Thursday, February 25, 2010

Update: Bye bye, Bake Sales...

The measure to allow the sale of packaged foods in place of bake sales in New York City schools passed...sad. Here's the article.


My mom is from southeastern Massachusetts...Fall River to be exact. Going back as far as I can remember, we have done a summer family vacation in Massachusetts - Scituate, Westport, Chappaquiddick, Dartmouth, and probably a few other places in between when I was a lot younger. There is a big Portuguese population in southeastern Massachusetts, and therefore that's where some of the most delicious chourico can be found. Chourico (shur-EE-so) is a smoked pork sausage spiced with paprika. I admittedly didn't start eating it until recent years (I used to be a horribly picky eater), but I think chourico has pretty much always been part of a few breakfasts and/or lunches on family vacation. We usually cook it by slicing it in half lengthwise and giving it a nice char either on the bbq or in a skillet, and then serving it with scrambled eggs or just on a roll. This is not the same thing as the Goya brand of chorizo you might be able to find in some grocery's way better. I always thought it was all chorizo, but upon some seriously meaty research I found that the Spanish and Mexican versions are chorizo, and the Portuguese version is chourico.

I found this article online about different southeastern Massachusetts-based companies that sell chourico, and linguica (another type of sausage). It's probably more than you ever wanted to know, but this is how I entertain my unemployed self. I am going to Boston this weekend and I asked my sister to pick up some chourico for me to bring back to Chicago, but she said she wouldn't have time (seriously, why is driving an hour to buy me sausages not a priority?). But several of the companies listed in that article sell their products online, so I am definitely going to order some and anxiously await it's arrival like most girls my age would anxiously await an online purchase of new shoes. Several of these places also sell Portuguese sweet bread, as well as Autocrat coffee syrup (which isn't Portuguese, but very New England). I might not be able to hold back when I place my order. I'll tell you all about it and take pictures once it's here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Twist on Steak & Potatoes

I love watching Paula Deen on the Food Network, especially when she bakes (which seems to be most of the time). I can't wait to make her strawberry shortcake recipe this summer. And I definitely appreciate her love of butter. On one show I saw recently, they brought out a bust of her carved out of butter. I can only hope someone does the same for me one day. I watched an episode of her show last weekend, where her son was a guest and they cooked some of his recipes together. A couple of them looked pretty good, so I decided to give them a try last night - balsamic-glazed London broil and cinnamon sweet potato wedges. I also made sauteed spinach. The sweet potatoes were my favorite thing on the plate...really soft, and sweet and salty at the same time. Below are the recipes- I made some very minor changes to them.

Balsamic-glazed London broil (for 2):
1 (1-pound) London broil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf

Preheat the broiler and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Season the meat with the salt and pepper. In a large skillet over low heat, combine the vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and bay leaf. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half and is a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Discard the garlic and bay leaf.

Put the meat on the baking sheet and slather it with the glaze. Broil the meat 4 inches from the heat until it reaches the desired level of doneness, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from the broiler to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the meat against the grain and transfer it to a serving platter.

**The recipe actually calls for a 3 lb. London broil, but that was too much meat for 2 people. I used the same amount of glaze though, so if you did want to make for more people I would double the amount of glaze.

Baked sweet potato wedges (for 2):
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 sweet potatoes, peeled
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cinnamon. Add the potato wedges to the butter and toss to combine. Season the potatoes with the salt and pepper.

Spread the potatoes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving dish and serve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bye Bye, Bake Sales...

I just came across this post on a New York Times blog. Not like I have a kid in New York City public schools, but this is just crazy! Granted, it hasn't passed yet, but will be voted on tomorrow.

"Nine months after effectively banning most fund-raising food sales in city schools, a city panel will vote Wednesday on an amended regulation that will allow student groups to sell items like Pop-Tarts and Doritos during the school day, but not brownies, zucchini bread or anything else homemade."

Soy Vay Salmon

I know I say everything I cook is easy (which it is), but this takes the cake. It's literally a piece of fish, and a jar of marinade. Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce is a sweet soy sesame marinade that I started using on salmon because my mom does. It's really good, it's just the perfect cross between sweet and salt. I had never looked at the ingredients and so decided to last night, worried that it might have high fructose corn syrup in it (the horror! My craze over corn syrup is still in full effect after seeing Food, Inc.). I should have known better if my mom uses's made from all natural ingredients, and the sweetness comes from sugar. You can find it in pretty much any grocery store. Sometimes it's not in the marinade section, but on it's own by the butcher/fish counter. I made the fish last night with my version of Thai pineapple fried rice (but really with quinoa), and a faux Caesar salad (which doesn't really go with the theme...but I had leftover Romaine hearts to use).

