Female. Lives in United States/Illinois/Chicago, speaks English. My interests are Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking/Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.
This is my blogchalk:
United States, Illinois, Chicago, English, Female, Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking, Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sara Moulton Visits Pastoral

I adore Sara Moulton. I think she's smart, skilled, personable and fun. As Executive Chef of Gourmet Magazine and host of "Sara's Secrets" on the Food Network, she's a culinary talent worth meeting. And now Chicago residents have the chance if they drop by Pastoral tomorrow night for an evening with Sara Moulton.

Sara will be at Pastoral signing her new book "Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals" from 5pm to 7pm on Friday, December 9, 2005. The event is free and open to the public. Additionally, a few sample recipes from her book and Pastoral's assortment of artisan cheeses and charcuterie will be available for tasting.

Pastoral is a lovely shop and this evening should be fun. Details below and enjoy if you go!

"An Evening with Sara Moulton"
December 9, 2005 from5pm to 7pm

2945 North Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
Telephone: 773-472-4781
Web Site: http://pastoralartisan.com

Next Time At Our Table:
We found a little giant on a trip to New York and we can't stop talking about it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Antoine's: Then and Now

One year ago this month, Win and I celebrated our anniversary with a trip to New Orleans. Our very first meal in that special city was at Antoine's. This weekend, The Chicago Tribune ran an article on how Antoine's is faring after Hurricane Katrina.

The article is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Heartbreaking for the obvious reasons; inspiring due to the commitment of Antoine's staff to try and get the place back up and running.

I thought it appropriate to revisit my lunch at Antoine's to show what it was like just a year ago. Click here to read about Antoine's of 2004, as contrasted with the Antoine's of Fall 2005 highlighted in the Tribune article. I'm hopeful that the Antoine's team can rebuild their restaurant and continue to serve New Orleans. When it does, we will be back to support them.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

IMBB 18: "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying" Round-Up, Part 4

