Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Burgers and Fries

This weekend I hit up Epic Burger with my mom.  For those who haven't been, the experience can be reasonably summed up in ZOMG!!!!!11.  Epic Burger has follows some food rules of their own: all natural ingredients (even the ketchup is organic, though containing some things I can't eat), grass raised beef, real Wisconsin cheddar, locally baked buns available in white or wheat ... frankly, a dreamboat place for a girl who gave up processed foods for the year and HAS ACTUALLY BEEN DREAMING OF MCDONALD'S CHEESEBURGERS.

Like, hott dreams.

Of course, the problem with eating one delicious cheeseburger is then you crave them all week, right?
But you don't want to be that guy who the staff at Epic Burger starts to recognize.  And Michael Pollan says "RULE #63: COOK".

So tonight I cooked:

I had some ground lamb in the freezer from a couple weeks ago when Crystal was out of ground beef, just the right flavor profile for Greek burgers.  If you read this blog, you know that I love lemon and feta, and they're total stars in this recipe.

Saute half an onion and a couple minced garlic cloves in a little olive oil until almost caramelized.  Chop two or three sun-dried tomatoes and saute another minute or two.  Pour it all into a mixing bowl and allow to cool for a minute or two (so it won't start to cook the lamb as you mix).   Mix in 1/3 to 1/2 a pound of ground lamb -- more if serving more than a couple people -- and add the juice of half a lemon, one teaspoon ground cumin, and one teaspoon ground coriander.  Divide into burgers and grill in your onion pan.

Simultaneously, melt a tablespoon of butter in a smaller pan; add a cup of sliced mushrooms and stir occasionally as they cook down.

When the burgers are almost fully cooked, top each with a slice of feta -- the feta will melt slightly as they finish.

I layered these on some slices of sunflower rye bread we had lying around (home-baking buns was briefly considered and eventually rejected in favor of watching the Olympics), and roasted some sliced fingerlings as a stand in for fries.  For the record: roasted potatoes < french fries.  Also for the record: french fries = significantly messier to cook and clean up.

They weren't Epic Burgers(tm).  But they were pretty epic nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


As you may have noticed, posting dropped off significantly in the past week or two, and as you also may notice, this post contains no photos.

This is not, as some have accused, because I stopped eating only unprocessed foods during the last hellish days of the Law School Musical.  On the contrary, I did my best in a bad set of circumstances, but what that really looked like was grabbing a handful of carrots and a piece of bread on my way out the door, or settling down to an enormous bowl of beans and cheese upon a midnight return from rehearsal.

In the interests of perfect honesty, it did also mean skipping dinner Saturday night during the show, only to get inappropriately blasted at the cast party and eat Matt's entire take-out meal from Harold's Chicken and Fish.

Yes.  That's right.  I admit it, you did see me eating Harold's Chicken and Fish on Saturday night.  And I have no defense.

That being said, the title of this post is MUSICAL IS OVER and though I'm still a law student living hour to hour, assignment to assignment, I'm back to my normal life and can take the time to prepare meals worth photographing.  Lentil soup is simmering on the stove, and I can't wait to show it to you.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

The musical performs this weekend, and as such this week bodes well to be totally and completely insane.  In preparation for seven days with approximately zero hours at home, Matt suggested I cook up a big pot of something which I could parcel out to myself throughout the week.

At the moment when he said this, I had just come in from walking Bean on a very, very cold Chicago morning.

Result: shepherd's pie!

I followed a Rachel Ray recipe (here) that is relatively standard: ground beef, onions, carrots and peas in an easy gravy, topped with a pot of mashed potatoes.  Stick everything under the broiler until the potatoes get a golden brown, crisp crust.

We did have to tweak the recipe a little bit: Rachel Ray adds worcestershire sauce to her gravy for a kick of flavor, but every worcestershire sauce I've encountered involves high fructose corn syrup, among other things.  (If any of you know of an unprocessed one, please let me know!)

To make up for the lost tang of the worcestershire, we added more salt than called for to the gravy and a couple huge handfuls of grated asiago and parmesan to the potatoes.

This is comfort food at its finest, and best of all, it freezes/reheats beautifully.

Law School Musical, BRING IT ON.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Things I am Unable to Cook Include


Some nights all you want is to sit in front of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and dig into a big batch of crispy crab rangoon and fatty fried rice stuffed with eggs and veggies.  

On those nights, you don't make dinner.  You take an exception meal and call Thai 55. 

Spaghetti for Liza and the Badger

Sometimes on blogs of this sort, people will post photos of the cooking process.  Usually during the cooking process I'm busy going BLAHHHHITISBURNING and OHSH*TWHEREDIDIPUTTHAT and the like.  But while whipping up a Thursday late night meal for my little sis Liza Nan and Jefferson a.k.a. The Badger, I realized that the onions I was about to chop looked like this:

The camera, obviously, had to come out.  

