Chicago Foodie

Can you guess where I was in August?

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I spent a girls weekend in Chicago with few friends and my sister. It was a great weekend in a city that I love. It also happens to be a city with really good food.

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Ansley, me, and Jenna in front of Cloud Gate (aka The Bean).

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Chicago is known for their architecture. We took an architectural boat tour and learned all about the city’s fantastic buildings.

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Skyline from the north end of downtown. You can see one of the great lakes is right next to the city creating an interesting combination of urban city center and beach.

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Allison, me, Ansley, and Jenna in front of the Art Institute. We also spent a morning at the Art Institute of Chicago. They had a great exhibit on impressionism and fashion. It was very interesting and really well done.

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Jenna really wanted to see the zoo, so we walked (4 miles from our hotel!) to the zoo one afternoon. It was great (and free!) but most of a lot of the animals were asleep because it was the middle of the afternoon.

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We went to the Field Museum (which was a total bust!). We did get a picture with Sue the t-rex though.

Every day, we walked between 4 and 8 miles to get to sites and restaurants. This certainly led us to work up a big appetite and the food did not disappoint! My friend Julie lived in Chicago for grad school and sent us lots of delicious suggestions. Thanks, Julie! I didn’t actually take a lot of pictures of my meals (probably because I was too busy eating them!) but I snapped a few.

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The best lemon blueberry ricotta pancakes ever at Bongos.

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Garrett’s popcorn – cheese mixed with caramel for the perfect blend of sweet and salty.

IMG_2206Cheesy popcorn fingers!

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Lunch at Sweetwater Tavern – I was introduced to a good local brew and fried cheese curds.

IMG_2119 IMG_2118One evening we went to Millennium Park and had beer, bread, and cheese while we listened to a concert.

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Yummy local brew and the beer opener I charmed off the beer and wine guy at Fox and Obel’s Food Market.

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The Bean at night. Beautiful.

Other places we ate included Cafecito (the best Cuban in Chicago), Lou Malnati’s (deep dish pizza with a delicious crust), and Waffles (green tea and red velvet and waffle breakfast sammies – oh my).

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I love these girls and I love Chicago. It was a great weekend and I look forward to many more fun and fantastic girls weekends (with great food!) shared with these ladies in the future.

Collard Greens with Gemelli and Chicken Sausage

Collard are a quintessential southern food and my family in South Georgia grows delicious, tender collards. My family usually prepares collards (and other greens) by simmering them with ham for seasoning and serving them with pepper sauce (vinegar infused with hot peppers), using cornbread to soak up the juices from the collards (aka pot liquor). While I do like greens prepared this way, I usually cook greens at home by giving them a quick saute in olive oil and garlic, splashing them with lemon juice, vinegar, or a little red wine before removing them from the heat. Looking for a different way to prepare a bunch of collards my parents gave us from their garden, Jill came across a recipe for Spaghetti with Collard Greens and Lemon from Martha Stewart’s Whole Living website. For some reason, I wasn’t feeling the spaghetti, nor could I find farro spaghetti at the store. Inspired by the Martha Stewart recipe, but not wanting quite what that recipe described, I created this recipe for Collard Greens with Gamelli and Chicken Sausage. In this recipe, I especially like how the sweet earthiness of the greens and the sweetness from the chicken sausage pair with the acid from the lemon juice and the saltiness of the Parmesan while the pasta gives the dish more body and substance than just sauteed greens alone.

Collards
Thinly slicing Georgia Collards from my parent’s garden

You need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 chicken sausage links (I used Aidell’s chicken and apple sausage), sliced into small cubes
  • 1 bunch (about 12 ounces) collard greens, ribs removed and thinly sliced
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1/2 ounce walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 6 ounces multi-colored gemelli (tri-colored rotini would work also)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
Ingredients
Preparing ingredients to make Collard Greens with Gemelli and Chicken Sausage

Bring a 5-quart pot of water with 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil and cook the pasta for the amount of time specified in the instructions on the package for the pasta. While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a 3-quart saute pan over medium heat. Heat the garlic in the oil for a minute and add the pepper flakes. Let the garlic and pepper flakes infuse the oil for about a minute, stirring enough to keep the garlic from burning. Add the chicken sausage to the saute pan with the garlic, pepper flakes, and oil. Once the edges of the sausage begin to brown (about 3 minutes), add the thinly sliced collard greens to the saute pan. Toss the collard greens to coat them with oil and drizzle in the lemon juice.

Collards with chicken sausage
Collards with chicken sausage

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the collars and chicken sausage mixture. Add in the pasta water and stir gently. Season with salt and black pepper to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss in the chopped walnuts. Sprinkle in half of the grated Parmesan cheese and mix gently.

Collards with Chicken Sausage, Pasta and Parmesan
Add pasta, walnuts, and Parmesan to the collards with chicken sausage

Serve the Collard Greens with Gemelli and Chicken Sausage, garnished with more grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Collard Greens with Gemelli and Chicken Sausage
Collard Greens with Gemelli and Chicken Sausage

Tomato Pie

The most recent edition (July/August 2011) of Food Network Magazine features a Heirloom Tomato Pie on the cover. Inspired by fresh tomatoes currently in season, I decided to make this heirloom tomato pie for dinner.

Tomato Pie and Food Network Magazine
Tomato Pie and Food Network Magazine

I followed the magazine’s recipe with only minor changes. Jill and I do not typically have mayonnaise on hand, so I substituted that ingredient with sour cream. I also forgot to add the caramelized onions to the cheese mixture, so I topped the pie with them instead.

The recipe is moderately labor intensive because of the homemade crust, but the final result is definitely worth the effort. The homemade crust holds up to the juices that cook out of the tomatoes much better than a pre-made crust. The fresh tomatoes, I used UglyRipe, yellow, and green tomatoes, provides a meaty, but slightly sweet filling for the pie. Next time, I will use another type of tomato in place of the green tomatoes because they stayed firmer than the other tomatoes after being cooked (this is why green tomatoes are usually fried). My favorite part of the pie is definitely the caramelized onions, which add significantly to the depth of flavors in the dish.

If you can, I highly recommend that you pick up some heirloom tomatoes from your local farmers’ market and make this pie this weekend.

A slice of tomato pie
A slice of tomato pie