Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Favorite Things

Ahhh, December. What a wet and weary, dreary, dreary December we’ve been having here in Philadelphia. I rant and wail about how much I hate winter-time—and for the most part, its true—but there’s some things that I remember from winters past that stick with me in pleasing memories. Like curling up in a warm bed in the warm darkness of a winter’s morning. Like hot chocolate. Like those beautiful, clear clear clear, blue days that are sunny and bitingly cold. Yeah, you know those days. The kinds of days that we just haven’t had yet.

Winter, I must admit, is getting me down. So here’s a list of my three most recent food favorites:

1) Wisconsin Mammoth cheddar cheese from Whole Foods. I don’t know what it is about this cheese. It is yellow and creamy with enough of a bite to satisfy that cheese craving. It is delightful. Delicious. I can barely keep it in my fridge long enough to share it with my cheese-loving girlfriend.

2) Tuscan bread from Whole Foods. I am actually a very picky bread eater. I don’t often eat it because I tend to be very unimaginative. But when I was grocery shopping at my local Whole Foods last weekend, I decided I wanted a nice loaf. Something freshly baked. Something smooth and delightful—not too chewy—not whole grain. I saw the Tuscan loaf and it looked just perfect. And it was, as light and airy as it was, with a delicious aftertaste of olive oil. Oh, it was. I almost ate half of the loaf when I got home. The Tuscan loaf is well on its way to being a staple.

3) Endless Feasts: 60 years of writing from Gourmet Magazine, edited by Ruth Reichl. What a lovely set of essays. Many of them hark back to ages past with much different theories about food—even as recently as the 1970s. This day and age looks at food so much and often seems to not really see it. You should read this book, though. Its yummy.

Oh! I lied! There’s 4 things on my list!

4) The shortbread recipe that I will be baking tonight. More on that later!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Quick Thanksgiving Rundown

Well, here I am--back at work after a glorious 4 day holiday weekend. Of course, I'm updating the blog instead of catching up on work-related emails, tasks, and reading other blogs...

I had 2 Thanksgivings (I'm mighty grateful for THAT in and of itself):

The first at my aunt's house in North Carolina included:
-Roast turkey marinated over night in apple cider and apple brandy, served with apple cider and thyme gravey
-potato gratin with parmesan, onions, and mushrooms
-something that involved butternut squash that I didn't eat but was apparently undercooked
-brussels sprouts (fast becoming one of my favortie vegetables) sauteed in butter with shallots and lemon
-three different types of bread, including pumpkin cranberry bread and pan rustico
-and for dessert: pumpkin custard pie, tres leches cake, cranberry bread, and homemade pecan pie. The pumpkin custard and the tres leches were to DIE for.

The second at my mother's house in Virginia:
-Good old-fashioned roast turkey. Yum.
-"In the bird" stuffing which featured onions and sausage--one of my FAVORITE Thanksgiving foods
-carrots cooked with butter and brown sugar
-homemade mashed potatoes
-homemade pumpkin pie
-Did I mention the Rum Cream Pie??

All in all, two lovely Thanksgivings. As I have gained about 10 pounds in the past week, I think I'll be eating salads for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned as I attempt to make holiday treats for my friends and family! I hope y'all had wonderful, filling, fattening, and safe Thanksgivings.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mercury in Retrograde

Well, here we are—almost the middle of November and my plate is still festooned with culinary failures. Well, one failure and one success. Mercury is still in retrograde (has been since the middle of October and responsible for all sorts of celestial mishaps) and will be until around the 17th. Even if Mercury’s path across the zodiac has nothing to do with my cooking skills, I’m going to blame him all the same.

Last week, I attempted a frittata. A simple one. Zucchini and pecorino. You’d think that a girl can’t wrong with some eggs and a few simple ingredients. I certainly thought that. Little did I know…

I ruined it. Absolute disaster. Burnt the outside while the middle remained, to the bitter end, absolutely uncooked, runny egg. My pan was too small. My heat was apparently too high. But these are mistakes I have made before and from which I have been able to recover. But not so this time. I think that was one of the worst cooking disasters of mine yet—especially when you considered the mess I had made. I had egg all over my kitchen and almost all over me.

