Sunday, November 30, 2008

Upcoming Food Events

Remember, if you have an event you'd like us to feature next Sunday, just send the details to

Where: Rodin Rooftop Lounge
When: Monday December 1, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
What: A celebration of the release of Penn Appetit's Fall 2008 issue! Features free food and guest speaker Tom Block of Naked Chocolate Cafe.
How much: Free!

Where: Valley Forge Convention Center
When: Sunday December 7, 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
What: A fundraiser for the Jewish Relief Agency that is a celebration of Jewish food, culture, and community.
How much: $12

Where: Main Street, Manayunk
When: Weekends until December 24
What: Visit a transformed Main Street replete with holiday decorations, roasted chestnuts, holiday music, holiday craft demonstrations, and more!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just in case you forget how to prepare a turkey, here are the complete directions, courtesy of my 5 year old sister, Ariana, complete with her artistically cropped illustration.

"You get the turkey from a store and then my Dad puts salt on it and cooks it on the stove. Then my Dad tells me that it's ready and then you eat it when it's on the plate and it tastes good!"

Response from my father, a chef: "There are some very gourmet salts. There are salts that are only harvested during high tide in certain parts of Japan."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


With my right hand gripped tightly around the knife and my left strangling my subject, I lifted the blade above my head as the wind howled violently outside. I can do it, I tell myself, I will demolish him! He will suffer for the unbearable pain he caused me! I released my hand, stabbing his lifeless body, piercing through the skin again and again, ripping him to pieces.

How did I, a relatively mild and peaceful Penn sophomore, end up in such a violent frenzy? The story begins a few weeks ago, November the fifth, a breezy autumn Wednesday in University City…
“Do you have any pumpkins?” I inquired at the farmer’s market stand on 36th and Walnut. The previous week, the fruit men had brought crates full of pumpkins for Halloween. Ever since, I had this unbearable craving for freshly cooked pumpkin sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon, just tender enough to spoon out and savor on the tip of my tongue.
“We have a ton of pumpkins, but we didn’t think anyone wanted them anymore. So we didn’t bring any,” The man responded. My face dropped. “You know what, if I remember, I’ll try to bring you a pumpkin next week, okay?”
I can’t say I was too hopeful, so I just purchased my fruits and politely thanked the men working at the stand. But I really wanted a pumpkin. I was craving it.
The following Wednesday, I returned to stock up on my usual round of fruits. As I approached the apples, the man behind the table came up to me with a smile. “We brought it! Just for you!” He pointed to a box on the side.
Ecstatic, I ran over and peered into the box. An average sized lumpy pumpkin rested on top of another. “Thank you so much!” I gushed, “I’ll take that one!”
“No no, we brought you the other one,” The man replied, as he lifted the small pumpkin to reveal a monstrous orange sphere hiding underneath, “We brought this one just for you!”

I stared at the beast, and my eyes widened. There was no way I could carry that back to my room. Absolutely no way. I glanced back at the man, alarmed. His voice echoed in my head, We brought this one just for you! I needed some way to get out of it.
“This is huge! I mean, how much is this gonna cost me?” I attempted, trying to pull the penniless-college-student stunt.
“You know what, I’ll give it to you for just five bucks. Great deal. I brought it for you.” He had to remind me. I took a deep breath, took out my Penn card, and asked to pay using dining dollars.
I put one bag of fruits on one arm, strung the second around my other arm, and lifted the monstrous vegetable. And let me tell you, it was actually heavier than I expected! My arms could barely wrap around its circumference. I staggered under the weight, finally leaning back to balance out.
“Thank you for the pumpkin!” I managed to call out, as my trembling legs wobbled to support the equivalent of quintuplets--in a full-sized crib.
“It’s actually a squash, by the way,” The man called out, waving goodbye.
So there I was, lugging an enormous mutant squash down Walnut. The wind hardly provided any relief, as its fierce breeze could not counter the wave of heat that suddenly permeated throughout my body. As my fingers began to get clammy, my grip started to loosen. I tried to walk faster, rushing towards Rodin, my dorm, but the squash seemed to accumulate weight with every step. What the hell type of squash is the size of an oversized pumpkin? I asked myself, cursing under my breath.
People on the street began to turn and stare, snickering as I passed. Random strangers offered to help. But I couldn’t stop--I didn’t want to prolong the trip. I wanted to get back, to reach my dorm, to put down this squash and rip off my scarf and winter jacket (and, quite frankly, everything else as well), and just fall into my mattress and pass out.
I ended up taking a few breaks along the edge of the street, but I eventually made it back. I plopped the squash down on the kitchen table, eager to rid myself of this heavy burden, and sank into a nearby chair.
I stared at the squash. There was no conceivable way a squash could be that large. It was like an athlete on steroids--unnaturally buff and muscular. Spasms involuntarily shot up and down my arms, as the pain from that arduous journey four blocks away began to take its toll. I was craving a pumpkin, and now I have an enormous squash that resembles one instead. What do I do with this thing?
I’ll tell you what I did; I took revenge.

