Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday Blog Lovin' - They test recipes, so you don't have to

Blog: The Bitten Word

Food magazines are good for more than just pretty pictures, as this blog proves.  These bloggers try out recipes from their favorite magazines and chronicle the process.  Some recipes are hits, others misses, but either way, the posts provide helpful tips and plenty of humor. 

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Fall comfort food - Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash and Bacon

Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash and Bacon:  Serves 6
Lots of squash in season right now so make full use of them for your fall comfort food!

1 box of pasta of your choice (boiled al dente and drained)
1 medium size butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
8 slices bacon (diced)
1 cup button mushrooms (quartered)
1 cup fresh tomatoes (diced)
1 cup sharp cheddar (shredded)
1 cup blue cheese (crumbled)
1 cup walnuts (diced)
1 clove garlic (diced)
1/2 cup fresh sage (diced)
1/2 cup rosemary (diced)
1/2 cup cilantro (for garnish)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (to individual taste)

  1. Halve and bake the squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper at 350 F for about 30 minutes and allow it to cool.
  2. Prepare sauce in the meantime, using steps 3-6
  3. Stir fry garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until light-brown.
  4. Add in bacon and fry until slightly crispy.
  5. Add in mushrooms, tomato, walnuts and herbs (sage and rosemary), and turn down to low heat until reduced
  6. Season with salt and pepper
  7. Peel and cut squash into 1-inch cubes.
  8. Scatter the sauce and cheeses (cheddar and blue cheese) evenly over the pasta in a 7-inch by 11-inch casserole.
  9. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of olive oil over the pasta mix.
  10. Bake in preheated oven at 350F for 15 minutes or until cheeses are melted and slightly browned.
  11. Serve with cilantro and Parmesan cheese garnish.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A K-Cup of Joe

Recently, I discovered an invention that changed the way I enjoyed coffee. Like all other areas of daily life for which people constantly strive to make just a little smoother, the necessary-for-many morning activity of brewing a cup of coffee is no exception. The innovators in this area are the makers of the Keurig Coffee Maker, a state-of-the-art brewing device that prepares delicious, piping hot coffee in less than a minute. Instead of brewing traditional ground coffee, the machine works with small cups of tightly packed coffee called K-Cups, available in close to a hundred flavors from dozens of brands. To explore my Keurig machine even further, I opted for a variety pack of these cups, which shipped with four different flavors. Here are some brief thoughts on the quality of each.

Coffee People's Donut Shop variety is your All-American diner offering, reminiscent of a lazy small-town morning or a weekend donut run. It's a generic flavor, but satisfying nonetheless, especially if you're in the mood for a characteristic blend. The blandness inherent in this iteration may lead you instead to an actual donut shop, where you'll enjoy a slightly more faithful representation of the flavors Donut Shop tries to imitate.

Tully's Full City Roast, the true novelty of my newly purchased coffee-maker began to show its true colors. This bold, brazen, brew paints a picture of a foggy Seattle morning; its rich and soothing texture accompanied with a strong, but by no means overpowering dark roast flavor. This genuine blend is coffee in every sense of the word, a forthright flavor with no gimmick added. What Donut Shop lacked in intensity and flavor is more than rescued by Full City, a true coffee drinker's delight.
Next was Mahogany by Caribou Coffee, a brew claimed to be an amalgamation of the finest roasts of Central America. A very woody taste pays homage to this flavor's namesake, and the hints of spice and vanilla make this one a truly unique experience. Definitely a lighter blend than the Full City, but more complex and interesting than the Donut Shop, the Mahogany proved to be an excellent choice, perfect for an afternoon cup or an evening dessert accompaniment. The brew provided an excellent mix of flavors without one becoming dominant, brushing aside a complaint I often have about flavored blends.

My final choice, and undoubtedly my favorite of the bunch, was the Green Mountain Hazelnut blend, which stands out from the rest in its own realm of flavor. The smell that begins to emanate amidst the steam and whir of the Keurig as the first hints of this brew begin to trickle into the cup is as seductive as a siren call. An absolutely sublime, unabashed hazelnut taste encompasses every molecule of the finished brew, avoiding the sugary, syrupy, and un-coffeelike properties sure to come with most other flavored brews.

With such great flavors, each different from the next, the Keurig Coffee Maker provides a unique and convenient way to enjoy this staple beverage of the often sleepless college lifestyle. So the next time you need that kick to wake you up, get you through a paper or keep you up to study, try going for a cup...and make it a K-cup.

Fun Food Fact---Pineapples

Pineapples contain an enzyme known as bromelain - an example of the class of enzymes called proteases. Proteases degrade proteins, which is why bromelain is one of the primary ingredients in commercial meat tenderizer. Never add fresh pineapple to jello, as the bromelain in the pineapple will degrade the gelatin, preventing the jello from setting!

Photo by Becka Lefkoe

Thursday, October 29, 2009

UMC's Battle of the Spices

What: United Minorities Council's Battle of the Spices 
Where: Harrison Rooftop Lounge
When: Sunday, November 1, 4-6 pm
Price: Free!

Come enjoy spicy cultural food from UMC constituent groups and performances by campus groups, such as Destination Hip Hop. There will be free t-shirts, and if you are feeling bold, test your taste buds with a spicy food eating contest!

WIMB: Problems Arise

[Part 2 of Worms in my Basement]

A few weeks into worm composting, I began to notice fruit flies around the bin. Okay, I thought, some flies are tolerable; I had read about the possibility of fruit flies in my research and had learned that they are harmless to the worms. As anyone who has taken AP Bio can attest, fruit flies have a remarkable ability to reproduce. I soon found myself swatting away clouds of them as I approached the bin with a load of food scraps. For a few days, I was paralyzed by the problem and my lack of a solution: my cursory internet search had turned up nothing helpful. I told my roommates to stay away from the bin and declared myself the sole food scrap-deliverer.

