Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve Menu

  • Antipasto platter
    • cheese, salami, olives
  • Funghi tagliati e fettine sottili, con mozzarella fusa e timo
    • sliced mushrooms with melted mozzarella and thyme
Taittinger Brut Champagne
  • Oysters rocafella
    • Naked Cowboy, Kusshi, and Delaware raw oysters with champagne foam and mignonette
  • Sea scallops crudo 
    • with shaved fennel and extra virgin olive oil
  • Baked clams
    • parsley, oregano, shallot, parmesan and bread crumbs
Michel-Schlumberger 2011 La Nue Chardonnay 
  • Casonsei from Val Camonica
    • Homemade pasta stuffed with a sausage, potato, and chard filling
Canetto 2006 Reserve Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
  • Tagliati di manzo con radicchio
    • Thinly sliced beef with wilted radicchio and gorgonzola
  • Edible rocks 
Loxton 2009 Late Harvest Zinfandel
  • Salted caramel tart with chocolate ganache

Saturday, December 22, 2012

(Early) Christmas Eve Menu

Stanislaw Christmas Eve has been moved to the 22nd this year! My sister-in-law and her family weren't going to be with us on the 24th so we're celebrating a few days early all together. 

Given the non-traditional timing of the celebration, we decided this year to go with a non-traditional (for us) menu. A Mexican inspired feast featuring recipes from Mod Mex: Cooking Vibrant Fiesta Flavors at Home by chef Scott Linquist, a couple Rick Bayless recipes, and a few home-brewed ideas. 

We started prepping Thursday and had a major cooking session last night. We're heading out with bags and food in tow in a couple of hours to finish, assemble, and enjoy. Recipes to follow after the holiday!

Wild Mushroom Sopes
Chorizo, Potato, and Goat Cheese Sopes

Rice with Roasted Poblano, Spinach, and Fresh Cheese
Romaine and Radish Salad with Tomatillo-Lime Dressing

Cascabel Chile-Marinated Carne Asada Tacos
Pumpkin Black Bean Tacos
Chipotle Marinated Chicken Tacos

Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Cook Brown Rice

Cooking rice can be difficult. I've had the most success with this method. With rice, once the lid is on no peeking!!

1 cup brown rice
1 1/2 cups water

Add water and rice to a pan and bring to a boil.

Lower to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes remove from heat and let sit covered 10 - 20 minutes.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to Cook Quinoa

fool proof method for perfect, fluffy quinoa! When using quinoa, rinse it before cooking.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

- Add water and quinoa to a pot that has a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil.

- Lower to a simmer, cover pot and let cook for 25 minutes.

- Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit covered for another 5-10 minutes.

- Fluff with a fork and serve!

Jason's Glazed Mushrooms

These are delicious. Once you try them you will want to make your mushrooms this way every time. The amounts are approximations as Jason doesn't like to measure.

12 oz. mixed mushrooms, sliced (we often use shiitake, maitake (hen of the woods), and bunashimeji (beech mushrooms)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
Splash sherry vinegar or white wine (approx. 1 Tbsp)
1 tsp soy sauce
Sambal oelek chili paste to taste
1 tsp honey

- Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat

- Add the mushrooms and saute until they release their liquid and start to brown. Be patient! -js

- Once mushrooms have started to brown, add a splash of sherry vinegar or white wine and let that evaporate

- Add soy sauce, sriracha, and honey. Stir over high heat until a glaze forms.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Pepitas

2 Pounds brussel sprouts
3 strips of bacon
1/2 cup of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
olive oil
salt & pepper (optional)

- Preheat oven to 375

- Trim the tough ends off of the brussel sprouts and slice in half

- Toss the brussel sprouts in a little olive oil and roast face down on a baking sheet for 25 - 30 minutes, until they start to brown. Little leaves of the sprouts may get very dark, this is fine, the burnt bits are delicious!

- In the meantime, cut the bacon into lardons (little strips) and saute in a pan

- Remove bacon from pan, cook raw pepitas in the bacon fat remaining in the pan until they begin to swell and pop

- Return the bacon to the pan. Squeeze the juice of half of a lemon into the pan and swirl it around.

- Pour the dressing over the brussel sprouts, season with pepper and taste to see if you need salt (this will depend on how salty your bacon is). Continue to roast for 3-5 minutes.

- Serve and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Wishing you good food and the love of family and friends!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Almond Milk

I've been participating in a "Get Healthy" challenge at work. It's a weekly team challenge in Biggest Loser style without eliminations. I've gone back to logging my foods which is always a great thing for me to do. Over the last 5 weeks I've lost 5 pounds and am feeling and looking better! The two main dietary issues I've been focusing on are eliminating gluten (it just doesn't sit well with me) and upping my protein intake as I know that my body likes protein. In the mornings I've been having a hard boiled egg for breakfast which keeps me full almost through lunch, usually with a couple of gluten free crackers and almonds in between. However, I've been concerned about what the egg a day might do to my cholesterol.

I was getting caught up on a couple of my Yoga Journal issues and came across some yummy smoothie recipes involving almond milk. I recently bought a giant bag of raw almonds on sale as well as a pineapple and couple of pomegranates and figured I might try making my own almond milk and alternating smoothies and hard boiled eggs for breakfast. It was surprisingly easy to do. I haven't had a chance to figure out the cost-benefit ratio of making versus buying, but I had pounds of almonds and time on my hands. In the coming days I'll share a few of the smoothie recipes I try out!