Additional Fun Facts:
- I later found out that this was a Golden Nugget Squash. On average, they weigh three pounds each.
- I cut up some of the squash into pieces, added a dab of honey on each chunk, sprinkled some cinnamon on top, and cooked it in the oven. It was delicious.
- With the remaining squash, I cut it into chunks and cooked it in the oven for a few hours until it softened. I then scooped it out and mashed it together. It now resides in the freezer in three containers. At some point, I plan on making some squash soufflé.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Mother's Pumpkin Bread

To be honest, this recipe is not my mother's. It has been passed along amongst friends for some time and I'm not quite sure who created the concoction. This "bread" recipe can only really be considered as such because of its shape; otherwise, I'd call it a cake.

1 c. oil
4 c. sugar
1 large can pumpkin (15 ounces)
5 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl combine all wet ingredients: oil, sugar and pumpkin. Then add the dry ingredients: sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Grease and flour two loaf tins and bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Check the bread with a toothpick and when done, let cool to room temperature.

Thanksgiving at my house always includes my mother's pumpkin bread as the highlight; it's nothing short of amazing and is definitely worth the calories. The most difficult part of it all is waiting for the bread to cool!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ask-A-Nutritionist (Tucker)

Q: I've been getting sick already, and it's barely November. Although I've been loading up on cold medicine and vitamin C, I'd like to know if there are other foods that will naturally strengthen my system to prevent such colds in the coming months or if there are foods that can help me eliminate a cold once I catch it. -Tucker

A: Hi Tucker,

Winter is fast approaching, but you don’t have to get bogged down by catching a cold. Staying healthy is just a matter of knowing which foods to load up on as the cold weather creeps in. Getting extra doses of vitamin C is always a good idea. We recommend trying Emergen-C once or twice a day; it is easy to drink and tastes great. But if you are really feeling under the weather, here are some foods you should include in your diet:

  • Yogurt: The probiotics, or “good” bacteria in yogurt may help improve your immune system’s response to viruses. They can also help protect the body against harmful bacteria or infections
  • Turmeric: Turmeric is a yellow spice that’s most commonly found in curry and yellow mustard. It contains curcumin, a polyphenol lauded for its strong flu and cold-fighting properties
  • Garlic: Garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer and antioxidant properties. The pungent smell is a small price to pay for all these health benefits
  • Ginger: Ginger can help reduce congestion and has anti-inflammatory and anti-nauseant properties. It can also help prevent nausea and vomiting, making it useful to have in case you do catch a cold
  • Green tea: A cup of tea provides more than just warmth and comfort. Green tea is filled with flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Most of the flavonoids in tea are catechins, which are believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are probiotic – they help our body strengthen itself and fight off illness restoring our body’s balance and natural resistance to disease. Mushrooms also have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and blood pressure-lowering effects. White button mushrooms are good for you, but try more exotic varieties like shitake and maitake for different health benefits.
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, turnips, Brussels sprouts, radishes, arugula, bok choy, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and more. Cruciferous vegetables are loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants. They are a great choice in the winter months when summer fruits like berries are not available.

Rachel S. Beller, MS, RD
Beller Nutritional Institute, LLC

Want to see your nutritional question answered here? Simply submit your questions to pennappetit [dot] nutritionQandA [at] gmail [dot] com.

Not So Fresh Grocer

Photo by Olivia Coffey

A mouse skitters across the tiled floor, racing for the shelter of the dark hollow beneath the sushi station. A serpentine queue of customers hums with impatience, shopping carts and baskets crammed with paper towel rolls and tomatoes and frozen dinners. A customer in the dairy section examines the scanty selection of yogurt only to find that most cartons are overdue their shelf time.

Any of that sound familiar? Horror stories abound in the perilous aisles of Fresh Grocer, presenting Penn students with a grocery shopping conundrum. Considering the widespread disparagement of Fresh Grocer, its most convenient resource, West Philadelphia is sorely devoid of a reliable grocery store. Senior Stephanie Simon, who has lived off campus since sophomore year and is thus familiar with the struggle to find quality groceries, puts it aptly. “FroGro is the definition of sub-par,” she says, using locals’ familiar moniker for the store. “They routinely have food on their shelves that is past its expiration date... when they have food on their shelves, that is. Most of the time it seems like West Philly is on rations.” Aside from inconistent inventory and unsatisfactory food quality, customer service is also lacking. “It's like Home Depot,” says senior Laura Sagues. “You have to go in there knowing what you want because the people who work there know nothing at all.”

So where do Penn students turn when in search of an apple that isn’t mealy or a fresh loaf of bread without mold trimming its crust?

