Nothing says summer like watermelon! Slice watermelon into approx 1 inch rings, then remove the rind from each slice with a small knife. Place one watermelon “round” onto each salad plate, then top with a layer of thinly sliced fresh mozzarella (5 pieces?), followed by a layer of finely chopped mint, basil (approx 1/4 c each) and a sprinkling of nuts (I used almonds and walnuts, but you can use any kind). Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sea salt before serving. Enjoy with a fork and knife- a light yet filling salad!
Continuing the food truck craze…after graduation I’ve had time to seriously contemplate the fabulous food truck offerings that Chicago has to offer. These beauties are from Duck n’ Roll. This is one of the only food trucks that I patronized again and again. Their miso-braised short rib is TO. DIE. FOR. I’ve had it like three times. It’s so perfectly sweet, salty, and meaty. The pickled vegetables are the perfect complement to the rich and savory short ribs. I’ve also gone back (not actually hungry) twice for their donuts. Seriously, these donuts are RIDICULOUS. They’re buttery, cinnamony, and sooo chocolaty. After eating these once, I walked around for like twenty minutes with gooey chocolate on my chin and when I found out, I wasn’t even embarrassed - I was just delighted that there was still chocolate left over. Highly HIGHLY recommend this.
Food trucks are fantastic. These tasty morsels are jerk chicken tacos from Flavor180. They came with what looked like a salad but was actually lettuce and tomatoes to use as toppings (tomatoes only pictured as lettuce on tacos is totally gross) and spicy sauce. The sauce particularly was a surprise and was crazy delicious - spicy and tangy. God, there is just nothing better than sitting in the sun on the quad (in March!) with nothing to do during spring break. This may become a series as I am now obsessed with trying every food truck that stops by campus.
Two facts: I love Halloween and I love Doctor Who. So, naturally, even though it’s midterm season (and given my limited carving equipment and distaste for the insides of pumpkins), I decided to decorate two pumpkins as ultimate enemies the Doctor and a Dalek. The Dalek’s eyestalk is a wine-stopper, his buttons are painted bottle-caps, and the Doctor’s sonic is a modified highlighter.
When I was growing up in a very rural, relatively isolated part of the country, I didn’t have access to many different types of cuisine. There were four restaurants in my town (not counting fast food) for the first 12 years of my life: a decent steakhouse, a Burger King knockoff called “Burger Queen,” a motel dining room, and a place called Trapper’s Kettle, which had decor that consisted of old-timey traps, a canoe out of which they served salad, and a lot of mounted deer heads and pheasants. Then we got an Applebees, and the town went nuts. Seriously, there were lines out the door to get a table. For Applebees. If my dad hadn’t grown up in the southwest, I probably would only have eaten Italian or American food throughout my childhood. Suffice to say, I’d never had sushi (or indian food, or thai food) before coming to college. And now, look at me. Makin’ sushi. Honestly, the greatest part of going to college at UChicago is not the super quality education. It’s all the opportunities I’ve had since being here. The wider variety. Everything and everyone is so different from what I knew growing up, which is exactly what I wanted from college. I used to dream that it would be like this, and I was right. I think that’s why I’ve been so satisfied with school. A lot of people I know seem to be, if not unhappy, then a little disgruntled with a lot of what’s happening in their lives. Either they’re bored, or too stressed, or apathetic. Perhaps it’s third-year pre-studying-abroad boredom, I don’t know. But I think having so little to interact with and think about when I was younger made this part of my life a lot cooler. It’s like doling out candy instead of just eating it all at the beginning, except with life experiences. In sum, I’m glad I grew up where I did, even with the salad-canoe. Actually, because of the salad-canoe. And I’m glad I am where I am now, because it gives me the chance to attempt to make sushi with really cool people. Next time, I might be brave enough to add fish.
Recipe (from Sushi, by Szwillus & Mitani)
This makes enough for 10 rolls of sushi, with rice and filling left over. I would suggest buying more seaweed sheets, because that was our limiting factor.
2 cups (dry) Sushi Rice
1/6 cup rice vinegar (though we used diluted white vinegar and it worked perfectly)
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tbsp sugar
1 big carrot
1 medium-sized cucumber
3 tbsp sake
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Toasted nori sheets (you cut them in half, so we bought five that became 10, but I would suggest getting more)
The most important part of sushi is definitely the rice. If it’s not the perfect amount of sticky, you will have muchos problemos. The recipe we used worked out perfectly: Wash the sushi rice under cold running water until water is clear. Fill a saucepan with rice and 1 1/2 cups water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Bring rice to a boil, stir, and let boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat and let rice cook for 10-20 minutes, depending on package instructions. (Don’t overcook! We took the rice off when all of the water was gone.) In the meantime, stir the vinegar, salt, and sugar together until completely dissolved. Remove rice from stove and cover with a kitchen towel to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and turn quickly with a bamboo paddle. Don’t stir or squeeze the rice, but draw lines from top to bottom and left to right, occasionally fanning with the paddle. Cover with a damp towel to keep moist during the sushi-making process. Peel and cut carrot, cucumber, and avocado into long thin strips. Cover avocado with lemon immediately to avoid browning. Let sake, water, salt, and sugar come to a boil in a pan. Add carrots and simmer for 1 minutes. Remove from heat and add cucumber. Let cool in the broth. Remove, pat dry.
