Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010…Day After Detox

This was my chefs table 12 days ago when I was planning to start the Fast Track Detox. Lots of fruits and vegetables and little else. There was not a lot of wiggle room on this plan but I survived all 11 days without any slipups or cheats.

I am happy to say that I was rewarded for the discipline: I am down 9 pounds.

This program was so good for me. I was at a point in my life where I was making changes, and this definitely changed the way I think about food. I also thought about food a lot during the past 11 days. Perhaps that was my only struggle.

The plan did made me appreciate the fact that food is a very central part of my life. Without a doubt, it is something I embrace.

Today is my first day back eating “real food” so what will I do? I have to choose the practical option…doing cartwheels all the way to the nearest Italian bakery.

Happy “Eat Whatever Your Little Heart Desires” Day!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Three Hour Lunch...Tuesday, July 27, 2010. Detox - Day 11

Some final thoughts...
My craving for bread returned the minute I started eating again. At this point I would settle for breadcrumbs! Buttered breadcrumbs?

Did you know the average Italian consumes a half a pound of bread a day and a typical lunch is often three hours?

Certain I have some Italian in me somewhere.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 26, 2010….Detox - Day 10

The time has gone so fast I swear it seems like I just started on this plan. 2 days to go.

One of the things that I have to eat for the final 3 days is Sauerkraut, which is a natural source of lactic acid, a highly beneficial organic acid.

Who ever knew that sauerkraut is so good for you?

You can make your own vitamin, fiber and enzyme rich sauerkraut by using this recipe from the book. Most of the sauerkraut in the stores is cooked. Cooking kills the enzymes and microflora that you need to restore the friendly bacteria in your system.

Remember that this is raw not cooked sauerkraut. Big difference in taste. I ate it because it was good for me...not because I loved it!

Ann Louise’s Homemade Sauerkraut

4 cups shredded cabbage (can mix green and red. I also like my cabbage sliced instead of shredded)

1 teaspoon dried mustard

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1 garlic clove, minced

2 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Cup filtered water

In a glass container with cover, combine cabbage, mustard, caraway seeds and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice and 1 Cup filtered water.

Pour mixture over cabbage.

Cover tightly. Set aside and keep at room temperature for at least 3 days, shaking occasionally.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010 Detox - Day 9

I had eggs this morning and they were delicious. I added a little turkey because I felt like I needed to protein up. I also finally got yogurt.Cannot remember when a meal tasted this good!

About 15 years ago, I was 25 pounds overweight and went on the Body for Life diet. I was suppose to be on it for 12 weeks and hung on for 4 more – a total of 16 weeks. I not only lost all the weight but I also discovered exercise. For that alone, I love the Body for Life program.

Exercise is not only great for your body, but also for your mind. Exercise keeps my demons in check. It is a routine that has happily filled my weeks for the past 15 years.

The Fast Track Detox, which I have been on for 9 days now has once again renewed my resolve to at least try to eat right. Am I going to do it every day? Probably not. I am a foodie.

It has made me more conscientious about the food that I put in my mouth. The list of foods you can eat on this plan is pretty limited so some sacrifice is required on your part but I promise you will be amazed at how good you feel.

To the letter, I stuck to the plans and both delivered what they promised.

Again, I did not see either of these plans as deprivation but as self-love. I felt it was an easier way of getting through them.

Two more days and I can have a piece of bread again. Funny, but my craving for bread – the last craving to leave me – disappeared yesterday.

Check out both plans if you are interested in learing more about exercise and nutrition.

No matter what, be good to yourself. Nobody deserves it more than you do!

Bon Appetit!

Click below for the information:

Body for Life

Fast Track Detox

Saturday, July 24, 2010 – Detox...Day 8

I survived the toughest part of the program – the day of fast. Could I do it any longer than a day? I doubt it.

Was it spiritual? Not in the least. I did not meditate or get into reflecting on my past. I already went that route with my life coach for the past 16 weeks so I didn’t feel the need to do it again. To me, it was just a day without what I am most passionate about – food.

I was hungry in the morning but by the time late afternoon and evening rolled around, I had myself convinced that I had come this far and really didn’t need to eat. A few times when I thought that I wanted to eat, I drank the Cranberry juice mix. It helped curb the hunger until the next wave. I am very disciplined so I knew that I would survive. Did I enjoy the “experience” – not at all.

What did I learn from it?

I missed cooking new recipes this weekend and the social aspect of eating with friends on Saturday night. I can give up a lot…just not that.

I will be happy when Wednesday comes and I can eat anything I want. It will not be a hamburger and French fries. It will also not be Kale.

I will have a celebratory plate of eggs and vegetables in the morning. See, I am already planning my next meal. Once a foodie always a foodie!

8 days down and 3 to go!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, July 23, 2010

July 23, 2010. Detox...Day 7

                                                                                                                                                                                       Photo by Jen Camp

It’s been a week since I started the Fast Track Detox and I am feeling FABULOUS. I’m not certain I’ll be able to say the same thing tomorrow because it is my fast day. All I know is for the past 7 days, I have felt fantastic. It’s a real shock to me because I expected to feel both hungry and drained. I was hungry the first few days but it passed.

This program is NOT A DIET. A diet is a long term course of action …this is just 11 days. The program is a rejuvenation.

The pain that I had in my neck for the past 6 months is gone. The varicose vein I had in the back of my calf has vanished. Honestly…I am amazed. My skin is clear and my eyes are bright. I can’t remember the last time I felt this good.

Now…for the all important questions I ask the foodie in me:

Am I going to quit eating bread – that is a definite NO.

Am I going to quit drinking wine – not on the weekend.

Am I going to eat sweets – maybe once a week instead of two or three times.

I recently worked with a life coach who reminded me of the value of self-love. I had forgotten how good it feels to do something nice for yourself.

7 Down and 4 to go...

Bon Appetit …and be good to yourself today! You deserve it!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010 – Detox Day 6

Hump Day and I am a go-lightly girl! I can’t believe that I feel this good and that I have so much energy.

If someone had told me a month ago that I would be living off the vegetarian bar at Whole Foods every day and liking it, I would have told them they were crazy.

Fact of the matter is, this program has reminded me how important it is to be good to yourself. I don’t think about it as depriving myself of anything (except maybe bread). I look at it as a way of treating myself to some good old self-love. My body likes this.

I am having a little anxiety about my fast day Saturday but one thing I have learned: take one day at a time. Break this program into small steps – little goals – because it makes the overall process so much easier.

