Mushroom and Wild Rice Pie


I shared in an early winter potluck this past weekend, hosted by Joanna of My Vegetable Blog and The Kitchn.


While I cook often, I don't have the space to entertain as much as I would like. Joanna and Luke have a beautiful apartment, with grown-up features like a dining room table, a Christmas tree, and a lovable hound named Clementine.


Joanna made several dishes, including these subtlety spiced lemongrass soup shots.


Erin and Mia made rosemary tomato focaccia.


Joanna also made these delicious "winter rolls" filled with butternut squash, cilantro, red onion, rice noodles, and pistachios.  Dipped in a spicy cranberry sauce, these rolls were the clear favorite of the day. (Update: Joanna posted her recipe for these excellent rolls over at the Kitchn.)


I was taken with the Mushroom and Farro Pie featured in the November 2008 issue of Gourmet Magazine, and it turns out I wasn't alone. Smitten Kitchen tried the recipe a few weeks ago and confirmed my initial hesitation -- the pie came out a bit bland.  Mild grains cooked in water as a main ingredient didn't seem too exciting to me, so I came up with my own version of this gorgeous dish.


Mushroom and Wild Rice Pie
Inspired by Gourmet Magazine


3/4 C wild rice
3 C vegetable broth
1 Tbl butter
1 Tbl olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 leeks, finely chopped (1 1/3 C)
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb portobella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C dry white wine
1 Tbl Balsamic vinegar
1 C goat cheese
1 (1-lb) package frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water and a pinch of salt 


Prepare the wild rice as package directs, using broth in place of water.

While wild rice cooks, melt butter with oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then cook garlic and leeks, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add white wine and Balsamic vinegar and simmer 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and stir in wild rice, then cool completely.

Stir in goat cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  (This filling can be made the night before.)

Roll out 2 pieces of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch squares. Stack squares on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet with a second sheet of parchment between them, then cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.

Put a large baking sheet on rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.

Set aside top square of pastry on parchment. Spread cooled filling evenly over pastry on baking sheet, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush border with some of egg wash, and, using parchment, invert second square on top, lightly pressing to seal border. Brush top with remaining egg wash, then crimp border with a fork and trim with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.

Cut a few small steam vents in top of pie and decoratively score pastry. Slide pie on parchment onto preheated baking sheet in oven and bake until puffed and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes.


I think the pie turned out well.  Though, it still looked more impressive than it tasted.  Next time I think I will reduce the rice by half and double the mushrooms.  Adding some wilted spinach to the filling would be nice as well.

Classic Pumpkin Pie


I don't know about you, but my Thanksgivings don't feel quite complete until I am sinking my teeth into a slice of pumpkin pie.  There are dozens of recipes out there, but this delicately spiced version is an old favorite that is easy to come back to.


Classic Pumpkin Pie


1 pie crust, rolled out and chilled in a pie dish

2/3 C brown sugar

1/2 C white sugar

2 Tbl flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp each of: allspice, cloves and ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 C canned pumpkin

2 Tbl molasses

1 tsp vanilla

3 large eggs

1 C whipping cream


Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450F.  Combine sugars, flour, spices and salt in a large bowl.  Add the pumpkin, molasses, vanilla and eggs and incorporate the cream last.

Pour batter into chilled pie crust and bake for ten minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 325F and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes.  The middle should be set and the sides of the pie should puff up a bit.

Allow pie to cool and serve at room temperature or chilled. 

I usually whip any excess cream with a touch of vanilla to serve along with each slice.   This pie can be made up to a day ahead, making it easy for large holiday dinners.


Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone (and happy belated Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers).  Nick, Jerry and I are renting a car and driving out to see some of their family in Ohio.  I'll be sad to miss my family this year, but I'll be seeing them this weekend.  I hope you are all lucky enough to find yourselves in a warm house filled with family, friends, and plenty of food.

Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Pecorino

Sprouts copy

I first began cooking with Brussels sprouts a few years ago.  Since that time, no holiday meal seems complete without a side of these whimsical, miniature cabbages.  I grew up thinking there was good reason to dislike Brussels sprouts, without ever having the occasion to try them.  As far as I can tell, these childhood rumors were entirely unfounded.  Perhaps this recipe will coax a new sprouts eater out from your Thanksgiving table.

When selecting Brussels sprouts, choose the smallest, firmest, and brightest.  The trick is to cook them just enough.  Overcooking can cause sulfur compounds to be released from the vegetables, creating an unappealing odor.  Cooking the Brussels sprouts until just tender will give them a delicious, nutty flavor.

Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Pecorino


1/2 C pecan halves, roughly chopped
1/2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 C Pecorino cheese, freshly grated


Prepare Brussels sprouts by rinsing under cold water.  Cut off the base and remove any leaves that come away during the process. Cut each lengthwise. (For fussy eaters, it may be best to shred the Brussels sprouts in a food processor.) Toss into a large bowl and coat with 1 Tbl of the olive oil.

