Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crazy delicious love vs. aliens

Everyone always talks about how relationships need communication, understanding, and the dreaded compromise. But why can’t we just be in love all the time, always getting along, always agreeing? I think you can. In fact, I know you can. That’s the kind of relationship Alex and I have… with the Purple Pig.

Every dish we’ve ever ordered has been delicious—even when it’s not what we expected, or even what we thought we wanted. It is a place without fear. No “That sounds interesting, but it might not be executed well… I’ll just go with my regular dish that I know is always good.” Because everything is standout. I guess what I’m saying is, relationships really just need trust… and deliciousness.
Yesterday, instead of having words over whether we would drive downtown or train it, Alex and I agreed to bike. We made an appearance at the farmers’ market, stopped for fluffy, tender buttermilk pancakes at the Pancake House, and hit the lake path.  After locking up our two-wheelers outside of AMC River East, we ran into a second potential quarrel—man movie or lady flick? …why not both?

So, we sandwiched our meal between Crazy, Stupid, Love (which was delightful, Alex and I agreed) and Cowboys and Aliens (which was exactly what you would think, in a good way). I love sandwiches.
The only disappointment at my birthday lunch was that PP’s fried, deviled egg is a dinner-only item. It was the first thing we ordered last night. Crunchy, soft, mustardy—yum. The caper berries in the accompanying salad were a particularly nice touch, their crisp, sour bite pairing perfectly with the egg. 
We also had a duo of salads, corn and heirloom tomatoes with arugula pesto, and calamari with fregola, radishes, cucumber and pistachios. The corn salad was fresh and tangy, while the calamari was cool and light, with a subtle nuttiness from the grain and pistachio components. My favorite was the calamari salad, though, as a radish enthusiast, I was hoping for more of the root. Alex thought they were best mixed together.
Next, we rode the fried pig’s ear train. Topped with a fried egg, these crunchy strips are best soaked in runny, yellow yolk. Alex has recently come around to kale chips, and enjoyed the crispy kale element of the dish. I thought the pickled banana peppers were the nicest touch, adding a necessary brightness to a rich flavor jungle.
To complete our Pig-out, as the low-creeping sun began to shrink the protective shadow of the patio’s purple tent, was chocolate-hazelnut soft-serve. This may be a “pictures are better than words” situation. The chocolate flavor is strong, but does not overpower the mellow hazelnut. Overall, it was cold, it was soft, and it was smooth.

Lest you think our tony lifestyle is getting too ritzy, let me say we had two free AMC passes (from that time I freaked out about my Priest refund—Paul Bettany, why?) and didn’t have to pay the 20-some dollars for four hours of parking.  …And after biking home we drove to Walgreens to buy glitter nail polish and then to White Castle for mozzarella sticks.  …And we have Season of the Witch from Netflix.  Keep it classy, Chicago.
The Purple Pig on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Photo diary

Summer has been...
One milkshake, two straws

New hobbies

Garlic bread for dinner

Farmers’ first tomatoes

Riding my bike

... and Bell's Oberon

Sneaking real popcorn into the movies


Row one, seat one at the White Sox game

Dinner with Knightley on Scoozi’s dog-friendly patio

Flag day parading

Cheeseburgers

Inspired by Tracy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Falafel and muffins—that’s normal, right?

Okay, I know we all had a time with that last post on brew-bet, but let’s get down to the serious stuff: The water filter we ordered back in December finally came and Alex installed it this weekend. Take a look at the difference in our drinking water!
…well, we can certainly taste the difference. The filter takes out everything! No more chromium, no more microbes, no more antidepressants (conspiracy: that the government puts in the water to keep us calm; real true fact: from runoff). If drinking water turns out to be how the zombie flu spreads, we should be set.  Ah, reverse osmosis—is there a better osmosis? I don’t think so.
So you aren’t here to read about my paranoia, fine. Do you want to hear about all the fresh local produce we had for dinner? Okay!
Nichols Farm had fresh garbanzo beans last week, and the little green pods have been sitting in my fridge all weekend, begging to become awesome. And, added to Nichols’s garlic and Vidalia onion, and our home-grown parsley, they did. Local veggies, exotic taste—what a world.
I used this recipe as my base, skipping the steaming step and the chives, and adding half a teaspoon of ground coriander.  
My mix was wet. I don’t know why. Near juicing the onion? Using raw, fresh beans? I bet the steaming would have at least helped with opening all those pods. My thumb hurts.
I haven’t worked up to deep-frying in my tiny kitchen, so the falafel balls became patties for pan frying. They were a little sloppy, and didn’t fry up as nice and crusty as I’d’ve liked, but the flavors were spot on. Served with a Nichols cucumber coated in Greek yogurt, the spicy cumin in these warm chickpea cakes killed it. I mean, this green dish was slammin.
We finished the meal with peach oat muffins, hold the applesauce, up the peaches. Look at me bake! Let’s name drop: over-ripened and needing-to-be-used peaches from Ellis Family Farms, Three Sister’s oats, and Ted’s whole-wheat flour. Nutty, juicy, peachy. Is this what Georgia tastes like? Breakfast tomorrow just got delicious.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two words: Tino. Or, Oberon sorbet.

This week I learned from my stepmother that my beloved Oberon could be turned into sorbet. Oberon sorbet. Oberon sorbet! Jordan Catalano’s gonna be there.

