Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Buttered Pecan Oatmeal with Milk and Sugar in the Raw

Photo Blogger: Joy Wilson
Blog: JoyTheBaker: Baked from Scratch. Made with Love.

This Los Angeles baker loves cooking from scratch with simple, fresh ingredients. Her mouthwatering oatmeal recipe makes only one serving--I'd recommend at least doubling it.

Note: Click on the photo to see Joy Wilson's original post.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Wonderfully wet
Agriculturally apropos
Teleologically trivial
Ecumenically essential
Really rad

Ode to Water

So fresh, so clean.
The source of life –
You cannot know what I mean
Until you are overcome with the strife

Of dehydration
And crave that liquid refresher,
That luscious libation.
It makes me smile like the cat of Cheshire

Unmatched is its versatility;
Drink it cold, drink it warm.
With a straw you have more ability
To imbibe its fluid form.

The most prized of all possession;
Without it, what would I do?
Fall into a great depression,
Oh, that day I would rue.

My Favorite Time of Year (Food Haiku #4)


mini egg season
time for choco-ova to
slide over my tongue

(Picture from Candyblog)

dedicated to my best friends from the 'ford.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Red Onion Soup

Last Friday, with the stress of conference planning bearing down on me and a nasty wintry mix coming down outside, some culinary therapy was in order. Soup was an obvious choice but since I could only take a short break from preparations for the PA/NJ Food Summit, it had to be a quick recipe. Fortunately, one of my favorites, red onion soup, takes very few ingredients and a short amount of time. The soup sounds odd, but it's similar to French onion soup except for the purple color!
A friend brought over crusty whole wheat bread and brie and we had ourselves a proper winter meal before getting back to business.

Red Onion Soup Recipe
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from

The original recipe calls for beef broth, as does traditional French onion soup, but I prefer to substitute chicken broth and add some red wine to match the richness of beef broth.


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds red onions, sliced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup red wine
Parmesan cheese and scallions for garnish (optional)


Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until brown, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle flour over onions; stir 2 minutes. Gradually mix in broth and wine, scraping up browned bits from pan bottom. Simmer 15 minutes. Working in batches and using on/off turns, blend soup in processor to coarse puree. Return soup to pot and bring just to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parmesan and scallions, if desired.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Dim Sum Adventure

"Dim sum," in Cantonese, means "order to your heart's content." What better way to spend the morning after an '80s exercise party? After months of making abstract plans to go, my roommates and I finally ventured to Chinatown for dim sum. We ended up eating at the first restaurant we stumbled upon, Imperial Inn (located on 10th st. between Race and Cherry). The first thing that struck us was the delightfully tacky décor. A lit-up plastic landscape painting elicited an “Ooooo” from one of my roommates. Speakers, a TV, projectors, and a disco ball made the room ideal for a high school graduation party, which only added to the dive's charm. Though we were told we would have to wait fifteen minutes, our party of four was seated quickly.

Within minutes of being seated, the first cart rolled up to us and we tried rice noodles filled with beef and drowned in soy sauce. From then, it was hard to say no to any carts that rolled our way. We had steamed barbecue pork buns, shrimp dumplings, crusty pork pie, vegetable egg rolls, roasted duck, calamari, and a steamed bun filled with custard -- all accompanied by a big pot of hot tea. We unanimously agreed the custard buns and barbeque pork buns were our favorites. Sweet, thick, and rich, the baked egg custard was a surprising treat; it was a nice compliment to the salty, savory dishes we had been eating to that point. The pork bun was satisfying because of its doughy thickness. Yet some dishes were sadly left untouched. The vegetable egg rolls had an unappealing crunchy texture and were filled with bland, watery vegetables. Also, the calamari tasted of MSG and little else.

The service is nothing to rave about but, at dim sum, I never expect much attention. For just $36 for four people, we left happy and filled to the brim with greasy Chinese food -- a welcome remedy to the Spandex debauchery of the night before. Though the restaurant itself is nothing to write home about, my roommates and I certainly enjoyed the pork and egg custard buns, and the whole unique dining experience. Perhaps dim sum may just be the new alternative to Hill's Sunday brunch.


Monday, February 25, 2008

A Fairy Tale, of Sorts

Once upon a Saturday night, in wonderful land called West Philadelphia, two friends and I decided to tackle an ambitious dessert called Mango Crème Brulée. This pesky crème required a flame and several fresh ingredients. So, we headed to the source of all things fresh, affordable and of non-suspicious origin: the Fresh Grocer. Having already relied on Trader Joe’s for the mango, we only needed heavy cream, sugar, and eggs. The cream and sugar were easy to obtain— we only had to follow the maze of angled aisles—but the eggs entailed a hunt through mountains of cartons laden with broken shells.

After successfully making our purchase, we journeyed back to our tower. The first task in creating the crème was to dry the sugar. A slight misreading of the directions led to disaster. Minutes after we put sugar in the oven, we noticed smoke seeping out. Against our better judgment, we opened the door only to find a menacing cavern of flames. To vanquish the fiery beast, I shot it with my fire extinguisher. The foam suffocated it, leaving a billowing mound of blackened sugar. We were out of immediate danger, but in its dying breath, the beast enacted revenge and filled the room with smoke.

