A+ A A-
  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel


The stay-at-home lifestyle has elevated dinnertime to high point of the day, if it wasn't already.  Say you have shopped just once a week during the last three weeks of confinement.  The makings of a simple, satisfying meal can be within reach.  It is as easy as returning to roots.  

You are forgiven for passing over root vegetables in the produce aisle.  They have zero eye appeal. What they lack in color and seasonality they make up for in the nutrients they have absorbed underground and fiber.  Roots are also loaded with starch which we break down into glucose.  Yes, eating root vegetables will give you a legal culinary high.

My favorite root recipe is a comforting soup of leeks and potatoes.   In France they call it Potage Parisien and treat it as if it were the little black dress of the culinary world.  First they swap out water for chicken broth and then proceed to dress it up with watercress, herbs or lettuce. 

I prefer to surprise guests by placing a thin slice of blue cheese in the bottom of the soup bowl.  The cheese is hidden, waiting to be discovered after the hot vegetable puree is poured over it.  A garnish of fresh chives adds the comforting green aroma of Spring.   

If you are not a fan of blue cheese, substitute another variety that melts easily, or grate a hard cheese into the bowl.  The point is to swirl the cheese into the soup as you consume it.  Each spoonful tastes a little different than the one before which accelerates the process.  You're soon ready for another helping. 



 Ingredients for 6 - 8 servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups thinly sliced leeks

4 cups peeled and cubed russet potatoes 

4 cups cool water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground white pepper, to taste

1/2 cup whipping cream

3 ounces blue cheese

Garnish: 2 tablespoon minced fresh chives 

Melt the butter in a heavy 4 quart pot.  Cut the leeks 1” into the green portion.  Trim the root end and quarter the leeks lengthwise without separating them at the root end.  Rinse the interior of the leek leaves to remove any dirt.  Thinly slice and add them to the hot butter, stirring and cooking for 5 minutes as they soften.

Peel, quarter and cut the potatoes into 1” cubes.  Add them to the leeks and continue cooking for another 2 -3 minutes.  Pour in the water, bring the liquid to a boil and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender, season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the cream and thin with water, if desired.  Place a slice of cheese at the bottom of each soup bowl.  Pour on the soup.  Garnish with fresh chives, and serve immediately.



  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

Claude Monet's Stay-At-Home Chocolate Gateau


With the expectation that two lonely weeks of social isolation would be our last, I got out a bottle of bubbly, some party hats, and my favorite chocolate cake recipe.  This plan was dashed yesterday when the President ordered a continuation of the school and business shut-down for an additional month.  Well, at least we can eat cake.

Before we get to dessert, I want to update my best practices notes on grocery shopping.  There are still no state or national guidelines to protect customers and staff in the stores.  Safeguards vary considerably from store to store.  I was ‘carded’ at Whole Foods during the hour reserved for seniors.  (Reminded me of the ‘good old days’.) I have heard Mariano’s offers shoppers gloves to wear, and Trader Joe’s limits the number of shoppers in the store at any one time.   I know for a fact that Jewel Osco has not made any changes, and I complained. 

Person to person contact remains the biggest risk factor for contracting coronavirus.  Whole Foods has made noticeable changes in this regard.  In addition to instituting a special shopping time for at-risk customers, check-out lanes in the store are staggered and  shoppers are physically separated in waiting lines by improvised barriers.  More importantly, a screen of clear plastic the size of a motorcycle windshield separates the check-out worker from the customer.  This is proactive.  The employee behind the register is both exposed and the potential source of exposure to everyone in her line all day.  Grocery workers are beginning to complain.  My advice is to wear a mask if you have one and a pair of gloves when shopping


ChezM subscriber Jeff Abell sent me the link to a YouTube video entitled What did Claude Monet Eat in a Day?    He remembered my class at the Alliance Française in 2012 that featured recipes from Monet’s cooking notebook.  The chocolate cake we made that day has since become a favorite for us both. 

