summertime…

Well, it’s finally hot in Chicago. We’re settling into the new place and enjoying seeing friends.

Sometimes Thomas and I like to drink out of fruit.
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(whitney took the picture)

Sometimes we celebrate birthdays, this week Tselanie’s.
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To do that, we’ll light candles.
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And eat Ni├žoise salad.
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And escargot.
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YUM!

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gluten free clafoutis

I’ve made claufoutis(es?) many times before, but this time I took a different approach. Mostly because, cough, I have an awesome mixer that I got for Christmas. Having a standing mixer has really changed my life. It seriously reduces the time of making most anything. It might seem stupid and like I am exaggerating, but if you spend a lot of time cooking, it is an investment worth looking into. Plus, with my NEW (double lot) BACK (no garage) YARD, I am going to use it to make SAUSAGES. I am a nut. I realize that making sausages sounds unappealing to most people. However, if you are reading this, you are probably my friend or Mom/Aunt and either agree with me or find my stance amusing.

Photobucket (Image courtesy of the Spice House website)
I’d also like to give a shout out to Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean paste. This product is amazing and convenient. As I re-stretch my muscles in my home kitchen and remember how to enjoy making food for pleasure’s sake & sustenance, I’m remembering that the simplest way is often the best. I also don’t have to hand whip my eggwhites to stiff peaks or get all esoteric and weird about taking logical and tasty shortcuts.

Strawberry Claufoutis
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Ingredients:
2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 cup sugar
2 cups almond flour (gluten-free, I use Bob’s Red Mill)
3/4 cup browned butter
1 T vanilla bean paste
1/4 t ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
Oven preheated to 350
1 pie pan, greased, lined with greased parchment, & dusted with almond flour.

Method:
1. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks are formed, using a whisk.
2. Add egg yolks, mix until combined.
3. Add sugar & vanilla bean paste.
4. Add browned butter. It should be cool, not hot, so it doesn’t make the eggs curdle. If it’s still warm, temper the mix, just add a bit at a time. When it is done, it will kind of look (and taste) like the most delicious marshmallow fluff. Hey, you know what, you just made a “kind of” Italian meringue! Congrats!
5. Switch to a paddle if you have a mixer, switch to a wooden spoon or spatula if you don’t.
6. Add almond flour, mix batter until well combined (but some lumps are ok)
7. Line your greased/parchmented/floured pie pan with sliced strawberries. If you are using cherries/blueberries/raspberries, you don’t need to chop them up. You don’t have to cut up your strawberries either, I was just trying to make my product stretch. If you decide to not chop them, you will need more than 1/4 cup.
8. Gently pour the almond batter over the tiled strawberries. Be careful not to move the berries around.
9. Tap the pie pan on a hard surface to remove any significant air bubbles.
10. Bake at 350 for about a half hour, until the top is golden brown.
11. Let cool. This is important folks. If you don’t let it cool completely, it will not hold its shape and it will be a tasty disaster.
12. Once it is cooled, you get a plate and gently flip the pie pan onto it. If you’ve greased it properly, it will come right out. Remove the parchment paper, slice up and eat.
13. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting, maybe save some for your boyfriend.
14. This is really really good with coffee, a perfect gluten-free breakfast pastry.

Cold Roasted Salad

The hot days of summer demand a few things: low effort tasty foods that leave leftovers so I can go to pool more and not worry about what to eat. It’s a tall bill to fill, but this salad manages just fine. I only wish there were more of it!

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Ingredients:

1.5 lb tiny/fingerling potatoes, all potatoes cut in half (if you use regular big potatoes, just cube the potatoes into 1″ dice)
1 lb itty bitty tomatoes (no subs, they are too cute) pricked so they don’t burst in the oven
2 ears corn
1 can cannellini/ garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (I didn’t have these for some reason but they will taste good)
2 slices bacon (you can definitely omit this, I just included it because I’m a Midwestern fatty who grew up eating potato salad with bacon in it)
Olive Oil TT for roasting veggies
TT Salt
TT Pepper
TT Crushed Red Pepper

*Foil and parchment paper make this a lot easier with the corn and tomatoes.

