Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chickens to Eggs

Back in March, I made a pretty bold claim that I may need to refute.  This circular question of 'which came first' got pretty complicated today.  You see, back in March I had 4 little hatchlings delivered to my door for in the hopes that one day they would all grow up and produce some fine, fresh eggs.  I had almost forgotten.  After too many mornings of trudging down my culinary school scraps to the back yard, tossing them in the cage and wishing them a good day with thoughts of tandoori chicken on the brain, I almost forgot why I was raising them.  Further complicating the issue was the day Paprikash decided to start crowing, and was promptly whisked away for a neat beheading in the countryside (he now is perched in my freezer, ready to sing his final song).  But then, today after work I got home, lifted the nesting box lid like normal to give the girls fresh water and voila!?
There they were.  I certainly wasn't expecting them (notice the lack of comfortable straw to help "ease the mothering transition" for the ladies).  It was time and no hard wood floor was going to keep them from it.  Now, I realize this is rather an odd question but, who's the babies momma?
Any takers?  Tetrazinni looks a little spry and curious with her brown head cocked to the side but she's still a bit too finicky to be the first layer.  Pollo is having a peacock-esque day, and would make a very proud momma but her comb hasn't quite grown in and she's acts a little tougher then she really is.  My money is on Tandoori.  She's had a rough go of it the last week, after her comb was bloodily half-severed in a pecking order duel but she's the biggest and has all the right curves for laying.
So here's hoping for contagion.  Dinner tonight was March's summer version of eggs on toast-- I just couldn't resist.  Half a peach, rather than grapefruit, whole grain bread from Treasure Island, and eggs.  My very own eggs.  Yes I will be sharing so please place your name in queue.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Newly Minted Ending

Nothing finishes a barbeque quite like mint. It doesn't matter if we're post-Mufaletta hot dogs during the world's best homemade bachelorette weekend,
Or taking the little town of Fremont, IN by storm with barbeque after barbeque on the green,
Or post-wedding cook out, whipped up for hungry, long-missed and now faraway friends,
There's only good way to cap off any of these occasions, and that is, with mint.

I like it on top of watermelon, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, pretty much any good freshness I can get my hands on.  The Chicago chickadees chowed on mint atop grilled steak skewers.  Folks in Fremont feasted on watermelon freshly minted.  The Minneapolis mass mowed white peaches, creme fraiche and mint.  And so far that M has topped all the rest. 
What do you like to top with mint?  Anyone else have good recipes for our most prolific summer herb?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Help me vote for Green City Market

It's no surprise to you all that I do dearly dearly love the Green City Market.  From last week's fantastic BBQ, (arguably Chicago's best event in the summer) to my easiest pick up spot for local, sustainable food, this market has been unbelievably formative in my locavore switch.  

Help me make Green City a better market-- this vote helps market managers connect with customers, new vendors, community leaders and local media.  America Farmland Trust helps support farmers, farmland and food through strengthening local economies and encouraging healthy farming techniques.

And yes, I know Green City is the biggest market in Chicago so maybe that means you don't think it needs our help, but you know what?  Without GCM, we would lose so much support for all of the other farmers markets in Chicago, the restaurants that source from it and the buyers that learned what it meant to go local at the sight of their burgeoning bumper crops.

To vote for Green City Market*, all you have to do is:
1.)    Go to
2.)    Type in 60614 (for GCM's zip code) and,
3.)    Click “Vote” 

If you aren't a local Chicagoan, please vote for your own too and let me know so I can be sure to check your local market out when I'm in town!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Grilled Pizza beats the Heat

All Chicago can talk about is the Heat these days. The whole city feels as though a fast, hot one was just pulled on us.  I guess the memories of  91-92-93 and 96-97-98 will have to stay memories and we won't be hoping for the golden third three peat anytime soon.  The intersection of Damen and Madison just cooled off-- and quick.

However, back up in Old Town we have had a steady stream of days in which you walk outside and feel like a large piping hot pizza paddle is smacking you in the face. This heat sends moisture seeping out of your body in one hot nano second.  Times like this I balk at the thought of cooking.  Who wants to stand in front of an oven or stove when you could be sitting on a patio drinking something cool.  This is what we Chicagoans survive winter for?!  Forget cooking. June, July and August are for drinking, chilling and grilling.  No dishes, no cooking.  Minimal prep and grill.
I'm a total sucker for pizza in general and grilling pizza outside sends me straight to my happy place.  By the time Thursday rolls around, I'm full aware that a whole 'nother round of veggies is coming my way on Saturday morning so I had better use up the rest of it-- and quick.
I had depleted my stash of homemade pre-frozen dough, so when in a pinch store-bought crust will do.  I really like Rustic Crust pre-made crust.  Bobboli is a bit too sweet for my taste as is Pilsbury's canned stuff, but Rustic Crust is heavy enough to go straight onto the grill (no stone needed) and can absorb the voluminous amounts of olive oil I like to use as a base.

