Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tomato and Fennel Pasta

I found some excellent fresh pasta at the North market on Saturday. Check out the ingredients – red fife, semolina, eggs, water. Nothing extra, just the goodness.

I remembered a great quick tomato sauce recipe from Martha. To the sauce, I added diced fennel, fresh basil and Niagara prosciutto. A tasty compliment to the fab fresh pasta.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Halibut

After learning about the seafood selector, I've been trying to choose fish from the "happy" list. With a few options in mind I went to the market and found a nice wild Halibut fillet. It was dredged in chickpea flour, and then pan fried with olive oil and garlic. On the side, asparagus, peas and basil.



Monday, April 20, 2009

Star-Shaped Scones

My networking group of graphic designers got together this past Sunday for a pot luck brunch at Matt & Mary's apartment in Logan Square. There was a good mix of different brunch eats (migas, muffins, egg dishes, etc.) and plenty of fixings and mixings for Mimosas and Bloody Marys. My contributions to the potluck brunch were a bottle of Prosecco and a batch of cranberry scones cut out with a star-shaped cookie cutter. The easy, shmeasy cream scone recipe is from Susan Branch's Autumn cookbook...yum. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Feta Fennel Anchovy Pasta

I picked up some fresh whole wheat pasta at the north market last Saturday. In an effort to use up what's in the fridge, I decided to have the pasta with the rest of the fennel and feta cheese.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

White and Orange Salad

If you had to go on a colour diet and only eat only three colours – which three would you choose? I'd choose red, orange and green. That covers about 80% of my favorite foods. The whole idea sounds crazy, but of course a quick search uncovered an interesting article about the benefits of food by colour. What Color is Your Diet.

The white and orange salad has fennel, roasted yellow beets, orange sements, mint, sunflower seeds, walnuts and feta.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Chicken Tortalittas

I just can't get enough of the tortallitas. They're like bread, they go with everything. This time we stacked them with butternut squash, chicken, avocado and a dollop of plain yogurt.


Irish Coffee on Easter

I stayed in Chicago for Easter this year. One of my good friends, Mary Beth (of Chicago Gourmet; Mayor Daley fame), took pity on this Easter orphan and invited me to share in an Easter dinner with her husband and friends at their home in Norwood Park. Their gorgeous rehabbed, 80 year-old home was the perfect setting for a fantastic Easter meal.  Each place setting had an Easter basket filled with yummy Easter candy. We had the traditional spiral cut ham, asparagus with Parmesan, a delicious mixed greens salad with fresh raspberries, walnuts and raspberry dressing, fabulous warm-from-the-oven rolls, all paired with a delicious Argentina red wine. For dessert we had an out-of-this-world cheesecake served with our choice of toppings: A tequila and almond or raspberry sauce. We also had our choice of regular coffee or an Irish coffee...I chose Irish. It's the house specialty! Great old and new friends, great conversation and amazing food...I was lucky enough to get better way to spend an Easter in Chicago. A big thank you to the Thomas clan of Norwood Park!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Open Faced Chicken Sandwich

Another Oma recipe – chicken burgers. We used the leftovers to make an open faced sandwich with avocado and mâche salad. The chicken is cooked slowly with onions and fennel seeds before being shredded.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Havin' Huevos

Having breakfast or dinner at the Village Creperie is a must whenever I'm in the 'Loo. On Saturday morning we put the top down (summer jumping in the autoshare) and headed out for breakfast. I was planning to have my old favorite, smoked salmon with two eggs, but I was swayed by the huevos – an excellent choice. After starting with an americano we switched to prosecco and freshly squeezed OJ.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Paska!

Paska is a traditional Easter bread that Fusilli makes every year. It's a lot of work, but we (the people who enjoy eating it, but don't make it) agree that it's worth it. The recipe, passed down by Oma, involves mixing the finished batter with whipped egg whites. This is done by hand, which is quite messy, but fun to watch.

