places to go: pastificio

April 23rd, 2012 | Posted by admin in PLACES TO GO - (0 Comments)

I live near a small town known for its restaurants, nestled between Lake Forest and Highland Park, it’s Highwood.  You will find authentic Italian food as well as other great spots to eat.  My favorite destination is not a place you stay to eat but a wonderful shop that sells homemade sauces, pasta, entrees, desserts and just about the best matzo ball soup around!  This is my go to place for fresh pasta and wonderful sauces for a crowd or just a meal for two.  I cook so I don’t  recommend buying prepared food often but sometimes we run out of time or need a hand when we are serving a large group… this is where I stop.  The quality, freshness and flavors taste like they came from my own kitchen.  The owner Patricia Galli makes you feel welcome and I know she cooks from a special place.  Serving food, cooking is a wonderful gift to those around you and Patricia embodies that warmth and comfort in her dishes and store.

I have served her matzo ball soup and been asked for my recipe on many occasions… well this is my secret.  The matzo balls are beyond fluffy in a wonderful homemade chicken broth.  I’ll add carrots to my pot and serve.  Did I mention the lasagna?  It’s another must, a veggie and meat version.  I cannot leave without buying the veal tortellini and the modenese sauce.  I have served my family this combination and an entire high school and college hockey team.  If you find yourself in Highwood you must stop at Pastificio!  In my conversations with Patricia they are looking to add a rooftop garden so I’ll be back to visit and share my experience.

I highly recommend Pastificio.

 

 

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places to go: chilam balam

April 20th, 2012 | Posted by admin in PLACES TO GO - (0 Comments)

We were looking for a good place to eat after a day of apartment viewing with my younger son.  It was early on a Saturday and we weren’t dressed for any place too fancy.  He suggested Chilam Balam… a place I had heard so much about but could never quite get there early enough as it’s small, very popular and not easy to get into on a Saturday night.  We had perfect timing, arriving around 5:45.  Our only downside was we did not come prepared with spirits as it is BYOB… but we survived.  The atmosphere is warm, with that perfect glow, the lighting dimmed but not too dark.  We tried quite a few items on the menu and enjoyed everything.  I had watched Chuy on Top Chef so I knew he was known for his sauces.  I could have licked each bowl especially the chipotle sauce that was served on the flautas with chicken thighs, rajas and picked cabbage with crema.  The scallops were amazing, take a look!

Every dish had a different sauce… we loved the fried parsley with the spinach creme.  Another favorite, which we did not get a picture of because we devoured it so fast, was the pineapple ricotta strudel with a cilantro pesto and coconut sorbet.  I suggest you visit this great little spot with big flavors.  It has gotten a lot of attention since Top Chef and it was featured on “Check Please”, so bring your favorite drink, relax and enjoy the wait it is well worth it.  They just added new entrees to their menu and I know I’ll have to make another dinner date.

 

 

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I love these cookies!  I certainly will never turn away a great chocolate chip but this cookie may be my next go-to cookie treat.  Momofuku Milk Bar is in New York City; in their cookbook you will discover a whole new world of sweets.  One of the secrets of these cookies is the milk crumbs.  The recipe for those is as follows:

 

 

Milk Crumbs

 

INGREDIENTS:
• ½ cup of milk powder
• ¼ cup of flour
• 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
• 2 tablespoons of sugar
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 4 tablespoons of melted butter
• 1/4 cup milk powder
• 3 oz of melted white chocolate

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Preheat oven to 250°F.

• Combine the first five ingredients in a medium bowl, toss with your hands… add melted       butter and continue to toss using a spatula.  The mixture will start to look like small             cluster/crumbs.

• Spread the clusters on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes.  The             crumbs should be sandy and your kitchen should smell amazing.  Cool the crumbs.

• Crumble any milk crumb clusters that are larger than ½ inch and put the crumbs in a           medium bowl.  Add the milk powder and toss together.

• Next poor the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your clusters are enrobed.       Then continue tossing them every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens.  The             crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month.

 

 

 

Blueberry & Cream Cookies

 

INGREDIENTS:
• 2 sticks of butter
• ¾ cup granulated sugar
• 2/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons of corn syrup (or ¼ cup glucose)
• 2 eggs
• 2 cups of flour
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ recipe of milk crumbs
• ¾ cup dried blueberries

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Combine first 4 ingredients in medium speed mixer for 2-3 minutes.

