Szechwan Hot and Sour Soup

>> Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Szechwan Hot and Sour Soup

Joe's test of a good Asian restaurant is the quality of their Sichuan hot and sour soup, so I gave him a kitchen challenge: impress me with your version of hot and sour soup. Oh, and I've been craving Thai shrimp spring rolls, can you do anything to help?

He exceeded my expectations.

I hear that this soup is one of those concoctions that can cure a cold, or just make you feel a whole lot better while you're eating it. Maybe we should start a new category for medicinal recipes.


1/3 lb pork
1 tbsp dried wood ear mushrooms
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup bamboo shoots
1 small carrot
3 oz. tofu
1 green onion
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp (30ml) Sichuan preserved vegetables, or 2 tbsp chili-garlic paste
5 cups pork broth
2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 eggs

Red pepper flakes
Sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup sliced green onions


Place the pork, salt, and woodear mushrooms into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until cooked, about 30 minutes. Reserve the cooking liquid, adding more if necessary to make the 5 cups of broth you'll need at the end.

Cut the pork, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu, scallion, carrot, and Sichuan preserved vegetables into matchstick slices. Add to the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.

Whisk together the cornstarch, soy sauce, and vinegar, then slowly stir into the broth. Whisk the eggs.
Pour them in a thin stream into the soup while stirring the broth, so that it forms flaky threads as it swirls into the soup.

Serve in single bowls with the garnishes on the side for the diners to add as they choose.

Serves 4-6.


Sausage & Apple Skewers with Honey-Mustard Glaze

>> Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sausage & Apple Skewers with Honey-Mustard Glaze

A few weeks ago, I gave a cooking demonstration on fall appetizers. We got to talking about how to combine herbs and seasonings with complimentary foods - one of my favorite subjects! Among other pairings, I mentioned how well sage compliments sausage and poultry. It was interesting that sage is so often used for a Thanksgiving dinner herb in stuffings and seasonings, because it is one of the last herbs in the garden to succumb to frost in the fall.

A few days later, one of my friends gave me an enormous bouquet of sage and kale from her garden. I fried up some of the sage, Italian-fashion, but saved some for these luscious fall-flavored sausage skewers. We used firm honeycrisp apples, as they hold their shape well when cooking, along with curls of white onion and slices of those fresh sage leaves. A super-easy honey-mustard sauce goes over the top - so delicious.


10-12 wooden skewers

1 pound mild Italian Sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound hot Italian Sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups firm tart apples, like Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, or Jonathan, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup onion, cut into quarters, then separated into leaves or curls
5 large sage leaves, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup stone ground mustard
3 tbsp apple cider viegar
2 tsp garlic powder


Soak the wooden skewers for about 15 minutes, to prevent burning. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or the grill to medium heat.

Thread the sausage, apple chunks, onion, and sage pieces onto the skewers. Whisk together the honey, mustard, vinegar, and garlic powder, then drizzle half over the skewers.

If roasting in the oven, place the skewers on a baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes. Flip them over, drizzle with the remaining glaze, then roast until the sausage is fully cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes more.

If grilling the skewers, place directly on the grill and cook them, turning frequently, for about 30 minutes, basting them with the honey-mustard glaze occasionally.

Serves 4.


Broiled Tomatoes, Arrabiata-Style

>> Sunday, October 1, 2017

Broiled Tomatoes, Arriabiata-Style

According to people who probably know what they're talking about, arrabiata means something like "angry"; cooking something arrabiata-style ("all'arabiata") means it's in a fiery tomato sauce. This pepper-laced topping on luscious summer tomatoes is inspired by spicy red arrabiata sauce. If you're talented at cupping the breading over tops of the tomatoes so it sticks, this entire dish will take about 3 minutes to prepare, and 30-40 minutes of hands-off cooking time.

That's enough time to take a bubble bath with a glass of wine before dinner. Just sayin'.


8 medium ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
2 tsp capers, chopped
1 tsp basil, chopped
1 tsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp Asiago cheese, grated
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a baking pan.

Wash the tomatoes and cut the core out of the top of each one. If desired, slice a little off the bottom of each tomato so it will sit steady on the pan. Place the tomatoes an equal distance apart on the baking sheet.

Stir together all ingredients except the olives, and spoon onto the tops of the tomatoes, pressing the topping down so it stays in place. Top with the sliced olives.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and fully cooked. Turn on the broiler to 500 degrees and set the pan under the broiler 4 inches from the heat. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

Serves 4-8.


Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Pea Crust

>> Friday, September 22, 2017

Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Pea Crust

My first sushi experience was around 1990, and I really had to choke it down while distracting my mind screaming, "Oh gah, I'm eating raw meat! Raw meat! My mom told me not to do this!"

The saner half of my mind was saying, "Shhh, come on now, people eat this all the time and they like it - don't think about it, don't think about it, you're eating unicorn bubbles and sun rays and it's GOOD!"

Yeah, it's like that in my mind a lot, and I hope you're not clicking away right now before I tell you how amazing this ahi tuna recipe is.

Obviously I conquered my squeamishness over sushi and seafood in general (I ate way too much Lake Michigan trout and salmon off my dad's boat when I was a kid). Now tuna has a very special place in my taste buds. Once I appreciated that velvety mouthfeel and gorgeous watermelon-colored flesh, and the buttery white slices of yellowfin tuna you get in a good sashimi bento box, I didn't care for cooked tuna at all. Cooked tuna can be dry, because ahi is fairly lean, and the fishy taste is intensified.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Pea Crust

The week before Valentine's Day, I started developing a menu that would surprise Joe, stretch my cooking repertoire, be as healthy as possible, and use up a lot of items in our pantry and freezer as part of our yearly spring cleaning. I made seven courses in the classic French tradition, where the salad is served after the main course. The fish course featured these seared tuna steaks with a crunchy wasabi-pea crust.

We have made this several times since then. Ahi is a low -fat, high-protein meat, and flash-frozen fish fillets tasted just as good in this recipe as high-priced fresh ahi tuna. This is also extremely quick to make, so be sure everything's ready to go before you start cooking.

P.S. We used this delicious Ginger-Wasabi Sauce from Pampered Chef,  a gift from Joe's sister. However, Pampered Chef has just discontinued the sauce, so if you don't have a jar lying around, try our easy version!


For the tuna
3 3-4 oz. ahi tuna steaks
2/3 cup wasabi peas - you can often find these in the snack section of an Asian aisle
1 tbsp canola oil

For wasabi-ginger sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger (about 1 inch)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 1/2 tsp wasabi paste (or wasabi powder mixed with 1/4 tsp water)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light molasses (or light brown sugar mixed with 1 tsp water)


Let tuna fillets dry on paper towels - the more moisture you absorb, the easier it will be to sear them without moisture seeping out and poaching them instead. This will also ensure they don't soak up much oil.

Put all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

Crush the wasabi peas in a blender, or coffee grinder. You can also put them in a plastic bag and crush them by rolling a rolling pin over them. When you're done, they should be the texture of coarse crumbs. Spread the peas onto a plate.

Heat a wide skillet on medium-high, then add the oil. Press the tuna fillets into the wasabi peas until coated on both sides. When the oil shimmers, place the fish in the pan and make sure they aren't touching each other.

Cook until there's a good sear on one side, then flip over and sear the other side for a minute or so.  You want the sear to be about a millimeter deep, and the center rare at room temperature

That's it! We like to serve them by slicing them across the grain, sort of like a slice of sashimi at a fancy restaurant. This shows the gorgeous contrast between that pretty ruby flesh and the bright green pea crust. 

Serves 4.


Quick Italian Eggplant Towers

>> Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Italian Eggplant Towers

Have I mentioned before that my parents raise an enormous garden every year? Even more cool, they grow things like eggplant, which look pretty odd as they come up, and which I'm sure I never ate growing up and even more sure my parents never tasted as kids. Did you grow up with eggplant? Even the word is a little odd, and ick-inducing, isn't it? I think I prefer names like aubergines (French) or melanzane (Italian).

This super-quick recipe from my mom is impressive if you have the skills to make it look like a spirally tower (look at how pretty Joe made it look!). This is a go-to recipe if you've got about 20 minutes to make dinner and you really need to eat something healthy.

If you're one of the fortunate ones that can splurge on something higher calorie, I highly recommend using one of those shredded cheese blends with mozzarella, asiago, and other good things. You could also add cooked and crumbled Italian sausage...actually, I can think of about 10 other things that would be awesome in this dish.

