Category Archives: chicago

An Ode to Las Piñatas and the Enchilada Diaries

September 19, 2017

Hola internet friends.  I was thinking that I need a new series for this blog.  I write a lot about Greek food, but what many of you may not know is that I love Mexican food too. I especially love enchiladas. A lot.  Almost too much…

There was this place that Jeff and I used to go to for Mexican food in Old Town called “Las Piñatas”.  In fact, we had been going there for over 20 years, even before we were dating…when we were “just friends”.  We went so often that when we sat down magically nachos and margaritas appeared.  We were so predictable that they knew exactly what we wanted.

It was a secret little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant on Wells Street, with velvet paintings on the wall of Mexican cowboys and hundreds of piñatas hanging from the ceiling.  It wasn’t anything fancy, but what they did, they did well.  No nonsense, tasty, comforting Mexican food.

Their nachos were individually made.  Each chip was carefully topped with it’s own little portion of refried beans, tomatoes, guacamole, cheese and crema.  Their margaritas were the perfect mix of tangy and sweet (ice, no salt for me).  But the thing they did the best were their enchiladas. Did I mention I love enchiladas?  A lot.  I was obsessed with their chicken molé enchiladas.  I never ordered anything else.  The molé was this spicy chocolate sauce bathing my chicken enchiladas.  If I could have ordered a bowl of the molé sauce and a spoon, I would of, but I had to be an adult.  Jeff always got the “mixtas” with steak.  Mixtas were a trio of enchiladas, each topped with tomatillo, rojo and mole sauces.

So maybe it’s time to compile a series of posts about some of the great things that Las Piñatas served and document my attempt to recreate them.  And why should I attempt this?  Because my favorite Mexican restaurant, Las Piñatas, closed down.  WAAAHHH!!!  Heartbroken doesn’t begin to describe how sad that made me.  There is a new fangled breakfast place in the space now and every time I drive by, I grumble under my breath…and then I cry out the window…POR QUÉÉÉÉÉ???

Anyway, today, I thought I would share my spin on their tomatillo verde sauce.  One third of their magical Mixtas Enchiladas.  More to come…

Tomatillo Verde Sauce

Ingredients

1 – 1.5 lbs of tomatillos (about 8-10 depending on size)

5 poblano peppers

1 jalapeno pepper

1 medium red onion

1 – 2 garlic cloves

olive oil for coating vegetables

salt/pepper

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Place your husked tomatillos, poblano peppers, jalapeño pepper and onion on a sheet tray and coat with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast until the tomatillos cook down and the poblanos blacken, about 40 minutes.

Remove vegetables from the oven and let cool.  Peel and seed the poblanos and jalapeño pepper.  Add them and the rest of your ingredients to a food processor.  Make sure you add the juice that the tomatillos leaked out while roasting as well.  Wazz up the whole lot (sorry I said wazz, you can just press pulse) until it’s the desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can eat the sauce with tortillas chips, with nachos or use it as the base for making your favorite enchilada recipe.  I will share my favorite enchilada recipe soon.

Enjoy,

Kallie =)

…and Magdalena (my little tomatillo)

Holy Cow!  108 is a mystical number, and a  beef stroganoff for champions.

November 5, 2016

The Cubs have won the World Series.  Let that sink in a little.  

After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs are World Series champs and what a series it was.  Hemingway couldn’t have written such a dramatic turn of events.  After a 3-1 deficit, the Cubs managed to come back and tie the series.  There would be a Game 7 after all.  We could believe again.

Right at the start of Game 7 their momentum was strong.  We hit a home run in the first inning, and suddenly we were leading 6-3.  Until the 8th inning that is, and then the drama started.  

Somehow, Cleveland managed to tie the game and the heart of every Cub’s fan from Chicago to Belize started to sink into the abyss.  They went from somehow hoping and believing that this was locked in to now seeing it all slip away from their hands. How could this happen?  The curse, that dreaded curse.  That stupid goat!

By the end of the 9th inning, the Cubs and Cleveland were tied.  This game was going to go extra innings.  My worst nightmare.  And then it happened.  The rain.  Because the game going to extra innings wasn’t torture enough, we had to wait to see if our hearts would forever be broken because of a rain delay.  Stupid rain!

Tears of Cubs fans started to pour down from the heavens.

