Archive for Reading Terminal Market

Ratatouille Gratin


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Ratatouille Gratin

Ratatouille is a humble peasant dish that, once cooked, can be enlisted as a reliable base for a multitude of different dishes.  I passed on a tub of home-made ratatouille to a neighbor who used it neat as a side for roast chicken and also converted into a healthy topping for a pasta entrée.

What I love about ratatouille is that you can sneak in stacks of nutritious veggies which, if chopped finely enough, will slip under your kids’ radar; they won’t suss out that they are eating the garden greenhouse.

To make your ratatouille a little more upmarket , try adding a crumb and cheese topping and voila you have a ratatouille gratin.

I used to lean on Panko breadcrumbs for my gratin topping, but since learning my daughter needs to avoid wheat-based products, I’ve been on the hunt for an alternative.


Rice breadcrumbs are just as good – save for the texture.  And I found you can get around the breadcrumbs over fine texture by adding in parmesan shavings to coarsen the texture of the rice breadcrumbs.


I tend to keep a ready-made Ziploc bag of my gratin mixture (comprising 1 cup of breadcrumbs: 1 cup of mixed shredded cheese; 2x tbsps of shaved parmesan) at all times in the fridge.   It’s then ready to sprinkle on chicken escalopes, mac n cheese, or vegetables, whenever.

Sweating down the veggie

Sweating down the veggie


Ratatouille Gratin for 4


1 medium eggplant, sliced and then sliced again into semi-circles

1 x yellow courgette, sliced

1x green courgette, sliced

1 huge beefsteak tomato, chopped

1 x yellow onion, finely diced

1 x large tin of fire-roasted diced plum tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

10 button mushrooms quartered

oil for frying and ¼ stick of butter

1 tbsp of tomato paste

salt and pepper


  1. Coat baking tray liberally with olive oil, place chopped eggplant slices on baking tray, set aside for 5 minutes.  Flip eggplants so that the other side is now face down, top up oil in the tray if necessary.  Bake for 20 minutes on 350.  Flip eggplant slices half way through cooking.  Add more oil if necessary.
  2. Heat butter and oil in frypan, add onions and garlic.  Sweat down until the onion is transparent.
  3. Add courgettes and fry until they begin to soften and brown
  4. Add beefsteak tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes
  5. Add chopped mushrooms and cook for another 2-3 minutes
  6. Add tomato paste and plum tomatoes
  7. Simmer mixture for 20 minutes
  8. Transfer to oven proof dish and sprinkle liberally with gratin mixture
  9. Bake for 20 minutes at 350.




Chocolate Fondue with all the Trimmings



Savory fondue and dunkables...

Savory fondue and dunkables…

I had a hankering for a fondue.

Fondue is a fun party food, especially when combined with alcohol.

As the evening progresses you tend to lose more food off the end of your skewer than actually makes it up to your mouth.

Throw kids into the mix and you probably have the beginnings of a civilized food fight.

As the snow began to fall in Center City Philly this week, I thought a cheese fondue would be appropriate for a Monday dinner.

My teens had invited a couple of friends over so my fondue menu grew more ambitious; the plan was to follow up the cheese fondue with a chocolate fondue with all the trimmings.

Cheese fondue makes one think of the Swiss Alps, après-ski and toasty fires.  I was delighted to find a prepared Swiss fondue featuring a mix of Swiss cheeses, including Gruyere.

To dunk in the fondue I lined up:

-       Baguette cubed*

-       Button mushrooms

-       Olives

-       Asparagus spears

-       Mini mini boiled potatoes


A feast that would surely impress my teens’ friends? Nope.

They didn’t like the cheese fondue – said the cheese was too powerful – and then had the cheek to complain about the lack of meat in the meal.   “Where’s the protein?” asked one.  What’s their problem?  Cheese is protein!

I resorted to rustling up chicken tenders* that could be dunked in the cheese, and learned my lesson.  Meatless Mondays don’t go down well with teen boys or girls who crew…they want meat!

The chocolate fondue was more of a success.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 11.14.44 AMYou can’t go wrong with chocolate.

Our dunkable food included:

-       Kiwi fruit sliced

-       Strawberries

-       Bananas

-       Vanilla cake pops*

-       Raspberries


The cake pops were a big success

The cake pops were a big success

* All of the above can easily be converted to a gluten-free meal, without anyone noticing.  Wholefoods sells frozen gluten free chicken tenders that are delicious. Then you can replace the French baguette with cubes of gluten free bread, sprayed with olive oil and toasted in the oven for 10 mins.  Also, if you want, you can make the vanilla cake pops with Betty Crocker’s gluten-free yellow cake mix (I swear this is as good as any other Betty Crocker mix).   More to the point, anyone managing a gluten allergy gets to feel like any other ‘normal’ kid!



