Sunday, October 31, 2010

Food Tattoos

If you get a food tattoo, send me a photo. Am I planning on one anytime soon? Hum...

Here are some of the best I've seen so far...

Celebrating The Great Taste of Bakery

Bon Appetit!

The Weekend Chef

I cooked all weekend and was surprised that I got a string of winning recipes. All of them were keepers.

From great pumpkin soup to serve as an opening to a Thanksgiving meal to Champagne Floats, Baked Beans with pickle juice and a delicious Pear and Prosciutto Pizza that was so easy to make I created this masterpiece in under 30 minutes.

What I don’t have is a new recipe for creamed spinach - I like mine fresh but my neighbor always finds a new way to present it - or chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting.

I buy mine at FoodStuffs because I haven’t found a recipe that is any better… but I try.

And a footnote on the great taste of butter.

Bon Appetit!

Pumpkin Soup in a Pumpkin

Pumpkin isn't just for pies anymore. I looked at a lot of pumpkin soup recipes and decided on this one. The bread crumbs gave this soup considerable substance and I was astonished at just how good the recipe is.

I did not use the cream and found the soup to be pleasing (and fewer calories) without it. It had a really great flavor and would be an impressive opening to any Thanksgiving meal.

I used a little bit more cheese than the recipe calls for. The really fun part was scooping out the pumpkin flesh into the soup after you cooked it. You knew that you were just pumping up the flavor.

This is definitely a great holiday side and would also make a hearty meal with a loaf of premium bread and a small salad.

Bon Appetit!

1 7-lb. Cinderella pumpkin, with a 2" stem

7 tbsp. butter


1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 1⁄2 cups fresh white bread crumbs, toasted

1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1⁄2 tsp. ground sage

Freshly ground black pepper

1⁄2 cup grated Swiss cheese

4 cups Chicken Stock

2 bay leaves

1⁄2 cup heavy cream, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut a lid about 4" in diameter out of top of pumpkin and set lid aside. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Rub inside of pumpkin and lid with 1 tbsp. softened butter, season with salt, and place on a baking pan.

2. Melt remaining 6 tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in bread crumbs and cook for 2 minutes, then add nutmeg and sage and season generously with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, stir in cheese, then spoon mixture into pumpkin. Pour enough stock into pumpkin to come within 1⁄2" of the rim. Lay bay leaves on top, then fit lid onto pumpkin.

3. Bake until pumpkin begins to soften and brown on the outside and the stock bubbles on the inside, about 1 1⁄2 hours. Carefully remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter. With a long-handled spoon, scrape flesh from bottom and sides of pumpkin and, just before serving, stir in heavy cream if using.

A Little Note On The Big Taste Of Butter…

We all know there is no substitute for quality. Even in easy recipes, every ingredient's quality has a consequence on the recipe's outcome.
And unfortunately, there is no substitute for butter. If you can't use butter don't waste your time trying to make a great brioche or a croissant.

The result will be second-rate.

Bon Appetit!

I love the simple taste of raisin brioche in the morning for breakfast with a little hamemade jam.

This simple brioche loaf makes really remarkable French toast which the recipe follows. I load it up with strawberries and whipped cream and rarely have anyone who does not ask for a second helping.

Brioche Loaf

• 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

• 2 3/4 oz butter, at room temperature

• 2 eggs, at room temperature

• 1 Tbsp dry baker’s yeast

• 2 Tbsp fine sugar

• 1/3 cup warm milk

• 1 pinch salt

• 1 egg yolk for glaze

• In a bowl, mix the flour with the yeast, make a hole in the middle.

• Add the warm milk mixing with the tip of your fingers. If using a stand mixer, pour the milk slowly and steadily while mixing, with the hook attachment.

• Add the sugar and a pinch of salt, then add the soft butter, piece after piece, waiting each time that each piece is absorbed.

• Then one by one, add the eggs, mixing well between each. Work the dough until it is elastic and detaches from your fingers more easily or from the bowl of the stand mixer.

• Cover and let rest in a warm place, away from drafts, for two hours, until it doubles in size.

• Work the dough again for 10 min and divide it in four balls. Place them in a greased rectangular mold and cover. Let rise for an hour again.

• Preheat the oven at 400 F.

• Brush the brioche with the egg yolk mixed with a dash of sugar. With a pair of scissors, make small cuts at the top of each ball.

• Place in the oven to bake for 10 min then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for about 20 to 30 min.

