Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book Club Savory Loaf

I got the Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook a while back, and value it for creative, french recipes with an international touch. Some of the recipes are familiar parts of French cuisine, like quiche or Steak Tartare. But Clotilde is so creative, and offers innovate creations alongside french classics passed through generations. I've enjoyed the recipes I've tried in the past, and I realized a couple weeks ago that this book had been gathering dust on my bookshelf for longer than I would like!

The perfect occasion to pull the cookbook back out came along last weekend, when I was choosing a recipe for my book club get together. Our book had some Spanish references in it, so I decided to make something with a Spanish flavor to complement the Sangria our hostess was serving. I remembered a recipe for Chorizo, Sun Dried Tomato, and Pistachio loaf, decided the chorizo was enough of a Spanish spin for my tastes. This recipe was perfect for book club-- easy to hold in one hand, interesting and exotic, yet not too strange for the more cautious palates in the group. Everyone really loved it, and I was pleased with the results. I think this would be an ideal pre-dinner snack to serve along with a glass of white wine, like David Lebovitz recommends.

Tomato, Pistachio, and Chorizo Loaf
From Chocolate and Zucchini, by Clotilde Dusoulier

1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sesame seeds-- one for the pan, one for the topping
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt (I used greek 2%)
3 1/2 oz Spanish chorizo, skin removed, diced
12 sun dried tomato halves, packed in oil, drained and finely diced
3/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
3/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan, sprinkle half the sesame seeds onto the bottom and sides, and shake the pan to coat.

Combine the flour and baking powder in a small mixing bowl and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, wisk together the eggs, salt, and pepper. Pour in the oil and yogurt, and whisk again. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just incorporated. Don't overmix- a few lumps are ok. Fold in the chorizo, sun-dried tomatoes, pistachios, and parsley. Stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, level the surface with a spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes our clean. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then unmold and cool completely on a rack. Cut into slices or cubes just before serving.

Friday, June 26, 2009

St Louis Pizza-- No Provel Allowed!

Wow, the last week has flown by! I've been adjusting to my new schedule, which involves a part time nanny job, a part time job at a cooking/kitchen store, and part time school. It is crazy, with a different schedule every day, but I have to say I'm much happier than I was at my old job. And I'm excited about getting back into teaching, so I continue to feel I made the right decision when I quit my job to go back to school.
As you might have guessed, this new schedule has not left me much time for cooking. My part time job is mostly evenings/weekends, and my summer class meets two nights a week. This means a home cooked dinner has been happening about once a week, if I'm lucky! We've also been doing the typical summer road tripping, which meant we spent last weekend visiting my parents in their new home base of St Louis. It's just a 5 or 6 hour drive from Chicago, which is a lot easier than flying to the Netherlands!

The best pizza in StL, at least in my opinion :)

We always eat well when visiting my family, and this trip was no exception. My mom made a huge Mexican spread including these tortillas, and made two tasty cakes to help my sister and I celebrate our birthdays. Then on Father's Day we ended up near Pi Pizza, which we've been dying to try. Apparently Barack Obama loved Pi when he was campaigning in St Louis, and we had to see what the big deal was! It didn't look very crowded, so we thought we'd see if they had space for our party of 8. They had a big table up front that was perfect for us, and I am so glad they did! This place was fantastic! They're into being "green, local, etc", which you see a lot of these days. But that mentality doesn't always mean great food, right? We had four pizzas, two thin and two deep dish, and loved them all. The deep dish was true Chicago style, with some of the best crust Joe and I have ever had. We figure the owner or chef must have some Chicago roots, because some of the pizzas were named after Chicago neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Bucktown. The toppings were fresh and well matched, and only a couple slices lasted long enough to be boxed up for the next day's lunch. The $4 PBR pitchers were like the icing on the cake, and I can promise you I'll be visiting Pi again on a future trip to St. Louis!

The whole gang. Happy Father's Day!

Thin crust samplings. We had them bring the thin ones while the deep dish was still cooking, just in case someone would starve in between... Good call :)

My cute sister and her finace, all excited for true Chicago style Pizza.

Does this even need a caption?