1 cup almonds
filtered water for soaking
3 cups filtered water
1 date

- Soak the almonds in filtered water overnight in a glass bowl or container in the fridge

- Squeeze the skins off of the almonds (this is easier than it sounds, they slip right off)

- Add the almonds, 3 cups of water and date to a blender and process until smooth

- Strain the milk through a cheesecloth or fine sieve

- Store in the fridge for 3-4 days

**I'm trying to come up with uses for the leftover almond pulp. Any suggestions would be welcome!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Curried Lentil Soup

Made this Epicurious recipe on Sunday. A nice, warm meal to get through a long evening of poll watching.

I hope you all voted today!


Olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 medium carrot diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 1/2 Tbsp curry
1 cup green lentils
4 cups water
1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper

- In a large pot or dutch oven, heat approx. 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot and onion, season with salt & pepper and cook until onions become translucent, about 5 minutes.

- Add the garlic and cook until vegetables are softened, about 4-5 more minutes.

- Add the curry and cook for 1 minute

- Add the lentils and water, bring to a boil, decrease heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.

- Meanwhile, add the chickpeas, lemon, 1/4 cup water and 2 Tbsp olive oil to a small food processor and blend until smooth

- Add the chickpea blend to the soup. Continue to season with salt, pepper and curry as desired!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Boon-Style Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Last week I spent an amazing extended weekend in Sonoma County. We stayed outside the town of Guerneville on a property right on the Russian River. The four days were spent tasting great wines and great foods throughout the area.

The best lunch we had was at boon eat + drink in downtown Guerneville. Tiny, right on the main strip, the restaurant was hopping. We had heard about Christa Luedtke's amazing flash fried brussel sprouts and had to have an order for the table. They lived up to all the hype, perfectly cooked with an amazing garlicky, lemon dressing that you wanted to sop the remnants of off the plate when the sprouts were gone.

We snooped around online and came up with a pretty good take on this amazing dish. Roasted instead of flash fried, we tossed the dressing on the cooking brussel sprouts right at the end to take a little of the bite out of the garlic. Not as good as the original, but delicious nonetheless, and probably the best we'll get until we return to Guerneville.

Boon-Style Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 1/2 pounds brussel sprouts (approximately)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1-2 Tbsp
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cloves of garlic, minced

- Preheat the oven to 425

- Trim the ends off of the brussel sprouts and slice in half

- On a baking sheet, toss the brussel sprouts with 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Lay the brussel sprouts cut side down on the sheet and put in the oven.

- Cook for about 7 minutes, then start checking to see if the face down side is carmelizing. Continue cooking until the bottoms are nice and brown

- In the meantime, combine the rest of the ingredients. Just before the brussel sprouts are finished, toss them with the dressing and return to the oven for another 2 minutes (the brussel sprouts don't need to be face down at this point).

- Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Easy Tomato Vegetable Soup

4 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock (if store-bought, use low-sodium)
12 oz. fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 bag mixed frozen vegetables (I used a squash, zucchini, carrot, onion, red bell pepper mixture)
1/2 cup (approx.) frozen edamame
salt & pepper
1 tsp sambal
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
Freshly grated horseradish
2 large handfuls fresh spinach
squeeze fresh lemon juice
fresh parsley

- In a large pot add the stock and the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Continuously taste and season with salt and/or pepper

- Add the sambal, red wine vinegar, and some freshly grated horseradish (amounts are up to you, I add a little at a time and keep tasting)

- Add the mixed frozen vegetables and simmer for about 8 minutes

- Add the edamame and continue to simmer

- Keep tasting and adjusting seasonings. Near the end add the spinach and simmer until it wilts. Add a splash of lemon juice and some freshly chopped parsley before serving.

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Squash with Pomegranate Vinaigrette Served over Lentils

1 Butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked hot paprika
sprinkle of cinnamon
salt & pepper

- Preheat oven to 375

- Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Toss squash with a dash of olive oil and the rest of the ingredients.

- Roast for 20 minutes, turn, and roast for another 20 minutes

1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp minced shallot
1 1/2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp chopped tarragon
salt & pepper to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil

-Add all of the ingredients to a jar except the olive oil and stir. Add the olive oil and mix. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

1 cup lentils
water to cover

-Put lentils in a sauce pan with enough water to cover.

- Cook for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until lentils are cooked through. Drain.

-Gently toss the lentils with the vinaigrette and top with the squash. Serve as a side or vegetarian main dish.

*optional - top with goat cheese

Monday, October 8, 2012

Spent Grain Apple Muffins

For the fourth year in a row we spent an early fall weekend traveling with friends on a quest to find new breweries, eat great food, have as many laughs as possible, and all around enjoy the beauty of the Midwest in the fall.

This year, instead of just consuming, we actually brewed our own beer! Saugatuck Brewing Company helps you find and tweak a recipe based on your tastes and walks you through the steps for brewing on some small scale equipment. We had an absolute blast and I can't wait to go back in a few weeks to bottle the final product.

Near the end of the brewing session I recalled that brewers often bake with the spent grain leftover from the brewing process. Joe and Dexter graciously let us take as much grain as we wanted and I've spent a relaxing Columbus day playing around with some recipes. In addition to coming home with grains and beer we picked up some delicious Honeycrisp apples from the Sawyer Garden Center after a final stop for a pint at Greenbush Brewery on the way back to Chicago.

