Weekly Winner:  Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all … And bacon cheese!

As my lack of entries indicate, it has been a crazy couple of weeks around here…. Work, house guests, burst pipes, new carpeting, travel….so my recipe experimentation has been relatively nonexistent. Hopefully I’ll be able to remedy that in the coming weeks but for now this is definitely the best thing I’ve made in a while.

Heading to the Green City Market this morning I had no idea what I was looking for.  I found myself in the unusual situation of only having to buy for myself and hubby and today’s lunch was all I had in mind.  But what to make?  I’m sure I have a ton of new salad recipes I’ve been meaning to try, and there’s always my famous (to us anyway) farmer’s market pizza but to be honest, I wasn’t going to have the time.  I needed to find something that could be put together quickly but obviously, it had to be tasty.

If I can just say…I outdid myself!  I thought at first I would just cobble together a salad from all the various fabulous veggies I knew would be waiting for me. But then again, there’s Bennison’s bakery which always has incredible bread.  And cheese…there’s always amazing cheese to be found there as well.  Voila!  A Veggie Sandwich!  This was great, or as hubby said “This is stupidly good”.  I’ll take that any day of the week!  Sometimes you just got to wing it.

So while there’s really no recipe for this, everything on this sandwich came from the market this morning with the exception of a gala apple that I had on hand and some Gulden’s Mustard.  So here it goes:

Donna’s Green City Market Sandwich

Serves 2

Take 2 mini ciabatta loaves and slice in half lengthwise.  Generously spread bottom halves with Bacon Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese from Brunkhow Cheese .  On top of that place gala apple thinly sliced, half a cucumber thinly sliced, one sliced heirloom tomato, red leaf lettuce and thinly sliced red onion.  Salt and pepper each sandwich.  Spread a thin layer of Gulden’s mustard on top half of bread, place on top of the glorious veggies and squish down firmly.  Cut each sandwich in half and enjoy!

Advertisements

Weekly Winner: Summer on a Plate

IMG_1193.JPG

This is another one of those recipes that I just couldn’t believe had not already been inducted into the “Weekly Winner” hall of fame.  This is an absolute staple in our house — especially during the summer, and even more especially as a lunch on the days I head to the Green City Market to do my shopping because I can get everything there.  But apparently, I’ve never written about it.  So here goes.

This salad epitomizes summer.  I have always been a sucker for any form of panzanella salad but this is definitely my favorite.  It just works – nd it could not be easier.  There is also no need to worry about heating up the kitchen as the bread is grilled.  I do believe grilling the bread is vital.  Yes, you could technically bake it, broil it or even just use day-old bread in this salad but it wouldn’t have the smoky, essence of summer that it does with the grilled bread.

The recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.  During the summer, when tomatoes are at their peak, I could easily eat this everyday.

Tomato and Grilled-Bread Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 pound country bread, cut into 3/4 inch thick slices

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil

3 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 3/4 inch dice

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, torn into bite-size pieces

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Procedure:

Heat grill to medium.  Brush the bread slices on both sides with 2 tablespoons oil.  Grill until lightly charred on both sides, 3-4 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then cut into large cubes.

In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with tomatoes, cucumber, and basil.  Drizzle with vinegar and remaining 1/4 cup oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine and serve.

 

Weekly Winner: Pretty Easy Peasy

Ravioli Alfredo with PeasThis week’s entry is so easy, it barely qualifies as cooking.  Besides being so dang easy… it is also a very pretty dish.  Sometimes it is the simplest, easiest things that actually taste the best.  Case in point, this week’s Weekly Winner.  It is Ravioli Alfredo with Peas and it comes from Food Network Magazine.

The most important thing I can say about this recipe is make sure you find fresh mushroom ravioli.  I found some at the Green City Market, my local farmer’s market and it was remarkable.  With such few ingredients, it is vital that each is really good quality.

It may seem like cheating, but it is wonderfully delicious cheating.  Make this and enjoy all the extra time you’ll have!

Ravioli Alfredo with Peas

Serves 4 (or just me and my husband!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 9-oz packages of mushroom ravioli
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the ravioli and cook as the label directs.  Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the ravioli.

Combine the butter, cream and peas in a large skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook 1 minute.  Add the ravioli, cheese, nutmeg and a splash of the reserved cooking water to the skillet and toss.  Add more cooking water to think the sauce, if needed.  Season with salt and pepper.  Divide among bowls and top with the parsley.

Image

Morning Glory

Adelor was my breakfast companion this morning.  On my way home from the Green City Market, I stopped and sat by his exhibit to enjoy a moment of his magnificent-ness.  Adelor and I go way back.  His roar can be heard not only throughout Lincoln Park Zoo, but into the neighborhood has well.  He makes me happy and I consider myself lucky to be able to spend a moment gazing at this incredible creature.

For those of you who say they do not approve of zoos, know this:  Adelor is 18 years old and beginning to lose his eyesight.  He has not lost any of his lust for life, nor any of his pride and his two female companions still dote on him.  My question is this:  How different would this handsome devil’s life be if it wasn’t for the loving care he is receiving at the zoo?  If left in the wild, sadly Adelor would simply not be.

