Fresh Fried

Hand-Cut Fries with Lemon Curry Leaf Aioli

June 7, 2021

Somehow our dryer, oven and dishwasher all gave up the ghost in the same week. With four guys in the house, sequestering during the Pandemic, I s’pose I shouldn’t have been surprised! On the upside, that meant the fresh scent of Spring soaked into the sheets we hung out to dry–and some creative cookery. These hand-cut fries with lemon and curry-leaf aioli were the stars of the lot. If you haven’t tried yet, making French fries from scratch isn’t difficult, just requires several steps. The result is so good, you’ll be doing it again.

Rather than ketchup, I paired the fries with this lemony aioli, infused with the pungency of fresh curry leaves. In case you haven’t cooked with them yet: Curry leaves are a fresh herb, not to be confused with curry powder, which is a different thing entirely. The leaves are essential to South Indian cooking, also used in Malaysian, Cambodian and Sri Lankan cuisine, and are available all over the Chicago area in Indian and Asian groceries. (In a pinch, Amazon also has them.)  For this lovely aioli, you pulverize the leaves with some fresh cardamom seeds in a spice mill and then steep them in hot oil to release the aroma and flavor. Once cooled, you make the aioli with the fragrant oil, along with lemon juice, egg yolk, garlic and a bit of mustard. For an extra special touch? I dust the fries with lemon salt—finely grated lemon zest tossed with sea salt flakes. Continue Reading…

Summer Sweet

Berry Swirl Mini Cheesecake

June 4, 2021

When you need that summer cool, creamy little something, this cheery sour cream cheesecake will do it! Swirled with a little fruit jam at the top of the batter, and baked in a pecan-graham crust, it’s six-inches of lovely. I like to serve it with fresh berries, mint and a little dollop of cream. Note: For the pecan meal, I go to Guidry Organic Farms. Continue Reading…

Coffee Table

Swedish Cardamom Sweet Bread

May 15, 2021

Fragrant with the lovely scent of cardamom, this golden, Swedish-pearl-sugar topped braid has been part of the Good Templar Swedish Day festival tradition for decades. But what—or perhaps who, is a Good Templar?

With an organizational structure modeled on Freemasonry (but open to both men and women) the Stockholm-headquartered International Organisation of Good Templars (IOGT) was one of many temperance organizations founded in the 19th century promoting a lifestyle free of alcohol and drugs. And it has some strong North Shore connections.

Good Templars who immigrated from Sweden to Chicago set up lodges for their gatherings all over the city.  Hoping to preserve Swedish traditions, lodges on the north side came together early in the 1900s to sponsor a large Swedish festival at Linden Park in Evanston. Because the festival was so well received, in September of 1911, Chicago Good Templars expanded the party to become the annual “Svenskarnas Dag” (Swedish Day) at Ravinia Park, celebrating Midsommar—the longest day of the year.  By 1924, with festival attendance topping 10,000, the group started scouting for their own property. They bought a pretty, 66-acre site near the Fox River in Geneva (now known as Good Templar Park) and kicked off the first Swedish Day there on June 30, 1925 with more than 14,000 celebrants.

This year’s summer solstice happens on Sunday, June 20th –Good Templar’s 96th Swedish Day at the park .There will be traditional music, a Viking reenactment, Maypole dances, and plenty of Swedish food—including this lovely cardamom bread. The vintage recipe, from Beatrice Ojakangas, allows you to chill the dough after mixing, eliminating some of the time and effort. It’s very best fresh out of the oven, with a little butter on top. Continue Reading…

Special Seafood

Salmon Coulibiac

May 15, 2021

Truly the cuisine of royalty, salmon coulibiac (koo‐LEE‐bee‐ak) was Prince Philip’s favorite dish. It is to fish what the Wellington is to beef. An elaborate layering of herb-seasoned rice, spinach, and mushroom duxelles, encased in the golden glory of puff pastry, one slice is a beautiful meal in itself.

Armand Plumerey, writing in the 1833 L’art de la cuisine française au XIXe siècle, tells us that in St. Petersburg, the pie was usually made with salmon or pike, replaced with sturgeon on state occasions. Reflecting its Russian origins, back then the fish was layered with herbs and duxelles over buckwheat, rather than rice, before being tucked into the pastry. Nearly 150 years later, in his 1976 write-up for the New York Times, American culinary icon Craig Claiborne called coulibiac “the world’s greatest dish,” bemoaning the fact that this “celestial creation, manna for the culinary gods” could rarely be found in restaurants. But, as Claiborne pointed out, you can make it at home…and that’s still true today.

