J.R. Organics CSA - I Can Finally Join...


I just don't wanna go anywhere for a good, long spell...

Bottom line is - I'm home.  I can join a CSA.  Which means that every Sunday, I can roll into the Mar Vista Farmers Market and pick up my full share of organic food.  A big huge box full of all kinds of fruit and veggies for about $28 bucks.  $10 extra bones gets me a huge bushel of flowers (of my choice).  It's just heaven. When have I been able to commit to something like this in the past 3 years?  

And, when I've sorted my CSA, I can just mosey about the market and flush out the bounty from JR's and bring it all home to the soon-to-be remodeled FLOBO kitchen and go nuts.  Toss on some tunes, wash everything down.  Make soup.  I killed some Greek green beans today.  Chomp on blueberries.  Suck down a juicy strawberry.  Chat up the neighbors and plot and plan a billon recipes with fava beans.  Never cooked them before, but something big is gonna shake down this week.

What a brilliant way to spend a day.  Then, oh joy, then...I discovered an app called: Still Tasty.  It's a website, too, but for real - the app is insane.  Tells you how to store EVERYTHING proper and if you enter your goods, it sends you alerts like TIMES UP!  Meaning ditch those apples, sorry!  Best thing I've stumbled across in years.  Like, I knew the best way to keep basil fresh is snip bottoms, put in about an inch of water, cover with plastic bag and keep on counter (never put basil in fridge, it turns black and fross so fast).  Same steps go for mint - but who knew it should reside in the fridge not on the counter?  God, I just love it all.

Cannot wait for my new kitchen.  Guess what I really want is a restaurant)

Cross-Rhodes Greek Joint in Evanston {From The Raving Dish}

Img_0052_1I used to date a Greek guy. (Though in all honesty, we were more like eating pals with benefits...at least in my eyes.) The best thing about our "food friendship" was all of the glorious Greek grub he turned me on to.
His mom would cook up the most amazing feasts every single day, even if it were just for her and her sweet cigar-smoking hubby. Four-course meals showed face on the table every single night, and after dinner, my little cookie would show up at my front door with tubs full of still-warm leftovers: Big loads of Greek salad with creamy feta, bits of baby goat in a rich red gravy, baked chicken covered in fresh garlic and sweet olive oil, and Greek fries splashed in oregano and lemon made their way to my tummy with unbelievable consistency.

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Barba Yianni Grecian Taverna & Veggies Galore

Dscf2243I waffle between being a vegetarian and being a carnivore. There are times when I cannot stomach the idea of another meat-free meal—bring on the lamb, goat, beef, fish and chicken, and make sure to char-grill it while you're at it. Then come the times when the idea that a poor little animal lost its life just to fill my greedy belly makes me wanna gag.
When I can't seem to decide one way or another, I always opt for Greek food. Something about the hearty cuisine makes me feel like I'm getting the very best of both worlds. Maybe because I can go halfway every time; blissful Greek fries drowning in lamb gravy and feta cheese being a prime example of how the Greeks manage to make me feel like I'm eating veggie style, but give me the flavor of meat that my body sometimes madly craves.

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Greek Mountain Tea: My Drink of the Moment

Greek_tea_2I've totally become a tea addict--if I'm not chugging caramely roobios, I'm going out of my way to find a decent loose-leaf chocolaty mate. But, I've recently discovered the pure pleasure of Greek mountain tea.  When I first spied it at the City Fresh Market (a great international market on Devon and Kedzie), I was a little wary of the long-stemmed leaves that looked slightly molded--plus the cost threw me for a loop (one big bag is about $1.50).  I'm used to dropping top dollar for my already crushed tea leaves, so you can see why I was suspicious.  But, those feelings usually result in the best surprises, yeah?   When I got home with the crinkly plastic bag, I ripped it open and was immediately confused.  Do I use the whole stem (it looks like a full-on branch) or just pull the tiny flowers off?  In a moment of panic, I went balls out and crunched the whole pile up (stems included) and dumped a big fistful into my tea press.  I  was delighted when the most magical scent wafted up as I poured on piping hot water.  Sort of like a woodsy/lemony smell--I could instantly imagine an old sheepherder in the mountains of Greece taking a break from plowing a field (with trusty mule by his side, of course)...and whipping up a kettle of this delicate (but so earthy) tea.  Plus, the best part about this find is: I can now afford to drink tea again!

