White Bean, Tomato, Carrot & Basil Baby Puree

Making baby purees has turned out to be much easier than I had thought! This one was adapted from: Top 100 Baby Purees, by Annabel Karmel. Great Book. And all very manageable!
White Bean, Tomato, Carrot & Basil

And what better way to take advantage of your beautiful summer produce?!
White Bean , Tomato, Carrot & Basil
Once carrots are steamed, and tomatoes are sautéed, all ingredients can be blended together in a saucepan with an immersion blender. This is a great way to introduce your little one to new flavors which will help them be a less fussy eater as they grow up! At least that is what I have heard :)

White Bean, Tomato, Carrot & Basil Puree
And Baby Girl now has a fresh veggie, and protein packed lunch!
( I may have enjoyed this almost as much as she did… )

White Bean, Tomato, Basil & Carrot Puree
Baby Puree

White Bean, Tomato, Carrot & Basil Baby Puree

2-3 Small-Medium vine ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped
2 Carrots, peeled & sliced
1 can/box White Beans
4-6 Fresh Basil Leaves chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Vegetable/Chicken Stock/Water/Milk of your choice (approximately 3 tbsp.)

1. Steam the carrots until tender, approximately 10 minutes. Set aside in saucepan.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. of butter in a small non stick skillet, and sauté the tomatoes until mushy.
3. Add the sautéed tomatoes to the saucepan of carrots, along with the white beans, basil & cheese.
4. Puree with immersion blender, or put all ingredients in a food processor/blender/vitamix. Gradually add the stock or liquid of your choice in to the puree to smooth it out to your desired consistency.

Raspberry Tartlets with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream

Well, it has been a long winter & spring here in Chicago… The weather is just now warming up for good, at least it better be since it’s already June! All the cold has pushed our gardening back quite a bit compared to last year. So while I am waiting for all my good greens to grow… I bought a lot of delicious organic raspberries :)

Oh, and on another note, I am also 6 months pregnant! So you can imagine my lack of interest in cooking, especially in those first 3 months. It was just a couple months ago that I finally wanted to eat veggies again! Thank goodness. Otherwise chicken tenders, cereal and fruit is what I would have had to work with!!

Here I am almost 2 months ago...I look so small compared to now!
Here I am almost 2 months ago…I look so small compared to now!

So this recipe may be a result of my newest friend – my sweet tooth – kicking in :) Oh the joys of pregnancy!
The Mascarpone cream actually gives a nice richness to it however.
This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, La Tartine Gourmande, which I referenced before when I made a cherry tart.
One of my favorite things about Beatrice Peltre is her gluten free cooking options. She has recipes for unique crusts for her tarts using millet, quinoa, amaranth, rice and almond flour. Of course you can make a tart using whichever crust you prefer, but I happen to really like her Lemon-flavored Olive Oil Crust.
So lets begin shall we?!

The Flours
With all my crust making ingredients in order, I added all the dry ingredients to my food processor, fitted with the dough blade. (I LOVE using a food processor for dough!! SO EASY!)
Dry Ingredients
I then add the olive oil, egg, and a few tablespoons of water and the dough begins to form in to a ball. I decided to make 4-4 1/2 inch tartlets, otherwise this recipe will make one 10-inch tart.
Little Dough Balls
After I chilled the dough for 30 minutes, it was divided and rolled out to fit into my little tart dishes. I then prepped for baking by poking small holes in the crust and topping with wax paper and dried beans as the weight.
Prepped for Baking
While the dough is either chilling or baking in the oven, you can prepare the raspberries and mascarpone cream.
For the raspberries, simply simmer them in water and sugar with some vanilla bean seeds for about 5 minutes, and your good to go!
Raspberries simmering
And for the filling, very easy: mascarpone cheese, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and heavy cream. All while the crust is baking!
Mascarpone Cream

And once assembled…. This is what you will be enjoying…. (Recipe below!)
Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream


The other great thing about this recipe is you can use whatever berries you have on hand! Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, all would be perfect!

Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream
Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream

Lemon Flavored Olive Oil Crust (Gluten Free!):
Makes four 4 1/2 inch tartlets or one 10 inch tart.

