wicker park market

I slept in Saturday, missing my regular Green City Market trip. The Wicker Park & Bucktown Market (Sundays 7am - 2pm) is very small, but shares three big vendors with my usual haunt. Seedling always has perfect fruit, Nichols Farm has the largest selection and most variety, and Iron Creek Farms has the most gorgeous tomatoes and more. I've found most of these smaller neighborhood markets (Edgewater!) to be decent and less crowded than the Green City Market. If you find yourself in desperate need of seasonable vegetables, check out your local schedule - you might find one just down the block.

Three bags $30

9 red African eggplants pictured above
4 yellow and red peppers
1 huge zucchini
1 gigantic yellow squash
1 bag garlic dill cheese curds
10 ears of sweet corn
1 bottle raspberry vinegar
1 box of lynch berries/tomato berries


music for kitchen sinks

Suds up a bunch of dishes, put on your yellow gloves, pour a glass of wine and press play.

Re-Arrange - The Gladiators
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man - Aretha
Tears for Affairs - Camera Obscura
Waddlin' Around - The King Khan & BBQ Show
Cathy's Clown - Everly Brothers
Teenage Love Affair - Alicia Keys
Knock that Door - Enon
Why Do You Let Me Stay Here - She & Him
Fist City - Loretta Lynn
Dancing With Myself - Nouvelle Vague
Modern Girl - Sleater Kinney
Our Lips Are Sealed - The Go Gos
These Days - Mates of State
Finite = Alright - David Byrne
Green Shirt - Elvis Costello
Los Angeles I'm Yours - The Decemberists
Israelites - Desmond Dekker and the Aces
Wave Goodbye - Kelly Stoltz
Fear of Trains - The Magnetic Fields
Take Me to the Pilot - Elton John
Everybody's Gonna Be Happy - The Kinks



For my uncle Moon's birthday last year, I helped my aunt throw him a surprise party. We invited 70 friends and family and I contributed the food. Have you ever made 150 meatballs in one night? Along with bruschetta, caponata, white bean hummus, gorgonzola popovers, marinated olives, herbed pickles, prosciutto cups with goat cheese & figs, and spicy crab & shrimp dip? I did, survived, and was apparently successful. People enjoyed the food and some even assumed I was a caterer by trade. I took the compliments to heart and am starting culinary school soon.

Last weekend, some guests of that party invited me to cook at a small gathering at their house and it went remarkably well. It was a very laid-back garden party involving lots of hibiscus margaritas and lovely ladies. The main event featured various kebabs, but much of the night was spent munching on appetizers.

Rose and Geraldine have playful serving trays. Here's my giant version of shrimp cocktail.

Another favorite was the heirloom tomato flatbread. Well it was supposed to be a flatbread, but after quite a few failed recipes, I used a tried and true focaccia recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook recommended by Andrea.

Heirloom Tomato Pizza

For crust:
1 cup wrist temperature water
1 ½ tsp. (half a ¼ oz. packet) active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Approx. 3 ½ cups flour
2 – 3 tbs. dried rosemary
Olive oil for the bowl, dough and baking tray
Extra flour for handling the dough.

On Top:
3 heirloom tomatoes thinly sliced
Fresh mozzarella
Basil - a handful thinly sliced
Herbed olive oil* or just really good olive oil

Place the water in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes – it will become foamy.

Add sugar and salt. Stir until everything dissolves.

Add 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time, mixing enthusiastically with a whisk. As the dough thickens, switch to your hand. Knead the dough in the bowl for a few minutes, adding up to ½ cup more flour, as needed, to combat stickiness. When the dough is smooth, oil both the bowl and the top surface of the dough. Cover with a clean tea towel, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough, and transfer to a clean floured surface. Adding small amounts of extra flour as needed, to avoid stickiness. Knead the dough for about 5 to 8 minutes –until it is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball, and roll it into a 10 – 12 inch diameter circle. Let it rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking tray.

Transfer the circle of dough to the baking tray and brush the top surface of the dough with a little more olive oil. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Let cool slightly and layer the fresh toppings. You can add the toppings from the beginning, but to preserve the clean tomato and basil flavors, I find it best to add them toward the end of baking. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 for 10 - 15 more minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling.

Once cooled, but before slicing, I like to drizzle some balsamic glaze** for an extra punch of flavor. The sweetness works well with the roasted tomatoes.

