Tomato white bean salad: what goes with the grill

When I taught cooking, one of my most popular classes was What Goes With the Grill. It seems that people feel pretty confident about cooking over an open flame, but are a little flummoxed about what to serve alongside. I still remember blushing at the compliments for my Grilled Peach and Fennel Salad. It remains a favorite during peach season. So delight ensued when a six pack of tomatoes arrived from the good people at Red Gold, a company based right here in the Midwest, which sent me straight to the kitchen to come up with some great sides for my own weekend grilling. For my first version of this Tomato and White Bean Salad, I used Petite Diced Tomatoes with Lime Juice and Cilantro. I stood at the stove, sautéing onions and adding some Read more...

Strawberry fest: recipes for a luscious summer

Strawberries are in! I wait all year for this time. I remember as a second grader and visiting my friend Michelle. Her family had rows and rows of strawberries in the backyard. On sunny summer afternoons, we'd pick them, then dab them in brown sugar while we sat at the picnic table. In Farmers' Markets of the Heartland, I wrote about Lloyd Nichols, whose array of strawberry varieties made me woozy with memory. And in recent years my friend Peter of Seedling Fruit inspired all sorts of ways to serve up the luscious strawberry, which you may know is the only fruit with the seeds on the outside. It's important to stay up on your berry trivia. But trivia aside, I invite you to join me in a few indulgence strawberry recipes from Read more...

A sweet and bitter salad: arugula with honey and salty cheese

My visit with the good people of the National Honey Board reminded me that there are so many ways to enjoy honey, beyond using it to sweeten things up.  Like drizzling it on yogurt. Or making Honey Ginger Ice Cream. Or my Homemade Honey Granola. It makes a perfect complement for sharp and salty flavors.  Think honey mustard vinaigrette. Or even something simpler. A friend returned from Italy with a story about a delightfully simple salad of arugula, olive oil, honey and big curls of Parmesan cheese. The honey cut the bitter of the green and sharpness of the cheese for a surprising flavor combination. For this salad you'll want to get out the vegetable peeler to shave the cheese rather than grate it. For this version, I chose Read more...

A taste of honey: how sweet it is

Some days it's great to be a food writer. A case in point:  the National Honey Board invited me to a luscious event, where I tasted the sweetness of life and learned about one of my favorite topics. Team Honey pulled out all the stops, bringing a beekeeper, a packer and the lovely Marie Simmons, author of A Taste of Honey, which was a gift for the attendees. My friend Kim Essex of Ketchum Public Relations moderated a panel, where I learned a thing or two about honey. I tasted fabulous ways to enjoy honey, like flatbread with melted manchego, roscmary and honey, and goat cheese spread with lemon and honey, which I'm sharing with you here. But first a few sweet facts The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that Read more...

Is switching to organic wines worth the price? 

Going Organic, Down to the Last Drop Is switching to organic wines worth the price? A guest post from Amelie Cartwright Almost everybody has heard of the sudden boom of the organic lifestyle. Everywhere we look, people are pushing to go green, to find and consume products made through sustainable means. The problem is, people often content themselves with simply eating organic, and they don’t put a lot of thought into drinking organic, especially when it comes to the bottles of wine they pop in celebrations. The reasons behind this are simple. First of all, organic foods are generally more expensive than conventional food -- a fact recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. Secondly, organic wine has quite the reputation Read more...

Whole grain hot breakfast

I have an ongoing, longtime, never-going-to-break-up romance with breakfast.  I love the indulgent weekend kind like French toast or pancakes, and also the simple, healthy, wholesome kind, like oatmeal. Raisin toast with a smear of cinnamon sugar butter reminiscent of childhood snacks.  And for summer, hello, strawberry smoothie and iced coffee. So imagine my delight to meet Megan Gordon, owner of Marge Granola, publisher of the beautiful blog A Sweet Spoonful and author of Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons. A breakfast triple threat. We were both showing our books at a book fair hosted by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.  I had already spotted hers weeks before, with its seasonal Read more...

Springtime hash: Asparagus and peas, sunny side up

  After a brutal winter that destroyed the plumbing at Pinecone Meadow Farm, we are more than ready for a little spring. And what better way to celebrate spring than with a splendid savory breakfast showcasing the first asparagus and peas, topped with a springtime egg? Can't think of anything better, I say.  Which brings me to my springtime hash.  Hash is such an unappealing word for such a lovely dish, a melange of vegetables, sauteed simply. We'll just get past that, shall we? And of course the egg just tops it beautifully, although you can serve this hash without if you are looking for a pretty side for your dinner main course. My friend who raises chickens tells me that when the weather gets warm, her hens start Read more...

Whole grain digestive biscuits: a cracker recipe to nibble

I love nibbles.  I could make a meal of little bites of cheeses and spreads. Perhaps a few marinated olives with a glass of wine. Or a cocktail. With whole grains all the rage, I've been looking for new ways to enhance my baked goodies.  These little crackers, called digestive biscuits in England, are great for a cheese course, or just for nibbling before dinner with an aperitif. I make my own oat flour for these, which makes me feel industrious, and saves a trip to the store. I simply whirl some oatmeal in my food processor.  You can just as easily order oat flour from Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur Flour, but if you've got the proper equipment, you can make it to order.  I stop the blades when the oatmeal is coarser that commercial Read more...

Pi Day Vinegar Chess Pie, as if we need an excuse

Imagine my delight some years ago when I learned that March 14, or 3/14 is the day to celebrate the math symbol pi, which of course is the "mathematical constant representing the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter." OK, I looked that part up. But I do know that pi is 3.14 and what better invented excuse to enjoy pie on a non-holiday? Actually, Lauro and I are frequent diners at Grange Hall Burger Bar in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, and they serve spectacular house-baked pies. They even have a punch card, and after you eat there ten times, you take home a whole pie.  A. Whole. Pie. We've enjoyed several, further indicating that we don't need an occasion to enjoy pie, aside from it being Wednesday. And Lauro was Read more...

Seedy soda bread scones for St. Pat’s

Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm not one for green food coloring in my beer. I'm a fan of authenticity, like a nice Smithwick's ale, for instance, when I celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Every year, for this favorite holiday of my Grandpa O'Brien, I serve up Spotted Dog Soda Bread. Or Irish Cheddar Waffles. Or any nibble that celebrates the great baking or dairy or seafood delights of Ireland. This recipe is a riff on a classic soda bread loaf, crossed with Seedy Salt Bread created by Kismet Farm and Bakery in southwest Michigan. Kismet uses poppy seed in its famed sour dough bread, but I've amplified mine with a mix of poppy, caraway and dill seed, mixed with a whisper of fennel seed, because with fennel a little goes Read more...