Busby Bakes

thoughts on cooking + eating by one who lives for the daily feast

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Pumpkin panzanella

I adore the no-nonsense writing style of Florence Fabricant and her great ideas for wine and food pairings. Her recipes have become some of the best in my kitchen arsenal. The following was a delicious accompaniment to a mid-week dinner of curried shrimp and too much wine with friends. It’s based on a FloFab recipe I clipped a few years ago for an autumnal version of the classic Italian salad, panzanella.

Pumpkin Panzanella

Flesh from 1 pie pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, scooped, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 small loaf of whole wheat crusty bread, cut into (you guessed it) 1-inch chunks

1 small sweet onion, diced

1 quince, peeled, cored, diced

1 apple or pear, peeled, cored, diced

3/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1 t. cumin

12 sundried tomatoes, slivered

1 T. capers

2 T. chopped parsley and tarragon

Add the pumpkin and the cauliflower to a large pot of salted, boiling water. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain and add to a large bowl.

Saute the bread cubes in half of the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until toasty brown. Set aside.

In a different pan, saute the onions, quince, and apple in the remaining olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the cider vinegar and cumin, then pour over pumpkin and cauliflower. Mix to coat. Add sundried tomatoes, capers, bread, and toss together. Cover bowl and let sit on the counter for a few hours for the flavors to develop.

Just before serving, add parsley and tarragon and toss salad together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Crazy, Glaze-y Days of Summer

Readers, it’s been a crazy summer. Happy to report that the Husband and I have been putting our former neighbor’s cast-off Weber to good use. A recent weeknight dinner was inspired by a New York Times recipe for a Stout Citrus Glaze.

Lacking a true stout, I used a random bottle of Java Vanilla Porter from Atwater Brewery. No idea how it migrated from Detroit to the back of our fridge.

The strong flavors of the beer settled down with the addition of balsamic vinegar and lemon. The Husband spread this sticky brew on some gorgeously thick lamb steaks from Mint Creek Farm, purchased on my sole trip to the farmer’s market this summer. Delicious!

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Pizza Pizza

Seems that the Husband and I have been eating a lot of pizza lately. Yeah, yeah, I know—Chicago is so famous for deep dish. Which I don’t like.at.all. Too doughy and cheesy and saucy [yawn]. I’m a thin crust kinda gal, preferably wood-fired. This spring, we’ve enjoyed the following pies from places mostly in or around our neighborhood, at least we can walk to/from our indulgence:

The mushroom and spinach pizza at Crust.

The white pizza at Coalfire.

The potato rosemary at Pizza Metro.

The arugula and proscuitto-topped pizza at Enoteca Roma:


The delicious New Haven white clam pizza at Piece:

And my favorite, the mozzarella di bufala with arugula pizza at Spacca Napoli.

We make it at home, too, using a pizza stone that came with the Husband. Latest house favorite is cherry tomato, shallot (sautéd with sherry vinegar), bacon, and fresh mozz.


For the dough I’ve been using a recipe from the New York Times Magazine, substituting half of the white flour with whole wheat. Seems to work well with the bacon for some reason. Easy for a quick dinner, as you make the dough ahead of time. If you get your oven and pizza stone hot enough, you’ll bake up a great pie. Serve a salad on the side to make up for all that cheese…and bacon.

Pizza Dough

1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/4 t kosher salt
1 1/2 c cold water
3 T olive oil

Make the dough in the morning to count on pizza for dinner. In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix the flours, yeast, salt until combined. Add the water and oil and mix at low speed until the dough is rough and shaggy. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about 8 minutes. The dough should be just shy of forming a ball.

Scrape dough out onto a heavily-floured surface. Let rest for 10 minutes. Separate into 2 pieces and form into a smooth ball. Place each ball in an oiled bowl, dust with flour, and cover with a towel or loosely drape with plastic wrap. Let dough rise until doubled in size, about 3 hours.

Punch down the dough and place into two freezer bags. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour and up to one day before use. I usually freeze the second ball of dough for another night’s dinner.

Makes enough for two 10- to 12-inch pizzas.


Sausage School

Last Sunday, the Husband and I met some friends for a hands-on cooking class. Our mission was to learn the secrets of chef George’s house-made sausage…and to end the humiliation suffered at a grillfest some 10 months back. At a barbeque last summer, the Husband and I showed up with “fresh” sausage from Whole Foods. Our hosts smacked down that yuppie nonsense with a batch of sausages so delicious, so porky, so incredible that even the guys at Bari would have approved.

Turns out, the encased perfection came from August. A small neighborhood grocery, August is the kind of place that will grind the beef for your hamburgers. Their fish selection is small but incredibly fresh. Stacks of cookbooks are on hand to lend inspiration. And they make a nightly dinner special for the hurried or the harried. And sausage, did I mention the delicious sausage?

