OyChicago blog

Going back to camp

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Going back to camp photo 

Every summer when my kids were young, I spent months gathering supplies for my kids to take to camp. In the early years, I actually ironed name labels in all of their clothing and painstakingly labeled all of their sunscreens, bug sprays, flashlights and other camp necessities. I thought that I was being Super Mom and that surely an award would be mine.

Well, a couple of visitors’ weekends and tours of cabins cured me of all of my obsessive labeling. Clothes heaped in corners, scary debris strewn showers and orphaned t-shirts and sweatshirts left hanging on tree limbs left me wondering why I had bothered.

At the end of the camp, the kids would arrive home, sunburned, bug bitten and happy and all of my fanatically labeled clothing was either lost or so scary that I would not allow it in the house.

This summer I packed myself up to go to Camp Chi. I am teaching Culinary Camp to groups of eager-young gastronomically inclined minds. I did not label my clothing, but I did pack sunscreen (which I have actually worn— unlike my children), bug spray, and a ton of recipes. I forgot my flashlight and did need it one night during a storm when we lost power, but other than that and a massive heat wave, I am having a blast. Camp is awesome!

The spirit at camp is amazing. The people running the camp are models of everything right in a world where many professionals are unhappy or dissatisfied in their jobs. These people rock! There is an infectious CAN DO attitude and a MAKE IT HAPPEN theme that pervades every corner of the camp.

I have been blown away day after day when challenges that seemed daunting were handled with cheerful enthusiasm. Storms and power outages— no problem.  Prolonged suffocating heat wave— no problem. One by one, difficulties are met and throughout everything, the campers are treated with respect and TLC.

 They are learning how to have fun without the day-to-day technology so pervasive in their lives. The kids are learning important life skills, making new friends, tolerating differences in others and just plain, being kids. I love it!

I urge everyone who has a chance, go back to camp. Go to a Jewish camp. Go to Camp Chi and hang out in the woods with some great people. Turn off the world for a week or two, teach some classes,  stand tall and proudly belt out the Birkat Hamazon after a meal , sing and dance your way to the lake, tie dye some t-shirts and come to culinary classes. We are making some great camp food— my way.

Take the heat out of summer: 

Sorbets are one of my favorite treats. I make them all year round, but especially in the summer. The farmers market offers inspiration for my flavors. Recently, the stalls were abundant with gorgeous tempting blackberries. Typically eaten out of hand, blackberries are fragrant and complex. Simple to make and a crowd pleaser, sorbets are perfect for summer or anytime.

Blackberry Sorbet 

1 pound fresh or frozen blackberries
12 ounces granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt

1. Puree the blackberries, sugar and water in a food processor or blender. Try not to blend the seeds completely of the sorbet will be bitter. Strain out the seeds and any solids through a mesh strainer and discard the seeds.

2. Add the lemon juice and salt and mix completely. Chill the sorbet mix for at least 4 hours or overnight.

3. Process the sorbet in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.

4. Store the sorbet in a container with a tight fitting lid in the coldest part of the freezer.

Garnish with cut up fruit, chopped mint, whipped cream, nuts.

Blackberry Cobbler 

I like simple rustic desserts in the summer and am not interested in fussing too much in the kitchen. This delicious cobbler is the perfect summer old fashioned dessert. Crispy crust and sweet tangy fruit make this a wonderful way to end a meal. Serve the cobbler with a big scoop of Blackberry Sorbet. 

1 ½ cups flour
1 ¼ cups sugar + ½ teaspoon
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons chilled butter or non-hydrogenated shortening (for pareve)
¼ cup ice water
3 pints blackberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup all-purpose flour

1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the ½ teaspoon of sugar and the salt until combined. Add the cold butter and pulse 5 or 6 times, until the mixture resembles peas. Add the ice water and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until the pastry is evenly moistened.

2. Transfer the pastry to a lightly floured surface and knead just until it comes together. Flatten the pastry into a 6-inch disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, toss the blackberries with the remaining 1 ¼ cups of sugar, the lemon juice, cinnamon and ⅓ cup of flour. Let stand at room temperature, stirring gently once or twice, until slightly juicy, about 15 minutes. Transfer the fruit to a round 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to a ¼-inch thickness that is slightly larger than the baking dish. Drape the pastry over the berries. Trim the overhang to ½ inch and fold it under itself, pressing the pastry onto the rim of the dish. Crimp the edge decoratively and make several slashes in the center of the pastry to allow steam to escape.

5. Bake the cobbler for 1 hour, or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden. Cover the edges with foil if the crust browns too quickly. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.


Cheers! Chicago: SceneTap and the future of urban nightlife

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Ari Moffic Silver photo 

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, let me update you on a few things.

First, cellular phones can now do more than just send and receive phone calls and text messages.

Second, wireless internet capability has allowed anyone to share with the public not only what they like or do, but also when and where they do them. That way, one can see where people are in real time and even seek out the hippest and coolest places to hang out.

Third, we now have the capability of rating and critiquing places we visit and frequent, so we can aide others seeking similar journeys through urban nightlife and spend less time sifting through magazines, newspaper articles and other traditional information gathering sources.

Starting this past weekend, Chicago is showcasing a new Android and iPhone powered application called “SceneTap”. You may have read about it in RedEye last week or heard about it from a friend, but in case you haven’t, here’s the scoop. SceneTap is a mobile application that monitors bar, restaurant and nightclub scene activity in real-time. As their website and advertisements detail, users can track athlete and celebrity movement, win vacation packages and other prizes, observe how crowded or busy a place might be at that moment, or even check out the guy to girl ratio. Chicago will be featuring 50 bars in the launch party tonight, but I can guarantee you that more destination places will capitalize on this innovative form of real-time networking in the very near future. Each destination will also be equipped with a giant spotlight, so you literally cannot miss seeing it on your journey around town. Just look up at the sky and follow the white beams of light!

Here are some of the lucky 50 that will be lighting up Chicago’s skyline and cellphone activity (and some were even on my top summer restaurants list!). You can get the full list at http://scenetap.com/r/chicago.

• Wrightwood Tap
• Cans
• Benchmark
• Kirkwood
• Big City Tap
• Vertigo Sky Lounge
• Timothy O’Tooles
• Sheffield’s
• O’Donovans
• Shenanigans
• Duffy’s Tavern
• Redmond’s (Badger bar!)
• Casey Moran’s

So Chicago, keep your eyes peeled during the nighttime. With the help of SceneTap and Batman-like spotlights piercing the night sky, you will know where the best times can be fully enjoyed. Plus, you’ve got more than one reason now to lift your eyes to the sky! I know that I will be sure to use SceneTap over the coming weekends, whether I am seeking out bars with a particular brew on draft or try to find out where Jay Cutler might be dining. Who knows, you may even bump into a few fellow Chicago Jews out on the town!


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