Is there anything more delicious and satisfying than a cannele? Well, maybe there is, but right now I’m enjoying one and can’t think of anything else. Creamy custard infused with orange zest, baked until the outside becomes carmelized and slightly crispy… That’s a cannele. Sort of like creme brulee in pastry form and it’s utterly amazing.
According to the Metropolitan Bakery cookbook, cannele were first created by medieval French nuns to help raise funds for the convent. Those nuns were on to something!
I’ve been thinking (way ahead) about baking and such for the holidays- it seems like cannele might be the way to go. The recipe is straightforward and ingredients are simple… Just need to get my hands on some cannele copper molds.
I work five blocks from one of Philadelphia’s hidden treasures, Rieker’s Prime Meats, a German butcher and deli. Rieker’s is located in Fox Chase, a section of Philadelphia nestled between Elkins Park and Northeast Philly. I feel incredibly lucky to work so close to this unique place. Not only do they make the wursts, sauerkraut, and rouladen in house, Rieker’s also imports European chocolates (mostly German and Swiss), pierogies, and German condiments. During the holidays the store is practically bursting with exotic sweets and pastries, or so I’ve been informed by my coworkers. I hope they are right about this one.
Tonight while walking to the train station right behind Rieker’s, I decided a German-style meal was in order but that I didn’t feel like cooking too much since I was only cooking for myself. I walked back to the butcher, bought one single rouladen, 1/4 pound of the succulent sauerkraut (yeah, I love the stuff), and a bag of dried spaetzle. Under most circumstances I would make my own spaetzle, having been coached by my Berks County relatives I am fairly good at it, but tonight was not the night for making noodles. I opted for the rouladen because I figured it wouldn’t take long to cook as it is a pre-portioned amount of food.
German rouladen is delicious, if you like meat that is– this particular one was comprised of a beef shank pounded and flattened, meatloaf, bacon and mustard rolled into a little pouch of… well, meat. Some folks will add cheese to the roll, but really it isn’t needed. To prepare dinner, I seared the unholy alliance of meats on my beloved cast iron skillet, deglazed the pan with some Williamette Pinot Noir, added shallots and garlic to the mix, then returned the roll into the pan and braised it in the oven at 350 degress for 30 minutes. I served it over hot, buttered spaetzle and the pan gravy.
Rieker’s did not disappoint, the meat roll was delicious! I’ve also had their Oktoberfest Bratwurst which was clearly homemade, but amazingly tasty and herbal. It’s definitely worth the jaunt up to Fox Chase to grab reasonably-priced gourmet meat and German chocolates!
Rieker’s Prime Meats
7979 Oxford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19111
It’s been a while! I’ve been running ragged during the my “job adjustment period”. Things are finally starting to fall into place!
So, on to the foods. Fall brings all sorts of splendid items flowing into the Clark Park Farmer’s Market. The huge cornucopia of in-season ingredients, along with the beautiful weather, have inspired me to engage in sinful culinary pursuits. Thankfully Marilyn has been kind enough to do most of the cooking for the past couple weeks, so I thought I would return the favor.
Last night I prepared a farmer’s market feast: grilled lamb chops, roasted Brussels sprouts and steamed Beauregard yams for Marilyn and Eric. The meal was delicious, though fairly straightforward and simple. I usually make a yogurt/mustard sauce for lamb-dipping, but have become fairly bored with that, so this time I tried a different sauce as well. Lamb seems to go well with fruit and red wine, so I concocted a reduction of sorts. It was very simple:
1 cup of red wine
3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of Chambord liquor
4-6 sprigs of fresh sage
1 tablespoon of butter
cracked black pepper
I combined the first three ingredients in a saucier and simmered on low until it reduced to half. After removing the pan off the heat, I added the butter and pepper, then spooned the reduction over the grilled meat. The consistency was that of chocolate syrup and almost just a sweet. After deciding the reduction was too decadent a sauce to be limited to savory delectables, it was poured over vanilla ice cream for dessert. The Chambord’s velvet raspberry flavor and the sharp bite of the pepper was an amazing compliment to the frozen cream. I would have added some strawberries to the sauce if they had been in season. Perhaps I’ll do that in the spring.
The reduction was borderline food porn, honestly. The thick sauce was slightly spicy from the pepper and naturally dark and sweet. It coated the back of my spoon seductively, marking the perfect ratio of butter to liquid. I imagine that this sauce could be employed for other recreational uses, but that is a post for another blog, methinks.
Due to my new full time job, I will be taking a brief hiatus from Philly Grub. I’m actually getting to paid to blog for the library website, which amazingly exciting and fun. Don’t worry, I will be back soon; plus, Marilyn has lots of cool things to post about to keep you reading!
