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)

Buenos Aires - Day One

BAbuilding For as long as I've been accruing them, I've been inexplicably nervous about my frequent flier miles expiring or disappearing. Nick and I recently took care of the whole lot by taking a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina.  We took an overnight flight from Chicago and arrived at Ezeiza airport on a Thursday morning.

We checked into the lovely, family run Four B&B in the San Telmo neighborhood. This renovated colonial house offers stylish rooms designed by Cuban artist Reinaldo Lopez Sobrado and a gorgeous rooftop patio.  The rooms are reasonably priced and the proprietors are exceptionally nice -- even letting us borrow dishes and an electrical adapter that we had forgotten to pack. Best of all, breakfast arrives any time you wish.


After we unpacked a bit, Nick and I took a quick walk around the neighborhood as we waited for our friend Peter, an English instructor, to meet us after his morning class.  Peter and I met in Iowa during my first year of college.  Even though I ended up transferring to Reed and he's moved all over the world, I've been lucky to keep in touch with him over the years.

We spent most of the afternoon walking up and down Florida Street attending to housekeeping details like exchanging money and buying a sim card for my phone. After a bite to eat, Peter went to his second class of the day and Nick and I returned to San Telmo where we ended up at Bar Dorrego just up the street from our hotel.


San Telmo is the oldest residential neighborhood in Buenos Aires and the cobblestone streets and glorious buildings are well-preserved (as a result, it is also a bit touristy). Bar Dorrego dates back to 1881 and overlooks Plaza Dorrego, which fills with vendors every Sunday during the San Telmo Antique Market.  This classic cafe has gorgeous woodwork (now carved with graffiti), a black and white checked floor -- and like most cafes in Buenos Aires -- will keep your table well supplied with peanuts while you drink.


Quilmes is the beer of choice for most Argentinians.  We decided to give their stout a try and it ended up being a nice first drink for the evening. While Bar Dorrego is a bit over-priced due to its location and history, I would still recommend getting a drink or two in this lovely old cafe.


Afterward we made our way to Palermo Viejo to meet up with Peter and his lovely girlfriend Pao. We shared a bottle of Genesis Malbec from Mendoza and ordered dinner from Gourmet Empanadas. Gourmet Empanadas has several locations across the city and the assortment we ordered really hit the spot (I especially enjoyed the tomate, queso y albahaca).

We took a cab up to Sugar, a bar in Palermo, where one of Peter's friends was celebrating her birthday. Nightlife in Buenos Aires really is a late affair -- Sugar's 5 peso pint "happy-hour" runs until midnight!  We drank a few Quilmes and got to know their awesome Colombian friend Arturo. Peter and Pao had to work in the morning, and Nick and I were exhausted from our sleepless flight, so we parted ways around 1 a.m., looking forward to our first full day in the city.

Stay tuned for day two!

Homemade Pasta for Hectic Nights

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I bet some of you are wondering if I skipped out on my return flight and remained in South America.  Sadly, no.  Nick and I returned to Chicago as scheduled, but I've been frantically catching up at work since.  Whatever level of relaxation was achieved on vacation has been quickly and thoroughly reversed. I have the first two days of photos up on my Flickr account, but I haven't found the time to go through the rest or post about it yet. I will soon.  It was an amazing trip and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.

When life is busy, we still need to eat -- but sometimes the convenient options just make me feel more rundown.  Next time you find yourself reaching for an uninspired box of mac and cheese or a bag of ramen, consider how quick and satisfying it is to make your own pasta. Forget the fancy machines and pasta roller attachments.  They aren't necessary.  Using only flour, a few eggs, a rolling pin and a knife -- you are minutes away from tossing your own fresh pasta into boiling water. I was recently reminded of this by the Pioneer Woman.  She offers her friend Ryan's great rule of thumb: 1 cup of flour plus 2 eggs equals pasta for 2 people. 
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Pour a cup of flour on the counter.  Make a well in the center.  Crack two eggs into it and mix the dough with your hand, kneading until it is smooth.  Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes and then roll out on a lightly floured surface.  Slice into strips with a knife (a pizza or dough cutter works well too) and cook for 2 minutes in salted boiling water.  I tossed my pasta with some olive oil, garlic, dried basil and sliced tomatoes.  

