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Things are coming to an end

October 28th, 2013

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Last time we talked, July 8th, I was about to leave for a big road trip. And before you ask, no, things did not go wrong. I am well and alive, living my last semester in the USA intensively.

The trip, 36 days on the road, was remarkable, a good and peaceful farewell to the American West. And since our return, many other good things have been happening, a more frequent collaboration with Chicago Reader and many other works covering food related events and meeting people engaged on making the world a better place for us to leave and eat.

But the most exciting announcement is that I just finished my Photography Certificate Program at Chicago Photography Center . It is been an amazing journey and I am really, really grateful for all the great people/photographers who guided me and influenced my work.

And now it is time to celebrate! The talented photographer Jeff Johson and I are sharing gallery B for our final exhibit and the Opening Reception is Friday, Nov 1st. You are welcome to joy us!!

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Hello my friends, miss you all! But to use a friend’s sentence here “while the blog was asleep, life was happening”.  And life right now includes not much cooking but a few personal projects, a volunteer work with NeighborSpace.org and urban gardens in the city as well as an exhaustive work on my photo portfolio. Plus, it is summer and time for another road trip.

We are leaving in 4, no,  3 days and yep, we ARE heading to the west again! It is going to be a huge trip, including driving all the way to California with a detour to visit my sister in Alberta, Canada.

I just did not want to leave before saying hi and share some of the things I’ve been doing. These are photos I took for the Chicago Reader back in June, a real assignment with a REAL newspaper, which ran both online and on PRINT!!! Truly had to pinch myself when I got the paper in my hands!

The place is Parson’s Chicken&Fish, a new hot spot on Logan square and, according to the critic Mike Sula, “the place to be this summer”.

Last but not least, we were part of the Huffington Post’s Food Bloggers- the top 10 of June which brought a considerable traffic to this page and some kind new followers. So, thanks for all the support and welcome if you are new to the blog!

We’ll be back in a month with some great adventures to share  :)

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The recipe today has a very especial taste to me, more than the sweet taste of bell peppers marinated in olive oil but the taste of New York. We’ve been dreaming about visiting the Big Apple for quite a long time and finally we got to spend three days there. Even with a Chicago like weather and a cold I didn’t expect we managed to walk around and experience this parallel universe New York City is.

Central Park, Times Square or 5th Avenue? No, the highlight for me was Di Fara, no doubt. The legendary pizza place in Brooklyn has its fame for a reason, after all you’ve got to believe in a 78 years old Italian immigrant who makes from 100 to 150 pies a day, five days a week since 1969. Domenico DeMarco handcrafts each pizza; when he is sick or not available the place is closed. Forget about the pizza – if you can – this is pure history in front of you. Period!

OK, don’t forget the pizza or you would miss a transcendental experience and the chance to taste a real pie made with the finest Italian products. Their signature ingredient is sun dried bell peppers, which lead us back to this recipe (which leads me back to my memories…..sorry, just can’t help).

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I’ve made dried tomatoes so many times in my life and even sold a few jars to friends, oven dried tomatoes I used to marinate in olive oil, garlic and dried oregano. They were pretty good, a bit time consuming but soooo worth to make. And after tasting Domenico’s pizza I could not wait to try the same process with bell peppers.

Drying or slow roasting, you name it. The idea here is to forget – well, kind of – your vegetables in the oven until they lose considerable amounts of water but are still meaty and softy. That is how I like my tomatoes and it works beautifully with peppers too, since they absorb much more olive oil and flavor from the marinade.

You will also notice I do not use racks, just baking sheets. That is because even though it takes more time for the pepper to dry, the juices are slowly caramelized on top and under the pepper and you don’t lose any flavor.

Ingredients

 4 red bell peppers – about 1 ½ pound

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

3 garlic gloves, chopped

About 2/3 cup olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 250 ˚F. Remove the stem end of each pepper. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise (from stem end to tip) and remove seeds and ribs. Arrange the peppers in a baking sheet, skin down, forming a single layer.

2. Mix sugar and salt and sprinkle on top of the pepper.

3. Place baking sheet inside of the oven and bake for about an hour or until water accumulates on top of each slice of pepper. Turn skin up and continue baking.  Turn them over once or twice throughout the drying process, which may take from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the size and moisture level of peppers. Just be careful to not over dry. If some peppers dry before others, remove them from the oven and reserve.

4. Remove dried pepper from the oven, toss with chopped garlic and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil. Bring it back to the oven and bake for extra 15 minutes or until garlic is slightly golden.

5. Take the peppers from the oven, place them in a clean jar and cover with olive oil while they are still hot. It is better when consumed after a week but if you can’t wait that long, give it at least a day or two to build the flavors. Keep in the fridge and enjoy over pizzas, salads, pastas, panini, pestos, etc…

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We are home! Oh yeah, I didn’t even tell you I was gone…well, if I can excuse myself, things were happening too fast, I barely had time to recover from the amazing Good Food Festival and a few days later we were kicking the road for our so expected spring break road trip towards the East coast.

And because I know how bad I can be in communicating things, I finally created an Instagram account. You can now follow me for instant updates and also to check and start guessing our road trip itinerary thought the pictures I posted there during this past week.

Now let’s talk about spring or at least dream about it. The stubborn Chicago winter is still making warm dishes a must even in April. So, to gather both seasons, I pulled out this soup for you, peas briefly cooked in an aromatic and slightly smoked broth and garnished with roasted cauliflower, everything paired with pork sausage and bulgur meatball in a intent to reduce the amount of meat I usually cook with. Hope you like it!

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Pea soup with pork sausage and bulgur meatballs

About 4 servings

For the soup

1 pound frozen peas

1 onion, chopped

5 garlic gloves, chopped

2 tbsp vegetable oil

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp salt

1 box (2lb) chicken stock

4 stalk green onions, chopped

8oz ground Italian sausage

½ cup bulgur

Garnish – Roasted Cauliflower (optional)

Half cauliflower

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1 oz grated parmesan

1. Start with the meatballs. Soak bulgar in water for about half an hour or until it is soft. Drain well using a strain or pressing the cereal against your fingers. Combine soaked and drained bulgur with ground Italian sausage and green onions. Shape into 20 meatballs and reserve.

2. Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and sauté until browned on all sides, about five minutes (the cooking process will be finished into the soup, don’t worry). Transfer them to a plate and reserve.

3. To make the garnish, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Remove the leaves and cut off the lower part of the steam of half cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower in thin slices and arrange them evenly in a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Place the baking sheet into the oven and roast for about 15-20 minutes or until the florets are nicely caramelized. Set aside.

4. For the soup start by pre-cooking the peas briefly to retain and ensure a vibrant color. Cook the peas for about 1 minute in a medium sauce pan of boiling water. Drain, transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, drain again and set aside.

5. Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions, chopped garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, pre-cooked peas, paprika, salt, black pepper and meatballs. Bring to a boil and let it cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Serve warm garnished with roasted cauliflower.

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Good Food Festival!

March 21st, 2013

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A lot of good things happening in the food world my friends. Here is a little teaser of what we saw and helped documenting at the Good Food Festival, an amazing event evolving serious talks, connecting amazing people, producers and consumers who care for a better food system. Enjoy!

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