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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, December 4

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Recipe Mon Nov 30 2015

The Proper Way to Make Bruschetta and Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Bruschetta_02_schinken.jpgThe Proper Way to Make a Bruschetta
Before my romp through Italy last week, I hated bruschetta. It was always an overpriced side dish, a limp piece of toast piled high with a miserable concoction of bland tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.

The word bruschetta comes from the verb bruscare, meaning "to roast over coals" or "burn". The bread is literally supposed to be burnt--in other words, if it ain't charred like a cleverly-disposed body, you're doing it wrong. Because making bruschetta is an exercise in simplicity, don't skimp on high-quality (and if possible, in-season) ingredients.

1. Cut a thick piece of bread with good surface area. You want at least an inch thickness because the outside should be crispy and crunchy, but the very inside of the toast should actually be slightly chewy.
2. Rub a small piece of garlic over your toast, just one or two swipes to get the aroma in there. You can skip this step if you don't like garlic, but it does add a flavorful nuance.
2. Toast the bread on both sides over an open-flame (not an oven or hot pan) to get a black char all over your toast. You want to caramelize the toast so it has that beautiful carb smell.
3. Drench charred toast with the finest extra virgin olive oil you can afford. No, resist the use of plain olive oil or butter or 70% sunflower-oil olive oil.
4. Top toast with a simple salad of farmer-market tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes. I like a slice or two of pungent prosciutto over mine, or even marinated anchovies. If you want, top toast with Grana Padano, or some other hard cheese. You can also add fresh mozzarella (the liquidy, ball-shaped kind, not the rectangular Kraft kind), balsamic vinegar, or parsley. However, I find that a bruschetta with one or two ingredients is typically the gold standard. I would not recommend an avocado smear with crispy kale and bonito flakes.

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Judy Wu

Recipe Mon Oct 12 2015

How To Make a Halloween Fondant Cake

rsz_img_0501.jpgHalloween is a time to frighten colleagues and friends with not only your costume, but your pastry skills. For this year's Halloween bake-off at my work, I am determined to create a dessert monstrosity that will garner me a promotion and eternal reverence. Making an impressive cake typically requires the use of fondant, an edible icing with the consistency of play-dough and the taste of firm of marshmallows. Its sculpting features are fairly easy to master, but the results are (usually) visually astounding.

Why Not to Buy Fondant
Because that s*** will crack faster than a tectonic plate. And because fondant only requires two simple ingredients: marshmallows and powdered sugar.

1) Shortening or butter
2) 1 bag of marshmallows
3) 1 bag (2 lbs) of powdered sugar
4) Cake (This recipe assumes you have already baked a cake and frosted the entire thing. It's important to cover the entire cake because your frosting is your glue.)

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Judy Wu

Recipe Thu Sep 24 2015

The Perfect Autumn Dessert: Cinnamon Rolls

rsz_cinnamon_rolls_drizzled_with_glaze_3_april_2009.jpgCinnamon rolls are truly the ugliest desserts. A tray of these pastries resembles baked pig flesh matted with dark sand, covered with the gonadular remnants.

But damn, are they a delicious thing. In the spirit of autumn, I tried my hand at these pastries, and while I wasn't completely successful from an aesthetic standpoint, I'd reckon they were tasty enough to earn me a stand at a farmer's market.

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Judy Wu

Recipe Thu Sep 03 2015

Making Milk Bread: A Japanese Staple

rsz_15108827058_c19a139e04_z.jpgBread is glorious--artisanal spelt loafs, hearty rye, French baguettes, eggy challah, naan, bagels, bings, focaccia, injera. For something so utterly delicious, it is an absolute bitch to make. The ingredients used in making bread are usually cheap and simple, but the process is unnecessarily arduous. The ratios, the rise, the oven temperature--all these factors must tango in perfect unison, or the final result will be an inedible block of starchy sadness.

One of my favorites is milk bread, a soft, fluffy variety popular in Japan (but difficult to find in Chicago). It's the same bread used to make panko. It's also soft and buttery like brioche, but the richness and feathery texture actually comes from the Tangzhong paste mixed into the dough (so it's "healthier!") Tangzhong is a flour-and-water starter commonly used in Chinese cooking to create soft, elastic buns (or baos). The following recipe is surprisingly easy and requires only a moderate level of patience and skill.

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Judy Wu / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Aug 11 2015

Make This Ice Cream in Your Office Freezer

5034578144_017b7b5214_o.jpgLike Kanye, I like my ice-cream creamy and voluptuous. Except unlike Kanye, I don't need the finest things in life. Hence, a lazy ice-cream recipe I concocted in the office, for the office:

1. ¼ cup white sugar (12 packets of sugar--Slowly hoard these at your desk so colleagues don't judge you.)
2. 0.4 cup of heavy cream (Don't use those half & half cups; buy heavy cream at lunch or bring from home.)
3. 1 tbsp coffee grind (I like to use half a French Vanilla Keurig cup.)

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Judy Wu

Drink Tue Jul 14 2015

How to Make Cascara

Are you a coffee lover? A tea lover? Somewhere in between? If your answer is "yes" to any of these questions, then cascara may be the drink for you. Cascara, which I only recently heard about, is the dried skins of coffee cherries, the fruit that surrounds coffee beans, which are actually seeds. Cascara (or "coffee-cherry tea") has been consumed for generations in coffee-growing countries, but the market for it is just starting to develop here in the States.

In Chicago, you can purchase cascara from some of the city's finest independent roasters. I found bags from PassionHouse and HalfWit--although there may be others. Some local shops are starting to use cascara in their seasonal signature drinks, so ask your neighborhood barista about this naturally sweet, refreshing nectar.

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Jessica Easto

Recipe Wed May 27 2015

Pickling Watermelon: A Refreshing Summer Dish

6848901867_8ef2b40439_z.jpgOne thing that pops up after large floods--besides animal corpses and mold in your walls-are watermelons. After the waters recede and sunshine glares upon the wet earth, watermelons begin appearing in the oddest places--on the side of roads, in the front yard. It may be just a Southern thang, but what a wonderful thang it is.

Because watermelons produce so much waste, one trick I learned during my childhood was pickling watermelon rinds. Sweet and tender, these rinds pair well with grilled pork, ramen, and pretty much anything. So here's one more recipe for the pickling movement:

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Judy Wu

Feature Tue Apr 21 2015

"Cookie Love" Uncovers Dessert's Best-Kept Secret

cookielove.jpgThe first line of the introduction to Mindy Segal's newest cookbook Cookie Love (Ten Speed, $25) is all you need to know for understanding why this is required reading for all bakers: "I am a cookie nerd."

Yes, the celebrated pastry chef, James Beard award recipient and owner of Bucktown's Hot Chocolate knows where the real thunder of desserts rumbles -- the cookie. Why? It's versatile in all ways, from a standard chocolate chip, a shortbread with a delicate layer of sugar, or a delicate macaron. The cookie's flexibility has puzzlingly made it an overlooked item when it comes to fine dining menus, banished to being the backup dancer for panna cotta. Segal clearly has a different perspective, taking cookies all over the sensory and flavor map--a cornmeal shortbread dotted with crushed Corn Nuts, a graham cracker and passionfruit whoopie pie cookie, a strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel (recipe at the end of this article), even a recipe for pumpkin dog biscuits brushed with meat drippings. The ingredients used in Cookie Love span from the recognizable to the average baker (Folgers crystals, peppermint candies), to ones that require trips to specialty stores for things like an Ateco Pipe #826 or orange blossom water. Each recipe requires work and attention; even the batch of simple snickerdoodles I made last night had me making dough very differently (read: less carelessly) than normal as I followed the instructions to Segal's word. It was work, but the results were delicious. If we're going to heighten the food, we heighten the technique.

Each entry is paired with a thoughtful story about its origins: a family recipe, a request from a bartender for a good oatmeal scotchie, a regular customer whose kids get walked back to the kitchen to pick out their own cookies from the cooling racks -- and is sometimes paired with technical shop talk on how to build on Segal's recipe, like how to chocolate-ify her take on a Fig Newton whose filling consists of figs cooked in port wine and honey. Segal clearly takes her subject matter seriously, and reading through Cookie Love, you'd forget that these cookies are baked daily and served at Hot Chocolate alongside an equally good full menu. Segal intends to release more cookbooks down the line of a single subject, so every item on her table will get their due.

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Robyn Nisi

Recipe Tue Mar 03 2015

"Red-Cooked" Pork Belly Recipe

hong shao ro.jpgHong shao rou ("red cooked" pork belly) is the beef bourguignon of China--velvety red, intensely savory, and braised slowly with wine. Though pork belly is fairly common in the American dining scene, this dish rarely makes an appearance, even in authentic Chinese restaurants. The star anise and Shaoxing wine makes this dish distinctively Chinese, and the delicious final result is often served with rice or noodles.


2 lbs pork belly, cut into 2 inch squares
3 pieces of whole star anise
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece of ginger, cut into slices
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water
2 tbsp. vegetable or peanut oil

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Judy Wu / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Feb 10 2015

Chinese New Year Recipe: The Tea Egg

tea egg.JPGIt's only nine days until Lunar New Year, which in English, roughly translates into Awesome Chinese Christmasgiving. This 15-day celebration typically entails watching fireworks, receiving lots of monetary gifts, and eating a belligerent amount of food. Steamed fish, dumplings, and long noodles are all delicious traditional recipes, but one underrated dish is the tea-boiled egg. I used to eat one for breakfast every day, and I find that they're a much tastier alternative to plain hard-boiled eggs. Because the following recipe involves a lengthy steeping component, it's best to start the process early.

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Judy Wu

Recipe Mon Jan 05 2015

Experimenting with Ice Cream Bases

ice cream-410330_640.jpgI received a professional ice cream machine for Christmas this year, meaning I spent a week turning my apartment into an ice cream parlor. Making ice cream is like reverse-baking -- you create a "base" (or batter) that then freezes into a solid mass you enjoy on a hot summer's day -- or in Chicago, a bitterly cold winter's day. There are countless variations of ice cream bases -- from the basic concoction of eggs, cream and sugar to guar gum, corn syrup and gelatin. Without eggs (a.k.a. Philadelphia-style) or appropriate thickeners, ice creams tend to be firmer, crystallize easier, and have a chewier texture. Without sugar, ice cream is grainy and difficult to scoop. I tried multiple single-quart recipes for ice cream bases (without flavorings or add-ins), and here are my results:

The Classic
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
⅔ cup sugar
6 large egg yolks

This is the archetypal ice cream base, and for good reason. It's light, creamy, and every scoop leaves you wanting more. Every ice cream maker will follow a variation of this, occasionally using dairy, sugar, or egg substitutes to help thicken and sweeten. With the exception of Haagen Daz, most commercial brands use cheaper substitutes because it isn't cost-effective for the quantities of ice cream they produce. For instance, both Oberweis and Ben and Jerry's use guar gum and carraegeenan in place of eggs and mixes water and cream to produce heavy cream. Blue Bell ice cream uses high-fructose corn syrup, cellulose gums, and vegetable gums.

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Judy Wu

Book Tue Nov 25 2014

An Indian Thanksgiving?

93284100362000L.jpgThere aren't any statistics to back me up, but I'm going to grab part of a wishbone and declare this to be the most stressful week. Thursday's meal is arguably the most difficult that you'll plan this year. That's somewhat hilarious, since chances are you're organizing the exact same menu that you did last year and maybe even the year before. Isn't it time for a Thanksgiving shake-up? If you've been crying out for change, I have an answer for your Turkey Day woes.

Indian for Everyone by Anupy Singla is full of more than 100 classic and popular Indian recipes. The book really does what the title suggests. It offers Indian recipes for any home cook regardless of dietary restrictions, level of expertise or familiarity with Indian food. Singla includes a guide to Indian spices and how to use them as well as suggestions of how to make any of the recipes vegetarian, vegan or even gluten-free.

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Jeremy Owens

Recipe Tue Oct 21 2014

My Adventure Cooking Pig's Head

rsz_dsc_1152.jpgI fancy myself a female Kevin Gillespie--a little thinner, Asian-er, less MIT-caliber. But that Southern pork spirit--it rages in my veins. From carnitas to gelatinous trotter, I've cooked my way through the pork body, but never have I tried the head. That changed a week ago, as I was skipping merrily through the ethnic market, perusing through the aisle of delectable meats. There Wilbur was, his cranium Ned-Stark'd and split in half, his glossy eyeballs staring at me from beneath the plastic packaging. Buy me, it called. I wanted to cook him. I had to cook him. So I tossed Wilbur into my shopping basket and headed home.

Pork is a versatile product--you can make crispy skin and crispy ears, cheeks for tacos, bones and fat for tonkotsu ramen, and rest of offal goodness for headcheese. A pig's head is cheap because eyeballs, teeth, and snouts scare the utter shit out of people. You will not find this cut in Whole Foods, Jewel, or Mariano's, so your best bet will be ethnic markets. Half a pig's head cost me roughly $7, so a whole head will average around $15. A suckling pig (baby pig) will cost significantly more.

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Judy Wu / Comments (1)

Event Wed Oct 08 2014

Cooking Demo at Treasure Island with Knife & Tine

dsc_0022.jpgTreasure Island Foods brands itself as "America's Most European Supermarket," though I think "The Lovechild of Whole Foods and Jewel" or "Mariano's Long-Lost Cousin" are more fitting titles. That being said, the one thing that sets Treasure Island apart from its competitors are its cooking demos, which showcase renowned or emerging chefs from Chicago's culinary scene. Past restaurants have included The Publican, Range Chicago, and Honey Butter Fried Chicken. I recently attended a demo by Nate Park, chef at Knife & Tine in Lincoln Park. A Moto and Iron Chef alum, Chef Nate Park cooked a menu that aptly reflected his corn-brimming Midwestern roots:

Cheese ball: Delice de Bourgogne Serano with plum jam, pickled pecans and honey
Braised boneless shortrib with sautéed oyster mushrooms and warm fall marble potato salad
Panna Cotta with blueberry, ginger and mint

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Judy Wu

Recipe Wed Oct 01 2014

Ode To Jiang Bing (Chinese Savory Crepe)

jiangbing3.jpgWhat the hell is Chinese jianbing (JYANG-BING)? Is that a David Chang thing? Or am I thinking about Roy Choi? Mmm, Morimoto?

In short, jiangbing is culinary perfection 2000 years in the making. In HD panoramic splendor, jiangbing is a supple, elastic crepe, wrapped around layers of crispy egg, sweet spicy sauce and fresh herbaceous substances. Jiangbing is firm yet chewy, savory yet fresh, sweet yet intensely salty, and every sensual bite fills your body and spirit with a self-loathing ecstasy. Ask anyone who's eaten at Nali in Chicago, and they would agree.

I bought my first jiangbing in my hometown of Shanghai from a peasant lady with golden teeth and threadbare clothes layered with city dust. But her plump hands were spotless, and the makeshift cooking station on the back of her motorcycle was equally spotless. She would spread the light yellow batter over a flat griddle, spreading it to become a thin circle. Just as the crepe began crisping at the edges, she would crack two eggs over the top, gently scrambling it before slathering a sweet and spicy paste over it. Yes, I want scallions and pickled radishes, no cilantro. Finally, an enormous fried wonton (or youtiao -- savory donut) was placed in the middle, the crepe was rolled up, and sliced down the middle. Crack! And then she flipped the jiangbing into a plastic bag, the heat fogging up the interior.

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Judy Wu

Recipe Sat Feb 22 2014

Ay, Chihuahua! It's National Margarita Day

According to Foodimentary, the original recipe for the Margarita was made of equal parts tequila, orange liquor and lime, served over ice with a salt-rimmed glass. Even on a chilly February day that sounds so good.

AY CHIWOWA Cucumber Margarita 2.jpgAy, chihuahua! is an idiom which also expresses surprise as if to say "Wow, there are so many!" And there really are many creative alternatives to the traditional Margarita with which to raise a glass in celebration like the Cucumber Margarita or the Ay Diablo Margarita at Chicago's ¡AY CHIWOWA! Tavern.

Cucumber Margarita
1.5 oz corzo resposado
1 oz cucumber juice fresh
.5 oz of pomelo grapefruit
.5 oz mariposa
1 oz agave nectar
1 oz lime juice

Shake and serve in a margarita glass (salted rim optional).

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Harvey Morris / Comments (1)

Restaurant Tue Feb 18 2014

At Bottlefork, Food and Beverage Seek Menu Equality

Can any marriage be an equal partnership? Bottlefork, a New American restaurant concept from Rockit Ranch Productions opening today in River North, intends to achieve a culinary marriage where food and beverage play an equal role.

Billy Dec, CEO/Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, created Bottlefork in partnership with Chef Kevin Hickey. Chef Hickey was previously executive chef at Chicago's Four Seasons Hotel for over 18 years, earning Michelin Star and AAA Five Diamond status.

"We're bringing together the elevated food and beverage game beyond being just two complimentary but separate parts of the business, and even beyond advanced pairings to a point where our bar and kitchen talent are connected as a team, free to put elements of the bar in the food and elements of the kitchen in the drinks," said Dec.

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Harvey Morris

Recipe Fri Feb 14 2014

Recipe Mashup: Chicago Mix Brownie Cookies

Garrett Popcorn Chicago Mix Brownie Cookies Recipe

I've loved brownies since I was a kid, even before I knew they were invented in Chicago.

In 1893, my beloved brownie was created in the kitchen of Chicago's Palmer House (now the Palmer House Hilton) as a new dessert to serve at the World's Columbian Exposition; it was cake-like, but smaller for portability. The original brownie recipe used crushed walnuts and an apricot glaze; the Palmer House Hilton still makes brownies according to this original recipe.

Nothing against crushed walnuts or apricot glaze, but I like the challenge of incorporating more unconventional ingredients in my brownie creations. For this challenge, I selected Garrett Popcorn's The Chicago Mix, which combines sweet Caramel Crisp with savory Cheese Corn. (A trick I learned from a former Garrett Popcorn employee on how to eat the irresistible Cheese Corn without turning your fingers orange: use chopsticks!)

Garrett Popcorn, launched in Chicago in 1949, became popular by handcrafting small batches of popcorn in old-fashioned copper kettles based on a secret family recipe. The now-famous Chicago Mix was created by Garrett's after watching people buy separate bags of cheese and caramel corn, then awkwardly trying to combine them.

After my own trial-and-error in combining Chicago Mix with brownies, I ended up with a brownie cookie which had the right amount of moisture content to not overwhelm the popcorn. This Chicago Mix Brownie Cookie is crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.

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Harvey Morris / Comments (16)

Recipe Wed Feb 05 2014

Meatloaf: A Cure for the Winter Blues

Don't bother checking the weather report. What would be the point? It's snowing or it's just about to snow and it's cold. There was a Polar Vortex last week and a Winter Storm with an actual name. I'm not complaining, I'm just making sure that you're keeping up. It's rough out there! Jack Frost has been very busy this winter.

It's around this time every year that my love for Chicago and the onset of my Seasonal Affective Disorder go fist to cuffs. This year is particularly challenging. I am in hibernation mode and can barely be bothered to roll out of bed. I also have cabin fever like you wouldn't believe and Target doesn't have enough Vitamin D in its warehouse to help. I've been coping my usual way by eating my feelings. How about you?

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Jeremy Owens

Recipe Fri Jan 17 2014

DIY: Panera's Soba Noodle Salad

sobasalad.jpgImagine my shock this week when I entered a Panera for lunch and didn't see my beloved Soba Noodle Salad on the menu board. I was completely dumbfounded. Before I knew what was happening my grandfather's voice jumped out of my mouth, "What do you mean you don't have the Soba Noodle Salad anymore?! I just had one the other day!"

My grandpa could not wrap his head around the idea that each restaurant has its own concept and set of menu rules. He thought of restaurants as food stores, where whatever he wanted to eat could be made and brought to him whenever he wished. Grandpa hated that he had to order from a set menu and couldn't just ask for whatever food he was in the mood to eat. His irritation and complete disregard for how restaurants work provided endless hours of entertainment when I was growing up. It still makes me laugh when I think about it. "No, grandpa, we're in a Chinese restaurant, you cannot order a cheeseburger!" Well, friends, be careful the things you laugh at they will turn around and bite you.

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Jeremy Owens

Recipe Tue Dec 17 2013

What Should I Bring To The Work Holiday Party?

You're in a panic. We all are. This time of year is stressful. What are you going to get your Grandma for Christmas? Should you return that ugly sweater vest you got for Hanukkah? Where are you going to spend New Year's Eve? Unfortunately, if these are the questions you're asking yourself this holiday season, I can't help. However, if you were to ask, "What should I bring to the work Holiday Party?" This I can tell you.

It's really very simple. Chocolate Covered Matzah.

Yes, you could bring that box of Christmas Tree shaped cookies you got from the Dominick's 50% off sale. You could absolutely pretend that you made them and pass them off as your own. Why do that when I have simple (and quick) recipe that could make you the most renowned person in your office? Wouldn't you rather make something and feel like a champ? Of course you would.

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Jeremy Owens / Comments (3)

Recipe Fri Dec 13 2013

Holiday Dessert Help from Bang Bang Pie Shop


If you're still wondering what to make for your holiday dessert, look no further. Bang Bang's spectacular Pear Brandy Mince Pie is like biting into Christmas. And yes, this pie calls for secular specificity -- I'm sure there is a pie out there that is like biting into Hanukkah, but this is not it. That said, I'm pretty positive that people of all faiths will really, really enjoy eating it.

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Annie Conway / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Dec 06 2013

Holiday Dessert Help From Alliance Bakery


Did you discover this Thanksgiving that you are not, in fact, a master pie baker? Perhaps you found yourself weeping into a soggy apple mess, apologizing to guests for a less-than-flaky crust?

If so, don't beat yourself up-- there's hope for you yet this holiday season. Alliance Bakery, known for its elaborate custom cakes and fine european pastries, is here to save the day with a dessert recipe that even you can pull off with impressive results. Award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Peter Rios recommends home cooks start with mini pumpkin cheesecakes, which are easy to make but create a fancy presentation at a holiday party.

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Annie Conway

Recipe Thu Dec 05 2013

Post Thanksgiving Pie Rehab

beansoup.jpgReturning to work after last week's pie eating extravaganza (i.e. Thanksgiving) was a bit of a struggle. I decided that I would give myself a few new eating rules in order rein in my spastic holiday food habits. Naturally I ran very far in the opposite direction. I bought a vegan cookbook and made plans for a cleansing of the soul. This is pretty hilarious given my inability to set food limits. Not to mention my very best friend cheese.

I was nearly convinced that I was suffering from some sort of turkey hysteria, but then I read the news that Jay Z and Beyoncé are doing a 22-day vegan cleanse. Jay and Bey have decided to take the challenge at the suggestion of the world's most hated person and their BFF Gwyneth Paltrow. All judgement aside it seems that everyone is going vegan these days. The list of famous plant based dieters is growing daily. There's Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Portia de Rossi and Ellen just to name a few.

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Jeremy Owens

Recipe Tue Nov 12 2013

Mastering the Art of Beef Bourguignon

beef.jpgI am a very impressionable person. I do just about everything that the media whispers in my ear. I started cooking, for instance, because I fell in love with the book Julie & Julia. Roll your eyes if you must, my foodie friends. I know loving J&J makes me a walking cliché. Say whatever you want those women brought me one the great loves of my life: Beef Bourguignon.

The moment I saw that Chicago was going to get it's first dusting of snow I couldn't get the famous beef stew out of my head. Nothing makes a greater companion for snow tears like wine braised beef swimming in a bowl with carrots, onions and mushrooms. It cannot be beat! Julia herself called it one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.

While I'm making embarrassing confessions, I might as well tell you that my favorite recipe for Beef Bourguignon isn't from Julia Child. I know that it is complete and utter kitchen treason to admit that to anyone, but it's the truth. While we're being honest I also need to say that Mastering the Art of French Cooking is not the friendliest cookbook. If you look at the cookbook and go cross-eyed? You are not alone!

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Jeremy Owens / Comments (2)

Recipe Wed Oct 30 2013

Treat Yourself on Halloween

balls.jpgOver the weekend I was feeling homesick for the good old days when Halloween got me excited. We're talking way back. Back before everyone would go to a costume party dressed as a
"Sexy __________." Back before the coolest thing you could say about the holiday was how many PBRs your friend chugged. That was a while ago, huh? Like do you even remember a time before then?

You know what was important back in those days? C-A-N-D-Y. That's what. Back then the coolest thing that could happen would be to get a full sized Snicker or Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Even cooler would be avoiding getting a bag full of Smarties. My favorite Halloween candy memory isn't about store bought candy. It's about our neighbor's famous popcorn balls. Each year Mrs. Keeling's yard would be full of kids lining up to feast on her popcorn treats.

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Jeremy Owens / Comments (1)

Recipe Wed Oct 16 2013

Summertime Sadness, Soothed with Sauce

-2.jpgWe're really starting to be able to see and feel the shift in the seasons. Though I do enjoy Fall, I can't exactly say that I'm happy that it's here. I think Lana Del Rey says it best: "I've got that summertime, summertime sadness." I know Fall has been here for about a month, but I'm just not ready. It's a slippery slope from all of this gloriously mild weather to those nasty February days. It has me in a funk.

It's hard to go from having all of the sunshine to having it only in the middle of the day. I'm in what I like to call my Fall Period of Adjustment. The seasons are changing and I am resistant. As we glide toward the end of Daylight Savings Time there isn't much that can get me to climb out of the couch or crawl to the kitchen.

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Jeremy Owens

Recipe Wed Oct 02 2013

Gay Carbonara

gaybonara.jpgI love politics as much as the next guy but I prefer to keep my dinner plate as issue-free as possible. Yes, some will argue about animal rights or the carbon footprint left from eating veggies flown in from South America. That's all fine and dandy. Food is full of hidden political agendas. It's when misogynistic crusades for heterosexual only food brands gear up that I get red in the face.

If you didn't read the recent derogatory remarks made by Guido Barilla, Chairman of Barilla Pasta Company, then surely you are hiding under a rock. Barilla told an Italian radio show that the company would never make an ad with gay people and if they didn't like it they can find another brand of pasta. He continued offering a narrow definition of family, which in his opinion is a family, "where the woman has a fundamental role."

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Jeremy Owens

Recipe Mon Sep 23 2013

The Pumpkins are Coming

pumpkinsoup.jpgSummer ended yesterday; fasten your seatbelts, the pumpkins are coming. With global warming, you can't tell that it's fall by stepping outside. How will you know? Well, it's simple, really. You have to visit a Starbucks. Stop your groaning. You know it's the truth. The moment that Starbucks released its famous Pumpkin Spice Latte earlier this month, we all started reaching for our sweaters and dreaming of pumpkin pie.

I wouldn't pay two shiny nickels for a Pumpkin Spice Latte. They aren't that amazing and besides, I would never cheat on the Gingerbread Latte. Still it does mean something when the Pumpkin Spice Latte comes back around each year. Pumpkin, not just the fake stuff that they squeeze from a test tube into our coffee, is the king of all things fall.

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Jeremy Owens

Ingredient Mon Jul 01 2013

Being Bold at Farmers Markets

1126970_27989596.jpgFarmers markets aren't just opportunities to support local farmers and buy fresh produce; they're also great ways to expand one's culinary repertoire. Whenever I see shoppers reaching for those beets (which will inevitably go into some beet and goat cheese salad) or spinach, I mentally beckon them to try some of those more esoteric veggies and herbs, sitting sadly in their small wooden crates. Although it can be daunting, I encourage you to diversify your palette by considering the following substitutions:

Purslane instead of Lettuce
Native to India and parts of the Middle East, purslane is one of those sprawling weeds people usually yank out of their garden. But did you know that purslane provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots? It also contains alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid usually found in animal products such as eggs and fish. Crunchy and lemony, it tastes much like a fusion between spinach and watercress, and can be utilized in everything ranging from salads to soups. I enjoy my purslane with tomatoes and onions, garnished with a bit of EVOO, salt, and pepper.

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Judy Wu / Comments (1)

Recipe Sat Jun 29 2013

In Season: Strawberries

636002585_bcf27c5aef.jpgThe farmer's market is quickly picking up speed, with more and more fruits and veggies showing up every week. Right now, the undisputed star of the show is the strawberry-- if you haven't bought a pint yet, do so this weekend at your local farmers market.

Strawberries are at their peak sweetness right now, and practically beg to be baked into a crisp, sliced into salads, or eaten whole on the way home. Here are some ideas to get you started...

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Annie Conway

Recipe Wed May 29 2013

In Season: Ramps

You may have been puzzled by all the talk of ramps on Chicago menus this spring. What magical ingredient could possibly work in a ricotta pastry at Perennial, octopus salad at Longman and Eagle, and pickled in a cocktail at Hearty Boys?

Ramps are a variety of wild onion that grow in forested areas and are beloved by chefs for their pungent, garlicky flavor. Due to their short growing season and limited availability due to overharvesting, they are spring's most coveted vegetable (or as some haters put it, "the new arugula").

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Annie Conway

Recipe Fri Apr 05 2013

Soup'n'Bread: Chicago vs. Chicago

beer-cheese-soup.jpgThere's nothing like ending a chilly day with a steaming bowl of homemade soup and a hunk of bread to sop up all of the delicious goodness. It's even better when you can support a good cause.

On Wednesday, Gapers Block served up two soups at the Hideout's Soup & Bread, Chicago's hipster soup kitchen that benefits local nonprofits. The theme of the night was Chicago vs. Chicago and donations from the volunteer-run event went to Ravenswood Community Services.

Every single Windy City-themed soup -- from Deep Dish Pizza Soup to Italian Beef Soup (with homemade giardiniera) -- was a hit to the several dozen people who attended. Not to brag, but we exhausted our massive crock of Beer Cheese soup less than 30 minutes after the doors opened.

After many email threads between Drive-Thru staff, we whipped up soups representing Chicago's immigrants with beer influences: Polish Beer Cheese made with Josephs Brau PLZNR Czech-Style Lager beer (which was the closest we could get to Polish beer at the local liquor store the night we made soup) and Pork Pozole made with 5 Rabbit's 5 Vulture roasted ancho chile ale.

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Cinnamon Cooper

Recipe Fri Feb 01 2013

Better Super Bowl Food

For those of us who aren't into football, the best thing about a Super Bowl party are the snacks. And yet, all too often I've attended Super Bowl parties solely on the promise of day drinking and a bounty of finger-licking comfort foods only to find a halfhearted bowl of chips and an open jar of nacho cheese dip. For shame, football fans. For shame!

America, it's time to up your party snack game. In a fraction of the time it takes to watch a football game, you could whip up a foodie-friendly spread of finger foods. Ok, maybe this is not the venue for sous-vide, but I think we can all agree that it's time to think beyond guacamole.

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Annie Conway

Recipe Wed Dec 19 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know It Cocktail

Unless you've been completely cut off from pop culture, you know that Friday marks the Mayan-predicted apocalypse. And several restaurants are cashing in on the (possibly) non-existent fire and brimstone event - including Logan Square's Longman & Eagle. The trendy establishment will "commemorate the destruction of all things human" with an exclusive cocktail that's sure to put hair on your chest: Out With a Bang, priced at $20.12.

