Syrian Onion Bread


Today is World Bread Day. Kochtopf is hosting the third annual World Bread Day baking round up, and I made a batch to help celebrate.  In the spirit of the event, I decided to make something that I hadn't tried before and from another part of the world.  I came across a version of this recipe in Bread by Christine Ingram.  I made a few adjustments in order to achieve a smooth dough and account for dehydrated yeast. 

This bread is light and yeasty.  It expertly soaks up pasta sauce or gravy, but can also be split to use like pita bread.  The flavor combination in the topping is quite unique, but it works well.


Syrian Onion Bread
Adapted from Bread by Ingram


4 C bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 package yeast
1.25 C lukewarm water (plus extra as needed)

4 Tbl finely chopped onion
1 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp chopped fresh mint
2 Tbl olive oil

lightly flour 2 baking sheets


Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl.

Mix the yeast with the water and cover with plastic film.  Let it rest in a warm place for ten minutes.  You should see bubbles/froth on the top if your yeast is active.

Add the yeast mixture to the center of the flour and mix to a firm dough.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Slowly add more water after several minutes of kneading, if necessary. 

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clear film. Leave to rise in a warm place for one hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough and turn on to a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Roll each out to 5-6 inch rounds, making them slightly concave. Prick each round all over with fork tines and space well apart on the sheets. Cover and leave to rise for 20 minutes.


Preheat oven to 400F.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

Brush the breads with olive oil and sprinkle the topping evenly over each round.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden.  Serve warm.

Squash and Spinach Gratin


Over the past three weeks, I've been getting to know our new oven and fantasizing about the hearty fare that will take us through the fall and winter.  Our apartment has an open layout with a somewhat outdated kitchen, but items like a trusty oven thermometer, a lovely island from Craigslist, and the bold colors of my mother's vintage Fiestaware are quickly making it home.

I have also jumped head-first into the daunting task of organizing all of my recipe clippings.  So far, I have organized the bulk of my recipes (a pile of pages four inches thick) into hanging files with no less than 16 categories.  The recipes that I have tested and enjoyed are in a second pile that will eventually be stored in a three-ring binder with cooking notes and suggestions.

To initiate my fall cooking endeavors, I pulled a recipe from the November 2006 Gourmet out of the stack.  It turned out so well that it was quickly upgraded to the "three-ring binder" pile. 

Squash and Spinach Gratin
Adapted from Gourmet


3 (10-oz) packages frozen, chopped leaf spinach, thawed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter plus additional for greasing pan
1 small Vidalia onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
4 lb butternut squash (2 large), peeled, quartered, and seeded
2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Thoroughly squeeze spinach in small handfuls to remove excess moisture and transfer to a bowl.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in an 8-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat.  Cook onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion mixture to spinach along with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cream and stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish.

Cut squash to separate bulb section from solid neck section, then cut pieces  into 1/8-inch-thick slices.  An adjustable blade slicer is extremely helpful here.

Layer squash and spinach mixture in baking dish, using about one fifth of squash and one fourth of spinach for each layer, beginning and ending with squash. Top each layer with a portion of the grated cheese.

Sprinkle top layer of squash with cheese and dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  Cover with tin foil and bake until squash is tender and filling is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake gratin until browned in spots, 10 to 15 minutes, or broil 3 inches from heat, 2 to 3 minutes.


I've been playing around with the site a bit.  I hope you don't mind.  One day my brother will help me design a fancy site, but he is busy with people who actually pay him for web design at the moment.  Feel free to offer your input as I screw around with things like the banner and the picture format.  I have received fairly universal, "It looks too harsh" feedback from the opinions I solicited thus far.