This morning I created what is officially my favorite bagel sandwich:
A pumpernickel bagel with onions from Metropolitan Bakery, Philly cream cheese, sliced avocado with lime juice, Frank’s hot sauce, and cracked black pepper. Delicious. Those orange-tomato beauties are from the Clark Park Farmers Market. Mega-mart tomatoes simply cannot compare.
Last night I made another incredibly amazing vegetarian feast that resulted in an abundance of leftovers since it’s just me living in the house at the moment. North African-style spicy collards, fried tofu, and coconut/cardamom-scented brown rice. Technically a vegan meal, although it wasn’t intentional. It just happened to turn out that way. Veganism isn’t the lifestyle for me!
Fast food. It’s a nasty gamble and almost every single time I partake in it, I ask myself, “Why did I do this?” and then go cry in a corner. Today I have eaten, truly, the worst and most debilitating, disgusting chum ever auto-produced by a fast food franchise. Sonic proclaims itself to be “America’s Drive-In!” well… keep on driving America. Do NOT waste your time, money, or tastebuds on it.
The way I felt after my Sonic experience is enough to turn me vegetarian. Really. I was physically crippled for a good 3-4 hours after I had so wrongly decided to eat at “America’s Drive-In.” Thankfully, a strong dose of ginger tea and a little nap helped rejuvenate me back into an animate human being once again.
I will never, ever, eat there in the future.
Stewart’s Drive-In, on the other hand, is a fantastic place for a delicious chili dog and a fresh blueberry milkshake.
My kitchen never seems to be lacking in incredibly ripe bananas. This is probably due to the fact that I buy and forget about them until it’s almost too late. In the past, I would save and freeze them for smoothies. These days, I don’t have a blender. Oh, the sadness! In order to cure my dilemma, I recently decided to take the bananas that were too far gone for eating and bake my own version of banana bread. Banana bread is my preferred of the quick breads because of its texture and ability to highlight the pure taste of the banana. Zucchini bread doesn’t seem to taste like zucchini at all, and so I don’t bother making it. Nutmegged pumpkin bread is the delicious runner up to banana. Mmm, I wonder how pumpkin banana bread would taste?
Banana Bread by Kate
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of flour
1 cup of oat bran
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
3/4 teaspoon of salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup of buttermilk or yogurt
(1 cup of nuts)
When I was reading over some banana bread recipes, I noticed the incredible amount of sugar in the ingredients list: sometimes 1.5 to 2 cups of sugar! Although I have a sweet tooth, this is an excessive amount of sweetener. Ripe bananas have plenty of natural sugars that help enrich the bread with sweetness. I enjoy banana bread for breakfast in the morning and it just seems wrong to create a bread that would be ridiculously sweet. Therefore, I added only .5 cup of sugar in my recipe. I will not add an artificial sweetener in any of my recipes, unless I’m baking for a severe diabetic. Using synthesized chemicals, that have not undergone extensive long-term testing, just isn’t my thing. Nope, not even Splenda!
To begin, preheat the oven for 350 degrees. After setting the oven, line a large loaf pan with parchment paper. Parchment paper is my favorite way to line quick bread pans; it makes for incredibly easy bread removal and no clean up is involved. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until completely incorporated. Add the beaten eggs to the butter/sugar mixture one by one, followed by the vanilla, mashed bananas, and buttermilk. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix well. At this point nuts could be added to the mixture, although I usually don’t include them. Aside from hazelnuts and almonds, most nuts aren’t really my thing. Finally, take the beautiful bowl of banana bread batter and scrape it into the lined loaf pan. Bake for an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when stuck in the center of the loaf.
There you have it: delicious, healthy, breakfast-worthy banana bread!
This will be a short post; I just need to rant about the Bubble House for a bit. First of all, when making iced tea, ladies, make it double strength! I don’t want my iced green bubble tea to taste like I’m sipping tapioca AND tap water. See, the funny thing about pouring hot tea over ice means it’ll water it down completely! Secondly, please don’t allow your staff to approach my table when they are cracked out. Thank you.
Ahem. Let’s try that with a little less angst. Well, yesterday I had the displeasure of drinking some tap water, I mean tea, at the Bubble Tea House. The waitress was aloof and disappeared for more than 20 minutes at a time, even though the restaurant was seemingly calm. The sencha green bubble tea was horribly watered down, even after I had it sent back the second time. The waitress, despite her dreamy, inattentive behavior, clearly showed her displeasure when I told her could barely taste the tea in my drink. The second incarnation of the tea tasted pretty much the same as the first. I’ll head to Chinatown the next time I have a hankering for bubble tea.
