1.26.2010

Chocolate Bacon Guinness Cupcakes

At our weekly staff meeting last week, one of my lovely coworkers brought in a tray of what looked like chocolate cupcakes. As we all descended upon the tray like a pack of hungry wolves, we discovered these were not your regular run-of-the-mill choco cupcakes. They were topped with and filled with bacon, and another key ingredient was the masterfully rich chocolate brew - Guinness! I must say, these were a delicious way to get through a staff meeting.

I've asked for the recipe. Only time will tell if she'll give up all her choco-bacon secrets to you, my dear readers. To be continued...

Cheap Eats: Salsa Verde Enchiladas


Ah the tomatillo - the weird green tomato-like vegetable (fruit?) that comes encased in a sticky husk - how I love thee. Tart and cheap, you make a really good salsa!

The humble and underutilized tomatillo was my inspiration for this very green dish. These salsa verde enchiladas are healthy, delicious and cheap! It cost me about $15 to make 5 servings of this Tex Mex inspired dish so put away that credit card and get in the kitchen!


Salsa Verde Enchiladas
5-6 large tomatillos (if you can only find small ones, 10-12)
1 shallot
2 jalapenos
Bunch of cilantro
Whole wheat tortillas
Cheese of your choice - I used mozzarella and goat cheese because...yummy
Small can of tomato sauce
1 cup of corn
2 cups of black beans
1 cup of mushrooms
1 small yellow onion

1. Remove the husks from the tomatillos, wash and place in boiling water. Split the jalapenos, remove the seeds (unless you like hot hot hot sauce) and place in the water as well. Once the veggies are soft, add to food processor (blender if that's what ya got) and blend with cilantro and raw shallot.

Before.

After.


2. For the filling, chop small onion and cook under tender (salt to taste!) and add mushrooms, corn, tomato sauce, black beans, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Cook until reduced and all veggies are soft.

3. Fill whole wheat tortillas with the filling, add cheese, roll up and place in a baking pan.

4. Cover with salsa verde, sprinkle with cheese and bake at 350 until bubbly and delicious.


5. Garnish with some Hot Chile and Lime Takis, my new favorite corn chip snack, as discovered at my local Mexican grocery, El Guero and slices of avocado.

It is easy being green.

1.24.2010

Dreas' Morsels


Name: Dreas
Age: 28
Occupation: Greek God of Music
Resides in: Ukie Village, Chicago

1. Fav restaurant in Chicago - brand spankin' new or an old stand by:

I am gonna have to go with Pizano's on State St. It's my favorite pizzeria in the city and pizza has always been my favorite food so it's a natural choice. Their deep dish and thin crust are consistently on point. My usual Pizano's meal, which happens to be veggie friendly, consists of a deep-dish "Mark's Special" (sliced tomatoes, basil, fresh garlic) and the Portobello appetizer. Their deep dish, which some people find similar to Lou Malnati's, has a thick and flaky outer crust while the rest of the pizza is actually quite thin by Chicago deep dish standards. I really like that balance. Oh yeah, and on Valentines Day they will make you a heart-shaped deep dish if you request it. (Honorable Mention: Kuma's Corner)

2. If you could have dinner with any chef or food personality, who would it be and where would you go?:

If the personality was cooking too, I'd say Rick Bayless in Oaxaca.

3. What hasn’t been battered and fried that you think should be?

Marshmallows. Add some cinnamon then proceed to dip in chocolate. It's probably been done but I haven't seen or tasted it. Deep fried Smores?

4. What’s in your freezer that you should have gotten rid of 2 years ago?:

Amy's Frozen Tamales Verdes. I really don't know why I bought these in the first place because the only tamales I eat usually come from Claudio. They've been in my freezer for almost a year but the expiration date actually says they're "Best By Sept 2010" so I guess I'll leave 'em in there.

5. What's the one food item in your pantry you can't live without? For instance, Ranch dressing or perhaps Nutella.

This changes frequently, but right now I'd have to say Milk and Honey Pumpkin Spice Granola. I usually eat it in the morning mixed with cereal, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and a banana. It's seasonal, sweet, and (kinda) good for you.