Happy Day 6 and 5 to go!

P.S. My reward for making it this far - a flat stomach!

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 – Detox Day 5

My only mission on Day 5, other than to drink half my body weight in ounces of water, was to find a fix for the dreadful tasting smoothie that I am required to drink for breakfast.

The smoothie was way too frothy (because of the protein powder). I discovered, through a little trial and error, that I could drink 2 good smoothies instead of one bad one by modifying the recipe a bit. I now have one for breakfast and one as my afternoon snack.

Here is what I did to rescue the recipe. I did not use any Stevia as the straight, organic Cranberry Juice and fruit made it as sweet as I like it.

1 Cup Organic Cranberry Juice (instead of Cranberry water)

2 ½ Tbsp. Protein Powder (instead of ¼ cup)

½ Tbsp. Flaxseed Oil

1 Cup fruit (One day I used really good, fresh peaches and the next day I used a mix of fresh strawberries and blueberries)

3 Ice Cubes (instead of 8)

½ Tbsp. Milled Flaxseed

Stevia to taste (I did not use any)

Combine in a blender on high speed.

5 down and 6 to go!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 20, 2010 – Detox Day 4

Man Cannot Live By Bread Alone...

I would like to challenge that statement!

4 down and 7 to go!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010 – Detox…Day 3

Lucky for me, with the heat index, it’s been over 100 degrees. Who couldn’t drink half their body weight in ounces of water on a day like this?

My office is right down the street from Whole Foods. First time vegetarian looked delicious. I must be hungry!
I don’t miss wine… I don’t miss dessert…but I really want a piece of bread!

Felt like I could run a marathon this morning in the heat. My energy level is still off the charts!

I thought it would be difficult but it wasn’t. Love an easy day!

Hanging On: 3 down - 8 to go

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 18, 2010 – Detox…Day 2

Coming off the coffee… I did not sleep well last night and woke up with a headache…which I never have. I’m coming off Caffeine.

I drank a ton of water and brushed my teeth. My mouth was fuzzy and so I was from the lack of coffee.

Did I miss the coffee? A little but not as much as I thought I would once I started to moving around. I only drank one cup a day so now I know how powerful the stuff is.
Breakfast Smoothie…
I tried the breakfast smoothie this morning and did not have all of the ingredients so I improvised based on the list of what I can eat. It was very light (I am certain from the protein powder).

This is going to take a little getting use to since I love the berry smoothie I have posted on the blog but… it wasn’t awful…or was it?

Incredible Energy…
The thing that surprised me the most again today is how much energy I have. I ran 3 miles this morning and walked 2…then I did 80.48 miles on my bike. It was well over 100 degrees with the heat index. I drank over 70 ounces of water. A lot of bikers were sitting in the shade under trees resting on our way back. I didn’t feel a thing. I’ve felt this way for 2 days now. Whatever it is about feeling this energetic – I like it!

We stopped off on our way back from Wisconsin and I ate a vegetable salad and some fruit.

For dinner it was lean roast beef and a really good salad that I put together with some of the vegetables I have in my refrigerator. The base is Kale and I am realizing that I really like Kale.

I first put Kale in soup a few years back. Since then, I’ve tried to eat new ingredients…most of which I have liked.

I just looked at the book and realized I needed to eat another teaspoon of olive oil, some garlic and nutritional yeast flakes. I mixed that together with some tomato, cucumber and radish and put the nutritional yeast flakes on top. Yum – it was really good and I especially like the taste of the yeast flakes. Seriously…not kidding. It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins and is a complete protein. It has kind of a nutty, cheesy taste. A lot of people sprinkle it over popcorn.

I stopped in to Caputos today to see what ingredients are in the Caputo salad. She didn’t know and is going to call me. I love that salad. Isn’t it funny though that I have never asked before? I’ve always looked at labels but this didn’t have a label on it…so I never thought about asking…until now.

I have two cravings: bread and French fries. Bread a lot and French fries because I always have…but just a little.

I am over the wine already which totally astonishes me and I’m not craving dessert which amazes me even more.

Hanging On: 2 down and 9 to go

Bon Appetit

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Graham Elliot's

Twas the night before detox and all through the land...I was stuffing myself with the magic of Graham!

Graham Elliot’s Restaurant, the Bistronomic one-of-a-kind wonder at 217 West Huron, was overflowing with foodie art. They say this place makes you see gray instead of black and white. Being a photographer, I had no problem seeing the shades of gray the minute they laid down our first plate. Company aside, I knew this was going to be a very unpredictable night.

The food was exquisite and with every subsequent bite, I became less interested in sharing with the girls. I WANTED TO DEVOUR IT ALL BY MYSELF…especially when it came to the perfect Dark Chocolate Torte. The cream cheese ice cream topped an almond financier with apricot jam and salted caramel. It was definitely a revered experience.

I also loved the Deconstructed Caesar Salad which was perfect with gem lettuce, a brioche twinkie, parmesan fluff and a white anchovy.

As a note, Gem is a petite lettuce described as a combination of Butter and Romaine. It is crispy like Romaine and sweet like Butter but has qualities all its own. Little Gem leans toward a nutty, walnut flavor and a sweetness that is totally reserved.

The Spring Pea Soup was stunning, especially the meticulously constructed pea tendril and the segment of mint marshmallow. I’ve never been much for Pea Soup but this cold creation made we want to give it another try.

This is not the place to go if you have to hurry through your meal to catch a theater performance because you will positively want to slowly savor each and every flavor.

Chef Elliot is planning to open a casual fare restaurant called Grahamwich at 615 North State Street in mid-August if city permits don’t delay it further. Look for truffle popcorn, soft serve, eight sandwich concepts and best of all – four homemade sodas. Look for my post.

 Bon Appetit!

Saturday, July 17, 2010 Detox…Day 1

Farmers Market Temptations

I picked a great day to start my detox…that was until I went to the Farmers Market and saw all of the mouth-watering bakery goods and desserts. “Give in give in you naughty girl”...Saturday’s your cheat day! Despite thoughts of croissants and rhubarb bread pudding running through my head, I really did well considering it was my first day and I was just coming down from a delicious overdose of Graham Elliot.

Where Did All This Energy Come From?

One thing I did notice is that I had an incredible energy surge in the 90+ degree heat. I put 62 miles on my bike this afternoon and felt invigorated. I know, I’m supposed to be dragging but truth be told I feel great! Wait until Day 2 when I have my coffee and wine meltdowns.