• Remove, unmold and let cool on a rack.

Baked French Toast

1 and 1/2 pounds brioche bread, cut into large cubes

1 tablespoon butter

7 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups half & half

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Fresh seasonal berries, maple syrup

• Use the butter to grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the heavy cream, half & half, vanilla, sugar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon, and whisk well. Add the bread to the bowl and toss to coat before pouring into prepared casserole dish. Pat down the bread to be sure each piece is coated in the custard mixture. Cover with foil, refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight if possible.

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake covered for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until golden brown, about 25 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with warm maple syrup and fresh berries to garnish.

Raspberry & Champagne Ice Cream Floats

This recipe, excerpted from the cookbook Dessert Express, is a sophisticated take on the ice cream soda, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a handful of raspberries floating in a glass of champagne.
I really didn’t think that I would like ice cream and champagne together but I changed my mind after trying this.

Bon Appetit!

1 cup fresh raspberries, picked over

1 pint vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

1/4 cup framboise or other raspberry eau de vie

2 cups chilled dry champagne or sparkling wine

Put 2 Tbs. of the raspberries in the bottom of each of 4 tall glasses. Top with a 1/4-cup scoop of ice cream. Drizzle 1 Tbs. framboise into each glass, then top with another 2 Tbs. of raspberries and another 1/4-cup scoop of ice cream. Pour 1/2 cup of champagne into each glass. Serve immediately with a straw and a long-handled spoon.

Thai Street Food

David Thompson, the author of "Thai Food", the English-language "bible" of Thai cooking, has done it again. This cookbook is full of great recipes for all of the dishes that you are dying to go to Thailand for.

The recipes are very authentic and straightforward. Mixed in with the recipes are marvelous photos that capture the heart of the Thai street scene.
      Photo from Cookbook

Deep Fried Soft Shell Crabs with Garlic and Pepper

4 soft-shell crabs, each about 60-75 g (2 to 2-1/2 oz), thawed if frozen

6 coriander (cilantro) roots, cleaned and chopped


8-10 garlic cloves, unpeeled (about 3 Tbs.)

1 tsp. black peppercorns

3-4 Tbs. (all-purpose) flour

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

1 Tbs. chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves

Siracha sauce, to serve

To clean the crabs, lift the shell on each side of the body and scrape out the frond-like gills. Snip off the eyes and mouth. Give the crabs a quick rinse then pat dry with a paper towel.

Using a pestle and mortar, pound the coriander roots to a paste with a good pinch of salt. Add the garlic and continue to pound into a somewhat coarse paste. Remove excess or tough garlic skin then stir in the peppercorns, crushing them lightly.

Mix the flour with a large pinch of salt. Dredge the cleaned crabs with the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess, then combine them with the garlic and black pepper paste.

Pour the deep-frying oil into a large, stable wok or a wide, heavy-based pan until it is about two-thirds full. Heat the oil over a medium-high flame until a cooking thermometer registers 180°C (350°F). Alternatively, test the temperature of the oil by dropping in a cube of bread; it will brown in about 15 seconds if the oil is hot enough.

Deep-fry the crabs in the hot oil for 3-4 minutes, turning them a few times to ensure even cooking, until they are cooked and the garlic is golden. Should the garlic start to smell bitter and darken too much before the crabs are ready, quickly scoop it out. Lift out the crabs and drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice and a small bowl of sauce Siracha.

Sandy's Baked Beans

Just when I thought that two great baked bean recipes were enough, Saveur came along with this recipe that has a distinctive taste as Alabama native Sandy Ivey livens up her beans with juice from her "under the sink" homemade sweet pickles.

I was expecting a good recipe and little did I know I would be eating it out of the pan before it even hit the dinner table.

Bon Appetit!

2 28-oz. cans pork and beans

1 1⁄2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup ketchup

1⁄2 cup yellow mustard

1⁄2 cup molasses

1⁄4 cup juice from a jar of sweet dill pickles

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

4 strips bacon, halved crosswise

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Put the pork and beans, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, molasses, and pickle juice into a large ovenproof pot or bean pot and stir well to combine.

2. Top the bean mixture with onion slices and lay the bacon over the top in a single layer. Bake, uncovered, until the bacon is crisp and the beans are hot and bubbling, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Stir the onions and bacon into the beans before serving.

Potato Crisps with Chive-Sour Cream Dip

Most people throw them away. This is a recipe that makes great use of your potato peels and deep-fries them crispy with sprinkles of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
This is an impressive and inexpensive snack for any cocktail party and sure to please the crowds.

