Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mardi Gras

Hello old friend. It's good to be back.

Mr. K and I have been on quite an adventure since I last buzzed in here, but here's the short of it: I've made my first real meal, in our adorably convenient coach house, on loan from a friend who recognized a friend in need and provided a roof. And for that, I am abundantly grateful.

Since our downsize, I only allowed myself 6 cookbooks and the rest joined our dining room table, new china and 90% of my clothes in storage. John Besh's My New Orleans made the cut. I do sincerely promise to post about Besh's other book fellows but for now let's stay focused. This book is phenomenal. It spent the first year of its residence sitting on my coffee table, with me looking at it askew as if to ask it, are you a coffee table book or a cookbook? Three recipes sampled later, I can whole-heartedly confirm it the latter.

So here we are in a 1 bed coach house with as little counter space to rival Smitten Kitchen, and I've made my first, from scratch, deliciously head shaking, fist-pounding, "oh my gosh you need to cook from this cookbook every day" husband groaning meal.

It was Mardi Gras. Rebirth, Hot 8 and Soul Rebels were blaring, I'm running around in my bachelorette crown and beads, husband rocking a stray mask atop his ski cap and shrimp and lemongrass wafting through the place.

It's good to be back.

Shrimp Creole

2 pounds jumbo Louisiana or wild American shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
1/4 cup olive oil
1.5 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bell pepper, red, green or yellow, seeded and diced
2 cans of crushed tomatoes, or 2 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Leaves from 2 branches fresh basil, chopped
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
3 cups cooked white rice

Put the shrimp into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, then mix in lemongrass. Heat 2 T of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over moderate heat. Add shrimp, stirring and tossing them with a spatula. Saute until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.
In the same skillet, add remaining 2 T olive oil, onions, garlic, celery and bell peppers. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and when sauce comes to a simmer add bay leaf, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Simmer 10 minutes.
Add shrimp back to the skillet along with basil and mint. Cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too tart, add a little sugar to balance the flavor. Remove bay leaf. Serve over steamed white rice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Confused metaphors

We had 10 glorious days of holy matrimony before the barrage began. But hang on, let's back up a second.

Damon and I got married. Originally called here Trodimon, my crop-mobbing, taste testing, card-carrying-Greek, we tied the knot up on a mountain top surrounded by friends and family, just over 10 days ago. We didn't have a big fat Greek wedding. Instead it was a perfect mix of Swedish and Greek traditions, protestant and orthodox, blåbärssoppa and tiropitas.

After a short jaunt on the coast, we returned to Chicago to many boxes and cards filled with kind things said by loved ones, but especially among the bunch, this one stood out. "To the new Mr. & Mrs. K! The secret of love is to keep mixing things up before you get a bundt in the oven!" and enclosed were mixing bowls, measuring cups and a lovely bundt pan.

Now I know a lot of folks tell tales of not using their wedding gifts but let it be known that I am not that girl. I already have dates on the calendar to make hand-cranked pasta, grill pizzas on our new stone and am a raving infomercial for our grill basket for veggies. (Seriously! Amazing! Get one! Any kind! I'll never skewer again!)

Not unsurprisingly, I've managed to use this pan two times in as many days.

And today, day three wherein I did NOT bake a bundt cake, my mother has begun the barrage for a real bundt in the oven. It's like she knew I had been baking, confused the metaphor and thought, "well she's on day three, must be the real deal by now!"

Seriously. We have had a lot of really fabulous bundts come out of the oven in the past few months, and Mr. and Mrs. K don't need our own, just yet.

As an aside, Damon is demanding that I bring a bundt cake to Christmas. Things probably won't unfold quite like this, but one can always hope.