Many are willing to go the extra mile (literally) to find alternatives to Fresh Grocer that are still realistic for an undergraduate budget, yet promise unspoiled produce, a reliable range of products and a pleasant aisle-browsing experience. Trader Joe’s at 2121 Market Street, Whole Foods Market at 2001 Pennsylvania Avenue and Philadelphia farmers markets offer three nearby resources that meet each of these criteria.

Trader Joe’s bills itself as the ideal neighborhood grocery store, combining healthy and plentiful food and beverages with the guarantee of affordable prices. What makes the chain unique is its versatile product base, including unconventional brands and alternative dietetic products ranging from vegan to kosher to gluten-free. Senior Carlin Adelson touts in particular the healthful ready-made options. "The Trader Joe's frozen meals and sides are great additions that are generally lower in sodium and calories for a quick meal," she says.

A generally congenial atmosphere contributes to the appeal of Trader Joe's. After all, this is a grocery store that outfits its staff in Hawaiian shirts because, as its website proclaims, "grocery shopping should be fun." Food demonstrator Ellen Bohrer, who cooks and distributes food samples at Trader Joe's (yet another shopping perk), says the employees enjoy a high morale, which she believes fosters a pleasant shopping experience. "None of us consider that we work at a grocery store- we consider it a little bit more than that," she says. "The bottom line is, we’re all just a bunch of goofballs and we all get along." Bohrer can attest to the popularity Trader Joe's holds for local undergraduates. "We always know that in September we have to beef up our shift because the students are back," she says. The budget-friendly facet of the TJ's experience is the capstone to what makes a trip to the store ideal for students. Senior Jocelyn Rosenwald phrases it simply: "It's better food for better prices."

Just down the road from Trader Joe's lies Whole Foods Market. In a similar vein to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods embraces high quality nutritional standards, pledging to sell products free of trans fats, artificial preservatives, colors, flavors and sweeteners. The store also delivers in terms of prices. Through "The Whole Deal" program, customers have access to money saving tips, Whole Foods-specific budget friendly recipes and over $40 in coupons. Whole Foods Marketing Specialist Amy Chidichimo adds, "We give free value tours twice a month that focus on how to shop Whole Foods Market on a budget.”

But Chidichimo says Whole Foods Market is attractive to student grocery shoppers for more than just budgetary reasons. "We have a lot of grab-and-go stuff, for when you're studying for a test and you don't have time to think about what to make,” she says. Arguably, the strongest pull for students is the consistent availability of local and organic fruits and vegetables. Adelson confirms that the fresh produce is the biggest draw. "I know it's closely monitored, organic and won't spoil before I bring it home," she says.

For an even more eco-friendly option in giving a wide berth to Fresh Grocer’s inadequate goods, many students turn to farmers markets such as the Clark Park market at the corner of 43rd and Baltimore. The stalls feature an array of fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, honey, herbs, dairy products and meat every Saturday and on Thursday afternoons April through December. Senior Jane Sussman lauds the high quality standards: "Fresh produce, lots of variety and an amazing antidote to the rot at FroGro.” The University Square market is an even closer option, located outside the Penn bookstore on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.- students can even charge the fruit, vegetables, dairy products and Amish canned and baked goods to their Penn card. Senior Brad Murtha says, prices aside, he prefers a trip to the market over Fresh Grocer because “their stuff is better than grocery store stuff that’s been sitting in the freezer.” Another go-to site is the Rittenhouse market, vending produce, flowers, meat, eggs and dairy from pastured animals Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Although a trip to farmers markets may stretch the purse strings a little more (a quart of
apples at the Rittenhouse market costs five dollars, and a small bottle of honey sells for six), many Penn patrons consider the chance to contribute to the local agricultural community well worth the money. Junior Andrew Rogers says the trip to a farmers market is all the more worthwhile for the good time it affords, what with the taste of cultural diversity and connection with other Philadelphians. “The experience makes the grocery shopping less of a chore,” he says.

The next time your fridge needs re-stocking, consider branching out from the disappointing aisles that put the “gross” in Fresh Grocer to one of the many other clean and reliable grocery shopping resources our neighborhood offers. Your wallet, your stomach and your conscience will thank you.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Upcoming Food Events

Thanksgiving is more or less everyone's food event for this week, so we only have one thing to post. But for future weeks, if you have an event you'd like us to feature, just send the details to

Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Where: Benjamin Franklin Parkway
When: Thursday, November 27, 8:30 am
What: The nation's first Thanksgiving Day Parade! Features special guest Rachel Ray. And don't miss the Winter Wonderland tent by the Art Museum with hot cocoa and other treats.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Effie's Greek Restaurant

I went to Effie’s Greek Restaurant on 11th and Pine on a Tuesday night. I ordered the egg lemon soup to start, and my mom’s friend (who was taking me out) got the calamari. The egg lemon soup was thin and only subtly lemony. I much prefer the thick, intense avgolemono soup I get at the family-owned Greek restaurant in my hometown. Effie’s soup did have chunks of chicken, though, which was an authentic touch. Out of the dishes we ordered, the calamari was the best for what it was: soft and light, and not too crunchy or oily.

