Monkey Bread

Why Cellar Door Provisions is Chicago’s Best Bakery

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread at Cellar Door Provisions

Cellar Door Provisions

Cellar Door ProvIsions in Chicago’s Logan Square is more than a bakery. Described as the “best cafe in town” in Bon Appetit‘s recent article “Chicago is the Restaurant City of the Year,” it is also a bistro on weekend nights. More importantly what sets Cellar Door Provisions apart is it’s dedication to technique and community oriented sourcing. It’s a high end dining experience at a reasonable price.

Squash Soup

Squash Soup

Dedication

Cellar Door Provisions is dedicated to locavore principles. Their sources are local farms, and they make almost everything they serve in house. That includes butter, yogurt, cheese, spice blends, bread and pastries. Their menu changes weekly and sometimes more often.

Lunch Menu at Cellar Door Provisions

Lunch Menu

Pastries

I thought I was going to Cellar Door Provisions for a healthy gourmet lunch. I soon learned it might also be the best bakery in Chicago. Fortunately, my friend was acquainted with their pastries. We began with caneles before they sold out.  They are perfection, tender and custardy inside, with a crackly caramelized crust. A fruit tart was just the dessert for such an earnestly wholesome meal. The one here has a memorable crust, with an extraordinary balance of salt and sweet.

Pear Tart and a Canale at Cellar Door Provisions

Pear Tart and a Canale

Return Visits

There are many great Chicago bakeries. Nevertheless, I have been longing for one that also incorporates whole grains like Sqirl and Huckleberry in California. I was so excited I returned twice in the next week. The first visit yielded an unusual palmier, made with spelt flour and caraway in addition to sugar, it packs both sweet and savory in every bite. On my subsequent visit I discovered more delicious pastries made with the same care, ranging from rugelah and sesame cookies to monkey bread.

Sesame Cookies at Cellar Door Provisions

Sesame Cookies

Bread & Butter

Homemade bread and butter are definitely worth considering. The attention to detail is evident in the loaf’s crusty exterior and flavorful tangy center. It’s a hearty choice, the perfect accompaniment to soup or salad.

House-made Butter & Bread

House-made Butter & Bread

Lunch

The lunch menu provides numerous opportunities to sample local produce. Kale salad and squash soup are tasty.  Nevertheless they are eclipsed by the dishes that include the ethereal baked goods. The quiche, a  revolving staple, is extraordinary, featuring a custard that is incomparably rich. Even the Chinese steamed buns that accompany a melange of roasted vegetables are light and airy.

Steamed Buns with Roasted Vegetables

Steamed Buns with Roasted Vegetables

Chicago Restaurants

For other Chicago restaurant ideas read my reviews of Ixcateco Grill, Afghan Kebab House, and Na Korn.

 

 

 

Why Fall is the Time for Salads

Salads

Farmers markets are now bursting with delicious ingredients for salads. While I have yet to truly master grain salads, I thought I had tried most green salad combinations. Nevertheless, my love of caprese salads led me to a new flavor combination.

Peach and Tomato Salad

Peach, Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad

Tomatoes

Supermarket tomatoes cannot compare with their vine – ripened farmer’s market counterparts. While the season lasts, I buy every variety of heirloom tomato available. The depth and range of flavors make a salad of tomatoes and scallions or tomatoes and mozzarella a staple of my meals.

Tomatoes

Sun Gold Tomatoes

Sun Gold Tomatoes

Sun Gold tomatoes are my absolute favorite. Small, juicy and sweet, they are perfect as a snack or in salads. Sadly local squirrels discovered my Sun Gold plants so I rely on the farmer’s market to keep me supplied.

3 Peaches

Peaches

Peaches

I also love juicy peaches, but somehow I missed them this year. With the peach season soon coming to an end, I bought a box. Unfortunately my love of fruit does not extend to my family, and soon I was struggling to finish them while they were at their best.

