BLT.

For the longest time, I had a crazy strong aversion to any recipe or dish that involved the term “wilted”. I always thought it was a fancy way of saying “we cooked this stuff for waaaay too long, but hey! just toss something crunchy in and with it and it’ll be like new”.

That being said, the new-ish craze of grilling lettuce was certainly not anything I was excited about or intrigued by at. all.

But then I tried a salad with grilled romaine lettuce. Hells yes.

And charred-like tomatoes. Hells bigger yes.

And then I combined those with blue cheese, prosciutto (what’s not to love about this, really!) and croutons. Shit just got real around here, no?

Charred BLT Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2012;  serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into ribbons
1 1/2 c (1/2-inch) cubed whole-grain bread (about 2 ounces)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/8 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 romaine hearts, halved lengthwise
Cooking spray
1/4 c chopped green onions
2 oz blue cheese, crumbled

instructions
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add prosciutto; cook 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove prosciutto with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Add bread to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Combine prosciutto and bread. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add tomatoes; cook 5 minutes or until skins begins to split, stirring frequently. Pour tomatoes and olive oil into a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Coat cut sides of lettuce with cooking spray. Place lettuce, cut side down, on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Cook 2 minutes or until well marked. Place 1 lettuce half on each of 4 plates. Divide prosciutto mixture and tomato mixture among servings. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon onions and 1/2 ounce cheese.

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decadence, defined

Do you ever get a thought stuck in your noggin’ and you can’t for the life of you let go of it? No matter what you do, no matter what else you think about, that one thought just stays there, following you like those ghosts on Pac-man. I hate those ghosts, and I was never all that good at pac-man anyway.

So instead of running, this particular thought was faced head-on. I made Beef Wellington.

I’ve only “made” beef Wellington once, and by “made” I mean that I assisted as sous chef. My friend, Caroline, made it once at a dinner party that I helped with (I do miss those, C!) and I remember thinking about how lucky those folks were to be eating such a fine fine meal. We, of course, partook in quite a few “scraps” and yeah, it was good stuff.

But for some reason, the idea of making beef Wellington this past weekend was something I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was the weekend of our 6 year wedding anniversary (!), and we’d decided to stay home and take it easy, so a nice, decadent meal seemed like the right thing to do.

Chris and I did burn a few calories on the bikes, anyway, so we had a little extra room for some butter-laden dough, prosciutto, and of course, beef. We finished up our trip through Golden Gate Park, stopped off at Whole Foods, and loaded up on our ingredients as well as some cheese and crackers to tide us over until dinner.

I decided we didn’t quite need to do an entire recipe of beef Wellington, so I made some adjustments to one of “T-Flo’s” recipes, and came up with the most ginormous “individual” portions I’d ever seen.

I’m sure on most days I could have eaten it all then and there, but with the mountain of cheese we ate beforehand, this ended up being a 4-serving dish instead of 2. Which is to say that we managed to drag out the decadence for another night. And it was good, my friends, good indeed. Perfect for a special night in, a dinner party perhaps, or even a holiday dish to replace all of that turkey we folks eat all the dang time.

I guess, also, you could make it on a regular ol’ Tuesday night, too. But that just sounds crazy, and we are sane as can be over here.

“Individual” Beef Wellingtons
Adapted, loosely, from Tyler Florence via The Food Network, serves 2-4

time commitment: less than 2 hours from start to finish

printable version

ingredients
mushrooms, aka “duxelles” & kale
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1 T unsalted butter
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c fresh kale

beef
2 6 oz portions of filet mignon, trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (truffle salt, if you have it)
4 thin slices prosciutto
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 T Dijon mustard
Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
10-12 oz puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
1 large egg, lightly beaten

green peppercorn sauce
1 T olive oil
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1/2 c sherry
2 c beef stock
1 c heavy cream
1 T grainy mustard
3 T green peppercorns

instructions
make the duxelles and kale:
add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for ~6 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. add kale to pan and sauté until cooked throughout, season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

beef:
drizzle filets with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil – about 2 to 3 minutes total. Meanwhile set out 2 slices of prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap on top of your cutting board. Layer the 2 slices of prosciutto onto the plastic wrap. Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with 1/2 of the duxelle mixture. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Add 1/2 of the kale next. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap and repeat with the other filet. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut the sheet in half, using each half for each filet. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic. Set 1 beef filet in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining filet.

Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife – this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for ~30-40 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven and rest before cutting in half. Garnish with thyme and sea salt, and serve with green peppercorn sauce, if using.

Make green peppercorn sauce (while beef is cooking):
Add olive oil to pan after removing beef. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, then, off heat, add sherry and flambe using a long kitchen match. After flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock and reduce by about half. Strain out solids, then add cream and mustard. Reduce by half again, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns. Serve alongside beef.

Ragù: It’s in there

I’m sure many of you are trying your damnedest to not turn on a single heat source, right? Facebook and Twitter are loaded with complaints about the hot weather in most parts of the country. In fact, my pops told me today that he almost breaks out in a sweat on the way to the mailbox (he was exaggerating, but only slightly).

But I have to be truthful – the only time I sweat in this city is during a jog, a painful bike ride, or walking up a huge hill or two; there is certainly no heat-induced sweating going on. I’m sorry, really, because I just can’t relate to most of you right about now. But I do remember it – I’ve always lived in humid areas, until now, remember?

In fact, Chris is in Austin right now on a business trip, and I’m sure he’s sweating through his t-shirt, and the fact that he’s bald won’t help the sweat rolling off of his head, either. And to be frank, I do miss that sometimes; I mean, it is August, right? Why did I wear a hoodie yesterday and wish I had on gloves when I got to the top of Turtle Hill? One word: microclimate.

My point here, is please forgive me for what I’m doing right about now which is one – making you wish you lived here and two – making you angry that I’m about to ask you to simmer a ragù for 2 hours. Trust me – you’ll want to crank up the A/C for this (or if you’re in San Francisco, you can open a window and take off your hoodie).

I made this dish a couple of months ago; I remember buying all the ingredients, and then putting them together in the fridge the Friday morning before heading out to work, Dutch oven waiting on the countertop. I came home, grabbed the heap of meats and produce, and happily chopped carrots, celery, and onions into tiny cubes. I cracked open a nice bottle of Malbec, pouring the obligatory amount into the pot, stirring and waiting, knowing that something absolutely scrumptious was simmering away.

I remember putting together a cheese plate to tide us over, since dinner was happening at 9:00 that night. Some things are worth the wait – this was one of them. And even today, I remember eating slowly, trying to make dinner last longer than usual. While this is definitely a pasta dish with what might appear to be a regular ol’ meat sauce, it is easily more than that. And it’s far more than the quick throw-together pasta meals from the jars in Safeway. In short – there’s stuff in it – good stuff, and you should make some of it, like yesterday, hot weather or not.

Classic Ragù Bolognese
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2011; serves 6

time commitment: 3 hours (half active)

printable version

ingredients
2 T evoo
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
6 oz ground beef (85% lean)
6 oz ground veal
3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped
1/2 c dry red wine
3 c beef stock, divided
4 T tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c milk
1 pound of tagliatelle
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (for serving)

instructions
Heat oil in a large heavy pot (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add beef, veal, and prosciutto; sauté, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine; boil 1 minute, stirring often and scraping up browned bits. Add 2 1/2 cups stock and tomato paste; stir to blend. Reduce heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan; gradually add to sauce. Cover sauce with lid slightly ajar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until milk is absorbed, about 45 minutes, adding more stock by 1/4-cupfuls to thin if needed. (if you wish, you can make this in advance and rewarm it over the stove the night you plan to serve it.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Transfer ragù to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pasta and toss to coat. Stir in some of the reserved pasta water by tablespoonfuls if sauce seems dry. Divide pasta among warm plates. Serve with grated cheese.

