happenings, part 6

Howdy, pardners. It’s linky dinky time again.

Also, aren’t these chanterelle ‘shrooms so dang pretty? I made a fancy dish for newly married Liz & Kevin last weekend, and pickled chanterelles were one of the main dish components. Also a super tasty fresh corn curry sauce. YUM.

  • We’re heading to Portland, Oregon in a couple of weeks to meet up with Jennifer & Jon! Where should we go to eat? I already have a few places in mind, and ice cream is for sure on the list. Also, drinks. Which reminds me – my clothing is so not hipster enough for Portland. I gotta get on that.
  • One day, we’ll get to Hawaii, and when we do, we are totally driving this.
  • Apparently Saveur magazine has a crap-ton of horchata recipes (how do I know? duh. Pinterest.) and I’m digging the classic one and this one.
  • Heidi, all of your recipes look so dang tasty. And I barely even know what a sunchoke is….
  • A couple of weeks ago when Todd was in town, I printed out the Eater SF Big Eat list for 2012, the 100 not-to-miss dishes of this year. Sadly, I have a lot to try. Or gladly? That week alone though, I knocked off the morning bun at Tartine AND the custard french toast at Nopa. And this week? The not necessarily the 3-course prix fixe at Cotagna, but a mighty fine meal nonetheless. Delish.
  • Last week, we FINALLY booked our vacation trip. This is where we’re going this year, and I am waaaay excited. Tips and recommendations are welcome. Don’t be shy.
  • The photo above? The Sutro Baths at Lands’ End. I’m in the process, albeit very slowly, of making a San Francisco travel page, and this is for sure going there. We tried to catch the full moon, but couldn’t push through to 11 pm. We settled instead for dinner and a sunset. Woh woh.
  • The photo below? Lamb Jam 2012. We went last year when Brad was in town, and this year with Todd. Both were awesome. I ate a. lot. of. lamb.
  • Oh, and do you Instagram? I need to follow more folks, so share your ‘handle’ if you do. Mine, no surprise, is chiknpastry. Duh.


Happenings, Part 1

I was thinking the other day (I know, I know) about this little blog. I was thinking about how I do love for it to be about food and about recipes I’ve tried and loved, and about stories that may or may not tie in to those recipes. That will always be the focus here, because that’s what got me started writing here. Not writing here about food and recipes would just seem weird, I think.

I want to keep it that way for as long as I can, until I get absolutely tired of blogging every week, or whatever. But I also decided this: I want to add a few random things, too. Sorta like our Stairway Walks (which we are WAY behind on), or our travels (even though those are often about food, too). Whatever the crap is on my brain at the moment. And while I’d love to promise something every Friday, I know better than to commit to that. Sometimes it’s hard to blog every Tuesday…

Thanks to those of you who provided the inspiration, even though you didn’t know it – Heidi, Tracy, and Liz. Now I’m going to sort of copy you :).

So anyway, here we go.

Today I’m going to share a list of some of the most awesome things that I’ve done, that I’ve eaten, or that I’m into from the last couple of weeks. Hold on to your pantaloons, people!