6. Do you think the CTA should add a snack-car to each train?:

My only dining experience on a train is riding on Amtrak from Grand Rapids to Chicago. That's like a 4 hour train ride, so my standards were lowered because of an overwhelming sensation of stomach hunger (pronounced stow-match hohn-ghur) so I got a hot dog and a beer. I don't see myself consuming anything on the Blue Line because the average duration of my usual ride is 15 minutes which means I would just wait until I arrived at my destination. Alex also mentioned a good point in that there is always an abundance of left-overs on CTA trains, so if stomach hunger strikes again, I won't be left unfed.

7. Speaking of, what was your favorite childhood snack?:

Everything? I ate a lot of food throughout my childhood. Often times I just combined multiple foods found in the kitchen to create new snacks. One of the more memorable snacks entailed slicing a bagel and melting string cheese on it. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this. At some point, I got fancy and starting adding tomato sauce too. (Honorable Mention: My Mom's Spanakopita)

8. It's the year 2042 and our new robot government has insisted that we all eat the same breakfast every day, day after day. What would you choose?

I guess I kind of answered this one a little earlier, but I would chose: fresh granola, add cereal, add fruits (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas) and there you have it, breakfast of champions! (Honorable mention: Sausage McMuffin)

9. What is your favorite comfort food meal? We’re talking wintery-cozy-belly-filling goodness here.:

I love that feeling. Some of my favorite comfort foods include a good soup to start with (preferably with pumpkin or squash), a nice side of baked mac n' cheese or garlic mashed potatoes, country style green beans (with bacon, onion, and black pepper) or maybe some grilled asparagus, and then a nice protein such as applewood smoked turkey with bbq sauce or a tender beef filet. After reading that, I realize this would be a huge meal, but you could basically pair any combination of the above and I'd be happy.

10. Give us the Rodney Dangerfield of veggies - what vegetable doesn’t get the respect it deserves?

Cauliflower. I recently went to an Indian Buffet in Ann Arbor (MI) and found myself curiously drawn to a dish that I initially thought was some sort of seafood, but soon realized it was pan fried cauliflower with awesome spices. I really liked the unique texture.

10. And finally, is Dippin' Dots really the ice cream of the future?

No. iCream is the ice cream of now and the future. It's also a candidate for the worst name for a restaurant ever. Seriously, do yourself a favor and order "The Guy From Florida" (white chocolate ice cream, cream soda flavor, Nutella) with raspberries. Easily the best ice cream I have ever had.

1.20.2010

State and Lake: A Lunch In Photos


Walking into State and Lake, the new American restaurant located on the ground floor of the fabulous Wit hotel, one is enveloped by warm tones of dark wood and (maybe it's just me) drawn to the long curved bar, which sits in the center of the space, and creates a feeling of rustic sophistication. Even more so, the food echoes this feeling of high-class comfort and really, the pictures below speak for themselves.

Heirloom tomato "carpaccio".

A delicate crab omelet

Lobster. Roll. Surrounded by Old Bay chips. Yes please.

State and Lake
at theWit Hotel
201 N. State
312.239.9400
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

1.15.2010

Corn Chowder with Crispy Leeks


In the dead of the Chicago winter - when going outside must be a strategic effort involving how many layers to wear and which snow boots to put on, when temperatures barely break out of the teens and you seriously consider paying the neighbor's kid $20 to come walk your dog, when a move to Florida, or hell, even Alabama sounds appealing...there's nothing better than inhaling a big bowl of soup while sitting under a wool blanket. For this particular chilly evening, we wanted something hearty, creamy and filling - a real meal - and corn chowder fit the bill. It's easy, semi-quick and relatively healthy so when you realize we have 3 more months of this season, whip up a pot of this and tell winter to go to hell.

Corn Chowder with Crispy Leeks and Roasted Tomatoes
3 cups corn (frozen or fresh off the cob)
1 large potato
2-3 shallots
Veggie or chicken stock
One leek
3 small tomatoes
Cream, half and half or whole milk
Olive Oil
Red pepper flakes

1. Since roasting the tomatoes will take the longest of all the prep work, start off by slicing them thin, drizzling them with olive oil, and topping with salt and pepper. Roast in the over at 450° for 30-45 minutes or until shriveled and a bit charred.

I had no idea Tomato Knifes existed but they do and they're amazing. Best purchase ever and highly recommended.

Before and after.