This weekend I will be covering a portion of the Chicago Gourmet festival for Gapers Block.  I'll be attending two seminars tomorrow:

Pairing Fine Cheese With Craft Beer
Greg Hall, Brewmaster, Goose Island Beer Company

Baking Techniques: Molecular Gastronomy vs. Artisan Baking
Mindy Segal, Hot Chocolate and Pichet Ong, P*ONG

Ken's Artisan Bakery


Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon is largely responsible for my obsession with high quality breads. This was the first good U.S. bakery I encountered that branched out from whole grain loaves to stunning European-style breads and pastries.  Ken's brioche and cafe au lait became common study partners for me over those years, and I was truly sad to leave this wonderful bakery behind when I moved back to Chicago.


When Nick and I arrived at the Portland train station, we made our way directly to Ken's for lunch.  Though we had decided on sandwiches, I couldn't resist purchasing one of their mouthwatering croissants.  While explaining to Nick the reasons behind this addition to our lunch menu, the woman in front of us turned around to agree saying, "I lived in France for five years and I keep a vegan diet, but when I am back in Portland I always come here for one. They are the best."


Nick ordered the Pulled Pork Barbecue on a ciabatta roll with fennel coleslaw (pictured first).  I ordered the Croque Portabello with bechamel, fresh thyme, and Gruyere on country bread.  While the train food was better than we had expected, devouring these divine sandwiches helped remind us that good food should taste fresh and satisfying. 

Anyone who may fancy themselves a bread nerd should look at the "Essays" section on the Ken's Artisan Bakery website. With titles like, "What is Good Bread" and " Preferments for Better Living," Ken's essays are not only endearing, but full of first-hand advice from a baker that very clearly loves good bread.

Ken's Artisan Bakery
338 NW 21st Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209

Tonight we are going to see Heart (You stay away from "Barracuda", Sarah Palin!) and on Sunday, after months of fundraising and training, I run the Chicago Half Marathon.  Wish me luck!


Northwest Fast Food

My recent trip to the northwest was by all accounts delicious.  I already shared our train adventure with you, and while there are some elaborate meals that I will divulge in due time, I'd like to share one of my favorite guilty pleasures with you: Burgerville.

Those of you who live in the northwest may be rolling your eyes a bit, but if so, you truly don't know what a little gem you have.  While many of us try to stick to fresh and healthy foods, sometimes only a basket of onion rings and a milkshake will fit the bill.  Now, imagine if  those onion rings were made from local Walla Walla sweet onions and the milkshake was flavored with blackberries from a family farm 20 miles away.  This is something I took for granted when I lived in Portland, but miss when I am looking for some kind of "fast food" in Chicago.


Burgerville was founded in 1961 on three tenets: Fresh, Local, Sustainable.  They use local, vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free beef in their burgers, cage-free eggs in their breakfast items, and hormone-free milk.  They even include biodegradable garden pots and vegetable seed packets in their kids meals. The menu changes seasonally with local ingredients and you don't have to be embarrassed about making meal modifications based on allergies or dietary choices. 


Oh Burgerville...  You make me want to franchise.


In other news, I will be on the tasting panel at the first annual Chicago Luxury Chocolate Salon this weekend. (September 7th from 11 am to 5 pm.)

Featured chocolatiers and confectioners include: Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, The Chocolate Traveler, Cyndy's Sweet Treats, Guittard Chocolate, Confection Diva, Chocolate Gourmet , Katherine Anne Confections, Divine Chocolate USA, rr Chocolats, Mayana Chocolate, Coco Delice Fine Chocolates, Nespresso, Ventana Vineyards, Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Cream Liqueur,, Chocolate For Your Body, and more.

Tickets are $17.50 in advance; $20 at the door.

Eating on the Empire Builder


Before I took a recent train trip from Chicago to Portland, I looked for information on what to expect from the Amtrak dining car.  My search was largely fruitless. To help fill this gap for future riders, I posted an account of my dining experience at Gapers Block, a Chicago-based website that I also write for.  You can read it here.

Nick and I are in the middle of moving to a new neighborhood.  So far, the process has been substantially annoying due to landlord snafus.  We are hoping to be installed in the new apartment late tonight.  I will be back posting regular content as soon as we are settled!

