Leftover mashed potatoes combine with ground pork, grated apple, chopped onion and fresh sage for a quick, economical, thoroughly satisfying dinner. Recipe below.

Pork and Potato Cakes

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, revving up America’s love of all things Irish, two cookbooks celebrate Ireland’s culinary heritage in very different ways. The first is Irish Pantry: Traditional Breads, Preserves, and Goodies to Feed the Ones You Love, published last November by Running Press. Chef/restaurateur Noel McMeel and writer Lynn Marie Hulsman have teamed up to deliver foods steeped in Irish tradition. [click to continue…]

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A pork loin roast is coated with a glaze of Dijon mustard, rosemary, shallot and garlic, allowed to marinate for several hours, then roasted until just cooked through. Recipe below.

mustard-glazed pork loin roast

We are so over winter. Two weeks ago, I reported here that we were already a foot over our annual average of three feet of snow. We have now had more than five feet of snow, and we’re not done.

caution

The only good thing I can say about the weather is that it encourages firing up the oven and roasting savory cuts of meat. The warmth fills the entire apartment, as do wonderful, meaty fragrances. Chickens, beef pot roasts and, when I’m feeling flush, legs of lamb all spring to mind when I’m ready to roast. Somehow, though, as much as I cook with pork, I seldom think of it as a roast. This weekend, I decided it was time to fix that. [click to continue…]

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Pantry and freezer staples—jarred marinated artichoke hearts, green olives, Italian sausage, tomato paste and pasta—create a weeknight-quick, rustic Italian meal. Recipe below.

artichoke sausage pasta

New York is a feast every time we’re there. On arrival, it puts our senses on high alert and keeps them there, in a good way, until we leave. There is always something to see, hear, do… always.

Our recent four-day visit was no exception. As always, we arrived with an overly ambitious list of things to do. As always, some went undone, often replaced by new things we learned about on the fly. And as always, the longest part of the list was devoted to art. [click to continue…]

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Six warm dishes to beat winter’s chill

by Terry B on February 5, 2014

As winter rages on, this mix of stews, soups and hearty oven-made dishes from the Blue Kitchen archives will keep you warm.

lancashire-hotpot

After years of slacking off, winter is officially back. Across the country, places that normally don’t see snow are getting it. And places that do normally get it are really getting it. Here in Chicago, even before the latest snowstorm that started last night, we’d had more than four feet of snow already this season. Usually, we get about three feet for the entire season. And the cold can be best summarized this way. Yesterday morning as I was heading out, I saw that the temperature was 12ºF and thought, “Oh, not bad!”

With winter playing hardball, it’s time to fight back in the kitchen. Fire up the oven for a long braise or a roast. Cook up a hearty stew or soup on the stovetop, the kind of meals my grandmother called “stick-to-your-ribs” food. Here are six dishes that fit the bill nicely. [click to continue…]

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Mushrooms are quickly cooked in butter and sherry. Kale is sautéed just as quickly with pancetta (optional), onion and garlic. Combined, they make a delicious sauce for pasta. Recipe below.

pasta mushrooms kale

Last Saturday was one of our typical whirlwinds. It included shopping in two different neighborhoods for birthday gifts, picking up and dropping off dry cleaning, a smash-and-grab run through Trader Joe’s, getting lunch fixings at our neighborhood Polish bakery and sausage shop, wrapping gifts, packaging said gifts for shipping and running to the downtown post office to mail them, with a detour by the library.

As dinnertime approached, we wanted something quick and easy, but also satisfying. This improvised dish delivered on all counts. [click to continue…]

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Sweet potato gnocchi are quickly sautéed in butter, giving them a beautiful color and a lovely, nutty flavor. Then they’re tossed with kale cooked with garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes. Recipe below.

sweet potato gnocchi

Last weekend, our family plans fell through, leaving us with two marvelous open days of no plans at all. We were cheerfully meandering around town when we realized that we had not yet been to Eataly Chicago. All those stories of long lines and frenzied crowds had kept us away—during their first week in early December, they had a stunning 120,000 visitors. By the time of our visit on Saturday for lunch, it was bustling, but not as frenetic as the smaller New York store has been every time we’ve visited. And everywhere we looked, people were relaxed and happy, having a wonderful time and glad to be there.