Here is my Spent Grain and Apple Muffin recipe.

1 cup spent grain
1 cup whole wheat flour
11/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 apple, diced

- Preheat the oven to 400

- In a food processor pulse the spent grains until they are slightly broken down

- In a bowl combine the whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Once combined, stir in the spent grains.

- In a large bowl whisk the sugar, oil, egg, and applesauce.

- Add the flour mix to the sugar mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, stirring lightly until incorporated.

- Fold in the apple chunks.

- Spray muffin tin with cooking spray, stick in the oven briefly to heat, and pour the mixture into the muffin tins.

- Cook for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

- Let cool in tin on a rack for 15 minutes. Loosen muffins from tin and let cool completely on baking rack.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ribeye Grilled with Rosemary

(Serves 2-3)

1- 12oz. ribeye steak
Salt & freshly ground pepper
4-6 sprigs of rosemary

- Let meat come to room temperature

- Meanwhile, start the coals in your grill (or turn on your gas grill)

- Season meat with salt and pepper on both sides

- Put steak on grill, and top with a sprig of rosemary. Close the grill.

- When you flip the steak, the sprig of rosemary should be dried out. Discard and replace with a new one. Continue replacing the rosemary as the sprig dries out.

- Remove from grill, let rest, remove fat, slice thinly and serve.

Braised Kale

(Serves 2)

1/2 head of kale, thick stems removed, leaves torn
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
olive oil
salt & pepper
dash red pepper flakes
dry white wine

- In a pan saute the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until just softened, seasoning with salt, pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes.

- Add the kale and cook until it begins to wilt.

- Add enough white wine just to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to medium low, cover pan and let steam until the liquid has been absorbed. Try a piece, if the kale is still tough add a little more wine and repeat.

Slow Roasted Plum Tomatoes

- As many plum tomatoes as you like
- Olive oil
- herbs de provence
- salt & freshly ground pepper

- Preheat oven to 200

- slice tomatoes in half and place cut side up on a baking sheet lined with tin foil

- drizzle with olive oil, herbs de provence, salt and pepper

- roast in oven overnight or about 8 hours

Tuscan Beans with Sage and Garlic

2 cups dried cannellini beans
1 head garlic*
3 sprigs sage
6 cups water

1/3 cup olive oil
salt & pepper
Dash red pepper flakes

- Wrap the head of garlic in cheesecloth

- Add the beans, garlic, sage, and water to crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours

- Drain excess water, discard sage and remove and save garlic

- Dress the beans with the olive oil, a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes

*optional- the garlic ends up being fully cooked and similar to the texture of a garlic head roasted in the oven. Remove the cheesecloth, cut open, and spread the cooked garlic on bread

Sunday Supper - Tuscan Style

Fall is definitely in the air. Cooler evenings are beginning to lend themselves to jeans and sweaters. We pulled out the crock pot last weekend to make a large batch of Tuscan white beans, dried cannellini cooked with sage and garlic. Beautiful plum tomatoes from my mother's garden needed to be used and were slow roasted in the oven for hours with a dash of oil, salt, pepper, and herbs. We decided to eschew the Tuscan tradition of salt-less bread and picked up a crusty french baguette. A beautiful rib eye grilled with rosemary, a side of braised kale, and dinner is served.

Tuscan Beans with Sage and Garlic

Slow Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Braised Kale

Ribeye Grilled with Rosemary

Monday, September 3, 2012

Japanese Inspired BBQ Menu

In lieu of a more traditional Labor Day BBQ, Jason and I decided to give things a little twist. We came up with a Japanese inspired BBQ meal. We pieced together recipes we found online, from the Nobu cookbook, and that we made up on our own to create what was probably one of our best meals in quite awhile. We are already looking forward to leftovers tomorrow! Follow the links for the recipes...

Beef Yakiniku skewers
Marinated Japanese style chicken thigh skewers
Shrimp skewers
Soba noodle salad with scallions and cabbage
Green beans in a black bean paste dressing
Tomato ceviche, Nobu style

Marinated Chicken Thigh Skewers


1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sake
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp sambal
1/2 tsp grated ginger
*scallions optional

- If thigh meat is flattened, thread 2 skewers through each thigh. Otherwise, cut into pieces and thread onto skewers. Lay in a 9x13 baking pan

- Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over skewers.

- Cover and marinate for at least an hour.

- Heat coals and grill until just cooked through.

Beef Yakiniku - Japanese style beef skewers


1/2 lb beef
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp sake
1 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 apple, grated to release the juices
2 Tbsp roasted and partially crushed sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp mustard
*scallions (optional)

- Slice beef, thread onto skewers* and lay in a 9x13 baking dish. *optionally, alternate with slices of scallion

- Roast sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat. Remove to a plate and crush lightly with the side of a knife, or grind with either a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

- Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour over beef skewers.

- Cover and let marinate at least an hour.

- Heat coals and grill until just cooked through.

Soba Noodles with Scallions and Cabbage

(adapted from
8 oz soba noodles
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup chili oil
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bunch scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 1/2 cups thinly shredded cabbage
handful chopped cilantro

- Pour soy sauce into a small sauce pan and reduce by half over high heat.

- Combine soy sauce, tahini, sugar, oils, and vinegars. Mix well.

