Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Dying Year

Well, well, well, whatever happened to December? My December was swallowed up in Christmas/Chanukah shopping, a trip to New York City, and a truly regrettable stomach bug. So I haven't been eating much recently. But hopefully my tummy will be back in shape for New Year's celebrations.

I wonder if there is some sort of end of year meme for food blogs floating around out there, but I'm too lazy to look for it. Suffice it to say, I am grateful for all of your attention and readership, and I am also pleased to find my interest in this blog still going strong. So I'll be back in 2009!!

In the meantime, I wish you all a lovely and happy new year. May 2009 bring health, wealth, and joy, as well, of course, as an abundance of good food.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tofu Chronicles

Well, my friends, I have something thoroughly thrilling to tell you: I love alliteration.

Actually, that’s not what I had to tell you, but I thought it would be nice to let you know that tidbit about me as well. Anyway, my thoroughly thrilling news is this: I cooked tofu for the very first time. And I didn’t ruin it. And I loved it.

You know me, forever lacking in good, healthy forms of protein (cheese just doesn’t always count, you know?) Additionally, I’ve tried to give blood twice in the last 4 months and have had low iron counts each time. I don’t think I’m anemic to the point of needing to go to the doctor, but I don’t know that it’s a good sign either. So I’ve been thinking and looking around for iron-rich and protein-rich foods, especially ones that I can add to my lunch salads. There have, as late, been a lot of chick peas in my life.

I’ve never even been a big tofu fan. It can be slimy and sometimes tasteless. Asian flavors are also not really my favorite—as I’m sure you can tell, I generally favor Italian and other Western cuisines, along with a serious love for tex-mex and Indian. I mean, I have a soft spot in my heart for cheap Chinese, but I don’t think that really counts. I’m obsessed with tom yum soup (spicy, lemongrass-y Thai soup) and some Vietnamese, but on the whole, Asian cuisines are sort of low on my list.

I tweaked a recipe of Heidi Swanson’s, from 101 Cookbooks, for caramelized tofu with Brussels sprouts. She called for pecans and I had none on hand, and I wasn’t making the entire dish anyway, so I just made the tofu. You essentially heat some oil (I used olive, like I do for almost everything) and brown the tofu. Then toss in some tablespoons of brown sugar and let it all caramelize. The tofu ends up golden and sweet. I’ll probably cook it a little longer next week when I make this again, so it is crispier. I used Nasoya organic super firm cubed tofu, so that was probably why I avoided the dreaded sliminess.

I am going to wrap this post up (I should probably be doing actual work while I’m in the office) with a request. Give me more tofu recipes? Please? I am eager to expand my newly found tofu skills!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Guest Poster! The GF speaks

Blogger's Note: See, I told you I had a surprise. This year was not only the best Thanksgiving ever, but also the 1st time I've brought my significant other t0 Thanksgiving with my family. Brave of me, right? Here's what me dearest, darling GF has to report.

Like Cheesy said, Thanksgiving was just plain WOW. This was the first Thanksgiving I have spent south of the Mason-Dixon, and it was unbelievable. Now, while I certainly wasn't confronted with foods that I had never seen or heard of before (except for the dried-beef gravy and homemade biscuits, which darling Cheesy has kindly described in vivid detail), there were some subtle-yet-important differences between this Thanksgiving celebration and that of years past. I was born and raised in Connecticut, and lived an idyllic life there, galumphing with golden retrievers on autumn-speckled hillsides (much like any Lands End catalogue would suggest). Okay, so maybe that didn't happen, but you can sure tell I'm from New England. One of the most striking ways that this region asserts itself is through its food. And, in my newfound experience, Thanksgiving is very different in New England than the Thanksgiving I just enjoyed with Cheesy.

See where I'm going with this? It is a food blog, people.

In Thanksgivings past, I had become accustomed to certain dishes appearing annually, as most of us who celebrate this gluttonous holiday would expect. Some of these dishes include my mom's horseradish carrots (utterly delicious; round, thick carrot slices doused in a creamy horseradish sauce and baked in a round casserole dish with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs), pearled onions (wee tiny onions, about the size of your knuckle, smothered in cream), seriously tangy cranberry chutney with citrus rind, and these awesome AWESOME sweet potatoes, cut into generous chunks, mixed with similarly-chunked apples, apple cider, brown sugar and salt, and roasted.

Now, allow me a moment to contextualize. My mother, as Cheesy can attest, is a health-food nut. We only use margarine (never, NEVER butter), we only drink skim milk, and refined sugar is to be avoided. And while my mother will willingly cut loose on holidays (as the aforementioned recipes might suggest), she only lets a little bit hang out. Which means our Thanksgivings are a little on the lean side, calorie-wise. I thought Mom was being smart, and that I would never know the difference.


Mama Cheesy is an amazing cook, as we have seen in the breakfast posting my darling GF wrote. One would have to be an amazing cook to nearly-singlehandedly pull off a Thanksgiving for thirteen hungry folk. But good golly, the things that that woman whipped up were totally off my radar screen and out of this world. Let's start with the sides. You know you want to. As my dear Cheesy suggested, the mashed potatoes were unbelievable. I lent my relatively-muscular arm to helping mash the little suckers, and I was blown away by the result. Butter, butter everywhere, and buttermilk, too! And maybe sour cream. (Cheesy's note: I don't think sour cream was involved. But whatever.) I don't even know. They were seriously life-changing. And I don't even like mashed potatoes (probably because, I have come to realize, mashed potatoes at my usual Thanksgiving table are made with nonfat yogurt and margarine). There were two kinds of cranberry sauce; one cranberry-pomegranate concoction, and the ever-loved can of cranberry goo, which I thought was a figment of modern culture, but exists(!!) and is beloved by Mama Cheesy. There was cold roasted asparagus brought by a family member, and green beans… and then things started getting unfamiliar.

Now, my mother, back in the scenic lighthouse-dotted Faire-Isle sweater lands of New England, makes her stuffing with wild rice and sausage. It's a recipe she picked up from my Gran, her mother, who hails from St. Paul, Minnesota, the land of lupines, loons, and a ton of wild rice. It's amazing. It's delicious. And it's only ever cooked apart from the turkey.

WELL. We had TWO kinds of stuffing at Thanksgiving in Virginia, and was I ever unprepared. They were referred to as "wet" and "dry" stuffing, which, I will admit, sounded totally gross. The wet stuffing was cooked INSIDE the turkey, and then yanked out and served, and it was unbelievable. Mama Cheesy also includes sausage in her stuffing, but this was a bread-base and it soaked up all the delicious turkey essence. The dry stuffing had the same ingredients, but also included chestnuts(!!!) and was baked apart from the bird. It was amazing. I had both kinds. Twice. When you come from a family that stuffs their turkey with celery (for moisture), parsley and sage, and then discards said vegetation, wet stuffing is literally the 'stuff' of dreams.

Oh, wait, did I mention turkey? Oh boy. Mama Cheesy went nuts on this thing. It was an twenty-pound monster, which I thought would immediately go insanely dry, as larger turkeys at home tend to. But no, Mama Cheesy separated the skin from the meat and spread BUTTER mixed with Bell's seasoning, sage, and thyme right onto the bird, closed the thing up, and cooked it. This turkey was the most incredible thing to ever happen; so much so that Cheesy, Cheesy's big sister and I had to huddle in the darkened kitchen later that evening and eat some of the remaining meat straight from its Ziploc bag. It was moist and tender, even in the thickest, whitest parts of the meat. I wanted to bury my head in it.

Then came dessert. Last year, around my birthday, Cheesy and I decided to make a seriously failed celebratory dinner, for which I had bought spices and canned pumpkin in order to make my family's traditional pumpkin pie. For Thanksgiving, my mom will usually whip this up in addition to an apple pie or apple crisp (she's also been toying with a pear pie recipe for the last few years, but it calls for tapioca and never seems to go well. Don't tell her I said that). With the epic failure that was that dinner, the pie was never made… So Cheesy and I made it for Thanksgiving this year! It's a fantastic recipe, quick to cook, using a pat-in-the-pan cookie crust (with one cup of chopped pecans, it's basically a pecan sandy recipe). The filling was generously spiced and not too sweet, and it was delicious. Mama Cheesy supplied a great apple pie as well as an unbelievably decadent chocolate brandy pecan pie. She also made some delicious eggnog whipped cream to top all three pie options.

And I awoke from my food coma a week later to write this post.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.

Wow. Just wow. This year really was the best Thanksgiving ever. EVER. And this is saying quite a lot, coming from a girl whose favorite holiday, hands down, has always been Thanksgiving. Those mashed potatoes were quite certainly small, fluffy pieces of heaven.

How’s that for a teaser? You’ll just have to wait a while longer for the post about Thanksgiving Dinner proper, because there’s a surprise in the works. For the moment, I’m going to talk about all the other food I ate over Thanksgiving weekend. Actually, I’m just going to talk about breakfast.