Teriyaki salmon for 2 people:
a little under 1 lb. salmon
about 1/4 cup Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the fish skin-side down on a piece of foil, on a baking sheet. Fold the sides of the foil straight up, maybe an inch. Pour the sauce over top of the fish, and cook in the oven for 18-20 minutes, depending on how thick the fish is. Use a spatula to remove the fish from the baking sheet, and the skin sticks to the foil and comes very easily away from the fish.

I use foil under the fish because of the sugar in this marinade - when it's cooked at a high temperature, and the sauce the runs off the fish onto the sheet it burns and turns into black char and is really hard to clean off the baking sheet, so it's easier to just throw the foil away.

Thai pineapple quinoa:
1 cup quinoa, dry
2 cups water or chicken stock
about 1/2 cup pineapple, sliced into small pieces
about 1/4 cup unsalted cashews
about 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Combine quinoa with water or chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Mix in pineapple, cashews, and cranberries. Those measurements are very loose...mix in however much looks good to you.

I say this is a version of Thai pineapple fried rice, just because it has some of the same components as a dish we used to order from a Thai restaurant in Chelsea. It also had egg and scallions and sausage in it, but the best part was the pineapple. Next time I might add a few more things to it.

Faux Caesar salad for 4 people (I usually cut in half):
2 rolls, cut into cubes
1 tsp. garlic salt
3 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil + extra for croutons
1 Tbl. mayonnaise
1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbl. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbl. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
3 bunches Romaine hearts, torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread cubes with some olive oil, and season with garlic salt. Bake on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. While the croutons bake, prepare the dressing. Mix together the olive oil, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, garlic, and parmesan cheese. Pour over the lettuce in a big salad bowl, and add croutons when finished. Garnish with more parmesan and/or freshly ground pepper.

I have no idea where I got this recipe, it's been written in my recipe book for years. Probably from a magazine. I say it's faux Caesar salad because it doesn't have anchovies. I really like Caesar salad with anchovies, I would rather just make it at home without them because it's easier. Sorry, anchovies. But this dressing is really good! The homemade croutons really make the salad, they're nice and crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. You don't have to use rolls, if you have Italian or French bread that works too. It's just easier to buy the rolls if you don't want to buy a whole huge loaf of bread.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I Heart Cupcakes

I mean really, who doesn't?

I live right above a cupcake store. It's literally 10 feet from the front door of my building. Maybe less. Which is dangerous, especially when the smell wafts into the lobby of my building. This place is called More, and I didn't try it for awhile because the cupcakes looked too fancy and pretty to be good. But...I was wrong. I went for the first time back in December, and just went for the second time a couple days ago. They have some really crazy flavors like BLT, goat cheese basil, and margarita. They also have flavors you might expect like red velvet, cookies & cream, chocolate caramel, and plenty of others. The first time I got plain vanilla cake with milk chocolate icing which was excellent, and this time around I got Valrhona chocolate. It had a pretty little piece of edible gold leaf on top, some kind of creamy chocolate mousse inside, as well as a soft little piece of chocolate. To die for.

Oh, and for you non-Chicago people - don't worry, you can order them online.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Last night, upon Peter's request, I made lasagna. I haven't made one in a long time, but I have to turned out really well. I made it with ground veal, but you can use ground beef, or no meat at all. I made my own sauce, but you can of course use a jar instead. I was also able to find some really good fresh lasagna noodles that didn't need to be boiled prior to going in the oven. I used a 8x8 pan so my recipe is a bit smaller than some of those that call for a 9x13 pan.

olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can chopped Italian tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup hot water
1 Tbl oregano
1/4 cup red wine

1 package lasagna noodles
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
4 Tbl pesto
1 lb ground veal
2 cloves garlic, minced

If your lasagna noodles require boiling, set a large pot of water to heat up while you prepare the sauce and veal.

Get the sauce going first - this can simmer while you do everything else. In a medium saucepan heat up some olive oil and saute the onion and garlic. I used about 2/3 of the half onion here and saved the rest for the veal. After about 5 minutes add the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and water. Stir until smooth. Add the oregano and red wine and let simmer.

Heat up olive oil, the rest of the chopped onion, and 2 cloves minced garlic in a medium skillet. After a few minutes add the ground veal, breaking it up in the pan. Let veal cook through, until no longer pink.

