Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hot Turkey

People have found me searching for some pretty strange things, but this one wins the prize so far:
turky hot pretty women.

Scroll all the way down and you'll see what they got.

I found this photo at Cucina Testa Rossa

Blood Orange Sonata

There's a dangerous stall at the little French Market down the street. Sonoma Farm carries the most beautiful selection of infused olive oils, and I simply cannot resist them. And when I get on a kick, I really get on a kick.

For the past couple of weeks I had been eyeing the Cuisine Perel fruit-flavored vinegars that suddenly appeared on the top shelf of the oil and vinegar section at Treasure Island. What first caught my eye was the beautiful shape of the bottles, and then I noticed it was flavored vinegars. And while they all intrigued me, the one that stood out the most was the blood orange vinegar (anyone who knows me surprised out there?). I was able to resist the urge to grab it and buy it right then and there the first time I saw it, but I have to tell you I had to fight pretty hard.

So a couple of weeks later Bob and I decide to stop by the market after our post-walk brunch to see what's there. They don't have a lot of fruit and vegetables there, just two stands. Everything else is arts, crafts, flowers, baked goods, and food products, including the Sonoma oils. Those clever people put out bowls to sample, and once I tasted the flavored oils, I knew I was in trouble. I actually bought the lime-infused oil first (which is delicious with corn, but we knew it would be, didn't we?), and then went back the next week for the blood orange oil.

And once I had the blood orange olive oil, it only made sense for me to hurry on down to Treasure Island to pick up that blood orange vinegar as well, right? And the two together made the most lovely vinaigrette. I followed my usual recipe, substituting the blood orange vinegar for the red wine vinegar, and adding 1/3 cup of the blood orange olive oil after whisking together the canola oil and the regular olive oil.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Heaven in a Glass

Now that the dog days of summer are panting at the doorway I am seriously on the lookout for anything that will cool me off. Imagine my joy when I discovered that my most favorite beer can finally be found in Chicago!

As most of my friends know, I am not much of a drinker these days. The occasional cocktail before dinner, with a glass or two of wine during the meal, usually does it for me. My days of frozen margaritas chased by tequila shots are long behind me, although these days I find myself feeling as if I had stayed up drinking all night the next morning after just one glass of wine.

And I have never been much of a beer drinker. I never really liked the fuzzy buzz of a beer high, and I didn't really care for the taste - it was too bitter for my delicate tastebuds. Or too sharp. But everyone drank it so it was impossible to avoid.

The only beers that I could manage to swallow without making a face were Lone Star Long Necks. And, oddly enough, Mexican beers, especially Tecate (but only with limes). Luckily for me, drinking Lone Star was a matter of pride among my friends so I rarely had to deal with Schlitz, Bud, Pabst, or Coors.

But there was one other Texas beer that appeared as often as Lone Star. There's a little town not too far from Austin called Shiner, Texas, that's been home to the Spoetzl Brewery since 1909. And back when I was in college, they sold their Shiner beer for a ridiculously cheap price, so it showed up frequently at parties. It came in short, squat bottles, and tasted like piss to me. It kind of looked like piss to me, too. I shunned Shiner beer like the plague.

Fast forward about five years and I was working at the Austin Public Library. Quite a few of us had gotten into the habit on payday Fridays (we were paid every other week) of going to Scholz's Beer Garten for a little socializing and unwinding before the weekend. There were never less than ten of us; more often there were close to twenty people sitting around several pulled-together tables in the back yard, where we would order french fries, onion rings, and endless pitchers of beer.
There were many fine and lively conversations that took place around those tables. We talked about work, politics, music, and life. We would start around 5:30 in the afternoon and most often would stumble out around midnight. Most often we would head to our various homes, but every once in a while we would not be ready for the evening to end, and a few of us would find ourselves at Flapjack Canyon for a midnight breakfast. And one of those times we still weren't ready for the evening to end and found ourselves on a 3:00 a.m. road trip to Mexico.

I liked the beer at Scholz's. A lot. It was dark and kind of yeasty, and it wasn't as bitter as most of the beers with which I was familiar. When I found out it was Shiner Bock, you could have knocked me over with a feather. When I bought my first six-pack and found out it was as good in a bottle as it was in a pitcher, I never looked back. I still did not drink beer that often, but when I did, it was always Shiner Bock.

And then I moved to Chicago. After a search I pretty much knew would be futile before I even started, I gave up on beer. Which wasn't really a big sacrifice because I wasn't that big a fan of it anyway, right?

A couple of months ago I was walking down Chicago Avenue on my way to meet some friends for brunch Kitsch'n. And plastered on the side of a building was a huge painting of a bottle of Shiner Bock. Wow, I thought. It must be coming to Chicago at last!