Milwaukee’s Best

Man, is this shaping up to be one of the best summers ever, or what? Sure, it’s hot practically everywhere, but last time I checked summers are supposed to be hot. So I won’t complain about it, and instead I’ll say that I’ve enjoyed almost every single drop of sweat that’s dripped down my leg these last couple of months.

Especially from this past weekend. Who doesn’t like to sweat beer?

And have pretzels eaten off your necklace? That’s how Milwaukeeans roll, apparently. Following the awesome concert on Friday that was Bon Jovi (& Kid Rock, who really was awesome too although I hated to admit it), we awoke, hit up the Dunkin’, and high-tailed it up I-94 to Rach & Andy’s new digs.

Word on the street is Milwaukeeans cringe when someone calls their city a “miniature Chicago”, but I’m gonna have to agree with whoever started that metaphor because it’s true. Lake Shore Drive, neighborhood variety (even an Evanston-like suburb), enough greenery to briefly forget about the city, Lake Michigan, and plenty of great food, these are just a few things that remind me of Chicago. Of course, there’s also the affordable housing, two-second parking, no waiting at restaurants (even if you make a reservation one hour ahead of time), and serenity that is a road without honking horns that immediately remind you that you are definitely not in Kansas Chicago anymore, and those are things that undoubtedly go straight to the top of my “pro” list after living in this big ‘ol place for 6 years (as of this week!).

In short, I can easily see why Rachel & Andy are happy to call Milwaukee their new home. If it isn’t your home though, I should add that it’s a great summertime road trip if you’re in the Midwest.

The highlight of our short weekend in Milwaukee was the “1st Annual Brew Fest”, which was held in McKinley Park. Forty bucks at the door gets you in for 4 hours of unlimited sampling of local (and no so local) breweries, people-watching galore, and a long line at the facilities. Of course, since this was the “1st Annual Brew Fest”, there were some kinks to iron out, such as the fact that all but 2 breweries literally ran out of beer, and the other obvious issue was the port-o-potty shortage – a 30 minute minimum wait in line, while everyone else (well, everyone not in line) drinks the quickly diminishing beer supply. Overall, it was a great event, and given the 90-minute drive to Milwaukee from Chicago, I’m guessing we’ll be back next year.

By the way, is Rachel gettin’ frisky up there?! Shame on her.

Aside from Brew Fest, we kept leisurely busy by eating, drinking, and drive-by checking out a few breweries and museums as potentials for the next trip. I probably drove Rachel crazy by saying the following exactly 1,000 times, “Wow, you don’t get this back home!”. Usually, this was because we literally walked up to multiple outdoor eateries (in fact, we ate outdoors everywhere we went) at various times (brunch, lunch, and dinner) and were easily able to snag a table for 4. Don’t get me started on the ease of sliding into a parking spot a block away and Andy asking, “Do you mind walking a block?”, as if he never ever set foot in Chicago.

Hubs was oohing and aahing when we stopped by the Harley Davidson museum, but he must not want one as bad as he thinks because my “a puppy for a motorcyle” compromise was laughed off for a fifth time, after an obvious roll of the eye followed by a vehement shaking of the head. Meanwhile, I almost lost my marbles during one of our drives north of Milwaukee when hearing the price tags for the houses up there, realizing again how outrageous the Chicago market is, and how one smallish condo equals one whopping mansion elsewhere. Bleh.

What we both agreed on is the food – plenty of great restaurants offering all kinds of local, seasonal choices, not to mention custard that rivals Goodberry’s, Milwaukee is certainly on my “to do again” list. Of course, with Rach & Andy there, we’d go back even if we hated it, but nonetheless, we didn’t.

The following are some points of interest from our trip (food included, of course). We didn’t go to any breweries this time, what with a festival full of beer at our fingertips, but if you’re in the neighborhood they are certainly worth a visit.

