Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Favorite Addiction...BREAD!

It’s all about BREAD this week and here are some thoughts on my favorite addiction...

It All Starts With GREAT Bread!
I must have been Italian in my past life because when I was on the fast track diet, the only things I missed was bread.

I could cut out wine (well, maybe not that Italian), sugar and desserts and never blink an eye but a day without bread was downright painful. In fact, it wasn’t until the last few days of the diet that I got over bread…but not for long. I resumed eating it the minute the diet was over. I don’t think that is what Dr. Ann Louise planned for me but I couldn’t help myself.
True Confession: I'm am a bit of a carb addict. OK, I’m a major carb addict.

I am convinced that there is nothing better than the smell of bread baking in the oven. Just the sniff of it makes me absolutely ravenous.
Homemade bread is so good I can eat it without butter. The big problem is I can polish off an entire loaf in one sitting.

Like so many others out there, I have become somewhat of a bread expert over the years. Mind you, I don’t bake it all that much but I’ve certainly eaten more than my fair share.
Recently, I took a trip back to the Eastern Breadstone Bakey ( See Post) which I wrote up last year and who makes some of the best bread on the planet.

The journey back reminded me that all fantastic sandwiches start with great bread. Just ask Bill Kim of Belly Shack and Urban Belly, who orders’ Eddie’s Samoons fresh every day for his restaurants.
I don’t know why it surprised me that everything about the place was still the same… and covered in flour – even the cash register. The layer was so thick in fact, I resisted the temptation to take out a kleenex and dust it off. At that point, I had already decided that it added a certain conventional charm to the place.

The bakers were busy taking bread and pulling it out of the wood burning ovens with their long wooden paddles. Yes, they were also covered in flour from head to toe and seemed to enjoy it. In fact, one of them stood there and beamed at me until I walked out the door. I was slightly amused and grinned back as I left. The only communication between proprietor and customer but it worked. I loved the bread and he was certain I would be back.
Speaking of back…was I back in Iran in the 1960’s? Eddie Abada learned the skill from his mother and continues the tradition today.

I like variation but in this case I was totally content with the fact that nothing had changed. It’s as if I expected it not to. I would have been disappointed if it had because this place had the smell of tradition that you just wanted to stay timeless.

The bread making operation is time-honored and the samoons fresh out of the oven? Well, one of these days I will talk owner Eddie Abada into letting me roll up my sleeves and try a hand at his craft. In the mean time, I’ll just have to be satisfied with my addiction to his astonishing breads.
Back in my kitchen, I stuffed his samoons with all the leftovers I could find in my refrigerator and discovered that his flat bread and little pizzas covered with an ever-so-thin layer of cheese are a story all their own.

Bon Appetit!
The Best Bread I’ve Ever Baked… 

In case you missed it, here is the recipe for the best bread I’ve ever baked and cooking it in a dutch oven is the key to its crunchy crust.
There is a lot of wait time between preparing and cooking. The simple trick is to start the bread the day before.
Bon Appetit!
3 cups bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1 3/4 Cups water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt.

Add water unless you dilute the yeast - then you can skip ¼ cup. Stir until blended. Dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 18 hours at warm room temperature.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in oven as it heats.

When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Mine was perfect in 15.

Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Salvadoran Quesadillas
In El Salvador they eat rich, buttery quesadillas in the AM along with a big cup of coffee. Wow -my kind of breakfast because I regularly ate quesadillas at any meal when I lived in Mexico.
In fact, my philosophy on breakfast is that anything can be consumed as long as you like it. Ice Cream – no problem. Cold Pizza – bring it on!
No wonder breakfast is my favorite meal of the day because I’ve already talked myself into eating almost everything…and I do.
You’ll love the crunch of the sesame seeds in this recipe along with the sweet and salty cake. I made just a half a recipe and wished I had more more. Honestly, it tastes just like a cheesy pound cake.
1 cup rice flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated hard cheese such as cojita or parmesan
Sesame seeds, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Ask a question about this step.

Meanwhile, whisk together the rice flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, in the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter with sugar. Drop in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Next beat in the sour cream, cheese, and rice flour mixture until a smooth batter forms.

