Food TV Drought

I’ve been looking for a replacement foodie show since the Top Chef season officially ended over a week ago. This week I tuned in to Hell’s Kitchen, which I enjoyed but can’t get too attached to as the season is almost over. There’s pretty much nothing worth watching on Food Network anymore – I caught 20 minutes of The Next Food Network Star, and let me tell you it was aweful, a trainwreck aboard a train challenge. A friend told me his experience with Throwdown with Bobby Flay was no better, so there goes that option.

What’s left in food entertainment? Let me know if you have any suggestions for how us food tv junkies can get our fix…

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Strawberry Celebration, Part 2

Long Grove Sign Strawberry Product Signage

Friday my mom and I had our annual visit to Long Grove’s Strawberry Festival, my favorite of all the suburban fests due to the simple fact that it’s a celebration of my favorite fruit. It’s our tradition to go every year and we figure we’re two of just a few locals to battle the crowds, but it’s worth it for the chocolate covered strawberries from Long Grove Confectionary (which, to be honest, are available year-round) and fresh-roasted corn-on-the-cob dipped in butter. We even added an extra treat to our usual repertoire after seeing a happy, chocolate-covered family – they had just finished eating a strawberry-rice krispie treat-donut hole-marshmallow kabob dipped in chocolate. We purchased two, one of each dipped in dark and milk chocolate. A totally messy delight!

Mom & Jackie

This year we were lucky to be able to go on a beautiful Friday afternoon when the crowds were moderate and very friendly. Also worth noting: even the port-a-potties were better than expected - they were clean and came with a hand-washing station complete with soap, water and paper towels.

Hand washing station

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Stawberry Celebration, Part 1

Strawberries

Strawberries abound this week in Chicago! With their short two month growing season of June and July, strawberries are at their peak right now, which has led to celebrations throughout the area of my favorite fruit.

Today the Green City Market’s Savor the Seasons Series focused on local strawberries, which included a horizontal tasting of six varieties from local farmers. And this weekend Long Grove will host its annual Strawberry Fest, my favorite suburban fest.

My adventure into the world of strawberries began early this morning at the Ellis Farm (based in Benton Harbor, Michigan) stand where they were offering three types of strawberries: Early Glo, Jewel and Honey-Eye. The friendly and well-informed producer described the taste profiles of each type of strawberry to me and also highlighted their differences. I was amazed that so many different varieties existed – I always knew the farmer’s market strawberries were a different variety than the often-bland but beautiful types found in the grocery stores, I just didn’t realize that there were so many varieties available locally.

I then moved on to the market’s strawberry tastings where I tried three more varieties grown by other farmers: Darselect, Wendy, and Allstar, all delicious in their own way.

In the end, I bought one pint each of the Early Glo and Honey-Eye from Ellis Farm but think next week I’ll try the Darselect, which I really enjoyed. While I could cook with these berries and make all sorts of delicious concoctions, I’d rather enjoy them raw just as they are.

Strawberry Flavor Profiles

Early-Glo – This was the last picking of these small, somewhat tart berries known for their overwhelming strawberry flavor and scent. They are good for eating fresh.

Honey-Eye - Large, deep red berries with a good strawberry flavor that is moderate in both sweet and tart tastes. Good for pies.

Jewel - The sweetest of the three berries with a shiny skin but lacks a pronounced strawberry flavor.

Darselect - Mild and sweet with an aromatic fragrance; one of my favorites.

Wendy - A new variety with a very fresh flavor, although I thought they tasted and looked like the generic berries found in grocery stores.

Tips & Techniques from a Green City Market Handout

- Strawberries vary in size, shape and color, with smaller berries typically having the better flavor than the larger varieties, since the latter can become wattery.

- Choose brightly-colored, plump, solid berries that still have their bright green caps attached.

- Do not wash strawberries until ready to use.

- To refrigerate, lay strawberries in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet uncovered for no longer than two to three days.

- To freeze, arrange as above but in the freezer. Once frozen solid, place in an airtight plastic bag inside another bag to prevent freezer burn and off-odors.

- Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, Potassium and Iron.

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Making Something Out of Nothing for a Father’s Day Treat

Flourless Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found myself awake early this morning at my parent’s house, who I was visiting for Father’s Day. I decided it would be nice to make my dad a treat and began rummaging around the cabinets and refrigerator for ingredients. As people who don’t often bake, my parents had little to work with – for example just 1 tablespoon butter.

Here’s what else I found: 1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, flour, hard-as-a-rock brown sugar, baking soda, eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla, grapes, 1 banana, high-fiber cereal, and peanut butter. A few of these ingredients reminded of a recipe for Flourless Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies that I made once for a group of kids, so I decided to look it up online. Read more of this >>

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Refreshing Sticky-Day Dinner: Mango Salad with Grilled Shrimp

I recently stumbled across a recipe for mango salad with grilled shrimp on Epicurious.com and decided to give it a try tonight. I changed a few things to fit the ingredients I had on hand (lemon juice for lime, no jalapenos, and dried cilantro rather than fresh) and of course seasoned to taste rather than measured.

In the end, I was mostly happy with the dish served at room temperature, which made it a refreshing dinner at the end of a sticky, humid day. I also think this would be a great summertime picnic dish and could easily be made to serve a crowd. The slight char of the shrimp and subtle flavor of the cumin worked well with the sweetness of the mango salad. The best part hands-down were the shrimp which I allowed to marinate in the cumin, salt and oil (olive rather than vegetable) for 20 minutes before grilling indoors. The one thing I would do differently next time is to be sure to use limes, the lemons just didn’t give it right tang. Oh -and I have I mentioned recently how much I love fresh mint?

Here’s the link to the recipe on Epicurious.com.

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