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It’s Chicken Wing Friday! Time for something new though looking back on my last two chicken wing posts, they’ve been Asian of some sort. Chinese, Japanese and now Thai. Huh. It makes sense, as these are flavors that I love, and they do say to cook what you love. One of these days I’ll choose a different part of the world for inspiration but for now, this is what you get. This idea sort of came together over the last two weeks. You see, it’s been a bit crazy in Chicago with a certain sports team. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time in bars eating some pretty mediocre bar food and some especially forgettable chicken wings. Mediocre hot wing after mediocre hot wing, I longed for something different, something to mix it up. Then I came home from a particularly stressful game, opened my refrigerator and a tub of green curry paste with a fondness for flinging itself off the shelf with great force made its presence known. Ok, I got the message. A green curry chicken wing was in the works. Hot wings with a Thai twist.

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The season is winding down for my little community garden plot, yet it still continues to surprise me. I still get a nice handful of tomatoes every week and the basil, giant and bushy all summer, is still showing a little life. The massive kale, surprisingly productive peppers and chilies and other hearty herbs will go strong for a few more weeks at least. To my delight, the beans I quickly planted in late August are doing quite well with a few nice bunches of green, yellow and purple beans just in time for the close of the garden. Typical. Over the weekend I looked at the bowl of tomatoes I’ve been collecting, bright orange cherries and slightly larger golf ball size red ones, and thought pasta. I probably let them sit a little too long so this had to happen fast. It was time for an end of the season sauce.

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This is the time of year, over here anyway, when the shelling beans start appearing at the farmers markets. Brightly colored, striped and speckled pods filled with fat beans ready for the cooking pot. This weekend, a favorite vendor had big piles of deep purple crowder peas and the ones I really wait for, red and white striped borlotti beans. Sometimes called tongues of fire or cranberry beans, they cook up nice and creamy yet slightly firm. I love them but for some reason, my work schedule always kicks into high gear in September, just as they make an appearance on market tables. If there’s one thing I have a problem with it’s buying too much food at the exact moment when I have zero time to cook it. This has happened more times than I care to admit with these beans.

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I felt the need for some BBQ the other day, but in a new and different way. No burgers or hot dogs, no chicken or ribs. Instead I started thinking about Korean BBQ, one of my favorites. Korean food is fantastic – delicious, fully flavored and a little spicy at times. I headed to my favorite Korean market, steadying my nerves for the inevitable Tetris parking lot situation, white knuckeling my car into an oddly shaped spot. I grabbed a cart and looked around to put together some ideas. Korean BBQ was now definitely on the menu; it was just a question of how I was going to pull it off.

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Unless it’s crispy and fried, chicken sandwiches bore me to death. Maybe I’ve eaten too many of them in my life but they’re typically tough, bland and incredibly boring. Slapping on a few strips of bacon and avocado does not save a sad sandwich and I’ve simply moved on to more delicious things. But something funny happened the other day as I was flipping through my recipe files. I came across a recipe from a trip I took many years ago for a grilled chicken sandwich I ate poolside at a Four Seasons in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It wasn’t even a Thai recipe but it peaked my curiosity.

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Easy weeknight dinners are a challenge for everyone. Believe me, I understand all too well the pull of a drive thru or takeout after a long workday. In fact, I succumb more than I care to publicly admit. I’m not immune to a fried chicken-biscuit combo and I know I should cook myself a nice balanced dinner more often, energy levels be damned. Doesn’t mean I always do it. That’s why everyone should have a few simple tricks in their back pocket. This is one of mine. A simple piece of beef, marinated in flavorful ingredients, quickly cooked and served with anything you like.

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I was an odd college kid when it came to food. My dorm room fridge wasn’t stocked with cheap beer and cold pizza. Rather I had boursin cheese and fancy sausages and juice. More than once, I’d cobble together a dinner in the dining hall from large button mushrooms from the salad bar, microwaved with a little butter until tender. Add some rice and some sort of green vegetable, hopefully not overcooked beyond recognition, and I was good. I’d skip the burgers, the mashed potatoes and the ranch dressing. I’ve never really liked sweetened breakfast cereal and would often give away my pass for steak night. You’d think this would make me a “healthy eater” but not so fast. I ate more than my share of pizza, tacos and French fries. I was just a little discerning sometimes. On weekends, when the school cafeterias were closed and we’d be forced to eat off campus, I didn’t order in the typical burgers or sub sandwiches with my suitemates. Rather, I liked to go a slightly out of the way casual Japanese teriyaki house. A bowl of rice, stir fried vegetables and teriyaki chicken was my idea of a great lunch. For whatever reason, I often flew solo on these adventures.

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