Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gold Coast Art Fair

As one of the most highly attended art fairs in the city, The Gold Coast Art Fair attracts about 450 juried artists and 350,000 visitors from locations around the world.
I am anxious to hear what the attendance was this year with the move into Grant Park. Believe it or not it was very crowded by noon on Saturday.

Here are some of the remarkable things I saw today… and I loved the art as much as I loved the food.

Bon Appetit!

Bennison’s Bakery

Since 1938 Bennison’s, at 1000 Davis Street in Evanston, has been turning out some of the best baked goods in all of Chicago.

Here is why I have to take a detour any time I get within a block of the place!

Bon Appetit!

Dreading Leftovers?

Here is a really good meal I made this week and it was so easy!

...and here was my leftover dinner the next night. Doesn't it look great? It was one of my favorite meals of the week.

You can have a really great meal anytime when you use fresh ingredients and shop local.

Bon Appetit!

Saigon Sisters...Best Sandwiches In The Loop.

Bahn this is what I was talking about a few weeks back. The perfect blend of pork belly, pickeled vegetables and crunchy bread. Yep - without a doubt the best sandwich in the loop.

Bon Appetit!

P.S. Mama makes Pho a few days a week. She's so tiny that she has a step stool up to the pot.

Photo of Mama from Saigon Sisters.

A Study In Mole...

So, here is the first lesson in my quest to perfect what is lacking in my culinary know-how. MOLE.

I imagine that I must be cooking it with classic Mexican music blaring in the background. It is one of the most difficult sauces to make. I love the taste and much like making roux, you have to bring all the ingredients to the edge of burned without burning them.

I am told that you learn the art of Mole when you have made it a few dozen times. It took me at least that many to feel comfortable with roux.

I will be attempting to make a mole recipe that my friend Gabriela got from the many generations of Mexican cooks in her family. And by the way, the recipe has never been changed. When I looked at the recipe, I realized that it also requires prayer and a lot of blind faith that all the diverse ingredients will work together.

Bon Appetit!

The Purple Pig Named One of 10 Best in Country

CONGRATS to one of my favorite restaurants, The Purple Pig, named one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country by Bon App├ętit Magazine. The kitchen is run by Jimmy Bannos of Heaven On Seven and Spiaggia Chef Tony Mantuano. The food is Mediterranean small plates and includes everything from bone marrow to pig’s ear.
Go to the Review page and click on the Purple Pig.

The First Annual Bloody Mary Fest

I thought that I made a great Bloody Mary until I tasted my borther Terry's. He should have been in Highwood this week to compete in the First Annual Bloody Mary Fest.

The winner was The Silver Dollar Tavern where all-star bartenders, Tim and Tom, competed against 20+ others for the title. Stop in at 336 Green Bay Road in Highwood and try one of their award winning Bloody's for yourself.

Made me so thirsty I had to be creative and mix one up this afternoon. I'm going to work on this recipe and take  them on next year.

Bon Appetit and Salud!

Billy Elliot the Musical

As part of a day of Art, Nature and Fun at Pritzker Park, the cast of Billy Elliot the Musical and Broadway In Chicago teamed up with the Chicago Park District, Chicago Loop Alliance, The Joffrey Ballet Chicago and Lakeshore Athletic Clubs and offered a fun, free morning of BALLET AND BOXING from 10 AM to 11 AM in Pritzker Park.
Billy Elliot is the winner of 10 Tony awards.

Support the Chicago Park District as they stage so many great events throughout the year.

Canning - Step By Step

My neighbor summoned me to her kitchen this week to can and said that I would be so happy this winter that we did. If I can do this, so can you but it’s depressing just thinking about winter. UGH!
Bon Appetit!

1. Boil water. Bringing a large pot or canning kettle to a boil takes some time - up to 45 minutes over high heat. Fill the kettle about half full for pint jars and two-thirds full for quart jars.

2. Sterilize jars and lids. The easiest way to do this is to run them through the "sterilize" cycle on a dishwasher. Or boil for 10 minutes.