And can I please get a slice, ASAP?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bulgur Veggie Burgers

Lately we've had a lot of success around here with eating less meat. While Joe and I are not becoming completely vegetarian, we have been limiting our meat to probably 2 or 3 dinners per week. This leaves us a lot of time to experiment with vegetarian cuisine. We're getting used to the different grains and protien sources used frequently by vegetarian cooks, but I think we still have a lot to learn.

We've loved veggie burgers as long as I can remember, and always have a box or two in the freezer for busy nights. More than once we've attempted homemade varieties, but the mushy texture has distracted us from the great flavor of previous tries. We made cannellini bean burgers and spicy lentil burgers, and both times the mixture squished out of the sides of the bun. No matter how good they tasted, that is a texture issue I can't look past. I didn't blog about either attempt, because I couldn't figure out how to make these burgers worth trying.

Finally, Joe stumbled across this recipe for Bulgur Burgers, and I think we've struck gold! They burgers held their shape AND tasted good... what more could I ask for? You could play around with the type of beans or the seasoning, but I think the bulger wheat is the key to keeping the burgers together.

Bulgur Veggie Burgers with Lime Mayo
from epicurious.com


1/2 cup chopped onion, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for brushing
1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup water
1 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
3/4 cup walnuts (2 1/2 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup packed cilantro sprigs
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
4 slices multi-grain bread, toasted
Equipment: a perforated grill sheet (we did them straight on the grill)
Accompaniments: lettuce; sliced tomato (napa cabbage leafs leftover from Potstickers were good too!)


Cook half of onion with 1/4 teaspoon salt in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add bulgur and water and cook, covered, over low heat until water is absorbed, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in beans and soy sauce.

Pulse bulgur mixture, walnuts, garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, a rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining onion in a food processor until finely chopped. Form rounded 1/2 cups of mixture into 4 (31/2-inch-diameter) patties. Chill at least 10 minutes.

While patties chill, stir together mayonnaise, zest, and juice.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas). Put perforated grill sheet on grill and preheat 10 minutes. Brush patties all over with oil. Oil grill sheet, then grill burgers on grill sheet, covered only if using a gas grill, carefully turning once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total.

Serve burgers open-faced on toast with lime mayonnaise.
I served this with leftover Couscous with grilled zucchini and chickpeas, a fantastic side dish.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Potstickers and dumplings!

This month the Daring Cooks tried their second recipe, and I have to say I had so much fun with it! Jen from Use Real Butter was our host, and she picked an authentic Chinese recipe for us to try. Potstickers are something I love to eat out (who doesn't!), but I had not yet tried them at home. Even if I'd been inspired to try them, I have a feeling I would have picked up pre-made wrappers. Making potstickers was a challenge in terms of the time it took, but the process was enjoyable, and the results were so authentic and addictive! The recipe made a TON, so I am pleased to now have some extras in the freezer waiting for a rainy (or busy) day.

If you're looking for a fun weekend activity, give these a try! Just budget your time accordingly, or invite lots of helpers, because it does take a while to get everything chopped, rolled, pleated, etc. If you want some helpful advice, check out Jen's original potsticker post at Use Real Butter. Also go to the Daring Kitchen website to see pictures of everyone's creations, and while you're at it go ahead and join our group!

See how I did the pleats?

For my potstickers I made two batches of Jen's dough. I did a batch of potstickers with her shrimp filling, which was fantastic! I also made a vegetarian version, which I've listed below. It was not as flavorful as I'd hoped, but they were still good. I think next time I'd skip the tofu and just add more veggies. See what you think.

Vegetarian Potstickers with Mushrooms and Tofu
From Jolinda Hackett on about.com

· 2 tbsp olive oil
· 1 block tofu, well pressed, and crumbled
· 1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, diced small
· 1/2 cup Napa cabbage, diced small
· 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· 3 scallions, diced
· 2 tbsp soy sauce
· 1 tsp sesame oil
· dash red pepper flakes (optional)
· 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Sautee the crumbled tofu, mushrooms and cabbage in olive oil along with ginger and garlic for a few minutes. When the tofu and mushrooms are almost done cooking, add the scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil and red pepper flakes, stirring well to combine.