Longman & Eagle were kind enough to share the recipe, a variation on the classic Blackthorn cocktail.

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Clarisa Ramirez / Comments (2)

Recipe Wed Nov 14 2012

Cinnamon Soup? Yes.

SoupandBread.jpgI had the pleasure and joy of making four gallons of soup and then dishing it up to people at Garfield Park Conservatory for a fantastic Soup & Bread event. About a dozen other cooks (many of whom are legit chefs) and I were given an ingredient that grows in the park and we created a soup using that as the main flavoring ingredient. Mine, thanks to the irony of all awesomeness, was cinnamon. So I set out on a wild internet adventure to discover a cinnamon soup recipe.

I came across this on a blog post:

French Onion Soup was not always French and was introduced to the French by none other than Catherine de Medici at the ripe old age of 14, when she married Henry II of France . . . During medieval times, and also during Catherine's era, the dish was much sweeter than the present day version and has changed over centuries.

Which got me to thinking: Just how do they know the original soup was sweeter?

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Cinnamon Cooper

Recipe Wed Jun 27 2012

The Real Presidential Contest

Because the hallmark of a good First Lady is her ability to bake tasty cookies (?), Family Circle magazine has published the recipes of Michelle Obama's and Ann Romney's family favorites. Obama, who submitted amaretto shortbread back in 2008, comes out swinging the second time around with white and dark chocolate chip cookies; Ann Romney submitted a recipe for oatmeal and M&M cookies.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Thu May 03 2012

Get Your Cinco de Mayo on With Recipes from Big Star and Tiny Lounge

Face it, whether you like it not, you're going to be drinking a margarita or two this weekend and eating piles of nachos drowning in processed cheese and drizzled with "sour cream." If you're lucky, you might venture upon a place that uses fresh squeezed lime juice and prepares their drinks to order and serves something that remotely looks like Mexican food. But most likely for Cinco de Mayo, if what you order comes in a pitcher, you're going to be indulging in way too many margaritas made from cheap sour mix and even cheaper tequila. And then you're going to end up at Burrito House or Tony's at 3 in the morning. You know what I'm talking about, it's inevitable. Especially when you start around noon, which you will.

La Bastarda Drink.jpgBut it doesn't have to be that way.

This year, Justin Large from Big Star, known for putting a unique spin on tacos, and Mark Johnson from Tiny Lounge, which does for the standard cocktail what Photoshop does for most celebrities, kindly lent Gapers Block some kickass Cinco de Mayo inspired recipes that are sure to add a little more style to your fiesta this year.

Buen provecho!

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Brandy Gonsoulin

Drink Wed Feb 22 2012

Celebrate National Margarita Day with an Eve's Answer

Drawing-Room-Eve's-Answer.jpgWho knows why, but today is National Margarita Day. Warmer than usual weather aside, a margarita is in fact a great way to get a taste of summer in cold and dreary February. And the Drawing Room's Charles Joly has a perfect cocktail to fit the season and the celebration. Eve's Answer is a "cool weather margarita" that Joly won the International Margarita Competition with. It was also selected by Chicago magazine as one of the 20 best cocktails in the city, so you know you're in for a treat.

Eve's Answer
1½ oz. Reposado tequila
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. spiced raisin syrup
1 oz. local cider
mist of mezcal (optional)
cinnamon stick garnish

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Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Brunch Mon Feb 20 2012

Beer for Breakfast

More specifically beer in pancake batter. But not just any beer, and not just plain pancake batter. Bobbi over at Fresh and Foodie created a delicious-looking recipe that utilizes Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout to be the winning flavor behind her Bourbon County Stout Pancakes with Cardamom-Spiced Maple Syrup. I think the thing I like best about this recipe is that there is just a pinch more work with these pancakes compared to plain-jane pancakes, but you'll get significantly more flavor. So skip the brunch-line next weekend and eat fancy pancakes in your pajamas.

Photo copyright Bobbi of

Cinnamon Cooper

Dish Thu Feb 16 2012

A Thing You Should Eat: Bacon Fat Popcorn

Have you ever actually watched someone eat popcorn? Watch a rational human being become a ravenous animal. It's home and you're comfortable, watching a movie while thoughtlessly stuffing your face, kernel after kernel. What about when you're at the theater? You paid your first month's rent for that movie-goers snack combo #4 and, damn it, you're going to make sure to get your money's worth.
Popcorn can be pretty intoxicating. Once popped, heads perk up like little meerkats in the Kalahari. 
"Is someone popping popcorn... anywhere?"
Well, let me tell you, there are ways to make it better still.

Remember how fat makes everything delicious? Remember how everyone (except vegetarians and vegans and folks keeping halal and kosher, and...) loves bacon? Remember how anything cooked in bacon fat is at least 50 percent tastier than before? Well, Revolution Brewery figured it out and jumped on the bacon bandwagon, except they go the extra mile, bacon_popcorn.jpg
not only cooking their popcorn in bacon fat, but adding pieces of delicious, crispy bacon on top, with a veritable snow fall of Parmesan cheese and fried sage leaves. It works. So well.

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Alexandra Moskovich

Recipe Tue Feb 07 2012

Winter Soup: Now With More Kimchi

Soup And Bread 2012

I have found the perfect hearty, cold-weather, "I think I might be coming down with something" soup. It is delightfully easy and fast and cheap, as well. And the ingredients may not be easy to get everywhere, but you'll find that once you make it once, you'll crave it again and again.

This deliciously spicy soup is made with kimchi and this exotic soup is named Kimchi Soup. If you go to a Korean restaurant you're likely to find it under a few different names. Kimchi Chigea, or Chi-gea, or Jigae, or Chigae, or any derivation that sounds similar when said aloud (pronounce it "chee-gay").

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (2)

Recipe Wed Dec 28 2011

Bonus Holiday Cocktails with Charles Joly

charlesjoly.jpgBecause the holidays are all about giving, we've got an extra holiday drink column this week. As you know, New Year's Eve is this weekend, and more than any other holiday, it's an opportunity to wow guests with delicious libations. Fortunately, earlier this year Charles Joly of The Drawing Room did a seminar on holiday cocktails at the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, so he was fully prepared when I talked with him at his cozy subterranean lounge.

"Unless you're going to have a bartender working, it's best to keep it simple," Joly says. "There's nothing worse than getting stuck at your kitchen island when you're trying to entertain people and you should be hanging out with your friends. You can make really interesting selections with just a little bit of planning that don't keep you tied down. And we're not in college -- it's time to take the 7Up bottle off the countertop and, you know, a bottle of flat club soda and a handle of Smirnoff that's been sitting in there since last New Year's."

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Andrew Huff

Recipe Tue Nov 01 2011

What To Do With That Leftover Pumpkin?...

Since I live in an apartment, am single & live alone, and am not THAT into Halloween, I do not have a carved pumpkin rotting or getting ready to rot in my house.

For what I'm about to mention, I wouldn't suggest using the rotting pumpkins, but good ones are fair game!

If you don't want to toss them, may I suggest a few uses?

In today's DailyCandy Chicago Edition, they list using pumpkin for a home facial and body scrub courtesy of Spa Space aesthetician Indira Rakanovic. My personal favorite option is sent from SmallBar's Chef Justin White. It's spiced pumpkin seeds! The following recipe makes about 1 pound of crunchy seeds.

Pumpkin Seeds

1 lb. raw pepitas [pumpkin seeds]
1 tbsp. pomace oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp. smoked paprika
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Shuck pumpkin seeds (the green seed that comes out is what you want to use).

3. Toss seeds with oil and spread on flat baking sheet in an even layer, making sure not to overlap.

4. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until seeds puff up.

5. In a small bowl, combine spices and sugars; mix thoroughly.

6. In a large bowl, toss seeds with spice blend while still warm

Enjoy for your post-Halloween leisure.

photo by Justin Grimes

Ryan Frieson

Recipe Fri Sep 30 2011

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake

Aside from an occasional batch of corn bread, I very rarely bake. It involves too much measuring and way too much sifting. I like to improvise on the fly and just don't have the patience to get out all of the items and measure them precisely to create a baked good. But a friend mentioned this Hummingbird Cake recipe by Art Smith that she had at Table 52 and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I adore cream-cheese frosting on cakes. It is, hands down, my favorite. And when I realized the cake was packed full of bananas and pineapple, I decided I had to make it.

And it wasn't as hard as I expected. I will admit that the frosting was made in a stand mixer, but I suspect that a hand mixer would work just as well and not take much more time, or create more of a mess.

However, if I were to do this again, I would drain the pineapple more thoroughly and use more pineapple and less banana. It took me 6 frozen and then thawed bananas to get to 2 cups. And I think reducing that by 1/2 cup and increasing the pineapple in an equal measure would result in more of a pineapple flavor. And I think I would use slivered almonds instead of pecans.

But in the end, the family I fed, and the coworkers who enjoyed the remaining slices, found the cake enjoyable and pretty. One could say they descended on the cake like hummingbirds. They ate until it was gone and then disappeared silently. Which may be how the cake was named the Hummingbird Cake.

Not by me, not by Art, but by Jamaican cooks who are believed to have brought the cake to the US. The Food Timeline has copies of this cake going back to the 1960's, sometimes appearing under the name "The Cake That Doesn't Last". And the recipe published in 1978 in Southern Living is remarkably similar to Mr. Smith's recipe. However, the frosting contains half as much sugar and I suspect if you were to make the frosting with two pounds of sugar, you just might have to fight off hummingbirds to get to enjoy the cake.

Cinnamon Cooper

Recipe Tue Aug 16 2011

CSA: Cooking Some Awesomeness

I am loving my CSA through Harvest Moon Farms, but my fridge is getting very full. The nice thing about signing up with a CSA is that you're always getting new and interesting produce to cook. But the drawback is you have to cook almost every single day. There have been a couple days where I've slacked off, getting take-out and playing Pokemon all night instead of cooking up something for lunch the next day. All of a sudden my fridge looks like a jungle piled high with greens and squash and herbs.

Wasting these greens is not an option to me. They're all too delicious to let my guinea pigs eat by themselves and throwing rotten food out always makes me a little sad. Instead of weeping over my trash can I've been cooking and baking my leftover produce into dishes for my friends. I love cooking for other people more so than cooking for myself. Cooking comes from the heart - it takes time and effort (and some skill) to make something tasty and I like to think it enhances the quality of the food. So this edition of Cooking Some Awesomeness includes recipes meant for sharing - for potlucks, for parties, for any occasion.

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Amy Dittmeier

Recipe Tue Jul 05 2011

CSA: Cooking Some Awesomeness

rooba.JPGYou're a chef Boyardee aspiring to be an iron chef." My friend tells me this as I complain to him about my lack of desire to cut some onions up for a soup I'm preparing. And it's so true. I like cooking, but I'm not superb at it. I can bake up a mean cake and grill some fish but when it comes to preparing a solid meal for dinner I fall short. It's been a goal of mine to get over this culinary hurdle and become a decent cook. I don't want to be one of those pseudo-gourmet home cooks that's whipping up cherry reduction sauces for their roasted duck. I don't have the time nor the patience to be one of those people. I want to be a person who can come home after work and make a good, healthy meal for me and my boyfriend without burning anything.

To accomplish this goal I signed up for a CSA delivery program through Harvest Moon Farms. Every week Harvest Moon drops off a box of produce, most of which are things I've never eaten (to my knowledge), let alone attempted to cook. It was a challenge every day - pick a vegetable, look for a good recipe, and cook it up for dinner. It's a kick in the butt to motivate myself to cook every night. Already I've found myself itching to find recipes to prepare for dinner. I picked three vegetables I'm not use to cooking and made up a menu for a perfect summer dinner. Preferably for a night that doesn't storm and/or hail.

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Amy Dittmeier

Recipe Mon Jun 27 2011

Vegetables as Snacks: Kale Chips

kc1.jpgI am trying to incorporate more vegetables into my food, and one extremely easy (and yet totally sleazy) way to accomplish this is through kale chips. Get a bunch of kale, separate the leaf from the stem, tear leaves into bite-sized pieces, clean and dry, toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt, spread on a sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit. If you're feeling sinister, cumin and coriander make a great mix-in as well. What comes out is a crispy, healthy snack that you will eat in record time.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Recipe Mon Apr 25 2011

Ham it Up

219867_10150223050424282_632609281_8470733_3719446_o.jpgAs I looked at the small army of leftovers sitting on the counter--a half-full platter of scalloped potatoes, a bowl of brussel sprouts so infused with parmesan and garlic that I would have thought it was tortellini if fed it while blindfolded--I looked at the ham. Aw, aw, the ham. If you're looking at several weeks' worth of ham sandwiches with dread, here are some exciting ways to use up the meat that will make your Easter dinner unrecognizable. Casseroles, quiches, soups, even savory bread pudding made with Hawaiian bread (which I can never be left alone with, for security reasons).

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Wed Mar 16 2011

"Come on Over, it's 'Goat's Milk Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Caramel' Night"

Ready Made posted the recipe for this delight, straight outta the kitchen of Lula Cafe (via their pastry chef, Kate Neumann). As someone who would eat mud if had goat cheese in it, and who also has an equal love of panna cotta and caramel, this recipe looks insanely awesome (even if I have to buy silver gelatin sheets to accomplish it).

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Sun Feb 06 2011

Boudin Balls


These are boudin balls. Boudin is a mix of pork, pork liver, and rice and herbs, spices, aromatics. I'm not sure what Rob of Butcher & Larder put in this batch, but I have to say this is just as good as what I've had in New Orleans.

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Cinnamon Cooper

Recipe Fri Feb 04 2011

Celebrate Like Barack and Michelle this Sunday

Obama Foodorama brings us the Obama's recipes for their chili, turkey lasagna with spinach, and baked chicken strips for our menus this Sunday. As much as we would like to hang with the Prez and First Lady, your friends are probably a lot better company than the killjoys who will watch the game with the First Family (a gaggle of politicians plus J-Lo and Marc Anthony).

Robyn Nisi

Resource Thu Jan 20 2011

A Few Cheese-y Links

In honor of National Cheese Lovers Day (which, let's be honest, doesn't really need to be a holiday), here are a few links dedicated to that wonderful category of food:

  • This week, Pastoral is hosting "Raclette parties," offering some of the "mild cheese that has flavors of sweet milk and grasses with a slightly sour rind" that's best when melted and then scraped onto a dish or a plate. Friday, 4:30-6:30pm at the French Market (131 N. Clinton St) and Lake Street (53 E. Lake St.) locations; Saturday, 1-4pm at the Broadway store (2945 N. Broadway St.).
  • The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has launched its second annual 30 Days, 30 Ways with Macaroni & Cheese Blog. Today, Day 1: Macaroni and Blue Cheese with Figs and Rosemary.
  • But if you don't want to support the state of Wisconsin this weekend, for whatever reason, Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park (100 S. Marion Street) is right there with you: you can order any of their cheese flights for brunch this Sunday, except their Wisconsin cheese flight.

Ruthie Kott / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Dec 31 2010

On the Foie Day of Christmas...

IMG_1186Let me preface what follows by saying, it's not too late -- the diets don't have to start until tomorrow! You still have time to binge before 2010 packs it in once and for all and the frugality and self-control of 2011 descend upon us! And if that proclamation has lodged comfortably in the justification portion of your brain, as it has in mine (right next to "I'm on vacation!"), why not top off that sentiment with a little bite of foie gras? The easiest way to do this, to be sure, would be to visit one of our very fine Chicago establishments and let an expert make you something delicious. Longman and Eagle was just featuring a duo before the holidays -- seared bit of lobe with a tiny green salad and some delicious crispy french-fried onions, with a foie-infused hot chocolate and just tasted like drinking pearls and velvet. And that's just the tip of the iceberg -- do a search on "foie gras" under the Find-A-Food option on Menupages if you need some help narrowing down the options.

Or if, like me, you ordered some Hudson Valley fresh foie earlier this, brought it to Wisconsin let your chef brother have his way with it for Christmas, and came back to Chicago with two tiny remaining pieces and a new food processor, you could make your own end of year treat.

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Andie Cavedo / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Dec 16 2010

A Lighter Cookie Option

'Tis the season of Christmas cookies -- at home, in the office, at parties. It's hard to resist them, but sometimes we all just crave something just a little less waist-expanding.

lemonthymecooke.jpgFor the Healthy Schools Campaign's 2010 Cooking Up Change gala, culinary students at Simeon Career Academy created a cookie that we won't feel guilty about popping in our already-full bellies this holiday season. The event, a cook-off, challenges students to create a healthy lunch or a healthy cookie using using the same nutrition requirements, ingredients, and budget constraints that schools have to contend with. Below is the recipe for Simeon Career Academy's winning dessert, Thyme-Scented Lemon Cookies:

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Ruthie Kott

Cookbook Fri Dec 03 2010

Mamma Agata's Plan to Populate the Amalfi Coast...with a Cookbook

Mamma Agata, the renown chef at Italy's Hollywood-heyday-hangout Villa Chivita and the famous matriarch behind the Amalfi Coast's Mamma Agata Cooking School, has just released her first cookbook, Mamma Agata: Simple and Genuine Italian Family Recipes. But just like that Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man," there might be a hidden motive in the delicate deliciousness that oozes out of every recipe in the book, albeit for much more benevolent purposes. Namely, with food this good, and scenery as lush as depicted in the beautiful photos spread throughout the book, Agata may be coaxing everyone who picks up this book to relocate to the Amalfi Coast. Hopefully, there's room enough for all at The Hidden Treasure Cooking School run by Agata's daughter, Chiara Lima.

1A. The view.JPG
Mamma Agata's view of the Amalfi Coast

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Ben Schulman

Recipe Thu Dec 02 2010

Overstock Quiche

Egg and Sage quiche
In the week or so leading up to Thanksgiving, I kept reading about all the grocery items that go on sale around the holidays are are good to stock up on even if you are not, in fact, butter-basting a turkey or baking an entire blizzard of snowflake-shaped sugar cookies for your kid's school's holiday bake sales. Or whatever more on-the-ball bulk grocery shoppers than myself do. The prospect of lugging home an extra pound of sugar just because it was going to be ten cents cheaper wasn't exactly winning me over. Until the receipt printer at Jewel spat a bunch of coupons out at me for flour, butter and eggs free with my next Jewel purchase. Free!? Free is a whole different game than merely "reduced." It was ON.

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Andie Cavedo

Recipe Tue Nov 23 2010

An Underpaid, Overworked Orphans' Thanksgiving

Tgiving 121.JPGLast year's Thanksgiving threw a monkey-wrench in my normal traditions. For some bizarre, overly capitalist reason, the US futures markets are open on Thanksgiving. If you're bored waiting for your bird to cook or have time between potato mashings, you, yes YOU can trade the S&P. Which meant for me, last year I had to work on Thanksgiving. Boo hoo. I know I'm not the only one. There are plenty of folks that had to work, couldn't take the time off, couldn't afford the trip to see family and otherwise didn't get to have a proper Thanksgiving. Cue the pity party.

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Joanna Kanakis

Recipe Tue Nov 02 2010

Where the Cookies Waited

P1030504.JPGSome of my best memories are from summer weekends spent with my family at our cabin in northern Minnesota. When I was younger we'd drive up on Friday nights - late enough so my parents could enjoy a peaceful drive with my brother and I asleep in the back.

When we'd get there, my grandma and grandpa would be up waiting for us and, in a groggy haze, we'd run through the darkness, trying to dodge the clouds of mosquitoes, into the cabin and without fail there would be fresh-baked cookies waiting for us. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, cinnamon and, my favorite, coconut oatmeal.

When I was a kid, not much could beat eating cookies at midnight. As I got older, I ate them for breakfast, using the excuse that the main ingredient was oatmeal. Now, I eat them whenever I want and I'm giving you this recipe so you can do the same. Enjoy.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup melted shortening
2 eggs
1 cup coconut (I use organic, non-sweetened)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
4 cups oatmeal
Handful of chocolate chips (optional)

Mix sugars with shortening and eggs. Add dry ingredients and vanilla, mix well. Roll into balls, place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Kaitlin Olson / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Nov 02 2010

Applesauce: You Can Do it Better

I'm going to come out and say it: store-bought, commercially made applesauce is the worst. But for the longest time, I thought that's all there was to be had in this mildly appreciated side dish of many childhood lunches: a lumpy, watery mess of preservatives and sugar. After recently making my way through a small part of a peck of apples, I realized I was approaching a stage of food boredom with how I was eating them (#firstworldproblems), and was in danger of hiding them in my fridge permanently to turn into science projects just in time for Valentine's Day. But then I thought to revisit applesauce.

This recipe is simple as addition and produced the most flavorful applesauce that I have ever tasted. With my beloved hand blender at the ready, I made a batch of thick, smooth sauce that made its way into everything I ate that week: oatmeal, between the slices of a grilled cheese, on crackers, and blended into a smoothie (try it with a banana). All you need is a stockpot and a bit of sugar, water and cinnamon. Wonders never cease.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Recipe Mon Sep 20 2010


1) Begin making this apple pie recipe, but don't read the entire thing. You'll find out too late that even though you were planning on making a crumb-topped pie, this is a double-crusted version.

2) Try to make the stupidest fix ever by putting a crumb topping on it anyway, because you might as well add more sugar and butter at this point;

3) Curse loudly when the liquid overflows the flimsy aluminum pie tin, causing it to splash onto the base of your oven and make the smoke alarm go off as acrid smoke fills your kitchen;

4) Get out a casserole dish and dump the entire mess into it. Refrigerate covered. Go to bed mad.

5) The next morning, clean out your now-cooled oven with a caustic (but effective) cleaner.

6) Bring out the mess, cover it with a second pie crust that broke in its packaging when you picked it up at the store (and you bought it anyway). Bake for one hour at 350. It will be a congealed, browned mess of indistinguishable apples, butter and sugar. But no one is the judge of you; eat it anyway.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Contest Wed Sep 15 2010

"Recipes for Healthy Kids" Contest Open

School lunch seems to be the Next Big Thing to warrant some public-private partnership attention. The wave has been cresting for some time, arguably, with such programs as the Healthy Schools Campaign, and mainstream and popular reporting about the often-disturbing realities of public school lunch. Now the USDA and the Let's Move campaign to fight childhood obesity are looking to crowdsource "tasty, healthy, exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus across the country" with the Recipes for Healthy Kids contest.

Submissions will be accepted from now until December 30, and recipes must be developed by teams that include the major stakeholders in the front lines of the fight to reform school nutrition -- round up a current student (grades 4-12), a parent or community member (that could be you!), a willing chef, and the holy grail of the team, a school nutrition specialist. There are resources on the contest site to help you link up with chefs in your community, in case walking into your favorite restaurant and demanding to speak to the chef seems daunting. Even if you can't find all of the required participants, this might be a great way to get the word out among your PTA peers, or fellow chefs, that a forum for change at least exists. And doesn't involve Jamie Oliver. (Unless you're into that whole Naked Chef thing...) Who's to say you couldn't end up rubbing elbows over a potential "Dark Greens and Orange Vegetables" category entrant with one of Chicago's culinary elite, and helping change school lunches nationwide?

Andie Cavedo

Dessert Sat Sep 11 2010

Apple Crispin

Fall has certainly made its presence known in Chicago this past week and I welcomed it with open arms. The changing of seasons is one of my favorite things about living in the Midwest - with a new season comes a new beginning and, new food. This year, I've been embracing the beginning of fall with pumpkin candles, warm soup and apple crisp.

This recipe is great because it's incredibly easy and, most often, I have all of the ingredients at home so I don't have to make a special trip to the store. Here's the recipe so you all can properly ring in the new season. What's your favorite way to enjoy fall?

Thumbnail image for apple crisp.jpg
Apple Crisp

4-6 tart apples
8 graham crackers, finely chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup butter

Peel and slice apples (The Chopping Block has an amazing apple peeler) to fill a 9x9 pan 3/4 full. Melt the butter and stir in the finely chopped graham crackers. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Spoon the mixture over the sliced apples and microwave on high for 12-15 minutes or until the apples are tender.

*Photo by Stacy

Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Fri Sep 03 2010

The Perfect Tailgate Dip

It's that time of the year again: football season. Which means that the glorious activity known as tailgating is upon us. When I look back on my favorite college football memories, sure I remember the time Alabama won the National Championship, but what I really took away from all those tailgates was Ft. Payne Tailgate dip. I've heard this recipe go by many other names - Boygee Dip, Sausage Dip (really creative...), Meaty Goodness, but no matter what you call it, it's a hit. People fawn over this dip like crack. I can personally guarantee that if you bring this around for a Bears game you will be invited back to more parties/tailgates. Best part: it could not be easier to make!


  • 1 package of sausage

  • 1 8oz. box of cream cheese

  • 1 can rotel tomatoes

Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Once hot, add sausage and start to break apart using a wooden spoon. Cook until the sausage is golden brown. Drain off the grease.

Add cream cheese into skillet with sausage and reduce heat to low. Slowly stir the cream cheese until it's melted.

Finally add in the whole can of rotel, including juices, and stir until all ingredients are Ft. Payne Tailgate Dip.JPGcombined.

Transfer to a bowl and serve with tortilla chips or any other vessel that can get this into your mouth.

This dip can be eaten hot or cold (and trust me people will eat it any way they can get it), but I prefer it hot. Enjoy!

Renee Barone / Comments (2)

Recipe Tue Aug 31 2010

Snackable Drinks

I'm not a great hostess. Years of throwing out an overly complicated appetizer at the last minute and throwing together a cheese plate have eventually taught me that, while my cooking talents are at least modest, my menu planning and execution skills for social gatherings are at the most fair-to-middling. I'm okay with it -- and more than happy to help YOU cook and bake and stir and braise if YOU're hosting a party I'm at. But I had to do some measured risk-taking to provide my guests with SOMEthing to eat and drink at a recent backyard garden party. Cheese plate, obvi. Spiced crunchy chickpeas were, sadly, less awesome than I'd anticipated. Chips and salsa! margaritas, served in coffee mugs because I forgot to buy plastic cups. Mugaritas. And in a culinarily successful experiment, strawberry margarita jell-o shots. Classy, yet accessible. And most people seemed to actually like them.

Strawberry margarita jell-o shotsI borrowed some inspiration and concocted the following:

Strawberry Margarita Jell-o Shots
1 lb. strawberries
1/2 cup water
1 lime
1/2 cup sugar
4 envelopes gelatin
1 cup tequila (blanco, or whatever you prefer to make your margaritas with)
1/2 cup triple sec
Lime zest

Boiling straberriesStem, core and puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor until juiced (but not too frothy) -- add up to a 1/2 cup of water to get 2 1/4 cups total of liquid. Transfer over to a sauce pan on medium heat. Slice your lime in half and squeeze the juice from each half into the strawberry mixture, heat until just boiling. But don't throw the lime away! While the juice is heating up, stir the sugar and powdered gelatin together in a small bowl, and then stir slowly into the boiling liquid. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes until all of the sugar has dissolved into the juice, then turn the heat off and let it sit for a bit to cool down before adding the alcohol (about 15-20 minutes). If you were so inclined, you could just pour it into a baking dish now and have some really fresh-tasting non-alcoholic jell-o...if you're into jell-o, I guess. If you're more into booze, wait until the mix cools down a bit and then stir in the triple sec and tequila. Pour into a baking dish and stick in the fridge. After about an hour, grab that juiced lime and microplane as much zest off of it as you can, the finer the better. Sprinkle onto the jell-o, which should be mostly set at this point, and return to the fridge for at least another three hours, or overnight. Right before you serve, sprinkle a bit of kosher salt over the tops of your shots for the full margarita experience, slice, and serve. (You could also do the college-style individual paper shot glasses, if you were so inclined. But for me, at this point, my power had been out for two hours through a totally unrelated circumstance, and I was pretty much over it.)

They looked...kind of like ahi tuna squares. They tasted good...though quite strong (I went with two full cups of each kind of alcohol. It seemed like a good idea at the time.) If I make them again, I might include a few strawberry slices mixed into the jell-o before it sets, just for that church-picnic kind of textural excitement. They were, overall, worth making again. Hostess win!

Andie Cavedo

Recipe Mon Aug 30 2010

Be the Winner of Your Next Dessert Potluck

Paula Deen's Lemon Blossoms: easy, inexpensive to make, and completely unhealthy. But they're summer to me--flavorful, sweet, and dense (they're like a little donut--ah!). As warm days come to a close, you'll need something to help you hold on to the memory of barbecues and picnics of 2010. So let me help you by making these blossoms--and experimenting with different flavors of pudding and cake mix is recommended; the chocolate and strawberry varieties are heavenly. Okay, I need to be alone now.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Sun Aug 29 2010

A Taste of Autumn

P1030381.JPGI've been anxiously awaiting autumn for a few weeks now and last week I made one of my favorite recipes that uses fresh summer ingredients but tastes just like autumn. This recipe is my mom's and it brings back a lot of memories from the late summers of my youth - trying to soak up every minute of daylight before going back to school, wearing my little kid apron and helping my mom mix the ingredients, picking zucchini from the garden for this special bread. I made a loaf last week and it never tasted better.

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini (with peel)
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat eggs, sugar, zucchini and oil. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Kaitlin Olson / Comments (1)

Dish Wed Aug 25 2010

Would Love to Chaat...

King Sweet chaatI moved to Lincoln Square a few months ago after five years in the Ukrainian Village, and while I miss the freshly-baked rye aroma rising from my downstairs neighbors in the old apartment, I've been excited to be so much closer to Devon Street. My recourse for Indian food in the past has consisted mostly of Standard India Restaurant off the Belmont red line stop a few times a year (I still think it's the best buffet south of Rogers Park), or leftover Rajun Cajun a friend would occasionally bring back north from Hyde Park. Once in a blue moon, the long trek would be made to Canada, er, Devon Street (mostly to the now-closed Bahbi's Kitchen) if a car and willing driver could be found. Moving close to the intersection Lincoln and Montrose, I was pleased to realize I was within Grubhub range of some of the good stuff up north -- as well as to see two Indian restaurants within walking distance, one with a snack-friendly menu. But it's been two months since I've moved in, four months since Delhi 6 started offering a well-received snack-centric Indian menu, and sadly now, a few weeks since it's closed up shop in favor of an event catering service, according to its website.

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Andie Cavedo

Drink Tue Jul 20 2010

Cherries are in Season, Time for a Drink!

cherries glass.JPGLet's face it, store-bought maraschino cherries are just too darn sweet. If you're cocktail-savvy, perhaps you've had straight bourbon-soaked cherries. Last week I stumbled upon a recipe I thought I could tweak to fall somewhere in the middle.

The idea was to make a bourbon-soaked cherry with a twist. Straight bourbon might be a little much, so I grabbed my partner's bottle of homemade limoncello, picked up a quart of sour cherries at the Logan Square Farmer's Market, and got to work. After some tinkering and tasting, I came up with the following recipe:

1 pint sour cherries, pitted
1/3 cup limoncello + 2/3 cup bourbon (I used Maker's Mark)

First, if you are pitting the cherries yourself, might I recommend you not wear a white shirt? If you're anything like me, you'll end up with cherry boob. Second, I'd recommend you get a $13 cherry pitter, because pitting cherries is tedious work.

