From salmon to sardines to chocolate cookies, here’s a rundown of my dining diary’s recent entries. What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section. 

Bittersweet chocolate cookies at Rustica

For 15 years, this has been the cookie to end all cookies in the Twin Cities. For me, anyway. It’s a marvel of construction, a brownie-esque cookie that’s so tender that it almost falls apart under its own weight, which is considerable, given the amount of bittersweet chocolate that’s packed into every bite (seriously, each one should be sold with a glass of milk, they’re that chocolaty). They’re an eye-catching shape, rising in the center like a dome, and the near-black color is a perfect foil for the twinkling sugar garnish. Is there a better way to spend $2? Doubtful. For $20, the bakery will ship a dozen of these beauties; that’s a way-better day brightener than flowers, right? 3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-1119, and a second location is opening soon at Southdale shopping center

Moroccan salmon at Fhima’s Minneapolis

“To me, every dish that is worth anything has a story,” said chef/owner David Fhima. “You can’t be someone who cooks without having stories. A dish, it wants you talk about it, it wants you to bring it life.” With this one, he’s got a doozy. “I grew up with a Spanish Jewish mother and a Sicilian Catholic father, and you can imagine who ruled the house,” said Fhima. “It was my mom, of course. My mom is the greatest cook. On Friday nights, the Sabbath, we always had a feast, and it was never the same dishes. It always changed, except this one. We always had this one.” It’s easy to see why. Over the course of several days, Marie Fhima would carefully compose a tomato broth, using paprika, garlic and three kinds of dried chiles. Then came chickpeas, and a finishing burst of spices: cardamom, coriander, saffron and her own blend of za’atar. She’d sear a whole salmon, then finish it overnight in a paprika-infused olive oil. On Friday night, it was the pride of the table, served with those chickpeas in that tomato broth. At his beautiful restaurant, Fhima tries to follow his mother’s recipe. “But with her, it’s ‘A little bit of this, a little bit of that,’” he said with a laugh. “So the fun part is to go ahead, and experiment.” After resting the salmon in paprika oil, he sears the fish – the cut includes a bit of that luxuriously fatty belly – until it reaches a kind of creamy medium rare. Topped with an heirloom tomato compote, the fish is placed on that extraordinary tomato sauce with those slightly toothy chickpeas ($16). What a dish! And what a story! “It says ‘Sabbath dinner’ to me,” said Fhima. “But we obviously serve it seven nights a week.” 40 S. 7th St., Mpls., 612-353-4792

Sardines on toast at Estelle

After reading last week’s installment, a Minneapolis chef texted me with the following message: “Enough with the toasts!” What can I say? My Swedish ancestry means that the open-faced sandwich is in my DNA, and I find them irresistible. At this highly promising St. Paul newcomer, the food couldn’t be further afield from Scandinavia; it’s inspired by an extended trip that chef/co-owner Jason Hansen took through Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. “No one is really doing Portuguese or Spanish food in the Twin Cities,” he said, and so he’s emphasizing those traditions – and other Mediterranean flavors – on his appealing menu, which focuses on small-ish plates with prices that stay south of $17. For this dish ($8), Hansen is sourcing firm, silvery sardines, pairing them with the punch of lemon, Dijon mustard and capers and giving them a cool, palate-cleansing finish with pickled fennel and celery leaves. Lovely. Hansen, a 112 Eatery, Tilia and Stewart’s vet, has all kinds of graze-worthy dishes on his menu, including a few compelling pastas and fideua, a Valencian standard that’s a cousin to paella, subbing out the rice for noodles. There are affordable wines (from Spain, Portugal and Italy) and cocktails, too. I’m looking forward to returning. 1806 St. Clair Av., St. Paul, 651-330-9648

Sweet potato tacos at Chef Shack

I’m going to have to develop a new Saturday morning ritual, because the outdoor farmers market season has come to a close. At the Mill City Farmers Market, anyway, where I’ve made a post-gym fortification habit at the Chef Shack food truck, feasting on a pair of chef Lisa Carlson’s superb vegetarian tacos ($8). It’s such a satisfying mix of color, texture and flavor, all wrapped up in a tender corn tortilla. Who knows? Maybe Carlson will put them on the Sunday brunch menu at Chef Shack Bay City, the ultra-charming weekend-only destination that she and partner Carrie Summer operate on Lake Pepin. That is, until it closes for the season at the end of December. Yeah, it’s going to be a long winter.

Ham and cheese crepe at Penny’s Coffee

This growing chain – with three locations, and counting – really knows its way around the crepe, offering a handful of options. Depending upon my mood, this creature of habit goes for the banana-Nocciolata (a divine hazelnut-dark chocolate spread) combination, or the one that places smoky ham and tons of Gruyere ($12) in the spotlight. This is quick-service fare that doesn’t miss a trick, right down to the punchy mustard aioli and the tangle of bitter greens tossed in a bright lemon vinaigrette. 100 Washington Av. S., Mpls.; 3509 W. 44th St., Mpls.; and 750 E. Lake St., Wayzata,