I imagine you’ve all been salivating over the beautiful berries at the market lately. Siggy has a simple method to create the classic chocolate-covered summer decadence. What, really, is better than ripe, fresh strawberries bathed in dark chocolate? The chocolate firms just enough to create a contrasting texture to the tender berries so that each bite is a creamy balance of sweet and bittersweet. It’s so simple, but one of my favorite things that Siggy makes. (Hint, hint: Siggy, make these soon!)
Wash strawberries and dry them
Put good baking chocolate in a heat resistant bowl on top of a pot of boiling water (if you don’t own a double boiler).
Stir chocolate with wooden spoon as it melts.
Once melted, turn off heat and dip/twirl strawberries in chocolate to cover them as desired.
Lay out on parchment paper.
Wait at least half an hour to an hour for chocolate to set.
This is my third summer in Chicago and I realize now that the last two were merely lovely, prolonged springs. Dainty little dandelions. This year, we’ve been getting hit with all the fury the Midwest has apparently been storing up. Downpours and thunderstorms every other day. Humidity as thick as a side of beef. The grass and weeds are so overgrown and virile that it feels like a drive through the jungle on certain narrow stretches of the freeway. This morning on my way into work I saw lightning strike the Sears Tower. Amazing.
This dish has somewhat of a monsoon flair, with flavors like ginger and coconut. It also features one of my five all-time favorite ingredients: cilantro. I remember searching all the small Italian produce stands I could find for cilantro when I lived there, promising my roommate I’d show him what Mexican food could taste like (nothing like the one faux Mexican velveeta restaurant in Bologna). It was a staple in all my early cooking explorations in college, and on my favorite Food Network show at the time: Two Hot Tamales. I know it doesn’t suit everyone. Julia Child hated it. But I think its flavor is fresh and bright–like the citrus of the herb world. It’s been with me in my various kitchens for a long time, and yet I still get excited when I see it in a recipe.
Bon Appetit subscribers will recognize this recipe from June’s issue. Mine is an improvisation with the ingredients I had on hand. I’m nothing if not resourceful, and I hate buying whole bottles of specific oils and vinegars if I’m only going to use a dab for one particular recipe. So here is my improvised (and improved–with peas and coconut) version. You could easily add a few more veggies and a protein to make this a pilaf.
1 c. long-grain white rice
2 1-inch-long pieces fresh ginger, peeled, each cut into 4 rounds, plus 1 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1 2/3 c. vegetable broth
1 c. frozen peas
1 1/2 c. fresh cilantro
5 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. rice or apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. shredded coconut
Combine rice and ginger rounds in a large saucepan. Add broth and sprinkle with salt. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Cover; reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes and then add the peas. Recover and simmer another 3 minutes, or until rice and peas are tender and broth is absorbed.
Meanwhile, combine cilantro, shallot, and minced ginger in a mini food processor. Add oil and vinegar, coconut, salt, and pepper. Blend until almost smooth. Taste it and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Transfer rice to a bowl. Remove ginger rounds. Mix in the cilantro oil and serve.
My friends Josh and Rachel recently had a lovely, teeny little girl named Eleonora, and a friend got together a food tree of people to take turns feeding them during their first few weeks as parents. My contribution was this mac and cheese, because I figured that if I had just had such a life-changing and scary and amazing experience as giving birth, I’d need some carbs and cheese on hand.
I love mac and cheese, and especially love any opportunity to sneak vegetables into it. I got this recipe from Deborah Madison‘s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which is a tome I turn to often to feed the many vegetarians in my life. There’s a unique kick of dijon mustard in the recipe, which adds some pizazz. Really, is there anyone out there who doesn’t like mac and cheese? It’s a hard thing to disagree with.
I used crimini mushrooms here, though Madison doesn’t specify which in her recipe. I think crimini are great cooking ‘shrooms. They open up and ooze out their juices when you saute them, imbuing the whole dish with flavor.
Mushroom and Leek Mac and Cheese
from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
3 tbsp. butter
1 celery rib, finely chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 leeks, white parts only, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 c. flour
3 c. milk, warmed
salt and pepper
1 heaping tbsp. mustard
1 lb. ziti or pasta of your choice
1 1/2 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 c. fresh bread crumbs
Warm the butter in a saucepan. Add the celery, mushrooms, leeks, and marjoram and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then quickly whisk in the milk. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season the sauce with 1 tsp. salt, pepper to taste, the nutmeg, and the mustard.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter or oil a 3-qt. baking dish. Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until barely done. Drain it in a colander, then rinse under cold water. Combine the pasta with the sauce and cheese, then pour it into the baking dish and cover with bread crumbs. Bake until bubbling and browned on top, 25 to 30 minutes.
Mac-and-cheese lover in the making.
