Here is a really great article on my production company, Fatcake Productions, that just came out in Reel Chicago. It was a good year in 2004 and with the new show, Tracking Expats, currently in production, 2005 is sure to be just as awesome. We're filming in Baja in February, so stay tuned for the adventure.
So, here is what came is this weeks farm share. Can you believe that all of this organic produce is $40 per week (I split with a friend and that way it is only $20)--just crazy! So many new recipes to make~
- 1 coconut, 1 pineapple
- 1 bunch leeks
- 1 bunch celery
- 1 bunch bok choy
- 1 bunch spinach, 1 pint sugar plum grape tomatoes
- 1 head green leaf lettuce, 1 head read leaf lettuce
- 1 avocado, 7 carrots, 2 onions, 1 bunch cauliflower
- 1 bunch green onions, 1 bunch gold beets, 2 cucumbers
- 4 red potatoes, 4 russet potatoes, 2 yams, 4 mangoes
- 6 oranges, 4 apples, 4 brown pears, 4 d'Anjou pears, 5 pieces of ginger
I always get so excited when the share comes. The first book I run to for recipes is Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. Every single recipe that I make from her book always turns out incredible~she especially does amazing things with greens...they're always hard to deal with regularly (kale, swiss chard, bok choy, etc...). She makes them simple and delicious, no matter which recipe I try.
I've frantically made my way back to the Ba Le Bakery four times this week alone (fielding scores of traffic, pelting rain, and not a lick of parking, mind you). Clearly, I've got a bit of an addiction going on here. Now they know what to do when I walk in--just bag up the goods, kiddo.
I always try to take just a few bites or even wait til I get home to dig in, but it never works~I wolf the whole thing down before I'm even back to my truck, daydreaming about the next one while I'm at it. What the heck are the Vietnamese doing to make this pastry so mind-bogglingly delicious? It's this seductive mix of buttery, dense pastry and super rich, chewy chocolate. Bottom line, there is no other bakery here in Chicago that can touch Ba Le's version of a chocolate croissant.
After a horrifying realization that my favorite yogurt in the entire world (Greek-made Total by Fage) had been ripped of all area grocery store shelves, I had to sadly turn elsewhere. Krinos (which makes another brand of home style Greek yogurt) is a wonderful discovery, as are the sour cherry preserves in heavy syrup made by the Greek company, Sarantis. Greek's usually top their yogurt and cherries with walnuts, but all I had on hand were almonds, so viola~another addictive treat was created!
Fortunately for me and all Fage lovers, Trader Joe's just found a new importer (apparently, what happened is the Chicago area importer and the FDA had a nasty little fight over some paperwork discrepancies, so the FDA banned that particular importer from doing business in the USA--much to the chagrin of us cult-like Fage addicts) and as of a few days ago, Fage is back on the shelves. The cute little containers of sour cream like yogurt, with the side pocket of Greek honey, tastes like the feeling of being in the islands; thick, heavenly and ripe.
deconstructing the incredibly delicious Vietnamese fresh spring rolls
that Ba Le French Bakery makes, this is what I came up with.
Each goi cuon contains:
3 pieces of green leaf lettuce, 1.5 pieces of shrimps (sliced in half), 1 large basil leaf, 1/8 c. of vermicelli noodles, and 1/8 c. of bean sprouts.
All of it was neatly wrapped in a sheet of sticky rice paper.
THAT'S IT!!! No, secret ingredient that's impossible to get, nothing but a bunch of stuff that I can pick up at any grocery market. WOW.
Then, it must be the sauce. That's the tricky part--making the sauce that goes along with it. It's a hoisin chili dipping sauce that is so good it's drinkable.
I once walked 7 miles round trip in the freezing cold, dead of winter to get an order of these, I was craving them that badly. Ba Le gives ya 3 to the order and the cost is a paltry $3.75.
As an aside, when I was there yesterday, I grabbed a chocolate croissant on the way out (huge and only $1.50). It was the one I am always looking for but haven't found yet here in Chicago. And, I've tried-- after multiple trips to Paris the past few years, I got a little obsessed with flaky pastries. I searched high and low, but somehow every one that I got my hands on here in Chi wasn't quite right (to hard, chewy, crunchy, etc...). Ba Le is the place. The pastry is so dense with butter it's almost flat. It's heavy. It's chocolaty. It's flaky. It's the one.
Greek food at it's finest. This little gem of a place in Oak Park satisfies all my crazy cravings for authentic, home-style Greek fare.
After a trip to the incredible Greek Islands and Paros, in particular, a few years ago, I've maintained a very intense affinity for the magical Greek lifestyle.
(Getting there was a struggle, though. I haphazardly made my way to Greece via overnight boat from Brindisi, Italy --a hellish little port town with layer upon layer of suspicious characters. Once I was there, it was then a couple of hours on a rickety train from Patras to the port of Piraeus in Athens--which is a packed, sprawling city and surprisingly, covered in graffiti. And finally, after another harrowing 8-hour boat ride from Athens, I was deposited in the tiny village of Paros).
So, when my bones are violently craving meat (I am indeed, a vegetarian) and a taste of Greece--this place is the deal. Thinly cut broiled lamb chops, perfectly cooked french fries sauced up with lamb gravy and feta cheese and then, a chewy custard dessert doused with an orange honey syrup and sprinkles of cinnamon. Toss is a couple glasses of Greek wine (made by monks in Greece) and it's done and done!
Check out the the first article for my new column, The Raving Dish. This one is from the December 2nd copy of centerstagechicago.com
and features a hot chocolate drink called "The Barthelona"--it's from a new bakery in Chicago called The Angel Food Bakery and it is soooo thick, chewy and addictive. The drink is inspired by the Spanish method of making hot chocolate and since I am heading to Barcelona, Spain at the end of December, I intend on comparing the two drinks...among other things that the Spanish are known for.