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Archive for the ‘seasonal’ Category

We are at that amazing time of the year, well at least in the Midwest, when all that beautiful local summer produce is having its final hurrah. With not much happening due to Covid restrictions, cooking has been one of the only things that has brought me some joy. Grocery and farmers market shopping is the only thing getting me out of the house and as such, things are starting to pile up. Add to that the goods from my little community garden plot and the massive haul I brought home from a friends robust garden and I was drowning in produce. The clock was ticking; it was time to form a plan of attack. Here’s what I did with those key summer treats – Tomatoes, Peppers and Zucchini –  and some other ideas too.

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About a week ago, author Emily Nunn (@emilyreesnunn) posted a very simple frozen treat on her Instagram feed that she called “peach soft serve” – just frozen peaches and buttermilk whirled up in a blender. I swooned a little. Not only do I love peaches and buttermilk, together and separately, I loved the simplicity of it all. While I had no frozen peaches, I did have a big bag I’d just picked up at the farmers market that smelled so good it made me a bit dizzy. I had buttermilk hiding in the back of my fridge (that stuff lasts forever.) I had a blender. More pressing, I had an ice cream canister hogging up all kinds of space in my freezer and a need for that space. I was inspired.

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Let’s be frank. Things suck right now in the US. It’s really bad. A pandemic with no end in sight, a dumpster fire political situation, this energy sucking heat … its turned me upside down. On top of all that I’m eating crap. From a cooking perspective, I make plans and buy the ingredients, only to decide the next day to hit a drive thru and nap on my couch instead. To say my motivation and optimism right now is low, is a gross understatement. But sometimes you get lucky and a persistent bright light shines through. Recently, it was my friend Heather who, in addition to being a complete delight, has a magical backyard with a pool. As Chicago temperatures surged toward 90 degrees with 5000% humidity, she told me to come on over and socially distant float. It was just what I needed, mentally and physically.

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When it comes to bringing a dessert to a party or summer bbq, a fruit galette is the way to go.  Absolutely, no question. First off, they are way easier to make than a traditional pie especially in an unairconditioned summer kitchen (hello, welcome to my world.) The pastry is a lot friendlier and forgiving than a pie dough due to the addition of a bit of sugar and is much easier to handle. Since galettes are free-form, they scale up or down easily and take any extra fruit additions like a champ. The filling is simple: some kind of fruit, sugar, a bit of thickener and if you’re feeling super duper fancy, some citrus zest and/or juice. But the number one reason you should be bringing galettes to parties is that there is no need to bring a pan home. Nope. No driving back the next day to get your pie tin, no wondering where the hell the bottom to your tart pan went. Slide that thing off the sheet pan onto a piece of cardboard or a cheap thrift store plate and you’re off. How many pie plates and tart pan bottoms have you lost over the years, left at long forgotten parties? Exactly my point.

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Pan con tomate. Pa amb tomàquet. Or, simply put, tomato toast. Crusty bread, juicy tomato, maybe a hint of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. That’s all there is to it. Summer in a few bites. When the tomatoes are bursting to the point of juicy ridiculousness and its too damn hot to think about doing much, this is what you make. When done properly, you’ll wonder why you eat anything else.

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I like to throw a curveball into the mix every once in a while and today, as we near the end of the 12 Days of Cookies, that is a floral flavor. Last year I included a really nice Cardamom Rose cookie in the mix, using dried rose petals and a hint of rose water. It was an interesting and rather pretty flavor to disrupt the expected holiday combinations of spice and fruit and it was lovely too. I was happy with the new addition so this year, I’ve got a lavender entry. Why not? For Day 10 of the 12 Days of Cookies, a.k.a. One Dough/Many Cookies, we have a Brown Sugar Wafer with Lemon Lavender Glaze.

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I’ve been eating a lot of watermelon and sweet corn of late. A lot. It’s what we do in the Midwest when the corn is unbelievably good and the watermelons are huge and juicy and we need to eat as much as we can before they’re gone. While cutting up the latest watermelon to make yet another delicious Vietnamese inspired salad (have you tried it yet?), I looked guiltly at the growing pile of rind destined for the garbage can. Damn, watermelons have a lot of waste. This has always bothered me so I decided to try something. I’ve long been curious about Pickled Watermelon Rind. It is the product of thrifty genius, turning waste into something delicious. Why not give it a try? I probably had the ingredients on hand and I was definitely looking for a distraction to avoid work for another hour. What was there to lose? A pile of produce scraps that was going in the garbage anyway, some vinegar and spices and an hour of my time? Ever hear of procrasti-baking? This was procrasti-pickling. The conditions were ideal.

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It’s hot. I was in France last week and it was hot. I came back to Chicago, and it was hot. So damn hot. In this kind of weather I don’t have much of an appetite, not that it slowed me down much in France (copious amounts of cold rosé certainly helped) but back home, my dinners have been a bit lackluster. Truth be told, I decided the other day I wasn’t going to eat much else besides fresh sweet corn and cold watermelon for rest of the month.

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Hey! So I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, but nothing really blog worthy. More so, just some old favorites, many that I’ve already posted. With Easter coming up, there are some good things in the archives for your holiday brunches and dinners so let’s recap today.

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As far as I’m concerned, leftovers are a key part of any Thanksgiving table. Who doesn’t like to wake up, turn on a football game, hopefully the first of many, and make a big fat sandwich piled high with all the fixings from the day before? As any good hostess will tell you, planning for leftovers is key to a successful Thanksgiving. Sadly, in all the years that I’ve been an adult on my own, I’ve only hosted Thanksgiving once. Once! So I’ve really only had real leftovers that one time. I have, however, been known to make parts of the classic dinner just to have my own leftovers. Mostly the sides though because, as we all know, the sides are the best part.

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