Monthly Archives: July 2014

Eataly: Been There, Done That, Got the Tee Shirt

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Cooking is my passion. I love the creativity and adventure of coming up with a new dish or a fresh take on an old one. I guess I would qualify as a  “foodie,” what ever that actually means. I also love going to the grocery store, be it a mega market or a local shop, it’s the springboard for inspiration. Even Mama D needs a little kick in the inspiration once in a while. Eataly is inspiration on steroids and calling it a mega market is a gross understatement.443

I thought I’d have to stow away to New York to visit this ultimate Italian food experience. That is, until Eataly came to Chicago.  The idea was born in Italy and brought to America by the Bastianich/Batali team. I’ve been getting the newsletters since they opened, and have been enticed by the on-line shopping experience. Needless to say, visiting in person was at the top of my “to do list”  when I recently spent the weekend in Chicago. It didn’t disappoint.

433The place is enormous; 63,000 square feet spread out over two floors, to be exact. It has a modern industrial feel with incredible merchandising of it’s over 10,000 items. A single item often takes up an entire shelf. The impact this creates is eye-popping and genius. 428Still there are other areas where the variety of products is mind-boggling. Dry pasta goes on for aisles with every shape imaginable, and some that were  beyond belief.419426Cooks can’t live by dry pasta alone.427 Eataly has the perfect solution for that. There is a pasta kitchen on site that turns out beautiful sheets of golden dough that are transformed into long, cut, and filled pastas. You can buy a pound, go home, and create.

The grocery aspect of Eataly is like no other, but that’s only part of the package. It is an amazing place to eat and drink as well. The selection of Italian wines is huge and many are available for tasting and purchase by the glass at La Piazza, one of the twenty three dining possibilities. This is a stand up affair much like the square in an Italian city. Freshly baked bread was served with a pool of fruity olive oil that was the tease before our Grande Piatto Misto Di Salumi  & Formaggi arrived. 424There was a Birreria, serving an impressive array of beers. It featured Italian brews along with local craft beers and two cask ales made on site. Yup, there’s a craft brewery here as well.412My wonderful husband, Jeff was quite impressed with the place. Amazing for someone who doesn’t like crowds and hates to shop because this place is busy, loud, and circus like at times. He also took all of these pictures. We ate and drank, but bought very little. It’s hard to keep fresh pasta and salami in a hotel room. I was also honestly overwhelmed by it all and it was hard to choose.

What Eataly gave me was renewed inspiration. I tink the food I’ve been creating since my visit has been more creative and tastier. It has given life to, among other things, the Italian Taco… Sausage simmered in marinara and layered with sautéed onions and peppers and sliced tomatoes. A drizzle of Salsa Verde gives it some punch and pizzazz. DIGITAL CAMERA  This salsa is parsley, garlic, and lemon driven. Basil, thyme and capers play the supporting role. Olive oil brings it all together. DIGITAL CAMERA The fillings were layered in a tortilla. Yes, that’s a whole grain tortilla… Inspiration can be healthy, too. A sprinkle of Romano cheese topped it all. DIGITAL CAMERA  

Italian Tacos
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Italian Tacos
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Salsa Verde
Italian Tacos
Servings:
Instructions
  1. To make the salsa: Combine the herbs, capers, garlic, lemon zest and juice in the bowl of a processor. Process until coarsely chopped, scraping the bowl as necessary.
  2. Add the olive oil and process until finely chopped, scraping bowl as necessary. If mixture is too thick add water a little at a time until the consistency is as you like it. Pour the salsa into a container cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Grill or broil the sausages. Allow to cool enough to slice thinly. Combine the sausage slices and the marinara sauce in a saucepan. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  4. While the sausage simmers, saute the the onions and peppers in the olive oil. They should be lightly browned but still crunchy.
  5. Assemble the Tacos: Divide the sausage between the tortillas. Top the sausage with the peppers and onions. Add the tomato slices. Drizzle with the Salsa Verde and sprinkle with the cheese.
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Summer Country, Corn, and Chowder

My school bus route this summer takes me out to the country. I spend close to three hours a day riding past farms and corn fields which gives me more than enough time for reflection. I’m a semi-city girl and my experiences with home-grown corn came from my grandfather’s and then my Uncle Andy’s gardens. Still, the country holds a certain charm for me. Now that I’ve comfortably adopted the suburbs as home, I experience the accidental proximity of country with an isolated field or preserved farm in the middle of a subdivision.DIGITAL CAMERA

Suburban living makes it easy to forget how amazing farmland is. But what i’m seeing everyday is the real deal. Sky beautifully blue that seems to go on forever. Clouds in that sky that look like cotton batting soft enough to curl up in for a nap. Farms large and small, old and older, and seemingly endless fields of corn. file8191293943525The Midwest is corn country and this part of Illinois has some of the best farmland in the state. Granted, much of our corn is the feed/seed variety. (This blog post  explains the difference.) Even so, there is plenty of the eating kind around, or there will be soon.

Corn season is in full swing here. The stalks have more than reached the requisite “knee high by the Fourth of July” and as I look out the bus window, I think they’re growing taller everyday.DIGITAL CAMERALocal corn won’t be making an appearance for a few more weeks, but as the stalks wave in the breeze, anticipation is high. The corn available is inching closer, much of what is in the stores and even at farm stands is coming from Georgia. It’s sweet and juicy and is wonderful eaten off the cob, but it’s also great used in a recipe. DIGITAL CAMERADIGITAL CAMERAI made a Summer Corn Chowder that used the corn, cobs and all.DIGITAL CAMERA I cut the kernels off the cobs, then the naked cobs went into a soup pot with water, some onion and a pinch of salt. I let it simmer for  about an hour and let it steep for an hour more. The result was golden sweetness that was bursting with corn flavor.