Water Instead Of Wine...

I’ve always said that I’m not willing to compromise on my wine. These days however, Pellegrino is the new Kendall Jackson…at least for the next 10 days. I have to admit the addition of the fresh cucumber made it taste pretty refreshing.

Saturday Night...

So, it’s Saturday night. Why am I working on my blog? Got to be a good girl once in awhile? Truth: My friends are out wining and dining without me. Detox bummer!


BLT's...A Gift From My Neighbor's Garden

I can’t resist a good BLT in the summer. When I’m trying to reduce the amount of food that I am eating, the first thing I cut back on is the bread. I use very thin slices. It’s the painless way to eliminate calories and let the taste of the fresh vegetables approach you.

I ransacked my neighbor’s garden - the one we planted together. I will admit the most I’ve done this summer is reap the benefits of having really good fruits and vegetables. She’s done all the work. Ask her and she says that she provides the veggies and I cook.

She thinks’ it works… especially when she and her husband are sitting in the garden drinking chardonnay and I’m flipping burgers over a their hot grill.

That’s the price I have to pay to get fresh produce. SO WORTH IT…especially when I see her in our garden weeding and cursing the bugs.

Bon Appetit!

Brittney Fried Spears: Hamburger Mary’s Take On Classics – Old and New

Hamburger Mary’s, at 5400 N Clark in the eco-friendly neighborhood of Andersonville, is a classic with a new look.

Last summer, Mary’s added the Rec Room and instantly became Andersonville’s premier sports bar. Playing to a packed house, Mary’s recently hosted a Stanley Cup Party when the Blackhawks put it to Philly in a spectacular OT finish. Yes, we’re still living that one over and over and over again!

One of the co-owners, Brandon Wright, has devised some of the best home brews to round out the beverage menu. I’m not that into beer but my dear friend Danny proudly admits to trying them all and says he has a hard time deciding which one is his favorite.

From Pub Crawls, to Open Mic Nights to MidSommarFest, Mary’s is a mainstay in the Andersonville community.

I saw fried pickles – cleverly named the Brittney Fried Spears- on the menu and we had to try them. Loved the flavor and would highly recommend them as your starter.

I did two of the scaled down mini burgers and they were the perfect size for me and I was full when I finished them.

We ate outside and the service was not great, but they were crowded. I passed the slower- than- normal service off to the fact that most of the crowd was inside because of the heat.

Love the feel of this place which is always entertaining. I’m looking forward to going back and trying something out of Mary’s Handbag…a sampling of most of the renowned starters they have on the menu.

Bon Appetit!

Everything You’ll Ever Need To Know You Will Learn From Your Grandmother.

I had a perfect childhood. I grew up with two parents who adored one another. We had a nice house in an first-rate block with perfect neighbors on an ideal street in Golden Valley, MN., USA.

For the most part, I got along remarkably well with my 7 brothers and sisters and we rarely fought. The 5 oldest attended catholic schools and all went off to do our own thing. We still get along. Getting through all of those years was so straightforward because we never knew anything but perfection as our role model. Life was good and still, for the most part, is!

My only dilemma? I didn’t grow up Italian. Growing up Italian would have made this almost perfect life totally perfect…and would have given me enormous bragging rights in the kitchen. I would have a Nona teaching me how to cook pizza, lasagna, spaghetti, manicotti, chicken parmigiana, and that oh so perfect mostaccioli. If nothing else, I certainly would have know how to cook Italian food by now.

Did my ancestors hate to cook? Drat… No double drat because I don’t remember any ethnic cooking coming out of our kitchen ever.

I do remember my Norwegian great-grandmother making cookies around the holidays- Sandkakor and Krumkake. She barely spoke a word of English and I was in 100% denial that I was ever anything but Irish so I never paid attention or cared…except when it was time to eat.

Granny’s cooking was incredible and I can still close my eyes and picture myself swimming through all of that butter. OK…so maybe I paid attention a little bit more than I thought I did.

Granny probably could have taught me more than I wanted to ever know back then and I regret that I was not there to take it all in and become skilled at every cooking challenge I could. One life lesson passed…and unfortunately she was the only living link I had to a real ethnic past.

So, if you are currently into your own perfect childhood and want to know what you can do to make it more perfect… pay attention to your grandmother.

Yes, as the old saying goes, everything you’ll ever need to know you will learn from your grandmother.

Swear to God and hope to die!

Bon Appetit!

Dark-Chocolate-Dipped Cherry Ice Cream Cones

I’m pretty sure that I could live off this recipe. In fact, I had it for breakfast the other morning!

I used Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream – one of Edy’s Fun Flavors – and it was to die for. The entire process was kind of a pain but the results? I consumed this Dark-Chocolate-Dipped Cherry Ice Cream Cones in record time. Is that a ravenousness, out of control appetite? Sorry - don’t care. Addicted to ice cream! Amen.

Bon Appetit!

3 pints premium cherry ice cream

8 sugar cones

1 11.5-ounce package bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted almonds

Spoon some ice cream into 1 cone, packing gently to fill. Dip large (1/4 cup) round ice cream scoop into bowl of hot water. Scoop large mounded ball of ice cream onto cone, pressing gently. Stand cone in small glass; place in freezer. Repeat with remaining cones and ice cream, placing each cone in individual glass. Freeze 2 to 8 hours.

Place bittersweet chocolate and oil in small glass bowl. Microwave on medium-high until chocolate is melted, stopping occasionally to stir, about 1 1/2 minutes. Let stand just until cool, about 10 minutes. Place white chocolate in another small glass bowl; melt in microwave on medium-high, stopping occasionally to stir, about 1 minute.

Place nuts on plate. Working quickly and tilting bowl of bittersweet chocolate to form deep pool, dip ice cream end of cone into chocolate, turning to coat. Gently shake cone, allowing excess chocolate to drip back into bowl. Immediately roll bottom half of chocolate-dipped scoop in nuts. Dip fork into white chocolate; drizzle lines over top of cone. Place cone in glass; return to freezer. Repeat with remaining cones. Freeze 1 hour.

P.S. This process was a little sloppy standing it upright – or trying to - in a glass.

You really need these adorable little Ice Cream cone holders that I saw at the National Restaurant Show.