The flies were not satisfied with our clandestine basement meetings. Their desire for more face-time and new spawning sites led them upward - to our kitchen and beyond. One too many fruit flies drifting lazily over their heads while they studied led my roommates to speak up. I was finally stirred out of my state of inertia. The worm bin was in jeopardy and it was up to me to save it. That night, I learned more about fruit flies than I thought possible.

After conducting a more thorough search, I learned that my problem was not unique and that there were a variety of measures I could take before declaring the whole thing hopeless. Thus, I was launched on Operation Fruit Fly Destruction.

To Be Continued.......

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Live Blogging Top Chef Season 6: Episode 10

After last week's totally unsurprising Laurine exit, we're one step closer to crowning the sixth Top Chef. This week the editor of TV Guide joins Padma at the quickfire and introduces that this week's challenge will be inspired by the classic TV dinner. Each chef draws a knife with a classic tv show written on it, and their meal must relate to this show in some way. Somehow Robin has managed to live a life deprived of Sesame Street; maybe that explains why she's so angry, never got her dose of Big Bird growing up. Not shockingly, she lands in the bottom along with Jennifer, who needs to get her act together to avoid sinking to the bottom of the pile. Kevin, on the other hand, continues his hot streak, winning this week over Bryan and cementing his meal in the Top Chef frozen food line by Schwan's. Padma cryptically announces the challenge as taking over Tom's CraftSteak for an evening, but anyone who has seen a preview for this week knows that a much bigger surprise awaits the chefs.

Padma emerges and calls Kevin, Bryan, and Eli in as the top three for this week. Natalie is also judging this week, but she offers few words of wisdom, mostly just laughing at Tom's jokes. The praise at judge's table is far more effusive than it was at dinner, especially with Michael. Kevin wins again and is on a major roll that could very well continue into the finals. The prize tonight is a good one, too, a host of GE appliances for his home kitchen. Robin, Jen, and Mike enter to plead their cases as the bottom three, but not before last week's winner, Michael, complains about Kevin winning. Seems like someone is feeling a little competition outside of the family. Robin takes a dig at Mike, bragging about her use of protein after the judges came down on Mike for not using it. Can they PLEASE send her home tonight? Jen chalks her lame performance up to nerves, but she was easily better than her other bottom-dwellers tonight. On another note, can someone please explain why the bottom three always say "We don't know" when they first come back into the waiting room. Hello, the judges haven't even deliberated yet.

Jen proclaims herself tired and announces her need to refocus. Amen to that, because I can't stand the thought of her leaving before the top four. The chefs all sit at home planning their prospective steak dishes, little do they know that their ideas will soon be rendered useless. They go so far as to begin collecting their meats before Tom arrives with special guest Natalie Portman. The only problem here; she's a vegetarian. The chefs have to scramble for new concepts and ingredients. Jen's bad luck continues, as she goes for ingredients, like mushrooms and eggplants, that other chefs have already claimed. Robin seems to get way too many ingredients, and it already looks like her dish will be a total mess. She could prove us wrong, but I doubt it, given her track record. Everyone seems to be a little bit rushed, which should lead to an interesting dinner service, to say the least.

Robin presents her stuffed squash blossom to start, and while the presentation earns raves, the seasoning falls short. Please let this be the dish that sends Robin home once and for all. The group praises Eli's eggplant confit as "thoughtful," and Michael's hodgepodge of banana polenta and asparagus surprises with its inventive combination of textures and flavors. Although Jen makes a mess saucing her plate at the dinner talbe, she shows improvement with flavors, if struggling with portion size a little bit. Mike's leek and potato dish seems to fail miserably in terms of execution, but again, at least it looked nice. Michael also takes a rare misstep, with overpowering shallots and an ill-conceived artichoke component. Finally, Kevin, sans the usual quickfire immunity, gets the probably the strongest reviews of the night, with his mushroom duo dubbed a "manly" vegetarian dish.

Tom is especially harsh tonight on all three, but in a little bit of a shocker, Mike packs his knives tonight. Come on judges, even the audience (85% of them!) agreed with me that it was Robin's time to go. Mike was never going to win, though, with the stars still around, so it was really just trimming fat. In two weeks, Padma orders room service from the chefs, and some sort of cocktail party goes down. There's a break next week, but I'll be back blogging in two!

Autumn Pasta Dish

Autumn Pasta Dish: makes 4 servings

Make the most of the season's freshest ingredients! I made this recipe last week almost entirely from items purchased at Penn's on-campus farmers' market, which features local farmers.  This market is open Wednesdays on 36th between Walnut and Sansom (in front of the Penn bookstore).  Support local farmers; eat great food!


1 large eggplant (or 2 Japanese eggplants)
1 green zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
2 cups cherry tomatoes
olive oil to coat

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut all vegetables into large cubes, approximately 3/4" on each side. For the cherry tomatoes, slice each lengthwise.  
  3. Add olive oil to coat and salt/pepper to taste.  
  4. Arrange in a single layer on a flat baking sheet.
  5.  Roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then 350 degrees for an additional 25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender
  6.  Once the vegetable medley is cooked, supplement with canned tomato sauce/pasta sauce of your choice.
  7.  In a separate pot, boil water and cook pasta of your choice
  8. To serve: add pasta to plate, add large portion of vegetable/tomato sauce mixture.  (If desired, add grated or shredded cheese to the dish.  Works nicely with mozzarella, Parmesan, and goat cheese). Serve hot/warm.
To store: Store pasta and vegetable medley in separate containers to prevent the pasta from becoming too soft.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ask-A-Nutritionist is Back!