So, dear readers, you will be happy to know that the next night I got back on the horse and tried something else new. And this was a success! I made quinoa. I’ve never really eaten this grain, but have wanted to get into it because of its healthy qualities. I’m a big pasta fan but try not to eat too much. Quinoa, a grain that has much more protein than most others, is a good substitute in some of the recipes I make and also gives me a wider range of dishes at which to try my hand. I think next time I’m going to try making quinoa in chicken or vegetable broth to give it a little extra flavor.

So. Thus far, my quest for a repertoire has only been a little successful. I have gained a staple but not too many ideas of what to do with it.

Stay tuned for next week: I have a celebratory birthday dinner that I’m making this weekend that I’m sure will be a success!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Repertoires and other musings

Long time, no entry. Oops.

I haven’t been cooking much recently—a busy schedule and a lack of foresight are the obstacles that seem to get standing in my way. Twice in a row now—twice!—I’ve gone to grocery store with out a list of any kind. I haven’t really given any forethought to what I want to make—which is good sometimes, for spontaneity’s sake but can also be bad (especially when it results in the strange mess of veggies that I sautéed last night and ate over whole wheat bread).

I am not a very spontaneous person. I like to plan things, to know where I stand, whether in the kitchen or out of it. I like the simplicity and straightforward nature of following a recipe. I’m not fond of tweaking, at least not at first. But what really restricts me when it comes to cooking is something else I lack: a repertoire.

I only seriously started cooking for myself about a year and a half ago. Before that I would half-heartedly make cookies and spend several days each summer churning out cups of pesto for the winter’s freezer, but that was really the extent of my interest. I don’t really have a basis for my cooking—there are very few dishes that I can make off the top of my head without a recipe. Sometimes I think this is a good thing—it means I’ll be constantly trying new things. But on a cold and tired Monday evening, when all I have is a handful of okra, tomatoes, onion, and frozen asparagus spears (I have more than that, I promise, but I wasn’t in the mood for it or it didn’t lend itself to the veggies)—it would’ve been nice to have a fall back.

I won’t lie—I’m certainly getting there. I have a tomato sauce recipe under my belt that is both rich and creamy and ridiculously easy to make (I stole the recipe from Orangette, who in turn took it from the talented Marcella Hazan). I have my sautéed fallback—a wonderful, easy dinner that consists of whatever I have lying around sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley. I often put it over pasta, but bread, salad greens, or by itself works just as well. But that’s really it.

So. It seems clear to me that my next step is to work on my repertoire—be on the lookout in the coming weeks and months as I try to build one! We’ll see how successful this will be. At the moment, I’ve been eyeing recipes for frittatas, salad dressings, and quick chicken or turkey dishes. But I also want to experiment much much more with soups and pasta dishes, explore the world of quinoa, and maybe even branch out into baking desserts and breads. I’m also narrowing down my interests in cuisines—after several attempts to be fascinated by French cooking, I find that it just doesn’t resonate with me. I think Italian and Indian are those that most catch my interest. But we’ll see. I’m hoping that my horizons expand beyond my expectations. Any suggestions or help would be much appreciated—leave words of wisdom in the comments!

Friday, October 5, 2007

My Stomach Overfloweth with Grease (or: what not to eat, by Queasy)

As you can probably tell by Cheesy’s last post, she has quite the penchant for those food carts. And for good reason too—they’re cheap, readily available, and they always smell so tempting. Being a tad snobbish, I have always stubbornly walked past them, mostly due my mother’s incessant talk of the value of “real” food that has been ingrained into my conscious meal choices. But food is food, right? Are not all eggs valued equal? Should not a hungry woman indulge every once in awhile? What’s in a bad egg? All important questions to ponder.