Chocolate Bundt- no it's not a baby- Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semisweet cocoa
2 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 cup softened butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup milk

Preheat over to 350. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. Using an electric mixer in a large bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add remaining wet ingredients and slowly incorporate dry in with the wet. Pour batter into a well greased bundt pan and bake for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Glaze: whisk together 2 cups of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Drizzle aggressively over the cake once it's cooled.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Isn't it funny how you just find those ruts in friendships? I have with those friends to get cocktails with, those friends to have cook off duels, those friends to do dorky bike dates, those friends to watch movies with, you get the idea. Right around when Harry was starting to grow facial hair in the films, our cinema-friendly clan discovered that our dear friend Chad had yet to see the Godfather series. Lest we get accused of throwing stones, I myself just saw the films 2 years ago, but still. Epic film series? Culinary-theme easily tied in? Excuse to make cocktails? Count me in.

Here we are, on a dreary Saturday night, cooped up in a lovely apartment with a creepy Italian man begging for vengeance. Side note: Can you see our little heads reflected on the screen? Note that they are all upright. I think this is the first film we've watched (out of 8) that none of us fell asleep. That confirmed any doubt that we are indeed muggles. And tired ones at that.

On the menu: an adaptation of Marcela Hazan's simple Meatballs and sauce, asparagus, and of course panare. Appolonia cocktails (I'm liking the sound of Appolonia Kanakis) and Chianti were drinks of the evening, sans dry ice.

Hazan's meatballs (adapted)
1 slice of old white bread, crusts removed
1/3 cup milk
1.5 lbs ground chuck
1 lbs ground pork
2 T finely diced onion
1/3 c Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
2 T fresh Italian parsley, chopped
A couple grates of nutmeg, fresh (approximately 1/8 t)
2 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, heat milk and soak bread just until softened. Remove from heat and mash the bread with a fork. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, and milky bread, with your hands, just until it comes together. Form into balls, larger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball, and place in a pan to rest in the fridge.

Tomato Sauce
1/2 an onion
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2 cans San Marzano tomatoes
2 T fresh Italian parsley

While meatballs rest, saute onions, then garlic until yellow and softened. Add tomatoes and simmer on low.

Heat a large sautoise over medium heat with vegetable oil, enough taht when you put the meatballs in the pan, the oil will come up about 1/4 of an inch. Once oil is heated, fry meatballs, just until crisp on the outside. Set aside. Once all the meatballs have been crisped, add enough to your red sauce and finish the meatballs. Serve atop toothsome pasta.

Appolonia cocktail
2 parts Campari
1 part Fernet Branca
1 part real cranberry juice (not cocktail)
2 parts grapefruit juice
1 part simple syrup

Serve over ice, topped with a splash of Proseco.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bike adventure date

There are Friday afternoons when I find myself in need of an adventure, but bridal checklists, Godfather viewing marathon, and mothers day keep me from running to the fields of the land north of Chicago.In such a pickle, my dear fiance usually recommends a bike date. It goes like so:

Jo emails DK:  
ideas for tonight:

- Humbolt Park: Cemitas Puebla. I think we saw a check please on this place, right? 

- Pilsen: bike along the lake down to Pilsen. I've always wanted to check out this Second Fridays event down on 18th and Halstead at the galleries there. dinner at Nuevo Leon or maybe a new spot
- Andersonville/Uptown/Lincoln Square: bike along the lake north to Aville; dinner at Great Lakes Pizza or Ethiopian Diamond and maybe get a drink in Lincoln Square afterward? Or at Fountainhead?? Or Moody's Pub is really closeby. 
- Bridgeport: Check out the Chicagoist overview or Chicago Mag. I've always wanted to try some of those famous pasties. Maria's looks great.

For Pilsen or Bridgeport, we could even stop by the Roosevelt theatre on the way home and catch a movie.(Dark Shadows, Hunger Games, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

PS. mike is famous on the front page of WTTW :)

DK emails J:
Oh my gosh, these all look such great ideas. Thank you!
We have a groupon for Ethiopian Diamond so we shouldn’t go there till we have it on us.
I like the idea of going south. Let’s maybe try dinner at Azteca and then ride down to Maria’s afterward for a drink? Then we could stop by the Roosevelt on the way back and catch a movie? Does that sound good? 