• Scrape sides of bowl and add eggs one at a time, beat for 7-8 minutes till creamy.

• Reduce speed and add dry ingredients.  While still on low speed add milk crumbs and         then blueberries.

• Using an ice cream scoop put rounds of batter on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

• Wrap in plastic wrap and put in fridge for about an hour.

• Preheat oven to 350°F.

• Keep cookies about 4 inches apart on cookie sheet and back, they will crackle and             spread.  They should be browned slightly on the outside and creamy yellow in the center.

• Cool completely on the cookie sheet… Enjoy!!!!

 

 

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recipe: armenian pilaf & lahvosh

April 18th, 2012 | Posted by admin in RECIPES | Side Dishes - (3 Comments)

Most American dinner tables accompany a meal with a starch… usually potatoes of some kind.  The staple side dish in our home was pilaf.  We had pilaf with our “lamb burgers” not fries!  It is quick, easy and delicious.  I always have these ingredients in my pantry for a side dish.  The bread is an Armenian flat bread.  My grandmother would make this, stacking flat rounds of bread a foot high each in the pantry.  I purchase the bread from “Valley Bakery” in Fresno, CA.  They call the bread Valley Lahvosh, original Armenian Sesame Seed Cracker Bread.  This is the closest bread I have found to my Grandmother’s.  You wet the bread with a spray of water and then wrap it in a clean dish towel.  As kids we had our sandwiches on this softened bread.  I was always slightly embarrassed by my Persian cucumbers and nontraditional sandwich bread, but it was so good.  It also comes in a whole wheat version.  You can order a case and it lasts a while… but in my house it doesn’t last too long!

 

RECIPE: Armenian Pilaf

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 cup of egg noodles
• 6 tablespoons of butter
• Dash of kosher salt
• 2 cups of Uncle Bens white rice.
• 4 cups of chicken broth

 

DIRECTIONS:
• In a medium sauce pan Sauté egg noodles in butter till brown.

• Then add the chicken broth and rice… bring to a boil then turn to low heat and cook until     rice is fluffy approx. 25 minutes.  Keep a close watch.  When you lower the heat keep         pan covered.

 

 

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places to go: nana

April 18th, 2012 | Posted by admin in PLACES TO GO - (0 Comments)

Saturday morning and no market to shop in yet so next best option… breakfast date with my favorite friend, foodie and market companion.  The place to go is “Nana” local, organic and sustainable food.  I have previously been there for lunch and started my love affair with Nana.  Breakfast did not disappoint.  I had the omelette special with scallions, Meyer lemon and a luscious soft cheese oozing out the sides.  It comes with a thick toasted grainy bread and duck fat roasted potatoes.  Also a side of arugula, and I had to order the spicy slaw.  My friend ordered the fried oyster soup and a side of the truffle macaroni and cheese.  Not only was everything delicious with great flavors and fresh ingredients but the atmosphere was upbeat and fun.  We sat next to a group of great girlfriends who enjoyed the food as much as we did as we shared and discussed our meal choices.  Next stop for Nana will be a dinner date!  I am such a fan of this organic delicious food.  It is worth the trip!

 

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cookbooks: ruhlman’s twenty

April 16th, 2012 | Posted by admin in COOKBOOKS - (0 Comments)

I purchased this cookbook a while ago and have used it as a reference for just about everything!  This book explains to the home cook why and how certain techniques work.  I recommend this cookbook to anyone who wants to learn to cook, who wants to improve their cooking, and to anyone who just loves to cook.  The last recipe I tried, sautéed chicken breasts in a tarragon butter sauce, was mouthwatering!  It could be my new gift idea for my favorite cooks.

 

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table dressing: introduction

April 13th, 2012 | Posted by admin in TABLE DRESSING - (0 Comments)

Playing with your dishes, adding new ones to the mix and enjoying the look of a beautiful table… I call it table dressing.  Just like dressing yourself, a table can be simple but elegant with a dash of something special, a wonderful napkin, a colorful floral arrangement, a beautiful salad plate, or the perfect charger that frames your plate.  Have fun with your table!  The dishes pictured are from “Material Possessions” in Winnetka and Chicago, IL.

