Herb Roasted Red Kuri Squash & The Kentucky Bourbon Chase

In early October I left my Thursday night Interface Design class and headed straight to Louisville, Kentucky. It was my first visit to this lovely state and I was excited to explore while running in the Bourbon Chase - a 12 person, 200 mile relay race through distilleries, horse farms, and charming small towns. While training for the big event, we also raised over $6,000 for the National Hospice Foundation.

Bourbon Chase

Our team began in the afternoon on Friday and ran straight through until the evening - on Saturday! We were able to catch a few minutes of sleep in dewy fields and crowded vans, but for the most part this was an around-the-clock event.

Lebanon, KY

The race began at the Jim Beam Distillery and headed to Bardstown and Heaven Hill Distillery, continuing on to Maker's Mark Distillery, Lebanon, Perryville Battlefield, Stanford, Danville, Harrodsburg, Four Roses Distillery, Wild Turkey Distillery, the Tyrone Bridge, Versailles, Woodford Reserve Distillery, Midway, and finally into Lexington where we enjoyed our much anticipated first taste of Kentucky Bourbon.

I ran with a group of people that, for the most part, I'd never met before. It was a really awesome and intense experience, and I miss them all dearly. It was a wonderful way to make new friends and I'm already looking forward to next year.

Bourbon Chase

Kentucky was unbelievably beautiful. We visited during the peak of autumn colors and were welcomed with inspiring hospitality in every town. We stumbled upon an old abandoned distillery, saw multi-story mash tubs, visited Keeneland, and made a detour to the charming little town of Columbus, Indiana on the way back north. You can find more photos here.

Squash 11

After running 18 miles over 36 hours with little sleep and few proper meals, I've been reveling in kale salads, homemade soup, and autumn squash. I suspect that few of you need a recipe for squash preparation, but let this serve as simple encouragement to enjoy the current seasonal bounty.

Herb Roasted Red Kuri Squash


1 squash
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter
Fresh rosemary
Fresh thyme
1 tsp roasted ground cumin
1 tsp sweet curry powder
1 tsp turmeric salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds from the cavity (reserve the seeds, see recipe below). Arrange the squash halves face-up on a heavy baking sheet. Rub the olive oil over the squash (including the skin) and place the remaining ingredients in the squash cavity.

Roast the squash for about 50 minutes. Check the squash periodically and spoon the butter-herb mixture over the rest of the squash surface to season. When you can easily pierce the flesh with a knife, the squash is done. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm. Any leftovers can be tossed with pasta and parmesan for a simple dinner.

Cumin & Parmesan Roasted Squash Seeds


Seeds from one squash 1 Tbl olive oil 1/2 tsp roasted ground cumin salt and pepper to season 2 Tbl grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 350F.* Remove any large pieces of squash from the seeds and place the seeds in a large bowl. Don't worry if a bit of squash remains on the seeds.Toss with the olive oil, cumin, and salt and pepper.

Spread the seeds evenly over a heavy baking sheet lined with a Silpat mat or parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the seeds are golden brown. Check and stir frequently.

When the seeds are done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the grated Parmesan.

*(You can also put them in the oven with the squash at 400F. Just watch them carefully.)

Zucchini Turmeric Pickles

Like many of you, early fall is my favorite time of year. I've unpacked extra blankets and sweaters, started to visit our local apple orchard on a nearly weekly basis, and I'm taking every opportunity to spend time outside before the daylight hours fade.

The last few weekends have been been full of visitors and it has been a pleasure to show friends and family around town. I took advantage of the associated car access and we visited abandoned train cars, historic round barns, the Allerton estate, and the former Chanute Air Force Base. It's hard to believe that I'll be done with my degree in December. Time has flown by and this little town has grown on me.

Zucchini Pickles

To welcome my guests I bought a few bottles of wine and made a double batch of my favorite pickles. This recipe is perfect for late summer/early fall when zucchini is plentiful. The pickles have a familiar sweet and sour flavor with a few extra special touches: turmeric and mustard.

