Living for the City

We Chicagoans may get frostbite waiting at bus stops for six months a year, but the summer is spent making up for it with endless festivals, dining alfresco, afternoons at the beach, and lots of sweat for those of us without AC. This weekend was a perfect example. Pride culminated in a two-part parade today, interrupted by brief rain and lightning a dancer falling off a float. Stevie Wonder played for almost three hours last night at the Taste of Chicago where I danced barefoot with about 75,000 other happy fans. We played early morning softball poorly, went to the green market, took my cousins to see Wall-E downtown, and enjoyed the respite from the sun(burn) provided by all the passing rain clouds.

Saturday morning I spent $30.50 on:

1 box blueberries
1 box cherries
1 bunch white satin carrots*
1 bunch daikon
1 bunch beets

1 bunch peppermint
3 eight-ball yellow squash
3 portabella mushrooms
1 bunch green garlic
a few garlic scrapes
1 head of cauliflower
4 vine ripened tomatoes

*These were labeled "White Satan Carrots" which is the only reason I noticed them. For sale at a pricey booth of microgreens that I can never afford, I found a lone bunch and got them because the name made me laugh. I wish I'd taken a picture.

I spent Saturday afternoon sampling these at the Taste of Chicago:

Billy Goat Inn
¼ cheeseburger. OK. Go for the goofy tradition, not the food.

Bolat African Cuisine
Jerk Chicken, Beans & Rice, Plantains. Nicely spiced sauce, plantains perfectly cooked. Much better than the goat last year.

Canady le Chocolatier
Fruiti di Bosco Sorbet, two bites of Pistachio Gelato. Antidote to heat, portions a bit small, friendly staff.

watermelon slice. seedless, crisp, and juicy. ridiculous line, but nice guy at booth gave me a full slice for the price of a "taste" portion for being patient about the mouthy broad in front of me.

sweet potato hashbrowns. Not what I expected: basically shredded steamed sweet potatoes that didn't taste pan fried and needed salt.

Wow Bao
Hot kung pao chicken Asian Bao. Spicy in the middle, soft bun mellows the heat. Asian buns are the new burrito.


Italian breaded steak sandwich. Rich sauce, meat a bit chewy.

C'est Si Bon
Cajun meatballs. Good amount of spicy and nice "taste of" portion


baklava. my only complaint? plastic forks don't work: it is worth resorting to eating with your hands.


actual insanity

My insanely enjoyable weekend culminated in a thirty-minute trip on the 50 Damen bus with a lippy intoxicated mentally ill woman. It is really hard to concentrate on the intricacies of the history of british postpunk when a woman is jumping around, grabbing her crotch repeatedly, and streaming foul language at a nearby infant. That small incident aside, the last few days have included a cubs sweep of the sox, some lucrative babysitting, Hideout's soul music dance party, and a bachelor party that lasted three days. I managed to squeeze in a 7:40 AM trip to the green market on my way to work Saturday, but I also managed to stupidly leave all of my food in the fridge where I worked.

my cheap week: $18
1 bunch peppermint
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
.5 lb oyster mushrooms
2 bunches purple asparagus
Japanese turnips
Chinese Shunkyo semi-long red radishes



My great-grandparents' entire backyard was a garden, save a huge tree, a gliding swing and a few iron chairs. My job was to pick (read: eat) green beans. I grew up with a strong distrust of eating beans prepared by anyone other than family guaranteed to have garden-fresh or those lovingly canned by my Grandma Georgia. Last summer I bought many pounds at the market down the street, eating quite a few for breakfast on the walk home. The nice association with a summer childhood memory means crisp green veg can fix nearly any problem I've got.

The morning & evening commutes Wednesday combined for nearly four hours of my day. Even armed with a good book and an ipod full of awesome, I can only take so much. At home I flopped into my trusty chair with some mint green tea, a bag of peas (and a bowl), and the remotes. I shelled my peas from the market during the first half of Before Night Falls and ate them from a pretty tea cup during the second half. It was no swedish massage, but it did the trick.


Excellent (read in sinister Montgomery Burns voice)

Last night I tore up some Asian cooking for the first time. I had one disastrous attempt at Pad Thai in college which allowed me to vent some anger by crushing peanuts with the back of my skillet. I usually just stick to take out. I poked around the interweb for inspiration and then threw together a meal centered around an egg theme: Egg Drop Soup, Fried Rice, and Easter Egg radish & kohlrabi salad.

I'd actually never even heard of kohlrabi before, so naturally, I bought three. My favorite description is green sputnik, but wikipedia says kohlrabi "is a low, stout cultivar of the cabbage that will grow almost anywhere". Kinda like me, except for the cabbage part. I was expecting a cabbage-like vegetable with tight leaves, but once peeled, it looks more like a radish on the inside. So I cut a purple and green one into rather un-uniform slices along with some radishes and doused the whole thing in a toasted sesame seed dressing.

Kohlrabi before:

Kohlrabi after:

I love egg drop soup. I made this version with veggie stock instead of chicken and added 5 crushed garlic cloves. Chopped baby bok choy and a shallot rounded it out. Once simmering, I swirled in 3 scrambled farm fresh eggs. This is the steamy pot of soup:

The fried rice was super easy. I just sauteed some shiitake mushrooms and peas in oil along with some rice wine vinegar and soy sauce, stirred in some already cooked brown rice, and in the center put some scrambled eggs in a well. Mixed it up and two minutes later, dinner was ready.

