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Summer’s End Pasta

September 27, 2017

I’ve been asked by several people recently why I haven’t posted in so long. Truth be told, I’ve been cooking so much for several elderly couples, personal chef-ing and generally enjoying life that I haven’t stopped to take photos and what’s a blog post on preparing food without photos? This is from a few years ago and I hope you’ll enjoy it, try it making any variations you see fit. That’s how I cook!

My garden actually survived Chicago’s ridiculously hot and dry summer thanks to a $10 soaker hose that delivered a long cool drink to those poor plants every day so I didn’t have to. This super easy recipe uses tomatoes, basil and wild garlic flowers that are overflowing right now.

Summer’s End Pasta

Ingredients for 2 servings – multiply as needed

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cherry or other super fresh tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic – smashed and minced
  • 4 basil leaves – rolled and sliced (**chiffonade)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil – use the best quality you can get for this one
  • 6 oz dried pasta – fusilli, spaghetti, linguini


  • a generous grating of Reggiano Parmigiano
  • 1 wild garlic flower stalk (pinch white flowers off from green stems)


This one is so easy the sauce can be put together while the pasta cooks. Mix chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl and microwave for 2 minutes or heat in a saucepan until the tomatoes soften slightly. Drain pasta and toss with tomato sauce, add grated Parmigiano and toss again. Top with wild garlic flowers before serving. This simple dish is good hot, room temperature and even cold.

**  Chiffonade is a cooking technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetables (such as basil, sage or spinach) are cut into long, thin strips. This is generally accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife, producing fine ribbons.

“Chiffon” is French for “rag” referring to the fabric-like strips that result from this technique. To chiffonade simply means to turn into rag-like strips, as seen in the 2nd picture above.

This technique is unsuited to small, narrow, or irregularly shaped herb leaves such as parsley, thyme or rosemary due to there being less surface area for the knife to do a practical job.


Irish Brown Bread

March 17, 2014

Chicago has yet to emerge from winter which has put even the most cold-weather-loving of us in bit of a funk. Yellow daffodils are catching sunlight in the front window to brighten the otherwise grey view.  Hopefully some rousing banjo music and a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef, cabbage, warm brown bread and a pint of Guinness will lift the deary mood that’s taken hold this year.

This is the third time I’ve posted this simple recipe that goes together in a few minutes and bakes quickly, there’s no room for improving on it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks.
May your heart be as light as a song.
May each day bring you bright, happy hours.
That stay with you all the year long.

Irish Brown Bread

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (I use at least half graham flour)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups buttermilk (don’t have buttermilk? combine 2 Tbsp white vinegar with a scant 2 cups milk)

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub butter into flour mixture. I put it in a food processor and pulse about 10 times until butter is well incorporated into flour. Put back into bowl and make a ‘well’ in the center. Gradually add buttermilk, mixing with flour until a soft ball is formed. Turn onto a lightly floured board and roll in flour to form a ball. The dough will be very sticky until it is covered in flour. If it seems too sticky or loose you can add a little flour and knead to incorporate. Flatten into a circle 1  1/2″ thick. Make an x thru the center with a sharp knife. Place on a baking sheet  and bake for 35-40 minutes, until browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Wrap baked loaf in a damp tea towel and leave until cool.  Slice and serve with Kerry Gold Irish Butter.

Ready to go into the oven

Just out of the oven. Leave in a damp tea towel until cool.

Ready to eat.

Phyllo Dough Apple Strudel a Re-Post for Lent 2014

March 4, 2014

It still feels like the dead of winter here in Chicago rather than the first week of March so knowing Easter is only 41 days away is hard to believe. I’ve been the hold-out on complaining about the cold and snow but even I am growing tired of the grey skies and long for open windows with warm breezes and the sounds of birds chirping. Springtime is certainly synonymous with Easter as it gives us, on this northern latitude (41 degrees 88 inches), the promise of hope and rebirth/regrowth after a long winter. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and I’ll begin my annual ritual of practicing frugality. Here is a post from 2010 when the idea first presented itself to me.

