http://johanstellerphotography.com The picture she planted in my imagination projected itself onto the snowy landscape, The New Year. Then we were ushered off to bed. I have a roledex if her metaphors stored in the hidden chambers of my heart, And days like today I flip through them.
I have taken a little over a year off from this site to pursue….well…life.
Before I return to blogging I want to let you look around the site a bit and get aquainted. If you like what you see you can find more of my recent writings in The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and Elephant Journal.
You may also see that I have an event coming up.
A yoga and foodie pop up if you will.
So if you are local feel free to go to events icon on this site and sign up, I hope to see you there.
If you are coming to my website for the first time stay tuned for more memories and musings, I just returned from a yoga retreat where I was inspired to connect food with healing in a new and refreshing way.
Welcome to the annual Dysfunction Junction that is every parent’s yearly duty to attend with their children…otherwise known as the annual Fall Farm Visit…the place where you pick pumpkins, weave your wagons in and out of other parents with the same “I wish they spiked this cider” look that you have, spend countless dollars to feed pea brain goat cups of corn only to perpetuate the animal cruelty issue that we all stifle and stuff down so our kids can learn about fall on the farm.
We pulled it off early and decided to go yesterday, and while Cooper was shooting corn out of cannons, Dave’s son and I took a walk….we weaved passed people packed in line for face paint, two or three toddlers doing the Jellyfish-Back-Arching- Too-Much-Carmel-on- the-Apple-Tantrum-Dance, and found our solace down a quiet gravel back road that ran along a line of fresh picked corn. Although we could still hear the fan fair in the background, the sound of wind through the dry fields took over….we walked quietly away and got a back alley view of fall creeping into the corners.
His green eyes against the burnt color of corn, the yellows from the leaves that rippled like schools of fish as our feet shuffled down the gravel road, the deep orange and dark greens of tilled soybean fields has inspired the first fall comfort dish of the year. Yes, I will get to Chili, I even snuck in a Shepherds pie last week, but today as I am writing, I have a big fat cut up chicken simmering in cilantro, lemon peel, ginger, clove, paprika, garlic, and shallot….the colors of fall in a dish that is Moroccan in Origin….a country that’s colors match the view from my window. Burnt Orange dutch oven, Deep Red rubbed chicken, Canary Yellow lemons, Crisp cool cilantro, Creamy garlic, and peeled Purple shallot….in a few hours this will be comfort on a plate for my clients…and perhaps a dish to warm your family after a long day picking at the pumpkin patch.
You have looked me square in the Shoulders ever since I was a patent leather -shoed princess dancing under dinosaur bones at your famed museums.
I have eaten at Ed’s….cruised your waters, watched my mother grace your stages, bleacher bummed my way through high school, blasted through the 20 mile marathon wall in Chinatown, interviewed with the snivelling Matthew Pritzker on the 96th floor, danced my way through your underground, and came out to sunlight over your lake, drank in your dives, been blown away at Blackbird, salted my way out of several grease fires on your prominent rooftops….overlooking that lake that has remained the constant through the years of change.
I have weaved my way through meat markets where pigs spindle down from the ceiling, frolicked in your fish markets, toppled out tipsy from your wine and cheese purveyors, found the meaning of fresh at your farmers markets….and like a long lost friend from days gone by… and no matter how long I have been hauling myself down here for one reason another, you always seem to show me another side of yourself every time we meet…I wonder what you have for me today.
Once upon a time in Boulder Colorado there was a college dropout who lived with five other girls up on the hill on a house appropriately named “The Moontower” and if you knew her and her friends; there was no other place she (or they for that matter) should have resided. She dropped out of college to chef with fools and friends to make ends meet…to keep her up in the mountains on weekends and powder days. She learned recipes handed down from the hippie owners who trusted her to run their Organic Establishment up on the Hill next to the University where she was once an English major.