Boil your lasagna noodles. I didn't have to cook my noodles, but some recipes say to lay cooked noodles on a damp kitchen towel to keep them from sticking to each other. You could also drain them and add some cold water to the pot to keep them from sticking, and from continuing to cook in the hot water. Just make sure to pat them dry before layering into the baking dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the ricotta and pesto in a bowl. Add a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, to keep your first layer of noodles from sticking. Add a layer of noodles, not overlapping. Next spread some of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle mozzarella, then parmesan, then some of the meat, and lastly spoon some sauce over everything. Then start over - noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, meat, sauce. Keep layering until the dish is full and you've used all your ingredients. For the top layer I did just noodles, then sauce and the cheeses on the top. Lightly cover with foil and cook about 35 minutes. Take the foil off and put under the broiler for just a couple minutes at the end, to brown the cheese on the top. **If your baking dish is really full to the top, put a layer of foil under it in the oven to prevent any spillover from dripping onto the oven.



Garfield loves lasagna

Friday, February 19, 2010

Burger Night

Last night was burger night - turkey burgers, that is. I like to add some cajun seasoning to spice them up. I served them with roasted potato slices and a side salad.

For 2 people:

3/4 lb ground turkey
about 2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
about 2 Tbl chopped white onion
regular or garlic salt
about 2 Tbl cajun seasoning

Mix all ingredients, except the cajun seasoning, with the turkey meat. Spread the cajun seasoning onto a small plate. Once you've formed the patties, roll the outer edge of the patties in the cajun seasoning so the edges are coated. Cook under the broiler for about 15 minutes, turning halfway through.

4 Yukon gold potatoes
olive oil
pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and put into a mixing bowl. Add enough olive oil to coat. Spread the slices out on a baking sheet (or 2) so that none are overlapping. Cook for about 30 minutes, turning over halfway through. Cook until golden brown, and add salt and pepper (if you want).


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Risotto, Cheese, and Fish. Oh my!

It was 40 degrees here glorious! 40 degrees really feels warm after 2 months straight of 25 degree weather. So I have 3 fun things to write about today, hence the title of the post.

Last night for dinner I made risotto with shrimp, and sauteed spinach on the side. I left the shrimp off the risotto so you could see everything clearly in the picture. Risotto is something that seems intimidating, but is very easy to make, and you can add pretty much anything you want to it. Last night I put yellow peppers, mushrooms, and onions in it.

For 2 people, with enough for some leftovers

1 cup arborio rice
2-3 cups chicken stock
salt & pepper
olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced

Saute the rice in enough olive oil to coat in a saute pan (a big skillet-like pan with higher sides) over medium-low heat. I couldn't exactly explain what the benefit of doing this is, but somehow it makes the rice cook better. After about 3-5 minutes add roughly 1/2 cup of chicken stock. The basic idea here is to keep at a very low simmer and to add chicken stock little by little for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through. Keep a close eye on it, stir it often, and keep adding the stock so it doesn't get dry and pasty. Add the vegetables after about 10 minutes, or you can saute them separately and add them closer to the end. Salt and pepper to taste.

1 lb shrimp (I used 31/40 count, but you can use bigger if you like)
salt & pepper
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
juice from 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper the shrimp. Heat oil and smashed garlic cloves in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp to pan, and squeeze lemon juice over top. Flip the shrimp over after about 2-3 minutes and cook through on the other side. The shrimp will cook pretty quickly, so don't start them until the risotto is just about done.

1 bag baby spinach
olive oil
about 1 Tbl sliced shallots

Heat olive oil, butter, and shallots in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the whole bag of spinach and keep bringing the leaves on the bottom of the pile to the top so they cook evenly. All the spinach should be cooked in just a few minutes.

Now for the cheese...

Cheese is hands down my favorite food. I love it all - hard, soft, creamy, stinky, blue, cow, sheep, or goat. A few years ago I got a promotion at CBS and my sister sent me a congratulatory cheese board from Dean & Deluca. There are several pictures of cheese in our honeymoon album. And as a wedding gift, some of my dearest friends got Peter and I cheese (and wine) of the month club. Is there anything better than to get a surprise package of cheese and wine delivered to your door? We got a cheese delivery today, pictured above: Saint Andre, Port Salut, and an English cheddar. I'm eating it right now.

And lastly, the fish.

Peter went, without me I might add, to Calumet Fisheries today for lunch. It's a seafood shack on the south side, very unassuming looking, but it just won a James Beard award. Anthony Bourdain has visited this place in his show on the Travel Channel (watch this show, it's amazing. And read his book Kitchen Confidential. You can thank me later.). So I'm turning the rest of this post over to Peter:

Hey blogosphere. Thanks for keeping my unemployed wife occupied. Anyway, the Calumet Fisheries has been on my to-do list for a while, so given the fact it was in the 40s today and work was work colleagues and I decided to venture to the far South Side of Chicago. This place is so far South that it's on the border of Indiana -- literally right below the Chicago Skyway. Calumet has been on my mind for a few weeks now. They recently won a James Beard America's Classic Award. The manager, Carlos Rosas, had to google James Beard when he found out. True story.