Peach & Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts

Peach & Tomato Salads with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Herbs

Peaches and Tomatoes

After a casual search of tomato salads I came across a combination I had never tried: peaches and tomatoes. An article in last summer’s Food & Wine, “5 Reasons Peaches and Tomatoes are the Ultimate Summer Pairing”  was the source of my epiphany, and I couldn’t wait to try it. It would be the perfect vehicle for both my bounty from the market and the herbs in my garden. With the addition of some cheese and nuts for protein and some spinach for fiber, it would be a perfect lunch.

Lunch

For other other simple lunch ideas try my recipes for a Ploughman’s Lunch SandwichSmooth Gazpacho or Cold Beet Soup.

Recipe

Peach, Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad

Serves:1

2 handfuls spinach

3 slices of peach

1/2 cup Sun Gold tomatoes

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

1/4 cup of goat cheese

basil

chives, sliced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Whisk balsamic vinegar and olive oil together in the bottom of a salad bowl. Add spinach. Layer peaches, tomatoes, walnuts and goat cheese over the spinach. Sprinkle with basil leaves and chives. Toss until lightly coated with dressing. Serve.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Figs

How Figs Make Your Fall Meals Easy

Figs

One of the joys of fall are figs.  After weeks of corn and tomatoes I’m ready for some new flavors. Nevertheless, it takes little effort to turn figs into a meal.

Figs

Figs

The Uniqueness of Figs

Fresh figs are lusciously sweet. Their texture is unique, with smooth skin, chewy flesh and crunchy seeds. A member of the mulberry family, they grow on ficus trees. Although there are more than 150 varieties, I only know the black mission fig. Delicate and extremely perishable, I try to use them within a day or two. It’s best to keep them covered, refrigerated and on a plate to prevent bruising.

Fresh Figs

Fresh Figs

Health Benefits

Despite their sweetness, figs are a healthy choice. They contain over eighty nutrients. Figs are high in potassium and an excellent source of fiber. They can also help with weight loss, lowering cholesterol and preventing hypertension.

Fig Toast with Cream Cheese

Fig Toast

Figs for Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch

I like figs at any time of day. At breakfast I have then on oatmeal with pistachios and pomegranate syrup. Or on Icelandic yogurt with chopped walnuts and maple syrup  They are also delicious at lunch, on an arugula salad with blue cheese. Or simply as fig toast with cream cheese on multigrain.

Figs and Goat Cheese Appetizer

Figs and Goat Cheese

Figs and Goat Cheese

Figs and goat cheese are a traditional combination. There is no easier way to impress guests than with a figs and goat cheese appetizer. More than the sum of it’s parts, it’s simply a quartered fig stuffed with a nugget of goat cheese. If I’m feeling more ambitious, I make crostini. I layer each toast, with a slice each of prosciutto, fig and a lump of goat cheese.

Carmelized Figs with Vanilla Ice Cream

Caramelized Figs , Balsamic Condiment and Vanilla Ice Cream

Fig Dessert Recipes

Caramelized figs topped with a splash of balsamic vinegar are a perfect dessert when I just want a bite of something sweet. More often, I put the warm drizzled figs on top of vanilla ice cream for a more decadent dessert.

For other dessert ideas try my recipes for Chocolate Apricot Rugelah, Raspberry Milkshakes, Plum and Lemon Thyme Flaugnarde. 

Recipe

Caramelized Figs with Balsamic Vinegar

Figs

Light brown sugar

Balsamic Condiment

Quarter figs and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with light brown sugar. Broil 3-5 minutes until sugar has melted. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of balsamic condiment over each sliced fig.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrots and Herbs

How to Prepare a Delicious Healthy Lunch

Carrots and Herbs

Carrots for Ploughman’s Lunch

Healthy Lunch Ideas

As the summer winds down I start looking for new lunch ideas. After many tomato and fresh mozzarella feasts I want something new. Preferably something healthy and easy, with ingredients from the farmer’s market. Since I prefer protein based meals I chose to make a variation on a cheese sandwich.

Cheese Sandwich

Ploughman’s Lunch

A Ploughman’s Lunch is the meal a ploughman took with him to the fields. A British tradition, it contained homemade bread, cheese, chutney and pickles. Leftover cold meats and seasonal fruit would sometimes be included. Today’s modern gastropubs have found this the perfect vehicle to showcase their cheese and charcuterie selections. The dish now often includes artisan breads, pates, game and selections of regional cheeses.

