The Matchbox is one of my favorite Chicago bars. The slight space is aptly named and the drinks are expertly crafted by a no-nonsense staff. Many of their best concoctions use house-infused liquors. You can't go wrong with their Knob Creek Manhattans garnished with brandy soaked dark cherries or their ginger vodka gimlets.
Over a few years worth of visits, I thought I had effectively covered their offerings. Yet one evening I noticed a jar full of soaking apricots. My companions and I each ordered a shot of this apricot infused tequila and I instantly fell in love. While I order the occasional margarita and I enjoy quality tequilas on their own, I never really considered it to be a terribly versatile liquor.
Adding to my list of home infusions, I recently threw together my own bottle to take to a party. Apricot tequila is excellent on its own; shaken with some ice and strained into a shot glass. It would also be a great replacement for regular tequila in a variety of cocktails.
Apricot Infused Tequila
1/2 liter decent tequila (I used Sauza Hornitos, but you could definitely use something cheaper)
10 ounces dried apricots
In a 1 liter glass jar, combine the tequila and the apricots. Let them infuse for about two days. Give the bottle an occasional swirl.
Simple! This recipe will make about 15 two-ounce shots. The resulting fruit is delicious, but extremely powerful. When my tequila was gone, I reserved most of the fruit and stuck it in my freezer. I plan to blend it with some ice and lime juice this summer for a refreshing cocktail.
We really love pizza in our house, but items from the frozen section just won't cut it. Over the last year Nick has become quite adept at making pizza dough. His prowess, combined with the peel and baking stone my parents gave me, have us eating delicious homemade pizza at least once a week. One of our favorite ingredient combinations is asparagus and egg -- perfect for spring.
Prepare dough according to instructions. Preheat oven to 500F.
Rinse the asparagus and cut in half, so that you have about 20 3-inch pieces. Take each 3-inch piece and cut in half long ways, and then again to quarter. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and saute the asparagus with black pepper and a generous amount of kosher salt until tender and bright green. Turn off heat and set aside.
Divide dough into two balls and roll out the first on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a baking peel or baking sheet with cornmeal and transfer the dough. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with Mexican oregano (about a teaspoon). Arrange half the asparagus in a single layer over the dough and cover with one and a half cups of cheese (or the amount you prefer). Crack two eggs into the center of the pizza.
Bake for about ten minutes, or until the egg whites are cooked and the pizza is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly on a cutting board and cut to serve while still warm. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Be sure to dip your crust in the egg yolks as you work your way towards the center!
After work last week, I met my friend Ellen to catch up over a bottle of wine. She had prepared a few snacks for us, and this grape, cilantro and almond salad blew me away. Neither of us are big cilantro fans, but the flavors in this salad work so perfectly together that I have a new-found appreciation for the herb. The dish only calls for six ingredients and it can be prepared in a matter of minutes. You can find Ellen's recipe here.
A well-timed sale on grapes at my local grocery store has encouraged me to make this no less than three times in the last five days. I'm seriously considering doing the same again tonight.
I know Spring won't officially get its start for another two weeks, but the last few days in Chicago have been a sweet reprieve from an arduous winter. Mild mornings have coaxed me into longer runs as I get serious about training for my upcoming races, and the fresh air and sunlight have me feeling energized for the first time in months -- I really can't recall being so excited for daylight savings.
If you will allow me to waver from the normal thread of this website for a moment, I'd like to share a few things I am presently excited about.
The Publican: Nick and I finally dined at this Fulton Market area restaurant and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Homemade Goat Cheese: Nick has been making goat cheese for us at home with delicious results. A detailed post is in the works.
Quicken Online: I'm trying to get my finances in order and pay off loans and debt. I've found Quicken Online to be a great, free tool to help me stay organized. Mint is nice too, but I find that it has a longer lag time updating my accounts.
Baggu Produce Bags: I'm a big fan of the Baggu grocery bags. I always have one on me. I was excited to see that they had added produce bags to their product line and I recently ordered one in both sizes. I am very pleased with them and now I never need to use plastic at the store.
The Daily Mile: As I continue with my new found interest in running, the dailymile has become a great resource. I am able to track my distance, time, pace and upcoming races on their free site. Please add me if you are a member, it will be a better motivator with friends!
Argentina: I finally cashed in all of my frequent flyer miles and Nick and I are heading to Buenos Aires, Argentina in May. Needless to say, we are super excited. We'd love recommendations of what to eat, drink and visit.
We celebrated Nick's birthday this weekend with a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, a party at home with some friends, and a superb dinner at the Publican. As the weekend rounded out, fresh baked scones seemed like the ideal accompaniment to our snowy Sunday afternoon.
2 C flour 2 Tbs sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top 1 Tbs baking powder Grated zest of 1 orange 1/4 tsp salt 4 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces 2 large eggs 1/2 C cold milk or cream 2 Tbs raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, two tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt. Rub in the butter with your hands (or cut in with a pastry cutter if you prefer) until it resembles a coarse meal.
In a second bowl whisk the eggs, milk and jam. Add to the dry ingredients and mix into a shaggy dough.
Knead gently a few times and separate into 3 balls. Form each into a 6-inch round (about 1-inch thick) and cut into 4 wedges. Evenly space the wedges on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a golden brown crust forms. Serve warm if possible.