On the subject of eggs, I have been craving them for weeks. Too lazy / too hassled to cook, I have been tempted by the wafting smell of breakfast carts along Market Street ever since I began my new job. I held out for over three months before I had enough. An egg sandwich for $1.25? I couldn’t believe my eyes. If the price was right, how bad could it be?

Indeed, it certainly looked wonderful. Two eggs on a huge hoagie roll, with ketchup on top. I could go on forever about the value of ketchup and hot sauce (which I recently discovered after moving to Philadelphia), but that is a topic for another post. I was hungry, so it probably tasted better than it actually was. Delightful nonetheless. I vowed to never neglect eggs again!

Less than one hour later, the stomach pains began, which curbed my appetite for the rest of the day (but rest assured, did not stop me from eating lunch). I was annoyed, to say the least. What could it have been? Ketchup, eggs, a roll…what went wrong?? Perhaps I DID get a bad egg. More likely, it was probably the grease that did me in. As I have grown older, I have sadly learned that my stomach is not as…supple…as it used to be. Gone are the days of yore when I could eat an entire bag of Doritos and still eat dinner without an issue. I still love the smell of those food trucks, but I will not be returning to purchase a $1.25 egg sandwich any time soon.

Regretfully yours,


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Upheaval, Distress, and Street Food

Hello, poor readers. This blog of ours has been neglected of late, hasn’t it? We do apologize, but life has gotten in the way recently. (What do you mean, life got in the way? How does life get in the way of eating??) Well, life doesn’t get in the way of eating, but it certainly gets in the way of cooking.

Cheesy and Queesy have been having quite a time, indeed. One of us has been traveling all over the East Coast on the weekends and she has her own tales of foods good and bad. I have just been dealing with apartment woes. Remember the new apartment that I waxed poetic about a couple of entries ago? The one with the spacious and sunny kitchen? Well, it did not turn into the long-term home that I hoped it would be. What with badly cooked fish and crazy roommates, Cheesy is on the move again, this time to a tiny studio in a big high rise in the Art Museum area of Philadelphia.

Due to the high level of discomfort in that apartment, I have not spent much time in the kitchen, which saddens me to no end. You see, when I’m really upset, I don’t eat that much because my stomach hurts. But when some of that stress has abated but I’m still troubled in spirit, I eat. I would have loved to sit down with a bowl of pasta tossed with a little olive oil and the last of summer’s fresh tomatoes and soft, slightly melted mozzarella cheese. Or made a large pot of soup and read while it simmered gently on the stove. Instead, I’ve been studiously avoiding the awkward apartment and, when I’m actually there, keeping to my room (which is no where near the kitchen).

So, there have been very few chances to play with new or old recipes. But I have been exploring the exciting world of……street food!

Philadelphia—especially the area around the University of Pennsylvania’s campus where I work—is absolutely teeming with food trucks and vendors. My favorite so far is the Mexi-Philly burrito truck, located on Spruce somewhere between 36th and 38th. This truck offers several different kinds of burritos, including tofu, eggplant, and roasted pepper. But my favorite by far is the $2.25 bean burrito that is both tasty and filling. For so little money, you get a nice sized burrito with refried and blacks beans, rice, cheese, and your choice of fresh salsa inside it. If you’re not up for a burrito, right next door is the crepe truck that offers both sweet and savory crepes for about $5. There is a myriad other cuisines offered, from Chinese to Middle Eastern (there are several great falafel trucks) to your normal hoagies, hot dogs, and fries. And, as always, there’s the inevitable and invaluable Wawa!

Eating cheaply has always been a challenge for me. But, through self-imposed exile from my own kitchen, I think I’m starting to learn the art.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Eating the Amish

Food is the great equalizer. Everyone needs to eat to stay alive, everyone experiences hunger. However, we all eat different things. Food is very indicative of the customs, traditions, and belief systems of different cultures and I find it simply fascinating to learn how/what other people eat. That being said, I decided to take a little adventure out to Pennsylvania Dutch Country this weekend to accomplish two things: ride in an Amish buggy and eat traditional Amish food. Check and check.