It's going to be another late night at work -- but at least I know I have the other half of my pasta dough waiting for me in the refrigerator. 

Buenos Aires

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Nick and I are crossing our fingers that the storms hold out for a few more hours. We are scheduled to leave for Buenos Aires this evening and the forecast isn't cooperating.  We have a growing list of places to visit, but if anyone would like to suggest an addition, please feel free to post it in the comments or send me an email. We'll be back in about a week and I look forward to sharing our adventures!

(The photo is from the bridge near 18th and Wentworth in Chicago.)

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.  

Apple and Almond Oatmeal Clafoutis

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The Kitchn looked at make-ahead breakfasts this past week, and pointed me toward this recipe at Chocolate & Zucchini for Oatmeal Clafoutis.  I never like to eat too soon after waking up on a weekday morning, so having something quick and portable to throw in my bag saves me time and money.  This is a great recipe to make a big batch of on a weekend morning to freeze for the week.  It calls for relatively few ingredients and was in the oven before my coffee had finished brewing.  Next time, I am making a double batch.  

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I made a few changes to the recipe.  I'm not a fan of raisins in most baked goods, so I omitted any dried fruit. I also don't peel fresh fruit unless there is a good reason to.  I think the apples with their peel work wonderfully here and look visually pleasing as well. For the nuts, I used about half a cup of sliced almonds.  This recipe accepts modifications and substitutions well and your final product can highlight what you have on hand.  Next time I am going to try adding some frozen berries to the mix. The clafoutis taste great either warm or cold, so these are a great breakfast option even for those without a microwave at work.

Chicago Careers Through Culinary Arts Competition


This past Saturday I joined students, parents and chefs atCHIC to watch 25 talented high school seniors compete in the 16th annual Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Chicago Cooking Competition. This inspiring nonprofit helps public high school students train and compete for scholarships to renowned culinary schools. In addition to Chicago, C-CAP has programs in Arizona, Virginia, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. 

The students were asked to prepare a two-course French meal for a panel of notable judges, including Graham Elliot Bowles of graham elliot, Carrie Nahabedian of Naha, and Mark Mendez of Carnivale.  

You can read my full article at Gapers Block.

Pomegranate Rehydration Drink


This week marks a year since I began running. I've come along way from huffing and puffing to get through a mile and a half.  With support from friends, family and even some of you lovely readers, I participated in the AIDS Marathon training program last summer to run the Chicago Half Marathon. This weekend I am running a 10 mile race that will bring my year total to 570 miles -- And I am signed up to run the full Chicago Marathon this October (don't worry, no fundraising this year).

I'm not one to use fancy sports drinks on a regular basis, but for longer runs they certainly help. Yet, at nearly $2 a bottle for artificial dyes and high fructose corn syrup, the cost is a bit hard to swallow. A few weeks ago, Lifehacker pointed me toward a recipe for rehydration drinks on WebMD and I decided to give it a try as I increased my mileage.  I don't think I will ever go back to the store bought brands again.

Pomegranate Rehydration Drink

(Please note that, according to WebMD, these drinks are only for adults and all ingredients should be measured precisely to prevent adverse effects. In the recipe below I decreased the sugar and water and added fruit juice. Please reference the original recipe and use your own judgement to make your drink.)

.75 quart water
.25 quart Pom Wonderful juice*
.5 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp table salt
.25 tsp salt substitute** 
1 Tbl sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a 1 quart mason jar.  Screw on the lid and shake to combine.  I leave my mason jar of energy drink in the refrigerator and sip on it after my runs throughout the week.

(*The lovely folks at Pom Wonderful sent me some of their juice to try recently. You could use any type of juice here, but I would try to avoid juices with additives and lots of sugar. **Make sure it is potassium-based.  I had to search around a bit, but eventually found a brand called No Salt at my local Whole Foods.)

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.

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Frosting


When the sweet, late-spring carrots start arriving at your local market, consider these delicious cupcakes. While any old carrot will do, try finding small, fresh bunches with their greens still attached for a flavorful, seasonal treat.  