Not much to this one other than I had a roll of phyllo/fillo dough and a gorgeous granny smith apple and we had a hankering for something sweet after a trying water polo game tonight. This is what I came up with. For Lent I’m going to limit buying  food other than dairy, fruits and veggies in the hope of using up some of the surplus in our pantry and freezer. The idea came from an Ash Wednesday service I attended last night and the suggestion of practicing frugality in a brochure that was handed out. It said this, “Frugality goes completely against the grain of our culture that is so obsessed with “the pursuit of happiness”- which today means comfort, indulgence, pampering, pleasure, luxury and leisure. Practicing frugality means that we reject the notion that we need such things to make our lives fulfilled. Interesting idea, one I’m willing to try for 40 days (with a small break for the 7 days of spring break). So, after a dinner of grilled chicken, onions and red peppers with avocados, this sweet treat was made all from ingredients I already had on hand. See what you can make out of what you already have in your cupboard before you indulge in buying more. Should be an interesting and maybe inspirational month of posts.

Phyllo Dough Apple Strudel


  • 10 sheets 14″x18″phyllo dough
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter or 1/2 butter and 1/2 coconut oil
  • 1 large granny smith apple (chopped to equal about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons Coconut or agave nectar, or corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt


Chop apples and mix with lemon juice, 1  1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nectar, 1 Tbsp. sugar, walnuts, vanilla extract, salt and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Set aside.

Mix melted butter (and oil), 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp sugar in a small dish. Lay one sheet of  phyllo dough out and brush with melted butter mixture. Repeat layering until all 10 sheets of  phyllo are used. Put all the apple mixture in the center of the dough. Fold one side over mound of apples. Brush top layer with butter and fold other side to overlap about an inch. Lay sheet of parchment paper over and flip so seam side is down on top of parchment on baking sheet. Press ends together gently (some juice will leak out when baking).  Brush top with remaining melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and a little sugar. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until browned and puffed up.  Let cool a bit before cutting using a very sharp knife. Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream (wish we’d had some).

Chopped apples, walnuts mixed with cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla

and coconut or agave nectar

Brush phyllo dough with melted butter/coconut oil, cinnamon & sugar

mixture x 10 layers

With apple/walnut mixture in middle, fold top half over fruit, followed by

bottom layer,sealing with butter sugar mixture

Turn over with the help of parchment paper. With seam side down, brush

top with butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake until browned.

Some of the yummy juices will make its way out the ends…

Marzipan Apricot Tart (for Lisa)

June 11, 2013


Marzipan Apricot Tart

This all started when I was tagged in a Facebook post by my friend Lisa who wrote “Hey Amy Miller can you please please bake this for me?? 🙂 I want this”. So what could I do when put to the challenge? Again, this is not my own recipe, just recreated for Lisa and a bunch of women from my Church who won an auction item for an evening at SheBeads in Wilmette. Lisa was duly surprised and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Not a ton of work, just following the directions and improvising on a few things like using dried beans in place of pie weights, they do the trick just fine. This tart is quite sweet because of the layer of Marzipan so I would pair it with a nice cold glass of cava or prosecco, a cup of tea or coffee. It reminds me of something you’d get in a Viennese pastry shop and enjoy in the afternoon.

And if you ever get a chance to make beads at SheBeads, do it. It’s a very cool process and the beads and the resulting bracelets all turned out to match the creators personality. They give half the fee to the charity, in this case our Church’s youth group work trip. A win, win for everyone. You also can order jewelry already made up from their website. Be sure to check out their Charity Partners to see all the good work being done by their small shop.


Marizipan Apricot Tart




  • 1/4 cup whole raw almonds (with skins)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds (with skins)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 ounces marzipan
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds


  • a 9- by 1-inch tart pan with removable bottom



  • Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour until finely ground (be careful not to grind to a paste).
  • Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Beat in egg yolk, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well. At low speed, mix in almond mixture, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup flour until mixture just forms a dough.
  • Form into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap, then chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  • Press dough evenly over bottom and up sides of pan with well-floured fingers. Chill shell 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
  • Lightly prick shell all over with a fork, then line with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake shell until sides are set and edge is golden, about 15 minutes.
  • Carefully remove weights and foil and bake until shell is golden all over, about 10 minutes more. Cool shell completely in pan on a rack. (Leave oven on.)


  • Pulse almonds and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until finely ground (be careful not to grind to a paste).
  • Beat butter and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add egg, beating well. Add almond mixture, salt, flour, baking powder and extracts and mix at low speed until combined (batter will be fairly thick).
  • Roll marzipan out to an 8-inch circle on a lightly floured surface and trim where necessary to create an even circle.