The Best Granola


About one year ago I made my first batch of homemade granola using the Rancho La Puerta recipe.  The results were good and I gave away small gift bags of it around the holidays. I spent some time trying to modify the recipe to exactly suit my tastes -- but on a recent vacation to the San Juan Islands, I found that the Harrison House Bed and Breakfast had already done the work for me.  They served us the best granola I have ever tasted.

On that first morning I decided that I wasn't leaving without the recipe.  Luckily, this was an easy task thanks to the cookbook they sell, which one of our party purchased.  (They also sell their granola on their website.)

This hearty granola is heavy on the nuts, light on the grain, and has the perfect spice and sweetness.  It won a blue ribbon at the San Juan County Fair.

Harrison House Granola
Adapted from La Cucina Anna Maria


7 C steel cut oats
.5 C brown sugar
.5 C light olive oil
.5 tsp sea salt
.5 C almonds
.5 C pecans
.5 C cashews
.5 C raw pumpkin seeds
.5 C sesame seeds
.5 C flax seed meal
.5 C millet
.5 C oat bran
.5 C unsweetened coconut
.5 C raw sunflower seeds
.75 C honey
1 Tbl vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon


Preheat oven to 300F

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Clumps are OK.

Spread mixture on two large baking sheets, lined with silicone mats.

Bake about 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until lightly toasted.

Remove from oven and let cool on sheets, stirring periodically.  The granola will continue to cook.

Store in airtight containers when cool.

(More photos of San Juan can be found here on my flickr site.)

Blueberry Stout Mustard

P8040047_5Nick and I are embarking on vacation.  We are taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland, Oregon where we will meet up with my family for my  Matt and Anastasia's wedding. From there we will travel to Mt. Rainier, the San Juan Islands, and Seattle.

I leave you with this quick recipe for blueberry stout mustard.  Nick and I made a batch to take with us on the train. Blueberry Stout Mustard Ingredients

.25 C dry mustard powder .25 C coarsely ground mustard seed .25 C cold water .25 blueberry stout (a regular stout will work just fine) .5 Tbl light brown sugar .25 tsp salt


Combine the water, mustard powder and seeds in a small saucepan to make a paste. Slowly add the stout. Simmer over very low heat, stirring constantly, for about 15 minutes.  The mixture will thicken. Stir in the sugar and salt and continue stirring and simmering for 5 more minutes.

See you in two weeks!

Audrey's Raspberry Chocolate Torte


I received so many emails when I posted the photo of Audrey's luscious Raspberry Chocolate Torte, that I decided to ask her if she would allow me to post the recipe.  We are in luck, thanks Audrey!

Audrey's Raspberry Chocolate Torte

For the Torte:


12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 lb unsalted butter
1 C dark brown sugar
.5 C seedless raspberry preserves
.5 C raspberry liquid (made from cooking down unsweetened frozen raspberries)
8 eggs, slightly beaten


Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl.
Heat until the butter, sugar, preserves and raspberry liquid until boiling.  Keep stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Pour the mixture over the chocolate.
Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Keep whisking as you very slowly pour eggs into chocolate mixture.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Trace and cut out parchment to fit  bottom of a  9 inch springform pan and wrap pan with heavy duty aluminum foil all the way up the sides, using one big sheet. 
Heat oven to 350F.

Place pan into roasting pan.  Add boiling water into roasting pan until water comes halfway up sides of pan.

Bake 45 minutes to one hour.  Place on cooling rack.  Rub thin blade knife around inside of pan to loosen torte.  Cool, then chill over night.

For the Chocolate Glaze:


8 oz semisweet chocolate
12 Tbl unsalted butter
5 tsp chambord or raspberry liquor
1 Tbl cornstarch


Heat all in small saucepan over low heat.  Stir and make sure it does not boil or burn.  Heat until smooth.

To assemble:

Remove sides from  pan.  Cut a piece of cardboard to fit torte.  Set on top, then invert torte.  Place on pedestal.