- Bring a pot of water to a boil, cook soba noodles for 3 minutes and drain. Rinse with cold water.

- Combine noodles, sauce, and scallions in a large bowl and refrigerate

- Before serving, stir in cabbage and cilantro

Green Beans in a Black Bean Dressing

8 oz green beans, trimmed and sliced in half
1 Tbsp black bean paste
3 Tbsp oil
2 tsp sake
1/2 tsp sambal
a squeeze of lime

- Steam the beans until they are bright green. Remove from heat and run under cool water to stop cooking.
- Whisk together the rest of the ingredients
- Combine beans and sauce in a bowl and serve

Tomato Ceviche, Nobu Style

This is the best tomato salad I may have eaten. Ever. We tweaked the recipe for the ceviche sauce, omitting the salt & pepper it called for, improvising a yuzu sauce we didn't have, and subsituting sambal for aji amarillo paste. This recipe will amaze you. I plan on eating it plenty until we are out of heirloom tomatoes for the season!


1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 heirloom tomatoes, various colors and sizes, chopped
4 teaspoons cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Ceviche Sauce (see below for recipe)

- Combine the tomatoes and cilantro in a bowl
- Toss gently with the Ceviche Sauce

Ceviche Sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 small orange
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sambal

- combine all of the ingredients

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mixed Berry Tart

I keep seeing beautiful berry tarts and had to try one myself. I used almost the same crust recipe as I did for the heirloom tomato tart, with the addition of a little sugar and vanilla extract. The filling was cream cheese and dash of Half & Half, all topped with a mix of fresh blueberries and raspberries. I'm still working on perfecting the crust but it was decadent and delicious.


For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8oz) cold butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp cold water

For the filling:
1 package (8oz) cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp Half & Half
Approx 1 1/2 cups of mixed berries I used blueberries and strawberries

For the crust:

- Add the flour to a food processor and pulse until incorporated

- Add the sugar and salt and pulse again

- Chop the butter into 4 chunks and add to the flour mixture. Process until the mixture starts coming together in small, pea-sized shapes

- With the processor running, stream in the vanilla extract and just enough water so that the dough comes together this time I used the whole 3 Tbsp and the dough as a little too wet

- Turn the dough out on counter, form into a flattened disk, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

- Return the dough to the work surface, using plenty of flour to make sure it doesn't stick. Roll out the dough to about a quarter of an inch thick and 10-11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a tart pan. I still cannot get this too work. It was worse this time than last. I ended up putting the  dough directly into the tart pan and flattening it out against the bottom and up the sides with my hands. It worked. 

- Top the crust with a sheet of parchment paper, fill with dried beans and return to the fridge for at least another 30 minutes.

- Preheat oven to 350

- Bake the tart with the parchment paper for about 20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the crust is a nice golden brown. Let cool

For the filling:

- In a mini food processor, blend the cream cheese and sugar. Stream in the vanilla extract and half & half and process until perfectly smooth.

- Spread the cream cheese mixture into the cooled shell

- Top with your berries, chill in the fridge, slice and serve

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Seed Saving

All summer we've been chopping and slicing up the best of the farmer's market bounty and tossing any ends, remnants, and SEEDS into the compost. As we were preparing a pound of jalapenos and serranos for hot sauces, I was inspired to try saving seeds.

I've never done this before and am better versed at plating and growing flowers and house plants than vegetables, but I learned a lot last year at the Altgeld Sawyer Corner Farm and am already thinking about what to plant and grow next summer.

So I saved some jalapeno seeds and tried saving a couple of tomato varieties last night. I pulled the seeds straight from the tomato, rinsed several times and laid out on a plate to dry, but this morning came across another method that involves letting the seeds and pulp sit in a jar and develop mold before harvesting the seeds. I suppose I'll try both methods and see what works.

Here are a few resources I've been perusing:

Any suggestions or advice would be welcome!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sausage, potato, arugula frittata

So, not the healthiest frittata in the world, but definitely a weekend treat! I am intrigued right now with preparing frittatas and eggs in general. I like the idea of adding more protein to my breakfasts, and eggs seemed like a good way to start. The heirloom tomato tart carried me through several meals, but I like the idea of the frittata as a gluten-free alternative to the tart or quiche!

This recipe became a great way to use up a leftover grilled sausage from earlier in the week. A little potato, arugula, onion and cheese and remembering not to cook the eggs too long and I think I'm finally getting the hang of this!

Sausage, potato, arugula frittata

1 cooked italian sausage, cut into disks if using raw, remove from casing and brown before adding the potato and onion to cook
1/4 cup onion sliced thinly
1 small yellow potato sliced thinly with a mandolin and cut into half moons

pinch red pepper flakes
salt & freshly ground pepper

1 handful arugula, or spinach, tough stems removed
2-3 Tbsp grated Parmesan or Romano
6 eggs

- Preheat the oven to 400

- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs

- In a large non-stick, oven-safe skillet or cast iron skillet, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat

- Add the onions, potatoes, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and saute until onions are softened and potatoes are cooked

- Add the arugula and cook until wilted

- Lower the heat and stir in the eggs and cheese, mixing until all of the ingredients are incorporated

- Over low-medium heat, let the mixture cook until the bottom is set and the middle is still loose approximately 5 minutes

- Put the skillet in the oven and let cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit to finish setting.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sweet corn risotto, scallop and shrimp skewers, Eric Ripert's arugula and yogurt salad

This plate of food epitomizes dinner in August to me. A corn risotto topped with a chopped tomato and basil salad, skewers of bay scallops and shrimp spiced with a creole seasoning, and a refreshing arugula salad with yogurt dressing.