I've been trying to think of an example to illustrate the difficulty of this step, which is questioned each year, but never skipped. Have you ever tried giving a cat a bath? It's not an entirely fair comparison, but the point is – these two things don't want to be together. You just have to roll up your sleeves and use both hands.

Next year we've agreed that a second batch should be made to experiment by making deep fried Paska balls. I can already imagine how incredible these are going to be. Half dipped in icing and sprinkles... oh yeah!


Asparagus and Monkfish

Dinner on Friday started with roasted asparagus wrapped in proscuitto and tapenade. The main course was monkfish with almond sauce and rapini. We've made this twice in the past month — it's fantastic.

However, this dish raises an important question. Do you avoid eating things based on how cute they are? Like rabbits and Golden Retrievers for example. If so, how do you feel about eating monkfish, which looks incredibly frightening? I don't exclude cute or frightening food from my diet, but I do feel bad eating monkfish since I learned it's been overfished. Yeesh, is there anything we can enjoy without guilt?

Here's a guide to selecting sustainable seafood.


Easter Egg Hunt!

When I rolled into the 'Loo on Friday morning, I found Monte & Fusilli had been enlisted to help in hiding a HUGE number of "eggs" for the neighborhood egg hunt. How many is a HUGE number? Ummm, 600+ plastic eggs that had been filled with toys, candy and things. That afternoon, over 20 kids showed up to root around the yard, scooping up plastic eggs like wild monkeys.

Here's a pick of one tiny spot that was specially prepared for the younglings who were too small to be climbing around in the bush. Can you guess how many eggs are in this one picture? Click on the image to see a large pic. When you're ready for the answer, continue reading to see a picture showing the location of all the eggs. Enjoy.

There are 19 eggs in this picture.


I Like Pizza!

A great start to the long weekend – whole wheat pizza with fontina, prosciutto, spinach and olive tapenade. On the side, a mâche salad.


A Cupcake Favo(u)rite you think this time around I grabbed a fork and ate the whole thing from the 9 x 13 pan? You know from my last post about these gems that I'm not above that. But, I didn't.  I was good. I split the tempting giant cookie bar down the middle and cut them up into bars.  Half of the bars went to one of my best clients yesterday and the other half is in my freezer.  These are sooo good chilled and with a Cafe au Lait from Goddess & Grocer


Dunlay's On the Square: $5 Burger Night

Wednesday afternoon I headed over to Logan Square to meet my friend Mary (another graphic designer currently freelancing from home too) for a late afternoon movie and cheap dinner at Dunlay's On the Square. I've been to the other locations of Dunlay's in Lincoln Park: D.O.C. Wine Bar and Dunlay's on Clark...all locations are excellent foodwise AND in atmosphere! Dunlay's, like most restaurants in Chicago right now, are having daily specials to get the customers in the door. Wednesday night is $5 burger night. Perfect for those of us on v. tight budgets! This was actually my second trip to Dunlay's this week. Monday night Mary, Julie (another casualty of the economy) and I met there to catch up on jobs and networking. Monday night was $5 pours and 1/2 price wine night. Nice! I also dined on an appetizer, the Barbecued Pork Wraps...YUM!  Next week I hope to try the Spaghetti Bowl night at A Mano or their $5 pizza night. Either night should provide me with plenty of leftovers!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Some of our hungry loyal readers have been asking us about Hank's since Broccoli and I grabbed lunch there twice this week. Although I did have 2 bad experiences at 9 1/2 Church street previously, this week scored 2 for 2. I wish I could give you a taste of the hearty Moroccan lamb stew I had today. Instead, here's a peek inside our local lunch hangout.



Technically speaking, pizza is crust + toppings. I think that qualifies my tortallita + onions, carrots, pork, cilantro and avocado to be called a pizza... or pizzalitta.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chopped Salad

I've started to chop my salad greens. It makes the salad easier to eat, but really it's about the making it taste better. I know that sounds very 80-year-old-man of me, but consider this: Food tastes better, or different, depending on the shape and size of the ingredients.