Or was it divine intervention?  You know they say 108 is a mystical number in the Dharmic faiths.  Perhaps God was giving the Cubs a “time out”.  Perhaps even God had enough.  Maybe it was the break our beloved Cubs needed to collect themselves and pull it together?  A cosmic “talkin’ to” is what they needed.

At this point, I was preparing for the worst.  I wasn’t going to be mad.  I was going to be sad to be sure, but I would be proud of them.  If they lost, they lost giving it their all.  They didn’t give it away, or make it easy.  They fought tooth and nail and well…if it wasn’t in the cards, then it wasn’t.  But I decided they had played their hearts out and I was already very proud of them.

Well, it turns out the rain washed away any doubts.  It washed away the curse and all the heartaches and sorrows of the past.  Forever gone.  The Cubs scored 2 more runs and won the World Series 8-7.  They did it.  Every Cubs fan around the world breathed a collective sigh of disbelief and then cheered.  And we all cried the happiest tears of joy ever.

Everyone has a story related to the Cubs.  For instance this one:

You all know about a Greek old man named Bill Sianis and his goat and how he supposedly cursed the Cubs.  But do you know about a Greek old man named Emmanuel and how he could have possibly turned that curse around simply by switching his hat?  Well, Emmanuel, my dad, is that Greek old man.  And for very many years he wore a Sox hat.  Not because he was a fan.  He didn’t even like baseball.  I think someone gave it to him and he just just wore it.  Well, enter my husband, Jeff.  The biggest Cubs fan on planet earth.  Jeff couldn’t tolerate this any longer.  So this year, he ordered my father a Cubs hat of his very own and low and behold, the Cubs won the World Series.  Coincidence?  True story.

Speaking of my husband, some of his happiest memories as a kid were watching the Cubs on WGN with his grandmother Nancy while she ironed.  His grandmother Nancy was a typical housewife of that era, in the style of The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She often cooked Beef Stroganoff.

So in honor of grandma Nancy, and her beloved World Champion Cubs I am making this deconstructed version of beef stroganoff.


Deconstructed Beef Stroganoff (inspired by grandma Nancy and adapted from Jamie Oliver)

Serves 2-3

3/4 lb filet mignon

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp lemon rind

1/2 small jar of cornichons (gherkin pickles)

2-3 shallots thinly sliced

1 cup parsley leaves chopped

2 tbsp parsley stems finely minced

1 cup rice

5 oz spinach

12 oz creaming mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1 cup cream

1.5 tbsp brandy

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 stick butter

salt pepper

Start by seasoning your filet mignon with salt, pepper, paprika and lemon rind.  Set aside.

Finely slice the cornichons and shallots and place in a bowl.  Add the minced parsley stems and chopped parsley leaves, a little salt and 1/2 the jar of pickle juice.  Set aside, stirring occasionally.

Next wash your spinach and slice your mushrooms.  Sautée the spinach in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In the same pan, add 2 tbsp butter and sautéed the mushrooms until golden brown.  While you are sautéeing mushrooms, start boiling your rice which should take about 12 minutes.

At the same time as your mushrooms are sautéeing and rice is boiling you can begin to grill your filet mignon to your liking.

When the rice is done cooking, add 2 tablespoons of butter to coat and set aside.  When filet is finished put on a plate and cover with foil.

When all the pieces are ready, the last thing you want to make is the sauce.  When you remove the mushrooms from the pan, add a cup of cream to the pan and 2 tablespoons brandy, salt and pepper and bring to a boil until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

To assemble the dish, put some of the wilted spinach on the buttom of your plate and top with 1 cup of rice.  Next, top the rice with slices of filet mignon, 1/2 the cooked mushrooms and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the pickle mixture.  Next top generously with the brandy cream sauce.

Enjoy!  Yeah Cubs!

-Kallie =)

#linklove_wednesday AND Fulton Market Harvest Fest

October 5, 2016

Double whammy everyone, today you get a #linklove_wednesday AND learn all about the Fulton Market Harvest Fest!

Old Town has an art fair, as does the West Loop.  Pilsen has molé fest.  Roscoe village has a burger fest.  Well not to be outdone, Fulton Market had its first ever Harvest Fest!!!  And what fun it was!

My friends and I got together for what I call an American “panagiri”.  What is a panagiri?  Basically it’s a Greek word for your local village music and food festival.  You walk around in a haze, trying to decide what to eat and listen to music…well guess what?  We had one here in my local village of Chicago and it was delicious!  For my tummy and ears!