I had done extensive research (read as: checked a few web pages at work) on what the Amish eat. They eat foods that are laden in calories and fat in order to sustain them when they are hard at work in the fields. Vegetarians and the health conscious beware. But apparently the Amish have long life spans, so they must be immune to the artery-clogging that plagues the rest of us unfortunate Americans…?

They are a hearty people and so is their cuisine. They are of the fried chicken and potatoes persuasion, but it was the desserts that particularly interested me. Pie seemed to be the Amish dessert of choice and we had quite a selection that ranged from all the fruits to other denser, sugary fillings. With names like woopie pie, bear claws, and shoo-fly pie, how could you go wrong? Though there was an unfortunate deficiency of chocolate in Amish grub, sugar and sweets abound in traditional bakeries that seemingly present themselves every few feet on the road.

Our fearless group indulged in shoo-fly pie, an almond bear claw, and a sugar-free cranberry loaf for good measure. The Amish are best known for their shoo-fly pie, which is a simple, though fulfilling, dessert. It is basically a pie that is stuffed with no more than dark molasses and sugar, which oozed out of the side of the crust with the consistency of glue. Though I was initially hesitant about how it would taste, I found that the gooey, molten molasses was actually quite tasty (though very sweet). It had a very flaky and crumbly crust that broke easily, but it was easily harnessed onto my fork thanks to the paste-like consistency of the molasses.

Although I left Lancaster, PA with a stomachache, I think that the lesson here is clear: if you are going to eat your way through Amish country, do not eat a bar of chocolate for breakfast before you go.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Success and Failure--Cheesy Style

I simply adore my new neighborhood. I love Philly anyway, but, I swear—this is true love. The tree-lined streets, the three-story houses, moms and dads pushing their kids on bicycles to schools…it’s simply lovely. And it really has the feel of a real neighborhood. One where you learn people’s names and recognize them on the street, instead just joining the faceless thousands of people who walk the streets of Philadelphia.

Did this all of a sudden become a different kind of blog, you ask? Are these two girls not going to discuss food anymore? Don’t worry. It’s still about food. The friendly nature of my new neighborhood got to me—that and the fact that my room is mostly put together now—and I entertained for the first time. My lovely blogging counterpart Queesy came to my house for an “oops, we’re Jewish and missed the high holidays!” dinner.

Our menu was not ambitious, not ambitious at all. My lovely counterpart brought apples and honey so we could celebrate a sweet new year as well as a cucumber and a beautiful perfectly ripe tomato for an Israeli inspired salad. I was going to do one of my favorite things: roast a chicken. I was also going to reach back to my Southern roots and make cheesy, creamy, oh-so-delightful grits. We also made a quick side trip to my neighborhood wine and spirits store and bought a bottle of Chianti. Not so much for the pairing, just because we both like red wine and wanted to explore the Chianti world.

So we had the wine, the apples, the unambitious menu. I prepared the chicken and put it into the oven, seriously tempting fate as this was the first time I had tried this oven out. We ate the salad: the cool cucumber and the juicy tomato tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper. It was heavenly—just the right fresh start after a long day. The coolness also suited us as the oven heated up the kitchen while the chicken roasted.

Everything was going great…until the grits came. Up until this time, I worried mainly about the chicken. Why would I need to worry about the grits? I’ve been eating them for years. Until I remembered that I always always used measuring cups and spoons whenever I made grits. And I don’t have any in my new apartment (believe me, they’re on my list now). Grits do not lend themselves to ‘winging it.’ Instead of being hot and creamy, tangy with pepper and sharp cheddar cheese, my grits were watery, runny, and ultimately inedible.

Thank goodness my roommate had made rice and was willing to share.

To add insult to injury (in a sulky way), there was no reason that I should have worried about the chicken. None at all! It came out beautifully. The skin was crisp and golden and melted like butter (admittedly, that’s essentially what it was) in your mouth. The meat was tender and juicy, and the whole bird was essentially divine. I wish I had time to boil it down for stock, but this week is a little busy for me. I am, however, looking forward to making chicken salad tonight for tomorrow’s lunch.