Next, heat the liquor in a small saucepan until it just starts to bubble; on my gas stove this took maybe a minute. Pour in your pitted cherries and swish around to cover with liquor. Let sit and cool to room temperature, then place in glass containers, and refrigerate. It's recommended that you let them soak for 48 hours before using, and it took all of my willpower to wait that long. They will keep in the fridge for quite some time (several months, if you can make it that long).

May I also recommend that you tinker with other liquor combinations? For the second pint of cherries, I used 1/2 cup cherry liqueur with 1/2 cup bourbon. The limoncello/bourbon cherries came out slightly sweet with a prevalent lemon note, while the cherry liqueur/bourbon cherries had a bit more heat to them--almost bitter; but both cherries remained firm and retained their sour flavor as well. Use of sweet cherries will give you a different result, but likely pleasing nonetheless. For my next batch, I may try an orange liqueur, or perhaps some brandy or calvados; it'd be nice to make some flavored for the warmer months, but to be honest, I don't see them lasting that long.

Jen Bacher / Comments (5)

Recipe Tue Jun 29 2010

Chorizo Burgers

Chorizo Burger

With grilling season in full swing, the call of the backyard and charcoal beacons you to come out of doors and grill up some of your favorite encased meats and burgers. I've been hearing the call for some time now, and I finally broke down and got the old Weber out and started to experiment. Though I love a good old burger, recently I've had the urge for something a bit more interesting, so: Chorizo Burgers.

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Christian Scheuer / Comments (1)

Recipe Sat Jun 26 2010

Kimchi Cream Cheese Illustrated

I love coming across recipes randomly on line that sound delicious. But it is rare to come across recipes randomly online that are as graphically beautiful as this recipe for Kimchi Cream Cheese, created by Laura Park. And her suggestions on how to use it sound just as tasty as her illustration is beautiful.

Cinnamon Cooper

Recipe Mon May 31 2010

Putting Rhubarb to Use

Rhubarb TorteI made my first trip to the Green City Market this past weekend and couldn't help notice that nearly every stand was selling rhubarb. I picked up a few stalks with the intention to convince any rhubarb skeptics that it is, in fact, delicious.

My mom and my grandma both grew rhubarb in their gardens and, as I kid, I hated it. Sometime in the early 90s, something changed and I began to appreciate the vegetable for its beautiful colors and eventually, I began to like its taste. The turning point for me was my grandma's recipe for Rhubarb Torte.

The next time you come across rhubarb at the farmer's market or in the grocery store, pick up a few stalks and give this recipe a try.

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Kaitlin Olson / Comments (1)

Openings Tue May 04 2010

Mint Juleps in Bloom

Arlington Park is open for the season and celebrated the Kentucky Derby on Saturday May 1st. There were blue skies, big hats and mint juleps for all!

This traditional Southern drink is great for keeping cool and simple to make.

4 fresh mint sprigs
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water

In a collins glass, muddle mint leaves, water and powdered sugar. Add crushed ice, then bourbon, and finish with more ice along with a mint sprig.

Arlington Park offers party packages, which I highly recommend for summer birthdays, as well as themed events every weekend until closing day on Sept. 26. Even if you aren't big on placing bets, the park is gorgeous and has great grounds for mingling.

Stef Piermattei

Recipe Mon Apr 26 2010

No-Bakin' Bacon-Bacon Beans


I recently moved, and while my kitchen was the first room I unpacked, a busy spring has kept me from getting to know the oven in my new apartment--an older appliance that I suspect will require tricks that will take time to learn. Thus, when the craving for homemade baked beans hit me last week, I decided it was time to learn how to make this campfire favorite on the stove top.

The result was rich and creamy with a touch of smoke due to the gorgeous Rancho Gordo heirloom Yellow Eye beans I used and my extra crispy (some might say charred) preparation of the bacon. But it's very hard to go wrong with this dish, especially with all of the pork involved.

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Sharon Bautista

Ingredient Tue Apr 20 2010

Burrata alla Giapponese

It looks like the out-of-this-world tofu imported from Japan is a thing of the past at Mitsuwa these days. Since the beginning of the year, we've been to the Arlington Heights market 4-5 times, but have never seen the tofu in stock. While my wallet may be happy about this, it is quite distressing to my yearning palate. Yes, we still have the great tofu made on the premises at H Mart, but I must say, it doesn't come quite as close to the heavenly flavors and textures of the Otokomae series of tofu.

So, naturally, I've been looking for alternatives in unexpected corners. One was discovered recently, hiding in the dairy case at Trader Joe's. Tofu alternative in a dairy case, you might ask? Yes, is my emphatic answer. See, the thing about the Otokomae tofu is that it is extremely creamy and full-flavored--almost like... well, fresh cheese. In this case, that fresh cheese is burrata.

Burrata is a cousin of the famous mozzarella, with a firm, mozzarella outer shell that contains rich, creamy innards. When cut, a heavenly mixture of mozzarella and cream oozes out. It being from Italy, burrata is usually served with one (or a combination) of the usual suspects: olive oil, tomato, prosciutto, and so on. However, when paired with a freshly squeezed sesame oil (also available at H Mart) and a dash of soy sauce, burrata can taste remarkably like a high-end tofu. If I compared this Japanified burrata to mass-produced tofu served the same way, I'd say burrata wins. Give it a try! (Brief recipe follows.)

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Yu Kizawa

Drink Tue Apr 06 2010

Fresh Guava Squash

Fresh Guava SquashWhat do you do when you see an unfamiliar produce that looks and smells fabulous? Would you get it and hope that you'll figure out what to do with it later with the help from Google? Or would you walk away, and hope to get it when you actually know what to do with it? (This sounds a bit like Epimetheus vs Prometheus thing...) I can be either, depending on the level of motivation and adventurousness at the moment, but last Saturday, my inner Epimetheus won. It was mainly because the fresh guava was smelling too good to pass up. The Ping-Pong ball-sized yellow orbs had a few bruises and scratches, but they smelled so sweet and tangy--it was like there was a tiny sphere of the tropic right above the guava stand. So, without knowing what to do with them, I grabbed a dozen or so.

Once home, I looked up what to do with them. The consensus in the cyberspace seemed to be that guavas are edible raw, skin, seeds and all. Somebody mentioned a guava milk shake he had in Egypt. I almost drooled on the idea, but didn't have ice cream on hand, so I decided to make guava squash instead. Though I didn't have any recipe to rely on, it turned out fantastic--a perfect drink for the summery Saturday. This left me with enough fresh guava for another round, and I had a brilliant idea for that: add a shot of tequila. We had a beautiful bottle of Don Julio Añejo (a gift from a few years ago that we've been savoring slowly), so I added that to the squash. The result? It's pure danger in a glass. My husband proclaimed that he could drink two gallons of the stuff, and I had to agree. The alcohol balances out the sweetness nicely, and the slightly oaky flagrance of the Añejo added another layer of complexity to the drink.

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Yu Kizawa

Foodporn Thu Apr 01 2010

Bacon. No Foolin'

I am a fool for all things bacon. Just ask my friends.

Some are really good (Baconfest Chicago, Neuske's Bacon), some "meh" (Bacon Salt, Bacon Mints), and some are hilarious (Squeez Bacon, Baconnaise).

But for April Fools '10, I decided to play the fool rather than prank other fools. So, I got up early and started wrapping. Bacon wrapping that is.

With a convenient stash of bacon, sufficient toothpicks, and a couple of kielbasa, I wrapped these sausages up like Martha Stewart on a X-mas present bender.

Bacon Wrapped Sausage 1.JPG Bacon Wrapped Sausage 2.JPG

After applying the bacon love, I then wrapped the sausages in several layers of aluminum foil, and slid them into a 350° oven, and walked away.

How long did I cook them? I didn't really think about it. I simply pulled them out when the entire apartment started to smell like delicious bacon-wrapped sausage, and I noticed neighbors licking the windows.

Bacon Wrapped Sausage 5.JPG Bacon Wrapped Sausage 6.JPG

If I were forced to set a time limit to the cooking, I'd say that an hour and a half would work. Your results may vary. Just remember to remove the toothpicks before serving.

This is usually the part where someone will tell you what to serve with the recipe. I've found that a fork and knife work well.

Cliff Etters

Recipe Fri Mar 12 2010

Great Aunt Helen's Irish Soda Bread

OK, so maybe you don't have a Great Aunt Helen, but I do and her soda bread rocks! Making soda bread it's easy, it's delicious, and around St. Patrick's Day it's a must at everyone's table.

Great Aunt Helen's Irish Soda Bread
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
1 stick of butter, softened
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins

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Shanna Quinn / Comments (2)

Recipe Tue Mar 09 2010

Spicy Korean Chicken Soup in 30 Minutes

GochujangLike many of my Japanese compatriots, I love Korean food. For a long time, I regarded Korean food as something to get only in restaurants, but over the years I've gradually expanded my home cooking into the Korean realm, from scallion pancakes to kimchi fried rice and tongue-numbing soups. Many of the dishes I cooked, especially those of the spicy variety, though, seemed to lack the punch that I loved. I knew what it is--gochujang. Many recipes called for this sweet-and-hot chili paste, but I was hesitant to buy one. (It's the red paste that you mix into bi bim bop, in case you are wondering.) Gochujang is readily available; that wasn't the issue. The issue was that gochujang comes in very large packages, typically containing a pound or more. If I cooked Korean all the time, I might be able to use it all up, but otherwise, I just didn't see myself using that much of the stuff. You only need a tablespoon of the stuff at a time--if that.

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Feb 28 2010

Orange-Pistachio Salad with Pomegranate Molasses

orange salad

Fruit salad is not the first dessert that comes to mind in the depths of winter, but my friend and foodie business partner Dimitra Tasiouras served up an exceptional example at a dinner party a few weeks ago. This assemblage is at once easy and gorgeous, refreshing and sophisticated. Serve as is or with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Orange-Pistachio Salad with Pomegranate Molasses

6 navel oranges cut horizontally into 1/3" slices, skin and pith removed
1 cup pitted, chopped dates
1/2 cup floral honey
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (sold in Middle Eastern markets)
1/2 cup chopped salted, roasted pistachios
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint

Place the orange slices in a single layer in a 9" x 13" baking dish or similarly-sized platter. Sprinkle the chopped dates over the oranges. In a small bowl, stir together the honey and pomegranate molasses. Drizzle the honey mixture over the oranges and dates. The recipe can be made up to this point as much as 24 hours in advance, covered and refrigerated.

Sprinkle the pistachios and mint over the oranges and dates just before serving. Serves 6. Adapted from the New York Times.

Sharon Bautista

Recipe Thu Feb 25 2010

Wild Rice Salad with Apricots and Almonds

wild rice saladI can't believe it's already Thursday. For that matter, I'm in denial that February is almost over. Can you believe that? Oh well.

But the reality is that we still have two more weekdays before we hit the weekend bliss (for those of us 9-5, Mon-Fri-ers, at least). Although I do get home about an hour before my husband does, I usually don't have either the energy or the efficiency to whip up complicated dinners on weeknights. Since being chained to the desk for eight hours a day is something relatively new to me, I've been slowly accumulating easy-to-assemble recipes to survive those low-energy nights. For this "fully loaded" wild rice salad, I got the inspiration from the awesome salads served at the First Slice Pie Cafe, which also whips up luscious (and, in this case, bold) pies.

A perfect one-bowl meal, this salad seems to deliver everything: pop of bright colors from broccoli and red peppers; crunch from almonds; satisfying heft from the wild rice; sweet-and-tart goodness from dried fruits; and a hint of spice from the curry-scented dressing. Yum. The only thing missing might be protein, but in my case, I feel as if I get enough protein earlier in the day to take a pass--at least some nights of the week. (Recipe follows.)

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (2)

Store Tue Feb 23 2010

Fantastic Find at Middle East Bakery & Grocery

My husband and I have been semi-systematically going through the myriad of dips that fill the refrigerated cases at the Middle East Bakery & Grocery. From creamy garlic hummus to smokey babaghanuge, everything has been fantastic, as light dinner with warm pita and a glass of dry white wine, or as condiments to elevate an otherwise unremarkable sandwich a notch. As an added bonus, the dips are very clean--no unpronounceable chemicals here.

Green Olive Tapenade

Last week, our pick was a tub of green olive tapenade. And although I love virtually everything I've tried so far, this tapenade possibly tramples them all. Made with green olives, capers, extra virgin olive oil, basil, oregano and salt, it might sound simple, but its flavor is rich and complex. The beauty of this tapenade is that its complex flavors are perfectly balanced. The floral note of the capers, the garlicky kick, and just the right amount of saltiness all blossom on the robust, green, earthy background of the olives. I've had it smeared on my morning toasts (mmmm, heaven) and topped sunny-side-ups with it, but the best use so far is in a warm potato salad. The addition of tapenade made this otherwise simple salad into something special and satisfying. (Dare I say "gourmet?")

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Mon Feb 08 2010

DIY Conversation Hearts

bemine.JPG Necco conversation heart candies have been a part of Valentines Day since the late 19th century and can be seen as a reflection of the times. These sweethearts have evolved from the original saying "married in white, you have chosen right," to the 80's message "fax me" and now to the latest pop culture reference "tweet me."

These heart-shaped candies are super easy to make but truthfully the DIY version isn't exactly cheap. Bottles of extract are on the expensive side and finding the food coloring markers was an adventure in itself but the outcome is delicious! Of all the homemade holiday candies I've made so far (candy pumpkins and candy canes) these were by far the easiest and most-like the real thing!

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Shanna Quinn / Comments (2)

Chef Sun Feb 07 2010

Poached Egg on Pasta

Poached egg on pasta After receiving my daily Tasting Table email on Friday, I was inspired to recreate the featured recipe, offered by Branch 27's John Manion, for an egg-topped pasta dish. Manion's version featured a lot of interesting ingredients - kale, butternut squash, fried sage and ricotta salata - which I didn't have, so I simply boiled some pasta, covered it with tomato sauce and placed the poached egg on top, finishing it all off with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of Parmesan. It was unquestionably simple and uncomplicated but also very satisfying since the runny yolk melts into the other ingredients and creates a silky sauce. Other additions - maybe sauteed onions, a few minced anchovies or a handful of fresh herbs - could turn this simple meal into something more dramatic. The possibilities are endless...

Dana Currier

Recipe Mon Feb 01 2010

A Lifetime Supply of Brisket

Some friends of mine got married last fall. It was a great affair that was enhanced by serving Smoque BBQ at the reception. What didn't enhance the affair was the main lighting over the separate room that housed the food tables accidentally darkening an hour or so after the first wave of guests had hit the heaps of barbecued goodness that awaited them, which meant that while the guests had eaten, they hadn't returned for seconds (or didn't know they could, bwahwaahh). This is where I come in.

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Robyn Nisi

Recipe Tue Jan 26 2010

Persian Chickpea Cookies: Simple, No-Bake and Gluten-Free

I started exploring Persian cooking this year with one of the most authoritative books on the subject: Najmieh Batmanglij's New Food for Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies. Until recently, I had tinkered only with savory dishes like fesenjan. But then I found myself looking for a simple and gluten-free dessert to bring to a dinner party.

I decided to make a version of bereshtook-e nokhodchi or "Roasted Chick-pea Cake." Unlike many gluten-free cakes and cookies, which require more than one type of alternative flour, starch and a gum (e.g. xanthan or guar), I was drawn to the Persian dessert because it called for a mere five, easy-to-find, relatively inexpensive ingredients. I already had all of the ingredients in my pantry from my last visit to Al-Khaymeih Market (4738 N. Kedzie). The recipe also did not require any baking.

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Sharon Bautista / Comments (2)

Recipe Wed Jan 20 2010

Grating Rocks! (Asian Slow Made Easy)

black radish slaw 2
I love cole slow in its its many embodiments, but I hate julienning the vegetables. Without the knife-moving-so-fast-it's-a-blur skills of competent chefs, julienning takes a lot of patience, the lack of which, I have to admit, is one of my major shortcomings. The other day, I was looking at a recipe for a French carrot salad that used grated carrots. Then I thought: if that works in carrot râpée, it should work in cole slow, too. So I tried. I used an old multi-purpose grater to roughly grate daikon radish and carrots. It worked beautifully.

The daikon and carrots were in shreds in no time. The shreds were just the right size, and because grating on a dull surface (rather than cutting with a sharp knife) destroys more cell walls, it eliminated the wait before squeezing out the excess moisture from the vegetables. (Usually, I would sprinkle some salt on the cut vegetables and let it sit for a while to draw out the moisture before squeezing it out.) I'll never go back to julienning--at least when making cole slow with root vegetables!

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Mon Jan 11 2010

Tropical Delights

I spent last week in Mexico where, despite unseasonably cool temperatures caused by The Great Arctic Blast of 2010, on the worst day I could sit outside in a light hoodie -- and on the best in my bathing suit. (Pause to dodge rotten tomatoes.)

Sun is only half of it for me. Tropical delights always add to that vacation mindset. Fresh papaya smoothies for breakfast. Perfectly ripe guava at lunch. Coconut shrimp with coconut dipping sauce for dinner. And, of course, a margarita and dessert at every meal.

One of my favorite desserts was a Rice Pudding Cake. As I devoured a generous slice after lunch one day (did I mention we stayed at one of those all-inclusive places?), I couldn't help thinking the creamy, yet still somehow cakey concoction would make an even better ending to a hearty supper on a cold winter's night in Chicago. I mean, we're talking about an amalgamation of three of the most comforting foods on the planet: rice, pudding and cake.

Unfortunately, I did not get the recipe for the resort's cake, which had a very thin layer of almond-flavored sponge cake as its base, topped with a couple of inches of extra-thick, but still impossibly creamy rice pudding, dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg.

However, I dug up a few recipes on The Google, and this one from Epicurious seems like a decent approximation.

Feliz Ano Nuevo and Happy Eating!

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Recipe Mon Jan 11 2010

15-Minute Meal: Kabocha Soup under Thai Influence

Kabocha Coconut Soup

As far as the ratio of time required to tastiness achieved is concerned, this thick kabocha soup might very well be the winner. The soup gets its sweetness from kabocha, a Japanese pumpkin/squash that many farmers market vendors carry, as well as from the coconut milk. Kabocha's naturally strong sweetness is balanced by the heat from the red curry paste and the salty, savory flavor of the nam pla (Thai fish sauce). Addition of a carrot boosts the pretty orange color, not to speak of the nutrition.

Thai Kabocha-Coconut Soup (serves two)
1/4 medium kabocha
1 carrot
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
2 teaspoons fish sauce (adjust to taste)

Boil chopped kabocha and carrot in just enough water until tender. Discard the water and add coconut milk, red curry paste and fish sauce. With an immersion blender, blend everything until smooth. Serve with (or in) crusty bread.

Yu Kizawa

Chef Fri Jan 08 2010

Vegan Cooking With Chef Tal Ronnen

tal_ronnen.jpgAfter last year's foodie focus on serving and eating the whole hog, it would be nice if appetites turned to vegetarian and vegan fare this year. An article in The Chicago Tribune this week predicts nutrition trends for 2010, including a move away from meat. Local nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner backed up the forecast, saying concerns over health, the environment and the economy will prompt people to cut back on meat. Already, many are taking part in Meatless Mondays.

Another person touting the benefits of a meat-free diet is Chef Tal Ronnen, who recently released The Conscious Cook, a cookbook named one of the best cookbooks of 2009 by Epicurious.

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Lori Barrett / Comments (3)

Recipe Sun Jan 03 2010

Meals to Keep You Warm

Roasted Tomatoes.JPGIt's wintertime and you know what that means. Comfort food. There's something about warm, hearty meals and rich drinks on a cold night that just feels right. After spending a week with my family in Minnesota, I was in comfort-food mode and went on a bit of a cooking spree. Here are some of my favorite recipes to curl up with on a cold winter night, I hope you'll share yours, too.

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Kaitlin Olson

Ingredient Wed Dec 30 2009

¿Que hay la cena?

Rudolph Foods (headquartered in Ohio) ran a contest recently to see who could make the most inventive dishes for dinner using pork rinds as an ingredient. Chicago resident Angelique Page won with her recipe for Elote Spoon Bread. And while I can't say the recipe will make many nutritionists happy, I gotta say that it sounds delicious (and I love that she specifies using a cast iron pan, too).

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (2)

Feature Fri Dec 25 2009

The Bonds of Eating

I just returned from a surprising meal at a new restaurant in my hometown. The Thomas House was recently opened by family friends and seems to be breaking new ground in the eating landscape of our small Wisconsin town. In my formative years of eating, our options were limited to Perkins, McDonalds, and a variety of fish fry and fried chicken options at what were essentially bars with stoves. If you think about restaurants as extensions of patrons' own kitchens, this perhaps isn't so strange--we go out to either eat what we can't make or don't feel like making at home, to socialize, to share an experience with others. Ideally, anyway.

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Andie Cavedo

Recipe Mon Dec 21 2009

One Saucy Stew: Khoresht-e Fesenjan

Koresh-e FesenjanKhoresht-e fesenjan or pomegranate-walnut stew is a classic Persian dish typically eaten during winter months in Iran. It consists of poultry, usually chicken, cooked slowly in a thick sauce of pomegranate syrup, ground walnuts and spices. Making fesenjan at home is part of a larger project I'm undertaking this winter to learn more about Persian food. I'm being guided by a friend who has been sharing recipes and spices that he gets from his in-laws in Iran. He recommended that I start my project with fesenjan for its simple preparation and sumptuous flavors.

Fesenjan can be made for weeknight dinner because it requires not much more than the time to operate the food processor and simmer the chicken to doneness. The pomegranate in the stew lends both tartness and sweetness, and the walnuts, a soothing, earthy creaminess. The tenderness of the poultry only adds to the luxuriousness of the dish. It is this brightness and comfort that make fesenjan an easy winter indulgence.

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Sharon Bautista

Feature Fri Dec 18 2009

Homemade Candy Canes

Sugar'Tis the season for house parties, cookie exchanges, ornament exchanges, and family-get-togethers. With all things going thrifty, including gift giving, sometimes it's hard to balance the purse strings with holiday cheer. But being on a budget doesn't mean crafting macaroni cards covered in glitter--all you need is a few cups of sugar and a heaping spoonful of patience to bring delicious, holiday gifts without looking like Scrooge.

If you have time to impress, I suggest harnessing your candy-making skills and twisting up some homemade candy canes. Yes Virginia, it can be done (and no, you do not have to be Martha Stewart)! It is time-consuming, and moderate candy-making skill is involved. If you're a newbie at hard candy-making, that's okay...just be prepared to end up with peppermint goop a few times. The "goop" actually tastes fantastic, and even after two failed batches, your failures are worth sharing with a friend...or being selfish and spooning it out of the pot, by yourself, in your kitchen (yes, I'm admitting to that).

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Shanna Quinn / Comments (2)

Recipe Mon Dec 07 2009

Cozy Recipes from a Cozier Kitchen

My family likes to eat. The kitchen is our gathering place and it's not uncommon to find us all sitting around the center island at 11pm snacking on whatever we can find.

Katie and Ben .JPGThis is the way it's been for as long as I can remember - when I was younger, I used to sneak out of bed when my parents were asleep and meet my brother in the kitchen where we would eat cereal while watch reruns of "The Simpsons." Jump a head a few years later to the summer when I was 17 and he was 14. I would come home after a night at work our out with my friends and my brother and I would make chocolate chip pancakes while catching up on each others night. We tried not to wake our parents, but they usually emerged from their bedroom and joined us for a late-night snack.

Now we're older and when we come home (which is pretty often) it's as if nothing has changed. The first room you enter when you come through the garage is the kitchen and it's usually hours after arriving that I step foot out of the room.

I suppose these memories, and countless others, are part of the reason I love food so much. The friendships that were built in my parent's kitchen are in large part who I am today. Over the years, my mom has demonstrated that cooking for someone is an expression of love. So, that's what we do. We cook, we play cards, we talk and we eat.

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Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Thu Dec 03 2009

Mix Up Your Oatmeal Mix-Ins

Bored with your morning oatmeal? Perhaps try adding persimmon, nuts that fizzle or...ham.

Sharon Bautista

Feature Wed Nov 25 2009

Shaking Up Thanksgiving

When it comes to Thanksgiving meals, cooks nationwide demonstrate the same focus that Montgomery and Eisenhower did for Operation Overlord. Planning the dinner courses and their courses of action with a critical eye and hard heart, woe betide to the poor fool who, like the Germans at Normandy, stands in their way.

The sheer variety of ways to prepare a turkey boggles the mind. Do you brine it or not? Roast it or fry it? Traditional sage and thyme, or go avant-garde with a rub of butter and chipotle powder beneath the skin? Baste it? Legs tied for presentation, or untied for more even cooking? Stuff the bird and risk salmonella? It's enough to drive a cook crazy, even before the drinking starts.

And that's why instead of turkey, I prefer the standing ribeye roast.

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Cliff Etters / Comments (1)

Dessert Tue Nov 24 2009

Baked Sweet Potato Custard

baked sweet potato custard

For those of you who might be looking for a twist on the tradition for the upcoming Turkey Day, here's a sweet potato recipe that's not topped with marshmallows. I made this baked custard when we did our last backyard grilling of the year, a few weeks back. We slowly roasted a big, fat sweet potato on a cooler corner of the grill, and instead of making this ginger yam/sweet potato salad that we are addicted to, I made it into baked custard. The sweet potato can be baked in the oven, of course--it can even be microwaved or boiled, though the latter two methods just don't compare to the slow-roasting on charcoal when it comes to earthy sweetness.

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (2)

Feature Sun Nov 08 2009

Bacon Jam: Spreadable Divinity in a Jar

I'm not one to blindly follow trends -- and I do see a little truth in talk that the current bacon mania is a bit overblown. But I've come across a bacon product that rises above the hype. And it's one you can make yourself, just in time to impress your friends and family at the holidays.

My friends, I'm talking about bacon jam.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

Recipe Tue Oct 20 2009

DIY Candy Pumpkins

"What possessed you to make your own candy pumpkins?" -- I've been getting this question a lot over the past few days as I talked about writing this piece. The only answer I have is because it sounded fun ...and it was fun!

My original plan entailed making candy corn but as my sugary adventure progressed, I felt GBfavoritepumpkin.jpgtaking the leap into candy pumpkins was way more impressive--and I enjoy being impressive. The recipe is exactly the same for candy corn if you chose to go that route.

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Shanna Quinn / Comments (4)

Recipe Sat Oct 03 2009

Neighborly Love

After a week of what seemed like the true beginning of fall - crisp temps, necessitating jackets; leaves starting to turn and fall off their branches - I woke up to what I would expect for an autumn Saturday morning. My condo was still and quiet, and I lay in bed, just reading and enjoying the lazy early hours.

But somewhere around 11:00 a.m., my upstairs neighbhors, whom I rarely hear due to different work schedules, began what sounded like the makings of a pretty sweet dance party (or at least a rousing soundtrack for a weekend cleaning spree). To some, this beat-laden accompaniment to the peaceful weekend may have been a nuisance. To me, it was an audible reminder of my community, of the friendly 9 people who have been my neighbors over the last year and a half in our 6-unit Bucktown condo.

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Caroline Kraft

Recipe Fri Sep 25 2009

Turning Apples Into Sauce

Applesauce cookingNow that the apples are starting to crowd out the peaches at many of Chicago's farmers markets, you may soon find yourself with a crisper drawer full of the red, green or yellow fruit. There are many delicious baked goods that feature apples, but one of the simplest and most satisfying things you can do with your bounty is make applesauce.

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Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Sep 01 2009

Granola, A Reason to Wake Up

Some people go to sleep so they can wake up for that morning cuddle. Others bounce out of bed energized for work. Still more enjoy the morning time because of the first cup of coffee... and then the second. I go to sleep with a childish excitement for the morning's feast known as breakfast. Breakfast often loses in the fast-paced American capitalist society. I do not blame people for choosing that extra 15 minutes of sleep and 5 minutes of hot shower over making an omelet. I reserve in depth breakfast gorging almost exclusively for weekends. Thus, my solution to the demands of a quick paced morning coupled with my desire for a delicious healthy breakfast is homemade granola. It is especially enticing when you put the granola in a large counter top mason jar so it can greet you as you brew your coffee and rush to the shower.

I have been playing with granola for a few years now. I prefer to bake a large batch on a weekend and then have it for a couple of weeks. My recipes have varied... I highly encourage experimentation in the production of granola. Using different types of oil, sweetening with brown sugar vs. honey, adding flax seed, mixing in dried berries, dousing with a bit of vanilla or cinnamon, sprinkling in some coconut shreds. The possibilities are truly limitless. I will share the latest recipe I used as I found it to be particularly hearty and satisfying. This recipe produces a granola that is not too sweet and especially healthy given the large quantity of flax seed. My disclaimer is that I often cook by adding things until they seem "right," so measurements may need a little adjusting.

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Jessica Gingold / Comments (3)

Recipe Wed Aug 19 2009

Curried Chicken Salad

Curried chicken salad Nothing says summer like chicken salad. And my favorite version of chicken salad involves curry powder, apple, dried fruit and nuts. If you throw a couple chicken breasts on the grill the night before, this salad will come together in no time flat, and you'll have a cold, creamy dinner to eat on a hot, steamy night.

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Dana Currier

Ingredient Tue Aug 11 2009

Fruit Salad with Shiso

Peach, Blueberries & Shiso Salad

The inspiration for this salad came from one I had at Shochu, a now-defunct branch of Deleece. I hoped that the Asian-inspired restaurant/pub would live a long, fruitful life, but alas, its Wriglleyville location has been replaced by a more mainstream grill pub by the same enterprise. Anyhow, the original salad featured two main ingredients: strawberries and shiso. Sounds simple enough, but pairing shiso with fruits was a true eye-opener for me, seeing that my authentically Japanese brain is often caught up in how things are done over in my home country--where shiso is never found around fruits.

The shiso-strawberry salad was so good that shiso permanently etched itself in my fruit salad repertoir since then. Nowadays I pair shiso with almost any fruits. Peaches, raspberries, pears, plums... you name it, I've probably done it. Here's what I do: mix a small drizzle of honey with shredded shiso leaves and bite-size chunks of assorted fruits. I usually make it for breakfast. Having the fruit salad sit around in the fridge for ten minutes or so (while we eat other stuff) is enough to let the flavors come together. My husband practically licks the bowl, unwilling to let go of a drop of the honey-fruit-shiso juice that's left after the fruits are gone. I sometimes add some grated ginger (or, when I'm short on time, powdered ginger from Spice House), which adds extra contrast to the sweetness of the fruits. Try it--you won't regret it.

Shiso is available in Japanese markets like Mitsuwa and Tensuke, but if you're automotively challenged, try the Vietnamese markets around Argyle. They usually have large bags of "pink mint," which has the a flavor profile almost identical to that of shiso, if a little stronger.

Yu Kizawa

Recipe Tue Jul 14 2009

Creamy, Comforting Polenta

Garlic Polenta with Mushrooms

Creamy, savory polenta with a good deal of garlic warms something inside me. It's comforting. And it's relatively simple to make.

