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MFC @PK 6/7

6 Jun

The MFC will be presenting this week at Pecha Kucha, Tuesday night June 7th at 8pm.

If you plan to attend, it’s recommended to purchase tickets in advance.

More details and ticket info can be found on the PK website.


We hope you’ll join us!



Pizza Autentica!

16 Feb

On a recent snowy Chicago Sunday, a few members of the Collective elected to spend the cold, dreary day gathered around a fire—a 700 degree fire, to be exact—learning the secrets to making authentic Italian pizza.

We couldn’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon.

First off, Mario Rapisarda, the head chef of Antica Pizzeria, walked us through the importance of the right ingredients.

Many hand gestures drove home his point. The yeast must be exactly this, the flour, exactly that. Don’t fool yourself  with all-purpose flour or standard baking yeast, he told us—you must have double zero—the kind we use in Italy. The water, he didn’t have much to comment on, though we have it from reliable sources in Puglia that many Italians (divided regionally as they are) swear the quality of the pizza dough is directly attributable to the local water. Some things can’t be imported I guess.

Even though there appeared to be quite a bit of back-and-forth conversion from metric to imperial units, as we understood it the dough recipe is (roughly) as follows:

500ml water
1kg flour
25g salt
2.5g yeast

(Even though Mario goes ‘by eyes’ to measure, we figured that kind of estimation comes with practice.) The water should be room temperature, as to not kill the yeast. When mixing the dough, you will know it’s too wet if it sticks to the bowl—keep adding flour until it remains workable and elastic.

After mixing, wrap in plastic wrap (completely sealed). Then, you have two options for allowing the dough to ‘mature’ before kneading. Recommended: 14 hours overnight in the refrigerator. Same day: 15 minutes tightly sealed in the saran wrap ball.

Another overnight task: fresh mozzarella strained in the fridge; brings the flavor forward.

Once the dough is ready to be worked, make dough balls of 3″ diameter by rolling it into itself until elastic, then seal the ball closed so the air you’ve worked into the dough stays put. Let rest/rise at room temp for 1.5-2 hours (if overnight maturation).  Same day: 3 hours to sit. Always keep covered in plastic, or the dough will dry out.

The next process Mario called ‘opening the pizza’. Despite all we’ve seen, he emphasized that one is NOT supposed to throw the dough in the air, but rather open it by hand by pushing out into a circle, starting with fists, and encouraging into a pizza shape by spreading the tips and sides of your hands in a fan-like motion, rotating the dough on a floured surface until 12″ in diameter, or thereabouts. When slight bubbles (the ‘angel of the pizza’) begin to appear, you’re good to go.

Topping the pizza is also an art. Place two tablespoons fresh marinara sauce (see below) in the center of the pizza and spread to the sides, leaving about a ½” offset from the pizza edge.

Marinara sauce:
San Marzano tomatoes
Black pepper
Olive oil
puree all ingredients–no cooking!

If cooking with your oven (or grill) at home (“as hot as you can get it”), Mario recommends ‘pre-cooking’ the dough and sauce alone for 6 minutes, then adding toppings and to go back in for approximately 8 minutes more.

Go light on the cheese (chopped fresh mozzarella, strained as directed above), sprinkling mainly on the outside. Use the toppings (also sparingly!) to fill the ‘hole’ in the center. Finish off with a generous dusting of finely grated parmesan, and pop it in. You’ll know it’s finished when the bubbles in the crust just begin to brown.

Buon Appetito!

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Mart Recap

10 Feb


Thanks to all who came out or stopped by to see us at the Merchandise Mart during out ten-day exhibit, where we shared recipes, fresh herbs and food stories with hundreds of commuters who passed through that historic building.

Sharing is at the core of the MFC’s mission—whether it’s through trading recipes, exchanging herbs, or simply breaking bread together. We’re also interested in creating a community of knowledge and resource sharing, such as the Brown_line_map we created to provide information on where to find local sustainable food. If there are other resources along the brown line, or your line, drop us a line or post a comment to this post below.


In keeping with our mission to re-connect people through food, we were lucky enough to spend a little time with a few youth from Girls in the Game, a local non-profit that provides and promotes sports/fitness opportunities, nutrition/health education, and leadership development to enhance the health and well-being of teen girls. The girls had lots to ask and lots to share, including some fantastic food stories that we’ll be posting on the blog soon. Have a food story to share? Comment and add to our library of fantastic food narratives.