Spoon into greased muffin tins, filling each one 4/5th of the way up (this batter does not rise much). Sprinkle on the sesame seeds, to taste.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

2011 San Francisco Street Food Festival

Ask anyone who has been to San Francisco’s Mission District, and they will tell you how much it reminds them of Chicago. Plenty of ethnic food, great grocery stores to source inexpensive ingredients and a food culture that it so diverse you will never run out of places to explore.

Both San Francisco and Chicago were recently voted the most walkable cities in America. Both are a city of neighborhoods and I am eager to discover the neighborhoods of SF when I am there next month.
I’ve already googled my hotel to the world famous Farmers Market in the Ferry building to the Third Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival. It’s a lot of walking but I’m sure that I will see the real San Francisco that I missed out on the last time I was there.
One thing that amazed me is that the Mission District contains more Zagat rated eateries (58) than any other neighborhood in San Francisco so it’s no wonder that La Cocina would select this location to host their annual San Francisco Street Food Festival which includes 25 of the Bay’s best owner-operated restaurants, formerly informal entrepreneurs formalized for the day, the best food trucks from the growing mobile movement locally and, as special guests - mobile vendors hand-picked from cities across the country.
It’s no secret that my passion has always been street food and La Cocina has helped more than its share of street chefs. La Cocina provides reasonable, shared, commercial kitchen space, a variety of industry-specific technical assistance, and access to marketplace opportunities, and works with entrepreneurs as they start, develop, and formalize successful food businesses.
The Third Annual Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 2 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
The festival also features the Second Annual National Street Food Conference, with panel discussions on street-food culture and for me - writing about them.
Stay tuned for coverage next month.

Bon Appetit and celebrating a labor of love and food that is La Cocina.

Davanti Enoteca: Pizza For Breakfast

Recipe: farmed egg+pork belly+potato+scallions+asiago+bechame.

I did it again and it was just as brilliant as the first time. I'm beginning to think that I can do this every Sunday morning.

Does this sound like an obsession?

Bon Appetit!

Green Bean Slaw

This is my favorite new summer recipe. Food and Wine however came out with this recipe about a month before parsnips come in from the field.

I substituted a Spanish black radish for the parsnip. You can also add a chopped egg and bacon as garnish which is the original way that the Beekman Boy’s fixed this recipe for Rachael Ray.
Bon Appetit!
Green Bean “Slaw”
Serves 4
1 1/4 pounds haricots verts (thin green beans)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1 medium carrot, cut into fine julienne
1 medium parsnip, cut into fine julienne
1 red bell pepper, cut into fine julienne
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped, for garnish (optional)

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse and pat dry.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the vinegar, water, mustard, honey and celery seeds. Add the carrot, parsnip, red pepper and onion and toss until warmed through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the beans and toss well. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Garnish the slaw with the chopped egg and serve warm or at room temperature.

Food Network Star

Amy from the Food Network emailed me this week to let me know that they are casting in Chicago for Food Network Star, Food Network’s hugely successful culinary reality series on Wednesday, August 3, 2011.

Food Network is looking for people who are passionate about cooking (just about everyone I know) , and knowledgeable about food to meet them in person at their open casting call.

Try out to host your own cooking show on Food Network.

Affinia Hotel
166 East Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60611

Bon Appetit and break a leg!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Too Hot To Cook

It’s 110 with the heat index and I just don’t feel like cooking. Did I just say that? I always feel like cooking.

It’s so difficult to get motivated to do anything when it’s this hot. Even the BBQ seems like an effort.
Here are some of the great salads I’ve done this past year that remind me that I don’t have to go near the oven much less turn it on.

Bon Appetit!
Antioxidant Fruit Salad
1 Mango, sliced
1 cup blueberries
1 pomegranate
2 teaspoons lime juice

Cut the mango in half around the stone, and then criss-cross the flesh of the mango halves with a knife into 1/2-inch squares.

Push the diced mango flesh outwards and then slice off the squares from the skin into a bowl.

Tumble in the blueberries, then halve the pomegranate and bash out the seeds with a wooden spoon over the mango. Finally squeeze over the lime juice and serve.