  • First and foremost, I can’t tell you how freaking excited I am about this concert. I bought pre-sale tickets earlier this week and I am PUMPED. Yeah, I am excited about this guy and this band, too (and the venue! hint – it’s in the beginning of The Rock, one of the most awesomest movies ever), but I’m probably MOST excited about this one. Hoo boy.
  • Also, I’m slowly becoming addicted to PINTEREST. I know I’m not alone. Are you addicted yet? Or are you like my husband and you “just don’t get why that site is so popular”? I mean, for serious, it’s a virtual corkboard. Duh. So feel free to follow me, if you’re into that sorta thing. And join, so I can follow you!
  • Cold-brewed coffee sounds so excellent right now. Especially this one that’s made like the coffee in New Orleans. Tasters.
  • Speaking of coffee, I am also addicted to this place. Never mind the creepy picture on their site, their lattes are the best I’ve ever had, and I get them with soy instead of whole milk because it feels healthier…
  • I was in Charlotte, NC for a conference last week (at which time we also did our regular “driving around the state” to visit friends and family), and I was surprisingly super impressed with Charlotte. I don’t know much about the city, but after spending almost a week there I have to say – not bad at all. Obviously, there were loads of nice southern people (sooooo nice! I forget, sometimes) and the weather was gorgeous. One of my favorite spots was this restaurant. It shouldn’t surprise you – because it’s SOUTHERN FOOD. I forced my dining companions to eat pimento cheese crackers and deviled eggs (although I must admit, mine are better…), AND they both ordered the fried chicken. Aside from the great food though, this restaurant has a mission unlike any other: 100% of their profits are donated to feed the poor in Charlotte and everywhere else. They also employ people who may not get jobs as easily as others. And like I said, the food is great, too. If you’re ever in the area, you have to try it. In the words of the annoying Ina Garten, “how cool is that?!”.
  • What else? Oh! I bought some new kicks this weekend. Since I have slowly been learning to run for longer than 1 minute, I’ve run holes into my probably 10 year old sneakers, so I am finally retiring them. Plus, these are way cuter.
  • Also, I watched the movie that everyone else is watching this weekend. As usual, the books are way better, but hello, Lenny Kravitz is in the movie! And Woody. He makes a great drunk.
  • BBQ. Need I say more? I got yelled at for calling it “pulled pork” when I was in North Carolina, but I suppose I deserved it. We did get to visit my favorite spot for eastern NC BBQ when we went to my mom’s house. And earlier this week, we even tried BBQ in San Francisco! We also hung out with some really cool new friends. Thanks, Luke :).
  • The empty plate up above? That’s because the burgers here were so damn good I couldn’t stop. Also, it had pimento cheese on it. And tater tots on the side. Heaven!
  • Last but certainly not least, these exact prints are on my “to buy” list. I’m going to redesign our little office nook soon and yellow and grey are the colors. We’ll see how long this “project takes”.


What’s on your mind lately?

Oh, and Happy Spring. It is lovely outside, isn’t it?!

Once Bitten, Twice Boiled

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I found my very own Italian Stallion while drinking & eating my way through Europe’s boot. Hubs and I met during a 5-week Florence-based study abroad trip, and despite his trying to woo me from week 1, I was (somewhat) slow to reciprocate.

Nonetheless, those 5 weeks were some of my very favorite weeks, for many reasons. Well, the obvious – meeting the person I hope will put up with me until the end of time. And making wonderful friends, even though we only keep in touch with less than a handful of them. Where else can you buy a decent $3 bottle of wine? When you’re downing a bottle a night, that’s more than economical :).

And oh my, the food. If I knew then I’d be sitting here today writing about Italian cuisine, I would have taken notes, I would have taken pictures, I would have done my research and made sure to try all those rustic Italian dishes, those dishes I see today and drool over, wishing I’d tasted “the real thing” in 2001. I would have brought back a lot of Caputo 00 flour.

But, alas, I didn’t. And instead, I ate a hella ton of gelato (I think I tried every single flavor at the shop outside of our school), Margherita pizza, and occasionally some pasta with some sauce and some bread. With a drizzle of that heavenly Italian olive oil that at the time, I simply called “dipping sauce”. I don’t remember what type of wine I drank because all I cared about was the price and that, if I bought cheap wine, I could use the rest of my loot to buy pretty Italian clothes and leather jackets and oh yeah, Murano glass.

I know for a fact that I did not have soup. Hell, it was so hot you practically had to wring out your clothes; you couldn’t have paid me to order soup. In actuality, I’d never even heard of “ribollita” until Heidi made it a few weeks ago. It sounded nice, rich, and über-hearty; it seemed like a great Sunday dish. And then I saw it again, in this month’s BA and, despite my general avoidance of vegetable soups, I knew at that point that I had to give it a try.

I do not regret it one bit.

Unlike any veggie soup I’ve ever had, this here is perfect for the (hopefully) last few weeks of winter. Packed with protein and carbs, it’s filling and thus completely appropriate as a vegetarian main dish. It makes plenty (probably more than 8 servings if you use large bunches of greens, as I did) and like a fine Italian wine that I didn’t taste in Italy, it gets better with time, so you can eat it throughout the week and freeze what’s left for later.