Slide knife between pan bottom and paper to release.  Press lightly on cake to smooth out any uneven spots.

Pour warm glaze over torte, letting it coat sides.  Pour fast as it sets up quickly.

If you want to decorate, let glaze set in fridge and then decorate. I melted Ghirardelli white chocolate and then drizzled it over the top and sides.  Keep refrigerated!

*Note she also included some of the reduced raspberry liquid and some fresh mint for a beautiful garnish.

The Petrie Family Applesauce Cake


My grandmother, Mary Lou, always brings a delicious applesauce cake to family birthdays.  The cake is hearty and wholesome and it is dressed with a decadent penuche frosting -- and often a small bouquet of wildflowers.

I recently asked her to share the recipe with me and she sent along some family history as well.

"It is an old family recipe from your grandfather Landon's mother, Lillian Yarrington. She likely learned to make it from her mother. Lillian was a southern girl from the state of Virginia. Merton Petrie met her there as he accompanied a load of cattle by rail from Wisconsin to Virginia. He brought her back as a bride to Lake Geneva.

There was no recipe of the applesauce cake to follow. Mom would put in a little of this and that by guess and practice, so the cake was never exactly the same each time . I used to watch her do this. One day we asked her daughter, Mary, to try to determine what her measurements were as she was making another cake so we could duplicate it. That resulted in the cake we make today."

Applesauce cake


2 C sugar
.5 C shortening
1 square baking chocolate
2 C applesauce
3 tsp baking soda (dissolved in 1 tbl hot water)
2.5 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp nutmeg
1 C raisins


Preheat oven to 350F, grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking dish

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and spices.

Heat the applesauce and add the baking chocolate, allowing it to melt.  Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and add to the heated applesauce. 

In a separate bowl, combine the shortening and sugar -- beat until light and fluffy.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the applesauce mixture to the shortening and sugar.  Combine but do not over mix.  Add the raisins.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool while you make the frosting.

Penuche Frosting


.5 C butter
1 C brown sugar
.25 C milk
2.25 C confectioners' sugar


Melt butter. Stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook until the it pulls away from the sides and bottom of the pan.

Boil for two minutes. Stir in milk; heat to boiling, remove from heat, stir in confectioners' sugar. Beat smooth with electric beaters.

Spread onto the cake immediately.  It will set as soon as it is spread.

Thank you for preserving this delicious piece of family history grandmother!

Hot Doug's Dogs Breakfast

Hotdoug_4One of our favorite restaurants in Chicago, Hot Doug's, is hosting a contest to create a new menu offering -- and Nick is one of the four finalists selected by Doug himself!

Nick submitted the following:

Hot Doug’s Dog’s Breakfast
Breakfast sausage, candied bacon, black pepper goat cheese, blackberry reduction, maple syrup. Toasted bun.


Please vote for him here!

(Image from Time Out Chicago)

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.

Almond and Pear Tart


Last weekend I attended my friend Carrie's bridal shower in Woodstock.  Carrie lives in Costa Rica where she teaches third grade. My mother helped plan the shower and asked if I would be willing to make a dessert.

Perhaps my favorite go-to dessert is this Almond and Pear Tart.  It is relatively easy, looks impressive and and tastes delicious without being overwhelming.


It also paired beautiful with the other dessert -- this gorgeous and decadent Raspberry Chocolate Torte that our neighbor Audrey prepared.

The shower was nice and relaxed, and I was able to catch up with a few old friends. Carrie and Yishai will be married this weekend. Wishing all the best to this handsome couple!


Almond and Pear Tart

(Adapted from Gourmet 2001)


1 C almonds, skinless and lightly toasted
.5 C sugar
.25 C AP flour
6 Tbl unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
.5 tsp almond extract
1 tart shell
3 firm-ripe pears (Bosc or Anjou)*
.25 C apricot preserves, heated and strained
2 Tbl sliced almonds for garnish (optional)

(*Canned pears, halved and packed in pear juice (not heavy syrup) will work.  Just be sure to drain the halves well and let them sit between paper towels for a bit.)


