I might be a full-fledged grown up (I am finally done with school once and for all, I’m married, I have a mortgage, and this list goes on), but there’s something about the first few days of October—with their cool, crisp air and earthy aroma—that has me channeling my inner trick-or-treater.  Or, to be more accurate, my inner jack-o-latern artiste.  Carving pumpkins—-carefully selecting my gourd of choice at the pumpkin patch; rolling up my sleeves, reaching inside the deep pumpkin and scooping out the stringly middle; crafting a snaggle-toothed, triangle-eyed face on the slick orange skin; lighting a votive candle nestled inside the hollowed-out pumpkin, which promptly casts a flickery glow and warms the pumpkin’s flesh, emitting a scent that only exists in October—has always been my favorite part about Halloween.


As a kid, this autumnal ritual generally unfolded sometime during the week before the 31st, when our house was abuzz with other Halloween preparations: assembling costumes (often embarassing and always homemade); filling a behemoth, marigold-colored Tupperware with miniature candies; baking sugar cookies shaped like pumpkins, bats and witches’ hats.  Back then, the knife work—always performed with the biggest wooden-handled knife in our Chicago Cutlery knife block—was a strictly parental duty.  My sister and I stuck to scooping out the pumpkin seeds and outlining the faces with a thick black magic marker.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Beet Evangelism

July 23, 2008

Lately, I’ve taken up the cause of the humble beet. For many people, beets are right up there with head cheese, blood sausage and other culinary unmentionables. Not so long ago, I was among these people. But then—oh, then—I saw the light. All it took was giving the beet a wee little chance and I fell in love. I’ve joined the flock of those who know that beets are earthy and dense and sweet, not to mention beautiful.

So, I’ve been trying to spread the news: the beet is your friend. Call it beet evangelism. My strategy has been multi-pronged. First, there’s some damage control. I assure my target that fresh beets, cooked gently in a shallow pool of water, bear no resemblance to the jiggly canned rounds we all know from salad bars gone by. When this doesn’t work, I appeal to aesthetics: beets come in a spectrum of deep jewel tones and their centers are ringed like the inside of an old oak tree. When I’ve struck out on these two fronts, I pull out my secret weapon: cheese. Preferably feta, but goat will do in a pinch.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the method.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Beer Can Chicken

June 13, 2008

I had altogether too much fun making this meal. Maybe it’s because my brain is fried from too much studying. Or perhaps my threshold for finding comedy is extremely low, after listening to legal lectures for hour after droning hour. Whatever it was, these grilled chickens were a real riot.

First, the whole project was like a Jeff Foxworthy bit, only backwards. As in: You know you’re not a red neck when you insist that your beer can chicken is organic. You know you’re not a red neck when you grill your beer can chicken on your gas Weber, which resides on your condo’s roof top deck, which affords a Chicago skyline vista. And you really, really know you’re a not a red neck when your beer can chicken requires trips to several stores because the first couple you tried don’t even sell beer in cans. So, right, I’m not a red neck, then.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the method.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Mea Culpa

June 1, 2008

Dear reader, I’ve been keeping something from you. Do you remember the chocolate cookies I posted about earlier this week? The ones that were studded with chocolate chunks, perfect in texture and the cause of quite a breathless rhapsody by me? Well, the cookies were only the beginning.

What I neglected to tell you was that I divided the cookies into pairs and sandwiched them together with a thick smear of coffee ice cream. I can only hope you’ll forgive me for this secret-keeping. But I think it was worth two separate posts. The cookies themselves were near perfect, so let me just say that the slick of ice cream elevated them even further. They were deliriously good.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Best Leftovers Ever

March 9, 2008

brisketsand2.jpeg

Did you miss me? Sorry for my brief absence (I told you I couldn’t keep that pace up), but between an ethics exam in the morning yesterday and a dinner party last night, yesterday was a leetle busy. But, the ethics exam is over (!) and the dinner party was a smashing success. So, it’s back to the blog.

brisketsand1.jpeg

One of the things we made for last night’s dinner was a brisket I’ve already blogged about. More on other aspects of the dinner later this week. But, for now, I can’t resist sharing photos of what could possibly be the best leftovers ever: a brisket sandwich.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story & more photos.)

Read the rest of this entry »