Needless to say, I’ll be looking for this dish as we venture out to Tuscany next year in celebration of our 5-year anniversary. And this time, I’ll make sure to take pictures, drink wine that costs a little more than $3, and lay off the Murano glass. I’ll be damned if I’m going to stay away from the gelato, however.

Other Italian dishes:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Eggs in Purgatory
Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto (it’s almost asparagus time!)

Tuscan Ribollita
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks; adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2010 & 101 Cookbooks

this recipe is highly adaptable. use any beans you want, and any quantity. mix it up with different greens; the kale is a staple of ribollita but if you don’t like it, substitute chard, cabbage, whatever. i enjoy the potatoes, but feel free to leave them out. and the pesto, i added for extra flavor, but it’s just fine without it. definitely keep the zest – it brightens this rich soup up, just a bit.

also, this is a great time to stock up on cooked white beans. I quadrupled the beans and froze the rest – they’ll last for a long time as long as you freeze them in their cooking water (which I forgot to keep all of, so any water works, really).

printable version

8 c water, divided
1 1/4 c dried cannellini beans
1 bunch of fresh sage leaves
8 garlic cloves; 5 sliced, 3 chopped
3 t fine sea salt, divided
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for drizzling
1 lg onion, chopped
2 lg celery stalks, diced
1 med carrot, chopped
2 unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered through core, sliced crosswise
1 large pinch of dried thyme
1 sm bunch black (Tuscan, lacinato) kale, cut crosswise into 1-inch ribbons
1 sm bunch redchard, center stem removed, cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide ribbons, stems diced
4 c thinly sliced savoy cabbage
5 large plum tomatoes, chopped
1 2-inch square Parmesan cheese rind (even better if cheese is remaining!)
1 t dried crushed red pepper
1 T tomato paste
2 T basil pesto, optional
4 c vegetable broth
6 1/2-inch-thick slices whole wheat bread, coarsely torn with crusts; if soft, toasted in advance
2 T balsamic vinegar
meyer lemon zest (or regular lemon), for garnish

Combine 8 c water, beans, sage, and sliced garlic in large saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on age of beans. Add 1 t sea salt; simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and cool beans in liquid. [Can be made and stored in water in advance.]

Heat 3 T oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sprinkle with sea salt. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic; stir 2 minutes. Add celery, carrot, potato, fennel, chard stems, and thyme; cook until vegetables are tender and begin to turn brown in spots, stirring often, 15 to 18 minutes. Add kale, chard, cabbage, tomatoes, Parmesan rind, 5 cups water, and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add beans with cooking liquid (minus 2 c) and crushed red pepper. Add 4 c broth, tomato paste, pesto. Season with salt and generous amount of pepper.

Add bread to soup and simmer, stirring often until heated through. Season with sea salt and pepper and stir in balsamic vinegar.

Divide ribollita among bowls, sprinkle with lemon zest, and serve.

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Apples

fresh-picked apples

While it might be a slightly less-tangling tongue-twister than the original, I can attest to the difficulty of the actual task at hand – apple picking. Now on any other day, I might have reacted differently. But two Saturdays ago on a chilly Halloween morning, we were struggling through the bazillions of apple trees at Royal Oak Farm Orchard trying our damndest to fill up our alotted “peck-sized” baggies in the shortest amount of time possible.

Now what’s so bad about apple picking, you might ask? Well nothing, on most occasions. But combine Jennifer’s lifestyle of “playing it by ear” with my lack of preparation and inability to see past the pure excitment of simply going to an apple orchard in the middle of nowhere, and you are left with two girls traveling blindly into the Chicago outer suburbs on a cold, windy day, sans gloves, warm coat, or appropriate mud-sloshing shoes.

gorgeous apple tress

Which correlates to quickly shifting from excitement to downright pain as our hands became more numb with each apple we chunked carelessly into our bags. And while we desperately wanted our bags to magically become full, we were also saddened by the weight of those bags as we attempted to carry them with our hands in our pockets. Needless to say, the bags’ drawstrings eventually became too painful to hang from our elbow creases, and we were left with no option but to carry our bags with one hand vulnerable to the country “breeze” and cold.