Our omnipotent fire alarm began to shriek, and we knew that unless we acted quickly, the whole building would flood, drowning all. We opened windows and grabbed whatever we could to fan the smoke. The longer the alarm screeched, the more we feared our imminent doom. With our eyes burning from the fiend’s smoky remnants, and our arms exhausted from trying to appease our alarm, we nearly accepted our fate. But then, a third friend came to save us. She had been locked away in her room but sensed that we needed her help. With another subject working to soothe him, the alarm quieted.

Cold, tired, and smelling of smoke, we were grateful for our survival, but still accepted our overall defeat. There would be no Crème Brulée. Whatever our downfall, be it hubris, or an unpredictable oven— it just was not meant to be.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Banana Pancakes

All you need to make basic pancakes are flour, salt, eggs, baking soda, and some liquid with an acid – buttermilk, orange juice mixed with water, water and a squeeze of lemon, or even just water or milk with cocoa powder. The key is that baking soda needs to react with an acid in order to leaven.

But I want more than “your basic pancake.” I want a pancake that is a little sweet to satisfy the craving, but hearty and filling at the same time. It also has to be simple and doable within my time and budget constraints. My philosophy is that you can make pancakes with whatever you have on hand, and today I have bananas and a huge container of oats. Today is a whole wheat oatmeal banana day. I feel it.

The basic recipe from whence I derive all other pancake recipes is the following:

1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 c. buttermilk

(These are the proportions I use when just making pancakes for myself. This recipe is easily doubled—but stick with one egg even in the doubled version.)

And this is how I changed it:

  • My half cup of “flour” consisted of a quarter cup of whole wheat flour and a quarter cup of soaked oats (use warm or hot water – and you don’t need much).
  • I added a dash of sugar for flavor and caramelization.
  • For my half cup of acidic liquid (subbed for buttermilk) I used mostly water with a little orange juice.
  • I also added some secret ingredients, cinnamon and nutmeg—add those or whatever other spices you like.

So here's the final recipe:

Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Banana Pancakes


1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. oats, soaked in warm wate
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 c. orange juice-water mixture (more water than orange juice)
Dash of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg
1 banana
Butter or oil for pan


Mix together all ingredients except the banana (don’t overmix or the pancakes will be tough). Drop it on your preheated (but not super-hot) skillet and slice the banana on top. Let it cook for a couple minutes until there are lots of bubbles, flip, and cook for another two or so minutes. I topped mine with more sliced banana and brown sugar. They were delicious! All gone. :-)


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Souper Trooper

I headed down to Reading Terminal Market today to check out the Souper Bowl and International Comfort Food Festival. Most of the action was centered around the open space in front of Flying Monkey, where Reading Terminal vendors were dispensing their comfort food specialties: Pennsylvania Dutch waffles and ice cream, chicken korma and lassi, Polish sausage and sauerkraut... I got there around 12:45pm, just in time to catch the results of the soup competition: won by Down Home Diner’s New England Clam Chowder.

A tasting station for the plebs was set up in front of the judges’ table (from which I stole an abandoned blank scoring sheet). A jazz band was playing, the aisles were jam-packed, and winter blues-afflicted Philadelphians were out in force. I heard one particularly grumpy gent fighting his way through the tasting queue yell, “Do you have excuse-me deficiency?!”

Anyway, here’s my rundown of the soups:

1. Italian Wedding: too salty, too greasy, and the ingredients were indistinct and overcooked. Meh.

2. Pasta Fagioli: good tomato-ey flavour, but too much cream and salt.

3. Matzoh Ball: wonderful wonderful wonderful. Until today, the only good matzoh ball soups I’ve eaten have come from the kitchens of people I know. But this one was enormously satisfying as a comfort food: sliced carrots cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth consistency, tasty shreds of chicken, a nourishing broth that didn’t rely on sodium for flavor, and a superlative matzoh ball to top it all off.

4. Sweet and Sour Cabbage: chopped cabbage in a spicy broth – excellent! Well-balanced, visually appealing, flavor-packed but not greasy. I’m a fan of intelligently-prepared cabbage (one of my favorite savory comfort foods), so I loved this one.

5. Turkey Chili: salty, heavy, greasy – altogether too rich. On the plus side, the beans were well-cooked and the turkey was nicely tender. Could’ve used a little more spice.

6. Lobster & Crab Bisque: blegh. Too creamy. I couldn’t discern the presence of either lobster or crab – the soup just imparted a generic sense of ‘seafood’. You know what I’m talking about.

7. Golden Potato: yum. Thickly grated potato bits in a slightly peppery, creamy soup with just a hint of sweetness. Like potato rosti in a cup. Mm mmm.

8. New England Clam Chowder: this one wasn’t at all what I was expecting – lighter and paler than other clam chowders I’ve tasted, and it seems to have been made with a different mix of flavors as well.

