Archive for recipes

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!



Delicious Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting



Lemon Cake goes wonderfully with fresh strawberries


My youngest’s birthday came and went without much fanfare this month:  She was 13 last year and we made a big splash for that.

To my horror, however, I realized that I’d not made a celebration birthday cake for her as we were out of town the weekend of her actual birthday.

To make amends, I made a spectacular Lemon Cake for her midweek as a surprise.  It was light, fluffy, but – at the same time – rich with a cheesecake-y flavored frosting.  My type of cake because it was not too sweet and still had a lemony-bite — much like a lemon bar.

The Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting was the perfect accompaniment to the Lemon Cake

Presented said cake to youngest, who tried a mouthful, pulled a face and said: “I only really like chocolate cake.  Can you make me a chocolate cake with chocolate icing next time?”


Perhaps this is more for adult tastebuds.  I thought it was delectable.

Judge for yourself.  Recipe here: Meyer Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Thanks to for posting this recipe.




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.

Homage to DiNic’s

Remember our post featuring Tommy Nicolosi of DiNic’s?  Well, ever since the interview, I’ve had a hankering to try his advice.  This week, I did.

I took a 3 lb pork loin, and followed Tommy’s counsel about adhering the the basics:  seasoning the meat, then browning it carefully.  Roasting it slowly.  I seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and browned the meat in a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high.

I then covered the pot and placed it in a 300 degree oven.

I checked it after about an hour, basted it with the drippings, and let it be for another couple of hours. (Total cooking time, about 3 1/2 hrs).

When the meat was just shy of falling apart (fork tender), I removed it from the oven, let it sit for about 20 minutes, and began pulling it with two forks.

I served the pork on chunky, chewy rolls atop sauteed broccoli rabe and melted provolone cheese.  I was so excited about the result that I did not take a photo until I had already eaten nearly half.

So much for New Year’s Resolution #2, to stop interrupting meals with my camera phone.

End result:  it was really, really good.  But there’s only one DiNic’s.

Farewell, Soup Month

Copes Corn and Shrimp Chowder on January 31, a fitting adieu to National Soup Month.  As promised in a previous post, I made this and am reporting the results.  It was goooooood.

It is essential to use Cope’s Sweet Corn–this dried corn is thought to be a Native American product, originally developed so corn could be stored throughout the year.  Cope’s Corn is also popular in Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.  Pop into Pennsylvania General Store in Reading Terminal to stock up.  You’ll be hooked; the creamed corn and corn casseroles that feature this ingredient are heavenly.  But I digress.  Back to the chowder.

I am not as notorious as Claire about tinkering with recipes, especially virgin ones, but in this case,  I did some tweaking.  The original version as suggested by Gourmet is here.  My slightly altered (mushroom-free, unpureed, simpler) version is below.  You be the judge.

Cope’s Corn and Shrimp Chowder

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup choped parsley
1 7 oz package Cope’s corn
3 TBSP butter
1 cup heavy cream
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 lb medium shrimp, tails removed, shelled, deveined and cut in 1/2
Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce

Saute onion and parsley in butter til softened.  Add corn, cream, stock, and seasonings.  Bring to boil, then immediately lower and simmer for 45 minutes til corn is completely soft.   Add shrimp and simmer til just cooked through about 8 minutes.    Douse with a few drops of Sriracha if desired.

This was a huge hit; I think it would be epic with crab as well.  Think I’ll try that next time!  But I’m not waiting til next January.

Pudding for Dessert

Pudding in the US is the quintessential nursery treat–this simple milk-based dessert, rarely deviating from chocolate, vanilla or butterscotch flavors epitomizes comfort food.   In the UK, however, a pudding is a hearty and hale dessert usually served warm with lashings of milky hot custard.  Think Bread-and-Butter Pudding, Queen of Puddings, Treacle Sponge Pudding and believe it or not a traditional pudding called Spotted Dick (don’t ask…).  But being the American half of Philly Food Lovers, I’m here to talk about the stateside version.

Let’s start by bashing the notion that puddings are a lesser form of dessert.  Sneer all you want, but have you eaten a real homemade version lately?  I make butterscotch pudding often–sometimes for a casual family night, served in our kitchen cereal bowls with no fanfare.  Other times, it tops off formal dinner–served in parfait glasses with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a silver spoon it screams elegance.  

But maybe you still think pudding simply isn’t your type of dessert.  I’m not giving up.  Consider this spectacular  lemon pudding souffle.  Through the whipping of egg whites, the alchemy of baking and the gentle caress of a water bath, this recipe turns out a half chiffon, half lemon pudding that is the perfect end to any meal.

 The only downside is that it must be made in single batch sizes because of the water bath and heat distribution, so it really only serves 4.  For a larger crowd you’d have to make several.   I have yet to try it with other flavors, but I am confident that it would be glorious with vanilla, chocolate, orange, lime, or ginger.  Stay tuned….

And finally, I offer you another variation on this theme: apple rice pudding.   I conjured this up as a way to use leftover Basmati rice:

1 cup heavy cream
1  apple, peeled and grated
4 TBSP sugar
1 tsp vanilla
a sprinkle of cinnamon
3 cups cooked rice
Whip cream, and blend with all remaining ingredients.  Serve  chilled.

Still not sold on pudding?  Wait til our chocolate feature, coming next month.   Our chocolate pudding will change your opinion, if not your life.

Sunday Dinner: Korean Pork Bo Ssam

My resolution to encourage my husband’s commandeering of the kitchen every Sunday continues with glorious results.  He found a recipe for  Korean Pork Bo Ssam in the New York Times last week and he was determined to make it.   The lacquered coating on the fork-tender fall-apart pork was transformational, and the lettuce wraps gave the meal a lighter note, though the fare was plenty hearty on this chilly evening.