Here is the fourth and final installment of the “Summer’s Flying, Let’s Get Frying” Round-Up. Today’s entry includes a review of our final 22 IMBB participants and some statistics to tie this whole thing together. Without further ado…
Lisa, a Malaysian living in Holland, shares a recipe for Sesamee with Kung Pao Chicken on her blog Lekker Leffer Lekkerste. Lisa calls her noodles with stir fried chicken “the sexiest way to eat noodles.” Well who wouldn’t want to check that out?
Alberto of Il Forno, the creator of the IMBB concept, prepared some gorgeous Southern-Style Fried Chicken for us. Golden and crisp, this looks like a very successful preparation style. Delicious!
Coming to us from Seattle, WA is the satisfying crunch of Homemade Potato Chips. Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl put her mandolin to great use and created some spectacular golden fried chips. She says she and her friend ate them all in about 5 minutes; I absolutely believe it based on how good these look.
Following Shauna is another Seattle-based blogger: It’s Viv, the Seattle Bon Vivant herself. For this IMBB, Viv decided to treat herself to a fried lunch out on the town. She ordered Pescado Frito at La Casa del Mojito. Tender, moist and delicious, this fish and its accompanying dishes sound like an excellent lunch.
Next up is the lovely Pim of Chez Pim. Pim made Khao-pad Panang Goong for her entry. This is Stir-Fry Rice with Prawns in Panang Curry Paste. Gorgeous and sounds perfect with the seafood.
Tanvi of From The Pantry and I are sisters bound by the Mock Deep-Fried Chick Pea. Neither of us selected our fried chick peas for our IMBB submission though. Instead, Tanvi prepared Tofu Pad Thai. Something tasty for the non-meat-eaters out there.
Brett of In Praise of Sardines comes to us from San Francisco, CA with a recipe for Pan-Fried Petrale Sole with Succotash of Summer Squash and Corn. Brett’s fish was shallow-fried and the succotash was stir-fried. Looks perfectly cooked and delicious!
Next we head back overseas to Singapore where June of Nibble and Scribble cooked Deep-Fried Prawns with Tom Yum Dipping Sauce. I love June’s special method for deep-frying (any method that includes running away from the scorching hot oil gets my vote for good safety) and her end result looks very tasty.
And now to France where Hindy and Lydia write In My Kitchen…Baking Cookies. This is their first time participating in an IMBB event, so welcome to the group! And what a grand entrance they make with their Almond Paste Briouates…Chocolate Surprise! Absolutely lovely dessert!
Nicky and Oliver of Delicious Days filled their Munich, Germany kitchen with several fried treats. First they experimented with Pasteles Fritos, but those weren’t as inspired as originally planned. So they did what any good chef would do in this case…fry, fry again. (Oh, come on…how could I resist?) Much more successful were their Apple Crullers and Fried Cheese Tidbits. Something sweet and something savory here…a perfect combination!
Clare Eats of Eatstuff in Sydney, Australia sends in her recipe for Chapati with Dudhi Channige. Clare has her own Chapati press and did a beautiful job making this meal.
A fellow Australian, Chris of ChubbyCatCooks prepared several dishes for this month’s IMBB and submitted the two favorites: Gyoza and Agedashi Tofu. These look like stellar selections.
Indira of Mahanandi shares a very interesting look at Jangri, a Traditional Indian Sweet. It truly does take the work of a master to create such perfectly artistic sweets.
Ellen of Chronicles of a Curious Cook shares her recipe for Chicken Fried Steak with us. Like Ellen’s daughter, this dish always confused me when I was young too…is it chicken or is it steak? As an adult though, I recognize it for the fried goodness it is and Ellen’s recipe sounds terrific.
Fried Beehoon comes in from Julia of AromaCookery. Fried Beehoon is a “fond local Chinese favorite noodle dish” for Julia, basically a fried rice vermicelli. Oh, this looks so, so good.
Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking sends us Fried Okra and Green Tomatoes with Tomato-Mint and Almond Salad. Rachael calls this “one of the yummiest things she’s had in weeks” and provides an easy-to-follow recipe so that you can try “its salty, crunchy, spicy, minty deliciousness out for yourself.”
The folks at Foodgoat submit Stuffed Mushrooms for your dining pleasure. Ladygoat says that she once spent an entire party hovering over the stuffed mushroom plate. This is a woman who knows and loves her mushrooms. Check them out here.
Like me, Gemma of Part-Time Pro Bono Baker resides in Chicago, IL. Her garden recently produced a gorgeous eggplant that became Fried Eggplant just in time for IMBB. Every detail of this dish, right down to the tomato sauce on top, looks garden fresh and delicious.
We’re back to Singapore and Skrat of My Indulgence. Skrat prepared Mee Siam (Chinese Style) which was originally a Thai dish of noodles, served in a “light and piquant gravy made from tamarind juice (assam) and dried shrimps, and served with toppings such as fresh lime, tiny cubes of dried beancurd, chives and slices of boiled egg.” Looks really good!
Sarah lives The Delicious Life in Los Angeles, CA. This month Garlic French Fries with Spicy Marinara were on the menu for her, and she provides us with a fun potato history lesson and some good tips for frying them. Thanks, Sarah!
Lady Amalthea of Noshes, Thoughts & Reves sent in a late entry because she was in the process of moving during our IMBB. So she prepared her Fried Eggplant in Avgolemono Sauce in San Francisco and then moved near Los Angeles shortly afterwards. “Creamy, refreshing and delicious” is how she describes the sauce on her eggplant. Perfect fuel for a move to Southern California.
And finally, what did I cook for this IMBB? I made my Chicken Francese. This is one of our favorite dishes and it’s a great reason to do a little pan frying. I’m going to take the efficient route here and just link you to my original post on this chicken rather than reinvent the wheel with a whole new write-up. The sauce that accompanies this chicken is light, lemony and so fresh; it’s always been a hit at our table and it was this month too.
So this concludes our IMBB “Summer’s Flying, Let’s Get Frying” Round-Up. Thank you all very much for participating. Your dishes are both inspiring and inspired. Here are a few statistics that pull my four part Round-Up together a bit.

Total number of participants: 57
Total number of dishes consumed: 67 (some people had several entries)
Number of participants who chose to eat a fried restaurant meal instead of cooking at home: 2
Number of dishes that are savory: 53
Number of dishes that are sweet: 14
Most popular dish submitted: Some variation on a noodle stir fry (we received all sorts)
Most popular vegetable entry submitted: Fried Green Tomatoes (4 variations)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

IMBB 18: "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying" Round-Up Part 3

The cable guy came this afternoon, we did a quick fix, and the web is up and running again. So on with Part 3 of our IMBB Round-Up!

We begin this installment of the Round-Up with a submission from one of my neighbors to the North, Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. Ruth loves to fry in her Toronto kitchen and she submitted two ideas for our IMBB. The first is French Toast, Fried Salami and Eggs and the second is Spicy Creole Shrimp and Chorizo Sausages. Hearty and delicious, a great way to kick off this installment of our IMBB round-up.

Jason of Jason Truesdell: Pursuing My Passions sends in Paneer Two Ways. The first is Fried Paneer with Peach Chutney. That looks really delicious. The second dish, Paneer in a Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce, isn’t really intended for the IMBB event according to Jason, but I’m happy he shared it with us anyway.

Carolyn of 18thC Cuisine used this IMBB as an opportunity to perfect her Beignets. Click here to see what her secret is and gaze longingly at their picture perfect fried glory.

Amy of Cooking with Amy says she doesn’t usually fry in her San Francisco kitchen with the exception of one dish. Amy’s Chinese Style Green Beans look really fresh and delicious, don’t they?