I feel like I should have paid attention to the signs—I should have known that this weekend would be all about the breakfasts when the occupants of the car my GF and I rode down to Virginia in all cried out ecstatically when we spotted the one lone Waffle House in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I ate buttery, wonderful grits. It was definitely an omen.

I had every single one of my favorite breakfasts over Thanksgiving. My mother is a queen among women, and knows exactly what I want to eat when I come home for a visit. Here’s the daily breakdown:

-Thursday: fried eggs, bacon, and fresh baked blueberry muffins. I’m not a muffin person, but my mother makes the best muffins in three states. They are light and not too sweet, and filled with blueberries (though where she found blueberries this time of year, I’m not sure).

-Friday: MORE bacon (I love bacon), scrambled eggs, and my mother’s biscuits. I always feel quintessentially Southern when I say this, but it has to be said: no one—no one—makes biscuits like my mama makes ‘em (please supply the drawl in your head). They are perfect. She uses a recipe from an old 1930s cookbook for young wives (written by Meta Givens, for those of you who are interested). I continually wish I had the recipe…but I often refrain from getting it. What if they don’t turn out right?

-Saturday: the tour de force: dried beef gravy and pancakes. Now, I know the gravy should go on the biscuits. But in my family, it goes on pancakes. And it is sublime. Dried beef gravy—chipped beef to some of you—was one of the grandfather’s specialties. It’s a family favorite made from milk and flour and dried beef and onions. Not for the vegans, vegetarians, gluten-allergenic, or the faint of heart.

Maybe my next projects (besides learning to deal with tofu) should be to be like my mom in a new way—cook like her.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh, dear

Oh, goodness. Oh, dear.

It has been a long time, hasn't it?

Oh, dear.

Well, I guess the sheer truth is that I've been avoiding the blog. Because I've had nothing to write about! No exciting dishes have been created in my pots! I can't afford fine Philadelphia dining! Its November--and, besides kale and brussels sprouts, I don't like a lot of the winter harvest. Certainly not winter squash. Yuck.

And now its almost Thanksgiving. What happened to November?

Anyway, last week, amid tequila-filled nights and Madonna in concert, I ate chicken 3 times. 3 different ways. Well, 3 different recipes.

1) My roommate made a very garlicky roast chicken on monday night. I topped off the meal with my own garlicky spaghetti aglio e olio.

2) Wednesday night, I got suddenly served a truly delicious and beautifully simple salad. Spinach and tomatoes, all topped with nicely sauteed chicken. My friend PT made it. My thoughts at the time (before tequila happened) was "Why don't I do this???"

3) My dear GF's birthday was on Friday. My roommate and I made a dinner fit for a 20 year old. I made my own roast chicken, with a butter-thyme-rosemary rub under the skin. It was great. Succulent, moist. The leftovers went into a dish with penne and red peppers. I love leftovers.

Well, as noted, Thanksgiving is ALMOST here, and its my favorite holiday, so I'm sure I'll have something to say about that. And then? Who knows. It'll be December.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bloggy Lists

Well...its been a bit of a time since I was last here. I'm not in a very coherent place (long week + graduate school applications) so here's a list in place of prose. Actually, a list of lists!

Good Things:
-The Phillies won the world series!!!!
-Obama won the election!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bad Things:
-I'm. So. Broke.
-It's been a tiring couple of weeks.
-Sigh. It's November.

Blog-related Things:
-So. I've been thinking. I am, obviously, neither the most fascinating or talented food blogger in the blogosphere. Hell, I'm not even sure if people outside of my dear GF and assorted friends even read this thing. But I've been thinking of incorporating more of my thoughts about living in Philadelphia, living in cities...living in general. It might get redundant--I keep both a paper journal and livejournal (sorry, folks, friends only), so maybe there's only so much I can write about. But who knows? It'll still be a food-themed, lifecentric blog.
-Philly is an exciting place to live in right now.
-Local apples are divine and delicious and other italicized words that start with d.
-I made the most delicious one pot meal last night, with tricolor rotini, green beans, and a mix of part-skim mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago cheeses spiked with red chili flakes. Oh my goodness, as I was eating it, I thought I found heaven.
-I really love kale.
-Maybe, someday, I'll regain my sanity.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cheap and Easy

Well, I feel like most everywhere you turn, you see news of the economic doom and gloom gripping this country. I’m no economist and, despite working in the philanthropy business, I don’t really understand what’s going on. I have, however, noticed the rising food prices. I’ve even noticed this at the local farmer’s market, which has very reasonable prices. I also got notice in the mail yesterday that my monthly payments for my student loans are being raised because the interest rate went up. Sigh…I can’t wait for the deferment that graduate school (hopefully) will bring.

Anyway, I thought I’d blog about my two most recent meals: meals that I have termed in my head as “cheap and easy.” Which, now that I think about it, sounds a little more risqué than I meant it to.

Cheap and Easy #1:
Quinoa salad! I know I’ve posted about quinoa before, but it’s making another appearance. This little gem is simply made up of quinoa (simmered in chicken broth, but vegetable broth or just plain water would do) and any vegetables on hand. This past week, I added organic carrot, tomato, and red pepper, but one could use almost anything. Chop them in a medium or small dice. Mix with the quinoa. Give it some dollops of olive oil and your favorite vinegar. Finish with salt and pepper. The result? A cheap, simple, transportable meal. One that is healthy too!

Cheap and Easy #2:
For some reason, I was moved to purchase frozen broccoli the other week. I’m not really sure why. I’m usually at a loss with frozen veggies and I find broccoli particularly uninspiring. But last night I wanted something carb-a-licious (damn SAD) but also something that involved vegetables. But I didn’t have much on hand. And I didn’t want a salad. (Apparently, I was very picky). So, as the linguine I put on was boiling I added about half a bag of frozen broccoli to it and sautéed some garlic. I mixed it all together with parmesan cheese and it was delicious. I wish I had remembered that I had dried chili pepper flakes because that would have given a delightful spicy kick to it. So, again, a cheap, simple meal that’s not too unhealthy. (I must admit, I completed the meal with some protein in the form of a guilty pleasure, chicken nuggets. Honestly compels to add that they are not very healthy either.)

I have a feeling that, with the economy the way it is and my student loans, both of these inexpensive dishes will be a long time in my repertoire.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eating Chicago

Well, astonishingly, there was no pizza consumption in Chicago. But that’s okay; I’ve had it before (though if you haven’t, I recommend fixing that stat). But there was a lot of consumption of other delights during my whirlwind, 4-day visit.

My friends live in different parts of the North Side of Chicago. We didn’t venture into the South (though I really wanted to know where the old Stock Yards are and no one could tell me for sure) and didn’t eat that much inside of the Loop (expensive!). But I went to many parts of Rogers Park and Logan Square and other places that I don’t know the names for. Chicago, let me say here and now, is beautiful. I haven’t been in such a planned city in a long time; many of the wide streets and parks were built after the massive fire in 1871 (I think). It has a very soothing effect on me (much like the area around the Art Museum here in Philly).

So what did I eat in Chicago? I ate vegetarian Indian food (paneer makhani) that was cheap and so good, instant mashed potatoes at 3 am to counteract the ‘drunchies’, a sesame bagel sandwich with sharp cheddar, bacon, and tomato, rigatoni Bolognese with braised pork and veal, homemade pasta and chicken, diner food (Chicago seems to be the land of diners), and the biggest burrito I swear I’ve ever had. And that’s just what I remember off the top of my head.

Oh, there was also the Chicago hot dog, which, in my opinion, is the best version of a hot dog to be had. It has hot peppers on it. Who doesn’t want that? It also has onions, relish, spicy mustard, and pickles. No ketchup, however, which I know is a travesty and a sin in some people’s books. It was delicious! I was so full after this hot dog that I couldn’t finish my fries. When was the last time that happened? (maybe never)

I know that Chicago is just as much a foodie city as New York and, dare I say, Philadelphia, and I’m pretty sure that time and money didn’t allow me to explore it as much as I wanted to. But, as for now…I’m definitely willing to give Chicago an interim 2 thumbs up. You know, until I’ve visited enough to give a final decision!

Oh, P.S. Did you know that Chicago is the home of McDonald’s? I had no idea.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Westward Ho!

Just a short note to tell you that I am Chicago-bound for a long weekend, starting tomorrow. I'm very excited--I am visiting friends that I haven't seen in over a year! So, next week, I hope to have a Chicago-food (omg, deep-dish pizza) full post for you. In the meantime, wish me farewell and I leave you with this food for thought:

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I know that, for a lot of people, fall is a very favorite season. Not so for me. While I welcome cool air after a stagnant August and certainly have a special place in my heart for fall apples (I am from Virginia, after all!), fall is an unwelcome visitor to me. Especially October, when it starts out so beautifully and then dead ends into the cold and dreary darkness of November.

