Saturday, March 29, 2008

My family participated in this year's Earth Hour earlier this evening. We had a late dinner, lit some candles, poured some wine and enjoyed good conversation. Towards the latter part of the hour, Thor and I read my favorte Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax. I haven't read it since I was a child and it was amazing how moving it is for a kids' picture book. When the lights went back on, Thor asked to have Earth Hour every week.

Top 10 Sustainable Cooking Tips

1. Use your microwave
2. Preheat only when necessary
3. Don’t rinse your food under running water but instead in a bowl and re-use the water for watering your plants
4. Bring your food to room temperature before baking or roasting
5. Get rid of your disposal and compost instead
6. Be smart about your menus – cook things together, cook dishes with the same ingredients
7. When buying appliances, look for the Energy Star label
8. Use your convection oven
9. Use your dishwasher wisely – don’t rinse and wash only when full
10. Avoid disposables that can’t be recycled – ziplock bags, plastic wrap, paper towels and napkins

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Eco-Friendly Kids Bashes in Fresh Squeeze

A great article on ways to green up your kid's birthday party from our friends at A Fresh Squeeze! To sign up for A Fresh Squeeze, an on-line source on green living, visit

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sustainable Cooking 101

It's been a good few weeks in the press for me. Time Out Chicago will be including a listing of a class that I'm teaching at the South Loop Whole Foods, "Sustainable Cooking 101." On March 27, from 7-8pm, I will be talking about how to incorporate sustainable habits into your cooking. The class is free, but registration is required. Call 312.435.4600 to sign up.

Mission Accomplished!

So while my son was in Florida with my parents a few weeks ago, he visited a grocery store with my mother who suggested that they buy strawberries. My son's response: "Grandma, we can't buy strawberries, they're not in season!"

In February, when he turned four, we began a tradition that was passed down to me from my parents. Once a week, he has to pick out and help prepare dinner. We've made pizza with whole wheat dough, quesadillas with hand made tortillas, and baked macaroni and cheese. But this week was the best. I had forgotten to buy the ingredients for what we originally picked out - lamb meatballs with yogurt sauce - and all I had in the fridge was really good cheese and eggs. What did we make? Souffle (with its own theme music)!

While he is a picky eater, he does have some odd food proclivities, particularly his love of fried calamari or "fishy o's", a love which was documented quite prominently on the front page of the Sun Times food section on March 12.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Recipes From Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show

Baked Eggs with Red Peppers, Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese
Serves 8

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to grease the baking pan
2 red peppers, ribs and seeds removed
1 bunch Swiss chard, ribs removed
10 eggs
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
4 ounces fresh goat cheese

EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED: A large non-stick sauté pan and a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

METHODS: Grease the baking pan. Slice the red peppers ¼-inch thick. Coarsely chop the Swiss chard. In the sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the red pepper and sauté, stirring often until the peppers are softened and colored, but not blackened. Remove the peppers from the pan. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the sauté pan, heat until hot, add Swiss chard and cook until wilted. Continue to cook until any water that the chard has released has evaporated. Add the chard to the peppers and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the cream. Add the scallions, peppers, and Swiss chard. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Coarsely crumble the fresh goat cheese and sprinkle over the egg mixture. Turn oven on to 350ºF. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the center is almost completely set and the eggs are golden. Cut into squares.
DO-AHEAD NOTES: The eggs can be baked the day before and refrigerated. Serve at room temperature or reheat in a 400º F oven for 7-10 minutes.

Sugared Bacon

½ cup light brown sugar
pinch cayenne
16 slices bacon

EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED: 1 baking sheet with sides; silpat liners or aluminum foil.

METHODS: Line the baking sheet with silpat or aluminum foil. Mix together sugar and cayenne. Coat both sides of the bacon with the sugar mixture. Place on lined baking sheet. Turn oven on 400ºF and place the sheet in the oven. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until brown. Drain and serve.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Eating Clams in Newport RI and the East End of Long Island

On my list of things-to-do, one of the oldest items is to write a post about a trip that my husband and I took to the north fork of Long Island and Newport, Rhode Island in early November. While I had the best of intentions of writing it while the trip was still fresh, you know what they say about those kinds of intentions. With the holidays, crunch time in the business and my husband’s surgery, this item kept falling to the bottom of the list. Having finally gotten my head above water again, I figured I could get this done and finally cross it off. (A to-do list is only as good as its cross-offs).

Last year I joined the Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. Glad was I when I got the invitation to their annual meeting, which was held in Newport, Rhode Island. My parents live on Long Island, fairly close to McArthur Airport. So it was there that we made an exchange: our son, Thor, for their car. We then drove to Greenport, a small town on the north fork of Long Island to stay at a lovely B&B, Bartlett House Inn. That evening, my parents had made reservations for us at the North Fork Table. The name may sound familiar to those who follow the New York restaurant scene. I forget who the chef is, but the pastry chef is one of my personal heroes, Claudia Fleming, formerly of Gramercy Tavern. The restaurant sources locally from the farms and vineyards surrounding it. The meal was really lovely – I had the Block Island fluke crudo with Hawaiian sea salt and grapefruit – fresh and fantastic. Mike had the Hudson Valley Foie Gras terrine. Also wonderful and especially unctuous. I ordered the monkfish as an entrée and Mike a lobster pasta dish. The flavors were really deeply layered and vibrant. The only small disappointment came with dessert, though not its execution, but instead the menu. The only locally sourced dessert was the apple tart, which I then ordered. Unbelievably rich, yet light as a feather puff pastry topped with perfectly cooked caramelized apples. Mike had some sort of chocolate dessert as he is apt to do. As a mignardise, we were given the tiny spice dougnuts, which are featured in Fleming’s wonderful book, The Last Course.

