with food, there’s always something new

Archive for the ‘food as adventure’ Category


This month I celebrated a milestone birthday. I turned sixty.

A few days before the big event an old friend, David W., sent me this picture. Judging from the hair style, and the state of the flower-bed in front of my partent’s house, the picture was taken in the Sprng of 1968. I was a freshman in college and 19 years old.

Miss Full-of-Herself thinks the world is hers to conquer. When I look at it, I laugh. To paraphase the late Beatle, George Harrison, that was six or seven lives ago.

What I see is a girl who doesn’t know how to cook. She’s never had real mayonnaise or vinaigrette. She’s never eaten an artichoke or tasted fresh tarragon. She doesn’t know that tuna is a great big fish and thinks it’s something that comes in a can like Chef Boyardee ravioli.

In a very short time this young lady is going to fall down the rabbit hole into the wonderland that is cooking and eating and sharing good food.

It will be a lifelong adventure.


Written by Susan Gillie

January 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Posted in food as adventure

Buy a little something

The biggest roadblock to blogging right now?

The economy. My eyeballs are suction-cupped to the screen whenever I read Planet Money. Credit default swaps, stock injection options, libor, it all boils down to greed, arrogance and ruin. What’s not to love about this tale of human weakness?

The take away is buy a little something. 

I did my duty, and bought a little something. That little something is a Nikon digital SLR camera. It felt like an impulse buy, but I’ve put aside money for some time.

The other litte something I bought was this,

an asian pear from Goose the Market. My first, feeble attempt at food porn.

I hope-if you’re employed or enjoy a steady source of income–that you’ll buy a little something.

Indianapolis is experiencing a renaissance of new, independently-owned shops, restaurants, tearooms, cafes and markets. Let’s support them during these special times.

Written by Susan Gillie

November 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Posted in food as adventure


 We’ve all been so busy fussing with vegetables, we forgot about chocolate.


Chocolate: The Exhibition is an entertaining, educational look at the origins and history of chocolate. Developed by the Chicago Field Museum, in cooperation with the National Science Foundaton, the exhibition runs from October 4th to January 4th of next year at the Indiana State Museum.

South Bend Chocolate Company is sponsoring the Indiana tour.

Written by Susan Gillie

September 20, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Ratatouille Ribeye

Ratatouille Ribeye is a culinary tromphe l’oeil, a vegetable replacement for hearty beef. As delicious as it is by itself, it’s even better with a few lamb meatballs.


1. Roast vegetables. Thinly slice 2 medium-sized zucchini, 1/2 large onion and 1 cored, cleaned red pepper. Slice orange-gold tomatoes in thick (1/2 inch) sices.  Place vegetables on a cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Slow roast in oven (200 degrees) for 35-40 minutes.

2. Prepare stew. Chop up the remaining 1/2 onion and 4-6 medium sized zucchinis. Saute in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. When vegetables are translucent, add 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock, 1-2 finely minced gloves of garlic. Stew while other vegetables are roasting.

3. Combined stewed and roasted vegetables. Add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, salt to taste and simmer over low heat.

Eggplant Ribeye and Onion Rings

Cut thick slices of eggplant and onions (9 1/2 inch). Soak for in buttermilk, refrigerated for 1-2 hours. Roll eggplant and onions in Panko breadcrumbs (or seasoned flour if you don’t have Panko) and deep fry or pan fry until golden. Sprinkle thyme or oregano on eggplant. Salt onion rings and eggplant to taste. Place on rack to drain.

Mediterranean Potatoes

Wash and dry small fingerling potatoes (4-6 per person). Cook in 2 quarts of near-boiling chicken broth. plus 1-2 cloves of smashed garlic for 8-10 minutes. Drain potatoes and drizzle with 1/4 cup of lemon juice and salt to taste.

Plating Ratatouille Ribeye

Spoon piperade onto plate and layer 1-2 slices of eggplant. Garnish with onion rings and potatoes.


Written by Susan Gillie

September 6, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Pasta Salad

Two of my favorite food writers are Sara Dickerman and Kim Severson. So much food-writing is over-the-top, lifestyle fluff that has nothing to do with the joy, sorrow and glory of real cooking.

Not with these two women. Dickerman was a professional cook; Severson started her journalism career covering school boards in Oregon and cops in Tacoma, Washington before turning to food.