Speaking of posting, keep your eyes peeled for the recipes we shared each day at the Mart, as we expand our archive and invite others to contribute (that means you!).

We appreciate all of you helping us create an ongoing dialogue that will continue to grow…

Merchandise Mart Exhibit, Jan 18-28th

25 Jan

Check us out at the Merchandise Mart through Jan 28th!
The MFC team will be capturing food narratives and conducting a recipe exchange each weekday 11-1 and 3:30-5.

We will also have fun takeaways with info on current seasonal foods, as well as a map of the Brown line, sourcing sustainable local food at stops along that route. Pick one up or send us your own favorite spot to find delicious, organic food…

Christmas Morning…

29 Dec

One of the best moments of my childhood happened three weeks before Christmas 1989.  My Mom and Dad asked my brother, Chris and I what we would like for breakfast on Christmas morning.  They said we could have anything we wanted, anything!  Now this was a big deal to for brother and I because we were used to eating vegetable sandwiches, drinking powdered milk and everything else healthy.  Immediately we thought of cupcakes, brownies…then sundaes, yes sundaes!  2 hours later Chris and I had the menu created and gave it to our parents.

Christmas Breakfast

Dad’s homemade waffles
Sanders Hot Fudge

Vanilla Ice Cream
Whip Cream

Oh man did our parents’ regret letting us make the menu!

My brother and I wake up bright and early every Christmas morning, now just a little later than when we were younger, to our parents preparing the waffle batter, cutting the fruit and making hot chocolate.

After stuffing ourselves with seconds and for my brother, thirds, we consider toning down the menu in the midst of the sugar rush and tummy ache, but then we remember this only happens one day out of the year and it is delicious.  Post clean up, its time for a nap to sleep off all of the sugar and fruit that we just consumed.

This tradition has being going on for 22 years and every year I look forward to spending the morning with my family covering waffles with fresh fruit, sanders hot fudge and a dollop of whip cream.

I can’t wait for the day when I can ask my children to pick their Christmas breakfast; I can only image what they will come up with!










Turkey day memories

2 Dec

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Well I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It’s by far my favorite American holiday. Why you ask? Because it involves a ton of wonderful food, mixed with friends and family, throw in some games (cards, football, etc.), good conversation, and wine and you have yourself a glorious day (not to mention that it’s a long weekend).

Part of what we do as the MFC includes gathering peoples food stories and histories and I’d like to invite everyone share their traditions with us. It could be a favorite dish/recipe your mom used to make or a favorite food memory from when you were a child. Something that has an emotional connection for you through food. We’ve begun a virtual archive and would like to add your story. Please email us at with your contribution.

I was fortunate to fly out to Colorado and spend my weekend with good friends (see pics), and our dinner was more of a potluck. Part of what Thanksgiving can do is bring many different traditions and dishes to the table. Something that I didn’t grow up with and now enjoy immensely because of its uniqueness is oyster stuffing. Here’s a link to its history and recipe (click here).


Henry’s Farm

21 Nov

I just finished a wonderful book I’d like to share with you. It’s called The Seasons on Henry’s Farm by Terra Brockman, and it details a year of food and life on a sustainable farm located outside of Evanston. Henry is Terra’s brother and he has been a staple at the Evanston Farmers Market for years, in addition to having healthy CSA program to boot (Henry’s Farm).

The book chronicles a year that starts in November with the planting of garlic, and ends after the Harvest one year later. This book is chock-a-block full of good planting/gardening techniques and amazing seasonal recipes, however it reads like a novel and her family plays the cast of characters. Terra revisits stories about growing up on the 3rd generation farm, holiday traditions, canning with Grandma etc, in addition to the detailing the mania of running an organic sustainable farm. It’s a great read. Oh, and I just planted some garlic in my community garden plot. Thanks Henry.

GreenNet Potluck

9 Nov

GreenNet is Chicago’s premier online source for all things community gardening. They also throw many events throughout the year in addition to sponsoring the popular One Seed Chicago. Tomorrow night they are holding their community gardener networking potluck at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Come on down with some grub, and meet your fellow local gardeners. There will be a panel presentation discussion as well as door prizes and a raffle. Check it out!