Jo emails DK
sounds perfect. I can't wait! 

And off we go. Thankfully the wind was coming out of the south which made the ride down to Pilsen quite tiring, but the bike home, post burritos, an easy cruise. We even survived the 18th street underpass.

All this to say, you should try this sometime. Keep a list of adventurous places in new neighborhoods that you'd like to try and on quiet Friday night, go adventure. Or....

DK emails Jo again:

Geeze. Those cemitas sandwiches look amazing. I want to go there sometime, but please, let’s share one. I don’t think my stomach could handle it otherwise.

Anybody game for hitting up Cemitas on bikes this weekend? we'll go halvsies!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Grownup Meal

Our very first grown up, matchy-match meal.

Bring 4 cups of chicken stock to a simmer in a big pot. Toss in 2 packages of ramen, simmer for 1 minute. Crack in four eggs and stir to break up the whites as they cook. Add in shredded carrots, bok choy, shaved celery, sliced mushrooms, anything you may have on hand. Simmer for 2 more minutes. Ladle out into bowls and serve alongside homegrown spinach drizzled with soy sauce and rice vinegar.

I swear food tastes better on beautiful placemats and newly gifted everyday ware.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ella, Oliver, and Georgia

These warm southern spring winds that blowing into Chicago have been springing crocuses, daffodils and magnolias sooner than normal. Despite a sneaking suspicion that this won't be good for the ground and the garden, these warm days have leant me the opportunity to begin biking to and from work, sending my happy/productive/efficiency juices into overdrive. When biking home last Wednesday, I spotted this smile-inducing bumper sticker in the middle of River West, snugged up near some of the best restaurants spots in our fair city. It's nice to see that I have some kindred spirits in neighborhood.

Truth be told, flowers aren't the only thing these warm spring winds have brought. In a span of eight days, three of Damon's friends added to their family count. In order to help welcome Ella, Oliver and Georgia into this great world of ours, I thought the best and most appropriate way was to feed their exhausted parents. Rounds of cookies from Nightwood via Lottie and Doof were baked and dusted, rounds of mac and cheese were roasted and bubbled, and a little red pepper brie quiche thrown together to help remind the parents of these little ones that they still need to be cared for and well fed.

Just in case you know of more spring babies that are on their way (we still have one more that we're expecting will arrive in early May), I thought I'd share the recipe for this killer mac and cheese. It's warm and sweet and comforting and healthy-ish. And above all, its tasty.

Roasted Butternut Squash Bacon Pasta

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, chopped into large dice (approximately 3 cups)
2 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 pound smoked bacon
1 medium shallot, finely diced
8 oz mini penne pasta, uncooked
1/4 t salt
1/2 c flour
2 c milk
3/4 c shredded Provolone cheese
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread chopped butternut squash in a single layer, lightly toss with olive oil, sprinkle rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 or so minutes, tossing frequently until the squash is tender and lightly browned. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside

In a large saute pan, cook bacon until crisp, set aside to cool. Pour off most of the bacon fat, reserving about 1/2 teaspoon. Cook shallots in bacon fat until soft and golden, about 4 minutes. Crumble bacon into bite size pieces and combine with shallots and squash mixture. Set aside.

In a large stock pot, begin whisking salt and flour together over medium high heat. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly until the milk just barely starts to simmer. Turn flame to low and add Provolone cheese, continuing to whisk. Once incorporated, remove from heat at add cooked pasta to sauce. Stir to combine.

Coat a 13x9 casserole dish with cooking spray, and pour pasta mixture into dish. Top with squash bacon mixture and finish with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gapersblock: Ada Street

In the interest of shameless self promotion, I'd like to draw your attention to a review I wrote that was posted this week on Gapersblock...Check it out!