The salad is from Eric Ripert's amazing cookbook A Return to Cooking. It almost works as a palate cleanser with the meal and is a perfect accompaniment to the creamy risotto and seafood. His recipe calls for goat's milk yogurt, chives and pine nuts. I omitted the pine nuts and chives and used regular yogurt and it still was delicious.


1/2 cup yogurt
1 tsp minced shallot
1/4 tsp minced garlic
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 large bunches arugula

- In a small bowl whisk together the yogurt, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

- To serve, place arugula in a bowl, and just enough dressing to lightly coat the arugula and toss.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Black Bean, Corn, & Tomato Salad

Once we had the large batch of homemade tomatillo salsa, it was only a matter of time before taco night. Here, a simple side salad to accompany beef tacos, slices of avocado, and lime and cayenne sprinkled cucumbers. Perfect for August.

1 ear corn
1 can black beans
1 tomato
1/2 jalapeno
1/2 red bell pepper
large handful cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp ancho chili powder
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of salt

- Drain and rinse the black beans.

- Cut the kernels off the corn and boil for a few minutes until tender.

- Roughly chop the tomato.

- Dice the red pepper.

- Chop the cilantro.

- Combine everything in a bowl with the spices and lime juice. Chill and serve.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tomatillo Salsa

Jason and I hit the farmer's market this past weekend to pick up some hot peppers for homemade hot sauce. We chatted with a nice guy at the market, discussing which of his peppers would be best for our intentions. He also pointed out the "ghost peppers" he had on the table. The ghost pepper, or Naga or Bhut Jolokia is the hottest pepper in the world coming in at a 1,000,000 on the Scoville rating (for reference, a jalapeno comes in at a mere 5,000, and a habanero tops out at about 350,000). When we paid for our jalapenos and serranos, he offered us two for free.

We were scared but intrigued. After a visit to Walgreens for some latex gloves, we decided to try the pepper in a tomatillo salsa. Jason started working and we decided to put our tongue on the tiniest slice of the pepper.... Not much happened. We got bold and took a little nibble. And pretty much nothing. A very mild hot pepper. Obviously not a Bhut Jolokia, we're thinking it was an Anaheim.

Either way, we ended up with a delicious tomatillo salsa. Try it out with your favorite pepper! And if you get your hands on a real ghost pepper, let us know!


1 1/2 lbs tomatillo
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 anaheim pepper, destemmed and seeded
1/2 jalapeno pepper, destemmed and seeded
1/2 cup or so cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp lime juice
salt to taste
*optional 1/2 tsp sugar

-Preheat oven to 450

-Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, slice the tomatillos in half and roast face down in the oven until the skins start to blacken. Remove and let cool.

- Put tomatillos, onion, peppers, cilantro, and lime juice in a blender and pulse until finely chopped. Season to taste with salt.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Recently Jason and I enjoyed an amazing dinner at Ruxbin. If you haven't heard of it, you probably will soon. A fantastic, little out of the way place with some serious cuisine. One of the highlights was my entree, a tomato tart. I've also been eyeing an heirloom tomato tart recipe from Tartlette and finally decided to give the recipe a try. Granted, I had to go out and buy both a tart pan and rolling pin that morning, as many of you know, I don't really bake.

Well, now I'm addicted to making tarts. The final product was beautiful! It needed more time to set than the recipe indicated (I might actually use less liquid next time) and definitely needed salt but I managed to get the crust right and the end product was beautiful. I've included my notes and suggestions in the recipe. It was perfect as a dinner accompaniment as well as several days worth of breakfasts! Next tart project, gruyere and caramelized onion...

Makes one 9-inch tart
Allow plenty of time for the dough prep

For the crust:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, cold
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp ice cold water

For the filling:
About 6 heirloom tomatoes
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper - go heavier than a pinch!
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

For the crust:
- Pulse flour in food processor until incorporated

- Chop butter into quarters, add and pulse until the butter resembles small peas This took longer than I anticipated. I was worried at first I had gone too long, but it takes a bit for the butter to get broken down and then form into little pea shapes!

- Add the salt and pulse once more

- Gradually stream in the water until the flour just comes together I probably used about 2 Tbsp, might ad a little more

- Turn out mixture onto work surface, form into a 2 inch thick disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes apparently this can also be done up to a day ahead of time

- Flour work surface and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick, adding more flour as you go if the dough starts to stick. Place dough into tart pan. All of this was very difficult for me! I 9 inch pan might be a little large for this project. The dough kept breaking when I tried to get it in the pan. Eventually I transferred most of it over then patched up the sides with the excess dough.

- Place a piece of parchment paper over the dough, fill with dried beans and refrigerate for another 30 minutes

- Preheat oven to 350. Place tart pan on middle rack and bake for about 15 minutes (with the beans still inside). Remove from oven, let cool and remove beans and parchment paper.

For the filling:
- Slice the tomatoes and lay flat on a couple of sheets of paper towels to absorb excess water.

- In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. Add the rosemary, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and whisk again.

