Chocolate Dipped Matzos

 

 

This delightful dessert made its appearance on the shelves of Wholefoods around Passover.  At the  same time, stores started stocking gluten-free Matzos.  Hosannah.  I love Matzo crackers with cheese and best of all, my daughter can eat them because they are gluten-free.

Without following a recipe — this is after all more of an assemblage – I resolved to copy Wholefoods delectably more-ish sweet treat.

Only mine wasn’t half as good.

I couldn’t stop eating them the minute the chocolate ganache cooled, but somehow the gluten free matzos went soggy.  Instead of being crispy, crunchy and chewy, they were just plain soggy and chewy.

The moral of my story?

Try them with regular Matzos or more judiciously, buy your own at Wholefoods!

Looking good, but looks can be deceiving

Looking good, but looks can be deceiving

Grilled Avocados, Didn’t Love ‘Em.

 

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I am generally of the opinion that most things are improved when grilled.   This holds true for all the usual suspects, ie meat, fish, chicken.  It is also true for vegetables like eggplant, onions and broccoli.  It even improves things that you normally wouldn’t think to grill, like pizza, quesadillas, and crusty bread.  But yesterday, in what I thought was a fit of inspiration, I grilled avocados.

I adore avocados, and of late they have been particularly wonderful.  I eat them for breakfast with a spoon and a spritz of lemon juice.  I eat them for lunch smeared on a sandwich.  I eat them in salads for dinner.  So it seemed like a great idea last night when my daughter suggested that I  grill the avocados to accompany the steaks.  (She is a teenager, so when she suggests anything in a tone that doesn’t convey derision and snark, I am all in, and her culinary instinct is usually excellent.).  I cut and depitted the avocados, and doused them with oil, salt and pepper.  I put them, cut side down on a hot grill near the steaks, and let them be for about 5 minutes.

I am sorry to say, they were a disappointment.  The charred surface did not add anything good, and the interior flesh, normally a luscious creamy pod of delicious, was, in the words of my husband, “desiccated.”  There’s a fine line between ripe/soft and mushy/mealy.  Alas, we crossed it.

So, I won’t be in a rush to grill avocados again.  But it seemed right to warn you as grilling season is upon us.

Have you had any surprising successes or failures on the grill lately?

Society Hill Society – Our New Neighborhood Local

The steak is one of the best things on the menu at SHS

The steak is one of the best things on the menu at SHS

Society Hill Society – A New Neighborhood Local

You remember the Artful Dodger, the much-loved but not terribly elegant neighborhood bar where–for better or worse– everybody knew your name?

It was shuttered a few years back and we all hoped that a worthy replacement would soon arrive.  Now, after a long wait, Society Hill Society has done just that.

Society Hill Society (hereafter SHS) is a marvel.

The formerly cramped space has been blown wide open and is now one continuous room, united by an enormous horseshoe-shaped, copper-clad, bar.  One side of the bar houses casual booths; the other is a slightly more formal, yet still relaxed, dining zone.

The interior is sophisticated yet understated.  Colors are muted, and paint effects are used to create a sense of faded grace and gentility.   The distressed ceiling, marbling and the painted federalist motifs convey cool — in a quiet way..

According to one of the owners, Reed Barrow, who was instrumental in the design of SHS:  ”The inspiration comes directly from my walks around Society Hill, and the hospitality I’ve experience in its residents’ homes. I researched the businesses, cultures, architecture and design that have existed in Society Hill since it began, and borrowed ideas from this neighborhood’s clear philosophy of beauty.”

The menu at SHS is equally distinctive.

Regular items include scallops with English garden peas, Pierogies with caramelized onions and small hand made burger sliders.

SHS also features a special three course fixed menu, priced competitively at $50, which changes weekly, but often includes oysters.

A neighbor, Amanda, tried this prix fixe menu recently and said it was “wonderful”.  Her husband loved the fried oysters and chicken salad, in particular.

You can also pick individual items off the three course menu and order those a la carte, as our friends Frank and Catherine did when we visited.  Frank chose the snapper soup  and gave it a thumbs up.

