Sunday, May 30, 2010

NRA 2010 – It Was All About the Chefs

You could eat your way through the Restaurant show and never look back. In one aisle alone I counted 17 food samples. There was everything from hot dogs to flatbreads to desserts. Me? I was simply in overload heaven.There was so much food, one could put on at least a half a dozen pounds just thinking about it.

The NRA attracted more than 58,000 registrants from 120 countries and if you can name 120 countries, you win! I get lost somewhere around 90.

It was remarkable to have so many celebrated chefs in the same space and all of them there for the same reason you were.

One could have easily stayed in the educational sessions but you would have missed out on half the fun and all of the calories.

The two sessions I attended were really exceptional and I walked away with so many new ideas. Every one of the panelists gave a great perspective on social media.

Get Butts in Seats for Free with Word of Mouth and Social Media.

Geoff Alexander of Wow Bao, Ramond DeLeon of Domino’s Pizza and Charlie Howard of Gold Star Chili.

Making A Big Production.
Billy Dec of Rocket Ranch, Alpana Singh of Check Please, Steve Dolinsky – food reporter of ABC 7 and Richard Roeper – Film critic and TV Host.

What I learned? Remember me – the one who posted way back when that I was not a fan of Korean food? I take it back.

Bill Kim can put together anything and it will be brilliant. What was a so-so sounding Kimchi Stew with Hominy turned out to be one of my favorite foods at the show. Also, everything that I have tried at his restaurants – Urban Belly and Belly Shack – have made me a evolving fan of Korean cooking.

I LOVE Ludo Lefebvre. Wife Kristine, a cancer survivor and all time good sport enjoyed the fact that so many women wanted their photo taken with the Top Chef Master with his pop-up restaurant Ludo Bites. He is a charmer and I was one of the many who fell under his magic. He also did the lead in to the book signing for Rick Bayless and picked up at least a thousand new fans in the process.

Coming off the high of a white house gig and suffering from laryngitis, Rick Bayless was a favorite once again, drawing long lines at his book signing. His cooking demonstration was clever and the recipe for Mochomos (defined as cooked, shredded and crisply fried meat) will be in his new book, "Fiesta at Rick's" which is being released on July 5th.

In fact, all the book signings were great.

Mobi Munch was the hit of the show. With street trucks the hot new ticket, the first launch was chef Ludo Lefebvre's LudoBites Fried Chicken truck in L.A.Keep a close eye on Mobi Munch as this cast will take street food to a whole new level in the next year. Hopefully changes in the laws in Chicago this summer will make it possible for chefs to hit the streets allowing them to cook all of the food on-site.

I am a huge fan of Kevan Vetter, head chef for McCormick. This great culinary vet put on cooking demos every day at 11AM and 2 PM and gained a whole new following...including me.

McCormick For Chefs–Food Away From Home Division is revitalizing its portfolio of five brands: McCormick Culinary, Lawry’s, OLD BAY, Zatarain’s and Thai Kitchen.

This photo taken by one of the Rational Chefs

The culinary masters from Rational? This group kept their booth traffic at a non-stop pace because every one of their chefs was an absolute master of fun!

The Korean Pavilion–
Recipes from The Korean Pavilion. Thanks for sharing!

Bringing in 4 celebrity chefs - Bill Kim, Debbie Lee, Edward Lee and Yongja Kim - was such a great blend of talent. Each had their own recipe for bringing home the simplicity and great taste of Korean food.

I’ll be making Bill Kim’s Kimchi Stew with Hominy because it was one of my favorite foods of the show.

Braised Pork

4 lbs of pork belly or pork butt, cut in smaller pieces to fit in a roasting pan

1 Cup Fish Sauce

½ Cup Sweet Chili Sauce

½ Cup Brown Sugar

½ Cup Mirin

½ Cup Siracha

½ Cup Korean Chili Paste

Combine fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, brown sugar, mirin, siracha and chili paste in a big bowl.

Pour liquid over the pork until almost completely covered.

Cook pork in a preheated 300 degree oven, turning after one hour, for about 2 hours.

The pork should be tender and fully cooked.

Remove Pork Belly and cool.

Once cooled, large dice pork and reserve.