I ordered the lamb lemonato for my entrée, which was disappointing. The lamb was fatty and chewy, and when your meal is just chunks of lamb sitting in sauce on a plate, you want the meat to be good. The sauce itself was pretty oily and the flavor was nothing to write home about. My mom’s friend ate lamb souvlaki, which she enjoyed, though I didn’t try it.

My biggest beef with Effie’s wasn’t the food, though. It was freezing cold outside, and the small dining room opens to an outdoor patio. The atmosphere seems nice and quaint at first, but it gets old (and cold) when the waitress keeps coming in and out of the door to the outside…and is leaving it open. The waitress also recited the long list of specials in such a way that I could barely recall any of it—when it gets to be that long, the restaurant should have a specials menu. Twice while the waitress was away the CD that was playing started skipping. My mom’s friend had to get up to switch the track both times.

These may seem like minor complaints taken separately, but when you’re paying $11-$19 for an entrée, you want the service to be good if not flawless. I’m sure on a Friday or Saturday it’s more happening and the atmosphere is less about service. But the mark of a good restaurant is that it’s good all the time and for every customer. I didn’t get that when I went to Effie’s.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Phyllo and Pumpkin and Marshmallow, Oh My!

Blog: Baking Obsession

This baking blog is full of decadent desserts and these Caramelized Phyllo and Pumpkin Marshmallow Napoleons are no exception. Serve them with your Thanksgiving feast, and expect them to get more attention than the turkey!

Note: Click here to see the original post

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Live Blogging - Top Chef Season 5: Episode 2

Basically the bottom three were all totally pathetic, but Jill sealed her fate with her lame explanation. Inexplicably, Ariane seems way more upset than Jill as she weeps in Carla's arms. Jill says she'll always be cooking, but I hope she stays away from ostrich eggs. Next week, the chefs are making Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters, so get ready, because even though I'll be at home, I'll still be logging to share my thoughts.

After the judges praise Carla, they begin to lay the compliments on Fabio, but he misunderstands and begins to make excuses. It's kind of cute, I guess, but he's already grating, and I think he'll be around for a while. He wins the elimination challenge, unsurprising considering that he hogged about half of this episode's screen time. Props to Gail for calling out Jill's pathetic defense of her nasty quiche. That may be enough to drop her below Ariane on the elimination ladder.

10: 40
I'd just like to interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to say how excited I am for the Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion on Tuesday, seriously, best show ever. Ok, back to my second favorite show. Ok, Fabio is funny, or whatever, but why does he get to talk so much? I haven't even half of these strangers since their introductions last episode, and he's talking about dragons and princesses every other second. These diners are just like I expected, overly critical and just plain annoying. "You go on Top Chef and you make meatloaf. I mean, come on," says one of them. You don't make it on Top Chef and all you can do is make fun of meatloaf. I mean, come on, at least come up with a better insult to entertain me. I wasn't going to comment on the individual dishes yet, but that avocado mousse looks repulsive. Rhadika is lucky that she has immunity. I'm calling Ariana to go with her "violently sweet" lemon meringue martini.

So the elimination challenge is to create a three course New-American lunch menu. I always love watching the chefs shopping for groceries. Scratch that, I love watching the faces of the other people in the store who either ignore the camera or look extremely confused. Jill's making an ostrich egg quiche, and it's appropriate, because she actually kind of looks like an ostrich with that long neck. Tom comes in an drops the bombshell that they'll be cooking at Craft, his restuarant, and even better, that the chefs will be cooking for people who tried out for the show but didn't make it. It will be nice to see these not-quite-talented reality show hopefuls be as critical as possible.

Ok, so we're back for another week, and we get a quickfire hot dog competition right off the bat, and they actually have to make the hot dogs. Ew, I don't think I want to see this. Yeah, I didn't need to see the sausage stuffing, but some of the chefs came up with some innovative stuff. Eugene's sushi dog actually looks foul, and based on the look on the guest judge's face it tasted that way too. Radhika won with her Indian-inspired dog, which looked delicious, although I find it funny that last episode she said that she wanted to venture away from Indian cuisine, yey she's already resorted to it once or twice.

Top Chef Live Blogging Tonight!

Love Top Chef?

Stuck doing work or in a meeting while it's on?

Not to worry! Beginning at 10:00 pm, tune in for a live blog of this week's episode of Top Chef by our own Tucker Johns, right here on the Penn Appetit Blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bagels: My First Yeasted Dough

Photo by Olivia Coffey

I bake all the time but I rarely leave the realm of muffins, cupcakes, cookies, or brownies. The only times I've used yeast were for challah, which we make in the bread machine at my house (don't gasp, we just make the dough in there and then braid it and bake it in the oven).

