Saturday, May 31, 2008

CSA week 2!

Week 2 at the CSA features collard green, beets, chives, baby spinach, strawberries, ground pork, swiss cheese, and milk.
Horray, more meals to plan! 

P has already decided he'll use the collards and beet greens tomorrow night to be served with slow-roasted pork shoulder. oooh pork shoulder.  

Beets will be made into the delightful old standby of roast beet and onion salad with honeyed goat cheese from DiBrunos.  that honey goat cheese is like crack I could eat so much of it.

Chives will be used in tonight's soba and tofu dish in place of scallions and turned into chive butter and maybe chive oil.  

I don't drink whole milk since it doesn't agree with me, but I got it as our dairy option this week so that we could make strawberry ice cream and to use to make ricotta, since we have leftover buttermilk that needed to be used.  Yes, I make my own cheese, and I will post on that sooner or later. 

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ladies' Night: Bar Ferdinand

My husband P and our friend J got invited to this "men only dinner" with the winemaking crew in south Philly.  J's wife H and I took it upon ourselves to have our own fun out on the town.  What could be better then some white sangria, a comfortably warm evening, and lots of tasty little tapas?  

We got to Bar Ferdinand at exactly the right time- we were able to get a table outside before the waiting list started, and was still in time for the tail end of happy hour.  We decided to try the chef's tasting, 10 plates over 4 courses for $35 a piece.  

Overall, everything was very good, with some high points.  My gold standard for tapas is of course, Amada, which sets high expectation.  

The high points first:

An arugula, spinach, and cabrales cheese salad with honey vinagrette.  This was listed on the menu with the addition of crispy quail, which sounds delicious, but didn't come on our plate. However the greens were dressed perfectly and the cheese and vinagrette made a delicious salty-sweet combo that was really irresistable. 

Croquettes of bacalao and jamon.  Crispy, creamy, perfect.  Only complaint is that they served only one of each, so we had to share. 

Tapas shrimp with olive oil and garlic.  Standard tapas fare, straightforward and well executed. However, they served 3 shrimp for two people.  Would it have killed them to throw us an extra shrimp?

Lamb meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce.  Meaty, tender, perfectly cooked so they weren't tight and dry.

Flan with fresh berries.  Light, creamy, and suprisingly lemony.

The low points:

Demitasse cups of lentil soup with a sun-dried tomato crouton. Not horrible but rather uninspired; then again I don't really like lentil soup.  

Seared venison with a microgreen salad.  The venison was perfectly cooked, nice a rare, but everything was just too salty.  

Pan-fried Dorade with a honey sauce.  This was my first experience with Dorade and I wasn't such a fan.  It tasted a bit fishy and reminded me a bit of swordfish, which I don't particularly like. It looked like we had a  piece that was mostly bloodline.

During dessert, we were served something that looked like a modern take on s'mores on a skewer.  there was some form of frozen meringue or foam that had been cubes and resembled a marshmallow.  It screamed "molecular gastronomy" to me.  It turned out to be breaded manchego cubes with, upon perusal of the menu, was "frozen apple foam."  eh.  

The service was pleasant and attentive.  H and I both agree we would go back, but would forgo the tasting next time.  

Bar Ferdinand
1030 N. 2nd St
Philadelpha PA 19123

Bar Ferdinand on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Corn Soup for Supper

Wednesday I got off from work early, so I made P and I a lovely light supper to be enjoyed al fresco.  On the menu? Corn soup, green bean and tomato salad, and flatbread with caramelized onions and goat cheese.  This meal was an unintended but cunning exercise in the use of leftovers , and for that I must say I am exceedingly proud.  
Michael Chiarello was the inspiration for the corn soup.  We love the panzanella recipe in his Casual Cooking book so much we served it at our wedding.
 I haven't tried much else in the book, but the corn soup caught my eye, and we just so happened
 to pick up some corn at Whole Paycheck on sale this weekend.  So corn soup it was. And as corn is a plant, It'll be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Wandering Chopsticks.


I'll admit that while the flavor was nice, it was too thin, and I already cut down on the amount of water it called for.  I know this is supposed to be a summer soup, but I still crave a bit of texture.  The instructions are to puree and strain, so you really only get liquid.  Maybe a dollop of creme fraiche  would help out, but I am not one of those girls who "happens"  to have creme fraiche sitting around.  sorry.  Also, he instructs you to boil the corn cobs, I guess to make some sort of corn cob stock, but then the soup kinda tasted like corn cob. 


The flatbread was, if I say so myself, a stroke of sheer genius in leftovering.  I had a half of an onion left from the soup, and a ball of pizza dough left from the weekend.  While the onions were caramelizing I found just a nubbin of goat cheese in the fridge, which added a nice goaty sharpness. This time I put the pizza stone in the oven.  The dough got bubbly right away and the crust was the right combination of crispy on the bottom, chewy on top.  

Corn Soup (adapted from Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking)

4 c corn kernels, from 5 ears of corn (save the cobs)
6 c water 
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 c heavy cream (I used half and half)
sea salt
basil oil or chives

remove kernels from corn and set aside (note: this instruction is not in the original recipe, so I dumped the kernels in the pot with the cobs first, since I didn't read ahead)

place corn cobs in a pot with celery, onion, bay and water.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  remove cobs.