Let’s get started.
My stepmother’s recipe utilized simple syrup (sugar dissolved in water). Since I wanted more intense Oberon flavor, I considered melting the sugar directly into Oberon, boiling it down to concentrate the beer’s taste. That idea went out the window when I wasn’t willing to compromise alcohol content. Luckily Oberon has a best friend: orange.   
Dissolve one tablespoon of sugar in the juice of one orange, over heat. 
Remove from heat. Add the zest of that orange (1 heaping teaspoon) and one bottle of Oberon. Whisk. Freezer!  No, I’m not on yearbook anymore. Fuck off.
Raspberry granita turned out pretty well, lavender sorbet was un-photogenic but tasty, Oberon wins. Why aren’t I wearing plaid?
Win a hundred. This makes me lean against stuff. You understand. Frozen embryos is playing. It’s Thursday. Yesterday was Wednesday. That’s how I know. God. Stay up forever and eat this!  Slightly bitter, citrus, let’s bolt.  Fresh, delicious. Can granita be my favorite food group? Don’t be above everyone, make this for them. It’s like so known.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Working hard to get my fill

For dinner tonight I prepared the authentic Mexican dish, tostitos and salsa. The tomatoes were spiced to “medium” and paired with the “crispy round” variety of chip, which I like on account of how perfectly the shape fits when dipped directly into the unlidded jar and when shoved into my gob for consumption.
Yesterday I managed caprese. Sometimes you’re the windshield. After a midnight meltdown last night, I’ve broken down and allowed Alex to install a dreaded AC unit. Still, Muzgaash is closed for business until the heat breaks. Bring on the thunderclaps.
The heat is good news for my garden—I’m told (by real gardeners who actually know something) that tomatoes thrive in the heat. And we have real tomatoes growing! Well, one real tomato and three little guys. I need to finish gathering my canning supplies to ensure swift preservation of our crop when the time comes. Gardeners always have too many tomatoes, right?
After one harvest, the peas have succumbed to what Alex is calling “the wilt.” Careful autopsy has determined over-heating as the cause of death.  I think I may have the wilt. After that last sentence, I ate another chip, to keep up my strength.
Before
After
I think the weed growing where the cucumbers died is actually a cucumber plant. While no cucumbers have formed, it appears our thumbs may be greener than we thought.
Every plot in the garden is overflowing with bounty. It smells like when we used to pick veggies for dinner in my Aunt Ruth’s garden, and I’ve found myself craving fresh mint muddled in lemonade. Maybe I’ll send Alex out for a few “of the yellow ones.” He owes me. I made dinner.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing this sandwich.

I love sandwiches. I just love them. Apparently, I also love painting when it is 90 degrees out. Alex and I find ourselves sweating through a paint project every summer, at least this year it was a one-day event—not the week-long yellow chair-mageddon we embarked on last year. For lunch today, we had a crazy simple sandwich that was also crazy perfect as a bite between paint coats: juicy cucumber slices (seasoned with salt and pepper) and sweet basil suspended between a buttery, crispy croissant. 
I tried to health it up by crusting the sandwiches with multigrain croissants, but the bakery was out by the time we rolled over. On the other hand, I would have buttered the multigrain croissants. Lavishly. Whole grains make me wild.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Outside: it’s where I want to eat

Of course, the most obvious way to beat a heat-wave kitchen slump is to go out to dinner.  This week, we took refuge from the oppressive box that is our stuffy little kitchen and had dinner at Nightwood (previously of bacon doughnut fame). Nightwood is always an easy choice because they source fresh, local, sustainable ingredients, and because they make things like this:
They write the menu each day depending on what is available, so you never know exactly what you are going to get until you show up. Except, on Monday night, they posted a hint. Buttermilk fried chicken, get it while it lasts. Alex and I were literally waiting outside the restaurant to get in. And we weren’t the only ones! Limited time only syndrome, it’s a motivator.
We sat out on the patio, something about fried chicken begs to be enjoyed al fresco, especially in the heat. I was surprised that we were the only ones “brave enough” to remove ourselves from climate control—talk about air conditioning—but it was nice to have a private dining experience. 

We went splitzkies on dinner: ordering two appetizers and the main half-chicken event.
The meal started with Nightwood’s signature biscuit and honey butter. I think this salty sweet bite speaks for itself. It glimmers in the sunlight.
A first course item consisted of raisin nut bread paired with radish pods. When I buy my farmhouse and move to the country, this is what I want to have for breakfast. Homey, whole, and delicious.
Next came the salad—arugula, almonds, soft sheep’s milk cheese, honey. We were warned by our waitress that the arugula was extra peppery, but I didn’t find it so. Crunch from the almond, sweet mellow honey, and the creamy cheese—every flavor worked. It was satisfying in the best way.
And then the chicken. Crusty, tender, and juicy, with lemony, herby thyme.  I must confess: I ate more skin than meat. I especially liked the “more done” bits (not to call them burnt) where the crust gets extra crispy and the herbs go a little bitter. Yum. It was paired with a tangy cucumber salad, which added cool balance and made me feel like I was having a vegetable. Probably because I was.

We left sweaty, greasy, and happy, with no dishes to wash. 
Nightwood on Urbanspoon