2/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup quinoa flour
1/3 cup white or brown rice flour
1/3 cup almond meal/flour
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 tablespoons blond cane sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small egg, lightly beaten with a fork
4-5 tablespoons cold water (if using large egg, reduce amount of water to 2-3 tablespoons)

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the millet, quinoa, and brown rice flours with the almond meal, xanthan gum, sugar, and lemon zest and pulse to combine. Add the olive oil and egg, and process until all the ingredients are combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and work until the crust forms a ball. Do not work it too much. At this point, divide the crust into 4 smaller balls so it is easier to roll. Generously flour a working surface as well as your hands and rolling pin. Roll the dough into rounds the size of your tart mold(s). Refrigerate the crust, covered with parchment paper for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350.

Meanwhile prepare the raspberries and cream filling:

2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup blond cane sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out
3/4 pound fresh raspberries (or blackberries, blueberries or strawberries)

In a small pot, combine the sugar, water, and vanilla bean seeds and place over low heat. Heat, stirring gently, until the sugar dissolves. Add the raspberries and simmer for 4 minutes, or until the syrup colors from the fruit stewing in it. Remove from the heat and leave the berries to cool in the syrup.

Mascarpone Cream:
9 ounces mascarpone cheese
4 tablespoons blond cane sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out
1/2 cup cold heavy cream

In a bowl, beat the mascarpone with the sugar and vanilla seeds. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks. Fold it gently into the mascarpone mixture.

Baking the Crust:
Arrange the chilled and cut dough inside each mold and using a fork, make small holes at the bottom. Top with parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans. Prebake for 12 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and weights and continue to bake for 5 minutes, watching carefully to make sure that the crusts do not brown too quickly. Unmold and let them cool on a rack.

Just before you’re ready to serve, assemble the tartlets by spreading the cream in to the crusts. Top with the cooked raspberries and drizzle with syrup. Serve immediately.

Vegetarian Lentil Balls

Since my garden is on some what of a hiatus right now, cooking with whatever I choose will have to do! And I must say… it is kind of fun! There can be a good deal of pressure after just harvesting entire earth boxes of scallions, arugula, and peppers. So much work must be done to take advantage of this fresh & delicious produce. So over the winter, I will be cooking, what ever I feel like :) Kind of…I will still be using winter produce as much as I can of course. It is all about seasonality after all! That is what makes it exciting, and challenging. But now I am going to cook with one ingredient that I just can’t get enough of: LENTILS. They are the vegetarians’ dream come true. Packed with protein and versatility, I would eat them in place of meat any day! So to start out the new year, here is a recipe I found for a vegetarian lentil ball.
(From Epicurious.com)
Lentil Veggie Balls
Vegetarian Lentil Balls


2 cups lentils
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces Button Mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped walnuts


Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft (but not falling apart), about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.
Organic Green Lentils

Carrots, Celery, Onion, Garlic, &  Thyme

Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown.
Cooking the Veggies
Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
Veggies with Mushrooms & Tomato Paste
When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.
Add the eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts to the cooled vegetable mixture and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Ingredients for Lentil Balls
Mixing the Balls!
Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4-inch of space between the balls and place them in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.
Baking the Balls
Roast for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.
Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

Now the possibilities are nearly endless!
I had more than I needed, so I froze many of them to be used at a later date. Quite convenient!
I combined them with a marinara sauce for an appetizer…
Veggie Lentil Ball
I tossed them with Rotini Pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes, sautéed spinach, olive oil and Parmesan cheese…
Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach & Lentil Veggie Balls
Just a few options! They really are a great thing to have on hand. And much more nutritious!

2013: Year of the Lentil. More to come next week :)

Butternut Squash Savory Tart & Pumpkin Butter Bars

Now, I did not, unfortunately, grow these squash in my garden. They take up quite a bit of space, and for a somewhat constricted space… I had to prioritize. But maybe next year when we expand!

My fashion blogger & foodie friend, Danielle, came over the other day to do some cooking with me, to feature on her blog, stingystyle. And we decided to go both the sweet and savory route, with one ingredient: squash.