On hot days her and her friends would drive up to Fourth of July Pass, put their beers in plastic bags tied to trees that ran along the glacial creeks to keep them cool….sleep under the stars and oftentimes hitch hike back to work groggy and smelling of campfire…. They spent early mornings shredding chicken, pulsing hummus, baking banana bread to the Grateful Dead and wondering what path exactly they were on. She learned how to make stock, bake round the clock, and use ingredients like Soy and Spelt before they were a sparkle in Gywnth Paltrow’s eye.
She never knew that those early mornings coming down from the mountains to bake big batches of blueberry muffins, pillowy pumpkin squares (which remain the legendary recipe unicorn to any of us who ever tried them), stirring simmering soups, and feeding the Republic of Boulder would ever tie back into her dream of being a writer…years later, cooking in much more sophisticated circumstances but still surrounded by a beautiful band of merry fools; the worlds have collided and there is a happy ending…and todays recipes are a tribute to the early days working, playing, and cooking alongside many of the minds that inspire the recipes you see here every day.
Audition Update: And so after a long night that ended up with us horking down hot dogs on the lake, me knee deep in water (what else is new?)….waking up to Pink Sky and calm water….quietly prepping my Pig Pizza with shaky hands and a slight headache….Doorman eyeing me on the way out and running down Randolph in a Bright Red Dress and Gladiator Sandals with a forty pound Cooler in tow., cutting boards and all…being greeted by blaring music at Centered Chef Studios, standing in line with Chefs from Michigan, Ohio, and the City with the Greatest Skyline on Earth; networking our butts off, exchanging recipes, cards, websites, stories, and nerves during the five hour wait for our 15 minutes to shine….Plating my Twisted Piggy Pizza in the fastest three minutes of my life (Hands Off Chopped Style) Being judged By Big Bellied Producers….packing up and having a picnic outside with my competitors who made some damn good food….shaking hands and hauling ass back down Randolph to the Station to enjoy one of the best beers I’ve had in a long while…back home to be greeted by three kids and a Giant Rugby Player out in the back yard…checking my tomatoes, kissing Cooper, and diving back into regular life: I am proud to report I did not get a call back for the show, but the experience was worth every minute and you can bet your bottle of Siracha that I’ll be doing it again, for the experience alone, and the fact that after years on a winding trail that lead me to right here, where life is very very good –I have no intention on letting my dreams remain dreams. Thank you for your love and your support, more adventures to come…and next time I see you, dinner is on me.
Rub your flatbread or pizza crust with a little olive oil and throw on the grill until you see grill marks (about 1 minute per side on a hot grill). Remove and let cool. Sauté your ground pork and chopped bacon with the shallot and salt and pepper until cooked through, drain off the fat and let cool. Smash the avocado with the cilantro, thai chili, garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle of siracha if you have it. Spread your avocado sauce on the flatbread and top with ground pork, shaved daikon, roasted red pepper, and sliced cucumber. Sprinkle the pork rinds on top and add a few splashes of siracha on top for a new twisted spin on pizza!
The flood of memories from Spring Hill Farm inspired me to introduce you to Fred. I don’t know his last name,(and he has since passed on) my parents cannot remember either. But he was the inspiration for many of your memories,…and he was Deaf. He was tall and thin and my memories consist of him in faded Levis…working in the stable with sunlight tossing up pieces of hay over the saddles and bridles that lined a small room to the right of the barn entrance. Even though he could not hear, or speak, he played the radio; which even as a child I thought interesting.
One day Fred approached my father with a piece of paper telling him that there was “water under the ground, and to dig for it”. According to the most dramatic story teller I know who happens to be my mother their was a lot of hand flailing and gesticulating but who knows…. I can imagine my practical father holding the paper, looking up and to the side and making the mistake of presenting it to my ever hopeful and magical mother; Who then with a nine year old boy on her hip insisted that they dig, until they hit water….which became the basis for so many of our memories. Weeks later my mother was watching back hoes dig deep into the rich soil, turning over Arrowheads and other Indian artifacts that now line her China Cabinet. And just as Fred said…gentle springs of water began to flow from the sides of the dark clay and fill up what today we recall as the magical place we spent our days. That pond was where I caught my first fish, learned to ice skate, and learned that if you shine a flashlight into a frog’s eye it freezes him long enough to swipe him with a net and make it your pet.
