I grew up in a hunting family. My grandfather and father participating in that early morning ritual of quietly making a thermos of coffee, loading up the gear, and driving into the dusky glow of morning twilight.
Upon returning home (empty handed) after one such outing, I asked my dad what was the appeal of this ritual. He told me to just come along. The next day I was groggily roused and a thermos of hot chocolate accompanied his coffee. We sat together in the tree stand. And I was bored. I had brought a stick and pocket knife to whittle. After about 15 minutes of fidgeting and making myself busy, my dad put his hand on my leg and said, “Abra, just sit and watch.” I (internally) rolled my eyes but put down my activities and sat quietly. We didn’t see a dear that day, but we did hear the birds slowly wake and start to chirp. We watched as the woods went from dark purple to pink to morning light. It was the first time that I had participated in the simple witnessing of the day breaking anew. Read on…
Autumn olive is an anathema to conservationists.
It was brought into the ecosystem to prevent erosion and help feed a formerly dwindling deer population. It was brought in before it’s invasive traits were fully understood.
Its leaves come on earlier and stay out later than indigenous species. It spreads via its multitudes of seeds and sprouts from its root crown. It fixes nitrogen in the soil pushing out indigenous low-nitrogen adapted plants. It is hard to cut out. You can’t burn it out. And you can’t prevent all of those seeds from scattering no matter how you try.
But since it’s here, we might as well eat it, right? Read on…
I have a tendency to anthropomorphize fruits and vegetables—their physical characteristics translating to a perceived personality in my kitchen and in a dish.
Peaches epitomize childhood summers with their fuzzy skin and liquid sunshine dripping from each bite. Cherries, on the other hand, are always at the ready for a jubilee. Their pits always game for a spitting contest. Nectarines very polite and adult like a crisp white linen shirt and just as striking.
Apricots have always had a sense of melancholy to me, or at least a sense of road weariness. Their flesh is drier in texture than the others listed above. Their appearance is subtle by comparison. Their flavor coy and changing, at the same time evocative of honey and almond or tart with an edge of citrus. Read on…
Green beans epitomize the dueling energies of summer.
On one hand summer is the always bustling, parade of people visiting, things to do outside every night hustle. Lots of hands asking “what can I do,” sliding over each bean, snapping the stem end away making dinner prep faster with so many people around the table.
For these nights I’m drawn to a fast, high heat cooking method for beans—usually on the grill or in a smoking hot frying pan. The goal here is to quickly blister the skin leaving a good amount of char on the skin while maintaining a bit of snap when bitten.
On the other there are the ambling days. The days where I find myself on a long walk and then retiring to an afternoon nap avoiding the heat of the afternoon—cooled by the soft cotton of an old quilt on an inviting bed. Only to rise, stretch and glance through the garden for what is for dinner. I’ll stand alone by the kitchen sink pulling each bean from the harvesting basket, snip the ends away, and run them and my hands under the cool tap.
For nights like this I turn to a relatively slower braise of beans. Beans the color of an army tent is often given the bad reputation of being over-cooked. But that longer cook replaces the crisp crunch of the bean with a tender and yielding sweetness. Read on…
For the next month, Green City Market (and almost all other markets in this region) will be flush with blueberries, peaches, eggplant, summer squash, and green beans.
Thanks as always to the growers for managing the height of summer bounty and getting to market (at least) 2 times a week. And thank you to Elise Bergman for the beautiful design.
Go here to see the whole packet.
It started with strawberries. This year the strawberries around me were disappointing. They smelled great and every other one tasted really good. But none of them were great and some where full on dull.
Then it was the raspberries. Same thing. Every other one tasted great like the seedy, sweet, sticky finger toppers of summer. But the others were just fine. I am now suddenly gripped with anxiety for cherries and peaches.
With each bite I felt disappointed. Let down that this season was a bit of a loss. Every spring I lie in wait, anticipating summer fruit season, practicing self control and eschewing berries from far away, for all sorts of reasons but mostly because they are a lifeless version of the fruit grown around here.
And then our fruit was not much more. Bummer. In the midst of my very small, private pity party I heard the voice of the first man I cooked for in my ear. “Welcome to being a chef,” was his reply when I was bemoaning the challenge of portioning vegetables that were vastly different sizes. Read on…
I am cooking for several exciting upcoming events.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Stock Smorgasbord @ Nomad Food Company
At Stock—the café within Local Foods—our favorite way to eat is to eat a lot! A lot of different dishes of food with different textures, flavors, and colors. We also like sharing. And we like to eat like it’s a party. And so what better way to combine all of these likes than an unconventional, Midwestern Smorgasbord of food!
Join me for the official unveiling of the Stock Smorgasbord. For $40 per person your party will receive 7 composed, family style dishes featuring the best of Midwestern vegetables and meats alongside wood-fired flatbread to share. Jars of Moody Tongue beer complete the Monday Night food party.
Spiced Carrot Dip
Tomato Zucchini Chevre Salad
Beets w/ Dill Crème Fraiche and Smoked Whitefish
Green Bean “Casserole”
Poached Sausages w/ Charred Radicchio and Maple
Sherry Marinated White Beans w/ Arugula and Crispy Bacon
Tapioca Pudding w/ Summer Berries
Get tickets here and at the door.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Chicago Women’s Brigade @ Virtue Cider
We’re taking the girly show on the road and headed to southwest Michigan! Together chefs Melissa Corey (Virtue Cider), Sandra Holl (Floriole Bakery), Sarah Rinkavage (Lula Café) and I will be cooking pork and veggies from the Virtue farm while drinking copious amounts of hard cider while all proceeds of the dinner will go to Kim Snyder at Faith’s Farm. Kim helped Virtue establish their hog program and specializes in small scale animal production.