Boo_Licious of masak-masak in Malaysia decided to cook an entire meal based on different types of frying methods. First up is Pie Tee with Seafood Filling, then Barely Cooked Salmon with Tobika Caviar Crust, followed by Stir-Fried Fruits with Ginger Ice Cream and Jasmine Tea Caramel. I am so impressed.

I’m loving the uniqueness of this next entry. Stephen of Stephen Cooks made Zucchini/Rutabaga Pancakes with Tomato/Corn Marmalade. This strikes me like one of those flavor combinations you might see on a restaurant menu that makes you say “Hmmm, intriguing. I would have never thought to combine zucchini and rutabaga. I must try it.”

ChichaJo of 80 Breakfasts had “an unrequited craving” for a certain fried snack for over a year and used this IMBB as a chance to roll up her sleeves and make it herself. Her Oliebollen look fabulous!

Coming to us from the Philippines is Karen of The Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans. Karen fried up Cheese-Garlic Sticks. These look great and I bet they have wonderful flavor.

This next entry made me long for another trip to Paris. It doesn’t take much to get me to long for a trip to Paris, honestly, but seeing a blog from someone with the good fortune to live there will definitely do it. Melissa of Banlieue Blog made Spicy Pineapple Fritters. Very interesting blend of flavors and I bet they tasted great, even if Melissa didn’t add as much red pepper this time around as she’d have liked.

Sam’s English, Fred’s French, Let’s Party! Coming to us from San Francisco, California is the team at Becks & Posh. For this IMBB, Fred had a craving for Kartoffenpfannkuchen and Sam whipped up Antipasto Speciali. Check our their recipes and photos here. Tasty!

One of my fellow Chicagoans, Barrett of Too Many Chefs, sends in an excellent recipe for Phyllo Spring Rolls. These are fried vegetarian spring rolls using apples, fennel, cabbage, and carrots. Nice work!

Caryn of Delicious! Delicious! treats us to another version of Fried Green Tomatoes. As Caryn notes, we have seen a couple of these already in the Round-Up, but I say there is always room for another fine take on a classic. These look outstanding!

Martin of Confessions of a Serial Griller made Chicken Pancakes. These look delicious and I like how Martin walks us through his whole thought process on what dish to choose for this event. Happy Birthday, Martin and thanks for your entry!

Oh, Mia from Nosh, you slay me. Writing in from Munich, Germany with one of my all-time favorites, Fiori di Zucca Fritti. I adore fried zucchini blossoms and will order them every chance I get (and these chances are unfortunately too rare). Thanks for showing us how to prepare them at home.

We’ll close out this edition of the Round-Up with one more take on Spring Rolls. The very talented Zarah Maria of Food & Thoughts sends in her recipe using minced pork, chili, garlic, onion, soy sauce, fish sauce and a bit of sugar. She keeps them small in size; perfect for parties or snacking. Thanks, Zarah!

OK, I’m going to take another break in the Round-Up here and I’ll post again with the intention of covering all the remaining entries very soon. Looks like about 20 more to go. In addition I'll provide some statistics on the entries that will help pull this four part wonder together for those interested in that kind of thing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

IMBB 18: "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying" Round-Up, Part 2

OK, we’re back with Part Two of this month’s IMBB Round-Up. Kicking off today’s festivities is J of Kuidaore. Based in Singapore, J treated us to not one but several amazingly good-looking fried desserts. Click here to see the Cappuccino Semifreddo with Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts, the Chocolate Truffle Ravioli and Confiture de Lait, Jelly Beignets and Deep Chocolate Cream with Raspberry Coulis, and Churros con Chocolate. No, I’m not making that up. All those decadent treats were submitted by one person. Wow, J!

Our next entry was a departure from the sweet side taking us back to something more savory. Chefdoc of A Perfect Pear prepared Pan-Fried Diver Scallops with Lettuce Sauce and Fennel Pickels. Doesn’t that sound delicious? My husband loves scallops and I am always looking for new scallop recipes. This one is definitely a keeper.

Jennifer of Taste Everything Once wasn’t able to fry up any food herself this time around as her kitchen is all packed up and ready for a move, but she was able to indulge in some Corn Dogs and French Fries from her local burger joint. As Jennifer says, “food just tastes better when eaten off a stick.” Now those are some fast food words of wisdom.

Next in is Grommie from The Power of Cheese with Puffy Apple Fritters with Refreshing Lemon Sauce. Yum. I think that lemon sauce would complement with apple fritters really well.

Rosie of Bitchin’ in the Kitchen with Rosie filled her Columbus, Ohio kitchen with Fried Green
Tomatoes Rosie Style. These sound like they would be great accompanied by Rosie’s barbeque

June of June’s Blog submits a Fried Hamburger Stuffed with Onion, Seasonings and Mashed
Potatoes. This must be a very familiar recipe for June since she knows it by heart and doesn’t
require exact measurements to make it. Thanks for sending us this idea from Jakarta, June!