I'm a big fan of Quatro Stagioni, mainly because I'm too American to limit my pizza with just a few toppings and this way I can get the best of all worlds.  Four different slices of pizza means three times the usual amount of creativity and ingredients I can play with.  Plus what else were you going to do with that one half zucchini that you had used earlier in the week?!

Last nights was: olive oil base with finely diced fresh garlic.   Quarter 1: heirloom yellowy-orange tomato, feta, fresh basil Quarter 2: zucchini, vine tomato, pesto provolone, basil
Quarter 3: zucchini, sheep's milk cheese, purple sage Quarter 4: heirloom yellowy-orange tomato, vine ripe tomato, herbed brie, fresh basil

Scrounge up what you've got in the fridge, toss it on and grill for 10-15 minutes with your grill around 425.   

It's almost laughable all of the dishes I used for prep: cutting board and one knife.  Trust me, your resident dishwasher will be assuming this position for all of 15 seconds.  Just long enough to snap a pic.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pate de Bicyclette Around the Corner

I just was in the mist of typing an email to my academic advisor and my gmail window showed me "Back to School"  meaning, back to the folder that I labeled "School" but this one hit me square across the face.  How appropriate?!.  I've been out of class for two whole weeks, in the midst of my third and am having one of those nervous moments where you realize something really dramatic could be just around the corner, or it could just be another silly corner with a path leading in the direction you were already going.  I had forgotten that around my next corner is three nights of classes a week, and significantly less social time.
When you start pursuing something new, work at it for a bit, and then break in pursuing that adventure; returning back can be a bit tricky.  All of a sudden I start to think, "is this really what I want to be doing?" or "what if at the end of it all, the only thing I really get out of this is making REALLY good croissants?!"  Today I am decided that even if the latter is all I gain, it will be a pretty significant accomplishment.  Onward ho around that corner.

Latest corner accomplishment has been whittling down the local preserved goods in my little Frigidaire.  My freezer is a little like a mini-GreenSugar treasure chest: hand-picked lingonberries from Alaska, some reserved bacon grease, 2 ziplocks of frozen roasted corn from last week, black walnuts from the Cap's grandparents place in Missouri, and seven little chicken livers that I've been nestling away since early last summer.

Seven chicken livers is a lot of iron.  In retrospect, I probably should have taken on this adventure with a bit more timeliness.  Regardless, 7 chicken livers felt like approximately half a pound which is exactly what my dear friend Jacques' recipe called for and what with Garde Mange class coming up next quarter, I thought it may be wise if my first liver experience was in the privacy of my very own home, rather than in class in front of Chef Pierre's gleaming eye. 

I flipped things around a bit, hoping that Jacques will forgive me.  I used fresh thyme, and lots of it, rather than dried.  Plus, I upgraded a bit with my Johnny Walker Black. Quite frankly, I've never known a frenchman to be discouraged in using fresh herbs vs. dried and good quality whiskey.

For your own personal reference, pate is delightfully portable, even when biking up 25 miles to the North Shore. *Photos are actually en route to the 4th of July Lake Bluff parade.

Pate de Bicyclette
1/2 lbs chicken livers
1/2 onion, medium diced
1 small garlic clove
1 bay leaf
2 T freshly chopped thyme
Kosher salt
1/2 c water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 T Johnny Black
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium sauce pan, brown livers just slightly, about 2 minutes.  Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and salt and sweat onion, without browning it for 3 minutes.  Add water and bring to an easy simmer.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, keeping your livers soft to the touch- you should get a nice bounce back off your spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to stand, covered for 5 minutes.

Discard bay leaf.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer onions, thyme and livers into a food processor.  While blending, add butter, in 2 tablespoon pieces at a time so that they are evenly incorporated.  Add whiskey and process until smooth and creamy.  Season with salt or more thyme if needed.

In 3 medium sized rammekins (or whatever you may have)  coat their insides with butter and pour your pate liquid into them.  Cover with saran wrap, or, as I did, 1/8" melted butter. These will keep in your fridge for 1 week or in your freezer for 2 months.

I made three and have already given one to my dad for his SIXTIETH birthday, and another equally as important occasion.
Jacques' Pate found here.