Fritzi’s Delicatessen

I stopped in at new Fritzi’s Delicatessen on Oak Park Ave., and asked the nice young person behind the counter to recommend some things. I tried everything he recommended:

• whitefish w / bagel
• pastrami sandwich on challah
• matzoh ball soup
• beef short ribs braised in pomegranate sauce

And also:

• potato knish
• savory and sweet blini

Of these, my favorite was the knish, which isn’t surprising, since that was the main thing I was excited about getting — I used to get knishes at a deli when I worked downtown, and I’ve missed them. I had really wanted the meat knish, but it was sold out — need to get there earlier in the day than 4:30 p.m., apparently! The potato knish was crisp on the outside, soft and flavorful on the inside — I was going to split it with Kevin, but I apologetically ended up eating the whole thing myself.

The beef short ribs were also very good, tasty and tender. I personally would’ve liked even more pomegranate in it, but I really like the fruit & meat combo, and I suspect this is a better level of that for most people.

Kevin enjoyed his pastrami sandwich, though he thought the challah was an odd choice for it — they did also include some slices of what I think is rye, though I’m not sure what that came with. I tried a bit of the pastrami, and thought it was yummy, though I’m not a pastrami connoisseur.

I was a little surprised by the latke, which I didn’t order — not sure if it typically comes complimentary with the pastrami sandwich, or if they just threw it in. I was a little sad that there wasn’t applesauce for the latke, but I suppose I shouldn’t look a gift latke in the mouth. I do like applesauce with my latkes, though. (Editing to note that yes, they did provide sour cream for the latkes, but I prefer applesauce, and previously when I’ve ordered latkes, they’ve included both.)

The matzoh ball soup, I have a question about, I suppose. The broth was quite salty, and the matzoh balls seemed mostly not salted. So together, they made a reasonably flavored bite, but is that typical? Personally, I would’ve pulled back on the salt in the broth and added a little bit to the matzoh balls, but I am not Jewish, and I don’t want to stomp on tradition here…

The sweet blini also surprised me, because while it was mild, it didn’t seem very sweet. I almost wanted to drizzle honey over it. Is it meant to be actually sweet? I haven’t had blinis enough to be able to comment on that.

In any case, I feel like I’m quibbling — overall, I think this is a great addition to the neighborhood, and I do plan to stop back sometime soon, earlier in the day, to try that meat knish! They have lots of seating, so while I got takeout, you can certainly enjoy a nice family meal inside. I arrived in between the lunch and dinner rush, but it was starting to fill up as I left.

Is it too early to wish folks a happy Rosh Hashanah? I think it starts at sundown tonight, or possibly tomorrow?

May the coming year be filled with peace, health and prosperity for you and your loved ones!

Brunch at Priya’s

She was trying to serve a ‘light’ brunch, because we were going out to a fancy dinner that evening. This is our family’s idea of a ‘light’ brunch. 🙂

Also served with sliced bread, not pictured. Curry with pol (coconut) sambol and sliced bread is v. delicious, but you make the sambol a little differently to eat with bread, I think, if I was understanding my aunties correctly — more moist, maybe? It tasted different than Marina Aunty’s sambol the night better — both delicious.

Both of my aunties also chopped the pol sambol really finely, apparently with a ‘chopper’ that they promised to show me, but we never got around to it, so now I have to nag on Facebook — what is this magic chopper, Priya Vytheswaran?? I need a link!

Priya also served the curries with yams, and we got into a long conversation about what kind of yams they were (taro? manioc?), and what they were actually supposed to be, but I’ve now gotten them all confused in my head again. These are not the yams she was trying to find, I think.

There are many yams traditionally eaten in Sri Lanka, though, so I’m entirely unsure which ones she was aiming for. Here are some pretty photos, though:…/traditional-foods-in-sri…/

Sri Lankan Beets Are the Best Beets

Kavi asked if she could invite friends to the tea party, and I told her to invite ALL the friends. She didn’t invite all her friends, which is probably just as well, as they would have eaten all the food, but three did come over and I think had a good time. Here you see Dani chipping in with Kavi and Lori’s friend Kim on the ribbon sandwich cutting.

People who were wondering what the spicy element is in the ribbon sandwiches — it’s green chili. Just a bit! I was pleased that Kim, who said she normally hates beets, liked these sandwiches, despite the beets. Or perhaps BECAUSE of the beets? Sri Lankan beets are best beets. 🙂

Guerrilla Cooking Skills

I’m really grateful that at this point in my life I have guerrilla cooking skills, because they are really helpful in times of exhaustion. Example — meals for this week:

– I took a pork shoulder out of the deep freeze and stuck it in the fridge, planning to cook it the next day — maybe vindaloo or tamarind pork curry?

– I was too tired to cook the next day; we ordered Indian takeout instead. Indian, because I was still planning to cook the pork soon, and so I figured any leftovers would go with

– the saag paneer that came with the Indian food was blander than usual — Kevin and I ate about a fifth of it, but without joy. I knew I’d want to add flavor before eating any again.

– the cilantro chutney that came with our samosas was thin and watery — it had some flavor, but needed more intensity and less wateriness

– next day, still too tired to cook from scratch. But hey — I heated some oil and cayenne in a big pot, took the pork shoulder and put it in, searing it (turning to sear both sides), and then dumped in the saag paneer and also the cilantro chutney and also some salt. Added some water, brought it to a boil, then covered and turned down to medium. Went to basement to chill out with TV for a while.

