Seven recipes for spring (whatever that is)

by Terry B on May 14, 2014

Whatever spring is dishing out weatherwise, one of these seven recipes should stand up to it nicely.

Fettuccine with Peas and Prosciutto

Monday, it was 86 degrees in Chicago. For much of the rest of this week, it’s going to be in the 40s and 50s. Such is spring in the Midwest. In searching through the Blue Kitchen archives, I see posts over the years have reflected the season’s mood swings. So this week, I thought I would share some recipes from the archives that take advantage of seasonal ingredients and offer options for all kinds of seasonal—and unseasonal—weather.

Fettuccine with Peas and Prosciutto

Pictured above, this quick, simple recipe takes delicious advantage of fresh English peas, which are at their seasonal best now, but you can also use frozen peas. Parmesan, cream and minced garlic balance the peas’ sweetness. [click to continue…]



In Michigan, NIMBY trumps urban farming

by Terry B on May 11, 2014

Recent changes to Michigan’s 33-year-old Right to Farm Act exclude urban farms from protection.

urban farming, backyard chickens

When Michigan passed the Right to Farm Act back in 1981, it was designed to protect farmers from urban sprawl. As suburban development expanded into rural areas, the new residents—people with “limited understanding of farming,” as a Right to Farm Act FAQ sheet calls them—often found typical farming conditions, including dust, odors, animal noises and such, unacceptable. Sometimes, the interlopers would file nuisance suits against the farmers. Essentially, the law said this is how farming smells, sounds, looks and acts. It has a right to do so.

Over the last several years, the flow has reversed, with farming moving back to town. Increasingly, urban dwellers are raising vegetables, chickens and even goats in their backyards or on small plots of land. Some do so for their own consumption, wanting to reduce their reliance on factory-farmed foods. Some are entrepreneurs, producing small batch products to sell at farmers markets and other outlets. Late last month, the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development put their right to do so in doubt. [click to continue…]



Disks of Crottin, a classic French goat cheese, are baked on buttery toasts, then placed atop a simple salad of mixed greens and Dijon mustard vinaigrette to produce a classic bistro dish. Recipe below.

Traditional French salad with Crottin de Chavignol

Terroir, the idea that a “sense of place” flavors agricultural products, is most closely associated with wines. But increasingly, the term is being used with coffee, tea, chocolate, hops and, germane to this story, cheese.

We were recently asked to sample a number of French chèvres, cheeses made from goat’s milk, each produced in a different region. They beautifully illustrated for us just how deeply place is ingrained into French agriculture. And how complex the notion of terroir can be. [click to continue…]



Three modest reds from Spain that are delightful and easy to drink.

Monastrell wines from Spain

For a long time now, my preferred nightcap has been a glass of red wine. I am always migrating among different varietals, and for a while now I’ve been drinking a lot of monastrells from Spain.

Monastrell, called Mourvèdre in France and Mataro in Australia, is one of the world’s ancient varietals—Wikipedia says it most likely was brought to Spain around 500 BC by the Phoenicians. The same grape grows in France, in the US and in Australia, sometimes being bottled on its own and sometimes making its way into blends. In Spain, the hot, dry climate suits it admirably, and it is widely planted in eastern regions like Yecla, Alicante and Jumilla. [click to continue…]



Scallops with Smoky Chipotle Butter, Tomato Salad and Cornbread is actually three separate recipes. All are good on their own, but together they’re a restaurant-inspired, restaurant-worthy meal. Recipes below.

Scallops with Smoky Chipotle Butter, Tomato Salad and Cornbread, Bobby Flay

A few weeks back, I had to go to New York City on business. It was two days of intense meetings that actually turned out to be productive and valuable. At the end of the first day, we all went to dinner together. Someone in the New York office chose the venue, in part because it was near the office: Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain. I thought great, another giant midtown eating hall. But you know? It was terrific. Everything was delicious. Everything was interesting. The room was handsome, and the waitstaff was knowledgeable and invested. I had a ball. It was a delightful evening with great colleagues, really a treat.