3. Fill up. Ladle your food into sterilized jars using a wide-mouth funnel. Be sure to leave the amount of headspace specified in the recipe.

4. Let the air out. Run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles along the sides of the jars. Wipe top edges of jars clean with a damp cloth to ensure a good seal.

5. Put a lid on it. Be sure the lid's seal is centered. Screw the metal ring lids on firmly so they stay in place.

6. Own the process. Submerge the jars into boiling water. Process as directed in the recipe.

7. Out of the water. Lift jars out with tongs. Keep a potholder handy in case you need to grab one of the hot jars. Set jars on the counter to cool to room temperature. You may hear a slight "ping" from the jars as they seal. This is a good thing.

8. Test the seal. Push down in the center of each jar. If it stays down, the jar is sealed. If it pops up, the jar isn't sealed. Keep unsealed jars in the fridge and enjoy immediately.

9. Label and store jars. Label the jars with the date and contents. Store in a cool, dark place and use within a year.

Cucumber and Shrimp Margarita Cocktail

This recipe is inspired by the Mexican version of shrimp cocktail, in which the shrimp are served in a spicy tomato sauce. This is a terrific starter and I like it topped with a spoonful of cocktail sauce.
• 6 cucumbers, small pickle type, or 2 long greenhouse type

• Salt

• 2 tomatoes, large, very juicy and ripe, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

• 2 cups tomato or V-8 juice

• 1/3 cup sweet onion, such as Pennsylvania Simply Sweet, chopped

• 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely chopped

• 1/4 cup sweet pepper, diced

• 2 limes, juiced

• 2 lemons, juiced

• 1/3 cup cilantro leaves

• Black pepper, ground

• 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and cooked

• 1 avocado

• Tortilla chips

• Salt, flaked or coarse

Slice the cucumber in half, then cut into 1/4-inch chunks. Add to a large bowl and salt lightly. Let sit 10 minutes, then add tomatoes, tomato juice, onion, jalapeno and sweet pepper, lime and lemon juices, cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some ground black pepper.

Slice shrimp in half, then into bite-size pieces and add into vegetables. Let sit 1/2 hour.

Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice. If not spicy hot enough, add more jalapeno or your favorite hot sauce.

Right before serving pit the avocado and cut into 1/2-inch chunks. Gently stir into the bowl of vegetables. Carefully ladle the shrimp cocktail in a glass with a lot of the juice. Serve with tortilla chips and pass the hot sauce.

Ciotola di Panzanella (Panzanella Bowls)

Well, I found it again…a recipe with pancetta and I really liked this recipe for the freshness and flavor. It’s an Italian BLT with all the ingredients and a great lunch or terrific tasting side to BBQ chicken.  So easy you can put together in under 30 minutes.

Bon Appetit!

• 4 large tomatoes, of different colors if available (about 3 pounds)

• 3 tablespoons or more red wine vinegar, divided

• Kosher salt

• Black pepper, freshly cracked

• 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

• 1/4 cup or more olive oil, garlic flavored (or infuse oil by adding garlic to heated oil and then cooling, or use olive oil and add garlic powder carefully to taste)

• 4 ounces grissini (bread sticks), thin, broken into 1/2-inch pieces

• 8 rounds pancetta (or slices of bacon)

Cut the top 1/4-inch off each tomato and reserve. With a serrated knife, cut the tomato meat away from the outside skin without cutting through completely. Scoop the membrane and seeds out with a spoon and transfer to a strainer set over a bowl to drain.

Season the hollowed tomatoes and the membrane in the strainer with a drizzle of vinegar and some salt and pepper.

Put onion slices in a small bowl and cover with 2 tablespoons vinegar and a pinch of salt. Let stand 10 minutes to remove some of the raw sharp flavor of the onion.

Whisk together remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, garlic oil and 1/4 cup of the drained tomato water. Season with salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop the drained tomato and put in a mixing bowl. Drain the onions and add them along with the grissini pieces. Drizzle the dressing over the bowl and toss very well. Season again and add more oil, tomato water and vinegar, as needed, to evenly moisten the stuffing.

