Spoon River and Me

It is no secret that my favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities (the world?) is Hell’s Kitchen, but there is another restaurant in Minneapolis that I also like to rave about when anyone will listen called Spoonriver. I was introduced to Spoonriver on a recommendation from my neighbor. They have a diverse menu that is centered around healthy and local food. I manage to get there about once every other month and I always have every intention of ordering one of their amazing sounding burgers (The Spoon Burger is made with lamb and Moroccan spices), but without fail I end up ordering the vegetarian special because the description is irresistible. I am a confirmed carnivore, but Brenda Langton has created a menu that converts this hamburger helper, meat and potatoes guy into a healthy, local-food only, vegetarian whenever I walk in the door of her restaurant.

I think it was January when I found out about the Spoonriver cookbook. I knew immediately that this was something I needed. I had to wait almost four months before the book became available. After the book came out I made it down to Spoonriver at my first opportunity and picked up a copy. I went during lunchtime and I was lucky enough to get Brenda to sign the book and talk to her a little bit about some of the recipes. She pointed out the olive tapenade’s and said they were delicious and made great, creamy spreads after adding in a little pureed tofu. She told me I should come back again in a week after the Mill City Farmer’s Market opened and I could find lots of great ingredients. (I haven’t made it down there yet, but I will.)

The weekend after I bought the cookbook it was time to meet up with David and do some cooking for 5×2 and it was my turn to choose the menu. It’s almost like I planned it. Since these recipes were new to both of us it made sense to cook them together. I selected two different dips as appetizers to spread on a great loaf of sourdough bread that was fresh from Angel Food Bakery. I made the Roasted Sweet Pepper, Walnut, and Pomegranate Spread (pg 7) and David made the Green Olive Tapenade (pg 19). They were both relatively simple recipes that mostly require you to throw all of the ingredients in  a food processor and then enjoy (unless you buy olives with pits in them like I did, in which case David has to do a little more work.) I did have to roast the walnuts and the red peppers in the oven, but given how good both dips tasted it didn’t seem like much work at all. My favorite was the red pepper and walnut dip. It was sweet and savory and the red peppers with the black pepper I added gave it great flavor. The tamapnade was pretty good too, but it seemed a little too garlicky to me (no such thing right?, but I think it would have been better if a little subtler.)

For the main course we made East Indian Curry with Red Lentils (pg 119). This was another deceptively easy recipe. It required a lot of chopping, but everything got added to the pot and the curry was added with coconut milk towards the end to make it all taste wonderful. In the spirit of my vegetarian mood whenever I go to Spoonriver I chose this recipe because it is full of fresh vegetables, but no meat. It has onions, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, carrots, squash, and tomatoes. I have to admit it was a little heavy on the cauliflower, but that is easily fixed next time. I can’t remember why, but I was quite distracted while we were cooking this dish, but David held it together and kept us on target, adding the right ingredients at the right time.

The end result was a sweet curry stew of vegetables and lentils. We served it over basmati rice. It must have been pretty good because everyone finished there serving even though we ate an entire loaf of bread between the six of us with the appetizer.

I was not disappointed with my first meal from the Spoonriver cookbook and it was fun to cook with David again on recipes that were new to both of us.

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