Archive for August, 2011

Bonjour, mes amies!  On Saturday, August 27, I was beyond excited to attend Chicago’s first-ever Diner en Blanc — a tradition that has been going on in Paris for more than 20 years.  It’s basically a giant picnic-style dinner party where everyone not only dresses all in white, but brings tables, chairs, linens, place settings — also all in white! (For non-French-speakers, “Diner en Blanc” translates to “dinner in white.”)   The whole thing makes for a beautiful scene, as you can imagine.  And after a story appeared in The New York Times in early July about the most recent Paris event, which was attended by thousands, cities across the U.S. got interested.  Including Chicago!

As a devoted Francophile, I knew I had to be part of it!  So I registered on the Chicago Diner en Blanc web site and finally got an invitation, and so did several friends.  So how did this whole thing happen?  Here’s how it went down: after you got your invitation (for which you paid about $16, to cover permit fees and what-not), you then chose a “Harmonization Point” — a meet-up spot.  We chose the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street.  We and the 80 other people at that meet-up spot checked in with an organizer, who, at 7 p.m. sharp, told us where we were going: Daley Plaza!  It was only about 4 blocks away, so off we all went.  (Alright, I can’t lie – it was a major schlep, but we “MacGyver’ed” my cute but ridiculously picnic basket on top of a cooler on wheels, while Ellen wrestled with four card-table chairs bungee-corded on a wheelie thing that kept falling apart.  And we dressed the brown chairs in Hope’s husband’s white t-shirts!  )  So once we arrived, everyone started setting up.

Ellen and I get our white table cloth out.

Every set up their tables end-to-end, in about 10 long rows of about 100 tables each, and it was just gorgeous.  Then we started unpacking our first course, which Hope and Ellen were in charge of: a delightful spread of cantaloupe with prosciutto, bacon-wrapped dates, cheeses, quince jam, marcona almonds.  Parfait!


Nice job, Hope and Ellen!  We mingled with our table neighbors, and enjoyed the lovely night.  And then we moved on to the main course, which was a beautiful (if I do say so myself) Mustard-Tomato Tart, courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, and marinated green and yellow beans and roasted potatoes.

I will share the recipe and experience of making this tart tomorrow.  Talk about crazy: I made this tart twice in one week; one was a “practice tart” that I brought to Ladies Wine Night a few nights earlier, as this was my first time making pate brisee (the classic French tart pastry dough) and I needed to know I could do it!  It was delicious!  Here’s what the first tart looked like, out of the oven:

Nice, huh?  That Dorie – she knows her stuff.  The recipe in her cookbook is “Gerard’s Mustard Tart,” and features carrots and leeks, but she gives instructions for how to make it with tomatoes if it’s high summer and tomatoes are at peak-fabulosity – which they are now.  So I made it with tomatoes. 

The entire night was absolutely divine!  I’m sorry I did not get a photo of Susan’s peach pie (God, that woman can make pie), but after dinner we roamed around, talked to friends, observed what others were eating and generally reveled in the fact that we were having quite the elegant diner en blanc smack in the middle of downtown Chicago on a glorious summer night!  Bon appetit and salut to the organizers!  I can’t wait for next year’s event!

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Hi, Friends.  Today I had a delightful brunch with my old friend Billy Dec at his restaurant, Sunda, and we ate pretty much the whole menu (if you are in Chicago – GO! It’s a fabulous Asian-fusion place — think poached eggs on braised pork belly on a crispy rice cake … uh huh….it’s good.)  And we also drank a lot of Moet Ice Imperial, their new Champagne that you drink on the rocks (delightful!).  So I thought I would eat a bowl of air for dinner.  But then I got a little hungry.  So I found some beets in the fridge from Harvest Moon, my CSA.  And I had some walnuts. And some goat cheese. And some greens. Ta dah!  One of my faves, roasted beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts.  A perfect light dinner.  Want to make it?  Come on!

It’s easy.  All you do is roast some beets (takes about 45 minutes), and then assemble it.  And eat it!

Ingredients (serves 1, double or triple or whatever, as you wish)

2 medium-size (2-inch diameter or so) beets

A bunch of salad greens (I used a mix of red leaf lettuce and some mustard greens I got from Harvest Moon – they’re great in a salad)

About 1/8 C. of walnut halves/pieces

French vinaigrette (I keep a batch in my fridge at all times – it’s not only delish on salads, but also on steamed veg of all types, like green beans, broccoli, snow peas, etc.)

