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.