Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rhubarb Syrup

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Rhubarb is back, and this syrup is a delightful way to start off the season. The lime really complements the strong tangy rhubarb flavor, and the rosewater is so subtle as to be more of a scent than a flavor. Absolutely lovely.

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If you're thinking that it's a lot of sugar, remember two things: this is rhubarb we're talking about, and we're trying to make a syrup. A lot of sugar is necessary. Here are some of my favorite ways to use this springy syrup!

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Rhubarb Italian Soda!

Rhubarb Italian Soda

Drizzled over yogurt and cereal in the morning...

Rhubarb Syrup on Yogurt 2

AND used in place of maple syrup on buckwheat pancakes. Genius!

Buckwheat cakes 2

Rhubarb Syrup

from 101 cookbooks

1 pound rhubarb, chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from one lime)
scant 2 teaspoons rosewater (more or less to taste)

Combine rhubarb and sugar in a medium saucepan and let rest for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the water and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook the rhubarb about 15-20 minutes, until it begins to break down. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, return to the saucepan, add the lime juice, and continue to cook until reduced and thickened quite a bit, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

When cool, add the rosewater a teaspoon at a time, being careful not to add too much - it's a very strong flavor, and you only want a whisper, not a scream. Store in a jar in the refrigerator - mine stayed good for about 2 weeks.

Yield: one pint jar.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bacon and Brie Sandwich

Bacon and Brie 2

You know what? There's not always time to roast a chicken. There's not always planning ahead. Sometimes you just want something to put in your face so that you can sit on the couch and watch another episode of Friday Night Lights. You get home, you're ravenous, and you have to make some magic happen with whatever's in the fridge. A well-stocked fridge helps a lot with this.

A bacon and brie sandwich to the rescue! With some spinach, because vegetables should be a part of dinner. Mustard and pickles for some pizzazz. And we're off!

Warm up a pan and cook a couple slices of bacon. Crack some black pepper on the top while they're cooking.

Toast the bread. Sourdough is delicious.

Spread one side with Dijon mustard, and put some slices of Brie on the other side. The warm toast will start to melt the Brie. We like that.

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Veggies for responsible adults! Spinach and bread-and-butter pickles. Unexpected and awesome.

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The piece de resistance... PEPPER BACON.

Bacon and Brie Sandwich

A dinner fit for a queen.

Bacon and Brie 3

Thursday, May 10, 2012


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One year ago today, I posted on this little blog for the first time. It has been a really fun year! I have really enjoyed having a place to share my mild rhubarb obsession, my adventures in local, seasonal cooking, and my random thoughts! I have also loved reading your comments, and getting to know new people through their blogs. This world of food blogging is a vast and very inspiring place to be.

Oh, and guess who else's birthday it is?

Yup! Bono. Bono and the Coppertop Kitchen were born on the same day. How 'bout that?

To celebrate one year of blogging, I'd like to give you a gift! One lucky reader will receive a Rosemary Honey Bear from Bron's Bee Company (one of my favorite local apiaries), and some homemade (by me!) Lavender Honey Granola. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post! Here are some ideas, if your brain isn't quite up to something out of the blue right now:

- Introduce yourself! Whether you've been subscribing since day one, or you only just found my blog today, say hi! I'd love to know who you are.

- Make a request! Is there something you'd like me to make or try? I'm all ears!

- Tell me your favorite seasonal food, and what you like to do with it.

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The contest will be open until next Thursday, May 17, and the winner will be announced on Friday, May 18! Good luck!!

{Update: May 18}

And the winner is... CONSERVAMOM! Thanks to everyone who commented! Conservamom, I will be in contact soon to arrange delivery of your prize!! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Armenian Potato Leek Soup

Armenian Potato Leek Soup 2

Friends, I have been living large this week. I found out about an absolutely amazing donut shop that is a short walk from my office (Do-Rite Donuts OMG), accidentally stumbled upon the downtown Chicago Farmstand (as I was trying to find aforementioned donut shop for the first time), and went to the first outdoor Green City Market of the season! So exciting!

Chicago Farmstand

I love the produce at the beginning of spring. It's so tender and bright green and delicate. It deserves to be treated gently. Last Thursday, I was impatiently waiting our trip to the market on Saturday morning, so finding the Farmstand was like getting to open a present on Christmas Eve. I got some rhubarb, leeks, pea tendrils, and mint, and started dreaming about dinner.

