 2, you’ll receive 25¢ off any hot drink from the deli if you’re wearing your button. 

Mississippi Market at your door tileWe’ll come to you!

Remember that on days when the roads are dicey and you don’t want to take off your slippers, we can come to you, too. Mississippi Market at your door is designed to be a helping hand. Simply order your groceries online, schedule your delivery time, and we’ll bring them right to you.

Hoppin’ John for good luck in the new year

New Year’s Day in the American South is celebrated in many families with Hoppin’ John, a stew made with black eyed peas. Some people add a penny or other small trinket to the beans when serving them. Whoever finds it is promised especially good luck in the new year. As many recipes can be found for Hoppin’ John as there are cooks who make it, so use this one as a foundation for creating your own version. Read more …

Warm breakfast ideas

I had a realization this week. I looked down at my staple summer breakfast -a bowl of fruit, yogurt and granola- and was no longer satisfied. It just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I wanted something heartier. I wanted something… warm.

Luckily I work here, where everyone is talking about (or eating) food, all the time. Apparently, I wasn’t the only craving something different for breakfast. As I strolled around the office, I noticed that Lauren had unpacked her Oatmeal-in-a-jar and Luke was eating a hot breakfast sandwich at his desk.

Beyond those two stand-bys around here, I was also pointed to these two recipes, both warm & hearty, yet satisfying in different ways. Read more …

Gluten Free Cooking & Eating

Would it surprise you to learn that throughout most of recorded history, only a small, though powerful, portion of humanity (currently about 35 percent) has eaten wheat? Those of you who are embarking on wheat-free diets should take heart from this: people have been cooking and living healthy lives without wheat bread, wheat pasta, and wheat cakes for a very long time, and their rich cooking traditions can serve you still.

no wheatWheat is a demanding crop. It cannot grow in the south because it is susceptible to blights under warm, humid conditions; it cannot grow in the far north, because it is too cold for it there. It cannot grow in wet or poor soils.  There’s a great deal of the world that cannot support wheat. In those regions where wheat is not easily grown, you will find wheat-free (and even gluten-free) food traditions that you can cook from and enjoy. Be assured that they are many, storied, and fine.

Of course, there’s a second route for people who cannot tolerate gluten-producing proteins, and that’s the one that food manufacturers want you to take: buying costly mixes that approximate the tastes and textures of wheat-containing foods. I have explored these, and while they’re convenient, most of them do not make terribly good substitutes for glutinous foods: they are expensive to buy, and some of them don’t taste much like the real thing. You will be far better off seeking out traditions that never involved wheat.

Several years ago, a woman recently diagnosed with celiac disease told me that her diagnosis came with an unexpected blessing: it prompted her to learn to cook. Before then, she had mostly eaten out, ordered in, and otherwise avoided cooking, thinking it was too time-consuming for someone with demanding professional work.

When I realized how much more expensive buying gluten-free foods was, I decided I was going to learn to cook for myself. I had expected nothing more than eating more economically, but I discovered that I loved cooking for its own sake—it was more soothing than I anticipated, and I could eat really well without worrying that there might be gluten in anything so long as I did the cooking myself.”

That is the alternative that cooking out of long-established gluten-free traditions offers you. Here’s what you’ll need to know in order to face this new challenge.

Shrimp & asparagus risotto. Click the photo for more gluten free recipes from "Cooking Light" Photo: Oxmoor House

Shrimp & asparagus risotto. Click the photo for more gluten free recipes from “Cooking Light” Photo: Oxmoor House

What Is Gluten?  Gluten is the largest protein molecule known to biochemistry. For our purposes as cooks and eaters, what’s important to understand about it is that some raw grains possess the potential to produce gluten. Gluten is not a protein that sits there, wholly formed: it must be produced through the combination of two precursor proteins, glutenin and gliadin, in the presence of oxygen and water, physical agitation (mixing, kneading), starch, and salt.

Some ingredients used in cooking—for example, sugars, fats, and eggs (which contain fat)—block the formation of gluten by preventing the two precursor protein molecules from attaching to each other. The kind of potentially glutinous grain also makes a difference: rye and barley, for example, contain less gliadin and glutenin than wheat. Hard winter wheats contain far more of these proteins than soft spring wheats and winter wheats grown in the South.

Celiac disease vs. Gluten Free
Many people are being told to try gluten-free diets as aids to digestion, clearing congestion, and a host of other health problems. Such changes in diet are voluntary and distinct from celiac disease, in which one’s own immune system attacks the presence of gluten in the gut and damages the gut’s lining. If you are not gluten-intolerant but simply want to minimize your exposure to it, you can minimize gluten production when baking by using low-protein wheat flours (White Lily; pastry flour; cake flour). If you have celiac disease, you probably need to entirely avoid the proteins that can form gluten and instead cook from traditions that never incorporated gluten-producing grains.