Layered Cheese Sandwich

Layers of Phoughman’s Lunch Sandwich

Lunch

Although I have had several fine adaptations, I wanted to recreate a version of a Ploughman’s Sandwich I once had at the British pub, Pleasant House II. No longer in southwest Michigan, the people at Pleasant House Bakery have brought their pub concept to Chicago.The sandwich is now available at Pleasant House Pub in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Based on the British Ploughman’s Lunch, it layers cheddar cheese with sweet and savory flavors on crusty bread.

Crusty Bread

Whole Grain Bread

Carrots

One of the reasons I find this sandwich so memorable is the carrot chutney. Both sweet and sour, it gives a cheddar cheese sandwich a new dimension. I have to admit a lifetime aversion to cooked carrots, so I am shocked to discover the carrots in chutney are cooked as well as spiced. The recipe for carrot chutney owes a debt to Britain’s Guardian daily newspaper. In search of an authentically British condiment, I found a basic recipe among the reader’s contributions.

Shredded Carrots

Shredded Carrots

Pickles

Pickles are a staple of the Ploughman’s Lunch. While most people think of pickled cucumbers when they hear the word pickles, the Pleasant House sandwich contains pickled onions. Pickled onions are in fact traditional, but I chose to make my sandwich with bread and butter pickles. A popular side for grilled cheese sandwiches, I thought it would add a tangy note to the meal. Although I sometimes I buy condiments at the Farmer’s Market, my sandwich pickles were made by Bubbies.

Crunch

My healthy lunch includes greens. Greens give crunch as well as vitamins to sandwiches. The layer of spinach I added act as abase for the chutney.

Cheddar Cheese

Sliced Cheddar Cheese

Healthy Lunch Recipe

Ploughman’s Lunch Sandwich

2 Slices crusty bread

Cheddar cheese

Spinach

Bread and butter pickles

Carrot chutney

 

Place a layer of cheddar cheese on the bread, top with a layer of pickles. Add a layer of spinach and top with chutney. Cover with the second bread slice. Serve.

Onions

Sliced Onions

Carrot Chutney

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

1 onion sliced

12 ounces. grated carrots

Salt to tste

Pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/4 cup extra fine sugar (Process regular sugar in a food processor for a few minutes. Stop before it turns to powder.)

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

 

Sugar

Sugar Ready for Processing

Warm the oil in a large frying pan. Add the mustard seeds.When the seeds start to pop add the onions. Saute until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, tumeric, cumin and coriander. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the sugar and vinegar. Simmer for an hour. Cool and refrigerate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold Beet Soup Garnished with Sliced Cucumber

Why Beets Make the Most Beautiful Cold Soup

Beets

Beets get a bad rap. Healthy and sweet, roasted beets are delicious on their own, in a salad or a refreshing soup.

Cold Beet Soup Garnished with Sliced Cucumber

Cold Beet Soup

Borsht

Growing up, I associated them with borsht. Made by Manischewitz, a leading producer of kosher foods, the tall colorful jar in the refrigerator didn’t look like my vision of soup. My grandmother, a Russian immigrant, loved it, and had it for lunch with a boiled potato. Since it wasn’t served for dinner, I happily gave this strange feast a wide berth. I never even tried it.

Uncooked Beets

Raw Beets

Pickled

Pickled beets occasionally accompanied dinner. However, the tangy flavor of pickled vegetables did not fit with my childhood preference for less piquant flavors.

Roasting

I attribute my epiphany to a beautiful plate of beet ravioli. The fresh roasted filling contained an incomparable sweetness, erasing all previous memories. Although I now know that roasting any vegetable increases its sweetness, the transformation it brings about in the beet is truly remarkable.

Beets Finished Roasting

Roasted Beets

Beets Nutrition

Beets are a nutritional powerhouse. The benefits include anti-inflammatory properties and detoxification support. They are also rich in antioxidants.