See that ^^ up there???  That’s the pulled pork and corn elotes from Green Street Meats.  You know why this was so awesome?  The pork.  It reminded me of the “gourounopoula”, you guessed it at a panagiri!!!   Gourounopoula is slow roasted pig in Greece and it’s just seasoned with salt and pepper and it renders its fat and make all of life and the universe taste heavenly!  That’s what this pulled pork sandwich did for me.

Oh and that ^^ is a pumpkin ale from Goose Island Brewery.  It was great!  And I don’t even like beer!  But I liked this one.  I need to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown this weekend and have a pumpkin ale.

And then, they had cooking demonstrations!  What craziness is this?  Well when Fulton Market is full of such great restaurants like PQM and the Publican, La Serena Clandistina and Duck Duck Goat we ALL wonder how they make food taste so good.  Fulton Market is a vortex of all good food.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t have that pig ^^ in the picture in my sandwich!  No.  I don’t think so.  I hope not.  Poor pig…in my belly!  🙂

That’s me and T sitting on a couple of bales of hay.  Yes that T, the wearer of high heals at farmers markets.  She was sensible that day.  Chuck Taylors. Denim and plaid.  Very Americana and harvest-y.  Don’t ya’ think?

Those were little bolognese stuffed buns from Monteverde.  I mean come on!  Cute and tasty.  Nice touch with the rosemary. I hope they do this harvest-fest-roasted-pig-pumpkin-beer-and-music-panagiri thing again next year.  It was awesome!

And now, here are my favorite links this week, Wednesday, October 5, 2016:

1.  It’s fall, which means soup season!

2.  Are you a writer?  It’s nanowrimo next month!  Plan now.

3.  The Queen owns all the dolphins and swans…and other things.

4.  Fall also means, too many apples and apple butter!

5.  If you’re a girl, and you love shoes, you love Christian Louboutin…le sigh.

6.  Go see Lady Gaga…at your local dive bar?

7.  But, but why?  When a runny egg yolk is so darn good?

8.  I haven’t even gone camping, what’s this glamping business?

9.  How to raise a Nobel Prize winner…I like this video.

Where Have All the Faeries Gone?

September 18, 2016

Did you see the moon this weekend?  It was a harvest moon and it was HUGE!  It was one of those moons that was big, round and kind of golden with perfectly placed dark clouds passing through it.  You know, a fall moon.  A spooky  moon.  A moon that makes you think of ghosts, goblins and other absurd things.  Ah, the absurd.  My friend T has a favorite expression, “revel in the absurd” and that is exactly what we did this moonlit weekend.

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“Chicago Pinup” by artist Jason Brueck of Alter Images (I bought that at the West Loop Art Fair)

My husband had plans to go to the Echo and the Bunnymen concert with his buddies on Saturday, so I called up T and told her to “get her pants on” because we needed to go have a spontaneous adventure.

My first thought was that we needed to find a little place to enjoy a drink and some small snacks.  Maybe at an outdoor patio, so as to take advantage of the warm weather we are still having in September.  Winter is coming and before you know it Chicago will be a city of unrecognizable people in ski masks and big puffer coats.  So we ended up at Scofflaw, where we ordered a couple of cocktails and smothered this burrata cheese topped with olive oil, apples and pistachios all over our faces.

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We started talking about movies and that maybe we should go see one later.  But the only movies currently in theaters were of course those halloween-like, slasher films.  Ugh fall season movies, the worst!  We decided that our imaginations were WAY TOO overactive to go see a slasher film.

I mean, remember the movie Signs with Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson?  You know the one about crop circles and aliens?  Yeah, THAT film!  This movie sat with me so much that I thought there we aliens in my home for over a week.  Too much.  Too much.  I can’t.  My brain just has way too overactive an imagination.  I don’t even like sleeping without my arms and legs being tucked in under the covers (because you know, monsters under the bed and all, ha!)

So we decided going to the movies that night, was OUT.  Next stop, ice cream.  The closest ice cream shop was Black Dog Gelato.  I had the olive oil almond and T had toasted coconut.  And about 4 different “tastes” of some other gelato and sorbets.  Did you know cucumber and rosewater makes a divine combination?  It does.  I have to figure that one out at home.

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On the heels of our “oh I can’t do a scary movie” conversation, T and I started talking about something else we couldn’t do.  Turns out we both couldn’t tolerate listening to crazy, scary stories about faeries or “neraides” as they are known in Greece.  I like writing “faeries”, it’s so British.