Zucchini Turmeric Pickles

Adapted from the Zuni Café


1 lb zucchini
1 small yellow onion
2 Tbl kosher salt
2 C cider vinegar
1 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp crushed yellow and/or brown mustard seeds (I used brown)
Scant 1 tsp ground turmeric


Wash and trim the zucchini, then slice them one-sixteenth-inch thick; I used a mandoline. Do the same with the onion. Combine the zucchini and onions in a large but shallow nonreactive bowl, add the salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt.

After about 1 hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini -- it should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric. Simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. (You don't want the brine to cook your crisp pickles.)

Return the zucchini to a dry bowl and pour over the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices. Transfer the pickle to jars. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini, turning them a brilliant chartreuse color.

Lemon & Tahini Peas

I spent a busy Father's Day weekend between Chicago and northern Illinois. My mother is renting a fantastic apartment in a high-rise near Millennium Park this summer. I spent some time enjoying the view with her on Friday, followed by a fantastic dinner at Province with Nick.

Father's Day Weekend 4

Saturday and Sunday I spent at home with my parents, and in Lake Geneva with my Grandparents. We had a picnic at my Grandparent's land for Father's Day and enjoyed an excited hail storm that evening.

Father's Day Weekend 14

My brother came into Chicago for work on Monday evening and my father and I met him for dinner on the Small Bar patio in Logan Square. It was odd being there now that neither of us live in the neighborhood. It was a busy weekend, but I am glad I was able to visit with so many people.

I catch the train to New Orleans this evening for the American Library Association Conference. Feel free to share any recommendations you have for my stay!

Father's Day Weekend 2

Summer has officially arrived and I've been keeping cool with recipes that require very little heat to prepare. (Sometimes, I just eat an entire melon for a meal.) This recipe for peas in a flavorful lemon and tahini dressing is great on its own, or served with toasted pita.

Lemon & Tahini Peas


2 C frozen peas
1/4 C plain yogurt
2 Tbl tahini
2 Tbl red onion, finely diced
2 Tbl lemon zest
1 Tbl water
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt


Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the frozen peas for a minute or two -- just until they turn bright green. Remove from the heat, drain, and run cold water over them. You don't want the peas to cook, just to thoroughly thaw.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the other ingredients and mix well. Add another tablespoon or two of water if the consistency of the dressing seems too thick.

Add the peas, tossing to coat. With a fork or a potato masher, gently crush some of the peas. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic & Oregano

When I started this website over six years ago, I had a second-hand point and shoot camera and no understanding of white balance. I've come along way since those early days and I've even sold a few photos, but I'm constantly trying to improve. Some days I shoot photos that I am really proud of, other days I can't seem to get close to what I want. This weekend, I'm extremely pleased to be taking part in the creativeLIVE free food photography course with my (hands-down) favorite food photographer, the incredible Penny De Los Santos. If you have any interest in food photography, I highly recommend joining in.


I recently bought my first real DSLR camera. A Canon 60D with a 50mm f/1.4. It was quite a financial splurge, but I was lucky to find manufacturer refurbished pieces for a bit less than expected. I have a lot to learn, but I'm loving it. Many thanks to Penny and creativeLIVE for offering a free class. It's fascinating to watch Penny's work-flow and I'm learning a ton.

Roasted Asparagus

The farmers market is bursting with gorgeous bunches of asparagus. This is a nice side dish for hot early summer days. It has a lot of flavor, but it only requires a short time in the oven so your home won't overheat.

Roasted Asparagus with Oregano and Balsamic


25 spears of asparagus
2 Tbl olive oil
black pepper, freshly ground
2 Tbl oregano leaves, fresh
2 Tbl oregano
balsamic vinegar*


Preheat oven to 375F. Wash and trim the asparagus spears. Arrange in a single layer on a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to evenly coat the spears. Top with oregano. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate and shake the pan to turn the asparagus while baking.

Remove the asparagus from the oven when it is bright green and beginning to slightly char. Season with balsamic and shaved parmesan. Serve immediately.

