2014 Best Bite #9: Spring vegetable orecchetti, Summer House Santa Monica

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Spring vegetable orecchietti, Summer House Santa Monica
Spring vegetable orecchietti with ramps, favas, asparagus, and pecorino

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: Within Summer House’s bright, beachy environs, this pasta dish celebrated the peak of spring’s green vegetables. Fresh orecchietti pasta mingled with favas, peas, asparagus, and ultra-seasonal ramps, plus pecorino cheese and pickled onions to bring it together. And although they aren’t pictured here, it’s a crime to leave Summer House without at least one of the gigantic, freshly baked cookies at the front counter (I’ll admit that I’ve stopped in on multiple occasions just for the cookies alone).

The details: Summer House Santa Monica, 1954 N. Halsted St., Chicago.

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Delicious event: Middlewest magazine launch // making its pea pâté recipe

Middlewest pea pâté: magazine page & my version
Middlewest pea pâté: as shown in the magazine & my version

I’ve been waiting to blog about the final Fête event that I attended a few weeks ago (see previous Fête coverage here and here): the official launch of Middlewest magazine. Middlewest was created by David Tamarkin and Erica Gannett, both formerly of Time Out Chicago and well-known for food writing and photography, respectively. They worked with design team Sonnenzimmer to produce a new kind of food magazine, meant as a complete departure from tradition. Aesthetically, it’s striking: 10 seasonal recipes on 10 double-sided cards, plus a fold out literary supplement, all inside a white envelope. The images of each recipe are intricately layered for a look that’s undeniably unique. At the event, the creators discussed their bold intentions with Middlewest and how the process unfolded with this inaugural issue. It was really interesting to hear how they ended up with the deconstructed look, the three-word recipe headlines, and other features of the final product.

Middlewest magazines and totebags
Middlewest magazines and totebags
Served at the event: editor David Tamarkin's coffee cake (featured in the magazine) and pourover coffee from Gaslight
Served at the event: editor David Tamarkin’s coffee cake (one of the recipes in the magazine) and pourover coffee from Gaslight Coffee Roasters

So, when it came time to decide which recipe to make first, this brilliant green pea pâté practically leapt off its artful page. I subbed in sage for tarragon (out of availability and personal preference), but stuck closely to the rest of the recipe: toasting, then grinding the fennel; sweating down the shallots; blanching, then shocking the peas; and carefully processing it all together with garlic and salt. The result was bright, springy, and basically addictive. Turns out peas and fennel are great together! I tried it spread on both toasted baguette and seedy cracker, and served it with roasted radishes. I have a feeling the other Middlewest recipes will be just as successful, and can’t wait to explore more of these seasonal flavor pairings.

Toasting the fennel seeds
Toasting the fennel seeds
Peas chillin' in the ice bath
Peas chillin’ in the ice bath
Whirling it together in the food processor
Whirling it together in the food processor
Middlewest pea pâté and roasted radishes
Pea pâté and roasted radishes

The details: For this and other recipes, buy the magazine’s first issue here.