Tag Archives: Dinner

The Original Chicago-style Deep-Dish Pizza: Have Yourself a Merry Little Pizza Slice

Have you ever tried authentic Chicago pizza?  There are three varieties, in case you were wondering.  I spent my first three decades living within minutes (no more than a half-hour) of the very best pizza parlours in the Greater Metropolitan Chicagoland Area.  I sampled all the top-rated pizza places.  So I feel qualified to “splain” it all to you.

Chicago Pizza Categories

The first is a thin-crust pizza, which is often more chewy and thicker than the New York version (much more crisp and almost cracker-like in consistency); it is most similar to the original Neapolitan pizza crust but is really an American interpretation.  In my youth, I do not remember any authentic wood-burning oven pizzas, comparable to their ancestors in Naples, but today there are many restaurants offering this kind of “real” pizza.

The second is the stuffed pizza.  It has two crusts, akin to a double-crust pie, with all the filling in between. A thin layer of tomato sauce, however, usually adorns the top crust.  This pizza is less common than the one for which Chicago is best known, the deep-dish.  The stuffed pizza can be a delicacy, often made with spinach and mushrooms, or it can be leaden and off-putting disappointment, depending on its maker

I believe the stuffed pizza became popular in the 1970s, a decade not known for its restraint.  After all, wretched excess was in vogue.  Think disco! Think glittery body-clinging polyester fashion!  Think ultra-rich high-fat desserts! It was the era of chocolate decadence cake and appetizer buffets showcasing nothing but cream-cheese dips.  I remember sampling all the varieties at Arnie’s Restaurant in Chicago – chocolate-chip, cinnamon-raisin, honey-walnut, and some savoury counterparts – all cream-cheese extravaganzas.  I assure you I am not hallucinating, due to other 1970s excesses.

In Chicago, the deep-dish pizza is a World-War-II-era invention of Ike Sewell.  Mr. Sewell started Pizzeria Uno around 1943 at Rush and Ohio Streets, on the city’s near north side.  The pizza was an immediate hit.  He opened a second location, named strangely enough, Pizzeria Due, just a block away in 1955.   Both are still vibrant pizzerias.  (Mr. Sewell also introduced upscale Tex-Mex cuisine to the Midwest of the US, where it had been unknown, through his restaurant Su Casa in 1963).

For the deep-dish pizza profile and the recipe

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Leek and Potato Hotpot: Classic Comfort Food from Jolly Olde England

Staffordshire dogs guard the leek and potato hotpot , originating in nearby Lancashire.

What is a hotpot?  I knew hotpots from Vancouver restaurants as specialties of several Chinese cuisines, e.g., Cantonese and Sichuan.  Diners cook their own meat, seafood, and vegetables in a central cauldron of broth – an Asian cousin of Swiss fondue.  At least, this is all I knew about hotpots before learning about the British dish by the same name.  I certainly never have seen the British version here in beautiful British Columbia where I live – the only British specialty widely available in restaurants is fish-and-chips, guv’nor.

On our recent trip to England (you can see the trip pictures in previous posts), the most common soup available was leek and potato.  It was fun to sample variants on this wholesome and oh-so-stiff-upper-lip classic British dish.

Seeking a traditional leek and potato soup recipe for a chilly Friday night, I turned the National Trust Complete Traditional Recipe Book, by Susan Edington.   I had bought this cookbook at the Dunster Castle National Trust gift shop in England.  The book was on sale for just 12 quid – or pounds (I am trying to master British English in addition to Canadian and American to be trilingual, in national-English dialects).  Sorry, I just cannot stop myself with one more photo from our trip – the lofty castle above downtown Dunster in Somerset:

I promise, this is the last photo – the bridge leading to a path to  Dunster Castle:

This cookbook surprisingly had no recipe for leek and potato soup.  However, there was one for a leek and potato hotpot.  If you have read some of my other posts, you might have noticed that I am into food lore and history, so I was intrigued by this Lancashire specialty.  It is a “fatherless pie”, which are less expensive vegetarian one-pot meals – without the traditional lamb – made when times are tough.  Leeks and potatoes abound in Lancashire fields.

For the history and the recipe….

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Salmon Chowder: Whether Pacific or Atlantic, Luxury Soup for all Seasons

Pacific sockeye salmon is perfect for a hearty chowder

Soup can be a tricky dish to prepare.  I enjoy experimenting with various stews, bisques, broths, and soups for one-bowl meals, but I learned recently that one can judge a restaurant’s mettle based on its soups, due to timing (the delicate texture of many vegetables, meats, or fish) as well as the intricate balance of correct seasonings in a liquid base.

Before I delve into the Pacific salmon chowder I made recently, I have a few more pictures from my recent holiday in England and Scotland, to follow up on my last post.

No salmon on the menu, but the chicken-ham-leek pie was tasty at a 13-century thatched roof tavern in Honeybourne, England.

Also in the Cotswolds, the village of Snowshill is picture-pefect:

Nearby in Bath, the Sally Lunn House dates back to 1452 and  features a restaurant (home of the famous Sally Lunn Bun) and a kitchen museum.  One can only guess what this mannequin is cooking up:

Exmoor National Park has rolling hills and sweeping vistas, such as this view from the town of Selworthy:

Up in Scotland, salmon would have been a meal fit for a king at Caerlaverock Castle, south of Dumfries:

Up in the Highlands, these deer sculptures could very well be seeking salmon:

To end this travelogue with a food-related picture from Dumfries, Scotland, I say Crabbie’s adult ginger beer would be a fitting companion to salmon chowder:

For the recipe….

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Trapanese Pesto Pasta

I believe I have not hidden my devotion to America’s Test Kitchen and their rigourous testing-tasting, tasting-testing, or whatever their process is for creating the best never-fail recipes.  ATK has never let me down.

When I came across ATK’s version of pesto, as served in Trapani, Sicily, it made me decide to make it right away.  I did not have such a sauce during a trip to Sicily, but all the foods were memorable in Sicily and the Aolian island of Lipari, including the blood oranges everywhere (the inspiration for my blood orange marmalade).  So the combination of ATK with Sicily seemed like a major convergence of culinary imperative.

Living on an island not even as large as Lipari (and, of course, nowhere as big as Sicily itself), there are certain ingredients not always available.  With the urgency of making this sauce, I could not find any decent cherry tomatoes, in mid-June, so I had to resort to an island act of forced creativity, substituting a tin of Italian cherry tomatoes in its place.  This is not as much a locavore’s meal as is possible, though one could argue that it is more authentic in its Italian origins (olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and the said tomatoes all hailed from Italy – OK, I used imported linguine, too…).

For the easy recipe…

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What Would Jessie Dish? A New Wednesday Feature: Introduction to the Project and the German Pancake

My grandmother is just 16, at her high school graduation in 1920.

She could dish it up, but can I make it?

In helping my mother get ready to move into an assisted living apartment recently, I came across my mother’s copy of The Joy of Cooking.  She no longer wanted it, had not used it in many years, and said I should take it.  However, it was not it until I had returned home, when I discovered that the book had a 5” x  7” Manilla envelope containing a number of recipes from my late grandmother, Jessie.  She died nearly 20 years ago.  I cannot imagine that anyone knew whatever happened to these recipes.  So I was excited to have stumbled on this treasure trove.

There were nearly 20 recipes, half typed on 3″ x 5″ cards, with the others were written in her careful handwriting on various pieces of scrap paper (“Waste not, want not!” Jessie would implore, having lived through the Great Depression).  Most of the recipes are for baked goods (hooray!), and I do remember having eaten most of these dishes.  There are a few I am sure she did not make for me, so re-creating other recipes my grandmother made intrigues me as well.

I decided that it would be a fun feature on IslandEAT to prepare each and every one of the recipes, expanding or clarifying the directions, and assessing the results.   Many are in the short-hand of an experienced baker – and cook – who knew her technique well, so the steps are implicit – that is fine if you know the technique, of course, and, fortunately, I have developed a sense for baking over the years and am familiar with many similar recipes.

However, some recipes, especially the handwritten ones,  are completely vague and lacking directions – and even titles.   I will have to experiment to see if I can re-create what I think she had intended. What they all have in common is a no-nonsense, non-fussy simple approach with relatively few ingredients.  The recipes are primarily American or, in a few cases, European.  Some are still current and even in vogue, while others do seem rather vintage, e.g., “apricot mold”, which uses apricot jello and evaporated milk — not the kind of thing I generally make, but I am ready to try it.

From now until I have prepared all 18, I will feature a Wednesday recipe from the past, with a scan of the original recipe (and sometimes, the odd bits I have found on the reverse side), aiming to do this every week until the end of summer.  I expect to include some recollections of her, as she was a bit of a character, with a very good sense of humour, unusual turns of phrases, and quite the sharp tongue; Jessie was not afraid to ask – or ask repeatedly – for what she wanted or to let people know exactly what she thought.  I hope this summer project helps IslandEAT’s readers get a glimpse into her personality.

For more on the German Pancake and the What Would Jessie Dish? Recipe Roster

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Capers-Lemon-Parmesan-Prosciutto Linguine Umami: Fast, Full-Flavoured, & Fantastic Pasta for Mid-week


I am not a “super taster”. My palate is not sensitive nor is subtlety my desired approach in cooking. Forget the understated, muted flavours for me. While I would like to be more “discerning” in my ability to distinguish barely distinguishable flavours, this is not the case. So it is not a surprise that I prefer highly seasoned, strongly flavoured, and spicy foods – not to mention coffee, chocolate, rich caramel, raspberry, lemon, and mint in desserts.

One way for those of us who are decidedly not super tasters to enjoy food is through “umami”, which is hard to translate from the Japanese. It describes rich, savoury, meaty, and satisfying earthy flavours, such as prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, ripe tomatoes, as well as soy and fish sauce. Interesting that these are hallmarks of Italian and Japanese cuisines, both of which are noted for their simple preparations of high-quality ingredients.


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Carrot-Ginger Dressing + Composed Avocado Salad: Colourful, Flavourful, and Healthful as a Main Course

How do you feel about the wide world of food blogs?