2. Slice the potatoes and shallots and saute until soft. Add the corn and stock and bring to a boil.

3. Add cream or milk to taste and use an immersion blender or potato masher to smooth out the texture of the soup a bit, until it looks like this:


4. Next up, the fun part - frying things! Slice the leeks into quarter sized rings (the white and light green part only - the dark green stalks are too tough to eat) and immerse into water to clean thoroughly. Leeks can be very sandy so don't skip this part.

Tupperware Art.

5. Heat your oil, enough to cover the leeks fully, in a saucepan and when it starts to smoke a bit, turn it down and add the slices of leek. Fry until they begin to get golden brown, then quickly remove from the oil and place on a papertowel. (fyi, wait until the oil is completely cool to dispose of)

Fun with Frying. Salt after you pull them out of the oil.

Crispy, salty, and delicious.

6. Finally, dish your creation into bowls, garnish with pieces of the roasted tomatoes (their tart-sweetness goes well with the corn and cream), red pepper flakes, crispy leeks, a little cheese if you wish and enjoy.

Best when shared with friends...

...but not for dogs.

1.13.2010

The Return: Alex's Morsels


Name: Da Peen
Age: 28
Occupation: Ba-a-a-arber with a bacon sized ego
Resides in: Ukie Village, Chicago

1. Fav restaurant in Chicago - brand spankin' new or an old stand by:

The old standby for my family and I is definitely Nuevo Leon. It's pretty much...da bomb. I could eat their beans and tortillas everyday. Mexi in the house!! The new restaurant in Chicago that we tried with our friends from D.C. was Nightwood. This place is super fresh and everything from the gooey mozzarella appetizer to the blueberry gimlet to the fresh trout and the port paired with fresh baked desserts, was just delicious. I'm falling in love all over again just typing about this joint. Da Peen is definitely representin' Pilsen here.

2. If you could have dinner with any chef or food personality, who would it be and where would you go?:

I would take that dude with the beard that lost in the last season of Top Chef. Shannon...I need some help with his name. Anyway, he was super sweet and he had a tattoo of a pig because he loved bacon so much. I would take that dude and we would go to Pequod's Pizza and get a 5 dollar personal lunch pan pizza with Canadian bacon and share some Old Style. [Ed. Note - it's Kevin Gillespie, my personal fav and gnome look alike. Nice pic]

3. What hasn’t been battered and fried that you think should be?

I would really like to take a tamale, put some mole in it, batter it and fry it up. I think that sounds tasty .

4. What’s in your freezer that you should have gotten rid of 2 years ago?:

I'm not at home but I'm sure that I have some Breyer's Vanilla Bean circa the last decade. Also...Shannon's retainer.

6. Do you think the CTA should add a snack-car to each train?:

I usually find quite an array of snacks left behind from fellow dwellers in the city... Cheetos, half bottles of pop, and peanuts. However, I think peanuts and beer would be a nice addition, especially on the red line near Wrigley.

7. Speaking of, what was your favorite childhood snack?:

Kudos bars. My mom would NEVER buy me snacks for my lunchbox ...like she would give me marshmallows or cereal but when I was lucky - KUDOS BARS!! I still buy those bad boys once and a while.

8. It's the year 2042 and our new robot government has insisted that we all eat the same breakfast every day, day after day. What would you choose?

Dunkin Donuts coffee (even 2 year-olds have to drink at least one medium cup), followed with 2 eggs over easy with bacon. Yes that's right, our government has declared bacon to be the antioxidant of all antioxidants. In addition, one-half of an english muffin and one piece of raisin toast with tangerine juice and 7 grapes on the side.

9. What is your favorite comfort food meal? We’re talking wintery-cozy-belly-filling goodness here.:

Sausage, potatoes, and cabbage: basically one huge sloppy mess of goodness slopped into a bowl. You must have this accompanied by a nice warm loaf of french bread with butter. This is delish.

10. Give us the Rodney Dangerfield of veggies - what vegetable doesn’t get the respect it deserves?

Jicama. I love me some jicama. Maybe it's a fruit but it's used with a lot of dessert. I can eat that stuff plain. I see it on salads. My favorite way to eat it is with a hint of lime and salt. Like...I just cut it and eat it and it's like heaven. Word.

10. And finally, is Dippin' Dots really the ice cream of the future?

Yea, bacon-flavored Dippin' Dots - it's good for you.