To make sushi with nori on the outside, cut the sheet in half and place on a rolling mat with the smooth side down. Dip your hands into a side bowl of vinegar water and cover the sheet with sushi rice. Leave a margin on one side of the sheet. Spread a little wasabi paste down the middle. Place the filling in a line, being careful not to over-fill. You won’t be able to roll them if they’re too full. Lift the bottom part of the rolling mat and roll both mat and nori around the filling (hold the filling in the middle to keep it inside). Pull out the mat right before the roll closes. Place part of the mat around the roll and press together to give it shape. Cut the sushi in half with a sharp knife, then cut into half or thirds again. Eat! (To make sushi with the rice on the outside, do the exact same thing, except when assembling cover the mat with plastic wrap that has been dipped in vinegar water. Pat the rice into a square the size of the nori sheet, then top with sheet. Place filling onto the sheet, then roll. This one isn’t that much harder to make, but it is harder to cut. But you can add more filling!)
This last point is very problematic, as it is October, and I feel compelled to make all things pumpkin. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin bread. In fact, I had great plans for some quick, tasty pumpkin bread a while ago. The weather had started to chill nicely, so I threw on a sweater and some boots (one of my favorite parts of fall is that it is sweater/boot weather again) and ventured over to HPP. Much to my dismay, I found no pumpkin puree. “No matter,” I thought, “I’ll buy a baking pumpkin! I’ll make my own pumpkin puree! It will be a breeze! La dee da!” A couple of hours later, after a lot of googling, pumpkin-sawing, failing at pumpkin-sawing, being rescued by strong men, scooping, roasting, and blending, I had my puree. It was by no means easy, but I do have to admit that it was fun. It was definitely an experience. And isn’t that what this is all about? Crazy fun food experiences that I wouldn’t normally think to go through in my normal pasta-cookies-soup-brocolli routine? I say yes. I enjoyed the challenge, and though in the end this tasted better than any other pumpkin bread I’ve ever had, I think it was more due to the recipe than the fresh puree. In the future, I’ll stick to the store-bought stuff. Anyway, I recommend making pumpkin bread with fresh pumpkin once in your life, just for the hell of it.
The following recipe calls for 15 oz of pumpkin puree, and I used a 2 1/2 lb baking pumpkin, which worked well. The bread was extremely moist, which may have been due to extra pumpkin? Maybe. But I thought it was delicious. If you’re really keen on sticking to the letter of the recipe, I would buy a similar sized pumpkin, then measure out the exact amount. The leftover puree is sure to come in handy (I think it would be delicious on crackers, or maybe used in a frosting?). Also, as you’ll see in the above pictures, I did not let the bread cool enough in the pan before attempting to flip it. The first one fell completely apart, so I let the second rest for another 45 minutes while I did some errands. Once cooled, I flipped it and it came cleanly out of the pan. I think this is a very important step. Lesson: be patient!
Only female mosquitos bite you. Therefore, all the mosquitos in North Dakota must be female. Itchy times.
Simon Pegg is amazing.
Bittersweet chocolate = semi-sweet chocolate. It does NOT = unsweetened.
Number three became apparent to me after attempting to make an imitation of Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint Cookies (which, I also learned, account for 1/4 of Girl Scout Cookie sales. Impressive for one little cookie, no?). Now, I don’t really like mint-flavored things due to the fact that their taste resembles toothpaste, but even I have to admit that Thin Mints are pretty good. They also look pretty, all dipped and fancy. However, when I went to the store to buy 1 1/2 pounds of bittersweet chocolate required by this recipe, I was faced with a choice of either semi-sweet or unsweetened chocolate. Silly me thought, “Well, it says bittersweet and unsweetened is very bitter, so I’ll get 2 packages of unsweetened and 1 package semi-sweet. La dee da dee da.” Heh. Wrong. In fact, this whole recipe went a little wrong. I didn’t really have enough butter, nor did I shape the roll of cookie dough correctly before chilling it, leaving an unfortunate hole in the middle of all the cookies. This mostly went away when baking (probably due to the fact that I mashed a bunch of extra dough into the holes). And then the dipping process. Oh lordy. I couldn’t get the cookies to drain off the excess chocolate without breaking them, so I ended up with either an extremely thick layer of chocolate or broken cookie bits. I thought, “Oh well, what’s wrong with a bunch of extra chocolate on top of the cookie?” A LOT. They were mighty bitter, my friends. So much so that halfway through I ended up pouring sugar into the melted chocolate, stiffening it up a bit and making it impossible to dip anything into. Finally, I just gave up and drizzled it over the top. Which, actually turned out a lot better - the cookies were tastier without all that bitterness and, in my opinion, prettier. If I were to make these again, I would probably dip them in German baking chocolate, and I might add a little more mint - it kind of got lost after baking. Anyway, if you’re brave enough, here’s the recipe: