Friday, November 27, 2009

Why France is Awesome

Overall I had a better time in Barcelona than I did in France - the atmosphere and the people were more my speed in Spain BUT what's great about France? This:

The French are not afraid of butter, cream, foie gras, confit, or, well, pretty much any kind of fat. Indulging is acceptable and maybe even expected - but all in moderation. (Can I put indulge and moderation in the same sentence? Hmm...)

We stumbled upon a great little restaurant, it wasn't quite dinner time so we went for something light. By "light" I mean not a full meal NOT low fat! Ron got an awesome charcuterie plate with butter, cornichon, pearl onions and baguette and I got a salad. Yes, just a salad. A salad of perfectly blanched haricot vert, steamed fresh artichokes a lemony vinaigrette and topped with um, foie gras. I know, I hardly counts as a salad - but that's what the menu said so I'm sticking to it.

*Sorry about the blurry photo!

We wanted to come back for dinner but every time we walked by it was far too packed. Everything we saw coming out of the kitchen looked really good and very French.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I've been holding out...

I haven't told you anything about the Paris half of our Europe trip...well, except for this little piece of information. The trip seems like forever ago but that doesn't mean I should just keep all the deliciousness to myself!

I'll admit that while in Paris I overdosed on foie gras, pâté, and the ingredient that perfumes the streets of Paris, BUTTER. Thanks to Dave Lebovitz and his blog we had a great list of Paris restaurants we wanted to visit - we were able to get to a couple of them and they were both delicious.

First up? Buckwheat crepes from Breizh Cafe - Ron had ham, mushrooms, over easy eggs and cheese and I went with ham, artichokes, eggs and cheese.

The eggs could have been a bit runnier but other than that these crepes were pretty perfect - the folded over corners were crispy and buttery. Brunch was completed with a bottle of sparkling hard cider, not a bad way to start our stay in Paris.

PS - want some delicious crepes in Philly? If you haven't been to Beau Monde you're missing out. These crepes are seriously delicious - please go and order the savory crepe with smoked trout.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nourishing Neighbors

I love food and very often eat far more than my share. But, I know that I'm lucky and that not everyone living in my hood has the same privilege. Approximately 333,000 households in our area cut or skipped meals in the past year because they do not have enough money to buy groceries. Food kitchens and pantries in our areas are having to turn people away or reduce the amount given to each family.

In celebration of World Food Day (10/16), Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger launched “Nourishing Neighbors”.

Here's the gist - The Nourishing Neighbors program is a food drive that's happening right now through November 7 sponsored by Stroehmann, Giant Food stores, and Acme Markets. The goal is to raise and donate over $100,000 to the Hunger Coalition through Hunger Relief drives, Food Stamp enrollment events, and a purchase program. For every loaf of Stroehmann’s Dutch Country or Stroehmann’s King bread sold at Acme and Giant, 10 cents will be donated to the effort.

I mean come on guys, the Phils are doing awesome and what goes better with baseball than hot dogs? And hot dogs require hot dog rolls, right? Preferably potato rolls. You know who makes potato rolls? Stroehmann's. Go buy some hot dog holders and boom - done, you just donated to Nourishing Neighbors. Now you can feel a little bit less guilty about that hot dog and all the beer you washed it down with. some bread or attend a local food drive and help nourish your neighbors! Check out the hunger coalition's website for more info on the program, foods drive dates and locations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Homemade Ricotta & Beet Toasts

A small break from my Europe posts...

I've been intrigued by homemade ricotta since I spotted in on the blogs over a year ago. When I got an invite for a BYO appetizer birthday party/girls night a few weeks ago I knew I wanted to give it a try. I got the whole milk and beets in our CSA and used this David Lebovitz recipe that I found on Simple Recipes to make the ricotta. The recipe is easy - all you need is milk, yogurt, vinegar and salt. Boil it all together for a couple minutes then strain through a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.

For these apps I toasted up some slices of wheat baguette and roasted some beets in tin foil with olive oil, salt and pepper then sliced them thin on the mandoline. I layered the toasts with the beets, ricotta (that I seasoned with a little salt and lemon juice), chopped pistachios and drizzled them all with honey.