If you do have a bit more time, you can simmer up your own marinara sauce with a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes and your favorite Italian herbs and spices. This weekend we were a bit rushed for time, between errands and that Honey-Do list and all...but we did whip up some of our own sauce. Next time we'll make a double recipe of sauce so we have some frozen on hand when we're really busy.

homemade marinara sauce


2 medium eggplants
1 jar spaghetti sauce or homemade marinara
1 small jar of roasted red peppers, drained
2 cups fat-free shredded mozzarella


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet. Put the sauce in the microwave and heat until bubbly.

While it's heating, slice up the eggplant into 1/2" disks. We prefer to peel ours because we don't like the texture of the cooked skins. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave until it's tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Place the pepper into the microwave and heat up for about 1 1/2 minutes. While it's heating, place a layer of eggplant onto the greased pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese, then drizzle some of the sauce over the layer. Add a second layer, then top it with the red pepper. Add a third and fourth layer. 

Cover with foil and place in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for 5 more, or until the towers are cooked through.

Serves 4.


Heirloom Tomato Tart

>> Monday, September 4, 2017

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Last summer, my friend Talea made me this tomato pie for lunch one day, and I loved it so much I got her recipe. It's actually a traditional recipe from the Lyons region of France, and perfect for those funny-looking heirloom tomatoes. I've been wanting to post this recipe for the last year.

Up until now, the tomato crop hasn't been so great because of cool weather in the Midwest. The tomatoes I've found at farmer's markets were way too expensive ($10.00 for one pie, anyone?). But last Friday, I stopped by the little farmer's stand near us, run by sassy Ida and Sal. Ida was putting away the produce she had left after two days of farmer's markets in different towns. She offered me her last few Brandywine and yellow globe tomatoes at a regular tomato price, so I scooted home to make a pie. In fact, I had so many tomatoes that we ended up making two pies.

Angela Williams Duea photography

One of the many reasons I love Joe is his fantastic skill at making a pastry crust. Pure delight.


1 single layer pie crust (we love this recipe for Murbteig pie crust, but pre-made is good and quick, too)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise
4 ounces swiss cheese, grated
1 1/2 pounds fresh Heirloom tomatoes
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp fine bread crumbs
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tsp olive oil

Heirloom Tomato Tart


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil a pie or tart pan. Place the crust in the pan and pinch the edges. If using fresh pie crust, place it in the freezer on wax paper for a few minutes before transferring it to the pan - it will hold together better.

Prick the crust all over and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden. Take it out of the oven and let it cool while making the pie ingredients. Turn the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice each tomato in half and squeeze out the seeds. Slice each half into 1/4" slices, and let them drain in a colander for 10 minutes (this helps prevent a soggy crust and a soupy filling). 

Stir together the mustard, mayonnaise, and oregano. Spread half of the mixture on the crust, then sprinkle on half of the cheese. Layer half the tomatoes over the cheese. Repeat with the second half of the mustard, cheese, and tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Stir together the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle over the top of the pie. Scatter the basil leaves over the crumbs, then drizzle the pie with the olive oil. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 15-20 more minutes, until the crust is browned and the pie is cooked through.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.


Sun-Dried Tomato Harissa (Tunisian Chili Sauce)

>> Monday, August 28, 2017

Sun-Dried Tomato Harissa (Tunisian Chili Sauce)

Harissa is a hot pepper sauce from Tunisia, the northern-most country in North Africa with both a lovely Mediterranean coastline and the tip of the Sahara desert. This pepper paste can contain many different ingredients, but the base is a mixture of mild and spicy peppers with oil, caraway, cumin, coriander, and garlic.

Map of Tunisia in Africa
Map of Northern Africa - Tunisia is colored orange

Tunisia has been a crossroads of many cultures, the Saharan Berbers, the ancient Romans, the Middle Eastern Muslims. The food most resembles other North African and Arabian dishes, with lots of goat and lamb, spicy tomato sauces, almonds, lentils, dates, and olives. If you love couscous, thank the Tunisians - it might be called their national dish.

Saharan oasis in Tunisia
Saharan oasis in Tunisia

The city of Sousse, eastern Tunisia
The city of Sousse, eastern Tunisia

Tunisian Beach
Tunisian Beach

Tunisia is definitely on our list of places to visit in our lifetime, for sure.

