Posts Tagged ‘barley’


Ringing in the New Year with Le Creuset

Friday, January 17th, 2014 by Susanne

The number one item on my wish list this past holiday season was a Le Creuset pot. Ever since I joined The Chopping Block a little over a year ago, I have become enamored with Le Creuset. I never realized that a pot or pan could make such a difference in my cooking until I took the Chicken 101 class, where we used different Le Creuset pans. I experienced firsthand what a difference it makes in your cooking. It’s the even heating throughout the enamel coated cast-iron pan that really makes the magic come alive.  From that point, I was determined to add a Le Creuset pot to my cookware collection.













The hardest part for me was choosing the size and style. I finally decided upon a 5.5 quart round French oven, feeling that it would give me a broad range of cooking options, from braising meats to making soup, or even baking bread! And of course, the other challenge was choosing a color. I couldn’t pass up the loveliness of the Caribbean so I could remind myself of being at the beach while we endure the rigors of winter in the Midwest!

I decided that preparing my first meal in the Le Creuset pot would be a great way to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I wanted to try braising something I had on hand, so I pulled out a pork tenderloin from the freezer. Now, I know that a fattier cut of meat would probably have been a better choice, but I was pleased with the result nonetheless. I used a rub recipe that I adapted from the Mast Brothers Chocolate Cookbook and improvised on the ingredients in the stew itself.















Braised Pork Tenderloin

1 pork tenderloin (approximately 1 lb), cut in 2 equal sized pieces

Rub (see recipe, below)

1 – 14 oz can whole tomatoes

1 onion, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half

½ – 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Olive oil

4 – 5 cebollitas (large green onions), white parts only, sliced thin

12 – 14 ounces chicken stock

¼ cup water

½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

3 small carrots, sliced thin

3 ribs celery, sliced thin

Cut pork in half and drizzle with olive oil.  Rub generously on all sides of meat with the rub. Heat pan and add olive oil.  Add onions and sauté in oil until golden and translucent. Remove onions from pan. Raise heat and add tenderloin; sear on each side about 4 minutes. Return onions to pan and add stock, tomatoes, celery, cebollitas, carrots, water, kosher salt and oregano and reduce to simmer. Cook on low for approximately 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper and serve with boiled potatoes.

Rub (note that this will make more than you need – store remainder in airtight jar for future use)

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon paprika

1 1/3 teaspoons black pepper

1 1/3 teaspoons garlic powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients and apply generously to meat.















I enjoyed my first cooking experience with my new Le Creuset pot and look forward to experimenting with other recipes. Last weekend I made a pot of beef barley and mushroom soup. I was so pleased with how it turned out. If you are thinking of adding a Le Creuset pot to your cookware collection, for the entire month of January 2014 all cookware at The Chopping Block is 20% off!

If you already have a Le Creuset pot, what are some of your favorite recipes to prepare in it?  Please share them with me.

Susanne Wiesen's love of cooking started when she was 10 and her mom landed in the hospital, leaving nobody to prepare dinner at home. The former Director of Finance at The Chopping Block has never looked back and enjoys experimenting in the kitchen for family and friends. She can usually be found with some knitting project in her lap and also enjoys reading, swimming, mountain biking and spending time in the great outdoors.


In Search of the King Bolete Mushroom

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 by Susanne

Cooking with wild mushrooms is a delight – there is nothing that adds flavor to a dish quite like them. Every year my mom sends me a bag of wild mushrooms that she has painstakingly collected, cleaned and dried. Growing up in Colorado, our family used to go in search of these delicacies in the late summer months under damp pine branches in the woods. With our Mushrooms of the Colorado Rockies handbook, we would forage for interesting specimens to collect and bring home for identification. Our elderly neighbor was a practiced mushroom hunter, and we relied heavily on her to help us identify what was edible (and not poisonous!) and also worth eating. From coral mushrooms, that looked like a creature growing under the sea, to chanterelles, in all of their apricot-scented loveliness, we brought it all home and experimented with different recipes.

In my humble opinion, though, of all the mushrooms we foraged, nothing quite competes with the King Bolete (boletus edulis).













Just finding one of these amazing specimens would bring such joy to our outing.  If it proved to be fresh and bug free, we would pop it in our bag and take it home.













Finding a small patch of boletes growing under a few trees would turn into a plentiful amount of mushrooms.