The moral of the story (that is dedicated to my mother who made all these memories) is three parts. First; sometimes the best ideas come from the most silent of places. Secondly; if you dig deep enough it is inevitable that you are going to strike some sort of treasure that lies below the surface. Thirdly; finding faith in the absurd and sharing it with those you love and who believe in you despite stacked odds creates memories and a bond that ripples out like water into how you create your own future.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Line the 4 chicken breasts up in a Casserole dish and top each with a slice of cheese, dump your sautéed mushrooms and onions on top, dump your can of mushroom soup over that, sprinkle your stuffing all over the top, dump one stick of butter over your breading…bake for 45 minutes until gooey and golden brown.
Blazed through the Chicago Farmers Market in search of this Port Pear Pork Duck Sausage Concoction that I had the pleasure of Grilling for Old Money on my first Lake Shore Rooftop and I wanted to broil them today for New Money.
Couldn’t find it,…Cabbed it to the Aon Center, the radio tuned to a Nigerian Sermon on Having Faith in the Present and Hope for the Future… close enough to work but closer to CVS because I needed a pack of 15 dollar Camel Lights…I bounced down Steps made for Giants; the Skyline sinking behind the Big Buildings as I bobbled quickly down to the soundtrack of “Ole Ole Ole” being shot through an Alley straight at me from Grant Park….Maybe.
I weaved through pots of Banana Plants, Bright Pink Roses, and Indian Paintbrush…past fancy fountains and through the revolving door where the impermeable-eyed doorman looked at me softer today…handed me the keys and proceeded to ask me for a cigarette…(I knew he was up to something)…Now I’m up here over the lake about to get cooking and get prepping for the Pride Parade….enjoying the Present…and hoping for the future.
Heat your oven to 415 degrees and broil your sausages until skin is golden brown and sizzling. While they are cooking toss all of your other ingredients in a bowl and set to the side. Once your sausages are finished and cooled, slice them and toss with your quinoa. Toss your squash in olive oil and salt and pepper and grill until soft, or roast at 415 until soft but firm enough to keep shape. Place the squash on a plate and spoon your sausage and quinoa mixture into the hole of the Acorn Squash flower. Top with a soft boiled egg, or a bit of fig jelly for a refined taste.
When it was -10 degrees at 9,000 feet in Crested Butte Colorado, you could guarantee my former roommate, Ms. Nancy Wicks of Round Mountain Organics had the perfect taste of summer in her Greenhouse. The Solar Powered Greenhouse sat on the side of a mountain, was kept humid by a wood burning hot tub that sat below Hot red Tomatoes that Spindled down from hangers up high. The zucchini was as big as a Bread Loaf, and oftentimes I used them as the vessel for the perfect grilled cheese. You could walk in there after a long day on the Back Bowls, pick your dinner…and pair it with a crisp Microbrew (before they were cool). This morning…after a few hot days….I walked out back where the vines have crawled up over the porch,,,,almost into our home to find that everything had popped! We have been staring at green globes with Chicago cynicism….thinking that this strange summer was going to keep us frying green tomatoes till December….Nope, thanks be to tropic air, we now have to think of arranging a giant tomato crushing ceremony to pickle and prepare the bounty for fall. One swipe of these red orbs off the vine and into my mouth puts me right back where I began…this time with a few more tricks up my sleeve and a web of chef allies to hopefully help me along in figuring out what to do with all this bounty. Order your jar of summer while you can….
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the tomatoes, jalapenos, and garlic in olive oil and salt and pepper. Place them on a baking sheet and roast them skin side up until browned, bubbly and fragrant (about 20 min). Place in a blender along with the rest of your ingredients blend until slightly smooth…season with salt and pepper to taste, serve with corn chips or toss with shredded chicken and serve as tacos!