Preheat oven to 350F

In a food processor, pulse the nuts with .25 C of the sugar until finely ground.  Add the flour and pulse to combine.

In a medium bowl beat the butter and .25 C sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in extracts. Gently incorporate the nut mixture until just combined.

Spread the filling evenly into the prepared tart shell.  Peel, halve and core the pears.  Cut them crosswise into .25 inch slices, holding the slices together to retain the pear shape.  Gently transfer the slices of each pear-half to the tart, arranging decoratively and fanning the slices slightly apart.

Bake until the tarts shell, pears and filling are golden brown -- about 30 - 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush the pears (not the filling) with the preserves to keep them from drying out.  Cool the tart completely on a wire rack.  Remove the sides of the tart pan just before serving.


Nick met me at the train when I returned to Chicago and we were greeted with this unusual double rainbow!

In other news, Eileen and I spent a truly memorable night at the Vic Theatre watching Liz Phair play Exile in Guyville in its entirety on Tuesday night. This album made a huge impression on me growing up, and you could tell from the crowd that I wasn't alone.

I'm also getting close to my AIDS Marathon funding goal.  As of this morning, I only need $375 more!  You can read about my training and learn how to donate at my Chicago Half Marathon website.

Pea Dumplings


When Heidi posted her Plump Pea Dumpling recipe on 101 Cookbooks a few weeks ago, I was mesmerized by her photos.  I tried my hand at this quick and easy dish this evening with great success.  I opted to fry the dumplings rather than steam them.  They quickly turned a deep golden brown and were delicious served with tamari.


The filling was bright and flavorful, with a nice zestiness from the lemon and shallot.  If you are looking for a quick summer dinner, this is great recipe to keep handy.

(The filling is delicious on its own and would make a great dip for raw vegetables or pita bread.)

Recent Events


A variety of events have kept me busy over the last few weeks.  I thought I would give you a quick rundown as I plot my next post.

ZAP Zinfandel Tasting: I was recently invited to the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers annual tasting. My fellow Gaper's Block staffer, Andie, was also in attendance and posted a thorough write-up of the event. My favorite wine of the evening was definitely the anomaly in the group; Meeker Winery's FroZin, a Zinfandel ice wine so delicious, I almost want to take it upon myself to find them a Midwestern distributor so that I can taste it again.*

Brunch at Roy's: The folks over at Roy's Chicago recently added a brunch menu.  Nick and I were invited to sample the decadent three-course meal. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much out of a "Hawaiian fusion" menu, but I was proven wrong.  The standout dishes for us were the appetizers.  Nick ordered the "House Cured Salmon with cucumber ribbons, granny smith apple, watercress and caraway lemon dressing" and I ordered the "Wild Mushroom, Brie & Ricotta Ravioli with crispy leeks and asiago tomato cream" (pictured above).  Additionally, the Lilikoi cream on the fruit they served was superb.  The brunch is pricey ($26.95 for the regular prix fixe menu and $38.95 for the same menu plus "bottomless" mimosas), but I think Roy's would be a nice choice for a special event.*

World Pastry Cup 2009 Reception: The 11th Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie will take place in Lyon, France on January 25-26, 2009.  I was invited to a cocktail reception for the chefs that will be competing on the U.S. team this year.  The chefs had been working diligently on impressive pieces for each of the competition categories: ice sculpting, chocolate and sugar.  We had our fill of hor d'oeuvres and sweets, but the highlight of the evening was the chocolate cake.  A take on a black forest cake, this dessert boasts layers of hazelnut flour and passion fruit cake, dark chocolate cream, and gold leaf (photo: bottom left).  The cake won the U.S. team first prize in the chocolate category during the 2007 competition. The event was sponsored by Valrhona Chocolate and we were happy to be sent home with ten delicious chocolate bars. (Terry of Blue Kitchen was also in attendance, see his write-up here.)*

Urban Golf: My friends and I hosted the 3rd annual Memorial Day weekend urban golf event (CUDGEL).  We had a huge turnout and a few minor catastrophes, but all in all it was the event we have all grown to love. You can find more photos here.