Homemade Ricotta

I never knew that ricotta cheese was so easy to make. This is Mario Batali’s homemade ricotta cheese recipe and quite frankly - I will never buy ricotta again. It turned out really well and I served it with some berries and a cold glass of white wine. Everyone asked for the recipe.

2 quarts whole milk

1 pint half-and-half

Generous pinch of kosher salt

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar or strained fresh lemon juice

Pour milk and half-and-half into a large enameled or stainless-steel saucepan, add the salt, and bring to a full boil. Remove from heat, add vinegar, and stir until the mixture has separated into thick curds and a clear liquid (the whey).

Set a large sieve over a large deep bowl and line it with a double layer of wet cheesecloth (or a damp paper towel). Pour the curds and whey into the sieve and allow to drain for 15 minutes (or up to 30 minutes if you want a firmer cheese). Scrape the ricotta into a bowl. It is ready to serve, or it can be covered and refrigerated overnight.

Grilled Scallops and Nectarines With Corn and Tomato Salad

I could not quite get into this Bon Appetit recipe at first and was ready to toss it out but I decided to add some mixed greens and suddenly it became a really attention-grabbing side.
Don’t give up on recipes that don’t produce the results that you like. Figure out what you can do with it, how you can change it up or if you need to add or eliminate ingredients.

One of the things that I do throughout the entire process is to taste. It will definitely tell you where you need to go from here.

Bon Appetit!


• 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

• 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel

• 1/8 teaspoon (generous) piment d'Espelette or chili powder

• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• Fleur de sel*

Basil puree

• 3/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• Fleur de sel*


• 24 large sea scallops, side muscles removed, patted dry

• 3 firm but ripe nectarines (white or yellow), each cut into 6 wedges

• Olive oil, for brushing

• 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from 2 large ears of corn

• 24 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

• 1/3 cup thinly sliced basil leaves

• Fleur de sel*



• Whisk lime juice, lime peel, and piment d'Espelette in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with fleur de sel and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Basil puree

• Blanch basil in small pot of boiling salted water 30 seconds; drain. Squeeze to remove as much water as possible, then coarsely chop. Puree basil and oil in blender until smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Season to taste with fleur de sel. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before using.


• Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush scallops and nectarines with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill scallops until slightly charred and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Grill nectarines until slightly charred, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer scallops and nectarines to plate.

• Arrange 4 scallops on each of 6 plates. Toss corn and 2 tablespoons dressing in medium bowl. Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon dressing in another bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon corn around scallops. Scatter tomatoes over corn. Arrange nectarine wedges decoratively on plates. Drizzle some dressing over scallops, then spoon some basil puree over. Sprinkle sliced basil and fleur de sel over corn and tomatoes and serve.

Bacon, Lettuce and Cherry Tomato Salad with Aioli Dressing

If you like the taste of Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato, you will LOVE this salad. What really makes the grade is the aioli dressing, which is the “mayonnaise piece” of the classic sandwich that was always missing in so many other recipes I tried. You can serve this as a side but I served it as the main event with a huge chunk of heavy country bread and a glass of Kendall Jackson.
Bon Appetit!

5 ounces applewood-smoked bacon (about 6 slices)

12 cups torn romaine lettuce (from 1 large head; about 13 ounces)

8 ounces cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and/or pear tomatoes, halved

1 garlic clove, pressed

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels. Crumble bacon coarsely. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet; reserve skillet.

Place lettuce and tomatoes in large serving bowl. Heat bacon drippings in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, then mayonnaise and vinegar; whisk until blended, 30 to 40 seconds. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over lettuce and tomatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle bacon over. Serve immediately.

Sea Scallops Alla Caprese

Fresh ingredients – tomatoes and scallops – made such a refreshing dinner on a steamy, hot summer night. The heat index this day was well over 100.
This was so simple and such an impressive dish to cook for a crowd. Key: Make sure you use a variety of fresh tomatoes to achieve the look.

Scoring the scallops before grilling makes them open up and the contrast between the gold and the stark white interior is prominent. Cook the scallops 90 percent on the first side then give them a speedy finish when you flip them. This recipe is adapted from Mario Batali who was recently a guest chef at Taste of Chicago.

Note: Cooking on a piastra is an Italian tradition that has withstood the test of time. Piastra is a flat griddle stone used over a hot fire. They run about $50.

2 pounds mixed great heirloom tomatoes

24 fresh basil leaves

3 medium red onions, cut into 1-inch-thick slices

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 giant scallops (about 2 ounces each)

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1 lemon, cut in half

Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. Place a piastra on the grill to preheat.

Slice the tomatoes creatively (leave very small ones whole, or halve them) and lay out on a platter. Tear the basil leaves over the tomatoes, strewing them about. Set aside.

Season the onion slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them on the hot dry piastra and cook, unmoved, for 7 to 10 minutes, until well charred on the first side.

Using tongs, carefully turn the slices over and cook for 7 to 10 minutes on the second side, until well charred and softened. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly, then separate the onion slices into smaller rings and scatter them over the tomatoes. Drizzle the whole mess with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the olive oil.

While the onions cook, carve a checkerboard pattern about 1/4 inch deep into one side of each scallop. Season them all over with salt and pepper, toss them in a bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and stir gently to coat.

Place the scallops on the dry clean piastra, design side down, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, unmoved, until almost cooked (they should be opaque almost all the way through). Flip them over and sear for just 30 seconds, then remove and arrange on the tomato salad.

Sprinkle the tomatoes with the salt, squeeze the lemon halves over the scallops and tomatoes, and serve.

Potato Salad with Pancetta, Rosemary, and Lemon

This salad is a impressive twist on your old summer standard. OK – so I didn’t grow up Italian and never knew that Pancetta tasted SO GOOD but why hasn’t pancetta been a part of my culinary life before now? This is even better than bacon – is that possible?
Pork belly (love Pork Belly thanks to Chef Bill Kim of Belly Shack and Urban Belly) that has been salt cured and spiced (nutmeg, pepper, fennel, dried ground hot peppers and garlic), and dried for about three months but usually not smoked. Inspires me to want to try and make it very soon.

Bon Appetit!

5 ounces 1/8-inch-thick slices pancetta (Italian bacon; about 5 slices)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1 garlic clove, pressed

2/3 cup olive oil

3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

3 large celery stalks, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange pancetta slices on rimmed baking sheet, spacing apart. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes (do not turn). Drain on paper towels. Cool. Coarsely chop pancetta.

Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, rosemary, lemon peel, and garlic in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Place potatoes in large pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium. Simmer with lid ajar until tender, 18 to 25 minutes, depending on size of potatoes. Drain; let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices (remove skin, if desired). Place in large bowl; add celery. Drizzle dressing over; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Pancetta and potato salad can be made 1 day ahead. Cover pancetta; chill. Keep potato salad chilled. Bring pancetta to room temperature before continuing.

Sprinkle pancetta and chopped parsley over potato salad.

Body Image

My mother raised me right. I never heard her once say, 'I feel fat.' She was proud of the fact that she had great legs – she knew it - and nobody ever told her otherwise.

She was always a bit overweight but she had a great body image. It was OK to have curves back then…in fact, if you didn’t have curves you were doomed.

In the late 50’s, I don’t remember a lot of really overweight people. In fact, we weren't a weight challenged nation until just recently. Back then, we had mom’s cooking and little else until Kentucky Fries Chicken came along. There were casseroles, fruit cups, meat loaf, waffles and Cheez Whiz. I could never quite get into the Cheese Whiz.

I never particularly loved any of the food that was available then and neither did my mother who considered cooking an obligation…between loads of laundry and dishes. It was my dad who loved to cook and that suited my mother just fine!

So to my mom, who cooked through decades of ho-hum and managed to keep everyone in the household happy thank you for never making me feel that being a little overweight or underweight had anything to do with my self-worth.

Bon Appetit!

Stove-Top Clambake

Does Martha Stewart ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT? I know, some people think that she’s too perfect. Try some of her recipes and you will be convinced.

I love this stovetop clambake recipe that was in her last issue. Adding the ingredients in the right order is the secret to this recipe's success; the ones that take longest to cook go in first. If you can’t find seaweed, use a huge bunch of parsley or any other green.

Bon Appetit!

Serves 6 to 8

2 large or 3 medium onions, cut into large wedges

6 garlic cloves

1 bottle pale ale or medium-bodied beer

1 cup water

Fresh seaweed, well rinsed, for layering (optional)

1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes (white, red, or a combination)

1 pound hot dried chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Coarse salt

3 lobsters (1 1/2 pounds each)

36 littleneck clams, scrubbed well

4 ears of corn, husked and halved

2 pounds mussels, debearded and scrubbed well

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp (about 30), shell-on

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)

2 lemons, halved

Combine onions, garlic, pale ale, and water in a 16-quart stockpot. Cover with a layer of seaweed (or place a steamer basket on top of onions). Add potatoes, chorizo, and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil. Add lobsters; cook over high heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Add clams and corn; cook, covered, for 6 minutes. Add mussels and shrimp; cook, covered, until clams and mussels open and shrimp are cooked through, 4 to 8 minutes.

Remove seafood, corn, potatoes, and chorizo using tongs, and transfer to large platters or rimmed baking sheets. Discard seaweed and any unopened clams and mussels. Strain liquid through a sieve into a bowl; add butter, swirling to melt. Squeeze lemons over clambake.

The Great Taste of Tequila With Liqueurs

Last week, resident Tequila expert, César Mascorro Pérez, brought you a bouquet of drink recipes to get you through the summer. This week, we bring you Tequila with Liqueurs...which César says make the most delicious and entertaining drink combinations.
To understand the difference, the most reliable guide to classification is that liqueurs contain added sugar, but spirits do not. Many Liqueurs are featured and some of them combine the two great Mexican classics of Tequila and Kahlua.I love Kahlua and often use it in both baking and BBQ.

Another Mexican classic is Reserva del Senor Almendrado, which is an almond flavored tequila and will absolutely win you over on your first sip.

My favorite drink name: Fat On A Bike!

Salud Y Buen Apetito!


1 Part Coffee Liquor

2 or 3 Parts Cream or Milk

Pour the Coffee and Cream or full cream milk into a short glass (ice optional) and stir.

Kahlua Cognac

1 Part Coffee Liquor

1 Part Cognac

Pour the two ingredients into a brandy or cognac glass and enjoy. Great as an after dinner liqueur.

Kahlua Cream Soda

2 Parts Kahlua

1.5 Parts whipping cream

4 Parts Soda Water

Pour Kahlua and whipping cream into a cocktail mixer and shake thoroughly. Strain mixture into a tall glass and then add soda water. Best consumed with a straw.

Kahlua Cockroach

1 Part of Kahlua

1.5 Parts Tequila

Pour the Tequila and Kahlua into a glass, and (optionally) set on fire with a lighter. If you light it, pop a straw in the glass and drink! Otherwise this can be enjoyed slowly, on its own or as an after dinner liqueur. The Tequila thins the texture of the Kahlua and gives it a little "bite”.


1/2 shot peppermint schnapps

1/2 shot amaretto

Layer in shot glass


1 shot Reserva del señor Reposado

3/4 shot Almendrado

1/4 shot cointreau

2 shots orange juice

2 bar spoons nutella

Add Nutella and Cointreau into a boston glass, stir until it makes a paste. Add rest of ingredients and ice and shake thoroughly.Double strain into martini glass and garnish with chocolate shavings!!


1 shot vodka

1 shot Almendrado

1 shot Reserva del Señor Añejo

1 shot orange juice

Stir, Sieve and serve

Mexican Way

¾ Ounces Almendrado

1 Ounce Reserva del Señor Blanco

½ Ounce malibu

½ Ounce coconut cream

½ Ounce lime juice

¾ Ounces apple juice

¾ Ounces orange juice

¾ Ounces pineapple juice

½ Ounce cherry brandy

Prepare the shaker with full of ice, put all the ingredients and shake it vigorously within 8 to 10 seconds and strain into highball glass with full of ice. Garnish with orange wheel and Pineapple slice and cherry. Top up with cherry brandy

New Decade

1 shot vodka

2 shots gold Tequila

1 shot Almendrado

1 Can red bull

1 Lemon Slice

Mix and serve over ice.


1 shot blackberry brandy

1/2 shot Reserva del Señor Silver

1/2 shot Almendrado

Combine and mix with a little tonic or soda and fresh cherries.

Mr. Pancho

1 oz almendrado

1 oz Tequila añejo

No shaker, just shuffle


2 shots peach schnapps

1 shots martini

1 shot Triple Sec

1 shot Almendrado

Fill rest of glass up with orange juice

2 maraschino cherry

Add spirits first then add orange juice. Shake with ice, decorate using the cherries


¼ shot triple sec

¼ shot peach schnapps

¼ shot Almendrado

½ shot Reserva del Señor Reposado

½ shot southern comfort

Fill up with equal parts of orange juice and cranberry juice

Fill high ball glass with ice, add all ingredients in shaker, shake well and pour in high ball glass garnish with cherry.

