Zooming Through Farm & Kitchen

By Carol Mighton Haddix

The day was squinting-ly sunny, warm…delightful. But for one group of Dames and guests, the sensory input instead came through a computer screen. We were participating in a Virtual Farm Tour & Cooking Demo on Aug. 9 through the magic of Zoom. Dames Jeanne Nolan, Sarah Stegner, and Portia Belloc Lowndes led the tour and class. A different take on the farm-to-table trend, the event was open to the public, attracting 59 participants, and served as a fundraiser for Green City Market’s Edible Garden Project, which helps feed needy Chicagoans during the pandemic.

Portia kicked off the event by introducing Dame Mary Kay Gill, who gave an overview of Les Dames, and described our local Green Tables initiatives, which includes supporting the Edible Garden at Green City Market. Then we Zoomed straight into Sarah’s kitchen at her Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook. Earlier, participants had the opportunity to pick up prepped ingredients at Prairie Grass Café and cook along with Sara at home. She started with fresh, wild Alaskan cod fillets that she coated with egg, oat flour and bread crumbs before sauteeing.

“It’s all about being instinctual in the kitchen, not just following a recipe,” Sarah said. She fried the fish in clarified butter for added flavor. “Control the temperature in frying,” she cautioned; if the fish is browning too quickly, turn down the heat to give it time to cook through.”

We then zoomed to Jeanne Nolan at her Middlefork Farm in Northfield, where she runs The Organic Gardener, which helps Chicagoans set up and maintain produce gardens. She took us on a tour that included herbs (“I’m really liking the lemon verbena right now,” she said), edible flowers such as nasturtium, plus leeks, fennel, eggplant, corn, and many types of tomatoes (“my favorite is an orange cherry tomato called jaune flame.”)

Around the gardens, Jeanne has planted flowers to help fight insect invasions. “We call it our Border Patrol,” she laughed. The blackberries are coming in now, she showed us, but the orchard’s cherry trees are done for the season. Nearby, an alpaca grazed in a pasture, and the farm’s two cute goats, Chocolate and Olive, came out for a visit.

Kale from the farm starred in the next dish Sarah demonstrated: a wilted kale salad with cherry tomatoes, leeks, corn, and grated cheese that is tossed with a pungently good pecan/herb pesto. “This is the kind of dish that can change with the seasons,” Sarah said. “Use whichever greens, herbs and vegetables are in season.” (See recipe below.)

For the grand finale, Portia mixed up a cooling cucumber Mezcal cocktail, using one of Jeanne’s father’s products, La Luna Mezcal from Mexico. She made a sugar syrup with equal parts sugar and water, and sliced cucumbers, fresh ginger and mint. It’s easily stored in the fridge, she said, for up to a week. She then mixed two ounces of that syrup with two ounces Mezcal in a cocktail glass and topped it off with seltzer water and garnishes of lemon grass, lime and mint. After that colorful vision, we all were ready to Zoom to cocktail hour, cook up some kale — and toast our fabulous tour leaders!

Left: The finished dish, courtesy of Dame Stacey Ballis


Warm kale, leek, tomato, and corn salad with pesto

4-6 servings


2 cups basil, parsley or a mix of herbs

1/2 cup toasted pecans

½ cup grated cheese, such as Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Parmesan

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste


2 tablespoons clarified butter or olive oil

2 cups torn kale

1 cup julienned leeks

Salt, pepper to taste

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

½ cup fresh corn kernels

2 tablespoons grated cheese, such as Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Parmesan

1.For pesto, place herbs, pecans, cheese, oil, and pepper in food processor or blender. Process until chopped fine. Set aside.

2.For salad, heat olive oil in 10-12-inch sauté pan over medium high heat. Add kale; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove kale to a bowl; set aside.

3.Add more olive oil to pan if needed. Add leeks; cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes; cook 3-4 minutes. Stir in the corn, kale and pesto. Simmer over low heat until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese.

Everest Spoons

The Everest SpoonsEntertaining on Mother’s Day? Have a party planned for spring?  How about a graduation?  The Everest Spoons will make a memorable impression on your guests!

by Jean Joho with Chandra Ram
from The Eiffel Tower Restaurant Cookbook
(Chronicle, 2008)
Serves 12

When I came to America to reopen Maxim’s restaurant in Chicago, a supplier sent me iced tea spoons for the restaurant. In France, we don’t drink iced tea, so I had no idea what they were. But I thought the long handles were elegant, and when I opened Everest in Chicago, I created different flavors to serve in the spoons as amuse-bouches. We became famous for the spoons, but after many years of serving them at Everest, I decided to offer them exclusively at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Now, when people who have been long-time guests at Everest visit us in Las Vegas, they are reunited with the spoons.