Anyway, back to neraides…they are these supernatural pixie-like creatures that frequent streams, mountain forests or the bottom of trees and can take various forms.  And they are mostly not good.  Okay, never good.  Almost EVERYONE in Greece knows someone or has someone in their family that has dealt with or seen these bizarre woodland nymphs.  And it FREAKS. ME. OUT.  I am not sure what upsets me more, the possibility that these fantastical creatures exist or the fact that there are people who swear up and down that they have dealt with these faeries.

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Did you know that faeries apparently are non-smokers?  Let me explain.

My grandfather once told me a story about his close encounter with the spritely kind.  Many, many harvest moons ago, when he was younger, he went to divert some of the village’s well water to his crop of sultana grapes in the middle of the night.  These grapes are specific to making raisins since they are seedless.  What?  I thought you would want to know.  Anyway, on his way back home, a dog wearing a bell was following him.  My grandfather stopped and turned around to look at the dog and it also stopped.  And then it would start following him again.  Stop. Follow.  Stop.  Follow.  Again and again.  So my grandfather suspecting that this was not your regular run of the mill dog, took out a cigarette and lit it.  And POOF, the dog disappeared.  This freaked my grandfather out.  And it FREAKED ME out more when he told me the story.  What on earth?  Thanks pappou, there is no way I am sleeping tonight!

Apparently, a lit cigarette is the super top secret weapon to making these mischievous pixies disappear.  You heard it here first folks.  Now why he had to go “water his sultana grapes” before the butt crack of dawn is beyond me.  My mom claims it’s because farmers would water their fields at night when it was still cool. Watering crops during the day was a no-no.  The sun would make the water too hot and ruin the crops.  Well, that’s great, but when faeries and disappearing dogs are lurking, it seems a bit risky.  Don’t you think?  Forget logic!

Which begs the questions, “Where have all the neraides gone?”  I know you are singing that last sentence to Paul Cole‘s “Where have all the cowboys gone?”  Aren’t you?  That’s okay, I am.

T thought it was a valid question and so we made an attempt to ask a reputable source,  a Greek in Greece, since they are apparently all experts in faeries.  We wanted to know why there weren’t any documented faery encounters in modern times.  Of course, it was the middle of the night in Greece and we would have to wait until the next morning to find out via WhatApp.  Hopefully, our source wasn’t on a middle of the night grape watering project or collecting honey from mountain forests.  Eeek!

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The next morning, T and I went to Lula Cafe in Logan Square, because that is what I do every weekend, and she told me that her family had a similar story as my grandfather’s.  Apparently, her grandmother’s brother was walking alone at night, smoking a cigarette and guess what?  A bell wearing dog was following him.  What???  I know crazy.  Is this the national pixie story of Greece?  Does this particular pixie prefer to transform into a dog?   Who can say.  But in this version however, the dog transformed into a more recognizeable faery and told him, “Good thing you have that cigarette.”

Come on!  Stop!  I can’t anymore!

Everyone in Greece acts like these faeries are bad news, but so far it seems that they are all anti-smoking champions.  Well, our Greek source was no help.  They still believed in neraides and wasn’t sure where they were hiding.  I offered that perhaps the faeries had enough of Greece’s #1 past time of cigarette smoking and moved to another country that had tougher anti-smoking laws.  T suspected that they were perhaps in hiding in this modern age because faeries feared being captured in a picture on someone’s phone who would subsequently post it to Instagram.  Well I know I would.

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I couldn’t take it anymore.  I wanted an answer to why no one had a modern pixie story.  So I asked my mom.  And her thoughts were that old world peoples, our elders, were much more innocent and kind hearted than people of today.  So only the innocent would be able to see such things as faeries.  And today, society is not so innocent, even evil at times, so the faeries fear us and stay hidden.

I have to say, while I think this whole pixie business is bunk, I think there is some hidden wisdom or symbolism in my mother’s words.  Think about how man has poisoned the streams these faeries are supposed to frequent.  Think about how many trees and forests man has destroyed.  The mystical essence of Mother Nature is continually being damaged.  Am I getting too deep?  Maybe.  But I think you know what I mean.  Maybe there is a message to be found here.

After lunch, T and I met up with another friend of ours E at the West Loop Art Fair.  As we strolled up and down the art exhibits in the blinding sun, we asked her if she had heard any stories about faeries on the Ikarian island where her family is from.  She said, “No sorry.  Ikarians were too Communist to believe in faeries.”