They are so good, I like them without the dip.

Bon Appetit!

Potato Crisps with Chive-Sour Cream Dip

1. 3 cups canola oil

2. Thick peelings from 3 pounds of Yukon Gold or russet potatoes (roughly 1-by-3-inch strips)

3. Kosher salt

4. 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

5. 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

6. 2 tablespoons snipped chives

7. Freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan over moderately high heat, heat the oil to 360°. Fry the potato skins in batches, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer each batch of potato strips to paper towels to drain, then sprinkle with salt immediately.

2. Transfer the potato strips to a baking sheet and sprinkle them with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes, just until the cheese is melted. Let the crisps cool, then transfer to a bowl.

3. In a blender or processor, puree the sour cream with the chives and a pinch of salt and pepper until the chives are finely chopped. Transfer the dip to a bowl and serve alongside the potato crisps.

Guilt Free Brownies

These are remarkable from scratch, light brownies and the prune-plum puree gives them a distinctive taste.
Bon Appetit!

• 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 1 cup sugar

• 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg white

• 1 container (2.5 ounces) prune-plum puree (1/4 cup)

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring an inch of water to a simmer over low heat. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl; set bowl over pan. Stir occasionally until melted. Remove from heat. Immediately whisk in sugar, egg, egg white, prune puree, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour and cocoa. Stir into chocolate mixture just until incorporated.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until top is firm (a toothpick inserted in center will come out with a few moist crumbs), about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using foil, lift brownies from pan. Peel off foil. Using a serrated knife, cut into 16 squares.

Cabbage Soup

Here are two Cabbage Soup recipes to get a head start on winter. I like both and each has a very different flavor.

When I was commuting between Tulsa and Chicago every week, I stayed with my friend Helen Miller and she made the most remarkable cabbage soup. This recipe is an inspirational start and I’ll draw on it to try and achieve the same great taste that she use to make.

After all these years, I still dream about that soup.

Bon Appetit!

Bacon and Cabbage Soup

• 1 (1/3-pound) piece Irish bacon (available at specialty foods shops) or Canadian bacon

• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 1 medium onion, finely chopped

• 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

• 5 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

• 4 Turkish bay leaves

• 2 teaspoons kosher salt

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 small head Savoy cabbage, cored, thinly sliced, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

In small saucepan, combine bacon and cold water to cover. Cover, bring to boil over moderate heat, and skim foam from surface. Reduce heat and simmer 7 minutes. Drain and cool, then cut into 1-inch chunks. Set aside.

In 6-quart heavy stock pot over moderate heat, melt butter. Add onion and sauté, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add potatoes and sauté 2 minutes. Add stock, bay leaves, salt, and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat to moderately low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add cabbage and simmer 5 additional minutes. Discard bay leaves. Working in 3 batches, in blender purée soup until smooth (using caution when blending hot liquids). Return to pot, stir in bacon, and rewarm if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Bacon, Bean and Cabbage Soup

Known as Oulillade, this recipe is based on a traditional French dish of meat and beans and is packed full of down-to-earth flavors.

Serves 6-8

Takes about 2 hours to make, plus overnight soaking

• 12 ounces dried beans

• 1 hock unsmoked bacon

• 2 tbsp olive oil

• 1 large onion, chopped

• 1 large carrot, chopped

• 5 ounce turnip, peeled, quartered and chopped

• 12 ounces potatoes, peeled, halved and chopped

• 1/2 savoy cabbage

• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Soak the beans in cold water overnight.

2. The next day, put the bacon hock into a deep pan with 2 ½ cups of water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then cover and leave to simmer gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning it over now and then as the liquid starts to reduce, until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone. Leave the hock in the cooking liquor until cool enough to handle.

3. Meanwhile, drain the beans and put into a second pan with 1 cup of cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum as it rises to the surface, then lower the heat, cover and leave to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until tender. Drain and set aside.

4. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes. Add the carrot and cook for 5 minutes until it’s soft. Strain 1 quart of the bacon’s cooking liquor into the pan, add the turnip and potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, discard the skin from the hock and tear the meat into small, bite-sized pieces.

6. Quarter the cabbage, remove the core and thinly slice. Add the bacon pieces, cabbage and beans to the soup and simmer for 5-7 minutes until tender.

7. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the garlic, parsley and plenty of black pepper. Ladle into large warmed soup plates and serve with lots of fresh crusty bread.