October also says ‘melancholy’ to me, possibly because the trees look so sad as they drop their leafy raiment to the ground, or maybe because everywhere I look, I see people trying to soak in the last bits of outside-time that they’ll have for months. But I’ve also noticed that my own melancholy (when not inducing carb-cravings from crankiness) is making me very nostalgic.

I’ve been re-reading favored books from my childhood (see Jane Eyre and the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters). I’ve been watching shows that I religiously watched as a child (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. anyone? I never realized it was so witty!). I even sat down and watching the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark with my roommate last night. I can’t even begin to say when that last time I watched that was.

In the same vein, I’ve been revisiting a lot of childhood foods. The amount of cheese toast that I’ve eaten could possibly feed a small country. I just take so much pleasure in making it like I did when I still lived in my parent’s house in Virginia: slices of sharp cheddar cheese laid on multi-grain bread and then toasted to slightly less than melting. The cheese still retained its shape, but was just bubbly and melty enough to please me. Also, on a whim on my most recent trip to the grocery store, I picked up a bag of rotelle—the pasta that I know more familiarly as wagon wheels. It is my father’s favorite pasta shape. I remember the evenings when he would make it and we would revisit his childhood as we ate it with ketchup (ewwww, my roommate said. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, especially all you ketchup-lovers out there). I don’t have any ketchup at the moment, but it was nice to have the pasta just the same. I’ve even been craving chocolate milk like I used to have it: cold milk with 2 or 3 heaping spoonfuls of Nestle’s Nesquik powder. Though Nesquik’s website is a little scary now.

What are the foods that *you* are nostalgic for??

Monday, September 22, 2008

Breakfast from Heaven

Well, as I said, September is moving month. I’ve been in my new apartment for about a week now, and I’m still getting used to it. As I wrote to myself in my journal last night, it takes me a long time to get used to new places. I remember being much more adaptable when I was younger. On the whole, though, the apartment is working out. My roommate is very kind and considerate (though cluttered!) and certainly a better cook than I am. My room is wide and white, with a bay window and a startling resemblance to my much beloved senior year dorm room. The ceilings are high. The floors are creaky. The neighborhood is quiet enough to sleep with my windows open. The oven is new. The kitchen counter is one long block of wood.

One of my first acts was to rearrange the kitchen to accommodate my dishes and pots and pans and glasses, etc. My roommate, who had been napping, said it was like “I fell asleep and Martha Stewart visited the apartment!” Now, I’m certainly no Martha Stewart—and I’m certain that, say, Courtney could rearrange this place better than I did—but its nice praise nonetheless. There’s certainly more space in the kitchen and it’s feels like a real kitchen, instead of the “kitchen side” of the studio apartment.

In addition to high ceilings and low rent, there is at least one other distinct advantage: right next door to Clark Park, home of my favorite farmer’s market in the city (to be fair, I haven’t been to the ones on the eastern side of the city, except for Reading Terminal. Any suggestions, readers?) On Saturday morning, my darling GF and I ambled over in search of fresh vegetables and eggs and perhaps something for breakfast. For a total cost of about $15, we got: 5 late season peaches, 2 late tomatoes, 3 peppers of various size and colors, 1 dozen fresh organic eggs, a loaf of fresh baked baguette bread, and a quarter pound of organic arugula.

By this time, I had been awake for at least 3 hours, and was jittery from hunger and one too many cups of strong tea. We looked at our bounty and decided that we should probably take advantage of it then and there. Out came a handful of arugula, four eggs, and four slices of that soft, fresh bread. The bread, laden with slices of sharp cheddar cheese, went into the toaster, while the eggs got broken and then fried in the skillet. Then we layered: the arugula, with pepper and salt, over the cheese, then an egg on top of both slices, to make an open-faced breakfast sandwich.

Maybe it was hunger—more likely it was the peppery bite of the arugula mixed with the smooth sublimity of truly fresh eggs atop bread that was obviously made by the gods for the gods as an accompaniment for their ambrosia. This was the best breakfast sandwich that I have ever had.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

September is moving month

I am apoligizing in advance for what will probably be a rather sparse September. I am moving--yet again--and its taking up a bit of my time. I don't feel very inspired to make special or exciting things (I am So. Tired. of my tiny-ass kitchen)and I don't really have the money to be eating out at all the fancy places I'd like to try. I'm also slowly packing up all my belongings and that includes my cooking gear. So, until the 13th at the earliest, there might not be much going on here.

Look forward, however, to posts about the Clark Park (my new next-door neighbor!) farmer's market and fall produce, as well as my roommate's culinary talents, in the near future

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday, Blog!

Well, it came to my attention today that this blog’s 1st birthday passed me by this weekend—Saturday the 23rd, to be precise. How I could have forgotten it, I don’t know! I think I knew, in my heart of hearts, because there was a lot of good food before me.

Saturday was rather tame, actually, food-wise and life-wise. It wasn’t until that evening, as I surveyed the bareness of my cupboards and fridge, did things get interesting. I didn’t have very much—2 shallots, half a bag of penne, and tomatoes. I also had squash, but I was strangely not in the mood (perhaps its because I used it in a take of Courtney’s 1-Pot Wonder two nights before…). So I sliced the shallots and put water on to boil. Then I quartered my cherry tomatoes and threw them over medium-low heat and sautéed them. With butter.

Yes, yes, my Saturday two-pot dish turned out to be a decadent mess of tender tomatoes and shallots, with just enough butter and the tomatoes’ own juices to make it saucy. The penne was al dente, of course, and the entire dish had a full, rich flavor. It was like eating like a queen for less than $5.

The next day, with my dear G.F’s triumphal return from working at a camp for 2.5 weeks, started with brunch at Ants Pants Cafe. I had heard both good and bad things about this brunch/lunch places—mostly bad, but the good reviews were seriously glowing. I decided to try it out for myself and I am glad I did. Ants Pants a pretty small place on South Street—only a couple of tables inside, with more extensive seating outside. Their menu isn’t massive, but I was pleased to see simple and no-nonsense food on the menu (none of those culinary brunch feats performed at places such as Sabrina’s). My G.F. chose the bacon, cheddar, and egg scramble, with hand-cut potato chips and a chocolate milkshake. The milkshake was excellent (chocolate shavings!) and I really liked to chips. I had the “bacon stack”: layers of arugula, tomato, bacon, and sunny-side up eggs all stacked on country white toast (I substituted a bagel. Good choice on my part!). I loved it. The flavors were clean, the eggs perfect, and the bacon was the perfect degree of crsipiness. (Doesn’t this make you crave brunch? Go!) In fact, there's a picture of the bacon stack on the website.

The rest of the day was taken up by window shopping and enjoying these last sun-drenched days of summer. We celebrated the beautiful day with gelato from Capogiro (I had blueberries and cream and crème fraiche—not nearly as good as the English Sea Salt gelato they’ve had this entire summer. Bring back the sea salt, Capogiro!). Later, we got Indian food at a place near my apartment—samosas, paneer, chicken, and warm naan and basmati rice. A tasty end to a lovely weekend.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ominvore's 100 Meme

How the Omnivore's 100 Works:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional: Post a comment at Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

My Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Wow! 44/100. I thought it would be a lot less....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dock Street Beer and Pizza

Well, over the weekend, I finally made it to the Dock Street, located in the beautiful, beautiful Firehouse at 50th and Baltimore. So, sooo many of my friends and coworkers have recommended this place and its beer and pizzas for soo long. And I have never gotten myself there. I even get acupuncture treatments on the third floor of the same building (yes, this is a shout-out for Philadelphia Community Acupuncture!) and I haven't propelled myself through the door.

But on Saturday, three friends and I finally did.

It is a really pleasant space, with lots of light and art, and a big wood-burning stove to make pizzas, paninis, and calzones. Dock Street also brews its own beer, which is delicious. We all tried the Bubbly Wit, a champagne yeast based white beer. It was quite quaffable, with a bite and a definite champagne after taste. We got 2 pizzas and I order the char-grilled sausage calzone. The California pizza, with sun-dried tomatoes and small dollops of goat cheese melted in, was also quite good.

My one issue with the Dock Street was the very salty crust, and the fact that my friends and I were on rather much the same wave-length and wanted sausage, instead of a wide array of the pizzas. I will certainly return to the Dock Street and taste more of their beers and eat of their pizzas (the salads look excellent as well!) I think all my readers should go too.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Summer afternoon

Well, my recovery from my trip to Israel was long and hard. I had a nasty, nasty cold that had to be treated with copious quantities of hot water, lemon, and honey. And the jet lag—oh, the jet lag! It was very difficult. Needless to say, I didn’t cook very much once I got home. My darling GF made all sorts of delightful things for me, like macaroni and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches, and lot of other stuff that involves cheese.