Now let me tell you about harissa! A small jar of harissa in your refrigerator is great for dressing up steamed vegetables or sandwiches, dropping into a stew or a stir-fry, spreading warm on toasted bread or pita, or adding to a meat marinade. Oh yeah, it's also tasty stirred into yogurt as a dip for fresh veggies. We included Middle Eastern ingredients of sun-dried tomatoes and mint, which adds a fresh, tangy dimension. 

We bet that harissa may make you cheat on sriracha sauce, but we don't blame you if you do.


1 1/2 oz cayenne or arbol peppers
4 oz pasilla or ancho peppers
4 oz sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for storing
1 tbsp lemon juice


Remove the stems from the peppers and shake out the seeds. Place them in a bowl with the tomatoes, and cover with boiling water. Soak for 15 minutes. Drain, retaining the water.

In a food processor combine chili peppers, garlic, salt, and olive oil. Blend, stirring frequently, and add a little of the water if the paste becomes too stiff. When well combined, add the remaining spices and blend to form a smooth paste.

Place in an airtight container and cover it with a layer of olive oil to keep it fresh. It will keep about 1 month in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1 cup.


Chicken Peanut Soup (Ghanian Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin)

>> Sunday, August 13, 2017

Chicken Peanut Soup (Ghanian Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin)

This chicken stew in peanut sauce sounds like something you might find in a Thai restaurant, where they tend to use peanuts in main dishes. In fact, this stew was taught to my family by our adopted sisters from Ghana. It's a traditional dish there and is super-easy to make, and contains no unusual ingredients.

My parents are amazing humanitarians who have worked for social justice and world peace for decades. Early on, they realized they didn't know much about the often troubled African continent, so they set themselves on a self-study program to learn all they could about the countries of Africa. They believe that helping others starts with education and respect. Today, they know more about the social and political facts in Africa than some citizens of those countries.

About five years ago, Mom and Dad decided they wanted to be a support system for African students studying at the university at Bowling Green, Ohio. They realized how difficult it is for young adults to live nearly halfway across the world from their families and they wanted to be a second family.

That is how Elizabeth and Josephine Effah came into our lives. They are students from Ghana who were studying public health and policy. They are smart, kind, gorgeous, funny, and hard-working young ladies who have become part of our family. They've celebrated holidays and family reunions with us, and Mom and Dad have attended their graduations and other special events. We are truly blessed to have widened our family with new sisters. You can't have too many sisters, am I right?

Elizabeth, Josephine, and her son Myron

Elizabeth sent me this recipe recently. It is a traditional Ghanaian recipe that can vary widely, though the core ingredients of peanuts, chicken, tomatoes, peppers, and onions remains the same. It is spicy-hot and creamy all at the same time.

While researching the recipe, Joe and I learned that the name varies (Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin, and other variations). Peanuts are sometimes called "groundnuts" in Ghana. A different tuber called bambara was used centuries ago, but peanuts imported from South America by the Portuguese began to replace those groundnuts.

If you were in Africa, this stew might be served to you with the chicken bones, which you might like to gnaw for those tasty little bits that cling to the bones. You might also get some dumplings or a mound of a mashed potato-like substance; these are called fufu, made of pounded yams, cassava roots, or green plantains. Fufu is common in many central and west African countries. Through colonial slave trade and emigration, it has migrated over to the Caribbean and Central American countries as mofongo and other specialties. In west Africa, this peanut stew might also be served over rice, or with floating balls of sticky rice.

Effah Chicken Peanut Soup


1 large onion, chopped finely
1 green pepper (or orange or red) chopped finely
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
6 cups of water
16 oz. of natural chunky peanut butter (no sugar)
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce


Mix peanut butter with 4 cups of water and blend with whisk. Begin cooking on low heat, stirring often.  Meanwhile, in a fry pan, mix chicken, onions, and peppers. Cook until chicken is cooked through.  Add to peanut mixture with seasonings and some salt. Add tomato sauce and two more cups of water. Cook with frequent stirring for an hour on low heat. Do not cover. Some like it over rice. It is good without chicken, too.

Serves 4-6.


Sake-Marinated Salmon

>> Friday, August 4, 2017

Sake-Marinated Salmon

Our local grocery store just had a $1.99 a pound sale on salmon fillets, which is about as cheap as I'd ever seen. These fillets were a little thin, but still tender, and they were begging for a delicate marinade instead of the big bold flavors that usually go well with salmon.