I always love reading what Anne of Anne’s Food has come up with in ker kitchen and this time
is no different. For this month’s IMBB, Anne made Pyttipanna, a Swedish favorite. This dish is
all about using leftovers and Anne combined meat, potatoes, onions, and chanterelles into
something that looks very satisfying.

Nupur of One Hot Stove says that she does not suffer from sizzleophobia, or the fear
of immersing edible objects into heated oils. I’m glad she doesn’t because otherwise
we wouldn’t get her terrific recipe for Vada Pav. Don’t those look perfectly crisp and delicious?

Celia of English Patis checks in from London with a recipe for Spicy Stir-Fried Prawns. Celia
provides some good advice on the type of prawns to use and notes that this sauce isn’t too spicy
hot, but a pleasant mix of garlics, green onions, ginger, bean sauce and ketchup for a “sweet-sour
tang.” Looks really good!

Every time I read Grab Your Fork, I can’t help but smile at seeing that it’s written by Augustus
Gloop. Augustus made Vietnamese Banh Xeo Crispy Pancakes. Dubbed “the perfect
compromise for the fried food fanatic on a health kick,” these caught my attention immediately.
It’s a crispy fried crepe, embedded with prawns, pork and sprouts and then covered with greens
and nuoc cham sauce. My mouth is watering over these.

I’ve been having Internet problems since Monday and haven’t had web access for much of
every day. Coupled with Blogger formatting problems, it's been a tough few days to get the
Round-up completed. Thanks for your patience though; more of this Round-Up will be
coming as fast as my technology troubles allow.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

IMBB 18: "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying" Round-Up, Part I

Well, frying certainly seems to agree with people! As I type this it’s only noon on IMBB day and I have already received more entries than I know what to do with. It’s fun to see people from all over the world frying all types of food in many, many different styles. Since the entries seem to be pouring in pretty fast and furious, I think the best way to do the round-up this time is to share them as they come. So here is the first post of our IMBB 18 Round-Up. Stay tuned for more in the days ahead.

The very first submission I received was from Fast Recipes. Kevin prepared some seriously good-looking Potato Skins. Yum, yum. A delicious and decadent way to start us off.

Next I received an entry from Soycap of WOG: Without Garnish. A lover of fried foods, Soycap decided to fill her Pasadena, California kitchen with not one but several fried snacks. Click here to see her absolutely lovely array of fried treats, including Deep-Fried Rice Balls, Tempura’d Baby Brussel Sprouts, Nori “Scotch” Eggs with Elephant Heart Plum Chutney, Mini Funnel Cake with Concord Grape Reduction, Creamy Caramel and Candied Flowers and finally Deep-Fried Banana Chocolate Truffle.

Lynn of To Short Term Memories then sent in her entry from Tokyo, Japan.  Earlier this year
Lynndecided to enhance her knowledge of Chinese cooking, noting that frying is a staple in
Chinese food preparation. Lynn made
General Tsao’s Chicken, Sea Bream and Fried Tofu in Lemongrass Sauce. Great job, Lynn!

Checking in from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is Babe_KL of Babe in the City. Like Lynn before
her, Babe mentions how frying is used very frequently in Asian cuisine and she brings her
Pan Fried Patties to the table. Don’t they look great?
Right on the heels of Babe’s entry comes another submission from Kuala Lumpur.  This time
Alex of notions of aC checks in with Homestyle Char Koay Teow. Alex said he wanted to
taste some of this dish right out of the frying pan, before even getting it to the plate. I can see
why; it looks terrific.
When I decided on frying as a theme for this month’s IMBB, I thought it might give people the
chance to indulge in the guilty pleasure of fried foods. Mika of The Green Jackfruit
fell right into that category, saying that this IMBB gave her the chance to make some things she
often craves but resists making because they are deep fried and therefore not necessarily the
healthiest. Glad this gave you an excuse to prepare your Punjabi Samosas, Mika.
They look tasty!
Cathy of A Blithe Palate  shares thoughts on the “religion” of frying in the Deep South and
prepares a delicious–looking plate of Fried Soy-Sake Shrimp Wontons with Ginger Aioli. I like
her nod to Southern frying, while selecting a dish that’s a unique departure from the traditional
cooking of that region of the US.
Nic from BakingSheet filled her Los Angeles, California kitchen with
Not-So-Fried Green Tomatoes. Inspired by the fried green tomatoes she had at B. Smith’s in
New York City, Nic prepared these delicious oven-fried beauties.
Any entry that includes the phrase “heart attack on a plate” gets my attention.  
Niki of Esurientes-TheComfort Zone went retro with a
Whole Breadcrumbed Deep-Fried Camembert. Looks absolutely decadent and how lucky is
Niki to have a German deep fryer built into her kitchen bench?
I’ll conclude this first edition of the IMBB 18 round-up with two entries from Farid of Algerian
and Ya Rayi Our Rai. Farid made Brik bil Tunn, a very interesting and apparently
addictive Savory Tuna Pastry. He also prepared Fried Potatoes Algerian Style. I love how
these potatoes puff up when cooked to produce a thin, crispy top.
I’ll take a pause in the IMBB 18 Round-Up here but more entries will be posted in the days
There’s such an interesting variety of fried goodness coming in from around the world
I hope you’ll check back in to see what’s up next. Thanks to all for participating!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Cooking with Lima Bean

Today our Lima Bean, now 2, looked at me and very seriously said “Mommy, I need that bowl. I am going to make my recipe.” Not knowing what her recipe could possibly be, I grabbed the blue plastic bowl she was gesturing toward and handed it over.

