The Best Peanut Butter Cookie I Ever Ate

April 8, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Posted in Baking | Leave a comment

Was approximately 1 hour ago.  One of my friends at work is hosting a bake sale tomorrow to raise money for Leukemia research.  So I needed something to bring to work that would be delicious enough to hold its own, yet pretentious enough to hold up to my coworkers palates.

You know how sometimes people tell you that they have a secret ingredient for their recipe.  And then you ask them what it is and its some totally normal unsurprising food?  Like ketchup in meatloaf… or cumin in salsa.

Well the not-so-secret in my peanut butter cookies is actually pretty cool.  Its called wattleseed.  Wattleseed is the ground seed of the australian acacia flower.  It has a really awesome hazelnutty, toffee-like, coffee-ish aroma.

I used Martha Stewart’s Peanut Butter Cookie recipe cited on Bakeaholic’s blog, I added one teaspoon of ground wattleseed to the dough and sprinkled the tops of the cookies with Halen Mon Vanilla Sea Salt.

Cheers and happy eating,



Keilbasa-Lentil-Kale Soup

April 8, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Posted in Cooking | Leave a comment

A few days ago I looked in the fridge and lo and behold, I found a bunch of kale from the farmers market two weeks ago.  It was looking a bit worse for the wear, I could swear I heard it begging to be reincarnated in to some sort of delicious creation.  So last night on the way home from work I stopped at Copernicus Deli (our local Polish grocery store) and picked up a homemade smoked kielbasa.  The two foot long monstrosity was $2.49.  Wow.

I also happened to have really great Italian lentils that we sell at the deli.  About a year ago I was doing a stock run in the depths of the deli basement and I heard the most beautiful sound in the world.  The sound of dried lentils falling on to a solid concrete floor.  One of the bags had sprung a leak, and so my manager told me to take the salvaged bag home and play with the lentils.  I didn’t want to waste the lentils on anything silly, so they sat in my pantry collecting dust for a while.  Last week when I was cleaning my pantry I resolved to use the lentils as soon as possible.

So there I was, sitting in my kitchen with a massive kielbasa, a bunch of wilted kale, and a pint container full of scavenged of lentils. Oh, and it was a miserable cold rainy gray day.  Fine, soup it is.

And here’s the recipe.  Adapted from a 90’s issue of gourmet I found on epicurious.

  • 1 8″ piece smoked kielbasa, sliced thin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 2 carrots cubed
  • 2 potatoes cubed
  • 1/2 cup lentils, picked over
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 small bunch kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves sliced thin (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic or red-wine vinegar

This must be how new parents feel.

March 28, 2010 at 3:55 am | Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

Yesterday morning I had the most wonderful surprise.

After a lovely breakfast with Heli at Selma Fridays, I went home to turnover the dirt in my teeny garden before planting radishes.  Imagine my delight when I found 16 chubby carrots hiding in the ground.  I had given up hope on the carrots last fall, when, after a full summer of growth, they were still smaller than my pinkie.  So I learned by total accident, that wintering over your carrots results in big sweet carrots come spring.  And next fall I fully intend to plant my whole bed full of carrots so that the fallowing spring I’ll be able to reap the rewards!

I don’t care if they are blemished and wonky, to me they are beautiful.

After my great discovery, I planted mustard greens, kale, radishes, beets, and more carrots!  In another couple weeks I will plant the pole beans and lettuces.  What joy!

Cheers and happy planting,


Life Update

March 28, 2010 at 3:38 am | Posted in Cooking | Leave a comment

Hello there, citizens of the world!

A picture is worth a thousand words, and here are just a few.

Using Tartine’s recipe for oatmeal walnut chocolate chip cookies, I hodge-podged together a new recipe for compost cookies, adding in a few tablespoons of coffee grounds, a half cup of dehydrated coconut, and a dusting of my favorite secret ingredient…

Halen Mon Vanilla Salt.  Sadly, we don’t carry this at the deli.  But oh is it amazing.  I sprinkle it on top of cookies, use it in pancakes, sprinkle it on top of grapefruit.  Sadly, at some point in my life I’ll have to kick my salt addiction.  But until my girlish figure begins to retain water in a serious way… I’m keeping the salt.  Plus my coworkers whine whenever I bring in desserts that are “criminally under-salted.”

*I didn’t eat all of those cookies, at least, not in one sitting.  The entire pot of tea however, is another story.

This displays what you can get at the Kerrytown Farmer’s market (in the middle of winter, no less) for $10.  Gingergold apples, blue oyster mushrooms, beautiful hoop-house beets, and the remaining dollars bought delicious Calder dairy milk.  The glass bottle makes me nostalgic, and the milk itself makes me feel rich.

