Traditions and non-food food for thought

by Terry B on December 23, 2015

Logan Square Holiday Decorations

Our holiday celebrations are shaping up pretty much the same way they do every year. Well, actually, things have been on the crazy busy side for us lately, even by our standards, so Hanukkah got the most perfunctory nod. But we’ll make up for it by celebrating Christmas as generations of Jewish families have—and as we always do. [click to continue…]

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Challah, a traditional Jewish braided bread, can be flavored in many ways, from simple to savory to sweet. Here, semi-sweet chocolate and brown sugar create an almost dessertlike loaf. Recipe below.

Chocolate-filled Challah

My mother, a brilliant baker, used to routinely make elaborate, gorgeous, braided challahs with five, seven and even nine strands, filling them with chocolate, or candied fruits, or finely chopped nuts, or just cinnamon and sugar added with a cheerful generous hand. The scent, the anticipation, the burnished golden crust, all the ways we could use it: challah was a regular and wonderful part of my childhood. [click to continue…]

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Blue Kitchen is back live this week, with six last-minute culinary gift ideas. This may seem like a short and somewhat random list, but all these items have one thing in common—we actually use them in our kitchen and love them. Happy shopping.

KMN Aluminum Rolling Pin

KMN Aluminum Rolling Pin

Before we saw this rolling pin from KMN Home at the National Restaurant Association Show this spring, we thought we had quite enough rolling pins, thank you. After we saw it—and after a few weeks of being unable to stop thinking about it—we bought one. Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, it has a laser-engraved ruler. The aluminum body makes it easy to keep cool for rolling pie crust dough—just pop it in the freezer for a little bit. The ruler—with measurements in inches and millimeters—makes it easy to measure those crusts as you roll them. And with its smooth anodized finish, doughs do not want to stick to it. Available in red, blue and black, it is also handsome enough to display. When I bake, this is now the rolling pin I reach for first. The KMN Aluminum Rolling Pin runs around $40. [click to continue…]

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This Mexican street food-inspired dish packs big flavor, but not too much heat. Two recipes from the archives—and a wedding story—below.

Roasted Chili Cumin Chicken with Pickled Red Onions

At some point, I’m not sure when, Mexican restaurant food became relegated to comfort food status for us. Something we could count on to be reliably good, filling and cheap, but no longer something we got a hankering for. It wasn’t always this way. At one point, Marion and I ate at a Mexican restaurant in our neighborhood at least once a week for a year or more. In fact, we went there on our wedding night, before going barhopping with my mom and my brand new sister-in-law. [read more here…]

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Thanksgiving was a smashing success (or close enough). Now delight your weekend house guests with Marion’s light, creamy pancakes topped with sautéed fruit. Recipe from the Blue Kitchen archives below.

Ricotta Pancakes with Sautéed Pears

Thanksgiving is arguably the most important food holiday. Sure, food matters with other holidays, but for Thanksgiving, food is the holiday. For food magazines, the Thanksgiving issue is the September issue of Vogue, and the cover girl is invariably the turkey.

At Blue Kitchen, we prefer to focus on the periphery, providing interesting side dishes that liven up the holiday table. Sweet Potato Vichyssoise for a surprising, elegant first course, Kasha, a non-traditional traditional side in our house that gravy loves every bit as much as mashed potatoes, Potato Gnocchi with Roasted Root Vegetables, a tofu-free vegetarian main course or side… [read more here…]

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Another trip into the Blue Kitchen archives as our needed break continues. If you’re looking for an unexpected Thanksgiving dessert, consider Marion’s whoopie pies with pumpkin cookies and two different cream cheese fillings—lemon and maple syrup.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

When I told my friends that for this week’s post I would be making whoopie pies, no one said, “Making what?”

Pretty much everybody in the United States these days knows what a whoopie pie is. A cookie sandwich with an icing filling, it’s simpler than cake, a happy intermediate between a cupcake and a sweet bread. Whoopie pies emanated from the American Northeast—Maine (where it is the “official state treat”), Pennsylvania and Boston all vow they invented it. Wikipedia reports that the world’s largest whoopie pie was made in South Portland, Maine in 2011. It weighed 1,062 pounds. This is a real thing, that happened. [Read more here…]

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While Blue Kitchen is enjoying a short break, we’re sharing favorite recipes from the archives. This week, it’s actually two recipes—Pan-grilled Lamb Chops and Couscous with Raisins and Onions—plus some thoughts on the pleasures of cooking for one.

Lamb Chops Couscous with Onions and Raisins

Shortly after I’d moved to Chicago the first time, I bought a half ham. Trying to figure out what to do with it, I consulted Joy of Cooking, where I was greeted by these cheery words: “Someone defined eternity as a ham and two people.” Standing there alone in the galley kitchen of my tiny studio apartment, I did the math—my half ham and I were in for a long haul. [Read more here…]

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While Blue Kitchen continues a brief break, we’re sharing some of our favorite dishes from the archives. This week, it’s Drop Biscuits and Vegetarian Red Eye Gravy, so umami-rich it might even fool a meat lover. (Also, with this post, we celebrate Blue Kitchen’s ninth anniversary.)

biscuits and vegetarian red eye gravy

At dinner with friends the other night, one of the diners at our table exclaimed over a vegetarian entrée on the menu. I realized at that moment that I will never willingly become a vegetarian. If there are meat or seafood options on a menu, I can’t get excited about vegetarian choices. Or as I put it to our companions, “It would take a death threat from my doctor to make me turn vegetarian.” [Read more here…]

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Blue Kitchen is going on a short break for the next few weeks. We are crazy busy with a major project that, no, isn’t a cookbook—or anything even specifically food-related. All is good—we’ll fill you in soon. In the meantime, we’ll be posting recipes from the archives that we especially like. This week, it’s a traditional Provençal pot roast that is toothsome and ridiculously easy. Don’t let the anchovies scare you—they disappear into the dish, leaving only dialed-up umami behind.

Layered Pot Roast with Anchovies, Capers and Garlic

A couple of weeks ago, I admitted to being a major Francophile when I wrote about roasting chicken on a bed of lentils. I guess that makes Karin over at Second Act in Altadena an enabler. After reading that post, she told me about three different French cookbooks. Already having more cookbooks than we have shelf space for, I immediately headed for the library website and ordered them. Of course, all three showed up within days of each other. [Read more here…]

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Six recipes featuring seasonal, versatile pears

by Terry B on October 21, 2015

Pears from the American Northwest are in delicious, abundant supply right now. Here are six different ways to make the most of them.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Pears and Onions

It’s that season. You know, apple season. Time for piling the family in the car and heading off to an orchard to pick more apples than you can possibly eat. Legions of apples taking over the produce department in the market. I like apples well enough, but I love also-in-season pears. Here are some ways we’ve cooked with them. [click to continue…]

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