Posts Tagged ‘noodles’


Soups and Stews and One Somewhere In Between

Monday, December 15th, 2014 by Quincy

There are few dishes that I crave constantly and enjoy more than a delicious bowl of homemade soup.

Soups are always in season. They can be one of the most comforting, sometimes complex and simple meals that seem to always satisfy me. I can walk into any restaurant, no matter if it’s a diner, fancy tablecloth restaurant or a restaurant of ethnic cuisine, and if there’s soup on the menu, I’m usually going to have a bowl.

I remember as a kid, at least once a week, my mom as well as her mom, would make soups full of incredibly delicious and hearty ingredients.  There seemed to always be tomatoes, onions, potatoes, carrots, other root veggies and a meat of some kind. They would contain seasonings that were part of their deep Southern culture. The bowl might contain some type of pasta or rice. I think that might have been the beginning of my love for soups.

When I was in culinary school, everyone seemed to dread the Soups and Sauces class that was mandatory to take in order to graduate. There were soups of every type to create: cold soups, hot soups, clear soups, creamy soups and chunky soups. You name it; we made it. That’s why it was my favorite class. I was never bored!

Over the years, I’ve created some pretty spectacular soups, if I may say so myself. One of my favorite soups that I made last summer was my White Peach Gazpacho. It contained a puree of white peaches, a bit of champagne vinegar, hint of espelette chili pepper, diced cucumbers and red peppers, chopped cilantro and toasted buttery brioche croutons. Nothing better on a hot summer’s evening, preferably on a comfortable back porch deck, overlooking a beautiful garden.



















Another favorite is Mexican Fideo Soup. Nothing makes me happier than a bowl of this soup. If you know me, you know my love for the country Mexico and it’s many varied and regional cuisines. This one comes from central Mexico. It is made with fideo noodles that are very similar to Vermicelli noodles. These can be purchased at any Mexican grocery store or in the ethnic aisle of most grocery stores. The noodles are toasted in vegetable oil in a heavy pot, until they’re a dark golden brown. Next you add a ¼ of a finely diced onion. Sauté the onion until it’s soft and barely translucent. A minced garlic clove is then added and stirred in the pot until you get a whiff of the smell of the garlic. Add a couple of tablespoons of a decent tomato puree or crushed tomatoes. Let that roast in the pot for about 30 seconds, then its time to add your broth. It is then finished with chicken stock, homemade or store bought, and simmered until the noodles are softened.



















I tried something new for a recent dinner party. I made a shrimp stock and substituted it for the chicken stock. In a heavy pot, I took some shrimp shells, a celery stalk that had been diced, ¼ of an onion chopped, ½ of a carrot diced, 6 cups of water and 5 black peppercorns. I brought all the ingredients to a boil and than turned the flame on the stove down to a simmer. I let the stock simmer for at least a half hour. Using a fine mesh sieve, I strained all the ingredients in a large heatproof bowl. Now you’ve got a very tasty shrimp stock. Once you add your stock to the toasted fideo noodles, onion, garlic, and tomato puree, bring to a boil and then turn the flame down to a simmer. Simmer the soup mixture for 15 minutes. At that point I added shelled and deveined shrimp and cooked until the shrimp went from opaque to pink. Ladle into a bowl and top with some Mexican Cotija cheese, maybe a bit of chopped cilantro and you’ve got a really delicious soup. Fideo is one of my absolute favorites, whether its made with chicken stock or a homemade shrimp stock.

On to Stews defines a stew as a preparation of meat, fish or other food cooked by stewing, especially a mixture of meat and vegetables. Or in other words, a dish of meat and vegetables cooked slowly in liquid in a closed pan.

I love stews!  Nothing says fall or winter to me like a great beef stew, but I also love a really great fish or seafood stew.

A few years ago, I made a very special meal for my friend’s birthday including an Italian seafood stew called Cioppino.  It contained, clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, pieces of halibut, lobster meat and crabmeat. This cornucopia of the sea is then stewed in a rich savory seafood broth that was made from diced fennel, onion, carrots, celery, fish bones and shrimp shells. After simmering on the stove for at least an hour, it is strained through a fine mesh sieve. This broth was then used as the base for my Cioppino. After ladling into large soup bowls, I topped the seafood stew with a basil garlic puree and to accompany each bowl I placed on the edge of the Cioppino one crostini with anchovy butter and another one with red stamp pepper, smoky paprika and honey.



















No kidding, this was probably one of my all time favorite dinner party meals. It was impressive, gorgeous, delicious and something truly special for my friend’s birthday dinner.