Shiny, Happy People… or something like that

Ten years ago, I moved to Chicago from Southern California.  Although excited about the move, I was a little apprehensive.  I thought I was leaving the laid-back, friendly Southern California lifestyle for life in the big, impersonal city.  I could not have been more wrong!  Everyday life in Chicago has a much more friendly, neighborhoody, invested feel than I ever experienced on the West Coast.  Case it point:  my last 24 hours (condensed, obviously!):

Yesterday was Wednesday, and as any loyal reader knows (yes, all 4 of you!), that means my weekly trip to the Green City Market.  I get there by walking (something, I might point out, one never did in Southern California).  On my way there, I passed neighbors watering their plants, shopkeepers opening up their stores and sweeping off their entrances.  Everyone had a wave or a “good morning” to share.  I’m especially amazed by the owner of a neighborhood tavern by us called Tavish.  My husband and I go there, but certainly not regularly and we probably haven’t been in several months.  But you know what?  He knows us.  He knows we live in the neighborhood, so therefore he always waves and asks how I’m doing.

As I continued my journey to the market, I walked by the Lincoln Park Zoo.  Along the outskirts of the zoo is the enclosure for the wolves.  They are a timid bunch, and are rarely seen unless you take the time to really search them out in the underbrush or in their rock caves.  Yesterday morning, two of them were sitting on the rocks sniffing the morning air.  They glanced my way… and although I realize it is sheer coincidence… one nodded.  I know better, but I’d like to think he was acknowledging me with his own symbolic tip of the hat.  At least it fits this blog post, so work with me!

After purchasing my fruits and veggies at the market I made a beeline to my favorite baker for my Wednesday morning ritual (see previous post) of a brioche roll.  This time, I didn’t have to order!  The baker looked at me and asked “The usual?”  Very cool.

Fast forward to today.  I took a trip to my regular butcher shop, Paulina Meat Market.  Words cannot express how much I adore this place.  I have basically given up buying meat anywhere else.  It is totally old school and fantastic.  I walked in and as I approached the counter one of the butchers looks up, smiles and says “Hiya Hon…how were those ribs for the 4th?”  Again, very cool… and by the way… they were amazing.

Finally, although this last item doesn’t really fit this post, it certainly fits the overall theme of this blog and serves for my daily QuickQi.  I returned home from the butcher shop and took a minute to water the plants in the front of our house.  Three doors down there was a landscaping company working on replanting my neighbor’s front and balcony.  One of the gardeners walked over, said hello and then asked me “Who did your balcony?”.  With a wide smile I replied: “I did”!  Thank you very much!

Being Blown Away

Mary Poppins came to mind today.  We have had tremendous winds here in Chicago, and while I didn’t feel the need to move on to another town as Mary did… it certainly helped blow out some cobwebs and let me see things a bit differently.

It started as I began the day the way I start most Wednesday mornings, at the Green City Market.  As I was crossing the street to begin shopping,  I was blown away (pun very much intended) by the almost overpowering scent of fresh strawberries!  The berries were a very strong reminder of why I love going to the market — to buy what is ridiculously fresh and abundantly in season this week and decide what to do with it later.  That’s exactly what I did and decided on a chicken and strawberry salad for lunch tomorrow.

Then I was off to my miracle-worker hairdresser at Salon Soca to get my hair cut.  Nothing like a scalp massage and a fresh “do” to set you right with the world.  As I was walking home, the wind whipping my newly cut hair, I experienced about four climate changes in my one mile walk — bright sunshine, menacing dark clouds, and what felt like a 15-degree temperature change.  All of this accompanied by these amazing winds.  It really felt like all of the cobwebs had been wiped out of my brain and I was experiencing a clean sweep!

I got home to discover a unique work-related opportunity had popped up (or blown in?).  Not only was I really interested in pursuing this, but I was more excited about it than I’ve been about many similar opportunities.

Finally, I made myself lunch.  Whenever my husband is out-of-town (as he currently is) I see it as a chance to spoil myself and “go all French” with my cooking and experiment a little.  After all, if it’s awful no one will know!  My newest cookbook obsession is Dorie Greenspan‘s “Around My French Table“.   I decided to try the Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs.  It is served over toasted brioche slices.  I took my first bite and was instantly transported to someplace sumptuous, fabulous, and no doubt incredibly French.  To put it simply… I was Blown Away. (I apologize for not having a picture of the dish… I really didn’t anticipate it being such a momentous occasion. I thought I was simply having lunch).

Maybe today was caused by the winds of change.  Whatever it was… it made my day.

It’s Official!

Spring has finally sprung here in Chicago and along with it comes the return of one of my all-time favorite events — the outdoor Green City Market in Lincoln Park.  This also marks the return of one of my beloved rituals.

First some info on my obsession with rituals.  The make me very happy.  They give order and pleasure to my life and make me take a moment….stop…think…enjoy.  Now, I’m not talking about big events or superstitions.  I’m talking about taking the time to do things correctly because you’re worth it.  For example, tea.  I will always use a teakettle to bring water to the boil.  I will never simply put a mug in the microwave.  It’s not right.  It’s not the way things should be done.  The same thing with microwave popcorn… please!!  Not gonna do it… wouldn’t be prudent.  Take the time to use a pot, real oil, real popcorn… and most importantly… real butter.

But I digress… today’s ritual.  Every Wednesday morning while the Green City Market is outdoors in Lincoln Park, I jog/walk the 2.5 miles from home to the market and to reward myself for the midweek morning exercise, I buy a brioche roll from a local bakery.  I casually nibble on the roll while I buy my week’s veggies, fruits, cheeses and other breads.  And so it began this morning.

As for my Quick Qi – I was wandering around the market observing the flowers that are finally starting to bloom and the trees bursting with buds when I noticed a new vendor selling pizzas and breads.  He had a warming tray and was handing out handmade mini doughnut holes dusted with cinnamon and sugar.  As I approached, he handed me one and said: “Please take one and enjoy…. congratulate yourself for surviving another Chicago winter.”  Don’t mind if I do!