Stuff each tomato with 1/4 of the stuffing and garnish with the tomato tops. Chill until ready to serve.

Fry pancetta/bacon and set aside for assembly. Before serving, top with the crisp pancetta or bacon

Green City Market 2012

The creation of the late Chicago Tribune food writer and cookbook author Abby Mandel, the Green City Market started with just a few vendors in an alley near the Chicago Theater off of State Street.

By the year 2012, all of the farmers will be required to be certified by a third party as sustainable or organic. The market boasts 60 vendors and the farthest any seller travels is about 300 miles.

The market is located in Lincoln Park at 1750 N Clark Street and operates on Saturday and Wednesday starting at 7:00 AM.

I love going on Wednesday because that’s when a lot of the supporting chefs are there to shop for the week.

Bon Appetit!

Workout In The Park

Take a free, 45-minute exercise lesson on the Great Lawn in Millennium Park every Saturday.
Classes include yoga, Pilates,tai chi and Aerobic dance classes which feature varying styles including hip-hop, Latin, Polynesian and cheerleading.

Here was the schedule this week and I was there for Yoga, as were hundreds of other people who really loved the instructors.


7 a.m.: Tai Chi

8 a.m.: Yoga

9 a.m. Pilates

10 a.m.: Aerobic dance

Chicago Food Trucks

Chefs from Alinea, Big Star, Urban Belly, Frontera Grill, Perennial, Graham Elliot, and Naha are ready to hit the streets.

Stay posted.

P.S. I’m ready for pork belly - from Urban Belly - to be out on the streets!

Bon Appetit!

Food Network: The Great Food Truck Race

                                                                                    Photo: The Food Network

Tyler Florence, the Food Network chef is host of the new show The Great Food Truck Race.

Tyler recently revealed his long-standing love of food trucks saying that he’s had two recent parties catered at his house with pizza and tacos.

That takes catering to a new level.

Bon Appetit!

Food and Wine Fittest Chefs

Food and Wine named the fittest chefs in America and here are four of my favorites...
Just goes to prove you can love to eat and still be fit!

Bon Appetit!

Photos and Text from Food and Wine
Laurent Gras

Executive chef, L2O, Chicago

F&W Best New Chef 2002 Laurent Gras's name crudely translates to "Fat Larry" in French—wholly ironic, considering he carries an incredible two percent body fat.

Barbara Lynch

Chef-owner, No. 9 Park and B&G Oysters, Boston

In 2009, Barbara Lynch started boxing at F-15 Training Center, a fighters' gym in South Boston run by legendary Golden Gloves Champ and Ultimate Fighter coach Peter Welch. Her daily workouts in the ring—combined with sprinting, jumping rope and resistance training—have resulted in 35 pounds of weight loss

Rocco DiSpirito

Chef and author, Now Eat This!

Four years ago, F&W Best New Chef 1999 Rocco DiSpirito barely knew what a triathlon was. He now trains six days a week and has completed eight of them.

Scott Wall

Chef-partner, Lark Creek, Walnut Creek, CA

Once Scott Wall hit 330 pounds, the 6' 2" chef started working out during his only available time: from midnight to 2 a.m. He's since shed more than 125 pounds—and has kept the weight off for two years.

Food Lines At O'Hare?

Lines at an airport restaurant? You can bet on it as the Chicago Department of Aviation announced that celebrity chef Rick Bayless will open two restaurants in O'Hare Airport this fall.

I personally know Bayless fans who said they will be looking for an excuse to make a connection through Chicago.

Bon Appetit!

Orange and Chocolate

Don’t you love the combination of Orange and Chocolate? I like this cookie recipe that combines these flavors and reminds me why I can’t eat just one.
Bon Appetit!

1/2 c butter

1/2 c butter flavor shortening

3/4 c white sugar

3/4 c light brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp mexican vanilla

grated rind from one orange

juice from one orange

2 1/4 c all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups Dark chocolate chip chunks

Preheat oven to 350.

Use parchment, or grease lightly your cookie sheets.