Rachel Beller is a Registered Dietitian with a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences. She is the president and founder of the Beller Nutritional Institute, a Los Angeles based company that focuses on weight loss, disease prevention, and maintaining a healthy dietary lifestyle

Rachel Beller will once again be answering YOUR nutritional questions! Submit your questions to pennappetit [dot] nutritionQandA [at] gmail [dot] com and if your question is chosen, it will be posted alongside Rachel's answer right here on the blog.
Keep your questions coming!

Click HERE to see Rachel Beller's website.

Berry Dark Chocolate Ganache Pie

Berry Dark Chocolate Ganache Pie
I made this pie over the summer with beautiful, succulent fresh berries from the farmer’s market. However, frozen berries work just fine too, and in fact, when microwaved, they combine quite nicely with the layer of jam glazed on top of the pie. This pie is sinfully simple, and full of wonderful chocolate goodness.


1 (8 ounce) package BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons seedless blackberry jam, divided
1 OREO Pie Crust (6 oz.)
1 cup raspberries, 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup blackberries, ½ cup strawberries.
1 tablespoon water
    1. Place chocolate in medium bowl; set aside. Mix cream and 2 Tbsp. of the jam in small saucepan. Bring just to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Pour over chocolate in bowl. Let stand 2 minutes.
    2. Beat with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended.
    3. Pour into crust; cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
    4. Arrange berries on top of pie. Microwave remaining 1/4 cup jam and water in small microwavable bowl on HIGH 30 seconds; stir until well blended. Brush over raspberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    Food and Breast Cancer Health

    Check out Beller Nutritional Institute's October Newsletter for information about the links between nutrition and breast cancer prevention.

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    The Artful Kiwi

    Photo by Zachary Wasserman

    Dining Haikus (ft. a rant by Will Steinberger)

    I wake early at noon

    Run downstairs for breakfast
    Damn I live in Ware

    I ran off with hopes,
    Broken, today, I return.
    Today, Real Le Anh's.

    Lo! My trinity-
    George Foreman Grill, Microwave,
    Rice Cooker-Amen!

    Blended with a purpose lost,
    Mango-a-go-go return!
    Hershey needs a boost.

    Saturday at ten,
    No dining halls, no food carts.
    Sigh, Wawa hoagie.

    A Rant By Will Steinberger

    Fat. Fat. Fat. I wish
    That I were fatter.
    I like food, comfort,
    Comfort food.

    Not a foodie. No.



    I am not that.
    I am an eater, like a
    Meat-Eater. We need,
    More of me.

    Food Completes Me.
    I need you burrito.
    Burrito, I wish you needed me.

    As I need you-


    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Ekrem's "Cinnamon Bun" Cookies

    Ekrem's "Cinnamon Bun" Cookies
    I don't like pork. I hate shrimp. And even though I love fruit and I love dessert, I think fruit dessert is simply unnecessary. However, plenty of people disagree. And for all those people, there are recipes that I simply would not enjoy. Similarly, I am posting a recipe today that - although I spent hours crafting it in the kitchen - I don't really like. But my boyfriend's ex-roommate requested the flavor specifically and my roommates both love them. So what's the inspiration this week? An understanding that people have different preferred tastes.

    12 oz. white chocolate
    1 stick butter
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    2 cups flour
    1 egg
    2 tblsp milk

    Streusel Filling:
    3/4 cup brown sugar
    1/2 stick butter, melted
    1/2 cup flour
    1 1/2 tbls cinnamon

    Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt white sugar over a double boiler or in a microwave. Cream the butter together with the sugar and melted chocolate. Beat in the egg and the milk. Stir in the dry ingredients. Mix all the strusel ingredients together. Form cookie dough into generous tablespoon-sized balls. Flatten the balls, and place approximately a teaspoon of streusel in the center. Fold the cookie dough around the streusel to completely enclose in and roll back into a ball. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-12 min. Enjoy!

    Takeaway: These cookies are sweet. Really sweet. Think, cinnabon cinnamon buns dripping in icing. However, sometimes those cinnabon are just what you're craving. The takeaway here is the use of white chocolate to give the cookies themselves that icingy-sweet taste. Without the filling, these could be sugar cookies with a more interesting, subtly chocolate flavor than those made with just white sugar.

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Saturday Blog Lovin' - Jack O'Lantern Hand Pies

    Blog: A Cooking Photographer

    This blogger has been a professional photographer, cook and writer. Check out her blog for great recipes, like these Jack O'Lantern Hand Pies, which are so cute it's scary.

    Note: Click here to see the original post.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    The worms in my basement

    People generally respond positively when I tell them I'm composting this year. Friends have been impressed that I've undertaken the project or envious that I have the space. However, when I reveal that the aforementioned decomposition of food is occurring in the basement of my house their reactions tend to change. Regardless of their level of support for the project they have to double-check: "It's inside?!" From there, reactions range from a topic-changing level of grossed-out to relative enthusiasm (as long as it's not their basement).

    It was all my idea - or fault, depending on the day. I read somewhere about indoor worm composting and resolved to start a worm bin in my next house. In the past year, I read all the information I could find on the topic and built my very own worm bin. My roommates, while not quite sharing my level of enthusiasm, agreed to humor me in this endeavor.

    There was - and probably still is - some hesitancy. I mistakenly told one of my more reluctant roommates the story of a friend whose worms were constantly escaping from her bin for reasons unknown. Realizing my poor judgment, I hurriedly assured her that I would keep the worms happy and that, in the event that they were not, any escapee would dry up before reaching her bedroom.