And as long as it was out, I shot a couple of the recipe in progress. 

Simple marinara with Italian sausage: onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper, a bay leaf, and a big old can of tomatoes.  Pour over spaghetti.  Top with cheese.  Easy as that. 

Everyone was pleased. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Whole Food Breakfasts

On mornings when I'm running late, I usually end up dashing out the door with an apple or clementine and a Ziplock bag full of milk+honey brand granola.  But sometimes, nothing will do but a big, hearty plate full of meat and eggs.

Like so:

Or like so:

I love fresh-baked bread, especially in the morning, but I've been really wrestling with what to do about white flour.  Fact: all-purpose white flour is only available enriched with all sorts of things my great grandmother wouldn't approve of, like thiamin.  But fact: white flour absorbs moisture differently than its heartier cousin whole wheat flour.  If you try to replace the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour (even "white" whole wheat flour) something very odd can happen, like the following:

My experimentation with the Trader Joe "white" whole wheat flour resulted in two very strange loaves. The dough was incredibly tight -- nearly impossible to knead -- and they barely rose at all while baking, which gave them this heavy, dense texture best analogized (as Amy put it) to fudge.

I'm going to keep working on the right mix of ingredients to make this work, when I get a spare hour to study the chapter on bread in "On Food and Cooking".  Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

One More Thing

Port and chocolate from Eno, a gift from Matt for our anniversary.  


A Feast fit for Future Leaders of America!

Saturday was the second and final session of this business-student-led leadership conference for law students that I somehow got myself signed up for.  During this session, all the future leaders of America gave five minute speeches on topics of our choosing, and I spoke on -- what else? -- unprocessed foods.  After each speech, the floor was opened for questions, and the small group I worked with had an extemporaneous conversation about the politics of food, the privilege of the middle class to choose organic and unprocessed foods, my personal challenges in eating this way, and Pollan's works in general.  (Shout out to Shawn, who looked up my blog after the conference!)

Meanwhile, Matthew was at home, cooking this:

That would be a pork shoulder, rubbed with brown sugar and basted with hard apple cider, slow-roasted for five hours until the meat just fell off the bone.  (A guy in front of me at Crystal's van last week had ordered one; his description of this recipe was enough to sell us on buying one of our very own...)

Matt created a gravy from the drippings and some Trader Joe's whole wheat flour.  Replacing white flour with the whole wheat made it incredibly thick and yeasty, and because the drippings had been roasting for hours in cider, the spicy apple zing carried over into the gravy.  In short: !!!sduiosdfhlsdkj!!!!mmmmmm

Additionally, he whipped up a slow-roasted vegetable medley of zucchini, onion and tomatoes in a spicy garlic-cayenne sauce.

Oh, and a huge pot of purple mashed potatoes.

... And some fresh applesauce, from a few honeycrisps I had in the fridge and a liberal application of cinnamon and sugar.

All of the foregoing simply goes to show Matt's really remarkable quality of character and -- if I do say so myself -- my own superb taste in men.  

I'm just saying.

Solo Steak Dinner

Every now and then, when you're a young woman in the prime of your life, all by yourself of a Thursday evening, you JUST NEED A STEAK.

This particular beauty was a flat iron from C&D farms -- just seared in a little butter until a gorgeous medium rare, seasoned with salt and pepper.

I matched it with some simple roasted vegetables, "Seduction" bread spread with Irish butter, and a ridiculously full glass of an organic tempranillo.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Another Public Service Announcement

FYI: Groupon's deal today is $20 for $40 at Chicago's Green Zebra, a pretty intensely awesome vegetarian restaurant headed by acclaimed chef Shawn McClain, a James Beard Award winner.  

I love this place, and can eat here without cheating, because all their foods are fresh, seasonal, beautifully crafted from whole foods.  And with no meats on the menu, I don't need to worry about factory farms. 
You can see the current menu here.    

You need a minimum number of Groupon purchasers for the deal to go through, so please, for my sake as well as yours, sign up to save $20.  (Click here to access the Groupon deal).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

For the Record

"Farmer's Cheese," pictured here --

-- tastes pretty much nothing like the delicious cream cheese (all containing locust bean gum, something Great Grandma Gen would definitely be suspicious of...) near which it sits in the grocery store.

Just a word to the wise, so that you don't go out and buy a RIDICULOUSLY LARGE CARTON of it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Linguine with a lemon-butter sauce, seasoned with crushed red pepper flakes and oregano, tossed with crumbled feta; served up with a side of zucchini slices, sprinkled with asiago and grilled until crisp.

The Most Delicious Pizza I Have Ever Tasted

I realized on Sunday that I hadn't taken any exception meals in over two weeks, and coupled with our general lack of interest in doing any dishes, we ordered a pizza from Cafe Florian.  It was approximately the GREATEST THING I HAVE EVER TASTED.

One of these days, I'll cook a fantastic unprocessed pizza.  But for the moment, this was heaven.