Delicious salmon with heirloom tomatoes and millet: celebrating fresh produce, celebrating life

Readers of this blog know that I use fresh produce a lot – and this should come as no surprise: I grew up in a political system that made people very resourceful, and fresh produce was always our number #1 food option since meat was pretty much non-existent. Fast forward 20+ years, and fruits and veggies are still my best friends. I love, love, love a fresh, lightly dressed salad or a tart chock-full of summer berries. I love the colors, the flavors, the smell. I love to close my eyes while taking a bite, and to remember delicious treats of summers past spent in my home country. With school out for the summer, my niece and I would visit our relatives’ house, about 20 miles away from the city – and we would stuff our faces with fresh produce all summer long!

Heirloom tomatoes were a regular appearance in our relatives’ garden in the summer. Meaty, slightly sweet and deliciously thirst-quenching, they always gave me a much-needed energy boost to go on with my playing. I remember eating 5 or 6 in one sitting: they were that good, that flavorful! I have tried to find similar tomatoes ever since, and at one point I thought these unique flavors from my past were well and truly lost. What a difference a few weeks makes, though! I recently had the chance to try out some heirloom tomatoes that tasted exactly like the ones I used to eat as a child: the Pure Flavor tomatoes. These tomatoes + me = a match made in heaven 🙂

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Father’s Day meat & mushroom panino: always a hit with protein-loving dads

Happy Father’s Day to the fathers among us! Hope you are having an amazing weekend with your loved ones.

In case you’re wondering whether I’m making anything special to eat on this very special day – yes, I am. I am making a blended meat panino. I have been so inspired by the blenditarian movement and by last month’s Culinary Fight Club Blended Burger Challenge that I’ve decided to make something my family loves – a panino, and not just any panino: a blended meat & mushroom panino! Made up of a delicious mix of ground chuck and cremini mushrooms sitting pretty on Swiss cheese goodness, this truly is a great gift for the protein-loving dads 🙂

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The Culinary Fight Club Blended Burger Challenge: A fight is a fight is a fight – for a great cause

The first rule of the Culinary Fight Club is: You do tell people about the Culinary Fight Club 🙂 If you’re like me and like watching movies and immersing yourself into pop culture, then you must be familiar with the movie Fight Club, which features testosterone-brimming one-on-one fights, voyages into the unconscious and a breathtakingly charming Brad Pitt. What is the subject of Fight Club?  That’s actually a very good question, and many answers have been suggested ever since the movie was released, back in 1999. At the most basic level, the movie and the novel it’s based on are about the competitive spirit embedded in human nature, and about competition as the key to break free from the conformism imprinted on us by modern society. Ultimately, fighting is the key to Life, and a fight is a fight is a fight.

In a move that has pleased foodies and movie buffs alike, the concept of a fight club has been adapted to suit the culinary world under the name of the Culinary Fight Club, a national organization which hosts live cooking competitions. Contestants – be they home cooks or executive chefs – come together to compete, amass glory and new followers, and give back to the community. Indeed, what makes the Culinary Fight Club so special is this emphasis on competition with a higher purpose: ending hunger and helping local friends in need. To achieve this goal the Culinary Fight Club gives 20% of the proceeds from each competition to Fight2Feed, a nonprofit organization which provides service and support to hungry men, women and children.

I know about the Culinary Fight Club events and I love their emphasis on helping the community – and this is why the invitation to attend their latest cooking competition in Chicago was an offer I simply could not refuse 🙂

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Time Out Chicago mac & cheese smackdown: what’s in a great mac & cheese?

It is the moment you take the first carb-loaded bite and feel your culinary discovery mission is complete. The moment you lock lips with the decadent béchamel, savor the shy nutmeg  undertones, and realize you never knew gruyère could be so delicious. You are clearly in awe of the chef’s artistry to break new ground and to create innovation in a dish which always struck you as basic, mundane, uneventful. It is that moment when your eyes open in wonderment and you can’t quite believe you’re tasting what you’re tasting: is this the humble mac & cheese – or is this history in the making? Hello, great mac & cheese rendition 🙂

Recently I had the chance to taste several exquisite takes on mac & cheese and to cast my vote to crown the best mac & cheese in Chicago. How exciting – and what a great way to spend the day for me and my mom! Keep Reading

2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo review: the perfect way to celebrate the advent of National Candy Month!

Baobites, a baobab-based snack

Who doesn’t like a piece of sweet at the end of a meal? Make it not just any sweet, but baobab-based sweet – and I think you will love the change! Citrusy and refreshing like an apricot yet also gentle to the stomach like a pear, the pieces of baobab pictured above are pure flavor Heaven. Having tasted baobab for the first time at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo, I am pleased to report that I am now a baobab fan. Not only are baobites delicious without being sickeningly sweet, but they are also good for you from a nutritional standpoint. I checked out several peer-reviewed articles on the topic, and the facts (high vitamin C and fiber content, amongst others) are there. Hurray for nutritious sweets and snacks!

Held in Chicago at the end of May, the Sweets & Snacks Expo celebrated its 20th anniversary in style this year, bringing together 17,000 professionals from the confectionery, cookie and snack industries and over 200 new exhibitors. A show of this caliber can be anything you want it to be: an exploration of food trends, a networking opportunity, a series of exciting and fun discoveries. This year I did a little bit of everything, and time flew by really fast. 🙂

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Cheesy, easy breezy, veggie-loaded sandwich: Be careful with the goat cheese!

Goat cheese has to be one of the priciest ingredients ever – to me, anyway. I used to eat a lot of goat cheese when we lived in Europe, in countries where this type of cheese was produced in large quantities. Since coming to Chicago however, I had to scale down consumption for no other reason than price. I love a good goat cheese-inspired sandwich and miss the old days of indulgence!

With limited market supply and high prices as a result, what is a goat cheese aficionada left to do than to hunt down promotions and to hope for a sale? This is exactly what I have been doing for awhile now. Keep Reading

2017 National Restaurant Association Show review: charcuterie, pickles, truffle zest, amarena cherries – and so much more!

Exciting, thorough, overwhelming – these are just some of the words I would use to describe the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, which takes place in Chicago every May. Starting on a Saturday and ending the following Tuesday, the event draws in tens of thousands of restaurant professionals from around the world, who come to the Windy City to learn to build a successful business from the best restaurateurs, to network their way through the Show and to strike lucrative deals. As a former journalist and current food blogger, I think it is very important that I stay on top of trends and products and that I report them accurately to my readers – and this is why for me the NRA Show is a goldmine. Knowledge is power, right? 🙂

So, what does the salami in the pic above have to do with this Show – and what do we ultimately need to take from it? According to a NRA survey of almost 1,300 professional chefs, house-made charcuterie items are going to feature prominently on restaurant menus this year. Keep Reading