Pear and Prosciutto Pizza

I made this pizza in less than a half hour and it was so uncomplicated and appealing. It was possibly one of the best and easiest pizzas that I’ve made.

I bought a pizza crust at Fresh Market for $1.50 and it was so worth it as I did not have time to make my own.

This pizza serves one and believe me, I wasn’t sharing mine with anyone. I loved the pears and would definitely make this pizza again.

Arugula with a base of sweet caramelized onions… add salty prosciutto and provolone cheese and you have one great pizza.

Bon Appetit!

• 2 teaspoons olive oil

• 2 cups vertically sliced Oso Sweet or other sweet onion

• 1 (12-ounce) prebaked pizza crust

• 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded provolone cheese

• 1 small pear, thinly sliced

• 2 ounces prosciutto, cut into thin strips

• Dash of freshly ground black pepper

• 1 1/2 cups baby arugula leaves

• 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar and olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.

3. Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Top evenly with onion mixture; sprinkle with cheese. Top evenly with pear and prosciutto. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts. Place arugula in a medium bowl. Drizzle vinegar and oil over greens; toss gently to coat. Top pizza evenly with arugula mixture.

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster Bread

This is an adult version of banana bread and makes a magnificent dessert. I’m hooked on bananas foster and the flavor of this bread was a lot like the bananas foster recipe I have made for four decades.

It’s got a little bit of a boozy glaze to it so don’t try it for breakfast.

P.S. I also piled a little ice cream and caramel on top and it was delicious.

Bon Appetit!
• 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana

• 1 cup packed brown sugar, divided

• 6 tablespoons butter, melted and divided

• 1/4 cup cognac or dark rum, divided

• 1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt

• 2 large eggs

• 6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)

• 1/4 cup ground flaxseed

• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

• Cooking spray

• 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Combine banana, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 5 tablespoons butter, and 3 tablespoons cognac in a nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat; cool. Place banana mixture in a large bowl. Add yogurt, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, and eggs. Beat with a mixer at medium speed.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; place on wire rack.

4. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter, remaining 1 tablespoon cognac, and powdered sugar; stir until well blended. Drizzle over the warm bread.

                                                                                                Photo by Becky Luigart Stayner
Bananas Foster

Here is the recipe from New Orleans's Brennan's Restaurant and was created in the 1950s. I have made this recipe for countless dinner parties and also just for me when I am dressed in my blue fuzzy PJ's in the middle of winter.

Whenever the sweet treat craving hits you, this one satisfies every time.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1/4 cup ice cream, 2 banana pieces, and 2 tablespoons sauce)

• 4 medium bananas

• 1/4 cup butter

• 1 cup packed brown sugar

• 1/4 cup crème de banana (banana liqueur)

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1/4 cup dark rum

• 2 cups vanilla low-fat ice cream
Peel bananas; cut each banana in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 2 pieces.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, liqueur, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 2 minutes. Add bananas; cook for 4 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat. Add rum to pan, and ignite rum with a long match. Serve.

Farmers Market: St Martins Island

                                 Photos by Tahmid Munaz of Dhaka, Bangladesh

St. Martin's Island is a small island in the northeast part of the Bay of Bengal, about 9 km south of the tip of the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf peninsula, and forming the southernmost part of Bangladesh. You can get there by local motorboat, tourist boats, or sea truck.

You can walk around the island because it measures 3 square miles shrinking to about 2 during high tide.

This small island has white sand beaches with coconut palms, beautiful marine life, and blue, blue water. One of the best things is the fact there isn’t a single car on the island! There is nothing to do but soak up the rays. Sounds like a place I would love to get lost in especially since it has a little market.

                                Inside And Outside Bangladesh Blog

Most of island’s 5000 residents live mainly from fishing, and between October and April people from adjacent areas bring their catch to the island’s temporary wholesale market.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall From The Farmers Market

I know- the produce looks like fall so why is the temperature 74 degrees? This has been the most glorious Chicago October I can ever remember.

A year ago, I would have asked to turn back the clock to April, but I have come to appreciate the change of seasons. Finally, after all these years, fall has come into its own for me.

Ask me that same question come January however and I might give you another answer.

For now, I am loving this ever-so-warm, October day.

Bon Appetit!