I remembered the bottle of sake stored in our bar since - oh, I don't know when - and made a nutty marinade with it. Wasabi or white horseradish gives the fish a little kick, too. The final ingredient is lovage, from a friend's garden. This herb is popular in French and German cooking and boasts a flowery celery flavor. If a friend doesn't have any, snip off the leaves from a stalk of celery and use those instead.

This marinade will work with any fish, but thin fillets are probably best.


4 4-6 oz salmon fillets
1 cup dry sake
1 tsp wasabi paste or horseradish
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp lovage, or celery leaves
1/4 cup chives, snipped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)


Wash the salmon fillets and pat them dry. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Place the fish in a platter and pour the marinade over them. Turn them over until the marinade is on all sides. Allow to absorb the flavors for at least 1 hour before grilling or roasting.

Top with toasted sesame seeds before serving, if desired.

Serves 4-6.


Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

>> Friday, July 21, 2017

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

This main-dish potato salad is a delightfully different take on the ordinary summer staple. It combines the classic French nicoise salad with a creamy pesto-based dressing. Perfect for our memories of Nice, which also remind Joe of Italy.

The first time Joe was in Nice, he was there on business for a French pharmaceutical company. He didn't get to enjoy much of the seaside life until his day off. Then he went on a countryside run that skirted the Mediterranean nearly to San Remo over the Italian border, before heading back for lunch. He ordered a classic salade Niçoise, which is usually a cold composed salad of potatoes, olives, tomatoes, sardines, tuna, and green beans.

Our version is a a cool summer salad that looks pretty fancy on a platter and gives you something new to do with potato salad. I've already made it a couple of times this summer - and ate the leftovers yesterday at lunch.

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


For the pesto

3 tbsp basil leaves
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

For the salad

2 eggs
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups green beans, rinsed and cut in half
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 cup white onion, finely sliced
1 6-oz can tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tsp salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 head of romaine lettuce, separated into leaves


Blend together all pesto ingredients until smooth. Stir together with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and anchovy paste, and chill the sauce.

Boil the eggs and potatoes until the potatoes are just tender; drain and rinse with cold water. Chill, then cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and the eggs into wedges. Place the green beans in boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, then immerse them in cold water to stop the cooking. 

In a large bowl, stir together the potatoes, green beans, celery, onion, tuna, olives, and sauce. Place the lettuce leaves on individual plates or a large platter. Mound the salad on the lettuce, then arrange the egg and tomato wedges around the salad. 

Serves 4-6.


Mini Confetti Quiches

>> Sunday, July 9, 2017

Quiche crust in muffin cups

The Hungry Lovers home is very busy these days - Joe's working long hours to manage the employees in his financial practice, and I'm working on a bunch of new photography and writing projects at night and on weekends. With him off to early appointments and late networking events, I decided to come up with a make-ahead healthy and hearty breakfast for him to eat on the run.

These mini quiches can be made with any combination of ingredients. To make a pretty confetti-colored quiche, I used egg whites and low-fat Swiss cheese,  then added broccoli, red pepper, fat-free ham, and green onions. I froze these in their cupcake papers so wecan pop them in the microwave while we are packing for work, and then take them on the road.


1 10" low fat frozen pastry crust (if you don't like frozen, you can make your own)
3 cups egg whites or egg substitute, or 12 eggs
1/4 cup broccoli florets, finely chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 slice low-fat ham, finely chopped
1/4 cup Swiss or provolone cheese, shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tsp basil, minced
1 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place parchment baking cups into a 12-cup muffin pan. Lay the thawed pastry on a cutting board.  With a round cookie cutter or water glass, cut the pastry into 12 circles. Press one circle into the bottom and partway up the sides of each baking cup.

If using whole eggs, beat them together. Then add the rest of the ingredients to the eggs. I mixed these in a large glass measuring cup with a nice pouring spout, so I could easily pour the mixture into each paper cup. Fill them to nearly the top; leave a 1/4" space for the eggs to expand.

Mini quiches ready for baking

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the eggs are fluffy and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the quiches comes out clean. Let cool.

These can be heated up in 45 seconds from the refrigerator, or about 1.5-2 minutes from the freezer.

Makes 12 mini quiches.


The Dining Room at Kendall College

>> Friday, June 30, 2017

Chicken Piccata at Kendall College

We dined here for the first time for Restaurant Week and were so glad we did! Interestingly, we had dined at Naha the night before and Kendal blew them away in terms of flavor pairings and portion size.

