Cold Lentil Summer Salad!

After a very hot NYC Memorial Day weekend which included playing in a backgammon tournament (I lost), getting a sunburn (my first of the season), and a few boozy brunches (duh), all I wanted for dinner on Monday night was a light and healthy summer meal. On a day where you don't really want to be slaving away in the kitchen, this lentil salad is easy to prepare and a great base recipe to experiment with all summer long. Enjoy!

Cold Lentil Summer Salad
1 bag of brown lentils (you can use the French lentils if you're fancy)
3-4 medium tomatoes
1 shallot
1 small yellow onion
1 can black olives
1 bunch cilantro
1 package of feta cheese

Summer Vinaigrette
Rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lemon
Minced garlic (1-2 cloves)
Cracked black pepper and sea salt
1 tablespoon of Sambal or Tabasco hot sauce
Dash of olive oil
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard (Maille is the best)

1) Sort the lentils (watch out for rocks) and cover with water in a large pot. Boil until soft (but not too soft - we're not making soup here). If you want even more flavor, cook these in a veggie or chicken stock.

2) While the lentils cook, put together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette (season to taste) and set aside.

3) Dice the tomatoes, shallots, onion, black olives, and cilantro and mix together with the vinaigrette. While the lentils cook, the onions and tomatoes will take on the flavors of this yummy sauce.

4) Relax, blast the AC, read the Post.

The more FETA, the BETTA'

5) Once the little lentils are done, mix them into the veggies, crumble Feta cheese on top, & stick it all into the fridge to cool.

Enjoy with a nicely sliced hard boiled egg and a red wine spritzer (don't hate).


Dumont, Au Revoir

Goodbyes are so hard, but they hurt much less when you're sitting at a table full of bloody marys, huevos rancheros, french toast and friends. Sunday's brunch was a temporary farewell to Sir Clancy, who is traveling to the fair midwest for a 6-week run in a play about female scientists (there should be more of these, by the way), so a brunch was in order to send him off properly!

Dumont, a cozy and perpetually crowded joint in Williamsburg, serves up delicious comfort food (think Gruyère mac and cheese, fluffy omelets with feta and roasted pepper, classic burgers with homemade pickles, roasted beet salad) and may have the most perfect backyard garden ever. Thus, it's always crowded. If you're going during prime brunch or dinner time, reservations should be made. And once you're in, you'll see why it's the perfect spot to spend a few quality Sunday hours, for a quick hello or a long au revoir.

Warm french toast with blackberries.

SYRUP! (hopefully, real maple from Vermont)

The reason for brunch, Sir Clancy

Brunch people! LZO

Naveen, always keeping it classy.


After a long rainy Sunday inside my new Brooklyn apartment (which I am officially in love with) I ventured out to the market, got soaked, and decided to cook some real fancy pants food.

Growing up, I hated beets. I thought they tasted like dirt. And I still think they taste like dirt, but now I really like them. Does this mean I am officially old or I've acquired a taste for dirt? I'm fine with either one.

Anyway, I decided to do a simple roast of the beets and incorporate the beet greens as well and add it all to a fresh arugula salad. I'm hoping all these fresh veggies will make spring arrive in NYC faster.

Roasted Beets and Marinated Beet Greens

4-5 medium sized beets, sliced into 3-inch chunks (save beet greens for later)
Half a small shallot
Juice of one lemon
Whole grain spicy mustard
Olive oil
Goat cheese crumbles
One Soft boiled egg

1) Make a vinaigrette with lemon juice, finely chopped shallots, mustard and olive oil. You will use this for both the salad dressing and to marinate and roast the beet greens

2) Drizzle the beets with olive oil and some lemon juice and roast at 350 for about 45 minutes (or until fork tender). You can peel them after roasted - the skin will come off easily.

3) While the beets are roasting, dice the beet greens and add to the vinaigrette. Let marinate until the beets only have about 10 minutes left in the oven and add the greens (and vinaigrette) to the roasting pan. They will get crispy and caramelized and totally delicious.