They go wherever there are good stories.

Just last week, I gave up on pasta. I’d purchased a high-priced bag of it, cooked it lovingly, tossed it in aged. artisanal cheese and adorned it with fresh herbs. It tasted okay, but for the price I paid, I could be eating lamb chops.

I thought, I just don’t like pasta anymore. Maybe if I went to a restaurant in Italy and somebody else made it for me and had to wash all those pans, I’d like pasta again, but otherwise, I’m done. Cross pasta off the list.

Then I read Sara Dickerman’s article “The Pasta Salad Manifesto” in Slate magazine.

Just in time for the 4th of July and summer picnics, she walks us through twelve easy steps to rescue that chronic underachiever–cold pasta.

As always, her article is power-packed with practical advise. Cool the noodles quickly, use oil not vinegar as the main element, choose the right noodles, limit textures, stay away from mayo and balsamic vinegar, use tender herbs, and above all else, stay away from the “festive” look.

I perked up–I’d only used half the bag of pricey pasta and had a bunch of asparagus that needed roasting. Maybe I could resurrect my love for pasta. I put the pot of water on the stove to boil and started rummaging through the refrigerator and freezer. Along with the asparagus, I found a red pepper, some shrimp and a red onion.

The asparagus, shrimp and pepper, doused with a dash of olive oil, got roasted. The pasta got cooked al dente and cooled exactly as the Manifesto dictated.

Now all I needed was a sauce, some tender herbs and cheese. The pasta has a creamy quality so I decided to skip the cheese and fresh chives grow in pots on my front porch. That left the sauce.

I wanted to follow Dickerman’s advice and use preserved lemons, but I didn’t have any. They take a week to prepare, so that was out. Then I remembered the quick standby for preserved lemon’s, John Ash’s Roasted Lemon Salsa.

Roasted Lemon Salsa is a great recipe. It’s the recipe equivalent of five greatest songs ever written. It’s simple, it’s uses inexpensive and easy-to-find ingredients, and even though you have to let it marinate for a few hours, it’s much faster than preserved lemons.

Don’t get me wrong, Roasted Lemon Salsa is not the same as preserved lemons, but it’s a good substitue.

So this morning, I tossed everything together–pasta, roasted ingredients and lemon salsa, sprinkling it with chopped chives. I’m headed to Bloomington to spend the 4th with my family.

Before I put the salad out, though, I’ll remember the last piece of advice, taste it one last time before serving because you’ll need more salt. I tucked a small bag of kosher in the picnic basket.

Happy 4th of July to all of you.

Roasted Lemon Salsa

  • 2 large lemons
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or green onion (white parts only)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons losher or sea salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 400 degrees F. Cut the lemons in half and pick out the seeds. Lightly coat the lemons with a tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the lemons cut side down in a baking dish and roast uncovred for 25 minutes. Remove, cool, and cut the lemons into 1/4 inch dice.

In a bowl, combine the lemons, the remaining olive oil, shallots, sugar, and salt and stir gently. Cover and set aside for at least 3 hours so the flavors can marry and mellow. Initially, the lemons may seem a little harsh or bitter but as they sit the flavor changes markedly. Taste it a couple of times throughout the rest peiod and you’ll see. Adjust the seasonings with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Store covered in the refrigerator for up  to week.

John Ash, Cooking One on One, Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher.

Cook’s note:  Instead of halving the lemons, I quarter them. It makes it easier to discard the seeds. Also, I use honey instead of sugar.

Written by Susan Gillie

July 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Italian Street Festival

While you’re downtown dining, stop by Holy Rosary Church for the Italian Street Festival, 3:00-11:00 p.m.

Written by Susan Gillie

June 15, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Posted in food as adventure

Last Call

For the past two weeks, Indy diners enjoyed Devour Downtown.

If you haven’t tried it, or if you have and want to go again, tonight’s the last night. It’s no secret Indy’s 15 years behind other cities when it comes to our food scene, but sometimes that works in our favor.

For $30 per person, you can enjoy a full-course meal at chef-owned restaurants like RBistro or Elements.


Written by Susan Gillie

June 15, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Posted in food as adventure


Saturday, after lunch with the Vulgarians, Ruth wanted to show me the city chickens who live in the backyard and lay fresh eggs every day.