So I decided to try my first real yeasted dough - for bagels! I got the recipe from this post on Baking Bites, which is my go-to for any kind of baked good. In fact, we've posted about that blog before on Penn Appetit. If you go to the original post, there are great instructional photos for how you should shape the dough. I also consulted Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything about adding toppings and such.

The recipe is reprinted below, with my notes in italics. I made poppyseed, onion, plain, and poppyseed-onion bagels, and ate them with lox and cream cheese. Damn good.

Homemade Bagels (from Baking Bites)
makes 1 dozen


1 tbsp. active dry yeast (I actually used Perfect Rise Yeast which claims to be a "fast rising active dry" yeast)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 3/4 c. water, warm, about 100-110F (I didn't have a thermometer so I just guessed. I found a website that claims it's better to have the water too cold than too warm.)
4 c. bread flour
1 tbsp. salt (again, I would cut this down to 1 or 1 1/2 tsp.)
1 egg, for egg wash

In a large bowl combine yeast, sugar, and water. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in flour and salt. Mix dough thoroughly until it comes together in a large ball, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add an additional tablespoon of flour or water, if needed.

If kneading by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until very smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead dough with the dough hook until elastic, about 8 minutes on a low speed. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil and preheat the oven to 400F.

When dough has risen, turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces (first quarters, then thirds). Shape each piece into a tight ball (as shown in the photos on the Baking Bites blog) pinching the corners together at the bottom of the piece of dough. When all the balls are shaped, let the dough rest for 30 minutes covered with a clean dish towel.

Once dough balls have rested, the bagel shape can be formed. Using your fingers, poke a hole through the center of each dough ball. Stretch out the dough into a ring with your fingers and be sure to make the hole a little larger than you want the finished bagel to have, as it will shrink slightly while the bagel is expanding during the baking process. Let bagels rest for about 10 minutes.

Working four at a time, drop the bagels carefully into the boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and boil for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer bagels to a clean towel to drain for a moment, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (At this point, you can dip the bagel in poppyseeds, sesame seeds, sauteed onion, etc.) Repeat process with remaining bagels.

Brush boiled bagels with lightly beaten egg (only if they don't have toppings!) and bake for 20-24 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Upcoming Food Events

Remember, if you have an event you'd like us to feature next Sunday, just send the details to

Food, Freight, and Garbage
Where: Irvine Auditorium, Armando Recital Room (First Floor)
When: Tuesday, November 18, 4:00 pm
What: A special panel discussion exploring how goods, especially food goods, come into our cities; where food originates, and what become of our waste.

CSA Dumpling Fest!
Where: LGBT Center, Carriage House
When: Tuesday, November 18, 6:00 - 8:00 pm
What: Learn how to make dumplings and eat as many as you want!
How much: $6

Where: Christian Association Building, 37th and Sansom
When: Thursday, November 20, 6:00 pm & 8:00 pm
What: Learn about fine beer while drinking responsibly (Students 21 and older only)
How much: Free! (First come, first served)

Where: To be determined
When: Friday, November 21, 5:00 - 7:00 pm
What: A "flavor tripping party" that offers fun-filled flavor experimentation with foods from cheese to Tabasco sauce.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Up close and personal with this superfood. Photo by Diane Dao.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Fabulous Fall Gnocchi

Blog: flagrante delicia

Gnocchi finally gets its just desserts! This Chestnut gnocchi with hazelnut and milk chocolate sauce is a creative twist on the Italian favorite. Check out this blogger's other tantalizing treats!

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Live Blogging - Top Chef Season 5: Episode 1

Ok, so we've learned that inspiration is more important than execution, and Patrick is eliminated second, although I'm sure that the judges will contradict that at least six or seven times this season. The season preview looks fantastic, with appearances from Martha Stewart, and Philadelphia's own Stephen Starr, or so I hear. Padma wraps things up with "That rice was appalling." I can't wait for next week.

I'm calling it now, Stefan is going to be the cocky success story of this season, at least one of them, as there are usually more than one. I mean just look at that smug grin as Gail tells him that she adores his lemony hummus. I think that they're being a little harsh on Ariane; only one aspect of her dish was off. Patrick should be a goner, thanks to those gooey black rice noodles. Uh oh, Ariane may have just done herself in with that book comment. Master Tom is not happy.

God, the first sight of this food makes me hate my daily meals at Commons that much more. Three teams down, and no huge disasters yet. Come on people, it's early so feel free to crash and burn. Ok, Jeff's plate looks just pathetic. He might have considered spending less time on his hair and more time on his plating, but apparently his dish still tasted good, because he won his duel. Where was Padma's "This is not risotto" from the preview? She needs to throw down a little more if she wants to recapture my affection.

