Roasted garlic is one of those recipes I see on a restaurant menu and think, man, that sounds great, but I should probably just make it at home. After all, it's just garlic roasted in the oven. Unfortunately, I'll tell myself this, and then, almost every time, I promptly forget to actually make it. I mean, I love roasted garlic, but I've probably only made it 2-3 times in the last year, which is probably why all those vampires keep friending me on Facebook. But that's all going to change with this post. Hopefully!
This past weekend, Jen and I rewatched Waitress. Have you seen Waitress? It's a really great movie. I'm normally not much of a movie rewatcher, but this is one flick I gladly agreed to see again, because in addition to it just being a sweet, fun film, it also provides lots and lots of fodder for my food-loving imagination. The protagonist of the movie, Jenna (played by Keri Russell), is a pie baker for a small diner, and the movie is full of vividly realized pie-making antics. So, you can imagine that after watching it, I really, really wanted to bake something, especially a pie. I've only baked one pie before--a pear-Gruyère affair based on a recipe that was inspired by a pie mentioned in the now-cancelled TV series Pushing Daisies--and that turned out pretty well, but it was a lot of work.
(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's close confidant Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column about eating and preparing food in the City of the Century. Enjoy! -Max)
Sometimes Food is Not About Food
By Jason Hissong
28 September 2009
It’s Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Two more hours and I have the evening’s reprieve from a crazy, stressful workweek. Tomorrow is a new day, and eight more hours of stress, but that’s tomorrow.
It’s 5:00 p.m. and I close the computer. I change in the bathroom and lock my work clothes away and go see Jonathan. It’s time to leave the office and commence our evening. We hit the Red Line after stopping by the cash box, and we run into a friend during the commute. We get off a stop before we need to to enjoy the evening’s blue sky, one of the last we might see in this dying summer.
We walk north on Clark Street. While there are worthwhile places on Clark Street we’re heading to Wrigleyville. It’s fine in its proper perspective, when taken at face value. And we both know that our purpose isn’t Wrigleyville, but a place for dinner in Wrigleyvile and it just so happens our primary concern this evening is very close to the restaurant.
A couple days after I posted that polenta recipe a week or so ago, I received an email from my good friend Mike D. Mike's a great guy. He and his wife Kat just had their first child today, and they're going to be great parents. Mike's just one of those people who's an inherently good person you're proud to call a friend, always eager and genuinely interested in hearing about what's going on in your life--he's just a person who truly cares.
Pancakes are probably my favorite breakfast food, and one of my favorite comfort foods, as well. They're not something to eat every day, sure, but when you do have them, and when you do have a good version, they're satisfying and delicious. I've experimented with a number of different pancake batter recipes, but the one I've found works best is Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything. However, as great as that recipe is, I still like testing out other recipes, as well, so when I was reminiscing about the wonderful chocolate chip pancakes at the Night and Day Cafe on Coronado Island a few days ago, I decided to try and find a good recipe for diner-style pancakes. I'm not sure exactly what would qualify a pancake as being diner-style, but I suspect it has something to do with slightly thinner, less puffed-up, and less dense pancakes that cook up nicely and evenly on a griddle. After some extensive Googling, the best-looking recipe actually seemed to come from a website for the fictional Big Knob Diner in some young adult book called Casual Hex. Like I said, extensive Googling!
This week, a shorter Bento recap, for a few reasons. First, one of this week's entries was such a hit that Jen requested to have it a second time this week. So that was good. As well, Jen had a lunch out with co-workers, and her biweekly Friday off. So this week, I only have a measly two Bentos to show you guys! That's a pretty weak week, but rest assured some more posts will be coming at you through the weekend--including some untraditional breakfast variatons--so be sure to keep your browser tuned into the BCC channel.
(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday (but this week, Tuesday), Chicago's amigo Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column about eating and preparing food in the City of Neighborhoods. Enjoy! -Max)
By Jason Hissong
22 September 2009
There are, without question, places of a special quality here in the Windy City. I had the great privilege of having dinner with a close friend on Thursday at one such place. At one point during dinner she asked what, of all the places I’ve been to in Chicago, is my favorite place to eat? After finishing my bite of sweet potato French fries I looked at her and said, “We’re there.”
When it comes to less healthy eating, my preference is typically dessert as opposed to junk food. I mean, don't get me wrong--greasy, unhealthy foods can be really appealing at times. Sometimes a slice of pizza sounds great. But one thing I've learned about myself recently is that the savory foods that aren't good for me usually don't make me feel very well, and that's a decent-sized incentive for me to usually do my best to avoid them. Even better, on the flip side, I usually feel actively good and well when I eat something good for me, which is, again, an incentive for me to try to eat right. This definitely isn't to say I never eat unhealthy savory foods, but just that these days, I usually save the less healthy foods for dessert. Today's post concerns a homemade dessert that's easy to make and yields delicious results.
This week, four lunches, and not one of them a repeat from previous weeks. That feels like a real accomplishment. I've only been doing these weekly Bento round-ups for four weeks, but thinking up something interesting and challenging to make for dinner (and sometimes breakfast) near-daily can be pretty difficult itself, so lunch, in the past, has just been the meal that I've typically just thrown something together for: a sandwich here, a salad there, nothing terribly exciting or requiring much forethought.
