Kitchen Diary

October 16
I finally teach Ryan how to make my mother's (originally, grandmother's?) chicken noodle soup. The noodles are simple to make but there is no recipe. One egg per person plus an egg yolk to keep them from getting spongy. Mix gently with flour until a nice dough is formed, then slice into strips. I like them on the large end. We enjoy the soup for lunch to try and heal our seasonal sore throats with a side of rice drizzled with flax seed oil.

June 29
I have an abundance of produce from a friend who bought too much; specifically tomatoes and potatoes. Over the weekend, I purchased some beautiful shelled beans from some charming grandmothers at a local market in the town over. Without my typical culinary wherewithal, I google "potatoes, tomatoes, and beans" and find this post, which inspires our impromptu dinner. I heat ghee on the stove and add some curry powder, waiting to let it temper. Then I toss in unpeeled and roughly chopped potatoes and sliced red onions and cook them down for about 35 minutes, adding a whole head of minced garlic and occasionally water to help them cook more quickly. Once the potatoes are soft, I add a few cups of cooked beans and lastly, chopped tomatoes. I finish with this wonderful Korean sea salt I bought recently as well as some shichimi tou garashi seasoning mix that my friend brought me from Kyoto. It contains sesame, blue perilla, hemp seed, seaweed, and other deliciousness and it adds a nice spicy kick at the end. I put it on top of steamed semi-polished rice and drizzle it with olive oil. It's not at all summer food, but it's highly satisfying. I'm having a love affair with beans these days after bringing back a load of wonderful Rancho Gordo dried beans from the USA; beans are delicious and filling and are said to protect against cancer. Thanks, beans!

November 17
I leave work early, get groceries at a small co-op in town, and start dinner. I make coarse yellow corn grits, then whip in some ghee and a bit of goat cheese (made in Korea!). I devein some shrimp, temper a large spoonful of red pepper flakes in olive oil, and quickly sauté the shrimp in the fiery sauce. I cook down bright red grape tomatoes with a load of garlic. I top the grits with the tomatoes and shrimp. On the side, I prepare sautéed shishito peppers with sea salt and more garlic; some are spicy, some aren't, the tricksters. Their flavor is too powerful and distracts from the grits. Oh well. We enjoy the meal with some red wine and discuss wedding plans.

September 20
I try cooking lentils in our tiny rice cooker and they come out completely mushy. Oh well, I can make them into pancakes or falafel, right? They still taste good. At night, I read a post about pre-soaked oatmeal and how it's easier to digest. I decide to try it. The oats are soaking right now with filtered water, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt. Tomorrow, I'll rinse and cook them and see how they are.

I remember one of the reasons I love Autumn so; it's when I regain my desire to cook after the heat and hustle of summer, when there is scant motivation or time for cooking.

July 20
Our market haul includes some lovage. It smells and tastes like celery but packs more punch. I make a compound butter with some of it and throw a bit into a miso soup with a chicken broth base.

July 19
I purchase some 100 proof vodka, fill a quart jar 1/3 full of milk thistle seeds, and pour in the vodka to the top. In six weeks, I can use my milk thistle seed tincture to promote healthy liver functioning.

In late afternoon, we haul our kitchen nook down to the back yard, invite some friends over, and grill up some beef short ribs with sweet corn, charred scallions, and salt and vinegar potato salad. Several months ago, I heard an interview with the owner of the The Butcher & Larder here in Chicago; he described creating a simple, smoky rib marinade of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, raisins, and vinegar. I whip up my own version consisting of the peppers and sauce, raisins, homemade raspberry vinegar, a tablespoon of raw honey, and an apple cider vinegar/molasses mix I made a few weeks ago. It is perfectly smoky, spicy, and sweet.

July 15
Corn is my prized purchase at the market and I buy eight ears of it. I whip up some corn cakes from the shucked corn, local whole wheat flour, a bit of cashew milk, baking soda and baking powder, eggs, and salt + pepper. I serve it with an heirloom tomato salad loaded with scallions, cilantro, and black beans.

July 16
The fella slow cooks tender pork chops and serves them with greens beans sautéed with lemon zest, rice, and a light gravy. Chilled white wine pairs nicely, bringing out the delicate flavors and the brightness of the lemon.

July 1
Over the weekend, I buy the first raspberries and some sour cherries at the market. Since then, the raspberries have been muddled with sugar and sitting in the fridge thickening and brightening in flavor for shrubs. I place the leftover raspberry seeds in apple cider vinegar and place in the cupboard to infuse.

April 28
I am too lazy to cook and the fella went out with his soccer team, so I take out some thai food from a local place we like. I continue to scheme and gather ingredients for homemade khao soi.

April 27
For a few days' worth of breakfast, I make a modest batch of granola comprised of rolled oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, crushed cardamom, and salt tossed lightly with olive oil and maple syrup. I took the recipe from this delightful blog.

For dinner, I make a big salad of cooked lentils tossed with sliced radishes, scallions, roasted chickpeas, chopped parsley and dill, avocado, feta, and a zesty dressing made of lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, dijon, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper. Adapted from this recipe, but I consider the tahini and roasted chickpeas essential adaptions.