Food
Water Buffalo, 249 N Water St
Alterra Coffee, 1701 N Lincoln Memorial Dr (but multiple locations throughout Milwaukee)
Cafe Hollander, 2608 N Downer Ave
Buckley’s Kiskeam Inn, 801 N Cass St
Kopp’s Frozen Custard, 5372 N Port Washington Rd, Glendale WI (other locations as well)

Sights, etc.
Historic 3rd Ward Neighborhood
Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N Art Museum Dr
Milwaukee Brew Fest (annual event), 1600 N Lincoln Memorial Dr
The Pabst Mansion, 2000 W Wisconsin Ave
Miller Brewery, 4251 W State St
Harley Davidson Museum, 400 Canal St

Of course, after all the eating and drinking, we entered the Windy City with a relatively tiny appetite, and a salad seemed like the perfect light dinner, not to mention the fact that there was no cooking and relatively little prepping involved. A pit stop at the Whole Foods remedied that situation, and this salad was whipped up in no time and even though we weren’t really hungry, we ate it as if Rachel’d starved us. Hungry or not, this is a great summer salad that hits all the right spots – sweet & salty, chewy & crunchy, you’ll wonder why you don’t eat peaches with prosciutto all the time.

As for summer, we have a whole lot of it left, even though it doesn’t seem that way! I’ll try to share more about our upcoming vacay real soon, because we are ready for suggestions from ya’ll! As for the rest of you, what’s headed your way for the rest of the summer?

p.s. – if you’re a Facebooker, don’t forget to sign up for my new page!

Prosciutto & Peach Salad
Unadapted from Cooking Light, August 2010 (although I won’t pretend that I measured anything); serves 4

printable version

ingredients
2  T  fresh lemon juice
2  t  honey
1/4  t  freshly ground black pepper
1/8  t  salt
2  T  extra-virgin olive oil
1  T  finely chopped fresh mint
1  (6.5-ounce) package sweet butter lettuce mix
2  large ripe peaches, cut into wedges
3  oz  very thin slices prosciutto, cut into 1-inch pieces
3  oz  ricotta salata cheese, divided into 4 equal pieces
2  T  dry-roasted sunflower seed kernels
Small mint leaves (optional)

instructions
Combine first 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Gradually drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in chopped mint.

Combine lettuce mix and peach wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle lettuce mixture with dressing; toss gently to coat. Arrange about 2 cups salad in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 3/4 ounce prosciutto, 1 piece of ricotta salata, and about 2 teaspoons sunflower seed kernels. Garnish with small mint leaves, if desired.

picture descriptions
food: Water Buffalo black bean burger, Cafe Hollander coffee, Water Buffalo salmon burger, Alterra honey latte, Cafe Hollander breakfast tostado special, Buckley’s Kiskeam Inn restaurant sign, Kopp’s Frozen Custard cows, Water Buffalo side salad, Milwaukee Brew Fest beer glasses

sights: 3rd Ward neighborhood, Milwaukee Art Museum, harbor view, view from park, the Wisconsin Club, view of Miller Brewery, Miller Brewery sign, Harley Davidson museum, Pabst Mansion

A Parting Gift?

As you read this, I’m out enjoying one last day in Seattle with the Hubs. I’m sure it’s been a fun trip, and I’m sure I’ll tell you more about it when I’m back home. It’s likely that we visited Pike Place Market and the original Starbucks, and we probably ate some seafood. Perhaps a trip to Woodinville for wine tasting? The possibilities are endless; I just hope it didn’t rain the whole time, but when I left, the forecast looked darn good.

Sadly though, I won’t be around to tell you of my adventures until next week, as I’ll get home tonight just long enough to re-pack for Albuquerque, NM. It seems as if it’s that time of the year – the time when I have to learn more about genetics and sit in huge rooms full of people, room temperature pitchers of tap water, and knitters (yes, knitters – some of them knit during conferences). Fortunately, these forced trips are accompanied by good friends and sunshine and hopefully some bars. So don’t worry about me – I will survive.

But since I won’t be around, I thought I’d leave you with pie. Is that alright? It was national pi day last week (3.14), wasn’t it?

