Posts Tagged ‘tomatillo’


The Dog Days of Summer

Friday, July 6th, 2012 by Jeff

Here is a hot little story that hopefully, not too many of you can relate to. The Chopping Block has a plot of soil in the local community garden in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. Our employees take care of the garden and in turn, harvest the vegetables.

In early June, we planted organic vegetable seeds with the intentions of planting vegetables with high yields of fruit since we only have a 12×12 square foot area. If anyone has read up on gardening in small spaces, there is one method that allows you to plant many varieties that grow well together and allow for large yields. This type of gardening is called “Square Foot Gardening”. You can map out your area by placing nails around the perimeter of border nails and then starching out bailing twine or butchers twine to get these square foot areas that you can see. We planted our seeds without the twine but in our heads visually mapped out the area. We planted turnips, parsnips, zucchini, kale, beets, mache, eggplant, watercress and a couple other vegetables as well.

I usually store my seeds at home in a cool, dark place to preserve their shelf life but when we decided to plant, I found my seeds on a shelf on my back porch. What that means is that the hot sun was beating into the plastic container for who knows how long. I was hopeful that this was not an issue and every week we have been watering. But a month later, we are only seeing the turnips and zucchini grow well.

So, I decided to buy some organic plants from a local gardening store to replace the seeds that weren’t sprouting.  I found some good tomato, tomatillo and herb plants earlier this week and planted them on July 3rd. I’ve watered them each morning and night since putting them in the ground. However, the issue is that it has been 100 degrees plus here in Chicago this week and the plants’ roots have not had time to grow while the leaves are getting burnt up.

Here are the lessons we’ve leaned so far this gardening season: plant your garden nice and early when the weather is cool. Do not use seeds that have been stored in hot, sunny areas. And if your garden is not to your liking, work it up and start again.


Jeff is The Chopping Block's Tournant chef. He works with the sous chefs to make sure all food and supplies are on hand for the more than 250 classes and private events that happen monthly. Jeff has been cooking professionally in Chicago since 2001 and joined The Chopping Block team in the fall of 2011. Growing up in rural Minnesota, Jeff has a great love for things outdoors including gardening, fishing and camping. That love for freshness of vegetables and daily catch of fish to local wild game in many hunting adventures is what drove him to pursuing the life of a chef.


We Made it through Another Winter

Friday, March 16th, 2012 by David

Now we roll into the other season: grilling. This year, we are getting an early start with the beautiful weather.  Let’s hope it holds on.  I am particularly excited for this year’s grilling season because I’m finally getting the Big Green Egg.  My new addition to my already extensive cookware family should be here next week.  I can’t wait!

Photo Courtesy of Big Green Egg

After playing with them in our outdoor kitchen at our Lincoln Square location for the past two summers, I decided I needed one for my own patio.  Too many days of summer were wasted trying to “grill” indoors, because I didn’t have anything to use outside.  Those days are over.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that the Big Green Egg never goes on sale, ever, except right now.  For all you summer grillers and the die-hard winter grillers who have been looking to upgrade, now is the time.  I’ve been waiting, trying to justify to my wife, why I need a thousand dollar grill, and she finally gave in. Yeah.

Some of the things I’m looking forward to making are Chipotle Skirt Steak with Tomatillo Salsa, fresh veggies from the farmers market, a little queso fresco or Chihuahua and a warm tortilla for some homemade tacos.  Then there are BBQ short ribs, Cast Iron Cornbread, Grilled Potato Salad with Green Beans and for a truly amazing dessert, Peach Cobbler on the grill.

These are some of the dishes we will be making in our grilling classes this spring/summer, along with a whole new set of grilling menus, yet to be released.  So whether you ready to take the plunge and get a Big Green Egg of you own, or are just starting to get interested in some serious grilling, come check out our patio and get geared up for the other season.

David Indriksons is a Lead Class Assistant at The Chopping Block with a background that goes from small scale bistros to large scale catering and everything in between. In addition to a great love of food, he is a self-admitted travel junkie that enjoys hanging out with locals around the world and trying new cuisine. Outside of TCB, he enjoys skating, snowboarding, and playing with his dog, Caesar.


Hot Tamales

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 by Andrea

One of the cool things about working at The Chopping Block as long as I have is watching people come and go, to later flourish on their own in the food industry. In fact, I often think about writing a “Where are they Now?” kind of feature for our newsletter. It would certainly be interesting to see where some of our past employees have ended up.

Last night, I got to experience the deliciousness of a long-time former employee’s new venture. Amber Romo Wojcinski is combining her Mexican heritage and amazing cooking skills to create Las Manas Tamales. She’ll be selling tamales featuring local, seasonal & sustainable ingredients at the Green City Market, beginning in May. You can choose from packaged varieties to take home or have a fresh tamale steamed for you on the spot for a snack as you shop the market.

“Las manas” is short for “las hermanas”, which means “the sisters”, Amber’s dad’s nickname for all of his three girls. You can meet the proud papa at the farmer’s market as he’ll be helping selling tamales.

Amber’s talent for creating fresh, crisp flavors was evident in her first (and sold out) dinner hosted by Floriole Cafe & Bakery in Lincoln Park last night. The bakery’s friendly and attentive staff provided a beautiful atmosphere to match the food.

Spring Vegetable Escabeche

First course: Spring Vegetable Escabeche. The carrots, asparagus and beets had a nicely balanced vinegary zing to them, topped with a unique savory granola featuring pepitas and puffed millet.

The Masa Dumpling Soup with Pinto Beans and Spring Onions was a ramped up version of Frijoles a la Charra, one of my all-time favorite soups.

Duck Confit & Roasted Poblano Tamale with Kumquat Tomatillo Salad & Jicama Salad

The star of the show was a Duck Confit and Roasted Poblano Tamale, topped with Kumquat Tomatillo Salsa. As a friend and frequent dinner party guest of Amber’s, I’ve been lucky enough to taste many of her salsa creations. This one did not disappoint! I was also a big fan of the side salad of  Cucumber, Jicama and Pea Shoots tossed in a fresh herb dressing.

Sweet Mango Tamale with Coconut Creme Anglaise

A second, sweet tamale made the dessert course memorable: Sweet Mango Tamale with Coconut Creme Anglaise.

Amber will do it all over again tonight for the second dinner in the series at Floriole. To stay up-to-date on Las Manas Tamales, become a fan on Facebook, and don’t miss the Las Manas booth at the outdoor Green City Market starting on May 4th. You’ll see me in line!

Andrea has been with The Chopping Block for over 12 years in every role from Chef Assistant to General Manager to Private Event Coordinator and now Public Relations. Her journalism background and culinary school education from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago give her the know-how to spread the word about The Chopping Block's mission to get people to cook. She'll never shy away from a music festival, hot yoga class, beach read, dinner out with friends or a good glass of Pinot Noir, especially when cuddling on the couch with her terrier, Bosworth.