simple Augustan meals

broiledzucchiniI must say that this is a joy that you only get for a few weeks a year when you live in Chicago.

I stopped at the farmer’s market on my way home from work. At home I cut up the zucchini, an heirloom tomato and some fresh herbs (from my little urban porch garden), mixed up the dressing and broiled it all for a few minutes (recipe) dropped it onto some fresh spinach and dinner was served.

…if only I was drinking (sigh) but I’m not. It is my “no bagel breakfasts/no potato chip lunches/no wine dinners” diet. I’m not sure if it is working.

But there were little plums and sun-gold cherry tomatoes for dessert!

Thai-Vietnamese? salad


I’m not exactly sure why this salad is Thai-Vietnamese….the peanut sauce and basil seems a little Thai inspired but I’m not sure about the Vietnamese part…doesn’t it have to have fish sauce to be be Vietnamese?

Here is the assembly list if anyone has some insight for me, although there are a few Chicago winter substitutions/omissions.

lettuce (green leaf and romaine)
snow pea shoots
shredded carrots
green onions
red onion
fresh mint
fresh basil
toasted sesame seeds
toasted almonds

soy sauce
canola oil
salt and pepper

tuna steak (Yes, it is cooked through. Sacrilege! This was day two leftovers and I reheated it)
canola oil
lime juice

white vinegar
white grape juice
peanut butter
grated fresh ginger
cayenne pepper
canola oil

xmas presents in action…final 2012

Yes… It has taken me this long to use the present. It is a huge heavy granite mortar and pestle that looks lovely in my kitchen but that I had not found a use for…but it did a very good job of pulverizing the rather coarse lemon verbena leaves into the olive oil that was used for my watermelon salad dressing.  I have a lemon verbena plant which I had been looking for and then of course found it at Gethsemane Garden center here in Chicago. Now I am having fun finding recipes that will highlight it. My favorite was actually grinding up (in my smaller mortar and pestle) lemon verbena leaves with some sugar and then mixing into some store bought french vanilla ice cream.

The salad recipe is from Food52. I would also like to state that this time I successfully toasted the pistachios.

grilled fennel salad

I think I have suggested that everything can, and should, be grilled. Let me add  on to that; you should grill sliced fennel and eat it on a salad with pistachios and goat cheese. (and some fresh dill and watercress)

I will say that I lost a number a small pieces of fennel into the bottom of the grill, even with my cast iron grates that have pretty narrow gaps. They were kind of baby fennel bulbs this time and it would probably work better those  giant mutant bulbs….you know the ones that are the size of a small acorn squash. (craziness)

I did not toast my pistachios…okay let me rephrase. I burnt some pistachios. Then I gave up and ate my salad with some non-toasted  ones.  It was delicious and I always burn nuts when I try to toast them…I get distracted.

Tune in soon for another salad with pistachios and goat cheese. I’m sensing a trend coming on…

simply-est is always best

How often do we over-complicate our lives just to impress others…or lie, I guess some people just lie.

Well, I am making myself a new promise, every time I think I might not be measuring up to someone’s unrealistic expectations, that I am somehow just way too boring; Then I will remember this simple grilled chicken salad and how very perfect and satisfying it was even without…..2 kids, 3 pets, 4 hobbies, 6 outdoor sports obsessions, a passport full of stamps, 12 hot friends who like to go clubbing every weekend, 3 charities you volunteer for on a regular basis, and owning and running a small business!! ugh!

okay. stop. breath.

(quiet)……grilled chicken. beans. arugula. lemon and basil. a glass of cheap red wine. the soothing sounds of cicadas and traffic on a summer night. (sigh) better.


1)  Whisk together:

  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

2) Pour 1/3 of this on the chicken:

  • 4 chicken breasts

3) Grill the chicken

4) Combine the beans and the arugula, add dressing, top with slices of the grilled chicken

  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • some baby arugula (also called rocket)

5) Make sure you have a glass of cheap red wine to go with it.

clean your grill in the fall

Clean your grill before it sits all winter. Otherwise you have a lot of work ahead of you the first time you open it up in the spring. I scrapped and scrubbed and got myself and my kitchen sink coated in ashes and grease. Still the grates are just not looking as pretty as they used to… oh well.. But now it is done and I can make all of my meals on the porch instead of heating my apartment up by turning on the oven. Yay!

Something about the first grill is just better. Besides this mole and black bean burger was delicious. It is topped with jicama slaw in very creamy-spicy chipotle dressing. I don’t know that I will eat the slaw by itself but it is really tasty on the burger. The original burger recipe actually called for salsa from a jar and some cayenne but I had defrosted some homemade mole recently so that is what I used instead.

Here is my best try at a recipe. I don’t measure anything so if I stray too far from the original recipe it is probably better that I let you decide how much meat you want and then eyeball the other ingredients yourself.


ground chuck (mine was organic, grass-fed)
some black beans (from a can)
mole (mine was homemade but definitely you could buy a jar)
minced garlic

1. Combine the above and form into patties. Set aside.


1 chipotle pepper in adobe
1/4 cup lime juice

1. Puree the above in small food processor or blender.

handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream (creama)
2 tablespoons mayo

2. Combine the pepper/lime with the above.

1 small jicama (shredded)

3. I squeezed out a lot of liquid from the shredded jicama with my hands and let drain for a few minutes in a strainer to keep my slaw from getting runny.
4. Add drained shredded jicama to creamy-spicy dressing.
5. Grill the burgers (I only lost a few of the black beans) Toast the buns a little on the grill. (Especially if  like me you could only find smoochy white bread buns.) Top the burger with the jicama slaw. Eat!

The green bean salad from Food52 with marjoram was also delicious. Marjoram is really not my favorite herb but the lemons were really good so the dressing was really good. I think people don’t appreciate that there is such a thing as a really good lemon.

Finally I had some fresh pineapple rings and I pulled a couple out and threw them on the grill for dessert. I love traveling but I also love being home and cooking in my own kitchen again when it is over.