Anyway, after the 25 minute ride from the Loop...we arrived at Calumet and soon realized we would be eating in our laps in the car. The place is the size of a tollbooth with no dining areas. They serve the working class of Chicago and most of the patrons are locals who get the smoked fish, shrimp, and fine fried seafood to go. My dining partners and I jumped head first into the fried goodness of fried shrimp, clams, fish chips, and scallops. The best thing I tasted was probably the clams. They don't serve tartar sauce or cocktail sauce, but instead a nice sweet sauce that was something between a bbq sauce and horsey sauce from Arby's. It was wonderful. I got a half order of fried clams and fried shrimp, a side of cole slaw (amazing) and no drink. The drink would have been good in retrospect.

What is truly amazing about Calumet and what they are really known for is their smoked fish. It looked amazing with hooks still in the fish and a beautiful smoky texture. That is the real star of the show here (they smoke the fish on the premises...AWESOME). I am purposely saving the smoked salmon for my next trip. The manager, Carlos, showed us the smoke house and the buckets of freshly smoked shrimp they just pulled out. It was an amazing field trip that is right up there with the giant whale at the Museum of Natural History. I am already salivating for my next visit.

Little piece of knowledge...the Calumet fish house is perched on the 95th Street bridge...the very same bridge that Jake and Elwood jump over in the stolen police car. The famous photo of Aykroyd and Belushi standing in front of the police car with industrial mess in the backdrop is right behind Calumet. It was a very Chicago moment for me. Ok, that's my virgin blog post. Enjoy!!!

Note the frog legs on the menu

Smoke house

Smoked salmon with the hooks still in

Fried clams with the magical sauce

Easter Candy!

If you know me, you know that Easter candy is my FAVORITE! It's my big guilty pleasure. As soon as Valentine's is over, the seasonal aisle at the drug store is full of delicious pastel-colored treats...Cadbury creme eggs, Reese's peanut butter eggs, Peeps, Whopper Robin Eggs, and (drum roll please) - my absolute favorite, Cadbury Mini Eggs. I just saw this commercial (how old is this?!) and had to share.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Midweek Ennui

Middle of the week = not very exciting dinners. I've been trying to use up leftovers from last weekend, so last night I made pappardelle with pesto (from Saturday night) and hot Italian turkey sausage. I say it's not exciting, but it's really one of our favorite meals. The spiciness of the sausage is just so good with the pesto. And lots of parmesan cheese on top, of course. To cook the sausage I slice the casing open lengthwise and break the sausage up into smaller pieces, and cook in a skillet. Very easy and so good.

I've had a few people comment on how Xabi made it onto the blog, but Henri hasn't. It's because Xabi begs during dinner, and Henri isn't very interested when we try to feed him fish or meat. In fact, he goes crazy when I eat fruit. I think he's got a few screws loose. But he does like to hang out in the kitchen with me when I'm cooking (take note: his left paw is raised, ready to swat me at any moment).

So there you go Henri, now you're on the internet and world-famous!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Food, Inc.

I needed a bit of a break from all the elaborate cooking from last weekend, so last night was a very uninteresting leftovers night. But, I haven't had a chance to write about the documentary Peter and I rented last weekend - Food, Inc. It's nominated for an Oscar, and I don't think Blockbuster has that many copies to begin with, so it took me a little while to get my hands on it...but it was worth it.

This movie will totally make you think differently about how you eat, and what you buy at the grocery store. It shows how big meat companies treat the farmers that are contracted to grow livestock for them, and how those farmers treat their animals. It also shows how animals have changed over the years in order to get the most profit out of them, both through genetic engineering, and through how they are fed and unnecessarily medicated with antibiotics. One of the most disgusting things I saw in the movie was a big box of hamburger filler treated with ammonia to kill e.coli bacteria...and they say this filler is put into 70% of hamburger meat in the U.S.

I buy all of my meat from Whole Foods. They have signs at their butcher counter pointing out that their cows are grass-fed and that all their meat is antibiotic free. They have more information online about how each specific animal is fed and treated. I know Whole Foods is also a big corporation, and I've read a lot of debate online about how truthful their claims are, whether their beef is 100% grass fed or grain fed and "grass finished", but I know it's better than buying meat filled with ammonia and antibiotics from the regular grocery store.

I also want to read one of Michael Pollan's books. He was on Oprah a couple weeks ago, talking about his newest book Food Rules. He talks about eating real food, like meat, fish, whole grains, and things that grow in the ground. He also says not to eat things with ingredients that a 3rd grader couldn't pronounce.