I am fascinated by this subculture of the blogosphere and the online do-it-yourself culinary world. As someone relatively new to this milieu (blogging and blogging about food, to be precise), I enjoy the variety of food sites from around the world, having read a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of blogs (probably in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions, by now).

As a contemporary literary form, the food-as-secondary-to-a-story genre intrigues me most. There are many fine writers – not necessarily trained culinary professionals – blogging today. Likewise, one also can find many fine chefs/bakers, who are not necessarily the best or most compelling writers. Occasionally, professionals do tell a good story with clear instructions and captivating pictures (e.g., David Lebovitz – justifiably popular for his adventures and clever accounts of the pastries, food, and life in Paris).

Most engaging are the amateurs, who convey the context of their recipes in conjunction with clear directions and captivating photography. Of course, there is the whole visual element of food styling and web design, too, which can make or break a site. Top-notch food styling is a draw for some of my favourite sites, Memories in the Baking, pierre.cuisine, Mowielicious, MattBites, and island-neighbour, Island Vittles. None of the above, I believe, work full-time as professionals in the food industry (though Matt is a professional in the design world).

What I seek in the best food blogs Continue reading

Linguine with Roasted Broccoli, Prosciutto, & Pine Nuts: Truth in Advertising (albeit delicious)

Toothsome, nutritious, and satisfying, this dish is not at all Asian, however.

I am a big believer in factually representing any product. Thus, I was very surprised by the recipe, which inspired this post. The original recipe came from a cookbook called, Everyday Asian , by Patricia Yeo and Tom Steele.

At a bookstore in Vancouver, I bought a copy of Everyday Asian on sale, as I liked to do when indulging my compulsion bad habit hobby of buying cookbooks. It looked like a fun and diverse collection of pan-Asian recipes. I liked the simplicity of the recipes I reviewed and the variety of approaches (including substitutions and options for many ingredients, techniques, and variations). I am always on the hunt for new approaches in synthesizing the exciting range of Asian cuisines. Of Chinese descent, the author grew up in Malaysia, received her culinary training in France, worked at China Moon Café in San Francisco, and then worked for Bobby Flay at the Miracle Grill. So it appeared that Ms. Yeo knows a thing or two about Asian food.

Roasting broccoli is a breeze.

The review continues – and the recipe Continue reading

A Fast, Spicy, and Satisfying West Coast-Indian Dish: Halibut Masala

Halibut masala

As I had mentioned earlier, I started to learn about different cuisines during my vegetarian childhood. One cuisine, which is arguably the best for vegetarians, is Indian, of course. Palak (or saag) paneer became one of my favourite dishes – among all cuisines – as well as my particular litmus test for Indian restaurants; none I have eaten in even the best restaurants, however, can compare to my friend Kip’s stellar version.

Classic Indian spices make the mise-en-place

Indian food now is very popular around the world, but its complexity and variety is often misunderstood. Just like Chinese, Mexican, or American cuisines, Indian regional cooking represents a mind-numbing array of varied dishes from the Goan vindaloo to Rajasthani buttermilk soup to the crisp crepe-like dosas of southern Indian to Punjabi tomato-based curries. I guess it is similar to lumping New England clam chowder, Chicago pan pizza, Louisiana crawfish etouffee, and a French dip sandwich in Los Angeles as one coherent “American” cuisine – not to mention Peeps, candy corn, Twinkies (which were invented right near where I grew up!), and other uniquely food items, which add to the range of eatin’ in the US of A.

Halibut Masala, the recipe Continue reading

Poulet au citron, or Lemon Chicken

Enough of the pies and pastries – bring on the poulet.

Freshly roasted, the chicken rests next to its recipe source.

When I was a graduate student at La Sorbonne in Paris, I spent much of my time in food-related pursuits. Quelle surprise. I relied on Patricia Wells’ Food Lover’s Guide to Paris (I think I had purchased the first edition before leaving for France). When I was in Paris, Ms. Wells was the food writer for the International Herald-Tribune, published in Paris. It was a great resource for me, in exploring the city’s markets, restaurants, and, of course, bakeries – so here we come back to patisseries again…no escaping this recurring theme for long.

My favourite pastries in Paris were:

Tarte aux framboises – the classic raspberry tart,

Tarte au citron (the more puckery, the better for the true Parisian lemon tart),

Religieuses au chocolat or au café, (a variant on the éclair with a small ball of pate au choux on top of a larger one – to resemble some sort of religious figure – these delights represented my religious experience in Paris), and

Macarons – 20 years or so before they became a global food fetish trend, I was chasing down the best across the City of Light.

Ms. Wells’ book helped me to find the best things to eat, while discovering some more obscure parts of the city. I compared and contrasted the best examples, with the rigour a French literature student applies to l’analyse du texte. Besides, the best pastries were much tastier than the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance I was studying.

Since then, Ms. Wells has garnered a justifiably international reputation for her knowledge and expertise in French cuisine. I have purchased some of her later editions of “food lover’s guides” and cookbooks. Her cookbooks are always engaging with the backgrounds and context of recipes, consistently well-written, and precise in the directions for all recipes, which always turn out well for me.

After a brief rest, the chicken is now ready for carving.

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