Coronado

…because judging by the last entry that is what this space has come to lol. I blame it on 1) not really having anything to say and 2) the purchase of my iPhone which I got shortly after that last picture was taken. My laptop was pretty much rendered obsolete for a month after I got the phone as I was integrating all of its lovely convenient aspects into my life. I am still attached to my phone but I recently picked up my camera again and realized how rusty I was and how much I missed holding it which then served as a reminder that this space has gone untouched for 9 months. Sooo does anyone blog anymore? Seems like FB, Tumblr, and Twitter is where it’s at right now. All of which I don’t use hehe.

So far summer has been this: two trips to California, Ravinia concert nights, Cubs games, eating out and catching up, iced green tea and raspberry-mint smoothies, skirts and dresses, one friend leaving and one coming back, and the return of real heat after the wimpy summer we had last year. So it has been good. Easy and breezy just like summer should be…

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Love this time of year. I could look at these all day…

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One of my favorite ‘Cheap and Goo-ood’ places to eat around Chicago is Pita Inn. Pita Inn has Mediterranean food like shish kabobs, shawarma, and hummus served just the way I like it, good, fast, and easy on the wallet. I can’t say I’ve ever gotten something I wasn’t happy with there, but lately my usual order is the same 3 things – a falafel sandwich, tamarind juice on ice, and a small order of baba ghanoush – all for around $7. (And if you can make it there for lunch on the weekdays you can score an even better deal with their Business Lunch Special.)

If you haven’t had baba ghanoush, it’s in the same vein as hummus but is instead made with eggplant and is less dense and has more of a smoky taste. Sometimes, the craving for some baba hits but it’s so out of the way to go for just that one thing. That was the case this past weekend, so why not try it to make it myself? After some quick googling, the ingredient list came down to eggplants, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, and salt. That’s it. And luckily I had most of that at home already. Now when it comes to savory food, I don’t really follow recipes, I just let my taste buds lead the way so if you’d like to try it out yourself you can start out with the proportions below. What’s great about baba ghanoush is that there’s not a lot of ingredients so you can easily tailor it to your tastes.

Baba Ghanoush
(8 servings)

2-3 Medium Eggplants
4-5 Tbsp Tahini
2-3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Tsp Salt
Small Handful of Parsley, Chopped (Flat leaf preferable, but I used curly)
Optional – Greek Yogurt

Directions
1. Prick the eggplants with a fork all over the surface. Place either on a direct flame of a gas burner or grill, turning the eggplant with tongs as the skin chars. You can also place it under a broiler on high (which is what I did). You want the eggplants black and shriveled. Like, really shriveled. Don’t be scared! Just let it go. I broiled mine for 30 mins but probably should have let it go at least another 10 minutes. Once it’s shriveled, you can get a smokier flavor by letting it go longer under the broiler.

2. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. Once the eggplants have cooled, split them open and spoon out the flesh. This step is really messy and not pretty looking but forge ahead! Place in a food processor and combine with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. If you like a chunkier baba, you can mix by hand.

4. Season to taste. You can also add cumin or chili if you’d like.

5. Let cool and serve with pita.

For Pita Inn style baba, add some greek yogurt. You’ll have a creamier taste and texture and it will hold up better in the refrigerator. Note the serving size! I neglected this when recipe researching and am now on Day 5 of the Baba Fest. Oy.

food-mags1

Food Writing In Magazines Is Alive And Well

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Without a doubt fall is here. As much as I love summer, I so look forward to this time of year. The air is wonderfully crisp, the leaves change to all shades of red, orange, and yellow and it turns into apple season. I was hoping to get my apple fix at the annual Apple Fest last week but since I missed it, I decided to make my own apple treat at home. Construction in the kitchen has calmed down and I finally have my table back! I am back in business.

Originally I was going to go for a classic pie but I decided something a little different was in order. I can always buy a pie but it’s a little harder to find a rustic apple tart especially one filled with hazelnut frangipane. This tart is a great combination of what the perfect autumn dessert should have – a buttery crust that is sturdy enough to encase its contents, but delicate enough to melt in your mouth, and a filling that is just sweet enough but satiating.

Recipe below, courtesy of Jacques Pepin (so you know it’s gonna be good ;)). I made some changes which I’ll mention after the recipe.

Apple Tart With Hazelnut Frangipane

Ingredients

* 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into thin slices
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* Dash salt
* 2 tablespoon cold water

For the filling:

* 1 cup shelled hazelnuts
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
* 1 large egg
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
* Dash vanilla
* 4 large russet apples (about 2 pounds)
* 1 cup apricot preserves
* 1 tablespoon calvados or water
* Plain cream, sour cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream, to serve

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
For the dough:

Mix the flour, butter, sugar, and salt quickly with your fingertips until the butter is in pieces about the size of dried beans. Quickly stir the water into the mixture and then gather up the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press it into a flat dish shape. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment or a silicon pad. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 15-inches long by 10-inches wide, with rough edges. Roll the dough up onto your rolling pin and then unroll it directly onto the lined pan.

Roast the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet for 7 or 8 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a food processor, add the 1/4 cup sugar, egg, 1 tablespoon butter, and vanilla, and process until a creamy paste forms. Spread the frangipane on the dough, stopping about 1 1/2-inches from the outer edge on all sides.

Peel the apples, remove the cores, and cut them into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange them attractively in a slightly overlapping pattern, like the tiles of a roof, on the pastry dough so that the apples cover the frangipane. Fold the edge of the dough back over the apples to make a 1 to 1 1/2-inch border of dough. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the apples, letting a little of the sugar fall onto the border to help crystallize the dough. Break the remaining 2 tablespoons butter into pieces and scatter them over the tart. Bake for 1 hour. The dough should be nicely crystallized all over.

Remove the finished tart from the oven and cool on a rack until lukewarm. Dilute the apricot preserves with the calvados or water and glaze the surface of the tart, spreading it carefully on the apples with the underside of a spoon. Serve at room temperature cut into little wedges, with plain cream, sour cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream, if desired.

Modifications – So based on comments posted for this recipe, i made 1.5x the recipe for the dough. So glad I did since this was just enough to roll out to the dimensions mentioned above. I also used a stand up mixer to make the dough and needed to double the amount of water to make the dough come together. Start out with the indicated amount and if it looks too dry then add extra water in small increments if need be. Granny Smith Apples were used instead of Russet Apples and for the finishing touches, I wanted to give the dough a little gloss so I egg washed the crust and sprinkled turbinado sugar all over the top for a bit more texture and crunch. Also, I barely used 1/2 a cup of the apricot jam to glaze the apples, much less the whole cup so just keep that in mind if you’re on the fence on whether or not you need to buy another jar of jam when shopping. Next combination to try – pears and almond frangipane.

Rustic Apple Tart With Hazelnut Frangipane

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It’s HUGE. After a great stretch of warm weather, it suddenly got cool here in Chicago today. Beginnings of fall? Hopefully not but I’m gonna enjoy the flowers while I can ;)

“I have to make her food look like something she recognizes,” said Ms. Chen, 42, a stay-at-home mother in San Leandro, Calif. “If her boiled egg is shaped like a bunny and it is holding a baby carrot, she’ll eat it.” – NYT article on bento boxes.

Chicken Bento

Elephant Bento

I personally don’t have the patience to make them but they’re awfully interesting to look at. Top two pics from pikkopots, and luckysundae. Also check out mayu-family’s bento set on flickr. Lots of cute ones!