This first recipe for the tart, was inspired from a crostini I have made, with ricotta, honey, roasted butternut squash and fried sage. Only this time, a nice buttery puff pastry instead!

Butternut Squash Tart with Ricotta & Fried Sage

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg
1 cup Ricotta cheese
1 1/2 tsp. honey
1 small jalapeño, Serrano, or Fresno chile, seeded and finely diced
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 small Butternut squash, cut 1/8″ thick rounds from the neck (about 12-15 depending on the size of the pastry/squash)
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
2 Tbs. (about 12) fresh Sage leaves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Truffle salt for finishing, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Gently roll out 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed, on a lightly floured surface to approximately a 10″ square (just enough to even it out). Transfer to prepared sheet.
Brush pastry with 1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp. water.
3. Mix together ricotta, honey, salt, and chile pepper. Spread mixture over pastry, leaving a border along the edges.

4. Heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil in a nonstick pan, and sauté the butternut squash slices for about 3 minutes. Arrange sliced butternut squash on top of ricotta, overlapping as necessary.

5. Place another sheet of parchment paper over the squash, and set another large rimmed baking sheet over the tart. (This will weigh down the pastry dough and steam the squash slices.)
Bake for 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add fresh sage leaves and chopped pecans. Fry until toasted and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
7. Remove tart from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Return to oven and bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Garnish tart with fried sage and toasted pecans and truffle salt, if using.

Now for the SWEET!
And the best part about this recipe is, it leaves you with PLENTY of extra pumpkin butter to use however you choose…another dessert, wrapped in phyllo dough, or just on a piece of toast for breakfast!

Pumpkin Butter Recipe:
From Chef Paul Virant, Preservation Kitchen Cookbook

Roasting the Squash:
5 lbs. (about 2-3 pumpkins) pumpkin or winter squash, halved & seeded
Vegetable oil for coating.
Preheat oven to 400. Brush the cut sides of the pumpkins with oil. place the halves, cut side down, in a baking pan and roast for 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender when pierced with a knife. ( this varies widely depending on the squash variety. A delicata may cook in 35 minutes while a butternut or kabocha can take 1 hr.) using a spoon, scrape the flesh into a bowl and discard the skins.

Roasted pumpkin or winter squash pulp, approx. 6 c.
2 c. Brown sugar
1 stick Unsalted Butter, cubed
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg, ground
1/2 tsp. Ginger, ground
1/4 tsp. Cloves, ground

Preheat oven to 350. in a bowl, mix together the roasted pumpkin, sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Spread onto a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, and bake stirring every 15 minutes with a spatula, until the pumpkin has become thick and slightly caramelized, about 1 1/2 hours. Give it a good stir at the end; it should be smooth and spreadable. If the pumpkin is too fibrous for your liking, blend it in a food processor to even out the texture. Cool and refrigerate or freeze in a couple of plastic deli containers until ready to use.

After I took it out of the oven, it was still a little too fibrous & thick for me, I prefer my pumpkin butter smooooooth & creeeeamy… so into the food processor it went. Perfection.

Pumpkin Butter Bars:

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

Filling Ingredients:
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups pumpkin butter
1 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 tsp. bourbon (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.
2. To make the crust, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugars on low speed until they form a crumbly mixture. Add the flour, salt, and cinnamon and continue to mix on low speed until a dough starts to form. Pat the dough in an even layer in the prepared pan and bake until the top turns a light golden color, about 20-25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, to make the filling, in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Stir in the eggs, then add the cream, sour cream, and salt. Stir in the pumpkin butter, followed by the maple syrup, molasses, and bourbon, if using, and mix until smooth. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the par-baked crust and bake until the pumpkin has set (the edges will begin to crinkle and the center should no longer look raw) about 30 minutes. Cool completely, and then slice into squares. Store the cookies in the refrigerator or freezer.
I also decided to add a dollop of creme fraiche. It was a nice touch.

Leek, Potato & Swiss Chard Gratin

One of my all time favorite dishes… veggies, potatoes & cheese, in some form or another. What more could one want?!
I had recently harvested our La Ratte Fingerling Potatoes, which was the highlight of the season. And they did take all season to grow, but as mentioned in my previous post, definitely worth the wait!