In true 19th century fashion, this gateau has only five ingredients.  Dark chocolate and butter are the major players followed by eggs and sugar, and there’s just a little flour added into the mix.  The resulting cake has the impact of a dark chocolate candy bar with the mouthfeel of a soufflé.

I have taken the liberty of doubling the recipe to accommodate 21st century dessert expectations.  The cake may fall a bit as it cools.  You can fill the center with whipped cream if it bothers you.


Ingredients for 8 to 10 servings:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate 

1/4 cup water

8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter

4 large eggs at room temperature, separated

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Generously butter a 8” cake pan.  Line the bottom with parchment and butter it.

 Break up the chocolate bar into a glass bowl, add the water and microwave on full power for one minute.  Remove the bowl and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until smooth.

Beat the egg yolks until they ribbon using an electric mixer.  Stir in the chocolate mixture, then sift on the sugar and flour and blend them in carefully.  Beat the egg whites to firm peaks and fold them into the batter in 3 installments.  Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 - 40 minutes.  The fully baked cake will be firm in the center and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  A digital thermometer inserted in the center will register 200 degrees.  

Let the cake cool on a rack for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and unmold onto a serving platter to cool completely.  Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.





  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel



We are nearing the end of our second week in virtually lock-down conditions with no end in sight.  New restrictions in Chicagoland limit access to large public parks, golf courses and playgrounds. Are we completely protected from contact with the coronavirus?  Not quite. 

The supermarket, that last remaining arena of social contact, is coming under closer  scrutiny.  Food ingredients themselves are not the likely vectors for disease.  Transmission risks lie on surfaces other people have touched including food containers and, of course, fellow shoppers themselves.  Here is a list of good practices I've assembled to help you minimize risks when shoppping:  

  • Only shop once a week. (That has to be the hardest one to follow)
  • Pull on nitrile gloves before entering the market. Discard them before returning to the car.
  • Wipe off the handle of the shopping cart with the sanitizing wipes provided at the door. 
  • Practice six foot distancing from others while shopping.
  • Give purchases a sanitizing wipe when unpacking home. 

Finally, we are ready to cook!

I am delighted to pass along an easy pasta recipe sent in by long-time blog reader Nancy Cunov. All of us stay-at-home cooks long for a sauce packed with the ripe Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes, olives and capers. This is a satisfying dish hiding in plain sight. Most of the ingredients are already in your refrigerator or pantry. Preparation time is minimal. How hard is it to open a can?   

Nancy added one sentence of directions with the list of ingredients for this recipe.  You are allowed to do that when you’re Italian.  Making sauce for pasta is coded in your DNA.  The rest of us need a little guidance which I’m happy to contribute.  Thank you so much, Nancy!


1 pound spaghetti (Terra Bona whole wheat, preferred)

1 cup pasta cooking water

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 clove garlic (or more), minced

1 cup canned diced tomatoes 

1/2 cup chopped black olives (kalamata)

2 heaping tablespoons capers (packed in vinegar)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh basil or oregano, finely chopped OR 2 teaspoons dried

Cook the pasta in 4 quarts boiling water with a tablespoon of kosher salt to an al dente consistency  Ladle out and reserve a cup of cooking water before draining the pasta.  Turn the pasta into bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Reserve.

Saute the garlic pieces in the remaining tablespoon olive oil for 1 minute in a deep skillet.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 2 -3 minutes as the tomatoes render their juices.  (If you are using dried herbs, stir them in now.)  Add the pasta and toss until well mixed.  Pour in as much pasta cooking water as needed to distribute the tomatoes and lubricate the pasta. Fold in the olive pieces and capers; continue cooking and folding until all the ingredients are heated through.  Add salt and grind on pepper, to taste.  Stir in the fresh herbs and cook another 30 seconds.  Garnish with additional whole olives and serve.

Please continue to send me your stay-at-home recipes.  We’re in this together!