Cream the butter, shortening, brown sugar, white sugar, orange juice, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Combine the dry ingredients and the orange peel and stir in to the creamed mixture. Fold in chocolate chips lightly and chill for 20 minutes or so.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes until light golden brown and still soft, but set in the middle.

Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes and then remove to cooling rack or counter.

Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

Now…hold that thought because here is Ina Garten’s “to die for” Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake recipe:

• 1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

• 1 cup sugar

• 2 extra-large eggs at room temperature

• 1/8 cup grated orange zest (2 large oranges)

• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon

• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

• 3 ounces buttermilk at room temperature

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• 1 cup good semisweet chocolate chunks

For the syrup:

• 1/4 cup sugar

• 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

For the ganache:
• 4 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips

• 1/4 cup heavy cream

• 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 6 individual serving baking molds, such as the flexible non stick 100 percent silicone molds.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the orange zest.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour. Toss the chocolate chunks with 1 tablespoon flour and add to the batter. Pour into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the molds on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the sugar with the orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Remove the cake from the pans, put them on a rack over a tray, and spoon the orange syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cakes.

The Food Show

Eighteen Chicago photographers offer images that encompass a visual feast of all things culinary. The show is at the Chicago Photography Collective at 29 East Madison and is part of Pop-Up Art Loop.
We first read about this happening months ago: As the recession curbs the demand for commercial properties, landlords from London to New York have decided to turn their empty spaces over to art—temporarily—rather than let them sit vacant. There are a total of 3 spaces downtown dedicated to this initiative.

The show runs until the end of the month and inspires a lot of food for thought!

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Eat Pray Love

I'm giving the movie critics a huge thumbs down. Take the movie for what it is – a Julia Roberts feel good chick flick. LOVED IT!

Famed Naples pizzeria L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele (Via Cesare Sersale 1, 80139, Naples, Italy ; is the restaurant where Julia Roberts has a love affair with her pizza.

She’s called “Groceries” in the movie because of the way she can put it away and the cuisine all looks so appealing.

Photo from Javier
Did the movie leave me dreaming of food in Italy? No, just of Brazilians in Bali.

Bon Appetit and call your travel agent.

Whole Food Minis

Whole Foods makes these petite croissants. Now this is portion control!

Mini Bon Appetit And By All Means - Enjoy Your Breakfast!

Bread Pudding…

What I like about bread pudding is that you can put anything with it and it tastes great.

So easy and one of the best flavors - a little caramel!

Bon Appetit!

Evanston Farmers Market – Three Times A Routine!

I can go anywhere in the city on Saturday morning and the Evanston Farmers Market is a stop-off.
The train that arrives in Evanston at 7:00 AM drops me off 2 blocks from the market. Did you know that Chicago Magazine just named my favorite market the best in the city?

I hop back on the 9:00 AM train to wherever it is I happen to be writing about on that particular Saturday. I use basic public transportation to get there and then I walk. I’ve been known to walk 10-20 miles on any given Saturday and thanks to Google walking, I never get lost.

What I love most about this farmers market is that I run into old friends and every week there is new produce…something that just came in season that I am surprised to see.

Here are a few things that caught my eye this morning.

Bon Appetit!

Gaztro Wagon Rules

This curbside phenomenon pulled into the Rogers Park neighborhood at the Neugart block sale and I was there waiting. It arrived at 9:50 AM and by 10:00 AM they were selling Naan-wiches. Talk about a quick setup.
I savored every bite of the pork shoulder with cilantro, radish and queso fresco. Just like Mexico, I was eating pork for breakfast except this time it was in a Naan instead of a tortilla. I really liked the pork with the radish. I will be looking for the short ribs soon because I’ve heard that it is the chef’s specialty.

Gaztro Wagon is the mastermind of Chef Matt Maroni, who has been at the lead of the food truck revolution in Chicago and knows a thing or two about being in the right place at the right time. His truck, nicknamed Dorothy, is a can-be-anywhere operation 24/7 and he’s got the miles to prove it.

I parked myself on the steps of a nearby house to eat and Chef Maroni mouthed me from a distance asking how the pork sandwich was.I gave it an energetic thumbs up. This was seriously good food.