Scallops and Lemon Fettuccine

Poor husband.  His business travels always result his his missing the dinners planned by his foodie teen daughter and executed by his food blogger wife.   Following up on the homemade pizza dinner, the young lady requested a dinner featuring scallops and fresh pasta.  Naturally, our culinarily conservative son stuck with a burger that night–though he did have a grand time with the pizza.

Here’s what we came up with:  Lidia Bastianitch’s Lemon Alfredo, and sauteed dry scallops.  I recently learned from another Lydia–the fishmonger at John Yi Seafood in Reading Terminal Market that dry scallops are better for a sauteed or grilled dish because they brown well.  Wet scallops, which are a few dollars cheaper, are better in stews, curries, soups and other sauce-based dishes because they don’t brown.  It has to do with the way the different types hold and release water–I didn’t get all the technicalities, but as you can see from the picture, the dry ones do brown.

I started by allowing the scallops to reach room temp, then salting and peppering them.

Next, I placed them in a buttered skillet, browned them,  gave them a spritz of lemon juice and a splash of white wine.  I turned them frequently, and cooked them for a total of about 8 minutes.

While the scallops seared, and the pasta water came to a boil, I prepared the sauce to Lidia’s specifications, starting with the grated lemon zest and butter in the skillet.  It took all of about 6 minutes.

The arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette was the perfect accompaniment, keeping the lemon flavor motive infused through all items on the plate.  I tossed the leaves with a squeeze of lemon, a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil.

The returning husband did get to enjoy the leftover pasta 3 days later…..

Coffee: The Magic Ingredient

Dirty Chai Latte – yes please!

Coffee, Coffea, Caffeine!  
by Mira Treatman, Old City Coffee, inc.

Coffee is many things to many people, it’s a: 

  • pick me up in the morning, 
  • an after-dinner treat with frothy milk, 
  • a cultural icon, 
  • a millennium-old stimulant, 
  • a commodity, 
  • a status symbol, and, most significantly…
  •  an energy-bearing plant.              

Coffea Arabica is a species indigenous to the Red Sea region that includes modern day Yemen and Ethiopia. 

Legend has it that Ethiopian farmers discovered the plant’s powers after witnessing their livestock gain more energy after noshing on the Coffea Arabica leaves. The secret to this varietal is its soil content. Mountainous regions, such as the coffee-growing highlands of the Red Sea, tend to have high levels of volcanic soil rich in minerals that supply the bush with calcium, iron, and magnesium. 

Why Do We Love Coffee..?
Caffeine, the key chemical in coffee, evolved in Coffea because it acts as a poison to many herbivores.  This protects the plant from being eaten. The consumers of the plant who are not poisoned by this stimulant reap many benefits: 

Caffeine inhibits the sleep receptors in the brain. Essentially, this means that once caffeine enters the bloodstream it tells the happy energizer brain chemicals to be energetic and the sleepy relaxer brain chemicals to not act. 

Caffeine also increases adrenaline in the bloodstream as it’s metabolized, which tells the body to prepare for battle or a jog or even simply helps us face the work day. 

Through a transfer of energy from sunlight to leaves to beans to you, coffee has gained its status as an iconic, well-loved drink.  It’s got a kick in every cup!

At Old City Coffee we think that Coffee is the perfect accompaniment to social gatherings.  So we’ve reinstated our popular Open Mic Night!  Old City Coffee at 221 Church Street will be open on First Friday, October 5th, for an open stage for musicians and spoken word artists. 

Interested in taking part?

Sign ups start at 5:30 pm with a 6:00 pm show. This is the perfect venue to sip on your favorite caffeinated beverages while enjoying the best local arts Philly has to offer.

If you can’t make it on the night, then try this popular recipe at home.  And maybe we’ll see you next time!

Old City Coffee Dirty Chai Latte
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about coffee culture and our obsession with caffeine, here’s a well-loved recipe with a maximal amount of boosting energy in our delicious recipe. 

This latte combines espresso with another source of caffeine, black tea.

5 oz Old City Coffee house-made Chai (a secret mix of spices and black tea brewed to near perfection and sweetened with honey)
3 oz soy, whole, or skim milk
1 shot espresso
Ground cinnamon

  1. To serve hot, heat chai either in a stainless steal pitcher if at an espresso machine or in a saucepan on a stovetop. 
  2. Pour tea into mug and cover with a lid. 
  3. Froth milk until about an inch of foam forms. If using an espresso machine, use the same stainless pitcher and pour milk followed by the foam on top. Saucepans work just fine too. To enjoy cold, mix ingredients in a pitcher and pour over a glass of ice. 
  4. A dusting of ground cinnamon on top is always a nice finish. 
See you soon we hope either in Old City or at our cafe in Reading Terminal Market.