- Pour the mixture into the tart shell and arrange tomato slices throughout. Here, I might not use all of the liquid as the dish ended up being a little "eggier" than I had expected. It also took longer to bake.

- Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until center is barely set. Tart will continue to set as it cools.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sun Dried Tomato Butter and Kalamata Tapenade

For our anniversary we ate at Girl & the Goat! The food, the service, the wine, everything was amazing. One of the simplest dishes which simply blew us away was a bread dish. A lovely, oil soaked stecca served with sides of smoked tomato butter and a tapenade. At first glance we couldn't really figure out how the flavors would come together, but on first bite we were sold. It was amazing!

Here's our version of the Girl & the Goat dish. Sun dried tomatoes and a dash of pimenton (smoked paprika) stand in for smoked tomatoes, and the tapenade came out of whatever we had in the fridge. All in all, a really nice accompaniment for a slice of baguette that we've been making frequently this summer!

Sun Dried Tomato Butter
2 sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
Approximately 1.5 Tbsp butter
Dash of pimenton (we've been using spicy but you can use spicy or sweet)
Salt (depending on whether your butter is salted or not)

- In a mini-food processor, process the tomatoes
- Add the butter and spices and process until smooth

Kalamata Tapenade
15-20 kalamata olives, pitted
1 anchovy filet, packed in oil
1 tsp fresh oregano
1 tsp fresh parsley
1 scratch black pepper
dash of olive oil
squeeze of lemon

- On a cutting board pile up the first 5 ingredients and run your knife through several times to chop
- Add a dash of oil and a squeeze of lemon, enough to get all of the ingredients to hang together

Slice your baguette, smear with a little butter and top with the tapenade. Enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mozzarella & Tomato Salad

There are a million variations on this salad. And really, who needs a recipe? Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil you've grown, olive oil, salt and pepper and you're done!

I was intrigued by this variation that I saw on Lottie & Doof that called for marinating the mozzarella as well as a couple of surprises, particularly the fennel seeds which were a great touch!I didn't use fresh buffalo mozzarella, we had a package of mozzarella balls on hand, but some fresh farmer's market cherry tomatoes and this dish was a hit.

1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
15 basil leaves, sliced
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
8 oz mozzarella
A handful or so of cherry tomatoes, larger ones sliced in half
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

-In a bowl combine the fennel, lemon zest, basil, oregano and olive oil. Toss in the mozzarella and marinate in the refridgerator at least 30 minutes.

-Before serving, stir in the tomatoes and season with a little salt and pepper.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beet and Lentil Salad

This salad was taken from Gordon Ramsey's Cooking for Friends. A perfect summer lunch incorporating roasted red and thinly shaved raw chioggia beets which are simply beautiful.

1 Chiogga beet

2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
2-3 Tbsp Sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp shallot, minced
Salt and pepper

- Peel the chioggia beet and using a mandoline, slice into very thin slices.

- Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over the beets. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes

FOR THE SALAD - serves 2

Cooked lentils (I cook a large-ish batch and then use throughout the week)
Mixed greens - spring greens, arugula, mizuna etc.
4 Roasted red beets
Marinated Beet
1-2 ounces of a firm sheep's cheese, diced (I used Carr Valley's Mobay Cheese, which is a goat & sheep blend)

- Cut the roasted beets into quarters if small, cut down further if large

- On each plate spread 2 heaping Tbsp of lentils, 1/2 the roasted beets and 1/2 the cheese. Top with a handful of the greens and 1/2 of the marinated beets.

- Drizzle the marinade on the greens and around the plate.

Beautiful Beets

Beets are one of my favorite vegetables. They can be found and used year round, but fresh beets in summer are truly special, and the greens can be sauteed as a side like you would spinach. I made a salad using both red and chioggia beets. There are few food sights as the pink and white striations on the chioggia beets!

Beets can be eaten raw, roasted or braised. Sliced thinly they are delicious raw. I've played around with braising and roasting beets as well, most recently roasting beets nestled in the coals of a grill while cooking lamb chops.

Here are a few ways to prepare this delicious and beautiful veggie!

- Peel outer layer
- Slice thinly and enjoy

- Preheat the oven to 375
- Wrap beets in tin foil
- Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife
- When cool enough to handle, use a paper towel and rub off the outer layer

- Wrap beets in tin foil
- While the coals are hot and being used to cook something, nestle the tin foil packets in the coals
- Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Cooking times might be longer depending on the heat of the coals, it's an experiment in process!

- Rinse greens and discard tough ends of stems
- Heat olive oil in a pan
- Add a couple of cloves of minced garlic
- Add greens to pan and saute until wilted
- Season with salt and pepper and a splash of lemon if desired.

Pasta with Cauliflower

It seems strange posting about a pasta dish while Chicago is caught in the midst of a heatwave! Temps in the 90s all week with highs over 100 a couple of days.

So maybe you need to wait a few days to try this one out. It was a great dish that could work year round. We did the cauliflower in a cast iron skillet on the grill in our quest to do as much of our cooking outside as possible. However, it can be done on the stove top just as easily.

We served this with a grilled lamb chop and side of sauteed beet greens.

1 Pound penne rigate pasta
1 Head cauliflower, broken down into florets
2 Small, red Thai chilies, seeded and sliced*
4 Cloves garlic, minced
Dry, unoaked, white wine (we used an Orvieto)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Handful fresh chopped parsley
1/4 - 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
*Substitute a fresh red chili or crushed red pepper flakes depending on availability

- Bring a large pot of salter water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente and drain.