A few tablespoons of goat cheese (I used Chavrie, and I love it)

What You Do

1) Roast the beets!  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Then all you do is trim the tops off and trim the little root end.  Rub them with a little bit of olive oil and wrap each beet in foil.  Set them on a baking sheet and pop ’em in the oven for 45 minutes.  Take them out and you can let ’em sit a bit while you have a glass of wine and gab on the phone with a friend.

2) Assemble!  Dress your greens with vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette is easy.  For a big batch, mix 1 C. extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 C. Champagne vinegar, 1 Tbl. Dijon mustard, a fair amount of salt (at least 1 tsp), some fresh-ground pepper, and toss in a whole, peeled garlic clove.  I make it in a jelly jar and shake it up.  Taste it – if it needs more salt, oil or vinegar, adjust to your liking.

3) When the beets are cool enough to handle, unwrap the foil and just peel off the skins with your hands (you don’t even need a peeler).  Handy tip: do it over the sink and do not have a white top on!  Beet juice is a killer.  Slice them onto your dressed greens.

4) Toast your walnuts in a non-stick pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing them about with a wooden spoon – makes them crispy and brings out their nutty personality. Toss those onto the salad.  Then throw on a few blobs of goat cheese (it’s a little messy – I just fling it on as best I can).

Enjoy!  It’s easy, it’s summer, it’s light and I love it.  Hope you do, too!

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Blueberry Pancakes

So I was in yoga this morning, starving because of my delicious but sort of insubstantial dinner last night (a bowl of gazpacho and an ear of corn) and all of a sudden, I thought, “Pancakes! I want some pancakes!  Blueberry pancakes!”    One reason I like pancakes is because you can freeze cooked pancakes and then just zap one in the microwave for a minute anytime you want, when you accidentally make the whole recipe, like I did, and you wind up with tons of extras!

Now you might be wondering why there is a carton of milk and a lemon.  That would be because I was out of buttermilk.  But I didn’t let that stop me!  Because, thanks to Mr. Alton Brown of the Food Network, I learned that you can make your own buttermilk, with regular milk and some lemon juice or white vinegar!  Yes!  It’s like magic!  Just add 1 Tbl. of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk, let it rest for 15 minutes, and you have fermented (or cultured) milk, aka buttermilk! 

Ingredients (makes a lot of pancakes — I made 14 big pancakes; too big actually, but oh well)

3 Tbl. butter, melted, in a small ramekin and then cooled a bit to room temp-ish

2 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C white sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 C buttermilk  (or 2 C milk, with 2 Tbl. vinegar or lemon juice added, like I did)

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 pint of fresh, yummy blueberries

Maple syrup, duh  Optional: Bacon!

What You Do

1) Melt your butter in a little ramekin in the microwave; set aside and let it cool down a little

2) Whisk all your dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl (flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt).

3) Whisk your wet ingredients in another bowl (eggs and buttermilk)

4) Add your milk/egg/vanilla concoction to the dry ingredients – and this is important – whisk just a little bit – like, four or five whisks, only enough to moisten all the dry stuff.  You want lumps, yes, you do.  Do not manhandle the pancake batter!  Add the blueberries and gently whisk one or two more times.

5) Pour in your melted butter and whisk a few more times, until it is incorporated.  But again – no beating the batter to death, or you will have thin pancakes.  (Honestly, I over-whisked on this batch, whoopsies.  They still tasted good – they just lacked the majestic fluff and height that I normally get.)

6) Alrighty, now you’re ready to heat your griddle pan to medium heat.  I use a non-stick pan, and honestly, you don’t need to oil it. (I did, but I won’t next time; it made some of the surface area cook a little unevenly.)  Cook each pancake until little bubbles form on the surface (about 2 minutes) and carefully flip. Cook for another 2 minutes (you can peek underneath to be sure it’s golden brown).

Eat and enjoy!  To freeze left-overs, wait until pancakes are cool and then layer with waxed paper into a zip-top bag and place in freezer.  Microwave for 1 minute to reheat. 

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You  may have noticed that The Lazy Cook has been absent from cooking-related posts the last few months. Banish the thought that this is because she is ‘lazy’.  I have been busy doing many other things, which I find preferable to cooking, such as: organized and digitized 99 years of family photos (thousands of them), including this one from 1912; made new quilts, such as this navy one; made new afghans, such as this one from scrap yarn; and had some fun travel, such as my encounter with a ‘cow’. And for all you foodies, I have been focusing my food endeavors on my garden. Check out some my flowers and produce. No time to write more–have to harvest the lettuce  🙂

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