So the first time I really cooked was the following Thursday, when our dear friend J came for dinner. I wanted something simple, something quick, something light—something summery, in short. I hit on a recipe for orecchiette pasta with broccoli and asiago. On a whim and in homage for J (who is really, very adorable), I replaced the orecchiette with Trader Joe’s alphabet pasta, which was very flavorful. I love when you can really taste the vegetables in the pasta. Combine with these tasty letters was blanched and lightly sautéed broccoli crowns and garlic. All together it was a healthful and simple dish.

My favorite part of the meal, however, wasn’t something I made at all. My dear GF wanted to contribute and she chose a cherry tomato salad. I just love how something so simple can just be so amazingly good. The ingredients: cherry tomatoes sliced in half and scallions, tossed in a Dijon, vinegar, and olive oil dressing. It was like taking a bite out of those heady, humidity-heavy summer afternoons.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Food and history

Well, I’ve been back from Israel for about a week, and I haven’t posted. I have no shame! I actually had a terrible, terrible cold and jetlag, and had to consume large quantities of chicken broth and hot water with lemon and honey to feel better. But now I’m feeling almost back to normal (physically), and I’ve been doing lots of thinking about my time in Israel.

It was a really amazing trip, that’s for sure. The people I was with were incredibly awesome—Best. Group. Ever. I definitely recommend the Taglit program, if any of my readers out there are Jewish, under age 27, and want to go to Israel for free. Yeah, there’s some propaganda and sometimes its annoying to travel in a group of 40, but it’s FREE! And Israel is an absolutely beautiful, breath-taking, complex country that deserves a visit. Or 6.

Anyway, this is not a travel blog, it is a food blog. And the food in Israel was….interesting. Now, the nature of the trip definitely restrained me a bit in terms of food, but I think I got to do a fair sampling of Israeli cuisine. We ate generally the same thing every day—I don’t know if this is the status quo, but it’s the norm for these big group trips. I actually loved the food—there was so much fresh produce! The Israelis use lots of watery fruits and vegetables, like cucumbers, tomatoes, and watermelon. There was also a lot of eggplant, which I don’t eat. But at almost every meal, there were lush prepared salads and lots of cold cheeses and pickles, olives, and, of course, hummus. The hummus is to die for, seriously. I didn’t eat a lot of the meat, because it gave me stomach aches, but the lamb and chicken were especially good. The cottage cheese is out of this world! I actually couldn’t identify a lot of the cheeses on the trip, but they were mostly younger cheeses, often very salty and possibly goat-based.

I ate a HUGE amount of falafel and shwarma. I definitely preferred the falafel. It was infinitely better than the falafel you can get here in Philadelphia (though, Philly folks, if you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them!). The falafel was also crispy-fresh and delicately seasoned, resting on its bed of lettuce and, in my case, pickled vegetables. The pitas were always fresh and incredibly soft and warm. I’m a little falafel-ed out for the time being, but I know that I will certainly daydream about Israeli falafel in a couple of weeks.

Now: the thing that Israeli cuisine does not do well? Pizza. Who knew that the concept of tomato sauce and cheese on bread would present such issues? All the pizza I had in Israeli was very flat and cardboard-like in consistency, while the toppings were often inadequate and/or burnt. And talk about interesting choices for toppings! I mean, I was obviously not expecting pepperoni pizza while I was there, but even I was a little confused by the pizza that had only green olives on it…

The thing that Israeli cuisine did the best? Chocolate wafer cookies. I picked up a package on a whim while buying wine during a night out in Jerusalem, and they were delicious. The Israelis sure know their way around chocolate! It is more delicious there than anywhere else I’ve been.

My most exciting eating experience while in Israel: Eating fruit right off the trees! Israel, according to the Old Testament, has a fallow year for its crops every 7 years. During this fallow year, the fruit is not harvested—it is free for everyone to pick from. I ate a peach while we stood in the orchard, just a stone’s throw away from the valley where David battled Goliath. I munched on grapes just off the vines as we hiked to columbarium caves where Jewish rebels once hid from the Romans. I hate part of a just-plucked pomegranate in the ruins of an amphitheatre. That intertwining of food and history really touched me. Peaches nor grapes nor pomegranates will never taste the same.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Holy Land

Well, if this blog has been a wee bit neglected of late, it's been because I am quite busy. Why am I so busy? Too busy to cook? Too busy to browse online for recipes?

Because I'm about to fly out of the country for a 10 day hiking trip in Israel, that's why.

I fly out of Boston on Thursday, and will be back in Philadelphia on the 22nd or 23rd. I'll see you when I see you!

And, yes, I'll eat a falafel for you...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shallot-y Goodness

The other week, I was picking up some groceries at my friendly neighborhood Trader Joe’s. I had to get some milk and, I think, some ingredients for a recipe. Whatever the reason was, I picked up a bag of shallots. I’d used them before—actually, I’ve loved them ever since I roasted sliced shallots with green beans for a brunch a few summers ago—but I hadn’t purchased any in a long while. It was a whim. While I was waiting to pay for my food, an old man behind me in line looked at my purchases and then at me and said, “Looks like you’re a fine cook, my lady. You have shallots, butter—all the necessities.” I smiled, thanked him, and thought to myself, yes, I must have all the necessities.

And ever since then, I’ve been using shallots in everything.

I put them into my homemade salad dressing of a few posts ago; I sautéed them with a pepper a week or so ago. Last night, I sautéed them in olive oil with yellow summer squash and salt and pepper. I find sautéing squash a little challenging (and yet I continue to do it!), but this time, I just stuck a lid on the pan and let the heat and the moisture from the squash and oil do the trick. The squash was nice and tender and sweet. The shallots, on the other either browned and crisped up nicely—there’s nothing like a caramelized shallot—or got translucent and almost creamy. They were both delicious. I’ve gone so far with my obsession with shallots that I even toyed with the idea of replacing the halved onion in Marcella Hazan’s onion and butter tomato sauce with a few halved shallots. I didn’t—I had a guest for dinner that night—but I’m still curious on how it would turn out…

Shallots are a member of the onion, or allium, family. There are several different kinds of shallots, but the kinds I most often see are round or high round French shallots. They are sweeter and milder than onions, but more nutritious! See www.shallot.com for these facts and more, including storage tips and recipes. I do urge you to try shallots, if you never have—they’re delicious. And they’re such elegant onions—they make almost any meal seem fancy!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Breaking News: Venezuela derails France

So, French Month got a little derailed. Which is okay, because I wasn’t too interested in it anyway. I think French is just not my thing. That being said, I do believe that I will be making French onion soup this week, because I love it and I’m going through a major soup phase right now. All I want to do is eat cans and cans of soup.

Thankfully, for you, dear readers, I have resisted this impulse and have been enjoying the bounty that Philadelphia has to offer. In the last week, I’ve tried several new restaurants (Café Apamate, Honey’s Sit n’ Eat, and Rx in West Philly) and finally made it to Reading Terminal Market (where I found cherries for $2. And mint fudge brownies. And organic meat. And other delicious things). But I can’t really shove all of that into one post—those restaurants will have to wait for a later post, or for me to make another visit.

I really love this city. It’s dirty. It smells funny a lot of the time. There’s a lot of crime. There is a LOT of good food. And I love it. I even love the silly liquor laws that abound in this state, because that means that there are an abundance of BYOBs, like Café Apamate. And thus, to Café Apamate did the dear GF and I go last Thursday for date night.

Café Apamate’s chef Ormaechea has brought a blend of Venezuelan and Spanish food to Philadelphia, in the form of mini tapas called “Pinxtos” as well as large plates. The tapas are literally about 2 to 4 bites; just enough to love what you just put into your mouth and little enough that you pay attention to savor the tastes. And everything—I swear, everything—is delicious. We ordered an array of tiny plates, a charcuteria plate and another appetizer to share, as well as sangria that was mixed at the restaurant with the bottle of Spanish red that we brought with us.

The GF and I shared some things and not others. She really wanted to sea scallops with an herb reduction; I rarely eat any kind of seafood. I really wanted to try the shot (!) of gazpacho (remember that soup obsession?)—she thinks that gazpacho is glorified salsa. The gazpacho was actually tremendously amazing, with Jersey heirloom tomatoes in the starring role. We shared a warmed goat cheese mound with a red bush tea and pistachio reduction. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate. We also shared the charcuterie board, with chorizo, Serrano ham, and lomo embuchado—all amazing meats. Paired with them was a nevat goat cheese—semi-aged, almost like my beloved Pata Cabra from Tria Café—drizzled with lavender honey, manchego with slivers of quince paste, and Cabrales blue cheese (which neither of us really liked at the time). This was followed by a mini plate of flank steak with a Cabrales reduction. It literally melted in our mouths. I have never had a more delicious or tender piece of steak in my life, and the Cabrales took on a completely different persona. It went from being a mild, though still too strong for me, blue cheese, to being a mellow, warm, delightful counterpart to the richness of the steak. After this, deciding that we were still hungry, we ordered a plate of béchamel and Serrano ham croquettes—think hush puppies dressed up for the prom—unthinkably delicious. To round out this lovely meal, we had handmade churros stuffed with dulce de leche.