Kimchi Stew

Previously cooked pork from recipe above

1 2 lb bag of flat oval Korean rice cakes

6 cups unsalted chicken stock

2 ½ Cups sweet chili sauce

1 Cup Soy Sauce

1 Cup Fish Sauce

½ Cup Korean Chili Paste

2 Cups cut napa kimchi

1 12oz can of hominy, rinsed

Juice of 2 limes

2 tbsp toasted cumin seeds

¼ cup chopped cilantro

¼ Cup of garlic chives

Heat chicken broth in a saucepan.

Add sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, and Korean chili paste and simmer 5 minutes.

Add pork, rice cakes, napa kimchi, and hominy and continue to simmer until rice cake is tender – approximately 5 minutes.

Squeeze lime juice into stew and ladle stew into 6 bowl. Garnish with toasted cumin, chopped cilantro and garlic chives.

This dish, made by Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Kentucky, was also a favorite.

I knew that I would like the flavor of the short ribs but the incredible taste of the Green tomato Kimchi really took me by surprise. I plan to make it as a side dish to a lot of my BBQ recipes this summer.

Grilled Galbi (Short Ribs!)


1 ½ Cup Soy Sauce

¼ Cup White Sugar

¼ Cup Brown Sugar

¼ Cup Mirim

1/3 Cup Sesame Oil

1 small onion pureed in a blender

6 whole garlic cloves pureed in a blender

1 small knob ginger grated

3 stalks of scallion, finely chopped

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 tspn red pepper flakes

Layer your short ribs in a casserole and pour the marinate over each layer making sure every rib is nicely marinated. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator and let meat get to room temperature. Grill on high for about 2 minutes on each side.

Green Tomato Kimchi

2 lb Green Tomatoes

¼ Cup Sea Salt

1 Daikon Radish, about 6 oz

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1 Small Knob of Ginger, minced

1 tsp Korean chili flakes

½ Cup Rice Vinegar

1/3 Cup Water

2 tsp Sea Salt

2 tsp Sugar

Prepare the green tomatoes by slicing them thin and layering them out flat on a sheet tray.

Sprinkle on the sea salt and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix the radish, garlic, ginger and chili flakes.

Brush off excess salt from the tomato slices and later them in a jar with the radish mixture.

Put the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off heat and gently pour the hot mixture into the jar with the tomatoes. If not completely immersed in liquid, top off with water until the tomatoes are completely covered, Put a weight over the top. Close the jar tightly and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least one day.

When ready to serve, drain and slice the tomatoes and serve with grilled kalbi.

My favorite finds of the show:

VnC Cocktails - In the past year VnC Cocktails has exploded across New Zealand and their popularity is spreading around the world…soon to be in the U.S, hopefully in time for the pool season this summer.I indulged in their perfect Margarita which I must admit was as good as my own recipe. Other flavors include Strawberry Daiquiri, Vodka Mojito, Banana Daiquiri, Pacific Breeze, and Pomegranate Cosmo.

J&J Snack Foods – J&J was a trendy booth with so many new snack items to choose from. The popluar favorite: TIO PEPE'S® churros.

Bing – One of my favorite drinks of the show was the Bing Energy Drink. For anyone who loves cherries, you will LOVE this new beverage. It would also be great as a chaser to an ice cold vodka or lemonade.

Walters State – I never heard of Walters State until I met Assistant Professor of Culinary Arts, Joe Cairns. With some of his culinary students in tow, this professor took on the NRA Show with so much enthusiasm that I wanted to enroll in his program immediately.

Inspiration is just a moment away from knowing that every great wannabe chef has a mentor somewhere and tag - you’re it Professor Joe!

Sweet Street – What can I say? Finally in dessert heaven and not sure I want to ever come back.
This was everyone’s favorite dessert stop at the show. AM or PM…the flavors were INCREDIBLE!

Vienna Beef – With no ketchup allowed (and they yellow stickered everyone with that thought) and a 4-bite sized hot dog, this was one of the hottest stops on the food circuit. Always a long line, this booth had a high-spirited staff who made you feel like your hot dog experience was the MOST important one of their day. Believe me, I took a taste of every hot dog at the show (my job ) and Vienna Beef is still KING!