Chicago - 2400 to 3200 Clark Street and Broadway

I love this section of the city. You can find a hundred little restaurants here and every one of them with an ethnic specialty as good as the next. There are hundreds of cheap eats just waiting for you to pop in and pig out. Honestly, you can’t cook a meal at home this cheap.
This was my week for Korean Tacos. It all started with 527 Café at 527 Davis Street in Evanston, which serves up such great Korean food that I ate lunch there two days in a row. My favorite dish was the Korean Taco. It was a Namu-style Korean taco – kim in Korean – using the Nori as the shell with a bit of sushi rice, bulgogi or boneless kalbi (grilled ribs) and kimchi on top.

I also had a really outstanding teriyaki salmon taco. Both I would order again.

All week long I craved them so I left out on Saturday morning in search of the perfect Korean Taco which led me to Del Seoul.

Del Seoul, which has gotten a lot of press lately, is located at 2568 N Clark Street. This Korean restaurant makes superb Kalbi Tacos with Gamja Fries.

I loved the flavor and can’t wait to go back and try the Banh Mi Sandwiches (the waitress professed to loving the BBQ Pork) and the Bibimbop and the Kimchi and Pork Belly Fries. The price was right – I spent $4.25 on lunch and took home a $3 jar of homemade Kimchi.

Earlier in the day, I savored a cup of dark, European Hot Chocolate at Cassava on 3338 N Clark Street. A huge bar of Belgium chocolate is ground and is the base for this tasty drink.

Crisp, located at 2940 North Broadway, is part of Yahoo's Best Chicken in America article. They use a hormone free bird that is always fresh and marinated in a secret combination of spices and herbs, lightly battered and then pressured fried. The sauce of your choice is infused on to your bird and is simply delicious. They have so many appetizing Korean recipes, I’ll be back to try some more. At this point I am feeling slightly overfed.

The real surprise of the day was Molly’s Cupcakes at 2536 North Clark Street. I’ve eaten at a dozen cupcake bakeries this past year but this one did not serve an everyday, good-looking cupcake. Their peanut butter cupcake with Nutella frosting was good but the real treat inside was a melted peanut butter cup. Perhaps the best little cake I’ve had all year and the choices at this bakery are never-ending.

I also found Sultans Market in this neighborhood which my friend Jessica loves. It is a middle eastern cheap eat where you can get a delicious, healthy meal in the $3 range. The restaurant was absolutely packed, mainly with college students.

Below is a recipe for Korean Tacos. It was pretty good for my first time making them. I had my butcher Greg at Fresh Market cut the beef really thin. It cooked up perfectly on my indoor grill.

Bon Appetit!

Korean Tacos

1 pound Carne de Taco Beef

(marinade in white sugar, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil and ginger for a few hours)

2 Nori Sheets per taco

Sushi Rice

Diced Tomatoes


Sesame Seeds

Chipotle Mayo


Recipe for Sushi Rice:

2 cups Japanese short-grained white rice or Calrose short-grain rice – which I used

1/4 cup rice vinegar (no substitutions)

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup sugar or add more to taste

Heat the vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Do not boil the mixture. You can also microwave the mixture for 30-45 seconds to achieve the same result. Leave sitting off heat until needed. You can make this portion ahead of time.

Take 2 cups of rice and rinse two to three times until the water runs clear or nearly so.

If your rice cooker has a sushi rice setting, use it. Otherwise, remember you need equal parts of rice to water. For example, 2 cups of rice needs 2 cups of water. Keep covered until the rice is done.

Once the rice has finished cooking, take off the lid and let the rice cool down for about 15 minutes.

Once the rice is cooled down, add the vinegar seasoning mix to the rice.

Turn the rice out of the pot and into a nonreactive glass or wooden bowl (tradition dictates a wooden bowl to better absorb the excess liquid). Use a tool like a shamoji, which is a flat Japanese rice paddle.

Use a gentle chopping motion to spread out the grains of rice and ensure the seasoning covers every grain. To speed up the cooling process, some people use a hand-held fan to help in the cooling process, but I didn’t find that necessary.

Once the Sushi Rice is cooled off, you’re ready to grill your bulgogi and assemble your tacos.

Put two sheets of nori on the plate, one on top of the other.

Add up to a few tablespoons of sushi rice on top of the nori.

Pile a couple of tablespoons of bulgogi and garnish with diced tomatoes, Cilantro Sesame Seeds and Chipotle Mayo

Chipotle Mayonnaise:

1 cup mayonnaise

2 chipotles in adobo sauce

1 tablespoon adobo sauce

1/2 lime, juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is a recipe for homemade Kimchi. I like this for topping sandwiches and even grilled meat. You can also use it to top your Korean Tacos.