Now that she had her bowl, she informed me of what ingredients she needed. She asked me to get some ice out of the freezer, some flowers from our deck, the handle to her sippy cup, and a wooden spoon. Ok, not traditional but I’ll play along. So I gathered up her ingredients and she very happily stirred them together in her big blue bowl.

When I commented on how delicious her “recipe” looked, she said “I can’t talk now, Mommy. I need to focus on my cooking.” And she continued stirring her masterpiece. Then she went to my desk and found 2 colored paperclips, one green and one pink, to add to her mixture. She seemed very, very pleased to have found that last magical ingredient.

Maybe this sudden cooking enthusiasm was sparked by her recent reading of A Chef by Douglas Florian. This book is really interesting and fun and it’s one of the few children’s books I’ve seen that discusses the real work of a chef. The book explains how chefs and kitchen staff come in to work early to place orders, accept deliveries and prep food for that evening. Florian explains the different people who work in the kitchen and shows how a pastry chef brings a dessert to fruition. If you have a budding young chef in the house, this book is worth a look. It provides a really nice look at kitchen and restaurant life, in a way that’s appealing to the very young.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

IMBB 18: Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying!

I’m pleased to be hosting the 18th edition of “Is My Blog Burning? This month’s theme is Summer’s Flying, Let’s Get Frying! (Apologies to people in parts of the world where it’s not currently Summer. Let’s call your IMBB Winter’s Flying, Let’s Get Frying!)

The goal this month is to use any style of frying to prepare a dish. Pan fry, stir fry, deep fry…you name it. It can be any type of food, from appetizer to main course to dessert. Break out your fanciest frying skills or indulge us with one of your tried and true simple family favorites.

The event will take place Sunday, August 28, 2005. Please e-mail your submission to atourtable@hotmail.com sometime on the 28th. Please be sure to include your name, your blog’s name, your city, and the link to your post.

I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed, fry, fry again!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

French Bistro Fare at Mon Ami Gabi

Win’s sister recently gave him a gift card for Mon Ami Gabi. She lives in Maryland and has dined at the Bethesda location a few times, always enjoying it. As such, she thought it might be a good place for us to try.

Mon Ami Gabi is part of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group. This group includes establishments such as Ambria, Maggiano’s, Tru, Brasserie Jo, Café Ba-Ba-Reeba, Vong’s Thai Kitchen, Wildfire and Everest. While I’ve mentioned before that I usually prefer smaller, independently operated restaurants to those owned by large corporations or management groups, I must acknowledge that Lettuce Entertain You does an excellent job with their restaurants and Mon Ami Gabi was no exception.

Mon Ami Gabi feels like a bustling French bistro. Its lovely interior is full of leather banquettes and cozy tables covered in crisp white tablecloths. The walls are lined with signs written in French and other art to try and convey a French feeling.

Mon Ami Gabi served warm baguette with an interesting sliced carrot “tapenade.” I don’t really know what to call the sliced, seasoned carrots accompanying the bread, so I’ll use tapenade as the closest thing I can think of to describe it.

For an appetizer, I ordered Steamed Mussels Mariniere. They were delicious. Fresh seafood served in a flavorful broth.

Win selected Onion Soup au Gratin for his appetizer. It was a large portion of really outstanding, cheese-laden onion soup.

Filet Mignon with Mushrooms in a Red Wine Sauce was my entrée. It was a nice cut of meat with a pleasant sauce. The red wine and mushrooms created a very effective flavor combination.

Win’s entrée was Pork Tenderloin Wrapped in Bacon and Served with Gratin Dauphinois, Dates, Raisins and Cider. He really enjoyed this dish.

Despite being quite full, we couldn’t pass up dessert. Win selected Mon Ami Gabi’s Profiteroles and I opted for a special dessert that evening, their White Chocolate Rice Pudding. The profiteroles were really good, as would be expected of such a classic dessert for this kind of restaurant. The white chocolate rice pudding was rich, creamy and really good, but I couldn’t detect as much chocolate favor as I would have liked. It was very good, but it kind of left me wondering how many additional calories this white chocolate was adding to my meal without really contributing that much to my tastebuds.