The moral of this story? Don’t trust a transplanted southern girl when she says she knows how to makes grits. Because—at least in my personal experience—she might be lying to you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Cheesy Family

My family, like my counterpart’s, is rather entrenched in the culinary arts. Take my immediate family, for example: my mother has been cooking amazing dishes for as along as I can remember and my father, after decided to live an organic, vegetarian lifestyle, taught himself to cook in ways that are healthy and environmentally friendly. My older sister was making soufflés and a mean crème brulee at a very young age. I was actually a late bloomer where cooking is involved—it took me till after my 3rd year of college to really get into it.

Then there’s my extended family. My aunt and uncle down in Georgia will cook multi-course meals at family reunions (there’s between 30 and 50 of all us!!). My father’s sister collects different kinds of salt and uses them to brine the turkey at Thanksgiving (it goes so well with the potatoes mashed with mascarpone cheese). My bubbe (my paternal grandmother) made the BEST noodle kuggel I’ve ever tasted. I know that every good Jewish girl says that, but this time it’s true. I swear.

Then there’s my grandfather—my mother’s father. We called him Grampy-Dad. Did he have some cooking stories! All of us grandkids used to sit down with him in the TV room of my grandparents’ house in Annapolis, Maryland and eat Fritos and dip and watch TV and nap. On Sunday mornings, he would make pancakes and dried beef gravy. I have never eaten dried beef gravy that can even come close to Grampy-Dad’s. It was creamy and savory with the salty bite from the dried beef to counteract the sweetness of the pancakes. He would stand over my mother’s shoulder—and mine when it was my turn last year—and make sure we roasted the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys just right. He was an adventuresome cook sometimes, but almost always returned to the food that he was raised on. Good Southern home-cooking with lots of grits for breakfast.

Grampy-Dad also had his idiosyncrasies and quirks when it came to food. He abhorred carrots. He had a strong appreciation for good French cooking, especially vichyssoise. He once spent an entire summer trying to make a watermelon pie—he was ultimately unsuccessful.

“You know why?” he asked me when he told me the story.

“Why, Grampy-Dad?” I replied.

“Its too damn watery!” (This said with a grin of impish delight).

But what I remember most vividly was his choice of beverage—one that I’ve inherited. Almost every evening that I’ve ever seen, Grampy-Dad sat down to a Beefeater gin martini with 3 olives on the rocks. No vermouth. Nothing but ice, cold gin, and green olives. I remember eating those gin soaked olives as a child and I also remember when I was finally old enough to join in this ritual. It was almost like a rite of passage. I remember my mother telling me about when Grampy-Dad finally let her join him. While it was a casual enough situation, I felt like I was following in the footsteps of my mother when I took that first, bitterly cold sip.

Grampy-Dad passed away last Thursday night in his sleep. The fibrosis of his heart and lungs had been getting pretty bad—he was frailer than I had ever seen him when I joined him to celebrate his birthday in early August. I spent the weekend in a whirlwind of family: eating, drinking, mourning, and remembering. My grandfather was a good man—an amazing, intelligent, and warm-hearted man. As we ate his favorite foods and drank his favorite drinks this weekend, I realized what was missing.

So last night, on my walk home from work, I picked up a bottle of Beefeater. I poured it into a tumbler with ice and 3 green olives and then I sat down at my kitchen table and drank Grampy-Dad’s martini and remembered him.

I miss you, Grampy-Dad. May you rest in peace.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I am a poser-vegetarian. Meaning, that when trying to decide between the cheeseburger and the black pinto bean burger, nine times out of ten I'll go with the veggie option. This is primarily for health reasons and to rationalize the ice cream that I had eaten for breakfast. I say "poser vegetarian" because I sometimes get the urge to transform my (admittedly preppy) self into one of those skinny-jeans-wearing, tofu-loving hipster chicks that frequent my West Philadelphia 'hood.