Insalata Rustica
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces 1/8-inch-thick slices pancetta
Spicy crushed pecans
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
4 cups mixed greens
2 pears, cored and thinly sliced
Aged balsamic vinegar (for drizzling)

Fry pancetta and drain. Crumble and set aside. On top of the greens, add cherries, pears, and pecans. Top with crispy pancetta and dressing of aged balsamic.

Peach and Tomato Salad

3 ripe peaches, pitted and each cut into 8 wedges (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, cut into thick wedges
1/2 pound heirloom cherry or pear tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/4 cup greens

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

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

Asian Cole Slaw

1/2 small head green cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 cup peanuts
4 -5 spring onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sunflower or peanut oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sriracha sauce (spicy garlic sauce)

In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, peanuts, spring onion and coriander.

Make a dressing by combining lemon juice, sugar, oil, soy sauce and sriracha sauce together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed (I find it's plenty salty enough though), then drizzle over salad and toss to coat evenly.

Serve immediately.

Vietnamese Noodle Salad
With the master recipe for the salad, you can create different flavors just by changing the toppings, the greens or the herbs. I know this recipe looks complicated. It is not. Make it in steps and you'll find it to be fairly easy!

For the Greens:
2 cups washed shredded romaine, red or green leaf lettuce
2 cups bean sprouts (optional)
1 ½ cups cucumbers, peeled and julienned or whole
½ cup small whole mint leaves
½ cup roughly thai basil leaves

For the Garnishes:
2 Tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce)
12 sprigs cilantro
Sliced carrots or Daikon

Nuoc Cham:
1 clove garlic
2 to 3 Thai bird chiles (or 1 small jalapeño or serrano chile), cored, seeded, and minced; more or less to taste
1/2 tsp. ground chile paste; more or less to taste
2/3 cup hot water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. shredded carrots (optional)

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and fresh chiles to a paste. (Or mince them together with a knife.) In a small bowl, combine this garlic and chile mixture with the chile paste, hot water, and sugar. Stir well. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and combine. Float the carrots on top. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before using.

For the noodles:
8 oz. dried rice vermicelli

For the topping:
Use one of these four - Mongolian Beef, Caramelized Pork, Lemongrass Shrimp or Vegetables. See Vietnamese Salad under the recipe page for other toppings.

Mongolian Beef
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. minced ginger
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. dark brown sugar

1/2 c. vegetable oil (I would use less oil)
1 pound flank steak
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 large green onions

Make the sauce by heating 2 tsp. vegetable oil in med saucepan over med/low heat. Don't get the oil too hot or you'll get a major splatter when adding liquids.

Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches.

Dissolve the brown sugar in the saute, then raise the heat to med and boil the sauce for 2-3 min. or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices. Tilt the blade of you knife at about a 45 deg angle to the top of the steak so that you get wider cuts.

Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece. Let the beef sit for about 10 min. so that the cornstarch sticks.

As the beef sits, heat up one cup of oil in a wok or skillet. Add the beef to the oil and saute for just 2 min. or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. Stir the meat around a little so that it cooks evenly. After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out onto paper towels, then pour the oil out of the wok.

Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it and simmer for one minute.

Add the sauce, cook for one min while stirring, then add all the green onions.

Cook for 1 more minute, then remove the beef and onions with slotted spoon to serving plate. Leave excess sauce behind in the pan.

Caramelized Pork: (this is my favorite)
For the caramel:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
For the pork:
2 large shallots, sliced, or 5 scallions (white parts only), chopped
2 tsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
Pinch salt
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1-1/2 lb. pork loin or sirloin, sliced into large pieces about 1/4-inch thick

To make the caramel: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir a few times and allow to simmer until the sauce turns deep brown, about 15 min. Meanwhile, have some extra hot water ready on a back burner. Once the sauce reaches the desired color, carefully add 4 to 5 Tbs. hot water to slow the cooking and thin the sauce. (Be sure to hold the pan away from you so that none of the hot caramel splatters on you when you add the water.) If necessary, add more hot water. The sauce should only be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.

