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Smithy

eG Foodblog: Smithy - Clinging to Summer's Backside in Duluth

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In Northeast Minnesota, what they call the Iron Range,

Where men are men and that is that, and some things never change,

Where winter stays 9 months a year, there is no spring or fall

and it's so cold the mercury cannot be seen at all...

-- So begins Garrison Keillor's Ballad of the Finn Who Would Not Take a Sauna. It's a fine read, if you like that sort of thing (I do), and it's even better if you can hear Garrison himself recite it. It's also as good an introduction as I can think of to this corner of my world. As luck and good timing would have it, I'm blogging during that all-too-brief time that is NOT winter, and might be called summer if you were to squint. Summer here is the despair of gardeners. It started this year around July 4, as it frequently does. Tonight is August 17, and the temperature is predicted to dip to 39F.

We're on the fast downhill slide from summer into fall, all right.

I can't speak for everyone around here, but I'm clinging hard to the last vestiges of summer. It isn't that I don't like the fall - I do - but summer and its produce here are too ephemeral to wish them to hurry away. This blog is to be a bit of a tour for you, to show you around the area and its produce, and to celebrate summer as it starts to slide in earnest.

My area of coverage is pretty broad. I live near Duluth, which is at the pointy end of Lake Superior, but I spend a lot of time working up the North Shore of Lake Superior, and somewhat less time inland on the Iron Range. (Do not let my blog title and the poem confuse you: Duluth is not the Iron Range is not the North Shore. From a distance they may look alike, but the residents will no more appreciate being mislabeled than, say, a Scot would appreciate being called English.) If you look at a map of Minnesota and imagine lopping off the northeastern quadrant, going roughly straight north from the end of Lake Superior, you can see why it's called the Arrowhead. The cultures and foods of the areas I visit are different enough that they're all worth exploring, and I'll do that to the best of my ability.

I'll add a couple of words about my work and the way I imagine this blog will work, and then post this to get things going. First off: I work two jobs - one full time, one less so. Sometimes I'm near a computer during the day, but I can't count on it, so my main activity is likely to be during the evening, or first thing in the morning. The full-time job is only indirectly related to food. The part-time job is as a flight instructor, and it isn't at all related to food, although there's likely to be an airport lunch sometime this week. However - both jobs involve a lot of teaching and communication! I cannot abide posting or lecturing in a vacuum, so I hope you'll ask lots of questions or post comments. I plan to solicit opinions and suggestions for some cookery I intend to do, too.

While I've been typing on this, I've been having an evening snack:

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Nectarine-plum ice cream based on Ruth Smith's Peach Ice Cream, the original recipe, and Folie a Deux Menage a Trois wine, an inexpensive blend of zinfandel, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Mmm. Ice cream and red wine are a nice combination, especially at this hour.

Welcome to my world!

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Finally, Nancy!

Do tell us a little bit more about what is ripening or not in your garden, and at the farmer's markets (surely there is at least one in Duluth?).

Will we get a glimpse of a fly-in picnic?

Summer is indeed slipping rapidly into fall. I espied the first of the slightly yellowing leaves on an eary ash tree today, and the days are getting noticably shorter, the sun's angle is far lower that it was even three weeks ago. I assume you are worshiping the tomato god every day, wishing those fruits to become nice and red and juicy before the night time temps continue to dip.

And, no Duluth is not North Shore, nor is is Da Range.

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Finally, Nancy!

Do tell us a little bit more about what is ripening or not in your garden, and at the farmer's markets (surely there is at least one in Duluth?).

Will we get a glimpse of a fly-in picnic?

Summer is indeed slipping rapidly into fall.  I espied the first of the slightly yellowing leaves on an eary ash tree today, and the days are getting noticably shorter, the sun's angle is far lower that it was even three weeks ago.  I assume you are worshiping the tomato god every day, wishing those fruits to become nice and red and juicy before the night time temps continue to dip.

And, no Duluth is not North Shore, nor is is Da Range.

I'm afraid the only thing liable to ripen in my garden is some of the tomatoes. I tried peppers this year, and they're a laugh. The herbs are doing well. I'll be posting photos of what I grow, and how I use it. The Farmers' Market that I can attend (there are a few in the area) will be open on Saturday, and I plan to have photos of that, too.

Flying is, as always, a weather-dependednt activity, so we'll have to see about that. I thought about titling this blog "weather permitting" since it dictates so much of what I do.

The maples and birch are starting to turn up here. I keep wanting to shout at them, "get your clothes back on!"

Edited for punctuation.