As a close to another great show, a flash mob of chefs, restaurateurs, students and exhibitors danced in the first-ever restaurant flash mob dance. The originally choreographed dance — set to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” — was created by dancer Christina Chen of Cerqua Dance Theatre exclusively for the NRA Show and it was a huge hit.

See You Next Year and Bon Appetit!


Everyone’s favorite Marketing guru Linda Duke invited us to take in ZED451 on Saturday night during the NRA show.
I really LOVED this restaurant… the clean lines, natural elements, little spaces, incredible food and the rooftop encounter. This place is absolutely PERFECT for a corporate event. Best thing is that the restaurant provides a pick up and drop off service at your hotel. How is that for easy?

Thanks to everyone at ZED451 for the amazing experience. We’ll be doing a future post.

The high spot of the night? Took a tour and absolutely fell in love with the chef who was passionately singing at the top of his lungs in the kitchen. Love chefs who sing...tells me there is a whole lot of love in that kitchen!

Bon Appetit!

Green City Market 2010

It was Saturday morning and I loved being back at Green City Market. This for me was the official start of summer.
The weather was perfect and I was inspired to cook up a storm because the ingredients sold at the market are so fresh…many of them being organic.

Of course, it’s peony time and nearly everyone had a big bunch in hand.

Here are some of the things I found today and no wonder that so many of the great chefs in Chicago support and shop at this market each week on Wednesday and Saturday.

Here were two of my favorite vendors:

Nancy Silver
Snookelfritz Ice Cream Artistry.
Some of the most incredible flavors ever and I grew up on great ice cream.
Floriole 1220 West Webster…rubarb bread pudding and other pastry to die for!

Bon Appetit!

Baked Egg With Prosciutto, Asparagus and Tomato

This baked egg recipe was so enjoyable and really easy to make. What’s great about this recipe is that you can change it up. I’ve made it with spinach, chopped ham and small diced potatoes before and it was equally delicious. It takes a few minutes to put it together and only about 12 minutes to cook. The eggs come out perfect and are always good served with a sprinkle of parmesan and two Vita Vigor breadsticks.

     These are the layers of this easy and delicious dish

Cooking spray

1 slice tomato

1 generous slice prosciutto

1 small stalk asparagus, cooked

1 egg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pasmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the ramekin with cooking spray; line with asparagus stalk, tomato and prosciutto. Break egg into ramekin, then put on a baking sheet.

2. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until egg is set and white has solidified. Because the cup retains heat, egg will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven, so it is best to undercook it slightly. Precise time, in a good oven on a middle rack, is 12 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, Parmesan and serve. Yield: 1 serving.

Bon Appetit!

Peach and Tomato Salad

I looked for peaches and remembered they are not quite in season yet. I bought peaches at the Chicago French Market but I would wait a few weeks to make this recipe until the California peaches come to market.

Was it the best recipe I’ve ever made?...close!

The recipe is from Cooking Light and minimalism has never looked so stunning. I love the colorful combination of the peaches and tomatoes which creates a salad that goes really well with BBQ pork or chicken.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)


1/3 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion

3 ripe peaches, pitted and each cut into 8 wedges (about 1 pound)

1/2 pound heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, cut into thick wedges

1/2 pound heirloom cherry or pear tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup greens


Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over peach mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and basil.

Here is another salad recipe with peaches and tomatoes adding the great taste of Parma Ham:

Parma Ham, Peach and Tomato Salad

1 ripe peach

½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 ripe tomatoes

8 slices Parma ham, very finely sliced

basil leaves

mint leaves

2tbsp gentle extra-virgin olive oil

Slice the peaches in half, gently twisting the peach to release the flesh from the stone. Then slice each half into four. Cut the tomatoes into halves or rounds depending on their size. Divide all the tomatoes among four plates. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide the Parma ham and peaches among the plates and add the basil and mint. Season with a little more black pepper and finish with a good drizzle of the olive oil. Serve immediately.

I make this BBQ Sauce all summer when peaches are in their prime. It’s great on chicken but can also be used on BBQ pork.

