Welcome to my blog. My blogging journey began about in August 2009 as a photo-a-day blog which has since transitioned to combine my love of good food and photography. Today, using as many local and fresh ingredients as we can, my boyfriend and myself spend time researching recipes, making our own adaptations, cooking, taking photos, eating, and finally reflecting on all or part of the above listed process here. I hope you take the time to not only read and look at our photos, but please cook some of the recipes yourself. You are invited and encourage to leave feedback as we continue our culinary journey!

Monday, May 31, 2010


I spent the summer of 2004 living in Madrid, Spain. There are many things I love about Spain but one thing that tops all of the others is the food (and cheap wine!). While in Madrid, I lived with a woman named Lola who is probably one of the best cooks in the world. Culturally, eating in Spain is very different than the US. One, the timing: lunch at 2pm and dinner around 930 or 10pm. Second, the lunch is the largest meal of the day and the dinner is much smaller. Third, having a glass of wine is tradition. And fourth, Spaniards eat with their hands above the table at all times (something that I needed to be reminded of quite often).

Spaniards love their cold soups; gazpacho is also popular in the US and is a well-known Spanish soup. I do like gazpacho, but preferred Salmorejo, another cold tomato soup. The first time I was in Madrid I did not get the recipe from Lola, but luckily when I returned in 2008 she instructed me on how to cook this fantastic soup. I have since perfected the Salmorejo recipe.

Salmorejo is traditionally topped with green peppers, jamon seranno (or any ham will do), and hard boiled eggs. We didn't have those items, so this recipe is a slight variation:

4-5 large tomatoes
1-2 garlic cloves
olive oil
1 baguette
red pepper
hard boiled eggs

Cut the tomatoes and 1/2 of a baguette into pieces. I do not peel the tomatoes, but if you prefer, you can peel them. Put a few tomato slices in the blender and mix together. Add the bread, garlic cloves, and the rest of the tomatoes gradually until they are all mixed together. This may be a bit difficult on your blender, so it may help to use the olive oil in order to make the mixture a little bit more liquid and therefore easier on the blender. Overall, I would say approximately 4 tablespoons of olive oil should be added, but I do this recipe by taste so I am not sure. Add salt to taste, and a splash of vinegar. The mixture should be a salmon color, feel free to add more tomatoes or bread to get the recipe to your taste. Serves 3-4 and takes approximately 30 minutes to make.

After the ingredients are mixed together, put in a bowl in the fridge and eat either later that day or the next (the flavors will become stronger on the second day, therefore, Salmorejo is often better the second day than the first!). We used the avocado, hard boiled egg, and red pepper as toppings on the soup, but you can use whatever you like best.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mussels in Butter and Tomato Sauce

We've been on a seafood kick lately. Summer is good for that. The produce market near us sells frozen mussels, therefore, we've been experimenting to figure out which veggies taste best with the mussels. Last time, we tried zucchini. I have to admit that it was a good match, but for today we tried something new:

Mussels in Butter and Tomato Sauce:
1 pkg frozen mussels
tomato sauce (canned, unflavored)
1 leek
1 small white onion
1 tomato
2 tbs butter
1 garlic clove
olive oil
black pepper
white cooking wine (optional)

Most packages of frozen mussels are pre-cooked so you should really only need to focus on cooking the sauce. First, slice all the veggies into small pieces. You should pre-boil the broccoli because it will probably not completely cook in the sauce mixture. Place the broccoli in boiling water for 5-8 minutes until semi-soft and then drain the water.

After all of the vegetables are prepared, add some olive oil to a large sauce pan. Add the onion, garlic, leek, and tomato. Cook for approximately 8 minutes at a medium temperature. Add the broccoli and cook for about 5 more minutes, chopping the broccoli/tomato into smaller pieces as the sauce cooks. Add the butter and cooking wine (to taste). Open the package of mussels and add them to the sauce. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, and add some tomato sauce. Add black pepper to taste and cook for about another 10 minutes before serving.

The amount of sauce does not matter, if you do make a lot of sauce, the recipe will turn out more like a soup, which is good, especially for the winter. We like to have a little bit of extra sauce to eat with some bread on the side.

This is a relatively easy and tasty recipe. It is important to remember when eating mussels that if the mussels do not open when you are cooking, do not eat them (the mussel could be diseased). Better to be safe than sorry! Also, mussels are a salty food, so adding extra salt is not necessary (we made this mistake the first time).