(For the dressing)
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 TBS olive oil (or rendered bacon fat from when you cooked your bacon)
1 TBS balsamic (or whatever vinegar you like, I used a little apple cider vinegar too)
1TBS honey
Fresh basil chiffonade (however much you like)
TT Salt
TT Pepper

Instructions:

1. Set your oven to 400 and roast your potatoes with some olive oil and salt/pepper until they are soft in the middle and golden brown on the outside (about 45 minutes), set aside. While you are doing this, you can also cook your bacon, let it cool, then finely chop it up, so it’s almost like bacon dust. Save your bacon fat.

2. Roast your tomatoes with some olive oil and salt/pepper until they begin to caramelize (about a half hour), set aside.

3. Roast your unshucked corn in foil until its cooked, set aside (if you want the kernels to get a little brown, just turn on your burner and let it roast a little on the flame— just don’t tell your landlord and please remember to remove the leaves and corn hair first)

4. When everything is roasting, you can make your salad dressing. Take your vinegars in a bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil or rendered bacon fat. Add the goat cheese. If your using your freshly rendered bacon fat, the goat cheese will melt right away. If you are using olive oil, it helps to use goat cheese that has come down close to room temperature. With enough mixing, you’ll get a creamy looking dressing. Add the garlic and honey, whisk until combined. Then, add the bacon dust if you’ve decided to go with bacon. Taste your dressing- if it’s too acidic, add more honey! Now is a good time to add salt and pepper. Tweak it however you like!

5. When all of your veggies are roasted, shuck the corn, and cut the kernels off the cob into a bowl. Add the potatoes and tomatoes. If I had beans, this is where I would put them- cannellini beans would play especially nicely with the vegetables. Next, add the dressing. Toss the dressing in the salad so that everything is evenly coated. Now add the basil and crushed red pepper. Here you go! Easy roasted summer salad. Chill it in the fridge and take it to a bbq or just eat it all yourself.

**You might wonder why I’d recommend roasting veggies when it’s so hot outside. Well, I like how cold roasted vegetables taste and besides the time commitment, the recipe is pretty easy. Watch a show or read a book while the veggies roast!

**This recipe could be vegan if you omit the cheese, honey, and bacon, just saying. It would also do fine without the garlic!

Gluten Free Meatballs

As I’ve mentioned before, organizing a gluten free diet can be a little more difficult that planning a conventional one. However, instead of dwelling on the fact that so much is off limits, it’s much more fun (and useful) to think of delicious alternatives that don’t harm one’s body. When you are eating gluten-free, you have to look out for gluten in all of its sneaky forms. This captor lurks in the most hidden places: soups, fried foods, soy sauce, meat substitutes, and obviously most breads (which unfortunately includes pizza). It gets especially hard when you enjoy cooking for and with other people. However, finding alternatives and substitutions for gluten can be fun, and when the experiments are successful it’s very gratifying and delicious.

A friend and I and are splitting a meat CSA this summer from Simply Wisconson. GB and I came home from vacation to a freezer full of meat. I realize if you’re vegetarian, this probably sounds disgusting. But, if you’re a meat eater knowing you are supporting small farms with sustainable practices actually makes the meat taste even better. We received pork chops, a ham steak (uncured and huge), ground beef, italian sausage, chicken thighs, chicken legs, two large steaks, and ground bison. Now, I love a good hamburger, but lately I’ve been craving meatballs. Unfortunately, most meatball recipes contain gluten. So, I decided to make a new recipe, and it turned out well.

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Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 egg
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cups mushrooms, stems removed, caps diced
1/2 cup gluten free breadcrumbs*** (if you are not on a GF diet, feel free to use conventional breadcrumbs)
2 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp fresh oregano, minced
1 cup basil (chiffonade cut) loosely packed, divided in half
Salt TT
Pepper TT
1/4 cup lemon zest (for sauce)
1 TBS “good olive oil” (for sauce)
1 1/2 tsp balsamic (for sauce)

Directions
1. If it started frozen, Make sure your meat is thawed, but keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Warm meat is gross and a breeding ground for nasty bacteria.