We started with Mushroom Risotto / Parmesan Tuile / Huile d'Persil and the Wok Seared Scallop / Pumpkin Ravioli / Dashi Broth / Bonito / Togarashi Sichimi. They were both wonderful, but my scallop in dashi broth was the real standout - perfectly cooked, lovely broth, and the pumpkin ravioli was the best counterpoint. It was served with a tangy olive bread and sage-infused butter. An amuse-bouche of two veggie sushi bite kept us eager for more.

My Roast Chicken Piccata / Chives / Chives / Whipped Ricotta Sesame Grits / Capers / Yellow Squash Provençal / Chicken Jus entree was amazing. Chicken Piccata sounds a little boring but this portion of breast and wing was tender, juicy, and alive with flavor. The grits were nice and creamy, but the yellow squash was a real surprise. It was in a sort of tomatoey agro-dolce sauce that I can't wait to recreate.

My husband has the Grilled Strip Loin / Chimmichurri / Curried Jasmine Rice / Pickled Ginger Salad / Romesco Sauce which was like a rave party of flavor! So much going on in the dish, but the tastes cooperated in making the dish exceptional.

Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse at Kendall College

For dessert, I was going to have Bingsu but the Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse / Dark Chocolate Mousse / Hazelnut Crunch / Orange Anglaise / Hazelnut Whipped Cream / Chocolate Cake won out. It was lovely as well as delicious. Joe had a peanut butter/bacon cheesecake with bananas and it was amazing.

I can't believe we waited so long to visit this place. The dining room is comfortable and tranquil, with enormous windows showcasing the skyline to the south, and the windows into the kitchen let us enjoy watching the students hard at work. Service was impeccable and prompt. Around the dining room and some adjoining halls are displays of antique kitchen equipment which you really shouldn't miss seeing. On top of all that - free plentiful parking! We're big fans.

Kendall College is at 900 N North Branch St., Chicago, IL 60642.


Edamame and Grilled Corn Salad

>> Sunday, June 18, 2017

Edamame and Grilled Corn Salad

This quick salad is fresh and full of healthy ingredients. It's perfect with Veracruz-style Tilapia grilled in foil packets - one of our favorite ways to cook fish.

We like to use the edamame without pods in the frozen vegetable section of the grocery store. I made the vinaigrette with a Mexican lime-infused olive oil that my sister gave me for Christmas. Beth and my mom visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill in Phoenix, AZ in December, and also brought me feta-stuffed green olives. I think I'm going to raid the olive jar when I'm done with this post!

If you don't have any Mexican lime-infused olive oil handy, try 1 tbsp of lime juice and plain olive oil - or mix in whatever flavor you do have. This salad recipe is very flexible.


3 ears corn
12 oz. frozen edamame
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup red bell pepper

For the Vinaigrette

1/4 cup lime olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp salt


Heat the grill to medium. Shuck the corn and brush with a little oil. Grill on all sides, turning frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the corn is barely cooked and lightly browned. Allow to cool, then cut the kernels from the cob.

Steam the edamame in the microwave or on the stove until tender, about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water to chill, then let it drain thoroughly. Stir in the corn, pepper, and onion. Shake together the vinagrette ingredients and pour over the salad. Let it chill for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors blend together well.

Serves 4-6.


Braised Fava Beans with Pancetta (Stufato di Fave, Stufato di Baccelli)

>> Sunday, June 4, 2017

Braised Fava Beans with Pancetta (Stufato di Fave, Stufato di Baccelli)

If we were in Italy right now, chances are we'd find a dish of fresh young fava beans braised with pancetta, broth, and tomato on our dinner table. This is a classic early summer dish that's just popping with flavor. It also works well with butter beans or limas.

For a few weeks now, I have been seeing fresh fava beans in the pod at our local grocery store but didn't have a craving or a specific recipe in mind. Then the other day, I saw a large heel of cured pancetta (half a pound!) in the reduced section of our deli. The price was irresistible, and I began thinking of braised fava beans.

But when I went back to the store with the beans, not a single fresh fava was found. I bought a frozen package, finally, since I wasn't going to give up my stewed bean craving that easily. The shelled frozen beans tend to be more mature, so I blanched them and slipped them out of their skins so they'd be tender. Fantastic.


