Gummy Sushi Too Cute To Eat

Gummy Sushi

I’ve been sitting on these photos for a few weeks, ever since the Super Bowl, and just had to share them. The gummy sushi was made by Randy for the Super Bowl party and is just the most adorable treat.

Gummy Sushi Platter

In case you can’t tell, these are maki rolls and nigiri sushi made from Rice Krispie treats, gummy fish, gummy worms, and fruit roll ups (in place of nori). How clever!

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Curried Squash & Red Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk

Curried Squash & Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk

Curried Squash & Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk

When I’m cooking for myself (as in not cooking for work), I find it really difficult to precisely follow a recipe. But as I was flipping through the February issue of Gourmet Magazine, I saw a photo of curried squash and red lentil soup that made my mouth water. I decided then and there that I was going to follow this recipe to a tee.

Cilantro

And I did, mostly anyhow. Ok, so I used olive oil instead of a combination of vegetable oil and butter, and pretty much doubled the amount of ginger. And I didn’t make cilantro oil because I just don’t like cilantro enough to sacrifice that much of my precious olive oil to the cause (I know, the recipe called for vegetable oil but that’s just not my style). But that was it, seriously!

Cook the vegetables

I even went along with the recipe’s suggestion to serve the soup with basmati rice!

I was so proud of myself when I sat down with my steaming bowl of soup and rice. Then I took my first bite and wondered where the flavor went? The soup was chock-full of aromatics and vegetables, both sweet and savory, not to mention the fact that I was expecting some sort of texture with all that squash and lentils. It was really just watered-down, mushy vegetables, but definitely had the potential to be more.

Soup without coconut milk

In the end I managed to save the soup by adding more curry powder, tons of salt, and a can of lite coconut milk. It turned out rich like I thought it would and became something I’d eagerly make again.

Did anyone try this soup from the original recipe? I went back and read the reviews on epicurious.com, which seemed to be mixed. Most people felt as I did that it was good but watery, although others said it turned out just fine. Either way, try this version with the cocount milk – you’ll love it! Read more of this >>

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$5 Farmer’s Market Eggs vs. $2.29 Grocery Store Eggs?

Mint Creek Farm Eggs

Here’s my question: Is it worth paying twice as much for local, organic eggs from the farmer’s market instead of the standard issue large eggs from the grocery store, organic or otherwise?

I was thinking about that yesterday as I made my way around the small indoor market. There wasn’t much available in terms of fresh produce, basically just apples (bought some honey crisps and thought they were pretty bland), potatoes and mushrooms. Seriously, it’s February in Chicago, hardly top growing season.

However, there were plenty of vendors selling cheese, meat, pickled vegetables and baked goods. I abandoned my New Year’s diet for a $5 slice of spinach, leek and gruyere quiche (I spent the entire ride home berating myself for spending $5, however once I ate it that anger turned to how come I didn’t buy more – guilt works in mysterious ways).

Mint Creek Farm egg

There were also a few people selling eggs. I stopped at Mint Creek Farm’s table as it was right next to the quiche place, and noticed they were selling eggs for $5/dozen. I asked how fresh they were and was told “not more than a week.” I was hoping for an answer like “just plucked from under the chicken this morning,” but also appreciated his honesty. To be honest, that’s why I love the farmer’s market – you get to talk to the farmers.

Grocery store egg

But I thought the not-quite-as-fresh eggs would work for my experiment: to cook one farmer’s market egg alongside a grocery store egg. And, the eggs I had at home had been sitting in my refrigerator for about a week, although who knows how long they were stored before that.

This morning for breakfast I performed my little unscientific egg test (points for not saying “eggsperiment”). Granted, I’m not known for cooking or really eating plain eggs, so please don’t judge my culinary abilities based upon these photos. I just wanted to cook the eggs simply, without added seasonings or vegetables, and in such a way that the yolk would be mostly cooked through and separable from the whites (as in not poached or scrambled).

The first difference I need to point out is the size variation in the Mint Creek Farm (MCF) eggs: the size ranged from probably medium to extra large. Good in that it’s very natural, but not so good for baking.

Size difference Uniform eggs

Second, there was a markable color difference between the two eggs. The MCF eggs were a richer color – the yolk was a much deeper yellow and the whites were also a bit more brown than the pale yellow of the grocery store whites.

Cracked eggs (MCF left, grocery right)

Next came taste. I seasoned both eggs very lightly with salt and nothing else. Both were sloppily cooked (my bad) but to the same degree of doneness, and the yolks remained whole in both. I could definitely taste the difference between the two eggs – the MCF eggs tasted more like eggs whereas the grocery store eggs were very bland and almost tasteless. There wasn’t a noticeable difference in the actual flavors, but simply in that one tasted more eggy than the other.

Cooked eggs

While the MCF egg was more enjoyable, for me the added cost didn’t justify the price. I think I would buy these eggs on a regular basis if I ate eggs on a regular basis, but seeing as I use them mainly for baking and incorporating in other dishes, the eggy flavor isn’t necessary and therefore not worth the cost.

But, if you’re the type of person who eats eggs for breakfast every morning, then it might be worth the extra cost.

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Braised Lamb Shank with Israeli Couscous

Braised lamb shank with Israeli couscous

You may or may not know this about me, but I’m highly prone to random thoughts at the most inappropriate times. For instance, last week I was in a bridal shop with a group of friends to pick up our bridesmaid dresses (mine did NOT fit – crap). In the middle of the ordeal – and going to a bridal shop is always an ordeal – I developed a sudden craving for lamb shank.

I know – what? Who craves lamb, let alone lamb shank. It’s one of the toughest, gamiest cuts of meat, it’s served on-the-bone, and it’s part of a sedar plate. But for some strange reason I really wanted a lamb shank, leaving me no other option than to buy two later that afternoon.

Caramelized onions Rosemary

While I have cooked lamb many times, this was only the second time I’ve worked with the shank. I remembered that it needed to be braised, or slow-cooked in liquid, in order for the meat to become tender. I chose to use a bottle of my favorite red wine, one that I’ve long known goes well with lamb: Senorio de Valdehermoso, a 2000 Crianza from the Ribera del Duero.

Braised lamb Add water to couscous

Because the cooking liquid becomes the sauce, the lamb needed to be served with a starch that would sop it up, which is how I came to Israeli couscous. I prefer this larger couscous to the smaller version for the dish as it holds up against the weight of the lamb (polenta would work, too). The couscous is mixed with slightly sweet flavors, again to balance the heft and savoriness of the lamb.

In the end, this was a hearty meal with beautiful flavor contrasts – perfect for a cold, winter day in Chicago.

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Licking the Bowl, Part II

Remember my post last week about the joy of licking the bowl and how I described a photo of my doing just that as a child? Well, I can’t seem to find that photo but I found this one instead:

Licking the bowl, Jan. 1984

Wasn’t I precious? Ha – proof of my long history of licking the bowl. See how happy I looked?

This picture may be even better than the one I was originally thinking of. Notice how the mixing bowl covers most of my body and how half my face is smudged in chocolate batter? I don’t know how I managed to get it on my nose.

Also, isn’t that primary-color flower wallpaper fantastic? They sure don’t make things like they used to. Oh, to be young again.

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