Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Apple Toffee Tart

This tart, adapted from a Hershey's cookbook, is easy, delicious and beautiful to serve! This recipe yields 2 tarts.

5 large apples
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 frozen pie crusts (already in foil pie pans)
1 1/3 cups Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee Bits

Preheat oven to 400. Peel apples and slice thin. Toss with sugar, flour, ginger and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1/3 cup toffee bits along the bottom of each crust. Arrange apple slices on the crust. Sprinkle the remaining toffee bits on top of the apples slices. Fold the edge of the crust down over the apple center. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Locally Grown

In the dead of winter, have you ever thought about where the ripe orange you are eating came from? How about the banana you had for breakfast? If you don’t live in a tropical climate, chances are, your piece of fruit traveled many miles to land in your stomach.

next time you eat an orange, think of where it came from
photo by Alice Gao

Why worry about things like that? Well, oftentimes the oranges we eat are grown in the right climate for them and then picked prematurely and shipped very quickly to their destination so that when the oranges reach a local distributor (your supermarket) they are not overly ripe or rotting. Large, commercial farming also uses harsh chemicals and pesticides to produce a commercially viable quality and quantity of produce. Commercial farming enterprises are also promoting deforestation, as farmers clear forests in an effort to grow more commercially viable products.

So lets say you’re worried about your “carbon footprint” and the freshness of fruit from thousands of miles away--what are you to do? Buy local produce! Many ecologically and environmentally conscious people are doing just that, even starting their own vegetable gardens. Recently Michelle Obama started a vegetable garden at the White House. The First Lady placed emphasis on educating the youth of America about healthy eating, but she is also putting forth a very public promotion for “homegrown” produce.

One place you can see more and more locally grown produce and seasonal foods is in restaurants across the country. I was in San Francisco over spring break, and I could not go anywhere without eating a locally grown product or ordering from a seasonal menu. I even ate seasonal pizza! I mean, I think that prosciutto, its main ingredient, is pretty year-round; that’s pretty much the point of cured meats. But, the arugula scattered artistically over the locally produced goat cheese and the spicy prosciutto was very fresh. Now, I can’t unconditionally guarantee that food at a restaurant serving local and seasonal food will taste better than one that does not, but I have to say that the odds are good. The same goes for your own cooking. Fresh food simply tastes better, but you still have to use it well, obviously.

So visit your local farmers market (for Penn students, try Clark Park's, every Saturday at 43rd and Baltimore), or ask at your supermarket where their produce came from. Eat food that is grown when it is supposed to be grown and picked when it is supposed to be picked, in the right hemisphere. Be an informed consumer and eat better, with the great added side effect of being environmentally conscious.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Upcoming Food Events - Two Exciting Freebies!

Free Lunchtime Demo
Where: Reading Terminal Market, 12th St. and Arch St.
When: April 1, 12:00 - 1:00 pm
What: A cooking demonstration from Chef Judson Branch of Thirteen, focusing on Easter ham, including great ideas for leftovers.
How Much: Free!

"Fork You" Live!
Where: Foster's Urban Homeware, 399 Market St.
When: March 7, 2:00 pm
What: A live filming of the popular podcast, forkyou.tv. Part of Fosher's free cooking demonstration series.
How Much: Free!

When in Florida...

You hear the phrase everywhere. It’s on bumper stickers, the side panels of cereal boxes, on the Food Network; over the past few years, it’s become absolutely omnipresent: “Eat locally.” An organic and local food enthusiast myself, I strive to select my food according to this mantra, but on a recent vacation, the phrase took on completely new meaning for me.

South Florida in early March. It’s a hit or miss time with the weather in this area of Florida at this time of year, but somehow “in like a lion” missed its mark, and a week of perfectly clear skies and shining sun proceeded. There was no reason not to be outside, and I found myself constantly walking the streets and sand of Delray Beach, a small town near Boca Raton hosting a mix of well-tanned snow birds and fully-burned Spring Breakers. In this town, there’s no such thing as rushing—and this easy lifestyle is most present in the lunch crowd, which takes its time savoring the experience of eating.

My family had visited this location several times, and we’d fallen into a food rut—eating at the same main-street restaurant nearly each afternoon. On this trip, however, something changed; perhaps the perfect weather inspired us to explore the area one morning, and so we walked for hours, perusing the streets of gorgeous villas with amazing views of the turquoise Atlantic… and inevitably, all of this walking left us hungry… and a bit off the beaten path. We encountered a small restaurant we’d never seen before. It had only a few outdoor tables, each shaded by a simple umbrella. “Locally grown food” a sign said. I looked beyond the restaurant and spotted a small garden, full of various types of produce growing naturally from the ground. No kidding—this was a local as it got.