We enjoyed our night out at Mon Ami Gabi. The food was good, the service pleasant and helpful and the atmosphere comfortable and charming. Their menu features mostly French bistro classics, so if you are in the mood for that type of food you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for something French with offerings beyond the more traditional chicken, fish, and red meat types, I’d also suggest checking out Café Matou.

Mon Ami Gabi
2300 N. Lincoln Park West
Chicago, IL 60614
Telephone: 773-348-8886
Web Site: http://www.monamigabi.com

Sunday, July 31, 2005

IMBB 17: tasteTea

It’s time for another installment of Is My Blog Burning? and this month’s event is being hosted by A La Cuisine! TasteTea is the theme, celebrating dishes made with tea.

When I saw this theme, I was happy to have another opportunity to bake one of my favorite desserts, Earl Grey Tea Cookies. Regular readers of At Our Table might remember that I posted about these cookies several months ago. Since then, they have become one of my favorites because they are delicious, easy to make, able to be frozen for later use, and appropriate for either a casual snack or a more formal gathering with friends.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies
Recipe as seen in Real Simple magazine, May 2005
Total Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes (includes chilling time)
Makes 6 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea leaves, from approximately 6 tea bags ( I used Trader Joe’s Organic Earl Grey tea)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Pulse together all the dry ingredients in a food processor until the tea leaves are pulverized.
3. Add the vanilla, water, and the butter. Pulse together until a dough forms.
4. Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 12-inch log, about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

5. When ready to bake, slice each log into disks, about 1/3 inch thick. Place on parchment or foil-lined baking sheets, roughly 2 inches apart.
6. Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

As I mentioned earlier, these cookies are quite easy to make and they are delicious in a very simple way. There’s a subtle elegance about the Earl Grey flavor they possess. It’s a certain je ne sais quois that makes them special and unique without being overpowering.

If you would like to have these at the ready for future use, I’d recommend making the dough then storing the dough logs in the freezer until you are ready to bake them. Just wrap them very well in plastic wrap and they should hold up fine until you are ready to take them out, slice them up, and bake.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Frozen Lime Pie

Here is another easy and delicious summer treat: Frozen Lime Pie. This recipe comes from Domino, a new home and lifestyle magazine, and it’s apparently inspired by the Key Lime Pie at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach, Florida. I haven’t had key lime pie at Joe’s so I can’t say whether or not it’s on the mark, but I do know it’s a delicious pie.

Frozen Lime Pie
Recipe based on one found in Domino Magazine, Spring/Summer 2005 issue
Page 120

1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
zest of 1.5 limes
½ cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
¼ teaspoon salt
1.5 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
lime wheels for decoration

1. In an oiled 9 inch pie plate, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter until the mixture holds together. Press evenly into bottom and sides of pie plate to form crust.

2. In a separate bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, lime zest, lime juice and salt. Stir for 2 minutes, until thickened. Pour into crust.

3. Place heavy cream in a mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to blend on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and blend another 10 seconds.

4. Spread whipped cream on top of lime mixture and place in freezer for 4 hours. Just before serving decorate with lime wedges.

This pie is really tangy and refreshing. It’s a nice combination of sweet and tart and there’s a good textural mix between the crunchy graham crackers, the soft, velvety lime pie, and the frothy, decadent whipped cream. A few additional notes:

1. I’m just throwing this out there for any new bakers in the ranks. You can buy graham cracker crumbs in the baking aisle of your supermarket. The first time I made a recipe calling for graham cracker crumbs I didn’t know they came pre-crushed and I didn’t own a food processor at the time. So I stood at my counter smashing regular graham cracker cookies with a rolling pin to try and achieve the right level of smushed-ness. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. So I just have to throw this note in there to any newer cooks who might be in danger of making my old mistake. Save yourself some time and frustration and grab the graham cracker crumbs at the store.

2. This pie is really good as is, but I’d recommend altering the recipe a tad to allot for more crust and less whipped cream. To me, the crust would be even better if it was a smidge thicker all around. And the whipped cream layer is pretty significant here. If you are counting calories or health conscious and want to reduce your fat intake some, definitely feel free to make less whipped cream and your pie will still be excellent. So again, recipe is great as is, but it might be even better with slight modifications as listed above.

It's a no-bake dessert so it's perfect for a hot summer night. Enjoy!

More pie recipes

Monday, July 25, 2005

Two Chilled Summer Soups...and a Popsicle

I love summer soups and I recently whipped up two that are easy and delicious. The first is a lovely Gazpacho and the second is Cantaloupe Soup.

Based on the recipe found in “Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen” by Kevin Mills and Nancy Mills
Makes 4 generous portions

5-6 large tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 small onion (I am not a huge onion fan, so I use about ½ onion instead)
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
24 splashes hot pepper sauce (I like it hot, so this is the general amount I use. The actual recipe calls for 3-6 drops of hot sauce. So make it as hot or mild as you like.)
2-3 dashes black pepper (to your taste)

1. Remove the tomato skins by dropping the tomatoes into a large pot of boiling water. Let them soak for about 30 seconds or until the skins start to pucker. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and core them. Remove their skin. The skin should peel away very easily using just your hands or a small knife. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and set aside.
2. Slice cucumber in half and remove the seeds.
Chop up your onion.