Venus Greek-Cypriot Cuisine~{From The Raving Dish}

Dscf4146Since I blew through the islands of Greece on a solo-backpacking trip a few years ago, the sinful tastes of Greek village food have haunted me. I always conjure up images of wizened elders churning out big slabs of cheese, wild greens being picked from nearby fields, just-caught octopus being fire-grilled and doused with fresh lemon, and still-warm wedges of thick sesame bread generously slathered with various garlic-infused spreads.

Try as I might, it's near impossible to bring those memories alive in the concrete jungle we call home, but I've happened upon a place that's the next best thing: Venus Greek-Cypriot Cuisine.

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Hellas Pastry: Chewy Almond Cookies

Dscf2989Though there are dozens of Greek bakeries in Chicago, one that I'm loving is called Hellas Pastry(on Lawrence Ave.) and they whip up some deliciously chewy almond cookies.  I've had some of these before at Artopolis in Greektown, but this tiny bakery has some of the finest that I have had.  If you've never had a Greek cookie like this (I don't recall their name), they sort of taste like amaretto and caramel and are chewy little delights.  They run about $9 per pound and are truly some of the most addictive treats out there.  Plus, Hellas is just down th street from Ilidzanka, an even tinier Bosnian joint that has the strongest coffee this side of the Atlantic.

Yanni's: Never Fear Char-Grilled Octopus

Dscf0896One of the best things that I've ever put into my adventurous mouth is octopus.  I had never even had it until a few years ago, when my and my fatcake crew went to Yelapa, Mexico to shoot a TV show called, "Stuffed."  We speared octopus straight out of the Pacific and took it into a locals kitchen to cook it up and I guess I was stunned at the result...it was meaty, tender, lemony and tasting like char-grilled ocean (plus took mere moments to cook).  Now, I usually order it anytime I discover it on a menu and I've found that once again, the Greek's do it best.  This time I was out in the 'burbs at Yanni's Restaurant and they had a really spectacular version of octopus....thick and juicy, the way it should be.  The Greek  I was with claimed that he'd had better, but I don't know...for the concrete jungle of Chicago, this was mighty fine stuff.

Greek Frappe: Take a Sip of Me

Dscf0916When you mix a bit of water, milk, sugar, ice cubes and instant coffee, what do ya get?  A lovely little concoction known as a Frappe.  The best ones roll out of Greek places; Cafe Iguana, 9 Muses, etc...but I'm sure they're easy to rock out on your own.  I got my first sampling of this a few years back when I was stranded at a dump of a port town in Greece, waiting on a boat back to Italy.  I had nowhere to stay and some charming Greek fella invited me to stay at his place for the night til the next boat rolled out in the a.m. (fancy that...).  After a god-awful night of sleep on a couch in some tiny apartment with a handful of strangers in a seedy hood in the middle of nowhere, I was awakened with pounding Greek techno music and a blender purring loudly at about 7 a.m.  Agh!  Just get me to the boat.  Well, after one of those, whaddaya call it?  Frappe? Bring it on, then, thanks~now, get me back to the boat.

Pegasus: Greek Rose and Dips Galore

Dscf0136Ususally when me and my fatcake team have meetings, they're taken at a restaurant or pub and always involve some sort of drink and food.  That's just really a great way to operate.  Things tend to go better, smoother, and we don't feel like we're working when we're tossing back a nice chilled Greek rose.  (I'm usually a pinot grigio girl, but I was really impressed with this super-cheap...$20 per bottle.... pink wine).  Pegasus is great for meetings because there are always back tables (the mafioso tables) and the Greek's love to have a drink with ya (some insanely rich and flowery cognac made its way to the table by nights end) and they have this lovely appetizer that showcases all of their delicious dips with warm pita.  The eggplant (which we subbed for the tiromisalata) dip is a taste sensation.  I do so love the Greeks~ Dscf0144

Sour Cherry Martini: The Perfect Summer Drink

Dscn9850When my drink of choice, wine, gets to be a bit much, I head to Katerina's on Irving Park, who has has the quintessential summer drink all year round, the sour Cherry Martini.  A delicious concoction made with the juice from Greek sour cherries and not too sweet, this is the one martini I could drink all the time.  (For the most part, I think martinis are to just not for me...i.e. blathering mess.)  She's mastered the shake of the wrist and turns all that liquor into a splash of  slivered ice nirvana.  Just good stuff, all the way around.  If you head her way, make sure to try the Tiropitakia, one of the best dishes ever created.  A buttery phyllo dough filled with multiple cheeses, baked til crisp and then covered with cinnamon and orange liquor.   Order the entire platter or you'll be fighting for them, trust me.