The meal that followed was incredible: fresh produce, homemade pasta, and smoothies made with berries picked in the backyard. I could have sworn the food was some of the most delicious I’d ever had. Maybe it was that the lettuce on my plate hadn’t been flown thousands of miles from the field in which it was grown to the plate on which it was served. Maybe the food contained more vitamins and phytochemicals because the crop hadn’t been sprayed with pesticide, and that resulted in better taste. Perhaps the fresher ingredients yielded a better final product. Or perhaps I was convincing myself that local food truly is better. But in any case, for me personally, the experience of eating locally is significantly more fulfilling than doing otherwise. Knowing that there was no convoluted process to get the food to the plate made the meal so incredible and rush-free; and that’s what this beach town was all about.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


fresh orange segments to celebrate the arrival of spring
photo by Alice Gao

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Blog Lovin' - Cookie Dough Truffles

Blog: Salt and Chocolate

If it wasn't for salmonella, I would never bother with actually baking cookies, because let's be honest, the dough is far superior to the cookies.  Check out this easy cookie dough truffle recipe if you know what's up.  

Note: Click here to see the original post

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crazie about Zazie

This past Spring Break, I ventured to San Francisco, a city of plentiful sunshine, picturesque bayviews, hilly neighborhoods, and of course, exquisite cuisine. Of the different places I dined at, Zazie, a French bistro tucked in the residential Cole Valley, was definitely the most outstanding.

the Baked Chocolat Chaud dessert was a standout at Zazie in San Francisco
photo by Andy Tan

Zazie's unique moniker is derived from its namesake movie from the 1960s Zazie dans le metro - a film about an intrepid young girl from provincial France visiting her uncle in Paris. In an oddly contrary spirit, stepping into Zazie from the streets of San Francisco feels like being transported from a bustling metropolitan city into a small-town, local bistro.

The cozy bistro is along a nondescript row of shops on a mixed-use street that boasts a laundromat, car mechanic workshop, and a liquor store nearby. How much more residential can you get? It's perfectly camoflaged among these neighborhood shops. The interior is not fancy at all - exposed wall with posters, narrow tables for elbow-to-elbow dining, and a charming garden patio with more seating past the kitchen area. It feels almost like dining at a close friend's home rather than a restaurant.

Our party started with a sampler of three appetizers (beet and avocado salad with gorgonzola vinaigrette, chicken liver and brandy pate on grilled garlic bread, and spinach and walnut salad with balsamic vinaigrette) as well as a separate order of mussels, steamed with white wine and garlic. Each of these was a delightful play on the palate - the smooth creamy texture of the pate, paired off with the crunchy spinach and walnut salad, followed by the aromatic succulence of steamed mussels, and not forgetting the sweetness of the beet salad. The plating was simple, nothing was overdone, and we could be very well have been somewhere on the Mediterranean coast.

For the entrees, we had the Cassoulet Pialat, a hearty peasant meal originating from southern France near the Toulouse region. This was similar to a duck confit casserole, slowly stewed with beans, vegetables, and sausages. It was deliciously tender and juicy, with the duck meat literally falling off the bone. We also tried the Black Truffle Ravioli, cooked al dente with wild mushroom, white wine, garlic and parmesan cheese. It was exquisitely creamy and paired really well with the shavings of black truffle.

The desserts at Zazie definitely stole the show. We had the Baked Chocolat Chaud - a soup mug worth of baked molten chocolate topped with a crown of golden-brown toasted marshmallows. We could even smell the caramel from the marshmallows. If this doesn't give you a sugar rush, nothing else will! We also ordered the combination of Pot de Creme du Chocolat (chilled chocolate cream) and Creme Brulee which could be veritable dessert sizes individually. What better way to end the dining experience with a shot of decaf espresso.