Add kernels, cream, salt.  Simmer until corn is tender, about 3 mins.

puree soup in a blender.  rewarm if necessary and serve.

(note: I strained the puree as the original recipe indicates, but I have left out this step as I feel it results in a thin soup and in unnecessary.  One might want to add a bit of potato to the soup as well to add just a bit of thickness.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

False Dichotomies . . . or Memorial Day in review.

Yesterday my husband P and I had our friends J and H over to enjoy the weather, argue politics, and eat.  Apparently my attempt at political persuasion was full of false dichotomy (thank you J), but the eats (of which I took no pictures, sadness) were received without complaint.  

We grilled our chicken sausage from our CSA 
and used it to top pizza we made on the barbecue.  Alas P is vehemently against gas grills, so we attempted this on our little charcoal guy.  We put a pizza stone down to try to evenly distribute the heat.  The dough turned out a bit soft for my tastes- more like bread then pizza crust.  The recipe from Alton Brown worked out beautifully (man did it rise a lot), I'm blaming our shoddy pizza-baking.  Don't get me wrong, the toppings of arugula pesto, chicken sausage and mozzerella, and roasted tomato, basil and cheese were delectable
 and the whole thing went down, as the english say, a treat.  But 
in the spirit of full disclosure, I prefer a crispier crust.

CSA asparagus went into a salad with white beans, artichoke hearts and grape tomatoes which is served over toast.  Inspired by the spring salad at Tria, this is great served room temp or warm, and when you top it with a poached egg (yummmmm) it's a great light dinner. 

I do have a picture  and recipe for our dessert, which is a recipe I adapted from the most recent Cooking Light.  This is originally was a recipe for a pound cake with lemon-basil glaze, but since I wanted to serve it with my minted fruit salad and we had a ton of mint from our CSA, I made it lemon-mint.  It's not quite a pound cake, more of a cross between a pound cake and angel food cake.  The glaze adds a nice lemony sweetness.  I baked in my cathedral bundt pan (thank you jenny) which gives it lots of nice crisp ridges for the glaze to run over.

doesn't that look just precious?

Pound Cake with Lemon-Mint Glaze

10 tablespoon butter, softened and divided
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
juice of one lemon 
3 large egg whites

1/4 cup half-and-half (I used skim milk cause it's what I had)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint 
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Dash of vanilla salt

1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with 1 tablespoon butter, and dust with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and the remaining 9 tablespoons butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in rind and extract. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine buttermilk and 2 tablespoons juice. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

4. Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form, using clean, dry beaters. Add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-third of egg white mixture into batter; fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

5. To prepare glaze, combine half-and-half and basil in a small microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds. Let stand 5 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl; discard basil. Combine half-and-half, powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons juice, and dash of salt; stir with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle half of glaze over cake; let stand 5 minutes or until set. Repeat procedure with remaining glaze.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Citrus Berry Salad with Agave Mint Dressing

One of the reasons I started this blog is to participate in the myriad culinary challenges that are floating around the blogosphere.  While reading The Domestic Goddess, I realized that this month's Sugar High Friday challenge is coming to an end, and Tartlette, this month's host, set a citrus challenge! I love how refreshing citrus is, so I decided to leave it mostly unadulterated in this salad.  It's amazing on its own or paired with the creamy vanilla ice cream I churned up today!  The agave and mint dressing add a sweet freshness, although the strawberries were sweet enough by themselves.

Citrus Berry Salad with Agave Mint Dressing

3 medium oranges (also great with honey tangerines!)
1 pt strawberries
1 tbs agave nectar
2-3 tbs orange juice
handful of mint leaves
tiny pinch of vanilla salt

supreme the oranges, catching the juice over a bowl.  trim and slice strawberries. set aside.
blend agave nectar with the orange drippings and salt. chiffonade mint and add with fruit.  toss. 

serve alone, on a pound cake, with ice cream, whatever.  

First CSA pickup!

Yesterday was our first pickup at our CSA, Greensgrow Farms.  This is our 3rd CSA year (2nd at Greensgrow) and we love being able to get more then just veggies.  The variety is great too, so there will be no repeat of the Summer '06 5 strait weeks of red cabbage.  

In this week's pick up (small, as it is the beginning of the season):
chicken sausage

So many meals to make, so little time. 
So far, the asparagus will be grilled for a warm salad inspired by the spring salad at Tria.
Strawberries and mint will be made into a fruit salad to top homemade ice cream.  I'm also making a jar of mint simple-syrup to be used all summer in bevvies.
Chicken sausage will be put on grilled pizza for memorial day inspired by this story on Serious Eats. 
farm stand at Greensgrow

Check out Greensgrow- they are an urban farm on a remediated brownfield in the Kenzington/Port Richmond border.  They grow hydroponically and in raised beds.  They also make their own honey (called Honey from the Hood) and biodeisel.  I work with inner city children, and I am hoping to take them there this summer and show them that fruit and vegetables can come from their own neighborhood.  You'd be shocked how few vegetables these kids can recognize.  