Here’s a quick version of the class, which was really fun. Chef George made sure we knew the why behind the what, which I always find extremely helpful.

Step One: Chop up a cold Berkshire pork shoulder. If I recall correctly, 30% fat is desirable. Feed the chunks through a meat grinder.


Step Two: Divide the meat in half. To one half, add chopped oyster mushroom and fresh herbs; to the other, blanched leeks and hot pepper. Salt and pepper to both. Combine with your hands. Keep the meat mix cold.


Step Three: Stuff into casings. Casings being the small intestine of a pig. Don’t think it was the same one who gave the shoulder. Mercifully, the cleaning and rinsing had been done by the butcher.




Step Four: Cook each type of sausage two ways: Brown in a hot pan, then cook through in a hot oven.

And steam (never, ever boil) then brown in a pan.


A BYOB dinner at the counter followed, where despite our best efforts we reached no consensus on the best sausage nor the best cooking method. Will have to revisit when we cook up the links we brought home. And again upon purchasing more from August. To all of our friends with grills: this summer, we promise to show up with the good stuff!




On Sunday morning I made a mad dash through Whole Foods, gathering last-minute ingredients for our Mother’s Day luncheon. Just as I’d squeezed past the bottleneck at the floral department (dads and kids), I skidded to a stop at the sight of a huge pile of ramps. Ramps! Have not seen them in the grocery store, ever.

Ramps are wild leeks, harvested in early spring. Or at least in May here in Chicago (so named for the stink of marshes filled with ramps). The white bulb, pinkish stalk, and lush greens are edible and have a soft garlic/assertive onion flavor and aroma.

Excited by my discovery, I bought a lot of them. Dinner the next night was a delicious and simple roast of chicken, ramps, and baby potatoes. The recipe I used is from Epicurious, which, for a change, I followed to the letter.

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Beet Greens


The other day I happened upon a gorgeous bunch of beets with perfectly intact, robust greens at the top. Sadly, this is a rare discovery. I made haste with the greens and we ate them that very night.

Beet greens pack a nutritional sucker-punch. High in potassium, vitamin K, vitamin A, and the anti-oxidents lutein and beta carotene, they’re really good for you in spite of their deliciousness and versatility.

My favorite way to enjoy all dark, leafy greens is after a quick saute with some aromatic additions as well as salt and freshly ground pepper. Saute the greens in olive oil with with garlic or minced shallot. finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, or a splash of soy sauce or sherry vinegar. Or gild the lily and cook a couple of strips of bacon, then add the greens. Definitely finish this with a lashing of sherry vinegar.

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Cinco de Mango


Here’s what the Husband and I will be having for dinner tonight: a slow-roasted pork shoulder smothered with mango salsa. This recipe comes from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook. I love Ina Garten; her books are cheerful and she seems to truly have fun in the kitchen. Actually, this book played a peripheral role in my food epiphany, which occurred while I was skiing to a restaurant in Colorado. But that’s another story.

Ina pairs this cooked salsa with herb-y grilled shrimp skewers, which is a fantastic match. When rubbed over a pork shoulder or tenderloin and slow-roasted in the oven, the salsa cooks down to a sticky, intense and almost jam-like texture.  Also delicious on the side with brined, then grilled pork chops or chicken. Or grilled salmon. That’s right: in Chicago we’re on the brink of summer. So make some salsa and start your grills!

Mango Salsa

2 T. olive oil

1/3 c. scallions, diced OR 1 c. yellow onion, diced

2 t. garlic, minced

2 t. ginger, minced

2 ripe mangoes, chopped

1/3 c. orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible

2 t. brown sugar

2 t. jalapeño, minced

kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

2 t. fresh mint, minced

Sauté olive oil, onions, ginger in a large pan over medium-low heat until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the mangoes and reduce heat to low, cook for 10 minutes. Add the OJ, sugar, salt, pepper, and jalapeño and cook until the liquid is reduced, about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the mint.

Makes 2 cups. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days. And while you can serve it chilled, it’s most delicious served warm or at room temperature.

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It slices! It dices! It…sliced off a bit of my finger.

A couple of nights ago, I was making a galette of rutabaga and sweet potato. To get the vegs sliced thin enough to develop the desired crusty surface, I pulled out my mandoline…which has a slider and grabber contraption that keeps one’s fingers away from the blade. Not wanting to waste anything, I decided to shave down an especially lumpy rutabaga without the mandoline’s slicer housing thingy until it would fit. In other words, I freestyled on the sharpest implement in my kitchen.

