Entries Tagged as 'cinnamon'

Gapers Block Hot Dog Cookoff

July 16th, 2013 · 1 Comment





Later on Saturday afternoon we met up with Sara, Alden, Paula and Kate for the Gapers Block Hotdog Cookoff in the Schuba’s parking lot. This was a pretty cool event. Participating chefs from Kuma’s Corner, Harmony Grill, The Haute and The Dog, ManBQue, and Gapers Block started with Vienna Beef hot dogs and then used them to cook up whatever they wanted. Fat Rice was supposed to participate, but for some reason was not there. Ok with me. I’m kind of annoyed with them right now!

Kuma’s Corner hotdog: Spicy chili and lots of veggies.

Gapers Block hotdog: Thai hotdog kebab.

ManBQue hotdog: A stuffed Mexican hotdog with refried beans, cheese and chicharones, among other things.

Harmony Grill hotdog: Bacon, jalapeno jam, Cheetos-coated fried onions

The Haute and The Dog hotdog: Cheese-stuffed hotdog taco with pulled pork.

Some of the chefs did a hot dog in a bun with crazy toppings, but others did some pretty imaginative stuff. Gapers Block made a Thai hotdog kebab and The Haute and The Dog did a kind of taco hotdog with pulled pork added on the top.



After tasting all of the entries (luckily they were served in half-hotdog portions!) it was time to vote. I really liked Harmony Grill’s hotdog. If I remember correctly, this dog was cooked in bacon fat and had jalapeno jam that was actually pretty sweet. There were some Cheetos fried onions on the top and also some bacon in there somewhere, I think. YUMYUM. Everyone got a slip of paper that they submitted at competitor tables to vote. If you wanted you could also vote “the Chicago way,” by stuffing the ballet boxes with money!



In addition to the popular, people’s choice vote, there was also official judging done by experts! Doug Sohn of Hot Doug’s, David Lissner “The Food Dude“, and Bruce Kraig, author of Man Bites Dog conferred at the end, while Paul Baker tried to listen in, and chose a winner.


Funny thing: ManBQue won both the popular vote and the judges vote! They had a Sonora hotdog that they told me is popular in Northern Mexico and Arizona. Sara thinks she should be a judge next year, since she picked ManBQue as her favorite too!


All in all, we had a really fun time and felt good knowing that all of the proceeds will benefit Reach Out and Read Illinois, an early literacy organization.

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India House

September 16th, 2010 · 5 Comments

This week Erin and Cinnamon and I got together for dinner at India House. We had all been jonesing for Indian food and so we’d decided that we wanted to go to an Indian restaurant for our next dinner.

It was funny… fate.. on the day that I emailled Cinnamon and Erin about setting up a date for Indian dinner the Groupon for the day was for India House. I honestly wasn’t sure about buying it. Cinnamon lives right by Devon and so that is where we’ve gone in the past when we had an Indian food craving. I checked with Cinnamon and Erin and they were willing to try an Indian restaurant in (gasp!) River North, so I bought the Groupon and this week we went.

I realllllly wanted the food to be good so we could go back and you know what? It was really good. The menu is HUGE. The restaurant was not too packed with people, but not empty. And the interior was nice, but not too formal or fancy. Very comfortable all round.

I thought it was strange at first that we weren’t served papadum in the beginning of our meal. We were served a bread that was sort of like buttered strips of naan. It’s not that I was disappointed or that I love papadum so much, but I guess I”m just used to the routine of getting it at the beginning of every Indian dinner. No matter.

For an appetizer we had Bhindi Amchur, which is deep-fried, wafer-thin slices of okra that is sprinkled with tangy Indian spices. Erin had this somewhere else once and remember that she loved it, so we ordered it. It was SO good. Exactly what the description says.. crispy, tangy, addictive. We had this whole discussion about the first time we’d ever eaten okra. Erin and Cinnamon grew up having it fried, but my dad used to make it boiled and it was the grossest thing ever. It took me a long time to come to terms with okra and realize that if you fry it, like most things fried, it is delicious.

For another appetizer we ordered Papdi Chaat, homemade pastry crisps topped with boiled potatoes, chopped onions, and cilantro, smothered with sweet chutney and chilled light yogurt. Think nachos for this one. The pastry chips were round like round tortilla chips and you could sort of eat this dish in the same way. It was a cold dish, though, unlike nachos. I was telling Erin and Cinnamon about the Samosa Chaat that I had in New York and how great it was, so that’s why we ordered a chat. I liked the one in New York better, but this was still very good.