- On the grill or stove top, heat approx. 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add garlic and chilies and saute until fragrant. Add cauliflower and season with salt. Cook until softened, splashing the pan with white wine as needed to cool the pan and prevent the garlic from browning.

- Combine cauliflower, pasta, parsley, parmesan, and 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add fresh ground pepper to taste.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers

A new favorite recipe. I've been trying for a great veggie burger recipe and it finally worked. The burgers held together perfectly and the spice mix is wonderful. I ate mine plain with a dollop of avocado-yogurt on top and a side of shaved zucchini salad.


1 can black beans, drained
3/4 cup of cooked quinoa
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, diced
Olive oil
1/3 cup parsley
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp sambal
1 egg
1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs

- Saute the red onion in a pan until softened. In a separate pan saute the shiitake mushrooms until they have released their liquid

- In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the egg and bread crumbs and pulse until combined

- Stir in the egg and the bread crumbs a little at a time until the mixture can loosely hold together when formed into patties

- Heat  oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Form the patties and  place in the hot pan 2 at a time. Cook for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes. Add more oil as necessary, form the remaining mixture into patties and cook.

Anniversary Eve Dinner

Jason and I recently celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary! We dined at The Girl & the Goat on the actual day, which was an amazing meal that exceeded all expectations. The night before, a Sunday, we followed our usual Sunday tradition of hunkering down to cook a meal together and enjoy al fresco dining on the porch.

Our anniversary eve menu included:

Roasted potatoes
Sauteed beet greens
Ragu of asparagus, garlic scape, and shiitake mushrooms

With the meal we enjoyed a bottle of Brunello we carried back with us from Montalcino on our 1 year anniversary trip back to Tuscany!

Homemade Worcestershire Sauce

I came across this recipe on the America's Test Kitchen website and had to try it! Luckily, I had a 2 week break from classes, giving me some free time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I got myself into a bit of a cooking frenzy one day which was kickstarted by this recipe for homemade worcestershire sauce. I adjusted the cooking times a dash which I'll note in the recipe below. Overall, something emerged which smelled and tasted remarkably like worcestershire sauce! We've already used it in some burger patties to rave reviews. And over the past few weeks the flavors have melded into something even more delicious.

Is it time or cost effective? Not really. Was it fun? Yes. And is it always more satisfy to make a condiment rather than buy it? Of course.


1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup molasses
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced
5 anchovies, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
- Toast pepper, ginger, cinnamon, clove, onion powder, and cayenne in small skillet over medium heat, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer spices to bowl; set aside. Whisk vinegar, water, molasses, fish sauce, and tamarind paste together in second bowl; set aside.
- Heat oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add shallots and cook until softened and browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add anchovies, garlic, and toasted spices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Whisk in vinegar mixture, scrapping up any browned bits. Bring to boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 hour.
- Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer; discard solids. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 2 months.

Lemony Snow Peas and Mixed Mushrooms

Trying to catch up on some recipes that have come into regular rotation recently. This recipe was adapted from the Chatelaine cook book. It works with both snap peas and snow peas and is a great summer side. The menu included:

Moroccan Chicken Thighs
Lemony Snow Peas and Mixed Mushrooms


1 lb snow peas or snap peas
1/2 lb mixed mushrooms (we've been using shiitake, crimini, and hen of the woods)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp butter
1 lemon
pinch garlic powder

- Slice mushrooms (discard stems from shiitake)
- Melt butter in oil in a pan over medium-high heat (this can also be done in a cast iron skillet on the grill for the summer)
- Add mushrooms and a dash of salt. Let cook, mainly undisturbed, so the mushrooms will start to brown
- When mushrooms stop releasing liquid and are browned, add the peas and the juice of half a lemon
- Cook, stirring, until peas are tender crisp and lemon juice is reduced

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Flower Boxes

This year has thrown me slightly off my game. However, my first summer class ended Thursday and practicum ended Friday. I have a carefree weekend before I start a 4 week stint as an aide for an extended school year program at an alternative school for kids with emotional and behavioral disabilities. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into. But to celebrate this weekend, I got my flower boxes planted!!! The sun is too strong right now to get a good photo of how they look from the yard, so I moved it into the shade on the table for a quick shot!

Left to Right Front Row: Snowstorm Giant Snowflake (Sutera cordata), Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Purple Sweet Potato Vine, Mezoo Trailing Red (Dorotheanthus) , purple potato vine, mezoo, purple potato vine, snowstorm giant snowflake)

Left to Right Back Row: Fireworks Variegated Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum), Angelface White (angelonia angustifolia hybrid), Dracanae Spike (Cordyline indivisa), Angelface White, Fireworks Variegated Fountain Grass

Middle: White Vinca

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I am taking full advantage of the small break I have before summer classes begin. Practicum continues, but having those two days without classes has been heavenly. It's been full of guilty pleasures like sleeping in, long walks, an overdue manicure, and, of course, cooking.

Today started with a plan to make homemade worcestershire sauce. I had more tamarind paste than I needed, which led logically to tamarind jam. Somehow, spiced peanuts were tossed into the mix and two quinoa recipes also migrated out of my kitchen.