Sara giving John some info about growing potatoes in the early summer

As our plant grew it produced these pretty little flowers

The potatoes began to pop up out of the soil… this is a good sign!

We had to wait until the plant completely died back… it was not nearly as beautiful, but wonderful things were happening in the process!
Meanwhile just across the garden in another box…

Our swiss chard had a rough go at the beginning. Some little pests really seemed to enjoy it. But we did not let them stop us from enjoying it as well! Soon enough we were back on track.

And now for the final component from the garden for our meal…The Leeks.

Our leeks weren’t as successful as we had anticipated. They still turned out great, don’t get me wrong, but very small in comparison to the monsters you see in the grocery store.

The recipe I am using is adapted from something I found on Williams Sonoma.

Leek, Potato & Swiss Chard Gratin, with Gruyere & Parmesan


4 Tbs. unsalted butter
5 small leeks, or 2 large leeks, white and light green portions only, rinsed well and chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 large bunch swiss chard, stems removed, sliced
1 cup heavy cream
6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
3 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 lbs. potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4 inch slices (I used my fingerling potatoes, but otherwise russet potatoes are good for a gratin)
3 Tbs. fresh chives, minced
1 Tbs. Truffle salt (optional, for finishing)


In enameled cast iron skillet (or non-stick fry pan) melt 3 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat.
Add the chopped leeks and salt and stir to coat the leeks with the butter until tender, about 20 minutes. Add the thyme, nutmeg, pepper.

Add the swiss chard and stir to incorporate. Cover, and allow the swiss chard to wilt down, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400.
Add the heavy cream to the leeks and swiss chard mixture and let simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Transfer mixture to a bowl.
Coat same pan with remaining 1 Tbs. of butter, and layer half of sliced potatoes over the bottom. Top with half of the swiss chard & leek mixture, and sprinkle with half of the Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and 1 Tbs. of chives.

Repeat this process for the top layer, reserving 1 Tbs. of chives.

Cover the pan, and transfer to the oven to bake for 45 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue to bake until the potatoes are tender and the crust is a nice golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Sprinkle remaining chives on top with truffle salt.
Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 4-6.

Such a cozy fall dinner… that the two of us may have nearly finished in one evening… :)

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Get farm fresh produce recipes… straight from our rooftop garden, plus Chicago restaurant reviews, gardening tips, ideas, and more!

Roasted Tomatoes, Zucchini & Onion with Parmesan & Fresh Herbs

Roasted Pepper Quinoa Salad with Romesco Sauce

Garden Gumbo with Okra, Chickpeas & Kidney Beans

West Town Tavern Review

Beautiful Burgundy Okra Plant

Summer Veggies for Breakfast

The beginning of the Garden

La Ratte Potato Salad with Carrots, Radishes, Peas & Duck Egg

It’s funny how things that would have previously gone unnoticed, I am suddenly in awe of. Growing up in the country, I took a lot of the every day beauty around me for granted. Now when I go back to visit, it’s as if I’m seeing some of these things for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, the city is a marvelous place and I absolutely love living here; but it sure is nice to get some fresh country air!

On one of our recent trips we drove past this sign:

This has John & I written all over it. No question, we’re stopping!
However, we are not yet to the point where we have a chicken coop on our rooftop, so farm-fresh eggs will have to do.

A dozen of each and it’s a good day! If only we were able to buy these eggs more often…there’s just nothing like them. I guess we will have to leave the city more than we had planned…

I have never cooked duck eggs before. After doing a little research, I learned the yolks have more fat, and the whites have more protein than chicken eggs. They have twice the nutritional value, with more Omega 3 fatty acids, and they are an alkaline producing food, whereas chicken eggs are an acid food. Therefore they are a great option for cancer patients as cancer cells do not thrive in an alkaline producing environment.

As far as cooking goes, they contain more Albumen which makes cakes and pastries fluffier.
For my purposes, I only wanted to hard boil them, and I referenced The New Agrarian for instructions. Basically, a gentler cooking is necessary. Since they are so rich, a smaller amount is needed as well. For my first time cooking them, I was very happy with how they turned out!