Apamate is small, cash only, and doesn’t take reservations, but staffed by friendly people and beautiful it sit in. The verdict: Excellent. I would go back again and again

Thursday, June 12, 2008

French Month #2: Overdressed

The French certainly do understand salads.

It’s been brutally hot recently in Philadelphia. We had an early June heat wave that saw temperatures topping the high 90s and with humidity, the heat index was certainly above 100 degrees. Needless to say, I didn’t want to make—much less even eat—such hearty (and traditional) French dishes such as coq au vin, soufflé, or even French onion soup!

Instead, I made a salad.

I know, I know, I seem to write an awful lot about salads. But this one was simple, I promise! Organic greens, cherry tomatoes, and raw green beans were the only ingredients. Oh, and the crumbles of herb and garlic chevre. And the homemade dressing—mustn’t forget that!

The French do know their way around a salad dressing. Again using a recipe from trusty old Julia, this was one of the quickest and easiest dressings to whip up. And to think, until recent years, I never even considered the idea of making my own dressing! Comprised of red wine vinegar, brown mustard, olive oil, salt, peppers, minced shallots, and dried basil, this dressing was certainly a hit. I really like the vinegar and oil and salt—it’s always been a favorite combination. The dear GF liked the mustardness of the dressing, and we both greatly enjoyed the shallots (I always enjoy shallots).

It was simple, it was clean, it was delicious. I think this is my first favorite French food ever!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

French Month #1: No French Kissing with this Recipe

June is French cuisine month in the Nest (my new name for my eensy-weensy apartment). I’m exploring the tastes and techniques and really, just seeing how I like it. This week, I tackled something relatively simple and slightly familiar: aigo buido.

Aigo Buido is a garlic soup out of Provence; I got the recipe from—who else?—Julia Child. I don’t own the Art of French Cooking (but I certainly covet it whenever I see it), but I do have the collected recipes from her PBS cooking show, The French Chef. She is such a wonderful lady. I really adore her. My sister (who, by the way, does own the Art of French Cooking) made this soup for me a couple of years ago, in honor of Julia and the date of her death. It was good—followed up, in a minor clash of cuisine, by the only eggplant parmesan I’ve ever liked.

Aigo Buido is made by simmering two heads worth of unpeeled garlic cloves, savory herbs, and saffron in water, then straining everything out. Squeeze the juices out of the garlic, and you have a clear garlic infused broth. In the meantime, beat a quarter cup of olive oil and three egg yolks into a thick, mayonnaise-like sauce. Let me tell you, my arm still hurts from all that work! Once the two components are ready, beat the sauce while adding a cup of soup a little at a time. Then mix in the rest of the broth. The trick is not to let the hot broth cook the eggs in the sauce. My sister reported that she messes up this soup every couple of times; sometimes it’s excellent, sometimes it’s a gray cloud with egg bits floating unappetizingly around. I am proud to report that I did not cook the egg; regardless, I’m still having mixed feelings about the resultant soup.

The soup was not overwhelmingly garlicky, though you’d expect that from two heads of garlic. It was a satisfying texture, very smooth and almost creamy. I think it would have benefited from cloves, which I discovered I do not own. The olive oil I used was also a little bit strong. The soup wasn’t bad; it was just lackluster. My dear GF agreed (she also gave me a quote, but I forgot what it was). I liked some spoonfuls, I didn’t like others. The worst thing is that we collectively spelled like garlic for hours after consumption.

So, my first foray into French cooking has been, I must admit, a little off-putting. While the soup as simple, a pretty large amount of effort went into making it—all that egg whisking. The soup was okay—not amazing. We’ll see how things turn out as the month progresses—I’m thinking coq au vin is on the way, maybe French onion soup, an exploration of salad dressings. If I’m feeling really adventurous, there will be soufflé, croissants, and crème brulee!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Glorious Day for a Picnic

This past Memorial WAS an absolutely glorious day for a picnic! Here's a glance at the spread I created for my dear GF and our friend Jill.

-Cucumber Sandwiches--with cream cheese, not mayonnaise.
-Herbed Parmesan Crisps--These little crackers (shredded parm, a little flour, and fresh rosemary, and nothing else) are the absolute last word in cheesy goodness. I found the recipe in Ted Allen's What You Want to Eat cookbook. I love that book.
-Edamame (thoughtfully cooked by by darling GF)
-Grapes, baby carrots, and a marvelously juicy D'Anjou pear.
-Handmade Chianti salami, from Trader Joe's.
-Laura Chenel's Chevre and Robusto, an aged cow's milk cheese, similar to Parrano but stronger, served with TJ's Hot and Sweet mustard for spreading purposes.
-Mini Toasts from Whole Foods.
-Blue Moon, my current favorite beer (this is one that recurs rather often).

Now that I have a cold, my current favorite drink is hot water with honey and lemon.

Stay Tuned for June--French Cooking month!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Well, at least I’m trying, right? As the title says, this will be an eclectic post. I’ve found my interest in food and cooking picking back up—as I figured it would—with the advent of my darling GF into my apartment for the summer. She’s living with me in my tiny studio and we already have more food than ever in my apartment! We got things that I usually think about getting, but then don’t out of some misguided notion that I don’t need them. Things like Trader Joe’s dill pickles (“super dillish”, as the GF said), salad dressing, mango mochi, and macaroni and cheese. How have I lived without these things for so long?!

In the meantime, I’ve been preparing for first cuisine month—I think that it will be French, but I’m not sure yet. I hope that it will be a success! I’ve also been going out to sundry places in Philadelphia and gathering tidbits, both edible and inedible, for all to enjoy.

Last week was my 23rd birthday week. I decided that this meant that I got to go out a lot, stay up late, drink pleasant things, and then drag myself through my work days. Not the best plan, I admit, but it turned out pretty well in the end. I began the week with a Sunday night trip to Yakitori Boy, on 11th Street between Vine and Race (right near Vietnam, a very popular Asian restaurant here in Philadelphia). A Japanese restaurant, Yakitori Boy also advertises “Japas” or Japanese inspired tapas. They also have sushi, of course, as well as a wide range of sake and other cocktails. I ate a salad and a bowl of chicken ramen—so warm and filling, and nothing at all like it’s cheap, dried counterpart—but I’d really like to mention their sake mojito. Mojitos are definitely turning into my summer drink. And this one—made with sake instead of rum, was delicious. It was light and refreshing and not quite as potent as a mojito can sometimes be. I can’t wait to go drink one to cool off from the hot Philly summer.

I celebrated my actual birthday with karaoke at Bump, a gay bar in Philly’s celebrated gayboorhood. It’s a spacious and classy place; with good food and amazing Happy Hour offers (martinis for $3! Be still my beating heart!). I had an array of drinks, starting with a mojtio and moving from there. Bump has a really fascinating drink list—a lot of creative twists on champagne cocktails, as well as fruit-influenced cocktail variations (such as a blackberry mojito). I had something called a mexican peach martini, which had tequila, peach schnapps, simple syrup, and something else peachy in it. It was a fascinating drink—peachy and almost bellini-like in the beginning, and then finishing with the fiery taste of tequila. Not my favorite alcoholic peach drink—it certainly didn’t hold a candle to the peach cosmo I had in NYC in March—but something interesting to sip on, nonetheless.

While this seems like a rather booze-heavy post, I have something seemingly innocent to finish it off with: apriums. Apriums are a hybrid between plums and apricots and, unlike pluots, favor their apricot heritage. They are small, definitely apricot sized, and they look like apricots, but their taste. Oh my, their taste! They have the sweetness and softness of apricots with the tart and exciting bite of a plum. They truly are the best of both worlds. The darling GF and I picked up a box of them at Trader Joe’s on Sunday and have been hard put to limit ourselves to eating just two at a time. I do rather worry that our first bone of contention will be the last aprium. Apriums are a delightful spring snack. They would also make delicious preserves, crumble, or cobbler. They make me wish that I had a pressure cooker or an affinity to baking!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Well, it has been just under a month since I last posted. Two jobs and life got in the way a bit. Now, I'm back to one job and turning my attention to other things...such as this blog.

I started this blog for a couple of reasons. One, I enjoyed eating and talking about food with my friend Perrin (my other counterpart who mostly dropped out of this blog). Two, I had been wishing to write more for some time. Most of my writing in the past years has been academic, and I have no hand for fiction. So I thought I'd try this as a different medium. Finally, I wanted to use this blog as a source of motivation and inspiration for my cooking and other culinary adventures.

Thus far, I'm not sure it is working. I have mostly ignored the restaurants that I've been eating at recently, and also the assorted Philadelphia foods that I enjoy. I've been writing a lot, but actually not cooking as much as I'd like.