Owner Barrow explains how the menu was devised: “It’s a result of working with such a talented chef.  It’s solely the creation of Yun Fuentes. We wanted to offer a menu that was different from all the other places around, but really created a sense of place… of Philly.  The menu reflects our City’s history, cultures, and the food and drink that sustained them.  We focus on ‘heritage cuisine,’ and our kitchen works with the freshest local ingredients.”

Even the salads exploit the freshest, local, seasonal ingredients

Even the salads exploit the freshest, local, seasonal ingredients

My scallops with pea puree were good

My scallops with pea puree were good

 SHS is a far cry from your normal pub grub.

As our friend Claudia, a big fan, argued recently: “Don’t expect your typical fries with everything bar menu.  Instead, you’ll experience fine dining in a hip, fun, rustic-chic corner tavern.  You can go for amazing cocktails or a great meal. My husband and I love the place.  We go for both.  What a wonderful addition to Society Hill!”

Pieroghies with caramelized onions were my second fave item on the menu...

Pieroghies with caramelized onions were my second fave item on the menu…

And so says anyone who is into great beer or interesting cocktails.

Try the Czech Pilsner Urquel in an authentic heavyweight  stein.  The pilsner pump allows for great flexibility – as the bar staff explained – you can get a pilsner with no head (the frothy stuff), some head or all head (although that one confuses me…you’re ordering a glass of froth, really?)

In terms of cocktails, we turn to my business parter and her husband, who know a good cocktail when they sip one.  They were particularly taken with the Flush’d, a refreshing, house made watermelon andcucumber syrup chilled with vodka, and the Liberal Arts Degree, which comprised rye, vermouth, amaro meletti, absinthe, and a lemon twist.

All of the cocktails have playful monikers–Fuzzled, Witches Sabbath, Gin Jawn, Refugee Punch, and are hand crafted by SHS resident bartender Paul.

Barrow explains how they created the cocktail menu:  We focus on simple, well balanced, house-made ingredients that work together well to bring out the flavors of well crafted spirits.  My favorites are the Liberal Arts Degree and the Gin Jawn.  These drinks are two sides of the same coin: One is dark, boozy and bitter while the other is light, fresh and sweet.”

For further information see www.societyhillsociety.com or call 267 273 1434.  To make a reservation via OpenTable, go to www.opentable.com

Asparagus That Everyone Loves

 

FoodTrustaspardone

With asparagus bursting from every Farmers’ Market and grocery shelf at this time of year, I’ve been scouting around for interesting uses.  Sure, I’ve roasted it, grilled it, made it into bisque, put it in omelets, rolled it in sandwiches, even eaten it raw.  This simple preparation for “asparagus fries” suggested by The Food Trust was a winner in our house one Sunday evening, accompanied by grilled flank steak, mashed potatoes and a tossed green salad,

 

Here’s the recipe, which serves about 6 people.

 

1 bunch of Asparagus (trimmed)

 

1 egg, lightly beaten

 

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 400.

foodtrustasparegg

Add the panko bread crumbs and parmesan to a large zip lock bag. Dip the asparagus in the egg then place in the bag. Seal the bag and shake to coat the asparagus in crumbs and cheese.

foodtrustasparbag

Place asparagus in single layer on a greased baking sheet.

FoodTrustasparpan

Bake for 7-10 minutes. Enjoy!

Zucchini Noodles with Edamame

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Now this is a major discovery:  I bought a strange sputnik-landing capsule-like mandolin recently, which, according to the instruction booklet, does funky things to veggies.

The product in question is called the vegetti and it’s way cooooool. You basically take an uncooked vegetable say a carrot, a chunk of squash, a peeled potato and twist the vegetable into the contraption, which then spews out lengths of said vegetable in very pretty long curly strips.

Isn’t that fun?

This is not advised for kids, as the blades of the mandolin are razor sharp, however, kids will love the look of the vegetables once they’ve been through the vegetti.

Here’s what I mean.