(*Any balsamic will work. The sweetness is a perfect complement to the other flavors in this dish. I have an assortment of wonderful vinegars form Old Town Oil in Chicago. This oregano balsamic has a subtle flavor that really shines here.)

Pea, Lemon & Crème Fraiche Pasta

The snow is gone, my bike tires are filled, and I'm anxiously waiting for a spring day that isn't too cold, windy or rainy. It's a bit of project to get to a good grocery store here without a car. I look forward to the imminent biking days that will give me more freedom over my limited free time. 

March 16, 2010

While we wait for the beautiful days ahead, I give you a simple and bright recipe that is delicious with frozen peas, but even better with fresh spring peas. Use what you have available, and color me a bit jealous if you are already enjoying the bounty of the new season.

Pea, Lemon & Crème Fraiche Pasta


8 ounces spaghetti or linguine (I used whole wheat).
1 Tbl olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 C of fresh or frozen peas
1 C of crème fraiche
1 Tbl lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1.5 tsp kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


In a large stockpot, bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the peas, cooking until they begin to brighten and are warmed through. 

While the peas cook, combine the crème fraiche, salt, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. When the peas have finished cooking, turn off the heat and toss the peas with the sauce. Stirring a minute or two to coat. Add the lemon juice and a generous amount of black pepper. 

Drain the pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking water, and toss with the peas. If necessary, add the cooking water a tablespoon at a time until the sauce is your desired consistency. 

Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic Tahini Sauce

My second semester of graduate school is off to a busy start. I'm enrolled in four courses: Introduction to Databases, E-Government, Foundations of Information Processing (Python programming), and Libraries Information and Society (my last required course). The database and programming courses are very time consuming, but I'm keeping up and learning quite a bit.

In addition to my Graduate Assistantship, I am also doing a practicum this semester with the Sears User Experience & Taxonomy department in Chicago. And in March, I am spending my spring break in Ann Arbor as an assistant at the incredible Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive.

Life is busy, but It's exciting to sense my previous experiences, coursework, and future aspirations synthisizing into something definable. I'm not sure where I'll end up next year, but I'm grateful for these current opportunities and the wonderful people I am meeting.


My practicum has allowed me to spend quite a bit of time in Chicago already this semester. My mother is currently enrolled in the Chicago Architecture Foundation's rigourous docent training program. She recently took my brother and I on a practice tour of Historic Downtown: Rise of the Skyscraper and did an impressive job.

Art Institute of Chicago Marquette Building
Monadnock Chicago

It was a gorgeous early spring day and we talked about a number of my favorite buildings (clockwise from top left: Art Institute of Chicago, Marquette, Fisher, and Monadnack). It's pretty neat to have a burgeoning authority on the rich history of Chicago architecture in the family.

A recent series of sunny days and mild temperatures has melted most of the snow and the changing seasons have me feeling energized. I'm looking forward to dusting off my bike, long runs, and planning spring camping trips. Here is an easy recipe with bright flavors to welcome March.

Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic Tahini Sauce

Adapted from Saveur


1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
4 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp turmeric
1 1/4 tsp hot paprika (divided)
2 heads cauliflower, cored and cut into 1 1/2'' florets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 C tahini
1/2 C water
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced into a paste
1 tsp Siracha
Juice of 1 lemon


Preheat oven to 500F. On a large baking sheet, combine the oil, cumin, turmeric, one teaspoon of paprika, salt, black pepper, and cauliflower. Spread evenly and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cauliflower is brownded and tender.

Meanwhile, combine the tahini, water, garlic, Siracha, lemon juice, and the remaining quarter-teaspoon of paprika in a small bowl (don't worry, the water mixes in well and gives the sauce a great texture). Season with salt to taste.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Warm White Bean & Carrot Salad Recipe

The midwest is bracing for what will reportedly be a "dangerous, multifaceted and potentially life-threatening" blizzard. Reports of incoming extreme weather tend to be over-blown in these parts, but that type of language will definitely get some attention. 


