My watercress soup recipe: Now our summer is complete!

Summer days are here, which means hot humid Chicago weather, trips to the pool with the kids – and watercress soup! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love watercress for its delicious flavor, awesome color, and last but not least nutritional benefits. Watercress is such an amazing nutrient-packed green, but it’s so underrated it makes me sad. Ever since starting this blog I’ve been on a mission to make watercress more popular (check out my posts here, here and here), and my mission’s still going strong. Proof: I’m posting this watercress soup, one of our family’s all-time favorite summer treats 😉

Watercress soup is a work of wonder which requires very little preparation. Keep Reading

ROOH: a story of belonging

Every now and then I come across a restaurant which makes me question my own food journey and my purpose in keeping this blog alive. I take the time to reflect on what I do and how I do it: Have I kept true to myself while writing all these stories and posting all these recipes? Have I remained authentic to those influences from my past, which have shaped me in profound and lasting ways? Is it still me who’s doing the writing – or is it somebody else, whom I barely know? This striving for authenticity has always interested me. There are so many stories out there that seem contrived, inauthentic, or downright fabricated – and so many restaurants which thrive on providing an embalmed, carefully manufactured version of their supposed true purpose. And then… there’s ROOH.

Meaning soul or spirit, ROOH is a restaurant which brings India to Chicago in a way that preserves the authenticity of the Indian dining experience while also gifting it with a fresh, innovative perspective. As someone who is familiar with traditional Indian cooking, I was looking forward to seeing how acclaimed Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar would rethink the fundamentals of Indian cuisine so as to epitomize a fine dining experience. I thought such a project had its risks, the most obvious perhaps being the loss of authenticity. As I stepped into the restaurant on its official launch night, I had one question in my mind: Will I be able to find the spirit of India at ROOH?

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A quick summer dish: Flatout Foldits to the rescue!

What kind of food do you usually make when you’re pressed for time? The quick and obvious answer: sandwiches. They are our family’s go-to option for lunch or dinner in a rush – but what if you’ve grown bored of them, in their usual formulation? Is there a way (any way!) to revamp your sandwiches while keeping them healthy, quick and easy to prepare?

These questions have preoccupied me lately, as I’ve thought of ways to bring food novelty into our household. Thankfully, experimenting with food isn’t difficult in a city as culturally diverse as Chicago: you just have to visit a few grocery stores, to look around, to think about the colors, smells, and flavors you encounter, and to imagine the foodie permutations and possibilities. After several such grocery wonderland excursions, I’m happy to report that I have found a new and valuable sandwich friend: the Flatout Foldits! Keep Reading

My review of Mark Bittman’s Fast Pho meal kit available on Peapod: delicious convenience at the touch of a button!

Two jobs, two kids, one hungry husband, one overworked grandma – and the problem remains: What’s for dinner? I wish I had a good answer every time my family asked this question, but truth is… I do not! There are so many household chores to do, so many errands to run, so many people to take care of – which means that cooking dinner tends to become an afterthought these days, when it really shouldn’t.

Enter renowned food writer Mark Bittman and his latest cookbook, Dinner for Everyone: 100 Iconic Dishes Made Three Ways. Bittman wants cooking dinner at home to make his readers happy, and his book provides foolproof recipes for “encouragement and inspiration on even the toughest days.” To mark the launch of Bittman’s latest work, online grocer Peapod has created a meal kit based off of one of Bittman’s favorite recipes from Dinner for Everyone. I was asked to review the kit as well as to make additional recipes by shopping online for the ingredients – and what a time-saving experience this has been! It takes a village to raise a child – and it takes a well-stocked online grocery store to keep a stressed out mom on top of things ☺

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Potato lemon balm salad: summer cooking at its best!

Did you know use of “uncommon herbs” is one of this year’s hottest culinary trends? I picked up this information while doing research in preparation for attending the latest National Restaurant Association Show (you can check out my review here), and I couldn’t be happier. I’m glad to see the overall “return to nature” approach at work, be it epitomized by plant-based products, imperfect produce, exotic fruit and super fruit – or, finally, uncommon herbs.

But, what are some of the less used herbs at the top of the popularity pyramid this year? In the brochure which details this year’s top trends, the National Restaurant Association gives chervil, lovage, lemon balm and papalo as examples of uncommon herbs. I really wish we’d grown lovage: my mom uses a lot of lovage in her cooking, but sadly I have yet to find this plant available for purchase in Chicagoland. Luckily, on the other hand, our lemon balm bush has survived the polar vortex and is now thriving in our garden. Time then to make a lemon balm salad – so beautiful, so seasonal, so fresh πŸ™‚ Keep Reading

My visit to Coarse Italian in Glenview: talking family and community with restaurateur Franco Francese

Ask restaurateur Franco Francese about his favorite food-related memory, and his face lightens up at the thought of Sunday dinners of years past. It was a family affair, with everybody sitting down at the dining table and waiting their turn to get rigatoni. As with many Italian dishes, the secret lied in the sauce – and the Francese family recipe was a work of wonder, featuring cow’s neck bones simmered for hours at a low temperature so as to slowly develop their flavor. “Family matters,” Francese tells me with a pensive voice. “It’s what molds us and shapes us as people. And it’s nice to work with family.”

It is this spirit of family and familial love that Franco Francese is bringing to the Glenview Park Golf Club with his latest restaurant, Coarse Italian, which opens for dinner on June 17. Keep Reading