Industrial foods regularly include gluten-containing ingredients in places you wouldn’t expect to find them: tomato-based pasta sauces, soy sauces, canned vegetable sauces, salad dressings. That’s why learning to cook and bake instead of depending on processed food is so important to your health.

Here are the world’s most common grains that do not contain gluten:

amaranth

buckwheat

corn

millet

oats*

quinoa

rice

sorghum

teff

legume flours (not derived from grain but made into flours)

quinoa

Quinoa is a versatile grain that is high in protein.

As a cook or potential cook, this list should tell you that you can freely cook polentas (corn), stir-fries and risottos (rice), grain salads (quinoa, amaranth), flatbreads (buckwheat, millet, oats, teff, rice)—a range of possible explorations that’s almost unlimited! The traditional foods of central & southern Mexico and equatorial Central & South America; those of western, sub-saharan Africa; those of southern China and southeast Asia; those of southern Europe and the Horn of Africa can offer you more than a lifetime of pleasurable cooking and eating, most of it gluten-free.

*While oats themselves do not contain the precursor proteins to gluten, they are usually processed in plants that also process wheat; this is why oats are sometimes listed among gluten-producing grains. Certain brands of milled oats (such as Bobs Red Mill GF Oats) are made on equipment that has not processed gluten-producing grains.

Extreme Local – Wild Foraging

Before I start: wild foraging can be very dangerous. The amount of mushrooms that are fatally poisonous are relatively small, but there are a great many that will make you wish you were dead and cause serious illness. You should never eat a mushroom unless you are 100% confident in identifying it. There are a great many resources if you would like to get into wild foraging, but it should be approached with a healthy respect and only after much study. DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS ON A WHIM.

Chicken of the woods on tree

Chicken of the Woods, too old, but still pretty cool.

I am an outdoors person. I love hunting and camping, and when morel season hits in spring I am in the woods nearly every weekend. This year, I have decided to enjoy some of the local foraging that can be had in mid-summer months.

Ok, morel season is easy: little undergrowth, very distinctive mushrooms, little to no mosquitos and hardly any ticks. All of these things have made it a trendy thing to do, amateurs beating down trails to every dead elm tree in state parks around Minnesota. And with good reason, morels are delicious.

Mid-summer mushroom hunting has been about as far from that as possible. Minnesota mixed hardwood forests are hot, full of bugs, poison ivy, buckthorn, wild berries, stinging nettle, and a fair amount of other hidden pitfalls. I have found mushrooms that I have picked, learned to do a spore print, and identified them with some confidence. Only then to throw them out because doubt about my knowledge crept in (this is normal and a healthy thing). I have worn poison ivy rashes with pride for a good portion of the summer. I have invested in what I call a hippie basket, a bandaloo (which I have already lost), spent a small fortune on gas driving to state parks, and shirked some responsibilities.

Chicken gnocci with chicken of the woods

Chicken gnocci without the kale, subbing thyme in its place, and with whole wheat gnocci

Despite this, the exhilaration that I felt when I saw my first mass of orange Chicken of the Woods* was just as exciting as any morel patch I have found. Finding lobster mushrooms buried in leaves was worth the mosquito bites (technically my lovely wife found our first lobster). And wild mushroom gnocchi shared with friends and family? Good grief.

*Mississippi Market carries wild, foraged mushrooms from time to time, so it is possible to cook with them without foraging. Call ahead before making a special trip.

Here is the recipe:
Wild Mushroom Gnocchi, serves 2-3

ingredients
1 med onion, diced ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
A large mass of wild mushroom, your choice on variety, all have been excellent – usually around .5 lbs, or you could use button, but the earthy flavor of the wild mushroom is what makes this dish. Tear/cut/break the mushroom into bite size pieces. Be sure to clean the mushroom, ideally using a brush of some kind, not in water. Mushrooms really soak up liquid and it is ok to wash them in water, but it will alter how this dish cooks and you may need to cut the rest of the water out of the recipe entirely.
2T Olive oil – you may need a little more if you are frying a large amount of mushroom, they tend to soak up liquids
1 package of Cucina Viva gnocchi
1 half of a bunch of dino kale, or a sautéing green of your choice, rough shred/julienne
1 table spoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Stock
1.5 cups water

Equipment:
1 14” sauce pan, with 1.5 inch sides, or some equivalent
1 stock pot to boil gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Fry the onion, garlic, mushroom together stirring often on medium high heat until your onion just starts to become translucent. Dissolve the Better Than in 1.5 cups of water and pour that mixture into your sauce pan. Cook until reduced, but not dry. There should be some liquid left in pan to provide a ‘sauce’ for the dish.