Mexican Mafia

¾ Ounce Almendrado

¾ Ounce tequila silver

Shake ingredients and serve.

Fat On A Bike

1 oz amaretto

1 oz tequila

2 oz coke

Mix and serve over ice.

The Turtle

1 shot peach schnapps

1 shot triple sec

1 shot Blue Curacao

1 shot Malibu

1 shot Almendrado

1 shot martini

Top up with grapefruit juice

Shake with ice and pour into cocktail glass rimmed with sugar

Bill’s Drive In

My friend Bill told me the other day that I can’t do a negative review…that I always have something good to say.

Yes, it’s true if I don’t like a restaurant, it does not make the blog. So just to keep Bill happy, here is my take on Bill’s Drive In.

Bon Appetit!

Being a huge fan of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, I was fascinated that there was an old drive-in restaurant in Evanston (120 Asbury) called Bill’s. Until a few years ago it had been family owned and operated since the 1940’s.

The reviews are all over the place and I have to admit that my burger was probably the thinnest one I have ever eaten. You definitely need a double just to see any meat. I’m with those who give Bill’s a 1 star because I didn’t find the food extremely appetizing or high quality. I know – I am at the opposite end of a huge base of fans who just can’t get enough of this place.

I did find a high spot on my way back to Evanston however. Apple the Second Boutique at 745 West Howard is a beautiful shop in the heart of an economically depressed area. This little shop not only had really adorable designs but everything was so reasonably priced. I would definitely go out of my way to shop here again. Open Monday – Saturday from 12 Noon to 7 PM.

Bon Appetit!

Baker Boys

This little sweet shop opened in June and when I arrived this morning, they were frosting all of the cupcakes for the day. It was quite a decision for me since everything looked perfectly sinful.
The quality shows in their goods and I could not resist bringing this cupcake home for my neighbor who is wild about anything peanut butter… and loved it.

They are conveniently located on my bike route and I have already planned to come back for some of the eye-catching, homemade frozen custards.

At 733 St John’s Avenue in Highland Park.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pass The Salt...

The look of tequila in the last 6 years has been progressively climbing uphill. Elegant and trendy and so extremely popular now you can find good tequila almost anywhere. It’s come a long way since my first sip (and hangover) back in 1966.

I learned so much about tequila when I did the marketing study for Cesar’s company a few years back. Tequila is probably the most misunderstood spirit there is because it is so complex. It actually can be compared more to wine than say Vodka or other spirits. This is because tequila comes in different varieties and the character of tequila depends on many things including the aging process, the taste, the aroma, the quantity of the blue agave, the kick, the finish and the flavors of the tequila…and I could go on and on.

If it is a blanco (or silver), reposado, añejo, or ultra añejo, you’ll find a variety of recipes and here are some that Cesar says you’ll enjoy this summer.

Make sure all juices are freshly squeezed from the fruit and you buy the best tequila you can afford. Traditionally, blanco or reposado are used for mixing drinks and añejo, or ultra añejo are reserved for sipping but you can use any tequila you like because with Tequila – there are no rules and that’s all the fun of it!

The incredible Herencia Historico tequila being poured during a tour of Tequilas del Señor. Photo by Grover Sanschagrin.



1 ¼ Ounces Tequila

2 ½ Ounces Cointreau

2 Lemons

4- 5 Ice Cubes

In a shaker add the tequila, Cointreau, lemon juice, ice cubes and shake well. To serve, moisten the rim of a cocktail glass with lemon juice and impregnated with salt.

Tequila Sunset

¾ Ounce Lemon Juice

¾ Ounces Orange Juice

¾ Ounce Gold Tequila

1 TBSP honey

Crushed Ice

Slice Lemon

Hours before put the cups in the freezer. Add the tequila, lime juice and orange juice. Pour the honey into the cup. Add ice and decorate with a slice of lemon.

Tequila Sunrise

3 1/3 Ounces Orange Juice

2 tsp grenadine

1 ounce Tequila

5-6 Ice Cubes

Orange slice

In a shaker put half of ice cubes, orange juice, tequila and shake well. In a tall glass of ice pour the contents of the shaker and pour the grenadine syrup slowly to go to the bottom creating the "sunrise" effect. Do not stir.

Matador Frappe

1 ½ ounces tequila

2 Ounces Pineapple Juice

1 Tbsp Lemonade

¼ Cup Crushed Ice

Mix in blender 10-15 seconds and pour in a cocktail glass

Tequila Sour

2 Ounces of Tequila

1/2 Ounce Lemon Juice

1 tsp sugar

Ice Cubes

Blend all ingredients in a shaker and pour over ice


1 Ounce de tequila

1 Ounce Dry Vermouth

1 Ounce Sweet Vermouth

1 Ounce Camparo

Ice Cubes

Mix in a shaker and pour over ice.
Bernardo Torres is a professional tequila sommelier at Tequilas del Senor. P.S. In my next life I am coming back as a tequila sommelier - My dream job!

México Pacifico

1 1/2 Ounces tequila

1/2 Ounce Lemon Juice

1 ounce grenadine

Crushed Ice

Lemon Slices

Mix in a blender at low speed. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon slices

Diablo Morado

2 Ounces tequila

1 / 2 Ounce Pernod

3 drops of angostura

Ice Cubes

Mix in a shaker. Strain and serve into a cocktail glass

Cesar Mascorro Pérez samples tequilas at the Tequilas del Senor Distillery

Black Mexican

1 1/2 Ounces Tequila

1 Ounce of Coffee Liquor

Ice Cubes

Mix in small picture and fill cocktail glass with ice

Piña Madura

1 Ounce Tequila

Pineapple Juice

Crushed Ice

In a cocktail glass put crushed ice, pour the pineapple juice, add the tequila and serve garnished with a piece of pineapple.

Tequila Fresco

1 Ounce Tequila

1 Ounce spearmint

Crushed Ice

In a cocktail glass, pressing it gently by hand, add the tequila and then the mint.

The Mexican Bomb

1 shot tequila

1 ice cold Mexican beer

Drop a shot of tequila into the beer and stir.

