Sunday, May 29, 2011

Basmati Rice Salad with Asparagus and Leek

We wanted a side dish for our delicious burgers and I decided to raid the fridge and come up with something. Left over basmati rice from our Charlie Trotter cooking extravaganza the night before (more on that later), 6 spears of steamed asparagus and a leek and dinner was ready!


2-3 cups cooked basmati rice
6 spears steamed asparagus, cut on the bias into 1 inch pieces
1 leek, white and light green parts, split, cleaned well and cut into half moons
olive oil
salt and pepper

- In a sauce pan heat the oil on low and saute the leek until soft

- In a large bowl combine the rice, asparagus and leeks

- Toss with dressing and serve room temperature


Juice of 1 lemon
White wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

- In a jar add the juice of a lemon and a Tablespoon or so of white wine vinegar

- Add olive oil to taste, whisking as you go

- Add salt and pepper to taste
- In

Blue Cheese Burgers with Red Onion Jam

Bobby Flay knows how to grill. We used his recipe for blue cheese burgers and red onion last weekend and served them with the roasted fingerling potato salad with watercress and horseradish dressing. I did my burgers with blue cheese, Jason and Nancy opted for provolone. Either way, with the red onion jam, dinner was delicious! We'll be enjoying these throughout the summer, and tonight!


1 lb grass fed ground beef
Worcestershire sauce
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Arugula or watercress
Blue cheese or provolone

- Mix the seasonings into the beef. Form into 3 patties, and make an indent with your thumb on the top of the patty. Grill to your desired level of doneness, just before done, add cheese to the top and cover the grill to melt. And don't forget to toast your buns!

- Serve the burgers topped with dijon mustard, red onion jam and arugula or watercress if you'd like


1 medium red onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

- Halve the onion and slice thinly

- Heat the oil in a sauce pan and saute the onion, with some salt and pepper, until nice and soft

- Add the wine, vinegar, honey and thyme and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

- Set aside and season to taste with salt and pepper

Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad with Watercress Horseradish Dressing

Most of our cooking inspiration these days comes from library books. Almost weekly, Jason heads to the library to get a new book or two (or three). This method has allowed us to try so many new styles and recipes without having to commit to a book that might end up having only one or two interesting recipes.

A recent favorite was Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann. The book is organized by season and highlights dishes that best encapsulate the spirit of that season which I love.

This recipe was a yummy hit and simple to make. We served it first with a spice rubbed pork tenderloin and made it again to serve with delicious Bobby Flay cheeseburgers. We made a couple of changes, in particular altering how the salad was composed and served. If you can't find fresh horseradish root you could always substitute prepared, and if watercress is nowhere to be found, substitute arugula for a similar, peppery flavor. While the recipe calls for peeling the potatoes, I love living the skin on and everyone agreed this was the way to go with this recipe!


2 lbs fingerling potatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp salt
1-2 bunches watercress

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp freshly grated horseradish root
Salt and pepper to taste

- Preheat the oven to 450

- Toss the potatoes, oil, thyme and salt in a medium bowl

- Spread on a baking dish and roast until very tender, about 30 minutes. Check the potatoes and flip them halfway through the baking, the skins will get a little browned

-  To make the dressing: whisk together the oil, sour cream, vinegar and horseradish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I ended up adding a little extra horseradish and a dash of lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate while potatoes finish

- Once potatoes are done and have cooled slightly, toss in a large bowl with the watercress

- Serve the salad with the dressing on the side for guests to drizzle themselves

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Barley and Millet Risotto with Ramps, Mushrooms and Roasted Asparagus

I'm obviously on a barley kick. It's also ramp and asparagus season and I try to use them in as many ways possible while I can get my hands on them as well as some of the beautiful mushrooms I'm seeing at the Dill Pickle! I saw this recipe from 101 Cookbooks and adapted it to feature some spring vegetables.

1/2 cup millet
1 1/4 cup barley
1 bunch ramps, bulbs and greens separated
1/2 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and spears cut into 1 inch chunks
1/3 lb (approx.) shiitake mushrooms
1/3 lb (approx.) oyster mushrooms
Broth and water (ideally this would be about 5-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, however, I only had a few cups so I added water as well)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 Tbsp butter

-Preheat oven to 400

-Rinse millet and add to a small sauce pan with 1 1/2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the water is evaporated and millet is cooked through. Add additional water as needed. Remove from heat and set aside

-Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Toss the asparagus pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in oven about 10-15 minutes or until slightly browned. Set aside

-Put water and stock into a small sauce pan and warm on stove.

-Meanwhile start the barley risotto. Slice ramps bulbs thinly. Add about 2 Tbsp olive oil to a large stock pot and sautee ramps with salt and pepper until tender. Add barley and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add stock/water mixture a ladelful or two at a time while stirring. As liquid is absorbed keep adding liquid by the ladleful. This process will take awhile.