Updates on how things turn out to come!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Frighteningly Full- Dinner at Famous 4th Street Delicatessen

As mentioned in the previous post, we were celebrating a birthday in the family.  My sister in law and her boyfriend are notoriously hard to eat out with (this said with great love and understanding).  She is allergic to nearly everything under the sun and he's a bit finicky.  
With the closing of their old standby, Azure, in Northern Liberties, we needed to break in a new place to celebrate.

 I had been to 4th street once, years ago.  They are known for recockulously large portions and awesome chocolate chip cookies.  Dinner was so much better then I remember their food to be.  
I'll admit I was wary at first- we sat down to complementary pickles and health salad, which did nothing for me since I have an aversion to all things pickled.  Then came a basket of rye bread and amazing onion-poppyseed rolls.  The rolls were made from an eggy dough and had an onion and poppy mixture that reminds me of bialy filling. Much more my speed; I had two.

I ordered matzoh ball soup and a blintz on the side.  The soup was fantastic- the matzoh ball was the size of my head (literally) and the broth was well seasoned and had generous chunks of roasted chicken, sweet carrots, and farfale.  The blintz was creamy on  the inside with a nice crisp on the outside, although the cherry sauce on the side was really thick pie filling. 

My mother-in-law had challah french toast- it looked like a whole loaf of challah- she'll have breakfast for the next week.  The birthday boy's turkey sandwich had a whole breast's worth of sliced turkey in it. The potato pancakes that most people got on the side were crispy and tasted like potato- which i prefer to the type that are more like your standard breakfast pancake.

Everyone took home at least half their food, so even though it's a bit pricey for deli food, you will get a lot of meal mileage out of whatever you order.  I hate to even think what the zaftig, or large sandwich looks like.  They even send you home with a bag of their famous chocolate chip cookies as a part of the meal.  I like free dessert.

I was stuffed and suprised when I left and can't wait to return- I've got my eye on some kugel.

Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen 
700 4th Street (at Bainbridge)
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Famous 4th Street Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Cinnamon Rolls and Sticky Buns : A Birthday Bakestravaganzaa

I first came upon this recipe when the Daring Bakers used it last September.  It was my first foray into sweet yeast dough and the results were fantastic.  My sister-in-law's boyfriend, who can finish off a loaf of bread at each meal, was a particular fan.  He's having a birthday, so I thought I'd revisit the recipe and try the sticky bun variation, which I hadn't tried.

Of course I hadn't done adequate planning, so I found myself quite short on all purpose flour.  I supplemented with a mix of white whole wheat, regular whole wheat, and some white cake flour for good measure.  I was worried about the end product, but the rolls turned out okay- a little drier then before.  The sticky buns seemed not to suffer at all from the heavier flour, so maybe this is a way for them to be a little "healthier."

These buns have amazing dough which is very satisfying to knead.  The sticky bun variation is, I must confess, out of this world.  Fresh backed crack, I'm serious. 

Here's the recipe from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice:

For the Rolls: 
6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)
White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns or caramel glaze for sticky buns (at the end of the recipe.)
Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)
Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)
*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.

Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand).
Note: if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast.
Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Fermentation: Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

 Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.)

Prepare the Buns for Proofing:
For cinnamon buns: line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren´t touching but are close to one another.
For sticky buns: coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts and raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.
Proof the Buns: Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.

Bake the Buns:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.
Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.

Cool the buns:
For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.
For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

Toppings for the Buns:
White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns:
Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.
Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.
When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)

Caramel glaze for sticky buns
Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar and fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts and lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long and the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor and texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing and flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze of any I´ve tried. It was developed by my wife, Susan, for Brother Juniper´s Cafe in Forestville, California.
NOTE: you can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Coming up . . .

In the next few weeks, I'm aiming to tackle some recipes I have been eyeing in my massive cookbook collection. 

Strawberry Shortcake from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.
Our CSA is giving us strawberries this week, and I haven't tackled biscuits yet.  

So far what I've tried from this cookbook has been great.  I made the Sfogliatelle, which were suprisingly easy (well, easier then I thought they would be) and tasted awesome. The Cherry-Cheese Strudel was tasty but I couldn't get it to look very pretty.  I'll try again during cherry season though. I made the Coconut Cake, which was a cake version of the awesome looking coconut cupcakes Martha made on her show during cupcake week. The cake was amazing, although the seven-minute frosting she recommends was too sweet for my taste.  I adapted the recipe to include mango mousse and raspberry jam as the filling- I wish my mousse had turned out better though. 

I must make something from Mangoes and Curry Leaves, a gorgeous book by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  I will probably start out with a chicken dish like Aromatic Slow Cooked Chicken, and maybe a dal.  

This month's Martha Stewart Living has an intriguing Lemon Chamomile pie I am dying to try. . .


I'll Eat You

Welcome to I'll Eat You, which I intend to be a blog about my baking and cooking exploits, as well as a place where I'll review tasty places I've eaten in Philadelphia and beyond.