To make the pork: Pound the shallots in a mortar and pestle or mince by hand. Transfer the shallots to a mixing bowl and combine with the fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, vegetable oil, and cooled caramel sauce. Stir well to blend. Add the pork slices and let marinate for 20 min. Meanwhile, heat a broiler or light a charcoal or gas grill. When the broiler or fire is very hot, cook the pork until just done, about 2 min. on each side. Let the pork rest for 10 to 15 min., cut into thin strips, and serve on bun.

Wildflour’s Southwestern Salad
Mixed greens
Red cabbage
Red pepper
Jack Cheese or cotija
Tortilla strips
Ranch buttermilk dressing with cilantro and drizzle of green chili sauce

1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp jalapeno pepper, seeded and crushed
1 Ranch dressing mix packet
2 garlic cloves
3 tomatillos

In a blender, place all ingredients and process until smooth. Allow to stand for a few minutes for flavors to meld.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sourcing Ingredients… Half The Fun of Cooking

Remarkable meals start with good ingredients and sourcing them for a recipe is half the fun of cooking. It has also taken me to some of the most fascinating neighborhoods in Chicago.

Many cooks I know go out of their way to find the best available food sources. It’s fairly easy in Chicago. I may have to go half way across town but I always find what I’m looking for…and it is constantly an adventure + 10. I am always up for an adventure and like I’ve said, I can have my stuff packed in 5 minutes.
Going into these neighborhoods, you can get lost in the ethnicity and easily forget that all you came for was one ingredient.
I ordered this dish at the Purple Pig a few weeks back and loved it so imagine my surprise when Jimmy Bannos, Jr. was featured in a recent issue of Time Out Chicago and posted the recipe. From the start, I was determined to make this dish with fresh calamari and not substitute any of the ingredients.

In the course of a lot of research, I came across Isaacson and Stein Fish Company at 800 West Fulton Market. This place was a 15 minute walk from the train station and has a tremendous variety of fresh fish and seafood. A lot of chefs and restaurants shop at the market.
Inside Isaacson & Steins, there are huge tables filled with ice and topped with fresh seafood so I grabbed a pair of gloves and dug in.

People warned me that it would smell fishy so I prepared myself but hardly noticed the smell at all. I was impressed with the fact that it was so clean and it was a lot smaller than I had imagined.

You can pick out a whole fish and have it filleted for free. The fishmongers, however, would not touch my squid. The first guy flat out said no and when I looked at the second guy in desperation, he shot me a look as if to say don’t even think about putting that disgusting squid on my table.

I asked a guy at the checkout how to clean them and rather than tell me, he showed me. Well, one of my squid was cleaned while a long line of people behind me were waiting to pay. He didn’t care. He was going to make sure that I knew the entire process before I left the store. Good thing because I didn’t have a clue. I have since discovered how by running a google search but that was not nearly as much fun.

I found a beautiful grouper fillet (which I grilled and smothered in Mango relish),

enormous shrimp (which I put on the grill and splashed with a little olive oil and cilantro) and squid…all for under $20…not to mention the free lesson.

My next stop was for the Fregola at Bari Foods at 1120 W Grand. This was the Italian market that Bannos referenced in his recipe. It was a really engaging market and the owner said that Bari Foods was the only place in Chicago to buy Fregola. I have been in a lot of other Italian markets and this was the first time I had seen Fregola.Honestly, I discover at least one new food every weekend and am fascinated by the fact that I am still learning. Remarkable things can happen when you wander outside of your box.
Fregola is pasta from Sardinia. It is similar to couscous. It was expensive – in fact, it was the only high cost pasta on the shelf - but I was really glad to find it.

Here is a recipe to make it from scratch if you can’t find it at your market or don’t want to wait and order it online.
Coarse Semolina - start with about a pound
Water, very lightly salted

Put some of the semolina in the bowl and dampen it, a few drops at a time, with the water, while rubbing your hand over the semolina with a circular motion so as to obtain many tiny balls of pasta. As you add more semolina and continue to move your hand in a circular pattern the balls will become rounder and grow slightly Continue adding semolina and water, and rotating your hand, until you have used up your semolina.

Now divide your fregola, setting the larger balls to one side and the smaller to the other; thus you'll have two grades, one that's finer and will be good in soup, and one that's coarser, and will be good served with a sauce.

