From pizza to pancetta, here’s a rundown of my dining diary’s greatest hits over the past seven days (my colleague Sharyn Jackson is on vacation; she’ll return next week). What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section.
Italian lamb sausage pizza from Lyn 65
As the car filled with the intoxicating aroma of just-baked pizza, the drive home turned into a doomed exercise in willpower. Yes, I sneaked a slice. In my position, you would have done the same.
Chef Dan Manosack clearly knows what he’s doing, pizza-wise. The crusts are thin and sturdy, with edges that are slightly blistered and blackened, and he’s impressively disciplined when it comes to toppings. No ponderous, smothered-by-cheese pizzas here.
For this beauty ($14), Manosack starts with a thin swoosh of crushed tomatoes followed by plenty of zippy lamb sausage. The finishing touches are peppy mint (lamb and mint, that eternally appealing combination) and fragrant fennel. Against all odds, I managed to preserve the last slice for next-day breakfast. It was spectacular. Curbside pickup, 3-8 p.m. daily.
6439 Lyndale Av. S., Richfield, 612-353-5501
Asparagus and pancetta-mint soup
This recipe, which hails from Jamie Oliver’s 2003 cookbook, “Jamie’s Kitchen,” has been a favorite of mine for ages. After finally reading the fine print — which notes that other green vegetables can take the place of the main ingredient, peas — I decided to give asparagus a test drive, seeing as how the local season is underway. Bingo. While it looks and feels as if you fussed (the croutons add crispy texture and the pancetta and mint add deepen the soup’s flavor dimensions), the recipe comes together in about the time it takes to roast the pancetta in the oven, about 20 minutes. I might prefer the asparagus version to the original peas formulation, and that’s saying something, because I love that soup. Find the recipe here.
Roast beef sandwich at Clancey’s Meats & Fish
It had been too long since I’d entrusted my appetite to owner Kristin Tombers and her crew, an oversight I won’t be repeating. When it comes to sandwiches, this butcher shop nails every detail, and then some.
It should come as no surprise, given the venue, that the beef is spectacular. Thinly shaved and intensely flavorful and succulent, it’s always the same premium cut — top round — and it’s always grass-fed and grass-finished, sourced from two top-flight local purveyors: Thousand Hills Cattle Co. or Hidden Stream Farm. The bread is equally well-pedigreed, a crusty baguette from Patisserie 46 that’s fortified with rye flour; the portion is so generous that it appears to be half the loaf.
Follow Tombers’ suggestions for finishing touches: light mayo, with extra red wine vinegar and extra horseradish. Other add-ons include lettuce, sharp onion, tangy pickles, roasted red pepper and a grainy, punchy mustard, and in this symphony of a sandwich, they’re all necessary components.
Tombers said that she’s been living on two staples for the past two months: vegetables swimming in her shop’s flavor-packed chicken broth, and these roast beef sandwiches. That sounds like a balanced diet to me.
It’s priced at $13.50. “Some might initially balk at that,” she said. “But it’s sustenance for an entire day.” She’s right, which is why the correct response is “yes” when asked, “Would you like it cut in half?”
4307 Upton Av. S., Mpls., 612-926-0222
Roasted chicken thighs from Bar Brigade
“Support your neighborhood restaurant” is the battle cry these days. Fortunately, this charmer is within walking distance.
Three cheers to Bar Brigade’s takeout format, with moderately priced breakfast, lunch and dinner options served in the early half the week, when many other to-go options are on pause.
At dinner, there are a handful of uncomplicated take-and-bake meals, including this one, a pair of meaty skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. They were brushed with harissa — the chile-fueled heat level was thankfully a few notches higher than tepid “Minnesota hot” — and served with a cooling yogurt sauce.
Could I have made this myself? Probably. Did I feel like cooking? Nope. Was the price ($13) right? Totally. Thanks, Bar Brigade, for making the task of Wednesday night dinner both easy and delicious. Takeout, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Thu.
470 Cleveland Av. S., St. Paul, 651-340-3568
Chocolate sugar cookies
One of my sheltering-in-place activities has been baking my way through “The Vanilla Bean Baking Book,” the creative, user-friendly 2016 cookbook by local blogger and photographer Sarah Kieffer.
So far, I’ve tackled cinnamon rolls, cardamom braided knots, triple chocolate cupcakes, blueberry-apple crumb bars and Kieffer’s wrinkled, Shar-pei-esque chocolate chip cookies. And of course, these fantastic cookies, which I’m made twice. Wait, three times.
To me, they’re an ideal lunch box cookie. From the baker’s perspective, they’re simplicity itself, just eight ingredients (all pantry basics) that come together in a flash. On the eater’s side, they’re the kind of crowd-pleaser that everyone wants to grab, thanks to their crinkled, sugar-flecked tops (I’m a molasses crinkle guy from way back), and their appealing texture, which is crisped-up on the outside yet tender and chewy on the inside.
Kieffer suggests making them big. That’s her experience as a coffeehouse baker doing the talking (her résumé includes Blue Heron Coffeehouse in Winona, and Bordertown Coffee in Minneapolis), because doesn’t everyone want a palm-size cookie with their latte? Still, I prepare them smaller, maybe 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough to Kieffer’s suggested 3 tablespoons. At that reduced scale, I bake them slightly less, maybe a minute or two.
Kieffer has a new cookbook coming out in August (“100 Cookies”), and this baker can’t wait.
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Makes 12 large or 24 smaller cookies.
Note: From “The Vanilla Bean Baking Book” by Sarah Kieffer.
• 1 3/4 c. flour
• 1/2 c. natural (unsweetened) cocoa powder
• 3/4 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 3/4 c. sugar, divided
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add 1 3/4 cups sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Place remaining 1 cup sugar in a medium bowl.
Form the cookies into 3-ounce balls (a scant 1/3 cup each). Roll each ball in the sugar and place on prepared baking sheets, 6 cookies to a sheet. Bake until edges have set and centers are puffed and starting to crackle, 11 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven, transfer baking sheets to a wire rack and let cookies cool completely on baking sheets.