1 large Chinese or Napa Cabbage

1 gallon of water

½ Cup coarse sale

1 head garlic, peeled and minced

¼ Cup Fish Sauce (Squid)

1/3 Cup Chili Paste

1 bunch green onions cut into 1 inch lengths

1 daikon radish, peeled and grated

1 tsp sugar

Slice the cabbage in half and the slice lengthwise. Cut away the stems.

Dissolve salt in water in a large container and submerge the cabbage under water.Let it stand for at least 2 hours.

Mix all the other ingredients in a large bowl.

Drain cabbage, rinse it fully and squeeze it out until it is dry.

Mix all the ingredients together.

Put in a large jar and cover it tightly. Let stand for a day at room temperature.

If it is bubbling, it should be refrigerated. If not, let it stand another day or two until it is. Once fermenting, store it in the refrigerator. Add sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds before serving. Eat within 2-3 weeks.

Cauliflower Pizza

Topped with cauliflower and sage, the combination on this pizza with the raclette cheese was so delicious I wanted to instantly make another one.

You can add a variety of toppings including mushrooms to maintain it’s “white pizza” status. This is a great recipe to experiment with.

My cauliflower was really fresh because I bought it at the market yesterday and she said they had just picked it Friday.

Bon Appetit!

1 Head Cauliflower

1 bunch Sage

½ Cup Olive Oil

1 Cup Mascarpone

Raclette – sliced

Pizza Dough: Make your favorite recipe

Cook cauliflower, sage and olive oil in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. On your favorite pizza crust recipe, spread on mascarpone and top with the cauliflower mixture and raclette.

Bake 15-20 minutes.

Vietnamese-Style Banh Mi Burgers

For anyone who is hooked on the great taste of a Banh Mi, this burger is a good variation from the classic sandwich.

Photo by Kana Okada

Bon Appetit!

2 carrots, coarsely shredded

1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Tabasco

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 garlic clove, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

One 24-inch baguette, quartered crosswise and split

2 pickled jalapeños, thinly sliced

12 cilantro sprigs

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a small bowl, toss the carrots with the rice vinegar and sugar and let stand for 10 minutes; drain.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the Tabasco, tomato paste and garlic and season with salt and pepper.

Form the meat into four 6-inch-long oval patties, about 1 inch thick. Season with the curry powder and salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Cook the patties over moderate heat, turning once, until medium, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the butter on the cut sides of the baguette. Set the bread cut side up on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Spread the Tabasco-spiked mayonnaise on the bread and top each baguette section with a burger patty, pickled shredded carrots, pickled jalapeño slices and cilantro sprigs.

Highwood Pumpkin Fest

Highwood was out to break the Guinness World record by lighting 32,000 pumpkins on Saturday.

I met Mayor Charlie Pecaro on Friday morning with his two boys who were dressed in their Halloween costumes and had just been interviewed by the Chicago press.

Here is a peek at what led up to the event when people spent four days carving the pumpkins.

This little town has come a long way. Highwood has not only had a huge facelift recently but it’s been doing some really amusing events to showcase their beautiful slice of Americana.

Love Highwood!

Bon Appetit!

One Pot Meals

Soups and other One Pot Dishes are my mainstay in the winter and here are some great recipes to start you off… even though it was October 25th and 79 degrees today.

I literally live on them when it gets cold and it’s easy to make on Sunday and freeze for lunch the remainder of the week.

Many of these look more complicated than they actually are. Use patience through the process.

Bon Appetit!

                                                                     Photo by Craig Lee

Udon With Braised Pork, Greens, Kimchi and A Poached Egg

• 5 cups chicken broth

• 3-4 tablespoons Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)

• 1 1/2 inch piece (about 1 ounce) fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

• 1 whole star anise

• 1/2 pound pork butt, trimmed of fat and sinew, in 1-inch cubes

• 1/2 pound udon (Japanese wheat noodles) or Chinese egg noodles

• 1 cup bean sprouts

• 2 large eggs

• 1 cup loosely packed watercress leaves, no stems

• 1/2 cup coarsely chopped kimchi

• 2 tablespoons chopped scallions

• 2 tablespoons fried Shallots
1. Put the broth in a large pot and whisk in 3 tablespoons hot pepper paste. Taste and add another tablespoon of hot pepper paste if desired. Add the ginger, star anise and pork. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, cover partially and simmer gently until the pork is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Discard the ginger and star anise.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. The dish may be prepared up to this point several hours ahead.