2. Prep all your ingredients, cut them up and measure out everything else, so you’re not running around your kitchen. Now’s a good time to preheat your oven to 350.

3. Toast your gf breadcrumbs in the oven with the butter for about 10-15 minutes. I made my own gf breadcrumbs by using my food processor to chop up a gf English muffin. Gf products tend to be a bit more temperamental than conventional flour based products, so keep a close eye on your breadcrumbs toasting. Take them out the oven and let them cool a bit.

4. Combine garlic, thyme, rosemary, oregano, 1 TBS olive oil, little salt, little pepper, chopped mushroom caps, and tomato paste. Cook at 350 for 10 minutes. Take this mixture out of the oven and let it cool a bit.

5. Now, take your meat out of the fridge. Combine the Italian sausage and ground beef. Add the egg. I started by using my food processor to mix everything, but ended up preferring my hands. After the meat and egg are combined, add the breadcrumbs and mushroom mix. Now add the remaining regular olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix it up. Lastly, add 1/2 cup of the basil chiffonade. Make sure everything is well blended.

6. Now it’s time to make the mix into little meatballs! I like to put the meatballs on a sheetpan covered with parchment paper. After I’ve made all the meatballs, I like to put them in the fridge so they firm up a bit before I cook them. I left them in the fridge for about a half hour.

7. You could cook these meatballs a variety of ways. I put some of them on skewers and threw them on the grill. The rest I cooked on the stove top. You could boil them, or whatever. I liked cooking them on the stovetop because the outsides got a little crusty and the insides remained tender. It is important to cook them through. Since I used meat that was previously frozen, I did not freeze these meatballs. If you buy meat that had never been frozen feel free to freeze these guys.

8. Eating the meatballs fresh off the grill was tasty, but I preferred eating them cooked over the stovetop topped with a little lemon zest, fancy olive oil from California, and freshly chopped basil. I love tomato sauce, but this was a nice alternative for a hot summer evening.

california

Last week, GB and I had the chance to go on a vacation in California. We flew into San Francisco, spent a few days in Big Sur, and capped our trip off with 3 days in Los Angeles. We drove down Highway 1, which is the most beautiful road I have ever seen. Our trip was really relaxing.

San Francisco
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We arrived in SF in the middle of the Pride Parade, which was an inspiring introduction to such an energetic city.

Highlights include:

The Ferry Building
Freshest oysters ever at Hog Island Oysters
Tiny shampoo bottles at Hotel Serrano
Breakfast at Sears
Contemporary art and more at SF MOMA
Afternoon tacos at Taqueria Cancun
Best icecream in a life time at Bi-Rite Creamery
Outstanding Italian at Delfina
Mixology taste testing at Alembic
Real cd purchasing at Amoeba Music
Cheese from Cowgirl Creamery
New Orleans style iced coffee and Chiapas for home from Blue Bottle Coffee
Salted pig parts from Boccalone

Big Sur
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Big Sur sure lives up to its reputation as a beautiful and rustic paradise.

Highlights include:

Rustic evening complete with a campfire and s’mores at Big Sur Cabin and Campgrounds
Hiking in Pfeiffer State Park
Lunch at Nepenthe Restaurant
Quaintness and comfortable beds at Deetjens Inn
American splendor on Highway 1

Los Angeles
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GB and I were both surprised by how much we liked LA. As far as I’m concerned, LA is where the eats were tops.

Highlights include:

Margaritas at Malo Tacos
Sleeping/ people watching at The Standard Downtown (especially the rooftop pool!)
Drinks at Tiki-Ti
Snacks at Ciudad
Dinner at Mo-Chicha
Art at The Getty
Planets at The Griffith Observatory
Sushi at Katsu-Ya Sushi
Fro-Yo at Pinkberry
Breakfast Pupuserias at Sarita’s Pupuseria
California cuisine at In-N-Out Burger
Korean Fried Chicken at Kyo-Chon Korean Fried Chicken

It was great to see our friends Sarah, Dave, and Lara. Thanks for hanging out and for all the good recommendations!