Given the size of some of these mushrooms, we often dried them and stored them for future use. To reconstitute them, I usually just put them in a cup and add enough hot water to just cover them, and then let them steep for about 20 minutes.  If I am making something like soup, I add the mushrooms, broth and all, to my soup pot.  I especially love adding them to mushroom barley soup or pasta sauce.  Here is my recipe for pasta sauce with wild mushrooms:

Pasta Sauce With Wild Mushrooms and Tuna

2 cans crushed tomatoes, 28 oz. size

2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, crushed

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1  – 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cans good quality solid white albacore tuna, drained

1/3 cup dried mushrooms, reconstituted

salt and pepper to taste

Put ingredients in a large pot and simmer on stove for 15 minutes.  Serve immediately over your favorite pasta.

One last note about gathering wild mushrooms – always be certain that you can identify what you find.  For more information, check out a good guide or website on mycology, or rely on an expert who knows whether something is poisonous or edible.  When in doubt, don’t eat it.  Remember, as the old saying goes, “there are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters!”

Have you tried cooking with wild mushrooms?  Please share your experiences with me!


Susanne Wiesen's love of cooking started when she was 10 and her mom landed in the hospital, leaving nobody to prepare dinner at home. The former Director of Finance at The Chopping Block has never looked back and enjoys experimenting in the kitchen for family and friends. She can usually be found with some knitting project in her lap and also enjoys reading, swimming, mountain biking and spending time in the great outdoors.


Gluten Who?

Friday, March 1st, 2013 by Jennifer

Gluten Free PicI receive a lot of inquiries and requests regarding gluten-free cooking. So, I took it upon myself to get educated. A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein complex known as gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Fun fact: corn and rice contain gluten, however they are considered gluten-free since they do not cause Celiac disease. The more I read into these dietary restrictions, the more I understood why there is such a call to action around gluten-free cooking classes!

Ask and you shall receive. This March at The Chopping Block, we are featuring two different gluten free cooking classes.

Gluten Free PastaGluten-Free Pasta Workshop includes pasta alternatives that are within reach with fun, tasty, and–yes!–gluten-free dishes.

Here is the menu:

  • Fresh Gluten-Free Pasta Dough
  • Three-Cheese and Spinach Lasagna with Tomato Sauce
  • Fresh Fettuccine Primavera with Pesto
  • Quinoa Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Mushrooms, Bacon and Gruyere Cheese

Skills covered in class include:

  • Working with Gluten-Free Flours
  • Rolling and Cutting Fresh Pasta
  • Sautéing Vegetables
  • Making Béchamel Sauce and Pesto

Based on the description, I want to take this class gluten free or not!

Gluten Free MuffinsGluten-Free Baking offers both savory and sweet alternatives, which is neat.

That menu includes:

  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Cheesy Herb Quick Biscuits with Seasonal Veggies
  • Butternut Squash and Brown Sugar Muffins
  • Buckwheat Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

Skills covered in class include:

  • Working with Gluten-Free Flours and Yeast
  • Preparing Gluten-Free Dough and Batter
  • Rolling and Shaping Dough
  • Determining Doneness in Baked Goods
  • Griddle Baking

Although you get a copy of your recipes emailed to you after class, don’t hesitate to check out our retail floor for a fun gluten-free cookbook. We’ve expanded our assortment to include some new cookbooks, both technique and recipe based.

What’s your favorite gluten-free recipe source? Share it here.

Jennifer Rozman is the General Manager of The Chopping Block's Merchandise Mart location. Her favorite part of her job is sharing her cooking journey with others who are just beginning to explore the culinary world. When she's not taking a cooking class or researching her latest gourmet retail selection, you can find her working off all of the delicious treats the chefs share at hot yoga or on the tennis courts, when weather permits. Dining out at a restaurant she's never tried before is how she rewards herself, as she loves trying new things and celebrating others passions.


Decoding Carbs

Friday, October 5th, 2012 by John

It’s been a long month since you last heard from me. I am happy to report that I have lost 56 pounds so far!  I started my journey last March and have been very mindful of my exercise regime and everything that I eat.  Making the right food choices is the only way to go about losing weight.

In October, Krista, lead dietician from Revolution Training Centers, and I will be focusing our Healthy Revolution class on carbohydrates.  The body NEEDS carbs, or fuel, if you will.  And all the Atkins diet people out there can shut their mouths. Of course, the most important thing here is that an overload of carbs will end up as stored fat. All those pasta binges and too many tortillas or bread will end up as fat on your body.  Funny how our bodies work!