The recipe in which I wanted to add them included my freshly harvested La Ratte Fingerling Potatoes..

I just need to mention what a JOY it is to harvest potatoes! It felt as if I was digging for gold and every little potato I pulled out of the dirt was the most miraculous treasure. If you have never grown potatoes, PLEASE do so! They did take all season, but the result was definitely worth it. Next year we plan to do a couple different varieties :)

This recipe is adapted from my La Tartine Gourmande Cookbook.
As stated in previous posts, Beatrice Peltre is a wonderful cook and her photographs are just stunning. I would highly recommend anyone to check out her blog & book for inspiration.

La Ratte Fingerling Potato Salad with Carrots, Radishes, Peas & Duck Egg

2 Duck Eggs
2 Tbsp. Pine Nuts
1 Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cup Green Peas, fresh or frozen
1 lb. Fingerling Potatoes
4 French Breakfast Radishes, thinly sliced
3 Small Carrots, sliced
1 Tbsp. chopped Chives
1 Tbsp. chopped Parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped Thyme
Sea Salt & Pepper

For the Vinaigrette:
Sea Salt & Pepper
1 tsp. French Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. Whole Grain Mustard
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Olive Oil

Instructions for the salad:

1.) Hard boil duck eggs according to instructions found on The New Agrarian. Once peeled, cut into quarters, and then halves and set aside.
2.) Toast pine nuts in a frying pan over medium heat for two minutes until lightly browned. Set aside.
3.) Boil green peas and carrots in salted water for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse them under cold water to stop cooking and set aside to cool.
4.) Steam the potatoes for about 15 minutes, until cooked through. Drain and let them cool, then peel and cut them into 1/2″ thick slices.

For the vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, combine ingredients in order listed. Whisk together to emulsify.

To assemble:
In large bowl combine potatoes, sliced onions, peas & carrots, sliced radishes, pine nuts and chopped fresh herbs. Toss with half of the vinaigrette, then add hard boiled eggs, and toss gently with remaining vinaigrette as to not break up the eggs too much. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

The perfect salad to highlight the beauty of the La Ratte Fingerling Potato! What a refreshing change from the traditional creamy & monotone potato salad… Just harvested heirloom carrots, french breakfast radishes, & fresh herbs… in addition to bright green peas & duck eggs… I’ll take it!

October 29, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

PEPPERS, without a Fire! Roasted Pepper Quinoa Salad with Romesco Sauce

All I wanted to do was roast a pepper, I swear!

This was certainly a surprise when I was leaving my building the other day. I was in the elevator, and was almost trapped as the sirens started sounding. I made it out just in time to find this…

So no, this was not a pepper roasting gone bad. This was in fact someone trying to BBQ in an old metal planter, just around the corner from our garden…GRRR!! If our garden would’ve gone up in flames… Very. Upset. Thank goodness 10 firetrucks showed up to stop the small fire that never escaped the planter.

Clearly these men are very busy. We stood outside chatting while the other 10 firemen went inside to check it out. Really loving the pro activeness of our fire department.

Live to garden another day!

And now on to my pepper story. It’s a love story.
They just don’t stop growing! Well so it seems. Which I am not complaining by any means, because, as previously stated, I love them :)

Here is what we have been growing:


Jalepeno & Serrano


Anaheim, & the “J” Pepper (Grown just for John, of course)

Oh and we do of course have bell peppers. They have not been growing as quickly.. or perhaps I have been using them too quickly, that I do not have a photo somehow..

I know there a thousand things to do with peppers, but I have decided to resort to an old standby that is quick and versatile: roasting. I have definitely been spending a day a week going through the whole process of roasting, peeling, seeding and slicing. The great part is that I can just keep freshly roasted peppers in my fridge for a week to be used in a quick lunch wrap, breakfast omelet, or in this case, a quinoa salad. I have made the mistake of leaving a few seeds in the anaheim peppers. After they turn red they become somewhat hot!