Unfortunately we left for our vacation before I got to use all of the leftover ricotta - but I REALLY wanted to use it in one of my favorite pasta dishes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cinc Sentits

We had planned one fancy night out in Barcelona. I had read lots of good things about a restaurant called Cinc Sentits and it's tasting menu so I made a reservation before we left via email. The owners are a Catalan-Canadian brother sister team who grew up in Canada but spent a fair amount of time in the Catalonia visiting family. The brother, Jordi Artal, who has no formal culinary training, runs the kitchen while his sister, Amelia, runs the front of the house. Every course of the 8 course tasting menu was fun and playful and super delicious.

First up, some nibbles. Peppery almonds, pimento stuffed green olives and fig and anchovy pastries. Yum. Oh did I mention the wine tasting? We went with the all Spanish wine menu and they were all incredible. I must say though, like at Per Se, I got a little backlogged with my wine. But, no worries, I was able to pull through!

The next tasty bite we poured down our gullets before I thought to take a photo! It was a shot layered with crunchy rock salt, warm maple syrup, chilled cream and cava sabayon. Swig the whole thing in one sip and it's salty, sweet, warm and cool. I read that the locals don't really get maple syrup - "Juice that's squeezed from a tree - huh?". Funny, right?

Remember Pan con Tomate? Well this is their version. Tomato sorbet on top of itty bitty pieces of fresh tomato, crunchy croutons, a thin slice of a local version of salami and garlic foam.

I ate more than my share of foie gras on this trip and this was the start of it. Foie gras with balsamic-glazed leeks, a burnt-sugar shell, and chives. Heaven.

Next up, red snapper and fresh vegetables cooked in a clear bag that was cut open at the table so we could get a good whiff. Really simple and fresh. But...I don't get a clear bag that doesn't melt in the oven. I imagine it's sort of like those ones that my mom cooks a turkey in. Anyway...

Next course was a twist on surf and turf. One perfectly cooked langoustine on top of lentils cooked with pork belly and parsley foam.

Ahhh - 36 hour braised oxtail with parsnip puree, beets and carrot foam.

The cheese course was a local, raw goats milk cheese with a basil marinated cherry tomato and arugala.

We had THREE little desserts. First, chamomile ice cream, pistachios, picstachio cake and peaches.

Second 67% cocoa mousse, with olive oil, salt, and macadamia nut. Olive oil and salt with chocolate? Seriously good.

And third...well, right about now my notes get hard to read, it was a lot of wine! But I wrote down that this was violet jam and cream, chocolate peanut brittle and honey almond cake.

So, in conclusion, if you go to Barcelona you should eat here. Seriously - make a reservation.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Boqueria Part 2: Pinoxto

Every morning that Ron and I were in Barcelona the Boqueria was our first stop. While we wandered around looking for a spot to eat breakfast Ron had a fresh squeezed orange juice and I had a giant wedge of watermelon.

Our first breakfast at the market was at a little booth run by a couple of fiery older Spanish ladies - we each had a cafe con leche (why can't I find coffee like this in Philly? It's so delicious) I had a lomo bocadilla (sandwich) and Ron had a spinach tortilla (like a frittata).

What's that with Ron's tortilla you ask? It's pan con tomate and you see it everywhere. Bread rubbed with a halved tomato, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. It comes as a side with breakfast, you get slices of it with a plate of ham or anchovies, all the baguettes that make those perfect little sandwiches are rubbed with tomato.'s perfect. I think I found my new go-to condiment.

We also had an incredible market meal at Pinoxto - the amazing and occasionally celebrity chef studded tapas bar (I've heard rumors of Eric Ripert!) in the market and home to the best chickpeas I've ever eaten. I'd read rave reviews about this place and the first couple of days we were in the market it was packed! But for some reason on our last day in Barcelona there were two open bar stools and Ron was quick to grab them. We sat in between an old Spanish man eating tripe stew and an American tourist who'd been there every day of her trip!

The guy in the bowtie? That's Juanito Bayen - the over 70 year old, too cute, owner of Pinotxo.

We ordered cafe con leche and a plate of chickpeas (per the friendly guy behind the bar's suggestion), sausage and some more pan con tomate. Apparently the thing to do is just ask "What's good today?" and trust that what you'll get will be really, really, good.

It sounds so simple and, really, it was but it was amazing. I searched for a recipe for those chickpeas and I think the secret ingredient might be blood sausage! I never would have guessed. They had pine nuts, balsamic, delicious olive oil and the perfect amount of salt sprinkled on top. I'll be attempting to replicate this dish soon maybe following this recipe, Pinoxto's Chickpeas, although neither of us remember raisins. But if this recipe is even close to what we ate I'll be making a batch of these weekly all Fall and Winter!

