Put Together the Perfect Summertime Meal

Picnic

To my shame, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus  since September. Life events have kept me busy, including getting a brand new puppy (which means you can look forward to some homemade dog treat recipes). By way of apology, I’ve compiled a list of recipes from around the web to help you put together an awesome summertime meal, from start to finish.

Drinks

Raspberry and Serrano Sangria

Watermelon and Strawberry Lemonade

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Recipes to Make from Garden Vegetables and Herbs

This summer, with its erratic weather and hot conditions, has yielded some great crops and some not so great ones. One in particular that flourished in my household is tomatoes. We have more than we know what to do with. We’ve also had a good stock of peppers, cucumbers, and hot peppers.

In honor of the close of summer (and perhaps even a little late), I wanted to shed some light on some things you can do to use up those crops and eat healthy along the way.

Tomatoes

Let’s start with the most problematic first, at least for my kitchen. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods, and we have such an abundance of them that even I can’t eat them fast enough. That’s saying a lot, since I routinely eat them for snacks.

Here’s some easy things you can do with tomatoes:

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Stuffed Pattypan Squash

One Saturday, I FINALLY was able to wake up early enough to get down to the farmer’s market (before it closes at the early hour of one p.m.). Thrilled about this rare occurrence, I wandered between the various booths, trying to find something fun and unusual to me to make. On a budget, I ended up picking up pattypan squash and okra. After I got home from the market, I realized that I didn’t have the faintest idea what to make with these particular vegetables.

I breaded the okra, coating with egg and dipping in Italian-style breadcrumbs, and cooked it in the oven. I was happy to find that it was nice and flavorful, as I don’t trust my skills of throwing something together without a recipe.

A couple of days later, I turned to the pattypan squash, deciding that my best option was to cruise the web for something different to make out of the ingredient. The resulting recipe was stuffed pattypan squash. 

Photo courtesy of allrecipes.com

Stuffed pattypan squash may look complicated, but was actually extremely easy to prepare. Here’s the recipe…  Continue reading

Local Flavor: Maza Restaurant

You find something new every day. In my case, I found a restaurant that was three blocks away from my apartment that I had never noticed before: Maza.

My (half eaten) Kellaya dish

This Lebanese restaurant, located on Ashland, is the type of place that have been passing on almost a weekly basis for four years and never really noticing. However, when my brother chose to go there for his birthday after seeing it in Chicago magazine, I was intrigued. I had never had Lebanese food before, so I was eager to give it a shot.

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Chicago Italian: Two Great “Clubs” To Try Out

Growing up, I had a great Italian grandmother and (half) Italian mother that infused in me a love of the culture and given me an unwaveringly curious outlook about everything Italian. I want to learn the language, try all types of Italian food, and eventually, visit the country itself. There are some great restaurants and cultural institutions in Chicago to check out, and until I get a pasta maker and start experimenting with making my own, I have to get my fix elsewhere.

Its hard to pick favorites with Italian food, because almost every place I’ve been to here in Chicago has been great, but there are two that I’ve been to fairly recently that I want to point out, not only because they have similar names, but because they also had superior food and drink: Club Lago on Superior and Club Lucky in Bucktown.

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Bar Forza: New to Lincoln Park

Living in Lincoln Park, I find it especially interesting when there is a new restaurant right in my neighborhood, especially one that is affordable and unique. There’s where Forza comes into play.

Popping up on Lincoln where the Spread previously was, Forza is an italian-themed bistro, featuring fresh flowers on the tables, a Vespa-type scooter in the restaurant, and a classy yet affordable atmosphere for a classy, affordable night out. Now, I’ve been to Forza twice, and both times I’ve been impressed with the care and attention that they give their customers. The owner walks from table to table, making sure each customer is satisfied, and sometimes even giving away free drink coupons.

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Playing with Ramen and Fun Recipes

Ah, ramen. The ultimate cheap, quick meal. Many college students have thrived off of it. Taking only three minutes to cook, this meal is the ultimate lazy lunch and dinner. Despite this, ramen can get to be a very dull dinner. For many people, cooking ramen turns into an art, challenging themselves to take it further and experiment with recipes.

While at Whole Foods the other day slinging granola, I met a chef who was eager to talk about food. After telling him I didn’t know how to begin experimenting with different spices to create my own recipes, he told me the best way to start was experiment with ramen. Its basic flavor makes it the ultimate palate to test out various spices and herbs, and get accustomed to different tastes, for the novice chef to work their way up to creating their own recipes. Using this tactic, I find that I’m already much more accustomed to using spices and herbs on a whim, which I love!

After that fun experiment, I began scouring the Internet and other sources to look for tasty ramen recipes. I was surprised at what I found: almost every type of noodle recipe imaginable! Here’s three recipes from completely different ends of the spectrum that I’m the most excited about:

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Tre Kronor: Chicago’s Leading Swedish

I will be the first to say that the thought of Swedish food has never been a particularly appealing one. I’ve always thought of Scandinavian food as dry and fishy, and that thought was always reinforced by my Norwegian grandpa eating fish for nearly every meal. I am a spice lover, so I feared that, going to Tre Kronor, the food would be a bit bland for my particular taste palate. However, my experience was very different than I imagined when I visited there recently.

Troll mural at Tre Kronor

Tre Kronor, located in the diverse neighborhood of Albany Park, is owned by the Swedish Larry Anderson and Norwegian Patty Rasmussen. The couple took over the bistro seventeen years ago and made the Swedish diner into the current Tre Kronor. The restaurant is fairly small and homey, and fills up quickly, so reservations are recommended. Most of the wait staff speak either Swedish or Norwegian, which thrilled my grandpa, whose first language was Norwegian. There were murals of myths and trolls covering the walls, and the typical “Guy was here” spray, to indicate that Guy Fiori from the Food Network ate there (eye roll at that).

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Trying Thai: Experimenting with New Dishes

If I didn’t have enough of a yen for traveling, it only increased when I found out that my friend Anna is going to Thailand for a year to teach English. Luckily, she decided to include me in the before-trip festivities, as we decided to test-run some foods from a Thai cookbook that she bought. To get the ingredients, we went shopping at an asian grocery store off Argyle. There were many ingredients that we had never heard of before, such as Taramind water and snake beans, but luckily for us, there was a great employee that helped us find everything in no time flat. So we headed back to her apartment and commenced making out three-course dinner:


First Course: Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad

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