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.

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