Edited by Smithy (log)

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And here all this time I thought Minnesota was just a myth. :wink:

Looking forward to seeing "your world", Smithy. Lovely start with that red wine and rose ice cream. Perfect. :smile:

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I've been fighting the urge to buy an ice cream maker for some time now (I can sit and eat ice cream all day, and I mean ALL day), but that photo is pushing me in the "buy it, buy it!" direction. And the combination of that ice cream with a glass of wine is one I would never have thought of, yet they look like they are absolutely born for each other. And that's only post #1! I'm very much looking forward to the rest of your blog.

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I can't speak for everyone around here, but I'm clinging hard to the last vestiges of summer.  It isn't that I don't like the fall - I do - but summer and its produce here are too ephemeral to wish them to hurry away.  This blog is to be a bit of a tour for you, to show you around the area and its produce, and to celebrate summer as it starts to slide in earnest. 

I'm actually a bit jealous. Fall won't be here in earnest until October, and summer's charms are already wearing a bit thin. Lots of great produce, true, but our temp today will be in the 90's Fahrenheit.

Looking forward to seeing summer up north.

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i have the opposite problem here in fl. we have summer 9 mths out of the yr. :biggrin: 39 degrees? wow, yesterday here it was 106 heat index. i am jealous..the ice cream looked really great. garrison keillor is a favorite in our house.

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Thanks for the nice responses, everyone! I'm laughing at you folks in Atlanta and Florida. Sure, I remember living in the L.A. Basin and wishing for a bit more variety in the weather. Be careful what you wish for, because you're going to get it.... :rolleyes:

I think I'm getting this photo business worked out, but it's a slow go. (I am encouraged by the comments about the ice cream, though!) You'll have to let me know whether they're too big, too dark, that sort of thing.

This morning while I was answering Snow Angel I was having my first morning's cuppa joe.

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I used to be a purist about grinding the beans in the morning, then pouring the boiling water through the drip filter, and so forth. Then I got married and learned that marriage is the art of compromise...or learning from one another! We keep an automatic drip coffee maker plugged in, and the last thing before going to bed is to load it up with coffee and water for the morning. We awaken to freshly-brewed coffee, ready to boost us as we do the usual rounds of petting and medicating and feeding cats, walking dog and cats, packing lunch, etc. In case you're wondering, my husband's learning/compromise was not to keep drinking the same pot of coffee all week! I drew the line at that.

I really am not interested in food first thing in the morning, so I make breakfast to eat on the road, or to peck at through the morning. This morning it was a bunch of rainier cherries from Michigan, brought over when the local raspberry farm made their annual truck run for cherries and blueberries.

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I also made a sandwich of toasted pita, sliced avocado, and smoked salmon spread from Lou's Fish House. The avocado is quite definitely not a local product, but it's a summer favorite. I put a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Spike on it, and usually I'm good to go. This week, in preparation for the blog, I stopped in at Lou's to pick up some fish and take photos. (There will be no photos of the interior. I'll tell you about that later, if I remember.) Still, the smoked salmon spread looked too good to pass up. It's good stuff.

The fixings:

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Breakfast, ready for the road:

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And for those of you who wonder at the wisdom of eating on the road, here's the road:

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That's fog in the photo, by the way. We don't call Lake Superior a big refrigerator for nothing.

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I've been fighting the urge to buy an ice cream maker for some time now (I can sit and eat ice cream all day, and I mean ALL day), but that photo is pushing me in the "buy it, buy it!" direction. And the combination of that ice cream with a glass of wine is one I would never have thought of, yet they look like they are absolutely born for each other. And that's only post #1! I'm very much looking forward to the rest of your blog.

C'mon. You know you want one! :biggrin: Go check out the Ice cream, gelato, sherbet Cook-Off XI over in the Cooking forum for more inspiration, if you need any!

While I've been uploading photos and posting, I've been eating the lunch I'd packed: leftover, reheated Djej Emshemel (Chicken with Lemons and Olives Emshemel) from Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. I had every intention of showing you a photo of this luscious stuff, but I swear if you saw the photo of my leftovers you'd never think of trying it. Mine is swimming in sauce, all of a strange lemony saffrony yellow color. There's a definite art to food photography, and I won't disgrace one of Paula's recipes with such a shot. Suffice it to say that this chicken is drop-dead tender (I've been eating the thighs with a spoon) and the sauce deserves some good bread to soak it up, but a spoon works just fine too.

I have another plum to eat, and the rest of this morning's breakfast (I ate little of it this morning), so I've food left over for afternoon snacks.

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How does Lou's compare to Russ Kendalls? We always stop at "Smokey Kendalls" and haven't been to Lou's. Lou's seems much more commercial that RK's. RK's in face, has a sign listing their hours with the word "usually" featured prominently.

