Jet lag is evil. No matter how I try to prepare or counteract, it leaves me flattened, sometimes worse than others. Earlier this summer, for reasons that are unclear, I opted to arrive in London at the grotesque hour of 6am. Granted it was an impromptu trip, hastily booked before starting a new job but my thought was I could sleep the whole way there and hit the ground running. That did not happen for one key reason: old Hollywood musicals via the in-flight on-demand system. Gets me every time. By the time I arrived at my friends flat, everyone was just starting to wake and greet the day, ready for a hearty round of site-seeing. They were obviously over their jet lag. Mine was just starting.
Posted in appetizers/first courses, condiments, main courses, side dishes | Tagged meze recipe, middleastern red pepper dip, middleastern red pepper sauce, middleastern sauce for fish, muhammara, tapas recipe | 1 Comment »
Early this month, I found myself with a great abundance of pears. A good friend has a big pear tree in her backyard and a lot of fruit. I had taken a large bag home after Labor Day and two weeks later, she brought me an even larger bag. Suddenly, I had a lot of quickly ripening pears that needed to be addressed. So I made a plan. Jars were purchased and pears were peeled and cored, preserved and pickled. I infused vodka, made a big batch of spiced pear butter and best of all … I roasted.
A farm turned my weekend around. Really. I was in the far western reaches of the Chicago suburbs last weekend for a wedding and thought I’d visit a nearby orchard bright and early Saturday morning. I’d pick some apples, maybe grab a few cider donuts and head home to make a pie or two. Instead, what I found was my personal vision of hell. The signs in caps and excess exclamation points should have tipped me off that this would not be one of the bucolic orchard experiences I’ve had in the past. PUMPKIN PATCH!!! APPLE PICKING!!! CORN MAZE!!! God help me.
As usual, I’m late to the party. I learned about Ottolenghi, the eponymous London restaurant founded by Yotom Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, from the owner of small bed and breakfast in the Dordogne Valley long, long after everyone else. I had to go all the way to France to learn about a couple of Israeli cooks who own a lovely food shop in London. Yet somehow, that seems fitting. By the time I got up to speed, their second cookbook Plenty had been published and their third, Jerusalem, was on the way. They cooked in a manner I could instantly relate to – vegetable heavy and calling on the familiar yet exotic flavors of the Mediterranean, Italy and North Africa with a good does of California. I liked it. A lot.
Posted in appetizers/first courses, farmers markets, main courses, vegetables | Tagged corn polenta, easy ratatouille, fresh polenta, oven roasted ratatouille, roasted ratatouille, sweet corn polenta | Leave a Comment »
It’s entirely possible that I am the only person on the planet that is indifferent to a Bloody Mary. I want to like them, I do, but for a person that doesn’t really care for tomato juice that’s a high hurdle to clear. Too acid, too sweet, too thick. Often they’re just not right and I’d rather drink something else. I will admit that sometimes I’ll find a good one that catches me by surprise. House-made mix with a good spicy kick and loaded with lots of “stuff”. A single sad celery spear doesn’t cut it. I want a fully loaded skewer of house-pickled hipster tidbits and one of those shorty Miller Hi Lifes on the side. It’s often the kind of Bloody Mary that costs 15 bucks and is typically found in trendy weekend brunch joints with 2-hour waits. What can I say? I like a drink that 14 people have put a lot of thought into. I can appreciate that.
Posted in appetizers/first courses, salads/dressings, seasonal | Tagged bloody mary salad, bloody mary vinaigrette, heirloom tomato recipes, summer tomato recipes, tomato recipes, tomato vinaigrette | 3 Comments »
Earlier this summer I went to a rather fabulous farm dinner event at Rustic Road Farm in Elburn, IL. Yes, Elburn. Head east of downtown Chicago during rush hour and it’ll take you two hours. The farther you go, the more the landscape changes from highways and subdivisions to fields and fields of corn and soybeans, dotted with the occasional red barn. Eventually, you hang a right and end up at Chef Marc Bernard’s farm, Rustic Road. I was in heaven and it took all I had to get back in my car and drive back into chaos.
Something comes over me in the waning weeks of summer. An intense, insatiable need save the best of the seasonal produce becomes too strong to fully ignore. Preserve, can, pickle, jam … anything that makes it possible to enjoy a little hope in the gray, dreary months of winter. I turn into a hyperactive Betty Crocker. In the last few years I’ve dialed it back a bit from the epic high of the Summer of 2010 when I worked for a fruit farmer and made colossal amounts of jam that I’m still trying to work through. But there’s something about tables piled high with flats of tomatoes that I find hard to resist.