Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Anniversary Split-Pea Soup

I love many things that are normal to love in this world. I love my family, my friends, my kitten (I really REALLY love my kitten). I love the first days of spring and the first flowers that I see. I love pizza and sunshine and really good bargains. I love it when people read this blog; I do seriously love reading other people’s blogs.

What do y’all love? I’m just wondering.

Anyway, there are two things that I love a whole lot—probably than is good for any of us. One of those is my girlfriend. I love her to the point of doting. The other is split pea soup. I dote on that too.

So I combined to two last week and made what I’m now calling an “Anniversary Split Pea Soup.” Tuesday was our 2 year anniversary, but we were both pretty busy with work and school, so we put off the major celebrating for the weekend and simply made sure to see each other on Tuesday evening. (I mean, Tuesday was a really exciting day, what with a new president and all). I cooked dinner—and by cooked, I mean made split pea soup and my roommate baked some (admittedly dense) bread.

The recipe for the split pea soup? Really good. It came from Williams Sonoma’s Soup Cookbook, which is full of really good recipes and is gorgeous to look at. The soup itself? Needs some work. It was entirely too salty, which I’m just going to fix by using low sodium broth next time. I had to add some extra broth at the end because it was simmering off a little too quickly, and I think that’s where the salt went wrong. But I really enjoyed the texture, which was just the right mix of smooth puree and chunky soup. It was also really good the next day when I brought it to work for lunch. My favorite part was the diced pancetta I used in place of the bacon—it made a pleasant addition, texture-wise and had an impact on the taste as well. I will definitely make it again in the near future, and hopefully will remember to update my progress here!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Out and About

Goodness! What a month it has been so far! What with traveling, being broke, hanging out with my parents, and now the inauguration AND my 2-year anniversary, things have been busy! I have a lot of posts that are waiting to be written—including another GF guest post—so I’ll probably be updating a little more often for a little while. Ideally.

My mother and her husband, J, came up to visit this weekend. We had a grand time, even though Philadelphia has been frigid. I can’t remember the last time it was so darn cold!! We did less walking than I had envisioned, but we still made it to the Rodin Museum, the Liberty Bell, and some other tourist sites. We also ate. And ate and ate and are some more.

We started at Gianna’s, on 6th and Lombard. This oft-spoke of hole in the wall is home of the best vegetarian Philly cheese steak I’ve ever had. I especially appreciate that they will make them to order, because my mother greatly appreciated the addition of banana peppers and lettuce to hers. J, my step-dad has the 1-pounder cheese steak and declared it one of the best sandwiches he’s ever had.

Dinner that night was quite an affair. Mom had requested somewhere nice that I hadn’t gone to before and that I normally couldn’t afford. Since almost everything falls in that category, I had a lot of room for decisions. I finally hit on the Caribou Café, a French bistro and venerable Philly institution. I was a little nervous, because I had read some sketchy reviews, but it was actually lovely. I had a Kir Royale as an aperitif—I haven’t had one since I was 16 and visiting Paris. I think they tasted better across the Atlantic. I had a mixed salad with beets for an appetizer, while Mom had pate and J. enjoyed escargot. I went classic with my entrée, choosing steak frites—and wow, was it good! Mom, who doesn’t eat red meat, got the duck medallions, while J. chose the scallops. I tried the duck and it was also lovely—Caribou gets 10 extra points for the cherry sauce! Dessert was, probably, the best part of the meal. J. got 2 mountainous profiteroles whose exuberant ice cream and chocolate sauce could barely be contained. Mom got some delightful chocolate concoction while I maintained my classic sensibilities and has crème brulee. Overall, the ambiance was pleasant, the service was excellent, and the food was tasty—especially those profiteroles.

We followed this spectacularness the next day with brunch at Rx, my favorite brunch spot a few blocks away from my apartment. I love everything about that place—the décor, the ceiling fans, the coffee, the coffee cups, the eggs, the eggs Florentine, the bacon, the potatoes, the bacon. There’s a lot to love. Go. Now. You’ll love it too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Comfort food and colds

Well, Happy New Year, everyone. Aren’t you a little tired of hearing it? I am. Even though I am very, very excited about 2009. I hope it will be a time of great growth and change for me—fingers are crossed!!!

However, I seem to be starting the year out with an incipient cold. Now, I’m due in Connecticut for a long weekend with my darling GF on Thursday. She’s a Connecticut native and I love visiting her family. We’re going to sample the romantic and gastronomic (???) pleasures of that strange state. Which means, of course, that I can’t get sick. I’m pretty good at beating off colds, so hopefully I’ll prevail.

But I was feeling pretty pathetic last night by the time I got home and started thinking about dinner. I don’t have much on hand right now—since I’m leaving for 5 days, I didn’t want to buy too much fresh stuff. I wanted garlic to be the star ingredient, mostly because it is so good for immune systems and warding off illnesses. I’ve also been craving strongly flavored foods; I’ve been adding red pepper flakes to everything I make recently. They were also part of last night’s dinner, as was dried oregano.

So I put some penne onto the stove to cook and diced 2 cloves of garlic—a hefty amount for a 1-person sized portion. As I was heating up the olive oil, I realized that the meal was asking for some protein. So I dumped some chickpeas onto low heat with the garlic and sautéed them until they were warm with the slightest hint of crisp. Mixed with the penne and some parmesan cheese, the entire result was a hot, comforting dish. The garlic was barely cooked, so a lot of its good stuff remained; the chick peas, in turn, mellowed the garlic and provided a lot of nice texture. Kale braised in chicken broth would have been a nice side (alas, I had no kale) as well as an additional vehicle for garlic.