We arrived back in Chicago on the 4th of July just in time for bikerides, bbqs, and fireworks. I love California, but I am a Midwesterner at heart, so I’m happy to be back in my humid home.

drinks at Alembic in SF.
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easy gazpacho

It’s finally hot in Chicago after a year of San Francisco like weather. As luck would have it, my favorite meal of all time tastes best in hot weather! In my brain, nothing is better than BLT served with a big savory bowl of gazpacho. I’ve been eating my mom’s gazpacho since before I can remember. I’ve never followed a recipe, so I decided to write one down. The best thing about this recipe is that it is extra-easy so you have more time for riding bikes, going to the beach, and finding secret ice cream hang outs.

I find using canned tomatoes to be the best/easiest this time of year, but once good tomatoes are able to be purchased at the market, go for it!

Ingredients:
2 cans Italian plum tomatoes (if using fresh, concasse those suckers and use about 2 lbs)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 TBS high quality olive oil
3 TBS hot sauce
1/4 cup vinegar (depending on what kind you have, I used a hot spicy but have used Balsamic before and it’s also good)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small Spanish onion
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
1 large bell pepper, seeded and diced
ANY OTHER FRESH VEGGIES you like, I added diced radishes this time
1 small Spanish onion
Salt, TT
Freshly Ground Pepper, TT
1 avocado, sliced (for garnish)

Recipe:
1. Blend the tomatoes so they are pureed.
2. Add all the liquid ingredients, blend.
3. Add the chopped garlic and onion, blend.
4. Add all the other vegetables, don’t blend, you want it to be chunky!
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Put in storage container and let sit in fridge, at least 4 hours (the flavors marry better this way)
7. Put in bowls and garnish with sliced avocado.
8. This will keep for about two-three days and will taste AWESOME for lunch tomorrow.

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Apologize for the bad photo, getting the camera situation worked out. GO OUTSIDE!

hello!

The housewarming happened: 2×2 gallon containers of beverages (white sangria & watermelon margaritas) made it fun.
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One of the best parts about having a new house is coming home and eating meals with my main man at our dining table.
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Our first real meal (with chairs) was buckwheat pancakes topped with maple butter & homemade apricot preserves. The meal wouldn’t have been possible without our pals- maple butter from Danielle’s Montreal Trip, apricots for the jam from Annie’s back yard, and Cava for mimosas from Brendan & Rosie.

I went to the farmer’s market and bought this stuff
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I made a healthy dinner of patty pan squash & quinoa fritatta with crimson carrot, fennel, & italian onion salad.
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Dessert, sour cherry juleps
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followed by a few rounds of card games.

And the view from our front room
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city apricot jam

I am getting my camera back this weekend from Indianapolis, but I’m so excited, I’m going to post without pictures.

My friend Annie lives in Pilsen in Chicago. She has a fantastic backyard, which happens to include a real, live, fruiting APRICOT tree!

So, on Tuesday Gerard and I went to go pick about 10lbs of apricots. I’ve made apricot cobbler, 12 jars of apricot jam, and am using the rest to infuse some tequila…. and there’s still a ton of fruit on the tree! It’s so exciting to pick fruit from a tree in the middle of a huge city like Chicago. I know a lot of people in warmer areas often have this experience, but as a stalwart Midwesterner, it’s one I’ve never had. I’d suggest making friends with people who have fruit trees.

Making the jam has been an easier process than I originally thought it would be and I can’t wait to have it with crackers and goat cheese.

I found this recipe to be the simplest, and from what I’ve tasted, also the best apricot jam I’ve ever tasted!!!

I’ll post pictures of my babies when I get my camera back.

Also, when you’re canning, the jars make a really funny “ping” sound. Gotta get your kicks somehow.