White Bean Dip and Baked Pita Chips


In the winter, one of my favorite dishes to make involves cannellinibeans fried in a bit of butter with salt and pepper.  It's about as basic as you can get, but I love the unadulterated flavors of this creamy bean.  As we prepare for our move, I've continued to try to find ways to use up some of the items on our kitchen shelves. At some point during our long Chicago winter, I apparently stocked up on cans of cannellini beans, so I decided to find a summery way to use them. While a bit more involved than my winter menu, this meal is still simple and quick to prepare.

White Bean Dip


1 can (15 oz) of cannellini beans, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ C olive oil
2 Tbl pesto
salt and pepper to taste


Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add a bit more oil or some water if the dip is too thick.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with fresh vegetables and oven-baked pita chips (see recipe below).

Oven-Baked Pita Chips

Makes 48 chips
Preheat oven to 400F


3 store-bought pocket pitas (wheat or white)
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl grated Parmesan
1 Tbl Herbes de Provence (or other dried herbs)
Kosher flake salt


Cut the pitas into 8 wedges.  Separate each wedge at the seam into two pieces. Place in one layer on a large sheet pan.  Brush or drizzle with olive oil (don't worry about covering the surfaces, this is mainly for flavor) and sprinkle with the Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper.

Bake chips for about five minutes and then sprinkle on the Parmesan.  Bake for about five more minutes, or until crisp and golden.

Summer Strawberry Salad


With all the cold weather we've been having, you'd hardly know it is June.  While I'm looking forward to warm summer nights in our backyard, I've been content to spend the evenings inside lately -- listening to the rain fall and eating impressive quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables.  I'll get back to my stories from Buenos Aires soon, but first I wanted to share this pretty salad with you.

Summer Strawberry Salad


Greens, rinsed and spun dry
Strawberries, rinsed
Salty hard cheese (like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano)
Good Balsamic vinegar* 

To make a salad for one, add a few handfuls of your greens to a large bowl.  Slice in a few fresh strawberries and drizzle with Balsamic vinegar (about a tablespoon, you can add some sugar or oil to cut the flavor if you prefer).  Toss together. Shave a few thin pieces of cheese over the top and enjoy.
*(I'm obsessed with the fig Balsamic vinegar from Old Town Oil)

Salad with Dried Figs, Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Salad close up

I've finally packed away my winter coats, tulips and spearmint are coming up in the backyard, and there is ample sunlight to enjoy after I leave work -- I'm even thinking of investing in a bike to brave the city streets -- something that has always terrified me given Chicago drivers.  

Every May I'm hit with a sudden and forceful desire to eat nothing but fresh fruit, salads and sorbet.  This particular salad is one of my recent favorites, and it would be perfect to share with your mother this weekend.


The recipe is from Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans. Though, lucky for us, it can also be found on Cookstr. The sweetness of the figs combined with the salty cheese and the savory dressing create a complex and wonderfully balanced salad.  

I'm taking the train out to see my mother this weekend and on Wednesday I am flying to Argentina for a much anticipated vacation.  I reserved the tickets nearly ten months ago and I can hardly believe it's finally happening.  I have some much needed site maintenance to attend to, like updating my sorely out of date links, but the housekeeping will have to wait until I return.  

Easter Recipes

I'll be spending Easter with my family this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park at our beautiful local Opera House with my mother, going for a long run on low-traffic rural roads, meeting the new baby my cousin and his wife recently added to the family, and spending time with my paternal grandparents who just returned from their winter sojourn in California. And all this will take place before Easter Sunday.  

Growing up, Easter was the big holiday that my family hosted.  We are light on culinary traditions, but the house was always full of family and well-hidden Easter baskets. Our numbers have dwindled over the years as people move away or add to their own families.  This year we are having a small group and my mother is hoping no one fusses too much over the food. She has the menu mapped out, but I may still try to sneak one or two of my favorite recipes into the spread. How does one best travel by train with a popover pan?

For those of you planning your holiday table, here are a few recipe ideas that may complement your main course.

Roasted Beet, Arugula and Goat Cheese Crostini

Bruschetta copy 

Winter has been getting me down lately.  I'm craving sunlight and vegetables, and feeling more than a bit lethargic and broke. I think things began a downward turn when I returned to work after the Christmas holiday to find, not a bonus or a holiday greeting, but a note from my employer stating that, since they had decided to close the office on December 26th and January 2nd, all of the employees were being docked two vacation days.  I'm glad to still have a job and all, but jeez, happy holidays huh?  

