Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Taken with flash in a dark room. Colors are not accurately portrayed.

For lack of a better term, I’m going to treat Gordon Biersch like a microbrewery for just today. The restaurants themselves are owned by a multi-brand restaurant operator called Craftworks which also runs Old Chicago, Rock Bottom, A1A Aleworks, and a slew of other regional chain restaurants. The brewery, however, is located in San Jose, California, and produces all the Gordon Biersch beers as well as contracted brews for Kirkland (sold at Costco) and Trader Joe’s. Given their distribution, they probably produce more barrels than a “microbrew” is allowed to, but I’ll forgive that for just today.

The Czech Style Pilsner pours a beautiful golden wheat colored. The head is sticky and left quite a bit of lacing, but did dissipate quickly. There was very little aroma wafting from the beer. It smells fresh and clean, but I could detect very little hops, alcohol, malt, or any other flavor. My first taste revealed exactly what my nose was expecting. Clean, fresh, immature hops with a little bit of alcohol burn. There were no complicated flavors, no waves of flavor. This is simple pilsner that could probably be produced using a home brewing kit.

I do also want to mention that Gordon Biersch serves their fries covered in parsley, salt, and minced garlic. This beer reacted pretty violently with the garlic aftertaste and my mouth felt like it was on fire. I’m attributing this to alcohol burn, but also the idea of serving fries with minced garlic, not cooked down, also kind of bothers me (even though they were delicious). At Gordon Biersch, this was not a beer to eat with a burger and fries. That in itself is a problem.

As far as pilsners go, this is another fresh, clean beer. The 5.6% ABV is not too harsh making this something you can sit down and have a few of without overdoing it. You can buy Gordon Biersch Czech Pilsner for around $10-12 for a 12 pack. At this price point and quality, I would happily buy this by the case and serve it at barbecues or family parties. This is a good beer, but nothing extraordinary or something worth going out of your way to find.

Grade: C-

Half off all draught microbrews at redFlame Pizzeria in beautiful Lincoln Park, IL gave me an opportunity to try Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. There was a host of other breweries on the menu ranging from the well known (Dogfish Head) to the local (Goose Island), but I wanted to give Sumpin’ a try mostly because it gave me an opportunity to be completely lame and mention to the waitress “Can I get a little sumpin sumpin.” White men around the world are all slowly shaking their heads in shame.

Sumpin’ is a beautiful reddish orange color and is described as an American wheat ale. I know those of you who have tried Sumpin’ are thinking that this is an IPA and I did at first as well due to the weight, feel, and taste. But Lagunitas has a trick up their sleeve which makes this an incredibly unique and tasty beer. There was a nice frothy head on my draft and it was bursting with grapefruit aromas. The taste maintains the flavors of the aroma with subtle hints of grapefruit and the bitterness of the peel. It finishes clean and makes for a very easy drinking beer.

Sumpin’ is a beer that I would gladly throw into my summertime and fall rotation regardless of the $11 per six pack price tag. The 7.3% ABV packs a nice punch as well, making this is a better value, similar to other beers at this price point. According to the Lagunitas website, you can now find this year round, so ensure that you’re favorite distributor has this on its shelves or can get it for you. I couldn’t imagine drinking this beer out of a bottle and I would highly recommend it be poured into a proper pilsner  glass with a narrow mouth to capture the aromas. Do yourself a favor and go get yourself a little sumpin’ sumpin’. You’ll be glad you did.

Grade: A-

You have probably seen summer rolls before but with beautiful halved shrimp displayed on top. This recipe utilizes ground turkey to change the flavor profile a bit and be a bit more cost effective. This dish is full of Asian flavors and utilizes some ingredients people tend to be afraid of. Fish sauce is not something to fear, but something to embrace. The key is to use it sparingly in your Asian dishes. One bottle will probably last the typical household more than a year unless you tend to cook with it weekly.

Summer rolls may appear labor intensive, but once you get an assembly line going, they come together in no time and the results are beautiful and delicious. These would make a fantastic appetizer at your next dinner party or something you can put together with the kids.


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/4 c golden raisins, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper
  • 1″ fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • rice paper skins (I used 6″, but 9″ would be much easier)

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp sesame oil over high heat. When heated, add the onion and ginger and continuously stir until the onions begin to be translucent. Then add the turkey to the pan and cook until the turkey has browned. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, and vinegar to the pan. Stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated.

2. Turn off the heat and allow the turkey to cool until easily handled. Add 1 tbsp parsley if you wish for some extra color. Cut the bell peppers and seeded cucumber into 2 inch matchsticks.

3. To wrap the summer rolls, dip the rice paper in warm water as indicated on the packaging. Lay on on a flat surface and pat dry with a paper towel lightly. Place 1 – 2 tbsp turkey mixture, and 2 – 3 matchsticks each of the vegetables. Wrap like a burrito.

Note: If the rice paper is tearing, you are either leaving it in the water too long or are being just way to rough with it. Rice paper is delicate, so be gentle. A little tear here or there is no big deal, but do not try to salvage one with a large tear in it. They are cheap enough to play around with until you get the hang of it. And don’t forget to replace your water frequently when it gets cold.

4. Serve the summer rolls with one or all of my trio of vietnamese dipping sauces.

Peanut Sauce


  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar

1. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk until the sugar has been dissolved.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk together. Allow to sit on the counter for 15 minutes before serving. If you plan to refrigerate this sauce before serving, allow 30 – 45 minutes to come to room temperature to make serving easier.