On Sunday, Lockwood's Phillip Foss, another chef who wants food trucks, will offer his latest inspirations with wife Kenni at Maroni's Gaztro-Wagon storefront at 5973 N. Clark. They will test out the magic for their newly formed Foss Family Food Trucks including some great doughnuts made in the style of Israeli Hannukah fritters called sufganiyot.

Get ready Chicago – great eats are soon to be mobile and just a twitter away!

Bon Appetit!

Asian or Italian…When You Just Can’t Decide – Do Both!

Tonight, I was trying to decide if I would cook Asian food or if I wanted Italian. I really had a taste for both after seeing Eat, Pray, Love today.

I decided to do both and the combination of flavors was a huge change and actually quite good.

I BBQ chicken and brushed on hoisin BBQ sauce about 10 minutes before the chicken is ready to take off the grill.

Hoisin BBQ Sauce

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

3 tablespoons sake or dry sherry

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan and cook the garlic over moderately low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sake, ketchup and rice vinegar and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Let cool and brush on to BBQ chicken. Just before serving, I sprinkle on a dusting of sesame seeds.

For the pasta, I used the fresh ingredients that I got at the farmers market today – tiny, multi-colored tomatoes and shallots mixed with a little extra virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh shaved parmesan.

Bon Appetit!

Edzos Burger Shop

For anyone who didn’t notice that Eddie took a vacation for 10 days…get over it.

I walked in there yesterday at 10:30 AM because I was craving the Truffle Fries – with truffle salt and parmesan - and got my fix by 10:45 AM. P.S. Chef’s need vacations too!

He’s got a crucial theory on why the milkshakes taste so much better from his old malt machine - whips less air into the ingredients – and it reminded me that certain chefs just get it…and Eddie is one of them.

Eddie was there at the counter chatting with all the customers at the same time he was writing his food blog and probably thinking about another 20 ways to upgrade your burger. He spent a month or more perfecting his hamburger meat recipe and at least that much time making everything else perfect. And perfect it was…

Just one question?

Am I in trouble with Edzos being a block away from my office at 1571 Sherman Avenue in Evanston?

Does eating lunch at 10:30 AM answer that question?

Bon Appetit!

Evanston Food Trucks? Here is what the Chicago Tribune reported:

While Chicagoans go without food trucks, Evanston is moving a step closer to dining-on-the-go.

Hummingbird Kitchen, which owns both Campagnola (815 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-475-6100) and Union Pizzeria (1245 Chicago Ave., 847-475-2400), has had its trucks thoroughly studied by the Evanston City Council over the past month.

In September, the council will vote on the food ordinance. If a simple majority votes yes, the food trucks of Evanston can hit the streets in a mad dash. Since only one alderman is currently opposed to the ordinance, it seems likely that Evanston will be soon enjoy pop in visits from mobile trucks.

Meanwhile, Chicagoans can only trust that one day the ban will be lifted and Graham Elliot will be free to dispense fried oysters and hush puppies from his “Grahamobile.”

The Balancing Act

I saw her one morning when I was on my way to the Farmers Market in Evanston. It reminded me immediately to slow down because this was my life 12 months ago.
Sometimes, things get a little crazy and you feel like you are doing a balancing act and at any moment you might fall off the edge. Lucky for me I never did. A good run or a hundred mile bike can always pull me out of it…or a vacation in the Caribbean and a few Margaritas.

It was at this point that I got a life coach who helped me sort through the all the layers of my passions and impatience. It's sometimes hard to see the big picture and easy to become overwhelmed or feel like you're lacking direction. A life coach doesn't bother trying to figure out what motivates a person but instead tries to help a person figure out how to get away from what they're currently doing and move towards what they want to do.

How many people have been in a career and suddenly woke up one morning only to realize that all they ever wanted to be was a chef? So what will your life coach tell you? Never too late, please start drafting your five year plan and let’s set and review your goals now.

Made me realize that it is never too late to do anything!

Bon Appetit and Dream Big!