As I started pulling things together for this soup that evening, I wasn't purposefully trying to turn it into an Armenian-flavored dish. I just wanted a light, simple way to spotlight these first few springtime treasures. But when I tasted it, the mint and yogurt were unmistakably Armenian. One of my favorite meals from my childhood was Tan Abour, a delicious soup made with lamb stock, yogurt, mint, and barley. This hits all the same flavor spots, and only takes about 25 minutes to come together, making it a perfect supper for a springtime weeknight. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Armenian Potato Leek Soup

Armenian Potato Leek Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 small potatoes, about a pound, peeled and cubed
2 leeks, rinsed well and sliced
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a wide, shallow saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and onions, and saute for a few minutes, until the vegetables are getting some color in places. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and add the vegetable stock or water. Cover and reduce the heat to low, and simmer about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Puree in a blender. Return to the pot and stir in the milk, and heat through over low heat.

In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lemon juice, mint, and salt. Stir yogurt mixture into the soup and mix well, or ladle soup into bowls and drizzle a little bit of the yogurt mixture over each bowl. Serve warm or chilled. Top each bowl with a little pile of pea tendrils.

Serves three as a meal, four as a first course.

Friday, May 4, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Ode to my iPhone

Happy happy Friday! This week, I finally traded in my crappy, falling-apart Palm Pixi for a shiny new iPhone 4. I've been playing with it almost nonstop since I got it, so my quick takes this week are going to be iPhone-centered. What are your favorite iPhone apps? I'm all ears!

1. RIP Palm Pixi.

Please tell me you can see why I thought this would be a good way to transition into smartphone-land. I mean, it's cute and tiny (which I liked), has a keyboard (since I was worried I would hate touch-screen typing), and has that little touch screen. If it had performed as promised, it would have been fabulous! ALAS. There's a rubbery layer on the back that just peels off after about 6 months of use. The battery life was atrocious. And about 5 months ago, the button on the side that controls the ringer broke, so I haven't been able to hear call or text alerts since January. Unacceptable. The iPhone is better than my other phone in basic ways: it makes a sound when I have an incoming call. Wow.

2. Pandora!

Wednesday after work, the sun was shining, and it was warm for the first time in weeks! I decided to take my Vibram FiveFingers (which I got on sale a couple months ago) and my Nickel Creek Pandora station for a little spin around the neighborhood. The combination may well change my life. The way I run (even though, let's be honest, I was mostly walking) in the barefoot shoes is completely different, and feels like the way you used to run around when you were a kid playing tag. It didn't feel like jogging (which might as well be called slogging) - it felt like play!

3. Twitter + Instagram!

I started using Twitter on my computer a while ago, but now that I'm using it on my phone, I feel like I'm getting more out of it. I'm able to scroll through and interact a little at a time, which makes it more fun! If you're on Twitter, follow me @elizaraxi.

Instagram was one of the apps I was most excited to start using. See a beautiful thing during your day? Share it. It's a lot of fun, and reminds me to stay present to all the lovely things I see (and delicious things I eat!) in the course of my daily life. If you use Instagram, follow me @elizaraxi there too!

4. I know, I know.

Maybe this is lame, and maybe it's a waste of time. But Angry Birds is pretty dang fun, and my husband and I have been fighting over who gets to play when he gets home from work. Judge away.

5. Redfin + Mint + other apps for grown ups.

Redfin allows you to search for and track real estate listings. It has a great map feature, which is great if you're out and about and want to see if there are open houses happening nearby. Mint keeps track of all your financial accounts in one place. What apps do you use to keep track of your life?

6. Prayer on the go.

The iBreviary app lets me pray in the rhythm of the Church wherever I am. I open it up, and I instantly have the Liturgy of the Hours (prayers for different times of the day that are prayed by religious communities worldwide), daily readings, and lots of common Catholic prayers at my fingertips. I did morning prayer on the train this morning! Super convenient.

7. Quick and easy food sharing!

Sometimes great things happen when you look in your fridge and get creative with what's in there. This was basically my thought process:

I'm starving. Hmmm... I kinda want a burrito. I really don't want to leave the house again, and I don't want to spend any money. I don't have any chicken defrosted. What do I have? A few flour tortillas and a giant bag of broccoli from Costco. I wonder if I could turn that into tacos? Broccoli cheddar tacos? People make broccoli cheddar soups and casseroles! I bet it could be tacos...  Oh! Oh! Let's make them Asian flavored.

And BOOM. One of my new favorite quick dinners was born.