Bring 4 cups of vegetable stock to a boil. Some use water, but I find that a good stock, adequately salted, imparts a brilliantly tasty flavor on the polenta. (Some might take issue with bouillon cubes, but I have no problem using them). When the water is hot, whisk in 1 cup of medium ground cornmeal. Bring the pot to simmer, and whisk every minute until the cornmeal thickens enough to make your whisking efforts feel more like stirring. Switch to a spoon and stir frequently, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until the polenta has absorbed all of the stock. The polenta should be soft. (If it's a bit crunchy at this point, add a tad more water and keep the pot on the heat until the new water absorbs.) Finally, remove from heat.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (4)

Recipe Thu Jul 09 2009

Salad of Two Ingredients: Mesclun + Raspberries

Mesclun and Raspberries

I wanted a quick salad tonight with what was in my fridge. I had the luck to be mistaken at a farmers market this week for someone who often buys the Asian mesclun mix from Green Acres. And at that moment, I knew which greens I was going to buy.

My raspberries from Seedling had a bit of tartness, which bridged the gap to the mustardy and bright flavor of the mesclun. Their sweetness paired brilliantly, too, with the greens. I've often wished for my berries to make it home unharmed. This time, they got all smashed up. Luckily, this made their juices run quite a bit, which made for quite a nice salad dressing.

Chris Brunn

Recipe Fri Jun 26 2009

Perfuming Garlic and Soft Pesto

Fiocchetti with creamy pesto and garlic

I smelled roasted garlic perfuming the air on my bicycle ride home today as I passed an Italian restaurant. Perhaps the hot and balmy weather intensified the aroma. I stopped of for some garlic and went to my kitchen.

Sautéed, minced garlic goes brilliantly with pesto mixed into any kind of pasta. But I used fiocchetti - a type of pasta that, because of its small size, leaves more surface area to soak up sauce. I was fortunate that a few friends brought this pesto by for me last weekend. It was creamy and soft, with a rich oily basil flavor, which I'd been previously enjoying on bread. The pesto was, above all other ingredients, the star.

Chris Brunn

Recipe Mon Jun 22 2009

For a Peanut Butter Lover

I came across this amazing peanut butter cookie recipe a few weeks ago while on the hunt for something new, and these don't disappoint: the recipe, which yields only a few dozen (or did I eat all the dough before it had a chance to hit the oven?) is a heavenly glob of sugared peanut butter--crispy, chewy, fluffy, transcendent. The crisscrossing of the cookie surface in this recipe is meant to be a skull and crossbones-esqe warning to outsiders, as in "get off my cookies, or I'll cut you." I was going to take a picture of the baked product, but I just didn't have enough restraint to grab my camera. Step one is admitting you have a problem, folks.

Recipe after the jump!

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Robyn Nisi

Dessert Fri May 29 2009

Wanted: Your Cookie Genius

If you're like me (meaning, you have little to no self control when it comes to sweets), you've been guilty of making an emergency run to Whole Foods not for organic wheat germ or Acai berries, but for one of the way-inappropriately sized Carol's Cookies sold in their bakery. (Toffee Crunch is my fave.) Recently, I learned Carol's has been making these half-pound beauties in the Chicago area since 1979 - the year of my birth. Coincidence? I think not.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Carol's recently put out a call asking loyal fans to submit ideas for the company's next cookie flavor. (Yes, the winners get free cookies. Stick with me here.) To participate, visit Carol's Web site or join the new Facebook fan page, "Carol's Cookies Giant Cookie Club." The contest starts June 1 and runs through Aug. 12, 2009.

After reviewing all entries, Carol's bakers will select the top five flavors and spend four weeks perfecting the recipes at the Carol's cookie factory. The five finalists' recipes will be judged on Sept. 15, 2009, at the Carol's factory by Carol Goldman (yes, the Carol), and foodies Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, Marc Shulman of Eli's Cheesecake, Bryant Keil of Potbelly's Sandwich Works, and restaurant critic Sherman Kaplan from WBBM AM 780 radio.

The winner will receive a year's supply of free cookies, as well as virtual applause from the online universe. Oh, and the champ also gets to be guest baker for two days at Carol's Cookies Highland Park bakery. The runners-up even get some cookie dough. So what more can I say, people: Cookie it up!

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue May 12 2009

You Must Try This: Smoked Yam Salad with Ginger

Smoked Yam Salad with GingerLast Sunday before that precipitous temperature drop, we did our first backyard grilling of the season. The main fare was the classic burger, but as we usually do, we threw some vegetables on the grill for later use. (We learned last year that this is a simple step that makes the following week's meals quite tasty--and easy, since these vegetables are only a step or two away from a finished dish.) Among eggplants (for baba ganoush) and Poblano peppers (which we had in this morning's scrambled eggs) were two yams.

I came home this evening and made a salad with the two yams. Simply dressed with good vinegar, olive oil and a teeny bit of salt, the yams were fantastic. Slow-cooking on the grill intensified their sweetness, while adding a great deal of smoky goodness to their beautiful orange flesh. Ginger and scallions provided a refreshing counter point, both in terms of the tangy flavors and crunchy texture; the floral flagrance of the Champagne vinegar lifted up the whole dish. Try it the next time you fire up your grill--you won't regret it!

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Mon May 04 2009

Baking with Clementines

I decided to make my second foray into Nigella Lawson's clementine cake, as it seems to be popular and well, I've eaten a boatload of clementines each day as I've clutched tightly to their brief springtime appearance at the grocery store. I don't want to get sick of them before the crop fades away for the year. Clementines baked into a cake means that I can get my daily sugar fix and feel mildly healthy for having eaten a fruit-based, gluten-free dessert. Mildly.

The first step involves boiling 4 to 5 clems for two hours. the first time I did this, I ignored the project and watched television in another room. I later disovered that the smell of burnt clementines is awful. This time, I circled the stove like a hawk.

IMG_0747Allow me a brief product shout-out: my new best kitchen friend is the Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender, which is a godsend when it comes to pureeing soups and making smoothies, but an even better asset when I was griding almonds for this cake, as well as mashing the cooled, boiled fruit.

Clementine cake (well, SOME of it)The product? A very flavorful, spongy cake that has an air of being served at a formal tea party or reception. The boiling brings out the tangier, sharper side of the fruit's flavor, which gets a mild tempering by the small (one cup) amount of white sugar that accompanies the clementines, as well as the grainy texture of the ground almonds. Highly recommended.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Mon Apr 27 2009

Polenta with Spinach, Garlic and Tempeh

Tempeh for Polenta
Polenta goes brilliantly with spinach. Think of it as thick porridge. You can make it extra savory by cooking cornmeal in salted vegetable stock instead of simple water. I had thought it would take 4 cups of liquid to 1 cup of cornmeal for the polenta, but an extra cup of water was needed to soften it up and take the grittiness out. A few friends and I were sautéing onion, shallot, garlic, crimini mushrooms and jalapeño until tender, and then added that to the polenta once the polenta was soft, finishing with golden pan-fried crispy tempeh and spinach.

To get the polenta going, bring the stock to boil, slowly whisk in cornmeal, reduce the heat to simmer, and cover until soft. Stir when the cornmeal sticks to the pan, which will happen more frequently toward the end. If the stock absorbs before the cornmeal finishes softening, add a bit of water. We added our sauté at the end.

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Chris Brunn

Recipe Mon Apr 13 2009

Easter Redux

Yesterday was a day of meeting for meat--the Easter Ham. I was fortunate to be at the home of friends who made Nigella Lawson's Ham in Cola. There was something gratifying and strange about pouring a two-liter of cola over a ham and shoving it into the oven. While its sugary, caramel flavor wasn't incredibly noticeable, I still thought it complemented the ham well.

Today is a day for hurried trips to your local grocery to witness and indulge in the 50-75% off sale/retail carnage of pastel candy and chocolate bunnies, but it's also a day to get creative with the leftovers from yesterday.

Ham - if you saved the ham bone, here's a split pea soup; or perhaps you just need to go beyond the 40 ham sandwiches you plan to eat this week and make a casserole.

Carrots - I turned a bag of raw carrots into an awesome batch of potage de crecy, a pureed carrot/rice soup with a kicky political angle that I mixed up a bit by using a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger and substituting a handful of green onions for the standard kind.

Potatoes - If you have leftover raw potatoes, I'm going to try to turn you onto a popular dish from a restaurant in my hometown that turns a spud into a flavorful work of art--behold the potato casserole.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Thu Apr 09 2009

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

dyed eggs.jpg

This year, why not forgo the store-bought kits and dye your own Easter eggs? It's easy and can produce beautiful results. This Curbly video will teach you to use natural dyes like red cabbage, coffee and turmeric. Using similar ingredients, the District Domestic breaks down tips for red, purple, blue and yellow eggs. If you are only making Easter eggs for grown ups who won't be hunting them, Chinese tea eggs can be a beautiful and flavorful addition to a holiday brunch. TeamSugar has the instructions.

(Image: Flickr member -luz- licensed under Creative Commons.)

Gemma Petrie / Comments (2)

Recipe Fri Apr 03 2009

Holy Kale!

Each year of my life I have come to appreciate and incorporate new foods into my diet. This past year my two most appreciated new foods have probably been brussel sprouts and KALE! I love kale, and you should too.

Kale lends itself to many culinary creations. Some that I have experimented with include kale, sweet potato and red pepper frittata; kale with olives and Romano cheese; kale sautéed in olive oil with lemon, garlic and salt; kale peanut stew... Any Internet search of kale recipes is guaranteed to provide abundant inspiration. Recipe searching is one of my favorite break time activities at work. Yesterday, in between data analyses and e-mail bantering, I discovered "Sweet Pepper Pasta Toss with Kale".

Modifications I made included the following. I probably quadrupled the amount of kale that the recipe called for. Greens are deceptive. If you only use a cup of fresh kale, you may be left with a tablespoon in your finished product. Don't be afraid of stuffing the pan full--they will cook down (putting a lid on the pan aids in the process). I also increased the amount of all spices. I find that a pinch is never enough. Finally, I did not have feta cheese or farfalle pasta in the kitchen. Missing ingredients do not mean one must drop the recipe. Instead, I used whole-wheat penne giving the dish a heartier feel. In the place of feta, I used goat cheese, which melted nicely into the veggies creating a creamier consistency. This meal could also easily be done cheese-less for any vegan or cholesterol conscious person. As a finishing touch I drizzled half of a lemon into the mixture giving a nice balance to the cayenne pepper. The meal only took an hour from start to finish (including washing the dishes).

Pictures were taken, but unfortunately the low-quality camera I bought in China does not do it justice. The bright green kale, red and yellow peppers, white pockets of goat cheese and whole wheat pasta mixed in a bright blue bowl not only enticed the taste buds, but also the eyes. Good food is art. And art need not be complicated. This meal is simple, beautiful and delicious. Look out for kale at farmers and produce markets and create some art!

Jessica Gingold / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Apr 02 2009

Sausage Egg Muffin Gone Vegan

Tofu and Seitan Patties on an English Muffin
I'm enticed by the classic images of sausage and egg English muffin sandwiches. I see them on fast food billboards and in the glass cases of a certain ubiquitous coffee shop chain. I think of a soft, tender egg patty and a savory, spicy sausage. But I don't eat them. Instead, I channel the temptation into inspiration to make vegan versions - a tender tofu scramble patty and a spicy chorizo-style seitan patty, with soft avocado and hummus spread inside a toasted English muffin.

Dan from Upton's Naturals, which makes sausage and chorizo-style seitan, had emailed me instructions on how to form their seitan into patties. Grind the seitan in a meat grinder, food processor, or blender, he told me, and then mix in an egg-replacer or a mixture of cornstarch and water, plus oil, a must. "If you wanted to get really fancy you could also try xanthan gum." I went to work with my food processor, Upton's nicely spiced chorizo-style seitan, olive oil, and cornstarch and water. The seitan patties were slightly fragile, but still held together quite well after forming them with my hands. Make the tofu patties using a tofu scram recipe (recipe halfway down), increasing the amount of sauce or reducing the amount of tofu, if needed, to help the tofu stick together into patties. Heat both types of patties on a hot, oiled griddle or pan until toasty on both sides. A few minutes before they are done, toast the English muffins on your griddle or in your toaster.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (5)

Ingredient Thu Mar 19 2009

Quick Potato Gratin


Looking for a delicious way to use up that sack of potatoes you bought for Saint Patrick's Day? Mark Bittman comes to the rescue with an ingenious recipe for potato gratin that takes about 30 minutes to cook rather than the typical 75 minutes. The potatoes are poached in milk or cream before baking (I used whole milk with great success).

Gemma Petrie

Recipe Tue Mar 17 2009

Secret Recipes Revealed

Just because I've been awful at writing the One Good Meal column doesn't mean I've lost interest in food, just time to cook and document and experiment. So I was delighted today to come across this link on Time Out Chicago's website where they share secret recipes from some of the greatest restaraunts in the city. And many of these recipes are for things that I love eating and have sworn I would try to duplicate at home. I know I'll be trying to make Hopleaf's Belgian-Style Mussels and we'll be comparing our barbecue brisket recipe with Smoque's recipe. Now to just find time to go grocery shopping, let alone cook. What are you most interested in trying?

Cinnamon Cooper

Review Wed Mar 04 2009

Recipe Review: Jacques Pepin's Pot Bread

One of my colleague is a venerable veteran of bread making, with more than 20 years under his belt, during which time, rumor goes, he hasn't bought a single loaf of bread. Since I discovered the fun of bread making (and also the fact that he was a closet bread maker), we've been spending good ten minutes every Monday morning discussing what we'd done in the bread department in the preceding weekend. And we steal a few minutes here and there during the week, too, talking about bread. During a recent chat, he told me about an improbable bread recipe he saw on PBS. He called it "Jacques Pépin's pot bread."

"I just don't see how it can be any good," my colleagues added, "it defies all that I know about bread."

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (11)

Ingredient Tue Feb 24 2009

Japanese Tofu Primer!

When I wrote about a series of wacky, high-end tofu from Japan, one of you asked me for tofu recipes. I hesitate to call them recipes because they're so simple, only involving some chopping, sprinkling, and a nominal amount of heating, but here they are, my favorite recipes for good tofu, along with some basic handling tips. Caution: Unless the tofu is very good in itself (i.e., ton of sweet, earthy soy flavor as well as a pleasing mouth feel) , these recipes probably won't dazzle you. Get the absolute best tofu you can for these. H Mart in Niles has very good fresh tofu (I love their silken tofu) made on site; Mitsuwa has those weird ones I wrote about. Your local Asian market may have fresh tofu, made in independent factories nearby.

First, the tofu primers. Tofu is extremely perishable. Unless it's in a light-proof, airtight container, use it within a day or two of purchase. (And if it is in a light-proof, airtight containers like those House tofu that survive outside of the fridge for months, it probably doesn't taste that great anyway.)

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Recipe Sat Feb 21 2009

Winter Cabbage Salad with Yuzu

Winter is usually not considered a salad season, but when the radiator's cranking out too much heat and there's too little moisture in the air, a bowl of salad is a welcome thing. And when tender greens and ripe tomatoes are off vacationing in Florida, good old cabbage is always around for us chilly Chicagoans.

This salad takes two winter produce: cabbage and yuzu. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that I've been obsessed with for the past few years. (I hated their unique aroma when I was a child--children have no taste!) It being a citrus fruit, yuzu's season is winter. Cabbage is around all year, but they survive well into the cold season. Winter cabbage is on the tough side, perhaps more adapted to soups and stews, so in this recipe, the cabbage is blanched. Blanching gives it a slightly different texture to the cabbage from, say, salted-and-squeezed variety, and it's also a good way to incorporate a large amount of veggies into your diet.

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Sat Feb 21 2009

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

36/365 - Lemon Ricotta CookiesI love when I can combine two of my favorite ingredients to make something delicious. I was playing around with My Recipe Box on the Food Network Web site a couple of weeks ago and came across a recipe for Lemon Ricotta Cookies. The combo of the two intrigued me - lemon cookies are my favorite and I love cheese. The recipe was surprisingly easy and the cookies turned out great (despite my tendency to over-bake the dough). Not too sweet and almost cake-like, I'll definitely be making these again.

Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Fri Feb 20 2009

A Mole that Chokes

Mole over Brown RIce
You choke when you make it. It's like pulling hard off a cigarette when you've never smoked before. You're dry roasting the skins and the seeds of dried chilies in a hot fry pan, and they're perfuming the air with a near invisible smoke that just makes you choke. As much as you might try to hold back, the chilies hit you so hard at the back of the throat. It burns, and you cough hard over and over, until it subsides just long enough for you to have a sip of beer. And then it starts up again and you're laughing because somehow it feels good, and you know it's going to make a mean meal.

My pal Bill had been in the kitchen with me. You "use a lot of chili and roast them until you can't breath," he recapped, as we ate the thick, heavy mole, breaking a few sweats. Our feet were even hot - but my apartment is very warm from some overanxious radiators. "This is some bold flavor," he told me.

We started out wondering what to make with the broccoli and cauliflower Bill had brought over. He wanted something spicy, and I had plenty of dried chilies hanging out in my cupboards, just waiting for an opportunity like this. I cracked open six or seven of the chilies, separating the seeds from the dried, hard skins. We toasted the seeds in a large, dry stainless pan on medium heat until they nearly blackened, tossing them about nearly constantly, and choking with every shake of the pan. Then I sent the seeds into a blender to wait, and the skins went into the same, now empty pan and began to smoke to make you cough some more. I tossed them about until their vapors had subsided. Then those, too, went into the blender to cool. I toasted a handful of black sesame seeds for a moment in that pan, and then a handful of raw sunflower seeds until they looked golden, before putting them in the blender, too. I waited until everything was cool before blending to avoid the explosion of hot liquid that I've been trying to avoid repeating from some previous cooking session. (I'd thought I could hold the lid on, but you should never underestimate the power of even a small amount of scalding liquid when it's being tossed about by a very fast and powerful sharp metal blade). I added a tablespoon or so of unsweetened cocoa powder (thanks Bill!), a pinch of ground cinnamon, a few good glugs of olive oil, many shakes of salt, and just enough water to make it barely possible to blend it into a thick paste. The mole, our version of mole, was done.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Feature Thu Feb 19 2009

Let's Begin With Beignets

I love beignets. This may not seem strange on the face of things. Beignets are delicious. They are tiny bits (scraps, lumps, balls... pick a shape, it'll work) of fried dough, most traditionally sweet and dusted with a heavy mantle of powdered sugar -- though occasionally, exotically savory and flavored with meat or fish. A French-inflected fried pastry particularly popular in New Orleans, the beignet is as much an American doughnut as a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin variety. Or the paczki.

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Andie Cavedo

Recipe Thu Feb 19 2009

Rosemary White Wine Sauté

Seitan Added to Fresh Rosemary Sautéd with Red Onions for Pasta with Mushrooms and Kale

I love onions. I enjoy sautéing them and I definitely enjoy eating them. They were the base for the red sauce for my bow tie pasta dinner Tuesday night, and they came onto my stove again last night for an aromatic olive oil sauté of mushrooms, seitan and kale. Seitan and shiitake mushrooms add a nice chew, kale a complex texture, and the rosemary and white wine a nice fragrance.

Here's how to duplicate what you see developing in the photo. Sauté the leaves of a few stalks of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped. Meanwhile, boil water for pasta. When the rosemary is just starting to become a bit crispy, throw in one diced onion, salt, and sauté until tender and translucent on medium heat. Deglaze with a few brief pours of any leftover white wine you might have (or red wine, water or stock) to loosen up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan - especially useful if you're cooking with stainless steel. Then toss in half a package of chorizo style seitan. The wine flavor infuses into everything as it evaporates. When the pan goes dry again, stir in a few handfuls of rough chopped shiitake mushrooms and a few more splashes of wine. When the pasta water is hot, drop in dried pasta. When the mushrooms are tender, add a bit of ripped up kale, stems removed. If the pan is dry and bits are sticking, add some more wine. Keep the heat on just until the greens have wilted. Mix the sauté into your pasta when the pasta is done, per package instructions.

Chris Brunn

Recipe Wed Feb 18 2009

Creamy Uncreamy Red Sauce

Adrienne's hand. Spinach to Red Sauce
Vodka sauces must love tomatoes and cream. The three go well together for a simple pasta dish, but they also inspire me to drop the vodka and just make a creamy red sauce for my linguini or bow ties. Actually, I drop the cream, too, and add something else to lighten and pinken the color of the red sauce, something that will round out the tomato flavor. Tahini can work, but its bitterness must often be balanced with the likes of lemon or vinegar. Hummus is the real magician. It may sound odd, but it mellows out a red sauce quite well without being at all heavy, plus it's vegan, which is, of course, why I'm posting about it.

My roomie sautéed onions and garlic in olive oil to kick off the sauce for our dinner before we added seitan chorizo and a large can of tomatoes. Our tomatoes were unsalted, and since tomatoes love salt, we salted until the sauce tasted full like any pasta sauce should. The sauce simmered to thicken up, and I mixed in a few spoonfuls of spicy hummus as my roomie added her dried hot chili powder to liven it up. Just a few minutes before the pasta was done - following package instructions - some broccoli florets went in, finely chopped to speed the cooking, and then spinach leaves when only about a minute was left on the clock.

Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Recipe Wed Feb 18 2009

Vegan Eggless Wash for Deep-Frying

I had a recent urge to create some stuffed and deep-fried olives. And I knew one of the people eating them was vegan so I decided to stuff some of them with some Soyrizo instead of andouille sausage. But I wasn't sure how to get the great breading on the olives without first dipping them in egg. When deep-frying it is generally best to dip the item lightly in flour, then dip them in a beaten egg, and then dip them in breadcrumbs or other similar item for crisping. You dip them in flour so the egg will stick better and you dip them in egg so the crumbs will stick better. It's a real "she ate a spider to catch the fly" kind of thing.

I began my experiment by making sure my crumbs were vegan, thankfully they were. (A couple of handfuls of potato chips that are crushed super-extra fine make a great coating if you can't find vegan breadcrumbs.) But then I wanted something that had the consistency of egg, with some stickiness, but not a lot of flavor that would conflict with either the fake sausage or the olive. As I stood looking in my refrigerator, I spied my carton of unflavored soymilk when I decided to try heating it gently in a small pan and whisking in some cornstarch. I put a teaspoon of cornstarch in a small bowl, add a couple tablespoons of cold soy milk and whisked it gently until all of the lumps were removed. This is called a slurry. I then added a cup of soymilk to a saucepan over medium-low heat. I watched the milk and just when it seemed like it was close to starting to boil, I slowly poured in the slurry while whisking. I didn't want the soymilk to boil (because I was worried about it separating) so I kept stirring and stirring and after about 8-10 minutes the sauce started to have the viscosity and thickness of a couple of whipped eggs. I let the mixture cool so I could dip my hands in it and I proceeded to flour, dip, and coat some more olives. And it worked great.

In fact, it worked so much better than the egg. As it cooled it got slightly thicker and the the thickness really ended up glueing the crumbs to the fairly slick surface of the olives. It worked so well, that I think I'll have to make another batch. This time I'll take pictures before I get excited and eat them all.

Cinnamon Cooper

Recipe Wed Feb 11 2009

Vegan Chorizo Dosa

Leftover Tofu and Soy Chorizo Scram and Dosa Batter
The dosa is a South Indian crêpe made from a fermented batter of ground rice and lentils. It's often brilliantly crispy on the edges, tender further in, and may be stuffed with soft potato pieces, onion and spices. It may also be served plain or accompanied by another stuffing. Tonight, however, was a night of limited leftovers. With a partial tub of dosa batter from Patel Brothers on Devon in my refrigerator, but nothing else prepared from anywhere near the same subcontinent, I deviated from what usually fills a dosa. I reheated tofu scramble from an old favorite recipe of mine, adding some vegan chorizo at the end. Two of my favorite brands are Upton's Naturals and Melissa's Soyrizo. The soft center of the dosas went quite well with the gentle and rich flavor of the tofu scram.
Leftover tofu and soy chorizo scram inside dosa

Chris Brunn / Comments (4)

Blog Fri Feb 06 2009

Friday Pasta

My pal Bill and I made this pasta the other night and the leftovers were perfect for a quick supper when I came home later that week. I added another tomato, sautéing it in some olive oil before adding in the leftover pasta. For a little punch, I mixed in a sundried tomato and Kalamata olive tapenade leftover from another night, Candle Cafe's recipe. This would be a perfect recipe to reheat in a hot pan before going out with your friends for the evening.

Chris Brunn

Recipe Tue Feb 03 2009

Quick and Vegan

Manwich and Tater Tots
Sometimes assembling dinner is just as fun as making it from scratch. Manwich sloppy joe sauce can be, perhaps unexpectedly, made into vegan sloppy joes by using a product such as Morningstar's crumbles instead of ground beef. That was just what a friend had in mind when he had me over for such a dinner, complete with tater tots, hamburger buns warmed on his griddle, and a beer. We finished with a dessert of Trader Joe's Joe Joe's sandwich cookies in a bowl with some rich and creamy chocolate pudding that another friend had brought. That's an easy vegan dinner in a few minutes, leaving plenty of time to sit and chat.

Chris Brunn

Recipe Thu Jan 29 2009

Hot Dirty Tofu

Here's a quick way to turn ordinary plain tofu into a dirty and deeply spicy, heavily seasoned and juicy dish. Pan fry square-cut pieces of tofu in plenty of hot oil, thick hot sauce, and then when they're halfway cooked and have darkened on one side, splash on soy sauce for a rich, salty goodness.

Pan-fried spicy tofu-2

I started the whole thing off sautéing slices of quartered onions until they softened with a diced green chili from Wiki Wiki Market. I doused in plenty of oil, enough to cover the slices of the two chopped onions, on top of which I carefully put down my tofu squares. I nearly blanketed the pan with Co-op Image's hot sauce, which I like for its thick spiciness and localness. After a few minutes on medium to high heat, the sauce had thickened on top of the tofu. A quick flip of the squares seared in it. The hot pan was now a thick mess of onions and darkened tofu, which a good dousing of low-salt soy sauce quickly infused into.

This dish turned out to remind me of an old roommate's pan-cooked tofu: well seasoned and spicy. The tofu cubes should be thin, so the flavor can quickly absorb and allow a very succulent feel all the way through. They can be a bit wide, say an inch and a half square, just not thick. I like to start by cutting my one-pound block of Mu Tofu into thin sheets, say half to one-quarter inch thick, and then stack those surfaces to cut them into cubes.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Jan 23 2009

Smoked Octopus Penne with Watercress and Yuzu

Penne with Smoked Octopus and WatercressThis is a recipe that popped into existence on a recent weeknight, when I came home ravenous. I had to eat right away; otherwise, I wasn't sure how long I would be able to restrain myself from gnawing on our cat's head. (Not really, but I was pretty hungry.)

I (literally) tore up the watercress in my bare hands and opened a tin of smoked octopus while the penne happily boiled away in salted water. Once the pasta was done, I drained them, then tossed in the watercress and octopus. The idea was to let the watercress wilt a little, still preserving some crunchyness, with the heat of the pasta; it worked quite nicely. For seasoning, I sprinkled the whole thing with yuzu juice, plenty of fine garlic powder, olive oil and a pinch of salt. It was pretty good--the smokyness of the octopus, refreshing spicy tang from the watercress, and the yuzu juice blended together quite nicely--but it lacked depth.

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (2)

Feature Fri Jan 23 2009

Venturing Into Venison

This year, I returned from my family's Christmas bearing a cooler full of individually butcher-paper wrapped and black-stamped parcels, in addition to my more traditional gifts.

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Andie Cavedo / Comments (3)

Recipe Mon Jan 19 2009

Inaugural Luncheon

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will sit down to his inaugural luncheon, a tradition that dates back to 1897. And what a decadent celebration it will be. "One nutrition writer tallies the feast's calorie count at 3,048 and notes that the spread contains 142 grams of fat," reports the Washington Post.

When Arlington-based Design Cuisine was hired to cater this three-course meal, they were asked to make it "reminiscent of the Lincoln era."
The menu includes:
Seafood Stew
Pheasant and Duck with Sour Cherry Chutney and Molasses Sweet Potatoes
Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake

For those interested in learning more about the luncheon, the government has set up a website for you. You can read about the gifts that Obama and Biden have received, the china that will be used for the meal, the flowers that will decorate the tables -- and best of all -- you can even download the recipes for this presidential meal.

Gemma Petrie / Comments (2)

Recipe Fri Jan 16 2009

Molasses in the Snow

One of my favorite books as a kid was a Laura Ingalls Wilder-penned cookbook that paired food-centered excerpts from her books with historically accurate recipes that were chock full of ingredients that I had never seen or knowingly consumed--particularly lard, currants, and molasses.

One recipe that I never tried was a molasses candy made by pouring a boiling concoction into pans of freshly collected snow, letting it harden, and scraping it up. It sounded interesting, but I was nine years old and my mother would have been furious if I had tried making this candy. I found what I think is a decent reproduction of the recipe. We got plenty of snow, so consider trying it this weekend.

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Robyn Nisi

Recipe Sun Jan 11 2009

Savory Vegan Crepes

Crepes stuffed with Seitan Tofu ScramMy friend and neighbor Rose walked across our hall to lend me a cookbook that her mother was the testing editor for years ago, Vegetarian Creations, and I simply had to try its recipe for savory crepes, or as the book puts it, "entrée" crepes. The crepes cooked up soft and tender, while somehow at the same time, embodying a substantial texture that easily gave way on each bite to the filling they were wrapped around. The seitan chorizo and tofu scram inside was robust, tantalizing, and nurturing - the kind of taste that you "never want to end," according to my friend and also neighbor Jessica, who arrived on the scene to try them, and who I later called in search of these words to describe the filling.

I blended the first three ingredients, as the book suggested: 1 3/4 cup milk (soy milk in my case), 1 tablespoon melted butter or oil (oil worked just fine), and 1/4 cup mashed tofu (drained). I used a food processor, but you could probably use a blender just as easily because the mixture doesn't get incredibly thick. When blended smooth, I added in 1 cup all purpose flour (the book calls for whole wheat pastry flour, which I'm curious to try and compare), 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. As instructed, I let the batter sit for at least one hour in the refrigerator.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Sat Jan 03 2009

Mystery Surprise Cake

Mystery Surprise Cake If the current economic crisis has left you feeling nostalgic for that other Great Depression, why not try making a mystery surprise cake from a vintage 1930's recipe? The surprise is the tomato soup which goes in just before baking and gives the cake that certain je ne sais quoi while keeping costs down. In all honesty, the tomato flavor is imperceptible; the generous quantities of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are what dominate, making it taste like your typical spice cake. Unfortunately, after a few days, the cake does dry out quite a bit. Luckily, the ooey gooey cream cheese frosting more than makes up for it.

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Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Dec 25 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 12

For my final recipe, I'm sharing my Mom's sugar cookies. Since it's Christmas, I'm sure most of you are no longer baking cookies, but you can make these any time of the year. Like many of the other recipes I've shared, these aren't too sweet and they are pretty simple to make. They also freeze well. Enjoy!

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Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Wed Dec 24 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 11

Incase you're not sick of cookies yet, here's another recipe. This one is from my Grandma and it's pretty great - very similar to Rice Krispie Bars and really easy to make.


