Thursday, May 28, 2009

CEiMB: Crispy Fish Fingers

There are just some things that you shouldn't compromise.  If you want fish sticks, have deep fried, crispy delicious fish sticks.  Live with the calories, make room for it in your diet.  Sacrifice elsewhere.   Healthy, low calorie food can be delicious, but I don't think it works as well when it's trying to be something it's not.  Breaded, baked fish fingers masquerading as fish sticks just don't cut it, at least for me.  I was visiting my vegan friend last week.  Vegan food can be delicious, but it shines best when the food just so happens to be vegan, rather then food replicating a meat and dairy dish. (although I did really like her soy sausage casserole!)  I'm beginning to feel the same way about all this low-fat food.  Stick to fresh, healthy ingredients and you won't have a problem making something yummy.  I know this Ellie works off this principle most of the time, and I find I like those recipes best. 

Paul described this meal as "self-punitive."  I wouldn't go that far, but I probably won't be making it again. 

Crispy Fish Fingers

2008, Ellie Krieger, All rights reserved

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
hr min
Cook Time:
12 min
4 servings


  • 4 slices whole-wheat bread (1-ounce each)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound flounder fillets
  • 2 eggs, beaten to mix
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, optional


Put the bread in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until bread crumbs form. Toast the crumbs in a large, dry nonstick skillet over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently and breaking up the crumbs with a spoon if they begin to stick together, until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. On a plate, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Cut the fillets into 4 by 1-inch strips. A few pieces at a time, dip the fish into the flour mixture, dusting off the excess. Dip the fish in the egg and then the bread crumbs. Arrange on the baking sheet and continue until all of the fish is breaded. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chives and cayenne, if using. Season, to taste, with freshly ground black pepper.

Serving size: 6 pieces and 2 tablespoons sauce

Per Serving:

Calories 320; Total Fat 10 g; (Sat Fat 2 g, Mono Fat 2 g, Poly Fat 4 g) ; Protein 32 g; Carb 25 g; Fiber 4 g; Cholesterol 165 mg; Sodium 1030 mg

Excellent source of: Protein, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Manganese, Phosphorus, Selenium

Good source of: Fiber, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Apple Strudel

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

This month you are going to see a lot of strudels from the Daring Bakers.  You are going to see some very inventive fillings, some beautiful presentations, and nice photography.  This isn't going to be one of those posts.  I made straight up, old fashioned apple strudel.   And it was gooood. 

 I needed a dessert for our mother's day brunch, and this seemed like a go-to recipe for that.  I wasn't sure how it would be recieved, but it turned out to be a crowd favorite!  

Notes on the preparation:  For the faint of heart, or pastry- timid,  never fear!  This is a deceptively easy procedure and a good intro to pastry.  I was worried that stretching and rolling the dough would be difficult- it was actually a cinch. I used floured cheesecloth underneath, but I recommend using your hands and let the weight of the dough do the work.  I thought it would take a lot more time, but most of it is resting time.  You don't even need to cook the apples in the filling.  Next time, I'm going to cut down on the breadcrumbs.  I made it nut free because of family allergies, but I bet it would be awesome with the toothsome crunch of walnuts or pecans.  

Go out and give it a try! You won't be sorry you did!

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

- Ingredients are cheap so we would recommend making a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn't come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try;
- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyster;
- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves;
- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;
- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Blogiversary to Me!!

I'll Eat You turns one today!  Thanks to everyone who has read and supported this blog. I wanted this post to be a bit more spectacular, but I am away and have limited internet access.    I'll be back in a few days to announce the final proceeds of the bake sale, and which lucky blogger has won my fun prize package!

Have a great day, and eat something delicious!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Leftover Magic: Ratatouille and Goat Cheese Tart

After our Mother's Day feast, we had quite a bit of leftover Ratatouille, for which I was glad.  This is such a simple, tasty dish that focuses on the essence of the roasted vegetables.  The slow, oven roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the tomato, squash, peppers, and eggplants.

Inspiration struck when thumbing through my Elie Krieger cookbook,
The Food You Crave. She makes a cornmeal crusted tart with ratatouille and mozzerella cheese. I decided to make her cornmeal crust, and spread a layer of rich tangy goat cheese under a fan of roasted veggies.  

The crust didn't come together as well as I had expected- it was a little dry and overly crumbly, but the tart made a fancy presentation for a weeknight dinner.  I think you could do this well with just a regular pie crust too (even one from frozen, I won't tell!)

