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!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Swedish Pork

What from your family of origin do you want to bring with you into this marriage? 
    What from your family of origin do you not want to bring with you into this marriage?

These questions have haunted resided with me over the past few weeks. Maybe something magical will happen in four months from today when I leave Ericson behind and become a Kanakis but I find myself watching and waiting to see how these two become one. Can we decide which parts we bring to a marriage and which we don't? The more I learn about this step in my life, the more I realize how much hard work it will be. Of course, there will be easy days when we bike to the south end of the lake and have a picnic and feel like we're trapped in a romantic comedy film where the couple just seems to so naturally love each other that you can't help shrieking at the screen "of COURSE you love each other!! Stop worrying and fussing and messing it up!" Even now, I want to just sit in that kind of warm, happy projection, and not worry so much about him crossing my t's and me dotting his i's.

This period of engagement is a funny one. The New York Times just days before Valentines Day ran a piece entitled "I love you! Now the difficult stuff" which details the hard questions that couples must ask each other before they get married. Create a "relationship vision statement" and that will help you stay the course in this muddy field. The Knot.com is telling me that I have approximately 122 days until my wedding with 123 to do's left and 5 items overdue. My body is telling me that I need to work out at least four times a week, or my Sunday afternoons will inevitably begin with a big weeping session, followed by a good three hour nap. My sister is telling me that it's ok if you don't figure it all out before you get married, really.

While I continue to reside with those questions above, there is one thing I'm sure of. I like my pork and potatoes and will continue to cook with dill and winter vegetables well into the oncoming spring, knowing that real produce isn't about to show up on my doorstep for a good two months. This is the first recipe I've attempted from "Cooking the Scandinavian Way" by Elna Alderbert. Published in 1961 it opens

The Scandinavians take the pleasures of eating very seriously. There is nothing they enjoy more than the gathering together of friends and family for a festive meal...The food is always excellent and abundant without being heavy-- so you really can enjoy it without worrying too much about your waistline!"

For today, I know that my family of origin can get behind that opener, and that I will bring with me into my new family.

Stuffed Pork Rolls: Swedish

6 butterflied pork chops, bones removed, pounded thinly
1 apple, peeled, sliced
dried prunes, about a handful
1/4 t ground ginger
1 T butter
1 pint water
1 cube bullion, or 1 t Better than Bullion
1 T flour
2 T heavy cream
salt and pepper

Lay out butterflied chops on a cutting board, season with salt and pepper and ginger. Place a slice or two of apple and a prune or two in the middle of the chop. Roll up and secure with a toothpick. Brown butter in a large cast iron baker, sear meat on all sides. Pour in water with boullion. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes on low. Remove pork from remaining broth, remove toothpicks, set aside and cover. Mix flour with a little cold water and add to boiling stock, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. When the sauce is smooth and thick, add cream and simmer for a minute or so. Pour sauce over meat and serve with pommes anna potatoes and vinegared cucumber.

Vinegared cucumbers
slice 1/2 a cucumber on a mandoline 1/16 inch thick. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle in 2 t grapeseed or other neutral oil, 1/4 c white wine vinegar, a few pinches of salt and a shake or two of dried dill. Allow to rest in the fridge while the pork is cooking.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Deathly Hallows, Part Deux

I am here to draw to an end a fabulous tradition, started back in July, continuing through the sticky months of summer, into dreary wet fall and on through dark February. While it took a 8 whole months to get through all 8 Harry Potter films, our goblets are not the worse for ware and plans are afoot for a Godfather series. If Basilisk Blood can be imbibed from such a glass, can't a good Chianti too?

Rather than drink to specific thematic event or person in HPDH2, we opted for a general celebration of all things British and grown up. Pimms, Bombay Saphhire, and Crispin were on hand with, as always our gigantic block of dry ice. As Harry and Ginny were on their way to making other little Potters, we felt it wasn't quite appropriate to be sipping away at such childish cocktails. We have grown up haven't we?

Unfortunately poor Fea still hasn't learned her lesson and is convinced that an adorable English bulldog stare should elicit some pity. Scraps were tossed her way since she can claim the most British bloodline of us all.

So here we leave you friends. With a table decked with a stout-braised roast, butter smeared red potatoes and more bread. The Brits don't believe in vegetables after all. Underneath that lovely cheatah'ed foil is the largest mother f-ing chocolate trifle you've ever seen. If you ever ask Lorien to make a trifle she doesn't mess around. You've been warned.

Hopefully we'll have tales of horse head and pasta for you next time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oscar Night

I've never been one to gawk at celebrities. I try to spend my time in the grocery aisle watching the shoppers ahead of and after me to guess what they are eating for the week. Even at the dentist or doctor, I'd rather check twitter than pick up People. But somehow, the Oscars feel different. It's a graceful event, and unlike other award shows, most aren't there for shock value. I loved the Oscar's reflective tone this year. Doesn't it seem that we've become a little more serious and a little more reflective as a culture? Am I dreaming that or does it seem that public times and spaces like the Oscars are being used to think about what these experiences mean to us?