3. You can use either a blender or a food processor for the final step. Put all ingredients into the blender or food processor and blend at high speed for about 20 seconds or until the mixture is just slightly crunchy. If the mixture is having any trouble blending, add 1/4 cup water and blend again. Also, if your blender or food processor is too small to hold it all at once, just divide the ingredients up into 2 batches.
4. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, cover and refrigerate at least a couple hours before serving. I like to let it
sit in the fridge about 24 hours to let the flavors merge a bit more before serving.

Most people who enjoy gazpacho probably have their own favorite gazpacho recipe.
The reason I like this one is that it’s easy, flavorful, and vibrant, one of the classic Mexican recipes.

My second summer soup is Cantaloupe Soup. Jason from Adventures of a Foodie was kind enough to share his recipe for cantaloupe soup and I was eager to give that one a try.

Cantaloupe Soup
Recipe provided by Jason of Adventures of a Foodie

1/2 cup orange juice
1 medium cantaloupe, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons sugar (optional if cantaloupe isn't sweet)
Mint for garnish

1. Puree orange juice and cantaloupe until smooth, about 20-25 seconds.
2. Add yogurt and sugar and puree until smooth, about 15 seconds.
3. Served chilled.

Easy as can be and this makes an interesting and light chilled soup. I liked it, but I am going to guess that chilled cantaloupe soup might not be a hit with everyone. As an extension of the recipe, I poured the soup into popsicle molds and have been making Cantaloupe Popsicles for Lima. She loves them and thinks they are a huge treat, even though they are really composed of the extremely healthy ingredients of cantaloupe, yogurt and orange juice. So in our house, this recipe was actually a bigger hit as a popsicle than a soup. Many thanks to Jason for sharing this recipe.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

For a Great Date, Call Jane

Jane’s was recommended to us as a great date place with good food, so we recently checked it out. It’s nestled on a cute street in Bucktown and it has charming outdoor seating to complement its warm, dimly lit dining room.

We decided to take advantage of the outdoor seating and dine al fresco the night we went. A rum and Coke for Win, a gin and tonic for me. One of my favorite pleasures is sipping a cold gin and tonic outdoors on a gorgeous summer evening.

Well, my great pleasure had to be taken indoors when a sudden downpour hit. A major rainstorm came out of nowhere and all of the diners outside had to seek a new table indoors. Although Jane’s interior was already bustling with diners, the very savvy hostess was keeping an eye on the clouds and she had saved a few tables for us just in case it happened to rain. This scored major points with me, as it enabled all of the people from the outside tables to be easily and seamlessly transitioned to tables inside. Within seconds of the downpour starting, we were happily settled inside.

Jane’s menu is basically American, enhanced with flavors from around the world. It’s simple but the flavor combinations are interesting and there were many tempting dishes from which to choose. While we’re normally up for major culinary adventure, we both opted for pretty simple dishes that evening.

For appetizers, Win selected scallops and I had a salad with blue cheese, toasted pecans and pears. This delicious salad has become a staple on many menus so I often hesitate to order it and instead have something more unusual. I was glad I got it at Jane’s though. Very fresh, nicely dressed, and delicious. Win really enjoyed his scallops, pictured below.

For my entree, I selected a Vegetarian Burrito with Avocado Cream Sauce. This was top notch and the avocado cream sauce complemented the burrito beautifully. Stuffed with goat cheese, tofu, corn, black beans, tomatoes, and other seasonal veggies, this burrito was outstanding.

Win chose a bacon cheeseburger for his entrée. See, I wasn’t kidding when I say we went basic here. Sometimes basic feels good though and this cheeseburger didn’t disappoint. Juicy, flavorful and cooked perfectly.

Jane’s dining room is on the small side, creating an intimate atmosphere. Tables are close together and the best seats in the house are the raised tables in the two front windows. If you want a really private table with a bird’s eye view of everything, call ahead and see if you can reserve one of these window tables. The walls are lined with interesting art and word has definitely gotten out that it’s a great place to go on a date. We counted no fewer than five tables on either side of us clearly in date mode. What makes Jane’s a nice spot for a date or a cozy night out is that the menu is accessible but innovative and the food is reasonably priced. It’s a notch cooler than your standard American restaurant, without being too pricey for most people.

Jane’s menu offers a wide variety of meat, fish, pasta, salads, sandwiches and burgers. Unique flavors, pretty presentation, good atmosphere and friendly, down-to-Earth servers made me really pleased we tried it. We’re looking forward to going back and trying more from their menu next time.