What did I have? Skate with smoked chile butter, served with a small tomato salad heaped on a circle of crispy hominy. [click to continue…]



James Beard award-winning pastry chef Gale Gand talks about her new restaurant, her new cookbook and other red hot irons she has in the fire.

Gale Gand, Lunch!

Gale Gand wears a lot of toques. A co-founding partner of Chicago’s Michelin-starred Tru, world-renowned for its contemporary French tasting menus, Gale hosted the Food Network series “Sweet Dreams” for eight years, the first nationally televised all-dessert show. She appears regularly on TV shows like“Good Morning America,” “The Today Show” and “The Rachael Ray Show.” She produces her own artisanal root beer, volunteers, teaches, speaks and does cooking demonstrations. Gale also lists “mom” in her description on her website; she and her environmentalist husband Jimmy Seidita have a teenaged son and twin daughters.

Most recently, Gale opened a burger joint, SpritzBurger, with the Hearty Boys, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh. And her eighth cookbook, Gale Gand’s Lunch!, hits bookstores this week. It seemed like a good time to check in with her. [click to continue…]



Lamb Navarin combines lamb, peas, carrots, new potatoes and turnips for a spring stew that is hearty, but lighter tasting than beef stew. Recipe below.

lamb navarin stew

Many recipes here are inspired by cookbooks. This one was inspired by a novel. The World at Night is set mainly in Paris, in the early 1940s, during the time of German occupation. To call it a tale of intrigue and romance is accurate enough, but falls far short of doing it justice.

American-born author Alan Furst has lived in Paris for long periods, and he creates a masterfully nuanced picture of place and time. The daily privations of wartime rationing—food, coal for heat, cigarettes—are made vivid. And the threat of danger, real, personal and ever-present, is palpable. But so is the enduring beauty of Paris and the daily lives of its citizens, even during war, expressed in perfect, quiet details. [click to continue…]



Cooking Comically takes a comic book approach to presenting “recipes so easy you’ll actually make them.” A Commonplace Book of Pies redefines everything we thought we knew about pie through prose poems, humor and, yes, recipes.

Cooking Comically by Tyler CappsWe know we all need to cook more. Stuff we cook for ourselves is generally healthier and can save us money. There are many serious efforts out there to get us doing that. Here’s a refreshingly silly one that’s seriously effective. Tyler Capps, a freelance graphic artist and self-taught cook, started Cooking Comically as a website after an online comic strip recipe he created, “2 A.M. Chili,” went viral, racking up millions of views. And now it’s a cookbook. [click to continue…]



Roasted asparagus spears are topped with sautéed bacon and shallots and a poached egg for a light lunch. Recipe below.

Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg and Lardons

Asparagus season is upon us again, a promising sign of the reluctant spring. (Yes, asparagus is available pretty much year-round, but now is when it’s at its best.) First, the pencil-thin spears started showing up in the produce department, requiring little more than a quick blanch to render them bright green, crisp and delicious.

Next come thicker, “standard” spears, also good for a quick dip in boiling water, but equally wonderful—and perhaps more intensely flavored—when roasted or grilled. During these two stages, we greedily eat as much asparagus as many different ways as we can. Because next come the cigar-fat spears, so tough that you have to shave them. No, thanks. We’re done for the season. [click to continue…]



Lamb Shoulder Chop

For many home cooks, meat takes the biggest bite out of the food budget. There are plenty of cheap cuts, though. Some require a little extra care to tenderize them (or acceptance of the fact that their extra fat is what makes them delicious as well as affordable), but all will reward you with big flavor while saving you money. Here are five cheap cuts we love.

Lamb Shoulder Chops

Lamb’s wonderfully rich flavor is often matched by its price tag. Not these guys. Lamb shoulder chops (like the one pictured above) deliver as much or more lamby goodness as pricier (and tinier) lamb rib or loin chops. And their sometimes chewy texture can be tenderized quickly with a citrus marinade or dry brining. They also respond well to braising. [click to continue…]