This recipe was inspired by an older Cook's Illustrated recipe for carrot cake that called for emulsifying the oil with sugar and egg to create a lighter crumb.  This is a brilliant technique that I highly recommend.

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated.


2.5 C flour
1.25 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1.25 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
0.5 tsp salt
1 lb carrots, peeled and finely shredded
1.5 C sugar
0.5 C packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1.5 C vegetable oil
8 oz cream cheese, softened
0.5 C maple syrup


Preheat oven to 350F and line two muffin tins with baking cups.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a food processor, process the sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With machine running, add oil through feed tube in a steady stream. Process until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl. Stir in carrots and the dry ingredients until incorporated. 

Pour into the baking cups and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and set aside to cool.

Mix the cream cheese and maple syrup together.  Frost the cupcakes when they reach room temperature.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Apricot Tequila

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The Matchbox is one of my favorite Chicago bars. The slight space is aptly named and the drinks are expertly crafted by a no-nonsense staff. Many of their best concoctions use house-infused liquors.  You can't go wrong with their Knob Creek Manhattans garnished with brandy soaked dark cherries or their ginger vodka gimlets.

Over a few years worth of visits, I thought I had effectively covered their offerings. Yet one evening I noticed a jar full of soaking apricots.  My companions and I each ordered a shot of this apricot infused tequila and I instantly fell in love.  While I order the occasional margarita and I enjoy quality tequilas on their own, I never really considered it to be a terribly versatile liquor.

Adding to my list of home infusions, I recently threw together my own bottle to take to a party.  Apricot tequila is excellent on its own; shaken with some ice and strained into a shot glass.  It would also be a great replacement for regular tequila in a variety of cocktails. 

Apricot Infused Tequila


1/2 liter decent tequila (I used Sauza Hornitos, but you could definitely use something cheaper)
10 ounces dried apricots


In a 1 liter glass jar, combine the tequila and the apricots. Let them infuse for about two days.  Give the bottle an occasional swirl.

Simple! This recipe will make about 15 two-ounce shots.  The resulting fruit is delicious, but extremely powerful.  When my tequila was gone, I reserved most of the fruit and stuck it in my freezer.  I plan to blend it with some ice and lime juice this summer for a refreshing cocktail.

Asparagus and Egg Spring Pizza


We really love pizza in our house, but items from the frozen section just won't cut it.  Over the last year Nick has become quite adept at making pizza dough.  His prowess, combined with the peel and baking stone my parents gave me, have us eating delicious homemade pizza at least once a week.  One of our favorite ingredient combinations is asparagus and egg -- perfect for spring.

Asparagus and Egg Pizza
Makes 2 small pizzas


Olive oil
Kosher flake salt
Black pepper
10 asparagus stalks, ends snapped off
3 C shredded mozzarella
4 eggs


Prepare dough according to instructions. Preheat oven to 500F.

Rinse the asparagus and cut in half, so that you have about 20 3-inch pieces. Take each 3-inch piece and cut in half long ways, and then again to quarter.  Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and saute the asparagus with black pepper and a generous amount of kosher salt until tender and bright green.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Divide dough into two balls and roll out the first on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a baking peel or baking sheet with cornmeal and transfer the dough. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with Mexican oregano (about a teaspoon). Arrange half the asparagus in a single layer over the dough and cover with one and a half cups of cheese (or the amount you prefer).  Crack two eggs into the center of the pizza. 

Bake for about ten minutes, or until the egg whites are cooked and the pizza is golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly on a cutting board and cut to serve while still warm.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Be sure to dip your crust in the egg yolks as you work your way towards the center!

Grape and Almond Salad

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After work last week, I met my friend Ellen to catch up over a bottle of wine.  She had prepared a few snacks for us, and this grape, cilantro and almond salad blew me away. Neither of us are big cilantro fans, but the flavors in this salad work so perfectly together that I have a new-found appreciation for the herb. The dish only calls for six ingredients and it can be prepared in a matter of minutes. You can find Ellen's recipe here.   

A well-timed sale on grapes at my local grocery store has encouraged me to make this no less than three times in the last five days.  I'm seriously considering doing the same again tonight.

