Mmm… Food

Halloween research!!! Squid Ink
September 30, 2008, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Shopping

I’ve been searching out Halloween ideas for the upcoming black and orange holiday!!  Last year I was on a pumpkin cooking kick that included, Pumpkin Lasagna, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Seed Pesto, and a Pumpkin Scallop dish with Spaghetti.  While this year I am excited again to make pumpkin dishes, I was getting excited to try and make some Halloween Ravioli’s by dying the pasta dough ink with squid ink and then filling with either a Pumpkin, Sweet Potato or squash varietal filling.  The problem seems to be procuring Squid Ink locally.  When I tried to look up the procurement of squid ink, I was hoping it was going to be found at an ethnic grocery store of which I did not yet know.  Such as the easy finding of pumpkin seeds at Mexican groceries, or rice papers at Asian groceries. 

What I seem to be finding is that it may be more of an exotic gourmet item available for purchase at Gourmet Food Shops like Fox and Obel on the Near North side, or on-line from Marky’s

There are instructions on how to get your own squid ink from the squid directly, check it.

But really this seems like a lot of work, unless you were also going to cooking with the squid, which perhaps may be the route I end up going?? Also, when I tell my girlfriend about this option she looks at me like I have two heads!! Do you know where I might find it in Chicago?? Help?!


Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville
September 29, 2008, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Random Facts, Restaurants

The Hopleaf is a bar/tavern located at 5148 N. Clark (just south of Foster) in Andersonville.  While yes, this place has lots of beers, many many tasty beers,  so many to choose from (in fact re looking at the list now, I want to go and try out one of the 5 different kinds of Cider they carry from France and England) it also has some great food.  If you’re approaching at night, look for the many neon lights that are aglow in the 2 story front on the west side of the street.

The front serves more as bar area, with a bunch of smaller tables and some booths.  The back area has seating by a hostess and food service from a waitress.  We had dinner there last nite, and remarked at how well the menu does its limited number of items.  The Hopleaf serves 5 kinds of Sandwiches, 6 Entrees, and 3 Salads.  Beyond that there are only a handful of appetizers and sides to choose from, but they all seem set to please.  Oh and don’t forget about the “Our Specialty” (which I have not yet tried), which seems to be a Hopleaf favourite judging from the number of tables around us that were enjoying them. 

We both noshed on Toasted Nueske Ham sandwich.  It’s a super huge serving, and with our add on Side of the Stilton Mac and Cheese, I couldn’t even put away the first half of the toasted ham on Pumpernickel sandwich.  I love Mac and Cheese, and am happy to report that the Hopleaf version gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. 

 The addition of Stilton cheese, which is self-described as “Britain’s historic blue cheese and Britain’s favourite blue cheese”, to the mac and cheese gives it a certain blue cheese oomph without being overpowering. It’s been made in the counties of “Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire from local milk” for nearly 300 years now. While I wasn’t around 300 years ago in order to give a comparison test to what it tastes like now (really no-body’s going to really know if it still tastes the same) the current palatability is scrumptious. I’m a sucker for blue cheese, and ooh, perusing a bit, I want to try some of the sampler recipes from Stilton, like this Stilton and Walnut Quesadilla with Apple Fig Salsa. Blue cheese pair so excellently with walnuts.

But anywhoozle. The Hopleaf rocks, you should go. I want to go again already. Maybe I’ll see you there next time. 🙂

Cooks Illustrated Magazine
September 26, 2008, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Books, Cooking

I’m super excited about my new birthday subscription to Cooks Illustrated that my friends Jennifer and Rene ordered up on my behalf.  Suga-Sweet!!!  Their attached card also made me giggle when it talked about why it was good for me because “You love the scientific method. They love the scientific method!!”  It’s true I’m a total science geek, and this magazine is right up my alley.  It makes me want to make foods I don’t even particularly like just to try out their methods!!!  For example.  The Roast Chicken.  I like the idea, but once it’s cooked and I then have to try and gnaw the meat off the bone, I am no longer quite as excited.  But the new issue, has an article on Roast Chickens talking about how the Chicken should be Butterflied so that it can be started in a Skillet to ensure that the skin gets cripsy.  And that by butterflying it, you can cut into the legs to spread an herb butter that will stick to the meat and not just run off the bird as it cooks.  That you should still spread an herb butter underneath the skin on the breast and you should always use fresh herbs.  And that since you are using fresh herbs you want to add the ones to the outside halfway through the cooking process so they don’t completely dry out as the bird reaches optimal temperatures.  Seriously folks, these articles are amazing.  And when you think about how many chickens they must of roasted in order to figure it all out?  I can barely even imagine what kind of “test kitchen” they must have available to try out all the variations to arrive at the best solution to cooking the perfected roast chicken.   Check out their article here on a Chicken Supper that includes Chicken Piccata, Rice Pilaf with Vermicelli, Roasted Green Beans and Hot Fudge Pudding Cake.  And they are a step ahead of you, also providing a Shopping List, and a game plan on which items you should start first so your dishes are ready at the same time.  Flipping unbelievable!  These people are genius!