Cormeal-Crusted Ratatouille and Goat Cheese tart
adapted from Ellie Krieger



  • 2/3 c yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 c whole rain pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons water


  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced eggplant rounds (about 1/3 medium eggplant)
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 8 ounces)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces shredded goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine cornmeal, pastry flour, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to incorporate. Add butter and oil and pulse about 20 times, until mixture resembles small pebbles. Add water and pulse until mixture forms a loose dough. Remove dough from processor and press into bottom and about 1/8-inch up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a detachable rim. Press aluminum foil into the bottom and sides of the pan on top of the dough and weigh down with uncooked rice or pie weights. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove rice and foil. Return to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until no longer shiny and wet. Remove from oven and let cool.

For the filling: Increase the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat; saute shallots until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Spray 2 baking trays with cooking spray. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini and tomato slices on the trays in a single layer and brush with the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and roast the vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from oven and cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Spread the tart shell with goat cheese.  Lay the eggplant slices in 2 layers on the bottom of tart;  Add the vegetables in  lovely pattern. Top with Parmesan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and vegetables have further wilted. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and cut into 8 slices. Serve warm.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bakesale: Berry Layer Cake

I've really been exploiting my cake decorating skills the past few weeks, what with all these birthdays in the family. Last weekend I made not one but three cakes (one was inedible- damn untested vegan recipes).  This is the best of them, a berry and whipped cream layer cake for my sister-in-law's boyfriend.  This was my first time making a cake for this many people, and my first attempt at "frosting" a cake entirely in whipped cream.  

I got the best tip about making your whipped cream more stabilized in order to frost a cake or pipe decorations.  Yes, you can use gelatin, but gelatin is messy.  Melt one large marshmallow per cup of cream you are whipping, and whip it right in.  I discovered this weekend that my new shmancy microwave has a "melt marshmallow" setting- awesome!

No recipe required here- use your favorite yellow cake, layer with whipped cream and berries, make the top pretty, and voila!!

This is the last week of my blogiversary bake sale!  Please contribute by making something, or by donating here.  Proceeds go to the World Food Program.

Here are some recent Bake Sale entries:

Psychgrad from Equal Opportunity Kitchen made a yummy upside down cake!

Abby from Big East Baker made a chai cake for our cake decorating class.  I had some, it's definitely worth trying!

Monday, May 18, 2009


For our annual Mother's Day brunch extravaganza, we wanted to highlight some springtimey vegetables, and what says "I love you, Mom" better than peas? Fresh peas, of course.

The shells for these little numbers are made of standard pâte à choux with a little herbes de provence thrown in. The filling is made mostly of goat cheese, with half the peas cooked soft and whirled in, and the other half more lightly blanched to provide some "pop". A hint of mint and a touch of lemon zest wakes the whole thing up.

For the puffs - courtesy of Martha Stewart:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 tsp herbes de provence (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside. Combine butter, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan, and place over medium heat. Cook until butter is melted and the water just comes to a boil.

Remove from heat, add flour, and stir rapidly. Return the pan to the heat, and cook mixture, stirring constantly, until it comes together and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan, about 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, beating until they are completely incorporated and the pastry is smooth. Transfer the pastry to a bag fitted with a small coupler. Pipe about 1/2 tablespoon of the pastry into a mound on the prepared baking sheet; continue piping until all the pastry is used, spacing pastry about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until the puffs are golden brown all over, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

For the filling:
1 lb goat cheese
about 1 1/2 C fresh peas
8-10 leaves fresh spearmint, sliced thinly
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil and add a few tablespoons of salt. Blanche half of the peas for about 3 minutes, or until just tender while retaining some of their crispness. Remove and plunge into an ice bath. Add the rest of the peas, cook until soft, and drain.

With an electric mixer, blend the cheese, fully-cooked peas, lemon zest, mint, and salt and pepper until smooth. If mixture seems to thick to pipe, add a little water or milk to thin it out.

Shortly before serving, slice the cooled puffs in half and pipe in the filling.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Review: Branzino

After failing at securing last-minute reservations for Pumpkin, just a mere four blocks from our new house where my in-laws were visiting, we decided to give Italian BYO Branzino a shot. Situated just north of Spruce on 17th Street, right across the street from the lamentably forgettable La Fotnana della Città, Branzino's one of those places I've walked by hundreds of times but never considered going to. But having been around for several years now, I figured they must be doing something right ...

The good news is that they are. The interior, though not huge, isn't cramped either, though it was a little noisy. The back room where we sat had its walls painted with color and subject matter that gave the room a distinct "cruise ship" vibe. There's outdoor dining too, but the evening was a little nippy for that.

There's a nice assortment of standard mid-range Italian appetizers, all priced in the $6-$10 range. I went for the grilled squid, which was wonderfully tender and flavorful, though I would have liked a little less lemon/oil/squid juice dressing sitting beneath it. Lauren's endive salad with apples, walnuts and gorgonzola sported an interesting cross-cut endive technique and was otherwise light and refreshing.

