Sunday, June 8, 2008

Summer Gazpacho

The fact is that in Chicago there is no shortage of what to do during the summer. And, in my very humble opinion, I can't think of a better city to be in. This weekend there was a ton of things to do - from BluesFest in Grant Park - featuring a bunch of stages and BB King - to the Printers Row Book Fair (Where we were this afternoon with the kids and some friends - looking at books, playing in the kids area and listening to Justin Roberts - all for free - then tearing to a restaurant during a torrential downpour!) - to RibFest in our neighborhood, where there was not only great food - but another kids area with shows on science from the Museum of Science and Industry, fun carnival games, face painting, etc.

So, on these types of weekends, we often opt for the simple in terms of dinner - last night it was soba noodles with teriyaki sauce and a simple green salad with sunflower sprouts and a basic vinagrette. Tonight, frankly, we were all so pooped, and it was so hot out that we opted for waffles and fruit.

That being said, I did take some time while J was mellowing with Dad on the couch watching Star Wars, and A was playing in the kitchen sink, to make a quick gazpacho for the week. Couldn't be easier or more delicious.


2-4 ripe tomatoes (I used hot house tomatoes on the vine) peeled* and diced
1/2 cup diced cucumbers (I used English variety - but any will do)
3/4 cup diced red and orange bell peppers (any type will do, I like these)
1/2 diced onion (I used some vidalias that I had on hand - sweet and flavorful!)
2 finely minced or pressed garlic cloves
2 1/2 cups vegetable juice (I use R Kundsun Very Veggie - tomato juice works too)
1/4 teaspoon worshtechire sauce
black pepper
juice of 1 lime or lemon

1. Mix together all above ingredients. Chill and serve. It is better to do this one day ahead and serve the next day. I take it to work with salad.

For garnish - wedges of lime/lemon and chopped scallions or chives. You could also garnish with some cilantro and sliced avocado - whatever you like.

Also, keep in mind that gazpacho is really versatile. If you want a bit of a kick, throw in 1/4 cup of diced jalapeno, increase the veggies, dice them more finely or more chunky - toss in some fresh parsley, a handful of frozen corn or peas... All would be terrific!

* To peel tomato... Boil some water. Carefully make an "X" about 1/8 inch or so into the bottom of the tomato - enough to pierce the skin and a bit of the tomato itself. Drop the tomato into the boiling water. After about 30 seconds, remove the tomato and drop into cold water. The skin will peel right off.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Grilled Split Chicken

This one is so easy and delicious, I just had to share...

Marinated and Grilled Split Chicken

1 3 lb. chicken
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 3 lemons
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare the chicken by "splitting it." Turn the chicken so the breast side is down. Using sharp knife or poultry shears, cut along the back bone on one side, than the other. Remove the backbone. Using your hands, push down on either side of the chicken so it is flat. Tuck the wing and leg under, use the palm of your hand to flatten the joints of the thigh and leg. Salt and pepper to taste and place in a non-reactive dish.

2. Prepare the marinade. (Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Garlic)

3. Put chicken in flat container (casserole, baggie, whatever you have on hand to pour marinade into) and pour marinade over chicken. Turn chicken over a couple of times in marinade so it is well coated. Marinate for 2-3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator, turning once or twice.

4. Heat grill. When grill is heated, take chicken out of marinade and put on grill, skin side down and grill for about 15 minutes. Turn over, baste with leftover marinade and grill for another 15 minutes. Turn chicken over 1 more time, and grill another 12 minutes or until done. Remove from grill and serve up!

Now, I happen to have a mattone, which is essentially a terracotta weight for cooking chickens. It makes the chickens extra crispy and still keeps everything moist. I did wrap the top of my mattone (you can use a brick too..) in aluminum foil, spray with olive oil, and put this on top of the chicken when I started grilling. Really all this does is weight the chicken down - if you have a brick or mattone, give it a try- if not, just grill away!!!


Of Sticky Rice and Summer Evenings

Admittedly there are times as a working mom that I simply am not in the mood to cook. And, when the weekend comes - and it is beautiful outside - and the kids are playing and we are walking around... sometimes the last thing I want to do is think about what to make for dinner. (Also, we sometimes lose track of time and gets late).

These are the times when living in Chicago is truly wonderful. There are terrific restaurants within walking distance of our house (or a short drive) and because we have always taken our kids out to eat, they know how to behave (for the most part).

Last night was one such night, and we found a great restaurant (yes, it has been there forever - and we only last night went) - called "Sticky Rice". It is just past Irving Park on Western (for those of you that live in Chicago) and not only is it some of the best Thai food I have ever had, the staff was wonderful and really knew how to work with parents with kids. They brought out smaller plates for the kids, along with cups with lids and straws. And, for our oldest, a pair of chopsticks with a rubberband already securely tied around the top.

The kids loved the sticky rice (very flavorful and served in a soft straw steaming basket) and the egg noodles. The staff steamed some fresh veggies for all - and the kids loved the baby corn and carrots that were cut in the shape of small flowers. The hubby and I shared wonderfully smoky and crisp Pad Thai, and we all enjoyed a really flavorful chicken satay - which can often be overcooked, but was just timed perfectly.

All in all - a terrific meal!

A was getting antsy after she ate, so I took her for the short walk home, where we admired the blooming spring flowers and stopped to look at every pebble and bird on the way home (including my daughter sitting on the sidewalk and pointing to it - insisting that "mommy SIT DOWN!")

We all met up on the front porch of our house and enjoyed the beautiful breeze an early shower/bath for the kids and everyone falling asleep quickly on the couch -

A great day all in all!