And then I forgot about it. Until a few weeks ago, when I was pushing my cart up to the checkout lanes at Treasure Island, and I saw sixpacks of Shiner Bock piled high on the floor in front of the liquor section. I didn't even have to think about it. I swooped up a sixpack, brought it home, and put it in the fridge to chill.

And then I waited. I think I was a little afraid it wouldn't taste as good as I remembered it. I also wanted the perfect moment to arrive, which I know is risky. But I was waiting for one of those hot days that just cried out for an ice-cold beer.

And that day finally came. It was a Sunday, and the temperature got close to ninety. I had been out in the sun, and on the bus on the way home the thought came unbidden - "What I need is an ice-cold beer." I got home, pulled out my cold Shiner Bock, poured some into the same kind of beer glasses they used at Scholz's, and took a sip.

And that cold, icy goodness just flowed down my throat. It was every bit as good as I remembered it. And the memories that came with it were just as sweet.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Find of the Week - Sweet Olive Oil Tortas with Cranberry Port Goat Cheese

The Big Apple Market on Clark Street is quickly becoming one of my favorite grocery stores. They have an amazingly broad range of items for such a small store and I often find little surprises in all of the aisles. My most recent discovery is Las Legitimas y Acreitadas Tortas de Ines Rosales. You really should click on the link; they have a most impressive website.I had never heard of these before, but I first saw them a couple of weeks ago on the sweets table at the front of the store. By the fourth time I saw them I knew I had to try them. So I bought a package, along with some cranberry cinnamon goat cheese, and brought it home with me.

Each torta is individually wrapped, so I opened one up and took a test bite. Crisp but not too crunchy, a little greasy from the olive oil, a little sweetness almost immediately eclipsed by the sharp pungent bite of anise - it was delicious. And when paired with the goat cheese, sublime.
My plan was to just have that first taste, and then later I would make one to photograph, but somehow they all disappeared before I could take a shot. So I have sacrificed for you, dear readers, and bought another package just so I can show you what they look like.

They were out of the cranberry cinnamon goat cheese I had bought to go with the first batch so I settled for the cranberry port wine goat cheese (more sacrifices for you, dear reader). It was even better. Next time I will go to Pastoral to find a nice Spanish cheese to go with it so I can stay true to the region.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cavatappi with Purple Asparagus and Romesco Sauce

Several years ago, I clipped out a recipe for a sauce made with roasted red peppers and almonds. And then completely forgot about it during my roasted red pepper period, when I was making all of that muhammara and Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.

On one of my Saturday walks with Bob we ended up at the Lincoln Park Green Market. There were big beautiful bunches of purple asparagus so I snapped up a couple. I wanted something lighter and fresher than my usual tomato-based sauce with which to prepare them - preferably something that I did not have to cook.

And that's when I remembered the Romesco sauce recipe that had been filed away and forgotten. After a little searching I found it and took a look at it and decided it might just be the perfect topping for my dish.

Now that summer is here, I am using the absorption method to cook my pasta. I have started using chicken stock instead of water, which makes it extra tasty. I sliced the asparagus and sauteed it in olive oil until it was just tender. I cooked the pasta, topped it with the warm asparagus, and covered both with the Romesco sauce, which I did not heat. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be - fresh, light, and incredibly flavorful.

And every time I went into the kitchen I would grab a spoon, open the refrigerator, and scoop out some of the Romesco sauce. I can't get enough of the stuff.
Home Cookin Chapter: Sauces

Romesco Sauce

1 dried ancho chili
2-4 red peppers, roasted and peeled
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cups peeled hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
1/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped and toasted
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ancho
chili and cook approximately 1 minute on each side, until it just
starts to smoke. Remove it from the skillet, cut it in half and place
it in a bowl with 1 cup boiling water, or enough to cover. Let stand
for 15 minutes. Remove from water and chop.

Place hazelnuts and almonds in food processor bowl and process until
you have crumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the olive
oil and process until smooth. Keeping the processor running, gradually
add the rest of the olive oil until an emulsion forms.

Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Times, July 2006 issue.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.5 (

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki and Couscous

Happy Fourth of July for all of you Americans out there. I hope the weather cooperates with your plans. It's supposed to rain here, but I don't really have any big plans for today anyway. Foodwise, it's never been my favorite holiday, and since fireworks are banned inside of most city limits, the fun has pretty much gone out of it for me. I'm not really into crowds so, other than my first year here, I do not venture anywhere near downtown for the Taste of Chicago and the fireworks. Yeah, I know . . . I'm no fun.

The George Foreman Grill experiments continue apace. So far, the results have all been good. I find that I'm still more excited by the vegetable possibilities than the meat, but I'm still grilling my fair share of that as well.