The homemade kimchi was a terrific accompaniment–he substituted red cabbage for the more traditional napa, which was a colorful alternative and quite tasty.

My contribution?  Garlic braised pea shoots, procured from the “Oriental Supermarket” (the owners are obviously not concerned with political correctness.)  We had a fascinating trip there to source ingredients, more on that in a future post.  Perhaps not ideal to visit for the first time on a Sunday afternoon the week before Chinese New Year, but we certainly stocked up.

Meantime, we’ll be enjoying the leftover Bo Ssam.  Anyone hungry?

Jack McDavid’s Apple Cranberry Crisp

Jack McDavid, Chef/Owner of the Down Home Diner in Reading Terminal Market is justifiably famous for his authentic country cooking.   His recipe for apple crisp does not disappoint.  Not only is it simple to make, but served warm with vanilla ice cream it is a righteous dessert,   Better yet, it doubles as breakfast the next morning (sans ice cream)–if there’s any left, that is.

Jack’s Apple Cranberry Crisp

4 lbs Gala Apples, peeled, cored, and cut in 3/8 inch slices
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 lb fresh cranberries

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 pinches salt
1 stick butter, cut in pieces
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (NOT instant or quick cooking)
1/4 cup maple syrup
vanilla ice cream, cinnamon and allspice for serving

Heat oven to 375.  Mix filling ingredients in large oval baking dish.  In mixing bowl, blend flour, brown sugar, salt, butter, and oats.  Blend til mixture forms pea-sized clumps.  Crumble over apple mixture and press gently.  Drizzle maple syrup over crumble topping and bake 45-50 minutes.  When done, apples are soft and topping is browned and crisp.  Serve warm topped with Bassett’s vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon and allspice.  NOTE:  This can be done without the cranberries for a simple apple crisp.

Swim Into Spring with Fish Tacos

Catherine kisses the bass goodbye….

In our determined quest to embrace lighter meals with the eagerly anticipated arrival of spring,  we cast our lines out to our friend Catherine–she of the famed ginger snaps.    Catherine proffered her Fish Taco recipe, which has been a hit at her table, even with her rather particular two year old.

One good thing about this dish is that adults will enjoy it with the simple addition of spicy salsa and other accoutrements, and if kids are reluctant to try the taco arrangement, they can try the stripped down version. 

The plain fried fish pieces bear a striking resemblance to  fish sticks and chicken fingers, which are, for many youngsters, safer culinary terrain. 

…and has him for dinner.

Fish Tacos
1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped red onion
4 tilapia fillets, or other firm white fish
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. chili powder, or to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
Canola oil for frying
1 package small flour or blue corn tortillas
Salsa (see recipe) – I just use diced tomatoes but don’t skip the taco sauce!! It’s good!
Fish Taco Sauce (see recipe)

Combine cabbage and onion; set aside.

Cut fish into 1 inch strips, 4 to 5 inches long.  Mix bread crumbs and chili powder in a shallow dish.  Place beaten egg in a separate dish.  Dip fish strips in egg, then dredge in bread crumbs.  Heat canola oil in a large skillet.  Fry fish in hot oil for 3 minutes on each side until crispy brown; drain.

Warm tortillas in damp paper towel in a microwave for 1 minute. To assemble, place fish on a tortilla. Top with cabbage mixture and sauce and salsa. Serves 4

1 cup seeded and chopped tomato
1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine and serve.

Fish Taco Sauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients.   Serve fish taco sauce at room temp.  

Now on a scale of 1 to 10 — how easy was that?  If you’re feeling more creative, then why not try out shrimp or crab tacos, some pan-fried skate wing or perhaps even some blowfish kebobs?  The world’s your oyster….especially at Reading Terminal Market.

Just a small sample of the seafood selection the Market has to offer.

Trek and Treat

One wintry Sunday we went for a bracing romp through the Wissahickon with friends.  Following a six mile round trip up Forbidden Drive to Valley Green Inn, our friends treated us to a culinary adventure –exposing us to a Raclette supper.  This Swiss staple involves flash braising food at the table.  It’s reminiscent of a night out at a Korean Barbecue restaurant, although the raclette dishes all focus on cheese in various guises.  We were treated to rolled eggplants stuffed with pesto, Cornish hens with cranberries and apples, mushrooms in heavy cream and gouda, small potatoes, an assortment of sausages, and three different cheeses.

The idea is simple. 

A raclette is basically a two-tier griddle, sort of a turbo charged fondue on which you saute meats and vegetables on the upper level.  While this deliciousness is going on, you simultaneously melt cheese in little dishes under the griddle, then drizzle the cheese over the cooked food when ready.  Alternatively, for the impatient among us, you can gorge on baguette and crudites dipped in the molten cheese if you’re too hungry to wait for the main course to cook.)

According to our Belgian friend, the raclette was invented to encourage conversation.  You have to talk to your neighbor to ensure that dishes are passed down the table.  It’s quite an ice-breaker (and keeps the kids entertained while adults converse). 

As if the raclette weren’t impressive enough, our host produced these extraordinary cookies to top off the afternoon.  Time consuming to make, they lived up to their star billing “Mint-Melt-Aways.”  The peppermint fondant layer between the rich crumbly shortbread and the bittersweet chocolate is sensational – ice cold to the tongue. 

Here’s the piccie to inspire you and here’s the recipe for Martine’s Melt-Aways…