At this time add the gnocchi to the water. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom. When it rises to the top it is done. Add your kale to your frying pan and stir it in. The gnocchi will cook quickly in a rolling boil (4-5 minutes tops) and will overcook just as fast. Scoop out the gnocchi leaving as much water as possible behind and put it right into your mushroom mix. Stir and serve.

At this time I like to shred a little Pecorino Romano on top, but that is completely optional. There are gluten free gnocchi’s in some grocery stores, so it is possible to make this dish gluten free as well.
Eat and enjoy.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

James Talbot is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As the grocery manager at Selby, you’ll find him in the ailes stocking the shelves, answering questions and figuring out how to make space for more awesome products. 

From the Bread Nook – New French Bakery

In my first year on the job as the Frozen and Bread Buyer for the Selby store, which I just wrapped up, my main focus for the bread department was to really get to know the products we carry, feel how bread sales trend season to season, learn what was available from each vendor, and try new things out here and there.  Going into year two, my next major goal for the remainder of the calendar year (yikes, is it really mid-August already?) is to finally get around to visiting the local bakeries we stock on the shelves, see the process, and talk with some of the people who work there.  Yesterday, I started this venture off with a visit to New French Bakery.

New French Bakery was started about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey in Minneapolis.

New French Bakery was started about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey in Minneapolis.

New French was first started up about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey, and as the company has grown from a small start-up to a large operation that has national contracts, there have been some employees who have stuck around since the earliest days.  There are now two facilities, one of which works solely with product that gets frozen and shipped elsewhere in the U.S. and serves as the primary warehouse for raw ingredients.  I toured the other location, which does both frozen products for shipment and fresh breads for a surprisingly large number of local restaurant and retail deliveries.

I’d never been on a tour of a bakery before, so this was a pretty crazy experience.  It was simply amazing to me the type of engineering mindset that goes into laying our conveyors, mixers, ovens, cooling rooms, packaging machines in such a streamlined layout.  Giant mixers (think Kitchenaid stand mixer that you could sit in and *maybe* see over the edge) prep all the dough with the flour getting pumped up from giant storage tanks in the basement—the volume of these just astounded me!  Machines size out dough for the product in production—rolls, buns, baguettes, loaves, etc—and into trays, molds, or baking pans the dough goes.

Before it hits the oven, all the dough hits the proofing room for a few hours to rise—the humidity here was high, and the smell of active yeast was amazingly strong.  If anything needs special attention (like the small slices that give the tops of artisan breads their special look or things need to be rolled in seeds or grain), the human touch comes into play—machines are not to be trusted with these delicate accents!  Finished products are then cooled, sliced if need-be, and packaged to ship out to their destinations.  And then the process continues for the next item, around the clock, all year!

Of all the little details I learned during my visit, this is the one I really want to pass on: while New French is focused on large-scale production, they still get almost all of their flour from wheat grown and milled within 150 miles of the bakery—keepin’ it local!

At Mississippi Market, we carry only a tiny fraction of the 700+ varieties and variations in their available production catalog.  Some of the more artisan loaves that have been on the shelves for a while include the French baguette (perfect for sandwiches and bruschetta), traditional and whole wheat sourdough rounds, stirato loaves and smaller rolls made of the New French baguettessame dough (a customer favorite to accompany soup for lunch), the ever-so-soft honey whole grain batard (also carried in baguette form), and my favorite, the Italian peasant loaf (this only needs some olive oil, Italian herbs, and a bit of feta to become a meal in itself!).  Since becoming the buyer for the Selby store, a number of new items have made appearances: potato dinner rolls, a sesame semolina batard, pretzel buns for both burgers and hoagies, and a weekend-only double raisin rye.  Due to customer request, a while back we also started carrying their large sandwich loaves, the same bread our Deli uses.

Interested in trying something we don’t carry?  I’ve seen a variety of both sweet and savory baguettes and artisan loafs, buns, and sandwich breads we simply don’t have room to add to our own shelves.  Stop in at the 26th Ave. location sometime (the address and hours below), where they offer a wide range of fresh items, a daily soup special, and a small selection of salads and sandwiches.  And if you do visit, give a (polite!) shout-out to the second floor, where the excellent Customer Service team sits, answering my questions and getting my orders in the system; say Ben from Mississippi Market sent you, and you might see a hand waving at you from over the balcony!

New French Bakery
2609 26th Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
612.455.7507
www.newfrenchbakery.com
Retail hours: 8:30-6 M-F, 8:30-3 on the weekends

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As mentioned above, you’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.