Food, Inc. also points out that the CDC estimates 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will have early onset diabetes. That is CRAZY! Anyway...check out this documentary, it's really eye-opening!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner

Last night's Valentine's dinner was a success! Since we watched Julie & Julia last week I have been wanting to make Boeuf Bourguignon, but I knew it would be a big undertaking...more for a special occasion than a Tuesday night, so I decided to try it out for Valentine's Day. I happen to have a Julia Child cookbook that my mom got me, I believe from a tag sale, a few years ago. I wouldn't say it was difficult to make, just time consuming. I also made brownies from a recipe in ad hoc at home which were maybe the best brownies I've ever had. However...the pan I cooked them in was 8x8 and the recipe called for 9x9 so the cooking time was off (I had to cook them for longer), and when i took them out of the pan they weren't cooled enough so they didn't stay intact and the picture I took didn't even really come out very well. So I'll share the recipe and a new picture next time I make them with the proper pan. But I'll just say that the recipe has 3 sticks of butter and 2 dark chocolate can't go wrong with that.

Here's the recipe for the Boeuf Bourguignon, from Julia Child's The Way to Cook. It's a really nice special occasion meal, or something fun to make on a Saturday or Sunday night. I know it looks long and complicated, but when you break it down it's not bad, I promise. The way I see it, it's done in 3 parts. The assembling of things that go in the casserole, the cooking of the onions and mushrooms, and the putting it all together at the end (the draining of the liquid, adding beurre-manie, onions, and mushrooms). I cut the recipe in half. For red wine, I used a merlot/cabernet blend. Zinfandel is good too; you want a heavier red wine, not a pinot noir or beaujolais. Also, I cooked it on the stove in a dutch oven, and kept it covered the whole time. I simmered it at probably a little higher heat than I should have, but this made the sauce reduce nicely so I didn't have to reduce it more at the end. For the beurre-manie: you want about 1 Tbs for every cup of liquid. So I did about 1 1/2 Tbs flour, and 1 Tbs butter. I served the dish with just sliced french bread for dipping, but any kind of starch (mashed or roasted potatoes, rice, noodles) would be good.

Boeuf Bourguignon

For 6 to 8 servings

3 to 4 lbs boneless beef stew meat, cut into cubes about 1 1/2 to 2 inches
cooking oil
2 dozen pearl onions
2/3 cup sliced carrots
5 to 6 cups liquid (all red wine or a mixture such as 1 bottle of wine plus beef stock)
2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, smashed
2 cups tomatoes (1 whole unpeeled tomato, cored and chopped, plus canned drained Italian plum tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
about 1/2 to 1 cup chicken stock
6 cups fresh mushrooms, trimmed, washed, dried, and quartered or sliced
1/2 Tbs sliced shallots or scallions
3 Tbs flour and 2 Tbs softened butter blended to a paste, for the beurre-manie sauce
large skillet, 3-quart casserole or baking dish

Dry the meat thoroughly with paper towels - damp meat won't brown. Film a large skillet with 1/16 inch of oil and set over moderately high heat. When very hot but not smoking, brown as many pieces of meat will fit in one layer without crowding. Turn frequently to brown on all sides - 3 to 5 minutes; transfer pieces as they are done to casserole.

Skim all but a spoonful of fat out of the skillet (if burned discard all and add fresh oil); turn in the sliced carrots, stirring and tossing for 3 to 4 minutes to brown lightly before scraping them out over the beef. Pour a cup of red wine wine/stock combination into the skillet, swishing and scraping up any juices, and pour into casserole. Add the garlic and 4 more cups of wine/stock to casserole; fold in tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and salt to taste. You should have enough liquid to almost cover the beef; add more if needed. **this much of the recipe may be completed a day in advance; cover when cool, and refrigerate**

Bring to simmer on top of the stove; cook at a slow simmer on top of the stove or in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning and basting the meat several times until just fork-tender. If your casserole dish is not flame-proof, set it in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes or so, then reduce to 350 degrees and start timing.

When finished cooking, pour the contents of the casserole into a colander set over a saucepan; wash out the casserole and return the pieces of beef to it. Skim any grease/fat off the top of the liquid in the saucepan and taste for seasoning; you should have about 3 cups of liquid. Add the beurre-manie sauce (the flour/butter paste). Boil the liquid down rapidly if it's flavor needs concentrating, and add back to casserole dish when finished. Add cooked onions and mushrooms (see below) and mix together for a couple minutes. Serve in bowls.