Here are some photos. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Salmon and Cold Asparagus Soup

We had quite a bit of asparagus left over from our sushi night. The reason for this was because I was concerned  about one of D's friends who was coming to our dinner party who is vegan. For some reason, this made me believe that we needed tons of asparagus (because, clearly, all vegans love and eat tons of asparagus).

I love asparagus myself, so having too much of it was not necessarily a bad thing, it just meant that it needed to be used. So, I got a little creative with our leftovers and developed a tasty asparagus soup. To go with it, I made some salmon.

Many of D and my recipes are complicated and take time. This one, however, does not. The soup takes approximately 20 minutes and the salmon takes about 5 minutes to prep and 35 minutes to bake in the oven. The other thing that is so great about this recipe is that it is not expensive to make. So, this is definitely one that you should try at home. The amounts below sufficed for D and I, and I had leftovers for lunch the following day.  Recipe and photos below.

Disclaimer: I do not believe in measuring, or even making a recipe using the entire ingredient list. Use what you have and the amount you think you will like. The measurements below are an approximate, because to be honest, I just add an ingredient until I like how it tastes.

Asparagus soup:
asparagus (1-2 lbs)
chicken stock (2.5 cups) (chicken bouillon cubes also work fine)
1 clove garlic
sour cream (1/2 cup)
1/2 onion
lemon juice
olive oil

Chop the asparagus and onion into small pieces; throw out the hard, woody ends of the asparagus. Cook the rest of the asparagus and onion with a little bit of olive oil on the stove top for approximately 15 minutes. If you are using chicken bouillon cubes, prepare the chicken broth. Add some of the asparagus and some of the chicken broth into a blender and mix. Add these two ingredients together until they are blended together. Add 1/2 cup sour cream to the mixture and blend. Insert 1 clove garlic into the blender, along with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. When blended together, pour in a bowl and refrigerate overnight. Serve with fresh lemon juice, extra sour cream, and some paprika or parsley sprinkled on top.

1 lb salmon
1/2 cup brown sugar
lemon juice
2 tbs butter

Cut the salmon into individual portions, remove skin if necessary. Preheat oven to 375. Add approximately 2 tbs lemon juice into the container you plan on cooking the salmon, sprinkle brown sugar. Put the salmon into the container and cover with 2 tbs melted butter. Cook for 15 minutes, flip salmon over and sprinkle with a bit more brown sugar, add lemon slices to the top of the salmon if desired, and cook 15 more minutes.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer BBQ

It's almost Memorial day, so bring on the summer BBQ season. In Chicago we only have about 2 months of summer along with 8 months of winter and 2 months of weather where the temperature is TBD but if you go outside, you might be blown away by the wind. So, we need to embrace the summer weather. And we do.

Last night, D and I went to a BBQ hosted by one of his friends. Recipe=raw meats, a few veggies, a grill, beer, and good friends. No explaination required.

See photos below.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Yes, that's right. Homemade sushi. D and I had about 12 people over last night, and we tried our hand at making homemade sushi. It's actually something that is very easy and fun to do. I recommend doing it with a group, because it is hard to buy the ingredients for a small number of people. Also, the fish should be a special sushi grade that is protected from bacteria so that everyone is kept safe. (imitation crab is fine does not need to be a special grade).

For 12 people we bought:
1 lb sashimi tuna
1.5 lb sashimi salmon
2 packages imitation crab
4 avocados
3 mangos
2 cucumbers
30 seaweed sushi sheets
4 lbs sushi rice
2 bags frozen edamame
6 packages miso soup
cream cheese
soy sauce
2 sushi rollers
plenty of wine, beer, desserts (that guests brought)

We were really guessing as far as quantity, I mean...how the heck do you know much sushi 12 people will eat. So, we did have some extras. Just to give you an idea, we had some pre-sliced materials left over (about the perfect amount to make sushi again for lunch today) as well as: 1/4 lbs tuna, 1/3 lbs salmon, 1 package imitation crab, 1 avocado, 1 mango, 1 lb rice, 4 packages miso soup. Not so shabby, if you ask me.

1) Prepare the edamame  and miso soup as appetizers before everyone arrives.