10: 40
Nice opening elimination challenge, taking advantage of the plethora of ethnic neighborhoods in New York. Carla the caterer, preparing to cook a Russian dish, decides to "let the spirits guide [her.]" Ok, you just do that Carla. I'm also thinking that some of these groups got a little screwed. Most of them would probably have a wider knowledge of Middle Eastern or Italian cuisine than Jamaican...right? I'm surprised that there are so many salads coming through, as I thought that some of these chefs would want to bring out the big guns from the get go.

Well I was wrong, big surprise, but I'm relieved that I don't have to listen to that grating accent for an entire season. The digs are nice, as usual, but I'm convinced that they just live in the same place every season and teleport to the challenge sites. At least that's what it looks like. And we're not even halfway through the first episode and some of these egomaniacs are already arguing about the differences between a vinaigrette and an emulsion. Oh how I've missed this.

10: 15
Woohoo, it's finally back! After a little bit of getting to know the contestants, Padma and Tom wasted no time in laying down the law with the first quickfire challenge. At first the thought of watching the chefs peel apples seemed pretty mundane, but the combination of incredible speed and a little bit of blood quickly got me interested. I'm predicting that Patrick is going to go after the break, but both of those dishes looked pretty lackluster.
PS - I'm excited to know that they were as excited about seeing Padma as I was.

Hearts of Palm (aka palm heart or palmito)

What are they?

These delicious cylindrical “hearts” come from the inside of palm trees. With the look of a chestnut, texture and flavor of an artichoke – they add a lovely touch to a salad (and can also be used to make dips). Since the harvesting of palm hearts originally killed the trees they come from, they were expensive and salads that included them were deemed “millionaire’s salads”. However, what you find now comes from trees with multiple palms, so that when one section is chopped off, the tree continues to live.

Why eat them?

It’s simple. They’re tasty and healthy, a rare combination. The amount of nutrients packed into one cup, which is 41 calories worth, is incredible: iron (25% of your daily value), protein (7%), vitamin C (19%), folate (14%), magnesium (14%), potassium (9%), and zinc (11%)! The only downside is the amount of sodium – 622mg (26%), which is mostly due to preservation needs and is comparable to the amount of sodium found in other canned vegetables.

Ready to try?
These scrumptious treats are available at Fresh Grocers or Whole Foods (for $2 to 5 per can/jar). So if you are bored of lettuce, tomato, and onion salads, then add some hearts of palm!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


If you can chop, dice, and mix - you're capable of making guacamole.

Here's what you'll need to do it:
2 ripe avocados
1 medium tomato diced
1/3 cup of chopped onion
1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro chopped
1/4 of chopped jalapenos OR 1/8 cup of serrano peppers
Lime juice

Mash the avocado separately. Then, add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Add the lime juice and salt to taste. I recommend 1-2 teaspoons of lime juice, it brings all the flavors together.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Answers to Our Quiz

Answers: 1. c) 2. b) 3. d) 4. c) 5. a)

Splenda: Only Artificially Sweet

"Just what's good. Splenda. It's made from sugar. It tastes like sugar. But it's not sugar."

The bright yellow website explains that this artificial sweetener is 600 times as sweet as sugar, but doesn't add the extra calories or affect diabetics because the body can't digest it.
Still, it seems a bit contradictory that it's simultaneously "made from sugar" and "not sugar."

So I decided to investigate.

What exactly is Splenda? It's an artificial sweetener that contains sucralose. The Splenda manufacturers know how to market to their consumers: sucrose is regular table sugar, so adding "al" in the middle makes sucralose seem like a natural ingredient.

It's not.

Splenda is a chemically-altered chlorocarbon; every molecule contains one sucrose atom and three chlorine atoms. Yes, chlorine. There are some natural foods, like lettuce, mushrooms, and table salt, which also contain chlorine. But Splenda is not a natural food. The FDA apparently determined that the body can absorb as much as 27% of sucralose. That can add up to a significant amount of chlorine filtering into your system. The FDA also admits that there are a few possible side effects, including enlarged liver and kidneys, reduced growth rates, and decreased fetal body weight.

Here's another scary fact: there has never been a long-term human study on the effects of Splenda. All tests have been relatively short term, and most of them were done on animals like rats and rabbits. And who were the ones conducting these experiments? You guess it- the manufacturers themselves. The FDA approved sucralose without thoroughly investigating the product.

After doing this research, I'm a bit wary of this artificial sweetener. This isn't to say I'm going to completely avoid all Splenda products, but the next time I cook a dish, I think I'll leave out the "al" from my sucrose and use some good, old fashioned sugar instead.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Test Your Culinary Clout!

1. Where is the guava a native of?
a) Africa
b) India
c) America
d) Thailand

2. A "buckling" is a smoked form of what fish?
a) Trout
b) Herring
c) Pike
d) Salmon

3. Milanese style dishes are always prepared with what type of cheese?
a) Feta
b) Swiss
c) Mozzarella
d) Parmesan

4. Masago is what?
a) Yellowtail
b) Salmon roe
c) Smelt eggs
d) Tuna

5. Dim sum is the name for a popular Chinese cuisine that includes a variety of dumplings and bite-sized dishes. In English, "dim sum" literally means:
a) Little hearts
b) Breakfast bits
c) Tasty treats
d) Small plates

Upcoming Food Events

Remember, if you have an event you'd like us to list next Sunday, just email the details to

IKEA's Swedish Holiday Food Sampling

Reading Terminal Market

Thursday, November 13th

12:00 Noon

Free Demonstration

Come see and taste classic Swedish holiday foods that will make entertaining yummy and easy!


JRA Jewish Food and Community Expo

Valley Forge Convention Center

Sunday, December 7th

11 AM - 6 PM

The JRA Jewish Food & Community Expo is an unprecedented celebration of Jewish food, culture and community in the Philadelphia Tri-State Area.

The Expo will showcase the best of local, regional and international kosher fare and introduce culinary innovations in the kosher marketplace.

This spectacular one-day event will provide vital funding for the Jewish Relief Agency - Philadelphia's leading provider of the hunger relief in the Jewish community.


Fresh Pasta Making Class

Reading Terminal Market

Thursday, November 13th

5:45pm to 7:45pm

Fee: $50, includes materials

Fee for entire series: $135, includes materials (a 10-percent discount)

Part of Cibo Italiano: Three-part Italian Cooking Series

Taught by Anna Maria Florio
Learn how to make your own fresh pasta, including ravioli,

tagliatelle and papardelle. Find out how to turn this
tricky art into a simple process. We will then prepare a
few recipes such as roasted red pepper ravioli and tagliatelle
al prosciutto.

Register Online or
Call to register at 215-204-6946 or 215-204-433


A Taste of India
Presented by Wharton Indian Students' Association
Wednesday, November 12, 6:30 - 8:00 PM
Rodin Underground (Basement of Rodin College House)
Admission: $3

Come by to sample Indian food from all over the sub-continent! Taste the sweetness of Gujarati farsaan, the butter-soaked dosas of Bangalore, the firebrand street chaat of Bombay, the aromatic spices of Punjab and the melt-in-your-mouth desserts of Bengal.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


A fresh ear of sweet, white corn. Photo by Kendall Haupt.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Buttermilk Sweet Potato Pie

Blog: Baking Bites

With Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, it's the perfect time to try out recipes. This Buttermilk Sweet Potato Pie is both delightfully unexpected and perfectly appropriate. Make sure to check out the blog's other appetizing Thanksgiving treats!

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Vietnam, Chinatown, Philly, PA, USA

Click photo for Vietnam Restaurant's official website

How's that for an identity crisis? In the unlikely midst of the hustle and bustle of Philly's Chinatown lies the Zagat-rated Vietnam Restaurant at 11th and Spring St. Armed with a dozen other independent rave reviews on various food sites, it was time to sink my teeth into the restaurant's offerings and decide for myself.

First up, the decor was totally fancy, much like stepping into a time-space warp from the streets of Chinatown. Love the hardwood panels, cozy low ceilings, dim lights, and ethnic pictures. Apparently there's also a bar on the 3rd floor for pre-dinner drinks.

Our party of four had the BBQ appetizer platter which included crispy spring rolls, beef-stuffed grape leaves, char-grilled chicken, grilled meat balls, and rice vermicelli, lettuce and rice paper for your DIY rolls. The BBQ was tasty and crispy, but what blew me away was the yummy dips with copious sprinklings of diced peanuts. We also had the Goi Cuon or shrimp and pork rolls which were as fresh as you can get in any decent Vietnamese dining. Once again, the dip was pretty amazing.

The entrees were somewhat of an anti-climax after our wonderful appetizers. I had the Pho Tai (Beef flank steak noodle soup) and was wondering about the $5.75 price tag at such a fancy restaurant. What could possibly go wrong for this all-time favorite staple dish? Alas, a puny bowl with a few slices of beef arrived with lukewarm soup literally overflowing once I attempted to dip the accompanying bean sprouts and herbs. It felt more like an appetizer and I've had much better Pho in Philly.

One of my companions ordered the Com Tam Dac Biet (House special broken rice) which was a hearty dish of char-grilled chicken, pork, beef and crab meat egg, and according to him was pretty tasty much like the BBQ platter we had earlier. The others had variations of the pan-fried crispy noodles, one of which was the Mi Xao Que Huong (Saigon noodle). They took about 7 minutes to demolish their entrees which was good serving of noodles, shrimp and chicken, so I'm assuming that they were reasonably impressed with those.

Dessert was a super-potent wonderfully creamy Vietnamese drip coffee served in a normal coffee cup (which is not too authentic) rather than the typical aluminium drip pot. Not for folks used to single-shot lattes, the coffee will guarantee hours of hyper-alertness. . . . Another gripe is the lack of free refills for hot tea which is kind of a given in most Asian restaurants.