My only regret was not eating breakfast here every day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Barcelona & it's Boqueria

I'm obsessed with Barcelona - it's this crazy and awesome combination of a big city and a beach town and you see it in the fashion, architecture and definitely the food.

I'm convinced that there is no better way to eat than tapas style. A couple montaditos, a cava (or two) and you're on your way to the next place to have some langostines and an Estrella, then on to the next place to have a plate of hams with some tomato rubbed bread and a glass of red wine, then on get the idea, right?

But - before we get into the specifics of what and where we ate. Let me tell you about where the chefs go to get their ingredients and where we found ourselves every morning in search of hangover cures and caffeine boosts. La Boqueria.

The market is full of incredibly fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, legumes, dried fruits, candy and a handful of little tapas joints.

It's also full of tourists but make our way past the crowds at the front entrance and you'll have more room to see, smell and TASTE the goods.

Next up - the meals we had in the Boqueria and my possibly unhealthy bocadillo obsession.

Sandwich Smash '09

I'm super excited to be attending Sandwich Smash this Sunday, October 4th. The event was created by the Jeff Vogel and Ben Kessler from Unbreaded, the Best of Philly Food Blog 2009. Chefs from Zahav, Paesano’s, Parc, Rick’s Steaks, and Bebe’s Barbecue will be creating their signature sandwiches on stage while chatting with Esquire Food Editor, Ryan D’Agostino. Guests will enjoy a meal that includes all five sandwiches, drinks from Anheuser-Busch, snacks from Herr’s and dessert from Capogiro. Oh AND it's a fundraiser for Philabundance!

Sandwiches, beer, snacks & gelato all for a good cause? I'm so in and you should be too - go buy your tickets!

Check out the little write up I got over at Unbreaded about the sandwich party that Gerry and Carla threw a little while back, pretty cool. High five Philly bloggers!

PS: The I'm-gonna-married-sometime-soon-and-have-to-wear-a-dress diet starts right after I eat these five sandwiches. I'm going out with a bang.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm Back!

Oh, you didn't know I was away? I was! Ron and I were in Barcelona and Paris - the sights, the food, and the drinks were all so fabulous that I don't know where to start. But I'll be posting A LOT very soon.

This was our first real, not work related vacation and there was plenty of reason for bubbly. That's cava in Spain:

And champagne in France:

Ooh what's that on my finger? Ron asked me to marry him and I said "Oui!"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Crabfest 09!

Our buddies MB and Otis put on quite the Crabfest! Otis and Mike drove down to Maryland the morning of the party to pick up these guys:

Steamed crabs and Jersey fresh corn on the cob (thanks Mark!) were the stars of the show. Messy and delicious!

There were some great sides too - couscous salad with veggies by MB, an awesome potato salad with buttermilk dressing by Rita, jersey peaches, and fried plantains with dipping sauce. I didn't snap a picture of Katie's butter cake but, as you'd guess with a name like that, it was really good pretty darn rich.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Potato, Corn and Cherry Tomato Salad

On our way back from the shore a couple of weeks ago we stopped at a farmers market and bought all of the ingredients for this salad - except for the basil that we grew in our backyard.

Boiled potatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, blanched corn, thinly sliced onions and basil were tossed with a dressing of lemon, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper.

When ingredient are this fresh then don't need a fussy dressing - super simple is the way to go.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Philly Sandwich Party

As you might know from reading this blog our friends LOVE a theme party. This one is at the top of the list! Our friends Carla and Gerry were threw a goodbye party for a couple of their friends with a Philly Sandwich party.

That's Carla in the picture - the brains behind this delicious party.

Philly has some really awesome sandwiches - some more well known then others. Ron and I brought Nick's Roast Beef sandwiches and gravy fries with long hots and horse radish on the side, of course.

Some of the others included cheesesteaks from Cosmi's, Randazzo's & The Artful Dodger, Roast pork from Tony Lukes, Chicken Milanese from Little Italy, and a few others I can't remember!

We're now one step closer to our goal of having a "This is why your fat" party.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sea Bass with Garlic Scape Pesto

I know, I know - garlic scapes? Their season came and went a long time ago. My computer has been a little under the weather and I'm obviously VERY behind on my blogging. But this was so tasty I felt I had to share! The sea bass was seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper - I put it under the broiler flesh side up for a couple minutes then I flipped it over and broiled it until the skin was crispy and the fish was cooked through.