Please join us for our summer cook out and hard cider. Tickets available here. It’s going to be super rad.
Below is the second installment of the Green City Market virtual CSA.
The point of these recipes is to be a tool to inspire market shoppers to experiment with new ingredients that will be available for the next month. It is hard this time of year to hold too tightly to any ingredient. Peas are here now and will be gone in a flash. Strawberries too.
But that’s how it goes. So eat ’em up while you can. There will be new recipes next month.
As always thanks to Elise for the sketches and all the work she puts into creating this document. And of course thanks to the market and the growers for doing the heavy lifting.
- 2 medium cucumbers
- 1 bu chives hopefully with their flowers
- ½ bu dill
- ¼ C white wine vinegar
- ½ C sour cream
- 1 small red onion or shallot
- With a vegetable peeler stripe the cucumber
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds if they are large
- Slice the cucumber into half moons
- Slice the red onion thinly
- Finely chop the dill and chive reserving the chive flowers if available
- Whisk the vinegar, sour cream and herbs together with several pinches of salt and black pepper
- Combine the cucumbers, onion and dressing and sprinkle the top with the chive flowers
Serve on its own or alongside grilled fish or chicken
- 1 bu kale or other hearty green
- 1 qt cherry tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 12oz can of chickpeas
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ C red wine vinegar
- ½ C olive oil
- 1 bu basil
- ½ bu mint
- 1 bu parsley
- Heat the oven to 400F
- Drain the chickpeas and toss with a glug of olive oil, salt and the cumin
- Spread out on to a sheet tray and bake until crispy
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool
- Cut the kale into ribbons and massage until tender
- Half the cherry tomatoes
- Dice the cucumber
- Pick the herb leaves
- Combine the kale, tomatoes and cucumber with the red wine vinegar and olive oil
- Just before serving toss the whole lot with the picked herbs and crispy chickpeas
- Taste and adjust seasoning adding salt, vinegar or hot sauce as desired
- 1 lb pasta (small shapes work best here)
- 1 C buttermilk (or yogurt)
- ½ C mayonnaise
- 1 lemon
- 1 lb fresh peas (use frozen out of season)
- 1 bu mint
- Boil the pasta per the package’s instructions
- Whisk together the buttermilk, the mayo, the lemon zest and juice and taste adding salt and pepper as needed
- When draining the pasta, place the peas in the bottom of the colander and pour the hot water over the peas to lightly cook
- Toss the peas and pasta together and allow to cool
- Pick the mint and tear into pieces
- Dress with the buttermilk dressing and the fresh mint, seasoning as desired
- 2lbs potatoes, a variety of colors if available
- ¼ C whole grain or Dijon mustard
- 1 T white wine vinegar
- ½ C olive oil
- 5 garlic scapes
- 1 red onion
- 1 bu kale or other hearty green
- 1 bu parsley
- Cover the potatoes in cold water with a hefty pinch of salt and bring to a boil
- Reduce to a simmer and then cook potatoes until tender
- Slice the garlic scapes thinly and combine with the mustard, vinegar and olive oil
- Drain the potatoes and immediately dress with the vinaigrette
- Strip the kale leaves, wash, dry and slice thinly
- Slice the red onion into half moons
- Roughly chop the parsley
- Combine all together, with a pinch of salt, taste and adjust seasoning as desired
Note: the colder the potato salad is served the more salt and vinegar it will need to taste delicious
When recipes call for egg yolks only, it feels like a true shame to pitch the whites, and so I save them no matter what. But that shameless frugality can lead to jars and jars of egg whites in the back of the fridge. Meringues are a perfect way to use up those stray egg whites. Pavlova is a classic dessert of Australia often paired with tropical fruits and always has a creamy center. I use sour cream instead of the traditional whipped cream to help cut the sweet of the meringue. This time of year when the blueberries and cherries still have a bit of tartness to them, I love pairing the sweetness of the meringue against the fruit and the creaminess of the sour cream.
This recipe is based on the Cook’s Illustrated Pavlova recipe. On average, one egg’s white is 1oz and so don’t worry about the count of egg whites in your long lost jars, just measure it out in ounces.
As for vanilla, I like the Massey Vanilla Paste. It is a combo of vanilla seeds and extract. It has delicious flavor and I love the dark vanilla seeds dotting the meringue. You can use any sort of vanilla extract to replace the paste, but when there are so few ingredients, it is worth it to use the best you can find.
- 4oz egg whites, room temperature
- ¾ tsp vanilla paste
- ¼ tsp cream of tarter
- 1 C sugar
- 1pt blueberries
- 1 C cherries (I like the balaton half sweet, half tart variety but sweets will work too)
- 1 sprig of mint, torn into little pieces (if you can’t find mint simply omit or substitute another herb you like—basil, lemon balm, thyme)
- 1 C sour cream
- 1 C peach jam
- Preheat oven to 225F
- Whisk egg whites, vanilla paste and cream of tarter until foamy
- Increase speed to medium high and, while whisking, add sugar in a steady stream
- Let mix until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks
- Spoon a blob of the meringue on to a parchment lined sheet tray
- Repeat until out of meringue (usually makes about 8 good sized blobs, but make as many as you are serving)
- Dip a spoon in water and make a divet in the center of the meringue
- Bake until meringues are dry to the touch and have a few cracks along the service (about an hour and a half or so)
- Turn the oven off and let meringues dry out. I left them in the oven for an additional 2 hrs
- Gently lift from the parchment paper and store in an airtight container. Meringues, if stored this way, will keep for at least a week.
- To plate, whisk sour cream and peach jam until well-combined
- Toss the blueberries, cherries and torn mint
- Place meringue on center of plate
- Spoon peach sour cream onto center of meringue
- Top with a handful of the berries and serve