  • 30 marshmallows
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 3 1/2 c. Corn Flakes
  • 1/2 t. green food coloring
  • 3/4 stick butter

Heat marshmallows, food coloring, vanilla and butter; pour over Corn Flakes. Wet hands in cold water and shape into wreaths, place on wax paper. Decorate with red hot candies.

Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Mon Dec 22 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 10

Fattigmann is another Norwegian recipe and translates to "Poor Man's Cakes." A little time consuming, the dough deep fried and coated with powder sugar. These addictive cookies are a favorite in my family!

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Kaitlin Olson / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Dec 21 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 9

Rice pudding is a pretty common dessert - the recipe I have is the best I've found but what makes it special to me is the almond. Every Christmas, my Aunt brings rice pudding and puts a single almond in it. This Norwegian tradition says that the person who finds the almond will have good luck for the new year.

Rice Pudding

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • vanilla
  • cinnamon

Boil one cup of rice in water for five minutes, drain and add some milk. Let the rice absorb the milk and add the remainder. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and eggs. Add a small amount of the hot rice to egg and sugar mixture and stir. Pour mixture into the bowl of hot rice and mix. Add vanilla and cinnamon to taste.

Kaitlin Olson / Comments (2)

Recipe Fri Dec 19 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 8

Not really much of a story behind this recipe, I just like fudge and this is a fantastic recipe. Enjoy!


Line 9x13 pan with parchment paper. Place ingredients below in large glass mixing bowl:

2 packages chocolate chips
2 sticks of butter
2 cups of walnuts (optional)
2 T. vanilla

Place ingredients below in large sauce pan:

4 1/2 c. sugar
1 large can of Carnation evaporated milk (1 2/3 cups)

Bring sugar and milk to a rolling boil. Cook for six minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Pour ingredients over items in bowl and stir until melted. Pour into pan and cool thoroughly before cutting.

Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Thu Dec 18 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 7

This recipe comes from my Great Grandma and is my favorite Christmas cookie, hands down. The Norwegian waffle cookie is very popular in Norway and among Norwegian immigrant descendants in the Midwest. Krumkake is made with a two-sided iron griddle; my mom still uses her Grandma's griddle and while it's falling apart, it has a beautiful design that transfers to the cookie and it still works perfectly. My mom and I make these cookies together every year. It's easier if you have two people baking because after the cookie comes off the griddle they need to be rolled immediately and the process goes much quicker with an extra person.

I prefer to eat the cookie plain, with a cup of coffee (or without). In Germany, the cookie is often filled with whipped cream or raspberry compote; I've also used it as an ice cream cone. Krumkake is very thin and (usually) hollow in the middle so they can be a bit awkward to eat - but that's half the fun.

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Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Wed Dec 17 2008

Now You're Cooking With Port!

cockburns-winner3.jpgA couple of days ago, I wrote about the Cockburn's Culinary Competition, where Kendall College students created meals using port wine. You might think, That's all fine and dandy, but how do I recreate this winning pork belly dish? Find the winning recipe--including proper plating instructions--after the jump.

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Jill Jaracz / Comments (1)

Recipe Wed Dec 17 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 6

Like the hotdish recipes I shared last month, this is another very Minnesotan recipe. Look in any church or company cookbook from Minnesota and you'll find multiple Jell-O salads. Typically, I don't like Jell-O but this salad is the exception (the cream cheese helps dilute some of the slimy texture of the Jell-O).

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Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Tue Dec 16 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 5

This Danish recipe comes from my aunt and while I'm positive this is normally a summer dessert, my family always makes it during the holidays. Rodgrod med flode translates to red berry sauce with cream, we call it fruit soup. Another easy recipe, this is a nice (and healthier) alternative to traditional desserts.

Fruit Soup

1 ½ lb. fresh strawberries
1 ½ lb. fresh cherries
2 T. sugar
1 T. minute tapioca (add an extra teaspoon if you end up with three cups of puree)
¼ c. water
½ c. cream

Wash and pit cherries, drain washed fruit. Puree fruit in blender, this should make about 2 1/3 - 3 cups of puree. Soak tapioca in puree and cook with sugar and water in saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until boiling and remove from heat. Chill for two hours, serve with pitcher of cream.

Kaitlin Olson / Comments (1)

Recipe Mon Dec 15 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Energy Balls

Many of us know how well peanut butter and chocolate combine. Here's something a little different in case you've already had enough holiday cookies. I was just about jet off to Phoenix for a few days of hiking about in the Grand Canyon and wanted something homemade to eat. My backpack was about to be filled with trail mix, Clif bars and a few just-add-water dried camp meals. My brother, Jon, turned me on to an Energy Ball recipe from Christine and Tim Conners' book, Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'. The recipe is much easier to follow then it is to keep the balls in from smashing together in a zip top bag. I ate most of mine in a hotel room at the top of the rim before hiking down. Luckily, after many hours of hiking-induced snack cravings, Jon traded me a few of his for some of my chocolaty, heavy on the raisins, trail mix.

Following the Conners' recipe, I mixed 1 cup peanut butter (I used natural peanut butter), 1/2 cup quick oats, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used tiny chips, instead of the crushed chips they suggested). I formed small balls with my hands, and rolled them in 1/2 cup coconut flakes to pick up a nice outer coating. I used unsweetened coconut, but they suggested sweetened, I presume to add a nice sweet taste to the outside. I might try a sprinkle of sugar next time since I often already have unsweetened on hand for Indian cooking. They call for it to make 16 balls, but I guessed it and didn't count. I might follow my brother's lead next time, and put them in a sturdy Nalegene food storage container to keep them in their original shape.

Chris Brunn

Recipe Mon Dec 15 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 4

I'm not sure why, but I only make Nut Roll during the holidays. There's nothing that screams Christmas about this recipe, so maybe it's because I bake more during this time of year. Either way, this is my favorite bread recipe. It has that great homemade bread taste with swirls of sugar and walnuts to add just the right amount of sweetness. This one is also from my Grandma and takes a bit of time (and patience) to make but don't let that dissuade you - the effort is definitely worth it. The loaves also freeze well, so if you go overboard and make more than you need, wrap it up and stick it in the freezer. I like it served warm with butter best, but it's also good cold.

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Kaitlin Olson

Drink Mon Dec 15 2008

Plunging Temps = Free Hot Toddies

Baby, it's cold outside -- but that doesn't mean we must suffer. River North spot mk warms up customers with free hot toddies every time the temperature dips below 20 degrees. I'd say tonight qualifies.

Here's the recipe:

1½ oz. whiskey
1 oz. honey
1/3 oz. lemon
3 oz. African amber tea

Coat the bottom of a mug or an Irish coffee glass with honey. Then add whiskey and lemon juice. Boil water and add the tea bag to make hot tea. Pour the steaming tea into the glass and stir.

Commence thawing!

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Dec 14 2008

These Are Not Roaches on Toothpicks, but a Fanciful Holiday Treat

Split dates with crystallized ginger, spiced molasses I came across these at a holiday party and wanted to make off with the entire tray. Take a date, split lengthwise on one side, open it up (like a book), smear a small dollop of spiced molasses (i.e. molasses with cinnamon and cloves added to taste) over the center, and place a cube of crystallized ginger in the center, close the date and harpoon with a toothpick. This gussied-up date is far more flavorful than anything you're going to find on the dessert table, and it's a fraction of the calories.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Sun Dec 14 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 3

Hot ChocolateMy Dad used to make homemade hot chocolate for me when I was a little girl. This recipe is from my Grandma - it's quick and easy and tastes so much better than any instant hot chocolate. I like to add a little cinnamon to the cocoa mixture to give it a little extra flavor. It's also great with a shot of peppermint or raspberry liquor. With or without the extras, be sure to top with lots of marshmallows or whipped cream.

5 T. Sugar
1/2 T. Cocoa
1/4 C. Water

Mix sugar and cocoa, add water and mix. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar and cocoa are dissolved. Add milk (as much as you'd like, depending on how rich you want it) and heat until warm.

Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Sat Dec 13 2008

Coconut Oatmeal

If you want a warm, fragrant oatmeal for a cold winter day, here you go. Days had passed since I first started thinking about what to do with the coconut milk leftover from my coffee cake. Blending it with frozen bananas and soy milk for a shake had come to mind, but before I could buy bananas and wait for summer, Vella Cafe had inspired me. I got my usual tasty brunch there this morning - spicy tofu scram with chopped tender poblanos and soy chorizo - but took quite a notice to their menu's mention of oatmeal prepared with coconut milk. After brunch at Vella, I made myself a mid-afternoon snack at home - coconut oatmeal.

Coconut Oatmeal

For one serving, boil 1/2 cup quick oats with 1 cup water, one handful of raisins, a dash of salt, and if you have it, a shake of ground cardamom for a nice slightly floral fragrance. Cardamom and coconut are old friends, too. Heat on medium until the mixture becomes thick and tender, stirring often. (You can use old fashioned oats, instead of quick oats; you'll just need to cook them much longer). Stir in four large spoonfuls of coconut milk, about 1/4 cup, and sugar to taste and round out the coconut. Keep it on the burner until it's all warm through. Top with pistachios and coconut flakes if you've got some. Eat up and warm your belly for winter.

Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Recipe Sat Dec 13 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 2

This recipe was always my favorite growing up. Not as sophisticated as the Red Velvet Cake, but just as good. This is a fun cookie to make with little kids - I have great memories of making these with my mom when I was younger.

Now, these cookies are still one of my favorites, but for different reasons. Buttery, not too sweet and a hint of mint make these the perfect cookie to eat with a big mug of hot chocolate (recipe coming tomorrow).

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Kaitlin Olson

Recipe Thu Dec 11 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 1

With just two weeks left until Christmas and in the midst of the busiest party season of the year, I wanted to share some of my favorite holiday recipes. With all of the celebrations, I know I get tired of bringing the same dish every single time. So if you're looking to mix it up a bit, I wanted to share some recipes that are sure to be a hit with your family and friends.

As I began looking through my recipes, I realized there were about 10 too many for a single blog post. So, instead I'm going to give you my version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Throughout the next two weeks I will post 12 new holiday recipes. Eat, share and eat some more - 'tis the season.

The first recipe I'm going to share is a holiday classic. Passed down from my Great Grandma, this recipe for Red Velvet Cake is pretty easy and guests love it.

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Kaitlin Olson / Comments (1)

Recipe Wed Dec 10 2008

Ultimate Tom Yum Paste

I lived in Thailand for five years when I was a child. I was too young to remember too much, but one thing that has stuck with me ever since is the taste and smell of the Thai food. After our family moved back to rural Japan where we came from, everyone in our family craved Thai food horribly. There wasn't a single Thai restaurant in the city we lived in, and when my mom ran out of the packets of curry paste, a big bottle of fish sauce and bags of dried Pad Thai noodles she smuggled back from Bangkok, we just had to hunker down and wait for the uncertain opportunity for the next Thai feast. Which, of course, did not materialize for a long time. My mom and I developed a habit of looking for Thai restaurants when we visited my grandmother's house in Tokyo during school breaks, but visits were few and far between. My hunger for Thai food gradually faded. When we moved to Chicago about 15 years later in 2003, I didn't even think about all the Thai restaurants that must be around.

As it turned out, I discovered the abundance of Thai restaurants in good time, but the real surprise came when I realized that Thai ingredients are as readily available as there were restaurants. Around Argyle and Broadway, every other grocery store seemed to carry canned curry pastes, blocks of tamarind pulp, funny-shaped galangals, stalks of lemon grass, and even fermented tiny shrimps (kapi) that gives the distinctive pungent punch to many a Thai dishes. After I encountered one too many bowls of overly sweet Tom Yum Kun in restaurants, I decided to make one myself. (Tom Yum Kun, sour and spicy broth with shrimp, is supposed to be absolutely firely hot. When I dealt with the real stuff as a seven-year-old, I could only sip it carefully from a spoon. A big gulp probably would have costed me ten minutes of couging heaves.)

Lee's Brand Tom Yum PasteIn my first try, I made it from scratch, using fresh lemon grass, kaffir leaf, etc. However, as is too often the case with exotic cuisines that aren't really a part of my everyday repertoire, I didn't know what to do with the remaining ingredients. I watched them darken and wither in the refrigerator with a stinging sense of guilt. So when I discovered a convenient jar of Tom Yum paste at the Tai Nam Market on Broadway, I was quite happy. Sure, the paste will be a little bit less fresh-tasting, but it'll keep longer in the fridge, and I won't have to go out to buy all the ingredients when I'm suddenly in the mood for Tom Yum Kun. (And it's a great bonus when the weather is nasty and there's an inch of slick snow-sleet coating on the streets.) To my delight, the particular Tom Yum paste I picked up, bearing "Lee Brand" was surprisingly fresh- and clean-tasting for a ready-made paste. And it's pretty versatile. I've used it for Tom Yum Kun soup, of course, but I've also used it in stir-fried noodles with a good result.

(Curry recipe using this paste after the break)

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Recipe Mon Dec 08 2008

An Echo of Thanksgiving

Roast chicken dinner True, that big meal of poultry, cranberries, sweet potatoes, stuffing etc. happened only a week and a half ago, but some of us may be ready for another go-round, especially if some of us had our Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house and were not able to partake in any of the leftovers. Feeling deprived, I decided to recreate the meal, sort of, this past Sunday evening. I didn't cook a 20-lb. turkey or make umpteen side dishes; instead I focused on the conjuring up the spirit of the meal by cooking a whole bird (chicken, instead of turkey), making cranberry sauce, and preparing simple, roasted sweet potatoes.

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Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Drink Thu Dec 04 2008

Dale Degroff: The Essential Cocktail

Thumbnail image for degroff.jpgDale Degroff is often credited with bringing fresh ingredients back to the art of cocktails. While bartending at Manhattan's Rainbow Room, Degroff stripped their drinks of mixes and artificial ingredients and brought back honest cocktails long forgotten in the states.

Degroff recently visited Chicago to promote his new book, The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks. The local launch party was held at the highly appropriate Violet Hour and served five of Degroff's drinks: the East India, the Manhattan East, the Original Manhattan, the Monkey Gland, and the Cosmopolitan.

The Essential Cocktail is a definitive book with hundreds of recipes, variations, and drink histories. Best of all, the book boasts 150 full-color photographs -- a detail that is often missing from other cocktail books.

Degroff was recently a guest on the Rachel Maddow Show, where she admitted to being an "amateur, low-level, hobbyist bartender" (swoon). Degroff shared a brief history of the American cocktail and the recipe for his version of the East India. See the recipe after the jump.

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Gemma Petrie

Recipe Wed Dec 03 2008

Crazy for Kimchi Chigae

kimchichigaenewIf it's snowing out, chances are you'll find me in my kitchen cooking my favorite comfort dishes. Chief among them for me at this time of year: kimchi chigae (sometimes "jjigae"), the spicy, garlicky, fizzily fermented Korean kimchi-beef stew.

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Mike Doyle

Recipe Thu Nov 20 2008

Accommodating your Vegan Friend on Thanksgiving

Here's to anyone wondering what to serve those vegan friends you might have over for Thanksgiving.

• Heidi Swanson has posted a collection of what I am sure are solid recipes, from Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup and Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad to Cornmeal Crunch and Maple Grilled Tempeh. Even if a single vegan meal isn't in your future, her tantalizing photos of the food are worth checking out.

VeganYumYum has lovely everyday recipes, which you could surely appropriate for Thanksgiving, with a vast collection of brilliant photos - especially their Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole.

• Post Punk Kitchen's Isa Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero chime in with tips to accomidating vegans on a traditional dinner table.

Black Book and Chicago Tribune both plug the Chicago Diner in their lists of where to eat out on Thanksgiving.

• In my notes last year, I picked vegan options from the pages of Bon Appetit.

VegCooking has recipes, including a tempting one that uses puff pastry sheets.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Nov 18 2008

Hot Soup for Cold Days

In other soup news ...

My husband and I wanted something for dinner Sunday night that would take the sting out of those first snowflakes - and we didn't want to run to the store for ingredients. So we whipped up this zesty roasted red pepper and tomato soup in less than 15 minutes, using ingredients straight from our pantry.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 28 oz. can tomatoes in juice (If using seasoned canned tomatoes, adjust additional seasoning to taste)
1 jar roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained (unmarinated work better in this recipe)
16 oz. vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup heavy cream

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil with the garlic cloves until fragrant. Using a slotted spoon, remove garlic before it begins to brown. Add tomatoes, peppers and broth to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Stir in Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and sherry vinegar, and remove pot from heat. Blend until smooth, preferably with an immersion blender. (If you use a traditional blender, blend the soup in batches, covering the cap with a towel to prevent hot soup from splashing back at you.) Once the soup is blended, stir in the cream, then taste it. If it needs salt and pepper, you can add it now.

We garnished our bowls of soup with a bit of leftover pasta and a spoonful of pesto. This soup also would taste great with grilled cheese.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Tue Nov 18 2008

Golden Tofu Scram

Here's a good, quick tofu scram for you to fry up in a pan or on a griddle. They key is to cook it golden. And the key to that is a hot, oiled pan, preferably cast iron or well-oiled stainless steel. Seeds add a nice crunch to contrast the soft tofu.
Golden Tofu Scram

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Chris Brunn / Comments (14)

Recipe Sun Nov 16 2008

With my South Indian Friend's help at Rasam

Here's my first try at rasam, a spicy, well-seasoned and lusciously savory tomato soup from South India. I distilled the instructions below from the notes that my South Indian friend Vidya had emailed me. I was amped to try my own after loving Udupi Palace's version of rasam that's spicy enough to make me hiccup. First, boil three tomatoes, each cut into four pieces (I deviated by also adding a few cherry tomatoes here), with four green chilies (I used one long red one instead tonight), four cloves of garlic (I had minced them with salt into a paste - my modification), and 500 ml of water (about half of a quart) for ten minutes.
Finished Rasam. In the shadows

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Chris Brunn

Ingredient Wed Nov 12 2008

Freezing Fresh Herbs

As nightly frosts settle in, even the heartiest herbs will have trouble surviving. No gardener wants to see their hard work die out, but there is only so much mint a household can go through sometimes.

A quick way to preserve herbs before they succumb to the elements is to freeze them. This preservation method works particularly well with herbs that have a high water content like chives, mint, and basil.

Cut and clean the leaves under cold water, discarding stems. Take a few empty ice cube trays and place bunches of leaves in the bottom of each slot. Fill with enough water to cover the herbs and place in the freezer. When the cubes are frozen through, transfer to sealed bags.

The leaves will be limp when defrostred, but freezing retains more flavor and aroma than drying leaves. The cubes are also convenient for dropping in soups or using in drinks.

Gemma Petrie

Recipe Tue Nov 11 2008

Hitting Up the Hearty Boys

steve mcdonagh, hearty boysHearty Boys Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh recently hosted a mixer at their studio space in boystown. Sponsored by KitchenAid, with plenty of product integration love (the event was titled, "Kitchenaid Mixer" -- get it??) and jovial namedropping by the Boys (the "product placement sock puppets" of the evening), the event combined cooking demonstrations and a KitchenAid giveaway -- both whole, glowing stand mixer and party favors of blessedly non-mechanized kitchen a melon baller -- with plenty of champagne and snacks. Not the worst way to spend a rainy Thursday evening.

Smith and McDonagh will be familiar to Food Network watchers thanks to winning the eponymous reality show a few years back. The only openly gay couple with a dedicated TV show, they now film their Food Network show in a kitchen/TV-studio in Boystown, an experience Smith sums up as an "open bar, knives, and no insurance." In addition to making the studio space available for private events, the Boys also have a few other upcoming public events, some of which you can check out here, if you're inclined to spend an evening with an open bar, knives, and well, you get the picture. Check out a great recipe for entertaining from the last shindig after the fold (and trust me, a combination of this much cheese and butter is worth reading on).

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Andie Cavedo

Recipe Fri Nov 07 2008

Seared Tofu

Seared and Spicy Tofu Finished 2Here's tonight's seared spicy tofu on top of sautéed onions and garlic, over penne pasta that was tossed with peanut oil, freshly ground black pepper, and a good shake of salt. Briefly sautéed broccoli crowns and greens round off the outside. Ideally, this would be served in the shallow well of pasta plates.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Ingredient Mon Oct 27 2008

Gratin with Local Substitutions

Ancho Potato GratinIf summer cooking, with its green and grillable flavors, is like the culinary equivalent of baseball, then autumn cooking's linebacker-like cream sauces and hefty casseroles make it the football of the food world. With the days getting colder and the nights longer, the season is clearly underway. And with the November issue of Gourmet on the stands, we're already looking into the post-season excitement of the Thanksgiving table. One recipe that stood out to me (i.e. delicious and fairly simple) was the Poblano Potato Gratin, a more Latin take on the traditional creamy starch dish. And with a few substitutions from Green City Market just before they head inside for the winter and some vendors just go into hibernation until the spring, I was rewarded with a great dish perfect for heating up and staying warm on a chilly evening.

Ancho chiles from Green Acres Farm stood in for the poblanos called for in the recipe. (Making it actually an Ancho Potato Gratin, I guess, but who's counting.) Not quite as fruity in their roasted flavor as poblanos, they still had added a distinctive heat to the dish, and mellowed into spicy carmelized sweetness after baking in the oven. I also subbed in Kennebec potatoes from Nichols Farm and Orchard for the Yukon Golds. Kennebecs have white flesh and break down a little more than Yukons would in thin slices, but added nicely to the creaminess of the overall dish. I also noticed Nichols carries poblano peppers, after I'd already picked out my anchos, and they have a wide variety of other potatoes as well if you prefer to stick to the original playbook.

Andie Cavedo

Recipe Thu Oct 23 2008

Autumn with VeganYumYum's Squash

You can add VeganYumYum's recipe for delicata squash bisque to your list of reasons to take full advantage of the fall's squash season. It's a fun recipe to prepare with friends, so I invited a few over for a dinner of it. We deviated a bit, including using roasted and salted cashews, because I love the rich taste you don't get from raw ones, and using an immersion blender to blend the bisque straight away in the pot. We made chutney with tart apples, taking tamarind from my Tamilian Indian cookbook - and all of the ingredients from an online recipe, minus the allspice, just a small touch of the red wine vinegar, and three apples instead of two. We sautéed the hearty, narrow leafy green that is spigariello with some super fresh and powerfully spicy arugula - the spigariello first with onions and garlic as it takes some time to cook - and salted to taste. Finally, we each took to VeganYumYum's cashew cream, drizzling it over the bisque in our own personal ways.

Rachel watching Jessica garnish the BisqueDinner

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Oct 19 2008

South Indian Sambar in Chicago

No sooner than I was off a plane from India, I wanted my kitchen smelling like her food. A certain chowdery, gravy-like or soupy vegetable mix came with many of my meals in India. I thought this dish, sambar, would be iconic enough a starting point to get serious about Indian cooking at home in Chicago. I emailed a friend from the South Indian city of Mangalore for help. She came through with wonderful step-by-step photos and detailed written instructions.

Bowls of Sambarpicture 2335 feel the smell (Photo Vidya)

Think of the recipe in three key parts: cook chopped vegetables, cook toor dal (split yellow pigeon peas), and make a masala (a mixture of spices). The following sambar is the popular type in and around Mangalore. The masala involves grinding coconut into a mix of fried spices. The vegetable can be of any type, but the commonly kinds, as my friend wrote, are potato with onion, drumstick, lady finger (okra), tomato, pumpkin, brinjal (eggplant), ash gourd, and Mangalore cucumber." The preparation may vary a bit as need to accommodate different vegetables. I thought it'd be fun to substitute farmers’ market sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) for potatoes. Their smooth, earthy and starchy flavor might add a nice depth. Similarly, I made three leeks stand in place of the onions. The leeks have a smooth and gentle flavor to their sharper onion relative.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (3)

Recipe Sun Oct 05 2008

It's Never Too Early for Pumpkin Pie

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Not only for the crisp weather and beautiful colors, but for the food. Let's be honest, mostly for the food. I was digging through my family recipes today and came across my Grandma's recipe for pumpkin pie - honestly the best I've ever had. This might be because of the memories I have of making it with her and my mom more times than I can count (we're already making baking plans for Thanksgiving this year). Despite my ties to this recipe, I really do stand by its amazing flavor, light texture and buttery pie crust. It might seem a little early in the year for pumpkin pie, but for me it's never too early.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
3 eggs, divided
1 cup sugar, reserve 1/2 cup for meringue
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. cold water
1 envelope Knox gelatin

Add sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt and spices to slightly beaten eggs yolks (save egg whites); mix in top of double boiler (over boiling water) and cook until thickened. Soften gelatin in cold water and add to hot pumpkin mixture, remove from heat and cool. While pumpkin mixture is cooling, beat egg whites until fairly stiff and gradually add reserved sugar. When mixture is cool, fold in egg whites. Pour into baked pie shell (completely cooled), cover and chill over night. If you want to go the extra mile and make the pie crust, continue reading.

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Kaitlin Olson

Drink Thu Sep 25 2008

Sweet and Spicy Sipper

I hosted a potluck at my place for Drive-Thru's fabulous writers on Tuesday night, and I needed a quick, fall-inspired, non-alcoholic beverage to supplement the bottles of wine others planned to bring. I got inspiration at - where else? - my local corner store.

I bought a gallon of apple cider and mixed it with a two-liter bottle of ginger ale in a very large pitcher. Then, just for a little bit of fancy, I simmered two cinnamon sticks and some star anise in a homemade simple syrup of water, sugar, and a few spoonfuls of honey. I added the cooled syrup to the pitcher, mixed, and served the sweet and spicy sipper over ice.

Yu suggested I punch up the ginger flavor next time by simmering some fresh grated ginger root with the simple syrup.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (3)

Recipe Mon Sep 22 2008

A Non-vegan's Vegan Cookies

I'm a big fan of baking tasty vegan treats, especially when I have a friend helping. Or doing much of the work when I'm brewing up coffee. Meleah had picked out the recipe for the almond fingers we were about to make. And since I am a big fan of her peanut butter cookies, I asked that we take this opportunity for her to show me how to make them. I remembered their savory, brittle, and deep rich flavor from the many times she has given them to me. Cookies

Meleah's peanut butter cookie recipe comes modified from Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker's Joy of Cooking. The original recipe is on page 709 in Meleah's copy, a fact that she seems to tell me from memory. Meleah is not vegan, but she sees no reason not to bake vegan. It keeps her from needing a trip to the store for eggs, she tells me. Plus, her box of egg replacer powder lasts quite a long time. In went the egg replacer powder (mixed with water as instructed on its box) instead of the one egg that Rombauer and Becker call for. Non-dairy butter (Earth Balance in this case) went in instead of butter or shortening, plus a drizzle of olive oil for flavor. Substituting olive oil for all of the butter seems to impact a richer and crispy flavor, but, she tells me, the batter is much harder to work with. Oil makes a slippery dough that is tricky to hold together. Based on my samplings of her previous work with olive oil in the cookies, I would be far from complaining. But I'm just along for the ride. Near the end, we added a tablespoon or so of soymilk to free the batter of the last bit of dryness that peeked out when forming the round cookies.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Mon Sep 22 2008

Goya or Bust: My NYC Mom's Arroz con Chorizo

spanishriceIn honor of tomorrow night's Drive-Thru bodega party staff meeting, tonight I find myself 12-years-old again. For the meeting, we've each been asked to bring a dish made from ingredients found at our local bodega or corner grocery. I live downtown, but my bodega is in my old neighborhood of Logan Square. It's Tianguis. It's the only place I can find real New York-style Goya smoked chorizo. And that, friends, is the star ingredient of the best culinary memory of my childhood: the dish I learned to make before I learned to boil water, my mom's Spanish rice.

Before I became the home cook that I am now, this was my go-to dish. It still is. Every time I make it I remember my mom who passed on in 1996. With each bite I'm a child again, standing net to her at the stove. Actually, her being a Spanish mom, that would be more like me being shooed away from the hot stove for my own good under threat of paleta spanking. Or threatened with same in the morning for having picked all the chorizo out of the leftover rice under overnight cover of darkness.

Either way, it was worth it. I hope you'll think so, too. Here's how it goes:

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Mike Doyle / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Sep 19 2008

Digging Figs

FigFigs are big these days. That's because early fall can be counted as the second season for fresh figs (the first being a period of just a few weeks in early summer). Neither season lasts very long, though, so the time to embrace the fig is now. This recipe features the fig in two incarnations: once in a spread, blended with cooked onions and toasted walnuts, and the second time sliced in half and roasted in the oven until the insides become sticky and gooey. The fig's sweetness is tempered by the salty cheese and spicy arugula, which combine to make a fabulous open-faced sandwich that can be cut up small for hors d'oeuvres or eaten whole as a decadent lunch.

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Dana Currier

Recipe Tue Sep 16 2008

It's a-Kraut Time

Sorry. Couldn't resist that one. Plus, in my recent post on canning, I promised you people a sauerkraut recipe.

This very simple method for making homemade 'kraut was passed on to me by a lovely woman named Rachel, who attended my friend Anna's canning party, Here it is, without further assault on the English language.

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Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Fri Sep 12 2008

Acorn Squash Soup with Cumin and Curry Leaf - Recipe

This is a fantastic squash soup that's fast to make and satisfying to eat. It was born out of a pinch (actually, just a few hours ago). I had to feed myself and my husband (who was under the weather with a nasty cold) with a rather meager supply of food. (Our fridge is definitely ready for the farmers' market tomorrow morning!) Aside from eggs and bacon, all I had were an acorn squash, half an onion, and a handful of peppers from the back porch planter (plus a loaf of bread I picked up on the way). I threw in my favorite spice combo--curry leaves and cumin seeds--from the cupboard, and we had a pretty good meal.

Acorn Squash Soup with Cumin and Curry Leaf
Serves two.

1 small acorn squash, cut into chunks
1/2 onion, chopped
4 anaheim peppers (or whatever mild chili peppers you have at hand), chopped
1 hot green chili, slit in the middle, seeds removed
10-20 curry leaves
2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon butter

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Sat Sep 06 2008

Julia's Salade Nicoise

Salade Nicoise Because it's still salad season in these parts, why not try a classic recipe for Salade Nicoise? Julia Child was the first to bring French cuisine to American households, so there's no better source to turn to when it comes to preparing a traditional version of this common salad. Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking is no doubt a little out of date, especially in its ingredients (what exactly is "cooking oil"?), but with a few modifications, the recipes prove they can stand the test of time.

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Dana Currier

Recipe Tue Sep 02 2008

They Make It, I Make It

I've been in a creative mood lately and eager to try out new recipes--well, not new, but recreations of childhood favorites.

Behold, the Runza:
Its Wikipedia entry defines it the best: "a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, pork, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings. [Runzas] are baked in various shapes such as a half-moon, rectangle, round (bun), square, or triangle."

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Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Recipe Sat Aug 30 2008

Recipe Roundup: Labor Day Edition

Inspired by all the fresh produce available this time of year, Chicago's food bloggers have posted lots of summery salad recipes lately. And what's a Labor Day picnic without at least three or four different salads?

My Vegetable Blog brings us Vegetarian Nicoise Salad, a tuna-free version featuring a traditional tarragon dressing, minus the anchovies.

