Dining Alfresco

August 18, 2012 § 4 Comments

It’s not really the end of summer, but feels like it since the kids are going back to school next week.  We decided to take advantage of some alfresco dining in the city with good friends.  My dear friends Pam and Rainy planned the night out and it was perfect!  Rainy’s husband Todd suggested one of his favorite hang outs in the city- Erie Cafe.  It has the feel of old school Chicago.  I can’t believe in all our years in Chicago we never knew this place existed.  We scored outdoor dining on the river with a gorgeous view of our skyline.  It couldn’t hurt that everyone knew Todd by first name.  We were taken care of very well!  Thanks Todd!!

Italian Sausage and Peppers

When I googled a recipe for this I was lead to Great Chicago Italian Recipes.  I had no idea there were Italian recipes specific to “Chicago”.

Italian Sausage and Peppers makes a wonderful appetizer for your family and friends. The Sausage and Peppers can be served in bite size pieces or on toasted garlic bread. Splash on some red gravy and your all set for a juicy, tasty Italian experience.

You can use store-bought or for homemade, try this fabulous family sausage recipe below. Though time-consuming, you can’t beat the taste of fresh homemade sausage. Make a large one time batch and freeze the rest.

Your family and friends will love you for all your effort. Put love in, get love back. Don’t eat to live. Live to eat.My family has been enjoying this Sausage and Peppers recipe for years and so will yours.


·  1 pound of hot or mild Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
·  2 tsp of olive oil
·  1 green bell pepper sliced
·  1 red bell pepper sliced
·  1 onion sliced
·  6 baby portabello mushrooms sliced
·  2 or 3 cloves of garlic crushed
·  1 tsp dried oregano
·  1 tsp dried basil
·  1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes
·  Fry meat in a deep-frying pan for 5 to 10 minutes.
·  Remove from pan and set aside.
·  Add olive oil to pan.
·  Saute peppers,onions,mushrooms and garlic until tender.
·  Add Tomatoes.
·  Sprinkle in oregano and basil.
·  Add meat.
·  Cover and cook for around 15 minutes.

Serve the Sausage and Peppers on toasted garlic bread or as a a side.

Tomatoes Caprese

This was a very simple and yummy little appetizer of toasted Italian bread topped with roasted tomatoes.  These tomatoes pick up the same flavors as their famous Lasagna which is only served on the weekends (they were sold out by the time we ordered).  I found a fun little recipe that reminded me of this app, but Erie Cafe did something far more simple.

Baked Tomatoes with Crusty Bread

The brown sugar in the ingredients list below is there to mellow the acidity of the tomatoes, not to make this a sweet dish. Use a sturdy bakery loaf of white sandwich bread, not the packaged sliced stuff, for the topping. You will get enormous pleasure from serving people this dish.


  • 3 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar, or to taste
  • 8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices good-quality white sandwich bread such as a Pullman loaf


Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Butter a 3-quart baking dish (about 13 by 9 by 2 inches).

Drain tomatoes, reserving 1 cup juice, then chop.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then cook onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, allspice, and cloves and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes with reserved juice, thyme, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and briskly simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/2 stick butter and brush onto both sides of bread. Halve each slice.

Transfer tomato mixture to baking dish and top with bread, overlapping slightly. Bake until bubbling and bread is crisp and golden-brown, about 20 minutes.

Iceberg Lettuce Salad

Erie’s Iceberg Lettuce Salad is their tradition. It’s chopped with no fuss.  What is it about iceberg and Chicago?  I came across this fun article from the Chicago Tribune October 23, 2011.  I was laughing out loud at this quick read (and recipe):

Our favorite foodie finds herself head to head with the protosalad: iceberg

Of course I’ve always loved a good Wedge…Classic Iceberg Wedge that is and forever will remind me of Marshall Fields Walnut Room.  Thousand Island is a must!

Cottage Fried Potatoes

Another Erie Cafe staple served with every meal.


  • 3 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 3 medium potatoes (1 pound), thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings


1. In a large skillet melt margarine or butter. (If necessary, add additional margarine during cooking.) Layer potatoes into skillet. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add onion rings. Cook, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes more or till potatoes are tender and browned, turning frequently.

