Honeyed Hazelnuts, a Great Addition

hazelnutsHoneyed Hazelnuts add a sweet crunch to just about anything.

I was throwing together dinner one hurried evening last week and the salad began to look rather forlorn.  That is pretty inexcusable these days when produce is at its summer best.  But, the crisper drawer was pretty bare save some decent salad greens, so I put my thinking cap on.

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I foraged and found some good looking hazelnuts in my pantry, but again, they needed something.   Inspiration struck, and i dumped them into a skillet with some honey, a pinch of salt and a grind or two of fresh pepper, and let them cook for about 5 minutes to coat thoroughly.    Then I dumped them onto a plate, and to accelerate the hardening process, put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes. The result was a slightly sticky and totally delicious crunch.

 

The finished product did clump together a fair bit and I had to pry them off the plate, but no one cared.  The salad, which was also gussied up with some crumbled goat cheese and chopped prunes was consumed down to the last leaf, thanks mostly to the hazlenuts.

 

These would be delightful on a cheese plate, sprinkled over ice cream, or decoratively placed atop a cake.

 

Beef Pot Roast – the Foundation for Beachside Tacos

 

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I’ve made a major discovery.  Whilst my picky eater teen daughter won’t readily eat pulled pork, she will eat beef pot roast.  I’m guessing it must be something to do with the texture and density of the two meats: Pork is slightly stringier with longer fibers while a beef pot roast produces a crumblier meat.  Whatever.  I’m just happy to have found an easy cook recipe for the Summer.

During the Summer, I love to cook meat in the crock pot (the kitchen stays cool) and I must confess I prefer meats that are cooked this way – rather than slow roasted in the oven.  I just think the texture is better overall.

I’m a devotee of meats slow cooked with beer, but since said picky eater is a Celiac, beer is off the menu.  (How much longer before she leaves home???)  Ginger ale is a perfect substitute for beer.  And I go crazy.  I use two individual sized bottles in this dish, because I like the warmth and flavor of ginger.

The recipe is equally good for pork or beef:  Here’s the marinade for the slow cooker:

Ingredients:

2 bottles of ginger ale

3 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce

Lots and lots of freshly ground salt and pepper

1 tsp smoked paprika

Beck’s Devil Dust (I use 1 heaped tbsp)

1 tbsp of honey

Oil to brown meat in frypan

 

Recipe:

1. Pat your choice and cut of meat dry

2. Assemble all your spices and roll the meat in the spices coating all sides of the meat

3. Heat oil in frypan and brown all sides of the meat to maintain flavor and moistness

4. Put all other ingredients in slow cooker and place meat in slow cooker

5. Set on high for 2 hours

6. Cook on medium for 6-8 hours – depending on the power of your cooker

7. Test the meat with a fork.  When it flakes off then you know it’s ready for consumption

 

We live off tacos throughout the Summer; we consume fish tacos, scallop tacos, beef and pork tacos.  This pot roast recipe will last us for 2-3 different meals.   You actually don’t need much meat  per person if you get creative and load up your tacos with:

  • roasted corn
  • coleslaw in garlic aioli
  • salad greens – we like funky pea shoots!
  • beans of all description (my daughter’s favorite is chick peas

The options are endless.

Enjoy

 

Vanilla Souffle Cake

lemonsoufflebaked

 

Last Sunday after a delicious grilled steak dinner, someone at the table said, “A lemon souffle would be great right now.”  I briefly considered whipping one up, but immediately thought better of it and broke out some chocolate bars and ice cream.  But the lemon souffle stuck in my head, and by Monday evening, I had to have one.  After picking up various kids from various places, I got home, put dinner in front of them and set to work.

As I assembled the ingredients I came to a disturbing realization:  the lemons in my fruit bowl were long past their prime and their rind was in no shape to provide the fresh citrus-y zest needed for this dessert.  So I moved to plan B:  Vanilla souffle.