I have some plans rolling around my head, though, to remedy this. I think I have taken a very haphazard approach to teaching myself how to cook. I think I might try for a more balanced and logical approach--I think I might start centering more on cuisines and styles than on random recipes that have caught my eye (though a fair amount of that will probably remain). I also want to push myself to research more--use this brain and college degree for good. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, I greatly appreciate your patience and kindness and attention. I'll be back with a post soon :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Pesach—Passover—is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. Yeah, you get presents at Hanukah and you get to dress up and be silly for Purim. But Passover? It says family, celebration, food.

This year, sadly, my Passover did not say family to me. Because I’m saving my vacation days and my money for an upcoming trip to Israel this summer, I couldn’t go home to Virginia or to family in North Carolina this year. Sad, I know! I did usher in the Passover holiday with Sunday brunch with friends (Courtney made a wonderful matzah brei), but it’s not the same as Passover seder. This is also the first year I’ve ever been wholly responsible for my own care and feeding during Passover. I almost didn’t buy matzah! Imagine that.

I was inspired by my nostalgia for traditional Passover foods, so I decided to finally some of my store of frozen chicken stock and make chicken soup and matzah balls. I often forget that I love matzah balls and I should really look into making them all year round, instead of just during the Passover season. They are delicious! The recipe I followed was on the back of the matzah meal box, but there are hundreds of variations. Once I made them with dill mixed in—that was exceptional. The most important factors—and I believe most matzah ball makers will agree—are the salt and the density. No matzah ball, in my opinion, is worth the name if it doesn’t have that saltiness in each bite. Not overly salty, mind you, but definitely detectable.

Matzah ball density is a debate that has gone down through the ages, for sure. I prefer ‘sinkers’—matzah balls so dense that they sink right to the bottom of the soup bowl and require some effort to break apart. Others—and I know many!—prefer them to be light and fluffy, like little clouds of matzah meal floating in their soup. The deciding factor is cooking time. The less time you simmer the matzah balls in water, the denser they will be. The longer, the lighter. My matzah balls were dense, dense, dense. Almost brick-like. I loved them.

And thank goodness that matzah balls are great by themselves because my chicken soup? I did not love it so much. Or at all. I apparently didn’t have enough patience for soup making on Sunday. I couldn’t find a recipe that pleased me, so I decided to wing it on my own. That’s never a good idea for me—I’m definitely a recipe driven cook. I had both chicken stock in the freezer and chicken broth in my pantry, so I put both in. I also added an onion, a few crushed cloves of garlic for the fun of it, and threw in a whole array of spices (parsley flakes, some poultry seasoning, and things that I simply can’t remember) and set the whole mess on the stove to simmer. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, but I’ll try to figure it out. In the first place, I started out with too little liquid—I should have definitely started with more stock. I believe I didn’t simmer it for long enough. I’m really not sure. I would like to try again, but we’ll see where my taste buds take me in the future.

(For a successful soup read, go read about spinach and green garlic soup at Orangette)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Salad Days, Part II

Well, it’s been a couple of months since I started work at the Café, and, truly told, I’m ready for my tenure there to be done. It is a nice enough place to work—it’s just these 50-60 hour work weeks don’t agree with me. I am one tired blogger, that’s for sure. It is a stressful work environment, and sometimes entitled students at the end of the day is just too much for one girl. I have, in the meantime, made some friends and learned a little more about a different facet of the service industry. And I’ve certainly seen enough salad to last a lifetime.

I remain rather fascinated by the seemingly infinite combinations that people will come up with for their salads. My favorites are the ones that clearly show that a lot of thought was put into them. Some people go the sweet route: some combination of grapes, raisins, cranberries, dried pineapple, mango, mandarin oranges, dried figs, sometimes corn, beets, and carrots. These people often get the thai sesame lime dressing or the raspberry vinaigrette. Others go the crunchy road and ask for soy nuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts, croutons, tortilla strips, or sesame sticks to adorn their salad. Some of my favorite types are the ones who actually don’t get any vegetables on their salads at all—they order cheese (we have 5 different types), croutons, chicken, tuna, or tofu and never stop to consider the broccoli, beets, and other tasty veggies that we carry.

The salads that are unmistakable are the ones for the body-conscious girls (though, to be honest, very few overweight women come in to the Café…possibly because there are very few overweight women on the university campus. The environment at that school is not very conducive to any type of “big is beautiful” mindset, the more’s the pity). For the most part these salads are pretty well balanced: a healthy combination of vegetables and protein with one of the lighter dressings, accompanied by one of our addicting seeded rolls. But some of these salads are just simply a mess. These people will just get whatever catches their fancy, ignoring tastes and textures in the composition of their salad. One might get mango and garlic marinated mushrooms, along with capers, beets, dried figs, roasted red peppers, and, oh what the hell, tuna and pepperocinis with creamy smoked tomato dressing. A more typical occurrence is this: someone gets lentils, chickpeas, an egg (often just the whites—waste, waste, waste), chicken or tofu, cucumbers, tomatoes, and one of the grated cheeses (cheddar or pecorino romano), balsamic vinegar, and ask for it extra chopped. Or, as one young lady wrote on a slip last night, extra especially chopped. Which means the lettuce pieces and ingredients should be teeny tiny—unrecognizable as food, preferably. The more mushy parts of the salad—the chick peas, lentils, tomatoes, egg, and grated cheese—combine to become this mass of strange consistency. On one of my first shifts, I asked one of the other workers “Why extra chopped?” Her response was a shrug and “well, I don’t think many of them actually like salad…”

Which, of course, begs the question, why eat salad in the first place? Especially ones as expensive as ours (that chicken and hand-pulled mozzarella, not to mention the natural and organic veggies, are quite pricey).

And my favorite salad? Well, I prefer “no-base” salads—salads without lettuce. Because, honestly, I’ve always thought that lettuce is a usurper worthy of Napoleon. I invoke Israeli type salads and get lots of tomatoes and cucumbers, raw onions, and sometimes chick peas. Then I take a more Mediterranean twist as I put on the fresh mozzarella and black olives. Usually I finish it off with balsamic chicken, rosemary balsamic dressing, tortilla strips and toss to combine. The result? Always tasty.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

An Offering for Goods in Return

Well. It has been a while, hasn’t it? This blog is turning into a very interesting exercise for me. I started it because I wanted something to write—something other than my private on-line journal and the paper journal that I keep for My Eyes Only. I am continually excited to see that my readership seems to be growing! Or, at the very least, people glance at the blog once in a while. So, my friends, I have a question: what would you like to see on my blog? More recipes? More restaurants? Continue my musings any which way I please?

I live to serve. Well, within reason.

And, in return for your comments, I’ll tell you a story about eggs and greens and balsamic vinegar. Sounds good, right? Well, it was. A couple of weeks ago, I went through one of my periodic “I eat too many carbs, oh no, oh dear, what shall I do?” phases. This coincided with my arrival on www.chow.com, an all-things-food website which is really starting to take up a lot of my time. From the message boards to blog stories, this site is a veritable goldmine of information related to the culinary pursuits. I was looking for recipes for healthy, high-protein dishes. I found this: http://www.chow.com/recipes/11388- Wilted Green with Balsamic Fried Eggs.

What a lovely recipe! I made it for the dear GF and myself for dinner one Saturday night, using arugula (we both are just crazy about arugula’s peppery kick). Eggs over greens are mighty delicious, and the balsamic reduction just added a luxurious note to the entire dish—though I would have given quite a lot to have the balsamic that I ate in Arthur Avenue in NYC. This dish is healthful and, what’s more, very filling. We elected not to have toast with it, which was a mistake on our part. Next time, there will definitely be toast! As well as shallots, I think, as recommended in the comments. I also think that it will stay a dinner or lunch dish—it was just a tad too rich for my personal breakfast taste.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Food Meme

Stolen from Court over at By Product

What were you cooking five years ago?
Not much of anything, to be honest. A killer macaroni and cheese (from the box?)?

What were you cooking 10 years ago?
Definitely nothing. I came to my love of cooking late in life.

Five snacks you enjoy:
-Sugar snap peas
-aged gouda and fresh baked bread
-cheddar and crackers
-frozen grapes

Five recipes you know by heart:
-My mother's this-is-how-you-fry-an-egg
-Tomato sauce with butter and onion
-I'm very bad at memorizing.

Five culinary luxuries you would indulge in if you were a millionaire:
-Following the fresh produce around the globe
-Expansive countertops/stove
-Personal bartender
-My own garden

Five culinary indulgences you crave, and can afford without being a millionaire:
-New pans
-New knives
-Electric kettles
-Artisan cheese/bread
-Organic produce/meats/dairy

Five foods you love to cook
-Tomatoes (canned or otherwise)
-Brussels Sprouts

Five ingredients you simply adore:
-Canned whole Italian tomatoes

Five things you cannot/will not eat:
-Things suspended in jello
-Butternut Squash

Five favourite culinary toys:
-Wooden spoons
-Stock Pot
-Electric Kettles
-I'm not much of a toy person...