The anaheim peppers were definitely our gold winner this year. At the beginning of September they were popping up so quickly it was hard to keep up.
The poblano peppers never grew as large as they seem to when bought from the store. I kept wanting to make chile rellenos, but after they were roasted they were just too small to stuff.

Here is my version of roasting peppers:
Preheat oven to 425
Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper
Roast for 1 hour, or until skins are well blistered, turning once half way through
Place in sealed container to let cool for 15 minutes
Cut off tops to pull out seeds and core, and peel off the skins
They kept in my fridge for a week I’d say

Overall, I was very happy with the peppers that we chose to plant and with their success rate. They were very easy to grow, and very easy to put to good use!

Now that I have my peppers prepared, time for the main course:
Red Quinoa with Scallions, Zucchini, Roasted Peppers, Walnuts & Queso Blanco, With Romesco Sauce

After cooking the quinoa, I added the scallions and sautéed zucchini and walnuts to the mix, along with some cilantro and the queso blanco. Simply delicious.

Here is the recipe for Roasted Pepper Quinoa with Zucchini, Walnuts & Queso Blanco:


1/2 cup Red Quinoa
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 large Scallion, sliced
1 medium Zucchini, quartered
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 cup queso blanco, diced
Salt & Pepper
Roasted Peppers, sliced (Above)


1. Rinse and drain quinoa. Combine quinoa and 1 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 18 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover and let cool. Fluff with a fork, as all water should be evaporated.
2. In cast iron skillet heat olive oil. Add chopped zucchini and sautee until browned and slightly tender. Add walnuts to toast, 2 minutes more.
3. Add zucchini and walnuts, chopped scallions and cilantro, diced queso blanco and salt and pepper to taste to the quinoa in the saucepan. The quinoa will still be warm to melt the cheese slightly.
4. Add sliced roasted peppers to the salad.

Now for the Romesco Sauce! It makes all the difference!
This recipe is adapted from Food and Wine.


2 large red bell peppers, halved, cored and seeded
2 medium tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, thickly sliced
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
Sea salt to taste

1. Begin by roasting the red bell peppers, yellow onion, and tomatoes in the oven. I brushed them with olive oil, and seasoned with salt & pepper as always. Roast for an hour at 425 until skins are blistered.
2. In a food processor combine roasted vegetables with almonds, crushed red pepper and puree. Season with salt. Done!

Quinoa Salad topped with Romesco Sauce!
This dish has pepper frenzy written all over it!
You can of course grill your peppers which would add that fantastic char flavor, but due to my limitations with grilling, roasting was a great way to go. And nothing (at least of my doing) caught on fire!

Garden Gumbo with Okra, Chickpeas & Kidney Beans

I am obsessed with Gumbo. Not the meat. The okra, the cajun roux, and just the plain deliciousness of when it is done properly, always puts a smile on my face and in my belly. With the few remaining okra I had left from my gorgeous plant I wanted to give it a go – my first time ever – at making vegetarian gumbo.

In case you do not recall the photos of my burgundy okra, allow me to refresh your memory:

As I searched the internet I found so many vegetarian gumbo recipes…How to choose?!? I found THIS ONE from Isa Chandra Moskowitz at the Post Punk Kitchen and fell in love. It seemed to be well suited for my skill range…The other one I was looking into seemed a little too intense for me at this point in my career (from 101 Cookbooks), but definitely something I will try next season with my next okra plant.

A quick note on the size of the okra. I have learned that Okra should not be over 2″ long. When it is, it becomes so tough that it’s inedible. I lost quite a few of my okra because of this. When the hot weather hit they loved it, and grew before I even had a chance to harvest :( So this is some of my okra that I wasn’t able to use:

The recipe I used called for some version of a sweet-hot creole peppers, which I did not have. So I used my bell peppers. So overall, this gumbo has a decent amount of produce coming from the garden: Okra, Cherry Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Onion, and Thyme. I’m good with that!

I began by making a roux, which I have never done. I almost went out and bought a gumbo/roux spoon… but John insisted it wasn’t necessary..He was probably right.
There are an endless number of ways to make a roux it seemed, but this one seemed pretty straightforward:
3 tbsp. Olive Oil and 1/4 cup Flour. Heat oil in large heavy bottomed pan, aka: Le Creuset Dutch Oven, sprinkle in the flour and use a wooden spoon to incorporate flour into oil, 3-4 minutes.