It's high time to fit a bright dish into the dreary winter landscape, and to be grateful for the good things that have recently come to pass. I have been going a bit beet crazy this winter and I  thought it might be a good time to share one of my favorite seasonal appetizers with you (it also makes a great, light lunch).  This dish can be prepared easily and transported for fast assembly at another location. You'll want to adjust the recipe for the crowd you plan to serve, but this recipe will make about 20 crostini. 
Bruschetta2 copy

Roasted Beet, Arugula and Goat Cheese Crostini


Half a fresh, high-quality baguette
3 large beets
4 ounces goat cheese, or more to taste
2 large handfuls of fresh arugula
olive oil


Preheat the oven to 375F

To roast the beets, rinse the beets and cover with foil.  Roast in the oven at 375F for about an hour, or until easily pierced with a fork.  Let cool slightly and chop off the root and stem ends.  Rub with your hands to remove the skins.  Cut into 1/4 inch slices.  (If you are in a rush, this works just fine with canned beets -- just make sure the only ingredients on the can are beets and salt and that you let them drain thouroughly.)

Increase the oven temperature to 400F

Slice the baguette thinly, between a 1/4 and 1/2 an inch thick.  Arrange the slices on a baking sheet, brush each slice with olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Let toast in the 400F oven for about 8 minutes, or until the slices begin to turn a light golden color.  Remove and let cool.

Spread a thin layer of goat cheese on each crostini (or more to taste).   Place a beet slice on each and top with three or four leaves of arugula. 

*If you will transporting the crostini to another location.  Spread each crostini with goat cheese and gently stack in a container.  Line a second container with aluminum foil and place the beet slices inside.  Cover the beet slices with another piece of foil and place your arugula on top.

Semolina Crackers


It's no secret that I love cheese.  While a good, crusty bread is typically my preferred accompaniment, I'll occasionally find myself staring at four dollar cracker boxes wondering if the selection is worth the money.  Making my own always sounded like a good solution, but the various recipes I tried yielded unexciting results -- until recently. 


Nick and I hosted a birthday party for our friend Harold a few weeks ago and I came upon Wild Yeast's excellent cracker recipe just in time for the occasion. Susan's recipe calls for some special equipment like a kitchen scale, pasta roller and a baking stone. I don't own a pasta roller, so I decided to try my luck rolling the dough out with my trusty french rolling pin. I was able to get the sheets of dough very thin without much effort (just make sure your working surface and your pin are generously floured).  I will say that the kitchen scale and the baking stone are important elements of the recipe, however.

I only made one change to the recipe.  In lieu of sesame seeds I made one batch with freshly ground black pepper and one batch with caraway seeds.  I dusted both with coarse Kosher salt before baking. 

I agree with Susan, it will be a long time before I purchase packaged crackers again!

Napa Cabbage Salad

Salad2 copy

After years of hoarding cookbooks that I rarely use as anything but reading material, I've surprised myself recently by turning to their recipes more and more.  When my mother asked me to make a salad for our Christmas dinner, this simple dish from Alice Waters caught my eye.  Cabbage and apples go together almost as well as snow on Christmas. Throw in some nuts, cheese, and a creamy dressing and you have a crisp salad that will brighten any winter table. 

Salad1 copy

Napa Cabbage Salad

Adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit

Serves 6


1 small savoy cabbage
1/3 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese


Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage.  Cut in half and remove the core.  Thinly slice the the remaining cabbage.

Toast the walnuts until fragrant over medium heat.  When toasted to your liking, coarsely crush the walnuts with a mortar and pestle.

In a medium bowl, mix the vinegar, lemon juice, some salt, and a generous amount of pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and then the heavy cream. Taste and adjust the acid and salt as desired.

Thinly slice the apples.  Toss the cabbage, apples, walnuts, and blue cheese with the dressing and an extra pinch of salt. Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, taste again, adjust the seasoning as needed, and serve.

Roasted Red Peppers and Peas


When it is really hot out, I find that I enjoy small snacks in place of large meals. Grazing on nuts, fruits and cheeses with a cool drink in hand is a relaxing way to spend a humid evening. Hummus is a delicious (and quick) addition to any lazy dinner or appetizer spread, and these easy embellishments on the standard chickpea fare will add flavor and and a splash of color.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


.75 C roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
2 Tbl tahini
1 Tbl olive oil
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
.5 tsp salt


Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth. Serve on pita or crostini and garnish with a basil leaf for color.