September 25, 2008, 4:47 pm
Filed under: Cooking

This weekend welcomed my birthday and a weekend camping trip to Chain-O-Lakes State Park.  It was our first chance to really try out the mondo tent (theoretical 10 person = actual 2 women +1 dog) I purchased earlier this summer.  It was a great three days of fire building, cooking, smore eating, day hiking, and Harry Potter reading 🙂  While April and I agree that we may essentially be urbanites, there are definitely hippie elements hiding out in us that are just waiting for us to get our feet dirty and camp out in the woods.  Food in the woods is an interesting prospect.  Do you use a camp stove? Do you eat freeze dried foods?  Trail Mix?  Fruits?  Or do you spend what seems to be a majority of your time making a fire, waiting for it to get hot enough and then cooking what we deemed an essential American Camp food… the Hot Dog!!!  I vote, the Hot Dog!  Which lent me to think, what do they eat in Japan when they go camping? Research required.

Red Hots! Mustard!

Red Hots! Mustard! Get

 I love these silly things.  Martha Stewart just hosted a Hot Dog episode yesterday on television, how unlikely.  This go round saw us topping off with Mustard Only.  No Chicago Style dogs in the woods.  Have to save that for Huey’s(which you should all visit up in Andersonville, my fave local hot dog stand).   But mmm…  hot dogs over the camp fire have that smoky taste that you can’t get anyway else.  There was a period in my life where I absolutely refused to eat hotdogs.  “They aren’t food” I’d protest.  But now, I’ll saddle up to go and get hot dogs any day of the week.  They are a weakness for me.  A flight of ideas made me want to make a list of all the hot dog stands in Chicago and eat my way thru them.  But, ughh, what would become of my girlish figure??  I’ll have to document the randomness that comes along with not wanting to balloon up to 200 pounds.

In addition to hot dogs, we made some chicken burrito wraps after charring some preseasoned at home chicken that we skewered for the grill. Don’t they look delicious?

Char it good!!!

Char it good!!!

However, next time Note to Self: Bring a grill scraper/cleaner thingie. While encouraging words of “I’m sure it got hot enough and burned off anything that might kill us” the cleanliness of the State Park camp grill leaves something to be desired. Caked on grime from who knows how many users before you grilling who knows what is a little less than appetizing. But when you’re camping in the woods, everythings a little messy, a little dirty, a little out-doorsy, so you go with the flow. Of course, this doesn’t always stop me worrying, but alas I can be talked into things.

I can’t wait to head out to the woods again. We picked up a new cooler on the way home, so food transport should be easier next time around, and maybe we can try something a little more gourmet! Sweet

September 25, 2008, 12:37 pm
Filed under: Cooking

I got excited a couple weeks ago when the phone rang and it was my sister calling to ask me for food tips!!  This is not to dis my mother who makes the best Strawberry Glace pie which I request often when she is cooking for an occasion, but I think it says something when your siblings start to call you instead of mom for cooking tips!  Her question was in regard to What do you do if you want to make a tart and all you have is a pie pan?  The answer is simple.   A pie pan will work just as well for making a tart as an actual dish made for the occasion.  I don’t own a tart pan, (although I of course want one) and I made Paula Dean’s Fresh Fruit Tartthis summer in my glass pie dish.  And my sister used a ceramic one to make this fabulous looking Fig Tart. She used sliced Mission Figs laid atop Creme Fraiche and drizzled with a Honey Glaze. Her rating was on the extremely sweet side, but with a sweet tooth like mine, I’m sure I’d be happy to eat more than one piece 🙂 


My sister bakes a Fig Tart!!

My sister bakes a Fig Tart!!

Tarts are usually shallower than pies and this is reflected in the official pans. However, since tarts can be thought of as shallow pies, a pie pan will work just fine. When fitting the dough intended for a tart into a pie plate, do not press the dough all the way up the sides and over the rim. Press the dough about halfway up the edge of the pie plate (approximately 12-3/4inch). You really only need enough height to give your tart an edge nice appearance. Pressing the dough clear up to the top will mean that your tart filling will most likely not come up high enough on the tart edge and thereby leave an exposed unadorned edge. So sad.