We lunched at La Piazza, standing at a tiny communal table. Bread and olive oil appeared almost immediately, followed by glasses of Italian wine—a chardonnay for Terry, a prosecco for me. We shared three small plates—a salad of roasted beets, olive tapenade, sea salt and mozzarella (made there daily, and so fresh and light); a half-dozen oysters representing both coasts; and supplì, deep-fried balls of creamy risotto filled with Cacio di Roma, a sheep’s milk cheese. It tells you everything about the cheerful, friendly atmosphere that strangers stopped to ask us about the supplì, and then about the oysters, and then told us about what they were having and what they were doing in Chicago. Everything was convivial and everything was sublime. Which of course got us talking and thinking about Italian food. [click to continue…]

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Oven-braised Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes is a hearty, one-pan meal—perfect for a winter night. Dried minced orange peel adds a bright citrusy note. Recipe below.

braised chicken sprouts potatoes

I recently remembered a children’s book that was already ancient when I was a child. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, was first published in 1938. It tells the story of a boy who removes his hat as the king passes (as the law says he should), but a new one magically appears in its place. This happens again and again, until the boy is eventually threatened with death if he fails to bare his head.

500_hats_of_bartholomew_cubbinsWhat got me thinking of young Cubbins’s troubles was a giant bag of Brussels sprouts in our fridge. We try very hard not to waste food, especially fresh produce. But it seemed the more sprouts we took from the bag for various meals, the more there were. To their credit, while they didn’t seem to be diminishing in quantity, they also weren’t going bad. That’s a great thing about most winter vegetables. They reliably last when you need them most. [click to continue…]

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Mexican pork short ribs are given a classic French comfort food treatment, oven braised with aromatics, herbs and wine. Recipe below.

costillos de puerco

Our neighborhood is rich with little Mexican groceries, each with a small produce section and dairy case (that shuns anything low fat), aisles of  canned goods and imported candy, and—no matter how tiny the store—each with its own fresh meat counter, presided over by a living, breathing butcher.

The other night, during one of the rare breaks in the snowfall, I was walking around looking at stuff in the neighborhood and remembered we were out of, well, everything fresh. So I clomped across Diversey to the store we now like the best (it is “the one that is kind of across the street”—our immediate ambit also includes “the one around the corner,” “the creepy one by the El,” and “no, five blocks west is too far”). [click to continue…]

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Celebrating the new year with a banana bread that gets a boozy flavor boost with bourbon, pecans and orange zest. Recipe below.

bourbon banana bread

The last day of 2013 began with me in the kitchen at 8:30 in the morning, preheating the oven, preparing to bake. The day being New Year’s Eve, it was somehow appropriate that I would be baking with bourbon.

Our houseguest was still asleep, so instead of the kitchen boombox, I had my iPod going. Somehow appropriate to cooking with bourbon, what was playing on it was The Cannonball Adderley Sextet in New York, a live album recorded at the Village Vanguard in January 1962. In addition to Cannonball on alto sax and his brother Nat on cornet, it featured the always inventive Yusef Lateef on tenor sax, flute and oboe. Hard bop jazz of the 1950s and ’60s is a sweet spot for me, and this album is particularly sweet. Great music to cook to—especially with bourbon. [click to continue…]

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Merry Christmas from Blue Kitchen

by Terry B on December 25, 2013

christmas-tree-2013

A TV dinner and a hula girl. How much more Christmasy can you get? Somehow another year has flown by. And while other food bloggers were busy sharing holiday recipes and gift ideas, I was, well, not. Partly, it’s because I was settling into a new job and we were traveling to see our older daughter graduate summa cum laude, both really wonderful things.

But mostly, it’s because I am perhaps one of the most accomplished procrastinators on the planet. I frequently amaze even myself with my abilities in this arena. So instead of all the ideas I should have been giving you to make your holidays brighter, cooler, funner, tastier, I’ll just tell you a little bit about how we’re enjoying ours. [click to continue…]

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