    Still, my four roommates have been great sports, dutifully sorting their food scraps according to the list I posted and even taking the scraps down to the worms when the container gets full. If nothing else, we've discovered that the worms in our basement make a great conversation piece. The highlight of the tours we gave at our housewarming party was, without question, the worm bin. The trivia question for the evening: "Guess how many worms are in our basement right now" (the answer: 1,000). Our worms do not want for PR.

    In this space, I'll document the trials, successes and progress of my worm bin - an adventure which has engrossed me more than I could have predicted.

    Fun Food Fact!

    Did you know that carrots were originally purple in color?  The characteristic orange color of the carrots we know today first appeared in the Netherlands during the 17th century.

    Source: Wikipedia

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Candy from Querétaro

    Whenever I go to Mexico to visit family, I always buy enough candy to alarm customs officials.  Last time, I bought my candy in a market in Querétaro, at this stand.  The best Mexican candies, in my opinion, are made with tamarind pulp and are salty, sour, spicy and absolutely delicious, such as Pulparindos.   

    photos by Maria Pellegrini

    Saad's Halal Place

    Saad's Halal Place

    Having been back at Penn for only a little over one month, I am already exhausted with all the dining options near campus. Looking to break out of my standard repertoire of restaurants, I scoured Yelp for a new place to try. My search yielded Saad’s Halal Place, a Middle Eastern restaurant with great reviews. That evening, two of my friends and I decided to make the trek out to the restaurant on 45th and Walnut.

    What struck me when we arrived at Saad’s was that it really isn’t that far away from campus. As soon as we entered the door, we were greeted by a large list of no’s. No: Cell Phones, Pets, Alcohol, Smoking, Soliciting, Unruly Customers, or Credit are allowed in Saad’s(although they do accept debit cards). We moved up through the throng of seated customers to the counter to order. While we were waiting countless locals came in and out to pick up their to-go orders, often uttering a warm salaam alaikum to the owner. There were many local families dining at the restaurant and very few Penn students. It felt like we had been transported far off campus, even though we were only five blocks from the high rises. The server could sense that we had never been to Saad’s before, so explained to us that orders are taken at the counter and paid for after dining. The menu was full of standard Middle Eastern fare such as falafel, gyro, dolmas, and baklava, but also featured such Philly favorites as hoagies and cheese steaks. They have plenty of vegetarian and non-veg items. I was blown away by their extensive drink selection, which included extremely odd selections ranging from Aloe Vera juice to an African melon drink. I am a huge fan of off the wall drinks so quickly picked up an Aloe drink, which I’ve had many times before and thoroughly enjoy. I ordered a falafel sandwich with hummus, for a total price of less than five dollars.

    The place was packed, so after ordering we were lucky enough to snag a few seats near the door. We waited over half an hour for our food (I suspect the long wait is a result of the massive quantity of to-go orders they fill), but the wait was well worth it. My falafel sandwich was extremely tender and flavorful, dripping with Tahini and hummus. The hummus was smooth and tasted fresh. Without a doubt the best falafel sandwich I have had around campus.

    So, in closing, I wholeheartedly recommend that you take the ten minute walk to Saad’s if you want superior Middle Eastern fare at dirt cheap prices in an authentic West Philadelphian environment.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Live Blogging Top Chef Season 6: Episode 9

    I've emerged from midterm hell, and I'm all caught up on Top Chef and excited to watch tonight! The night starts off with a bang as Jen shows off her rockin' bikini body and threatens to compete in the quickfire in nothing else. The guest judge tonight is Rick Moonen, seafood master and advocate of sustainable cuisine. Padma introduces the quickfire as the first ever Top Chef "tag-team cook-off." Jen and Michael get to pick teams, and Jen selects Kevin, Mike, and Laurine, while Michael has his brother Bryan, Eli, and Robin. Each chef cooks individually for ten minutes while his or her teammates are blindfolded, meaning each chef has to build off the previous chef's work without any communication. Jen's team follows her vision until Kevin, who opts not to poach the sablefish as preparation had suggested he do. Michael's team is also mostly cohesive, and both dishes seem to end without much issue.

    Michael's team conjured up a pan-seared New York strip with a miso glaze and avocado mousse, while Jen's team served up their sablefish with seared mushrooms, which garners them the win in the quickfire. Padma then introduces the elimination challenge, everyone's favorite restaurant wars, and the teams from the quickfire will remain intact. Each team will take over one of the two floors of Moonen's Las Vegas restaurant RMC Food, where, thankfully, they won't be responsible for any decor. They do, however, have to carry on Moonen's vision of sustainable seafood and pay attention to service and front-of-house operations. Because this is a high stakes quickfire, Jen's team has the choice if they want to keep the $10,000 that they won or "let it ride" and go for $10,000 each if their team wins. They seem confident and go for it. A little confident, are we, Jen and co?

    Jen's team takes the risky choice not to serve dessert as a course, as none of the team members feel confident enough to to take it on. Bryan, on the other hand, is plenty confident, as usual, and he volunteers himself to whip up the dessert. The teams seem to be getting along amazingly well at this point, and I, for one, am thankful that Mike and Robin have been separated, so we don't have to watch anymore of their pathetic bickering. Robin does take issue when Laurine hears her idea for creating sparkling water, inexplicably thinking that such a perk will win her team the challenge. Michael's team settles on Revolt (with a backwards "E" in an attempt to be alternative) for their restaurant name, while Jen's team chooses Mission, neither of which seem to have any relationship with the cuisine that they will be serving. Upon arriving at RMC Foods, Jen's team chooses the upstairs, upscale environment, while Brian's team takes the more casual downstairs area. How will this affect their food, knowing the stubborness of these chefs, probably not at all. Jen's team's menu balances seafood and meat, including lamb, pork, arctic char, and a bouillabaisse. Brian's team also features a diverse menu of beef, chicken, more arctic char (this season's scallops, perhaps?), and a duo of desserts from Robin and Michael. Laurine and Michael take over duties at the front of the house, and as customers stream in, Jen's team in particular seems far from ready for the imminent chaos.