My entree was the papardelle with rabbit. The pasta was great and the red wine sauce was nice; the rabbit lacked a little bit of character, as it was all cut up into small pale chunks that didn't taste too far off from chicken. Overall I'm not complaining, especially for a pretty reasonable $15. Lauren got the Squid Ink Pappardelle with shellfish.  The pasta was freshly made and excellent, although the shrimp and scallops a wee bit overcooked. 

My mother-in-law ordered the namesake fish, and though I didn't get a chance to taste it, I will say that it was filleted tableside in a most precise manner.

So add Branzino to the list of worth-a-visit Italian BYOs in this city. Though your socks will not be knocked off, it's a reliable, reasonably-priced standby for your dining out rotation.

Branzino on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 15, 2009

Home-cured gravlax

Here's something you should have done a long time ago, if you haven't already. All you need is a filet of salmon, a few tablespoons of salt and sugar, a fistful of dill, and patience. You will be rewarded for your relatively little work and laziness with a seafood experience like no other: fresh, homemade gravlax.

You may have walked by it in the IKEA cafeteria, or gotten it confused with lox (which is smoked, not just cured), but gravlax's combination of silken fattiness and delicate flavor is a real crowd favorite, as we found out at Mother's Day brunch. I thought I was suffering from temporary insanity when I bought two pounds of salmon for eight people (as it was being served with a bunch of other things), so imagine my surprise when the first pound disappeared halfway through the meal, leaving me to scurry up and slice up the other half. Perhaps it was the irresistibly precious presentation atop a piece of rye toast that did it:

Anyway, this is a Scandinavian classic that has rightly endured, and there's no need to wait for a special occasion to make it. Thanks to Cooking for Engineers for this recipe, which I will paraphrase.

Salmon (filet, skin on)
Kosher salt
Dill, washed and roots trimmed

For every pound of salmon, mix 2 tablespoons salt with 2 tablespoons sugar and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Mix the cure thoroughly.

Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap big enough for your piece of fish and lay the salmon on it skin side down. Cover the salmon evenly with the curing mixture and gently press it into the flesh. Place a goodly bunch of dill atop the curing mixture. If you are making two filets, cover the other with the cure and lay it flesh-side down on top of the dill (tail-to-head so the thickness is roughly even throughout).

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, then wrap the package again. Place in a dish to collect the juices that will seep out. Leave in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, turning every 12 hours or so.

When you're ready to serve the gravlax, unwrap and rinse thoroughly so all the cure is removed. Pat dry and slice thinly on the bias.

We also made a quick sauce for this, based on the traditional accompaniment. We wanted to use a Meyer lemon, but the damn thing was brown inside when we cut into it, so it was a regular old lemon instead.

Juice of one lemon
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp minced (or grated) lemon zest
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil
Fresh dill, rinsed and chopped

Mix first five ingredients, then slowly drizzle in oil while whisking to make a smooth, glossy sauce. Add the dill and let sit for at least a half hour for flavors to meld. Serve sparingly atop gravlax.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

CEiMB: Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

This week's healthy recipe was an adventure in Caribbean cooking.  Not having much of a reference point, I wasn't sure what to expect.  My only reference, in fact, is a song by my favorie muppet, Kermit the Frog:

I know a tropical island 
Where the Mango moon and Banana 
sun shine 
And on this tropical island 
There lives a cousin of mine 

Sometimes he lives in the water 
Sometimes he lives on the land 
Sometimes he likes to go 
sun himself 
On soft Caribbean sand 

He's a 
Caribbean Amphibian 
He likes to hop in the tropical sea 
Caribbean Amphibian 
A frog in a coconut tree 

The flying fish and the turtles 
They've seen him hop where the pineapple grows 
He likes to see all the islands 
So, island-hopping he goes 

Sometimes he hops to Jamaica 
Sometimes to Haiti he hops 
Sometimes a warm Puerto Rican 
Is where he finally stops 

He's a Caribbean Amphibian 
He likes to hop in the tropical sea 
Caribbean Amphibian 
A frog in a coconut tree 
A frog in the coconut tree 

Ribbet Ribbet!

(are you still here?? good).  So anyway, my only reference is spirited and fun, but rather limited.  That songe, combined with my scant culinary knowledge lead me to expect a lot of smoke and spice. This dish didn't deliver either.  It was very mildly spiced (perhaps owing to our pepper rather then the recipe) and as the chicken is pan fried, I didn't get the charred flavor I was hoping for.  The flavors seemed more asian-influenced then anything else, what with the soy sauce, ginger and scallions in the recipe.  The pineapple salsa was cool, but the cucumber didn't add much to it and the mint made the flavors  bit muddled.  I'm disappointed, as I have really like everything else I have made with Craving Ellie in My Belly, but it's not as if I left the table hungry.  Just a little empty. 

