Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Story and My Ingredients for Success

Hello everyone. My name is Jeff Shwom and I am the development assistant at Common Threads. I joined the Common Threads staff in December, though I am not longer the newest employee. When I moved to Chicago in October 2010, I had been exploring non profits that worked with children and food. I had worked for a food organization in Washington DC that trained adults (actually, ex convicts and individuals who got into trouble with the law) to prepare and cook food. Common Threads had a unique environment that I was interested in: younger children, local and involved chefs, and fresh ingredients…What could be better!

I have made a personal commitment to my health and healthy eating. I cook probably 6 nights of the week and always bring my lunch (ask my co workers!). I have food that by coming home and focusing on my meals, I am eating healthier foods and enjoying what I eat. That is why I like Common Threads…it engages students and families in the family meal. It brings suggestions to them on how to make good food and learn about cultures at the same time. I myself have tried in my own test kitchen our recipes and let me tell you, they are easy, great, and healthy!

Well, I hope my enthusiasm, which comes from a more indirect service perspective being development, can explain how Common Threads has impacted me thus far.

One final thought for everyone: if an average joe like myself can cook recipes and be happy, then anyone can. So go for it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

National Pie Day!

It's time to get your sweet treat fix!

Sunday January 23rd was National Pie Day...we think this should be celebrated the entire week so we've asked Heather Terhune, Executive Chef of Sable Kitchen & Bar and loyal supporter of Common Threads, to pass along one of her favorite pie recipes! Heather always supports the Common Threads mission and is always ready to lend a hand in a class guest teaching or offering a cool after party space in the new Palomar Hotel. Not many of our Common Threads classes include a sweet grand finale but every once in a while you can splurge. Try out Heather’s special dessert on National Pie Day as a treat from her is always a special occasion!

Key Lime Tart
Makes One 9-inch tart

9 to 10 graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup coconut flakes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh key lime juice or fresh lime juice
1 tsp fresh lime zest
4 large egg yolks
Pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Process graham crackers, coconut and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs form, add butter. Process until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pat into bottom and up sides.
3. Place pan on a baking sheet, and bake until crust is fragrant and slightly colored, about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, lime juice, egg yolks, lime zest and salt; whisk until smooth. Pour mixture into crust (warm or cool is fine), leaving 1/8 inch at the top; return to oven. Bake until filling is set around edge but still slightly loose in center, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. To store longer, cover and refrigerate, up to 2 days.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It's National Pizza Week! Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg of Spiaggia Offers Her Healthy Pizza Recipe...

Café Spiaggia’s Spicy Calamari Pizza

For the Marinade:

1 ½ pounds thinly sliced calamari rings
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Pizza Dough:

4 cups Italian caputo flour (oo)
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 packets active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ cups lukewarm water

For the Topping:

Extra virgin olive oil for brushing
1 cup tomato sauce
½ cup Neonata, also known as Rosamarina, a spicy Calabrian chili paste

2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup julienne escarole leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Makes 4 pizzas

In a blender or food processor, puree the paprika, oregano, pepper, salt, garlic, and olive oil until smooth to make a marinade.

Put the calamari in a non reactive shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the calamari and toss to coat evenly. Cover and marinate the calamari in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 24 hours.

Make the dough. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, yeast and sugar. Add the water to the dry ingredients and mix until the water is absorbed and the dough forms shards. Turn the dough out onto a board and knead for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth.

If using a stand mixer, mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar together in the mixing bowl, stirring to combine. On low speed, pour in the water and mix using the dough hook. Mix on low until the dough forms around the hook, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix the dough again but on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place on a floured sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a baking stone if possible.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, (cover the remaining dough with a moist kitchen towel until ready to use) flatten the dough on a floured work surface. Carefully stretch the dough out with the edge of your hands. Next, gently roll out the pizza dough into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch-thick.

Brush the dough with a thin layer of olive oil. Then brush on a thin layer of tomato sauce and neonata, spreading to the edge. Top with ¼ of the cheese cubes, and top with calamari and escarole and season with salt and pepper. Place the pizza directly on the pizza stone and bake for 10 minutes or until crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly.

Remove from the oven onto a cutting board and cut into 8 slices and serve.

Repeat the process to make the remaining 3 pizzas.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Healthy Eating Tip and Recipe by Chef Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp of Sunday Dinner

Christine and Josh have been strong supporters of Common Threads and our mission for over 3 years. Their commitment to quality ingredients sourced from locally responsible sources is evident in everything they do from their underground Sunday Dinner club to their delicious Eat Green Foods granola bars. Try out this recipe (one of the pairs favorite’s) and start 2011 off strong by eating well!

Complements of Chef Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp
Sunday Dinner
Minted Red Lentil Soup with Crab Salad and Crème Fraiche
Serves 4-6


1 medium onion
1 shallot
1 red jalapeno
1 cup red lentils
3 cups chicken or fish stock or water
10 mint stems tied into a bunch
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion, jalapeno, and shallot in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauce or small soup pot until golden and caramelized about 10-15 min. Add stock and mint and bring to a boil. Season to taste (ie. make sure the stock tastes good). Add lentils and simmer until lentils are tender. Let soup cool slightly, remove the mint, transfer to blender and blend until smooth.

Crab Salad
1 cup crab meat
1 tsp chopped chives
juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp of julienned mint leaves (slice them)
1 tsp crème fraiche
salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together- chill until ready to serve.

To Serve:
Reheat soup and re-season to taste. Add juice from the other ½ lemon if the soup needs a little brightness. Maybe add a pat of butter to make it richer or a splash of olive oil.

Pour soup in bowl, place mound of crab salad in center of soup.

Take ¼ cup crème fraiche and combine with 1 Tbsp of water and mix. Drizzle thinned crème fraiche over soup.

Sit. Relax. Eat.