I thought it was a little strange the first time I made it because you use both fresh and canned peaches. The combination gives this sauce a great flavor and like any traditional cajun recipe, includes the holy trinity – peppers, onion and celery.

Spicy Peach BBQ Sauce For Chicken

3 fresh Peaches, peeled and diced

2 cans firm sliced peaches

1 cup brown sugar

4 Cups hot water

2 chicken bouillion cubes

½ cup bell pepper, finely chopped

½ cup celery, chopped fine

½ cup onion, chopped fine

1 bat leaf

½ tsp white pepper

½ tsp red pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

½ stick margarine

Dissolve bouillion cubes in 3 cups hot water. In a saucepan, add 1 cup hot water and bring to a simmer. Blend brown sugar. Add fresh, chopped peaches, lemon juice and the water from the canned peaches. Bring to a brisk simmer. Stir until liquid thickens, about 30 minutes.

In a separate saucepan, melt margarine at 300 degrees. Add bell peppers, onions, celery, and seasonings. Saute until tender, stirring frequently. Add bouillion and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a brisk simmer for 10 minutes. Add peach mixture, blending well. When sauce thickens, remove from heat. Add canned peaches. Use a hand blender, blending the ingredients for 30 seconds. This should form a heavy puree. Use this sauce to barbecue chicken under a hot grill. Serves 8.

Bon Appetit!

Chicken Kebob

I always try to get an extra dose of veggies and frequently make kebobs. I change up both the veggies and the meat on a regular basis and really get into a creative tour de force come mid- summer when absolutely everything is in season. Don’t you love it?
Bon Appetit!

Necessity Bread

My favorite bakery is not only making great breads, but they also offer some of the best tarts around.

Take a look and thanks to Pastry Queen Lucia Oddo for sending these photos from her I-Phone the moment they came out of the oven.

You can find Necessity at their attractive new store front at 1766 Second Street in Highland Park and at the Chicago French Market.

Bon Appetit!

Asian Rotisserie Chicken Salad

This really good summer salad has the best texture because of the shredded chicken. The technique is simple: Holding a fork, tines down, in each hand, pull the meat into pieces along the grain.
Serves 4

• 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and soft stems

• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• Coarse salt and ground pepper

• sugar

• 1 rotisserie chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), skin and bones removed, meat shredded (about 4 cups)

• 1/4 medium red cabbage (8 ounces), cored and thinly sliced crosswise

• 1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced

• 2 scallions, thinly sliced

• 1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

• 1/2 cup cashews or peanuts

Make dressing: In a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, and oil; season with salt and pepper and a little sugar to taste. Blend until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, cabbage, bell pepper, and scallions; season with salt and pepper. In another large bowl, toss lettuce with 1/2 cup dressing. Divide among four bowls, and top with chicken mixture. Drizzle all with remaining dressing, and sprinkle with nuts.

Bon Appetit!

Watermelon Margarita

Watermelon gives this Margarita, from Austin's Fonda San Miguel, its refreshing kick. I have also used fresh pineapple in this recipe. What gives it a really great flavor is the fruit infused tequila. I steep mine up to two weeks and check it starting the 5th day to determine when it has the finest flavor.
     From Saveur Magazine. Photo by Andre Baranowski.


1 medium-size seedless watermelon

1 750-ml bottle of silver tequila


4 oz. of the watermelon-infused tequila

2 oz. frozen limeade

2 cubes of the infused watermelon

1 1⁄2 oz. Cointreau

Watermelon wedges

1. For the infused tequila, cut a watermelon into 1" cubes (rind removed) until you have roughly 2 lbs. of fruit. Transfer to a glass jar, pour in tequila, seal jar, and let steep for 2 days.

2. To make drinks, combine the watermelon-infused tequila, 2 cups crushed ice, frozen limeade, infused watermelon, and Cointreau in a blender. Purée until slushy. Garnish with watermelon wedges.

Bon Appetit!

New Orleans Shrimp PoBoy Sandwich

The last time I was in New Orleans, Chef Carlos sent me to a little hole in the wall that served great Shrimp PoBoy Sandwiches. The traditional versions are served hot and include fried shrimp and oysters. Soft shell crab, catfish, crawfish, Louisiana hot sausage, and roast beef and gravy are other incredible variations.