1 pound fresh shelled fava beans, or 20 oz. frozen favas
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, finely chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
ground pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water


If using frozen fava beans, boil a small pot of water. When it reaches a boil, put in the beans and cook for 1 minute. Soak the beans in ice water for one minute, then peel off the outer skins. I found it easiest to pull off the dark stripe at the top; the rest of the skin comes right off with that strip.

Heat the oil in a medium frying pan, then cook the pancetta and onion until soft and slightly browned. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the beans are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main meal.


Blanquette de Veau (French veal stew with white sauce)

>> Sunday, May 28, 2017

We first had this classic French veal stew at Froggy’s Café – you know, that French place we rhapsodize about. We consulted with Julia Child on the recipe and experimented a little on our own to come up with the recipe here.

While this is technically a basic stew, it's upscale enough for a fancy dinner party. The lovely creamy sauce and tender, buttery veal are a treat for special friends. 

We’ve noticed that some classic French recipes can be rather one-note. For example, the original recipe called for cooking the veal with a carrot, celery stalk and onion, but then discarding everything. The result is the stew contains just meat, mushrooms, and the very flavorful gravy. We switched it up a bit so that we keep all the vegetables in the stew. You might want to play around with this too – but perhaps experiment on something cheaper than veal!


For the Bouquet Garni (Herb bundle)
3” cheesecloth square
Kitchen Twine
1 tbsp parsley leaves
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme
6 black peppercorns

For the Stew
2 lbs. boneless veal shoulder, cut into 1″ chunks
2 stalks of celery cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup pearl onions
1.5 cups baby carrots cut in half
10 oz. of mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, white, crimini, and oyster, sliced
¼ cup sherry
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 12 tbsp. flour
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and white pepper to taste
Cooked white rice, for serving
Parsley leaves, to garnish


Wrap the herbs in the cheese cloth and tie with the twine. In a large pot, place the veal, onions, carrot, celery, broth and enough water to partially cover the food. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat, and simmer one hour. Skim off the scum as it forms. Be careful not to overcook the veal as it will turn to mush!

Add the mushrooms and sherry and cook until the vegetables are tender. Remove the meat and vegetables to a platter and keep warm; return the broth to the pot.

 In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and stir in one cup of the veal broth, stirring until smooth. Slowly stir the white sauce into the large pot, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer gently until it is thickened. Stir in the cream. Return the meat and vegetables to the pot and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley after plating.

Serve over white rice, noodles, or alone with crusty bread.

Serves 4.


Bulerias Tapas Restaurant, Chicago

>> Monday, May 15, 2017

We've been to Bulerias twice, once for a birthday celebration and once for Mother's Day lunch. I really want to love this place - it has so much going for it - but I'm not in love.

First, it's hard to tell online whether the dancing shows are ticketed/paid or free. Luckily for us, the first time we reserved the downstairs area and got to see the show, which is really spectacular. Unluckily, we were so close to the stage that the dancer's fringed costume swept through my food a couple of times. Blech.

On our recent visit, our group of seven made reservations ahead of time and then confirmed it in a later phone call, but they didn't have our reservation. They sat us anyway, though, so it's all good.I would note though that the tables are small and close together; if our server hadn't been on top of our used plates, we would have had trouble!

The food is wonderful. My favorites are the bacon-wrapped dates, mild grilled octopus, and flank steak on crostini with blue cheese. Oh, and the potatoes alli olio! Good sized portions, well-prepared, and all the tapas came quickly after we ordered. They have a nice wine list and good sangria. One of our guests is on a restrictive no-cholesterol diet, and while he wasn't able to share some of the tapas us fat-lovin' people ate, he found some satisfying items to order.

We spent a long time at lunch and it would have been much more enjoyable if we could hear each other talk. We really wanted to catch up with each other but it was difficult. We were in an alcove and the music was extremely loud; even the waiter had trouble hearing us and made some ordering mistakes because of it. We asked him to turn down the noise but he said he couldn't do anything about it. That seemed strange, since he said he could turn the TV to any game we wanted...but couldn't adjust the volume of the music.

There are many tapas places in Chicago so once they have the food nailed down, it's the extra touches of service and atmosphere that determine where people will dine. Bulerias has some problems that could easily be fixed.  I hope they get on it!

Bulerias Tapas Bar is at 3656 N Ashland Ave. Chicago, IL 60613 

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