Allow to cook for one or two more minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the fresh cilantro.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fuss-Free Empanadas

I used to work as a class assistant at The Wooden Spoon, a great kitchen store in the Andersonville neighborhood here in Chicago. It was such a fun job, and I loved being an insider in this food-centric neighborhood. Andersonville is known throughout Chicago for it's great restaurants, and there was a strong community within the area. The owner at the Wooden Spoon was always sharing insider information she learned from the restauranteurs in the neighborhood, and the trick for these empanadas was probably the best tip I heard during my time at the store.

I was surprised when I came to work one day and found out we would be making empanadas using pre-made dough. This seemed like a Sandra Lee shortcut, and not the way a professional would do things. I came to find out that one of my favorite restaurants in Andersonville made their amazing empanadas using this pre-made dough, and I was very intrigued. At the end of class I got to taste the final result, and I was sold! The dough tasted fresh and authentic, and could be fried or baked.

Recently I stumbled across this empanada dough at the Mexican grocery store by my house, and I figured it was time to try my hand at making empanadas at home. I picked two recipes online, and went to work. I figured since it was my first attempt it was best to start with a recipe someone had already created, but now that I'm more comfortable I think empanadas are the type of thing where you can invent your own filling combinations. I would highly recommend these fillings-- both were very flavorful! Even if you can't find these empanada dough discs around where you live, I recommend you try to make you own. Either recipe yields great results!

Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Empanadas
By Emeril Lagasse from foodnetwork.com
2 slices of yellow squash (1/2-inch thick, sliced vertically)
2 slices of zucchini (1/2-inch thick, sliced vertically)
2 slices of eggplant (1/2-inch thick, sliced into rings)
1/2 head of endive
1 red onion ring (1/2-inch thick)
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
2 green onions
Olive oil
Essence, recipe follows
3 small tortilla rounds, julienned (I skipped)
1/2 to 1 cup goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup roasted garlic puree
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the grill. Preheat the fryer.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, toss the vegetables with olive oil and season with Essence. Place the vegetables on the hot grill. Cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the vegetables from the grill and dice. Place the diced vegetables in a mixing bowl. Fry the tortilla strips for about 2 minutes or until crispy. Remove from the fryer. Stir in enough cheese to bind the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the roasted garlic and crumble the tortillas into the filling. Stir in the parsley.
To assemble, spoon about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the filling in the center of each empanada dough rounds. Fold over to form a half-moon pie shape and crimp the edges to seal. Place the empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with an egg wash. Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot.

Roll out each disc so it's a bit bigger.

Green Chile Chicken Empanadas

By Tyler Florence from foodnetwork.com

8 medium tomatillos (about 1 1/2 pounds), husked and rinsed
1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed
1 Spanish onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 lime, juiced
2 cups finely shredded, cooked chicken, preferably dark meat
1 cup crumbled queso fresco


Bring a pot of water to a boil; add the tomatillos, jalapeno, onion, and garlic. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the tomatillos are soft. Drain and cool slightly. Combine the tomatillos, jalapeno, onion, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice in a blender. Add 1/4 cup of water and process to a coarse puree; season with a generous pinch of salt. You should have about 3 cups of this salsa verde.

Combine the shredded chicken and queso fresco in a large mixing bowl. Pour in 1 1/2cups of the salsa verde and fold the ingredients together to moisten. Use as a filling for empanadas. Serve the remaining salsa verde on the side.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fiesta Time! Fresh Flour Tortillas

My mom gets 100% credit for inspiring me to try this recipe. She's always been adventurous about cooking recipes from cuisines around the world, and Mexican is one type of food she's really mastered. Trips to visit our relatives in Southern California inspired our family's love of Mexican food. We started with eating-- there was always so much great stuff to eat on our vacations to Los Angeles. Then my mom got some first hand lessons on making tortillas, and she was off and running. She started with traditional corn tortillas, then expanded out to tamales, flour tortillas, chiles rellano, and more.

The flour tortillas have always been my favorite, and they're a dinner request pretty much any time I visit my parents. I've helped my mom make them, and I've seen how simple the recipe is. Last spring my mom typed up the recipe for a friend, and emailed a copy to my sister and me. I have had this recipe sitting in my inbox ever since! I have no idea what took me so long, but these are the best tortillas EVER! They are not hard to make, and the taste is worlds away from the boring, dry tortillas you buy at the grocery store. You have to make them one at a time, so I put my oven on low and kept the cooked ones in there as I kept working. They stayed warm without drying out, and I put Joe to work on the fillings while I flipped the tortillas.

