Rigatoni con Gamberetti e Funghi

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In anticipation of Chicago Food Bloggers event tomorrow night, I took my shot at rigatoni and shrimp with a vodka-tinged sauce.

I’ll work on getting some tips from Chef Fantoni on how to wow your friends and dates with stellar Italian cuisine at home. Check back later this week for the full review and follow me on twitter for bite-by-bite updates.

Plus this should prove a good primer for my trip to the motherland in three weeks.

Mangiare!

It’s Not Delivery, It’s Pizza Date Night

Last summer I intended to make pizza from scratch. I’d looked up a few recipes. Watched America’s Test Kitchen. Read more recipes about grilling pizza. But I never got around to trying it out. Many know my devotion to burritos, but I also love pizza. If asked to choose between which food I could eat for the remainder of my life–until succumbing to high cholesterol and morbid obesity–I’d be torn to choose.

Pizza date night is by no means an original idea, but it still counts as an idea. If you’re looking for something fun to do with a lady friend or gentlemen suitor, I suggest a pizza party. While it won’t rival the parties of our youth that included germ-filled plastic ball pits and potentially puking before the ghost story portion of the sleepover, it will have booze. If you play your cards right you could still yammie before it’s time to turn out the lights. The only difference is your mom may not come to get you this time.

The upside to making pizza is it’s relatively easy.

The hierarchy of pizzas is (most complex to easiest):

Completely homemade

Semi-homemade (I’m coming for you Sandra Lee)

Take and bake

Frozen

Delivery

I opted for semi-homemade. Trader Joe’s had everything we needed for a pizza party. They have pre-made dough, pasta/pizza sauce, cheese, organic and non-organic veggies, meats, meat substitutes. No matter what dietary restrictions your date has, you can accommodate their nom nom needs with one store visit. We went for a straightforward, traditional pizza pie. We got two crusts: whole wheat and herb. Then loaded up on veggies and arugula. Don’t forget to pick up some cheese. We bought fresh mozzarella.

You’ll have to roll out the dough, which is relatively easy. Then it’s an assembly job. Bust out that Slap Chop you bought off an infomercial and get at it. Crust/sauce/veggies/cheese. While the pizzas baked, we tossed up a salad with the extra veggies and made a balsamic salad dressing. 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. So, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Shake it in a Tupperware then put on the salad.

Get crazy with your toppings. Whoever came up with bacon and pineapple clearly was an outside-the-pizza-box thinker.

Let me know your favorite pizza combinations in the comments.

Eggs are Eggs, Jeremy!

eggs, bacon, breakfast

Some days you only have one slice of lunch meat left. And you know what they say. When life gives you an insufficient amount of meat for a sandwich, make an omelette. For some reason, that phrase never caught on as much as the one about lemons.

After a phenomenal concert last night at the Chicago Theater featuring Irvin Mayfield and the Preservation Jazz Hall Band, NOJO and some of my favorite Chicago players, I needed a bit of a lazy morning today. Whoever conceived of the 5-day work week should be found and [your violent act here]. I took today off anticipating a lethargic day ahead.

How to create this delicious omelette:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 slice of ham, chopped small
  • 2 strips of bacon, medium dice
  • a few slices of yellow onion
  • broccoli, small handful diced
  • Salt & pepper
  • Crushed red pepper, one shake
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 sprig thyme

I sauteed the bacon first. Then drained it on a paper towel. Cooked the onion and broccoli in the bacon fat for ~3 minutes. Put those in a bowl.

Put 1tsp oil in the pan and swirl it around. Beat 3 eggs with a fork. Dump the eggs into the hot pan and start pulling the rapidly cooking sides into the center. I’ll post a video of this at some point. The key is to not brown or burn the eggs, so you have to keep it moving. My pan was super hot so it was cooking hella quick, as they say in California. My intended omelette quickly morphed into a scrambled egg effort.

Dump in your veggies and cheese if you have it. Then either fold (omelette) or stir (scrambled) around. You can also eat this in a burrito. Just saying. Eggs take 3-4 minutes AT MOST to cook. Enjoy your second breakfast of the day.

All Hail! Kale

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Seldom do I tout the nutritional benefits of cooking at home or the dishes I post on here. For the most part, this site is geared toward showing how easy it is to cook for yourself.

Occasionally, I’ll share something I learned, like the protein content in quinoa.

Tonight’s tidbit is about kale. I bought some earlier this summer and it has found its way into my basket each time I go to the grocery. It’s relatively inexpensive, depending where you shop. Hit up your local produce spot. It should be about $1/lb.

WebMD, the official first person to tell you that cough is a rare, fatal cancer, elaborated on the nutritional benefits:

One cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

And don’t forget fiber. Be sure to rip out the center spine, unless you want to spend the next day praying to all the known gods.

Tonight’s side dish, which I could easily convert into my entire dinner, started with frying up 2 strips of bacon. Remember when I told you kale was healthy? Let’s see If it can combat the fat.

Fry the bacon. Then toss in chopped green pepper and chopped mushrooms. Then, the rinsed kale. Salt & pepper. I added a stem of thyme.

Toss.

Done.

Chilling above the Clouds | Palo Alto

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Trips always look longer on a calendar versus on the ground. Yesterday was our last day in Palo Alto/San Francisco.

This might be unknown to most, but the official word of Palo Alto and the Bay Area is “chill.” It’s used for everything from parties to places to people. If we were having “chill” be the keyword for a drinking game, I would’ve been slurping the last droplets of vino out of the French oak barrels in Sonoma.

My suspicion is that the cool evenings are the root cause for everything being described as “chill.” Yesterday morning I was eating some homemade granola (not pictured) with residents of the Synergy house at Stanford. I’d asked 2 guys for essentials to see in my remaining time. A junior named Matt suggested we see the view from his favorite lookout spot. He said it was really chill.
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The drive up to the park was remarkable. My only regret was that I couldn’t ogle the changing view as we ascended higher and higher. I’d never driven on mountain roads or extremely winding roads. There were a few moments of unadulterated bliss. I may have giggled, which probably didn’t serve to put the passengers at ease about my driving prowess. The two-lane road wiggled around the mountain, narrowing more and more with the altitude. I did my best Jack Lemon impersonation from “The Odd Couple.” This again scared the passengers who aren’t familiar with films produced before 1992.

We emerged from the lush trees and saw the sunset on our right and the city on our left. I pulled off the wider road and we all got out of the Jeep to take in the breathtaking site.

We forged on to race the setting sun. There are several trails but we didn’t have much time to explore. I parked the car, Michelle took off her sandals, and we sprinted up the dirt path. Once over the crest we saw the unrivaled majesty of the sun setting into the clouds, which looked like frozen waves. It was if time was still. The cool breeze was light and my entire sight line was breathtakingly serene and perfect. Lush trees, rust-colored brush, the bluest of skies and the shifting gradient as it all mixed together at the horizon.

This was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. And that includes countless burritos.

Once we got back to the commune we had to return our rental and take the Bart to Caltrain trains to get back to campus. The night ended slowly rocking in a hammock.

After seeing this marvelous, indescribable sight I began to understand the merit of “chill.” Maybe the locals have it right.

San Francisco was a reminder to chill out and let go. Maybe someone put something in the granola, but everything works out. There’s no point in obsessing over control and being efficient. There is no right way or wrong way.

All will be well.

It always is.

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Fresh Avocado for La Gente

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Here at the commune they have all the necessary ingredients to make fresh guacamole.

2 avocados
2 cloves of garlic
Half a small red onion
Juice from a small lemon
A few sprigs of cilantro
Sprinkle of salt
Crushed red pepper flakes