Onions and mushrooms:
When the meat has about 30-45 minutes left to cook, prepare the brown-braised onions, which will be added to the dish just before serving. In a medium skillet saute the peeled onions in a little clarified butter or oil, swirling pan to turn them; they will not brown evenly, but will take on a decent amount of color. Then add chicken broth (and if you wish, a little red wine) to come up halfway. Season lightly with salt and perhaps a bay leaf or a pinch of dried herbs. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes, until the onions are tender when pierced but still hold their shape.

When the meat has about 10 minutes left to cook, prepare the sauteed mushrooms. Set a large skillet over high heat with 1 Tbs butter and 1 tsp oil (olive or canola). When the butter foam begins to subside, toss in the sliced mushrooms. Toss frequently, swirling pan by its handle, for several minutes, while the mushrooms absorb the butter. In a minute or two add the chopped shallots or scallions. Toss with a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Homemade Ravioli

Happy Valentine's Day! I am in the midst of making Valentine's dinner, and am taking a break while it cooks to write about last night's dinner. I'm not saying what I'm cooking right now in case it's a disaster, so I won't be obligated to write about it tomorrow :)

Last night I made homemade ravioli filled with ricotta (homemade from a couple days ago) and mascarpone, and topped with fresh pesto. I'm not ready to share my pasta dough recipe yet, not like it's top secret or very complicated, but it's not quite where I want it to be yet so I'm not ready to share (this really means every time I make pasta dough, about halfway through, I contemplate gathering it all up into a floury pile and hurling it off the balcony). I'm going to have to consult my dad on this, he's the homemade pasta expert. Despite all of this, last night's dinner turned out great and was delicious. For now, I'll share my pesto recipe.

About 25 basil leaves
1/3 cup pinenuts, or walnuts, or a mixture of both
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 - 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
salt & pepper

Combine basil, nuts, and garlic in food processor for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. Add olive oil, cheese, and salt and pepper and blend for just about 5-10 seconds or until everything is combined. This makes enough to top pasta for probably 4 or 5 people. If you have leftover and want to store it in the fridge, make sure it's in an airtight container. Put plastic wrap on top of the pesto (within the container), so it's actually touching the pesto to protect it from the air, or cover the pesto with a light layer of olive oil instead (works the same way).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dinner party!

So our little dinner party of 3 last night turned into 6! I don't think I've ever cooked for that many people, but it was a success. The menu: cheese & salami plate, asparagus & truffle oil bruschetta, scallops, peperonata rustica, roasted cauliflower, and spinach/goat cheese/cranberry/pecan salad.

The asparagus bruschetta comes from one of my favorite restaurants in New York, ino. Actually Peter gets credit for this, he's the one who first tried to replicate it at home. It's very easy to make. This picture is kind of lame because I just served it as a do-it-yourself last night rather than make all the individual toasts.

You'll need:

1 bunch of asparagus (very skinny asparagus makes for better bruschetta than big fat asparagus)
truffle oil
salt & pepper
parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 baguette or loaf of italian bread, cut into small slices and toasted

Cut the asparagus (raw, not cooked) into small pieces, about 1 cm. I used the whole bunch for 6 people. Toss with enough truffle oil to coat. Just keep adding a little and a little more until it tastes right, you don't want to add too much right away because it has a strong taste. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and finish with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese. If you're putting the bruschetta on toasts, instead of do-it-yourself like I did, I prefer to wait to add the cheese until I've already made all the toasts.

I'll just post the recipe for the peppers right now. I make scallops and cauliflower a lot so I'll write about those another time. This was the first time I made these peppers. The recipe is from Thomas Keller's newest book ad hoc at home. It's my dream to go to his restaurant French Laundry some day. Anyway...

Peperonata Rustica

6 yellow bell peppers
6 red bell peppers
canola oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces piquillo peppers, drained, peeled, and seeded
about 1/2 cup of Soffritto
1 1/3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
3/4 teaspoon piment d'Espelette
1 tablespoon minced chives

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the bell peppers lengthwise in half and remove the stems and seeds. Toss the peppers with oil to coat and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the peppers cut side down on the baking sheets, red peppers on one, the yellow peppers on the other.
Roast the peppers until the skin is blistering. About 30 to 35 minutes for the red and 35 to 40 minutes for the yellow; do not allow the edges to blacken. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, or put in an airtight container with a lid.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them. Tear them lengthwise into strips about 3/4 inchwide. Tear the piquillos into strips the same way.
Combine all of the peppers, soffritto, stock, and Espelette in a medium saucepan over medium heat, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, to soften peppers completely and meld the flavors.
Transfer to a bowl or platter, sprinkle with chives, and serve.