-Wipe and slice all of the mushrooms. In a large saute pan heat a Tbsp or 2 of olive oil and saute the mushrooms until just starting to brown. Set aside.

-Slice the ramp greens into small pieces. As the barley is getting close to being done, stir the greens in a handful at a time

-Add grated parmesan (how much is your preference) and 1/2 Tbsp butter to barley and stir

-Add 1/2 or 3/4 of the cooked millet and more liquid if needed.

-Add the set aside asparagus and mushrooms to pot and stir to incorporate. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and add lemon juice.

*For an extra kick I added a teaspoon full of harissa

**You can make this recipe with just the barley or farro, or even try it as an actual risotto with arborio rice!

Barley with Roasted Mushrooms

I have been eyeing this recipe from Food 52 for several weeks and finally got around to trying it. The original calls for farro, but I substituted pearled barley. Delicious. I loved it warm, room temperature and chilled.


1 cup barley
1/4 lb (approx.) oyster mushrooms
1/4 lb (approx.) shiitake mushrooms
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbsp lemon juice

-Preheat oven to 350

-Rinse barley

-Add barley to a pot and cover with cold water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes, adding more water if needed

-Cut all of the mushrooms into bite sized pieces

-Line a baking sheet with tin foil, toss the mushrooms with salt and pepper and roast until mushrooms are starting to crisp and brown around edges, for about 20 minutes

-Drain barley and set aside barley and mushrooms to cool a little

-Toss together in a bowl, crumble parmesan into pieces and add to bowl with chopped parsley and lemon juice

-Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary

Monday, May 2, 2011

Altgeld Sawyer Corner Farm

For the third year, the formerly blighted corner at Altgeld and Sawyer is functioning as a Corner Farm!  I've had intentions of helping out, but haven't made it happen until this year. I figured I'm going to have an awkward amount of free time this summer since all of my summer classes are jammed into the first 6 weeks, except for an online pre-req course I'm taking through a community college, and figured I needed to start getting some activities lined up!

I'm working with the watering team, responsible for watering the entire garden and implementing a couple of experimental irrigation systems in a couple of beds.

I've gone to an organization meeting and an all garden workday. This morning was the first official watering and it felt great being out in the neighborhood in the early hours (7:30am!) and meeting new people! 

Check out the website and if you're in the area, swing by the farm!  The first plants and seedlings are in, looking forward to a great summer!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Peppered Salmon with Creamy Chickpea Dressing

Our good friends came over on Friday night with some beautiful salmon filets. We adapted this recipe from Tyler Florence.  I loved the thought of the chickpea dressing and using our pimenton dolce (sweet smoked paprika) instead of just regular sweet paprika added a lovely other dimension that was perfect with our decision to grill the fish. We also diced finely a couple of confit lemon wedges which were a perfect accompaniment to the fish and dressing!

-serves 5

Several nice salmon filets, we had about 6 pieces
Black pepper

-sprinkle filets with black pepper and coriander

-grill skin side down without flipping with lid mostly closed


1 can chickpeas
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
Less than 1 teaspoon pimenton dolce (substitute 1 tsp sweet paprika)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

-Drain and rinse chickpeas

-In a bowl add the chickpeas, olive oil, cumin, pimenton, lemon juice and some salt and pepper

-Spoon half of chickpea mixture into mini food processor and blend until smooth. Add water a bit at a time to get desired consistency

-Mix the pureed vinaigrette back in with the rest of the chickpea mixture

TO SERVE: spoon vinaigrette over cooked salmon filets. Mince 1 - 2 confit lemon wedges and serve in a bowl on the side to add on top of the vinaigrette as your guests desire!

Lemon Confit

Jason made this confit of lemon using a recipe from Chef Gerald Hirigoyen's book, Pintxos. Since our travels last year to the Basque Country and  our stay in San Sebastian, there has been a lot of interest in our house in Basque cooking and Jason is intrigued with the pintxos! Once he made the lemon we weren't exactly sure what to do with them. Tasting them on their own they seemed a little odd, perhaps too salty. But they were incredible combined with incredible tuna belly our Basque friends brought over, or served with the peppered salmon with creamy chickpea dressing.

-makes 1 quart jar

5 lemons quartered lengthwise
1 star anise pod
1/2 Tbsp coriander seed
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

-Put the quartered lemons in a quart jar.

-Add the star anise, coriander, salt and sugar

-bring water to a boil and add boiling water to jar, filling to the rim

-Let cool then cover tightly and turn jar a couple of times to combine the ingredients

-Store at room temperature, on your counter, turning the jar occasionally for 3 weeks

-Store in the fridge after opened for up to a month