Mar 012014
Mark and Jared at the Chopping Block

Mark and Jared at the Chopping Block

Last Christmas, Natalie gifted our oldest son, Jared and me with a cooking class at The Chopping Block which is a wonderful cooking school and gourmet shop at Lincoln Square in Chicago. (See the link at the left) This was my second class there,  and the first for Jared — hopefully there will be many more.

One of the recipes that we prepared was this soup, and it is to die for. It uses fall and winter vegetables, is very healthy, and is hearty enough to be a complete meal. The combination of spices creates a rich, unique and complex flavor palette. Jared and I couldn’t wait to try this at home, which we both did the week after the class. It is certainly going to be a fall and winter favorite. Many thanks to The Chopping Block for this wonderful recipe.


Spicy Chickpea and Leek Soup with Kale
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Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 4 main servings. 6-8 appetizer sixed servings.

Spicy Chickpea and Leek Soup with Kale


  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, well-cleaned and tender green and white parts cut into medium dice
  • 1 parsnip, scrubbed well and cut into medium dice (about 1/4 X 1/4 inch)
  • 1 carrot, scrubbed well and cut into medium dice
  • 1 Tbsp. of fresh ginger, grated or finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron
  • 1 medium sweet potato peeled and cut into medium dice
  • 1 bunch kale, tough stems removed and torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas (Garabanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste (about 1/2 lemon)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley rough chopped.


  1. Heat a deep heavy pot over medium heat and add the olive oil.
  2. Gently saute the leek, carrot and parsnip until lightly carmelized, about 7-8 minutes. Be careful not to burn the vegetables.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin, cinnamon, and curry powder, and cook an additional minute or so until the spices are toasted.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook an additional minute.
  5. Stir in the stock, saffron and sweet potato, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the sweet potatoes are almost done.
  6. Mix in the kale and continue to cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add the chickpeas and cook until just warmed through.
  8. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste, stir in the parsley and serve.
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Mar 262012

When I was growing up, despite being immersed in Hungarian cookery, no one in the family ever made Hungarian Goulash. I guess it wasn’t part of the Northern Hungarian cuisine.

When Jared and Izabella went to Hungary a couple of years ago, Jared had Gulyas cooked over an open fire at the farm of Izabella’s uncle. The next Christmas, Jared asked for a Bogracs (cooking pot) and a tripod, which he received. We finally tried it out with Jared and Izabella making us Gulyas Leves just as Izabella’s family made it in Romania. The recipe is a bit loose so adjust the quantities according to your taste. You don’t have to cook it over a fire (but that’s the fun part), a pot on the stove will work , but you’ll lose the smokey flavor that comes from the fire. Enjoy!

Gulyas Leves (Goulash Soup)
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  • 5 or 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp.caraway seeds
  • Olive or Canola oil
  • 1-2 lbs. of beef roast, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika or more (Don't skimp!)
  • Water
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 4 or 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 or 2 parsley roots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, tied together
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 lbs. of potatoes, peeled and cubed


  1. Cook the bacon in the pot over high heat until the grease starts to render.
  2. Add the onion, parsley root, garlic, and caraway seeds and cook for a couple minutes until the onion begins to brown.
  3. Add the meat and brown on all sides, adding a bit of oil if necessary.
  4. Remove from heat and cover with thin layer of paprika and stir (IMPORTANT!!! Heating the paprika too much will cause it to turn bitter, so make sure to remove the pot from the heat. Don't skimp on the paprika, it is what makes this dish red and gives it its flavor)
  5. Add water to cover the ingredients and place back on heat.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add the small bunch of parsley, tied for easy removal later, and the bay leaves.
  8. Add the carrots.
  9. Cook for 2-3 hours.
  10. Finally add potatoes and cook until the potatoes are done.
  11. Remove parsley and bay leaves and serve.


Can be served with hot Hungarian peppers added as a garnish.

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Jun 172011

This is an end of summer recipe when the garden is yielding more bounty than you know what to do with. It is a great summer meal served with fresh cornbread. I went through many Gazpacho recipes and finally developed this one after lots of experimentation. This is a wonderful way to celebrate the gift of summer and the abundance of the earth with family and friends.

Señor Marc’s Gazpacho
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Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


  • 1 49 ½ oz. Can of chicken broth. (Yes, it’s a strange number but that’s how it is sold. Substitute vegetable broth for vegetarian or Vegan)
  • 3 Cucumbers, seeded, peeled and diced.
  • 1 Large onion, diced
  • 3 Large green peppers, diced.
  • 1 Hot banana pepper, diced
  • 10-15 Large tomatoes, diced
  • 4 Avocados, not overly ripe.
  • 10 Garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¾ c Oregano leaves, chopped fine
  • ½ c Olive oil.
  • ½ c Chopped almonds (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Ice cubes


  1. Heat chicken broth to boiling.
  2. Add 3 chopped tomatoes, 3 chopped garlic cloves and ¼ of the oregano. Simmer for ½ hour.
  3. Dice the remaining vegetables and mix with the oregano in a large bowl, except the garlic and hot pepper.
  4. Blend the oil almonds, garlic and hot pepper in the food processor until well pureed. Pour over the vegetable mixture and toss until well blended.
  5. Cool the broth mixture with the ice cubes and pour over the vegetables.
  6. Chill before serving.
  7. Garnish with jalapeño peppers, almonds and green onions if desired.


Garnish with jalapeño peppers, almonds and green onions if desired. You'll definitely want to serve this with fresh cornbread.

You can substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth if you want to be totaly vegetarian.

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