Going panini and beyond in the Windy City – and loving it!

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A salmon sandwich to remember – and an ode to herbs de Provence

There is something really magical about the flavor and smell of herbs de Provence. Alluring and thoroughly perfumed, this potent herb mix reminds me of summer and makes me dream of future vacations in the South of France. As a matter of fact, visiting France has always been a (culinary) dream of mine. Hopefully I’ll get there one day: I’ll get to touch and smell the endless lavender fields I’ve seen in the movies, I’ll visit some of the famous French vineyards, and I’ll feast on rustic dishes which will remain implanted in my memory forever.

In the meantime however, I am glad to be able to recreate the culinary spirit of France by using herbs de Provence, and I only wish I’d known more ways to incorporate them into my recipes. Sadly, due to my lack of spare time to do any cooking at all (!) nowadays, I have had no chance to do any research or to come up with any new recipes – so I’ve stuck to using this herb mix in some old, tried-and-tested dishes, such as the fish sandwich below. Continue reading

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Veggie and smoked fish salad: my “madeleine moment”

It all started with a sample I was offered at a newly opened grocery store in our area. It was a sample of smoked salmon, meaty and delicately smoky, with a vibrant color and an enduring appeal. I tasted the fish and, like in Marcel Proust’s famous madeleine scene, my mind went back in time to my childhood and to a salad my mom used to make a lot: potato and smoked fish salad. Back in those days any meat was considered a delicacy, and my mom was very excited whenever she could get her hands on some smoked fish from the local general store. Usually it was smoked mackerel – tasty, but oh so full of bones! Nevertheless, we never complained: we just had to spend some extra time taking the bones out. It was food – and this was all that mattered. :-)

With these memories in mind, I decided to buy smoked fish and to remake mom’s salad in an American setting. I found some gorgeous looking smoked rainbow trout and got a piece which weighed a bit over 1lb. In this salad I also wanted to pay tribute to the years I spent in England, so I decided to marry the smoked trout with another very dear ingredient: pickled hot & sweet cherry peppers. Continue reading

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Veggie and mozzarella bliss: my mushroom panino – made in a hurry!

What is one of the things I like about mushrooms? They can cook really fast – and fast is all I need now, when I’m so busy with work and with the baby :-)

Truth is I’ve been incredibly busy these past few weeks, and as much I’ve been meaning to make more elaborate dishes, time has always got in the way. At least with panini and sandwiches you don’t need a lot of time. Plus, you can always use items from your pantry and/or fridge, which means that you don’t have to find a “window” in your day to go shopping, and to make and carry around elaborate shopping lists. I couldn’t do either the other day, so I decided to use up a portabella mushroom, some mini peppers and two ovolini I had been storing in my fridge for awhile to make a vegetarian panino for myself and my husband. Continue reading

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Getting back is hard – so can a pork roulade make a difference? :-)

These past few weeks have been really hectic for me. First, school is back and I’ve been fretting over classes, syllabi, and meeting new colleagues and students. I have been stressed and out of shape intellectually, and going back to a full work schedule has proved nothing short of exhausting. Second, my mom’s recent flight back to Europe was delayed for several hours, causing her to miss a connecting plane in London and to arrive at her destination well after midnight. My mom is a senior citizen who doesn’t speak English, and the whole experience was a nightmare for her, as it was for us. Such stressful events are definitely not conducive to creativity in the kitchen. :-(

Getting back to cooking and blogging was hard. In the end, I found inspiration in an email exchange I had with my cousin, who is a passionate gardener. This summer he has grown tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers galore, and he was writing me that he had just finished sun-drying some of the tomatoes. My mind instantly went back in time, to the years we spent in England and to a recipe we used to like a lot: pork roulade stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese and herbs. Continue reading

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Bringing together the produce stand and the pantry: the story of my “transitional” salad

I don’t know about you guys, but I can see fall creeping in. Birds are not as chirpy as they used to be, nights are getting longer, and mornings are getting chilly – so chilly that I actually had to put on a coat yesterday morning, when I went out to water the plants. This summer has been very challenging for me, as a new mom. However, it has also been a lot of fun: seeing my little one grow up, noticing small changes in her almost daily, has made my journey sweet and unbelievably rewarding. Why do good times have to go by so fast? :-(

With summer almost behind us and with fall coming up shortly, I wanted to prepare a dish to capture the spirit of this transitional, in-between seasons, period – so earlier this week I made a salad using freshly bought produce and ingredients from my pantry. Continue reading


CLOSED Cheers to smoothies! A review of the Hamilton Beach Wave-Action blender – and a giveaway!

I haven’t always been a “smoothie gal” – but now I am. Since having the baby I have become more aware of what I eat and drink, and more determined to give my body the nutrients it needs to function well. I’m happy to report I’m eating more fruits and veggies than I was before becoming a mom. Thankfully, a new grocery store has opened in our neighborhood, and it takes me very little time to walk there and to stock up on fresh quality produce. The abundance of seasonal fruits and veggies inspires me and keeps me motivated. I love summer – and I love smoothies :-)

Being such a new and passionate smoothie supporter, I was excited when I was contacted by Hamilton Beach and asked to review the latest addition to their range of blenders, the Wave-Action blender. The blender I use regularly is one I bought a few years ago. It is a versatile workhorse, and besides drinks I have been using it to make soups, dips and even mashed potatoes. They all turn out creamy and velvety, just the way we like it. I was curious to see how the Wave-Action blender would fare compared with my old blender, so I happily took on the challenge. Continue reading


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