This chowder featured a variety of peppers,and onions and course there was lots of fresh corn. Colored peppers make it look extra festive and sweet and green onion give it lots of flavor. This is your chowder, so choose what you like.DIGITAL CAMERATo make it more “chowder like” I added some bacon and grated potato. My herb of choice was thyme and a bit of ancho chili powder gave it a little heat. To keep it healthier I used fat free half and half.DIGITAL CAMERAThe result was a lighter bodied chowder that was thick with vegetables. Sharp white cheddar cheese and crisp bacon were the crowning glory. It was the perfect dish for a summer supper.DIGITAL CAMERA

This recipe will only get better as the corn grows closer to home. It also lends itself to all kinds of variations. Make it spicier or tame it down to suit your taste.

Summer Corn Chowder
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Summer Corn Chowder
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Corn Broth
Chowder
Servings:
Instructions
Corn Broth
  1. Put the bare corn cobs and chopped onion in a soup pot. Add 5 cups water (or enough to cover) and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook covered for 1 hour. Turn off heat and allow to steep covered for another hour. Remove the cobs and onions and use in soup.
Chowder
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until crisp. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon, let it drain on paper towels and reserve. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings from the pot.
  2. Add the onions, celery, jalapeno, and peppers to the pot and cook about 5 minutes stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Add the corn kernels and cook another 2 - 3 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cook 1 minute more.
  3. Add the half and half and corn broth to the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and add the shredded potatoes, green onions and thyme. cook 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender and everything is happy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the reserved bacon and grated cheddar.
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Fresh corn is one of the joys of summer. Eaten off the cob or in a soup or side dish, it is meant to be savoured for as long as the season lasts. Enjoy, Mama D

Triple Shot Pork Ribs

file000987825684For many of us, coffee helps make the world go around. My morning doesn’t begin until I’m on my second cup and I know that I am not alone. But coffee definitely isn’t just for breakfast any more. Starbucks has seen to that. Coffee also isn’t just for drinking either. Ice cream and any other sweet treat that can handle the coffee_rub_newcaffeine hit can be coffee flavored. And then there’s mocha that wonderful marriage of coffee and chocolate. Just when you thought that coffee had conquered enough markets, along comes the Coffee Rub. This isn’t totally new, but it is definitely on the upswing and with most of the free world firing up their grills this weekend, it’s a flavoring whose time has come.

I’ve plunged into coffee enhanced meat grill first. I found 3 recipes created by Andy Schloss. He created a brine, rub, and barbecue sauce that all featured coffee with orange as a supporting player. While I do think coffee and orange work well together, I thought that chocolate could contribute something special as well and because I’m Mama D there had to be onion and garlic, too.DIGITAL CAMERA I chose Baby Back ribs for this recipe. I’m usually a Country Rib kind of gal, but I found the perfect rack of ribs for two that looked to be lean and meaty, so they found their way into my cart and my kitchen. They spent just over 24 hours in a brine of strong coffee, orange juice, and beer that was laced with onion, garlic, and brown sugar.DIGITAL CAMERAI coated the ribs with my coffee- cocoa-orange peel rub and let them soak up the flavor for an hour.DIGITAL CAMERAThey cooked over indirect heat for 40 minutes or so, meaty side up. They only required a little do-si-do around the grill to cook to crusty perfection.DIGITAL CAMERAA liberal brushing with what I believe is a killer barbecue sauce and a few more minutes on the grill and they were perfection.DIGITAL CAMERANaturally these three recipes work beautifully together, but they could be used individually, too. I think that the barbecue sauce may become my new favorite. It’s the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. I’ll be trying the rub on steaks soon and I think the brine would do wonders for chicken. So without further ado, I give you the three shots of caffeinated barbecue goodness. 

Coffee Rub
Print Recipe
This rub works on any pork cut, especially ribs. It would also be great on steak.
Servings
1 Cup
Servings
1 Cup
Coffee Rub
Print Recipe
This rub works on any pork cut, especially ribs. It would also be great on steak.
Servings
1 Cup
Servings
1 Cup
Ingredients
Servings: Cup
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together.Use as a rub on pork, beef or chicken. Leftover can be stored in an airtight container.
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Coffee Brine
Print Recipe
This is enough to brine about 4 pounds of ribs. It would work with any cut of pork as well as chicken or turkey.
Coffee Brine
Print Recipe
This is enough to brine about 4 pounds of ribs. It would work with any cut of pork as well as chicken or turkey.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients together until the salt and sugar dissolve.
  2. Place the ribs in a zip top bag. Add the brine and seal the bag. Place the bag in baking pan in case of leaking. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.
  3. When ready to grill, remove the ribs and allow to drain. Discard the brine.
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Orange Mocha Barbecue Sauce
Print Recipe
This is an awesome sauce. Sweet and tangy with that subtle flavor that makes you say,,,Hmmm.
Servings
1 Cup
Servings
1 Cup
Orange Mocha Barbecue Sauce
Print Recipe
This is an awesome sauce. Sweet and tangy with that subtle flavor that makes you say,,,Hmmm.
Servings
1 Cup
Servings
1 Cup
Ingredients
Servings: Cup
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the orange zest in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Bring just to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently. The sauce should thicken and reduce slightly.
  3. Stir in the orange zest and simmer for 2-3 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week
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Making this for your July 4th Cookout may be too much of a time challenge, but the summer is still young so give it a try soon. Love, Mama D