Surely you can guess what happened next:


It hurt and bled like the dickens. Luckily, the Husband found the finger bit (and the nail!). Safely ensconsed in a tourniquet-tight bandage and rubber glove, I rinsed off the rutabaga slices and proceeded with dinner preparations. Happy to report that the galette was delicious.

Root Vegetable Galette

3# root vegetables, peeled and very thinly sliced

(potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes,parsnips–alone or combined–all work well)

1/4# melted butter (you may need a little more)

2 T. fresh thyme, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

– Preheat the oven to 400F, placing a well-seasoned cast iron skillet in the oven to heat up. Pour half of the melted butter into the skillet. Layer in the sliced vegetables in concentric circles, overlapping slightly, to make a single layer. Drizzle with butter and sprinkle with thyme, salt, pepper. Make another layer, again drizzle and sprinkle.

– Lightly butter a sheet of foil and lay on top of the vegetables. Using a heavy pan (another skillet works well), press down on the foil. Bake the galette –with the additional pan on top–for around 30 minutes or until the edges look browned and the vegs have softened. Remove from the oven and allow to sit around 10 minutes.

– When ready to serve, remove additional pan and the foil. Lay a plate or serving platter that’s slightly larger than the cast iron skillet over the top. Holding the platter to the skillet, flip over to turn out the galette onto the platter. Wear your oven mitts! If any crunchy slices have go astray, just patch in. Garnish with thyme sprigs and cut into wedges to serve.



The Last Barbeque of Summer was this weekend, at our friends’ place in Oak Park. It’s a symbiotic relationship that developed a definite pattern this summer: We love abusing their hospitality by taking advantage of their grill, they love watching their kids take advantage/abuse us. Seems to work for all parties involved.

On the menu were burgers and beer. The realization that I’m but a month away from a bikini parade prompted my contribution of a salad. A while back I’d picked up a packet of farro, which has been loitering on the high shelf next to more popular items like crackers and chocolate. When it’s time to get serious about the whole grains, farro is a wonderful choice: minimally processed, it is high in proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins and has a chewy, nutty taste. Also known as emmer wheat and grano farro, this grain was cultivated in ancient Egypt and was a staple for the Roman Empire.

Farro Summer Salad

– In a cast-iron skillet, toast the farro grains until lightly browned and fragrant. Keep the heat on and add liquid based on a 3:1 ratio. Chicken broth, vegetable broth, water and a little white wine, all work well. I used veggie stock from my freezer. Let the farro simmer until just past al dente.

– Meanwhile, chop fresh vegetables, herbs, and crumbly cheese. For this salad, I used tomatoes, peppers, dill, scallions, parsley, and feta. Make a vinaigrette of olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon zest and juice, salt & pepper.

– Toss the farro, vegs, and vinaigrette. Add the cheese. That’s it! Toasted almond or pine nuts would have been a nice addition, if I’d thought of it at the time. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Reader, this took me all of 25 minutes, most of which was spent watching the grains cook. I used an 8 oz. packet, made about 12 servings. The leftovers made a great lunch on a bed of greens. This was a really delicious end-of-summer salad; think I’ll be making farro with roasted squash, caramelized onions, blue cheese, and a cumin/orange-based vinaigrette for fall and winter dinners.

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Apple butter

For a guy who can go days without needing a baguette, the Husband loves the things one spreads on bread. Lemon curd. Almond butter. Toasted cheese. Apple butter. Early in our dating career, I made a batch of apple butter and presented him with a jar on his birthday. He was overjoyed, but that could have been because I served said butter with pancakes while wearing a nightie. Be honest, you’ve done it, too.

At the farmer’s market recently, I spied baskets of mixed apples: Golden Delicious, Cortland, Macintosh, Jonathan. I lugged one home in the spirit of “an apple a day…” Didn’t happen, and, fearing rot or mealiness, I made apple butter. The recipe comes from Joy of Cooking, the surprising ingredient is apple cider vinegar. Be sure to let it cook long enough: the apples’ naturally occurring pectin makes the end result wonderfully thick and spreadable, but you’ve got to cook out most of the moisture to get it.

Apple Butter

4 lbs. apples

1 c. water

1 c. apple cider vinegar

brown or white sugar

1/2 t. each of cinnamon, cloves, allspice

juice from half a lemon

pinch of salt

Wash, quarter, and remove stems and seeds from apples. Combine with liquids in a sauce pan and cook over low heat until very soft. Put fruit through a fine mesh strainer. Place in a saucepan. For each cup of fruit pulp, add 1/2 cup of sugar. Add remaining ingredients and cook over very low heat, stirring frequently. It’s done when a spoonful placed on a plate has no liquid seeping around the edges. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Store in the refrigerator.

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