    Thankfully, the diners at Revolt seem just as confused by the restaurant's name as I do, and Tom, in particular, calls it "terrible." Padma and her cronies start at Revolt where they love the chicken/salad dish but cast the arctic char off as one dimensional. Princess Padma grows impatient with the wait for the main course, which can be largely attributed to Voltaggio bro drama. Like the first course, the entrees are a mixed bag, with the cod earning raves and the beef getting just a lukewarm reception. Robin incites more drama before dessert service, blowing up at Michael as he meddles with her pastry; she just can't keep her thoughts to herself. To her credit, Robin hits a homerun with her pear pastry, and Bryan's chocolate ganache is equally well-received. Overall, despite a questionable name, Revolt aces nearly every aspect of their dinner. Mission, however, gets off to a rocky start, with the char needing more salt and the asparagus leaving the judges totally bored. Laurine seems totally overwhelmed at the front of the house, resulting in another unacceptably long wait. This team seems headed for a definite loss with the entrees as both the cod and the bouillabaisse fail miserably, and things only get marginally better with the meat course, as the lamb falls flat and the sausage/pork belly duo earns mild praise. Revolt will almost surely win this edition of restaurant wars, and at this point, I'd hedge my bets on a Laurine knife-packing tonight.

    At least Mission knows that they messed up, with Mike telling the other team, "If we win, you guys must have done a horrible job." I think that's a compliment? Maybe? Padma delivers the unsurprising news that Revolt takes the win, with Tom calling it the top restaurant wars project in Top Chef history. Based on the judges' effusive praise, I'd have to agree with him, as they barely took a misstep. Michael grabs another win, and he looks disappointed when Rick Moonen presents him with an autographed copy of his book. Thankfully, Padma throws in $10,000, which Michael graciously decides to share with the other members of team Revolt. Bryan acts like a big baby, however, complaining that the judges are rewarding his brother's unprofessional behavior. Here's a thought, Bryan, just cook better food than your brother, because he's kicking your but tonight. At judges' table, the panel comes down even harder than at the meal, delivering some pretty harsh criticism for Jen, in particular. Elimination is definitely between Jen and Laurine tonight, which will bring the female chef quota down to two. As I said before, look for Laurine to go, only because of Jen's series of awesome performances until her disaster tonight.

    Tom rehashes the judges' conversation, and Padma delivers the verdict to Laurine that everyone expected. Come on editors, you've gotta make this a little more suspenseful, unless it really was this one-sided... Next week, Natalie Portman makes an appearance and the calls something disgusting, and that's just in the previews! I'll be back next week as it all goes down.

    JSA's annual All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Night

    What: JSA's annual All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Night 
    Where: 1920 Commons Underground
    When: Saturday, October 24, from 6-8 PM
    Price: $8 on the walk on Wednesday and Thursday, and then $10 at the door.


    Ever since I can remember, my grandmother would cook me “shlishkala” everytime I went to visit her. I was shocked when my friends hadn’t heard of this favorite food of mine, not realizing that it was a Hungarian dish not well known among Americans. After asking my grandmother for the recipe (I forgot how to make it as the last time she showed me I was all of 6 years old), I decided to research it. Google came up empty, instead asking me if I meant “Shlishkes”. I guess after all those years, my grandmother either forgot what they were originally called, or it was a family adaptation of the name. Whatever the name may be, they’re delicious! So here is her family recipe…

    4 medium sized baking potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed.
    2 cups flour
    1 egg
    Bread crumbs (1.5 cups)/stale or hard bread rolls to make bread crumbs

    1. Mix potatoes, flour, and egg and add water to make a workable dough. 
    2. Knead the dough. If it is too loose, add some flour; if too stiff add more water. 
    3. Put aside dough and cut a handful from the mound of dough.
    4. Roll the handful of dough on a large (preferably wooden) cutting board and roll it as thin as your pointer finger 
    5. Chop dough into 1”-1.5” pieces
    6. Boil water in a large pot and add 1 Tbsp of salt
    7. When water is boiling, add the cut pieces of dough and mix gently
    8. Continue cutting, rolling, and chopping the dough until the entire mound is done
    9. Add all to boiling water and gently mix
    10. Boil for 1 hour
    11. Pour contents of pot into large strainer and run cold water on the cooked dough
    12. Take plain bread crumbs (or grated bread rolls) and brown in oil on low flame in large frying pan
    13. When dough is dry in strainer add it to golden brown bread crumbs in frying pan and mix well
    14. Taste and add some salt if needed
    15. Remove from pan onto plate, and enjoy!

    Big Brothers Big Sisters Study Break

    What: Big Brothers Big Sisters study break featuring a chocolate fountain and cookie decorating for Bigs, friends of Bigs, and people interested in the program
    Where: DuBois Multipurpose room
    When: Thursday, October 22, 7-9 PM
    Price: Free