A "dressed" po' boy has lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise; pickles and onion are optional. Non-seafood po' boys will also usually have Mustard such as that produced by Zatarain's. Mother's Restaurant, a popular lunch stop in New Orleans on Poydras St., uses shredded green cabbage rather than lettuce for its dressed sandwiches. I like this spicy cole slaw on mine with Remoulade sauce.

Shrimp PoBoy Sandwich

Remoulade Sauce:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Refrigerate.

• 4 ounces mayonnaise

• 1 tablespoon horseradish

• 1 tablespoon pickled relish

• 1 teaspoon hot giardiniera relish

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1 teaspoon paprika

• 2 tablespoons lemon juice


• 6 medium shrimp, per sandwich

• oil (for frying, enough to cover shrimp)

• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 egg

• 1/2 cup milk

• salt

• pepper

• 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

• 2 teaspoons onion powder

• 2 teaspoons garlic powder

• 2 teaspoons paprika

Clean and devein 6-8 medium shrimp. Prepare 3 bowls. Add salt, pepper, and all other spices to the flour. Combine and beat the egg and milk. Arrange the bowls so you have egg wash and then flour.

Heat the oil until a drop of flour placed in the pan dances around. Egg and flour the shrimp. Carefully place into oil. Cook until browned on both sides.

Serve on crusty FRESH french bread and dress with remoulade sauce and the pickled coleslaw recipe below.

Pickled Coleslaw:

• 3 cups Shredded Green Cabbage

• 1/3 cup Carrots, Shredded

• ½ tbsp Sugar

• ½ tsp Dijon Mustard

• 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• 1 tbsp Vinegar, Cider

• 1/2 tsp Salt

• 1/8 tsp Black Pepper

Mix together cabbage and carrots. (red cabbage can be mixed with green cabbage)

In a separate small bowl, mix together remaining ingredients. Mix with hand blended if available.

Pour dressing over vegetable mixture and mix well. Allow to marinate at least 2 hours before serving.

Bon Appetit!

Best Wishes

Tucked away in the alley in downtown Lake Bluff, Sandy makes out of this world homemade ice cream (from the kitchens of Inovasi) and beautiful handmade chocolates.

I was once so hooked on Banana Laughy Taffy I had to try it. It was exceptional!

Dangerous to have them so close since all of their ice cream looked so good and not your every day flavors.

Bon Appetit!

Brown Tomatoes

My neighbor brought me over a brown tomato called KUMATO. Kumato is grown in Europe - Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland and also, believe it or not, Canada where the fruits ripen under optimum climatic conditions to ensure the highest fructose level and perfect firmness.I really liked the taste.

I love a good, fresh tomato (have you noticed how expensive they are this summer?) and I don’t know that I would like this one on a BLT, but I had it as a side with a little fresh ricotta cheese and it was terrific.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Welcome to Chicago NRA Visitors!

Welcome to the 100+ countries that are in for the NRA Show to enlighten you on the influence of their cuisine. That’s a few dozen more than the ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago - all of which have shaped our local culinary map.

To all of the NRA visitors – welcome to Chicago. Chicago is one of the greatest restaurant cities in the world so enjoy every experience you have here and thanks so much for coming. We also appreciate what you leave behind for us to savor.

What else do we have going for us? Well, for one thing, the summer like weather this weekend will be contagious.

Caution however because Chicago will suck you in. At least a dozen people I know moved here because they attended a trade show and, like me, fell in love with the city. Not to worry…I’ll even go home with you and help you pack.

The NRA educational sessions are so well-timed – like the session on Mobile Restaurants - Restaurants Get Rolling: Chefs Take It to the Streets. Since I thrived in Mexico for so many years eating off the streets, I am excited to see NRA’s agenda so state-of-the-art.

Just a warning - you could get lost in so many aspects of the show if you don’t have a plan so try to stick with it ... but also follow wherever your imagination may take you because there are so many new possibilities at this show.

Me, I’m going to try and give you the best coverage consuming the least amount of calories. Is that even possible?

If I happen to end up in fat camp next week, cut me a little slack...

Died and gone to food heaven and not even sure if I’m ever coming back!