Note: To prevent your fregola from spoiling spread it over a cookie sheet and toast it for a few minutes in a moderate (250-300 F) oven. Many cooks mix a half teaspoon of finely ground saffron into the semolina before they begin making their fregola.

While I was in the neighborhood, I hit Damatos Bakery at 1124 W Grand and got 2 small pizzas…my favorite being a crust that was topped with super, thin-cut roasted tomatoes.
Who would have ever imagined that a one ingredient pizza would be this good?

I loved this little corner of west Chicago. It has an interesting mix of residents and curious suburbanites like me and features some of the best Italian shopping in Chicago. It was also a quick 15 minute walk to Fulton Market.

It took all of 5 hours (following my AM trip to the Farmers Market) but was so worth it when I finally made this dish. The fresh ingredients made the difference between a good dish and a great one.

Sourcing ingredients will take you to so many places you haven’t been before. Try it on your next recipe and see what remarkable things you uncover about the food culture in your city.

Bon Appetit!

Jimmy Bannos Jr. infuses this antipasti with all of the essentials that have made the Purple Pig (500 N Michigan Ave, 312-464-1744) so popular.

Fresh herbs and squid, along with the texture of the Fregola makes this a stable in my long list of all time favorite appetizers.

Calamari with Basil and Fregola
2 cups water
2 cups white wine
10 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1¼ lbs calamari, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
1 cup fregola (a Sardinian pasta similar to couscous, available at Bari Foods, 1120 W Grand Ave)
¹/³ cup chopped toasted pistachios
½ cup breakfast radishes, thinly sliced and quartered
½ cup cucumbers, diced
¼ cup basil
½ cup olive oil
½ cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with water and wine, and add the garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and add one cup of salt. Add calamari and cook for approximately five minutes, or until it is tender and cooked all the way through. Drain calamari and set aside. (Discard the broth.)

Bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil and cook fregola for approximately five to seven minutes, or until al dente. Drain and add to serving bowl. Add the blanched calamari, toasted pistachios, radishes, cucumbers and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Toss, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 as antipasti

Pina Colada Sorbet

Recipe Adapted from Sarabeth Levine’s Sarabeth's Bakery

True Confessions: Talk about an Ice Cream addiction…I was eating this out of the ice cream maker with a long spoon while it was still churning. In fact, it was so good, I didn't even get a photo of it.

No secret that I love Pina Coladas and this recipe tastes exactly like the one I use to get on Royal Caribbean without the rum.

Serve this sorbet with fresh, tropical fruit or scoop it into a glass, splash with rum, and serve as a slushy cocktail. Makes about 1 quart

Bon Appetit!

3 cups canned unsweetened pineapple juice (about 4 small cans)
1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (like Coco Lopez, NOT coconut milk),whisked well
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Place all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, and whisk to combine.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pack the sorbet into a covered container, and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

Fresh Herbal Teas

When I look at the ingredients on tea labels, I find plants and herbs like peppermint, chamomile, lemongrass, hibiscus and rose hips. 
Did you know that most of these plants and herbs are incredibly easy to grow? My neighbor and I harvested and dried some chamomile recently to made tea.

When making chamomile tea, remember to never boil the flowers. I boil the water and pour it over the flowers; let it steep for 3 or 4 minutes, and then enjoy.

Just like everything when it’s in the 90’s, it’s really delicious iced.

Bon Appetit!

Baby Potato Salad with Radishes and Celery

This recipe contains no mayonnaise and is a much healthier version of everyone’s summer favorite: potato salad. 
It is adapted from celebrated Seattle chef, Ethan Stowell.
Bon Appetit!
3 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes or fingerling potatoes, cleaned but not peeled
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Champagne vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 celery hearts, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
2 bunches radishes, thinly sliced
8 small scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (1 cup)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool. Slice the potatoes 1/2 inch thick.

Meanwhile whisk the olive oil with the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Gently fold in the potatoes and celery.

Let stand at room temperature until cool, about 30 minutes. Just before serving, fold in the radishes and scallions and season with salt and pepper.

Make Ahead: Bring to room temperature before adding the radishes and scallions.