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    The Italian Market

    I had heard that as you walk down 9th street from Christian St., the smells of fresh produce, meats, vegetables, fish, and cheese mix in the air. Between the stands selling raw foods, there are bakeries, restaurants and cafes selling ready to eat fare that is equally appetizing in addition to vendors and shops selling items from random tchotchkes to cutlery. Going south of Washington St. introduces food from new regions to the senses as Mexican, Vietnamese, and Korean places dot the street and add variation to the market.
    One morning in August, I decided to experience some of the many sensations the Italian Market offers. At the north end of the market, I started at Lorenzo's, which proved to be a prime place to start the day with tasty, inexpensive pizza. Walking down the street, I passed by produce stands and the giant mural of Frank Rizzo, a former Philadelphia mayor, before going into DiBruno Brothers. Stepping into the procurer of meats and cheese, a strong distinctive smell accompanied the assortment of Italian foods and appetizers sitting out in the open. I picked up some cheese and antipasti for later before heading back out onto the colorful market.
    I also decided to check out Fante's, which has many types of high quality cookware for all situations and dishes, in addition to making their own coffee. I passed by butchers, pausing to look at the cuts in the windows before making it down to Giordano's, a produce seller on the corner of 9th and Washington.
    It seems like it would be impossible to pass through the diverse market and not see a few things that pique your interest. Whether it's the smell of cheese or the sights of fruits and vegetables or the sounds of people specifying cuts or the taste of fresh baked pastries or the feel of fruit to make sure it's ripe, there is something for everybody. It's a fun place to go and a nice throwback to what markets used to be.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Philly’s Leading Culinary Women Unite To Raise Money for Women Against Abuse

    What: A food competition featuring Philadelphia's top ten leading culinary women, featuring dancing, food and dessert tastings, complimentary drinks, and a screening of the PBS Documentary "Big Cities, Big Solutions," which highlights the work of Women Against Abuse.
    When: October 29th, 6-9 PM
    Where: Moore College of Art and Design
    Price: $60 per ticket. Tickets can be purchased at

    Nan Sequitur

    It's often a strange feeling when, after days spent stuck in the campus grind, one enters a realm so far removed from the humdrum of academic life. Yet this was the very experience I had when I walked into University City's Nan Restaurant and was welcomed (as mentioned on the menu outside of the entryway) to experience the finest French-Thai Cuisine. Aiming to provide diners with "great traditions from the East and West," chef Kamol Phutlek's cuisine is described as "fusion," a perfect balance of French and Thai flavors in a similar vein as other culture-combining restaurants that have become Philadelphia's mainstay. Though such an establishment seemed out of place among streets-worth of cheap Indian restaurants and pizza places, such a new experience was exactly what I was looking for after being beckoned to try out Nan's by its calming, inviting atmosphere.

    After waiting briefly at the front of the restaurant, myself and my fellow diners, two other contributors to Penn Appétit, took note of the ethereal, zen-like ambiance that surrounded us. We continued to take note of the décor that sets Nan apart from the typical campus eatery, as our hostess for the evening led us to a modestly adorned table along the wall toward the middle of the single dining room, dressed only in a white tablecloth and simple dining accouterments off to the side. Our perusal of Nan's expansive menu grew even more enticing as our server presented us with an assortment of rolls and fresh, unsalted pats of butter, perfect for a pre-entrée appetizer. Though we were expecting foods prepared in the blatant definition of fusion, such as, say, roasted duck with spicy flat egg noodles, each dish seemed representative of one of the two featured ethnic cuisines, but not both, combined into one. I still had high hopes, though, for one of my favorite Thai dishes, the slightly nutty, wonderfully textured Pad Thai, and could not turn down the chance of experiencing Nan's rendition.

    Our orders placed, my party could not help but appreciate the refreshing change of scenery characteristic of Nan's elegant dining room, a gourmet environment despite the very down-to-earth nature of the restaurant experience. When our dishes arrived, timed perfectly to augment the dinner conversation to which the quiet, upscale environment was so conducive, I was immediately impressed by the care and attention to detail that had gone into my dish of noodles--pieces of lightly bronzed tofu distributed radially from the center, with a an array of sliced parsley and carrot serving as a garnish to crown the middle of my bowl. As our waitress kindly adjusted to our dining preferences and supplied three pairs of traditional wooden chopsticks and a small dish of characteristically Thai sriracha hot chili sauce, my first taste of Nan's tofu pad thai began when noodle met tongue.

    The dish was, in a sense, delightful, if not inventive. My main complaint stems from it's failure to truly break new ground in the tastes such a dish could provide. But for Pad Thai, I appreciated every stick-full, each accompanied by freshly ground peanuts sliding down the stalks of the noodles that accounted for the perfect blend of sweet and nutty. While the flavor provided more than met my expectations, it was the texture of the noodles themselves that did not exceed that of Nan's abundant competition as I so hoped. Slightly soggy, they detracted form some of the crunch I felt the dish deserved, and their absorbent nature overpowered each bite with the otherwise deliciously flavored, sweet and spicy sauce just a bit. Tender chunks of tofu, generously apportioned, were the crux of this dish, as I found their flavor not bland but rich, the perfect addition when smothered with sauce-accompanying noodles. Overall, my meal had everything I had come to expect when sitting down for a delicious bowl of Pad Thai, and this may be the main reason why my Nan experience satisfied but didn't completely overwhelm me with a foodie's fervor. For the somewhat elevated price associated with such faux-gourmet fare, I expect my Pad Thai to not blend in, but to stand out and reach above and beyond in flavor and innovation. As the last remaining noodles left the dish, I summed up my thoughts concerning the entrée in my mind: very tasty, wonderful even, but inconsistent in terms of uniqueness when compared to the other aspects of the Nan dining experience.

    We left Nan's mostly pleased, satisfied, but not blown away. If you're looking for a pleasantly atmospheric, uncharacteristic University City dining experience that provides the very best of two touted food-famous cultures, may I suggest a walk down Chestnut to Nan's Restaurant. You may find better fusion fare downtown at a swanky Starr-owned store, but for a wonderful, close-to-campus dining experience filled with the best offerings French and Thai cuisine has to offer, this is really a Nan-issue.