Our recipe includes fragrant spices along with the herbs in the rice. We’ve omitted the layer of boiled eggs, and simplifying things further, we’ve used ready-made puff pastry, easily found at a good grocer. Also a help: You can prepare the mushroom duxelles, the seasoned rice, and the spinach the day before, if you like, leaving the baking and assembly until right before you wish to serve the dish. Either way, salmon coulibiac–both delicious and beautiful, is worth reviving for your own special occasions. Continue Reading…


Glorious Morning Muffins

May 15, 2021

With the weather gorgeous and school ending, we are ready to be outside. These oh-so-tender little morning muffins are a great grab-and-go to get you there. They taste like a cross between carrot cake and zucchini bread—for good reason: They’re packed with cinnamon, apple, carrot, zucchini, toasted nuts and fresh squeezed orange juice—and they’re made with organic whole wheat flour, which is high-protein, to boot. P.S. This is a great way to use up that extra apple, zucchini and half-bag of mini carrots you’ve got hanging around. Continue Reading…


Portuguese Egg Bread

April 2, 2021

With ginger, mashed potatoes and some of the water you used to boil the potatoes in the mix, this beautiful bread bakes up into nicely textured loaves with deep-orange hued crusts. I like to braid and curl the dough into rounds topped with little quail eggs for an Easter-y spring celebratory brunch. Continue Reading…


Naturally-Dyed Eggs

April 1, 2021

Well, here’s a Jacob Grimm you may not have heard : ) As a philologist studying Germanic folk customs, Grimm speculated that the custom of Easter eggs may have stemmed from springtime frolics in honor of Eostre—the Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn.  If so, it’s just one more in a longtime legacy of eggs and the ancients. 60,0000 year old decorated ostrich eggs have been found in Africa. Rituals connecting eggs and rebirth go back 5000 years or more in Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. And historians tell us Christians in the latter culture were the first to dye eggs ritualistically, coloring them red as a reminder of  blood. Continue Reading…

St. Patrick's Day


March 13, 2021

Yes, my hair is red. And yes, that means some Irish ancestry. Namely? A great-great gran named Ira Lake who was a steamboat captain. Oh—and there are O’Sullivans in the mix too : )

But on St. Patrick Day, everybody gets their green on to celebrate, no matter their heritage. In that spirit, here’s an easy, delicious recipe for colcannon! A buttery mix of potato and cabbage with melted leeks or onion, and (if you’re a meat eater) some bacon over the top, colcannon is delicious. From the Gaelic term “cal ceannann” (white-headed cabbage) it’s been the “food of the common man” in Ireland since the 1600’s. Glad to have that in common here. So, lá fhéile Pádraig sona! (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!) Continue Reading…

Oven Barbecue

Texas Slow-Roast BBQ Brisket

March 6, 2021

Yes, you can use the oven to make a good Texas Slow-Roast BBQ brisket! It’s not quite the same as the melt-in-your mouth meats that came out of my Aunt Barbara’s backyard smoker in Jacinto City, Texas. But slow roast anything for a good long while and add a sauce with soaked and pureed ancho and chipotle peppers and you get delicious eats. To make this brisket, you’ll wrap the meat in bacon, which then becomes part of the thick and zesty sauce. If you have brisket left over, chopped fine and served with the extra sauce it makes great BBQ sandwiches. Continue Reading…

Deep Dark Rich

Stovetop Steak + Stout Stew

February 27, 2021

One of my boys loves deep dark flavors. If you want that in a good stew, steak and stout are the perfect ingredients. And when using a good grade of meat, you don’t really need the super long slow roast that you need with lesser cuts, so you can make this on the stove-top in a Dutch oven. With the pandemic still lingering, we may not be able to gather in crowded pubs right now, but this hearty stew is a pub-worthy comfort that will bring cheer to your home crew. Made with Guinness, sirloin steak, and carrot and onion to mellow the stout, it’s full of deep rich flavors. Continue Reading…