Later that night, my winnings at the farmer’s market led to an impromptu dinner party for five of my friends.  We had a creamy mushroom risotto, a roasted beet salad with beet greens and blue cheese, a few hunks of toasted bread, and for dessert there was a blueberry cobbler made with forgotten blueberries from last summer – laced with a bit of allspice.  I love the thriftiness of hosting a 6 person dinner with $10 of ingredients.  What a wonderful night.

Here’s another weeknight dinner.  I’ve never had bad results from a butterflied roasted chicken. It always comes out juicy, with lovely crisp skin.  After letting the skin sear for twenty minutes, we rubbed on a mixture of pimenton, olive oil, garlic, and sea salt, and then let the chicken finish cooking in the oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until the thighs were at temp.

Here is a cartoon I drew a few years back on how to make this chicken, although I have revised my technique in the last few years.  On a side note, this cartoon was a part of my application to work at Zing’, along with a few articles for a food column I wrote for The Crier (an online publication that sadly is no more).

Along with the sexy chicken we made a salad of braised fennel bulb, crisp apples, Gorgonzola and pine-nuts, tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette.  It was quite the delicious combo.

Et voila!

A few days later the leftover chicken found new life, abed a pizza with ricotta cheese, torn basil, home-made tomato sauce, and a drizzle of thick balsamic.  Here’s a great blog where I got the crazy idea of replacing the pizza stone I don’t have, with my gigantic cast iron pan.

Following the delicious pizza, the leftover tomato sauce was used to make a delicious late-night dinner.  Creamy polenta with tomato sauce and, of course, a fried egg on top.

Which brings me to where I am now.  Tonight I had very reviving gigantic bowl of Caesar salad, with fresh spinach from this morning’s farmers market run, and fresh warm croutons.  I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a list of my culinary “firsts” since I began work at zing’s.  But the real impact has been in my everyday involvement with the food I eat at home.  There are two things that made my everyday salad stand out from what it would have been two years ago.

1) There was a raw egg-yolk  in the salad dressing.  I beat the egg into submission with olive oil until it was on the peak of becoming a mayonnaise, and the seduced it with white wine vinegar, and seasoned with a touch of dijon, salt, and pepper.

2) There was an anchovy in the salad.  While I’ve always been an open-minded eater, cured fish has been my final frontier.  Tasting delicious buttery anchovies from Spain has dramatically altered my perception of the fishy ingredient.

No recipes, no fear.  Just an exhausted cheese-monger coming home, looking for an easy satisfying dinner.

Cheers and happy eating,


What I do: Part 1

February 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Posted in What I do: | Leave a comment

My goal for the blog was that it would allow me to cross the gap between work and play.  I illustrate a monthly chalkboard that is right there on the entryway when you walk into the deli.  I’ve done this for just over a year now, and sadly I don’t have pictures of every chalkboard.  However, I have most of them, so enjoy!

March 2009

(To commemorate my friends Jess and Jess leaving the Deli)

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

(To commemorate my friend Laura, the girl on the camel, leaving the deli)

July 2009

To celebrate the release of Ari’s Guide to Better Bacon

August 2009

A shameless plug for a tasting I hosted with Duff

September 2009

My favorite board so far

And then my computer crashed and I lost October, November, and December.  January was erased before I could document it.  Ah, the life of a chalkboard artist.

February 2010

So that’s a good look at one of the things I do at the deli.  March will celebrate our cheeses from Neil’s Yard Dairy in London, which will be shared with you just as soon as the thing gets drawn.

White Chili Recipe

February 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Cooking | Leave a comment

By popular demand, here is the white chili recipe I used for the snow day 101 post.  We couldn’t find Nic’s dad’s recipe, so we improvised using a recipe from our dearly beloved Gourmet Magazine.  It uses a stick of butter, so be forewarned, this isn’t a recipe for the faint of heart. (or weak of heart, literally)


  • 1/2 pound dried navy beans, picked over (or two cans if you want to cheat)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
  • 1T. Salt – or to taste
  • two 4-ounce cans whole mild green chilies, drained and chopped
  • 5 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds), cooked and cut into 1/2-inch pieces ( I used ground)
  • 1 bag of frozen corn (approx. two cups worth).  Or fresh corn, but that begs to ask the question – who makes chili when corn is in season?
  • Good Cheddar for grating on top
  • Accompaniment: Corn Bread or Tortilla Chips, and sliced avocado if you got it.


In a large kettle soak beans in cold water to cover by 2 inches overnight. Drain beans in a colander and return to kettle with cold water to cover by 2 inches. Cook beans at a bare simmer until tender, about 1 hour, and drain in colander.

In a skillet cook onion, garlic, bell pepper, and all of the spices in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat until softened.