Joelen of Joelen's Culinary Adventure rounds up a bunch of salad recipes from her foodie friends, including farmers market-friendly Japanese Cucumber Salad; Cantaloupe, Cucumber and Mint Salad; and White Wine Fruit Salad with Strawberries. She also offers wine pairings to make your barbecue or picnic upscale.

For a smaller gathering, this Warm Peach and Prosciutto Salad with Arugula from Have a Bite would be perfect.

Salad this is not, but I couldn't resist this sharing this post from the folks at Kitchn. If we all scream for ice cream, do we all cheer for ice cream and beer?

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Tue Aug 26 2008

Pickles Galore

Bumper crop of cucumbers have you flummoxed? This time of year, it happens to the best of us. One of my favorite ways to use a windfall of cucs or, even better, small Kirby pickles is to throw together a batch of Ohio Quick Pickles. I found this recipe years ago, who knows where, and it's earned a spot in my book of favorites. For some color, add a few carrots, thinly sliced on the bias.

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Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (2)

Ingredient Thu Aug 21 2008

Baby Love

So-called baby artichokes aren't exactly preemies. They're fully mature artichokes that are simply smaller than typical 'chokes sold in stores because farmers harvest them from further down on the stalk, where there is less sun exposure. What's fun about "babies" is that they haven't developed the thistly choke one must avoid when eating larger artichokes.

Nichol's farmstand has been a reliable source of baby artichokes this summer. To serve two people, I'd recommend purchasing four to six babies. Remove two or three outer layers to get to the tender inner leaves, and peel any tough skin from the stalk. Then trim about a half-inch from the tip. I like to slice them in half lengthwise, stuff one half with a quarter of a garlic clove, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and some torn basil, and then reassemble to make a "whole." Wrap two or three "wholes" in a foil packet and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes at 350.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Mon Aug 18 2008

Creamy Sorbetto

If you're looking for a smooth and fruity cold dessert, mix together some Ciao Bella blood orange sorbetto and Temptation's French vanilla. Let a scoop of each melt together just a bit - until they're a little fluid, easily blending but still quite cold and mostly solid. The vanilla vegan ice cream acts like cream in coffee, mellowing the rich flavor just enough to round it out. Green Grocer hooked me up.

Chris Brunn

Recipe Wed Aug 13 2008

Gone Tomatoes!

I don't know why I never thought to make tomato risotto, but once I read the recipe in Gourmet magazine's July issue, I knew it was the first thing I would make with summer's early heirlooms.

The boys at Nichol's Farm provided some big, beautiful Early Girls to star in the show. After coring and skinning the tomatoes, I squeezed out their slightly pulpy juice to spike risotto's typical liquid of choice, chicken stock with saffron. Finely chopped fennel and onion provided savory base flavors. For fluorish, I stirred in luscious, red diced tomato and a bit of freshly grated pecorino romano just before killing the flame. A garnish of torn basil tastes nice, but don't go overboard, or you'll risk masking the sweet, acidic tomato flavor you were after in the first place.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Drink Tue Aug 12 2008

Cheap Gin Is Tasty, When It Is Infused

After every party we've ever had, we've always had far more of a bottle of cheap gin than we've wanted. I unabashedly admit that I'm a gin snob. Bombay Sapphire is the lowest I'll happily go on the gin scale and since having Hendrick's, I've preferred the less-junipery taste with my tonic, or with my vermouth and olives. But I had about 12 ounces of cheap gin in a large plastic bottle that kept getting in my way. I was tired of moving the jug of rotgut and put it on the counter in plain site where I knew I would have to find a way to deal with it.

I was wishing it was Hendrick's when I remembered that Hendrick's suggests adding a slice of cucumber to your gin and tonic instead of a lime. The clean, crisp, green taste of cucumber is well-matched to the herbal flavor of gin. So I got out a clean quart-sized jar from my cabinet and sliced up a cucumber into 1/4" rounds. I layered the cucumbers in the jar and poured the cheap gin over the cukes.

After sealing it up tightly in the refrigerator for about two weeks, I finally got over my reticence and decided to make myself a gin and tonic. I put some ice in a glass, poured in a shot of gin, added two of the cucumber slices to my glass for garnish and topped it all off with some tonic water. I nervously took a sip and I was in love. The bitterly alcoholic taste was gone from my cheap gin and what I was left with was a tasty cocktail. Now I just need the summer weather to return so I can enjoy my summertime cocktail before it's too cold.

Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (4)

Recipe Wed Jul 30 2008

Cooking Light Features Chicago Market Pioneer

This month's issue of one of my favorite magazines Cooking Light features the story of Abby Mandel, who started Chicago's Green City Market in a downtown alley in 1999. Today, the market is "the best sustainable market in the country," according to the Alice Waters.

The story is a good read and includes fun recipes from Mandel, a cookbook author and former syndicated food columnist. Her German Apple Pancake and Albuquerque Corn Salad not only highlight farm fresh ingredients, but also are wholesome and look lovely.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Business Thu Jul 24 2008

DIY Iced Coffee

In these lean times, I like to brew my own coffee at home to save some change. However, the process can be trickier in the summer when what I really want is iced coffee. Here are some tips I've picked up along the way:

First, the guys at Intelligentsia's Randolph Street location tell me that my brewing method is perfect: I just make a pot of coffee like I always do, nice and strong. They recommend avoiding darker roasts, which don't taste as good on ice.

Once the coffee is ready, I pour a big glass and stick it in the freezer. By the time I'm finished showering, the coffee isn't exactly cold, but it's not piping hot, either. I fill my thermos with ice cubes made from coffee leftover from the previous day, and then pour in my chilled coffee and a spot of half and half.

Lately, I've been sweetening the brew with a homemade almond simple syrup. I bring one-third of a cup of water and one-third of a cup of sugar to a boil, then let it simmer for just a couple of minutes until the sugar dissolves completely. I take the pot off the heat and stir in a bit of almond flavoring to taste.

Incidentally, Intelligentsia's new summer drink, GG's Horchata -- rice milk, espresso, simple syrup and a dash of cinnamon -- is a refreshing change of pace on days when I don't feel like firing up my pot at home.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (9)

Recipe Thu Jul 17 2008

Cooling Summer's Heat from a Hot Kitchen

pistachio-cardamom-shake.jpgWhenever I step from my air conditioned bedroom in to my steamy hot kitchen, thoughts of cooking often yield to blending shakes before I can stop my hands from dropping slices of frozen bananas into a blender whirling around cold soy milk.

I cannot stress frozen bananas enough. They blend up with soy milk into a thick, cold and smooth shake. The secret to extreme thickness is to drop slices of frozen banana into the loud, roaring monster that is your blender running on a low or medium speed. Pause between every few pieces, waiting for the beast to crunch through the frozen chunks. Then, when the blender's screaming yields to a solid roar, give it another few pieces. Do this until the blender can't take any more, until the shake is so thick you can barely see the liquid pulling into a swirl at the top. (Peel and slice the bananas before freezing them).

Blend all other ingredients with the soy milk before adding the bananas, so that you have a good thorough mix before the bananas thicken it so much that it won't move. Here are some of my favorite combinations:

Pistachios Cardamom or Chocolate Peanut Butter

• Fresh figs, blended with frozen bananas and soy milk, give off a rich sweetness, with a deep flavor that nothing else quite matches.

• If you can get your hands on some mango avocado sorbet, or perhaps just mango, it goes brilliantly blended with just enough soy milk to make a thick cold slush - no bananas needed.

• And here's something completely different: Lemon Basil Sorbet.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Ingredient Wed Jul 09 2008

Giardiniera: Not Just for Beef

Giardiniera, the spicy condiment of chopped sport peppers, carrots, olives, cauliflower and celery, all marinated in olive oil, is how Chicagoans add that certain something to Italian beef sandwiches. Ask for a side of giardiniera anywhere outside of Chicago, and you're likely to get a blank stare. In my opinion, it's one of Chicago's best-kept culinary secrets, and I love to experiment with it.

A few mornings ago, I woke up dreaming of giardiniera turkey burgers stuffed with smoked cheddar cheese. Tonight, my dreams came true. My husband and I both agree these are the best burgers I've ever made. Want to try them yourself? Here's how:

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Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Recipe Mon Jun 30 2008

Throw Some Cherries in that Burger!

As you rev up for your fourth of July barbecues this upcoming weekend, the American Cancer Society wants you to be mindful of some facts about grilling, notably that cooking meat at high temperatures could make you sick--very sick. On the other hand, feel free to add some cherries to your burger patties to ward off any cancer-causing devils that the grilling process produces. Michigan's own Plevalean meats sell cherry-enhanced burger meat, but if you want to take up the task in your own kitchen, here are some easy recipes.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Tue Jun 10 2008

Rhubarb: What to do with Pretty Red Stalks

Federal Plaza Farmers Market Rhubarb and Strawberries-2.jpg

Rhubarb has been in full effect at farmers markets. I like seeing its dark, candy red celery-shaped stalks. They intrigue me as much as their deep green poisonous leaves say stay away. This has made me wonder what to do with rhubarb. Mark Bittman's recipe, Rhubarb Compote with Dates (How to Cook Everything), helped me focus in on a solution. I'd been heating the chopped rhubarb in a hot, dry pan, hoping to sweat its tough stalks into a tender submissive mess of flavor. I'd quickly worried about burning it before it softened enough. Bittman directed me to simmer the chopped stalks in enough water to cover. I poured cold water over the rhubarb already in my pan, not boiling as he'd suggested, and it still worked brilliantly.

I didn't have dates, but did find dried figs that'd been sitting about getting even drier. A day earlier, I had brought them to a boil in water to soften them up, and then let them sit overnight in the fridge. The next morning, I removed their stems, diced them up, and tossed them into the water and chopped rhubarb.

I simmered the fresh, tough stalks into a gentle, creamy compote, mixing in just enough brown sugar to take off the tart of the rhubarb. I poured it over diced fresh strawberries and cereal. Granola would be brilliant, too.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Sat Jun 07 2008

Gnocchi and Fresh Picked Asparagus with Lemon

This is one of many quick, fry-pan meals I've been thinking up on the fly. For the last last several months, I've been using the same system for various dinners. First: a few of the freshest vegetables you can find, sauted in olive or peanut oil, preferably including some sort of leafy green. When the leaves cook, soften and wilt, they tend to melt around everything else in the pan and wrap it all together. Second: a protein, like any cooked bean, tofu, tempeh, seitan or nut. Third: a starch or grain - rice, gnocchi, pasta, a nice bread to serve on the side, or any grain you can think of. Fourth: a savory sauce - something with a decent amount of salt and a nice, full flavor.

Last night, I chose fresh-picked matchstick-thin asparagus with leftover gnocchi, canned cannellini (creamy white kidney) beans, kale and thinly sliced spring onions. Tamari, lemon juice, hot sauce, and a touch of nutritional yeast brought it all together. The bright lemon taste amplifies the freshness of the vegetables, the tamari (or soy sauce) gives much needed salt, the nutritional yeast lends some depth, and the hot sauce adds a touch more sweat on a hot day's forehead to make me feel really alive.

Sauté the spring onions (just the little bulbs, and not their tough greens) in a bit of hot olive oil until they go soft. Add pre-cooked (canned) beans, leftover cooked gnocchi, and 3 or 4-inch lengths of asparagus - each ingredient in about equal amounts by sight. Cook until hot, and then deglaze the plan with enough tamari to make everything just a touch darker. Mix the nutritional yeast in a bowl with lemon juice and hot sauce to dissolve, and then add to the pan. Add the leafy green (chopped kale) last, cook just until wilted, and then serve in bowls.

When I want a heavier meal using the same system, I substitute tahini or natural peanut butter instead of nutritional yeast. Seek out local ingredients whenever convenient. I'm a big fan of the Co-Op Image hot sauce my friend Kerry brought me, from peppers grown in a nearby community garden.

Chris Brunn

Business Mon Jun 02 2008

Last Day to Get Mussels for Three Clams

Through June 3 (yep, that's Tuesday), Whole Foods is selling mussels for just $3 a pound. Hubby and I bought two pounds for dinner tonight (sounds like a lot, but the shells add up to a lot of waste), and prepared them using the Barefoot Contessa's recipe, featuring white wine, shallots and saffron. Killer. So good that we may go back tomorrow while the gettin's good. Bonus: total cooking time, from prep to serve, is about 40 minutes, and cleanup is super easy since everything cooks in one pot. Be sure to grab a baguette to soak up the broth.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Wed May 28 2008

That's Haute

According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (yes, there is such a thing), Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And while the Chicago dog--in all its poppyseed bun, sport pepper, celery salt glory--is undoubtedly a classic, it's a little...well...old school.

For those who prefer a more done-up-dog, Chicago Tribune's Good Eating challenged five Chicago chefs to revamp the classic hot dog in a way that was unique, yet easy enough for the home cook to replicate. And in true Chicago fashion, you won't find ketchup in any of the recipes.

Charlie Trotter (Charlie Trotter's): Asian Tuna Hot Dog
Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo): Chi-Mex Hot Dog
Bernie Laskowski (Park Grill): Greek-Style Lamb Hot Dog
Koren Grieveson (Avec): Beef Hot Dogs with Spicy Tomatillo Salsa
Shawn McClain (Spring): Hoisin and Hot Mustard Glazed Tofu Hot Dog with Spicy Kimchi and Cucumber Salad

Not really the cooking type? Check out Hot Doug's, where this week's special is a Chardonnay-Infused Rattlesnake Sausage with Bacon-Garlic Dijonnaise and Mirabo Walnut Cheese ($8).

Bobbi Bowers / Comments (1)

Recipe Wed May 07 2008

Ratatouille, Not Rat-Tat-Tooey

With all this talk about mice and rats having the run of O'Hare, I decided it was a good opportunity to talk about ratatouille, the summery, stewed vegetable dish of French origins ("ratatouille" literally means "toss food"). A colorful mix of peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomato and spices cooked in a dutch oven, it's a good use of healthy food, and with Farmer's Market season just around the corner (Green City Market kicks off on May 14!), keeping a recipe handy is a good idea; Smitten Kitchen has a nice photo of her delicious-looking ratatouille experiment, and you can find a range of recipes online.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Apr 27 2008

Dry Roasted Chili Perfume

We dry-roasted dried peppers. Vaporized hot pepper hit the back of my throat, in a strength which that part of my body might never have felt before. I've long been a fan of spicy foods, but they usually concentrate their burn in the mouth. Or the nose. Rodney warned me to open windows. I brought in a strong fan. We still couldn't help coughing. It seemed like we used a few dozen dried peppers. That seemed like an awful lot of chilies for this Oaxacan black mole. Did I make a mistake? Did the recipe call for fresh peppers? Fresh weigh more, meaning we'd need to use less. No, the instructions mentioned dried chilies. In the end, the heat of the mole softened and mellowed. With various pepper shells and seeds perfuming the air for some time, perhaps it lost some power. Sure, it was still no friend of the timid. After serving it on flanks of sautéed marinated tofu atop toasted corn tortillas, peppers, carrots and onions, the mole was also a big fan of Meleah's chocolate chip peanut butter cookies – a rich and juicy accomplice to a tender, crumbly cookie that melted perfectly in my mouth. Fill a pastry bag full of this mole, pipe it into chocolate cupcakes, and I'm sure you'll be smiling. Or tearing. Here's the recipe. You might find all of the ingredients at reasonable prices at a neighborhood bodega.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Apr 24 2008

Bechamel: Vegan and Passover Friendly.

Bechamel (Photo- Ariel Diamond)-3.jpg"I have nothing against butter and cream. But it was exciting and daring to make a vegan béchamel." That's what my friend Ariel told me as she began to explain her lasagna, with a few other modifications. To keep kosher for Passover, she used matzo instead of noodles, and a roux made with ground matzo meal instead of flour. She layered eggplant, soy cheese, béchamel, and matzo crackers, which soften when cooking, especially after covering them with the béchamel.

Ariel found this vegan béchamel recipe, changed it for Passover, and quadrupled it.

First, to make a roux, melt non-dairy butter (Soy Garden or Earth Balance). Ariel told me that she doesn't measure – something I'm a big fan of not doing, too. I think it's often good to know what properties to look for in your cooking, rather then blindly putting in measured amounts. In this case, add enough pulverized matzo meal to make the consistency of a batter. To avoid a gritty sauce, grind the matzo to a powder first.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Recipe Tue Apr 22 2008

Empanada Dreams: Baking with a Friend

A friend woke up thinking of empanadas this weekend. Luckily for me, we were meeting in my kitchen later. We turned out three versions. Garlic and sautéed-tender kale reminded me of spinach rolls at the Middle Eastern Bakery. We added enough brown sugar to a pumpkin and chickpea filling to make it nearly approach a dessert. Finally, the heat of a spicy soy chorizo-potato filling mellowed in the oven, but left us enough of the deep, heavily seasoned fake pork sausage flavor. Pre-cooked brown rice would stand in quite well for the potatoes, too. Not quite sure how to make the appropriate dough, we searched, and ended up modifying a recipe from, replacing the eggs with tapioca flour to keep vegan. We tried rolling the dough to various thicknesses, but it was best paper-thin, which baked up the crispiest.

3 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus cold water
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 tablespoons non-dairy butter (ex: Earth Balance)

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn

Recipe Mon Apr 21 2008

Recipe Roundup

Should you need more evidence that spring has finally arrived, Chicago’s food blogs have lightened up noticeably in the past couple of weeks, featuring flavors both delicate and zippy, and nary a cream-laden pasta dish in sight.

Have a Bite reminds us – or informs us, as was the case with me – that it’s halibut season, with recipes for two main course fish dishes and several complementary sides.

This cracked wheat salad from My Vegetable Blog is so seasonal, “spring” is in its name.

Pro Bono Baker knows that everyone loves a good broccoli salad, especially when accompanied by adorable pictures of Burmese cats. Frankly, I’m not wild about the concept of radish and buttermilk soup, but maybe you are, eh?

Blue Kitchen has Parisian foods on the brain these days, but not just the stinky-cheese-and-crusty-bread variety. Here’s a spicy shrimp dish sure to make your tastebuds say, “Mon Dieu!”

Now, what to do with all of those leftover bits of halibut, spears of asparagus, and florets of broccoli? Try your own version of the Recipe of the Week, the cleverly named “Clean Out the Fridge” Frittata. Keep this one on file, and you’ll never go hungry (though the worms in your compost bin may be singing the blues.)

That’s all for this week, but please send links to your favorite Chicago food blogs so I can mine them regularly for my Recipe Roundups.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Business Thu Apr 17 2008

A Fishy Diner

There aren't too many diners that I know of that serve as eclectic a menu (PDF) as Glenn's Diner (1820 W. Montrose). Technically, the restaurant is called Glenn's Diner and Seafood House, and they mean it: the place offers breakfast all day, a wide array of sandwiches and salads, homestyle diner dinners like spaghetti and meatballs, and — here's the kicker — more than 16 varieties of fresh fish that on any given day may include mahi mahi, salmon, Alaskan king crab legs, skatewing and shark.

On our recent visit, my husband Brian and I both ordered the $12.95 First Catch Special, available Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 6pm, and billed on the menu as a half-pound of fresh fish, small salad, cup of soup, roasted red potatoes, and fresh vegetable. We were allowed to select our fish from four or five different options. Brian went with swordfish, and I chose mahi mahi. Despite that his swordfish was slightly overcooked, overall we agreed we got a great deal. The "small" salad is actually quite large, and the "cup" of soup is served in a tall mug. The kitchen substituted potato pancakes for our roasted red potatoes without asking, but we didn't care because the pancakes were crusty on the outside, creamy on the inside, and incredibly flavorful. A large portion of roasted asparagus &mdah; Brian's favorite vegetable — rounded out the plate. There was so much food that I took about half of mine home and made a nice lunch out of it the next day. Needless to say, we had no room for dessert.

We plan to bring my family to Glenn's when they come to town, and Brian already knows what he's going to order: the shrimp po'boy. Me? I'm stuck between the Reuben sandwich and Mediterranean omelet, but either way I'm ordering a side of potato pancakes.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Thu Apr 17 2008

Engagement Chicken

engagementchicken.jpgI happened to pick up a copy of Glamour magazine yesterday--at a hair salon, of course. And in the front of the mag, it may even have been the letters page, there was a recipe for Engagement Chicken. According to the lore, the recipe has been floating around the Glamour offices for 26 years, and passed from assistant to assistant until each one prances happily down the aisle. A Google search proves that the recipe is indeed legendary; there's a Chowhound message board about it, which reveals the original recipe came from cookbook author Marcella Hazan, specifically from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Other food bloggers wonder if a simple roast chicken is really enough to convince a man to marry, not only because it's a huge and scary commitment, but also because it's not a very sophisticated dish. A lot of single men can probably roast their own chickens. Is the way to a man's heart really a trussed chicken?

Lori Barrett

Recipe Sat Apr 05 2008

Hamantashen Vegan Style

A friend invited me to her Purim party a few weeks back, and then seemed to chuckle at my interest in making a vegan version of hamantashen. I told her that someone had once made me some very tasty vegan rugelach, a feat perhaps equally surprising. Later she sent me a vegan recipe she'd found for hamantashen. I mixed the dough, chilled it overnight, rolled it out, cut it, dotted with preserves, and tri-folded each piece into a hat. The recipe said to bake for 10 to 12 minutes, but I found myself adding 2 minutes to the kitchen timer more than a few times after 10 minutes. I feared I'd burn the hamantashen, wandering if I should pull them when I saw the slightest hint of golden brown on the edges. I waited another 2 minutes, and then took them out just in time; the bottoms were golden.

Don't skimp on quality preserves, because whatever fruit substance you have really comes through when the dough bakes up like a brilliant shortbread. I used Earth Balance's Buttery Sticks for the non-dairy butter. If I make this again, I might follow another friend's suggestion to add poppy seeds to the dough for a nice crunch.

Here's the recipe.

Update: The morning after I posted this, I took hamantashen dough from my fridge, and went to work on making another batch. It came with me for a picnic on a grassy strip that is part of Chicago’s boulevard system — two parallel columns of green space buffering a few lanes of traffic in front of lovely old homes and apartment buildings, which wind their not exactly contiguous way around Chicago. We set out blankets down and went to work on food and drink on the first glorious weekend of spring.

Chris Brunn

Recipe Tue Apr 01 2008

Weekly Recipe Roundup

Baseball season is upon us, which means hot dog sales are going through the roof! This Pear and Pepper Relish from Pro Bono Baker will have you shouting, “Fukudome!” Or something.

What do you think’s in the burger? You won’t get an actual recipe at Thursday Night Smackdown, but c’mon, do you really need a recipe for a hamburger? What you will get is plenty of inspiration to create your own mini versions of another ballpark favorite, the burger-fry combo.

Barley and amaranth are so last year. According to Hungry Mag, the new grain about town is millet.

Finally, here’s my Recipe Find of the Week (a completely subjective award given to the recipe that sounds more delicious/intriguing/inventive than all the rest): Spicy Sweet Chicken made with maple syrup, chili paste and Chinese five-spice powder, paired with Szechuan Green Beans with Garlic. Thanks, Blue Kitchen.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Tue Apr 01 2008

Health Shake of the Stars

Gapers Block sister site, Rubber Neck, out in L.A., has posted an item about a new health drink being guzzled by the bucketful. The drink, which is said to be even more miraculous for the complexion and the body than Master Cleanse, was created by Estelle Marie, the dietician for Heidi Montag, the glowing and curvaceous character on The Hills on MTV.
"Many people think the changes in my face and my body are from surgery, but the truth is, I owe it all to Estelle's concoction," Montag told Rubber Neck. "Who would have known the combination of coffee and olive juice could change the shape of a nose?"
The recipe is below.

1/2 cup of black coffee
15 drops of Tabasco
1/2 cup of water
5 shakes black pepper
5 shakes salt

In another bowl, or a mortar and pestle if you have one, mash up one fortune cookie (remove fortune first) with 2 tbsp of olive juice

Combine with liquid ingredients, top with red sprinkles and enjoy.

For more information on Estelle's food recommendations, click here.

Lori Barrett

Recipe Tue Mar 25 2008

Weekly Menu Roundup: Finger Foods

None of these dishes would a meal make – unless, of course, you make them all at once and serve them with a bottle of wine.

For the caviar-haters among us (I’ll admit it; I’m so uncultured), try Beluga lentils instead in this protein-packed crostini recipe featured on My Vegetable blog.

Let’s see. You take a ball of fresh mozzarella, encase it in freshly made bread dough, sprinkle the top with something called Bacon Salt (which I’ll admit, I’ve never tried, but I want some immediately) and bake. I’ll take a baker’s dozen – each served in its own Bacon Bowl. Thanks, Two Bites!

Easter’s over. Purim, too. Still, I’d argue it’s impossible to tire of ethnic bread recipes featuring the prominent use of boiled eggs.

Got duck fat? This roasted potato recipe is for you.

Cap off your finger food feast with a victorious dessert, fork required: chocolate soufflé!

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Tue Mar 11 2008

Weekly Recipe Roundup

Tonight, I suggest you pick up a nice bottle of red wine and invite your friends over for Sunday brunch: this week, local food bloggers are offering up recipes for sophisticated and fast mid-week meals, and comforting weekend breakfasts.

I'll get to the brunch menu in a moment, but first here are two great excuses to buy a bottle (or two) of red: Mushroom and Red Wine Risotto, a nice little vegan number from My Vegetable Blog; and from The Blue Kitchen, a perfect companion dessert pairing red wine and strawberries.

If it's chicken you crave, try this Chicken and Cous Cous Salad from The Knife Sharpener. Cous cous is super fast, and the addition of radishes gives this salad a peppery kick. Cook up extra chicken on Cous Cous Night, and you'll be prepped and ready to whip up Russian Chicken Salad the following night.

Who can resist a mid-week hero? Try this zesty meatball version, compliments of Little Spatula. A simple salad with Italian dressing would make a healthy side.

Did you invite your friends over for Sunday brunch yet? I hope so, because Thursday Night Smackdown (a blog from New Jersey, written by a friend) promises the "best eggs ever." Bold statement, but when you read the recipe, you just might find yourself nodding in agreement. Pair this creamy egg dish with Matcha Pancakes, which I'm going to go ahead and call "healthy" because of the matcha. Complete the spread with a side of sauteed spinach, plus grapefruit segments, vanilla yogurt, coffee and tea.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Mon Mar 03 2008

Poppy and Sunflower Seed Pancakes

I'm a big fan of oats in pancakes. I often switch ground oats for half of the flour. I took this to a whole new level this weekend by switching the oats for a multigrain mix of rolled whole rye, barley, oats and wheat, and cooking the pancake batter in a cast iron pan wet with peanut oil. I also tossed in poppy and sunflower seeds for a nice hearty crunch, inspired by Heidi Swanson. The pancakes turned out nice and toasty, I presume from the rye and barley, but not fluffy, perhaps also due to these hearty grains.

Here's the recipe, altered from my long time favorite base pancake recipe, which I posted last April. Peanut oil lends a deep, earthy fragrance, but feel free to substitute. I frequently like to use what I have on hand. When I ran out of poppy seeds, I moved instead to cashew pieces for something crunchy.

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn

Recipe Thu Feb 28 2008

Sepia's Pastry Chef Shares Dessert Recipe

Kim Schwenke, pastry chef at Sepia, shares her recipe for Zebra Icebox Cake in the March issue of Food & Wine magazine. Special ingredients like Marsala and marscapone make this dessert a layered delight. The slightly ambitious recipe after the jump.

[Photo by Con Poulos Photography for Food and Wine]

Continue reading this entry »

Bobbi Bowers

Recipe Sun Feb 24 2008

Weekly Recipe Roundup

I'm an avowed menu planner, which until now has meant curling up on the couch with some of my favorite cookbooks and the latest issues of Cooking Light, Gourmet and Everyday Food to select what's for dinner for the next two weeks.

I'm not abandoning my cookbooks and magazines entirely, but I've expanded my menu search to include Chicago's many excellent food blogs. Here's the first in what will be a weekly roundup of recipes recommended by, and in some cases created by, Chicago food bloggers. A general observation: it's February in Chicago, which means lots of the recipes I found featured pasta, bread, cheese or some combination thereof. I say, embrace it; spring is right around the corner.

Continue reading this entry »

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Recipe Sat Feb 23 2008


Last Sunday, I attempted something I've never attempted before: making souffles. I went and bought six ramekins and stocked up on all the goodies, including a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate.

I whisked, melted, whipped and folded my way through the recipe. Thinking they looked pretty good, I put my six sugar-coated ramekins in the oven. Over-eager, I kept peaking through the oven door every five minutes expecting to see six beautifully-risen chocolate souffles.

Except they never rose.

I'm not sure where I failed. Were my stiff peaks not stiff enough? Did I fold with too much fury? Or maybe souffles really are as hard to master as I've been lead to believe.

I'm determined to master the souffle. Maybe it was the recipe that let me down -- or maybe it was my lack of souffle skillz. Either way, check back later for a second souffle attempt.

[Photo from Cooking Light]

Bobbi Bowers / Comments (5)

Ingredient Mon Jan 28 2008

Snack Hack

snackhack.jpg Diet magazines tell me I'm "an evening snacker" (supposedly that's a bad thing?). It's the time when I get creative (and caloric) with the snacks I conjure up to sate the post-dinner cravings.

This weekend's errands brought me to both Target and Trader Joe's where I picked up a container of Cantaré Olive Tapénade and bag of Archer Farms Black Pepper and Sea Salt potato chips (I'm addicted to the baked version), respectively. It hadn't occurred to me to introduce the two to each other, but their marriage was fated.

Struck by a taste for something salty, I opened the cupboard and found the chips. I took a bite. It wasn't enough. As if someone had softly whispered "olive tapénade" in my ear, I thought of the spread and placed a quarter teaspoons of the briny mix onto my chip. Crunchy, salty, satisfying and just nearly over-the-top, my latest snack hack compelled my husband to refer to me as FG (Food Genius) for the rest of the evening.

Meghan Murphy Gill

Recipe Mon Jan 28 2008

Chicken Tagine

Chicken Tagine You may not own a tagine (the Moroccan cone-shaped cooking vessel pictured at left), but that doesn't mean you can't make a tagine in the comfort of your own home. Many tagine recipes can be successfully executed in a dutch oven or other large, oven-safe saucepan (i.e. no plastic handles). This tagine recipe produces richly spiced, tender pieces of chicken, which can be served over rice or couscous with the accompanying dried fruit and butternut squash, which lend a distinctly North African flavor. This mixture of sweet and savory is complimented by a variety of spices which add warmth without serious heat, perfect for the next bone-chilling cold spell that sweeps through the city.

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Dana Currier

Random Sat Jan 26 2008

Sweet Home Chicago

On Friday, my hubby and I had a very Chicago kind of night in an unexpected setting: our apartment. Hometown blues legend Buddy Guy was featured on WXRT 93.1 FM, we had some Goose Island beer on hand and we decided to cook a dish from local darling Rick Bayless' "Mexico One Plate at a Time" &mdash Camarones al Mojo de Ajo, or Quick-Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic.

