Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cooking The Market

One of our favorite date nights is to go volunteer at Kitchen In The Market, a local commercial kitchen and cooking school. When I was thinking of ideas to submit for a Foodbuzz 24x24 event, I immediately thought of taking a spin on one of their most popular cooking classes; Cooking the Market.

The idea behind the class is to create a meal based on whatever is currently available in the market, no matter what season it is. It's a fantastic class that always produces something different and fun to cook.

It has been a beautiful, early spring here for us Minnesotans but we're still not into the full on farmers markets quite yet. That doesn't mean that there's no local product available however. One of my goals in sharing this event with some of our friends was to show them the amazing products we have available right here in our local area, all year round as well as get them excited about the great food season to come!

~The Market~

We started our day with an afternoon visit to Midtown Global Market, a bustling indoor market in Minneapolis. The market features vendors offering fresh produce, meat, cheeses, gift shops and specialty groceries. One of my favorite stops is Grass Roots Gourmet, run by Vicki Potts. She's always smiling and willing to take time to answer questions and offer suggestions. She has an amazing cheese case featuring cheeses made within 100 miles of Minneapolis. She also has an amazing array of fresh meat and dairy products. We walked away from her shop with Oxtail, lamb chops and a variety of cheeses.

The Produce Exchange offers many traditional grocery items as well as organic and local produce. We picked up mushrooms, spinach, cucumbers, herbs, peppers and a few other grocery items.

~The Meal~

Everyone had been divided into three groups with an assignment of either a side or a main dish. We had no recipes or meal plans. I just encouraged people to look for ingredients that inspired them around the market and then create something that featured that item. Here's how the menu worked out:

Crispy Flatbreads. Fontina with fresh tomato; Amish cream cheese with spinach and artichoke hearts.

Lamb and Cheese Ravioli tossed with sauteed vegetables

Braised Oxtail with mushrooms served over Polenta

Bacon Ice Cream and Spearmint Ice Cream served with Smoked Salt Shortbread Cookies 

After our shopping trip we returned to our home where each team began preparation of their menu item. Everyone pitched in to help and the kitchen was soon bustling with activity and things started to heat up. Pots of water were boiling, pasta was being rolled out and the pressure cooker was hissing. For having 10 people in the kitchen, things went surprisingly smooth. Everything was soon on the table and it was time to eat.

I think the crowd favorite was the flatbread. They were fresh and perfectly flavored. I loved the combination of cheeses on the top and I'll always be a fan of fresh herbs and vegetables. Simple and flavorful always wins out.  The oxtail had great flavor but could have used some more time in the pressure cooker to produce some really great fall of the bone meat. The jalapeno cheese that was inside the ravioli was a fantastic surprise.

Finished up the meal with some bacon ice cream and spearmint ice cream served with smoked salt shortbread cookies. I used to think that my bacon ice cream was my favorite but this spearmint overwhelmed me. Nothing can beat that fresh flavor. It's so simple too, just steep the spearmint in the milk and cream and then strain out before adding to the freezer (see the full recipe below). 

~The Message~

Of course, visiting the market was an effort to acquaint our friends with an opportunity to discover some great local places to find fresh produce and other great products. Many of them had never been before and was a great introduction. Throughout the day we also talked about some of the local co-ops and what they offered as well as many of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's) programs in the area. If you're not familiar with CSA's, google your local area for them. Here's a great site for any Minnesota locals. This is a great way to get involved with a local farm and get some great produce as well. Here's a great link from one of my favorite local farms on the great value of CSA's.

~The Decor~

Like the decorations? That's the creative genius of my beautiful wife. She did a great job. We were going for a kind of rustic spring look. I loved doing the live plants on the table. She made all the napkins, place settings and even cut the grass stems from alongside the road.

~The Recipes~

We used the basic flatbread recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. Hand form it to the pan that you want to bake it on and top it with your desired toppings. We also added some green onions to one of the crusts.  Our flatbread team used sauteed onions, garlic and shallots with tomato and balsamic vinegar for one of the flat breads and the other had the fontina and spinach. Both were fantastic.

Lamb and Cheese Ravioli with Sauteed Vegetables

The lamb was seared and then mixed together with a jalapeno yogurt cheese to create the filling for the ravioli. Green Onions, bell pepper, portabella mushrooms and brussell sprouts were lightly sauteed in olive oil before being tossed with the cooked ravioli. It was a great light and fresh tasting course.

Braised Oxtail with Mushrooms

Olive oil
3 large fresh Italian parsley sprigs
3 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 large bay leaves
4 to 4 1/4 pounds meaty oxtail pieces, trimmed of excess fat
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup diced carrot plus 6 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 large garlic cloves, peeled; 1 minced, 3 left whole
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add oxtail and brown the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Add to the pressure cooker. Saute onions in remaining olive oil and add to the pressure cooker. Add remaining ingredients. Cook under pressure for about 40 minutes. Remove the oxtail. Combine a 2 tablespoons of corn starch with enough milk to create a thick paste and add to the remaining liquid. heat until thickened and serve over the oxtail.

Bacon Ice Cream

Spearmint Ice Cream

1 cup chilled whole milk
1 cup fresh spearmint leaves
2 cups chilled heavy cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add 1 cup whole milk, 1 cup of the cream and spearmint leaves into a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate until well chilled. Add the remaining cream, vanilla and sugar and stir until dissolved.  Strain milk mixture into medium bowl.

Place cream mixture into ice cream machine and cook according to manufacturers directions.

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  1. Where did you get that AWESOME pasta maker???

    What a fun night. Sorry to have missed it.

    1. See how good I'm taking care of it! It gets to play a lot here. :)

  2. Woah, what an awesome and creative food inspired event! Love it!

  3. Fun fun fun!!! And I love the table settings - your wife did a fabulous job!

  4. What a great get together with your friends. So inspiring you and your wife are.

  5. This is awesome! I did a similar meal for my 24x24 this month. I have always wanted to try making my own oxtail, now I have a great recipe, thanks:)

  6. How fun Matt. I love this idea and the recipes look fantastic. Great job!

  7. Hi There, Congratulations for 24x24 !!!!!!
    The menu is looking so delightful and appetizing. A very well made post with beautiful pictures. Loved all the dishes. I've bookmarked this special recipe of urs and wud love to give it a shot asap. Have a wonderful week ahead. Thanks & Regards, Sonia !!!

  8. Hi Matt! Something for you is waiting on my blog

  9. I adore Midtown Global Market, but don't make it to that part of Lake nearly often enough. The quail eggs always grab my eye. Thanks for sharing this lovely meal and showcasing a local gem!

    1. I tried to get someone to get the quail eggs but they didn't end up on anyone's list. I love them too!

  10. I love cooking seasonally (is there any other way?!) and this sounds like a fabulous way to encourage creativity in the kitchen. Those crispy flatbreads are calling my name!

  11. Gorgeous! I absolutely love fresh pasta :) Love the table settings also.

  12. Totally like the idea! Everything looks delicious! And the table setting is very attractive as well.

  13. Midtown Global Market is just amazing but I don't live near enough to be able to visit it very often...dang it! Am making a note to register for a class one of these days. I do have the AB in 5 cookbook...haven't made the flatbread, yet, but I will now.