So there you have it folks, neraides are apparently afraid of cigarette smoke and communism.

True story.  Do you have any tales of old world faeries?  Tell me in the comments.

Have a great week everyone.  😉

-Kallie

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One of These Things Doesn’t Belong Here…

September 3, 2016

Zucchini Bread.

Fried Zucchini.

Stuffed Zucchini.

Zucchini Fritters.

muffin trio

I over did it guys.  I have too much zucchini in my life.  Between my mother and my overzealous eye at the farmers market in Logan Square.  I have WAY.  TOO.  MUCH.  ZUCCHINI.  Did you know the zucchini is technically a fruit?  Oh yeah, it is.

Speaking of Logan Square, if you have been reading this blog regularly, you know that I am a huge fan of Lula Cafe.  In fact, it’s the one thing I do EVERY WEEKEND.  I love this place.  They do vegetables Iike no one else.  They serve the best, most amazing coffee.  They have a cute outdoor patio.  Don’t believe me?  Look here, and here for proof.

grated zucchini

 

Lula also changes up their menu often.  Don’t you like how I just call it Lula?  Like we are old girlfriends?  Oh hey girl, what’s up?  Well, we are friends!  Lula rocks my life every Saturday and Sunday!  As I was saying, they change up their menu often. In fact, they have this sandwich called The Royale (capital T, capital R)  and it changes almost every month.  You guys, it was featured in the National Geographic!  The National Geographic!  Yes a magazine, that covers animal life, outer space and the planet earth at large, has noticed The Royale sandwich at Lula Cafe.  Look here.  The Royale is a tour de force.  And Lula Cafe is apparently the epicenter of food on planet earth.  I can’t anymore…

ingredients 3

Now this menu change-up usually is a good thing because it means we are eating the freshest and most tasty vegetables at the exact moment they are in season.  But the problem with an ever changing menu, is that sometimes my favorites go away…and don’t come back.  Whaaahhh!  Total FWP guys (first world problem.). Good-bye Nearly Summer Salad.  Good-bye Green Chorizo Sopas, I will miss you.  Maybe next year.  Lula?  Do you take requests?  Bring back my almost summer salad and green chorizo sopas!!!!  Please!!!  Pretty please?  Why you gotta always break my heart?

I don’t do well with change.

zucchini batter

Well, these days Lula Cafe has this zucchini muffin studded with bits of chocolate, cherries and walnut.  Zucchini?  What madness is this?  Zucchini doesn’t belong in a pastry!!!  (Cue the song “One of these things just doesn’t belong here” in your head.)  You guys this muffin is practically a health food.  And you have a fridge full of summertime zucchini don’t you?  I do.  And I know you do, because I can see you thinking about what you are going to do with all of them.  Here is another idea for your zucchini surplus.

But for now, this muffin:  Grated zucchini which is low calorie.  Chocolate and cherries which have antioxidants and walnuts which have all those omega-3s.  I think for your own sake you should try these muffins.  Now.  Stat.  Isn’t that what they say on Grey’s Anatomy?

 

muffin layers

Le sigh, Grey’s Anatomy.  It just isn’t the same without Dr. McDreamy.  Why Shonda?  Why?  Why did you do me like that?  First you take away Sloan and then Shepherd?  I better not start on this tangent.  It won’t end well.  Forget I said anything.  (September 22nd new season.  It better be good.)

I don’t do well with change.

Go ahead Lula, take this one off the menu too.  I don’t care.  I will just make my own….humph!

Here’s how to make a health muffin:


Gluten Free, Choco-Cherry-Nut Zucchini Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1 3/4 all purpose flour or gluten free flour (I like this one)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup olive oil (I’m Greek, this is the only oil I have, another health food, this is getting better)

1 cup zucchini, grated  (Yeah, I know.  Who knew zucchini a make excellent muffins)

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cups dried cherries

1 and a 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinammon

1/2 teaspoon clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F, line your muffin tin with paper liners.

2.  Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, and salt in a bowl.

3.  In another bowl beat the egg, add olive oil, milk and vanilla.

4. Stir your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then add the grated zucchini, chocolate chips, dried cherries and walnuts.

5.  Scoop the batter into your muffin tins about 3/4 full, top with a cherry half or walnut if you are feeling ambitious.  Or don’t.  No pressure.

6. Bake in a 350 oven for 20 minutes and then eat quickly.  It’s for your health.

Enjoy,

-Kallie

 

dirty dish