So, where do the vegetarian hippies and hipsters go when they crave a hoagie, one of the staples of the Philadelphian's diet? They flock to the Fu Wah Market, located on 47 th and Baltimore Ave., where they can purchase one of the famous tofu hoagies for a mere $3.00 and change. Personally, I have been dying to go to this place for ages. It's cheap, quick, and convenient, but some of my die-hard carnivore friends bemoan the bastardization of their precious hoagie when I beg them to join me in my quest.

Last night, however, I got my chance. When I sat down to unwrap my hoagie, I discovered a pleasantly spicy and fresh cilantro smell wafting from the wrapping. Thanks to the Vietnamese-influence of the Fu Wah owners, the spices were incredible. Sweet onions and tiny slices of carrot garnished the top of the hoagie roll. I had never tasted such sweet onions in my life! To compliment the sweetness, a few lone jalapeño peppers lay hidden under the layers of fried tofu, which made for a tantalizing combination of sweet and (very) spicy. Of course, one could ask the hoagie-makers to hold the peppers, but I do so enjoy living on the edge. The tofu itself had been marinated in some type of cilantro-Asian/fusion mixture and then fried, but the firmness of the tofu had not been ruined by the marinade.

The only caveat that I have with the "tofugie" is that the bread was sub-par. The white bread (I usually prefer wheat) was too crusty and mundane for my liking. Bread can definitely make or break a sandwich and this hoagie roll sadly didn't do the tofu justice. But for a mere $3, I'd return to this vegetarian's heaven again and again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hoagies or subs?

–noun, plural -gies. New Jersey and Pennsylvania (chiefly Philadelphia ).
a hero sandwich.
Also, hoagie.

[Origin: 1965–70, Americanism; a number of anecdotal hypotheses have been advanced as to the orig. of the word, most claiming it to be derivative of hog, either in reference to pork as an ingredient, or as an epithet for a person capable of eating such a sandwich, or alluding to Hog Island, an industrial and shipping area of South Philadelphia; but corroborating evidence is lacking; see
-ie ]

Cheesy here. Its been a busy week and will only get busier: I’m moving out of University City—escaping the returning UPenn students—and into the Graduate Hospital area of Center City. There has not been much in the way of culinary adventures or experiments in the kitchen. I’ve finally lost most of my patience with my present kitchen—small, dirty, badly stocked. That’s what I get for a sublet!

So I decided: instead of an account of a fine dish in a restaurant or one of my own failures or successes, I’d ruminate on something that’s been bothering me ever since I came from Virginia to the Philadelphia area: the word hoagie.

In my youth, I always knew this fine specimen of a sandwich to be a ‘sub’, short for submarine. So I looked submarine up, along with hoagie, at

The long sandwich featuring layers of meat and cheese on a crusty Italian roll or French bread goes by a variety of names. These names are not distributed in a pattern similar to that of other regional words because their use depends on the business and marketing enterprise of the people who create the sandwiches and sell them. Submarine and sub are widespread terms, not assignable to any particular region. Many of the localized terms are clustered in the northeast United States, where the greatest numbers of Italian Americans live. In Maine, it is called an Italian sandwich, befitting its heritage. Elsewhere in New England and in Sacramento, California, it is often called a grinder. New York City knows it as a hero. In the Delaware Valley, including Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, the sandwich is called a hoagie. Speakers in Miami use the name Cuban sandwich. Along the Gulf Coast the same sandwich is often called a poor boy. In New Orleans, a poor boy is likely to be offered in a version featuring fried oysters.

When I was still in college—this was about 3 years ago during my sophomore year when I was courting my first girlfriend—I would say, “Gosh, I’d like to eat an Italian sub right now.” I’d get a look. I would repeat myself, in case I was somehow misunderstood. Then I would get the inevitable response: “You mean, an Italian hoagie, right?”