*Herbed olive oil: simmer 1 1/2 cups olive oil with several smashed garlic cloves on low until your house smells awesome. Not just your kitchen. Your entire house. Cool olive oil, discard but make good use of garlic. Add a handful of flat leaf parsley, a handful of basil, and a few pinches of fresh oregano to your food processor and process it. Add the garlicky olive oil and presto - herbed olive oil.

**Balsamic glaze: Simmer 1 cup balsamic vinegar, the zest and juice of one orange, and half a cup of pomegranate juice until the mixture coats a spoon and is reduced by more than half. Stir in a few teaspoons of sugar or honey until dissolved. Pour over almost anything and it is guaranteed to taste better.


Worst. Sandwich. Ever.

I made a terrible mistake. I was bogged down with menu planning (I'm suddenly flooded with catering jobs - YAY!) and starving. My apartment is full of distractions: the neighbor lady condescendingly barking orders at her dog, a stack of unwatched movie mailers, a big comfortable bed, and a sink full of dirty dishes begging to be washed. For some stupid reason, I settled on using the free Starbucks wi-fi nearish my house to do the work and ignored my stomach's pleas for a fill up.

[A quick defense of my decision to patronize Starbucks for all of you hippies: I like Intelligentsia coffee better and I LOVE Metropolis which isn't in my neighborhood anymore, but I also am attempting to slow my growing addiction. I dig chai which has a little less caffeine - the Tazo Chai at Starbucks is consistent and I don't drink weak-ass tea. I could also buy a giant jug of the stuff at Jewel for $5/week instead of $5/cup, but that is another stupid decision for another blog.]

Halfway through my venti non-fat chai latte, the tummy grumblings got so loud I swear I could hear them over Sleater-Kinney* screaming on my ipod. I sauntered over to the counter and this is where it got ugly. I've had several Starbucks food items in the past - usually hasty grabs at airports or quick breakfast items on the way to work. Egg salad sandwich, fruit & cheese plate, veggies & evil dip, flax braid. I have not really enjoyed these food experiences, but I also wouldn't characterize them as awful. I also always tip my barista. Really well. Looking back, a tip back from her would have been nice, "I would think twice about purchasing that nearly $6 tasteless brick of a crappy sandwich that you are considering."

The Tomato & Mozzarella Ciabatta also contains "pesto butter" and spinach. Somehow they squeeze 22% of my daily value of sodium in there, but you wouldn't know it by the complete flavorlessness** contained between the massive squares of dry bread. The pesto butter is just unsalted butter with little specks of green. This might be basil or just chopped blades of grass. The tomato slices are those unspeakable grainy wet messes served in cafeterias everywhere. The few baby spinach leaves are healthful enough. They are super skimpy with the mozzarella which is all the same because it tastes like nothing. Next time I'd prefer a piece of cardboard soaked in 17 grams of fat.

*The Woods (Sub Pop '05). This album is guaranteed to help you get down to business.
**The spell checker is suggesting "humorlessness" here. That would work as well.
***The lovely sketch of the first Starbucks in Seattle (where I've been on a few occasions) is from Idle Minutes. It is a lovely little "illustrated Journal Featuring The Artwork of Don West".



Bon Appetit's July issue featured inspired new burger recipes and a mouthwatering cover. I read it cover to cover on my morning commute the day after it arrived and then filed it away. After mopping my floors and doing too many loads of laundry on Sunday, I felt like eating a burger. I didn't want to make the same boring turkey burger with muenster and mushrooms and I had ground lamb from the market. I found myself too lazy to climb the kitchen footstool to look up the recipe. Despite already being at my computer checking email and catching up on podcasts, I didn't really feel like looking up the recipe online either. I decided to wing it. What came together ended up being a combination of the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Burger from BA July 2006, the Minted Lamb Burgers from BA February 2006 and my own turkey burger recipe. I used bulgur wheat instead of breadcrumbs because that's what I had in the cabinet.

Lamb Burgers
1/3 cup bulgur wheat prepared with chicken broth
1 large shallot minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
a few pinches of cayenne
10 - 15 mint leaves finely chopped*
6 oz. finely crumbled feta cheese
1 egg
Kosher salt & coarse ground pepper
1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb (I added 1/2 lb. ground pork)

Prepare bulgur wheat according to package instructions. Mix ingredients 1 - 10 in large mixing bowl, add lamb to bowl and mix to incorporate, taking care not to over mix. Divide into patties sized according to your appetite, but no more than 1 inch thick. Cook in pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare to medium. Grill if you are so inclined.

