Archive for September, 2011

La Boulangerie (French bakery in Chicago)

A perfect Sunday morning includes the Logan Square farmers market, New Wave Coffee and La Boulangerie. First, grab a coffee at New Wave just next store as La Boulangerie DOES NOT SERVE COFFEE. And then choose a fresh pastry from La Bou’s display case to devour at one of their small cafe tables. The almond and chocolate croissants are flaky, buttery, intoxicating.

This past Sunday, I bought a half of rye and sourdough marbled bread for home and have been toasting pieces from the freezer. The bread is flavorful and perfect for encasing hearty meats, mustards and cheeses.

Almond and chocolate croissants, so good!

baguettes make any man look sexier

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Brunch pasta turns gourmet

My original idea to make brunch pasta out of homemade tomato pasta (thanks Qin!), eggs and bacon turned into a gourmet dish of scallops, scallions, and roasted bell peppers. I’m ok with this. In fact, I highly recommend the combination of flavors.

1. Roll out your tomato pasta, then roll it up and cut it. (see below)
2. Take 2 slices of bacon chopped in small pieces and render the fat in a cast iron skillet (or whatever frying pan your like)
3. Add chopped scallions to frying pan and watch the bacon to make sure it gets crispy, not burnt. Add roasted peppers to pan to warm up.
Last steps happen in 1-2mins all at the same time…GO.
4. Drop the scallops in the iron skillet with all that bacon fat, Drop the pasta in boiling, heavily salted water, Crack an egg into a small frying pan and make an over easy egg…keep that egg yolk wet!
5. Once the pasta floats to the water’s surface, remove/drain/add to bowl. Push the yummy bacon bits, scallions and scallops onto the pasta. (No need to pour all the bacon fat into the dish unless you adore low density lipoproteins (LDLs)…or bad cholesterol) Add the egg on top and sprinkle chopped dill and lemon juice over the top.

In the future I may skip adding the scallops as they did not ‘make’ the dish and add more lemon juice as the bright acidity cuts the fat well. Also, I was craving some hot peppers in the dish to wake me up this morning. Roasted jalapenos should work next time. Enjoy!

Roll and cut

A pile of yum.

Official member of the fish steaming club

For a whole fish, forget roasting or whatever you were going to do with it, steam it! I used a wok and bamboo baskets but steel steamers should work as well. The fish on the bone is intensely flavorful, flaky tender and moist. And just like chicken, you can make stock out of the head and bones! I dropped the fish bones, carrots, celery, onion, and fennel in butter/oil, then white wine, then water pressure cooker for 30 minutes. I may make a soup, sauce, paella…TBD.

AND, I tried one of the eye balls, yes, I did. I actually liked it…kinda weird, but I liked the rich fluid… I also scooped out the fish cheeks and enjoyed that little morsel as well. A whole steamed fish is an adventure I fully recommend for all food lovers.

My seasonings:
-green onions
-ginger
-spice-infused soy sauce
-sesame oil
-salt
I cut off the tail and fins, made slits in the sides and stuffed seasoning in them and all over. I made a little foil basket to collect the juices and let it steam for 12 minutes. SIMPLE. and delicious.

hi yellow-eye snapper

Happy fish post steaming

Is this persuasive enough? Go buy a whole fish!

Leek, black-eyed pea, potato, corn soup…one star too many?

The soup was originally enlisted for leek and potatoes only. Then, I had hydrated some black-eyed peas and shucked three ears of corn on a whim and found them both in need of a purpose. Why not, leek, black-eyed peas, potato, corn soup… It had an herb, cumin/coriander seasoning and a french (butter/wine/chicken broth/cream) finish. With my trusty immersion blender, I fated all my vegetables for comforting anonymity and then added some heavy cream. A daub of yogurt and a topping of roasted peppers completed the kodak moment. The hearty soup was rich and appropriate for the cool September weather.

Better than baby food, I promise.

Homemade pasta oh my!

I can no longer make excuses, it’s time I made my own pasta at home. My friend, Qin, demonstrated how easy it is to mix flour, eggs, an optional filling, into a mound, knead it, then roll it out super thin. After flattening into 1/8″ thickness, fold the dough several times (or roll it up like a fruit roll-up) and slice it thinly for angel hair pasta, or thicker for fettuccine. I personally loved the thin slices as it maximized surface area for sticky sauces. While I was served both tomato and spinach pastas, I think I preferred the spinach pasta. All purpose flour is typically used but I may experiment with wheat flour in the future. Qin was generous enough to leave me with two portions of tomato pasta dough and I may make one into a breakfast pasta with bacon sauce and a sunny-side egg on top. 🙂

Tomato pasta with grated aged gouda

Healthy, colorful and most importantly, delicious

FMIOTW: Tomatillo

I had no idea that tomatillos came in similar packaging to goose berries, part of the nightshade family. I used the tomatillos in a palak paneer recipe instead of tomatoes and they provided a similar texture with a sour kick. Cannot wait to experiment more with these unique fruits.

Green and tasty!

Peter piper did not pickle my peppers

I canned my first jar of pickled peppers thanks to my learnings from the Slow Food tomato canning event several weeks ago. Special thanks to Nichol’s farmers stand at Green City Market for having a diverse selection of colorful peppers! I used a Williams and Sonoma giardiniera recipe loosely, considering I did not add zucchini, carrots or cauliflower. In essence I combined apple cider vinegar (not white vinegar…yeah, we’ll see…), salt, water, herbs, garlic and peppers in a jar and applied all my newly acquired canning techniques. I’m a little concerned that the liquid level fell slightly below the pepper line but I am reassured by several online canning sites that this is ‘ok’. We’ll taste the end result in a few weeks!

Pickled peppers, a mix of spicy and sweet

Also, if you have any suggestions for removing pepper skins, let me know! The skins do not release from the pepper after boiling as they do on tomatoes.

Ras Dashen Ethiopian Restaurant

For a unique dinning experience, I recommend this restaurant. For a meal worth returning to, not for me. I enjoyed the unique flavor of the dishes and that in family style you could taste everything, but the sour spongy bread was my least favorite item and unfortunately the most ubiquitous bite in each mouthful. For the price and utensil limitations, I will not be back.

Dim sum trial 2: Steamed buns with palak paneer and edamame/green onion

My pro-veggie dim sum crew gathered today to challenge the monopoly that pork has on dim sum offerings. We successfully made steamed buns with two fillings; spinach and paneer with Indian spices and edamame/green onion/ginger with spice infused soy sauce and sesame oil. While the cooking took 4hrs since everything was from scratch the end result was delicious and made an impressive showing against traditional pork buns.

Steamed buns are so cute...

From humble beginnings...

Palik paneer steamed bun (thanks for the idea Anj!)

Edamame with spice infused soy sauce and cilantro

Indian cooking, the new adventure

I’ve been afraid of attempting Indian dishes because they seem to contain an endless amount of spices and I had no clue how to use them. I took a baby step into Gujarati/Smita’s palik paneer and felt emboldened enough to buy my own spice tin and spices! I’m looking forward to learning more about a cooking genre of great diversity and depth.

Smita's convenient spice drawer next to the stove

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