A hearty and meaty bowl of chili is another one of those fall-winter dishes that I really look forward to. Here’s the interesting thing about chili.  Chili can be considered either a soup or a stew. So when you’re eating a bowl of chili, you’re actually getting the best of both worlds.

The thing I love about chili is that it can be made with a variety of ingredients: chicken, beef, turkey, vegetables, beans of every kind, tomatoes, peppers, dried chiles and spices. It’s probably one of the most versatile soups/stews out there.

Chili garnishes can vary as well. I myself enjoy a couple of different types of shredded cheeses, some chopped scallions, cilantro, Mexican crema and my favorite topping, oyster crackers. My goal one day is to make my own oyster crackers. A daunting task I’m sure, but one that I’m determined to try.



















Soup is on the menu in several of our classes at The Chopping Block.  One of my favorites is our recipe for White Bean and Chard Soup with Sage.

It’s a soup with several ingredients, which contribute to the incredible taste components of the dish. There’s smokiness from crisped bacon, a bit of heat from red chili flakes, the crunch of a variety of sautéed vegetables, crushed tomatoes, red wine vinegar, vegetable or chicken stock, white beans, chard stems and leaves, finished off with some roughly chopped sage at the very end.  This is a complex and hearty soup that also has a wonderful simple quality to it.  After I’ve ladled the soup into a bowl.  I usually finish this soup with a little grated Parmesan cheese.




















I wanted to include the recipe in this blog because this is one of my favorite soups that I love to teach our students to make.

So whether it be a soup, stew or something that’s in between. Enjoy the many choices they offer, all with hearty ingredients, offering tons of warmth, comfort and flavor.

White Bean and Chard Soup with Sage

Yield: 6 servings

Active time: 30 minutes

Start to finish: 1 hour

2 bunches chard

1/4 pound bacon, cut into lardons

1 onion, medium dice

1 fennel bulb, medium dice

1 stalk celery, medium dice

1 carrot, peeled and cut into medium dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 cup white wine

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or more if needed

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Two 12-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 teaspoons fresh sage, rough chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Cut the stems from the chard leaves; cut into medium dice and set aside. Cut the leaves into ribbons and reserve for later.
  2. Heat a large soup pot over medium-low heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just golden brown. Add the onions, fennel, celery, carrot and chard stems, and sauté until caramelized, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and chili flakes; cook an additional minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits of fond.
  4. Mix in the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf and vinegar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add more stock if soup is too thick.
  5. Cook the soup, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
  6. Add the chard leaves and beans to the soup, and cook until the chard leaves are tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in the sage, and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Quincy has been a Chef Instructor with The Chopping Block since 2006. He has a great passion for cooking and enjoys teaching others to cook. When he is not at The Chopping Block, he can be found trying out new recipes on friends and family. Quincy also travels throughout Mexico, especially in the town of San Miguel de Allende, where he checks out the many new and exiting restaurants opened by chefs from all over the globe. This love of traveling has also taken him to such far off places as China, as well as several European countries, which brings inspiration to his cooking and teaching.


Hello, April Calendars

Monday, March 10th, 2014 by Sara

I just spent the last few weeks working on The Chopping Block’s April class calendars, and I can’t even begin to explain how mentally refreshing that was. I am truly a happier person now. I’m optimistic again. Yes, I know there’s still a lot of snow that needs to melt, but it will, and then everything will be okay.

springveggiesIf you are reading this blog, the April calendars have made their debut, so you should take some time and navigate through all of the classes. Seeing words like asparagus, spring onions, peas and strawberries might just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

All of our 101 classes have spring-inspired menus that include student and chef favorites such as Grilled Curry-Spiced Salmon with Spring Pea Mint Sauce, Ginger-Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with Sesame Snow Pea Salad, and White Ale-Braised Chicken with Leeks, Artichokes and Coriander.

We will teach you how to make Ravioli Stuffed with Green Garlic and Ricotta with Arugula Pesto in Pasta Workshop and Herb Ricotta Gnocchi with Bacon, Peas and Mint in White Wine Cream Sauce in our Know Your Gnocchi class.

I am excited to inform you about two completely new classes that are being featured in April! First one up is called Lemon Lovers. If you truly love lemons this class will deliver. Fried lemons? Yes! Preserved lemons? Yes! The best lemon dessert of all time? YES! I would guess you’re pretty intrigued by now. This class is offered at both locations, so take your pick.

noodlesThe second new class you’ll see on the calendar is Noodle House D.I.Y.  From soba to mai fun and chow fun to udon… Asian noodle shops offer a staggering array of noodle dishes, and we’ll teach you how to prepare four recipes that you can easily make at home.

I don’t have enough room to list all of the other exciting classes in April, so please take a look at our calendar for the lineup. I hope you feel a renewed sense of optimism, too!