And no, I don’t mean apple pie, I mean pizza pie! I actually make a decent amount of pizza at home, or at least I feel as if I have lately. This one is definitely a keeper, and I didn’t even spend the time making the crust. Which is weird, because I’m usually into that sort of thing. But I wanted to test out a store-bought dough, and this seemed like the time to do it.

As it turns out, the store-bought dough is quite the timesaver (unless you plan ahead, in which case making your own is a cinch) and this pizza well, let’s just say you shouldn’t take my word for it’s raditude, but rather give this thing a try.

Pear & Prosciutto Pizza
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2010; serves 4 (or 2 really hungry people)

printable version

My friend and past Iron Chef, Hope, informed me that Whole Foods makes killer pizza dough. I now concur. But if you want to make your own, you might try this recipe from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks; she knows her grains for sure. If you’re not into whole wheat flour, I have a simple recipe I used a while back, so give it a try. If your recipe of choice makes extra, just freeze the other dough and thaw overnight. Brilliant!

ingredients
2 t evoo
2 c vertically sliced Vidalia onion (1-2 onions)
1 recipe of pizza dough (see above)
1/2 c shredded provolone cheese
1 medium firm Bartlett pear, thinly sliced
2 oz prosciutto, cut into thin strips
fresh-ground pepper
2 T chopped walnuts, toasted
1 1/2 c baby arugula leaves
1 t sherry vinegar
cornmeal or flour for dusting

instructions
If using homemade dough, prepare it the night before or an hour before you’ll need it because it will certainly need time to rise (most recipes say at least an hour). If you have store-bought dough or made your dough the night before and put it in the fridge, take it out and let it come to room temp before messing with it.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, roll out pizza dough with rolling pin, or with your hands, until it’s a good sized circle, or rectangle, or whatever shape you darn-well please. It should be 10-12 inches in a circle. If it’s pulling back and not being your friend, let it rest for 10 minutes or so and try again. It will work with you when it’s ready :). Once you’ve got it the way you want it, sprinkle a baking sheet or pizza stone with cornmeal (or flour if you prefer) and place pizza atop that (this will help to prevent sliding and add nice flavor too). Poke a few holes (with a fork) into the dough, or omit this step if you like the big bubbles, like I do.

Place pizza crust in oven and bake for about 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, top evenly with onion mixture; sprinkle with cheese. Top evenly with pear and prosciutto. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and remove from oven.

Sprinkle with nuts (or put them on, untoasted, when there’s about 5 minutes left for the pizza to bake). Place arugula in a medium bowl. Drizzle vinegar over greens; toss gently to coat. Top pizza evenly with arugula mixture. Cut pizza into 8 wedges.

This Little Piggy Went into My Belly

Mado brunch Chicago
I have come to a realization. Not today, but I came to this realization many many moons ago. I once thought that being a vegetarian would be cool. Now let me also add that I thought this during a time when I also thought I’d look good with dreadlocks, and during a time when I thought that a good excuse for not shaving would be to insulate myself during those cold cold winters in North Carolina. You know, the ones when it just might get into the 20’s. I am NOT saying that any of the above ideas are non-cool (or even un-cool). But I have changed my ways a wee bit since “the 90’s”. And so today, today wanting to become a vegetarian ranks in priority pretty close to wanting to visit Los Angeles again or wanting to have my fingernails ripped out or, well… you see where I’m going.



What I’ve realized is that meat, in all its shapes and sizes, is an essential part of my food pyramid and something I’m afraid I just could not live without. If truth be told, I haven’t really met a meat I didn’t like. Red or white – I don’t discriminate. Favorites? Sure, I have favorites. I’d choose lamb chops over chicken 9 times out of 10 (the exception being a chicken that might be fried or perhaps stuffed with cheese and other tasty treasures). And I’d fight a polar bear in the snow for a bite of a juicy, vinegar-based North Carolina barbeque sandwich with coleslaw and hushpuppies on the side. Oh and sweet tea with lemon too please. Yep, I’d say I am a fan of swine for sure. I’d go as far as to say that most things do actually taste better with a side of bacon. In fact, I’d originally intended to post specifically about one dish I made for dinner last night that included a “small smattering of pork”, but while thinking about it, I realized that I have officially eaten something of the pork variety for the last 3 meals. So again, vegetarian I am not.