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Work Some Magic With Low Calorie Desserts

Here are some delicious dessert ideas – and they all happen to be low calorie.

You can work magic with fresh fruit, frozen vanilla yogurt, fat free cool whip and angel food cake.

I use a little mascarpone in some of these recipes because I love the flavor and texture it creates when mixed with whipped cream. Be careful to use it sparingly because it’s not as low calorie as the other ingredients.

Bon Appetit!

Lemon Sorbet with Blueberries and Ginger Thins

Serves 1

1 scoop lemon sorbet

6 - 8 blueberries

2 ginger thins

Top a scoop of lemon sorbet with blueberries and serve with Anna’s Ginger Thin Cookies.

Blueberry with Maple Whipped Cream
Serves 6

3 cups fresh blueberries

1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a medium bowl, combine blueberries, sugar, and lemon zest and juice; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, whip heavy cream and sour cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Keep on whipping, and add maple syrup in a steady stream; continue to whip until maple cream is thick and velvety, about 1 minute more. Divide berries among serving bowls; top with maple cream.

Blackberries and Angel Food Cake

Serves 1

6 fresh blackberries

2-3 squares of angel food cake

1 scoop Whipped Cream and 2 tsp. Mascarpone Cheese (mixed)

1 Ginger Thin Cookie

Top the chunks of angel food cake with whipped cream and mascarpone. Add the blackberries. Top with a crushed ginger thin.

Strawberries in Grand Marnier

Serves 1

4 Strawberries, sliced

1 scoop vanilla frozen yogurt

1 large square angel food cake

1 Tbsp Grand Marnier

1 large scoop whipped cream

2 Tsp mascarpone

Place angel food cake in bowl. Sprinkle the Grand Marnier over the cake. Top with Strawberries. Top with whipped cream mixed with mascarpone.

Strawberries in Meyer Lemon Syrup

Serves 4

4 cups quartered small strawberries

1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

Place berries, juice, and sugar in a large bowl; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill 20 minutes.

Place cream in a medium bowl; stir constantly with a whisk until soft peaks form. Serve whipped cream with berry mixture.

Raspberries With Mascarpone Yogurt Cream

Serves 1

6 - 8 Raspberries

1 scoop frozen vanilla yogurt

1 scoop whipped cream

2 Tsp mascarpone

1 vanilla cupcake

Put vanilla cupcake on plate and top with a mixture of frozen vanilla yogurt, whipped cream and mascarpone. Top with raspberries.

Manna from Heaven?

The smell of bread immediately out of the oven is exposed from the door of this undersized bakery on Devon Avenue and makes it almost hopeless to get a bread purchase home intact. I started to eat mine even before I walked out and tonight I consumed two samoons before I could even say حتى المدهش.

Inside the store, you witness bakers with wooden paddles turning enormous disks of flatbread in the firebrick oven. I can’t ever remember seeing an operation like this anywhere in Chicago. It was compelling – so much so I wanted to roll up my sleeves and pitch in.

Yes, there are more modern methods but do they make the bread taste any better than this does? For that matter, does anyone put this much love into their practice because each and every scrap of dough placed in their firebrick oven had TLC written all over it.

Everything is made by hand and the owner, Eddie Adaba, greeted me covered in flour, bits of dough and a huge scowl.

Eddie Abada, came to the U.S. from Iraq nine years ago and worked in a variety of stores before deciding to open this bakery. He wanted to supply Chicago with the breads he saw his mother making at home. After apprenticing for a baker in Detroit, he opened Eastern Breadstone Bakery and now turns out amazing Iraqi tandoor bread and Samoons…which is what I had at the Belly Shack. He also supplies bread to many Middle Eastern groceries in the city.

Forget that he does not want his picture taken…not sure why because he has a rather interesting face but truth of the matter is he is far more into baking than all the hype…another reason to LOVE Eastern Breadstone Bakery at 2818 West Devon Avenue.

Bon Appetit!

Grilled Hearts of Palm and Asparagus Salad

This Italian salad is so terrific and easy. The hearts of palm and asparagus have a really delightful flavor from the grilling. I used my indoor grill and they came out perfect.

The recipe is modified from one I found in Fine Cooking.