Sara Salzinski has been a chef instructor at the Chopping Block since 2002 and loves sharing her knowledge of all things food-related with her students. She loves interacting with her students, making them feel right at home and at ease. Sara is also the Curriculum Coordinator at TCB which means she develops the classes, menus and recipes. A lot of Sara’s inspiration for classes and recipes comes from personal experience. When Sara and her husband, who is also a chef instructor, are at home they join forces and make countless mouth-watering creations that are then taste tested by their 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son.


Feast on Korean Food

Friday, February 14th, 2014 by Maggie

My family and I recently experienced a true Korean feast made with love by friends. The company was delightful, their hospitality went above and beyond, and the food blew us away. I learned they had cooked for hours in preparation, and they even made sure it was all gluten-free for me.

The meal began with roasted Korean sweet potatoes, served with no seasoning or sauce. I was skeptical at first, but the dish was tender, nutty, slightly sweet and quite tasty. We nibbled on that while our friends finished the main course: Kalbi (Beef Short Ribs) and Japchae (Stir Fried Noodles). The flavors were simply spectacular. They finished it off with two flavors of homemade ice cream, Backyard Mint and Double Dark Chocolate, from the book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. And it was topped with homemade magic shell sauce. Amazing! Our friends shared their recipes for us all to enjoy below.


ribs5 lbs Korean Style Beef Short Ribs

1 cup soy sauce
1 cup sugar
3 cups of marinade blend, recipe below

1 cup ajimirin sauce (available at Asian grocery stores)
1/2 can of 7-up
1 kiwi
1 yellow onion
1 red apple
1 pear, preferably Asian pear
1/2 cup garlic

Blend marinade ingredients together. Mix 3 cups marinade and mix it with the 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of soy sauce.Tenderize the kalbi meat. The softer the meat, the better it tastes. Place kalbi meat and marinade into an airtight ziploc bag and refrigerate. Marinate at least 24 hours. Pan-fry or grill the kalbi meat after marinating.


noodles1 pkg potato starch noodles (dangmyun)

1/2 to 3/4 lb marinated beef (see below)

1 bunch of spinach

1 medium size carrot

1 large size onion

1 C dried shiitake mushrooms

8 green onions

soy sauce

sesame oil



sesame seeds

Prep to stir-fry

  1. Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water for a few hours until they become soft. Squeeze the water out of them.
  2. Cut a carrot into thin matchstick-shaped pieces 5 cm long.
  3. Cut 7-8 green onions into 7 cm long pieces.
  4. Slice one onion thinly.
  5. Slice beef into thin strips.

Stir Fry

  1. Boil noodles in a big pot for about 3 minutes. When the noodles are soft (but not too soft), drain them and put in a large bowl.
  2. Cut the noodles by using scissors (unless you buy the pre-cut kind) and add 1 T of soy sauce and 1 T of sesame oil. Mix it up and set aside. (I’m a little more generous with the soy sauce and sesame oil.)
  3. Add a bunch of spinach to boiling water and stir it gently for 1 minute. Then take it out and rinse it in cold water. Squeeze it gently to get the water out and cut into 5 cm pieces.
  4. Mix ½ T soy sauce and ½ T sesame oil and place in the large bowl with the noodles. Keep it covered so it doesn’t get cold.
  5. Sauté carrot strips in olive oil until cooked/not crunchy. Put into the large bowl.
  6. Sauté sliced onions in olive oil until the onion looks translucent. Put it into the large bowl.
  7. Sauté green onions in olive oil for 1 minute and put it into the large bowl.
  8. Sauté marinated beef and shiitake mushrooms together. (If you are not using marinated beef, use the following: Sauté beef strips and sliced shitake mushrooms. After it’s cooked, add 3 cloves of minced/crushed garlic, 2 T of soy sauce and 2 T sugar. Stir until mixed and then put it into the large bowl.)
  9. Add 2 T of soy sauce, 3 T of sugar, 2 T of sesame oil, and 1 t of ground pepper to the large bowl. Mix all ingredients (preferably with hands), then sprinkle 1 T of toasted sesame seeds on the top. (I added some more soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.)
  10. Serve with rice and Kimchi, or as a side dish.

Homemade Magic Shell

1.5 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup coconut oil

Combine in double boiler until chocolate is almost melted.  Remove from heat and stir until all melted. Pour over ice cream and enjoy!


Maggie Swanson is in her third year working as a class assistant at the Chopping Block. She and her husband have lived in Chicago for over ten years and they love the endless dining opportunities in the city. Maggie has enjoyed being in the kitchen for as long as she can remember and is now thrilled to introduce 3 year old son Eliot to the joys of cooking. Maggie has been on a gluten free diet for over four years. She has developed significantly as a cook through discovering how to make gluten free food delicious. Maggie always has a hard time answering questions about her favorite thing to cook or eat because she's always trying something new!