XRT DJ Tom Marker's soothing voice, Buddy Guy's "Sweet Home Chicago," some Oatmeal Stout, and the shrimp, cooked in a fragrant oil made by simmering two heads (not cloves) of chopped garlic in extra virgin olive oil, then adding the juice of a lime and two adobo chilies from a can, were the perfect anecdote to a cold, snowy evening.

No slogging through the snow to a crowded bar. No burning our mouths on deep-dish pizza. No visit to the over-priced Sears Tower Sky Deck. But a very fine Friday night in Chicago, indeed.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Wed Jan 23 2008

Korean Carrot Salad


A few years ago I visited my friend Margaret in St. Petersburg, Russia where she had been living for some time. I could speak endlessly of the culinary delights that I found in that country, but one that stands out was the Korean Carrot Salad sold in the nearby markets.

This simple salad is, as far as I know, not a Korean dish at all. Rather, it is an ingenious Russian dish that blends shredded carrots, fiery seasoning and oil. I work in West Town just down the street from Ann's Bakery, a lovely Ukrainian grocery store that will hopefully be able to stick it out now that Dominick's has moved in down the street. Ann's Korean Carrot Salad sells for about $5 a pound at their deli counter. While you are there you should probably pick up some delicious light rye bread too.

If you are feeling more adventurous, or just happen to have a lot of carrots on hand you can make your own by following recipe after the jump...

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Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Jan 20 2008

Chocolate Saltine Bark

Chocolate saltine bark Whenever my mom makes this recipe, she tends to make people angry. Why? Because even though it doesn't look all that good, people quickly realize how irresistible this candy is, and they become enraged once they realize they are unable to control themselves in its presence. Saltines are, of course, not an obvious ingredient in a candy recipe. It's their texture and not their flavor that's important here. By providing a base layer, they give the sugar, butter and chocolate something crispy and crunchy to cling to. Once you try this candy, you'll find that the saltines are irreplaceable in the recipe and that you'll have to exercise great self-restraint in the cracker aisle at the grocery store in order to fend off the addiction.

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Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Publication Sun Jan 06 2008

How Sweet It Is

There have been some bitter feelings since local favorite Marshall Field's became Macy's back in 2006, but Frango chocolates are sweeter than ever due to their nationwide availability. I received The Frango Cookbook: Simple Recipes & Sweet Ideas as a Christmas gift from my mother in-law—a charming and beautifully photographed dessert cookbook featuring 36 Frango-filled recipes. From easy recipes that even the most amateur baker could tackle (like Flourless Frango Chocolate Cake which is featured on the cover of the cookbook and uses only 3 ingredients—including 45 Frango chocolates), to ones that are a bit more complicated (like Famous Frango Chocolate Cheesecake), this is a sweet cookbook that will pull at any chocoholics heartstrings.

[Photo from]

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Bobbi Bowers

Recipe Thu Jan 03 2008

Orange Crush

Orange dessert At this time of year, the last thing anyone wants is another heavy dessert. And with citrus fruits at their peak, there's no better time to make a recipe like this one. It's all in the presentation here since the ingredients are simple and there aren't many of them. Regular navel oranges work just fine, but for a more luxurious result, look for blood oranges. Once you've peeled the orange (removing every last scrap of white pith), hold it in the palm of your left hand and, using a paring knife, remove each section by cutting right alongside the membranes that separate one section from the next. Arrange the sections in a circle on a plate as pictured and squeeze on top whatever is left of the orange now that the sections are removed. Next, if you like, drizzle on a drop or two of Grand Marnier and a pinch of sugar. Finally, grate a fine dusting of good dark chocolate on top. What you'll get is a dessert that's sweet and juicy and won't leave you with that dizzy, leaden, "did I just eat twelve sugar cookies?" feeling you'd grown so accustomed to over the past few weeks.

Dana Currier

Random Tue Dec 18 2007

Caprese Christmas Tree

Mozzarella and tomato tree 2 I first saw this creation on an episode of the Barefoot Contessa. A friend of Ina Garten's assembled it for a cocktail party at the summer opening of an art show, but I was immediately struck by how perfect such a centerpiece would be for a holiday party. You'll need a styrofoam tree form (which can be obtained at any craft or floral store), toothpicks, basil leaves, cherry tomatoes and bocconcini, or small balls of fresh mozzarella. The amount you'll need depends on the size of the tree form, but I recommend buying 2 pints of cherry tomatoes and 2 pint-size tubs of bocconcini for a 9-inch tree. You can use as much basil as you like, either tucking the leaves in at the base to line the plate or sticking them in between the balls of cheese and tomatoes for decoration.

Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Dec 18 2007

Two Days of Cookies

Meleah's Linzertorte Cookies-2.jpg
It's been two days of cookies. My sweetie and I kicked it off with small, thin and crispy chocolate cookies with a slightly chewy peppermint filling that refreshed quite well. We used the Minty Chocolate Christmas Cookies recipe that Heidi Swanson posted from her Super Natural Cooking book. I changed out the egg white for one tablespoon of tapioca flour, the butter for non-hydrogenated margarine and I was keeping vegan. Stuck on peppermint the next day, I moved to the shortbread recipe Heidi posted from Castle Cookbook that she found nearby Hearst Castle. I added one-quarter teaspoon peppermint extract with the vanilla, one-half teaspoon ground cardamom mixed with the flour, replaced margarine for butter again, and halved the original recipe to limit sugar shock. I got just what I'd expected, a cookie that held together brilliantly but crumbled in the mouth. The cardamom fragrance hit first, before the peppermint vapor invigorated. Meanwhile, a friend was on linzertorte cookies from a found recipe in two varieties (photo), hazelnut-coconut-orange-zest-vanilla with apricot jam, and almond with raspberry jam. Hers turned out quite nutty, hearty and wholesome with the perfect touch of sweetness in the center jam dot.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Dec 11 2007

Greens and White Beans Soup

Thumbnail image for soup.jpg

Homemade soup is one of the most comforting winter meals. I often forget how quickly a delicious bowl can be made. I reminded myself last week with the following:

Greens and White Beans Soup


6 C vegetable stock (I like using Edward & Sons Garden Veggie bouillon)
1 can white beans, drained
1 C frozen collard greens
1 C orzo
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
black pepper


In a large pot boil water and add bouillon. Reduce heat and add greens and beans, followed by spices. Let simmer a few minutes, then increase the heat and add the orzo. Cook for 5 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

Gemma Petrie

Recipe Fri Dec 07 2007

Going Bananas

Banana muffin 1 With all the cranberry, pumpkin and gingerbread-flavored baked goods that seem to show up in droves at this time of year, banana bread is probably the last thing on most of our minds. But I've found that there's no single ingredient that sweetens and moistens a muffin like the humble banana. And the best thing about using bananas for baking is that they don't have to be in pristine condition. In fact, a spotted, brown, past-its-prime, downright ugly banana makes for a much better muffin or loaf of bread than a perfectly ripe one does.

Continue reading this entry »

Dana Currier

Recipe Thu Dec 06 2007

Saint Nicholas Day


Many children awoke this morning to find the empty shoes they had placed outside their door last night full of candy and small gifts from St. Nick.

In the United States the story of Saint Nicholas is fairly innocuous, promising gifts to good children and coal to bad children. However, the tale was historically quite sinister in parts of Central Europe. German children feared a visit from Saint Nicholas' goat-legged companion, Knecht Ruprecht, who might beat the bad children or sometimes eat them. In Switzerland, Schmutzli would punish bad behavior by putting children in a sack and taking them to the Black Forest where he might drown them in a river. And in Croatia, Krampus might leave a metal rod for the parents to beat their misbehaved children.

However you choose to celebrate, the Saint Nicholas Center has a vast number of recipes to aid you. I'm especially intrigued by the Dutch Peppernut Cookies, made with white pepper. Find the recipe after the jump.

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Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Dec 04 2007

Slow Eggs

My bachelorette party was on Saturday night, and my fiancee (thoughtfully) vacated the premises for the weekend to give me and my girlfriends some space. It has been awhile since I had the place to myself, so I took full advantage on Friday night by climbing into my most comfortable PJs I own, downloading the past several Grey's Anatomy episodes that I've missed, and settling down in front of the tube with my favorite comfort food: slow-cooked scrambled eggs, two pieces of toast (one with butter, one with butter and jelly), and for dessert, a bowl of granola.

If you've never had slow-cooked scrambled eggs, they're worth the extra few minutes of effort.

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Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Wed Nov 28 2007

A Recipe for Stray Pumpkins

Red ribbons, pine boughs and the less-traditional, but extraordinarily popular, giant inflatable snow globes are appearing in front yards across the city. While I have nothing against Christmas decorations in November, I simply cannot abide the co-mingling of two holidays. I’m talking about pumpkins, stubbornly ponderous and conspicuously orange, still competing for the limelight on random odd front porches.

People, have not your decorative gourds served you well? It’s time to gently (gently) release them into that good night. To help you let go, I’ve whipped up a recipe worthy of any great (or, rather, small to medium) pumpkin.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Fri Nov 23 2007

Brussels Sprouts Galore

A photo in the November Bon Appétit was gorgeous - luscious green brussels sprouts, thinly sliced, almost looking shredded, aside golden caramelized onions in a large white bowl edged with a deep blue stripe on top of simple kitchen workspace. It's the photo for their recipe of Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots. When I'd gone to Green City Market, handfuls of super fresh little Brussels sprouts seemed true to the image in the photo. I bought a pound of them at Nichols Farm's tent and commented on their size - most about 3/4-inch in diameter. One worker told me that he doesn't peel these small ones - just wash and cook. I asked about dark spots I saw on the surface. Another told me they don't spray and suggested that it wouldn't be good if there weren't marks. I needed one and one-half pounds for the recipe as is, so I adjusted all quantities by two-thirds.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Nov 16 2007

Vegan Waffle Study

My Mom's been asking me to email her my vegan waffle recipe. It's the latest version in my slowly ongoing attempts to create a good recipe. It has a nice but lean crispy crunch and releases from the waffle iron with ease. And unlike previous recipes, it's relatively simple. One earlier version used ground cashews and flax seeds, another had almond meal plus peanut oil and ground oats, a third used egg-replacer, another wanted white vinegar or lemon to forge buttermilk, and yet another recipe used blackstrap molasses.

In this latest recipe, the only thing that might be at all hard to find is the tapioca flour. But it does make for a super gooey consistency that holds the batter together quite well. This one's for you, Mom.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
Dashes of salt
1 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons oil (I like grapeseed oil)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spray a waffle iron with oil and preheat it. Whisk dry ingredients. Add soy milk and whisk in until smooth. Whisk in oil and vanilla. Pour into waffle iron.

Yield: 4 square Belgium waffles

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Nov 15 2007

Soup's On

onion soupReal Simple's Web exclusive this week features 14 recipes for quick, easy and belly-warming soups ranging from an ultra basic French onion to a slightly more exotic spicy sweet potato and coconut and everything in between. Even if you're not a recipe follower (and who really needs to be with soups?), these are good for a little inspiration and can definitely be improved upon (Gruyere instead of Swiss on the French onion?).

Meghan Murphy Gill

Recipe Wed Nov 14 2007

Thanksgiving Candy

No, not the stale leftover stuff nobody wanted from Halloween. (Bit O' Honey anyone? What was that stuff anyway?) The local publication of daily email digest Daily Candy has a recipe today for some highly seasonal pumpkin pie pancakes with cranberry maple syrup, courtesy of Moto's Ben Roche. They promise no lasers or edible ink are needed, though you will need a blender. Sounds scrumptious. And if they're not enough to get your autumnal taste buds fired up, Moto itself is all about fall flavors at the moment, with a menu offering from an apple and brown butter pairing (not likely from Amish tradition), a pumpkin tamale and more. Mmm, if fall tastes as good as it looks on paper, tie a bib on and get out your eating dress.

Andie Cavedo

Review Fri Nov 09 2007

Simply Delicious

store_simplefoodNot too long ago, I scored a copy of Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food to add to my small collection of cookbooks. The pages are understated, adorned with sketches of vegetables, herbs and meat. The recipes seem basic at first glance; Waters gives instructions on grilling vegetables and preparing a chicken broth. But with recipes such as Pork Shoulder Braised with Dried Chiles and Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad, Waters asserts that simple food does not mean bland food.

The recipe for Tortilla Soup is after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Meghan Murphy Gill

Ingredient Thu Nov 08 2007

Spotted: Big Red

Big Red Perusing the soda aisle for some Ginger Ale at Jewel last week, I noticed a few cases of Big Red. I haven't seen "America's #1 Red Soda" in years -- not that I've been missing it. When I went back to snap a photo last night, it was sold out! Apparently there are those who were longing for it.

Or maybe they were hoping to make some Big Red Cake.

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Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (1)

Blog Wed Nov 07 2007

I Didn't Want to Cook. But I did Heart the Sunchokes.

On nights when it's my turn to cook for my roomie but I'd rather grab take out and veg with a book, I force myself into it. For a second, I would wish I had just picked us both up falafel at Sultan's, plated it, and brought out our deep fryer to pretend like I made it. It's too bad she wouldn't believe that unless the whole apartment smelled like oil. And if it really did, I might as well be making my own falafel. I usually love to cook. My weeks have been hectic (sometimes too much time wasted away on tedious tasks like searching for the perfect day bag) and it's been maybe two weeks since it's been my turn to cook. So here's a memory of a cooking love fest from a few weeks back.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Oct 30 2007

Share Your Recipes for Local Cookbook

The National Museum of Mexican Art is holding a contest to find the best family recipes for Recetas de mi tierra, an upcoming cookbook to celebrate the Museum's 20th anniversary. A contest for the best recipes that have "survived the journey" from Mexico to Chicagoland is being held, with the winners receiving a free copy of the book, which will include their recipe, a biography and photograph of their family. Deadline is October 31. Click here for more details.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Mon Oct 29 2007

No, It's Not a Manhole Cover.

Autumn Harvest Pancake

It's finally autumn; the chill in the air seems to be sticking around, the trees are raining down gloriously hued leaves onto the sidewalks, and the local famers' tables are brimming with apples, pears, pumpkins, yams, bunches of Indian corn and twigs of bittersweets. From the cornucopia of autumn, I've always loved the combination of sweet potatoes and apples. One recent morning, I returned to my old favorite combination for breakfast.

Essentially a big, multi-serving pancake loaded with sweet potatoes and apples, then cut into individual pieces at the table, this autumn harvest pancake makes for a fun presentation. The sweet potato circles, embedded on the surface of the flipped-up pancake announce autumn, and their earthy sweetness is met by the tart-sweet goodness of the apple wedges hidden inside. And best of all, it only takes a bowl and a skillet to cook.

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Mon Oct 29 2007

Brain on a Platter

We have a Halloween party every year. And while the food we serve varies from year to year, the one constant is the gelled cheeseball I make with a brain jello mold. The first year I made it, I followed a recipe I found online that combined canned mushroom soup, cream cheese and shrimp, along with some unflavored gelatin (and lemon juice and tabasco sauce). It was tasty, and there wasn't much left by the end of the night. The next year, I tried making it with crab meat instead. It didn't taste as good or, more importantly, have the right texture or the right shade of pinkish gray to look like a brain. This year, since my son won't eat meat or seafood, I used sun-dried tomatoes instead of shrimp. Again, the color and the texture weren't quite as brainy as they were the first year, but it was a good vegetarian version. Plus, the yellow oil that the sun-dried tomatoes came in formed a little pool around the brain, which was a nice effect. The recipe for the shrimp version follows.

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Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Oct 28 2007

Roommates Rotating Dinner feels like Family

My roomie Liz, our friend Andy and I used to alternate cooking dinner for each other a few times a week. Those nights, I felt like I was eating with family until the dinners faded months ago. A few days after Andy suggested a revival, Liz was searing slices of leftover neatloaf in a small cast iron pan.

I'm vegan, which pretty much makes our dinners vegan. Our dining room table was full of analogues to traditional American comfort food in sturdy baking dishes. A square glass dish held baked mac (rotini instead of macaroni this time) and not-cheese. Pan seared neatloaf lined a deep white oval baking dish. A small wavy white pitcher was full of gravy Liz had just made from scratch. A slender white candle completed a metaphor of comfort food purity. A clear glass bowl held pureed cauliflower. It looked like mashed potato, but tasted clearly not - much lighter.

After dinner, I asked Liz to explain what she made. Below are my notes with Liz's quotes mixed in. Amounts weren't measured, but in many cases I asked Liz to tell how she knew when she had added the correct amount of an ingredient. Improvising based on what's going on is key. Any stated quantities have been guessed after the fact.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Oct 28 2007

Can't Stop Eatin' 'Em...Until December

If Jay's Potato Chips will be no more by the end of this year, then now is the time to take advantage of this crispy chip while it still exists. You can start by making potato chip cookies, one of the best marriages of snack foods ever. Here is a simple, killer recipe.

Robyn Nisi

Chef Wed Oct 24 2007

It's Country, Ya'll!

Paula Deen, the Food Network's queen of country cuisine, is coming to The Chicago Theater on November 17th for two live shows. Paula will share her favorite down home recipes with fans, as well as cooking tips and advice. Tickets are still available for both shows. You bet your britches that I'll be there.

Can't wait until November? Try making one of my favorite Paula recipes--corn casserole--at home. (Warning: recipe may not be suitable for the calorie-conscious.)

Paula Deen's Corn Casserole

1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8-ounce) package corn muffin mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the 2 cans of corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream, and melted butter. Pour into a greased 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and top with cheddar. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand for at least 5 minutes and then serve warm.

Bobbi Bowers

Recipe Mon Oct 08 2007

Frozen Bananas replace Ice Cream in Shakes


Frozen bananas arguably make a shake from what would otherwise be a cold smoothie. On hot sweaty days that bring fantasies of an endless crisp fall, I think of such frozen drinks - the thick type that leaves your mouth and throat well chilled. I created the recipes below when it had been very hot - when the toothpaste in my un-air-conditioned bathroom turned as warm as a fresh baked pie; when I'd replenished myself with four pints of water in some two minutes; and when I'd smell of the ginger spray I use after bicycling to work. That is when a shake makes its best appearance. Here are some of my favorites.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Recipe Mon Sep 24 2007

Lacey Corn Cakes

corncakesOrdinarily on Sundays, my spouse and I treat ourselves to brunch at one of the many many great brunch spots Chicago has to offer. But this past weekend I suggested we make a run to our favorite grocery store (Harvest Time, a Mexican/Eastern European/Greek market) and make our own brunch at home. It saved us a little money, and if we worked together on the prep and clean up, we'd save a little time, too. The heat is no longer stifling when we turn on the oven or stove, so it was hight time we get back to cooking breakfast.

These corn cakes are a modification of the "Johnnycakes" recipe in Joy of Cooking, a regular resource for me. I added a couple of tablespoons of diced red pepper, green onion and grated cheddar cheese to the batter for extra flavor. The corn cakes work more as a stand-alone meal with the added ingredients.

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Meghan Murphy Gill

Recipe Sun Sep 23 2007

The Best Pumpkin Bread Shortcut Ever

I am not one to do any promotion for Trader Joe's, the store that needs no promotion, but now that fall is here, I will be making more trips for their Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix. While I've gotten burned on some of unevenly satisfying TJ's products (turkey sausage stromboli, our time was brief and flavorless), they hit major paydirt with this powdered mix, which produces a moist, well-textured and correctly spiced loaf.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Thu Sep 20 2007

Thai Red Curry with Grilled Summer Veggies

I love Thai curries. But sometimes I find the curry-infused veggies in them somewhat disappointing--whatever vegetables you use, they all taste like curry, because the flavor of the curry is so strong (though tasty). The other day, I wanted to cook some Thai red curry with (some of the last batch of) the summer veggies I had at hand, and decided to tweak the usual recipe to address that "all the veggies taste alike" problem. After all, it's mid-September and we're soon saying goodbye to the beautiful summer veggie season.

Summer Veggies

Instead of cooking the veggies (grape tomatoes, an orange pepper and a bitter melon--an eggplant I thought I had turned out to be quite dead), I grilled them in the little toaster oven. While the veggies cooked, I fried some ginger in palm oil in a heavy skillet, then browned some chicken thigh. When the chicken was browned on the outside, I set it aside and fried the red curry paste, added coconut milk. Then I put back the chicken in the skillet and let the curry simmer for a while. It was smelling already pretty good at this point.

In the toaster oven set at around 500 degrees, the tomatoes started to burst pretty soon, so I rescued them first and dumped in the curry skillet (which had been turned all the way to the lowest setting to keep it warm without losing all the liquid), . After several more minutes, the skin on the pepper started to brown and bubble up, which then I transferred to the skillet. The bitter melon took a while to cook, probably about 15 minutes. When, finally, the bitter melons were nice and brown, I put them in the skillet and turned up the heat to quickly warm up everything.

Although the photograph came out rather unappetizing (which is why it's not here), the curry turned out very nice to the palate. Each vegetable still retained its own flavor and stood up against the punchy curry, which worked more like a sauce than a soup. Although the veggies didn't contribute to the flavor of the curry, the chicken did, and given the already complex aromas and flavors of the curry mix, this was more than enough. The other advantage of this method was that I could control the cooking time for each veggie pretty easily, thus giving each one the best texture. This might just become my standard way of doing Thai red curry.

Yu Kizawa

Restaurant Fri Sep 14 2007

Pork Belly Caesar, now in Chicagoland

Celebrated food writer, cookbook co-author and Bourdain partner-in-crime, Michael Ruhlman wrote a while ago about how the classic Caesar salad was no longer really a Caesar salad in the modern American restaurant (or rather, chain).

A call to arms was made and Ruhlman proposed the Chicken Fried Pork Belly Caesar Salad, urging chefs across the country to introduce it to their menus. While chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto in San Francisco brought his version to the dish and answered the call, Mike Mavrantonis, chef of (all places), Mike Ditka's in Oakbrook has brought it to the Chicagoland area.

Kevin Pang, writer of the Trib's Stew, reviews the dish.

Naz Hamid

Recipe Wed Sep 12 2007

Fresh Corn Chowder

Street Corn. The Char imparts a Nicely Chalky Mouthfeel. Bangalore.jpgCorn stacked up in farmers markets makes me think of the nice crunch that the crisp kernels give, as they break free of the cobs. But what do we do with all the corn? In India, I've seen husked corn roasted directly on glowing hot coals in carts on the street. The char impacts a nice chalky mouthfeel. Short of my own street cart and any charcoal whatsoever, I thought of the canned creamed corn I liked as a kid. Although, I think it would be brilliant to use the chalky coal-roasted corn in soup. I broke out the immersion blender to make a thin chowder. It's a good tool because it lets you blend in the cooking pot. You don't have to let the soup cool and then transfer it to a traditional blender. And you would want to wait for it to cool. The one time that I blended hot liquid in a regular blender, the lid blew off throwing scalding hot soup all about.

You could use a roux to thicken the soup - or reduce the amount of stock. If you want to skip the stock or bouillon cubes, try adding sautéed onions just before blending. Diced potatoes will work well, too. The soup is good hot or cold, although the salt content of the stock seems more obvious when chilled.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Sep 09 2007

My Favorite Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich

My Favorite Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich. Tomato, sauted mushrooms, arugula, onion sprouts.jpg
I strolled out for a cup of coffee and a short walk to break from my Sunday afternoon reading. I came home hungry with a juicy orange tomato and an orange pepper from a farmers market I'd forgotten was going on a few blocks away. It's this kind of simple, comfortable and social going to market that inspired me to help start a program to encourage more walk-down-the-street food shopping. With slices from a loaf of multigrain, arugula and onion sprouts from a different farmers market yesterday, I toasted the perfect peanut butter treat. I used a lovely 7.5" cast iron pan I bought for a few dollars from a sidewalk sale earlier this summer. In the mouth, the peanut butter feels thick and substantial, balanced by the tomato's light juices and scrubbed clean from arugula and multigrain. The mushrooms give an earthy frangrance, and the onion sprouts leave the essence of an onion. Here's the recipe - just a few minutes of work.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Sep 07 2007

One Recipe with a Side of Rant

I am not ready to bid farewell to outdoor dining and sleeping with the air conditioner cranked. Please don't talk to me about knee-high boots, tweed coats or pumpkin anything until I see some fall foliage starting to happen, OK? See, despite the sweltering heat and humidity some would have us believe that since school and football season are back in full swing, fall is as well. The headlines on the magazine covers in the check out line read "Fall fashions for under 100 bucks!," "Celebrate Autumn with Delicious Fall Recipes," and "Prepping Your Home for Winter." That last one really irks me. It's not even Halloween. Heck, it's actually not fall, yet. There are still 14 days of summer, people!

There is, however, one thing I'm willing to put up with regarding all the hoopla over the change of the seasons: foods for noshing during football games. Perhaps it's that enjoying the salty/greasy/crunchy snacks isn't limited to the cooler seasons (however, I do think it's easier to enjoy them when you know you'll be hidden under sweaters and wool coats for the next six months).

(Keep reading for the recipe link! It's worth it, I promise.)

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Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Aug 21 2007

What Is Caramel Made Of? And Condensed Milk?

Sables FlorentinSables Florentin--squares of buttery sable with a rich almond-caramel topping--is one of my favorite sweets since childhood when my mom used to bake them for the special three-o'clock snack time. As a grown-up, though, I can't expect the indulgent dessert to magically pop out of my oven like they used to fifteen years ago. I've made them a few times, but it always seemed like a lot of work, even though the result has usually been more than satisfying. The most annoying part has been the making of caramel. If you don't know, let me just say that when you make caramel you're pouring cold fresh cream into a pot of lava-like, burning-hot (actually burning, come to think of it) sugar. Does it spatter? Oh, yeah.

But there's an alternative to that, as I've found out recently.

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (2)

Recipe Tue Aug 21 2007

Vegging on two Quick Dinners

Green City Market. Opening Day 2007.-24.jpg

I love leisurely cooking with friends. Sometimes that means more time for sipping wine and chatting than prepping food. And that's when it's time for simple recipes that don't need precision - especially after a relaxing bike trip for groceries. Some might say that rainy days aren't fun for bicycle riding, but I think those are some of the best times. Muggy Chicago summer usually drops several degrees, the air feels refreshed and the streets are cool, not hot. Yet I don't want to get wet by another downpour. A German pal sent me a rain poncho with finger straps you use to extend the poncho over your legs as you grip the handlebars. It goes brilliantly with waterproof panniers to keep your groceries dry.

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Chris Brunn

Recipe Mon Aug 20 2007

Grilled pizza: keep it light

Grilled pizza with eggplant, tomatoes, goat cheese and basilWhen our garden runneth over with tomatoes and basil, which happens ever year around now, we like to eat them up in the freshest, most unadulterated way possible. The quick answer is to slice up the 'mater, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and layer on some freshly cut basil. If I can manage to find myself a hammock to swing on while I leisurely snack on them, I'm in heaven.

The longer and possibly more rewarding answer is to make grilled pizza. The recipe we use is from Cook's Illustrated, and we agree with their rule of keeping the pizza as lightly topped as possible. Whereas an oven-baked pie is usually smothered in a layer of parmesan or mozzarella, the grilled kind should be considered an oversized bruschetta, with a few flavorful toppings that really pop.

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Sandy Weisz

Foodporn Thu Aug 16 2007

Does it Need to Look Pretty to Taste Good?

Summertime is a good time for food porn. Colorful, varied, and never boring, I find pics of summer dishes to be almost better than eating the darned thing. So when I got my hands on a recent Smitten Kitchen post about a Summer Berry Pudding, I began planning my own foray into photographed cooking. I was going to make the Summer Berry Pudding. And it was going to be artful, clean, and delicious. Just like the photos.

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Robyn Nisi

Recipe Tue Aug 14 2007

Better than Pinkberry?

We may not have Pinkberry here in Chicago, but this recipe, from The Perfect Scoop, is said to rival Pinkberry's sweet treats. I tried the recipe, and it is yummy enough to replace ice cream (most of the time, anyway), but having missed the only opportunity I've had to taste "Crackberry," I can't say for certain which is better.

Meghan Murphy Gill

Recipe Sun Aug 12 2007

Fresh Hand-Picked Plum Chutney

Meleah Plum Picking-2.jpgWhen a friend asked me to help pick some plums one neighborhood over, I couldn't say no. That takes local food to a whole new level for me. Four plums made vibrantly colorful, thick and juicy chutney. In the community spirit, cilantro came from Armitage Produce (Armitage and Kimball) on the way home.

Fresh Cilantro Plum Chutney
4 fresh plums, pitted and finely chopped
1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 dash cayenne powder for a bit of heat
4 shakes of salt
2 turns of freshly ground black pepper

Smash together with a pestle in a mortar and serve with your favorite summer veggie dish.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Tue Aug 07 2007

Blueberry Picking's Pancakes with Tofu Scram

Chris and Rose Blueberry Picking at Billy Boy's Michigan City Indiana-22.jpg

I love the way steamy blueberries burst open from hot pancakes as you break off pieces to eat. It feels even better after using berries you picked for yourself. My pal Rose drove us to Billy Boy's Blueberry Barn in Michigan City, Indiana, on comfortable and humble back roads to avoid the daily interstate congestion. Much of a blueberry plant's fruit is easily picked within an arm's length, making it something to look forward to when you're crawling around picking strawberries inches from the ground earlier in the year.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Recipe Thu Aug 02 2007

Deciding on a Homemade Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie-2.jpg

When I veganize a recipe, I often wonder if I should limit the changes just to making it vegan - something that often yields a reasonably similar product. Or should I make it healthier or incorporate some other change, too? In the latter comes the risk of wrongly associating the image of a vegan product with what might better be understood as a compromise - or adjustment - in taste driven by that other change, say to limit the amount of saturated fat, salt, sugar or just plain fun. If we want, we can fatten up vegan products quite well and tasty just like their buttery counterparts. Gladly, pitting six cups of cherries by hand left me plenty of time to think about which option to choose.

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Chris Brunn

Recipe Thu Aug 02 2007

Grown-up Ginger Lime Pops

I need not even mention that the heat is the impetus behind my attempts to cool off in a way that doesn't involve jumping in Lake Michigan. With some limes leftover from a bulk buy (the 20 for $1 deal found in Mexican groceries all over town) and some fresh ginger, I finally put to use that cute little popsicle mold I bought at Target weeks ago. Here's the recipe:

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Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (1)

Recipe Wed Jul 25 2007

Quick path to tasty grilled potatoes

Grilled potatoes with arugula and pearl onionsOn those summer nights that find you rushing to the grocery store after work with nothing planned for dinner and yearning for something fresh off the grill, try this. Instead of passing by the potato bin, bemoaning their heavy starches and long cooking time, toss a few in your basket. When you get home, punch a few holes in each and throw them in the microwave for five minutes. It's not quite long enough to cook them through, but it's enough to give them a poor man's parboil. Meanwhile, fire up the grill. When the potatoes are done, carefully thread them onto some skewers, baste with olive oil and whatever spices you like, and grill them for another five minutes. They'll be ready for a quick light summer potato salad, say with some arugula, some grilled scallions or pearl onions, and whatever other herbs you have growing in your backporch garden.