Labor Day Tips from Stormy Lundy, Reading Terminal Market Catering

Labor Day weekend marks the traditional end of summer, and that usually means a big party or gathering of friends and family.
Stormy Lundy, Director of the Reading Terminal Market Catering Company, cook and hostess extraordinaire, shared her Top Ten Tips for Festive Food and Fun Labor Day Weekend.
1.  Barbecue.  This is a great chance to fire up the grill.
2.  “I have fallen in love with Fair Food Farmstand Cheeses.”  Stormy suggests using them for a snacking tray, or bringing them as a hostess gift to any party you are attending–Labor Day weekend or otherwise.
3.  When feeding kids, Stormy does not dumb it down.  “I’ve always exposed my family to a wide variety of foods, so the kids and grandkids eat most everything.”  She also advises getting them in on the act:  “My grandchildren are really into cooking, and if they participate in the preparation they are pretty likely to eat it.”
4.  A big salad is a must for a crowd.  Fill it with seasonal, local items:  cucumbers; tomatoes; carrots; lettuce.  As to dressing, Stormy recommends the ginger balsamic from Mezze, and if she isn’t able to get her hands on theirs, she makes her own version of it.
5.  “My newest summer wine discovery is a Greek Rose, which is wonderful with lighter, summer fare.  It’s called Spiropoulos Meliasto Rose and it retails for about $15.99 a bottle–so a it’s a treat, but not bank-breaking.”
6.  Stormy also recommends a special cocktail to ramp up the festive mood.  “Watermelon Mojitos are always a hit, and very, very summery.”
7.  You almost can’t have a summer party without potato salad.  This light, fresh version by Stormy is perfect for a buffet because it doesn’t contain mayonnaise:  boil red bliss potatoes til just done, cover them with plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.
8.  If you’re sick of potato salad, and by Labor Day you may well be, Stormy recommends orzo salad.
 9.  Have plenty of fresh fruit around.  People tend to graze all day long at family picnics, so you want to have healthy choices available.
10.  And finally, dessert.  Stormy confesses:  “I’m not much of a baker.  My go-to summer dessert is a grilled pound cake, which i purchase here at the Market and garnish with berries and whipped cream, or ice cream and chocolate sauce.    Slice the cake about an inch thick, and place slices on the grill as it’s cooling down after dinner.  Once the nice grill marks are seared into the cake, turn it 90 degrees to get the cross hatch pattern.  Flip and repeat.  The sugar will crystalize a bit on the exterior, and you can top as you like.”  Simple, mess free, and delicious.
What are your Labor Day plans?

Creole Tomato Jam

Goat Cheese and Tomato Jam Crostini was once the height of trendiness in New Orleans’ restaurants. Having made a platter as an appetizer recently, I can understand why.

I first heard about this Creole Tomato Jam at a cooking class in La Cucina in Reading Terminal Market.  
Hosted by Anna Florio who had organized a “Girls’ Night Out”, I crashed the class in order to feature it here. 
The chef that night was Bill Beck of Beck’s Cajun Cafe and this jam was on his demonstration menu.
This recipe comes courtesy of the official New Orleans website,, which is well worth a visit.  This site offers a wealth of ideas and insights into the history, traditions, culture and food of this wonderful city.  

Creole Tomato Jam (Makes 1 cup)

1 pound Creole tomatoes (about 3 medium)** see cook’s note
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 whole cloves
1-inch stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 tablespoons sherry (or red wine) vinegar
Juice of 1 lime

(The online recipe suggested that this step 1 is optional.  We’d suggest that it’s worth taking the time to do this as you’ll get a smoother jam without the skins.)

  1. Cut an X on the bottom of the tomatoes and plunge them into a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle, and peel.
  2. Roughly chop and put the tomatoes, with their juices, into a saucepan with remaining ingredients
  3. Over medium-low heat, stir gently and occasionally until almost all moisture evaporates and mixture thickens into a jam-like consistency, 45 minutes to an hour
  4. Remove bay leaf, thyme sprig and cinnamon stick. Ladle into a clean jar or container
  5. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

**Creole tomatoes can be any large, round, meaty tomato grown in Louisiana; they are not one particular varietal.  Around here,  ripe beefsteaks, Jerseys, or any of the large, flavorful heirloom varieties are a reasonable substitute.