Now you!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New York Minute

I know this blog is subtitled ‘Food in Philadelphia’, but it really should be ‘Food in My Life.’ If only because, sometimes, this food-blogger sets forth to other places to sample their gastronomy.

This past weekend, I hopped on the Penn-to-Penn bus to New York City, to visit a very dear college friend, J. She and I lived next door to each other sophomore year, and have remained very close. I finally made good on my promise to come visit her, her boyfriend, and her kitten in their tiny apartment in Queens. On Friday last, I would be the first to tell you, I am no fan of New York City. Now, I would amend that statement to say I am no fan of Manhattan, but the rest of boroughs? Probably fine by me.

When I arrived on Friday, we went to a relatively new restaurant around the corner from their Astoria apartment, called, wittily, Rest*au*rant. A small, dark eatery, it is much like a less-sophisticated, deconstructed Tria. They had beer, wine, and cheese, as well as salads and paninis. I had the mozzarella, basil, and avocado Panini and it was delicious. The wine and beer list were disappointingly short, but the full bar and cocktail list made up for the dearth. I had a peach cosmopolitan that was just as bubbly and fresh as one could wish.

On Saturday, J. and I grabbed bagels and coffee from her neighborhood bagel place and hopped on a train over to the Bronx. We were aiming for Arthur Avenue, an ethnic Italian neighborhood that has also been called Little Italy in the Bronx. Arthur Avenue is a few streets, just a stone’s throw away from Fordham University, that is covered in ethnic Italian shops, businesses, restaurants, and cafes. There’s the covered market that reminded me of Philly’s Reading Terminal, just smaller and more Italian. We lunched at the Arthur Avenue Café, home to the best eggplant parmesan in New York City (the chef even beat Bobby Flay!). It was pretty good too. As was the mozzarella caprese (oh my goodness, REAL balsamic vinegar! I’ve never seen its equal) and the Caesar salad I had. But, my friends, the cannoli. The CANNOLI! Our waiter claimed that it was the best on Arthur Avenue, and boy, was he right! I ate half a dozen all by myself (though not all at once).

That evening, we changed our cuisine of choice, and dined at the Café Henri, in Long Island City (Queens). The Café Henri is a little, ex-BYOB filled to the gills with ambience and tasty Bellinis. I had a sweet sausage and chevre crepe. It was delicious. The goat cheese was warmed to almost melting point as it hit my tongue and disappeared in a haze of delight. We followed dinner up with drinks at the LIC Bar, where there’s a photo booth, good music and beer, and fontina and sage grilled cheese sandwiches!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


This was most certainly a weekend of sloth and indolence. Granted, my GF and I did take several walks (including running errands in the thundering rain showers that Philly had on Saturday), but most of the weekend was spent lolling around in bed, drinking pineapple orange juice and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But, oh, the food! I sure did have some good eating.

On Saturday, I decided to reacquaint myself with my (disruptive and aggravating) oven. I haven’t used it since December, when I had to call maintenance when it took over an hour to heat up (and there went my visions of Christmas cookies). But I decided to be adventurous and see if I could coax it to work. It did, and I got a lovely, rosemary-scented roasted chicken as a prize. I love roasting chickens—it is one thing that I never fail to do well. This was a delightfully simple recipe from Marcella’s book. It only comprised of the chicken, three cloves of garlic, dried rosemary, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Pop it in a 375 degree oven for an hour and 15 minutes, basting it every 15 minutes in its own juices, and voila! You have a crispy-skinned, tender, juicy chicken.

Sunday showed up sunny and chilly for day light savings’ time. The GF had an interview in the Gayborhood, so I toddled down with her and sat in the Last Drop and drank a chai latte. Afterwards, as we walked with rumbling stomachs past the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Broad Street, we debated what kind of food we wanted. Sandwiches? Pizza? Brunch? We finally settled on a whim for brunch at the Happy Rooster. The Happy Rooster is an eclectic little spot with a dark and cluttered bar and larger, airier dining room. It is one of those places that seem to abound in Philly, with very random decorations and beautiful old-fashioned walls and ceilings. I had chorizo hash with eggs over easy, while the GF has marinated skirt steak with potatoes and scrambled eggs. Her potatoes turned out more like Belgian French fries (think Monk’s), while her steak was delicious. My chorizo hash was very flavorful, though greasier than I would have wished. The best part was sopping up the leftovers with the crunchy toast points that accompanied my entrée. I also had a Bloody Mary, my favorite Sunday morning drink. And whoo-eee! Watch out for the Happy Rooster’s Bloodies! This one was made very strong with a lot of horseradish. Not for the faint at heart or horseradish hater!

Sunday afternoon was spent watching even more Buffy and simmering the chicken bones down into broth. I can’t really thinking of a more satisfying task. You don’t really even have to do anything, except watch the heat and skim off the fat if you so please. My broth came out a little fatty for my taste, but I’ll be able to skim that off when I want to use the broth. The most satisfying part is that I now have 4 tupperware containers of chicken broth in my freezer, just ready to be thawed and used in any number of soups, pasta sauces, vegetable dishes, and even quinoa to give it a little extra flavor. Nothing like setting food by for later use.

My favorite culinary happening of the weekend actually took place on Monday, which was an extension of the weekend anyway because I stayed home from work to nurse a cold. I made spaghetti with rosemary and butter sauce. Rosemary. Butter. The slightest eseence of garlic. Pasta. Combine all of that in a warm, Parmesan covered bowl of comfort, Italian style. It was so delicious. It wasn’t at all how I envisioned it—instead of being very buttery or very rosemary ridden, the tastes all blended together and became creamy with the addition of the Parmesan cheese. I think I’ll be making more tonight—it was delicious.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Wanted: Culinary Muse

Hi, all.

I'm so sorry about the lack of posts recently. I've lost my motivation somewhere in the last week or so! But don't worry; I've put out an advertisement for a culinary muse and I'm sure one will find me soon.

In the meantime, I'll leave you a list of the food-related things that I've been pondering:
-extra-chopped salads--why?
-pasta with sage-butter sauce. Heaven in a pan.
-food related websites (thoughtfully recommended by fellow blogger Court): Chowhound and Yelp. Both are looking to be awesome resources and I'll be exploring them in conjunction with this blog in the near future.
-I also recently joined PhillyBlog. I'm in love.
-Revamping the look of this blog. Any suggestions?

Don't worry. I'll be back soon, with good food to write about!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Saucy Trio

As I stated some months ago, I have wanted to delve deeper into the world of Italian cuisine. As my first step, I went straight to the American icon of Italian cooking—Marcella Hazan. My, oh, my. What a woman! An Italian immigrant, she taught cooking lessons in the kitchen of her apartment. She later went on to teach at many cooking schools and write several cookbooks (for details of her career, check here http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/4331/Marcella_Hazan/index.aspx or here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcella_Hazan.)

I chose Essentials of Italian Cooking, published in 1992, as my starting book. And I’m still stuck on it. The book is actually a compilation of two of Marcella’s earlier books, Classic Italian Cooking and More Classic Italian Cooking. It is wonderful. Beautiful. Inspiring. I read it like a novel. Marcella describes the major components of Italian cooking in simple yet elegant prose, and provides regional culinary history as well as recipes. I have a lot more work to do with it; I’m sure there will be a lot more posts pertaining to Marcella and me.

But today, I present to you three pasta sauces. The first one I’d like to share was the least spectacular of the three, “aio e oio” or Roman garlic and oil sauce. A terribly simple sauce, it has just garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes as ingredients. The heated through combination coats the spaghetti just so, and the whole is a delightfully piquant, salty delight. Delightful as it was, it wasn’t particularly thrilling. Good, but not wonderful. The best part about it, honestly, was that it was nice and quick and uses ingredients that I always have on hand.

The second sauce I want to share with you is actually the one I’ve made most recently—in fact, I’ll be finishing up the leftovers tonight! A tomato sauce with San Marzano canned whole tomatoes, sautéed vegetables and olive oil. This is a hearty sauce, with a blunt taste and simple veggies (carrots, celery, and onion). It is actually a nice choice for winter as well, because it’s a little on the heavy side and warms you up. It also has a teasing taste of sunshine and summer from the tomatoes that’s just the thing in the middle of dark and dreary February.

I am the biggest fan of this last sauce: tomato sauce with garlic and basil. Yet another charmingly simple recipe, this sauce is, hand’s down, one of the more amazing things I’ve ever cooked for myself. The taste is the perfect blend of salt, pungent canned tomatoes (though I can’t wait to try it with fresh), and the soft and subtle sweetness of the basil. It was phenomenal. I was incredibly surprised by the depth of the taste of such a simple dish! The flavors were clean, the pasta was al dente, and the entire contents came together into a sublime whole.

