Monday, August 31, 2009


This is my favorite time of year in the farmer's market. Summer kind of collides with Autumn. The bright, flashy heirloom tomatoes compete with the equally brightly flavored apples and create a symphony of raucous color and taste. Usually I put myself on a budget when I go to the market (it keeps peace at home-if you know what I mean)but this time of year I grab cash and my plethora of bragging right cloth bags and fill 'er up at the market. It's awesome! I don't what to cook first. With Rosh Hashanah looming large and a cooking demo at Spertus Institute cleverly named ROSH HASHANAH BOOT CAMP (September 2@ 6:30pm) I came up with the easy and delicious cake.

For all you kosher eaters out there-check it out. No margarine! I hate the stuff. It will be the death of the Jewish people and cuisine in general. It is not real. Let's keep it healthy and tasty for the New Year folks. No fake stuff and certainly no laboratory food. After all-you wouldn't wear faux diamonds-would you?


2 cups of sugar-divided
4 large firm apples, cored and cut into slices about ½ inch thick
1/3 cup canola oil
4 eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350

1. Melt one cup of sugar, over medium heat, in a cast iron or non-stick 9 inch or 10 inch skillet until the sugar reaches a golden brown color. Watch the sugar closely as the sugar can go from perfect amber to burned mess in seconds. Add the apple slices and remove from the heat.
2. Mix the oil and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and is no longer gritty. Add the egg yolks, vanilla bean or vanilla extract and mix until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together and set aside.
4. Whip the egg whites with the lemon juice until they form stiff but not dry peaks.
5. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Whisk together until combined. The batter will be stiff. Fold in the egg whites. Pour the batter over the apples and sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake lightly spring back. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto a plate. Garnish with powdered sugar and honey sabayon (posted tomorrow)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The market stalls are bursting with produce. It seems as though everywhere I turn there is an abundance of riotously colored vegetables and fruit. The possibilities seem endless-so much food, so little time. I am happy this time of year in the market. I feel blessed to live in the Midwest and to be near so many farmers and shoppers who share enthusiasm for high quality, local produce.

But, like all good things-this too will end. The season won’t taper off slowly and gracefully. One day-and not too far from this moment it will just end. The vines will simply not produce any more. The weather will turn cold and the party will be over. I like to hang on to remnants of summer and look to preserving some of the bounty. It is at this time of year-I start canning and pickling.

Refrigerator pickles are quick and simple. They tend to have a bright flavor and keep that summer feeling. I like to pickle beets, carrots, beans, peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower…….you name it-I’ve pickled it!

These pickled veggies can be the star or co-star of your late summer meals. I add them to salads, garnish steaks with them and eat them plattered with great cheeses and bread. Hold on to summer for just a few more weeks by pickling the color and flavor or summer’s bounty.

Basic Pickling Liquid

2 cups Apple Cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon coriander seed
1 small cinnamon stick
several slices of peeled ginger

1. Bring the above mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Cool completely
2. Prep the vegetables that you are pickling by blanching and shocking them until they are tender or by roasting them in the case of beets until they are tender. Peel and cut to size. Arrange the vegetables in clean jars. Pour the pickling mixture over the vegetables to completely cover and seal with tight fitting lids. Refrigerate the pickled vegetables for one week before serving.
The refrigerator pickles can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009



Corn smut, Mexican Truffles, Fungus, blight…Call it what you will, huitlacoche is just plain delicious.

The fungus spores infect the corn plant much the same way a mushroom spore infects wood. Considered a pest by American farmers, hutilacoche can decrease the yield of crops and can lower the value of corn. In Mexico, huitlacoche is considered a delicacy and highly prized. This was the case this week when I went to my favorite market stall and found a basket of infected corn. I scooped up the precious ears and carried it back to my kitchen at Spertus Institute.

We scraped off the fungus and corn kernels and a short while later feasted. The flavor of huitlacoche is sweet, woodsy and faintly mushroomy. Tasty! When you visit your favorite farmer’s market or corn stand ask for corn smut. If you can get past its ugly appearance you will be rewarded with an exotic wild mushroom flavor.

Huevos Rancheros con Huitlacoche

Serves 6

1 cup huitlacoche (from about 6 ears of corn), scraped, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups of corn kernels
1 cup Spicy Green Mole*
12 eggs
½ cup shredded cheese (I prefer white cheddar)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325

1. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the huitlacoche, onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is lightly browned, (about 5 minutes). Add the corn kernels and the mole. Reduce the heat to medium low.
2. Crack the eggs into the sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top and place the sauté pan in the oven. Cook the huevos rancheros until the eggs are set but the yolks are still liquid.
Serve with warm tortillas and additional cheese.

*Spicy Green Mole

3 pounds tomatillos, about 8 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 small red onion cut in half
1 Serrano pepper, stem removed
3 cloves of garlic, do not remove from the skin
1/3 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)*
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 avocados, pitted
Juice of 2 limes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

1. Place the tomatillos, onion halves, Serrano pepper and garlic in a medium sauté pan. Heat the ingredients over high heat until the vegetables start to toast and blacken. Turn the vegetables to toast on all sides. Remove the vegetables as they turn black. Transfer the toasted vegetables to a blender or food processor.
2. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the same pan over medium high heat. The seeds will start to pop. Continue toasting until the seeds are light golden brown (about 2 minutes). Transfer the seeds to the blender.
Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and process until creamy and fairly smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

*Pepitas can be found in Latin markets and many grocery stores

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ugly Ducklings of the Vegetable World

I would like to introduce a series of posts featuring the weird, strange, oddball and generally misunderstood of the vegetable world. If you are like me and like to try new flavors, foods and cook with interesting ingredients-then read further. The rest of you-stick with your iceberg lettuce and leave the real food to us!

Golden Rutabaga-Fingerling Potato and Caramelized Onion Hash

The poor rutabaga. Unloved, unnoticed and underappreciated. Rutabaga is the turnips first cousin. Sweet, peppery and earthy-the rutabaga is a powerhouse of fiber, minerals and vitamin C. Related to cruciferous vegetables (cabbage), the rutabaga takes on a mellow sweetness if cooked properly. Be careful not to overcook it or it will be very strong and overpowering. Rutabaga are available all year long, but are just now appearing in markets. Scoop them and store them in your root cellar. Rutabaga pairs well with assertive flavors like duck, turkey, beef and chicken.

1 2-pound Golden Rutabaga
2 pounds French Fingerling potatoes
2 medium red onions, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup chicken stock
Olive oil
Chopped fresh herbs for garnish such as parsley, chives and thyme
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350

1. Lightly rub the rutabaga with olive oil or canola oil. Wrap the rutabaga in foil and place in the oven. Roast the rutabaga until a pairing knife can easily pierce the rutabaga. Cool the rutabaga until you can comfortably handle it.
2. Bring a medium saucepan to a simmer. Cook the potatoes until they are soft but still holding their shape about 7 minutes.
3. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil. Caramelize the onions until they are deep brown and quite limp about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes until the garlic has softened and is very fragrant.
4. Peel the tough skin off of the rutabaga and slice it into a ½ dice. Slice the potatoes to a ½ size. Be sure to leave the skin on the potatoes.
5. Add the rutabaga and potatoes to the pan with the caramelized onions. Cook over medium heat until the rutabaga and potatoes are golden brown (about 7 minutes). Add more oil if necessary. Reduce the heat, add the chicken stick and continue cooking for 15 minutes until the mixture is creamy and the liquid has been absorbed. Adjust seasoning and garnish with fresh herbs.
Serve the hash with chicken, beef or duck.