This week's recipe was chosen from Notes From The Table

Chicken with Jerk Sauce and Cool Pineapple Salsa

from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave

For the salsa:
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 cup finely diced pineapple
1/3 cup finely diced, seeded English cucumber
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

For the chicken:
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, about 5 ounces each, pounded to 1/2-inch thick
1 cup chopped scallions (about 6 scallions)
1/2 Scotch bonnet or habanero chile pepper, seeded and finely minced (wear gloves when handling)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, or 1/4 teaspoon ground
1 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
For the salsa:

In a small bowl whisk together the honey and the lime juice. Combine the pineapple, cucumber and mint in a medium bowl, pour the dressing over and toss to combine. Set aside.

For the chicken:

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan. Stir in the scallions, pepper, garlic, ginger, allspice, and thyme. Cook for 30 seconds over a medium heat. Add the chicken broth and soy sauce and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Put the chicken back in the pan and coat well with the sauce.

Serve with the pineapple salsa.

Yield: 4 servings (1 serving is 1 chicken breast, 2 tablespoons of sauce and 1/3 cup of salsa)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Review: Mr. Martino's Trattoria

This won't be especially easy for me. When Mr. Martino's came along over ten years ago (at least), it was something of a novelty: "Italian-Italian" rather than the Italian-American you'd find in red gravy joints like Marra's down Passyunk Avenue. "BYOB" was just four letters and not a whole sub-genre of the dining scene. Indeed, Mr. Martino's has a special place in history.

But unfortunately, history is where it belongs.

The space and its ramshackle charms hold such promise: the original stamped tin ceiling, the tile entryway left over from the place's former life as (I believe) a hardware store, the tangled mess of extra chairs on a second-floor loft, illuminated by the light from outside. The kitchen is very small, we learn, and that's why the wait for the food is sometimes a little long. The wait, the food: if only it were worth it ...

As Einstein said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." Though simplicity is generally a virtue when you're talking about Italian cuisine, the menu steps over the "too simple" line. You'd better like pasta, because over half of it seems to be some variation of "pasta with tomato sauce". And the sauce, while not bad, certainly isn't enough to carry a dish like a small bowl of penne with the sauce heaped over the top, not even sauteed together to coat the pasta in a finishing touch that even the IKEA cafeteria doesn't skimp on.

My spinach lasagna could have been a welcome, lightened interpretation of a dish that can be an oppressively cheesy mess, but the pile of wet noodles, tasteless ricotta and spinach filling and the aforementioned sauce was singularly unsatisfying.

Lauren's cavatelli with pumpkin sauce, one of the "specials" (which never seem to change), was oversauced, overly sweet, and not particularly pumpkiny. And, well, you know the joke about "the food was lousy ... and such small portions!" ... I'd argue that it makes sense here.

No one ordered it, but I can't help but mention that there's a boneless chicken breast on the menu. Frankly, I think we have moved past this point as a society.

What we have here is a place that helped blaze a trail, that led the way of an exodus out of the land of chicken parmigiana and veal marsala to a place with lighter, cleaner, fresher flavors, only to be eclipsed by a hundred other Italian BYOs, and never catching up. The lack of culinary invention in this place is damning it to eternal mediocrity. Though it has a stable of regulars who I imagine are drawn back by the relatively cheap food and friendly service, with Passyunk Avenue heating up the way it has been, sooner or later the people are going to stop coming, and it will have to adapt or fall by the wayside.

Mr. Martino's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bakesale: An apple for the teacher

This kind of apple isn't a healthy one - it's a sweeter kind, made for Teacher Appreciation Week (which was last week).  
I'm adding to the bake sale goodies by thanking the teacher who I work with daily and who spend so much time helping children in many ways- academic and otherwise. 

I used Alton Brown's sugar cookie dough, which rolls and cuts easily, as long as you keep it cold. You can use your favorite sugar cookie recipe- I'm sure we all have one.   I used 2 consistencies of royal icing  to frost them- I piped medium royal icing around the sides, then flooded the centers with thin.  I bit of melted dark chocolate completed the stem.  

Just a note- it is very hard to replicate a true red color.  I have found this too many times when coloring icing that i get a disappointing pink. I picked up a new red today "christmas red" but I'm just not that hopeful.

These are my second entry for the Blogiversary Bake Sale I'm holding between now and 5/22 to benefit the World Food Program.  Check out our page on Firstgiving, and "buy" a cookie if you like!