1655 West Cortland Street
Chicago, IL 60622
Telephone: 773-862-5263

Thursday, June 23, 2005

New Favorite Finds

We are going to have a steady stream of guests in town for the next few weeks, so At Our Table will be on a little hiatus. I’ll be spending time entertaining our visiting friends and family and time at the computer to post entries will be limited. I’ll be back with a few new recipes and I have restaurant reviews of Mon Ami Gabi, Jane’s, Hillary’s Urban Eatery, and other Chicago spots to share. If you’d like to be alerted when the next post is added to At Our Table, look to the left-hand side of the screen to the Notify List box and join my e-mail updates list.

And now for something completely different...

Here are a couple of my new favorite finds. The first is York Dark Chocolate Dipped Cookies with Peppermint Crème. I bumped into these at the grocery store recently and they are amazing. They are so minty and fresh. Just like a York Peppermint Patty but with the crispy crunch of a cookie. So, so good that we plowed through one box dangerously quickly.

My other obsession of the week is Trader Zen Grapefruit Chamomile Sea Salt Scrub from Trader Joe’s. I rarely look at the beauty products at Trader Joe’s but recently I stopped to peruse them. I love this grapefruit scrub. It smells wonderful and leaves your skin exfoliated, soft and smooth thanks to its blend of sea salt and oils. My aesthetician friend recently saw my elbows and pronounced them “in excellent condition.” I had used the scrub that morning and I’m sure my gleaming elbows where the result of the scrub. While my elbows aren’t exactly high on my body priority list, I’m not going to turn down the chance to have excellent ones. The bright grapefruit scent leaves you and your bathroom smelling great. This scrub is reasonably priced, so effective and a real treat for the senses.

So those are two fun things to check out next time you hit the grocery store. Back in a couple weeks with more food news, recipes, and restaurant reviews. Until then, happy summer!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Food and Fun in Chinatown: Dinner at Phoenix

We recently realized that we hadn’t had Chinese food in a while and the time seemed right for a trip to Chicago’s Chinatown. Win, my outstanding restaurant researcher, had a few potential places in mind for us that night and we decided that we’d check them all out and decide which to choose when we got there and saw more.

Phoenix ended up the winner. Phoenix is known for its dim sum and its lobby is covered in awards and accolades for its food and its dim sum specifically. It is housed in an unassuming storefront with a basic sign, but when you climb the stairs to the restaurant you see it’s actually quite large, elegantly appointed with white tablecloths and depending on where you sit you might get a magnificent view of downtown Chicago and the Sears Tower. The night we went it was bustling with activity; tourists and locals, young and old, big groups and quiet tables for two, all enjoying the excellent food.

Phoenix’s menu is extensive and since Chinese food makes such great leftovers we decided we’d order more than we could probably eat at the time and then just take the rest home. Our goal was to try and experience several dishes, since so many looked great.

For an appetizer, Win selected Barbeque Pork. It was really tender, flavorful and delicious.

I chose one of Phoenix’s appetizer specials for the evening, Fried Soft Shell Crab served with salt and pepper. As promised by our waiter, this soft shell crab was out of this world. Perfectly fried, fresh as can be, and just so good. I am a sucker for soft shell crab and often order it when it’s in season. I’m so glad I tried this one at Phoenix.

Next we each had a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. This soup was good, but not transcendent. Nothing wrong with it, but I have preferred the flavor of the hot and sour at other places.

For my entrée, I ordered Salt-Crusted Shrimp. I have been obsessed with the concept of Salt-Crusted Shrimp since I read Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser. In that book (one of my favorites that I just love to pick up and skim here and there for a recipe or a good story), Hesser talks about the heavenly experience of dining on Salt-Crusted Shrimp at Pearl Oyster Bar in New York City. You know how sometimes you read a recipe and it just sounds so good that the idea of it sticks with you? Well this is how I was with this shrimp. So when I saw Salt-Crusted Shrimp on the menu at Phoenix, I knew I had to try it…even though it was going to be a completely different interpretation from what Hesser describes in her book. Well the dish might have been different, but it was outstanding. Large, fresh shrimp coated in a thick, salty crust. Really great and worthy of a second Tsingtao.

Win enjoyed Orange Chicken and thought it was everything that dish should be. Right flavors, great taste. Phoenix offers two cooking styles for the chicken, crispy or not crispy (meaning not fried). As you can tell from the photo above, Win opted for the non-crispy variety this time.

We also ordered some Pan-Fried Noodles to accompany the meal. I ordered them plain, but they mysteriously showed up with beef on them. That was ok by Win though, who happily enjoyed the meat. These weren’t exactly what I was expecting (I’m used to Pan-Fried Noodles being crispier and less Lo Mein-like) but they were terrific.

Service at Phoenix was very efficient, almost brisk at times, and friendly. The food was excellent and the large menu will allow you to sample a wide variety of dishes. It’s a good spot to stop for a meal in Chinatown.

2131 S. Archer Avenue
Suite 2
Chicago, IL 60616-1809
Telephone: 312-328-0848