– eventually wandered back up, flipped pork over, gave everything a stir, tasted the sauce. Delicious. Added in the leftover devilled potato curry from the other day, turned heat down to medium low. Let it all cook another hour while I watched TV, checking periodically to make sure the liquid didn’t cook off too much.

– checked pork temp with thermometer — all good. Removed pork from sauce, sliced it up, and rinsed a few slices for the kids (too spicy for Anand otherwise, and I wasn’t sure Kavi would go for the saag sauce), Kevin and I had it straight up with naan / rice, pouring sauce over.

– next day, needed chickpea water for vegan love cake experiment. So had to open can of chickpeas. Perfect — added chickpeas to remaining sauce and simmered for 15-20 minutes. Delicious straight up with rice / naan, also good with pork slices added in.

Somewhere in there, I also pan-fried some chopped up chicken thighs with salt and pepper, added the restaurant tikka masala sauce, along with the tamarind sauce that came with their samosas. Yummy.

And so it goes around here. Nothing wasted, everything delicious.

Delicious Duck Eggs

Roshani came by with a plan to make uppuma for lunch — she had brought over some shrimp curry too, along with some delectably sweet cherry tomatoes from her garden. That would have been plenty, but I had these fabulous duck eggs that a local gardener brought me in thanks for letting her dig up some goldenrod and morningstar sedge. So this seemed like the perfect occasion to use them.

I’ve never had duck eggs before — these were very pretty, and on researching, I learned that they’re basically like chicken eggs, but a little larger and yummier. Well, yummier if you like rich and creamy egg yolks, which I absolutely do. They’re often pickled in Asian cuisine, and I’m curious about that, but I was too impatient to wait three weeks for pickling. So curry it was.

I hard-boiled the duck eggs first, then just made my standard salmon curry (pulling out some wild salmon from the freezer and thawing enough to cut it), and then slipped in the hard-boiled duck eggs. Reader, they were so yummy. I’m honestly a little cranky now that they’re not easily available in grocery stores around here. Quail eggs, I know where to find. Duck eggs, not so much (unless I want to go to the Asian market and get them pickled…).

I am *not* starting a duck pond in the backyard. Not this year, anyway. Get thee behind me, Satan. I haven’t had time to keep up with the garden I do have, much less adding more living creatures to it.

But oh, they were DELICIOUS.

Tender seafood curry

Finishing up the California launch party photos on my phone. Basic process for making a tender seafood curry — make the curry sauce, get it to just the way you like it, slip the seafood in, and cook it just long enough, uncovered, to cook through. A little water will usually come off the seafood, thinning the sauce, but then as you cook it through, that will evaporate again, so you should end up with deliciousness in just a few minutes. Works for salmon, other fish, scallops, shrimp, crab, squid, etc.

You can also cook longer, and sometimes I do, esp. if I’m making more of a mixed seafood stew, and that’ll help get the seafood flavor to really permeate the sauce, but it also ends up making the seafood itself more firm, so there’s a bit of a tradeoff there.
I suppose you if you were being really fancy, you could make a stock first, with seafood that you planned to discard, and use that as your base, then only simmer a fresh batch of seafood a little while in the stock-based curry sauce. I do sometimes do that with shrimp shells, if I’m being fancy. But it would feel wasteful to do it with actual seafood. I don’t know if anyone ever does that at fancy restaurants. I kind of hope not.

Pork and Peaches

Had some leftover plain roast pork shoulder, really happy with what I did with it in about 10 minutes:

– sliced pork, heated olive oil, added pork, salt, and fresh ground pepper
– sauteed for a few minutes on high, flipping pieces to brown
– added two sliced peaches, gently stirred in to season and sautéed with pork

– added a splash of Cointreau to bring it all together with a bit of tasty orange-peach sauce


Lunch in Paradise Park

Roshani took me out for birthday lunch yesterday; I had an errand in the city, so we combined that with lunch at Paradise Park, which happens to be in my old neighborhood of Wicker Park, where Kevin and I lived for a few years.

I was amused to drive by our old condo and glimpse what I think are the trellises I built on the roof deck still there. I hope the current owners enjoy gardening up there, and take advantage of the water we ran up to the roof. 🙂

Eggplant fries — recommended, really tasty, and I actually really liked the burrata too, which came with an interesting combo of balsamic drizzle, fig jam, and sun-dried tomato pesto — the tomato and fig worked really well together, salty tang playing against sweetness. Yumyum.

Mushroom and Onion and Swiss

That feeling when you’re having a staff meeting and one of your staff members talks about how much they love mushroom and onion and Swiss on a burger, and you get excited because you ALSO love mushroom and onion and Swiss on a burger…

…and then your other staff member says they’ve never tried that, and you get even more excited because you get to INTRODUCE them to this deliciousness…

…and conveniently, you’re having a party the next day where you were planning on grilling, and luckily, they’re free and can swing by the party, so later in the day you go to Costco to get party supplies…

…and there you realize Costco has some very fun chef’s sampler mushrooms (and you don’t know what they are, exactly, but they may include any of the following: golden chanterelles, morels, black trumpet, porcini, shiitake, oyster, lions mane, pioppini or hedgehog), so you definitely HAVE to try making grilled onions and mushrooms with those…

…so it’s possible that your staffer’s introduction to a burger with grilled onions, mushroom and Swiss might be just a little bit EXTRA…

…and can you tell it’s been WAY WAY TOO LONG since I got to entertain and feed people? Yes. Yes it has.