Cooking at home with The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

This week, the Marketing Department decided to take our work home with us and try our hand at cooking a few recipes from the beautiful Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook: Recipes from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (Hardcover, $22.95, ISBN-13: 978-1-55591-747-0). You may have read marketing manager Katie O’Neill’s post yesterday describing her attempt at the Cranberry Crumble(d), found on page 149. I have no doubt that if cranberries were in season right now (really, where do cranberries go after Thanksgiving?), Katie’s crumble would have been fantastic. I’m going to file that recipe away for next Thanksgiving.

I chose a couple of recipes with ingredients that are in season year-round but especially good during the summer months, when fresh local produce is available. The first recipe I made was the Quinoa Salad, found on page 53. I love quinoa and am always looking for new recipes and new ways to eat it. It’s a great light meal, perfect for lunch or summer dinner, plus it’s packed with protein. The Quinoa Salad from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook is incredibly easy to make and very flavorful.

Quinoa in the pot from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

I served it with chicken breasts that I had in the fridge, and my husband and I devoured the meal. The honey and lemon vinaigrette that you pour over the quinoa was light and zesty and paired wonderfully with the cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions. I loved it and would make this simple yet flavorful salad again any day.

Quinoa Salad from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

The next night, I ramped up the technical difficulty a bit and went for the Chicken Mole Verde Tacos, found on page 78 (the mole verde is on page page 134). Wow. These were a far cry from the Martha Stewart, anyone-can-cook-them recipes I typically make, but the extra effort really paid off. I was so pleased with how this mole dish came out, and again, so was my husband (who went back for seconds AND thirds).

The whole meal took about 2.5 hours to cook, but with a little prep beforehand, most of that time is spent with chicken in the oven and mole simmering on the stove. This dish is loaded with flavor from tomatillos, a poblano pepper, an anaheim pepper, and tons of fresh squeezed orange, lemon, and lime juice. We put the chicken mole on corn tortillas and topped it with queso fresco, salsa, and cilantro, and we ended up with tacos that were spicy, tangy, tender, and colorful. Yum.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook next time you are looking for a fresh, new recipe. After the success of this week’s meals, there are 87 more wonderful-looking dishes in the cookbook that I can’t wait to try. Especially the Cranberry Crumble (in about seven months)!

Cranberry Crumble(d)

This Cranberry Crumble is a sight to behold. It looks so pretty and yummy. This is not anything like what my cranberry crumble looked like last night. This crumble must have been made by someone who either (a) baked it earlier than 1 am on a Wednesday night without a whining dog jumping on them the entire time, or (b) is an elf (elves are responsible for many magical incidents in my life when I’m too lazy to fully understand them).

I don’t have a picture of my crumble to share today. I, er…my, uh, dog ate it? I left it at home? It’s too embarrassing to show publicly and, unfortunately, not quite good enough to feed my coworkers today for a little afternoon snack. No, my crumble is better left to the imagination.

I thought I had picked the easiest recipe in The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook (Hardcover, $22.95, ISBN-13: 978-1-55591-747-0). Wait. Yes. Yes, I did. There are only six ingredients, for gosh sakes! The entire prep and bake time can be done in less than 45 minutes! You can play fetch with your whining dog, talk on the phone to your best friend, wash the dishes, and sing aloud all while creating this yummy concoction. Or, wait. Maybe you can’t do all those things while creating it. Maybe that’s where I went wrong? My 1 am multitasking?

No, where I went wrong was trying to bake something when its main ingredient is out of season, or at least in the wrong holiday season. It’s more Easter-Bunny-and-chocolate-egg season around here, less turkey-gobble-gobble-and-pass-out-watching-football-on-TV season. Where do cranberries go in April? I ask you. Because I went to three grocery stores and this is what I found at the first two:

I found one bag of frozen cranberries at the third store (as if elves had put it there). The amount of cranberries called for in this recipe is more around the amount of two bags. No problem, I bought the bag anyway, mainly because I finally felt victorious in my search (and it’s hide-plastic-eggs-around-your-backyard-and-send-your-kids-looking-for-them season).

I was tired by the time I got home and started the simple tasks of adding and simmering cranberries, cornmeal, sugar, butter, maple syrup, and honey. Maybe I was too tired to notice that I should alter the amount of cranberry to sugar/maple syrup/honey ratio based upon the smaller amount of available cranberries in the state of Colorado during the month of April. Alas, I was not.

I was pretty thrilled with the smell, though. Simmering cranberries and maple syrup has to be one of the most divine aromas in the universe. And, I would like to think that even though my end result wasn’t so pretty, my cranberry soup smelled just as amazing as Chef Hetzler’s elves’ cranberry crumble (see above).

I wish you luck in your baking endeavors. This recipe is simple, fast, and really impressive when you follow the recipe. It’s a great recipe for the holiday season, should you be anything like me and will-not-be-cooking-a-turkey-because-you-prefer-Tofurkey-but-might-have-the-perfect-dessert-to-bring-to-dinner-now. Do me proud and stock up on cranberries now.