Sometimes, we (meaning Jennifer) had to climb up into the trees for the perfect apple. This was before the cold became somewhat unbearble. The higher up in the trees, the more untouched apples loomed over us, snickering all the while as we stared, eyes full of sadness, knowing we would be settling for the apples closer to our coat pockets.

Jennifer climbing for apples

While there were loads of apple varieties, the ones we really wanted were months and months away:

no candy crisps = sad

We saw a few families out for picking, complete with wagons and multiple peck-sized bags. They also donned appropriate clothing – gloves that I specifically imagined myself wrestling a 10 year old to the ground for. But then I realized that, in doing so, I would become clothed in mud – mud that would not only be cold, but also wet and sticky.

I took the “high road” and we managed to fill our bags and stock up on super cheap winter squash (25 cents a pound!) before darting sheepishly into the warm gift shop where apple cider, fudge, and sugared donuts awaited.

making apple sauce

It may not have been the best day to pick apples, but we made the most of it. Through clenched, clattering teeth we laughed (at ourselves, for being so silly and unprepared) and picked until apples were literally toppling out of our bags. And when we arrived back home into the city, dry and warm, we went our separate ways – both wondering what in the world we’d do with all these apples.

homemade apple butter

Homemade Apple Butter
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks; makes ~40 oz

printable recipe

It might look like it takes a long time, and it does, but apple butter is outta this world. It’s a perfect way to use a bunch of apples and a great way to make the house smell scrumptious.

4 lbs of apples, unpeeled & uncored, cut into quarters
1/2 gallon of apple cider
~2 c sugar (or less, if desired)
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
juice of 1 lemon

special equipment
food mill or very fine sieve
canning jars, ~40 oz in volume
large pot for sterilizing jars


  1. Prepare jars by running them through your dishwasher and using heated dry. Keep door closed until you need the jars.
  2. in a heavy pot over med/med-hi heat, add apples and enough apple cider to cover the apples. bring to simmer. skim foam as it appears (but don’t worry too much about getting it all). cook apples until tender throughout, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. take apples out of pot and, in batches, run through a food mill (or fine sieve, but it will take a while using that method) and into a large bowl. after running all apples through, it will look like applesauce – because it is… applesauce.
  4. put applesauce back in large pot over medium heat. bring to simmer (~220 F). while stirring, add in lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. continue to simmer over medium/medium-low. continue stirring occasionally and keep mixture around 220 F. it will take 1-2 hours from here. the applesauce will thicken up, darken, and eventually start popping and making bubbly noises. once it’s dark and reduced significantly, remove from heat (it will thicken more after this point as well).
  5. fill your biggest pot with water and bring to a boil. the water will need to cover the jars when placed in the pot.
  6. remove jars from dishwasher and fill apple butter to within 1/4 inch of jar top. wipe rims clean with a dry paper towel and screw lid on tightly. using tongs or jar holder, place jar into boiling water for 10 minutes. take out and let cool completely. over time, you should hear the jars pop which means they are sealed and ready to store!

Off the Couch & Into the Kitchen

Lasagna Ratatouille Tart

Do any of you readers listen to Fresh Air on NPR? I for one, am an avid fan of Terry Gross, despite the ten thousand times she says, “um” in her interviews. I started downloading the podcasts to listen to during my eensy teensy 20 minute commute to work (not bad for Chicago eh? although yes, I cheat and drive – until September when I don’t have the excuse of carrying a chef’s uniform AND knife kit AND gym bag). It’s usually enough time to get the first half of Fresh Air in, although I will admit I do delete many of them and instead listen to classic rock. There’s nothing like hearing “Paradise City” or “Pinball Wizard” at 7:50 AM.