In a frying pan, heat the pecans over medium heat until fragrant and a few shades darker.  Add 1/2 Tbl of butter and a pinch of salt and toss to coat. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, over low-medium heat, place the Brussels sprouts in a single layer, along with a pinch of salt, cut side down.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes (until slightly browned and tender). If there isn't enough room, work in batches. 

Raise the heat to medium-high and combine the Brussels sprouts, the remaining olive oil, garlic and some salt and pepper.  Toss around until the sprouts caramelize and the garlic is fragrant. Add the pecans and salt and pepper to taste.  Move to a serving dish and toss with the grated cheese.  Serve warm.

Cynar Negroni

On Friday Nick and I played host to my brother and our favorite bartender, Parker.  The weather had taken a dive and we didn't feel much like hiking to the liquor store after work.  We ended up improvising with some items we had on hand and came up with a delightful fall cocktail. 


Ever since a boozy night in Venice with my uncles a few years ago, I have been a big Negroni fan.  The addictive bittersweet taste of Campari led me to seek out similar bitter apéritif liqueurs.  Lately I've been enjoying Cynar, which is made from artichokes and other herbs and plants.  Ordinarily, I simply drink Cynar over ice, but we decided to try it out in place of Campari in a Negroni.  The results were delicious. 

Cynar Negroni


1 oz Cynar
1 oz gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
Dash Angostura bitters
2 orange slices


Pour the first four ingredients over ice in a tall cocktail glass and stir.  Squeeze the juice from one orange slice into the drink and garnish with the other slice.

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

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Pasta has always been a staple in my pantry.  Tossed with vegetables and garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with any cheese I have on hand -- it makes for an inexpensive and easy weeknight meal.  Nick, however, is not a fan.  As a result, our mutual appreciation for gnocchi has grown over the last few years.  We generally keep a package of the dehydrated stuff and a jar of pesto around for sleepy, uninspired nights.

When we are feeling more ambitious, homemade can't be beat. We've experimented with a variety of recipes that have produced mixed results.  The biggest foe to our gnocchi efforts often seems to be too much moisture.  If the balance isn't correct, the little pillows risk breaking apart in the boiling water or producing gummy forkfuls.

Gnocchi2 copy

How is a cook to avoid this? We've found that recipes that call for baking, not boiling, the potatoes work best.  The other secret to light and silky gnocchi is a potato ricer.  You can get away without one by mashing the potatoes well, but to ensure a smooth dough, a ricer can't be beat.  Elise of Simply Recipes posted a great (baked) potato gnocchi recipe last year that I would recommend trying first (though, be warned, it makes a lot).

To complete the meal, buy a crusty baguette and make this simple, rich sauce:

Gorgonzola Cream Sauce


2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbl butter

1 C whipping cream (or 3/4 C milk and 1/4 C cream)

A few ounces Gorgonzola cheese (we use about 3 oz)


Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute.

Add cream and cheese and bring to a gentle boil.  Whip 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the sauce is slightly thickened. 

Add salt and pepper to taste (careful, the cheese is a bit salty to begin with) and toss with the gnocchi.

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

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)

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.)


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.

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:

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.



The carbohydrate-phobia that swept the country a few years ago really took a toll on the lowly potato. While it is often thought to lack any kind of nutritional content, it is actually a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and fiber.  Colcannon is a comforting Irish dish made of mashed potatoes and either kale or cabbage.  Many variations of this dish exist, but I like to add shallots, garlic, and sometimes a bit of grated Parmesan to flavor it.

Serves 4 - 6


4 baking potatoes, chopped into 1" cubes
2 C kale, chopped
2 Tbl olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 C warm milk or cream (or more to taste)
4 Tbl butter, plus extra
salt and pepper to taste


Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender.  (I always leave the skins on, but feel free to modify.)  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the shallot, garlic and kale. Cook until the kale is tender and reduced in volume.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Mix in milk, butter, salt and pepper to taste. Add the kale mixture and combine well.  Serve warm with a pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil.

Simple Broccoli Salad

This past Easter, my Uncles Jack and Dave hosted us for a laid-back afternoon of food and drinks.  The light in their house is gorgeous and I couldn't keep myself from taking pictures of all the beautiful food (and their Burmese cats).  One dish that I really enjoyed was a simple, sweet and savory broccoli salad that Dave made. I recently asked him for the recipe. Be sure to take the time to cut the broccoli into small, bite-sized florets.

Dave's Broccoli Salad


6 C of fresh broccoli florets (blanched if you prefer)
1/4 of a red onion (or to taste), thinly sliced in half inch pieces
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 Tbl cider vinegar


Toss the first four ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise and vinegar with sugar to taste (the dressing should be slightly sweet).  Make enough dressing to thinly coat all of the broccoli.  Toss the dressing with the other ingredients.  Cover the salad and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.   Before serving, toss the salad to re-distribute the dressing.

As requested, a photo of one of their cats.


Pear and Pepper Relish

After a weekend snowstorm, we are (hopefully) watching the last of the snow melt here in Chicago. The few blissful weeks before the scorching summer sun arrives will usher in outdoor seating at restaurants, community gardens, margaritas on our back porch, and long hikes through neighborhoods coming back to life.