Pea and Ricotta "Hummus"

(Adapted from 101Cookbooks)


1 C fresh peas (or frozen, thawed)
.3 C ricotta cheese
1 Tbl olive oil
.25 tsp salt
.5 small shallot, minced
.25 C freshly grated Parmesan
zest of half a lemon


Add the peas, ricotta, olive oil, and salt to a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve on pita or crostini and garnish with a shallot sliver for color.

Radish and Buttermilk Soup


I primarily find myself using buttermilk in baking recipes, where it's tangy flavor adds unmatched depth to biscuits or pancakes.  However, I always enjoy using the leftover portion from the quart in simple recipes that play-up buttermilk's unique taste.  This soup takes minutes to make and is wonderfully refreshing.

Radish and Buttermilk Soup
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 2 - 3


1.25 C radishes, quartered
2 C seedless cucumber, sliced (and peeled if you would like)
2 C chilled buttermilk, well-shaken
1 tsp salt
1 tsp rice vinegar
.5 tsp sugar


Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Serve chilled.

Miso Coleslaw Salad

From the archives.

A simple miso soup is one of my favorite winter meals.  Miso paste will keep in the refrigerator for at least six months (or some same, indefinitely), but from time to time I like to look for new ways to use it so that I can justify the purchase of a new jar. Some time ago I created the following miso salad and it has remained one of my favorite sides.  It is creamy and satisfying, and takes just minutes to put together.

Miso Coleslaw Salad
Serves 4


1 Tbl canola oil mayonnaise
1/2 Tbl rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbl yellow miso
1 tsp fresh ginger - grated
salt & pepper
2 C shredded vegetables


Mix all but the last two ingredients together, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss with the vegetables.  I prefer a thinner dressing, so you may want adjust some ingredients to achieve your desired consistency.

Cheddar Gougères


From the archives.

If you are looking for a quick appetizer to keep your guests entertained this week, Cheddar Gougères are a delicious option. These airy, eggy, crusty puffs of pâte à choux are delicious right out of the oven. It might take a few attempts to get the pâte à choux the right consistency, but once it comes out correctly it will be simple in the future.  Try a test run tonight and enjoy them warm with a salad or soup.

Traditionally, gougères are made with Gruyère cheese.  I enjoy the bite of sharp Cheddar, but feel free to use any cheese that will grate well and is of a similar fat content.  You may also want to try adding fresh herbs such as dill, rosemary or chives.

Cheddar Gougères
Adapted from Party Appetizers by Tori Ritchie

Makes about 40 - 50 Gougères.  (This is a lot.)


1 C water

8 Tbl unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 tsp salt

1 C flour

4 eggs

1 1/2 tsp mustard powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 C shredded sharp Cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with Silpat mats or parchment paper.

Combine the water, butter and salt in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring to combine until the butter is melted.

Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.

Turn off the heat and add the flour.  Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Remove the pan from the stove and allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes, do not stir.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating with the wooden spoon to fully incorporate after each addition.

With each addition, the dough will look glossy at first, but eventually regain its texture and stick to the sides of the pan again.

Once all of the eggs have been added, add the mustard powder and cayenne and beat to incorporate.  Then add the cheese and beat to incorporate.

Scoop one-inch balls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about one-inch between them.

Bake until the gougères are puffed up and golden, about 25 minutes.  For best results, rotated the baking sheets half way through.

Brussels Sprouts with White Beans


I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I ate my first Brussels sprout a mere 5 years ago.  I'm not entirely sure why these delightful vegetables get such a bad wrap, or why I unwittingly fell for it.  Though, I do know that Brussels sprouts have become one of my favorite fall vegetables.

I've also recently become obsessed with the buttery, nutty cannellini bean.  On many evenings over the past few months I have enjoyed the beans simply warmed in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I was pleased to find a recipe recently that combined both of these ingredients.


Brussels Sprouts with White Beans

adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 8 as a side or 2 as a main dish.


2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved

6 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup vegetable broth

3 tbl olive oil

1 tbl butter

2 tbl shredded Parmesan cheese

2 tbl pine nuts

4 strips of bacon (I used vegetarian bacon.  If you use regular bacon, you could cook it first and fry the Brussels sprouts in the fat for a richer flavor.)

salt and pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over high heat.  Add half of the Brussels Sprouts and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the second half. 

