Sunday, September 20, 2009


Please, please, please, don't be mad at me.  From the looks of it, it’s been 3 months since my last post, and all I can say is…woopsie daisy.  Don’t fret, I thought about you ever day we were apart.  Plus, I have a really good excuse, I promise!  I do!  Ok, I’ll just come right out and say it.

I’ve enrolled in Culinary School! (yay)

That means that each day at 4 pm, I shut down my work computer, grab my knife kit, school books, and uniform, and leave my downtown cubicle in the dust.  Then from 5:30 to 10:30pm I’m brunoise-ing, and sauté-ing, and tourne-ing, and degrassier-ing.  I’m playing with santokus, chard, halibut bones, and china caps.  I’m taking copious notes on the proper way to cream garlic, and when you must and must not salt the boiling water.

In other words, I’m having the time of my life.

It took me some weeks (ok, some months) of trial and error to figure out how to fit my regular life into my new work/culinary school packed schedule.  But now I’m back and more excited than ever before to share with you some new favorite dishes and fancy restaurant techniques (straight from Le Cordon Bleu instructors!) If you want an even more detailed account of the life of a culinary student, check out Hillary’s blog.  She’s one of my new culinary school buddies, and she’s super awesome.  As for me, I’m going to continue on much like before, but hopefully with slightly more successful recipes!

And with that, I'd like to tell you about the best meal I've eaten in months.  I wish I could credit it's success to the fact that I'm paying someone to tell me how to cook better.  But I can't.  Nope.  This time, every last ounce of credit must go to the incredible farmers who sell their stunning produce at the Green City Farmer's Market here in Chicago.  Last Saturday, I found myself snatching up purple haze carrots, multi-colored sweet peppers, dinosaur-egg plums, long ears of golden corn, and the most exciting finds, the sweetest green, yellow, red, and purple cherry tomatoes I've ever tasted and an armful of fresh-as-can-be basil. 

As any cook knows, there's only two things to do when you have oodles of basil: 1) make a bucket of pesto, and 2) invite your friends over to help you eat it.  So, that's how my impromptu Sunday night dinner party was born.  It was clear that such beautiful basil could not be wasted on the dry, flavorless noodles from the pasta aisle of the grocery store, so the first step would have to be rolling out my own fettucine.  If you've never rolled your own pasta before, my goodness, I suggest that you try it.  Not only will it result in a vastly more tasty noodle, but I can guarantee you will also have a most excellent time making it.  That being said, if you don't have access to a pasta roller, I might suggest splurging for fresh pasta instead of the boxed stuff, because really, fresh basil deserves no less.

A Late Summer Sunday Night Pasta Party Menu:

whole-wheat, handmade pasta with market-fresh basil pesto

heirloom cherry tomato and fresh mozzarella salad

Pasta Ingredients: (makes 1 lb.)
2 cups flour
2 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pesto Ingredients: (makes 1 cup)
2 cloves of garlic
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
3 cups basil leaves, no stems, washed and dried
a heaping 1/2 cup freshly grated parmemsean
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste

Cherry Tomato Salad Ingredients:
1 pint fresh heirloom cherry tomatos (the more different colors, the better)
1/2 pound small fresh mozerrella balls
Basil, chiffonade

Step 1:  Make your pasta.  Like I said, making pasta is not nearly as hard as it looks.  Everyone has their favorite ratio of ingredients and method of pulling it together, and unsurprisingly mine can be found in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  I prefer using the "well" method, and since an image is worth 1000 words, I've attached a youtube link showing you how to do it.  After finishing your pasta, lightly flour it and set it aside while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Step 2: Make your pesto.  Using a food processor, combine the garlic, salt and pine nuts until finely chopped.  Add basil and olive oil and blend until smooth.  Add cheese and process long enough to combine, but no more.

Step 3.  Make your salad.  Depending on the size of the tomatoes, you may want to cut them in half.  I did, but this is by no means necessary.  Toss the tomatoes with mozerella in bite site pieces.  Sprinkle with the chiffonade of basil, and serve fresh. 

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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009