This month, we will feature four fantastic forms of carbohydrates. First, we will enjoy an arugula salad with roasted chickpeas, celery, apples, shaved parmesan and lemon vinaigrette.  The carb focus will be both on the roasted chickpeas and the apples.  The second course will be a whole grain bread crostini with caramelized onions, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and goat cheese.  Using whole wheat/multigrain options for breads creates a more nutrient dense option than a regular baguette or Italian bread.  Next, a beef and barley soup with cremini mushrooms and kale.  Barley is a great source of energy and provides a good source of protein as well.  And for dessert, we will make a pear and dried cranberry crisp.  The pears and dried fruits are the main sources of carbs in this case.  I will also use millet flour and oats in the crisp topping to add additional layers of healthy carbohydrates.

Krista will be here to provide her valuable information regarding the types of carbs used and why we chose to use them.  I, of course, will be here to show you all the fun cooking tricks up my sleeve.  We will both guide you along and give you all that we have in the way of healthy carbs.  Join us this month for our classes on October 11 and October 23 at the Merchandise Mart location.  I look forward to seeing you in carb class!


John Peters is the Sous Chef of The Chopping Block at the Mart. In addition to teaching several times a week, John orders and receives the products for classes and private events, manages scheduling, works with the private events team in party planning and organizing, and keeps an overall open eye to the entire space at the Mart. He enjoys both cooking and eating Mexican food and the thing he enjoys most about cooking is truly making people happy with food!


I Dabbled in High-Aged Scotch

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 by Kathryn

This past week I had the opportunity to attend my very first Dabble class. A friend of ours works for Dabble, which is a company that organizes one-time classes in subjects ranging from glass blowing to “Real Estate Short Sales for Buyers & Investors”. It’s fun because you can try something you might never do otherwise and have no further commitment (kinda why I’ve always loved The Chopping Block so much – there’s such beauty in an evening of learning something new!).

I’ve never (ever) considered myself a scotch drinker. Wine and beer are my boose-y passions and I told the instructor that when I introduced myself before class (yes, I do that kind of thing). However, I am always, and forever will be, open to learning anything new about food and beverage. I was interested to know if I would be able to detect any nuances in the six different scotches we were going to taste or would it just taste like whiskey, whiskey and more whiskey. My nose and palate led me though the journey, and I learned quite a lot.

There are rules to scotch. Three, actually:

1. For single-malt, there can only be three ingredients: barley, water, yeast. That’s it.
2. All those ingredients must be from (and the distilling process must occur) in Scotland.
3. And, it has to be aged in an oak barrel for a minimum of 3 years.

The Master of Scotch who was teaching the class, assured us that we probably don’t want “enjoy” those minimally-aged varieties unless we plan to splash some (okay, maybe quite a bit) of soda on top. This tasting contained none of those. The youngest Scotch we tasted was a sweet 16. And, surprisingly, it kinda was sweet. It was from the Islay region of Scotland which (I’m told) often produces a milder scotch. There were hints of caramel and vanilla and they really came to the forefront when we added a few drops of water to the mix – at least for me. Like wine, we all have our own palate; one smells and tastes what one smells and tastes.

We continued through the line up and it was really amazing how different each scotch was. I couldn’t help but compare it to wine, which is also influenced by the barrel it’s aged in, time, region, and blending. Our instructor offered up a few food and scotch pairings too – whaa? You can pair scotch with food? Of course! Food and beverage just go hand in hand.

The class ended with our sixth tasting: a very expensive (like, would-have-been-$40-for-the-one-ounce-pour-I-had-in-front-of-me expensive) high-aged scotch. 75 years old! This scotch was born during the Great Depression, but things had definitely improved for it. I drank history. Which was cool. It was also way smooth and I felt very classy. I can’t afford to be that classy, however, so I just tried to really enjoy my few minutes with this sipper.

Scotch has not taken over as my drink of choice, but it was so interesting to delve into this new category of beverage craftsmanship. The knowledge of wine I’ve gained through classes at the Chopping Block (shout out to my fellow Wine Academics!) definitely helped me understand and appreciate all that a high-aged scotch can be. So, thank you Dabble and thank you Chopping Block! I’ve learned so much from you! Cheers!

Kathryn Premo Mingione, has lived in Chicago for four years and recently joined the team at The Chopping Block as a Class Assistant. Growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, Kathryn learned to value and take interest in food at an early age. Her double major at UW-Madison in Elementary Education and Theatre serve her well in her position as a Kids Club Manager for the Chicago Athletic Clubs. Those skills are also great assets at The Chopping Block in helping folks learn to love cooking and in adding some entertainment to it too! When she's not taking care of children, cooking, or baking, she enjoys the other good stuff in life: spending time with friends and family, especially her wonderful and willing-to-taste-any-new-dish-she-makes husband, Louie.