A couple notes - I had a little trouble finding piquillos, but did end up finding them at Trader Joe's. I could not find the Espelette (I didn't think I would be able to), so I used paprika instead. Upon writing this, I realized I used olive oil instead of canola. Oops. It was fine though. And I could not find sofrito anywhere, it was in every grocery in New York and in none here. So I made it - blend in a food processor until smooth: 1 green bell pepper, 1 sweet red pepper (or bell pepper), 1 white onion, 1 large tomato, 5 or 6 cloves garlic, handful parsley leaves, handful cilantro leaves, salt and pepper. Lastly, as Thomas Keller mentions in the book, the leftovers are great with scrambled eggs and Peter is eating them for breakfast as I write this.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The French Market

I ventured out to a new market today, not super convenient to my apartment, but not that far away - the Chicago French Market, within the MetraMarket in the West Loop. It's an indoor farmers market of sorts, or if you're from Columbus it's like a mini North Market. I am having my friend Jacquilyn over for dinner tonight so I went to pick up some ingredients, and just to explore. There are a few produce booths, several bakeries/patisseries, meat and seafood, cheese, sandwiches, flowers, gelato, coffee...lots of good stuff.

Produce from CityFresh Market

Purple, green, and orange cauliflower! I bought a purple one, can't wait to try it.

Cheese from Pastoral

Amazing bread from Necessity Baking

Treats from Delightful Pastries

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Say Cheese!

We got a good amount of snow yesterday here in Chicago, not as much as the 12 inches they were forecasting, but still a lot. So what better way to spend a snowed-in day than to make cheese? No, really.

Last week when my mom was here we had lunch at Terzo Piano, the restaurant in the Art Institute. The restaurant was beautiful, very white and modern looking, and the food was amazing. I had a salad consisting of arugula, prosciutto, persimmons, and house made lemon ricotta. The ricotta was my favorite part, it was so soft and had some freshly ground black pepper on it. I wish I had taken a picture...

I figured ricotta must not be that hard to make, so I did a little research...and it's not! Here's the recipe I used, which was a combination of a few different ones I found online.

4 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
generous pinch of salt
a little under 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
**you'll also need cheesecloth

Heat the milk, half and half, and salt in a sauce pan on high heat. While you wait for it to boil, line a colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth. Put the colander in a large bowl. Bring the milk mixture to a boil, and remove from heat. Add the lemon juice while slowly stirring, and after a minute or 2 you will see it start to separate into curds and a clear liquid (whey). Pour the contents of the saucepan into the colander and let drain for about 10 minutes. You're done! (Discard the whey, unless you want to save it for something else. If you don't, you don't even really need to put the colander in a bowl, just over the sink drain would be fine.)

You can refrigerate the cheese for a couple days, I would imagine. I just made it yesterday and used in on a pizza and it was great. It was drier and more firm that I envisioned it, but it was really good. I'm not sure what the outcome would be if I let it curdle for less time so the curds hold more liquid, or if I use less lemon juice, or slightly different ingredients, but I'll try a different way next time just to see. You can use heavy cream or buttermilk instead of half and half, and you can also use distilled white vinegar instead of lemon juice. And you can of course double this recipe. The measurements I used resulted in about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of ricotta.

Curds and whey (gross looking!)

The finished product!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Julie & Julia, and Sole Meuniere

I rented Julie & Julia over a week ago, but Peter and I finally got around to watching it last night. We first went to Whole Foods and decided to make sole meuniere, an Ina Garten recipe I've made several times that's really delicious, and so easy. I made the sole with roasted potato slices, and an arugula and grape tomato salad with balsamic vinaigrette. So we sat down with our dinners and turned the movie on, and the very first scene is Julia Child being served sole meuniere in a restaurant in Paris!

I absolutely loved the movie. How could I not, it was about all my favorite things - Paris, New York, and French cooking. We kept looking at each other in disbelief at the similarities. First there was the sole meuniere. Julie and Eric moved from Brooklyn to a bigger apartment in Queens, we moved from Manhattan to a bigger apartment in Chicago. They have a cat, and well...we have 2. They even had framed maps over their bed. And I definitely felt Julie's pain with trying to cook meals in small New York City kitchens.

Without further ado, here is the recipe for sole meuniere. It's a light, lemony, flaky fish dish that's so easy to make. This is a variation on the Barefoot Contessa's recipe, I think she used more butter. This is for 2-3 servings.