  • Fit marzipan in tart shell and spread with apricot preserves.
  • Spread cake batter evenly in pan and sprinkle with almonds.
  • Bake until golden brown and cake is set, 25 to 30 minutes (it should not wobble in center when shaken slightly).
  • Cool completely on a rack, about 2 hours.
  • Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Italian Caviar – heaven in one bite

June 7, 2013

Can’t take credit for this recipe, just for reproducing it for a recent benefit I cooked for to raise funds and awareness for the Samaritan Counseling Center. Great concept of small, themed evenings in homes rather than yet another ‘gala’. My friend Sue who is on the board had volunteered to host a wine tasting and asked me to be her guest ‘chef’. I told her to use that term loosely. We met with the incoming board president who was co-hosting the evening and discussed wines and menu, settling on some small bites and dinner to complement the wines Sue had chosen.  This “Italian Caviar” was one of the small bites along with classic gougeres, roasted bell pepper on toasted bread rounds and goat cheese and a lovely selection of cheese and artisanal salami.

My very funny friend Emily wrote this at the top of the recipe she shared…Straight from Fort Smith, Arkansas…. some of the best Italian you’ll ever have.

Italian Caviar

Italian Caviar


  • 2 cups pitted black olives
  • 1/2 cup anchovy fillets in oil (I used 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup tuna fish in oil
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 T Olive Oil

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

  • 24 small new red potatoes, halved, hollowed and boiled
  • Container marscapone


Chop and mix all ingredients from top list. Add olive oil a little at a time to produce firm, easy-to-spread mixture. If using a food processor, only pulse a few times.

Serve at room temp on dense, Italian bread. Or boil, halved and hallowed small, red potatoes; scoop in mascarpone; top with Italian caviar.


Feast & Imbibe

April 13, 2013

Often I find spur of the moment plans turn out to be more fun than long-awaited ones. Last night’s dinner, seated at the chef’s table for a 6 course with wine pairings was no exception.

Feast & Imbibe is a pop-up concept by partners Heather Bublick and D’Andre Carter who met while at Moto. D’Andre handles the food and Heather chooses the wine pairings. The dinner they prepared last night, served at Logan Square’s breakfast and lunch haven JAM, was nothing short of spectacular. I’m talking on the lines of NEXT good or as Heather shared with us, what she and D’Andre now say “schwa-quail-egg-ravioli-good”.

Dinner came together like this. A hallway conversation with a co-worker, several emails, confirmations and a last minute surprise from Heather of adding a 5th to our 4 top, a great young man from the premium reservations start up, Table Host, who was going to be there so “might he join you and you’ll all be seated at the Chef’s Table”. Easy.

So much to say about the conversations had but food and wine what this is all about. Suffice it to say my dining cohorts company was delightful. Feast & Imbibe is what we did. Our menu included 2 plates not listed on the night’s menu, below. Study Of Quail (Seared Quail, Celery Root Nest, Quail Egg, Quail Food) and Foie Gras Ice Cream (Pecan, Mango Puree, Mango Chip, Pomegranate Sponge Cake). Did I say, yeah, yeah, yeah yet?

Read on, study the photos for the artistry of presentation that matched the flavors, textures and fantasy used to create them and make your reservation soon. Planned menu changes are set for May 1 and again July 5th and I imagine this fun-loving, hardworking and incredibly talented pair will surprise and delight us all. 

                                                 Feast & Ibibe Menu


Top left,  coconut braised lamb belly, tempura eggplant, grilled abalone mushrooms, butternut squash puree, cauliflower all with a hint of  Indian spices. Top next, in rich chicken broth, lamain (hand pulled noodles), smoked fiddlehead ferns, perfectly cooked sea bass, pickled ramps and egg yolk. Top nextstudy of quail, celery root nest, perfectly cooked quail egg, mirepoix schmear, edible flower petals, quail food – sunflower seeds, freeze-dried corn. Top right, amazingly light and not too sweet chocolate & truffle fluff, beet sorbet on which D’Andre shaved spring truffle!  Large photo, bed of marscapone cream, blood orange chip, roe, Meyer lemon reduction and bread crisps. Middle left, wines.  Bottom left, Foie Gras ice cream, pecans, mango puree,  pomegranate sponge cake with pineapple puree.  Nuff said.

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