I love Logan Square. Having lived in various Chicago north side neighborhoods over a 13 year span, this one is by far my favorite. It’s come a long way. During the Ice Age when I was in law school, Logan Square was a cheap place to live, if only you were willing to risk your life. It had none of the bohemian allure of bordering Bucktown despite the tree-lined historic boulevards running right through the square.
Two reasons I adore Logan Square are the farmers market and the lauded Lula Café. While the farmers market isn’t Green City Market (yet), the sense of community is unparalleled. The farmers, shoppers and entertainers come every Sunday rain or shine. The treasure here is the ability to connect directly with the farmers who are happy to see you patronize their stall. Christina and Rob are those farmers. Their produce is exquisite. The harvest is laid out weekly like works of art. The vibrant colors of vegetables dazzle your eye while tempting your tongue. If I’m missing an ingredient, I head straight to the Montalbano tent. Lucky for me, they nearly always have what I want. This past weekend, I picked up a large bunch of organic mixed kale – curly and dinosaur. I knew exactly what I was going to make…the beet bruschetta my husband and I devoured at Lula Café a few weeks earlier.
Lula Café has been a part of my life for nearly as long as I’ve been married. My husband and I started going shortly after it opened and have joyful watched it evolve from a pioneering neighborhood eatery into the prominent Logan Square destination it is today. I’ve never had a bad meal here, and of course, I enjoy that Chef Jason Hammel recognizes us from the many years of patronage and greets us warmly. When we go, we generally stick to the specials featuring local organic fare whether it is brunch or dinner because we know it’s unlikely we’ll have the chance to try them again with the revolving seasonal menu. However, on a recent dinner outing, my husband suggested the beet bruschetta from the regular café menu. It arrived and within minutes we had polished off the hearty appetizer. For weeks, we talked about that appetizer. We couldn’t stop thinking about the smoky almonds sprinkled over diced beets and crisp kale. I knew I wanted to replicate it. Thanks to fabulous ingredients and my husband’s patience, I finally made the bruschetta this week. Needless to say, there isn’t any left.
Every crunchy bite is like a love letter from Logan Square.
- 3 cups julienned (shredded) kale
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette, divided
- Salt, to taste
- 1 ½ cups diced cooked beets
- ¼ cup chopped smoked almonds
- 12 baguette slices
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil for brushing
- In a medium bowl, toss kale and 1 1/2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Taste and season with salt as desired. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
- In a separate bowl combine beets, almonds (reserving a bit for garnish) and the remaining vinaigrette. Toss gently to coat the mixture but keeping the beet cubes intact. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed.
- Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. While pan is heating, brush both sides of each baguette slice with olive oil. Grill each side in pan until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side, being careful not to burn the bread. Let slices cool slightly so the cheese won't melt when applied.
- Spread each baguette slice with the softened goat cheese, layer with beets and press slightly to allow beets to stick to cheese. Top with kale and garnish with chopped almonds. Serve immediately.
- The kale and beets can be tossed with the vinaigrette one day ahead of time, but keep them in separate bowls so as not to stain the kale. Also, add the almonds right before serving or they will become soft.
- An herb goat cheese adds a wonderful flavor to the mix or a spreadable cheese like alouette.