Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomatoes, Tomatoes everywhere

It is finally tomato season and Chicago's Green City Market has been having a lovely showing of tomatoes.  Big tomatoes. Little tomatoes. Red Tomatoes and green. 

But apparently - I took pictures of only little ones.  The Golden Honey are really wonderful.  And the Mexican Midget - aside from the funny name - has the strongest tomato flavor I have ever tasted.

I used some of the Mexican Midget's for a shepherds pie I made the other day and wow!  Tomato flavor with very little liquid.  

You know how sometimes you have to cook down a large tomato to get that tomato essence?  That pop of tomato flavor?  Well, these little babies are great for that pop and still let me be a bit of a slacker.

And, some non-tomato tomatoes, such as these. The lovely, pineapple ground cherry.   Which I've been eating like candy. So yummy!

Below is my current collection of tomatoes.  Yellow Roma's at the top are from my neighbor Jill.  As are the small round orange cherry tomatoes.  The big red tomato is a heirloom and probably a Black Krim. The yellow ones at the bottom are unknown at the moment - but very very good.  And the ones at the very right that look a bit like baby Tomatillo's... are my collection of pineapple ground cherry and actually taste like pineapples! So cool!

I was hoping for tomatoes from our garden - but that didn't happen this year. I love fresh off the vine tomatoes.  Perhaps next. 

The farmer's market is the next best thing.  If you have a market going .... and tomatoes are up.... see if you can get any of the heirlooms or sort-of heirlooms.

Green Zebras while technically not a heirloom are lovely, eating tomatoes, sweet and so very juicy.
Cherokee Purple are another one I grew a few years back and are tasty eating.  These are great for cooking as well. A soft tomato-y taste. Not like the Mexican Midget's. :)

The lovely lemon shaped ones at the bottom in the picture above (yes, yes, I know ... I have to find out what they are) are nice and crisp and went well with the milk braised pork we had for dinner tonight.

Jill's yellow Roma's don't taste like Roma tomatoes to me but are very good and if I had a ton of space to plant all the tomatoes I wanted... well, they would make my list.

As you can see... I am a tomato head at the moment. It is such a short lived season. Between that and all the berries -- I'm in fruit heaven.  Thankfully, it is a short season. *grin*

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blueberry French Toast - Gluten Free!

I found a new site that is brilliant.  The person had posted up a coconut flour based blueberry french toast that turned out SO GOOD!

Since I didn't change a thing (shocking!).

I'm just going to link to the recipe at
Grain-Free Foodies and you can just check out the rest of their stuff.

Here is also a picture that the BF took of our breakfast this morning...

Bacon is from Twin Oak Meats which is SO YUMMY.. especially when we can get their peppered bacon. OMG!  If you get a chance... it is so good! I try every week to get some at Green City Market ... if only I was a morning person!  But, sometimes - we get lucky - and get a package of the pepper bacon.  This was the regular streaky bacon - which is also good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peas and pancetta...

We made peas and pancetta for dinner the other night and it was SO YUMMY!  As you can see, in the top left corner,  the scallops were the main.

I do love how quickly one can cook up scallops and have a "nice" dinner.  You know, the dinners that you go out and pay heaps of money.... and think...yummy!

This is one of those meals. And, quick too! How much better than that can you get?  I will say the meal itself is a bit on the salty side - since pancetta is salty and well... so are scallops.  But, flavor wise, a great combo - especially with the creaminess of the scallops in mushroom cream sauce.

I got the recipe from Michael Symon's cookbook "Live to Cook" - which I thought was a great name and so had to buy it.  Ok... so I did look inside first to see if there was anything that I would be willing to cook and eat.  Lucky for both of us -- there were heaps of stuff that looked yummy! After all, how can you not buy a book that has a whole chapter dedicated to pickles?! :)

Peas and Pancetta

  • 1/4 pound Pancetta, thickly sliced and then diced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 cup peas (I used frozen and thawed but I would love to taste this with fresh peas)
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped)
  • Kosher salt (or sea salt)
In a saute pan, cook the Pancetta until crispy.  about 5 min. Add shallots and garlic - sweat  - about a minute. Add peas, if using thawed peas - just until they are warm. If using fresh, until they are cooked. Remove from flame, toss in parsley.
Taste - add salt if needed. 

Now, Michael Symon uses orange juice in his version. I'm sure it is good but we were/are avoiding the extra sugar. And, I don't really think this needs the sweetness.  He also suggests putting this dish with fish such as grilled salmon or halibut.  But, since we have scallops - well - you know how that goes.

