I’ll Do it Myself

January 26, 2009

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I spent good chunks of the first two weekends of January working, which, in this economy, is not really something to complain about.  So I won’t gripe about the work.  Instead, I’ll whine about the lunch.  Because I was otherwise occupied, most of the lunches were delivered.  And while you can’t beat the convenience of sandwich delivery on a subzero Chicago Saturday, I swear to you: the order was never right.  My reactions ranged from unattractive gagging noises when I discovered a sandwich slopped with mayo, something akin to a temper tantrum when another sandwich came with coleslaw instead of chips, tears when I opened a sack to find a white bread-ed sandwich when I’d ordered multigrain, to (worst of all) oh-no-they-didn’t-forget-my-pickle.

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So last weekend, when I did not one minute of work (ahhh), I decided that when it came to lunch, I’d do it myself.  Thankyouverymuch.   I started out with beautiful, fresh ingredients: slices from a loaf of burnished whole wheat sourdough; folds of black forest ham the light pink color of a flush cheek; slices of havarti, as lacey as a delicate doiley; peppery leaves of baby arugula; spicy Dijon mustard; kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper; thin slices of juicy bosc pear:

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If there is any solace to the cruel fact that the days of sandwiches stuffed with thick slices of sun-kissed tomatoes are over (emphasis on the “if”), it is that we have now arrived in the portion of the year in which sandwiches are only complete—only right—if they ooze with melted cheese. And that is a silver lining I can get behind.  Plus, what’s more American than a grilled cheese sandwich (even a gussied up one, sporting, erm, imported cheese)?  And, on this brilliant morning, I’m feeling pretty proud to be an American.

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Another cold weather sandwich staple of mine is caramelized onions. So, when I discovered this recipe, which marries both of my go-to hibernation season sandwich fillings (for review: cheese warmed to its stretched-out-and-stringy state; soft curls of sweet, slow-cooked onions), I think I not only drooled a little bit, but I even—and please don’t hate me for this—willed winter to hurry up already.

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

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Putting the Pesto to Work

September 16, 2008

You might be wondering what I did with yesterday‘s sage-and-walnut pesto. While it was arguably good enough to eat by the spoonful, I did not do that, you will probably be relieved to know. Instead, I used it to perk up a grilled cheese sandwich of sorts, which was just about the only thing I wanted to eat on Sunday, after two whirlwind, wedding-hubbub-filled days, one of which was apparently the rainiest in Chicago history. And we all know that a grilled cheese sandwich on a rainy day is truly one of life’s kindest treasures.


But it wasn’t just any grilled cheese, I’ll have you know. It had the standard bread-and-cheese components, sure, but even those were dialed up a notch from yesteryear’s slices of Wonder Bread and American cheese: I used a hearty multi-grain loaf and whisper-thin slices of Swiss cheese. And I continued to gussy up the once-humble sandwich by liberally slathering the slices of bread with the sage pesto I whizzed up earlier that day and by scattering some shredded roast chicken leftover from the other night (which just so happened to have been roasted with several sage leaves slipped under its skin).  The end result was perfectly gooey and pure comfort.

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

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Defying Genetics

August 20, 2008

I have news, friends. Do you remember how I told you about my grandfather and his pretty spectacular green thumb? Heck, the man’s thumbs are probably both green. Well, what I failed to mention is that, sadly, I did not inherit this trait. It must be a recessive gene that didn’t make it’s way into my quadrant of the Punnett Square. Despite great effort, our flowers struggle and our herbs wither. It’s a sad thing. Even knowing this, my grandparents generously entrusted us with a tomato plant when we were in Minnesota at the end of July. I guess they supposed that even I could not reverse a half-summer’s worth of nurturing.

And, oh how I tried. First, there was the matter of the storm I mentioned a couple weeks back. The tomato plant did not fare so well, though it fared better than our deck furniture, much of which blew away completely. After that blustery night, we nursed the tomato plant back to health. Even so, days after the storm I’d keep finding still-green orb blown into one corner of the deck or another—debris from the storm. This induced a constant lower-lip-jutting-out on my part, which in turn induced Kevin to suggest we buy the plant a proper cage to support the wooden stake that was then (half-heartedly) holding up the plants’ limbs.

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

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I Got Nothin’

July 24, 2008

Well, it finally happened. The legal rules have found their way into every single nook and cranny in my brain. If you can believe it, there is no room for daydreamed menus, to-do-list recipes or mental grocery lists. These things typically take up quite a bit of space in my head. But, sadly, the bar exam is occupying that precious real estate now. As such, I declare this day, July 25, 2008, to be Food Porn Friday. It shall feature gratuitous close-ups of my favorite BLT, complete with a creamy pesto spread. Enjoy!

(Click “more” for the photos & recipe.)

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On Friday night, we went to a fundraiser concert near Lincoln Park. It was an earlyish show, so we decided to meet in the park—Kevin coming from work and me emerging from the haze of studying in which I now live—to precede the show with a picnic. We found a shady patch of clover-filled grass, looking to escape the 90-degree heat, and set up shop, smoothing out a thin blanket and unpacking our picnic basket (actually, a picnic shopping bag, but who cares).

We dined on sandwiches (thin baguettes, split lengthwise, jaws stuffed with roasted vegetables and goat cheese, in my case, and soppresata and mozzarella in Kevin’s case), a vinegary tomato salad, some potato chips dusted with sea salt and black pepper, and a few wedges of watermelon. And, if you must know, we also sipped on a tasty beverage: San Pellegrino Limonada mixed with a glug or three of vodka, all poured into a thermos (actually, an empty Perrier bottle, but who cares; as you can see: we were going for disposable).

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

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At Long Last

June 4, 2008

Something happened this weekend and, while I’m no Farmer’s Almanac, I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the fact that our calendars have flipped to June. Yes, June. I’m not sure what June’s arrival brought in your neck of the woods, but here in Chicago, it made the air feel a little more dense, it prompted the bright petals of our begonias to begin to unfurl and it was scented by charcoal embers smoldering in the backyards up and down our block. To June and the summer she’ll usher in, I say: welcome. Come on in. Stay a while, won’t you?

On Sunday, we fashioned our best welcome wagon for June. We walked to a farmer’s market. We sat on our deck. We discussed the possibility of an afternoon ice cream treat no fewer than a half-dozen times. And, of course, we fired up our grill. Because, well, it was the least we could do.

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

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