Running: Most of you have probably noticed my marathon link on this page.  I will be up to six miles this Saturday.  The running is going well, save for some shin splints that I am nursing, but the fundraising is not.  I have a few more weeks to decide if I can run with the AIDS Marathon group, or if I should just sign up for general entry.

*Please note that these invitations were complimentary, but that I chose to write about them on my own volition.


On Sunday I met Chicago food bloggers Joanna and Karin at Montrose Harbor for an early summer picnic.  I made 101 Cookbooks' Citrus Parmesan Farro Salad.  It turned out nicely and kept fairly well for lunch the next day.


Karin brought a rice salad with shrimp, tuna and smoked salmon from the Splendid Table cookbook and her partner, Carl, brought these beautiful tandoori chicken kabobs.


Joanna brought quite a spread including tarragon butter and radish sandwiches:
Goat cheese stuffed peppadew peppers. (These peppers were new to me. I really loved their sweet and tangy flavor.)

And sweet white wine coolers.  She soaked green grapes in sugar and white wine for about three hours.  The wine was then combined with lemon zest and served with lemon slices and seltzer water.  It was a perfect and refreshing picnic beverage. (The boozy grapes were delicious too.)
It was a lovely few hours.  We hope to plan a similar, larger event later in the summer.  If you live in Chicago and would like to join us, send me an email and I will put you on the invite list.

Vegetable Chili and Cornbread


We began our long weekend by making a big pot of vegetable chili and a loaf of cornbread to accompany it. The house smelled delicious and the food was hearty and satisfying.  (It also makes for a great lunch on the following days.) I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.  The Memorial Day Urban Golf event was a great success.  You can view some pictures of the event here.


Vegetable Chili
Serves 6


3 Tbl olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
3 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
1 4-ounce can diced mild green chilies
3 Tbl chili powder
1 Tbl ground cumin
1 Tbl dried oregano
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
2 green bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 10-ounce package frozen corn kernels
salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Cheddar cheese to serve
Sour cream to serve


In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and carrots and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (with juice), chilies, and spices. Cook 10 minutes.  Add the beans, peppers and corn. Reduce heat and simmer for about 35 minutes, until thickened. Stir occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Adapted from Bread by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter


.75 C AP flour
1.5 C yellow cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1.5 Tbl baking powder
1 Tbl sugar
4 Tbl butter, melted
1 C milk
3 eggs
7-ounces canned sweetcorn, drained


Preheat oven to 400F. Grease an 8.5 in cake tin.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center.  In a separate bowl combine the butter, milk, and eggs. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the sweetcorn and pour into the prepared tin.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Invert bread onto a wire rack and cool slightly.  Serve warm with honey or butter.

3rd Annual Urban Golf Event


This post is bit off-topic, but those of you that live in Chicago are cordially invited to a little event that my friends and I put on each year:

The third annual Chicago Urban Devils Golf Enthusiasts' League (CUDGEL) Memorial Day weekend event will take place this Sunday, May 25th. Participation is limited to 50 people and costs $5 a person.  You must pre-register your team of two to before the day of the event.  Meet at Tuman's (2159 W. Chicago Ave.) at 1 pm.  Participants must be over 21 years of age and should bring a golf club and money for drinks/food/tips.  Costumes, bribery and creative cheating are always encouraged.

For more information:

Argo Georgian Bakery - Revisited


After reading about the Republic of Georgia in the "cooking vacations" portion of the May Gourmet Magazine, I couldn't stop thinking about Argo Georgian Bakery.  I posted about my love of Argo over at Gapers Block on Friday and was lucky enough to make a trip up to Devon with Nick this afternoon. 