The first snowflakes started to fall half an hour ago, and as I type this an intriguing combination of snow, hail, and rain is tapping at my dining room windows. Perhaps it would be wise to heed the weather warnings and plan a stop at the grocery store this evening to stock up on ingredients for some satisfying snow-day fare. I recommend this Warm White Bean and Carrot Salad with dill, shallots, and toasted almonds.

Warm Bean and Carrot Salad with Dill 1

I followed this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. The only change I made was to cook the carrots in butter, which gave them a wonderful flavor. Be sure to let the dressing rest as the recipe instructs. This salad was best the day it was made, but kept well. 

Stay warm!

Mushroom Bourguignon Recipe

Mushroom Bourguignon

My first weekend back in Chicago was a snowy, blustery one. Roofs were blown off buildings, buses were traveling at a comically slow speed, and I made a trip to the nearest shoe store for some very ugly, but very waterproof snow boots. I was back in the city for a brief visit in order to interview for two winter internships with the American Library Association. I'm happy to report that I will be able to accept both of them and I'm looking forward to working with and learning from the APA and ALCTS staff members.

December at the University of Illinois 8

After my interviews, I took the train back to Champaign in order to work for a few more days at my graduate assistantship before officially leaving for winter break. Amazingly, I managed to work ahead over 45 hours this semester, which will allow me pursue other work experience with my time off from school. Campus is covered in a blanket of snow and ice, and though it is finals week, many students have already left and everything is quieting down.

December at the University of Illinois 4

Tonight, I will take my sixth train ride in six days back to Chicago - and hopefully stay put for a bit. Long days of travel and bracing cold have me hankering for warm, hearty dinners like this mushroom bourguignon.

Mushroom Bourguignon

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter, softened
2 lbs cremini mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices (no stems)
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C full-bodied red wine
2 Cvegetable broth
2 Tbl tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 Tbl flour
1 C frozen pearl onions, peeled and thawed
Salt and pepper
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish


Heat one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms for three to four minutes.  The mushrooms should brown, but don't cook so long that they release their juices.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add one tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the carrot, onion, thyme, salt and pepper for about 10 minutes or until the onions begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook one more minute.

Add the wine to deglaze the pan, and then turn the heat all the way up and reduce the liquid by half. Add the tomato paste, broth, and the mushrooms- along with any juices. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender.

In a small bowl, mix one tablespoon of butter with the flour until smooth. Add this mixture to the stew and simmer for 10 more minutes, or until the stew has the consistency your desire. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the stew over a bowl of egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream and a small handful of Italian flat-leaf parsley.

Savory Florentine Cake Recipe

It's hard to believe that my first semester of graduate school is nearing an end. After one more class and two more papers, I'll be in Chicago working at a soon-to-be-finalized internship and falling back into familiar habits. I'm looking forward to having a bit of time to focus on a few personal projects and to running on the Chicago lakefront as I train for the Illinois Marathon in April. 


A few months ago, I received a review copy of Silvana Nardone's Cooking for Isaiah in the mail; a cookbook of gluten-free and dairy-free meals and the antithesis of my typical diet. I have a few friends with a gluten or dairy intolerance and I was drawn to some of the simpler recipes in the book. This Florentine Cake is quick, delicious, and it doesn't require any special ingredients. 

December at the University of Illinois 3

You are probably wondering why I'm posting a recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes in December. When I visited the winter farmer's market in Urbana this past weekend, one farm had some very nice greenhouse tomatoes. I bought a few with this recipe in mind. However, the dish would be great with oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves or even thin slices of winter squash.

Florentine Cake with Tomato-Garlic Gratin

Adapted from Cooking for Isaiah

(The original recipe called for 8 eggs and 1 clove of garlic)


1/2 C rice cereal crumbs
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbl olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
2 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick


Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl, combine the first four ingredients and set aside.

In a medium ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, spinach, and 1 tsp of salt. Pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet, shake to even out, and place the tomatoes on top. Cook without stirring for about 4 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is beginning to set. 

Top with the garlic crumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for ten minutes or until golden and set in the center. Serve warm.