Sweet Vinegar Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham)


  • 3/4 c coconut water
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1. Heat the coconut water in a microwave on high power for 15 – 30 seconds. The idea is to warm the water and not to bring it to a boil. Combine the water with the sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Chili Vinegar Sauce


  • 1/2 c sweet vinegar sauce (nuoc mam cham)
  • 1 tbsp chili paste
1. For those of you that like spicier flavors, combine the nuoc mam cham and chili paste in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.


Serve dipping sauces in three small containers.

I don’t think the snow is ever going to stop falling. And even if it does, it’s never going to melt.

Because the snow gods hate me and want to punish Chicagoans for thinking they were going to get an easy winter following a snowless December, I whipped up a batch of romesco sauce to remind me of summer and its beautiful fresh flavors. Romesco is a fresh Spanish sauce typically used with seafood, but can be utilized with roasted vegetables or poultry.

Note: I had written this post several weeks ago thinking that certainly the snow would start falling. It never did and it’s even 55 degrees out today. The sun in shining and the birds are chirping. Life feels pretty good in Chicago. Perhaps this is just naive optimism, but could we really have no snow coming?

To me, Romesco tastes like summer.

I also want to note that this recipe utilizes smoked paprika which will add a smoky flavor to the sauce mimicking the flavor a charcoal grill provides.  I highly recommend you do not use sweet or hot paprika as the flavor profile will fall a little flat. The smoky element adds something unique and interesting to the sauce.


  • 1/2 large red pepper, roasted (or 1/4 c jarred roasted red pepper)
  • 1 tomato, quartered
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp almonds
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

1. Prepare your ingredients by measuring out the spices, almonds, and orange juice. Mince the garlic, cut the tomato into quarters and chop the red pepper into smaller pieces.

2. Place all the ingredients into a food processor with 1/4 tsp salt. Turn the food processor on and allow the sauce the blend. If you prefer a chunkier sauce, this will take about 2 – 3 minutes. For a smoother sauce, 5 minutes will do.

3. Serve the sauce immediately. If you are making this ahead of time, place the sauce in an airtight container. The sauce will stay fresh for up to two days in the refrigerator. If the sauce begins to separate, just stir it together with a spoon.

Why are you posting a summer inspired grilled chicken, when fall is here?

That is an excellent question. But I’m from New England, and unless the grill is buried beneath 4 feet of snow, we snow blow a path to it and continue to grill for 365 days a year. In this regard, I wanted to inspire some of you to refuse to put away your patio furniture, top off the ol’ propane tank, and continue to utilize the great outdoors instead of your kitchens.

Besides, some food is just meant to be cooked over an open flame and chicken legs are certainly high on my list.. This recipe is perfect to invite some friends over that have good taste in both food and humor as it is incredibly cost efficient and utilizes simple ingredients that you are sure to have access to year round.


  • 8 chicken legs
  • 1 lemon (juiced and zested)
  • 1/4c orange juice
  • 1/8c dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp dried basil (or 1 1/2 tbsp basil oil)
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce

1. Gather the ingredients for a marinade and add them to a large zip lock bag. I like to keep the bag stable by placing it inside a mixing bowl. This way the bag never tips over and you can just add the ingredients in as you measure them out.


Note: I had some extra scallions hanging around so I added them in. I don’t think it’s entirely necessary and added little to the end product.

2. Add about a 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper to the marinade and mix to combine. Add the chicken to the bag and remove as much air from the bag as possible before sealing. Leave in the refrigerator for at least two hours (8 to 24 hours would be much better).

3. Heat the grill over medium high heat. When the grill has come up to temperature, place the chicken legs on the grate, reserving the marinade. Cook the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes, turning frequently, and basting with the marinade periodically until a nice crust forms.


4. Serve the chicken fresh off the grill hot with just about any side dish you desire.

Traditional pestos were made using a mortar and pestle. Cooks would start by placing the nuts and garlic in first and grinding/pounding it down to a cream before adding the basil and other ingredients. In fact, pesto got its name from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound, crush. Nowadays, only the most devout cooks still use a mortar and pestle and choose to instead grind the ingredients together in a food processor.

This recipe is an adaptation to a traditional pesto alla genovese which is made from basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and salt. However, I find pine nuts to be obnoxiously expensive and lacking in texture in the final product. Thus, I’ve replaced them with walnuts which I find provide a nuttier flavor and an additional texture.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)

  • 1 bunch of basil (about 18 cups loosely packed)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 c walnuts
  • 1 c parmesan cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
1. When you have this many basil leaves, you will have to make this in batches. Pick the basil leaves off the stem. While the stems are edible, I find the texture to be bit fibrous.
2. Place half the leaves in a food processor. Turn on until the leaves are chopped, but not minced. Add half the walnuts and garlic cloves. Pulse several times until these are chopped down. Add half the cheese and pulse three or four times until combined.
3. With the food processor running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture. It will begin to form a paste and will lighten as you put more in. How much you pour in is completely up to you. I go by color. When it reaches a green that I like, I stop. Remember, you can always add more, but if you add too much, you can’t take it away.

4. Taste the pesto and season with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil if necessary. Pulse to incorporate the seasoning into the sauce.

5. Chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Let come to room temperature before using. This a versatile sauce that can be placed on chicken, pork, or pasta. You can also use it as a marinade or to brighten up rice. This will make plenty, so you can experiment. This recipe will keep fresh for about two weeks or you freeze it for later use.