The mixture at the start of the process…

The ruby rich jam 45 minutes later…

Serving Ideas
  • As a chutney-like condiment for a cheese plate
  • As a condiment for any roasted/grilled meats (it was especially good with a slow-roasted salmon)
  • As a final flourish to crostini/appetizers
Use your imagination and marry it with any number of foods!

Mother’s Day Gifts at the Reading Terminal Market

Looking for some interesting gift ideas to supplement your (standard) bunch of Mother’s Day flowers?

We’ve got you covered…

Mooching around the Market this week we were struck by the range of potential Mother’s Day gifts and thought we just had to tell you!

The Reading Terminal Market is more than just food; it’s more than a lunch destination.  It’s more like a department store with both fresh produce and items related to the consumption and enjoyment of food.

So here it is.  Our top five Mother’s Day gift ideas…

     1.  First stop has got to be the Pennsylvania General Store.  Every holiday, including Mother’s Day, owner Michael and his team pull together an impressive selection of chocolates, candies, cookies and other generally sweet produce for our delectation.  No need to gift wrap.  The store is happy to do this for you.  If you’d prefer to lean on their mail order service see,  the Pennsylvania General Store website.

    2.  The linens at Contessa’s are heavenly.  Bright, lively prints and colors, fit to grace any table, on any occasion…

    See Contessa French Linens for further styles and info

    3. Ever tried the handmade soaps and bath salts at Terralyn? 

    Owner Lynette Manteau makes up to 70lbs of soap a week! 

    This soap is all natural and is like nothing else.  Its a combo of oils including olive, coconut, palm and soy butter.  Once you’ve tried it you’ll be hooked!

4. Is your mother into cooking?  If so, she’ll enjoy meeting with Anna Florio, chef and owner of La Cucina in the Market.  Anna runs regular cooking classes, including Ladies-only “Girls’ Night Out” classes, which are always packed to the gills (excuse the pun).

We checked out the last Girls Night Out. 

The pictures speak louder than my words can :)

To view the upcoming calendar for La Cucina, visit Anna’s website.

5. Last but not least, anyone who is a baker will love the preserved fruits, spreads, jams on sale at the Pennsylvania Dutch stands. 

I have a particular fondness for preserved pears and preserved peaches - these are especially useful in the Fall when you’re in the mood to make warming crumbles and pies.  These are beautifully packaged at the Market, many are available in gift sets.

Happy Baking, Eating and Celebrating this Mother’s Day!

It’s a Great Year for Strawberries!

LAST year’s berries at Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market; we’re counting the days til local berries arrive….

Doesn’t everyone love strawberries?   This year’s harvest is especially sweet, because the berry crops are bigger than ever and arriving early.  Berry season usually starts in June, but due to the mild winter, we can expect to see fresh strawberries in May.  

As we always do when we have a produce question, we hoofed it to Reading Terminal Market and consulted with the experts.   When asked about this season’s bumper crop, Jimmy Iovine of Iovine Brothers Produce told us, “This is a good year for berry lovers.  Customers should be able to get a lot of berries for reasonable prices.  The berries have been great all year, but they will be the juiciest very soon, better than we have seen them in a long while”. 

Consider the possibilities:  Chocolate dipped strawberries or Strawberry Fool.   Healthy choices can be tasty, too—fresh strawberries atop a yogurt parfait, or pureed in a smoothie.     Don’t want to make your own?  Head to the Down Home Diner; their strawberry topped pancakes have a near cult following!

Berries are bursting with necessary vitamins and minerals, and this year’s bumper crops promise to be both delicious and affordable.    Next post:  my newly developed recipe for strawberry bread.  What’s your favorite way to enjoy strawberries?  (Daquiris anyone?)

Talking Pasta with La Cucina’s Anna Florio

To look at Anna Florio, Owner of  La Cucina at the Market, you don’t immediately think “food”.  She is strikingly lovely, has charisma to spare,  a warmth that makes you feel you’ve been friends forever,  she’s always impeccably dressed, and she’s slender.   But you would quickly be reminded not to judge a book by its cover, for Anna is a serious Chef.  Her cooking school and demonstration kitchen in Reading Terminal Market just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

Having grown up with deep Italian culinary traditions, which included spending summers at her Grandparents’ home in Campania, Italy, Anna is passionate about Italian food.  Our conversation naturally turned to pasta.

“I remember learning to make pasta dough with my grandmother, and even though it sounds silly, part of the key to great pasta is to put some love into it.  Make it by hand.  Feel the dough.  I use a blend of  unbleached white flour and semolina flour.”

