TWD: I’m out this week

The Creme Brulee that my Tuesdays with Dorie colleagues were making this week didn’t thrill me (I love ordering the dessert when I’m out for a decadent dinner, and I feared that trying to make it myself would ruin that indulgence), but I am preparing for next week’s Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake. Stay tuned.

Instead, I’ll offer you this: if you’re near Wrigley Field celebrating the Cubs’ post-season play, eat at Ian’s Pizza. Tell Gomez that Danny’s sister’s friend sent you for Macaroni and Cheese pizza.

This is Gomez

I was skeptical, too (noodles on crust? why is that good?), but it was soooo worth it.  Sara and I tried the Mac and Cheese, as well as the Vegetable Burrito (again, rice on crust? why?), and both were great.

Mac and Cheese had perfectly cooked pasta with some kind of oozy cheese sauce that didn’t taste as fake as Stadium Nacho Cheese or  the Mac and Cheese that comes in the blue box. It was melty, kind of like real pizza cheese, and yellow (whereas powdered cheese is more orange). I was impressed.

The  Veggie Burrito was very traditional, in that it had all the veggies you’d find in a standard burrito, but also the black beans and the rice, which was oddly satisfying when applied to a pizza crust. Not half as weird as I thought it would be. I’d even order it again.

Actually, next time I think I want to try the Steak and Fries pizza. Rumor has it that Ian’s R&D department is working on a Chicago Style Hot Dog pizza.

I got my mac on

Cleaning out the Refrigerator

I’m sure I found this recipe for orzo salad because I was looking for something to do with all the fresh mint that grows from my window boxes (gotta love townhouse living), but it solved so many of my food problems this weekend:

  • 1) LEFTOVER FISH I enjoyed a fabulous Mexican meal Friday night with old friend who recently moved to my hometown, but I came home with half the blackened fish from fish tacos. Hot Tamales makes some of the best around, served with fresh tomato salsa, pineapple salsa, warm flour tortillas, and a HUGE portion of fresh fish. But, I’m always a little unsure of what to do with leftover fish. Microwaving it for lunch at work seems unkind to my colleagues, but the fish needs to be addressed quickly, if at all. Thus, this orzo provided the perfect bed for the fish. I split the leftover portion in two, laid it over the orzo and was quite happy with the results.
  • 2) LEFTOVER VEGGIES In my refrigerator I had a few cherry tomatoes from pesto pasta I’d made earlier in the week, parts of a red onion from the Barefoot Contessa’s shrimp salad I’d tried, and some sliced black olives from something so unremarkable I can’t even remember why I opened them. So, I ignored Giada’s recommended veggies (especially the chickpeas. I love hummus, but not so much the whole bans) and used up my own mix of leftovers. It worked great!
  • 3) SURPLUS FRESH HERBS I love the way my window boxes look from the outside of my house (which is for sale, by the way) and the way you get a nice scent in my kitchen with the warm summer breeze blows just right, but sometimes I feel pressure to trim them back and make use of them before they get all spindly and weird. This recipe make use of just enough herb to give my boxes a little haircut early in the season.
  • 4) COOKING IN BROTH I’d read a lot about this, but never tried it. It was great! I’ll definitely do it again soon.

Also, I served it with a yummy lime spritzer. 10 Cane white rum makes everything better.

Try This: Union Pizzeria

I’m a sucker for dinner out, no doubt – anyone who brings me a meal I do not need to cook, on a real plate, and does not ask me to wash a dish after said meal, is fine with me. So sure, I guess my standards aren’t too high.

But Union Pizzeria met them all with flying colors. This Evanston restaurant was written up in the May 2008 issue of Chicago Magazine, and the pizza description alone was enough to get my attention. I left the review on the refrigerator for a about a month – a hint to my Roommate that I’d like to go there – but when he failed to get my hint I got more forceful Saturday afternoon (it helped my cause considerably that he had just woken me up from my nap and had exercised less than desirable sleeping habits the night before and was feeling REALLY guilty).

So, we went. The menu is small and slightly vague, so at our waitress’s recommendation we ordered one pizza to share and two small plates to go with it: Pizza Margherita with fresh mozzarella; homemade sausage and peppers, served with the freshest pesto sauce ever; and marinated Italian olives.

The pizza was light and crisp with tomatoes that tasted like they had been picked that very afternoon from a sunny garden. The sausage was good, too, in a sausage way – totally different from the light pizza way. But the olives were a draw: the olives themselves were good, the fennel was god, but the orange zest marinated was a mismatch, I thought. I give them point for an intriguing menu option with a reasonable price tag (for $3, it was an acceptable error) but I didn’t love it. My roommate thought they were good, but the cereal bowl was a few too many olives for one man to eat alone.

“I guess we should have tried the beets,” he said on the way out. Golden roasted beets were the Option B we passed on, and in hindsight should have been Option A. But that misjudgment (as well as the prosciutto pizza) just gives us a reason to go back. And we will go back (I’m talkin’ to you, Roommate!).

Dessert was equally decadent, so ask what they’re serving and save room if it sounds good. I had a polenta pound cake, warm from the pizza oven, with fresh peach compote and whipped cream. Heavenly.

Union Pizzeria, 1245 Chicago Ave, Evanston.

burger + fries = fat + happy

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting my husband for lunch at fRedhots and Fries, a favorite burger shack in the neighborhood where I indulged in a fresh, juicy burger and a large order of fresh Belgian fries, coated in Fred’s special green onion and sage aioli. YUM. Tables were at a premium, and Fred did his best to negotiate table sharing and taking turns among hungry adults – no easy task. The best thing I heard while I savored my meal was some guy in line who said, “I’ll come back later so I can really enjoy my Italian beef experience.”
Anyway, after that heavy meal I was only mildly hungry for dinner. Thanks again to my friends at Everyday Food, I decided to roast a fresh pineapple with brown sugar, rum and a few spices. I opted to top it vanilla ice cream rather than the raspberry sorbet they recommended, and I was glad I did.
The actual roasting took more than an hour – more than I had anticipated – and the pineapple was still not as tender as I would have liked. Maybe my fruit was too underripe, or maybe my oven is running low (a constant thought I have when something I try to bake takes longer than the book says it should). But the results were spectacular. The juice alone was enough to make me fat and happy. And now I’m on a fruit cooking kick. I’ve got a recipe for pears roasted in red wine… or maybe just roasted grapes….
(Before I forget, the clean-up was easy, too. I used an old, regular old 9” square metal brownie pan nuthin’ fancy, and found nothing to scrape off the bottom of the pan on a Saturday night. It doesn’t get much better than that.)