This happened a few times, and every time I wondered, where did this strange word ‘hoagie’ come from? Why is Philadelphia so strange? So, today at work, I went looking for some answers. One is supplied above. Here’s another:

Amer.Eng. (originally Philadelphia) "hero, large sandwich made from a long, split roll," originally hoggie (c.1936), traditionally said to be named for Big Band songwriter Hoagland Howard "Hoagy" Carmichael (1899-1981), but the use of the word pre-dates his celebrity and the original spelling seems to suggest another source. Modern spelling is c.1945, and may have been altered by influence of Carmichael's nickname.

Wikipedia reports:
According to one reference[3], many older, Italian-descended, South Philadelphia residents, said that the real origin of the word "hoagie" arose in the late 19th-early 20th century, when there was a term "on the hoke" that was used to denote someone who was down-and-out. The word "hoke" may have been derived from a Scottish term, "howk," meaning "rummaging around." Men who were "on the hoke" would ask deli owners for handouts, who would put together scraps and off-cuts of their cheeses and meats and offer them in an Italian roll. The sandwich was known as a "hokie." The Italian immigrants, who spoke a slurred type of English, pronounced it as "hoagie."
Apparently, according to Mayor Ed Rendell, the hoagie if the official sandwich of Philadelphia (what? What happened to the famous Philly cheesesteak?). And May 5th is National Hoagie Day. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Friday, August 24, 2007

And now for....Queesy

It's a hard life, growing up in a family of extraordinary cooks. Why so difficult? Well, after years of being pampered/catered to, I had discovered that I had never learned how to cook for myself! However, this does not mean that I am…not inventive…with my own food concoctions:

Exhibit A: chocolate donut, circa 1999

Hypothesis: Chocolate is ALWAYS better when melted and gooey. Therefore, chocolate + donut + microwave = brilliant.

The burning and melting that ensued delayed my willingness to experiment with food for several more years. Which brings me to the present day…

…and the reason that I (as opposed to my cooking-inclined cohort) will be presenting the forthcoming column "What Not to Eat". Brace your stomachs, readers, you're in for a bumpy ride.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Call me Cheesy...

The chicken browned quite nicely and the shallots gave off their comforting smell as I prepared to pour in the chicken broth and white wine. Mmmm…this dish—braised chicken and red potatoes in a tarragon broth—had all the comforting smells of chicken soup with an added whiff of something more exotic. Of course, the exoticism could have been due to the tarragon or the fact that the white wine I had on hand to cook with was Carlo Rossi Chablis….

Since this is a first entry, I guess I should hold off on the food and talk about myself for a moment. I’m a (very) recent graduate from a women’s college and I’m living in Philadelphia for the time being as I work, muddle around the world, and decided what to do with myself. And I love food…talking about food, eating food, making food, looking at food, dreaming…you get the picture, right?

Now I’m not an expert chef, nor have I been cooking avidly for very long—only about a year. But I like to experiment and play with recipes, even if they do go badly sometimes (there’s a curry turkey dish that I made on accident that was special indeed…). And combined with my fellow cheeseordeath writer’s love of food (and our mutual passion for cheese), we decided it would be fun to give ourselves a forum by which we communicate our food joys and sorrows with the larger world. So here it is. Welcome to I’ll call myself Cheesy (it works, really it does).

So, the braised chicken dish actually turned out really well. It was like a mix between a stew and a soup—without being either in reality. It was aromatic and hot and comforting, really just like a slightly more sophisticated version of your grandma’s chicken soup (in fact, I made it for a friend—let’s call him the Critic—who said it reminded him of something homey and family-oriented but he couldn’t put his finger on it). It wasn’t too salty, and the chicken and potatoes were nice and tender. The broth, however, was the real kicker. It was SO GOOD. It was robustly delicate (if such a thing can happen) and full of flavor.

I liked this dish so much that I’m going to experiment with it. I think that beef, beef broth, and red wine would make a different, yet just as yummy, variation on the recipe. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll post the recipe later, if wanted. Make sure to serve with a nice piece of crusty bread!