 

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A full cart at one of my favorite garden centers fills my heart.  This is what “Feast & Flowers” is all about for me. It’s a full table, a feast of another kind.

No matter what type of mood I wake up in going to a nursery and seeing beautiful plants makes me smile.  I am energized by the colors, textures and varieties of flowers.  One cart is usually never enough as I shop for clients to pick the perfect plants for their containers.  I suggest the next sunny day you venture out to Gethsemane Garden Center.  They have one of the best selections of perennial, annual and indoor plants around.  If you are a beginner in this arena they have knowledgeable personnel that are very helpful.  Gethsemane is located on Clark St. in Chicago.

This planter is filled with mostly perennial plants that will stand up to the cold spring nights and look beautiful through the end of May.  Delphinium, Columbine, Candy Tuft, Hyacinths, Daffodils, Variegated Ivy, Bellflower, Creeping Phlox, Bergenia, Forget-Me-Nots, Golden Variegated Sweet Flag Grass, Coral Bells, Ranunculus, Stock, Linaria and Forsythia… some annuals mostly perennials a great mix.

Start with a small pot by your entry so you smile as you enter and exit your home.

 

 

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We have an eclectic holiday celebration.  This year we decided on serving lamb for the second night of Passover and my traditional Easter.  Lamb and specifically lamb Shish kabob is my favorite meal.

My dad would cut the lamb himself but I cheated and asked the butcher.  This was my father’s meal… he was the butcher, the prep cook and the chef.  We watched and waited for a taste of luscious lamb sizzling off the skewer.  It was like waiting for a piece of crisp skin when cutting the turkey at Thanksgiving.

The metal skewers we use are from my Grandmother’s kitchen stored in an old bag made from a remnant piece of carpet. The large pan is also from Grandma’s… it serves a crowd. This recipe can easily be doubled and the veggies can stay about the same.

I serve this with a wonderful unleavened Armenian bread you may call lahvosh and Armenian pilaf.  Of course we added salad and fruit.

 

This really is a complete meal… enjoy!

 

RECIPE: Armenian Shish Kabob

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:
• 5 lbs cubed leg of lamb
• Juice of 3 lemons
• 1 onion diced
• 2 ripe tomatoes diced
• 2 hot banana peppers diced (Use only one if you don’t like the heat!)
• 3 cloves of garlic minced
• Salt and pepper

I ask the butcher to precut my cubed leg of lamb.  I prefer domestic lamb as it is less gamey than New Zealand lamb. Marinate the lamb with the above ingredients.  Then add kosher salt and pepper.  Marinate the day before, this is important to get the best taste.

• 8-10 small ripe tomatoes
• 6 cubanella peppers (sweet peppers)
• 4-6 red peppers
• 4 green peppers
• 4 hot banana peppers
• 8 onions small white or sweet

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Clean the vegetables, cut the peppers in quarters to skewer cleaning out the seeds.

• The next day prepare a “hot” grill.

• Skewer the lamb separately from the veggies… skewer the onions, tomatoes and peppers   each on different skewers.  Have a large covered Dutch oven ready.

• Grill the meat and veggies alternating when done slice off into large pan.  As you do this      you will quarter the onions, and tomatoes.  The mixture will look like stew when                  everything is grilled and in large covered pot put it on the grill at a lower heat to simmer.

• Serve with pilaf and enjoy!

 

RECIPE: Armenian Pilaf  (Click to Read)

 

Wine Suggestions for this Meal (Click to Read)

 

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pantry staples: grapeseed oil

April 9th, 2012 | Posted by admin in PANTRY STAPLES - (0 Comments)

For years I used canola oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil and olive oil.  Then I ventured into the better extra virgin olive oils and realized I can tell the difference.  But what about all those other oils on the shelf?  I think grapeseed oil is worth discovering.  It’s lighter than olive oil, a bit nutty and easy to fry with or it makes a great salad dressing.  I use it as I do olive oil with a bit of vinegar or lemon, some Dijon and salt & pepper, a great light dressing.  It has become a pantry staple.

 

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