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On Your Mark, Get Set: Is It Spring In Chicago Yet?

2011 March 29

by Christopher Sullivan

Well it is still Winter in Chicago, but hopefully the blizzards and below freezing temperatures are, for the most part, behind us.  That means that our many Farmers’ Markets will start cropping up, the Green City Market will move outdoors, and once again Farmers from all over Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin will be bringing their wonderful goods to the city.  It is tough to continue to eat locally sourced goods in the Midwest in the deep of Winter, as you can imagine, so the change in season will come as a welcome relief to cooks, restaurants and diners everywhere.  However, this is also an interesting time to try to create new dishes as the Spring approaches and new things begin to slowly show up at the local markets.

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Sarah’s recipe for Chickpea Grits reminds me how much I love the old garbanzo bean in its many forms.  Hummus, of course, soup (of which there is a wonderful version of Garbanzo Bean Soup at Blackbird Restaurant in Chicago by Chef de Cuisine David Posey), Spanish-style fried chickpeas with chilis, parsley and lemon, and one of my favorites – the Panisse!  Panisse is a simple fried chickpea cake, infused with whatever seasoning you like, and served on its own or as an element of a larger dish.

And since I am looking towards the warmer weather and the produce it brings, I know I want to try the panisse with a traditional Spring dish of some sort.  But I also want to reference the Winter, and one of the many ways to get through it.  Sarah talked about preservation in her post, specifically in relation to dried beans.  So for this recipe, I’ve decided to explore another form of preserved food and break out my pickled baby carrots, (I only have one jar left!), which I made early last Summer.  I purchased the carrots at the Green City Market, in June I think, from  Nichols Farm in Marengo, Illinois.  What better way to commemorate the changing of seasons and the practice of sustainable cooking?  And I also want to find one other early Spring vegetable, so I have begun my search for spring onions.  So far, I cannot seem to find them anywhere,  but I know they will be here soon.

And what will I cook as the centerpiece of the dish?  I’m leaning towards lamb, one of my favorite things and an excellent way to celebrate the new season.  Check back in a couple days, and hopefully I will have figured out how to put all these thoughts, and ingredients, together into some sort of cohesive and delicious dish!


Christopher Sullivan lives in Chicago, IL, where he has been a server at Blackbird Restaurant for 8 years.  He and partner Arden Nelson are working on opening their own restaurant, an intimate neighborhood bistro, in the near future.