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Beautiful cherries. Now I have a cherry craving.

ETA... and it looks rather cold there in that fog. Brr. I'll keep my Arizona sunshine. :biggrin:


Edited by viva (log)

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gallery_28661_3_21046.jpg

That's fog in the photo, by the way.  We don't call Lake Superior a big refrigerator for nothing.

Reminds me of the first time I saw Oswego, on a house-hunting trip after my husband had accepted the job here. It was the week after Memorial Day, and the whole two days the fog at the shore was too thick to see the lake. It took until our second house-hunting trip for me to believe that there actually was water out there!

We're only supposed to get down to the mid-60s tonight. Our refrigerator's a little smaller and warmer than yours. :biggrin:

MelissaH

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So that's where all the cool air's been hiding! :wink:

It's been nothing but 90+ degree weather here for quite some time, up until last weekend that is.

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How does Lou's compare to Russ Kendalls?  We always stop at "Smokey Kendalls" and haven't been to Lou's.   Lou's seems much more commercial that RK's.  RK's in face, has a sign listing their hours with the word "usually" featured prominently.

I have to admit, I usually get my fish from a favorite place in Duluth that you'll be seeing later, but it's nothing against Kendalls. Kendalls' is a bit off my usual route, and they're "usually" not there if I make the detour, because of my odd hours. During the weekends when I'm doing most of my shopping, I'm not near Knife River.

That said, I bet they'll be willing to let me take some photos, and I plan to stop by during this blog time to see. Their fish is great, and they're very nice people. Betty Kendall keeps "Betty's Bar" across the road and down a ways. I'd been hoping to do this blog some night there was an old-timey music jam session going on there, partly to participate but justified by the potluck party food, but it isn't to be.

I think Smokey Kendalls' and Lou's Fish House are prime examples of the way things used to be along the North Shore, and in some places continue to be. They have a variety of fish caught around here that they smoke themselves, so you'll see smoked herring, smoked lake trout, smoked cisco, but you're not likely to see artisan cheeses. The Northern Waters Smokehaus in Duluth that I frequent carries smoked salmon and trout only, with a variety of coatings, but they also carry artisan cheeses and specialty meats like andouille sausage. They've gone upscale. I'm really hoping to get some photos of the old and the new, to show how much things have changed here in the last 20 years.

When I stopped in at Lou's, I looked around, scoped out the selection, and planned to stop by during the blog. Then I decided, "what the heck, I have the camera now" and went out to the car to get it. In I came, camera in hand.

Counter lady: "May I help you?"

Me: "Well, I came in to buy some things, but I also wonder whether you'd mind my taking some photos."

She: "Photos? Why?"

Me: "Have you ever heard of a blog?" (blank look) "Web log?" (more blank look) "Well, I'm going to be doing an online documentary of the food I eat for the next week. I'd like to show off some of the North Shore businesses, and I wonder if I could take some photos of your food?"

She: "Nope. No photos. Here's a map of the Duluth/Superior area that you can show your friends. Tell them we've been featured in National Geographic, and will be in next month's issue of Midwest Living."

I tried a couple more times to explain what was going on, and got a business card out of her. All in all, I came away reminded of hobbits and their deep suspicion of anything new. The funny thing is, Lou's has a web site. :laugh:

Edited for spelling and punctuation.


Edited by Smithy (log)

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So that's where all the cool air's been hiding!  :wink:

It's been nothing but 90+ degree weather here for quite some time, up until last weekend that is.

It actually was quite warm - shorts weather - right up through last weekend. Here's what it looked like on Sunday:

gallery_17034_3_10515.jpg

When it changes, it changes fast.

MelissaH, I remember my first trip here was in the winter. I worked here 3 days before realizing the lake was within a quarter mile! These Great Lakes are amazing, aren't they?

Viva, surprisingly, it isn't that cold yet although it will be before much longer. The cloud cover last night helped keep the place much warmer than predicted. I think it only got down into the 50's last night.

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In Jackal10's Food Blog we saw beautiful herbs, well tended and plentiful. There was even a game to identify as many herbs as possible. I looked at his lovely garden and swooned.

Mine doesn't look like that.

I'll post a photo of the "main" garden later, such as it is, but I should explain that many of my plants are in pots instead of the bed. We're still landscaping around the yard and debating about where things need to go, so it was easiest just to plant in pots that could be moved. It makes it easier to weed them, too. You'll see why that's important for me.

Here's the first what-is-it set. The photos are a bit far away, so may be difficult to identify. I have closer views of some of them.

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This one should be easy. There will be a bit less in this pot after this evening or tomorrow evening.