Monday, February 18, 2008


The wonderful GF sent me this link from this month's Esquire magazine:

http://www.esquire.com/features/food-drink/sandwiches--the Best Sandwiches in America.

Philly is holding its own against the rest of the country with 2 entries:
-One for the roast pork and provolone sandwich as John's Roast Pork, at 14 East Snyder Avenue.
-One for the chicken cutlet at Shank's and Evelyn's Luncheonette, at 932 South 10th Street.

I haven't gone to either of them, but now I want to visit both! Check it out!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Desire Fulfilled

Do you ever wake up in the morning and want something? Just unaccountably desire it? You hadn’t been thinking about it at all previously but all of a sudden you want it? So much you can almost taste it? I do. Sometimes. I certainly did on Saturday morning. I awoke at the obscenely early hour of 8:30 and left my girlfriends sweetly sleeping behind me in bed, made tea, and sat down with a book. That’s when the craving hit.

I wanted a mimosa. A fresh, bubbly glass of orange juice and all the charm that champagne always brings. I really, really wanted one. I felt that if I had a mimosa at my side at that moment, life would be complete.

However, not possessing either champagne, orange juice, or the budget for a brunch out, it looked like I would be out of luck. But! I still had half a bottle of blood orange soda that I picked up from Trader Joe’s the other evening and a bottle of Absolute in my freezer. Those would be delightful together, I thought. But then I decided it wouldn’t be the same without enough food to cushion the alcohol and of course, that food needed to be brunch food. With a bound, I woke up my sweetly sleeping girlfriend and dragged her to the grocery store in my apartment complex. There we picked up, among other things, the essentials: organic eggs and bacon.

I played sous chef to my GF while she heated up butter in my (one, lone) skillet. Then, submerging slices of bread in whipped eggs and vanilla extract, I handed the drip pieces to her. And let me tell you, she makes amazing French toast. I don’t often eat French toast because it’s so often too sweet and complex for me. But this was beautifully simple, just eggs and vanilla and spattering of cinnamon at the end when it was served. It even kept well and I ate a piece this morning for breakfast as well.

The rest of brunch—bacon done to a perfect crisp and then eggs scrambled in the drippings with herbs de Provence to provide a light touch of flavor to balance all the heaviness—was delightful. And spiked blood orange juice was the absolute perfect accompaniment.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This weekend, I returned to my quest for a food repertoire. I also indulged one of my (many) other great loves: leftovers. I find leftovers incredibly useful. I most often cook with the expectation that I will have at least one lunch left over at the end of it. With my new busier schedule as I pick up shifts at the Café, I’ve found that weekends are a great time for cooking up a mess, throwing it into the fridge, and eating it for the next couple of days.

Sunday afternoon, after a delightful brunch of yogurt parfaits and ginger pancakes made by the lovely Miss C. (of Not Quite Vegan fame), found me chopping broccoli and draining chick peas in my kitchen. I had a little over an hour until I needed to run off to the Café for my evening shift. I had returned to my scant cookbook collection, looking for something that was interesting yet simple, healthy and flavorful. I thought that this recipe for lemony broccoli and chickpea rigatoni would fit the bill quite nicely. I found it in the Food and Wine Annual Cook Book: An Entire Year of Recipes 2007. I think I found this on sale at a Barnes and Noble one day and bought it on impulse. The book is pretty, but most of the recipes are pretty impractical. I’m sure I’ll give it some more chances at some point, but I’ll probably not return to it any time soon.

This dish, crated by Manhattan chef Marc Meyer, is indeed simple and flavorful. There’s quite a lot of olive oil—the chickpeas are soaked in olive oil and lemon, while the broccoli is also sautéed in more oil. But the end product was quite nice. The rigatoni provided a lovely little hide-out for lemon-laden chick peas. I’m not very fond of chick peas, but I think I like them in this dish. The real winner, however, is the broccoli. First blanched and then lightly sautéed to tenderness and peak sweetness, the florets soaked in both the lemon and the olive oil, so each bite is full and delicious. The broccoli approaches sublime heights of broccoli-lemon-oily goodness when sprinkled with parmesan cheese. The dish has reheated rather well, so I think it is a good lunch choice.

On other food fronts, I am simultaneously reading The United States of Arugula (by David Kamp) and Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking. My biggest problem is which to read at any given time. I suspect that this blog will be Italian-cuisine heavy for a little while….

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Salad days are here again

It has been a busy time, here in Philadelphia. Amidst sautéing peppers and onions, boiling Brussels sprouts, and braising kale (so good!), I started a new job. I should say, an additional job. In addition to my boring office job, I have embarked on a part-time job in the Café, near the university I work at.

This isn’t just any café, like Starbucks or even Bucks County Coffee (a local chain here in PA). There are, at the moment, only 2 locations, both located in the University City area of West Philly or in Center City (a third is slated to open in June). It centers around Italian-style sandwiches and made-to-order salads. There’s also an espresso bar, to fuel the caffeine addiction of the student body. The owner is a local man, and he’s super nice and committed to producing a good product for his customers. And get this: the Café uses all natural and organic products, including free range chicken, organic dressings, and locally produced cheeses. Even the chips and snack foods they sell are natural. This Café is pretty serious about patronizing independent businesses. Be still, my beating heart.

I’ve only worked a couple of shifts—but the other employees are friendly, the restaurant busy, and the tasks generally pretty easy. I have years of food service experience behind me and it actually feels good to get back to it. Tying my hair up in a bandana, throwing on an apron, dashing to and fro with precariously balanced containers in my hands. You’ll most likely find me behind the counter throwing sandwiches on to the grill to heat them up (and burning my fingers as well) or making salads as huge waves of people roll in from the semi-Arctic January air.

Here’s how we make salads: people pick up a container of either romaine or spring mix from the shelves and a little slip of paper. They then circle the ingredients they want, the type of dressing, and whether they want it tossed or chopped and for here or to go. We have your normal salad fixings—carrots, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, cheddar cheese. And we also have really exciting ingredients: ricotta salata, Portobello mushrooms, balsamic chicken, chick peas, lentils, capers, mango, dried pineapple, soy nuts, beets, radishes, and pepperocinis. That’s not all. The salad dressings are absolutely divine—a universal favorite is the rosemary balsamic vinaigrette, but the thai sesame lime and the soy ginger are quite popular as well. I can’t help but critique people’s choices in salad fixings—it really is great fun. There’s the guys who want both kinds of chicken and cheddar cheese with romaine, and the girls who want spring mix, chick peas, and lentils with no dressing at all. Then there’s everything in the middle. The combinations that people come up with! Whew—it is almost exhausting to think about.

The thing I just cannot wrap my around is chopped salads. A light chop, sure, I get that. But some of these people (girls—mostly young, college aged women, to be honest) want these things chopped within an inch of their salad-y lives. Suddenly, what was looking like a very pleasant salad with fresh mozzarella and chicken has been turned into a strange looking mass of tiny pieces of unidentifiable food. My coworkers said it’s a pretty major fad in the salad world. I don’t think I understand it. Any insights, my loyal readers?

Friday, January 4, 2008


So, the winter holidays have come and gone in a flurry of vacation, fun, and even a little snow. Oh, and food. A lot of food.

I ate ham and biscuits, corn soufflé, and fried chicken at a Winter Solstice bonfire. Those were washed down by gin and tonics that were a tad too cold for the evening. I ate homemade pesto, organic cheese, kale, and other delightful foods at my dad’s house—all the foods that remind me of my childhood and adolescence. Then there was my mother’s potato latkes a couple of weeks too late for Chanukah. And on Christmas day, there were pancakes with dried beef gravy, sauerkraut with pork, stewed tomatoes, mashed potatoes, and ferociously spiked eggnog.

And that’s not all! There was also chicken and white bean chili on Boxing Day and milk shakes on New Year’s Eve. And lasagana, peppermint stick ice cream, and homemade hard cider in Connecticut. Oh, and could I forget the cheddar cheese and apples, and the creamy-smooth gruyere and crackers?

All in all, good eating.

I came home to Philadelphia after ten days away and was genuinely at a loss for a little while. What did I want to eat? What did I want to cook?

The answer: Brussels sprouts. I’m obsessed with Brussels sprouts. Last night I washed a handful of them and sliced them while sweet onions sweated over low heat until they were translucent. Then I added the sprouts with a splash of water and let them cook until they were tender and so incredibly sweet. Then I served them up with a side of spaghetti (liberally tossed with herbs de Provence), sprinkled with fontina, asiago, and parmesan cheese. So delicious.

The key to good Brussels sprouts is to not overcook them. Overcooking not only causes bland and mushy sprouts, but also deprives them of their not inconsiderable nutrients. I liked my dish from last night mostly because it was a nice—but beautifully simple—variation on normal steamed Brussels sprouts. I think the recipe could be tweaked by using shallots, for a more delicate onion taste, or a splash of white wine instead of water.