The changing seasons also mean that cookout weather will soon arrive. Nick recently came across The Great American Hot Dog Book by Becky Mercuri and her recipe for Blackie's Deep-Fried Dogs and Pear-Pepper Relish caught his eye.  Blackie's is a famous hot dog stand in Cheshire, Connecticut and is just one of the well-known stands featured in Mercuri's  book.  We made the relish recently and were very pleased with the results.  Without straying too far from a true sweet relish, the addition of pears and hot peppers gives this recipe a unique and dynamic flavor.


Blackie's Pear-Pepper Relish

Adapted from The Great American Hot Dog Book

This makes about four cups of relish.  The relish will keep in a tightly sealed container, refrigerated, for several weeks.


4 Bartlett pears

2 large onions

2 green bell peppers

1 red bell pepper

1 jalapeño (feel free to use a spicier pepper)

Boiling water, a few cups

1.5 C sugar

2.25 tsp mustard seeds

.75 tsp ground allspice

.25 tsp ground cinnamon

.75 tsp turmeric

1 Tbl salt

1.5 C white vinegar

.5 C water


Chop the first 5 ingredients and put in a large colander.  Over the sink, pour the boiling water over the chopped ingredients.  Drain thoroughly and add to a large stock-pot.

In a medium bowl combine the sugar, seeds, spices and salt.  Add the dry mixture to the stock-pot and mix thoroughly with the chopped ingredients. 

Add the vinegar and water and bring everything to a boil.  Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.  Your house will smell delicious. When the relish is cooked to your liking, remove from the heat and allow to cool before refrigerating.

Savory Waffles with Pea & Chive Soup

From the archives.

The weather in Chicago has been keeping residents on their toes.  Over the last couple weeks we have experienced snow, rain, hail, thunderstorms, blinding fog and temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to well below zero. There are lakes of slush and water at every crosswalk, and small mountains of snow marking the property lines of the few residents who shovel. I have been wearing my unfashionable, yet well-loved Asolo hiking boots in order to make my commute from Logan Square to the Ukrainian Village sure-footed and waterproof.

Here is a perfect pairing of recipes for these unpredictable winter nights.

Chive & Sour Cream Waffles
Makes 12 Waffles


1 C unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 C yellow cornmeal
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbl baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 stick butter-melted
1 C milk- warmed
1/2 C sour cream
3 large eggs at room temp.
1 Tbl mustard
1 Tbl chopped fresh chives
1 Tbl grated Cheddar cheese


Combine all dry ingredients (including chives and cheese) in a large
bowl.  Make a well in the center.

In a separate bowl combine all wet ingredients, beating eggs thoroughly.

Add wet ingredients to the well of the dry ingredients and mix until
just combined.  Do not over-mix.

Let rest for 10 min.

Heat waffle iron.

Place 1/4 C of batter onto each waffle portion and cook for 3-5 min.
or until steam ceases to escape from the iron.

Pea & Chive Soup
Serves 6


1 small onion, finely chopped
2 Tbl butter
1 potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp salt
2 lbs frozen peas
5 C vegetable stock
1/4 C chopped chives (reserve some for garnish if you wish)
1/2 C milk
1/2 C sour cream


Melt the butter over medium heat and cook onion in a large, deep
skillet or stockpot until tender. About 2 min.

Add potato and salt and cook about 2 min. more.

Add 3 C stock, cover, and let simmer for about 10 min.

Add peas and simmer uncovered for 3 min. or until peas are tender.

Stir in the chives and the remaining 2 C of stock.

Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender--strain if desired.

Whisk in milk and sour cream.  Season with salt and pepper.
Reheat if needed but do not allow to boil.
Garnish with a few chives and a dollop of sour cream.

Sesame Baked Tofu


Rich and nutty pieces of baked tofu are perfect for adding to stir-fry or curry dishes, but they are also delicious on their own.  Extra-firm tofu will hold up well to the marinating called for in this recipe, though some types of firm tofu will work fine as well. If you are worried that your tofu is too delicate, wrap the tofu slices in clean tea towels, place a plate on top, and a heavy pot or bag of flour on top of that.  Let sit for half an hour.  As the water in the tofu is absorbed into the towels, the tofu will become sturdier.  Dark sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds and gives this dish a deeper flavor.  Light sesame oil can also be used.

Sesame Baked Tofu


1 lb extra-firm tofu, patted dry and cut into slices 1/2 inch thick
6 Tbl soy sauce
3 Tbl dark sesame oil
3 Tbl vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbl sesame seeds


Whisk together all of the ingredients except for the tofu and sesame seeds in a medium bowl.  Place the tofu slices in a baking dish large enough to lay each piece flat and then pour the marinade over them.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 8 hours, turning the tofu slices over halfway through.

Preheat the oven to 400F and bake for 30 minutes.  Flip slices and bake for another 30 minutes or until a very deep golden brown. The marinade should be completely absorbed. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. The tofu will keep in the refrigerator for two days.