An additional thing to take note of when making a tart in a pie dish, is to take into account the recipe you are using for the crust. The recipe I use for making crust is meant to make 2 pie shells. What I want to draw your attention to is that the recipe is making enough dough for 2 pies, NOT 2 tarts. Because you won’t be using dough for the top half of the dish and edge, you should have extra dough leftover when making tarts. You don’t want to use all the dough and have the tart crust be too thick. If it is too thick it will not cook evenly and may burn on the edges before the center is cooked. Instead you can take advantage of the extra dough and make a few individual tartlettes. I used 4 extra 3 inch tartlette pans to make mini individual size servings of the tart at large. If you don’t have any small tart pans, just roll out the extra dough into a sheet, cut it into strips, shake a cinnamon sugar mixture over the top and bake them on a cookie sheet. You can snack on them as you finish preparing the rest of your tart. Have you tried any tart making? Send me a photo and I’ll post it here 🙂

Thursday are Burger Nite at the Edgewater Lounge!!!
September 24, 2008, 12:58 pm
Filed under: Restaurants

Last summer I was first introduced to Burger Nite at the Edgewater Lounge.  It has since become one of favourite Chicago haunts and a summertime favourite.  The Edgewater Lounge is located at the corner of Bryn Mawr and Ashland.  You may or rather may not have noticed the sign for it suspended above it’s front door.


How old you ask?

How old you ask?

Before being initiated to my first Burger Nite, I had noticed this sign only to think, “How old is that sign? What kind of crap place might that be?”  How wrong I was!!!  The Edgewater Lounge is the perfect place to grab a burger, have a couple of beers with your friends (they have Oberon back on tap!!!), and kick back with a couple of friends.  They make the best burgers in town, I regularly take mine medium with Blue Cheese, but there are plenty of other options like grilled onions, bacon or avocado to pleases your fancy. Burgers are $5 bucks on Thursday nites, with most added fixin’s adding a buck to your bill.  Seriously folks! Our friend Jennifer likes to talk about getting a deal when you only have to pay $5 bucks for it.  Mind you this is entirely different from $5 DOLLARS and $5 Bucks is all you need for your burger, a pile of coleslaw (some of the best, not too sweet, not too mayonnaise-y) and a helping of fattie fries.  With a side of mayo please!

The Edgewater has a fantabulous outdoor seating area during the few warm months that we enjoy here in Chicago.  Festive lights and votive candles once the sun goes down, make your evening just a little bit brighter 🙂  I recommend finding a few hours some weeknite soon to get over there and try it out.  For not only is there a Burger Nite, but if you chat with some of the people there, you’ll find a lot of people have a “nite” they usually attend.  It may be Friday with their Fish Fry, or Tuesday

with Sloppy Joes.  There’s something for everyone.  So get your butt over there and give them some of your business.

Daves Italian Kitchen
September 17, 2008, 4:34 pm
Filed under: Restaurants

Dave’s Italian Kitchen is the best Italian cheap eats place I’ve ever been to.  So simple and so tasty. It’s located in the basement of the building at 1365 Chicago Ave. Evanston Il which if you’re driving to it from Chicago, Clark St. turns into Chicago once you pass over the Chicago/Evanston border. Simple and delicious Dave’s Spaghetti Pesto priced @ 8.95 is more pasta than one person should really be allowed to eat. All the dishes are this way though, it’s unavoidable. My girlfriend usually has the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and a Meatball. Yes, one giant meatball atop all that pasta, begging to be consumed. Priced @ 7.95 with an extra 1.50 for the meatball (which is a 1/4 lb of meat) it can’t be beat. And these aren’t just cheap eats. They’re delicious, you want to go back for more, (we’ve had dinner there two weekends in a row), you crave it on a daily basis yum. If you go on a weekend be prepared to wait (although we haven’t had to wait more than 30 minutes for a table). This is not the undiscovered cheap eats you wish it could be and after 26 years in business you find out why. You can get a tasty bottle of Cab for 13 bucks and sip on wine while you wait for a table. Once you’re seated you are quickly served up homemade bread that is delectable, I wish I could eat it everyday. Munch on that, and maybe order the Ceaser Salad (with some of the best Ceaser dressing around) which at 4.50 can provide salad for 2 couples. 🙂 Then it’s just on to the pasta. Which will you choose? I haven’t been an established regular long enough to appreciate the menu changes, but this notice on the menu does make me giggle. 🙂

Menu sidenote
Menu sidenote

I haven’t tried any of the desserts. I’m usually too stuffed to ever finish my meal. But I am vowing now that next time I will try the Homemade Cannoli. I’m a sucker for Pistachio’s. mmm… If we weren’t going camping this weekend, I’d request a third week visit to Dave’s. Maybe you’ll have to go for me, and let me know how the cannoli’s are? I’m expecting ecstatic reports!!!