Take one zucchini (unpeeled) and twist through the sputnik and voila – seriously funky courgette strips…

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I was cooking an Asian inspired pork tenderloin with seaweed and seasame dusted jasmine rice and was in need of a side dish.  So this is what I did.

Asian-inspired Zucchini Noodles with Edamame (serves 2 as a side)

Ingredients:

* 1/2 cup of loose edamame

* 1 zucchini

* 6 large meaty mushrooms, peeled and sliced

* 1 tbsp soy sauce or teriyaki sauce

* 2 tbsps of asian flavored cooking oil

* splash of lime juice

* knob of butter (I love experimenting with Wholefoods’ Flavored butters ie Lemon and Dill, Garlic, Bay Seasoning and so on.)

Instructions:

  • Put whole zucchini through the vegetate- sprinkle lime juice over the noodles
  • melt butter and oil in frypan and add zucchini, cook through until softened
  • toss in the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes until soft
  • add pre-cooked edamame and just warm through
  • stir everything together and serve

This is fantastic fun to make and is really impressive.  It can be used as a gluten free alternative to pasta in any pasta-based recipe.  You could serve this with a marinara sauce or a pesto sauce for example.  Next time I’m going to try alfredo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Apple Cake

applecakeslice

 

My mother is justfiably famous for her pies, but she has quite a few other weapons in her baking arsenal.  A die-hard crowd favorite is her apple cake.  I am at the point now where I ask her not to make it, because it is one of those treats that keeps you coming back until it’s gone.  When she arrives with one in hand, I immediately cut it into generous slabs to share with others.  This week, I handed it out to:  the girl who checks me in at the gym; my car mechanic; the school bus driver; the mailman and my blogging partner, Claire, who was hosting an important client for dinner and wanted a dessert that was both impressive and homey.   Her assessment:  ”That was one of the best cakes I’ve ever had.  It was so moist, it was almost like an English pudding.”  Since she asked for the recipe, it seemed sensible to share it with a wider audience, so here it is:

 

Mom’s Amazing Apple Cake

1-1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups peeled, cored thickly sliced apples

1 cup raisins

1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

1.  Heat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 9 inch bundt pan.

2.  Beat oil and sugar; add eggs and beat until creamy.

3.  Add flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and mix.  Add remaining ingredients and blend again.

4.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 1 hr and 15 minutes.  Cool in pan, unmold and serve.

This cake is incredibly versatile and stays fresh for several days.  It is great on its own as a dessert or a snack with coffee/tea.  Also works for breakfast.  If you’re looking to really dazzle, top it with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.  Enjoy!

 

Chickpea and Tomato Salad

 

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Eldest son is soon to launch forth into the world on his own.

Mid August, he starts at the College of Charleston as a freshman and will be in charge of his own diet thereafter.  Freshman 15.  Say no more.  He’s currently a very slight, bordering on the gangly, 6ft-tall teenager: will he eat sensibly, exercise and go to bed at a reasonable time at University?  We doubt it.

However, between now, and him striking out on his own, I am going to coerce him into helping me to prepare mains and sides that are dead straightforward.  And I’m going to set myself my own challenge, that is, to reduce the number of ingredients I use to cook with – to five.

While I may have around 40-50 different herbs and spices in my pantry, he won’t.  (I’m excluding salt and pepper from that tally of five…be fair!)

This is the first of my five ingredient recipes:

Chickpea and Tomato Salad:

Ingredients:

* About 20 baby grape or small cherry tomatoes

* 1 tin of chickpeas/garbanzo or pinto beans

* feta cheese, mexican queso fresca or similar white crumbly cheese

* ready made vinaigrette – I like Newman’s Own

* 1 small red onion finely diced

Instructions

  1. Halve tomatoes
  2. Drain chickpeas and rinse under the tap to remove all the highly salted tinned water
  3. Finely dice the red onion
  4. Toss all three ingredients in a bowl and add 1-3 tbsps of vinaigrette (you decide how ‘wet’ you like your salad)
  5. Just before serving crumble the cheese on top of the salad.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste

And here it is.  This was truly made by my own son’s fair hands.  Don’t get me started or I’ll well up…

 

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Gooooooooo Cougars!