For the cauliflower and caviar spoons
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower florets
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
White peppercorns in a pepper grinder
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 ounce osetra caviar

For the smoked salmon spoons
6 ounces smoked salmon
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
Dill sprigs for garnish
Salmon roe for garnish

For the roquefort and walnut spoons
1 cup (5 ounces) crumbled Roquefort cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons Gewürztraminer wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
20 black walnut halves, toasted (see Note)

Make the cauliflower and caviar spoons
The Eiffel Tower Restaurant Cookbook by Jean Joho1. Pour the water into an 2-quart saucepan. Add the cauliflower and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and return it to the pan. Cook the cauliflower over medium heat, stirring gently, for about 5 minutes to evaporate as much moisture as possible.

2. Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth, turning off the blender and scraping down the sides several times, if necessary, to ensure an even, creamy consistency. Blend in the crème fraîche. Transfer the purée to a bowl and season with salt to taste and 6 grinds of white pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

3. Before serving, whip the cream in a deep bowl and fold it into the purée. Place the cauliflower mousse in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round pastry tip. Pipe the mousse into each of 12 regular or iced tea spoons, and top each serving with a little caviar.

Make the smoked salmon spoons
1. In a food processor, combine the salmon, shallot, horseradish, crème fraîche, white pepper, and salt. Purée until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

2. Before serving, whip the cream in a deep bowl until it forms stiff peaks. Fold it into the purée. Spoon the mousse into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round pastry tip. Pipe the mousse into 12 regular or iced tea spoons, and top each serving with a dill sprig and a little salmon roe.

Make the roquefort and walnut spoons
1. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, and wine. Cover and process until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the cream until smooth.

2. Spoon the mousse into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round pastry tip. Pipe the mousse into 12 regular or iced tea spoons and garnish each with a black walnut half.

Note: To toast the nuts spread the nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. If they need more time, remember to keep checking them every minute; it only takes a moment for them to go from perfectly toasted to burnt.

Recipe © 2008 French Cafe LLC. All rights reserved.

Pink Deviled Eggs

deviled eggscontributed by Chef Spence Lack Saraveza
Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern
Portland, Oregon
Plate Magazine, March-April 2010

This was the most talked about dish at Carol Smoler’s Networking dinner – a perfect Easter dish – taste, color and all!

For the filling
12 egg yolks, hard boiled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dill pickle juice

Continue reading “Pink Deviled Eggs”

Tuscan White Bean, Pancetta & Arugula Salad

tuscan_bean_saladDame Nancy Brussat says “When I close my eyes and think of Tuscany, I see scenery so sweet, serene, and balanced, it seems to be arranged by some masterful landscape architect. Regal cypress trees pierce an azure sky dotted with pink-tinged cumulus clouds.” She continues with visions of olive trees, their silvery green leaves and the Tuscan breezes. With one deep breath, I’m sure she would catch the aroma of sautéing pancetta and shallots wafting in the breeze as she recalled the lovely recipe she has contributed.—Linda Avery
buying beans5 cups cooked white beans (Great Northern or Cannellini) – set aside

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced pancetta
1 cup chopped shallots
3/4 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups of red wine vinaigrette
Salt & pepper to taste
3 cups arugula

1. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add pancetta and brown well for approximately 5 plus minutes.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Add shallots and continue browning for another 5 minutes.

3. When very brown, add the sun-dried tomatoes and chili pepper flakes and sauté another 1-2 minutes.

4. When cool, mix with the beans. Pour 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette in the sauté pan to loosen the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Add that and the rest of the vinaigrette to the white bean mixture and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can set dish aside at this point).

5. When ready to serve, toss the beans with the arugula. You may want to add more arugula. Taste again for salt and pepper. (You may also want to toss with more vinaigrette).

Dames Dorene Centioli-McTigue, Linda Calafiore, Nancy Brussat, Ann Yonkers
Dames Dorene Centioli-McTigue, Linda Calafiore, Nancy Brussat, Ann Yonkers

Summertime Margaritas

margarita036This is my favorite beverage to serve on the porch in the summertime.It’s also the standard starter for Les Dames members and their guests who have attended the annual “Dames Who Drink” Ravinia Picnic for the past 10 years.The recipe doubles well if you are serving a crowd. —Karen Levin

Makes 8 servings

8 thin lime wedges
Coarse (kosher) salt
1 1/2 cups premium, or gold tequila
1 1/2 cups frozen limeade concentrate (such as Minute Maid brand), not thawed
2/3 cup triple sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier liqueur
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1. Rub the rims of 8 glasses with one of the lime wedges.Place a layer of salt on a small plate. Dip the lime-coated glasses in the salt to lightly coat the rims.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large pitcher, mixing until the concentrate thaws. Serve over ice in salt-rimmed glasses, or shake with ice cubes and strain into glasses. Garnish each margarita with a lime wedge.