So when you next travel west to San Francisco for a culinary vacation, Zazie should be at least one of your stops . . . as long as you keep this our little secret. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Life at Penn can be very stressful; every day just seems to whizz by! Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the leisurely pace of life in Spain, while I was there over spring break. Its not that people are lazy, or just spend three hours of the day snoozing during ‘siesta’- there’s just no rush. I discovered that the term “siesta” encompasses relaxing in the park, spending time with family, and more importantly, eating and cooking. Lunchtime can span three hours, usually 2pm-5pm, and after people have digested their food, they hit the bars a few hours later for drinks- and tapas. Many tapas restaurants I have visited in Philly just serve different variations of toppings on bread; the true Spanish tapas experience is however very different. Just to give you a taste, here are a few of the tapas that really stood out!

tapas, like this plate of huevos revueltos con jamon, represent a different way of eating as well as a different way of life
photo by Karuna Meda

Huevos revueltos con jamon
This rather hodge-podge of ingredients consists of scrambled egg, potatoes and Serrano ham. You can eat it with or without bread, either way, the simple combination of the blandness of the eggs and the spicy succulence of the ham is heavenly.

Patatas bravas
This was a standard at most of my tapas adventures, and one of the few vegetarian options on the menu. Cubes of potatoes are fried to a perfect crisp, and served with a spicy tomato sauce.

Pulpo a la Gallega
This is octopus cooked in Galician style, meaning it is boiled or grilled as opposed to fried. Even though I’ve eaten calamari, I was still surprised by the texture; I never realized how effective the crispy dough is in concealing the rubbery feeling of the octopus. Nevertheless, the octopus, if cooked just right, soaks up the olive oil, sweet Spanish paprika, and garlic. Divine.

Tortilla de patatas
A very typical dish of Spain, this is essentially a potato omelet. Potatoes and onions are fried in oil, and then raw beaten eggs are added, and fried to make almost a fluffy quiche like omelet, using a special utensil called "vuelve-tortillas". Eaten hot or cold, tortilla de patatas is probably the most popular in Spain.

Don't forget, tapas cannot even be called as such without drinks. One can choose from beer, wine, Sangria, and good old soft drinks. I truly miss the evenings where we just ate and drank, not to stuff our face with food and get drunk, but to take part in a cultural activity that the Spanish have immense respect for - savoring a meal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

Tea Leaf Salad (La Phet Thote) is a traditional Burmese dish. If you order this in a restaurant it will generally be presented with the ingredients separated on the plate and the waiter will mix it at the table, similar to a traditional Caesar salad. It's a specialty of Burmese restaurants that taunt their American customers with a delicious dish that is incredibly hard to replicate unless you have a contact in Burma who can ship you the pickled tea leaves that are central to this dish. I have tried to recreate this dish as best I can making good use of the local asian supermarket and the wonders of the Internet, and once you've gathered all the ingredients it is a very easy salad to assemble.

5 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup La Phet (pickled tea leaves)
Peanut Oil
2 tsp Dried Shrimp
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Seeds
2 tsp Fried Yellow Beans
Chopped cabbage or lettuce
3 tsp Chopped Peanuts
2 Roughly Chopped Tomatoes
Lemon Wedge

Fry the garlic slices in a small amount of peanut oil until golden brown. I suggest buying pre-made fried yellow beans though. Add 3 to 4 tsp peanut oil to the La Phet and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Place chopped lettuce on plate and place the La Phet in the center of the plate and then place the sesame seeds, peanuts, tomatoes, dried shrimp, fried yellow beans, fried garlic and lemon wedge around the center of the plate. This can then be mixed at the table. Squeeze the lemon juice on top of the tea leaves and then toss the salad. If this presentation is not desired, feel free to mix all the ingredients in one bowl and toss.

Note: You can find La Phet in some Asian supermarkets, but you might have more luck looking online for a Burmese supplier; there are a few that carry La Phet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Natural Cures

Medicine does not always mean a little white pill. Everyday foods that we eat can actually have curative powers. Here is just a sampling of the "natural cures" that you can find right in your own kitchen.

almonds are one of many natural cures for our ailments
photo by Diane Dao

We've all experienced the heat from a little too much hot sauce, but whatever you do, don't down that glass of water! Instead, have a glass of milk handy. Milk relieves the burn on your tongue more effectively than water, as it washes away the oils in the spices, while water doesn't.

Feeling bloated from polishing off that bag of pretzels last night? Bananas, which are high in potassium, help regulate the fluid balance in your body, which can counteract bloating.

Bui's is not considered the best hangover cure for nothing! The secret? The eggs in the sandwiches. Eggs contain enzymes that combat the toxic by-products of alcohol being metabolized by the liver.