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    The New Sugar Cookie

    The New Sugar Cookie

    I'd like to say there is a pithy story behind the invention of the cookies, but in truth, I was simply looking for a way to update the classic sugar cookie. I didn't want any "add-in" since that would detract from the simple appeal of sugar cookie simplicity. Instead, I decided to make the sugar itself more sophisticated. What can you do to up the up the intrigue of sugar? Cook into caramel...

    1 ½ cup sifted powdered sugar
    ½ cup heavy cream
    3 tbsp butter

    1 stick butter
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    2 cups bread flour
    Sea salt

    Directions for the Caramel:
    1. Heat powdered sugar over medium heat in a saucepan.
    2. Just as the sugar is almost completely melted, stir in cream and butter.
    3. Heat caramel until it thickens and turns a deep amber color.
    4. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature
    Directions for Cookies:
    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Cream butter together with the cooled caramel.
    3. Add vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
    4. Stir in bread flour.
    5. Drop 1-2 tablespoon size balls onto a baking sheet with parchment paper
    6. Sprinkle with high quality sea salt
    7. Bake at 350 for 15-20 min
    The takeaway here concerns the use of bread flour in place of all purpose flour. Bread flour has a higher gluten content - the protein that helps hold all the ingredients together. This creates cookies that are less tender and delicate, but still puffy and soft (think, the texture of white bread minus the crust). These are sturdy cookies that stay soft and round. In the words of my mother as she tried to describe the surprising but not at all unpleasant texture: little "cakelettes".

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Saturday Blog Lovin' - Super Smash

    Blog: Scanwiches

    When is a sandwich more than just a sandwich? 
    When it's smashed against glass.  Then it's art.  Check out this blog for sandwiches as you have never seen them before.

    Note: Click here to see the original post.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Food Fact

    Saffron is the world's most expensive spice - costing up to $5,000 per pound! Saffron is made up of the stigmas from the crocus sativus flower. Each flower has only three stigma and require hand harvesting. It takes 13,125 stigma to make just one ounce of Saffron spice.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Chile Relleno

    Chile Relleno
    The chile relleno, a fried pepper stuffed with cheese, has long been a guilty pleasure of mine. It is a standard item on the menu of most Mexican restaurants; however, I am always dissatisfied when I order it. The problems with your average chile relleno are that it gushes with cheese that overwhelms the delicate flavor of the pepper and is caked with a greasy omelette-like egg coating. In my recipe, I reduce the cheese and lighten up the coating by whipping the egg whites.

    4 Anaheim or Poblano Peppers
    1 cup grated jack cheese
    1 egg, separated
    1 onion, diced
    1 can Enchilada sauce
    Oil for deep frying

    Place the peppers under a broiler until the skin turns black and cracks. Remove from broiler and cover with a towel for 5 minutes. Slide the skins off the peppers and cut a small slit to remove seeds. Meanwhile, mix the cheese with ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce and onion. Stuff the peppers with cheese onion mixture. Whip the egg whites until stiff and then mix in egg yolk. Heat oil to 375 degrees F. Dip peppers in egg mixture and fry until golden brown. Top with heated enchilada sauce and serve immediately.

    Photography by Alice Gao

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Collegiate Cuisine - Freshman Hill House Style: Stuffed Bell Peppers

    This opportunity came to be when the Penn Vegetarian Society decided that a veg-love potluck was in order for one of our meetings.  I was a little hesitant at first never having "cooked" in the college environment and a little fearful of the sketchy kitchen two floors below my room with a countertop version of a convection oven instead of a stove unit.  I was not sure what to expect.  Having raided the free fruits and veggies given as part of the "Eat Local Challenge" day on Tuesday, I was prepared.

    Naturally with so many bell peppers, I decided to stuff some of them with...well...more peppers! 

    6 Bell Peppers
    • red are sweetest, orange are tastiest according to me, green hold up the best in the oven, and zucchini can be substituted 
    • Split lengthwise if ginormous
    • Cut the top off with the stem and reserve if normal-sized 
    • de-rib and de-seed the peppers 
    • blanch 1-2 min and shock the bell peppers to bring out their beautiful colors
    Brown Rice: about 1.5 cups
    Mushroom stock 2.25-2.5 cups for cooking the rice
    2 plum tomatoes, diced and salted
    4 cloves garlic
    1 medium onion (I used a red onion)
    1 can black beans, drained(or you can cook dry bean)
    6 large stalks chinese broccoli or other hardy greens - blanched
    1 large red bell pepper, diced
    1 large green bell pepper, diced
    1/2 medium summer squash or zucchini
    small bunch of parsley
    palmfull of cumin
    palmfull of coriander
    2 tsp of cayenne pepper
    salt and paper
    1 tbsp of olive oil
    1. cook the rice and set aside
    2. prep and blanch peppers and greens (kale or collards or something on the hardier side can be substituted)
    3. rub peppers with just enough olive oil, salt, and pepper to coat
    4. chop garlic into a paste with salt and sauté, add onions and cook until translucent
    5. add diced peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and greens
    6. add cumin, coriander, and cayenne to taste
    7. add black beans
    8. test for seasoning
    9. remove from heat; using a fork, crush and mash some of the beans by vigorously stirring and mashing what's in the pot (leave some whole)
    10. add salt and pepper to taste
    11. stir in cooked rice to combine
    12. spoon mixture into seasoned peppers, put tops on those that were prepared in that style and put in the oven at 350F for about 15 minutes (I used a convection oven with this time and temp)
    13. remove and enjoy...they're even better the next day or two days later reheated!
    Try sprinkling them with cheese or toasted breadcrumbs.  Maybe substituting quinoa for the brown rice would pique your interest.