4) When beets are done, peel and chop and add to your arugula. Top with chopped soft boiled eggs, goat cheese and remaining vinaigrette. Wish for spring.
Gratuitous Rufus shot = always ok.


Spaghetti Squash Soup with Green Apple

Yeeeahhh, I'm back! So what, who cares? It's so cold outside, that I now make it a goal to stay inside as much as possible - which means, BLOGGING!

Tonight, I decided to experiment and update my old spaghetti squash recipe with the addition of green apple and man, was it a hit. The tartness of the apple plays well with the richness of the squash and I promise, this will warm you up when it's 12 degrees outside. You could make this with regular butternut squash as well but it's just not as fun as spaghetti squash (which is such a weird vegetable, if you really think about it). Enjoy!

One large green apple
One spaghetti squash
Chicken stock (or veggie)
One yellow onion
Sage, chervil and ancho chili for flavor
Red pepper flakes
Curry powder
Smoked salt

1. Heat over to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise. (This takes a lot of muscle so BE CAREFUL.)

2. Fill a baking dish with about an inch of stock, add red pepper flakes, curry, and sage. Place the squash, cut side down, into the stock and place in the oven.

3. Bake for about 35 minutes. (most people would take the seeds out but I really love squash seeds so I left them in for a little pop of flavor)

4. While baking, finely dice the green apple and onion and saute until soft (add salt and pepper).

5. At 35 minutes, if the squash "flesh" is soft, crank that oven up to 450 and turn both sides of the squash over onto their backs, to roast. This helps give the squash a little brown color and rich flavor.

6. Once done cooking, add to the saucepan with onions and apple, add the cooking liquid to the pot (add more if you feel like you need it) and use an immersion blender to blend the soup. Add more seasonings, to taste.

7. Cook for another 10 minutes, until thick, spoon into bowls and serve with a dollop on sour cream.

8. Once done, you'll feel a lot like this guy. He's taken the "stay inside" pledge with me too.



It's no secret to my friends, that I love a man with some good solid facial hair. Beards and mustaches = I am a fan. So I really love Upton's Naturals Fake Meat products. I mean, look at that packaging. It may be fake meat but the mustache is all reaaaal. (wait, what?)

Upton's is based in Chicago and specializes in Sietan - essentially wheat meat - protein made from wheat gluten, which if you're really resourceful, you can make yourself. Learn HOW. Just try and tell me this doesn't look appetizing.

So with my wheat meat, I make a "scramble" of onion, shitaake mushroom, and seitan. I liked this pretty pic of the mushrooms. I could eat mushrooms all day.

And here is the finished product. With a little cheese on top, it was quite delicious and really took about 10 minutes to make. I also sprinkled bacon bits over the dish (not really!)

Check out Upton's mustache pics and their recipe blog for inspiration. Oh and more great mustache pics here too.

And let's get a close up on that gorgeous facial hair.


Tomato Vodka Hummus

I recently became the lucky recepient of a Fox & Obel gift certificate. For those of you who don't know what this place is - it's magical and Chicago's answer to New York's famed Dean & Deluca (must fine food shoppes always have 2 names?) Fancy foods line the walls and crowd the aisles and on this day, I may have spent hours there, deciding the best possible way to spend my F&O money.

Once home, I decided cooking for myself was boring so I invited some friends over to share in my gourmet loot. The dish I decided to put out while people arrived was hummus, and I utilized my exotic new Tomato-Vodka Mustard to flavor the bean spread.

Made in Napa Valley

And my favorite flaky French salt.

And the finished product, which doesn't even need a recipe, it's so easy. Put the following in a food processor: 2 cans of Garbanzo beans (chickpeas if that's your thing), the juice from one lemon, olive oil, mustard, salt & pepper, cumin and blend. It was enjoyed.

Later in the night, we started a congo line but that's for a different blog.