Spring Favorites


I know Spring won't officially get its start for another two weeks, but the last few days in Chicago have been a sweet reprieve from an arduous winter.  Mild mornings have coaxed me into longer runs as I get serious about training for my upcoming races, and the fresh air and sunlight have me feeling energized for the first time in months -- I really can't recall being so excited for daylight savings.

If you will allow me to waver from the normal thread of this website for a moment, I'd like to share a few things I am presently excited about.

I Hardly Know Her: A smart and simple design for Flickr photos.  You can see mine here.

The Publican:  Nick and I finally dined at this Fulton Market area restaurant and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Homemade Goat Cheese:  Nick has been making goat cheese for us at home with delicious results. A detailed post is in the works.

Quicken Online: I'm trying to get my finances in order and pay off loans and debt.  I've found Quicken Online to be a great, free tool to help me stay organized.  Mint is nice too, but I find that it has a longer lag time updating my accounts.

Baggu Produce Bags:  I'm a big fan of the Baggu grocery bags.  I always have one on me.  I was excited to see that they had added produce bags to their product line and I recently ordered one in both sizes.  I am very pleased with them and now I never need to use plastic at the store.

The Daily Mile:  As I continue with my new found interest in running, the dailymile has become a great resource.  I am able to track my distance, time, pace and upcoming races on their free site.  Please add me if you are a member, it will be a better motivator with friends!

Argentina: I finally cashed in all of my frequent flyer miles and Nick and I are heading to Buenos Aires, Argentina in May.  Needless to say, we are super excited.  We'd love recommendations of what to eat, drink and visit.

Other things that have me smitten: Sarah Haskins, Mad Men dvds, Scraping the Skillet's Dill Bread, and Orangette's new book -- Congratulations Molly!

Orange-Raspberry Scones


We celebrated Nick's birthday this weekend with a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, a party at home with some friends, and a superb dinner at the Publican. As the weekend rounded out, fresh baked scones seemed like the ideal accompaniment to our snowy Sunday afternoon.


Orange-Raspberry Scones


2 C flour
2 Tbs sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
1 Tbs baking powder
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
1/2 C cold milk or cream
2 Tbs raspberry jam


Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, two tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt. Rub in the butter with your hands (or cut in with a pastry cutter if you prefer) until it resembles a coarse meal.

In a second bowl whisk the eggs, milk and jam.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix into a shaggy dough.

Knead gently a few times and separate into 3 balls.  Form each into a 6-inch round (about 1-inch thick) and cut into 4 wedges.  Evenly space the wedges on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a golden brown crust forms.  Serve warm if possible.

Lentil Soup


A bowl of lentil soup is unmatched in its simplicity.   If you can boil water and chop an onion, you can make this delicious one pot meal. It can be dressed up with a dollop of sour cream, chopped parsley, and served with crusty bread-- or simply reheated for a hearty work lunch.

I'd like to extend an invitation to my Chicago readers to join me this Wednesday at the Hideout from 5 pm to 8 pm where I will be cooking soup with my fellow Gapers Block contributing food writers and serving it with Columbia College film professor Dan Rybicky and dietician Bettina Tahsin. As part of this Soup and Bread series, all the food will be donated by the cooks and served free of charge.  A hat will be passed for donations to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help others keep food on their plates.  Come by to say hello, have a beer and eat some soup while helping out those in need.


While there are many excellent recipes and endless modifications one can make to lentil soup, here is my current favorite.  It has a unique earthiness and bite to it thanks to the cumin and black pepper.

Lentil and Sweet Red Pepper Soup with Cumin and Black Pepper
Adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook


3 Tbs olive oil
½ C finely chopped red bell pepper
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ C carrot, finely chopped
¼ C celery, finely chopped
¼ C yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 Turkish bay leaf
1 sprig of Italian parsley, chopped (both
stem and leaves)
1 C lentils, preferably Beluga or French green
4 to 4 ½ C good-quality vegetable stock


In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs oil. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes.

In a mortar, crush the peppercorns and cumin seeds. Add them to the saucepan, and cook the mixture for 1 minute.

Add the remaining oil, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, parsley, and lentils, and 3 C of stock. Stir and
bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat, and cook the soup uncovered, barely simmering, until the lentils are tender and have absorbed most of the stock, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes to allow the lentils to soften.

