Tag Archives: Spring

Native Foods, Chicago Diner, and a trip to Greektown

In Austin there isn’t really a first day of Spring. You just start to notice fewer days of winter. Then the pink trees come out and the masses move in for SXSW and it is just one big party. I kind of miss that first excitement though, like in the Northwest when it finally stops raining and everyone kind of looks up for the first time in months. In Chicago, the first day that you don’t really have to wear a coat anymore is the happiest day ever. Everyone starts wearing their brightest colors and every dog in the city is panting from their first long walk of the year. I was so excited that this year I got to experience it since they happened to have the first nice day while I was visiting. I even got to ride a bike on the lake trail which was super exciting because I haven’t been able to walk since last June without assistance and being on a bike made me feel so active. 

I loved all the shiny happy people and listening to Sufjan Stevens rock out on my headphones.

They opened up a Native Foods in Wicker Park a few months ago two blocks from my sister’s place which is so freaking convenient. You can even order on the internet and they have it waiting for you! I wish we’d get one here. I love that you can get relatively healthy bowls (I loved the Gahndi bowl with blackened tempeh, vegetables and curry sauce but not as much as the soul bowl I had last time), salads, or the incredibly decadent Oklahoma bacon cheeseburger.

The fried pickles were totally awesome but it still didn’t match the tastieness of the fast food-style bacon cheesburger from Arlo’s in Austin. The Ensalada Azteca which was surprisingly not fresh tasting though it was the dead of winter, at least theoretically. 

Since it was near St. Patrick’s day I kept seeing giant billboards for the Shamrock shake which made me really nostalgic, until I went to the Chicago Diner and got the vegan version! It was a million times better and went perfectly with my monte cristo sandwich. 

I have the hardest time ordering there! Every single thing I try is a new favorite.

Another night we went to Athena in Greektown to celebrate my friend’s upcoming wedding and I was surprised that there were so many vegan options on the menu. Our waiter was named Socrates. It would have worked a lot better if I had ordered a combination plate but I really wanted to try the gigante beans. 

They were, in fact, enormous. My friend’s dad really wanted me to put a quarter on the plate for reference and I wish I would have so you could see! They were really good, flavored with lots of oregano and tomatoes,  but I felt pretty silly just eating beans.

While visiting my uncle I took the required shots of slivovitz. Then I had to take a picture, I just love this character on the bottle, I don’t know if it is because the mustache that make him look so shady or that those plums are so so large they resemble maracas but it is definitely better than the homemade stuff in back. 

Back home now and the countdown begins to Texas Veg Fest!

Pascha Palachinke

Growing up Serbian Orthodox you always celebrate holidays a few weeks after the rest of the country which always made me feel a little important somehow; like my holidays were more authentic then these silly neighbors of mine who would celebrate their holidays on any old day the man told them to. Yes, I was self important even as a child, but you know, Orthodox Lent is really 40 days of veganism and vegans are known as self-important so maybe it was a natural fit. The 40 days is usually finished off with killing a lamb. I didn’t kill any lambs this year for Pascha (Easter) but I did make some vegan crepes (or Palachinke in Serbian) with the finest Spring ingredients. I found green garlic, ramps, baby Swiss chard, and oyster mushrooms at the farmer’s market so I wanted to use them. I was disappointed that another Spring was about to pass by again without me getting to try Fiddlehead Ferns but then I found them at central market! I was so excited. I baked all the vegetables in a 400 oven with earth balance and salt and pepper for about 10 minutes. And they turned out delicious, what a brilliant combination. The ramps were like leeks but different enough to have a flavor all their own. The fiddlheads tasted like asparagus, a curly, snappy version of asparagus.

I used the recipe for the crepes from the voluptuous vegan and it once again proved to be a winner. I also made the baked tofu recipe from the voluptuous vegan and it was really good, creamy and flavorful but fast and easy and so it was a perfect match for these easy crepes.

I had earlier gone to the Texas Food and Wine festival and at a cooking demo I realized that I don’t eat enough parsley. It is the perfect complement to a Spring dish, the flavor is really fresh and just kind of zippy. I did a little epicurious search and found a parsley pesto with toasted pepitas and decided it would be perfect, without the parmesan of course and adding a little citrus. It was delicious! Parsley is one of those foods that I didn’t used to like but now I am finally coming around to it. If you want to move into a new phase with you relationship with parsley I recommend this recipe. The creamy pepitas really added a nice element to the strong parsley and toned it down. I could eat this pesto buy itself or just on bread because it was so good. Maybe I will make it with pasta tonight. The perfect pepita parsley pesto pasta. The whole crepe came together really nicely. Mr. Smurf used at least 4 reallys when he was complementing the final dish. If you find these fiddlehead ferns and the farmer’s market definitely try some.Here is the recipe for the pepita parsley pesto

  • 1/3 cup raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP of Lime

Process the garlic first, then add the pepitas and process a little more. Add the rest of ingredients, process until pesto consistency and add salt and pepper.

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