Fox & Obel
401 East Illinois Street
Chicago, IL 60611-4319
(312) 410-7301


Chicago French Market

View from the taxi. Photos by Javier Ayala

As a celebration of the nice weather last week, friend Javier planned a "secret lunch outing". The 4 of us headed out around 12noon, weaving through tourists and side streets, blindly following our leader Javier, until we hit the Water Taxi platform. The $2.00 ride is totally awesome and you can ride it all the way down to Chinatown (yep). This is a recommended activity.

We hoped off at the Madison stop and walked over to the new Chicago French Market, which is less French and more Grand Central Station, but still cool. Numerous food stalls line the large indoor space, selling everything from fresh fish and olives, to Italian gelato and freshly fried Belgian taters. I had my first "raw" meal (a lifestyle promoting the consumption of un-cooked, un-processed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet) at food stall RAW. and while it was good, not cooking your food comes at a price...

My $13 raw burrito. The raw sour cream was made out of cashews.

Samples get me every time!

From Raw's web site: "...RAW. food stewards, Carole Jones and Polly Gaza, find it important to incorporate 100% organic raw vegan food into one’s diet and celebrate the taste of the whole food in its natural state without altering or diminishing the nutritional content.

While this certainly tasted good and I'm all for healthy food consumption (most of the time), eating exclusively raw food seems a bit extreme, not to mention labor-intensive and possibly annoying to those you dine with (oh and expensive). But I still recommend tasting it, and RAW. is a good place for that.

The cheese stall sold cheese encased in wax, to look like a beer. I want this. It's not raw.

Chicago's French Market
131 N. Clinton
Mon - Fri: 7am - 7:30pm
Saturdays: 8:30am - 6pm

Digital Dish #14 - Is This For Real?


Looking to spruce up your springtime music collection? Download Mr. Vinyard's latest Digital Dish HERE.


Chinatown Birthday

Friend Kate (and occasional "Voice of Meat" on this very blog) celebrated her birthday this weekend with a group dinner at Phoenix in Chinatown. Not only is Chinatown a short 10-minute bus ride down Cermak for me, but I feel strongly that, at least within my group of friends, C-town is majorly underutilized. I was happy to join the birthday girl and friends on this outing.

The birthday girl and her stylish man, Desi, sparking like a new pair of diamond earrings.

We had a private room with this awesome "Lazy Susan", which to me, looked like a giant hamburger bun. Lazy Susan is such a weird name for this device but we all agreed, we each need one of these on our tables at home.

Everyone ordered Mai Tai's, which were extremely tart but a hit. I stuck with Tsing Tao, my fav Chinese beer.

Carmen's hair looked awesome.

Dumplings. Delicious. I didn't get a pic of the crab rangoon but it was a favorite for most at the table.

More mai tais.

The crew, lazy susan'ing. We ordered family style - Kung Pao Chicken, Broccoli and Beef, Sweet and Sour Pork, Crispy Tofu with Spicy Salt, Veggie Fried Rice, & Veggie Lo Mein. (check out Chris in this shot, super excited for the eats)

The Crispy Tofu with Spicy Salt was interesting - the exterior was crunchy but the tofu itself was extremely soft. I loved it. Others, not so much.

Post-Phoenix we headed to Joy Yee's Noodles for some bubble tea.

This was my first bubble tea shake with tapioca pearls and I have to say, I am now a fan. Their jelly-like texture and mild flavor were oddly addictive. This was banana-coconut with green tapioca.

Micah is probably the #1 fan of my blog so here he is for all my readers to see. This is what success looks like.

Leaving Chinatown, we saw this amazing piece of cartwork (artwork that appears on the exterior of the car). I wish they had added "I'm just hanging out" below Garfield.

Later that night, we celebrated Earth Hour at Kate's apartment by lighting candles and turning off all the lights from 8:30 - 9:30. It was romantic.

The city, as seen on my trek home from the Ashland Pink Line Station. A nice view and perfect end to a great night. Happy birthday Kate!

Phoenix Restaurant
2131 S Archer Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

Joy Yee's Noodles
2159 S. China Place
Chicago IL, 60616