We decided that for our main courses we would each order something and share with everyone else so that we could sample a few different things. Since I haven’t gotten it for a while, I ordered my old standby: Chicken Tikka Masala, which is chunks of chicken roasted in a clay oven and then folded into a creamy sauce. Cinnamon ordered a dish none of us had ever heard of: Chicken Badami, chicken cubes cooked in a rich almond-flavored sauce. Erin ordered a vegetarian spinach dish. I think it was Palak Paneer, fresh cottage cheese cubes in a spicy spinach sauce.

Finally, for a bread we ordered Khandhari Naan, a rare bread made with leavened dough and a rich sprinkling of pistachio nuts. The three of us will never forget the delicious pistachio bread we had at Bhabi’s Kitchen (now closed, sad face!). I have to tell you… I was very happy with all of the food we had, and this includes the naan, but nothing is ever going to top that bread we had at Bhabi’s. Never ever! It was SO good. All in all, though, India House did not disappoint and I’m sure I’ll be back, now that it passed the test!

Of course it is always great to go out with Erin and Cinnamon. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, we just pick back up where we left off and it is so great. So much has happened to everyone that we had so much to talk about. Erin is expecting a baby girl in February, I’m getting married in February, and Cinnamon has gone on a bunch of trips over the summer. So nice to catch up with the ladies and enjoy some super delicious food.

Oh! I almost forgot… dessert! At the end of dinner they brought out dessert menus and we were so busy talking that we didn’t really look at them. The waiter came back a few times and we still hadn’t really looked. So, Erin and I both looked down at the dessert menu and the first thing that we read was “golden fried balls.” BINGO! I didn’t even read the rest. I’d eat golden fried balls of anything, I think. So we ordered it. It was Gulab Jamun, golden fried balls of milk pastry soaked in a sweet saffron syrup and served hot. Cinnamon had this dish before and said we would not be disappointed. OMG. So delicious. What a great dinner.

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Cast Iron Cooking

August 29th, 2010 · No Comments

I don’t know if you remember, but last year my friend Cinnamon was writing a cookbook about cooking with cast iron. She invited all of her friends over and she cooked for us. All we had to do was eat and give feedback. It was pretty awesome.

Well, Cinnamon’s book, The Everything Cast-Iron Cookbook finally came out in June so I bought it right away.

I asked Cinnamon what she thought was a good, but easy, and quick, recipe to make for an after work, week night dinner. She suggested the Shrimp With White Beans. We made that recipe along with Roasted Broccoli With Parmesan on the side. And we ended up cooking it on a weekend! Figures!

Cinnamon was nice enough to let me share the recipes for the two things we made from here book.

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Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

This is a great recipe for using up a head of broccoli that may be slightly past its prime. Serves 6.

3 lbs. broccoli
6 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c. white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a skillet in the middle of the oven. Trim the bottoms off the broccoli stems. Peel the stems and cut them into skinny florets. Place in a bowl and toss with the oil, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Spread teh broccoli throughout the skillet. Sprinkle the cheese over the broccoli.

Place the pan in the middle of the oven and cook for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the stems have softened.

Place the broccoli on a serving platter. Pour the vinegar into the skillet and stir, scraping the caramelized bits off the bottom. Pour the pan juices over the broccoli and serve.

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White Beans with Shrimp

If you can’t find Great Northern beans you can substitute cannelloni beans, or any other small bean you can find. Serves 6.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 carrot, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. thyme, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
Juice from 1 lemon

Place a large skillet over medium heat and once it is heated, add the oil, carrot, and onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the garlic and celery. Stir to combine before adding in the herbs, red pepper flakes and butter.

Stir continually until the butter is melted and starts to turn brown. Swirl the skillet occasionally.

Place the shrimp in the skillet and cook on each side for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the beans and lemon juice and cook until warmed through. Serve immediately.

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We really liked both of the dishes we made. The broccoli was so easy to make and had that wonderful toasted Parmesan on it. The red pepper flakes add spiciness. If you’re sensitive to spice, you could adjust the amount of pepper flakes you add, or eliminate it all together. The shrimp was also really easy to make. The shrimp dish was slightly more involved, with the chopping of the vegetables and herbs, but was not hard to make at all. I love beans and I love shrimp, so this was a winner for me!

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