In-House Bakery

I’m really lucky.  Andy likes making bread…and I like eating it.  As an engineer, something about the science of measuring out the ingredients and watching it rise is really fun for him.  And I get to benefit from it!  Here is a photo of his most recent bread — a buttermilk bread using the leftover buttermilk in the fridge.  It was really tasty!  It is perfect with butter and jam.


Baby finally eats…

As someone who loves cooking, it was really exciting when my baby started eating her first solids!  Even the first purees were exciting for me.  I steamed and pureed apple, pear, squash, and peas.  She HATED the peas (I mean, would you like to eat mushy peas?), but gobbled everything else up.  Now that we are onto chewing, making her food has gotten so much more fun.  With our farm box, I get new vegetables every week to cook up for her.  Last week, we got some adorable small summer squashes.  I peeled them, chopped into small pieces, and sauteed in olive oil with garlic from Henry’s Farm at the Evanston farmer’s market and dried oregano from our spring farm box.  The result?  Perfect FINGER food for Baby N to munch on.

Summer squash!

Cooking the squash with garlic and oregano

Making Nava’s food for the week ahead of time! Steamed carrots, cooked squash, and white bean rosemary spread.

A Beautiful Green

Swiss chard can compete for most beautiful vegetable.  The vibrant, brightly colored stalks always pleasantly surprise me when I pull them out.  Not many other vegetables have the same range of hues–pinks, reds, yellow, dark green.  Swiss chard is one of those vegetables that always seduces me at the farmer’s market–I buy it for the color…who doesn’t like pretty vegetables?

For my precious Swiss chard, I chose a recipe from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now. I love this cookbook–I courted it from the library for about three months before giving in and buying it.  It follows the year month by month and provides seasonal recipes.  Basically, it is a one-stop shop for creative delicious recipes for my farm box.  The “Bulgur Pilaf with Swiss Chard and Dried Apricots” is a Turkish-inspired recipe with a surprising flavor.

I had never cooked bulgur before, but was excited to give it a try.  As soon as I tasted it, I realized why I had never cooked it before.  I don’t like bulgur.  Or to be more precise, I thought I didn’t like bulgur.  I think I have had one too many bad taboulis at Middle Eastern restaurants.  This freshly cooked bulgur with cinnamon and apricots was superb.  I even put some of the grain mixture aside for the baby to eat, which she happily gobbled up all week.

Bulgur “Pilaf” with Swiss Chard and Dried Apricots

From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark

1 cup bulgar

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup roughly chopped raw pistachios (I used pine nuts)

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped (I used the onion that was in my farm box that week)

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped (I kept some stems, too pretty to trash)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Freshly squeezed lemon juice or pomegranate molasses (I used the molasses, what else am I using it for?)

1. Bring pot of salted water to boil. Add the bulgur and cinnamon and cook for about 9 minutes.  Add the apricots and cook until bulgur is tender.  Drain well and discard the cinnamon.  (I accidentally cooked for too long, but it worked out fine…the water just evaporated).

Bulgur + Cinnamon

2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter.  Add the nuts, cumin, and some salt.  Cook, stirring until golden brown.  Transfer to a bowl.  (I usually don’t waste time by transferring to a separate bowl, but this was well worth the extra step).

Following the directions to use butter

3. Wipe out the skillet (yes, still worth the extra time) with a paper towel.  Return it to medium heat and add oil, garlic, and shallot.  Add the charge, the remaining salt, and cook until chard is wilted.  Melissa Clark says this should take about 3 minutes, but it took closer to 10 for my chard.  Stir in the bulgur mixture and the nuts.  Toss over heat until warmed through.  Transfer to plates and drizzle.  Top with a fried egg to make it a full meal.

Lovely looking vegetable

Didn’t I say it was lovely

Adding pomegranate molasses to the dish

With egg on top!

Hot Summer Day Salad

Whenever you land at the airport in New Orleans, you walk outside and are immediately hit by the thick air. You wade your way through the tangible, wet heat from the terminal to the waiting area, letting the moisture soak into your skin while you take it all in.   Although I left New Orleans over ten years ago, I regularly visit my family and steep in air while I wait to be picked up.

So, last week when I stepped out of my well air-conditioned office building into this summer’s mid-western heat wave, I was hit by a familiar humidity.  Like New Orleans, Chicago’s air was wet and tangible, soaking into my skin.  It was the kind of heat that had my fellow office workers in uproar.  The people that complain about weather year-round had something to say about this.  But for me, it was rather comforting and comfortable, reminding me that I live in a city with four distinct seasons.

This evening, standing at the stove is the last thing that I want to do.  Instead, I pull all of the vegetables out of the fridge to assess the situation.  I decide to make an entree salad–filled with as many vegetables as I can fit or that make sense together.  I have discovered that Andy doesn’t mind eating salad for dinner, as long as I make it substantial enough to be filling.  Through trial and error, I realized that we need to have at least two proteins, such as avocado and black beans,  in the salad to make it an entree fit for a dude.

Tonight I made two hard-boiled eggs and added a tin of oil-packed albacore tuna to the greens–making a really substantial meal.  I also included chopped cucumber, heirloom tomato from Henry’s Farm at the Evanston Farmer’s Market, roasted red pepper, and red onion.  At the last minute, I threw in some goat cheese.  I think that there is some rule that says that you aren’t supposed to eat cheese with fish (except perhaps for lox and cream cheese), but I disregarded that rule tonight.  I had picked up some herbed focaccia at the French Market at lunch and thought the cheese would pair nicely.  I was right.  But they key to making my salad “fantastic” (to quote Andy) is the homemade salad dressed.  I read an article in today’s Slate about the importance of  homemade salad dressing versus store bought–there is just no discussion on which is better.  The homemade dressing wins by a long shot–I always make my own if I have time.

Easy vinaigrette makes the salad

Simple Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons vinegar (can use White Wine, Red Wine, or Balsamic)

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme, or rosemary

Really really good extra virgin olive oil (quality makes a BIG difference)

1. Combine the mustard and vinegar.  Whisk together.

2. Season with garlic and herbs.

3. Add enough olive oil to cut through the vinegar, about 1/4 cup.

Plated salad + Focaccia bread