Pasta Pasta Everywhere

Monday, May 6th, 2013 by Sara

If I were forced to choose a last meal, it would have to be Fettuccine Alfredo. Butter, cream and Parmesan cheese, oh my! I would seriously eat pasta two out of three meals a day if I didn’t know any better.

pastaI have a love for all things noodles, but the undisputed kings of all noodles, in my book, are your classic Italian dried noodles made of just semolina, flour and water. It gives me such joy to stand in front of all the pasta boxes at the store and ponder which style I am going to procure. I’m a simple girl. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I love short noodles, but nothing beats fettuccine or spaghetti. Mmm!

I have proudly passed down my love of all things pasta to my kids. Their favorite is any type of noodle with butter and Parmesan cheese, but I make sure to always blanch some broccoli or cauliflower and mix it in so they can at least have a more balanced meal.

rolloutNow, cooking pasta from a box might be convenient and delicious, but have you ever tried to make pasta from scratch? This, my friends, is pasta nirvana! I know what you’re thinking right now, but don’t worry… it’s not a difficult task. I swear I’m not lying!

One of my favorite classes to teach is Pasta Workshop, not only because I love the end result but also because I see so many “Ah ha” moments in class. It never fails. My students are always amazed at how easy it is to make pasta from scratch.  If you’re not convinced sign up for one of our Pasta Workshop classes and you will see for yourself.

How many of you have flour, semolina and eggs at home? I bet a good 80% of you do. Now, all you need is our instructional video and you’re good to go!

Pasta SmallI have taught people of all ages to make fresh pasta and everyone always has a great time, so what are you waiting for? I hope to see you in our next Pasta Workshop class!

I want to hear about your experiences making homemade pasta. What kind of noodles did you make and what’s your favorite sauce?





Sara Salzinski has been a chef instructor at the Chopping Block since 2002 and loves sharing her knowledge of all things food-related with her students. She loves interacting with her students, making them feel right at home and at ease. Sara is also the Curriculum Coordinator at TCB which means she develops the classes, menus and recipes. A lot of Sara’s inspiration for classes and recipes comes from personal experience. When Sara and her husband, who is also a chef instructor, are at home they join forces and make countless mouth-watering creations that are then taste tested by their 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son.


Warm your Soul with Osso Bucco

Friday, February 8th, 2013 by John

As we head into the second half of Chicago winter, our bodies tell us they are ready for some form of warmth.  My quick and easy solution is a pot of delicious braised meats with winter root vegetables.  One dish we recently served at The Chopping Block was a classic Veal Osso Bucco with Parmesan Polenta and Gremolata.

vob2Osso bucco refers to the cross-cut section of the veal shank, usually from the top portion of the thigh.  The literal translation is “bone with a hole.”  The whole of the bone is filled with amazing bone marrow, which once cooked, will yield a super savory meat butter that can be enjoyed with a piece of the meat or smeared on a piece of crusty bread.  You can find osso bucco at most butcher shops and they are relatively inexpensive.  Gremolata is a type of parsley, lemon zest and garlic “pesto” that is classically served directly on top of the bone marrow.  The bright lemon flavor helps to cut the richness of the meat and broth.

Here is my quick and easy version of this dish:

vob1Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the pan and sear both sides of the shank.  Allow a couple of minutes for the meat to brown properly.  This is the first step in developing a rich, hearty broth that will allow the tough cut of meat to become tender over the course of 3-4 hours of cooking.

Once the meat has been browned, remove from the pan and add 2 cups each of large dice onion, carrot and celery.  Continue cooking these vegetables for an additional 6-8 minutes, or until they have begun to brown on the edges.  Again, this caramelizing of the veggies will help flavor our braise (braising is a moist or wet cooking method used primarily for tougher cuts of meat.  Think beef stew or coq au vin).  Next, add 5-6 cloves minced garlic and 3-4 tablespoons of tomato paste.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Next, add the shanks, a can of crushed tomatoes and enough beef or chicken stock to generously cover the meat and vegetables.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer, covered for 3 hours.

vob3The dish will be done once the meat is tender and easily pulls of the bone.  Make sure the broth is seasoned nicely and add a couple of tablespoons of your favorite chopped herbs and serve over polenta, noodles or risotto.  Make sure to include some of the broth over the meat and enjoy.

This is one of winter’s most inspiring dishes, and I promise it will warm your soul.

What’s your favorite winter meal? Share your ideas here.


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!