cute pig



Sunday began just like most Sundays should – we’d reunited with long lost band members and rocked it out pretty late the night before (and for those of you who think Rock Band is not “real” you are most definitely un-cool) – so we awoke no earlier than 10 to find ourselves thirsty and hungry. Fortunately for us hungry people, we live near a long list of eateries with the majority serving brunch. And so, we made our way about three blocks east to Mado. We’d eaten dinner at this fine establishment a number of months ago and remembered the cuisine to be pretty good. In addition, they’d recently been listed by Bon Appetit as one of the “top places in the U.S. for brunch”. So when faced with the seemingly impossible task of choosing a restaurant, this was a no-brainer.


For those of you who are into sustainable eating, Mado is for you. They list, on their wall-spanning chalkboard, all the local farms from whom they purchase their produce and meat. They don’t lie when they flaunt their use of all parts of an animal and they even house-cure their meat and made their own apple butter and jams. Their website lists their menu, which is to be expected, but they also list a few events and links which again include the farms they use. One link I found to be particularly intriguing was the one called “Sky Full of Bacon” – series of video podcasts about food, centering on Chicago. I plan to subscribe. One reviewer summed his site up in one word – priceless. That’s my kinda food writer 😉

recipe ingredients


Anyway, brunch at Mado was just as tasty as what we’d remembered about the dinner. I had a dish called “eggs in purgatory” which was eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce with fennel & olives. Served on a little piggy board. Chris had an omelet accompanied by an arugula salad, his favorite green. We split a side of toast with house-made apple butter (de-light-ful) and a side of house-cured ham (also de-light-ful). The ham side was plentiful and had that perfect saltiness. Needless to say, we were good to go until dinner.


proscuitto and peas pasta



Since our brunch was a little heftier than our usual cereal, I’d decided on a real spring-y dinner full of lots of fresh ingredients. I’d seen the recipe in Bon Appetit (yes, this is one of my favorite foodie mags) and it reeked of Spring – asparagus, butter lettuce, peas. The real kicker was the prosciutto topping. How can you resist a spring salad topped with prosciutto? And when you add parmesan cheese? Jeepers! In case you can’t tell, I was excited.

You’ll see below that the recipe makes a pretty ginormous dish. Which is great when you’re in school for three nights straight and unable to cook. I think, had I unbuttoned my jeans a bit and taken a couple of breaks between bowls, that I could have eaten it all in one sitting. It was that good. So, even though (at least in Chicago) it may not look or even feel like Spring, this salad will put you in some sort of a Spring trance – at least until it’s all gone. Oink! Oink!


butter lettuce and prosciutto side view


Pasta w/ Peas, Asparagus, Butter Lettuce, & Prosciutto
adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009
6 servings (or less if you just can’t stop!)



ingredients
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
1/2 pound spring onions or green onions (dark green parts discarded); white parts cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, pale green parts cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (I used spring onions)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
Coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 pounds peas in pods) or 2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed
1 pound campanelle (trumpet-shaped pasta) or medium (about 1-inch) shell-shaped pasta
1 head of butter lettuce or Boston lettuce (about 6 ounces), cored, leaves cut into 3/4-inch-wide slices
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips


instructions
Melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and shallot. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Sauté until tender (do not brown), about 8 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; set aside.


 

Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl of ice water. Return water to boil. Add peas and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Using skimmer, transfer to bowl with asparagus. Drain vegetables.


Return water in pot to boil. Cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, reheat onion mixture. Add drained asparagus and peas; stir until heated through. Remove from heat.


Add pasta, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, lettuce and parsley to skillet with vegetables; toss, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Season with salt and pepper.


Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle prosciutto over; drizzle with olive oil. Serve, passing more cheese alongside.