April 15
Elvis burgers
The fella makes up some delicious burgers inspired by a popular dish at The Bad Apple on Lincoln Ave. They're simple: locally raised ground beef, cooked to medium, then topped with peanut butter and bacon on pretzels buns. They are completely fantastic.

April 12
Some local radishes I bought at the co-op are wilting in the fridge due to neglect. As an afternoon snack, I quarter them, toss them in homemade garlic oil and fine sea salt, then roast them at 375 F for 20 minutes or so. Roasted radishes are succulent and nutty, completely unlike their raw counterparts. I munch on them while I half-heartedly clean the kitchen.

April 10
For dinner, I roast broccoli and sliced red onion in plenty of olive oil with sea salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Crisped up some corn tortillas, laid rice on top, added the roasted vegetables, a fried egg, and some hot sauce. I think I mentioned before that everything tastes better in a tortilla.

April 6
A bitter infusion
We have peanut butter oatmeal for breakfast - a recent favorite of mine - topped with gigantic raisins and maple syrup. At lunchtime, I work out and then warm a bit of rice and garlic confit in its oil. I've been eating that garlic oil by spoonfuls. For dinner, we take out what is known in our home as the perfect sandwich: the Chicken Shawarma Special sandwich (hold the eggplant) from Semiramis in Albany Park. It is equally smooth and crunchy, with a delightfully nutty and mustardy flavor. I wholeheartedly mean it when I say that it is the perfect sandwich.

I've been making herbal infusions for several months now, and today I experiment with a motherwort infusion. A rookie mistake. Unlike nettle leaves with their pleasantly herby flavor, or oatstraw, which tastes sweet once chilled, motherwort does not make a tasty tea or infusion. It is extremely bitter. Perhaps I'll make a syrup of it, but until then I drink it watered down to an acceptable taste. Motherwort is commonly used for treating menstrual and menopausal symptoms, but it also has anxiety-reducing and heart strengthening properties. Next time I have the herb on hand, I'll use as widely recommended and make a tincture.

April 5

One more month to wait for our CSA
First sunny day in a week. Lately, it's been rainy, grey, and cold, leaving me with the desire to curl up in pajamas and sleep rather than plan and prepare meals. For brunch, I eat disappointing, cold leftovers from our late-night taqueria meal the previous evening - or, shall I say, early this morning?

April 4
The fella makes a delightful, simple soup for dinner: homemade chicken stock, chickpeas, onions, and rice generously seasoned with cayenne, cumin, and salt. We've determined that our meal arrangement is quite fine: I plan and prepare a number of meals at the start of the week, he uses up the leftovers forgotten in the fridge, and on weekends we eat our standard brunch fare - beans, rice, fried eggs, hot sauce, and corn tortillas. This week, the local co-op produce was almost entirely sourced from Mexico or California (a familiar dilemma). The exceptions? Delicious, local carrots, black radishes, beets, and some basil which I regretfully passed up.

April 3
The fella uses up the roast chicken and makes tacos, the chicken tossed in spices and sizzling habanero hot sauce from the farmer's market, with roasted sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and chicken skin crisped under the broiler. Topped with greek yogurt for me and wrapped in a corn tortilla with rice and beans on the side. It's a fabulous, spicy, leftovers dinner.

April 2

Weekday lunch is typically leftovers and today is no different. I eat everything cold: roast chicken, sautéed zucchini, garlic fingerling potatoes, and raw carrots, plus some more of that fabulous sauerkraut from our talented friend who cans, pickles, and cooks the most delicious things. I eat it at my desk with a book. I wish I had some rice to go with it. For dinner, I use the roast chicken and the chicken stock my fella made for Nigel's chicken broth with noodles, lemon, and mint (The Kitchen Diaries). I add garlic and make a tad more than the recipe dictates since I share meals with a voracious eater. For dessert, we enjoy an easy blueberry dark chocolate pudding based on this recipe.

April 1

Taking the time for roast chicken and vegetables
Inspired by Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, I'm trying my hand at keeping a kitchen diary. Nigel's motto: "Right food, right place, right time." I feel the need to take just a little more time each day to think about and prepare what we eat. Recovering from a gluttonous weekend spread of heavy foods and bread, I'm craving vegetables and lean protein. A trip to the local co-op yields a few local items, including green cabbage, carrots, beets, and some herbs. But they'll have to wait for another day, because I want something classic and comforting. Trader Joe's isn't ideal but it'll do for a chicken, which I roast with carrots, onions, and garlic. Fingerling potatoes on the side - boiled first, then fried crispy in garlic oil from my homemade garlic confit and sprinkled with crushed red pepper. We finish it off with some sauerkraut handmade by a dear friend. I enjoy a Short's Brew Earl of Brixom while I cook. Some of the onions burn in the oven, and I reserve them to grind, mix with salt, and prepare a charred vegetable ash to sprinkle onto some future dish in need of smokiness - a technique I recently picked up from Mission Street Food.

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