Asian Broccoli Cheddar Tacos

about 2 cups broccoli florets
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha (or more to taste)
a couple dashes toasted sesame oil
2 fajita-sized flour tortillas
grated sharp cheddar

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and add the broccoli. Toss for a minute or two, and then add a couple splashes of water to help steam the broccoli. Season with the soy sauce, sriracha, and sesame oil, and continue to cook until the broccoli is bright green with some crispy brown areas on the edges. Place the flour tortillas over a medium flame, flipping every 5-10 seconds, until hot and blistered. Fill each tortilla with half the broccoli, and top with the cheese.

Have a great weekend, and go see Jen for more quick takes!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pear Crisp for One

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Before long, peach and berry season will be here, but now the fruit that's available is still apples and pears.  They may be looking a bit tired, and they've lost the novelty they held in the late fall. But chopped up and tossed with sugar and spice, topped with oats and crystallized ginger, and baked, they're still hitting the spot for me.

Pear crisp topping!

What seasonal fruit or vegetable are you most looking forward to this spring?

Pear Crisp for One

Pear Crisp for One

1 pear, peeled, cored, and cubed
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the topping:
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon finely minced crystallized ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8-ounce ramekin. In a small bowl, toss pears, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and lemon juice together. Place mixture into the ramekin and dot the top with the cold butter. In another small bowl, combine oats, flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and melted butter, and stir together until it's crumbly but starting to hold together. Sprinkle oat mixture on top of pears, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until pears are tender and topping is crispy and golden. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Orange Sweet Rolls

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Ever since our crazy heat wave in March, I've been just waiting for the warm weather to return. It's not that it's even been that cold, but those couple weeks of summer-ish heat ruined my tolerance for a normal cool and rainy April. I want to wear dresses (without tights!), ride my bike, have a picnic, walk around in the sunshine during my lunch break, and shop at the farmers market! Speaking of which, the Green City Market comes out to play again starting this Saturday, May 5! I can barely contain my excitement.

That first trip to the market tends to be a little disappointing, though. I'm trying to manage my expectations. Green onions and garlic scapes, probably. Maybe asparagus. Is it too much to hope for a few shimmering pink stalks of rhubarb?! Rhubarb makes my heart go pitter-pat.

The warm weather seems to be creeping back, too! This morning, my walk to work was cool and pleasant. The forecast this week is in the 70's and 80's with a chance of thunderstorms every day. I'll take it!

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My mom has made these orange rolls every Easter since I can remember. When I moved out and wasn't able to come home for Easter, I learned to make them for my friends. The rolls are a rich yeasted sweet dough, brushed with butter and sprinkled with a mixture of sweetened, flaked coconut, sugar, and orange zest. They are then rolled into crescents and baked, and then doused in a bubbling sauce of butter, sour cream, sugar, and orange juice which seeps into each one, making it sticky and irresistible. I highly recommend that you make them for your mama for Mother's Day (May 13! Don't forget!).

If you're scared of baking with yeast, go read this post first.

Put the dough together (details in the recipe below), and let it rise once, then divide in half and roll them into a 10- to 12-inch circle. Brush with melted butter:

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This is my sister. She was visiting for Easter. She's good at sprinkling coconut. Isn't she pretty?

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Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut into 12 wedges, and roll up.

Roll em up!

Line 'em up in the pan, cover and allow to rise about an hour, or until you feel that you cannot wait any longer...

Nestled snug in their pan

While they're baking, make the glaze, and as soon as they come out, pour it over and sprinkle with more coconut. Make some coffee, too, while you're at it. Start with two rolls on your plate. I dare you to eat only two. This Easter, I think I ate six. At least.

My favorite breakfast of the year

Sticky, sweet, buttery, citrusy BLISS!

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Orange Sweet Rolls

For the rolls:
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
scant 3 cups flour

For the filling:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
2 tablespoons grated orange zest

For the glaze:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Dissolve yeast in water and allow to sit until foamy. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, salt, butter, eggs, and sour cream. Mix in yeast mixture. Add flour, starting with about 2 1/2 cups, and mixing in more as needed. The dough should be smooth and not sticky. Cover and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area for two hours.

Coat a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Knead dough 15 times and divide in half. Combine sugar, coconut, and orange zest in a small bowl and toss together. Roll one half into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle with half of coconut mixture. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 12 wedges. Roll up like croissants, starting at the wide edge, and line up in 3 rows in prepared pan. Repeat with other half of dough and filling. Cover rolls and allow to rise about an hour.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until rolls are puffed and golden. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, sour cream, orange juice, and butter over medium heat. Stir until melted and smooth, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Pour glaze evenly over hot rolls, and sprinkle with coconut. Serve hot or at room temperature.