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Here's the first of the gratuitous pet photos. Tigger was good enough to pose last evening when I got home.

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You see why I've been complaining about the tomatoes. At least, some are finally ripening! The cherry tomatoes on the other side of the house are doing better.

These photos are as I uploaded them, but they look a bit large (not to mention too uniform) to me. Does anyone else have an opinion about this?

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While I've been uploading photos and posting, I've been eating the lunch I'd packed:  leftover, reheated Djej Emshemel (Chicken with Lemons and Olives Emshemel) from Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco

Have you tried the kefta recipes? She nails them. People always seem really reluctant to try the kefta mkaouara because it sounds weird and not as "fancy" as other dishes but it was always my hands down favorite thing I ever ate in Morocco. I also made the slightly less exotic kefta "emshmel" a few times and that gets inhaled by guests, I often don't think they even bother chewing. Quite disturbing actually.

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While I've been uploading photos and posting, I've been eating the lunch I'd packed:  leftover, reheated Djej Emshemel (Chicken with Lemons and Olives Emshemel) from Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco

Have you tried the kefta recipes? She nails them. People always seem really reluctant to try the kefta mkaouara because it sounds weird and not as "fancy" as other dishes but it was always my hands down favorite thing I ever ate in Morocco. I also made the slightly less exotic kefta "emshmel" a few times and that gets inhaled by guests, I often don't think they even bother chewing. Quite disturbing actually.

I haven't yet, but now I shall. Should I do it this weekend during the blog? I was thinking of another chicken tagine, but I see the mkaouara uses some fine summer produce.

Edited to add: inhaled, eh? What an image!


Edited by Smithy (log)

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Some of them are in fact snakes. Those don't get invited back. :wink:

edit: the kefta mkaouara is just good home cookin', nothing fancy in the least. The only thing that makes it weird for people is that they're not used to eating eggs for dinner. (We're talking easily-weirded out types here.) But the kefta Emshmel is a real showstopper in terms of flavor. In fact, I am making it again this Friday, by request. It's the sort of thing you'd want to serve a sweetish couscous after, but I think I'll just have a couple of moroccan-style salads and some nice bread, saffron panna cotta for dessert.


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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I've been fighting the urge to buy an ice cream maker for some time now (I can sit and eat ice cream all day, and I mean ALL day), but that photo is pushing me in the "buy it, buy it!" direction. And the combination of that ice cream with a glass of wine is one I would never have thought of, yet they look like they are absolutely born for each other. And that's only post #1! I'm very much looking forward to the rest of your blog.

I was, too. Then my DH got me the Cuisinart for my birthday :wub:

Buy one. You won't regret it.

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I'm not famililar with Moroccan dishes. Could you describe them a bit more?

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Temps down to 39F??? Ho ho ho, here I am in "winter" in New Zealand, and it7s currently around 70F. To be honest, it's warm for the time of year, and there are colder regions, but roses are blooming in my garden!

I'm amazed to see how many people really do cook middle eastern food at home - I mean, lots of people enjoy Chinese food, but far fewer cook genuinely Chinese dishes at home. Hope you do get to try a new recipe over the weekend...should we be praying for more fog???

A red herring query, if it's not too out of line...what do you think is a good minimum age to start flying lessons? I live not far from a well-equipped airfield. My elder son was bitten good and hard by the aviation bug several years back, and wants to be an aeronautical engineer. Serves me right for spending his lifetime translating aviation safety reports, with a houseful of books on airplanes...of course, he wants to learn to fly them too.

Meanwhile, we know every picnic spot in the county which is near a runway, under a flight path, looks down over an airfield...

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Smithy!! ...Yes!

I am so glad to see you are blogging. I enjoy all the blogs, but I am most interested in glimpses into the lives of everyday people, with whom I think I might find something in common.

And your weather... "I wouldn't want to live there, but it's a nice place to visit" ...via your blog of course. :smile:

You are a flight instructor, how awesome is that. My son is a Navy Flight Officer, and so of course I have an interest in aviation. Please don't hesitate to journal about the flight lunches and show some more scenes from the sky.

This is great. Blog on!

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I'm not famililar with Moroccan dishes. Could you describe them a bit more?

Wow. I'll let other people try to answer that one :biggrin:

The couscous, tagine and bisteeya threads that are floating around would be a good place to start. In terms of flavor, there really is a wide range. Usually you can think spiced but not "spicy". Though some things are certainly spicy. Some savory dishes use honey, orange blossom water, and cinnamon. Others use preserved lemons and olives, not sweet at all. Lots use some combination of the above, plus paprika, garlic, parsley, saffron, cilantro etc etc etc.

And then there is the mint tea, and the almond paste cookies...

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