We ate them tucked into pita pockets with veggie hummus. On the side: a spinach salad with lemon cucumbers**, red peppers and more feta and some Israeli cous cous with raisins***.

*Chiffonade is the fanciest sounding, but easiest way to prepare big leafy herbs like mint and basil. Just stack all of the leaves, roll them up tightly and slice through to make thin ribbons.

**Lemon Cucumbers are bumpy, yellow, and shaped like lemons. They are a slightly crunchier variety than your everyday cuke, but really just have more seeds and are harder to peel.

***The store I lazily stopped into only had regular raisins which resembled some sort of rodent dropping when cooked into the light hued cous cous, so I suggest golden raisins to avoid dinner table potty humor.


eating august

I bought these weird speckled beans instead of my normal green variety.

One Bag $22.50
dozen eggs
1 lb. shelly beans
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 box blueberries
1 tube frozen ground lamb
4 lemon cucumbers

I found the "White Satan Carrots" again and took some photographic evidence this time.


being there

I don't think I opened my fridge over the weekend. Actually, besides a brief apartment tour, I didn't step inside my kitchen at all. My friend Julie came in from DC for Lollapalooza and we didn't really schedule time for sleeping, let alone a trip to the market.

Friday evening, while perched on a hill waiting for Radiohead, we shared a benevolent burrito and spinach quesadillas from Crescent Foods. They were tasty, but the helpings weren't exactly generous. The carrot salsa was quite fresh and kudos for having both guac and sour cream on the side. We crashed a backyard birthday party after the concert that had an amazing spread with veggies, dips, and burgers. Marty, the birthday boy, generously showed off his garden. I love the cucumbers climbing the stairs (pardon the tipsy night photography).

Saturday we managed to get up and moving for lunch at Cafe Iberico, a tapas restaurant with really reasonable prices and generous portions that defy the distinction "small plate". We went a little crazy, sharing:

-Jamon Iberico. a cured ham and cheese plate
-Pincho de Solomillo. beef tenderloin with fries and caramelized onions
-Croquetas de pollo. chicken and ham puffs
-Pulpo a la Plancha. grilled octopus with potatoes
-Veggie Paella.
-Queso de Cabra. goat cheese in tomato sauce with garlic toasts
-a pitcher of sangria

But a few hours later, after expending too much energy for Okkervil River, I required reinforcements from Adobo Grill:

We split up for the headliners of the evening, Julie boldly braving the pit of Rage Against the Machine while I safely swayed and sang (probably too loudly) along with Wilco. Afterward we reconvened on the el and hit up Clarke's on Belmont to carboload for Sunday. The place was packed and they might as well have required lolla wristbands for entry, as the entire crowd reviewed the days bands and photos from each other's digital cameras. Julie had the skillet eggs and I had silver dollar pancakes.

Sunday brought us to The Bluebird for a tiny breakfast and the highly recommended bloody marys made with organic cucumber vodka. The food was impressive and not too expensive, and the drink (besides the garnish) was both not good and overpriced. Julie and I split the spiced pork belly with toast, kris had ham & gruyere crepes, and Frankie had an open faced croissant with chips. The bartendress didn't know the ingredients in the bloody mix, but something was off there. However, the garnish was crazy good:

-a peel and eat shrimp
-an orange wedge
-a skewer of cheese, olive, pepperocini, and a slice of mortadella with pistachios

We went straight from breakfast and an impromptu stop at a moving sale to Greektown for lunch. We settled on Venus because they specialize in Cypriot cuisine and I had been meaning to stop in since seeing a feature on Check, Please! We shared all of the food which was was fresh and had a lot of bright flavors - helped along by the plate of lemons on the table that I squeezed onto everything.

I managed to work off lunch dancing to Girl Talk, ending up hungry again. Here Greg Gillis crowd surfs on an inflatable raft to end his set.

A slice of sausage pizza and a cat nap during a particularly xylophone-heavy Nine Inch Nails song capped off the weekend. I also snuck in an oreo ice cream sandwich from 7-11 on the way home.