Chopped Foodie

March 13, 2011 Comments Off

A new home!

Slow Learner’s food content, from eating, cooking, and shopping all around Chicago, but mainly in my kitchen, has been moved and re-christened Chopped Foodie!

Stop by, leave a comment, or a recipe, won’t you?


Polenta Experiment

March 7, 2011 Comments Off

Sometimes, I just do things in the kitchen. I get an idea in my head, like how delicious this kabocha squash is gonna taste because I found this one mouth-watering recipe. But then it turns into a demoralizing lesson. Like, you need to learn how to cut squash. And it’s not a good idea to experiment with a recipe for a food you’ve never eaten before.

Other times, it works out.

This, was one of those times. It’s the end of the weekend, which means grocery shopping time. Most of the vegetables had been eaten and the peanut butter was nearly out. I pulled out the box of instant polenta that had been languishing in the cupboard for the past couple months and decided today’s the day I try this out.

Also in the cupboard: a carton of tomato and roasted red pepper soup from Trader Joe’s. Together, LUNCH!

The soup was a no-brainer, just heat-and-eat. The polenta, though. I had a vision in my head of what I’d tried in restaurants. The polenta had been baked or fried, roughly the size and shape of a fat fish stick with pesto or marinara sauce to dip it in. Meanwhile, I was whisking this together in a pot on the stove.

As the polenta thickened in the sauce pan the more I whisked, the more Fontina cheese I added, the more I caught on. Duh. Clearly, the polenta, the consistency of oatmeal, was not getting picked up and dipped into anything. Unless I took the extra step to bake it, which wasn’t happening, as the soup was bubbling.

I ladled out the soup (of which I had added green onions, a little dried basil, and ground black pepper) in a bowl and eyeballed the pot of jiggly polenta, considering for a moment serving in on a plate like mashed potatoes before laziness got the better of me (didn’t want to clean two more dishes) and I scooped it up and dumped it right in the soup. It remained suspended in the center, like it was treading.

I added a little Parmesan and dug in. The polenta functioned like a dumpling, giving the soupy soup a buttery oompf and texture. 

Lo! A mean is created!

Polenta recipe:

Though the box of polenta I bought had instructions on it, I ignored them and followed a recipe in How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson (a cookbook I’ll be referencing a lot):

*for two

1/2 C instant polenta

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tbs. butter

1/2 C Fontina cheese

ground black pepper


Boil 2 cups of water over medium-high heat. Add salt, and whisking constantly, add polenta in a steady stream. Continue whisking until the polenta thickens to a soft but not soup consistency, about 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in butter, pepper to taste, and Fontina. Serve immediately.

(In your favorite soup, with Parmesan sprinkled on top).

Prairie Fire

March 5, 2011 Comments Off

Tragically, restaurant week is over, and I only made it to one restaurant (I know, I know, what kind of foodie am I? A poor one). Burgeoning locavore that I am, (fantasizing about getting up at 7:00 on a summer Saturday to go a farmer’s market to buy peaches) I picked Prairie Fire in the West Loop. Per their menu, they “support Green City Market and local sustainable farms.” Why wouldn’t you want to check that out?

Disappointed at first glance—the vibe they were probably going for was cozy living room. Wood tables and beige and sage-colored upholstery. Kinda bland considering it’s a converted warehouse, except the electric prints on the wall of prairie fires And the shades on the light fixtures too, were prints of fires.

But, most of the tables were full and the clientele, not the young and hip I had imagined, but adults—older, seemingly successful professionals with younger ones scattered in, gave the place a pleasant buzz—no obnoxious music or TV droning on so I could enjoy the company of my friends.

Besides, when there’s good food tantalizing your olfactories, who cares about odd decor choices?

Living dangerously, I chose something I’ve never had before as my first course: beets. Citrus marinated beets. Not too shabby; I enjoyed the juicy, pleasant tartness. The raspberry and lemon colors. I’m left wondering what a normal beet tastes like.

And dessert—lemon pie! (or chiffon or tart—I forget.) Imagine lemon gelato on a light crust. But warm.

The coup de grace of the meal, though, was the main course: salmon. The best salmon ever. EVER. The filet was a bold pink, not the overdone variety like a kid’s bedroom walls, put pink. Summer pink. Summer-flower-rose-pink. PINK. And juicy. It didn’t flake apart when the fork sliced through it, as flaking apart suggests dryness, so much as it easily fell away to little pieces that I swirled around in the buttery potatoes so light the consistency was more like creamy grits.

In short, it was fucking delicious.

Restaurant Week approacheth!

February 14, 2011 Comments Off

Here is your brief introduction:

Now. Where to go, where to go?

Food nostalgia 1: Pesto pizza

February 12, 2011 Comments Off

I think the first time I tasted a pesto pizza was in Sicily, in Taormina, a town perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, and behind, the shadow of Mt. Etna loomed in the distance. The city was romantically old, ancient and medieval, with the remains of a Greek theater and stone arches connecting the buildings on either side of the street. Narrow alleys branched off and twisted down the cliff, mazes of restaurants and shops and more alleys branched off further. You could wander for days.

I was hiking up and down one of these allies when I decided I was bone-tired of tromping around in my sweaty Tivas. I needed food, wine and relief from the late-summer sun.

I settled on a place with yellow table cloths and white umbrellas and a handful of people outside already finishing their lunches. I ordered a half-liter of house red and a pesto pizza from a young waiter who had big summer-sky blue eyes that popped against his deeply tanned skin. Sun-kissed gold highlights streaked his dark hair.

The notebook I had been scribbling in (fawning over the town, its charm, that I was drinking wine at 1:00 in the afternoon on a weekday) got shoved aside once I tasted the pizza. I probably moaned aloud when the warm pesto hit my tongue.

Pesto pistache 2 by bloggyboulga via flickr creative commons

The dream came on a big white plate, eight or ten inches. The crust thin, crisp and golden. The pizza itself, dripping with olive oil, basil and Parmesan cheese. I cut quickly, messily with my knife and fork, irregular sized pieces I folded into my mouth.

I rubbed the crust in the little pools of oil around the plate, then gave up eating that part to ensure I had enough space in my filling and happy tummy for the most important parts: those smothered in basil, olive oil, and Parmesan, the holy trinity of ingredients.

I don’t know why or how, but I love them, those ingredients. It could be their versatility, how they enliven so many dishes, their smells that make me think of bright green spring gardens and wild flowers, or how they call up warm memories of a cute waiter with sexily accented English, who asked you to come with him on his vespa down to the beach that night.

And we’re on

February 12, 2011 Comments Off

So, my resolve to write two or three posts a week has gone out the window. Blame snowpocalypse for taking the Internet away for a few days, and a new job for taking away all my aimless free time.

But we’re back (happy weekend)! We’ll see how this goes.

Take Two.

A relaxing night. . .

January 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

. . .  with a book, red wine, and Trader Joe’s Sea Salt pita chips.

Oh. Yum. The Cabernet Sauvignon (Lindeman’s) and the pita chips hit the freaking spot. Something about the sea salt, those fine little granules, complemented the wine perfectly. I mean, perfectly. Better than popcorn, which is my usual go-to snack for a salt craving. I couldn’t woof down the bowl fast enough while alternating with glugs of wine. Maybe it’s how the salt neutralizes the vinegary bite of cheaper wines. Also, I’m just a sucker for how sea salt dances on your tongue.

I popped a little dark chocolate, a slight sweet, in there, too. The smooth velvet to the coarse granules.

Now, I will have some more please.


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