How to Throw a Baja Fish Taco Party

A Chicago Backyard and Many Happy People

24th Jun 2011

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Mexican food is made for parties. The construction of tortillas, fillings, salsas, and toppings; the spicy, rich flavors; and above all, the fact that it tastes so darn good. This was our guiding principle on a recent Saturday when, with the help of a handful of talented friends, we threw a Baja Fish Taco party under warm string lights in a Chicago backyard.

We were celebrating one of the e...

My Top 10 Chinese Recipes of the Year

The Chinese New Year is the perfect time to look back on a spicy year.

3rd Feb 2011

Greetings from bitterly cold and blustery Chicago. Currently the city is buried under two feet of snow, and battling some of the coldest temperatures in years. Though it seems like everyone is putting a post about where to eat Chinese food tonight in honor of the Chinese New Year, I decided to take the time and talk about what it has been like to cook Chinese dishes at home. I fell hard for this...

Guide to the River Cottage: Why Hugh Fearnley-Whittingtsall Should Be Your Food Celebrity

The British television star that has inspired us time and again

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The River Cottage TV show begins with a ridiculously cheesy cartoon showing a curly haired driver fleeing a polluted city for an idyllic paradise, complete with jumping fish, smiling cows, and some friendly pigs. During the course of three seasons of River Cottage and the many years of spinoffs, host Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall manages to kill and eat every single one of those creature...

Beyond the Tortilla Chip: Three Mexican Snacks that Aren''t Deep Fried

Plus a recipe for Oaxacan-Style Peanuts with Chile and Garlic

16th Sep 2010

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Forget the chips.

You know the drill. You walk into a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the country. You sit down. Within moments -often before drink orders are taken- a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa are rushed out to the table. You immediately dig in. Time disappears. Before you order, before you even think about ordering, salsa stains the tablecloth and all the chips are mysteriously gone....

Authentic Caesar Salad From a Windowsill Garden

Urban gardening in Chicago

25th Jun 2010

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I've started an experiment this year: how easy is it, really, to grow vegetables and herbs in a windowsill?

When I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan three years ago, I was rather taken with the idea of urban agriculture, romanticizing the rustic life of the small producer who grows his own vegetables, raises his own livestock, and scavenges the seas for the rest. (This fantasy was fueled rat...

A Rooftop Grows in Chicago

The SIP method of urban gardening

20th May 2010

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I've long been drawn to the idea of urban farming. When I lived in Brooklyn, I had two plots in two community gardens , in addition to three massive tomato plants on the back deck. Planting seeds and growing vegetables was an unlikely pleasure. For me it was connected to good eating: I loved to cook and eat the freshest vegetables I could find. Getting to the source is something we often e...

Homemade Square Pizza

Focaccia becomes the base of this pizza.

4th Feb 2010

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Good pizza means good bread. For me, there's just no other way around it. Good bread is the soul of good pizza.

But baking has never been a subject I'm comfortable with. Give me a skillet, some pasta, and a well-stocked pantry and I can improvise countless meals. But if I'm supposed to bake something, I freeze. I immediately picture failure, a leaden cracker or a gummy mess. I hate the conf...

The Tombstone Whiskey Cocktail

Whisky and sugar combine to make an unforgettable cocktail.

2nd Oct 2009

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Recently Nick and I were in the gritty West Loop neighborhood of Chicago, after a long, pork-ridden meal at The Publican , where we fed on cracklins, rillettes, belly, shoulder, and all manner of sausages. We slipped out of the restaurant happy and stuffed into the long fluorescent shadows, in search of a good bar to aid all the oncoming digesting to be done.

We ended up at Matchbox ...

Homemade Ketchup and French Fries

Make both of those at home.

24th Sep 2009

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The tomatoes were turning on me. A few weeks ago they were red and rosy, destined for a starring role in a BLT. Now, I'm not sure if they can withstand the scrutiny of the spotlight. They are still light years beyond what appears during the winter here in the Midwest, but not quite the ones you can slice up, sprinkle with salt, and eat raw. I kind of wish I would have known this before I bough...

A Visit to Hellenurme Watermill, Valga County, Estonia

Blake visits a famed watermill in Estonia.

6th May 2009

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I knew next to nothing about watermills before heading down to see one in southern Estonia, so I had an open mind.  The website promised a tour, a glass of milk and fresh warm bread.  So when the offer of a ride down came up, I had little reason to turn it down.

When we arrived, we found an idle lake reflecting the brilliant blue sky, clouds tossing across the sky, and a brick building...

Deep-Dish Pizza: Round 2

Nick learns from his mistakes and makes a good deep-dish pie at home.

3rd Apr 2009

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I was determined not to fail this time.  My last attempt at deep-dish wasn't an absolute failure, but it was close.  It was too soggy and messy , and had none of the glorious qualities that my favorite Chicago pizzeria, Pequods , displayed.  I theorized about all kinds reasons for the failure, thinking it had something to do with the crust.  Then I just gave up and asked you all...

A Day in Helsinki, Mostly Eating Pastries

Searching for the perfect Voisilmäpulla, I encountered beautiful design and large tufts of dill

13th Jul 2006

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When I arrived into Helsinki Airport, the Finnish sun had been out for close to five hours: it was 8:02 in the morning.  My bag came out of flappy rubber slats onto the belt and I sailed through customs, exiting the terminal onto a pristine pavement platform, a group of bus lanes. Everything was strangely silent.  There were four other people waiting for buses, each squinting gently at the w...

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce

Based on the potato, gnocchi is the ultimate pauper's meal--but it sure doesn't taste like it

28th Mar 2006

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Gnocchi.  No idea. For years this has been the unpronounceable dish on the menu that starred me down and begged to be blurted out to the uproarious laughter of the seasoned waiter.  "Did you hear what he just said?" Hell, I didn't have any idea what it was.  Was it a type of pasta?  Dumpling?  Did it have a filling?  This feeling of inadequacy kept the recognizable dish on the menu page...