Next week, Cesar be posting recipes made with Liqueurs including Reserva del Senor Premium Almendrado Tequila, an award winning tequila that has a rich amber hue, almond extract nose, full body with delicate marzipan and cocoa flavors. It finishes with a long, spicy, almond nut fade and a tequila dimension that provides a good, balancing bite to the sweetness.

Bon Appetit and Salud… y Gracias Cesar!

Detox---Fast Fad or Focused Fix?

About a week ago, I woke up and suddenly felt my age. OUCH! I’ve been so busy being healthy I hadn’t noticed.

I have been writing this blog since last September and perhaps the excuse to eat has finally caught up with me. Life was great in the fast lane until my body decided to beg for a break. And it has…it’s giving me an SOS and screaming OVERLOAD.

Just like when I cheat on the weekends, I need to take a vacation from “the good life.” It’s time for a short detox.

Now detox is a dirty word in most foodie circles but I was open to weighing my options and decided to take the plunge on Saturday, July 17th and see if the Fast Track Detox Diet created by Ann Louise Gittleman does it for me. My friend Bonnie is going on it with me.

Yes, you’ll probably find more posts on hunger pains in these 11 days than you will about weekend cheats. You will love all the seasonal fruits and vegetable recipes because I am already looking and it’s the perfect time to give you amazing recipes with so much in season right now.

Is detox a fad or a fix? For me, it’s a breather. Just a time out from the day-to-day crazies to give myself a little love. And I need a little love right now.

I’ve looked at a lot of detox plans and scores of them are brutal. Can I go 14 days without eating? That would be an definite NO!

The Fast Track Detox sounds like the perfect line of attack for me –7 days of healthy eating, 1 day of fast and 3 days to prep your body for “real food” again. I wonder what real food will taste like after 11 days away and if I will have this unmanageable desire to devour everything in sight that has lots of calories and fat?

My friend Diana, who is one of the leading authorities on Raw Food warned me to take it slow. Like everything, including exercise, slip into it.

Close your eyes and dive in – that’s my motto. I’ve never really been good about taking sound, expert advice on anything but I do respect it.

Many of my friends are already making bets that I will not survive…after all, I love food and my glass of wine at night. That will be the hardest thing to give up – the Kendall Jackson.

I feel skinny just thinking about it but I better not think too long or I’ll be knocking at Gerhard’s door looking for a Caramel Feuilletine.

Bon Appetit!


I am an ice cream snob. I grew up with great ice cream. Not only did my dad make his own but he had Bridgeman’s Ice Cream in his stores.

Bridgeman’s has been setting the standard of quality for over seventy years in Minnesota and to this day I still crave it.

Here are some new recipes that will cool you off this summer. The first is a low calorie version of a vanilla milkshake to which you can add fruit.

As you can see, I added strawberries and then blueberries to the mix and it was great.

The other recipes offer some unusual flavors that were inspired by two of my favorite foods: Bananas Foster and Pumpkin Pie.

Bon Appetit!

Vanilla Milkshake

Calories: 162 Fat: 2.25 g CarbS 28.5 g Protein: 6 g

½ Tbsp Coffee-Mate Sugar Free French Vanilla powdered creamer

1 Tbsp hot water

½ Cup Fat Free Vanilla Ice Cream or Frozen Vanilla Yogurt

½ Cup Light Vanilla Soy Milk

2 no-calorie Splenda sweetener packets

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup crushed ice

2 tbsp fat free whipped cream

In a bowl, combine powdered creamer with 1 Tbsp hot water and stir until dissolved. Add to blender along with all other ingredients except whipped cream. Blend at high speed. Pour into a glass and top with whipped cream.

As a variation, you can add peanut butter, fresh fruit or sugar free syrups to this milkshake.

Bananas Foster Dessert: The Milkshake

The first time I had Bananas Foster was in New Orleans at Brennan’s. I loved it and have tried many different variations over the course of the years.

I use to reserve this recipe for special occasions because it is such an elegant dessert and all of my guests asked for the recipe.

One day I decided to make it just for me because this solo dinner was a special occasion – I was making Jacques Pepin’s Chateaubriand for the first time and had guests coming that weekend.

Here is Brennan's recipe for the dessert which is always great and a perfect no fail recipe. Try to serve over homemade vanilla ice cream. Always ticks it up another notch.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup banana liqueur

4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved

1/4 cup dark rum

4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet.

Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.

Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan.

When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum.

Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum.

When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream.

Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

Being totally addicted to this dessert, I found this thick and creamy milk shake which partners caramel and rum and is a take-off on the classic Brennan's masterpiece.

Again, add ice cream or frozen yogurt to your desired thickness.

At my neighbor’s BBQ last weekend, I served this in tiny glasses with a little French cookie and everyone loved it. It’s an satisfying change from the usual dessert.

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 tbsp. dark rum

2 tbsp. heavy cream

2 bananas, cut into 1/2" pieces

6+ heaping scoops vanilla ice cream or frozen vanilla yogurt

1/4 cup milk

Combine sugar, butter, and cinnamon in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Stir in rum, heavy cream, salt, and bananas and cook, stirring occasionally, until bananas are browned and soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer banana mixture to a small bowl and refrigerate until chilled.

Working in two batches, combine half the banana mixture, ice cream (I actually used more than what the recipe called for because I like my shakes thick), and milk in a blender. Purée until smooth and transfer to a chilled glass.

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

My sister Krissy makes the best pumpkin pie dip every Thanksgiving. That inspired me to try this pumpkin pie milkshake which was really wonderful. Again, I almost doubled the ice cream depending on how thick you like your shakes. I like mine double THICK!

Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes were put in the “magnificent-to-die-for” category by one of my favorite blogs and I adapted the recipe because the pumpkin flavor was much too overwhelming for my taste.

I used a half of a ½” pumpkin pie slice (crust and all). That was perfect for me and gave the shake just a hint of pumpkin spice. They used a full 2” slice.

Secret ingredient: The marshmallows!

2 ounces milk

2 sliced marshmallows

small slice pumpkin pie (we used one on which the crust measured about ½ inch)

4 ice cubes

3 large scoops of vanilla ice cream

Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to taste

In a small saucepan, warm milk; once warm, add marshmallows and continue to warm (but not boil) until marshmallows are fully melted. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or spices to taste.

Place pie slice in blender.

Pour liquid mixture over pie slice, and add ice cubes and ice cream.

Blend until smooth

My Cheat This Week: Duck Confit!