Maybe I am giving too much meaning to something that is at it's core entertainment to be consumed, enjoyed and forgotten. If so, at least I promise not to follow suit with the foods we ate while being thoroughly entertained.

A dear friend from Kendall and I decided to do a smattering of Epicurious' Best Picture Inspired Menus. No one menu particularly stood out, and really, it seemed like a better idea to do a smattering of dishes, each representing the best film nominees. Here were our selections:

SoCo Punch: I yanked it from Martha but can I awkwardly give homage to the Descendants? It was based in Hawaii right? With plenty of citrus and plenty of booze, these little sippers seem like the perfect accompaniment to large land trust legal battles...We doctored up the recipe by dashing some angostura bitters at the top of each glass to give it a little more depth.

Carmel Corn Clusters: (Moneyball) a lighter, airy take on an old favorite. Perfectly reminiscent of baseball. Forgive the pun but the homemade caramel knocked it right out of the park.

Jamaican Beef Dumplings: (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) Not quite sure how Jamaican dumplings tie back to a little boy in NYC but the dumplings themselves were fantastic. Salty, spicy, crunchy... Homemade fried food is my new favorite.

Deviled Eggs: (The Help) Perfect representation of the film and Epicuriuos didn't mess with the old classic recipe.

Oven-Baked Chicken and Slow Roasted Tomatoes: (Hugo) Despite an over crisped bread base, the sandwiches themselves came together nicely. Yogurt marinade kept the thinly pounded chicken moist and light, roasted tomatoes sweet and arugula for a peppery kick. I think I seriously tweaked out my oven leaving it on for 8 hours for the tomatoes since everything we baked in it afterward came out oddly charred but unevenly cooked.

Pommes Anna: (The Artist) Alright so this wasn't part of the Epicurious menu but I've always wanted to try this method for potatoes and it's an all out stunner. Truffle oil, thyme and salt is about as French as you can get.

Pear and Almond Tart: (Midnight In Paris): Pears, tarts, and almonds all are spot on classique francais.Unfortunately the oven did further damage to this lovely little tart (see note on the chicken above) but the almond filling and crumbly crust stood up well next to simple syrup poached pears.

Damon drank a new gluten-free beer which I'm counting as a nod toward the War Horse (British right?) but Tree of Life missed out entirely. Interestingly enough, not unlike the award recipients themselves. All things considered, I think we focused on the important. And as we decided last night, they should cut back down to 5 selections for Best Film anyway. 10 is just a bit superfluous. As was Angelina's leg. And J Lo's chest. In fact, I'll go back to focusing on my neighbors grocery purchases and leave the star gawking to those who do it best. Cheers!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Catch up: Potato Pancakes, Orange Walnut Cake and Scandinavian Cooking

There is much to say. Between December and January, I

- got engaged
- spent a culinarian's dream weekend in Austin
- celebrated Christmas with my fiance's family
- mourned Yia Yia's passing (Damon's grandma)
- mourned my grandfather's passing
- began wedding planning
- flew to Portland to plan our July 7 (!!) wedding at Timberline Lodge
- moved out of my beloved 4 year-long residence in Old Town with my dear roommate of six years
- moved in with Damon

That's a lot right? I feel heavy chested just reading it. Life sometimes smacks you over the head and you land on the ground, slowly blinking up at a whole new world around you. I think I'm still blinking heavily these days, though what I see is growing ever more familiar. Loving and losing always go hand in hand, don't they?

An early Saturday morning in February, I awoke to freshly laid snow. I think it one of two snows that have kept overnight all winter. In the spirit of blanketing warmth, I always reach for carbohydrates but with Damon dipping his toes in the gluten-free pond I embarked on my first ever crusade with a potato pancake. My Moosewood cookbook is still my go-to favorite to use up odds and ends in my cupboard and still feel that I'm feeding myself well. These cumin-scented potato pancakes were no exception. Sometimes masala and coffee and freshly fallen snow is exactly what I need to get my head screwed on straight.

Then there was a Orange-Walnut cake  from Lottie & Doof, which I used as my own personal welcome home present. Because it's been so warm this winter, I haven't craved citrus like I usually do. Typically, fresh oranges and grapefruits in the dead of winter take me right back to Florida vacations at my grandparents. Grandpa would start sizzling up bacon for eggs benedict and in the meantime, slice up backyard-grown ruby grapefruits. I can still see his super bent thumbs cutting each piece of fruit from the pith.

On a sunny Sunday morning I found myself vicariously living through a treasured friend. She is pushing her own professional limits to the edge as she takes over the helm of this kitchen. I'm inspired and impressed and jealous that she's being pushed so hard in a kitchen newly her own. Big things are ahead. Big things. After detailing her Valentine's Day menu for 60, she brushed this treat across the table for me. Maybe big Scandinavian things could be in store for me too.

I've also celebrated the final installment of our Harry Potter marathon, which I do solemnly swear to show you the delicious feast that bookended the series. And, another dear Kendall friend and I cooked our way through the Oscars. To be released later this week...