I haven't made khachapuri in a long time, but I plan to soon.  The Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein is the best Georgian cookbook available, in my opinion, and provides the recipe that I typically use.  However, you could also try Nigella Lawson's recipe that The Traveler's Lunchbox provides (along with some stunning photos) or the recipe published in the aforementioned issue of Gourmet.

Warm Wild Rice Salad


I had quite a whirlwind weekend.  I was up at 6 am for marathon training on Saturday, met my mother at an Alzheimer's convention near the airport, and then drove with her to attend the Visakha day festival in Woodstock. Sunday morning I had an appointment with my dentist, followed by brunch with my father's side of the family, followed by a short visit with my maternal grandmother, a long drive back to Chicago, and a short run with a friend. 

The point of the entire visit was to retrieve my parent's van in order to retrieve Nick from school later this week.  It will be nice to have him back and a relief to never take the Chicago to Champaign leg of the Amtrak line ever again.  I'm looking forward to slower weekends, evening walks, and dinner parties.


I've recently found that when I'm feeling rundown and overwhelmed, a warm bowl of wild rice, bright vegetables and pillows of goat cheese can make for a soothing evening.  Here is simple recipe that yields impressive results.

Warm Wild Rice Salad
Serves 2 - 3


1 C wild rice (I use Lundberg rice)
Vegetable bullion
.5 C slivered almonds
1 Tbl olive oil
10 cherry tomatoes
15 stalks of asparagus
3 garlic cloves
1 Tbl chopped basil from a jar (or 2 Tbl fresh)
2 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper


Cook the rice according to package instructions.  (Add the amount of water called for and enough bouillon for the water volume.)  It will take about 50 minutes for the rice to cook.

Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes in half.  Trim the asparagus and cut into one inch pieces.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Using a garlic press, press the garlic directly into the pan (if you do not have a garlic press, mincing the garlic works fine).  Add the vegetables and toss frequently.  Season with salt and pepper.  Near the end of cooking (when the asparagus is bright and tender, and the tomato skins are blistering), add the basil and toss to coat.

When the wild rice is done, combine the rice and the vegetables in a large serving bowl, add small pieces of goat cheese, the slivered almonds, and toss. Season to taste.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Recipe from the archives.

I am not a runner.  I have been an enthusiastic swimmer and anoccasional biker in the past, but running always seemed out of my reach.  Amazingly, I just signed up to run the Chicago Half Marathon on September 14.  I will be running with the National AIDS Foundation and working towards a $1,500 fundraising goal.

I'm runner number 0440 and I start training this Saturday at 7 a.m.  I started a new blog to track my progress. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to my funding goal, you can do so by visiting my AIDS Marathon page.

It was 38 degrees in Chicago today.  Time to (briefly) turn on the heat again, fire up the oven and enjoy a warm twice-baked potato.


Twice-Baked Potato with Vegetables

Serves 1


1 baking potato
.5 Tbl olive oil
.25 Tbl Balsamic vinegar
.5 C broccoli rabe
.5 C sweet corn kernels
.25 cherry tomatoes, sliced
.5 mushrooms, sliced
.5 to 1 C buttermilk, shaken
1 Tbl fresh dill
1 Tbl Cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper


Clean the potato and poke holes all over with a fork.  Wrap in tin foil and bake for about an hour at 375F.

When the potato is nearly finished baking, heat the olive oil and Balsamic vinegar over medium heat. Add all the vegetables and saute for about 5 minutes. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Slice the potato in half longways and gently remove all but a small amount of potato from the skins. Put the insides in a bowl and mix in the buttermilk to taste (judge the desired texture before adding too much). Mix in the dill and add the vegetables. Combine well. Spoon heaping amounts of the mixture into the potato skins. Transfer the filled potato skins to a tin foil lined baking sheet. Top with Cheddar cheese and bake for 10 minutes more at 375F.