Sandy Weisz

Restaurant Sun Jul 22 2007

A Curious Orso's Inspires and plays Piano

Making a Veg Picnic Snack-3.jpg
Orso's-inspired picnic makings

A good quaint Italian restaurant reminds me of the places my grandpa would take me to. They were fine, humble, had great service, and usually a pianist through the night. Orso's takes me back there. The piano plays most nights, the lighting is romantically dim, the ceilings of Old World tin, and they take care of me changing up the menu to meet my vegan whim. Their amazingly succulent portobello lying in a juicy red wine balsamic reduction needed no change. Hearty with plenty of rosemary, its deep flavor suggested molasses. After that starter, I asked for penne in olive oil with peas and mushrooms. Again, the mushrooms were fabulous, and they were in plenty. Penne came perfectly al-dente, in plenty of well-salted olive oil. Multiple wines are available by the half carafe, and they check in on you quite well. Leaving on my most recent visit, my sweetie and I had a fine time walking around the quaint streets of Old Town Triangle a few blocks up, feeling like I was in Old World Europe.

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Chris Brunn

Recipe Sat Jul 21 2007

Chicken-Tofu Burger w/ Light Teriyaki Sauce

Not that I'm a health nut, but I like to make Japanese-style burgers with ground chicken and tofu. Light, fluffy and aromatic, this bastard child of the manly American staple can be surprisingly satisfying. Using crushed tofu in hamburgers became popular in my home country probably a decade or so ago. Although it was initially intended as a healthier option for beef-based burgers, the method quickly became something of a national favorite thanks to its lighter texture and its versatility. Perhaps not surprisingly, this tofu-based burger sits quite well with traditional Japanese meals. I'd recommend serving it with a bowl of rice, rather than between hamburger buns. And you know what? With this tasty yet healthier version of a burger, you can have a few more of those wedge fries without a tinge of guilt!

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Tue Jul 17 2007

Lemon Basil Sorbet

Liz's Basil Sorbet.jpg

Fresh basil sorbet was hiding out in my freezer when I arrived. My roomie Liz had crafted it using one of many harvests from our prolific basil plant. It's amazingly fragrant as basil should be, plus almost as simple as making ice. Almost. She didn't measure it out, so here the recipe is, approximated and as remembered after the fact.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Recipe Mon Jul 16 2007

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit . . .

Beans are magical for more reasons than that. They're cheap, easy to prepare (or find prepared), and they have the miraculous ability to sop up the alcohol in that extra beer you definitely should have said "no" to.

My favorite beans come mashed and cooked in some kind of fat. Refritos, or refried beans, are so delicious at my local taqueria, but making them at home gives me a little control over the amount of fat in which they're cooked. Here's a recipe I love to use for Guatemalan refritos from the Mennonite cookbook, Extending the Table.

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Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (1)

Recipe Wed Jul 11 2007

Mayo Hater Potato Salad

"My informal research shows that there are lots of guys like me. There must be hundreds of mayonnaise-adverse men who are being ignored by the picnic side dish industry," says my husband the ad guy.

While I have no distaste for the classic condiment, I do think that any dish destined for an outdoor event ought to avoid the stuff. A mayo-based salad of any kind baking in the sun is just asking for trouble. So, I thought I'd share the recipe I came up with to appease both my hubby and any other folks who may share his mayo-hatah solidarity.

Mayo Hater Potato Salad

2 lbs small red potatoes
1 T Dijon mustard*
2 T cider vinegar
3 T olive oil
½ c loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 small red bell pepper, small dice
1 green onion, green & white parts, chopped
2 stalks celery, small dice
2-3 T red onion, very small dice
Salt & pepper to taste

Bring half a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
Add potatoes. Boil for 20-25 min until just tender.
Drain and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together mustard and cider vinegar.
Slowly whisk in olive oil. It should emulsify into a thick dressing. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
(I usually start with about 8 turns of pepper mill and 2 pinches salt.)
Rough chop cilantro and mix into vinaigrette.
Add red pepper, green onion, celery, and red onion and stir to coat.

Once potatoes are cool, cut into eighths or small pieces.
Add potatoes to bowl and gently toss with vegetables and dressing mixture.
Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Cover and chill for about an hour before serving.

Makes about 4 side dish servings.

* Substitute a sweet/hot mustard or honey mustard for a different flavor.

Christine Blumer / Comments (2)

Recipe Tue Jul 10 2007

Milanese Zucchini Soup, Warm or Cold

Zucchini Soup-3.jpg

My pal Rose had a dinner where her friend Elena (pronounced Elen-Ah) from Milan, Italy, prepared a fabulous zucchini soup from back home. "It was so fun," Rose told me as she made this soup for me. "She makes the best pizza in the world, too." Sauté the sliced onion in a pan with a thin layer of hot oil on medium heat. We used two spring onions from the farmers market instead of a grown-up medium yellow onion. Stir the thin onion slices around a bit to coat with oil, and when they're between translucent and lightly golden, add the sliced zucchini. Cover and let it sweat. After a few minutes, when the vegetables have softened a bit, cover with vegetable stock, or water if you're using bullion cubes. For the latter, Rose recommends sautéing three veggie bullion cubes in the olive oil when you start, before you add the onions, to infuse the oil with its flavor. Boil the liquid down, uncovered, until the zucchini is tender, when it succumbs to a piercing fork without resisting. Next, add parsley. Blend until just a little chunky.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Recipe Mon Jul 09 2007

Bacon and Burdock Seasoned Rice

One of my favorite food categories in Japanese cuisine is takikomi gohan--seasoned rice. Takikomi gohan is usually seasoned with soy sauce, fish or kelp stock, sugar, and various ingredients like chicken, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots are cut into tiny bits and added. There are wide range of condiments and ingredients that can be used in takikomi gohan, and it seems as though a new one is invented every day. Despite experimentations, however, takikomi gohan remains deeply seated in a Japanese mind as a comfort food that evokes the image of home and the rhythmic tapping sounds of the mother's knife against her cutting board.

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Sat Jul 07 2007

Pan-fried Shredded Breakfast Potatoes


These remind me of the hash browns I used to order all the time in the Chicago diners I'd happily frequent years ago before my vegan days. Shredding makes them fluffy and super soft and helps develop a nice even brown. Boil two medium russet potatoes until a fork goes in with just a tap (use any kind you like, but these are nicely starchy). If you cube them first, they'll boil much faster but make sure you have a food processor with a shredding disc as their size will make them very challenging to shred with a hand grater. Drain, rinse to cool, shake dry and shred. Mix in a few shakes of salt, more if you're a big fan of it with potatoes. Heat oil on medium in a medium pan (try a seasoned cast iron pan to give a nice brown without sticking). When the oil is hot and a touch of potato sizzles, lay down the shredded potatoes all at once to a single round about 1/4" thick and wait for the bottom to brown. Then flip - all at once if you can - and wait for the other side to go golden. Serve hot with BBQ sauce and freshly ground black pepper.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Wed Jul 04 2007

Tarting It Up

Berry Tart Though the season's patriotic holidays have passed us by, this tart is not strictly a red, white and blue affair. Any summer fruit can be substituted for the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries which star in this incarnation. What is most appealing about this recipe is the unexpected ingredients in its shell and filling: gingersnaps and Greek yogurt. Both make for a lighter, spicier, tangier flavor than you find in a typical fruit pie. Read on for the recipe.

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Dana Currier / Comments (2)

Recipe Sun Jul 01 2007

One Random Fresh Meal

Meleah's sweet potatoes-2.jpg

My dinner companion Meleah went through loads of fresh vegetables that had been overwhelming my fridge. This is, "what happens when lawyers in brief-writing mode get a nap," she told me as she moved from chopping block to stove making two dishes for us as I shot photos. She pan-fried thin sweet potatoes slices with onions and hot olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Without a lid, she covered up with a sheet pan to get the potatoes cooking in their centers. "Tender to the bite," Meleah told me, but not too dry. Just after it all started to brown, fresh sage went in. Some stayed soft and tender, other pieces nicely crispened. Salt and freshly ground pepper finished it, because potatoes love this.

A Mediterranean-inspired salad came next. Meleah sautéed garlic in olive oil, then stirred in a large bowl of fresh spinach and a can of chickpeas and cooked it until the spinach went soft and wilted - just about enough time to put a little warmth on the chickpeas. She stirred in golden raisins, chopped Kalamata olives picked from their salty brine and chopped roasted cashews. A few good splashes of balsamic vinegar, salt and freshly ground pepper made it right. "Brine, salt and sweet," Meleah told me. What do you do if your spinach is too wet but it's wilted enough? Run it through a colander.

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Chris Brunn

Drink Sun Jul 01 2007

My Sweet Clementines

Currently, Trader Joe’s is carrying some of the finest little Clementine oranges I’ve seen in quite a while. Grown in Chile, this variety of mandarin orange is sold in 2lb. netted bags that retail for a very friendly $3.50. These “Premium Clementines” rate very highly in taste and have an uncommon juiciness that makes for a bit of a messy snack, but one heck of a cocktail ingredient. Sure, they work quite well in any recipe that calls for a little OJ, but a simple cocktail allows the Clementine juice’s uniquely tangy sweetness to take center stage. I’ve put together a distinctly summertime drink recipe that’s as simple as it is delicious. I’ve left the template loose to accommodate a variety of tastes.

(Continued below the fold...)

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Bryan Delano III

Recipe Wed Jun 27 2007

Shiratama Dango: Japanese Summer Dessert Dumplings

Sweet Rice FlourTo survive the unbearably hot and humid Japanese summers, the Japanese have created a nice array of cold sweets. Today, I made one of them: shiratama dango. Tender dumplings made of sweet rice flour, shiratama dango roughly translates to "white pearl dumplings." It’s extremely easy to make, and pretty versatile in terms of what to accompany it with. Shiratama dango has a resilient yet smooth texture like mochi (surprise!). You can buy the sweet rice flour (called “shiratamako”) in Japanese grocery stores like Mitsuwa, or you can use the “mochiko” that Lori used for her mochi cake. Photographed here is a package of shiratamako that I purchased at Mitsuwa, in Arlington Heights.

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Yu Kizawa

Recipe Wed Jun 13 2007

Go Green With Salsa Verde

Salsa VerdeMy new green obsession has little to do with the environmentally-minded trends that have become so popular in recent months.

Until a few days ago, I've always preferred the red salsas over the green ones. But something happened and now I can't get enough salsa verde. So I made a giant batch of it yesterday, using a recipe supposedly attributed to Rick Bayless (I don't recall where I found it).

If you are a little less DIY-inclined, my two favorites for the tomatillo-based salsa verdes are Chef Earl's Salsa Verde and Frontera's Tomatillo Salsa.

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Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (3)

Recipe Tue May 29 2007

A Chicago Crab Caper

So, summer’s pretty much here and naturally the future-wife and I are out in the back yard, sitting in the sun, lazily sipping on beers, discussing what to make for dinner. After some misfires, the idea hits. It gets a lukewarm response at first, then it picks up steam. Within ten minutes we can’t get the idea out of our heads. Crabcakes.

My God, it’s lazy, sunny days like these that sweet and flaky crabcakes were invented to compliment. Perfect. But, we’ve got a whole week’s worth of groceries to pick up and a cross-town jaunt to the fancy-pants seafood market for air-mailed, big-dollar, fresh crab would just kill the moment at this point. It’s gonna have to be mid-grade, pasteurized, canned crab from a nearby supermarket. That’s not nearly as bad an idea as it sounds, because, once the cakes are assembled and cooked, only a seriously sophisticated palate will be able to distinguish our preserved crab from any that comes with a weekly “serve by” date. So, our search came down to price, naturally.

The brands and varieties we found were all suitable for our crabcake needs, but Trader Joe’s scored the best for offering the lowest prices and for stocking three types of canned crab meat. There’s a mid-grade, jumbo lump from Jack’s Catch for a city-wide low of $8.99/lb., a mid-grade, jumbo lump from Byrd International for the same price, and a higher-grade, body and claw blend from Byrd’s for $10.49/lb. (By comparison, Whole Foods offers only the Jack’s Catch, but asks $16.99/lb., and the only brand we were able to find at Jewel was from Chicken of the Sea for a ghastly $19.99 per ½ lb. tub.)

(Below the fold: Asian Crabby Patties with Avocado Lime Sauce recipe.)

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Bryan Delano III

Ingredient Sun May 27 2007

Young Garlics in Full Swing

Young Garlic

If the well-stocked stalls at Evanston's Farmers Market is any indication, young garlics are now fully in season. On Saturday, almost all the produce stands boasted a pile of beautiful young garlic stalks. I wasn't quite sure what to do with them, but the pure white bulbs and the dewy green leaves were too much of an appeal to forgo, so I picked up a bunch from the stand of Henry's Farm, an organic farm in central Illinois.

If this were the tender flower stalks of garlic, I would lightly blanch them and marinate them with nam pla (Thai fish sauce) and sweet chili sauce. But as I cut the leaves, I realized that the leaves may be a bit too fibery for that. So I decided to make Chinese stir-fry. First, I made the sauce (a must for time-sensitive stir-fries): about 1/2 tablespoon of oyster sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar, a drizzle of sesame oil and a pinch of ground black pepper. This is for two people.

Then I sautéed minced ginger in oil, and added thinly sliced carrots and garlic leaves. When the veggies are about done, I stirred in three eggs, and poured in the sauce, quickly mixing all the ingredients together. Even after cooking, the leaves still retained the green and garlicky flavor, but it was much more understated than the flavor of fully mature garlic bulbs. Served with rice, the stir-fry brought the sense of season (that's nearly lost in this era of global food distribution) to our lunch table.

Now I'll have to figure out what to do with the remaining bulbs; I might try slicing them into marinade, as I would onions, or even using them raw in a salad.

Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Recipe Mon May 21 2007

Bacon Cornmeal Waffles

Sure, it's Monday, which probably means you'll be lucky if you have time to grab a bowl of cereal for breakfast for the next five days. That just means you have all week to look forward to a weekend brunch. But instead of going out this weekend, stay in, brew some coffee at home and try this delicious recipe for waffles made with cornmeal and bacon.

The recipe comes from the newest edition of Joy of Cooking, but I'm including my own notes, as I've prepared these waffles many, many times. I also like to serve these with whipped maple butter (and I've included a "how to" for that, as well).

Cornbread and bacon waffles
The waffles served in bite-size pieces for this weekend's Beerfly Alley Fight.

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Meghan Murphy Gill

Ingredient Mon May 21 2007

Find ingredients for Ethiopian food at Kukulu Market

Berbere and InjeraIf you haven't given homemade Ethiopian food a try because of the sheer difficulty of mixing up a proper berbere, now is your chance. One of my favorite shops in Chicago, Kukulu Market sells the spice mixture in large quantities for a low price (around $6 for a pint-size container!). You can also purchase three large rounds of injera for only $1.50 and Niter Kebbeh, a delicious spiced butter. Whenever I bring home the spongy and sour flat bread made with tef flour, I feel such gratitude for the fact that I live in a city with such a multitude of foods and ingredients available. Kukulu also sells Ethiopian coffees, spices for chai and traditional coffee sets. It's located in Edgewater, home to a large Ethiopian community, on Broadway, right across from the Ethiopian Diamond.

If you have zero to little experience with Ethiopian food, the owners are delightful and love to talk about their food. Ask them questions and they'll be certain to give informative answers.

Or, you can use my recipe for Miser Wat.

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Meghan Murphy Gill

Recipe Sun May 20 2007

Cardamom Pistachio Coffee Cake

Vegan Cardamom Pistachio Coffee Cake-2.jpg

I'm a big fan of crumbly-topped cakes. When I was thinking about making a cake for a brunch party today, I thought of topping it with a streusel of pistachios ground with olive oil and emitting the certain gentle and lingering fragrance that only comes from cardamom. Thanks to plenty of coconut and olive oil, the cake is especially rich and moist with a terrific crumb.

The batter comes modified from the coconut cake on last year's Veggie Bike and Cook: a coconut cardamom pistachio cake. Replace all of the canola oil with olive oil for good measure. You'll get two cakes because that recipe is designed for stacking into a double-layer cake, but there's no need to stack this time. Forget the icing or frosting and use the streusel noted here - modified from the coffee cake topping in the Voluptuous Vegan.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (3)

Thu May 10 2007

White Peaches @ Whole Foods Means Bellini Time


White peaches from California are available at Whole Foods in Lakeview right now, which means true Bellini cocktails are just a blender spin away. The famous Italian aperitif starts with a glass of cold Prosecco (an inexpesive sparkling wine from Italy), topped with a white peach nectar puree, and garnished with a berry or perhaps a little nugget of the stone fruit and a sprig of mint. Epicurious has a recipe from the Hotel Cipriani in Venice that is both simple and classic. Best make them quick. The white peach season is notoriously short.

Christine Blumer / Comments (2)

Recipe Sun May 06 2007

Breakfast for Reading in Bed

Hominy Upma Style. Breakfast in Bed.jpg
Black mustard seeds are the black round dots. Split black gram is the oval black spots, one side round, the other flat - where the pulse was split into two.

I felt like making a quick but tasty breakfast this morning. Something that involved nothing more than light chopping and adding a sequence of ingredients to a hot pan. Something humbly seasoned, with a little nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and protein. Something that'd offer me some smiles but would quickly free me to hop back into bed with the newspaper.

Change the ingredients below to fit what you have in your kitchen. While usually plenty fun, leaving for groceries steals coziness from a meal in bed, regardless of whether you're alone or not. I started with the base from an upma recipe that I wrote about earlier: peanut oil, split black gram, mustard seeds and cashews. You may skip the black gram - but it adds a soft crunch. Replace the basil and curry leaves, use another seed like sunflower or sesame, substitute olive or canola oil, switch chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for tempeh, change hominy to cooked rice or ripped up small pieces of bread. Use color, like red onions, yellow raisins and green herbs. Make whatever changes are needed, so you don't have to leave your home (so long as you have some basics).

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Chris Brunn

Recipe Wed May 02 2007

Breakfast from India: Savory, Fluffy and Wholesome Upma

Upma and Coconut Chutney.jpg

You'll find upma for breakfast inside homes in parts of India. It's just as satisfying in Chicago - a savory, fluffy wholesome dish made from coarsely ground wheat. I had some cooking - the way I learned from Satya's mom in Bombay - as my friend Arline rolled in with Medjool dates, lovely tender olives and two spinach pies from the Middle East Bakery. We loaded a bounty of the dates - more than we could eat. "The feeling of plenty is always nice," Arline elaborated. As I bit into the spinach, the olive oil inside tasted incredible. "They know what they're doing with olive oil," Arline said. "They're not skimping."

Upma comes loaded with veggies, but they were mostly on vacation in my version this time - no peas or cauliflower like Satya's mom showed me because I didn't have them handy. This upma did have carrots - orange instead of the red Delhi carrots she used in India. Aside from my deviations, it turned out just as fluffy and tasty. You can find the wheat, called rava (labeled Upma Rava), from Patel Brothers on Devon Avenue - but you can also buy it as the coarsely ground wheat semolina that is more commonly found here. I've bought fresh curry leaves for this dish a few doors down at Fresh Farms. Upma's great with a side of plain soy yogurt; and it's good leftover cold. We ate it with cups of Nescafé, the instant coffee that seems big in India.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Recipe Mon Apr 23 2007

Coconut Cardamom Pistachio Cake

Leftover Coconut Cardamom Cake topped with Pistachios.jpg

The Chopping Block demonstrated an incredible two-layer vegan coconut cake on last year's Veggie Bike and Cook. Their recipe comes out incredibly moist and tender, with a nice crumb. I remember my pal Rose enjoying a large three-sized piece I'd made and frozen to save. "This is reminiscent of the olive oil cake in terms of texture," she said. "It's good, Chris. It's very good." My roomie Liz had added about 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice to the frosting that time.

Another time, my pal Meleah and I added cardamom, pistachios and a touch of salt to the recipe. We substituted 1/2 cup of the canola oil with olive oil. Meleah pedaled off to this cake's destination, a friend's party, with it still in pieces: the layers in the springform pans tucked into a milk crate on her bicycle's rack, a container of frosting and chopped pistachios for the topping. Meleah said, "It's one of the best cakes I've ever had! And it's got tofu in it!" We deviated from the Chopping Block's icing with an ad-hoc tofu cream cheese frosting that Meleah noted, "I don't think it gets much better than that." Below's the cake recipe, modifications from this version noted.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Apr 19 2007

Pancakes: Chocolate Chunk and Toasted Pecan

Nutty Pancakes and Warm Bananas-2.jpg

I took today off to spend some time with my visiting pal Sujata. We kicked it off making the vegan yogurt pancakes that I wrote about earlier. We made a few key modifications that made these pancakes taste "really nutty" and "really good," as Sujata put it. We replaced 1/4 cup of the flour with chestnut flour that I've stored in the freezer since I bought it from Chestnut Growers at Green City Market last year. We also tossed in chopped up bittersweet chocolate and a handful of toasted pecans.

3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup chestnut flour
1+1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 ounces vanilla soy yogurt (I find Stonyfield's O'Soy to be the richest)
3/4 cup soy milk
1 ounce of a bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped
1 handful pecans halves (raw if you're going to toast yourself - see instructions)
oil for the pan

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Chris Brunn / Comments (5)

Recipe Fri Apr 13 2007

Yogurt Pancakes

Vegan Yogurt Pancakes-6.jpg

Wake up and make your sweetie something special tomorrow. Cultures in soy yogurt give these pancakes a pleasant slightly tangy flavor. Turn on Jens Lekman's I Saw Her in the Anti War Demonstration; his lyrics, "with lukewarm English beer and vegan pancakes" go perfectly with these.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (5)

Recipe Fri Apr 06 2007

Reanimating Brown Sugar

There’s not all that many culinary occasions that call for brown sugar, but when it’s needed, there’s just no substitute. So, we all keep that box of brown sugar hidden away somewhere in the pantry or the fridge and pull it out a few times a year just to carve a couple of chunks from the rock-hard mass. Then it’s promptly sent back to kitchen purgatory to await the next batch of cookies, sweet potatoes, or glazed ham.

Improvising a hammer and chisel just to free a few tablespoons of sugary goodness can be maddening if not downright dangerous business. And if you’re anything like me, it’s guaranteed to be a messy, sugar-strewn affair.

(Insert your TV infomercial battle cry, “There’s Gotta Be a Better Way!” here.)

Yes, there certainly is.

The preferred method in our kitchen is to put a damp—not dripping—cloth over the top of the sugar bowl, placing the lid on top (bowls and jars are far classier than that old beat-up cardboard box the sugar came in a few years ago, right?). Leave it be for a few hours and you’ll find the brown sugar far more agreeable than it’s been. Leave overnight and it’ll be as friendly as the day you took it home!

If you’re in a hurry you can always pop the bowl, cloth and lid in the microwave for a minute, but be sure to heat at short intervals and watch vigilantly as it is sugar, after all, and is more than happy to melt. And if you don’t have a cloth or towel handy, or just dislike trees, you can always use a few paper towels.

Bryan Delano III / Comments (3)

Recipe Sun Mar 11 2007

Curried lentils for the last cold days of winter

Curried Lentils

Despite the warm, sunny days we've had this weekend and the early arrival of daylight-saving time, winter is far from over. I try to remind myself of that so I don't break out the flip flops too early and end up getting caught barefoot in the inevitable early April blizzard. So I'm still compelled to make soups and other warming dishes to keep me toasty through the next few weeks. As I wondered what I could cook and freeze for easy dinners for the coming week, a big pot of curried lentils seemed perfect. I also just happened to have in my cabinet a giant bag of red lentils which I purchased quite a while ago at the Middle Eastern Bakery at the intersection of Clark and Foster. The variety of beans available there is staggering but I always gravitate toward lentils because they cook so quickly and don't need to be soaked for hours like other beans.

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Dana Currier

Recipe Sat Mar 10 2007

Have Sandwich, Will Travel

Heading to the South Side for the parade tomorrow? Don’t worry about trying to fit a Tupperware of juicy corned beef and cabbage into your backpack. Instead, pack up a bunch of tasty Reuben sandwiches and surprise your friends with a satisfying treat to soak up some of that green beer! Do it Chicago Style, courtesy of Vienna Beef.

The history of this delicious sandwich is much debated; read about it here.

Mary Smith

Recipe Sat Mar 10 2007

Sleep in Tomorrow!

Don’t forget to set your clock ahead an hour tonight! Why not use that as a great excuse to try a make-ahead breakfast treat, so that when you do get up and realize what time it is, you can smile and crawl back under the covers because all you have to do is pop this dish in the oven and relax…

This egg and cheese strata recipe is totally basic; but you can easily dress up a strata with a layer of sautéed zucchini, asparagus, onions, garlic, or other tasty veggies. You can add salsa or a mix of hot chiles; you can put some ham, bacon, or other meat in there as well. Use this recipe as a starting point, and then let your imagination run wild!

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Mary Smith

Recipe Thu Mar 08 2007

Top of the Cornin' to Ye

If you're not of the Bridgeport-dwelling, Daley-endorsing, South Side Irish, but you're still hoping to pull out all the stops for St. Patrick's Day, have yourself a look at my aunt's recipe for corned beef (her notes included). It takes about a week, but it's easy to do as there's very little work involved. If you start this weekend, you have exactly enough time to prepare the beef in time for a "traditional" boiled dinner (Yeah, yeah, supposedly the real Irish don't actually eat corned beef and cabbage, but the real Irish celebrate the feast of St. Patrick by going to Mass, not by drinking green beer and donning kelly green everything).

"This meat is always tender and has just the right amount of salt to it," says my aunt Mary Lynn Lawless, supplier of the recipe. "It is easy enough to do and kids especially love to be the ones to stir the meat in the bucket."

The beef will appear more gray than the reddish corned beef you get at a deli, but it's delicious, and who can deny the kids a chance to "stir the meat in the bucket"?

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Meghan Murphy Gill

Recipe Sun Mar 04 2007

Even Faster than No-Knead? No Yeast!


When Mark Bittman published a recipe for "No Knead Bread" in The New York Times dining section several months ago, all hell broke loose. Some proclaimed it a miracle, some argued that it didn't work, and some wondered if kneading was really all that difficult in the first place.

Several Chicagoans gave the recipe a try, but I was not among them. I have what you might call a difficult relationship with yeast, and so, even without the kneading, I was not convinced that this recipe would yield good results for me. So when I discovered Bittman's newest bread recipe, published in last week's New York Times, I was elated. This recipe was for quick bread, as in no yeast whatsoever.

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Dana Currier

Recipe Tue Feb 27 2007

The Great Chicken Epiphany

roastchicken.jpgRoasting a chicken can be deceptively simple. I've tried numerous variations of buttering, basting, and rotating espoused by Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and lots of other fancy chefs, but never achieved the perfect combo of juicy meat and crispy skin. Until now. Even better, this "recipe" is simple enough for even the most unskilled cook. Legendary chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame offers My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken on for a limited time. Check it out. Eat it with a giant butter bomb Chardonnay from Carneros or Central Coast California.

One note: Check the reader reviews on this one. It's definitely best prepared in a gas oven that's been cleaned once or twice since the Clinton administration.

Christine Blumer

Recipe Wed Feb 21 2007

Talkin' about a different kind of pie

The cover story in the Trib's Good Eating section today is a big love letter to Spacca Napoli, the year-old very-thin-crust-pizza joint at Sunnyside and Ravenswood. And deservedly so; the pizza there -- crust light as air, toppings low in volume but high in flavor -- is sublime and certainly worth the hour wait that usually comes without a reservation. The article briefly talks about the recent rash of Neopolitan pizza restaurants in Chicago, where pizza trends have forever leaned toward the robust, and then segues into how to make this type of pizza at home.

Photo courtesy of Spacca Napoli

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Sandy Weisz / Comments (4)

Recipe Tue Feb 13 2007

Sugar Waffles, Belgian Style

In the U.S. we eat waffles on a plate, with a slathering of syrup and, often, a side of bacon. In Belgium, waffles are sometimes eaten on a plate, if they come from the northern part of the country, and they're covered in powdered sugar, whipped cream or fruit. But the better tasting version of the Belgian waffle is sold from trucks or out of pastry-shop windows, wrapped in paper and eaten on the go. These are known as Gaufres Liegeoises, or Sugar Waffles from Liege, a city in the southern part of Belgium. Unlike the cakey northern waffle, the sugar waffle is dense and sweet. No topping needed. They’re made with large sugar crystals, or pearl sugar, which caramelize on the outside and form a glaze, but stay crunchy on the inside.

I lived in Belgium for three years and, of course, fell in love with the cheese, the beer and the waffles. It's not too hard to find the cheese or the beer in the U.S. The waffles: not so easy. I brought back a cookbook, "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium," and the intention to make some sugar waffles of my own. But every time I'd look at the recipe (and it's been six years), I'd slam the book shut and back away from the kitchen. So it was a special treat for me when my husband brought me to the sugar waffle shop he’d discovered in Lake View, called Baladoche (2905 North Clark St.)

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Lori Barrett / Comments (16)

Recipe Sun Feb 11 2007

Sweets for your sweet


Valentine's Day is upon us, and instead of unloading lots of dough on long-stemmed roses or candlelight dinners, why not whip up some dough and make these cookies for your sweetheart? Though they demand a bit more labor than your average cookie, the extra work definitely pays off. The final product is worthy of any good bakery. You can fill these with any flavor jam, but for a cookie that replicates something you might find in a certain Swedish Bakery, I recommend using lingonberry preserves. They are tart, but not too tart, and sweet, but not too sweet, and can be obtained from any of the various Swedish food shops in Andersonville, including Wikstrom's and Erickson's. At about five bucks a jar, plus a few more for flour, sugar, butter, and pecans, this recipe makes for a perfect Valentine's Day treat that looks like (but doesn't cost) a million bucks.

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Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Feb 08 2007

Chicago to Bombay and Back Again

Chicago food is taking me to India. More accurately, cooking Indian food with my pals in Chicago is taking me. I'm curious to see how much the dosas (thin and crispy crepe-like pancakes folded over, sometimes filled) differ in Bombay and Bangalore from Devon Avenue's Udupi and Mysore Woodlands. Even more interesting will be comparing the dosa differences among Indian cities. I imagine chutneys fresh off the streets, like produce fresh from Chicago's farmers' markets with flavors that will far exceed my expectations as set by commercially prepared varieties from Patel Brothers on Devon. 

soy yogurt and spices with eggplant

Three of my pals, two from Bombay and a third an American Desi, seeded this trip in a Chicago apartment last August. During a cooking session, one of them blended onions and garlic, and then moved them to a pot to sauté in hot oil for a very savory eggplant dish from back home. He let the onions darken and reduce, about 15 minutes. He had sliced globular Thai eggplants almost through to the stem a few times with parallel cuts, and started to roast them. It was his serious attention and patience that was about to make this dish amazingly tender and flavorful.

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Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Feb 08 2007

Olive Oil Cake Welcomes to Chicago

I’m not sure there’s a better way than baking together to make a friend who’s new to Chicago feel right at home. Since both of us are vegans, we figured we’d convert a recipe together. How about madly, and serendipitously, succeeding with an olive oil cake that’s rich with flavor, extremely moist, light, fluffy, golden and delicious and 100% vegan? Here’s how:

Eggless Olive Oil Cake (1).jpg

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Chris Brunn

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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