So earlier this week, guest host Dave Davies interviewed Michael Pollan, a food writer, journalist, and cookbook author (to download the interview, click here). Pollan recently wrote a cover story for the New York Times called “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” where he chronicles the dramatic shift in our food pop culture, from the days of Julia Child to today’s Iron Chef America. In doing so, he expresses an unyielding concern (or fear, rather) that the days of home cooking are endangered, as even the shows have shifted toward treating cooking as more of a “sporting event” rather than actual educational episodes.

zucchini squashyellow squash

Is this true? Really? Help me here, because I’m obviously biased and could spend all my vertical moments in the kitchen whether it be destroying a gluten-free pie crust or making home-made pumpernickel bread. Is he right? Does the typical American spend more time watching food television than actually cooking? And if so, why? How has such an essential part of our being, those moments when we spend quality time with our family to discuss our failures and successes of the day while eating a fresh, soul-satisfying meal, mutated into 20 minutes in the kitchen (or ringing the first Thai restaurant on your speed dial) and hours upon hours of food TV?

I have to confess here, I love those shows that are akin to a sporting event, those shows that portray seasoned chefs battling it out and having a sweat-inducing fierce competition with the goal of an ultimate winner, or champion, at the end. I love them. Oh, and I find that we spend more time eating dinner while simultaneously watching a previously DVR’d show rather than at the table. But on the other hand, I have no problem setting aside time to cook – maybe not every night – but many. I get little shrills up & down my spine when I make something tasty, and then share it with those I love. Heck, I get shrills when I eat it myself.

tart assembly

I need ya’lls thoughts here. Seriously. Well, sorta seriously – I’m really just nosey. Do you really spend more time watching food tv than cooking? If so, what is it about those shows that draws you in, but doesn’t finish the job and make you run straight to the g-store, buy your goods, and whip that meal up (the one your mouth watered over) instantly? Do you get the sports analogy? I sure do..

And of equal pertinence, are you just dying to scroll to this recipe? You should be, peeps. I’m not sure what to call it, as I merged (sorta) two recipes. I suppose it’s a lasagna-ratatouille tart. But there’s no lasagna, per se but rather the innards of lasagna without the noodle and the tart in place of it. And there’s no eggplant which is totally typical in ratatouille. Although there could be…. if you want.

slice of lasagna ratatouille tart

Call it what you want, really. But either way, it’s damn good. And if cooking is not something you want to spend all your time doing, this here tart-sy makes 8 pieces so it should last a bit. Maybe. And it’s much easier than making lasagna – although the texture is similar. Have you heard that it’s summer squash season? If not, the word “summer” in front should have given that away…

Lasagna-ish Ratatouille-ish Tart
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks and Cuisine at Home, 2009

printable recipe

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
6 T butter, diced & chilled
3 T shortening, diced & chilled
3 T (+) ice water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c diced onion
2 T olive oil
red pepper flakes
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 yellow squash, thinly sliced (1/4″)
1-2 zucchini squash, thinly sliced (1/4″)
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (or other combo – I had about 3/4 cup at home and combined some parmesan and goat cheese as well as a little Boursin cheese spread to make 1 1/2 cups)
2 T thinly sliced basil
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or other cheese for topping, optional
salt and pepper
olive oil for drizzling

To prepare tart dough, pulse flour, salt, pepper in food processor. Add butter and shortening and pulse until pea-sized clumps form. Add 3 T water, pulse to combine. Shape dough into flat disk and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll dough to 1/4 ” thickness and fit into 9-inch tart pan. Press to edge and trim excess. Cover w/ foil or parchment paper and fill with dry beans, weights, whatever. Bake about 25 minutes, remove foil and beans and bake 5 more minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, Stir garlic, olive oil, red pepper and a little salt into small saucepan. Bring to med-hi heat and once garlic sizzles, add tomatoes (drain them a little before adding). Simmer about 10 minutes and remove. Let cool.

Using a mandoline (or cutting carefully with a knife) slice zucchini and yellow squash into 1/4 inch disks and pat dry. Set aside.

Preheat again to 375 F. Mix cheese and basil in small bowl. Spread onto bottom of cooled pre-baked tart. Gently spread tomato sauce over cheese mixture. Arrange vegetables around edge of tart shell in whatever pattern you choose (I did outer of zucchini and alternated) Cover tart completely. Sprinkle top with 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or other cheese you have on hand that melts well). Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake tart at 375 F until tart is golden brown around the edge, about 30 minutes.