2) We begun by cooking the asparagus and then slicing the veggies. Slice everything so it is long and skinny, and good size to put in a sushi roll (see photos below if you have difficulty understanding my instructions). If it is close enough to the time when people are coming over, you can also slice the fish in the same way. I will admit that this process is somewhat tedious, we spend approximately 2 hours slicing veggies and fish. But if you enjoy cutting veggies, its no problem. You can also have your guests assist if that is easier for you. (Note: if you have never sliced a mango before, just realize that the mango has a HUGE and strangely shaped square seed that you will have to cut around. It will probably be frustrating at first, but you'll be a pro after no time)

3) Cook the rice per instructions on the package. We didn't use a rice cooker, just a normal pan. I was surprised by the number of people who were shocked at how we were cooking the rice, and thought it would be difficult. I would actually say that cooking the rice is the easiest part!

4) Make sushi! The easiest thing to do is just make what you think you will like. Try a variety of combinations. A couple of common rolls include crab, avocado, and cucumber (California roll) as well as salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese/avocado (Philadelphia roll). Start there and then make whatever you like. The sushi making process begins by placing 1 seaweed sushi sheet on the sushi roller and then adding rice. Spread the rice out so there is a thin layer covering all but one small section on the edge of the sheet. Then, add a small, thin strip of whatever ingredients you want in the middle of the sheet and roll! I am not sure how to explain the rolling, so if you need a visual, check out a video. 

The hardest part of sushi making is really cutting the veggies/fish. But after you do that, it is easy! For your enjoyment, here are a few photos of our sushi night, which will take you on a photographic journey through the process:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Cultural Significance of Food

This blog has restarted for multiple reasons including requests for recipes from friends and family, my own personal joy of eating, inspiration from my job as I learn about where food comes from and the details of the obesity epidemic, and finally an article I read yesterday.

The article described a cultural phenomenon that makes me extremely sad. Americans now live in such a fast paced society that the food we eat is mostly pre-prepared and pre- processed. We eat out; both at restaurants and fast food. But the next generation of children is not learning how to cook, and may entirely depend on pre-prepared foods if we don't do something about it.

The article addresses this issue without listing differences in class, however, due to my job, I have noticed these differences. Chicago is a food desert; this means that there are many areas of the city where, without a car, it is not possible to get to a grocery store. Many of these areas are on the South and West sides of Chicago, which also is under served by public transportation. This means that if residents are poor, and unable to afford a car, the food options that are a reality for them consist almost entirely of fast food.

This problem makes me sad, not only because of the increasing  amounts of obesity-related disease and disability and decreasing life expectancy that will continue to be a problem in our society because of the obesity epidemic. But also, because of a loss of an important art and tradition.

My boyfriend, as I mentioned before, is Italian and I have lived in Spain. In these countries, it is normal to spend a good portion of the day cooking. D regularly spends 6 hours making a good pasta sauce; and occasionally we make homemade gnocchi, a process that takes more than 4 hours! In Italy, the day's activities revolve around meals; meals are a time when the entire family comes together, talks about the day, enjoys a glass of wine. They are not rushed. When eating out, it is normal to sit at a table for hours before leaving the restaurant; the wait staff never rushes the customer, in part because the tradition of eating is so important.

In the US, it is true that we have fewer culinary traditions. But, I think that it is just because we don't take time to savor the joy of cooking, the bliss of eating, and the pleasure of having company at meal time. We're in too much of a hurry.

I hope that you enjoy this blog, and even try some of the recipes at home, to continue the art of cooking right in your own home.

Tonight we are having some friends over and making homemade sushi, so you can expect some recipes and photos from our event later.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Hi, Blog. It's me again, Laura.

It's been awhile, but here I am. My camera broke which served as a distraction to this blog which seemed to be going so well.

I've also been struggling with things to write about, caught up in a move, and just adjusting to a new life, new friends, and a new job.

My new job is with the Healthy Schools Campaign, and through my work I've realized that I've become a foodie. Eating good food is one of the great pleasures in life. So, therefore, I've decided to continue my blog with what I love and care about most: food.

My boyfriend, Daniele, is from a small town near Bologna, Italy. Obviously, Italians have a very strong culinary culture. We spend approximately 1-2 hours each night cooking anything from homemade gnocchi, stuffed peppers, spicy tuna pasta sauce, mussels, Spanish tortilla to pork chops.

I love everything about the cooking, from the cutting, to the grilling/baking/roasting/sauteing/frying, and especially ESPECIALLY the eating. So, expect in the next coming months some entries about some of the items I most enjoy. Be looking for a title/layout update, as well as new recipes and photos of what we cook.

Daniele and I ate out tonight, which is rare form for us. We had a gift card and had some Mediterranean food. To get started with some photos, here is a picture of the appetizer we had: falaffel, hummus, tabouleh, and dolma. 

I guess I'm joining the foodie blog bandwagon.