My favorite idea of the night: A cilantro centerpiece so everyone could garnish their own plates:


more generosity

While waiting in a long line for a smoothie, I chatted up a guy from Seedling about my new food summer so far. We discussed the many ways to prepare rhubarb and then he asked if I was an adventurous cook. I smiled and he gave me a bag of peach leaves and a load of tiny unripe peaches that had to be sacrificed for the benefit of the entire tree's production. He thought Alice Waters might have a nice recipe for pickled peaches I'd want to try (she does!). According to a lot of rabbit and parrot owners, peach leaves and pits are toxic to animals, but in the 1905 printing of King's American Dispensatory, there are many medicinal applications for all of you out there suffering from worms or dysentery:

to adulterate oil resembles It is known as peach oil A liquor known as peach brandy is distilled from the fermented fruit Action Medical Uses and Dosage Peach leaves in infusion have been recommended in morbid irritability of the bladder and urethra pertussis ischuria hematiiria and nausea as well as in all inflammations of the stomach and abdomen They act as a sedative in doses of a tablespoonful every hour or two of the cold infusion in larger doses they slightly act upon the bowels and are said to have been useful in removing worm Amygdalus is the remedy for irritation and congestion of the gastric surfaces It is a very valuable agent in aastritis to control the vomiting and allay the extreme irritability of the stomach Cough depending upon irritation of the throat and bronchial mucous membranes is amenable to i

I also purchased a few things for $22
1 bunch easter egg radishes
1 bunch mint
1 tiny fennel bulb*
4 boxes English shelling peas
2 boxes strawberries
3 kohlrabi (2 purple, 1 green)
*sort of new: I've eaten fennel plenty of times, but never prepared it myself.

I'm getting better at navigating the market and thought I'd share some really common sense tips that seem to be lost on many of the shoppers there. I'm talking about you: jerk holding up the line trying to pay with a $100 at my favorite cheese place.

-Arrive early, but don't be in a hurry.

-Use small bills. If the ATM gave you a $20, buy a coffee on the way and get change.

-Be fashionable and green by bringing a few of your own bags. A single large one packed badly = mushy veg.

-Ask questions if you have them - these people are both knowledgeable and generous.

-Try a sample.

-The eggs and meat at the market are worth the extra price. Buy a hot/cold bag to avoid thawing/spoiling on the trip home.


bacony chocolate

I put bacon in Thanksgiving stuffing, baked beans, salads, deviled eggs, and on pizza. I have even worn a band-aid shaped like the stuff. Last year, I excitedly read about the Vosges bacon chocolate bar and added it to my list of pork things to check out (like bacon salt). Tonight I stopped into Whole Foods with my friend Phil for an exotic ingredient he was missing for a new recipe. I purposefully left my wallet in the car to avoid the tractor beam that is the produce department. Sadly empty handed, I drooled over the super expensive chocolates on the customer service desk while we checked out. I asked the clerk if he’d tasted the bacon chocolate bar, but he meekly admitted to refraining from pork. Another employee overheard the exchange and had tried it. Noting the wild jealousy in my eyes, she offered me a small bar FREE. (This was our second dessert score of the night – Phil randomly won an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie earlier for naming the bad classic rock band on the radio at Potbelly)

Vosges Haute Chocolat
Mo’s Bacon Bar .5 oz.

At first you just taste milk chocolate. The salt comes next. I could smell the subtle bacon essence, but thought I was missing the taste. Then I felt a crunch. The bar appears smooth and shiny, but surreptitiously contains tiny crispy pork bits. They imbed themselves in your molars so the bacony goodness lingers. Not sure I'd shell out the $8 for a full sized bar. But if you find a small one, try it.


mountain of radishes

Managed to wake up early, despite tipsily playing Rock Band until nearly 4 am. Hopped up on caffeine I hopped a bus to the market - arriving by 9:15. Every week I get there earlier, and I think everyone else does too. If only I could escape the clutches of live band karaoke and $7 vodka tonic pints on Friday nights. My egg guy was sold out again. Damn. But another farmer picked up the slack with more expensive and smaller ones.

I went a little radish crazy. First I spotted some mammoth radishes. For only $2, I couldn't pass them up. When I was looking for mint, I happened across some icicle radishes also for $2. On my way out of the park, I accidentally spotted some easter egg radishes too - from a Chicago farm - and had to have them. I think I'll pickle some of them.

My bag this week ($21)
2 heirloom tomatoes
1 bunch icicle radishes
1 bunch easter egg radishes
1 bunch huge red radishes
2 bunches spearmint
1 bag baby bok choy
dozen eggs

I made mint green tea this morning and had a salad with the tomatoes and radishes tonight. In between I ate a half slab of spicy ribs from Cy's Steakhouse & Tavern at ribfest. The best bbq in Chicago I've had. Maybe fried rice with bok choy later this week.

I killed my purple basil plant from last week already, but the big green one is still kicking.


Loot from the market

2 bags ($28)
1 way too expensive beefsteak tomato
French breakfast radishes
regular old radishes
salad greens mix
2 lbs last year’s Yukon gold potatoes
1 bunch rhubarb
2 basil plants

salads with leftover watercress, mint tea, ice cream with rhubarb and rhubarb orange syrup