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Fall Fest 2009

    From top to bottom: Lemon cookies, lemon eater post-Miracle berry
    courtesy of Phi Gamma Nu, pie in the face, trying a Miracle Berry

    Photo by Rebecca S Havivi

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    The Intrepid Baker Sets Out: Nuttela Chocolate Chip Cookies

    This is my first in what will be a series of posts on the tribulations and exhilarations of concocting new recipes for a cookbook. Each post will include a back-story– the inspiration for the recipe –the recipe itself and the takeaway. The takeaway is a tip or technique showcased in the recipe that can be stored in your arsenal of cooking knowledge. So here it is, my first ever Penn Appetit post!

    The inspiration for these cookies is pretty simple. I think all homemade chocolate chip cookies should strive to be as soft and chewy as possible. In my humble opinion, that almost-underbaked gooiness is what separates homemade cookies from Chips Ahoy (don’t get me wrong – chips ahoy dunked in milk is pretty much edible nostalgia). When I began my cookbook venture this past summer creating a chocolate chip cookie that would stay soft even after it cooled became my Holy Grail. Add to this my boyfriend’s love of Nuttela and we have…

    Nuttela Chocolate Chip Cookies

    ½ stick butter (1/4 cup)
    ¾ cup Nuttela
    ½ cup brown sugar
    ¼ cup golden syrup (I used “Lyle’s Golden Syrup” but corn syrup will work too)
    2 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking powder
    2 cups all purpose flour
    1 cup chocolate chips

    Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, Nuttela, brown sugar, and syrup together. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips. Chill the dough for as long as your patience will hold out (eager for cookies? Stick it in the freezer for about 15 minutes). Drop generous tablespoon-sized balls of dough on to baking sheets lined with parchment paper or wax paper. Bake for about 10 minutes...

    The takeaway here is a whole bunch of tips for keeping your cookies soft and chewy. First of all, the Nutella helps. Any fat that isn’t 100% fat (like butter is) will cause the cookies to spread less – less spread means more concentration of dough in one spot, creating the gooey middle lost in totally flat wafers. This substitute fat is often shortening, but you can use peanut butter or Nutella for a better taste. Next, adjust your sugar. White sugar creates crispy cookies. Brown sugar has more moisture so the cookies stay moist. I took that one step further with the addition of a liquid sugar. Any liquid sugar – corn syrup, molasses, honey, etc. – will have the same effect. You can make any cookie recipe thicker and softer by adjusting your baking technique. Chilling the dough means the butter won’t melt and spread the cookies thinly as soon as the heat from the oven hit them; it gives the dough a chance to bake before flattening out. Also, placing your cookies on parchment paper or wax paper instead of greasing the baking sheets also prevents over zealous spreading. And remember, be careful not to overbake, the cookies will continue to cook as they cool.

    Saturday, October 10, 2009

    Saturday Blog Lovin' - Seventeen and Baking

    Blog: Seventeen and Baking

    This teen blogger balances her love of baking and photography with high school.  Check out this blog for a delicious recipe for cream cheese and chive biscuits!

    Note: Click here to see the original post.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Fun Food Fact

    Did you know that honey is the only kind of food that never spoils? The unique composition of honey makes it suitable for long term preservation. As long as it is properly stored and sealed, honey can last for centuries. In fact, honey has been found in the ancient tombs of Egypt! A little definitely goes a long way when it comes to honey.


    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Azie on Main Review

    Within Philadelphia’s city limits there is a wide variety of excellent dining choices.  However, in a search for new delights, I decided to head out to the suburbs, because I am convinced that the city is not the only place to find a good meal.

    Azie on Main is a new addition to the Villanova area, a Philadelphia suburb, and is located in a new office park. It is right off the Villanova University campus and is easy to get on regional rail. Azie on Main is the second location of the restaurant Azie in Media. Japanese chef Takao Iinuma, who has competed on Iron Chef Japan! heads both restaurants.
    As you enter Azie on Main, you enter a warm and inviting restaurant.  The rich fabric draped around the restaurant, the warm wood and low jazz music pulls you into the restaurant, away from the austere office park the restaurant is located in. 

    The food claims to be Japanese with global influences, and they live up to that claim, having both obvious Japanese dishes and others with a more global influence. They do have a sushi bar, which seemed to be the main focus of many of the patrons.  However, I decided that since there are so many places to get really good sushi in the city, I would try the rest of the menu and see if this restaurant has anything to tempt us out of the city with. 

    I started with a Blue Fin Tuna Ceviche.  It was a very charming dish presented in a mock martini glass with a lemon slice on the side. The tuna was in a yellow pepper sauce with orange slices, red onion, halved grape tomatoes and green peppers. The sauce was very spicy with the green peppers in it, but it was nicely balanced by the meaty taste of the tuna, and the sweetness of the oranges, onions and tomatoes. The dish also had a very pleasing mixture of textures, with the crunch of the onion and the softness of the orange, and the slight toughness of the tuna. The dish was garnished with sprigs of green salad, really just to offset the very yellowness of the whole dish by adding a much needed burst of green.

    For the main course I ordered the Pan Roasted Divers Scallops with sautéed mushroom and spinach in rice. This dish could have used a burst of color, because even with the spinach, the overall impression of the dish was BROWN. The scallops were in an americaine sauce and sprinkled with what tasted like small onion rings. The rice was well seasoned and the mushrooms and spinach melded well together.  However, the scallops,  the sauce and the crispy bits were all quite salty. The entire dish was far too salty to be palatable, and the americaine sauce was no more than a salty, garlicky cream sauce. The dish looked unappetizing and was unappetizing. 

    Despite this poor showing in the main course, the ceviche was truly amazing, and I think this restaurant warrants a second visit. So, bottom line, if you are looking for a nice restaurant, which has an excellent wine and sake collection I should add, to take a date, or just treat yourself, try getting out of the city for a change and heading out to the suburbs to Azie on Main.

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