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Things I’ve been eating recently

Here’s a little secret: I haven’t cooked a proper meal in weeks. But I’ve been hitting the farmers markets pretty hard and there’s plenty of fresh food that requires little to no preparation — perfect for my crazy schedule. We’ve supplemented our market finds with a few restaurant visits and have been eating and drinking really well:

- Canelés from Floriole Bakery (pictured above). I’m absolutely addicted to these French pastries, little fluted towers of custardy, caramelly deliciousness. If you’ve never had them before (as was my case), you’re probably not alone — they’re a specialty of Bordeaux, and according to the woman at the bakery stand, Floriole is one of the few places in Chicago that sells them, along with L2O and (occasionally) Blackbird. They’re made of butter, eggs, milk, sugar, flour, vanilla, and rum and baked until nearly burnt, resulting in a perfectly caramelized crust and a soft, almost chewy center. The only way I can describe the texture of a canelé is somewhat like a cross between a custard and a French cruller — dense, eggy, and rich. Chocolate & Zucchini has a much better description here.

- Chinese eggplant from Green Acres at Green City Market. I grew up on Chinese eggplant and didn’t even know what the big, bulbous variety tasted like until I got to college. To this day, I find conventional eggplant tough and unappealing, especially compared to the silky softness of Chinese eggplant. I saute them pseudo-Szechuan style with soy, brown sugar, garlic, rice vinegar, and crushed red pepper flakes.

- Golden egg pappardelle by Pasta Puttana. After reading glowing reviews of this fresh local pasta, I finally tracked some down at the new Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand at Gallery 37 yesterday. (It’s also sold at Green City Market on Wednesdays and Dirk’s Fish in Lincoln Park, but like many people I know, I work downtown on weekdays and try to avoid Lincoln Park whenever possible.) It was well worth the wait — the pappardelle was light and elegant yet substantial, requiring little more than some olive oil, freshly grated parmesan, salt and pepper.

- Nordic Creamery Mild Cheddar Cheese. Goat cheddar. Mmm…

- Dragon tongue beans from Montalbano Farms at Logan Square Farmers Market (pictured above). This is a striking cream-and-purple-flecked heirloom variety that looks as large as some shelling beans, but the pods are tender and edible. The beans are sweet, intensely flavored, crisp and can be eaten raw, but the slight furriness is a bit off-putting, so I prefer them lightly blanched.

- Blueberry Hill cocktail at Graham Elliot. Hendrick’s gin, crème de violette, blueberry compote, and “basil shrub”, according to the menu. Next time I’m at the restaurant, I think I’ll order five of these for dinner and another for dessert. The crème de violette is pure magic, transforming the blueberry flavor into something ethereal, a whisper of sweet violets over the dusky earthiness of blueberries.

- And finally, we’ve spent quite a few weekend evenings like this: $3.75 falafel sandwiches at Sultan’s Market followed by a few drinks at The Violet Hour. It’s all about priorities.

One Comment

  1. Joan wrote:

    reading this post reminds me of the trip we took to the farmers market! :)

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 4:06 am | Permalink

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