The pesto was garlic scapes, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon and parmesan cheese all blended up in the blender. The lentils were cooked in salted water while I sauteed onions and garlic, when the lentils were done I mixed them with the onions and garlic and added a little white wine and dijon mustard.

You should make this - just replace the garlic scape pesto with maybe some green pea pesto or broccoli rabe pesto. Yum.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Raw Tuna, Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

Have you seen Mark Bittman's 101 salads article? It definitely inspired me to create something different from our norm. We eat a lot of vegetables but not a whole lot of salads but it's the perfect time of the year for them. This one was a combo of a few that I saw in Bittman's article.

I mixed raw ahi tuna, jicama, napa cabbage, grapefruit and avocado with a little bit of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, a squeeze of grapefruit and red pepper flake.

This came together really quickly, was super fresh and, best of all, didn't require any heat. I meant to add chopped salted peanuts on top but I forgot - I'll definitely top my next bowl with them!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Striped Bass, Beans and Greens

This was a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Ron sauteed some purple spring onion from Greensgrow and added cannellini beans, salt, and pepper. I sauteed the kale (also from Greensgrow) in olive oil with garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flake, and some red wine vinegar just until it was tender but still bright green. Ron seasoned the bass with olive oil, salt and pepper and threw it on the grill. I topped mine with a few cherry tomatoes from our tomato plant.

That's it! Quick, easy and super good for you.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthday Cake!

I'm always looking for a good reason to practice my baking because having giant cakes and whole batches of cookies in the house when it's just me and Ron can be dangerous! But special occasions like birthdays are the perfect excuse. When we got invited to a friends birthday BBQ this weekend I immediately volunteered to make a cake. I've been wanting to make this Pink Lady Cake since I saw it on Smitten Kitchen. I'm not a huge cake fan but this batter has a whole cup and a half of pureed strawberries in it - taking it from ordinary to perfectly summery. I even decorated it a little bit without making a gigantic mess!

Deb suggests adding some dye to make the cake pinker, I didn't mind the not-so-pink color because the strawberry flavor was so great. But if you're going for super pink, by all means add a few drops of food coloring.

The birthday girl really liked it and so did everyone else - this recipe is a keeper! Here are the remains:

Bring this cake to your next birthday party but be warned - this makes A LOT of batter. Like, cake batter spilling over the top of your mixer a lot. You might even curse a little bit and throw the parchment paper on the floor in a mini-fit. Not that I did that, but I just wanted to warn you that it's a definite possibility. I want to try adding a different fruit puree next time - maybe blueberries? Would that make it a Blue Lady Cake?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Froggy Chicken

We recently stumbled on a new way to make chicken on the grill. I think it's technical name is Leaping Frog Chicken but we've been calling it "Froggy Chicken" for short. We got the step by step instructions from Last Night's Dinner.

Ron used a chicken we had from our CSA share a few weeks ago to make this guy:

But...he didn't take a picture of the finished product. Oops. Believe me it looks like a frog - a delicious, evenly cooked, giant frog. Make your next grilled chicken a froggy chicken.

**UPDATE: Here's a picture of the finished product!

Monday, July 20, 2009

CSA week #4

This week was the best yet! Yum...corn season.

Basil - Greensgrow Farms and Spring Thyme Herbs, PA
Peaches - Fifer Orchards, Wyoming DE
Blueberries - Hasmmonton, NJ
Romaine Lettuce - Flaim Farms, Vineland, NJ
Cucumbers - Lancaster County, PA
Corn - Gaventa Farms, Logan Township, NJ
Red Scallions - Landisdale Farms, Jonestown, PA
Onion Rolls - South Philadelphia, PA
Cheese - Mozzarella Balls - South Philadelphia, PA
Dairy Option - 1 dozen Free-Range Eggs
Meat Shares - Angus Burgers - Buck Run Farm, Chester County, PA
Ron made blueberry ice cream, we had lots of cucumber salad and those peaches were so good in my morning yogurt.

We used the mozzarella and basil in this salad:

Eggplant dredged in egg then bread crumbs and baked for 40 minutes at 350 until it's crunchy (or...fry it!). Layer the eggplant with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and sprinkle with balsamic and basil. We've made this twice recently - one time with the addition of grilled zucchini. It's a nice twist on the regular tomato mozzarella salad - not that there is anything wrong with a plain old tomato mozzarella salad!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Very Belated 4th of July!