I had made this lemon souffle cake many times before–it’s pretty simple, aside from the water bath cooking requirement, which is a bit of a pain.    It serves 6 sensibly or 4 gluttonously, and is delightful with berries.  I figured it would easily translate into vanilla, and I was right. I followed the recipe to a T, with the following substitution:  omit lemon zest and juice; instead scrape the insides of 1 1/2 vanilla beans into a bowl, and add 2 tsp vanilla extract.  The verdict:  delicious.  It was not as refreshing as the lemon, lacking that citrus lightness, but had a delightfully rich vanilla custard feel, which fit the bill on a rainy summer evening.

Following the recipe in the above link, here’s a pictorial step by step:

Vanilla beans w/ egg, milk, flour, sugar….

souffleingredients

 

Whip egg whites til stiff:

whippingeggwhitesBake in water bath:

lemonsoufflebaking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sweet Potato Fries – a Huge Hit!

 

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Dead easy this.  The hardest part of this recipe is slicing the fries thinly without losing a fingertip.

The end result is amazing.  Fresh crunchy fries that you can serve as an appetizer with a spicy dip, with a burger at midday or as a side for cold meat and a salad.

I’ll be making this again in a hurry!

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes

1 bowl full of iced water

Canola or Coconut Oil spray

Chili powder and sea salt for flavoring

Recipe

  1. Wash sweet potatoes, leaving skin on
  2. Slice potatoes finely (1/8th inch).  Use a mandolin if you dare
  3. Put sliced fries into large bowl of iced water and leave for 20 minutes
  4. Drain fries and pat down
  5. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and place fries on sheet
  6. Spray liberally with your choice of oil and sprinkle sea salt and chili on fries
  7. Flip fries and repeat 6
  8. Place fries in oven at 400, cook for about 35-40 mins
  9. Keep checking oven, as the fries all seem to cook at different speeds.  Remove cooked fries (they should be brown and crispy) and keep checking on remaining fries until you are happy that all are perfectly done
  10. Serve with a dip – our recommendation is a homemade blue cheese dip

Note these fries are best cooked and served immediately.  After a couple of hours they tend to wilt.  To refresh, pop back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes to perk them up.

Have fun.

 

Strawberries with Aged Balsamic and Ice Cream

strawberrybalsamicNormally, I’m a chocolate, caramel, cream, buttery cakey, ooey-gooey, dessert kind of girl.  But when I happened upon a quart of  beautiful, just picked strawberries in the Headhouse Farmers’ Market, they spoke to me.  I knew i needed to do something that really showcased the fruit and didn’t interfere too much with its texture, flavor or freshness.

As I rummaged through the cabinet seeking inspiration, I spotted a small bottle of aged balsamic vinegar, which had been part of a delightful gourmet gift basket I received awhile back.  An idea began to germinate–vanilla ice cream topped with sliced strawberries and balsamic vinegar.   Do note, aged balsamic is a sweet, thicker, almost syrupy concoction which works with desserts as well as some salads, particularly those that feature fruits and nuts tossed with the greens.  This oh-so-simple dessert was a showstopper; it highlighted the fruit, offered a unique and complementary flavor with the vinegar, and a bed of ice cream is the ideal summer treat.  Did I mention it took all of 45 seconds to prepare a serving?  And no oven required.

Here’s how to make heaven for one:

A scoop or two of best quality vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1 tsp (or more) 18 year old balsamic vinegar, drizzled over top.

Enjoy.

This would be wonderful raspberries, or with peaches as they begin to appear in markets.

If you can’t get your hands on aged balsamic (it can be hard to find and rather pricey–best to procure it the way I did as a gift!) then you can cheat and reduce regular balsamic.  For four servings, dump a cup of regular balsamic in a saucepan and boil til it’s thick and syrupy.    This may take about 20 minutes. Drizzle as above.

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.

 

grilledavocados

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.

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Place asparagus in single layer on a greased baking sheet.

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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!