3/4 - 1 lb fresh sole fillets (you can also buy frozen if fresh isn't available, just follow the directions on the pack to thaw it)
about 1/2 cup flour
salt & pepper
1 or 2 lemons (depending on size), zested
about 3 tablespoons butter
fresh parsley, for garnish

You will probably have to cook the fish in 2 groups, unless you have 2 big skillets, so heat up the oven to 200 degrees to keep the first batch warm while you cook the other one. Heat up the skillet on medium heat. Spread flour out on a plate or cutting board. Make sure the fish is dry, and salt and pepper both sides. Dredge in the flour until both sides are evenly covered. Melt about 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and place as many fillets as can reasonably fit without crowding - probably 3 or 4. Cook about 4 minutes or so, and flip over when the fish is lightly browned on the bottom. After flipping sprinkle lemon zest on top of the fillets and squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the pan. Cook another 4 minutes or until browned on other side. Place on an oven safe plate and keep warm in the oven while finishing the rest of the fish. Once all the fish is cooked garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Bon appetit!

Xabi likes sole meuniere, too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Strawberry Deliciousness

It's a double post kind of day! A couple weeks ago I was craving a strawberry milkshake with Haagen Dazs ice cream. Mmmmm....visions of summer, warm weather, sunshine...oh wait, it's February in Chicago *snap back to reality*.

I decided to make a smoothie instead, and after some research online through different recipes I came up with this which is a combination of a few different methods.

1/4 cup uncooked plain old-fashioned oatmeal
1 container Greek yogurt, about 5 or 6 oz.
1/4 cup milk
1 or 2 handfulls of frozen strawberries
honey to taste (optional)

Blend just the oatmeal in a blender to get it chopped up, just for about 15-20 seconds. Add everything else and blend until smooth. So easy!

Of course if you are trying to keep it healthy, use low or nonfat yogurt and milk. I prefer to use vanilla flavored nonfat Greek yogurt, from Trader Joe's. You can also use plain, or honey flavor, or whatever you like. If you use a flavored yogurt you don't really need the honey. Same goes for the berries - use frozen blueberries, raspberries, whatever. Yum!

Super Bowl Chili

Sorry for the long hiatus, I had lots of visitors last week/weekend which means I was busy entertaining, and going out to not really cooking too much. My mom came last week and we went to dinner at Sepia in the West Loop. It was delicious, and has a beautiful bar in the front of the restaurant. My sister and cousin visited over the weekend and we went to Adobo Grilll and Quartino, which were both great. I think Quartino is my favorite restaurant here so far, it's a bistro atmosphere with amazing Italian food and it's soooo affordable. We also discovered Clark Street Ale House, a great bar with an amazing beer selection just a few blocks away from our apartment. We'll definitely be back.

Anyway, last night the Saints won the Super Bowl, yay! I'm a Jets fan, but I wanted the Saints to win. I made a chili recipe which has become one of my favorite cold weather meals, I think this is the 3rd or 4th time I've made it this winter. I can't take credit for it, the recipe is from Emeril, but I made just a few adjustments to it. His recipe calls for turkey but I prefer to use beef, and also uses cream which I skip. It's kind of spicy, so watch out! Cut back on the jalapeno or chili powder if you don't like it too hot. Also, I usually cut this recipe in half because I'm almost always cooking for only 2 people.

2 cans cannellini beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced jalapeno
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey or beef
2 tablespoons Emeril's Southwest Essence, recipe follows
1 2/3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons cornmeal
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (10-ounce) cans Ro'tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles (original), undrained
2 (4-ounce) cans diced green chiles, undrained

In a deep skillet, heat the oil and saute the onion and jalapeno until soft and beginning to caramelize, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the meat, Southwest Essence, chili powder, salt, cumin, oregano, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned and cooked through, 6 minutes. Add the cornmeal and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, canned tomatoes, and canned chiles and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes longer.

Serve the chili in deep bowls, garnish with sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, cilantro, green onions and/or jalapeno to taste.

Emeril's Southwest Seasoning:

2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Here's my story - I just moved to Chicago from New York last fall for my husband's job, and I'm looking for a job so I've got lots of time on my hands. Lately the biggest thing in my day has been dinner...perusing the internet for new recipes and ideas, wandering the aisles at Whole Foods, and then cooking for my husband Peter. He's pretty much my guinea pig when it comes to trying out new recipes. Although I'm sure his opinions are biased because as soon as he takes the first bite I'm asking "it's good, right? right??" I figured, plenty of people I know have blogs...and with all this time on my hands to cook, why not write about it? The name of the blog is about how dinner goes down in our household every night - I cook, and Peter cleans up.

At the moment I don't have any pictures to share of something I've cooked, so this will have to do for now. When we lived in New York we lived across the street from Chelsea Market, which takes up an entire block between 9th and 10th avenues and 15th and 16th streets. It's basically a gourmet food mall. The Food Network offices are in the same building, so you know the food must be good. I really miss the homemade Italian sausages from Buon Italia, the amazing selection of fresh seafood from The Lobster Place, and the handmade ice cream cookie sandwiches from Ronnybrook Milk Bar. If you live in New York and haven't been, it's a sin.