I've been neglecting my blog again. Sorry! I've been meaning to write about our 4th of July tailgate since, like, July 5th. Like last year, we had a huge tailgate party at the Phillies game with way too much food and plenty to drink.

There was the normal cast of characters - hot dogs, burgers, sausage, beans (made by Mike), potato salad and pasta salad. A few not so normal additions - bean dip and layered taco dip (made by MB), stromboli (from Gary), and rice krispy treat (by Katie).

I made peanut butter cookies and oatmeal, cherry, pecan, white chocolate cookies. I must say the oatmeal ones were a big hit - I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and used a cup of dried cherries, a cup of pecans and 12 oz of white chocolate chunks. These are a new favorite!

My friend Andrea made this Texas Sheet Cake. I've never heard of Texas Sheet Cake before this one but it was chocolaty, nutty, 3 sticks of buttery goodness. Yum.

Andrea also brought popcorn - it ended up being thrown by the handful at Bert! None of it really ended up in his mouth, it was really windy! Hmm...I wonder how all that popcorn ended up in my car?

Good times, good times.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CSA week #3

I know I JUST posted about CSA #2 but that's because I'm horribly behind on my blog. I mean I catered a dinner for 5 last week and I didn't even post about it - sometimes I really stink at this! Anyway, for Greensgrow CSA #3 we got these goods:

Cherries - Lancaster County, PA
Baby Spinach - Graiff Farms, Newfield, NJ (Actually Ron picked this one up and I don't remember seeing spinach in our bag of booty - hmm?)
Kale - Flaim Farms, Vineland, NJ
Zucchini - Lancaster County, PA
Carrots - Flaim Farms, Vineland, NJ
Turnips - Lancaster County, PA
Cheese - Telford Tomme - Hendricks Farms, Lancaster, PA
Dairy Option - choose one: 1 dozen Free-Range Eggs, 2 Pequea Valley Yogurts, 1/2 Gallon Hormone-free Milk, or 1/2 lb. Amish-style Butter (we got milk this time around)
Meat Shares - Fennel OR Rosemary Sausage - Meadow Run Farms, Lititz, PA

We grilled up some of the zucchini as a side with bison burgers that I had in the freezer left over from CSA #1.

I roasted the carrot and turnips in some olive oil, salt and pepper and put them on top of some lentils. I cook the lentils in salty water until they're tender then toss them with a simple white wine mustard sauce. Make the sauce by just sauteing some minced onion and garlic, splashing in some white wine and adding a tablespoon or so of dijon mustard. To top it off I added an over easy egg.

The cherries were a little bit soft when we got them. I'm not a big fan of just eating them straight up when they're soft so I pitted them (a pain in the butt without a pitter!) and made them into this sorbet:

I pureed the cherries (I used the cherries from the CSA and a bag of frozen ones I had sitting in my freezer) with the juice of a lime and about 3 tablespoons of sugar. The mixture went into my ice cream maker with a tablespoon or so of vodka to keep it from freezing too hard. I love sorbet in the summer - when your fruit is at the peak of freshness you hardly have to add any sugar at all so its boot camp friendly!

I have lots of vegetables starting to wilt in my fridge so I have to finish up these CSA goodies soon! I think I see zucchini bread in my future...

Block Party!

We had a pretty kick ass block part last weekend. Our block was under construction all last summer so this is our first block party in a couple of years and I forgot how great they are. It's a good time to get to know new neighbors and get reacquainted with the old ones - mostly by playing corn hole, washers and drinking games!

We did the standard hots dogs and burgers. Ron grilled a whole chicken that was SO good and I made some veggie burgers and lots of side salads and desserts.

Mediterranean Eggplant & Barley Salad:

Sweet Potato Salad - inspired by this Emeril recipe but I added lots of roasted Anaheim and red peppers:

Spicy Radicchio Slaw with Apples & Pecans - such a nice change from regular slaw, this was really tasty! I used low fat mayo because that's what I always have on hand. Some how I forgot to take a picture, oops.

Now for the not so healthy (boot campers look away!)

Dark chocolate and cherry oatmeal cookies (Joy uses white chocolate in hers - I'll try that next!) and the standard chocolate pecan cookies:

Root beer float cake:

And I must mention these little gems on the blue plate - coconut macaroons made by my friend Jackson. Yum.

A great time was had by all and we had the headaches the next day to prove it!