Rating: One nom.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend, two out-of-town friends and I decided to try Hikaru, just south of South Street in Society Hill. I’m usually very picky about sushi; in fact, I rarely buy it at all. Many years ago, I spent some time studying in Japan and the food was amazing. Unfortunately, most of the Japanese cuisine in America cannot compare to the high quality I received abroad. Still, I was willing to try Hikaru due to the very positive reviews. Also, Hikaru means “Shining One” in Japanese and comes from one of my favorite medieval novels, The Tale of Genji, which is scintillating enough; so, I figured it might be a good place to meet some friends who wanted to try Philly sushi.
The atmosphere of Hikaru was interesting. The lighting was low and romantic, typical of most Japanese restaurants. I was delighted to see they had traditional washitsu seating complete with tatami and zabuton. Sadly, my companions expressed their disinterest in sitting “on the floor”, so we selected the English-style seating.
The first thing I ask when I try a new Japanese restaurant is if they serve shabu-shabu or not. I figure that they might not have it on the menu, but may serve it anyway for real Japanese food fans. Alas, Hikaru did not have my favorite dish after all, so I opted for the Hell Roll appetizer, and the Tofu Teriyaki complete meal. My companions decided to try the Sashimi Combination Platter, and the Chicken Teriyaki and Beef Teriyaki meal.
I have mixed feelings about the dinner at Hikaru. On one hand, the Hell Roll was delicious: a spicy tuna roll without the globular, stinky mayonnaise that is usually plopped on top, for which I was grateful. The spice comes from spicy tobiko (flying fish roe) and a cayenne pepper coating on the outside of the rice. Although not very traditional, the Hell Roll was fantastic; the spice did not overpower the flavor of the raw tuna. The miso soup was perfectly seasoned with white miso paste, seaweed, and tofu. The salad, on the other hand, left much to be desired. The iceberg lettuce, barely a verdant hue, swam languidly in water I presume it was washed in. The tangy ginger dressing would be better paired with a different salad with fresher ingredients.
My tofu entree was somewhat better. The tofu was lightly fried, and amazingly flavorful; however, the teriyaki sauce was overly sweet and the accompanying vegetables were skimpy and, for lack of better of better word, sad-looking. I was surprised that Hikaru did not serve vibrant, summer vegetables rather than the bean sprouts and onions that appeared on the hot plate. Real Japanese cooking embraces seasonal ingredients, a philosophy that Hikaru did not seem to employ. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a photo of my meal, but my boyfriend did get one of his (below right) and our friend’s meal (above left) on his iPhone.
My companions seemed to enjoy their own meals, so I refrained from openly complaining about mine. The food was not terribly exciting, aside from the Hell Roll, which was great. Hikaru was filling means to an end. The tofu meal I purchased was overpriced for it’s mediocre taste, roughly priced at 18 dollars for some fried tofu, wilted vegetables, miso soup and rice. Honestly, 10 dollars would be a more appropriate price for such a meal. The wait staff was attentive and willing to converse a little bit in Japanese, a pleasant aspect of the dining experience. Dining near or on South Street usually calls for overpriced food, but this is a moot point. I will travel off the beaten path for an amazing meal, so location is of little importance to me.
Rating = 3 Noms.
I am still searching for the perfect, Japanese home-cooked meal. Any suggestions are welcomed!
One of my favorite dishes at Thai/Laotian restaurants is penang curry, which I usually get with tofu, because, yes, I actually like tofu! Penang curry is characterized by a peanut curry sauce that is absolutely addictive. Last night I was hungering for something Thai, but didn’t want to run out to buy anything, so I attempted to make penang curry without a recipe. Sure, I could’ve looked one up, but part of the fun in cooking is the whole problem-solving aspect.
First, I started by sautéing some crushed garlic, diced onion, and finely chopped fresh ginger– the holy trinity of most Asian cuisine. After the onion became a little translucent, I added both nước mắm (fish sauce) and soy sauce and deglazed the pan with some vegetable broth. Then came the fresh vegetable melange: carrots, which needed to cook for a little bit longer than the others, then diced zucchini, and green pepper. I thought about adding tomatoes, but decided against it since the dish I usually get doesn’t contain them.
To make the peanut-based sauce, I simply stirred in some smooth peanut butter and coconut milk to taste. It needed more spice and I didn’t have any fresh chilies on hand, so I tossed in a healthy amount of ground cayenne pepper, along with pre-mixed curry powder and freshly ground black pepper.
The end result was fairly close to the typical penang curry served in Vientiane Cafe down the street: spicy, thick and nutty. The spice in the sauce was a heat that slowly warmed on the tongue, with the cayenne and black pepper hitting different taste buds. Next time, I plan on adding shrimp or tofu, depending what I have on hand. Also, I need to learn how to make that amazing bamboo-steamed sticky rice!