Petit Déjeuner

Tout commence avec du bon pain
Ask any Frenchman - it all starts with great bread!

Bon Appetit!

My Favorite Breakfast

Liberte yogurt. Lemon. Delicious!

A lot more calories and fat than other yogurt so indulge in just a half a carton at any sitting. 
Fill with blueberries and realize that this breakfast is your favorite simple meal of the day.

Bon Appetit!

This Weekend At The Farmers Market

Some wonderful things at the Farmers Market this week.
No surprise that the tomatoes are weeks late. I’m still craving a good BLT!

Bon Appetit!

P.S. I discovered this pink outhouse nearby. Cute X 20!


Funny, it seems like I blinked and the lilacs and peonies are gone and it’s half way to September.
Is summer flying by again or is it just my imagination?

Time flies when you are having fun!

Freedom Farm Polo

We went out to the Polo Match on July 16th at Watertown, MN at Freedom Farm.
Freedom Farm provides riding for children and adults with physical, mental and emotional challenges. I love their mission and they had plenty of corporate sponsors at this charity match.

Too bad there had been a lot of rain the day before because the field was not exactly Polo ready.

We had fun anyway and playing in the mud with my sister reminded me that you’re never too old to be a kid.

Mary's View Of The World

This is my sister Mary’s view of the world. Does she lead a charmed life? 
If you also had a husband who was one of the best Italian chefs on the planet, you might want to count your blessings instead of your calories.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Minneapolis Farmers Market

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Taste of Chicago 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sidewalk Chefs: The Art Of Mexican Street

When I was a student in Mexico, my food of choice was street food. I started out eating it because it was cheap but I grew to love it because it is so delicious.

Street food is firmly fixed in the Mexican gastronomic state of mind and these tiny, makeshift kitchens turn out some of the best food in Mexico.

Ask Rick Bayless, the most celebrated Mexican chef on the planet, because even he was blown away by some of the sidewalk chefs in Baja. Just when you think you’ve done it all in Mexico, it comes back with a new revelation. Never think that you are over being surprised by Mexico.

If you want to get a feeling for the local culinary culture, head for the street. There are puestos (semi-permanent street stalls like at Maxwell Street) everywhere you look and some of them have such a loyal following they have become neighborhood institutions. The last time I was back, many of the stalls I ate at as a student were still there. Insightful restaurants have a history no matter how tiny they are.

One thing that all sidewalk chefs have in common is that most of them learned to cook from their parents or grandparents. Recipes passed down from one generation to the next…often not written down.

The locals knew which stands were the best so early on I followed their lead. After a short time, I pretty much knew where to go. Chalk it up to experience and a very aggressive appetite.

People warned me that I would get sick if I ate street food but I never did… and I ate everything. In fact, there were only of few of us who were daring enough to sit down anywhere for a bite – especially at the food stalls in Mercado Libertad in Guadalajara. The butcher’s aisle was a gringa’s nightmare but we knew exactly where to go. By this time it was instinct.

I’ve always seen food as an adventure. If you don’t jump in and try it you’ll probably miss out on the best meal of your life.

That’s what I love about Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market. It looks and feels like most markets in Mexico and you can still get an enormous plate of authentic food for around $3. Ask anyone who has been to Ruby’s or Mexico D.F.

Does it taste just like Mexico? You tell me as I mindlessly order another Steak Taco with a side of Salsa Verde.

¡Buen apetito!

Carne Asada

When I spent a month in Guanajuato, I lived off Carne Asada and never gained an ounce. Don’t you just love protein?This is my favorite street food and you can use a variety of ingredients in your marinate.

I love the flavor of the soy sauce in this one. I know… you thought Soy Sauce was just for Chinese! Think again!

2 medium lemons or limes, juiced
4 Tbsp Soy Sauce
6 Tbsp water
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp salt
1 lb skirt steak or flank steak Vegetable oil for grilling

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first five ingredients and add the beef, massaging the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours or overnight.

