Peugeot Paris Pepper MillAn ingredient that appears in more recipes than not here at Blue Kitchen is freshly ground black pepper. Why freshly ground? Whole peppercorns ground in a pepper mill deliver much more flavor than the pre-ground stuff in tins. When I grind pepper over a pan of simmering food on the stove, the fragrance rises up to meet me, much the same effect of adding any spice to a pan.

Grinding your own pepper also allows you to control its coarseness or fineness, from crushed for steaks and chops to finely ground for delicate sauces. [click to continue…]



A new cookbook shows how easy it is to turn your grill into a pizza oven. Grilling gives this Pizza with Red Sauce, Sausage and Arugula a crunchy crust and a nice, slightly smoky flavor. Recipe below.

Grilled Pizza With Red Sauce, Sausage and Arugula

With our friends Melody and Jeremy, we are about to embark on a study of home pizza making, which has been hampered only by my dislike of turning the oven on when the weather is hot. So it was fortuitous that the other day in the mail we received a review copy of a new cookbook, Patio Pizzeria: Artisan Pizza & Flatbreads on the Grill. [click to continue…]



The simple pleasures of dining at the bar

by Terry B on June 22, 2014

For attentive service with a side of good dinner conversation, try snagging a seat at the restaurant’s bar.

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar, Chicago

Friday was our wedding anniversary. When our dinner plans suddenly fell through, we happened to be near Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar. We were offered a perfectly lovely table or seats at the bar. We chose the bar.

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about eating bar snacks in a bar. No wings, jalapeño poppers or clever little sliders. That’s a different experience, fun in its own right, but here I mean dining at the bar in a place that serves a chef-driven menu. [click to continue…]



Mushrooms roasted a day ahead team up with caramelized onions, a green bell pepper roasted directly over a stove burner and saffron pasta for a delicious weeknight quick meal. Recipe below.

Saffron Pasta with Roasted Mushrooms

The calendar says it’s summer. But until just the other day, the thermometer said it was October. The winter that wouldn’t end has come to a grudging close—the ice on the Great Lakes finally vanished, just a few days ago.

What this has meant for us in the Midwest is enduring autumnal weather—cool nights and, in the daytime, half-hearted jabs toward hot. To be honest, I love it. I hate when the temperature soars! But this perpetual sweater weather definitely has its down side. My tomato plants (which have not been in the ground very long) are looking, frankly, puzzled. The basil is not much bigger than when I put it in the ground. And of course the ongoing cool is not great for the farmers and the crops. [click to continue…]



The FDA gives cheesemakers a real food scare

by Terry B on June 15, 2014

cheese aging on wooden shelves, Jeanne Carpenter

It’s been a wild ride the last couple of weeks for cheese lovers and artisan cheese producers. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration appeared to signal that it would ban the aging of cheese on wooden boards in the United States. Doing so would effectively end most small batch (and even good-sized batch) independent production of artisan cheeses in America. By extension, it would also end the import of many European cheeses, most of which are aged on wood—including Parmigiano-Reggiano. [click to continue…]



Canned black beans cooked with onion, red bell pepper, garlic and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce make a smoky, spicy, show-stealing side for pork chops, chicken and fish—or a vegetarian meal with tofu. Recipe and variations below.

Pork Chop and Chipotle Black Beans

There is something almost primeval about combining food and smoke. Cooking with fire and its attendant smoke links us to our earliest ancestors. Indeed to all our ancestors before the invention of gas and, later, electric stoves. Smoke is why we love hot dogs charred on sticks over campfires. And why, when grilling season rolls around, some of us refuse to cook indoors again until the first snowfall.

But there are simple ways to add the taste of smoke to foods without firing up the grill, some as close as the supermarket shelves. One of our favorites is canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. [click to continue…]



Three bargain French white wines for summer

by Terry B on June 8, 2014

Just in time for summer picnics, cookouts or quiet evenings on the porch, three very drinkable French whites for under $10.

Budget French White Wines

First, let me admit that white wines are pretty much my year-round go-to wine. While I do enjoy a nice big red with steak or a roast or duck, my first choice for settling in for the evening with a glass of wine is generally an oaky Chardonnay. When warm weather arrives, I’m happy that I can indulge my preference without worrying about raising an eyebrow when I order. Here are three affordable French whites, perfect for summer. [click to continue…]



Semi-classic fried chicken, half baked

by Terry B on June 4, 2014

In this take on classic fried chicken, buttermilk-soaked chicken thighs are heavily seasoned, fried briefly and finished in the oven. Recipe below.

classic fried chicken

The term “classic” can be freighted with wildly varying baggage, especially when attached to something as iconic as fried chicken. Largely seen as a Southern dish, it arrived there by way of Scotland. Many Scottish immigrants settled in the South, bringing the deep fried dish with them (fellow Europeans preferred to bake, roast or boil chicken).

According to The Urban Daily, “When African slaves who worked as cooks were brought to the country, they put their own spin on the dish using seasonings and spices not found in most Scottish dishes.” As with many classic dishes, generations of home cooks, chefs and fast food chains have put their own spin on fried chicken, making defining a single classic version impossible. [click to continue…]



BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, The Cheesecake Factory

These days, I skip breakfast. This is shocking to my sister, who says, “How can you do that? It’s one of the three most important meals!” But I just, oh, I just can’t.

As it happened, the other day, we had to drive up to the North Shore to take care of some errands and see some folks. So by the time we got to the Old Orchard mall, it was late morning and I was good and hungry. [click to continue…]



Butcher and chef Chris Turner marinates thinly sliced beef short ribs in a mixture that includes garlic, onion, Asian pear, mirin, soy sauce and sesame oil to create authentic Kalbi Korean Barbecued Beef Short Ribs. Recipe below.

Kalbi Korean barbecued beef short ribs

On a recent visit to our favorite butcher shop, The Butcher & Larder, we saw butcher Jimmy Shay working over thin slices of beef short ribs with the back edge of a cleaver. When we asked what he was up to, he said he was tenderizing them so that fellow butcher Chris Turner could turn them into the “most amazing, authentic kalbi, Korean barbecued beef.” We immediately asked Chris if he would share the recipe—and story behind it—here. Happily, he said yes:
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