I couldn't help but think of that line from T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" -.... "April is the cruelest month..."Next time spring decides to stage a comeback, I'll be ready. Meanwhile, I'll console myself with this vegetable salad that, no matter the weather, always puts a smile on my face.

I would ordinarily, at this time of year, write something about being in the home stretch, spring just around the corner and daylight savings on the horizon. However, the snow outside my window this Presidents Day in Chicago, is blowing at white-out levels. More comfort food is what I crave - spring/schming!

Many of my friends don't cook anymore. They entertain in different ways with lovely drinks parties, visits to a favorite restaurant, or other outings somewhere in the city, but (alas) no longer with dinner parties at home.

Over the years, I've often served crostini with pre-dinner drinks or at cocktail parties, but I never thought of using them as accompaniments to soup until one of my brilliant friends did so recently at lunch.

Not to take anything away from our turkey and trimmings and those great leftovers, for the other nights at home during this hectic holiday time, you might try one of these truly delicious winter pastas.

Recently, a very inventive friend of mine had an important birthday. To celebrate, she invited a dozen women friends to the Williams-Sonoma store on Chicago's Michigan Avenue for a sous vide cooking demonstration and supper.

Chicago's late September weather has been glorious - literally strings of cloudless, sunshiny days with highs in the mid to high 70's. The deep blue skies look like those one sees in California, and I have a yen for Mexican food shared on a beach at sunset, a light sweater over the shoulders and an ice-cold Margarita in the hand.

It was pretty much as I had hoped. A collection of colleges,some as early as the 13th century, the ancient brick buildings still resplendent through the ages, the chapels seemingly resonating with the choirs of centuries past, the great clocks chiming the hour as we walked through parts of Cambridge University.

My local organic farmers' market in Lincoln Park gets more interesting each week as the growing season heats up. Gorgeous vegetables beg to be taken home and combined in this delicious pasta dish, which is exactly what I did. Hope you will, too!

One recent morning, while making my grocery list, I peered into the fridge to see what was what, veggie-wise. Spying a few leftover red carrots and a bunch of green onions from the Farmers' Market, an untouched box of shittake mushrooms and, in a little plastic bag, some fresh ginger that ha…

Now that Mother Nature has finally made up her mind, we can all get out and plant our patio flowers and the annuals in our herb garden. What we want more than anything else is time outdoors in the sunshine and nothing labor-intensive in the kitchen.

When spring won't settle down, I comfort myself by planning menus for meals I'd like to make when we're finished with all this nonsense. Here's a lunch I will definitely serve some spring weekend when there are friends or family here for lunch.

Olives are as old as the history of man. As Mort Rosenblum mentions in his book, "Olives" (North Park Press, 1998), Greek athletes lubricated their bodies with olive oil and the first Olympic flame was a burning oil bough. The Romans even had a separate stock market and merchant marine for o…

A couple of days ago I made hash with some corned beef left over from St. Patrick's Day. My hash is good, but doesn't touch my brother's who makes the best I've ever tasted, hands down. I also recall the red flannel hash from my New England childhood - not a favorite - (the hash, not the chi…

Saint Patrick's Day again - incredibly fast it seems. As always I've given a nod here to my favorite Irish author, the late Moira Laverty, who wrote so lovingly of the people and the goings-on in her small village, Ballyderrig.

Mornings are brighter, sunsets are later and, in spite of the rash of snowstorms, I like to think of this time of year as the "home stretch". Within a couple of weeks we'll be turning our clocks ahead in anticipation of spring. Meanwhile, more hibernation is fine with me, especially when sha…

The meteorologists tell us we are more than half-way through winter. I'm sure those on the east coast would bitterly scoff at that as they continue to dig themselves out. We Chicagoans, however, have had it easy and find such weather statements believable. I'm getting bored with so much hear…

Writer, Bellamy Partridge, the father of one of my school friends, wrote a novel when I was about 14 entitled "January Thaw". I thought about that book this morning...not just because it was one of the first truly grown-up books I'd ever read, but because of how Januarys were back then.

January, I've been told, is soup month, but I don't need a special month in which to make a pot of soup in the winter. I adore soup - especially heart-warming, soul-soothing Ribollita which could very well be my favorite, as it is Mario Batali's. The second soup, Golden Vegetable, is suppose…

I was lucky enough one weekend this Fall to be a houseguest of a true (and fellow) biscuit lover. Nothing frozen out of a can for that lady; biscuits were from scratch and heavenly, reminding me very much of those my paternal grandmother used to make.

Years ago, when I was writing a weekly cooking column for an Indiana newspaper, I apparently wrote more about potatoes than I realized. I still love them to this day but back then, they were kind of a passion. “A Passion for Potatoes” was even the title of one of my columns. As my photo ran …

My favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the array of side dishes, and I know I’m not alone, but let’s remember, they are not only for “The Bird.” Try them any time this winter with roast pork loin or a baked ham and you’ll be happy you did. Here is a dressing baked until crisp and crunchy…

Overnight, the weather in Chicago dropped from a balmy 75 degrees to the 40’s. Shivering on my way home from my exercise class this morning, all I could think of was hot soup – and how long until lunch. Gratins are another terrific comfort food in cold weather, but we always tend to make the…

Give me a ripe, juicy pear with a wedge of Cheddar on a crisp fall day and I am happy. Combine pears with fennel and cream in a velvety soup and I am blissful. Dice them into a colorful holiday relish and I will drift to the stratosphere. And if awaiting me at home are pears baked with butte…

Here are two autumnal soups to try – both gorgeous in color, creamy in texture, comforting on a brisk or rainy day. Three things you should know: First, while delicious on the day they are made, these soups are even better if made the day before and allowed to hang out, covered, in the fridg…

One of the boons of September, my favorite month, is the bounty at the farmers’ markets. The heirloom tomatoes have a depth of flavor that make them irresistible; even some of the late melons beg to be taken home and wrapped in prosciutto (I like this for breakfast).

These late summer days are my favorites as they lead into beautiful September. Our family grills a great deal and takes advantage of the bountiful produce still at its peak in the farmers markets. These unusual burgers especially lend themselves to platters of fresh ripe tomatoes with basil …

While “the livin’ is easy,” I continue to search for ways to make it even more so by finding easy vegetable salad partners for grilled main courses. The three below are old friends of mine. I’ve been serving them for years and they never disappoint – lively, colorful and a lot more interesti…

Last weekend, I braved Chicago’s heat to visit my Lincoln Park farmers’ market. I figure if they can all stand there for hours in 90 degrees, the least I can do is show up, if only for a little. The plum tomatoes were a perfect, brilliant red and the Red Fury peaches from Michigan were fragr…