When asked about dry vs. fresh pasta, Anna’s offers some interesting observations:  “Sometimes dry is better.  You can’t really make fresh pasta al dente–that firm ‘to the teeth’ texture that epitomizes perfectly cooked pasta.  Sure, fresh is wonderful in a dish like pappardalle bolognese, where you want that rich, chewy noodle, or pesto, or for a filled pasta like ravioli.  But one of my favorite pasta dishes is penne with marinara sauce–made with dry, boxed penne cooked just al dente.”

We also had to ask about the strict Italian edict banning Parmesan cheese on seafood pasta.  (I confess to dousing my linguine and clams with generous scoops of grated cheese.)  Anna disproves–but in the nicest possible way.  “Seafood and dairy just don’t mix for traditionalists.  One thing to consider is the innate saltiness of seafood, and when you add a salty Parmesan it is overkill.  I also don’t feel that the saltiness of the fish mixes will with the dairy of the cheese–salt and milk simply don’t go together.”

To see Anna in action, try one of her upcoming classes:  Brunch Italiano, Fish without Fear, or my personal favorite:  Handmade Pasta for Two.

Watch for upcoming posts featuring pasta ideas–not to mention Anna’s big reveal on the fatal mistake that most Americans make when cooking Marinara.  Stay tuned!

Lamb and Eggplant Lasagne

We practically started a food fight on Facebook this week. 

We asked the innocuous question: “Lamb – love it or loathe it?”  And guess what?   The foodie community is pretty polarized on the matter, much like my family where we’re split down the middle with the adults liking and our teenagers refusing to eat the stuff unless it’s disguised – as it is in the following recipe.

The comments on the Reading Terminal Market’s Facebook page flew thick and fast. 

We shared our recipe for 7-hour lamb and the responses ranged from “yuck” to “love, love, love.”  The great lamb divide was best represented by these two Facebook fans one of whom explained:  “Lamb has a funny aftertaste to me, very gamey, no matter how it is cooked.”  Another fan thinking aloud pondered: “The majority of people in the U.S. haven’t been exposed to Lamb as a meat.  To them it’s more of a delicacy, like veal or oysters.”  This could be true.  Whereas in European and Middle Eastern cuisines Lamb is a central ingredient, it is less prominent in the American kitchen.

Whether you are a Lamb lover or not, the following recipe is easy to prepare and is a nice twist on a traditional family favorite.  I served it to my teens this weekend and they had no idea they were eating Lamb!

Lamb and Eggplant Lasagne
Greek flavor, like a moussaka, only bulked up with pasta.  I’ve always wondered whether it would work adding lasagne sheets to a traditional Greek moussaka recipe.  This recipe seems to follow the Greek theme as it calls for feta cheese, which I think will add an interesting twist to these flavors.

Ground lamb is not readily found – except for at Reading Terminal Market!  When making Lamb Kofta or a dish like this requiring ground lamb, we usually ask the folks at Giuntas to grind us fresh lamb mince.

Pulled this recipe from an extraordinary website, which is dedicated to lamb.  Ran through the list and thought “gotta make that.” “that one sounds good,” “but so does that…”  Check it out for yourself.  It’s called – it’s chockful of ideas.

30 (1/4-inch thick) sliced eggplant
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
3 cups fine bread crumbs
1 cup vegetable oil, divided
1 pound feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups prepared béchamel or Alfredo sauce
12 ready-to-use lasagna slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Sea salt, to taste
2 cups finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped carrot
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 cups beef broth
2 (15-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese


1) Prepare the sauce: Heat oil in a large pot over medium. Add lamb; season with red pepper and salt. Brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery; cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, except cheese, to pot; whisk well to mix. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to a low simmer and cook, covered, 2 hours. Whisk in cheese; cool to room temperature.

2) Prepare the eggplant: Coat eggplant slices in flour; dip into egg mixture; dip into bread crumbs. Shake off excess. Heat ½ cup of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high. Add eggplant in small batches; cook until golden and crisp, turning once, about 5 minutes total. Remove eggplant to paper towels; repeat with remaining slices.

3) Preheat oven to 375°F. Assemble the lasagna: Lightly grease a lasagna baking pan. Spread 2 cups prepared lamb sauce over bottom of pan. Crumble ¼ cup feta cheese over sauce. Layer 10 slices eggplant over cheese. Cover with a layer of lasagna slices. Repeat with remaining ingredients to form 3 layers total.

4) Spread béchamel sauce over the top of lasagna; sprinkle with any remaining cheese.

5) Bake until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Serve warm.

 With some sauteed greens and a loaf of crusty bread, our Sunday night was complete.