Using an immersion blender, partially puree the soup, so that about half of the lentils are still whole. Add a bit more broth to bring the soup to your desired texture and season to taste.

Clementine Cake


I've been consuming clementines by the crate over the the last few weeks.  I peel and devour at least ten a day.  If I thought they would keep, I'd pile them to the ceiling to make sure I always had more on hand.

While a bowl full of sweet citrus segments suits me just fine for dessert, I wasn't convinced that my dinner party guests would feel the same this past weekend.  I searched my cookbook collection for a suitable citrus dessert, but only came up with sorbets or panna cottas -- not the wintry final course I was hoping for.  At last my search brought me to Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake recipe and the rave reviews other cooks had given it.

I don't always enjoy citrus desserts, but when the mid-winter bounty of clementines appears next year, I will definitely be turning back to this easy, flourless, five-ingredient recipe.


Clementine Cake

Adapted from Nigella Lawson


5 clementines, rinsed clean
6 eggs
1 C plus 2 TB sugar
2 1/3 C ground almonds
1 heaping tsp baking powder


Place the clementines in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours. 

When cooked, drain the water and allow the clementines to cool.  Split and remove the seeds and stems.  Throw the skins, pith and fruit into a food processor, and finely chop.  The original recipe isn't clear on whether or not to retain the juices.  I added about 1/3 of the juice to the food processor.

Preheat the oven to 375F

Butter an 8-inch springform pan and line with a circle of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and then add the sugar, ground almonds and baking powder.  Mix by hand and then incorporate the clementines.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake.  Lawson's recipe calls for an hour of baking, but I'd recommend checking it at the 30 or 40 minute mark. The sides of my cake became quite dark.  I was worried that the cake was burning, but it ended up being the citrus and sugar caramelizing.  Nevertheless, I covered the cake with foil after 40 minutes and continued cooking until a tester came out clean from the center.  This took about 15 more minutes. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack before removing the springform sides.  The cake can be made a day ahead. Serve at room temperature dusted with powdered sugar.

Miracle Fruit Dinner Party


Several months ago, my friend Joanna posted about the miracle fruit dinner she hosted on her site, My Vegetable Blog.  While the buzz surrounding this fascinating natural plant had somewhat diminished, my interest in trying it out for myself did not. Miracle fruit contains a protein called Miraculin that binds with the taste buds to create a sweet flavor when it comes in contact with acids. The reaction can last two to three hours.


I decided to buy miracle fruit through an online vendor called Miracle UK. I ordered a pouch containing enough freeze-dried miracle fruit powder for 10 and split it with six friends.  The distribution of this pink powder was rather amusing, but once we had all spooned it into our mouths a silence fell over the table as we waited for it to dissolve.

I reached for a lemon wedge and bit into it, bracing myself for disappointment.  I was met with the flavors of a perfect batch of lemonade. It had worked as advertised.


Our dining selection was certainly one of the strangest I have encountered at a dinner party. We all brought odds and ends, many of which were informed by other miracle fruit party descriptions.  Here is a list of what we had on hand:

Swiss chard
Hot sauces
Hot peppers
Pickled onions
Lemon-herb butter
Cocktail sauce
Goat cheese
Cream cheese
Blue cheese
Sour cream
Fried tofu
Sour Patch Kids
Meyer lemon
Granny Smith apple
Key lime

The most striking item to many of us was the tomatillo. It tasted like a complexly flavored apple.  Absolutely delicious. All of the citrus fruits and fresh vegetables responded well.  The vinegars and tequilas were smooth and the buttermilk tasted like cream. The goat cheese and sour cream tasted like frosting, and the strong blue cheese we had been enjoying before dinner tasted very mellow after eating the miracle fruit.

We all agreed that the Guinness did not taste "like a chocolate milkshake" and in fact, we started to suspect that the spicy foods and the alcohols might have actually sped up the dissipation of the miracle fruit reaction.  Those that had foods from these two groups early on seemed to have a much shorter experience.

I certainly hope miracle fruit never finds its way into my foods as a commercial sweetner, but the dinner party sampling was a lot of fun.

Roasted Beet, Arugula and Goat Cheese Crostini

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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. 
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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!