Overall, Vietnam is a lovely restaurant with great ambience for special occasions, excellent appetizers, good variety, and reasonable pricing. For staples though, if you're not fussy with the decor, there are plenty of other good Vietnamese outlets over in South Philly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Top Chef Season 5 Preview

Click photo for official Top Chef website

Ok, it’s that time of the year again; Top Chef returns next Wednesday at 10. Actually, Top Chef just premieres at some random point every nine months or so, usually after Project Runway finishes, so this is a friendly reminder that the best reality cooking show is back for a fifth installment.

I know I’m excited, and not just for one thing. First, following tradition, the series moves to a new city this season, traveling from Chicago to New York. I seriously can’t believe that it has taken them five seasons to get there, but there should be no shortage of celebrity chefs and super exciting challenges in the Big Apple. Second, I can’t wait to see what kind of wacky contestants Bravo rolls out this time. I don’t know if they’ll be able to top last season’s foul-mouthed pessimist Lisa or Spike and Andrew’s bathtub antics, but I’m sure they’ll try. Sadly, there doesn’t look to be, at least on paper, a contestant who will flame out wildly in the first challenge, as all but two of the contestants have culinary degrees, most from some of the best schools in the country.

Finally, the most entertaining judging panel on TV returns. Between perpetually grouchy head judge Tom Colicchio (can someone get him some happy pills?) and Gail Simmons, who is pretty much useless, sits Padma Lakshmi, who pulls double duty as both host and judge. Though I’m not sure of her qualifications for the position, or if she has any at all, her bizarre pronunciations and her vast array of facial expressions cement her position as my favorite reality host, quite an honor considering the laundry list of trash television that I regularly indulge in.

It seems like this season has all the ingredients necessary for another fantastic run of quickfire challenges and judges’ tables, so get your knives ready, because Top Chef is coming back next week!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce

Penn Appetit's next issue will hit Locust Walk in the first week of December. For now, we'll have to entice you with a recipe - a preview of a feature article about some quick and easy ways to prepare different varieties of winter squash.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce
Recipe by Jamie Nichol

1 spaghetti squash
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Fresh basil, chopped
¼ c. toasted pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Pierce spaghetti squash all over using a fork or knife to make sure it doesn’t burst while baking. Bake at 375˚ for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Cut open and scoop out seeds. Use fork to separate and scoop out spaghetti-like strings.

Sauté the onion in the olive oil. Add the garlic when the onion begins to appear transparent. Sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and basil. Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over spaghetti squash and top with parmesan, basil, and pine nuts.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Ask-A-Nutritionist (Maria)

Q: I was wondering what to look for in a snack bar, as far as nutritional value. What is the most important, such as caloric content, fiber, protein, fat, etc? Are there some that are better as a snack, and are any truly a viable "meal replacement"? -Maria

A: Hi Maria,

Here’s what to look for in a snack bar: a maximum of 150 calories, a fiber content of more than 6 grams, and a list of all-natural ingredients. A good snack bar is the Flavor and Fiber Bar by Gnu Foods. Some snack bars contain 300 calories: that’s as much as 1-2 scoops of ice cream. And if the label contains too many unpronounceable ingredients, well, there are better ways to spend your money and calories.

As far as a meal replacement, here are the ingredients your body needs for optimal health: protein for strength; complex carbohydrates for energy; and vegetables for protection. And no, there isn’t a snack bar on the store shelves today that provides the perfect balance that a meal does.

For a better option, why not try nuts and dried fruit? It’s the ideal natural snack bar.

Rachel S. Beller, MS, RD
Beller Nutritional Institute, LLC

Want to see your nutritional question answered here? Simply submit your questions to pennappetit [dot] nutritionQandA [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Upcoming Food Events - Don't miss the demolition of the world's largest Pinyata TODAY!

Here's a list of some fun food events coming up in the Philadelphia area! Remember, if you have an event you'd like us to mention next Sunday, just email us the details at

Sunday, November 2 (TODAY!)
12:00 noon - 3:00
Intersection of South Broad St. and Washington

Come see the world's largest pinyata . . . and grab some of the 8,000 pounds of candy it drops when it's destroyed! Demolition of the six-story beast (by wrecking ball, no wiffle ball bats here) is scheduled for about 1:30 pm.


Saturday, November 22
Cliveden of the National Trust, 6401 Germantown Avenue

Tickets $15; call 215-848-1777 to order

Just in time for the Holidays, Chef John Reese will demonstrate creative, yet inexpensive ways to decorate tables and platters for special occasions. Chef Reese shapes fruits, vegetables, and other materials to create food art settings worthy of all guests. Light refreshments will be served afterwards. Space is very limited and reservations should be made by phone. The demonstration will be filmed and DVDs will be available for purchase at the end of the event.

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