For example:
Large circle carrots, or sticks – yuck
Matchstick or shredded carrots – delish

Spaghetti – gross
Capellini – delish

For the salad, I chopped the mixed greens and tossed them in a lemon, honey, mustard and grapeseed oil dressing. On top, I added leftover pan fried roast pork shoulder, avocado and toasted sunflower seeds. Delish.


Sunday, April 5, 2009


The best treats are only enjoyed at certain times of the year, and that's what makes them special. That's true of these delicious Greek Walnut cookies – Melomakarona. You can get them at the market around Christmas and Easter... and then they're gone. I suppose we could try making them at home, but that would mean we could have them anytime, and then what would I look forward to? Get them while you can!


Roast Pork & Tortallitas

We picked up a pork shoulder at the north market on Saturday and roasted it for dinner. We've been looking for reasons to make more tortallitas this week and roast pork makes the perfect filling. We wrapped the roast pork with cilantro and avocado and topped it with tomatillo salsa.

On the side – the first fava bean salad of the season. This won't qualify for the 100 mile diet but I can't wait until July for my favorite salad. Mint and feta made it perfect.


Friday, April 3, 2009

A snack that clowns might eat

My childhood friend Sunny sent over a sample of her latest snack obsession last weekend— popcorn cake. What the heck is popcorn cake, you ask? I like to think of it as the slightly eccentric step-sister of the rice krispie square. I told Sunny that it looks like a snack a clown would eat. And really, it's made from ingredients that would be readily found at a carnival: popcorn, marshmallow and brightly coloured candy-covered chocolate pieces. Despite its clownish appearance, popcorn cake is highly addictive; sweet, salty, chewy and crunchy all at the same time. Sunny likes to make it with Papa Jack's pre-made popcorn (check out that crazy retro line drawing on the bag) and when she says "Papa Jack", she likes to say the "Papa" part really fast. Try saying it. And try the recipe, but be warned… it's very, very addictive.

1 stick butter
1 bag mini marshmallows
4 qts. popped corn
1/2 lb. bag M & M's
Melt butter and marshmallows. Add popcorn and M & M's. Spread into greased angel food cake pan.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tortillitas With Shrimp

Now I know why I resisted Twitter for so long – I'm totally addicted! On the plus side, I've been following Mark Bittman and he's been sending out some gems. Today it was Tortallitas with shrimp.

Like all great comfort food, it's uncomplicated and totally satisfying. We added shrimp, cilantro and green onion and had avocado with a squeeze of lime on the side. There's a video after the link if you want to see how it's made in more detail.



Reusable totes are everywhere. Recently, I've been using them more and more because retailers will give you some kind of discount or incentive when you use a reusable tote, even if it's not theirs. Here are two that I know of: Whole Foods will give you money off on your groceries and Trader Joe's will enter you into their twice-monthly raffle for a $25 shopping spree. I've got a variety of reusable totes at home, but at the beginning of March, I couldn't resist buying 2 of the reusable totes from the Orla Kiely for Target product line (which now is pretty much sold out of everything online and in-stores).
At only $1.99 each, I've gotten more than my money's worth and a number of compliments from complete strangers. I love this bag, not only because it's from my favorite designer of everything, Orla Kiely, but because it folds down so well and to a nice compact size. In the past I've been seen in public(!) struggling to fold other reusable totes back into their origami-like shape and would just give up and shove it (mangled) into my purse. 

Today, while reading Graphic Design USA and trying to stay on top of my industry's news, I read an article about Willoughby Design's reusable bags.  They look very handy and great for the upcoming Farmer's Market season in Chicago. Maybe I like them more what they've named some of the bags: "bagnanas", "carrotall", "totematoes" and my favorite "artitote". You can read more and buy them here.  Happy shopping.