Next day, we drove out to the very deserted Montauk point to see the lighthouse and had lunch at a hole in a wall with fantastic fried bay scallops and clam chowder. We made our way back to the North Fork to visit the vineyards. Long Island wines, while better then when I lived there, are still no match for other winemaking regions. We did find some good sparkling wines from Lenz, a really great (but expensive) red from Wolffer and a very interesting blueberry port from Duck Walk. The most interesting and entertaining part of the day was when we were asked to appear on a television segment that they were filming on red wines and headaches. Somewhere in NY, they were watching my profile for a split second. That evening, we had dinner at the Frisky Oyster, Two chefs who were catering in Manhattan decided to make their way out to Greenport to open a very funky, little restaurant. While I don’t remember that much of the meal, I do know that I liked it, particularly their take on a caprese salad, which included a very tasty gougere. What I do remember was our dessert, which we did not partake of at the Frisky Oyster, but instead at my favorite Greenport establishment, Claudio’s. Claudio’s is the “oldest, same family run restaurant in the United States.” I myself have been going there since I was 6 months old when my parents and I would sail there on our annual family cruise. Dessert was not chocolate, nor apple this evening, but clams – baked clams to be exact. I certainly could not have left Greenport without a batch of those.

The next morning we woke up to the first Nor’easter of 2007, not a welcome sight given that we were taking the ferry to Connecticut and then driving to Newport. We moved up our reservation, skipped the complementary breakfast and instead had the remaining freshly-made doughnuts from Wickham’s Fruit Farm on the ferry with a cup of coffee on the trip over. We made our way through the torrential rain and wind and arrived in Newport. Our first stop after being told that we had to check-in later was to Banister’s Wharf and the Black Pearl. We started with the clams casino (I do love my clams) and then I had the grey sole and Mike the scallops. Both were very New England in their preparation, old-fashioned, yes, but also excellent. That evening, there were no official events for the conference, so we had dinner again on Bannister’s Wharf at Fluke Wine Bar. Having already had clams, scallops, and even fluke, we decided it was time for a good old lobster. We shared this and the paella – a good rendition, but not mind-blowing.

The conference theme was sustainability and the keynote speaker was Joan Dye Gussow. Her speech led into a panel discussion with the founder of Red Tomato in Boston, a company that markets products from family farms throughout New England, and Nora Pouillon. The discussion centered on local foods and why it’s important to support our family farms, which began a lively debate on bananas in the Dominican Republic and the living conditions of the farm workers. The woman who began the discussion worked for a frozen food company and she was really asking how far does the idea of “local” go. Odessa Piper, formerly of L’Etoile and a real pioneer of the local foods movement, stood up and said something extraordinary. She explained her position simply as “the distance your heart can travel” implying that it is as far as you continue to care about and seek to improve (whether by buying or not buying) the conditions of the people raising/producing/growing the product and the earth upon which it is raised. It was a personal eureka moment for me.

The next memorable event and meal was the gala dinner the next evening to which Mike accompanied me. We had a wonderful table: a Providence radio host, Ginny Lambrix, the very young director of winegrowing of De Loach and fellow Colgate alum, Lee Jones of the Chef’s Garden and Karen Waltuck of Manhattan’s Chanterelle. All of the meals were prepared by conference participants, so the food was not like that of other conferences. The evening was lovely, but there were two highlights. The first was the comic relief. During the cocktail hour, Mike was watching the Patriots’ game in the hotel bar. He met a bunch of guys who were guests at a wedding in the hotel. After halfway through the awards presentation, one of the guys pulls up a chair next to Mike. He introduces himself to the ladies around him and feigns interest in the speeches. A few minutes later, the restaurateur of the year award is given to Karen Waltuck. She walks to the stage at the front of the ballroom and our friend moves to the side of the room picks up a potted plant and carries it to the stage and presents it like one would give roses to the leading lady. He gets escorted out. While we all know about wedding crashers after the perfectly awful Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn movie, one does not often see conference crashers. The second highlight was much more inspirational and that was meeting Leah Chase of Dooky Chase who received the President’s award for a lifetime achievement. Suffice to say, she was definitely a presence and it was a moment I won’t soon forget.

Our final meal, the next day, was an oyster feast with oysterman shucking on site followed by a clambake made in the hotel’s pit overlooking the sunset. It was quite an evening.

The next day we returned to Long Island again traveling in the rain. Our last meal was at the Seafood Barge in Southhold. I shared oysters with Mike and then had a green salad – clearly the indication that it was time to go home. I had eaten so much seafood for the past 5 days that I felt like I should be taking someone’s temperature. I definitely exceeded my Mercury allotment for the month.

Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show

Celebrate Spring's impending arrival at the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show from March 8-16 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. There will be beautiful theme gardens, a marketplace, seminars and best of all the Garden Gourmet, where you can attend demonstrations by chefs from Chicagoland and beyond, including our friend Alex Cheswick from May Street Market, the Hearty Boys and cookbook author Nathalie Dupree. I'll be doing demos on Sunday March 9 at 11:00am and on Wendesday March 12 at 11:00am.

March 8-16, 2008 Sat.-Wed., 9:30am-6:00pm; Thurs. & Fr. 9:30am-8:00pm Adults: Weekdays $12/Weekends $14; Children (Ages 4-12) $5.00 For more information or to order tickets: 773-435-1250 or