The worcestershire is mellowing and the jam is cooling. Recipes to follow shortly.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Avocado Asparagus Tartine

A couple of weeks ago I made this amazing avocado asparagus tartine from 101cookbooks. I adore this website and have found every recipe I've tried to be delicious. This tartine was no exception. I had never before considered combining asparagus and avocado. I made just two little tartines (halved the recipe) for Jason and I to enjoy one evening as an amuse bouche while we cooked dinner one evening and look forward to serving this again. Bookclub perhaps?

4 toasted slices of whole grain bread or french baguette
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound thin asparagus stalks, trimmed to be the length of the bread
1 garlic clove thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 teaspoon carraway seeds
1 avocado pitted and smashed with a splash of lemon juice
a couple of handfuls of arugula tossed in olive oil
toasted pepitas

  • Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat
  • Add asparagus and a pinch of salt and cook for about 30 second
  • Add the garlic and carraway seeds and cook for another 30 seconds or so and remove from the heat
  • Spread each slice of bread generously with the mashed avocado
  • Top with a bit of arugula, several asparagus spears and a few pepitas
* I made mine without the arugula and it was still delicious!

Potatoes, Peas and Green Beans in Coconut Red Curry Sauce

Jason created this dish to accompany my stir fried vegetables with lemongrass. I love the amazing variety of flavor profiles there are in thai cooking. We managed to use up the rest of the coconut milk from Sunday's peanut sauce for the spring rolls, and we have leftovers for several more meals. Both of these dishes were incredibly simple but lovely and complex in flavor.

2 yukon gold potates, peeled and cut into large cubes
1/2 - 3/4 pound green beans
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 very large onion, sliced
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 Tablespoons red curry paste

  • Cover the potatoes with water and boil until fork tender. Drain.
  • In a large pan, saute the onion in a little oil until softened
  • Add the curry paste and cook for another 2-3 minutes
  • Add the beans
  • Add the coconut milk and peas and simmer on low about 5 minutes
  • Add the potatoes and heat through

Stir Fried Vegetables with Lemongrass

Inspired by our Thai cooking yesterday, and the lemongrass and coconut milk I now had on hand, I decided to try this recipe from The  Food & Wine Annual Cookbook: An Entire Year of Recipes 2010.

I was thrown off initially by the coconut milk - soy sauce combination but it was an amazingly savory combination. A nice, healthy vegetarian meal, perfect when paired with Jason's potatoes, peas and green beans in red curry and coconut milk.


2 stalks of lemongrass, tender inner white bulb only
3 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 very large shallot thinly sliced
3/4 of a head of cauliflower cut into small florets (about 1 pound)
12 asparagus spears, cut on the diagonal into 1 inch slices
1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, shredded
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup sliced basil

Jasmine rice for serving

  • Heat oil in a large skillet
  • Add the shallots and lemongrass and saute over high heat until the shallots start to brown, about 2 minutes 
  • Add the cauliflower, asparagus, bell pepper and carrot along with 1/2 cup of water and cook over medium-high until the vegetables are crisp tender, about 3 minutes
  • Stir in the coconut milk, soy sauce, and 1/4 cup water and bring to a simmer until cauliflower is perfectly cooked
  • Remove from the heat and add black pepper
  • Stir in the basil
  • Serve over rice


My grocery co-op, the wonderful Dill Pickle Food Co-op in Logan Square puts out a quarterly newsletter. I'm so happy that I've become a regular recipe contributor!

Check out the Spring 2012 issue for my potato, arugula, and herb frittata and israeli couscous with ramps, asparagus, and mushrooms recipes!

Green Beans in Black Bean Sauce

Inspired by the wrinkle beans at Urban Belly.

1 pound green beans
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
Olive oil
Black bean sauce (approx 2 ounces, enough to coat the beans)

  • Clean the beans
  • Saute the garlic and ginger in olive oil over medium heat
  • Add the beans and cook until tender crisp
  • Add black bean sauce, cooking for 3-4 minutes and tossing to coat the beans

Thai Beef Salad

This recipe is from My Grill by Australian Pete Evans. We brought this dish, along with my favorite spring rolls, and green beans in black bean sauce, to our good friends' house for a belated birthday celebration. The meal was a hit, the only downside, no leftovers!

Thai Beef Salad

Salt & pepper
1 pound filet
1 box asian brown rice noodles
3 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 handful basil
1 handful mint
1 handful cilantro
2 Tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts

2 Tablespoons minced ginger
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro sprigs
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 large red serrano pepper (or substitute with 2 small green thai peppers)
1 teaspoon honey
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass (inside white part only)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Season the filet with salt and pepper
  • Place filet on grill and cook approx. 4-5 minutes each side
  • Let stand before slicing
  • Cook the noodles according to directions, drain and rinse with cold water
  • For the dressing: combine all ingredients in a jar and mix
  • Toss the noodles with the dressing and add the torn herbs
  • Slice the beef thinly on the diagonal and place on top of the noodles
  • Top with the peanuts and serve

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

So I've been remiss with my blog but the end of 2011 was busy, busy, busy with classes, practicum and working part-time 2-3 days/week! I've been enjoying a little mental break while gearing up for some big events starting off 2012! I'm also back in the kitchen and have the Christmas Eve menu to post about as well as a couple Mexican and Indian cooking extravaganzas!

But for now, a little video to start you off smiling in 2012!

Much love, peace and prosperity to you all in the coming year!