Then add onions and salt, stirring consistently till onions are coated, about 5 minutes, then add garlic. I then added my peppers and tomatoes and put the lid on so that the cherry tomatoes would cook faster and release moisture. The mixture was becoming nice and thick and pasty just like Isa said it would! I then seasoned it with paprika, bay leaves, fresh thyme and pepper.
Now to add the vegetable broth – while stirring constantly to prevent clumping – followed by the okra and beans.

As far as the beans go, Whole Foods now sells organic beans in this packaging instead of BPA lined aluminum cans. LOVE IT! Just something to be aware of, and they are still about the same price as the cans.

Once I brought it to a boil, I let it simmer for about an hour, and added a little extra vegetable broth as it was pretty thick. I didn’t bother adding the rice, it seemed unnecessary.

I feel like this may be an appropriate time to start singing….“They’re ain’t no time to stash the gumbo….” Thank you, Phish, for making this song to go along with my gumbo craze :)

I of course added a little hot sauce, as I always do to my gumbo :)
Thanks to PPK for the great recipe that I will be using and modifying over and over!

Cozy Comfort Food @ West Town Tavern? Yes Please!

John and I are always looking for a new place to check out. It’s “Product Research.” :) Since we are in the restaurant industry, of course we feel like it is our responsibility to eat at as many different restaurants as possible!
This reccommendation came from Jeff & Susie Kauck (the amazing food blogger & food photographers..in case you haven’t checked out her blog: returntosundaysupper.com). Being involved in the world of great food as they are, I was very excited to ask them where they like to frequent. This was top on their list… and OH BOY. I SHOULDN’T HAVE ASKED.
I’m in trouble!!
West Town Tavern:

Located in Noble Square at 1329 W. Chicago Ave.

Talk about just a warm, inviting atmosphere with delicious contemporary comfort food to go along with it.. This place is definitely one to be repeated, numerous times.

We started off with their Tavern Beer Cheese with Crunchy Toasts.

And of course a few of their Tavern Potato Chips. (With rosemary, balsamic, parmesan and truffle oil, of course.)

And this… This was amazing… If only I could recall exactly what it consisted of… It is a dish that is not listed on their menu right now, and it should always be! It was a savory herb pancake with roasted vegetables.. Oh my. GREAT vegetarian entree.

And then there was the trout. “Pan-roasted trout filets with garlic-roasted fingerling potatoes, house-cured bacon, and Chef Alfonso’s special sauce.” I don’t even know where to begin!

The staff was great as well, very friendly and understanding as I kept taking my photos :) I always love a place that doesn’t look at me like I’m too crazy as I have my camera out every other minute! They had a good crowd around the bar for a later 9 o’clock dinner.

They have different weekday dinner specials as well and the menu will change seasonally. Great neighborhood tavern. Absolutely Great.

Oh and they are having a fall farm + wine dinner coming up on October 14th! LOVE IT!!


Crispy Crabcake with Apple-Fennel Salad and Orange Gastrique
2011 Bergerie l’Hortus “Classique” Blanc

Cantaloupe with Arugula, Pine Nuts, Crispy Country Ham and
Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette
2010 Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Grigio

Braised Pork Belly with Three Sisters Grits, Pickled Lemons and Mint
2010 Terradora di Paolo Aglianico d’Irpinia

Moroccan Braised Lamb Shank with Acorn Squash, Curried Orzo, Garlic Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese
2007 Izadi Reserva, Rioja

Maple Pound Cake with Praline Ice Cream, Rosemary Almonds, Orange Gastrique and Hickory Syrup
Amaro Montenegro

$79 per person (tax and gratuity INCLUDED) .For nonrefundable, but transferable, tickets phone 312.666.6175.

West Town Tavern is proud to support the following farmers:
Three Sisters Farm, Mick Klug Farm, Green Acres Farm, Shagbark Hickory Works, Capriole Goat Cheese