As I stood over my cast iron pan yesterday, I got to thinking–What is the deal with onions? They are decidedly savory beings, no one can deny that. Raw, they are pungent and full of vibrato (what would a taco do without them?). Sauteed in olive oil, they are subtle and roundly flavored. But you throw them in a pan with butter, let them sweat it out on low heat for 15 minutes, and they become another thing altogether–voluptuous, sweet, willing. They lose all of their rebellious attitude and become pussycats. And the smell they emit as they caramelize has to be one of my favorites ever.
They were an afterthought in this dish, but a mighty good one. Curry chicken salad is, in itself, no revelation. This version, however, sort of is–like a ray of sunshine. The Greek yogurt and lemon make it tangy, and I think the garam masala adds a depth of flavor beyond your standard curry powder. One chicken breast and one container of yogurt made enough to stretch for probably three lunches. So it’s delicious and thrifty, my favorite combination. It also takes about 20 minutes to make, which isn’t too shabby for a weeknight.
Curry Chicken Salad
1/2 yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
1 chicken breast
1 8 0z. plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. garam masala
1 green apple, chopped
the juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. shredded coconut (I used the sweetened kind)
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. almonds, chopped
cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Warm butter over low heat and add onions. Cook slowly until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
In the meantime, rub olive oil, salt, and pepper on both sides of the chicken breast. Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. Set aside and let cool, then dice into cubes about the same size as your apple cubes.
In a medium-sized bowl, add yogurt, lemon juice, and lemon zest, salt, pepper, curry powder and garam masala, and combine. Then add the rest of your ingredients: diced apple, coconut, cranberries, and almonds. When the chicken and onions are room temperature, add to the mix and combine everything. Garnish with cilantro and adjust seasoning to taste.
I served mine on an olive sourdough bread.
My cousin Monika has an amazing job in development for Slow Food USA. It’s a New York–based organization that works to promote education and awareness for the environmental, social, and personal benefits of knowing what’s on your plate. You can read her book review for the Locavore Way at their blog. And you should check out the rest of their website. They have chapters in several cities across the country, and you just might luck out and happen to live in one.
Here is the lemon-shallot vinaigrette recipe from Melissa via Real Simple. It was a really bright and light dressing for the salad we made, which consisted of wild arugula, radishes, and sugar snap peas, aka farmer’s market manna. Note that the shallots are of the Ambition varietal! How could we pass them up? Even the honey in our incarnation of this recipe came from the market.
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1 shallot, finely chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
1. In a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake together the oil, lemon juice, honey, shallot, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
It’s been a long time! This is mostly due to camera custody issues, but also to a lot of life stuff that has kept me out of the kitchen for awhile–moving, general regrouping, and a very busy season at work. Anyways, my apologies for this long lapse. And, thank you if you are still reading.
To celebrate my return to blogging and the city’s return to farmer’s market season, Melissa and I got up early to get the best pick of things and to let the market inspire a meal. After a long, marketless winter, it was amazing to be presented with so much bounty this morning. The Wicker Park farmer’s market has only been open for two weekends so far, so I have been jonesing for it. The whole city opens up in the summer–people dine al fresco, ride their bikes, crowd the beaches, go to baseball games, and eat vegetables. It can be hard to pry the Lou Malnatti’s deep dish out of some Chicagoans’ hands, but the many local farmer’s markets make a valiant effort to do so.
In truth, culinary culture in Chicago is pretty vibrant, and the markets are always full of people, including mini ones and canine ones. Melissa and Sean and I brought their dog, Jackson, who seemed to have forgotten how glorious a place the market can be. With all the stimuli, Jackson was in heaven. And I have to say, so were we.
With apologies to the Jews, this is what we came up with.
Blue Potato and Bacon Latkes with Lemon Cream
10 slices of bacon
1 lb blue potatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 c. flour
1 tsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
canola oil for frying
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. plain yogurt
Fry up the bacon and let drain and cool on paper towels. Drain all but about a tablespoon of the bacon fat from the frying pan.
Line a colander or sieve with paper towels. Shred the potatoes and transfer to the towel-lined colander. With paper towels on top, squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Finely dice the garlic and shallots and set aside. Chop the bacon.
In a large bowl, whisk two eggs with salt, pepper, and coriander. Add the potatoes, garlic, shallots, and bacon. Pour in the flour and mix all ingredients together.
In your bacon frying pan, heat about 6 tablespoons of oil until you can see a bit of smoke rise from it. Add a dollop of the potato mixture and flatten it out with your spatula. When you can see the bottom edges brown, flip it and let the other side brown. It’s about 2–3 minutes per side.
Let the finished ones drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon cream, which is just a combination of all three ingredients listed above.
We served this with a beautiful, simple market salad:
2 heads wild arugula, destemmed
1 bunch radishes, chopped
1/2 lb. sugar snap peas, quickly blanched and cooled
Melissa made a vinaigrette with shallots and lemon. When she sends me the recipe, I will post it.
The meal was simple and had the freshness of a lemony zing and crunchy greens. Not to mention bacon.