The salad itself has so much texture and depth that it makes a perfect side for a very light spring pasta dish. Serves 4 as a Side.

Grilled Hearts of Palm and Asparagus Salad

5 hearts of palm, rinsed and patted dry

1 cup mixed greens

1/2 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed (about 8 oz.)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

Pinch of granulated sugar

3 very thin slices prosciutto di Parma, torn into strips (about 1-3/4 oz.)

1 oz. shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano (scant 1/2 cup)

Heat a gas grill on high or prepare a hot charcoal grill fire.

In a large bowl, toss the hearts of palm and asparagus with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and several grinds pepper. Grill, flipping as needed, until nicely marked all over and tender, 4 to 5 minutes total. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil with the lemon juice, zest, sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper.

Fill the bowl with mixed greens. Cut the asparagus and hearts of palm into pieces about 3 inches long by 1/2 inch wide. Return to the large bowl and toss with the prosciutto, Parmigiano, and 2 Tbs. of the vinaigrette.

Serve drizzled with the remaining vinaigrette, if desired.

Bon Appetit!

BBQ Pork

I cooked these country ribs all day in my crockpot and grilled them for a few minutes on the BBQ when I got home.

This was such an easy dinner and served with a lettuce wedge, it made for another meal I put together in under 30 minutes…not counting the time in the crockpot.

Often, when I get home, I don’t feel like cooking. This is what’s so great about your crockpot – it slow cooks for you all day and when you get home, you can sit down and eat with very little prep time in the kitchen.

And from being in the slow cooker all day, it’s usually falling–off-the-bone and why don’t I use this every night remarkable!

Try using a crockpot once a week. It will so spoil you!

Bon Appetit!

Growing Strawberries

My neighbor brought these Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes to serve for dessert tonight. Couldn’t resist photographing them when I was over there this afternoon laying out the plans for our summer garden.
She said “you really know what you are talking about”. I laughed and said I didn’t have a clue how to even grow a pea.

My dad use to grown Strawberries every summer and they were so good. They have not made the cut yet but are one of the many things we are thinking of cultivating this summer… with her green thumb and my enthusiasm.

Any suggestions on what to put in our garden this summer? Send them my way and I’ll let you know how we do.

Bon Appetit!

Pine Yard Restaurant - Evanston

So here’s the low down on the Pine Yard at 1033 Davis Street in Evanston. First off this place has been in downtown Evanston FOREVER. A three course lunch (soup, an eggroll and an entrée) will run you $7.99. I consider a $5.00 lunch to be a bargain.

The Good: Way too much food - I got 2 meals out of it and had it again for dinner that night.

The Bad: Plenty of MSG – way too much for my taste – but a favorite with a lot of people who apparently have never had really fresh Asian food. The place was packed!

The Ugly: The eggroll. Took one bite and... I’ve had really great egg rolls at Ben Pao and Red Light and just can’t eat anything but the best anymore.

Yes, I will now judge all Asian restaurants by their eggrolls. More often than not an accurate test!

Bon Appetit!

Cherry Season Can't Come Soon Enough

Granola with Cherries - A mixture of good, nutty granola with a spoonful of vanilla yogurt and a few cherries reminded me that summer is right around the corner. I love it when cherries are in season. Doesn't it seem like it has been FOREVER?

Bon Appetit!

Chareeb Nawaz - Devon Avenue

The last time I was down on Devon Avenue, I passes by this restaurant called Chareeb Nawaz at 2032 West Devon Avenue. It’s a 24 hour place, the décor is minimal and it was packed. Now I know why. This is where the natives go to eat.

The man next to me was chowing down a plate of Halwa Puri, the traditional breakfast of Pakistan – a mix of sweet halwa, spicy chick peas and hot cruncy puris. Honestly, if I hadn’t already ordered, I would have tried it because it looked delicious.

I ordered the Frontier Chicken and Naan. The serving size was plenty for 2-3 people so imagine that I could not even eat half of this. It was a ideal combination of spice that had just enough kick to remind me I was not eating in Lake Bluff anymore.

I really loved the food but also the price. Where else can you eat in Chicago for $4.50 and take home leftovers?

Bon Appetit!