Heat the last tablespoon of oil over high heat.  Add the garlic and stir constantly until brown (not black). 

Add the vegetable stock and Brussels sprouts, cook for 3 minutes.

Add the beans and butter and cook until liquid is reduced, abut one more minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a large bowl and mix in bacon, Parmesan and pine nuts.  Serve warm.

While this would make a lovely side dish, it also makes a great meal for a chilly night.

Tomatillo Salsa


Nick took me to Frontera Grill last year to celebrate my (then) new job.  Among the many Rick Bayless dishes we enjoy, his roasted tomatillo salsa is high on the list.


I bought Nick Mexican Everyday for his recent birthday and decided to try my hand at the salsa recipe this evening.  This salsa is a step away from the standard, quite simple and very quick.  Most well-stocked grocery stores should carry tomatillos and serranos.


Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless


5 Medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed and halved
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 serrano green chile, stemmed and chopped
1/2 C loosely packed cilantro, chopped

In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, place the tomatillo halves (cut side down) and garlic cloves.  Let brown for about 4 minutes.  Rotate with tongs and brown the other side.  The tomatillos will become quite soft.

Scrape the tomatillos, garlic and any browned pieces into a food processor.  Let cool for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the cilantro and chile.  Add these to the food processor along with a small pinch of salt and 1/4 C water.  Blend well and chill. Serve with tortilla chips.


Gazpacho Andaluz


I'm attending a dinner party this evening and was asked to bring a soup.  While looking at the Saveur website recently, as I often do, I came across this recipe for Gazpacho Andaluz.  After wandering around in the sun in search of sherry vinegar and the perfect country-style bread to thicken the soup I came home and set to it.


The soup turned out quite well.  I am curious if there is any good way to seed a tomato that one of you might know of?  I felt like I was wasting nearly half of each with my method.  Is this just how it is?  In the future I might simply chop the tomatoes and add them, seeds and all, to the food processor and remove them by way of the straining process later in the recipe.  Also, I might add a hint of garlic (ooh, or roasted garlic would be even better if you are serving this in cool months like me) and a small bit of onion to the mixture before processing.  Overall, I am pleased with this recipe and I am greatly anticipating dinner in a few hours!

Bruschetta with Impressive Wilted Greens


Our garden has recently produced some beautiful tomatoes. Just before we packed up our kitchen I made John and I some bruschetta using a recipe from a cookbook that my brother edited at Grinnell College. The book, Fantasia of Flavors, was named after the food house my brother lived in last year at school.


I had been wanting to make something from this cookbook ever since he had given it to me a few months ago and this recipe title tickled me. I made a few changes due to the ingredients we wanted to use up.

Bruschetta with Impressive Wilted Greens

1 baguette (cut lenghtwise)
greens (I used swiss chard)
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan
1 cup of whole almonds
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
garlic clove
coarse sea salt
ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Boil a pot of salted water. Add the greens once it has reached a rolling boil and remove it from the heat.

Cut the garlic clove in half and rub each piece of bread with it. Coarsely chop the garlic and arrange on the bread. Place on a baking sheet and then into the preheated oven for about 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove the greens from the water and dry on a paper towel.

Remove bread from the oven and and sprinkle each piece with olive oil, coarse sea salt, and ground black pepper. Spread the dried greens evenly over the bread to cover. Sprinkle with the parmesan, dot with the almonds and pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar generously over this. Add a bit more coarse sea salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Place into the preheated oven once again and bake about 10 minutes. Serve at once.


I also made another type of bruschetta following the above recipe, though omitting the swiss chard, parmesan, and almonds in favor of basil and fresh tomatoes.

Thanks Evan! (I would also like to thank the writers/contributers: Katie Kleese, Brendan Mackie, Ilan Moscovitz and the photographer: Serge Giachetti)

Cheddar Gougères


One afternoon this past weekend I decided to make Gougères.  These airy, eggy, crusty puffs of pâte à choux are delicious right out of the oven.  Traditionally they are made with Gruyère, yet I used this recipe from Leite's Culinaria (and omitted the chives because I did not have them on hand).  This is such a quick appetizer to make.  It might take a few attempts to get the pâte à choux the right consistency, but once it comes out correctly it will be simple in the future.