There are certain foods out there that you know you like, but eat very infrequently, even though the ingredients to make them are right in your kitchen or easy to get, and even though, in some cases, the food in question is available pre-made at the grocery store. Polenta, for me, fits all of these criteria. I eat it very infrequently, and prior to this week, I'd never attempted to make it at home. A recipe I found online at Whisk: A Food Blog inspired me to make my own polenta at home, albeit a more basic version than the fresh corn and aged cheddar variety at the link. In lieu of cheddar, I used the more traditional Parmigiano-Reggiano, and I skipped the corn entirely. I'm guessing those additions would have been terrific, but it's always important to me that I try to get the fundamentals of a dish down first before altering it dramatically or experimenting with it.
So I have this friend--let's call him Antonio (because, you know, that's his name)--who really, really hates vegetables. Antonio's a really good guy, so please don't hold this against him. But he does loathe legumes. He abhors argula, has contempt for cukes, and despises daikon. He victimizes...veggies...you know, he makes them feel bad and victimized...maybe that one's a stretch worthy of an industrial strength rubberband, but you get the idea. While he'll eat the occasional carrot, pretty much every other vegetable holds a place in neither his heart nor his diet. Especially the green stuff. With that in mind, let's take a look at some delicious veggie-centric dishes that might hopefully cause Antonio to reconsider his anti-veggie stance.
Welcome to a new feature here at Beach City Cooking: Midnight Snack. Think of this feature as a tribute to those of you who are up late, hungry, and browsing food blogs. This frequent feature will help you treat yourself to an occasional midnight snack, some of which will be healthier, some of which will be decidedly more dessert-y. Either way, the goal is to provide you, the reader, with a delicious late-night treat designed to stave off hunger when you have a late night of work or much-needed relaxation in front of you.
For this week's Bento round-up, it's another short week--three entries this time--due not to repetition, but rather to Monday's Labor Day holiday and today's biweekly day off, which Jen's work gives her. These three lunches were all very different, though, and while the Bento Box guacamole took only ten or so minutes to prepare, the other dishes required a little more work than that.
After making those delicious Bacon and Egg tacos a few days ago, I was craving one crucial classic Mexican ingredient not present in that recipe. I'm referring, perhaps unsurprisingly, to the avocado, that fantastic fruit to which so many of the posts on this blog pay tribute. The very best part of working with avocado in the kitchen lies in its convenience, something I'll be demonstrating in today's blog post.
I received Mark Miller's taco recipe tome, appropriately named Tacos, as a present from Jen's mom and brother just before we moved out here, and just recently, I finally got around to trying out a recipe from the book for the first time. I know some people prefer their cookbooks sans pictures, but personally, I love photo-heavy cookbooks. The first thing I did when I got this book--and the first thing I usually do when I get a new cookbook--was leaf through the whole book, looking at the pictures only, not even glancing at the recipe titles yet. That, I save for the second read-through.
(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's good friend Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column about eating and preparing food in the Second City. Enjoy! -Max)
Sometimes Things Don’t Work
By Jason Hissong
7 September 09
Sometimes a dish doesn’t work. Most of the time, it’s because I made a bad decision, or a couple, along the way.
I’m trying to take advantage of the same Farmer’s Market I mentioned two weeks ago before Old Man Winter comes and swallows the market into his cold, dead claw. So I went back to the market this past Thursday, not having a specific goal in mind. As soon as I saw the early fall harvest, however, I knew exactly what I was getting. There were rows, and rows of apples. All varieties. But then I spotted something else: peppers. Mountains of peppers. How could I pass this up?
Welcome to another edition of the weekly Bento round-up here at Beach City Cooking, where I share with you all the lunches Jen took to work this week, for better or for worse. Because caveat emptor, not every picture turned out as well as I might have liked this week, but I'll be sharing them with you anyway, so brace yourself for some seriously unappetizing bacon. The idea that I'd ever be responsible for the unholy pairing of those last two words is one that fills me with deep, paralyzing shame and heart-aching regret. (On the other hand, the heartache could just be from eating too much bacon. Time will have to tell on that one.)
Looking back over the previous editions of Wednesday Brunch here at Beach City Cooking, one thing I've noticed is that, so far, I've pretty much only been posting breakfast-y dishes for this weekly feature. Personally, 9 times out of 10, if a brunch menu is put in front of me, I'll order a breakfast item as opposed to something lunch-like. In that rare instance where I opt for something you'd see me eating at lunch, it's got to be really unusual and special.
Today's post is a spin-off of last week's Weekly Bento Round-Up #1. In that post, I promised a tamago-centric feature would be coming soon, so here it is. As was the case with the Sushi Attempts post from a few weeks ago, my skills in the realm of tamago are extremely limited, and were, until just over a week ago, completely nonexistent. Thankfully, both Lunch in a Box (my previously-mentioned go-to resource for Bento lunch ideas) and the extremely helpful About.com have tutorials for making your own tamago, or Japanese rolled egg omelet, at home. Tamago is technically called tamagoyaki, but more casually known as tamago. So if you want to do further research on making tamago, that additional search term might be useful for you to keep in mind.