Grilled veggies with black beans on the side made for a delicious
vegetarian meal. We were disappointed when we got full, because
everything was so good we wanted to just keep eating!

On a Chicago note-- I got the supplies for my guacamole and pico de gallo from Maxwell Street Market, down in the South Loop. It's a Mexican street market with a ton of different vendors. You can dine on amazing tacos and quesadillas, buy fresh fruits and veggies, and browse a LOT of (fake? stolen?) purses and clothing. It was beautiful weather last Sunday when we went, and I really enjoyed shopping around with about half the residents of Chicago! I thought I didn't have my camera, so I didn't take any pictures... then I got home and realized my camera was in my purse the whole time! But this picture, courtesy of google images, gives you a good idea:

Picture from http://www.renkar.net/DayFour.htm

Flour Tortillas
from "Breads of the Southwest" by Beth Hensperger

4 cups flour

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 ½ tsp. salt

½ cup Crisco ( or butter, lard or bacon drippings... I used butter flavored Crisco)

1 ½ cups warm water

Combine flour , baking powder and salt in bowl of heavy duty mixer. Cut in fat until crumbly. Gradually add water, stirring just until dough sticks together, clears the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. (too much water makes it tough so go slowly). Give the dough a few kneads – fewer than 10, no longer than a minute) to make a smooth ball. Form into cylinder and wrap in plastic wrap. Let rest at room temp. for 30 mins. to two hours, until slightly puffy and shiny.

To shape tortillas, divide dough into 15 equal balls. Let them rest 20 – 30 mins covered (To be honest, I usually skip this step when I am in a hurry). Drape each ball around your forefinger, making a depression on the underside. This makes a mushroom shape and help in rolling it into a round. Flatten the ball with you hand then roll it out to form a thin round 8 – 9 inches in diameter. You can stack these between waxed paper and store in fridge for up to six hours. I just make them up two or three at a time and cook them. Then roll more as they are cooking.

To cook: heat an ungreased heavy cast-iron skillet, griddle or “comal” over medium high heat until drops of water sprinkled on the surface “dance”. Bake for 30 seconds – the tortilla will form bubbles, flatten them slightly with the spatula.

Turn and bake for 30 seconds longer. Remove and stack in a warm towel. Keep them warm so they stay soft and serve them as soon as they are all cooked.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Impressively Simple

I made this spectacular entree on a random weeknight, and immediately knew I would need to make this again. It is a perfect dish for company, because it's so easy to put together, but it's also elegant and classy. There aren't too many ingredients, which really allows the fresh flavors to shine through. I loved this dish!

Before I give you the recipe, I feel like I should give some life updates, too! There have been exciting changes in my life lately, and I figured my blog friends should be updated :) I left my full-time office job last week to go back to school! I taught elementary school after college, and decided to try the business world out when Joe and I moved to Chicago. After a year and a half in the business world, I've determined that I do belong in the classroom. So I'm headed back to college for some additional certification, and will be in school and doing some random part-time job for the next year. There have been some hiccups as I've sorted out the teaching certification, but I am so excited about getting back to teaching! During this upcoming year I'll have to see how less money and more free time affects my cooking and this blog, but I'm sure we'll all come out ok in the end!

Cod with Leeks and Tomatoes
from the Everyday Food Cookbook by Martha Stewart Living


- 2 medium leeks, white and light green part only, thinly sliced, rinsed well, and patted dry
- 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 sprigs thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 12 oz)
- 4 cod fillets, each 6 to 8 oz and 3/4 to 1 inch thick


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a 9-by-13 inch baking dish, toss together the leeks, lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, thyme, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cover with foil, and bake until the leeks just begin to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven. Add the tomatoes, and toss to combine. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper; place on top of the vegetables.

Cover the dish and bake until the fist is opaque throughout, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

- I used Tuna Steaks, because that's what I had around. It was good that way, although I think a more flakey white fish like cod would be even better.

- I had two large steaks that I cut into four pieces, but they were a little small. To serve to guests I would do a better job of having adequately sized pieces of fish.

- I served this with couscous, which was ideal for scooping up the tomato and leek goodness :)