Here is a picture of the finished product.... thanks to the BF for both pictures. Otherwise, you would have none. I'm really trying to get better about taking pictures... sigh... but ... this involves planning... or some such thing. ok... it needs a camera too.

The two little round things... are tomatoes from the farmer's market.  They are called sun gold tomatoes which were last weeks favorite tomato.

This week...... well... I guess, I'll have to take pictures and let you know. :) 

Friday, August 13, 2010

thai chicken vs. thai basil chicken

I've made multiple versions of Thai chicken now and I still don't see a significant difference between Thai basil chicken and Thai chicken (from the recipes I have tried).

Here is one I like best which is from The Atlantic (I think but I cannot find it on their site anymore).

Thai Meat Salad

  • 5 ounces lean pork or chicken, hand-minced, This is an important step, and takes about two minutes with a sharp knife. Chop until meat is very fine and resembles ground chicken or pork. The texture will be much better than machine ground meat.
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 3 shallots, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large handful fresh mint, coriander and spring onions, in roughly equal parts, chopped OR 1 cup of Thai basil or holy basil (Italian doesn't taste right but can be used if you wish) slivers
  • 1 Kaffir lime leaf, rolled up and then sliced into tiny slivers (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (more, if you like it sour)
  • 1.5 to 2 tablespoon good fish sauce (I use a bit less since I don't like fishy)
  • ½ teaspoon roasted chili powder
  • a handful of cashews (optional)
Heat stock and garlic in a small pan and season with some salt (and sugar - if you use sugar - I do sometimes put in a drop of honey if it tastes like it needs sweetness but for the most part I don't bother)
Add minced meat and cook quickly, stirring, until the meat is fluffy and cooked through--about 3-5 minutes is all you'll need.
Remove from heat and add lime juice, fish sauce, chili flakes, and taste. There should be a sweet, salty, spicy and sour balance. If not, adjust.
Toss with fresh herbs and shallots. Cashews if you wanted to have a crunch.
serve immediately.

If you are pressed for time... the minced chicken works well enough.  It really does taste better if you chop up the meat yourself - but this is such a nice quick meal - I have totally slacked on occasion and used ground chicken instead of doing it up myself. :)

You can put these in lettuce - for lettuce wraps.  Or eat it plain like we tend to do.  Boston/Butter lettuce works well as it has nice big leaves.

A nice side to this is a cucumber salad.  We got a lovely Persian cucumber from the farmer's market last week and I have to say it is one of my favorite variety of cucumber.  I just slice it up with some rice wine vinegar, a drop of honey and some shallots diced up.  If you have some nice tomatoes that would be lovely in there as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Big Agra - whoo whoo

Ok, this shouldn't be new to anyone.... but apparently the National Cattlemen's Beef Association used marketing money generated under the Checkoff program for lobbying purposes.  Both the NY Times and the Atlantic had good coverage on the misuse of funds.

What I don't understand is why the beef industry even needs to be in the checkoff program.  Since the program is suppose to "improve the market position of the covered commodity by expanding markets, increasing demand, and developing new uses and markets" - I don't see where beef doesn't have the market covered.  Aside from soy-burgers (which really isn't a beef alternative) -- what is the competition?  Don't they have the market cornered on beef?

No wonder we don't have real farmer's anymore ... it's impossible to out spend the large businesses.  The only good thing out of this is as the Atlantic put it we can "Chalk one up for this administration's attempt to be transparent".  I honestly don't think we need to be providing subsidies to agri-business.  Once food becomes a production process and people are removed from it, one doesn't know how much is propaganda and how much is real (as in this case with Fair Oaks Farms who promote themselves as a small family run farm but until I read the article and found out it wasn't - which kinda pissed me off since I made a major effort to find their brand at one point).

Another rant done. :)

Basically, get to know your local farmer, buy local, organic - as most small farmer's are organic and sustainable (too expensive to buy all those chemicals).  :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why? Why do food processors put sugar in everything?

So, I can no longer buy my from my favorite bacon vendor.  I am so sad.

I use to buy bacon from Wallace once a month as that was how often he came into the city.  So, last go I bought a lot of bacon not knowing that he had changed his recipe for curing bacon.  Apparently, it was a choice between nitrates and/or sugar.  I do not know why that is the choice.

But, cane sugar doesn't agree with me.  And, really, I don't want sugar in my diet from sources that do not need sugar.  I just don't get why we have to put sugar in everything! no wonder we all get fat.

Anyway, I'm now on a quest for a new bacon provider.  Sigh... more work.

I'm actually asked the BF what he thought about possibly making my own bacon. but that would definitely be more work. *grin*