Heat a grill or grill pan on medium high. (You should be able to hold your hand over it for no longer than 3 seconds.) Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Lightly oil the hot grill and add the beef. Cook until the meat is nicely charred and the interior is just cooked through, about 3 minutes a side. Let rest a few minutes. Slice the beef into 1/2-inch strips and then hack it into nubs. Makes enough for 12 tacos


Although you’ll not find them on every restaurants menu, carnitas are a stable on the street carts and happen to be my all time favorite meal.

Salsa Verde and salt are the only two dressings I need.

If you happen to go to Mexico any time soon, Carnitas Las Delicias in Toluca is one of the great places to grab them for breakfast, which is my favorite meal of day to eat them.

2 lb fatty pork butt (shoulder), cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 Tbsp lard or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 orange, cut into 2 pieces (skin on)
1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp table salt (or 2 tsp coarse salt)
2 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a 4-to 5-quart heavy pot; don't worry if the pork isn't completely covered. Bring everything to a boil, skimming as necessary. Then simmer rapidly over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and the liquid has evaporated, about 1 1/2 hours. Discard the orange and the bay leaves.

Continue to cook the pork in the fat left in the pan, stirring frequently, until it's golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more. Makes enough for 12 tacos, plus leftovers

Drizzle on a homemade salsa, shower the taco with chopped onion and cilantro, and serve open-faced, with a couple of lime wedges and a few radishes

Mexican Coffee Popsicles

If you love a great cup of Mexican coffee after dinner, try it iced on a stick. This recipe can be pumped up with a little Kahlua or any other Mexican liqueur. I went on the lighter side with the cinnamon.

½ cup strong coffee or espresso, chilled
½ cup milk
3 ½ tbsp light brown sugar
¼ - ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp almond or vanilla extract
1 ½ cups ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until mixture is smooth and frothy, but slightly thick (if it's too thick, add milk; if it's too thin, add ice).

Fill popsicle molds or small Dixie cups with the blended mixture. Quickly place mini popsicle sticks or popsicle sticks broken in half in the center of each mold or cup.

Place cups in freezer and freeze until completely frozen, about 4 hours.

Healthy Nachos

It’s easy to chow down a plate of Nachos and close your eyes to the calories. Smother them with fresh veggies however, and you have a magnificent and healthy meal.

Use your imagination when it comes to the ingredients. I use what’s available at my Farmers Market as a guide.

Tuna Ceviche with Avocado and Cilantro

Rick Bayless was so taken in by Baja that he’s going to host his entire 8th season from the peninsula starting in September. Personally, I can’t wait. Not only have I always loved Cabo but anyone who has savored the great flavors of Mexican food has always turned to Baja for a recipe.

Here is the link to the behind the scenes footage for all 12 episodes. I just spent the morning watching most of them.

Mexico: One Plate At A Time

Baja is a recent discovery for me. It was 15 years ago when I made my first trip. As far as I was concerned, it was an extension of Southern California so I dismissed it as not being the “real” Mexico. Was I wrong!

I have been to just about every city in Mexico but I have yet to discover Baja outside of Cabo San Lucas. Pack the van because I feel a road trip coming on.

Not only do I love the people and the food – what else is there to love? – but the tempo of Baja is infectious.

Just when you thought that the surroundings were consuming you, you can take a step back and catch your breath. Cabo is that uncomplicated.

Ceviche is typically made from fresh, raw fish and marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chili peppers. A Bayless Baja inspired recipe, this Tuna ceviche is easily my favorite because it is so healthy and fresh.
1 pound sushi-grade tuna, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 5 limes)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large Hass avocado, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
Tortilla chips, for serving

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Arrange the tuna slices in a single layer on the baking sheet and freeze until fairly firm, about 15 minutes.

Stack the slices of tuna. Using a very sharp chef's knife, cut the tuna into 1/4-inch cubes. Transfer the cubed tuna to a medium glass or ceramic bowl and stir in the red onion, lime juice and black pepper. Cover the tuna with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, stirring gently with a plastic spatula every 15 to 20 minutes (the diced tuna will change color slightly).

Just before serving, gently fold in the diced avocado and chopped cilantro and season with salt. Transfer the ceviche to a bowl or individual glasses. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with tortilla chips.

Afterthought: I love fresh salsa and always keep a stockpile of it in my refrigerator. Decided that this was the perfect recipe to pile it on…even though the recipe did not call for it.