If you’re going to cheat, it must be Duck Confit! Ahhhhh…Duck Confit!

I am now methodically studying the duck section of my Julia and Jacques book Cooking At Home because I LOVE DUCK CONFIT MORE THAN ALMOST ANYTHING.

Here is a recipe that is close to the Duck Confit Salad I had at Abigail’s American Bistro.

I know, it sounds really complicated but this salad has such mind-boggling flavors, it’s worth the extra time that it takes to make each step and construct it. Patience is the key!

It will make for a celebrated meal when you are trying to impress guests and believe me, you will. The wonderful thing is that duck confit can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time and stored in an airtight container as can the onion marmalade.

I don’t often splurge and order duck confit but when I saw it on the menu: duck confit/honey-onion marmalade/salad frisse/frites/apple smoked bacon/poached egg I was sucked in. You see, I’ve never had duck confit on a base of frites before and my love for French fries got the better of me remembering the duck fat fries I shared with my sister a few weeks back.

In Highland Park at 493 Roger Williams Avenue, Abigail’s American Bistro was named one of Chicago’s best new restaurants by Chicago Magazine and I give it my vote.

This place also makes the most amazing homemade flat bread. I challenge you not to eat the entire container because I did and then graciously asked for more.

Chef/Owner Michael Paulsen has really made his mark which is confirmed by the long wait lines. I showed up early for an 11:30 AM lunch opening and had no problem getting a prime table outside. The service was equally impressive.

Bon Appetit!

Onion Marmalade:

3 large onions, sliced ¼ inch thick, rings separated

1/8 cup of vegetable oil

1 tsp sea salt or canning salt

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cups granulated sugar

1/8 cup yellow mustard seeds

1 Tbsp honey

Toss onions with oil and salt in a large stock pot, canning kettle, or Dutch oven.

Over medium heat, sweat onions, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent.

Continue to cook until caramelized, taking care not to char them.

Add vinegar, honey, sugar, and mustard seed, stir. Continue to cook until sauce is a very thick syrup.

Meanwhile, wash and sterilize 3 half-pint jars and lids. Drain and keep warm.

Ladle marmalade into hot sterilized jars up to ¼ inch from the rims. Seal immediately.

Water bath in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove jars and cool completely.

Store in a cool pantry up to 6 months. Keep refrigerated once opened.

Duck Confit:

1 1/2 cups kosher salt

2 tablespoons coarse black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 sprig fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

4 duck leg quarters, rinsed and patted dry

5 cups duck fat

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 sprig fresh thyme

Combine salt, black pepper, chopped thyme, bay leaves, chopped rosemary, and 4 cloves of garlic in a medium bowl. Stir to mix well. Add the duck legs 1 at a time, firmly packing the salt mixture onto both sides. Place the duck legs on a rack set over a baking sheet, skin side-down, and top with the remaining salt mixture.

Refrigerate uncovered at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.

Rinse the duck under cold running water to remove the salt crust and pat dry. Place in a medium roasting pan without overlapping and cover with the duck fat. Place the remaining 2 cloves of garlic, the sprig of rosemary, and sprig of thyme on top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast until falling from the bone and the fat is completely rendered, 6 to 7 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature.

Transfer the duck to an airtight container with a lid, cover with the fat, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: 8 servings


3 large Idaho potatoes, about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into matchstick slices 1/4-inch thick

Canola oil, fry frying


Place the potato slices in a bowl of water. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Pat dry with towels.

Heat enough oil to come 4 inches up the sides of a large deep saucepan to 310 degrees F. Add the potatoes in batches and cook until just crisp but still yellow, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F. In batches again, add the fries until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the steaks.

Yield: 4 servings

Frisée Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs

2 pound frisée (French curly endive)

6 ounces apple smoked bacon

½ tablespoons distilled white vinegar

4 large eggs

Tear frisée into bite-size pieces and put in a large bowl. Cut bacon lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks (lardons)

In a heavy skillet cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and remove skillet from heat.

Have ready another skillet with 1 inch warm water. Half-fill a 4-quart saucepan with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a bare simmer. Break egg into a teacup. Slide egg into simmering liquid and immediately push white around yolk with a slotted spoon, moving egg gently. (Egg will become oval, with yolk completely covered by white.) Immediately transfer egg to skillet of warm water. Repeat process for other 3 eggs.

To Construct The Salad:

On four salad plates, place frittes and cover with a thin layer of the honey-onion marmalade. Place the frisee on top with a half cup of duck confit and top with the drained poached egg. Season egg with salt and pepper and serve salad immediately.

Verdict: To die for food.

Mexican Street Corn With Cheese and Cilantro

While living in Mexico, I became totally and completely obsessed with the street carts that sold hot, steaming corn on the cob. The best part is how they dress the corn--first they slather it with mayo, then a liberal sprinkling of cheese, a splash of margarine spray, and a dash of salt and chili. And wait until you taste this. Absolutamente Perfecto!

The key to making this Mexican street-food is to char the corn on the grill and then brush it with mayonnaise so that the cheese, cilantro, and chile powder stay on the kernels. It’s a trick you will quickly master.

I wasn’t able to get down to my Mexican market early in the week. At the advice of my guy at Caputos Market, I used some finely shredded parmesan cheese instead of cotija. I really loved the flavor using the Parmesan so let’s say this was my version of Mexican street food with an Italian twist.

I have also seen a true Italian version of street corn using olive oil instead of mayonnaise.

Later in the week, I went to the Mexican market to get cotija.

You be the judge which is best. I loved them both!

Bon Appetit!

4 large ears corn, with husks still attached

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 cups crumbled cotija cheese

4 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro

4 tsp. ancho chile powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black

margarine spray

pepper, to taste

1 lime, cut into four wedges

Working with one ear of corn at a time, peel back the husks to expose the kernels, leaving husks attached at the base; remove the silk threads and tie husks together with kitchen twine around base of cob to form a handle. Repeat with remaining ears. Transfer corn to a large bowl or pot of water and let soak for 30 minutes.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill over medium-high heat. Transfer corn to grill; cook, turning occasionally, until charred and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove corn from grill and brush with mayonnaise. Place cheese on a plate and roll each ear of corn in cheese to coat. Sprinkle corn evenly with some of the cilantro, chile powder, and salt and pepper, pressing the corn so that seasonings and cheese will adhere to the mayonnaise. Spray lightly with margarine. Serve with lime wedges.