Beet Recipes

My go to recipe for the vegetable was roasted beet salad until I discovered cold beet soup. Sweet, tangy and refreshing, it’s perfect for a hot day. Saltibarsciai  is a  specialty of Lithuania. It’s garnished with a combination of cucumber, dill, scallions or hard boiled eggs and often served with a side of boiled potatoes. Attempting to modernize my grandmother’s favorite lunch, I updated the recipe to take full advantage of the fresh roasted flavor. Unlike traditional recipes, my recipe begins with roasting beets rather than boiling. I want to extract every ounce of sweet flavor into the dish.

Beets Coated in Olive Oil

Beets Prepared for Roasting

Lunch

For other lunch ideas try my recipes for authentic poke, twice – baked potatoes or kale salad.

Recipe

Cold Beet Soup

4-6 Servings

4 medium beets, scrubbed

Olive oil

1/4 heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

2 cups kefir

11/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Salt

Pepper

Sliced cucumber

 

Preheat oven to 400F. Place cleaned beets on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Cool until they are not hot to the touch. Peel off skins. They should come off easily. If  some skin remains take it off with a peeler. Grate peeled beets.

Roasted and Grated Beets

Grated Beets

Fold the whipped cream into the sour cream. Fold in the kefir. Mix with grated beets and puree. Taste. Add lemon juice if necessary to balance the sweetness. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sliced cucumber.

Whipped Cream, Sour Cream and Kefir for Cold Beet Soup

Whipped Cream, Sour Cream and Kefir

For a heartier meal add sliced radish, scallions, and hard boiled eggs Serve with a side of boiled potatoes with parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How is Avocado Toast a Thing?

How did avocado toast become the subject of magazine articles, a popular feature of Instagram and a selection on cutting-edge restaurant menus?

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Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast at Travelle Chicago

Avocado is high in nutrients, healthy fats and fiber. Creamy and mild, it’s a perfect canvas. I use it to add healthy richness in place of spreads like cream cheese and mayo. My current favorite toast is layered with smoked salmon, red onion, capers and dill. Nevertheless, beautiful photos have convinced me to have it with eggs, fruit and nuts too.

IMG_6261

Fried Egg Avocado Toast

Perfect when I’m in a hurry, it’s one of the fastest sandwiches I’ve ever made. Try it slathered on toast with salt, mayonnaise or chili pepper flakes and a squeeze of lemon. What could be quicker?

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Turkey Enchiladas

What to Do with Leftover Turkey?

I love turkey sandwiches after the holidays, but then the leftovers need to be repurposed into something completely different.

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Cloves and Oregano

Every year I look for articles with new ideas. Stir-frying and fried rice are good solutions if you need a meal for a crowd. Nevertheless, the dryness of turkey makes them lackluster options. I’ve also tried turkey soup, but it pales in comparison to the sweetness and delicacy chicken.

My favorite post-holiday meal is turkey enchiladas. I think the wild game taste of turkey is best paired with bold flavors. Also, no one in my house notices that they’re having turkey again when it’s enveloped in fragrant spices and covered in cheese.

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Turkey Enchiladas

 

Turkey Enchiladas

Serves 4 –5

 

Sauce

1 16 oz. can fire roasted crushed tomatoes

1 14 oz. can tomato sauce

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon oregano

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

A pinch ground cloves

A pinch of fresh ground pepper

 

2 Tablespoons canola oil

2 cups turkey

10 corn tortillas

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese

1 avocado, chopped

sour cream

Greased 9 x 13 inch casserole dish

Blend sauce ingredients to make a puree. Heat I tablespoon of canola oil to medium high in a frying pan. Add the sauce all at once and fry, stirring constantly for approximately five minutes. The sauce is done when it has thickened and turned orange.

Preheat oven to 350F. Shred the cheese and grease the casserole dish. Chop the avocado.

Coat the turkey in sauce and warm over medium low heat. Dip the tortillas in the sauce. Heat the other tablespoon of canola oil in a small frying pan. Fry each tortilla for a few minutes on each side, then fold and fill with warmed turkey. Add more oil if necessary. Layer filled tortillas in the casserole dish. Top with grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Cheese should be melted and bubbling. Garnish with avocado and sour cream.

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Avocado