Hiatus – Studying some wine

So as much as it pains me to say this, I will be taking a brief hiatus from posting. While I have a backlog of delicious recipes and so much to share with you all, I have been busy studying for my sommelier exam taking place in June.

I know that I have told some of you about this, but I have started the Court of Master Sommeliers program. It’s 4 levels with the first as an introductory course and exam.

I will still be all over Twitter and will always respond to any comments you leave here. And while I may post once or twice before the exam, I promise to share everything with you after and deliver some yummy springtime recipes!

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Sunday Food Porn

I love macarons…but then again, you probably already know that. As such, I am constantly sampling macarons around the Chicago area (and outside Chicago as well). Feast your eyes on these Vanille Patisserie creations, (picked up from Chicago French Market)

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Ben Makes Me Dinner – Take 1

While I love to cook and share dishes from my kitchen, from time to time, Ben will come home, surprising me with the makings for dinner.  (Who doesn’t love that?!) A couple of weeks ago, he made some delicious bruschetta and Italian-marinated grilled chicken salad.

Bruschetta

  • Favorite fresh bread, sliced and toasted
  • Sliced grape tomatoes
  • Onion, chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced

Assemble the tomatoes, onion, and garlic on top of the toast. Top with a slice of parmesan. YUM!

Italian-Marinated Grilled Chicken Salad

  • Chicken Breast
  • Favorite Italian Dressing
  • Lettuce (I prefer arugula, spinach, or a mix)
  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Onion, sliced

Place chicken breast and dressing in a plastic bag and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. (The longer the better.) Grill chicken until cooked (about 7 min on each side when cooked on my stove). Meanwhile, add lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and onion in a bowl. Slice chicken and add to bowl. Enjoy!

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Restaurant: Gilt Bar

Until a couple weeks ago, I had never been to Gilt Bar, but always wanted to go. It’s has rave reviews from everyone who visits; it has even been written up in the New York Times. So when I was able to go several weeks ago, I was estatic! My friend and were lucky enough to sit right near the most gorgeous chandelier (pictured in the NYTimes article).

Neither one of us had ever had steak tartare, so we decided to order it as it sounded delicious! It was completely divine. the steak was served with an egg yolk that we broke and mixed with it, along with grilled bread and a delicious dijon mustard sauce. I’m salivating just thinking about it!

For our main courses, Becca ordered the pork belly (yum! notice that she can’t wait to get it back in front of her because it smelled and looked so good)

…and I got the braised short rib.

I’m a sucker for a braised short rib and this dish was really amazing. The meat was so tender that you could cut it with a fork and the gravy on the top of the meat was so succulent. I cannot wait to return to Gilt Bar!

Gilt Bar
230 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654-4908
(312) 464-9544
www.giltbarchicago.com

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Risotto Fritters

I love weddings. More specifically, I love appetizers at weddings. In October, my cousin Gretchen got married and had phenomenal food and appetizers at the reception. Some of my favorite appetizers were the risotto fritters: little golden brown square nuggets of cheesy rice bliss.

Using the leftover risotto from my earlier batch, Ben and I decided to make our own (slightly larger) fritters. I would recommend making them out of plain cheese risotto instead of the mushroom asparagus if you want smaller fritters. But both are delicious.

Ingredients

  • Day-old (at least) risotto
  • Bread crumbs mixed with salt & pepper
  • Oil for frying (we used canola)

Shape the risotto into the size and shape you want. We used a 1/4 measuring cup lined with plastic wrap. Coat the ball in the bread crumbs.

Fry until golden brown on each side.

Top with cream cheese or sour cream for a truly decadent treat.

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Mushroom Asparagus Risotto

I love risotto. There’s something so homey about it. It really warms the soul. A couple weeks ago, I found some nice looking asparagus and decided it was time to try my hand at risotto again. I’ve made risotto several times, but am still searching for my favorite recipe, a recipe that I whole-heartedly love. This time around I decided to add some mushrooms for a meatless wonder. It was quite yummy.

Ingredients (adapted from La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy from Accademia Italiana della Cucina)

  • 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 5 cups broth
  • 1 cup mushrooms (I used a Woodland Medley of dried mushrooms that I rehydrated)
  • 1 bunch asparagus (I used about 20 stalks)
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese

Heat approx 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion until nearly browned. Add the mushrooms & asparagus.

Once the onion is browned, add the rice and toss to coat in oil. When the rice is translucent, add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until the rice is al dente (“tender, but not mushy”).

It will be approximately 20 minutes. Grate cheese over the risotto and serve.

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My favorite “fancy”, crowd-pleasing cracker spread

Now at the outset, I need to credit my mother with this recipe because it is just absolutely divine. Anytime we would have guests over, she would whip up a quick batch of pesto and create a “wow”-worthy dip with another ingredient always in our kitchen: goat cheese logs.

Most days, I don’t have the time to whip up pesto, so I just grab a small container at the grocery store around the corner. But if you have time, make your own pesto for an even better version of this delicious spread.

Ingredients

  • 1 batch pesto (see below for pesto recipe)
  • 1 log of your favorite plain goat cheese, at cool room temperature
  • basil leaf, for garnish
  • favorite crackers

Press goat cheese into bottom of serving dish to make a thin layer. Spread pesto over goat cheese, completely covering the cheese. Add basil leaf in center of pesto as a garnish. Serve. Receive lots of compliments and silently thank my mother for giving you the easiest appetizer recipe ever. Enjoy!

Annie’s Mom’s Famous Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 cup walnuts (my mom uses whole walnuts)
  • 1 cup EVOO
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 freshly grated romano cheese

Process first 3 ingredients together until moderately chopped. Add Olive Oil in drizzle while processing, then add cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until use, although I recommend using immediately.

adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

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