In a 6- to 8-quart heavy kettle melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Stir in sautéed vegetables and gradually add broth and half-and-half, whisking constantly. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, or until thickened.  Add beans, chilies, chicken, corn, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

Serve atop a wedge of cornbread with grated cheddar, perhaps with a few slices of avocado on top.

Snow Day 101

February 22, 2010 at 9:26 am | Posted in Cooking | Leave a comment

This morning I woke up to find nearly a foot of freshly accumulated white stuff outside my front door.  And since my boy is a teacher, and since I was sent home after a few slow hours at work – it could only mean one thing… SNOW DAY!

On the way home we picked up the ingredients to make white chili.  What with my mom being a proud Texan and all, I grew up with red chili.  But, my boy comes from humble Yankee roots, where the white chili reigns supreme.  At the very least, he grew up with his Dad’s awesome white chili, so we thought it would be a nice recipe to add to the repertoire.

(my mom gave me these beautiful mise en place bowls for Christmas)

We ground the cumin and fennel fresh, and had them ready to do their thing.

*A tip I learned from one of my friends, is to cook chili the same way you would cook a curry.  Cook the spices first!  By sauteeing your spices with the onions and butter you allow the spices to release their delicious oils!

Et voila!  White bean chili!

Once we had a pot happily bubbling on our stove, it was time to move on to the next order of snow day business.

Popcorn and a board game.  I love popcorn popped on the stove, its something my dad used to make on winter days while we watched Harrison Ford action movies.  This popcorn was an idea I stole from my friend Corinna.  It is popcorn with grated Montgomery’s Cheddar, pimenton la vera, and melted butter.  Delicious.

We are pretty big board game nerds.  The game is Agricola, you pretend to be a 17th century Italian farmer.  And for the first time, he didn’t beat me – we TIED!  HA!

And after a good game, pushing my car out of the snow, and a snowball fight – there’s no better way to wind down than with a stiff drink.

In my case:

A hot toddy for my sore throat with knob creek bourbon, meyer lemon, and buckwheat honey.  And for him:

A bottle of our last homebrew: a chocolate porter fermented with Askinoisie Cacao Nibs.  On a side note, a couple weeks ago I gave a bottle to Shawn Askinoisie while he was visiting the Z!  Have a great weekend folks!

Cheers and happy eating!


My favorite meal (when cupboards are bare).

February 19, 2010 at 2:47 am | Posted in Cooking | Leave a comment

Q: Is there anything better than fresh pasta topped with a poached egg, parmigiano reggiano, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil?

A: No.

(although Guanciale  might be a nice addition)

A week in food.

February 19, 2010 at 2:31 am | Posted in Cooking | Leave a comment

Well, this week started with Valentine’s day, so naturally, it makes a good segway into the first thing I made.

Traditionally girls get these:

but what do you get for a guy that is the sign of romance and affection?


Why yes, that is a bouquet of bacon roses.  I rolled strips of long-pepper-bacon into florets and tied them with cooking twine, then left them under the broiler till they “bloomed”.  Next step, an aluminum foil cone stuffed with paper towels made up the base of the bouquet.  I think he liked it, it was gone in five minutes.

On Tuesday I went to the ZcoB winter huddle, which always gives me the shot in the arm I need to go back to work and do great things.  I heard my friend Sarah give a wonderful presentation on her recent trip to Tunisia, and her food finds there.  (Read her blog)

On Wednesday, I made donuts with my friend Mike.  To be specific, I made meyer lemon creme fraiche donuts with my friend Mike, and we made three dozen of them.

The seasonality of citrus is one of the highlights of winter in gray Michigan.  However, it makes me wish I could have a meyer lemon tree in my backyard.

Kendall Farms Creme Fraiche is the best of the best of the best.

The batter sat for an hour to let the gluten set.  And then we got to the frying!

Mike was nice enough to come over to help, even though his fondue tasting was later that night.  But I think for most of us, cooking is a stress relief.  So we had fun.

Fried rather rustic-ally, a la caste iron skillet.  We had a really hard time maintaining a constaint oil temperature.  So the donuts were extra crispy.  Once cooled, we dipped them in a glaze made of meyer lemon zest and juice.

I wish I had a finished image of the donuts.  But at that point we were too busy eating to have time for photography.  We brought the donuts, still warm,  to our weekly finance meeting (huddle) where they were devoured on-site.

And it was good.

Hope you all have great week!

Cheers and happy eating,


So Anyways

Sitting, drinking coffee, at Intelligentsia.

February 12, 2010 at 1:16 am | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

This morning I drove down to Chicago to visit my friends Jess and Caroline.  Caroline and I shared potstickers and thai coconut curry soup with vermicelli.  And now I’m sitting at Intelligentsia, people watching and sipping clover brewed Rwandan natural process coffee (that was gifted to me after I mentioned where I work).

I’m having one of those life lovin’ moments.

Pictures and life updates to come!

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