Homemade Baguette–Easier Than You Think

 

baguettesbaked

Here in Philly, where artisanal bread of every ilk is readily available, it’s arguably unnecessary to bake your own.  But a recent dinner at uber-authentically French Bibou, during which our conversation turned to homemade French baguette, inspired me to give it a shot.  As it happened, the following Sunday arrived with torrential rains, so baking bread seemed like a good idea.   Here’s my conclusion:  homemade, hot from the oven bread is absolute heaven and completely worth the time and effort involved.    But you have to eat it all.   Because unfortunately, the heavenliness doesn’t last; I froze one loaf and reheated it a few days later and it was still good, but no comparison to the fresh loaf of Sunday evening.

I used this recipe. (Thank you, Food.com)

First it had to rise for a couple of hours:

baguettedough

Then I divided the dough and rolled it out, into thin logs:baguettedoughflat

Next, I sliced it across the top and let it rise again:

baguettesovenready

And finally, I baked it.

Conclusion:  Yes, I would do it again, but only for a crowd where the results would be enjoyed immediately, at their optimal deliciousness.  One added bonus:  the house smelled absolutely wonderful while the bread baked, which was a lovely thing on a rainy Sunday when we were all stuck at home.

Rockin’ Indian Kabobs at New South Street Eatery

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We were tipped off to this rockin’ new restaurant, Kabobeesh, just south of South Street by our discriminating Singaporean friend, who claims that Kabobeesh’s kabobs have become her standard go-to, for midweek family takeouts.  This new Tandoori restaurant is (conveniently for us) situated in the old Latest Dish space on 4th.

Kabobeesh on 4th is the second of its kind in the city.

The original Kabobeesh, which claims to be “the oldest Pakistani restaurant in Philadelphia” is located in West Philly (42nd and Chestnut).

The menu at both is the same; chefs prepare an array of beef, chicken and lamb by marinating the meats overnight in Pakistani herbs, yogurt and spices.  The kabobs are then charcoal grilled on long, dramatic looking, metal skewers in a traditional tandoor (a wood fired oven) and served wrapped in a nan (a traditional Indian flatbread).

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The kabobs are available solo or you can buy a meal, which includes a choice of vegetable sides such as chutney, spiced yogurt, lentils and vegetable curries.  This hearty food is well priced; the tandoori chicken kabob comes in at $8.50, a mango lassi is just $2.99, and the portions are ample.

Admittedly the food is not pretty to eat; you use your hands and the nan wrap to stabilize the delectable kabob.

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It’s much like eating a Philly cheesesteak or a really good gyro – if you make an enthusiastic mess while devouring your meal, then you know it’s good.

We made a mess.

If kabobs are not your thing…no worries; Kabobeesh’s menu is packed with traditional Indian dishes such as chicken tikki masala, samosas, curries and chana masala.  Best of all, the restaurant works through grubHub, so when pressed for time you can go online and get a takeout delivered to your door.

To sample first-hand, go to www.kabobeesh.com.

 

 

 

Bircher Meusli: Breakfast of Champions



meusli

I discovered this delicious, nutritious traditionally Swiss breakfast dish in Mexico of all places.  It was part of the breakfast buffet in our resort, and once I tasted it, I was hooked. I was determined to replicate it at home, and fortunately, it was a simple task.

Here’s my version for one serving:

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 apple, chopped

1/4 cup unsalted nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts are my faves)

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup (to taste)

sprinkle of cinnamon

Mix all and enjoy.

meusliingredients

A few notes:  This can be made in bulk, stored in the fridge, and enjoyed all week as it keeps very well.     You can vary the ingredients based on what you have on hand.  Wheat germ, bran, raisins or other dried fruit, fresh berries, bananas are all fair game.

I’m a fan because this is light and healthy, but also full of protein and quite sustaining.  When I start my day with a bowl of meusli, I’m not hungry til lunch.  Not to say that I won’t be tempted by a cherry scone or nutella bar, but I’m less likely to forage if I’ve fueled up on meusli first thing.