I was so thrilled to have re-discovered Middle Eastern Turkey burgers that I still had a taste for them after the last time I made them. I also was eager to see how they would work on the grill. And since I had some ground lamb in my freezer and I'm still working on getting things out of my freezer faster than they go in (still no success there, alas), the opportunity was ripe for Middle Eastern Lamb burgers.

This time I had given it some thought, so I knew I was going to be making tzatziki, so the day before I was going to cook up the burgers I put the yogurt in cheesecloth in a strainer, covered it up, and left it in the fridge overnight. By the next day I had Greek yogurt - smooth and creamy and very dry. I grated the cucumber, salted it, and let it drain for about an hour and a half. The resultant spread was rich and creamy; it was so thick, though, that I actually had to add milk to it to thin it out some.

The lamb was lean and the onion was not enough to moisten it up quite as nicely as it does the turkey. Plus, I cooked it a little longer than I should have which did not help. But I would make it again and cook them a little less. If you want the recipe for the lamb burgers, just follow the link here and substitute the lamb for the turkey.

After I had boiled the water for the couscous and added the grains, I threw in some sliced green onoins. After it had rested for five minutes, I added dried mango and chopped pistachios as I fluffed them up. Tasty.

The tzatziki was the biggest success of this meal, though. As long as you plan ahead and start it the day before you need it, it really doesn't take that much effort. And the possibilities are endless in terms of what you can do with it.
Home Cookin Chapter: Sauces


1 container (16 ounces) plain lowfat yogurt
1/2 English (seedless) cucumber, not peeled, seeded and finely chopped plus a few thin slices
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 to 2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint or dill plus additional sprigs
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Spoon yogurt into sieve lined with cheesecloth or coffee filter set over bowl; cover and refrigerate overnight. Transfer drained yogurt to medium bowl and discard liquid.

Meanwhile, in colander set over bowl, toss chopped cucumber with 1 teaspoon salt. Let drain at least 1 hour at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours. In batches, wrap chopped cucumber in
kitchen towel and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Pat dry with paper towels, then add
to bowl with yogurt.

With flat side of chef's knife, mash garlic to a paste with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add garlic, chopped mint, oil, vinegar, and pepper to yogurt and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 or up to 4 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature, topped with cucumber slices and mint sprigs.

Yield: about 1-1/2 cups

Per tablespoon: about 17 calories, 1 gram protein, 1 gram carbohydrate, 1 gram total fat (0 gram
saturated), 1 mg cholesterol, 182 mg sodium.

The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, edited by Susan Westmoreland (Hearst Books)

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Shredded Zucchini

I checked out for while, in case no one noticed. I haven't been cooking that much lately, and haven't felt much like writing about what I have been cooking. But it's a new day in a new month, and I have hopes of returning to regular posting and I have to start somewhere, so I will start with this post that I started last month.

I've been happily making use of my za'atar, most notably recently as a seasoning for this lamb chop (no, not the George Foreman Grill lamb chop). This was cooked the good old-fashioned way, in the broiler. It was quite delicious.

While I usually add rosemary to my roasted new potatoes with garlic and olive oil, for this meal I added marjoram because there's marjoram in the za'atar and I thought that it would complement the lamb nicely. It did.

But I wasn't sure what to do about the vegetable. I had some zucchini about to go bad in the refrigerator, but I didn't know what to do with it. I always have such high hopes for zucchini at the grocery store, when I see them all fresh and deeply green. And I love to eat zucchini. I just don't know how to cook them. They have a high water content, which means they turn from raw to mush in a matter of seconds, and I hate them mushy.

I leafed through some of my vegetable cookbooks and came across this recipe for Shredded Zucchini, which the author said was a good method when you did not have enough time to salt and drain them (!). I had neither the time nor the inclination, so I decided to try this recipe. It was a little messy and I am compulsive enough that I never quite trusted that I had squeezed out enough liquid so I kept squeezing and squeezing until I could feel the little shreds turn to mush between my fingers, but overall the recipe was a success.

I did not have fresh herbs so I used dried, which was ok, but I think this dish would become spectacular in the summer prepared with fresh herbs.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Shredded Zucchini

4 medium zucchini (about 1-1/2 lbs.)
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 Tbsp minced fresh herb leaves
freshly ground black pepper

from Vegetables Every Day, by Jack Bishop (HarperCollins, 2001)
Trim the ends from the zucchini. Shred the zucchini using the large
holes on a box grater or the shredding disk of a food processor. Wrap
the shredded zucchini in several layers of paper towels or in a kitchen
towel and squeeze gently. Continue squeezing, using new towels if
necessary, until the zucchini is fairly dry.

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the
zucchini and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini
is tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the herb and salt and pepper to

Serve immediately.

Servings: 4

Exported from Home Cookin 5.5 (

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