3. Put 2 large, deep soup bowls in a low oven to warm.

4. Add the cooked noodles and bean sprouts to the broth and simmer briefly to reheat the noodles. With tongs and a wire-mesh skimmer or slotted spoon, divide the noodles, sprouts and pork between the 2 warm bowls.

5. Adjust the heat so the broth barely bubbles. Working with 1 egg at a time, break the egg into a custard cup, then slip the egg into the broth. Repeat with the second egg. Poach eggs until whites are firm, then transfer 1 egg to each bowl with a slotted spoon. Divide the broth between the bowls, then top each serving with half of the watercress, kimchi, scallions and fried shallots. Serve immediately.

The balance of these recipes and photos are from Martha Stewart Living. I tried each one of them and, true to Martha Stewart, they were excellent.

Spinach, Turkey Sausage and White Bean Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound Italian turkey sausage (casing removed and crumbled)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (chopped)

1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

4 cups chicken stock

1 (19 ounce) can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)

1 teaspoon oregano

1 bay leaf

1 bunch spinach (chopped)

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat the oil in a pan.

Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink and set aside.

Heat the oil in the same pan.

Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the garlic and red chili pepper flakes and saute for another minute.

Add the sausage, stock, beans, oregano, and bay leaf and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the spinach and simmer until it wilts.

Add the lemon juice and remove from heat.

This was an easy Chicken Gumbo. Not as rich as some of the gumbos I have made but a great flavor for a quick and easy base.

Half Hour Chicken Gumbo

• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower

• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

• 2 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), chopped

• 1 medium onion, chopped

• 4 garlic cloves, chopped

• 1 teaspoon dried oregano

• Coarse salt and ground pepper

• 1 package (10 ounces) frozen cut okra

• 8 ounces smoked (precooked) andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1 inch thick

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

• Store-bought or homemade cornbread, for serving (optional)

In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in bell peppers, onion, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add 4 cups water; stir in okra and sausage. Bring to a boil. Stir in shredded chicken, and warm through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; if desired, serve with cornbread.

Creole Chicken Fricassee

• 1 cut-up chicken (about 3 pounds)

• Salt and pepper

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 3 onions, chopped

• 2 green bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces

• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

• 2 dried bay leaves

• 1 teaspoon dried thyme

• 1 teaspoon dried oregano

• 1/4 cup white wine, or water

• 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

• 2 parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 2 cups)

• 3 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks

Sprinkle chicken pieces with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. When it's hot, add chicken pieces, and brown well, turning them occasionally, about 15 minutes (if necessary, cook chicken in two batches to avoid crowding the pan). Transfer to a plate.

Drain most of the fat from the pan. Add onions, half the bell peppers, 1 tablespoon parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and oregano. Cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add wine, and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Stir in tomato sauce. Return chicken to the pan, along with any accumulated juices, and add parsnips, carrots, and remaining bell peppers. Add enough water to barely cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover the pan, and simmer until chicken is almost cooked through, about 15 minutes. Uncover pan, and continue simmering until chicken is done and the liquid thickens slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, and serve.

Beef Straganoff

Serves 4

• 1 pound beef tenderloin

• Coarse salt and ground pepper

• 3 tablespoons canola oil

• 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

• 1 pound white mushrooms, sliced 1/2 inch thick

• 1 cup reduced-sodium canned beef broth

• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

• 1/2 cup sour cream

• Chopped fresh dill, for garnish

Slice beef into 2-inch-long strips, each about 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown meat in two batches, about 1 minute per side; remove from skillet, and set aside.

In same skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add mushrooms; cover. Cook until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add broth; simmer, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir mustard into mushroom mixture in skillet. Return beef to skillet; cook over medium-low heat until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in sour cream. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Serve immediately, garnished with chopped dill.

Fish and Chips

Photo by Martha Stewart

I really enjoy making fish and chips on the weekends in the fall. I’ve tried making the low fat version but nothing can substitute for a good crunchy fried fish so you might want to make this your weekend treat.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart and I used the cod fillets and it was delicious.
Bon Appetit!

Serves 4

• 2 large russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed

• Four 6-ounce Chilean sea bass or cod fillets (about 1 inch thick), skin removed


• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


• 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

• 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal

• 1/4 teaspoon paprika


• Lemon wedges

• Malt vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.

Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick strips. Rinse well in a large bowl of cold water, and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Transfer to a large baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; toss well. Arrange strips in an even layer on the sheet. Bake on lower rack until golden and crisp, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place fish fillets in a large bowl. Add buttermilk, and gently turn fish to coat. In another shallow bowl, combine cornmeal, paprika, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add fillets to cornmeal one at a time, turning to completely coat. Transfer to a plate while repeating with remaining fillets.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining tablespoon of oil; swirl to coat. Add fillets, being careful not to overcrowd pan. Cook until nicely crusted, about 1 minute; turn over with a spatula. Place skillet in top third of oven, and cook until firm but beginning to flake when pressed in the center, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, and serve with potatoes. Serve lemon wedges and malt vinegar on the side.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The New Maxwell Street Market

Don’t ask me why I’ve never been to the Maxwell Street Market before because this flea market really took me back. This is how I use to spend every Sunday morning when I lived in Mexico.

There is such a sense of cultural connection at these local markets. Many families come from church to share a meal and do a little shopping. It reminded me why my mother use to make us sit down at the dinner table together every night at 5 PM.

There is a little bit of everything here. You can find a designer purse or necklace or an old telephone. There are antiques and there is junk. Whatever your treasure, everything makes the market appealing and colorful. There are over 300 vendors every week.

Many of the vendors are there year round which makes me want to go back in the dead of winter. If they can tough out the elements, so can I. This is when I will go for the Pozole.

The real reason for my trip was the Mexican food stands offering authentic fare like enchiladas, tacos, tamales, plantains and horchata. I really can’t remember the names of all of the stands on my first visit but I followed the magnificent aroma to where I located a very long line. I decided on Rubi’s. Yes, always trust your nose. This $4 plate easily served as my breakfast, lunch and dinner today.

After sampling my way through several stands, I determined that this is one of the best places in Chicago to get authentic, cheap Mexican food. Honestly, I haven’t had a meal this good… or genuinely Mexican… since the last time I was in Mexico. This was that great Mexican street food that I remember.

No surprise to see that they have finally brought some new vendors into the mix.

This couple leading off this post were so welcoming to me. They opened a Chinese stall with no name just 6 weeks ago and already have a huge following.

This BBQ vendor tried for 3 years to get into the market. Something tells me that he is going to have a long list of regular customers when word gets out just how good his brisket really is.

I also had to indulge in the elote. This grilled corn on the cob is dosed with butter, mayonnaise, Cotija cheese, lime juice, salt and spices. Load up the toppings and dig in!

This recipe can also be modified if you are watching your calories by using low cal mayo and butter.

2 tsp of the Cotija cheese has just 20 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. This cheese makes a great topping on a baked potato as well.

makes 4 servings

4 ears of corn

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup Cotija cheese (Parmesan will work if you can't find it)

2 limes, cut into wedges

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin


Prepare a grill or grill pan with high heat. Keep corn in husks, or remove one strip of husks. Place directly on grill. Cook for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally, until husks are well blackened and the kernels are bright yellow.

If serving on the cob, remove husks and slather each ear with a generous spoonful of mayonnaise. Add the juice of one lime wedge per ear, followed by a pinch of salt, a healthy sprinkle of cheese and a light dusting of cumin and chili powder.

If serving off the cob, cut the kernels off of each ear. Place into a jar or small cup and top with remaining ingredients.

If you prefer, serve the corn with the toppings on the side and let everyone dress their own.

I had a Churro from the blue Churro Factory truck. The price was just $1.25. I bought one but the people in line ahead of me were ordering dozens of these sweet treats.

I also had to sample the Bunuelos. They are made just like the Rosettes my grandmother use to make at Christmas.


3 cups flour, sifted twice

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup butter or margarine

Oil for frying

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl, beat one tbsp sugar, eggs and butter. Stir in milk. Add milk mixture to flour. If dough is too dry, add a few more drops of milk. Knead dough until it is very smooth. Shape into 20 balls. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

Heat oil one-inch deep in large skillet to 360 F.

Roll each ball out on a lightly-floured board into very thin six-inch circle. Fry bunuelos until golden brown, turning once. Drain on absorbent towels. Sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon topping while warm, or drizzle with syrup.

I spoke to a couple who comes here every Sunday and has for years. This taste of Mexican Chicago will definitely be on my Sunday to go list whenever I’m in town.

I spent under $10 and can’t remember the last time I wasn’t planning my next meal.

Bon Appetit!