2. Makes 4 servings.

Surf and Turf

Filet of Beef and Grilled Shrimp

Linguini Frutti di Mare

What you’ll need:
1 pound Linguine
1 pound Mussels – cleaned and de-bearded
1 pound shrimp – peeled, deveined with tails on
1/2 pound sea scallops
1 pound Clams
I 14.5 oz can of Italian Whole Tomatoes
7 cloves garlic – minced
1 tablespoon flat leaf Italian parsley – roughly chopped (plus additional to garnish)
1 tablespoon basil – roughly chopped
3/4 cup white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

What to do:
1. Place a stock pot of water onto boil for your pasta. Season it generously with salt. When water is boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente. RESERVING 1 cup of the cooking liquid for later. Drain pasta and have it ready to transfer to serving bowl.

2. WHILE pasta is cooking, into a VERY large deep sided pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. When melted add 4 cloves of garlic and saute for approx 1 min. Increase heat to medium – high add the mussels and clams (being sure you have discarded any with broken shells). Add wine, parsley, cover with a lid and allow to steam until they open. CAREFULLY shake the pan occasionally. If the liquid level (wine) decreases too rapidly you can add more wine when necessary.

3. WHILE mussels and clams are cooking, into a separate pan place 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. When melted add 2 cloves of garlic, shrimp, scallops and cook until shrimp is pink in color and has a “C” shape. Using a slotted spoon transfer the shrimp and scallops to a serving bowl and keep warm. DISCARD almost all of the cooking liquid (leaving approx 1 tablespoon) and return pan to heat.

4. Add tomatoes, crushing them with your spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Add basil, 1 clove of garlic and cook over medium heat. Stirring as necessary. Add 1 tablespoon butter and if necessary add some of the reserved cooking liquid from the pasta until sauce is to desired consistency and taste. Cooking time is approximately 5 minutes.

4. Into a VERY large serving bowl add sauce and pasta. Toss together to combine. Add the seafood and GENTLY toss again. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional parsley.

Buon Appetito!

Homemade Tiramisu with Berry Sauce

We had a very traditional Tiramisu at Erie Cafe with Berry Sauce

My first time making Tiramisu was back on Belmont Ave. in the Roommate days.  I used this recipe from the New Basics Cookbook (one of my first cookbooks- with spilled wine stains today).


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 6 tablespoons strong coffee or espresso, cold
  • 12 ladyfingers, broken into thirds
  • 2 oz milk chocolate, grated


1. Beat the egg yolks and confectioners’ sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and thick. Slowly beat in tablespoon of the liqueur and the Marsala. Add the mascarpone, and beat until the mixture is thick and smooth.

2. In a small bowl, combine the coffee and the remaining 1 tablespoon liqueur. Drop three ladyfinger pieces in the bottom of each of six wine glasses. Drizzle half the coffee mixture over the lady fingers. Then spoon in half the mascarpone, and sprinkle with half the grated chocolate.

3. Repeat the layers with the remaining ladyfingers, coffee, mascarpone, and chocolate. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving.

Chocolate Lava Cake a la Mode

My only time making lava cake was in a cooking class at Cooking Fools in Bucktown- team outing with Strategic Coach.  It was actually pretty easy, but I’ve always found something else I’d rather make for dessert.  If it’s on the menu, though, I’ll order it.

4 oz. unsalted butter
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. sifted flour
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

• preheat oven to 450*.
• butter the molds or ramekins with room temperature butter.  dust with sifted cocoa powder. set aside
• in a glass bowl over simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate. mix until smooth.
• in the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until smooth.
• add the chocolate and mix thoroughly.
• add the flour.
• pour into the prepared molds about 2/3 of the way up.
• put the molds onto a baking sheet and bake for 6-7 minutes (no more).
• using a small knife, loosen the lava cakes from the mold and turn out onto a plate.  dust with powdered sugar and top with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Well, dinner is over and friends remain.  Until next time…

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. —-Virginia Woolf
It’s always a pleasure.
“Never forget the days I spent with you. Continue to be my friend, as you will always find me yours.”
—Ludwig Van Beethoven


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