Final Verdict: Matzoh Ball as the hands-down winner, followed closely by the Sweet and Sour Cabbage in second place, with the Golden Potato a more distant third.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Holy Edamole

Photo Blogger: Tami Hardeman
Blog: running with tweezers: tales from the frontlines of food

This Atlanta food stylist cooks and bakes from a variety of recipes. Her twist on the classic guacamole dish as adapted from Cooking Light is healthy, scrumptious and only takes about 5 minutes to prepare.

Note: Click on the photo to see Tami Hardeman's original post.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Food Haiku #3

shrinkwrapped potato
"may whistle in microwave"
not so fresh, fro gro


image from

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Chili of Happenstance - Food Haiku #2

tomatoes, beans, yams -
yes yes! i call this chili:

I made a recipe for Pinto Bean Sweet Potato Chili the other night from epicurious. Yes, I lied in my haiku about the sweet potatoes being yams...


Healthy, Easy Chinese Recipe: Xi Hong Shi (Chinese Scrambled Eggs with Tomato and Onion)

Think Chinese cuisine has to be complicated? Try this healthy, authentic Chinese dish that is extremely simple to make! Although not so well-known, this sweet and savory dish is one of THE classic recipes of Chinese families.


1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium tomato, cut into chunks
4 eggs
2 tbsp water
1 tsp ginger, minced or sliced
2 tsp vegetable oil
1tsp salt
½ tsp sugar


Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add onion and ginger. Stir-fry until onion is soft.

Whisk eggs in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. Pour mixture into the pan. Wait a few seconds to allow the egg to set before stirring with a spatula for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and stir until eggs are cooked through and tomatoes are soft. Turn off the heat and season with salt and sugar to taste.

Serve over steamed rice.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Food Haiku #1

dark chocolate: the best
envelope for what would have
been naked raisins.

This is the first in a weekly series of food haiku. Feel free to post your own!


Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Sandwich to Remember

Cooking in a dorm room can be an adventure. Sometimes it’s an absolute disaster, like when two kids in my hall scorched toast, causing the evacuation of the entire lower quad. Sometimes it’s... better, like when I bought lettuce and tomato earlier this year and made, lo and behold, a salad! A couple of days ago, I figured it was time to get a bit more ambitious, so I went to Fro Gro and got creative.

My purchases? A cooked whole turkey breast, a loaf of crusty Italian bread, a vine-ripened tomato, and some herb-flavored goat cheese.

Clearly, a monumental sandwich was in order.

Hurrying back to my dorm room, and feeling like a real foodie for having the end of a baguette peeking out of my grocery bag, I got more and more excited about the coming masterpiece. I opened the turkey first and found a large, well-colored, and moist reminder of Thanksgiving. I dug in with a metal fork—this was way too important for the plastic utensils I usually use—and saw that the meat was swimming in juice, almost undercooked, in fact, which was the best possible situation.

I pulled some pieces of the succulent white meat off of the bone, the aromatic steam rising up to the ceiling of my small room. After tasting a bit of the turkey, I grabbed a metal knife in one hand and the crusty bread—imported from faraway, majestic New Jersey—in the other. Over a plate to catch the countless crumbs, I plunged the knife in, quickly overcoming the hard exterior and entering the loaf’s doughy innards. Unlike the turkey, this bread could have used a little less time in the oven, but it was tasty nonetheless. I ate the loaf’s crispy end piece, then cut a chunk a few inches long and split it on one side. My sandwich was ready to be stuffed.
I sliced the tomato into and layered the pieces over the bottom half of the bread. After a little struggle to open the package, I spooned out some chunks of goat cheese and placed it on top of each tomato slice. Finally, it was time for the star of the show. I took the pieces of turkey meat I had pulled one at a time and gingerly arranged them individually on the top of my sandwich. In hindsight, it might have been more effective to have grabbed all of the turkey at once and piled it on, but being meticulous here gave me pleasure: this sandwich was a big deal.
The moment of truth had arrived. I did the unnecessary but obligatory push-down-on-the-top-of-the-sandwich move with my left hand, hearing the bread’s crust crumble, seeing the turkey’s juice run into the dough, and smelling the goat cheese as the white meat warmed and melted it on the tomatoes. I picked it up—both hands were necessary, mind you—and dove in.

The verdict?
It was good. Not earth-shattering, but solid and tasty and better than what I could have gotten at Commons. The flavorful, moist turkey won the prize for best ingredient, with the bread (particularly its crust) in a close second. The tomatoes served their purpose, but the goat cheese was certainly the weak link; it didn’t spread well, so in a given bite it was either a very, very strong flavor or had no presence at all. Moreover, it just wasn’t great cheese. I’ll stick to non-flavored next time, no matter how appealing garlic and herbs sound.
Still, the sandwich was a success, albeit a modest one. The latter is particularly true when considering that the whole shebang cost me $16.47 (though, in fairness, I got another sandwich out of it for dinner and have been munching on the leftover bread and turkey ever since).
Now that everything is said, done, and digested, I’m glad that I unofficially decided to make last Tuesday turkey day, and conducted the closest thing to actually cooking that my dorm room has seen in a while. Still, for the time, the money, and the trouble involved (including the dish-washing), I’ll probably leave it to the pros next time. I now know there’s a reason that practically nobody cooks in their dorm room, but I’m still proud to have joined the ranks of the few who have.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...