We walked up the winding steps to the house. Sarah greeted us, called Will and led us through the house to the backyard. Will showed us the hens. When we asked him their  names,  he couldn’t remember. From the kitchen door, Sarah leaned out and said, “their names are Mary, Jacqueline and Andrea.” Then she came outdoors and showed us the new bunny, Ginger.

Will tried to coax the hens into letting him pick them up, but they weren’t in the mood. He showed us the coop and gave me a new egg. We went back into the house and out the front, crossing the street to Andrew and JoyLynn’s house.

We stayed there for a few minutes, playing with the boys.

As we left their house, Sarah was standing in her driveway, smiling. She started toward us, but Ruth ran toward her, “no, no Sarah, you’re not allowed to cross the street without permission.”

You see, Sarah is only five years old. She looked at us wistfully, like we were big, beautiful ships about to sail on an adventure. She was too little to go with us, she’s not allowed to cross the street or wander the neighborhood.

Sarah looked down at her feet, defeated. Her dream of freedom from a house full of older brothers, and a yard full of chickens, dashed. She turned, and like a tired, old nun, walked slowly up the driveway and into her house.

I took the egg home. For dinner, I heated butter, cracked the egg into the skillet, broke the yoke and swirled it around while it cooked. Then I slid it onto a plate and topped it with fresh vegetables, salsa and sour cream.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 19, 2008 at 4:06 am

Happy Mom’s Day

This primary election? Whew, heady week in Indiana. For a good read on Hoosier culture, click on Nancy Nall Derringer’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post. Sure beats Matt Tully’s “I’m In Love With Myself” column in Saturday’s Star.

If your’e a political junkie, and who isn’t in this election, check out Robert Kennedy’s campaign manager’s description of the 1968 Indiana presidential primary.

My time this week wasn’t consumed by politics. No, the culprit was a cake. Not just any cake, but the Ultimate Lemon Layer Cake, cover photo for The Best of America’s Test Kitchen Best Recips and Reviews 2008.

I try to stay away from the best, perfect, ultimate. For left-brain, analytical types it’s the equivalent of crack cocaine. This cakes takes us far, far beyond food porn to cake nirvana.

It started out as a pitch-in for Cinco de Mayo, morphed into a Mother’s Day’s treat for co-workers and now sits in the frig, wrapped in Saran Wrap. It’ll have to wait another day because I ran out of eggs to make the icing.

Which brings me to Mother’s Day. Professional cooks work on weekends and holidays and today, even though I’d rather spend it with my family, I’ll be cooking for sick children and their moms. We’ll have a special dinner and give mothers bouquets of tulips.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms, grand-moms and great-grand-moms. Thanks for your dedication, preservenance and patience.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 11, 2008 at 2:49 pm


The Huffington Post is my guilty pleasure, it never fails to entertain and inform me. What makes it so much fun is the range of writers. Commenting on the Miley Cyrus controversy, Jamie Lee Curtis says:

I woke up this morning concerned about the world food shortage and Korean defectors attempting self immolation in protest of Beijing and was astonished at the amount of attention a young woman named Miley Cyrus was getting for a topless, or shall I say backless, photograph in Vanity Fair.

That’s how I feel about the sale of Elements. I should be thinking about the presidential primary in Indiana, the horrible crimes committed in our city. Instead, I’m bummed out about about a restaurant.

I’m not the only one. Elements is more than a fabulous restaurant. It’s symbolic and showed Indy has taste, panache and elan. It’s a restaurant  experts thought they’d never see in this town. It’s a restaurnat that many thought would go out of business in its first year because “the portions were too small.”

Elements isn’t shuttering its door, it’s changing owners. We all hope it will continue, but we know its specialness is due to Chef Hardesty. In our hearts, we feel it’ll lose its luster.

To the staff of Elements, it’s a serious blow. Any business sale, whether a small, independent restaurant or a division of a Fortune 500, is fraught with danger. It’s personal and feels like failure.

I’m a glass half-full type of person, so I’m fantasizing that Greg Hardesty and Mike Sylvia will start a bistro, or better yet, a Zingerman-style deli. Somewhere near my house, somewhere affordable, somewhere I can walk in and breath wonderful food.

Good luck to the former and future owners, good luck to the staff. And thank you for giving us this glorius experience.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 4, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Posted in food as adventure