                                                                                      Photo from Tasty Kitchen

Green Mango Margarita Sorbet

Want a delicious drink? Take it up a notch and make it into a refreshing sorbet.

1/2 cup sugar
1 large or 2 medium limes, zested and juiced
1 large green mango, peeled and roughly sliced
1/4 cup triple sec
1/4 cup tequila
lime wedge and rimming salt, to serve

In a saucepan, make simple syrup by heating 1/2 cup water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and add lime zest and juice. Let cool.

Put green mango slices and 1/4 cup water in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add simple syrup, triple sec, and tequila. Blend again until smooth. Adjust flavors to taste. Cool in the refrigerator, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Store in a freezer-proof container in the freezer to allow it to harden some more.

Run a lime wedge around the rim of a shot glass and salt the rim. Scoop the sorbet into the shot glass and serve.

Mexican Roadside Chicken

This recipe was adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday. I really loved the recipe because it is so very easy…and I’m all for easy!

I precooked it in the oven – 350 degrees for 45 minutes – and then finished it off on my indoor grill.

I served it with a mix of fresh cherry tomatoes, grilled sweet corn and avocado. A very uncomplicated recipe that is Farmers market fresh!

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
A big pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus a little more for the onions
1 large chicken, about 3 lbs, butterflied
2 large bunches of green onions or knob onions
A little olive oil for brushing the onions
Grilled tomatillo salsa, for serving

Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. While the charcoal is lighting, mix chile powder, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, vinegar, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of salt together in a small bowl.

When the charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour coals out and arrange them on one side of the charcoal grate, keeping the other side empty. Place the chicken over the cool side of the grill, skin side down, and brush exposed side with the wet rub. Flip the chicken over and brush the other side with the rub. Cover the grill and cook, basting occasionally with any remaining rub, at 350 degrees until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the breast, about 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the grill and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

While the chicken is resting, brush the onions with olive oil and season with salt. Place the onions over the hot side of the grill and cook until tender and browned, about 5 minutes per side.

To serve, cut the chicken into quarters, top with green onions and tomatillo salsa.

Mexican Churros

I’ve never been into fried food (except French Fries) but I can so do Churros.

The Churro Truck at the Maxwell Street Market does it right and fills them with wonderful chocolate and strawberry fillings. I however still like mine plain.

I love to see the kids lining up at the truck just as it pulls in to the market. Me? I am most often at the front of the line with the kids chatting and looking for another excuse to order more than I planned on…and I always do.

1 cup water
1 1/2 cups or 12 ounces butter
1/2 tablespoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon for sprinkling

Place water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add butter and salt. Remove from heat and add flour and cinnamon. Mix well. Add eggs and again mix thoroughly. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to fry.

Before frying, roll dough into churros, strips about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. Or place dough into pastry piping bag and pipe out 4- to 5-inch churros to fry.

To fry, fill a deep pot halfway with oil. Heat to 350 degrees. Test the oil by placing a small amount of dough in it. The dough should bubble up right away; otherwise, the oil is not hot enough. When hot, add 4 to 5 pieces of dough and cook about 1 minute, turning with a slotted spoon. Cook an additional minute or 2, until the churros are a golden-brown. Fry in batches and avoid overcrowding.

Remove the churros with the slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel-covered plate to absorb excess grease. Place sugar-cinnamon mixture on a flat dish. While churros are still warm, roll each into the dish with the sugar and cinnamon until coated.Makes about 2 dozen.

Mexican Street Corn

This recipe has inspired me to try other toppings as well. Bacon? I know - I put that on everything!
The trick is to get the corn to the well done stage on the grill before you slather on the toppings.

4 ears corn
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (can substitute cotija)
Red chili powder or cayenne pepper, to taste
2 limes cut into wedges

Remove the husks of the corn. To grill instead of boiling, preheat outdoor grill or indoor cast-iron griddle on medium-high heat. When hot, lightly oil grates and place corn on grill. Grill for about 5 minutes or until kernels begin to blacken, turning frequently.

Baste hot corn with mayonnaise, then season with Parmesan and chili powder. Serve with lime wedges.