When that 3 p.m. afternoon slump hits, skip the coffee and grab a handful of almonds instead. These nuts are not only rich in protein, but they also contain magnesium, a mineral that plays a vital role in converting sugar into energy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Upcoming Food Events

Taste of Philly
Where: Hall of Flags, Houston Hall
When: Thursday March 26, 7:00 - 9:00 pm
What: A fundraiser for Givology, an organization dedicated to helping children in need of education in developing countries. Food will be served from many popular Philadelphia restaurants, including Roy's Restaurant, Jimmy John's, Davio's, Asia Bakery, Bistro St. Tropez, Sang Kee, Kabul, Dahlak, Bubble House, and more.
How Much: $8 on Locust Walk, $10 at the door

Chef Tim Spinner of Distrito
Where: Foster's Urban Homeware, 399 Market St.
When: Saturday March 28, 2:00 pm
What: A free cooking demonstration with chef de cuisine Tim Spinner from Jose Garces' restaurant Distrito, focusing on modernizing traditional Mexican dishes.
How Much: Free!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


truffles at Naked Chocolate Cafe
photo by Michael Chien

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Blog Lovin' - Back to the future

Blog: Paleo-Future

Back in 1943, there were big plans for kitchens of the future. Check out this blog if you don't mind disappointment: our "future" doesn't include counter tops that open up to reveal waffle makers.

Note: Click here to see the original post

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Founding Farmers

click the logo to visit Founding Farmers' website

Although I spent the majority of my spring break at home in Washington, DC catching up with friends and family, I had the opportunity to try out one of the city's most popular new restaurants, Founding Farmers. Owned by a collective of 42,000 North Dakota family farmers, the restaurant utilizes seasonal, locally grown ingredients to prepare an American menu that mixes classic with contemporary.

My party of four had to endure a half hour wait for Sunday brunch, but examining the restaurant's inventive interior kept me totally occupied. Tucked into the lower level of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) building in the transitioning neighborhood between Georgetown and downtown Washington, Founding Farmer's surprises with its chic farm motif, ranging from oversized jarred vegetables to a dairy cow invasion in the men's room.

Our novice waiter was friendly, if inconsistent, but we were anxious to try the food we had all come for, and once it arrived, it didn't disappoint. My bacon and sausage hash was perfectly prepared, balancing the flavors of the meat, potatoes, and poached eggs on top. Two of my companions opted for the scrambled eggs, which they seemed to eagerly devour almost before I took my first bite, and my other friend tried the specialty french toast, prepared "New Orleans style," with a cream soak followed by a deep fry. The entrees were delicious, but the side portions of fruit available with each main dish tasted fresh off the farm, and that alone gives me enough reason to plan a return trip.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


During my amazing visit to Spain over spring break, I couldn’t get enough of the food . . . and drink! Making full use of the drinking age of 18, I had my fair share of sangria and exquisite wine (and learned that Spanish beer isn’t all that great). Of all the drinks I had, one stood out the most: Calimocho. Popular during street gatherings (yes, I saw plenty of high schoolers drinking on the streets), Calimocho is a mix of red wine and Coca Cola, in approximately equal proportions. It really is a cheap man’s drink, in a very drastic way--Calimocho is sometimes even made in a plastic bag!

calimocho looks just like regular cola, but has an unexpected twist
photo by Karuna Meda

My friends and I headed to the Retiro Park in Madrid armed with a two liter bottle of coke, 3 Euros worth of red wine, and plastic cups. After emptying out some of the coke, we poured in approximately 3/4th of the bottle of wine, and voila!

It really is an unusual taste, like sour cherry coke. The first few sips were dubious, but I really started to enjoy the peculiar combination of fizzy caffeine and the tartness of the wine. Needless to say, we had no trouble finishing the two liters.

Some people may call Calimocho a trashy wine cooler, but I thought it was oddly refreshing, and so easy to make! Some variations include using white wine instead of red, and adding flavored vodka. So here is another idea to add to your list of cocktails for spring fling!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Homemade Pesto

Try out this ridiculously simple recipe for homemade pesto! This should be enough to make 4 servings of pesto pasta or to coat 4 breasts of chicken.

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/2 cup walnuts
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pulse blend the basil, walnuts and garlic with a food processor to chunky bits. Add in 1/2 cup of the EVOO with the food processor at low speed. Pulse blend with the grated cheese and lemon juice. The lemon juice helps the pesto retain its color and adds a delicious tangy flavor.

Enjoy with Rigatoni pasta or use as a marinade for pesto chicken.

To store, keep the pesto in a glass jar and top it off with the remainder EVOO.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fogo de Chao

the most popular cut at Fogo de Chao is the Picanha, juicy surloin seasoned only with sea salt and garlic
click here to visit Fogo de Chao's website

Steak is the American food and Fogo de Chao has some of the widest varieties of cuts of meats ready to serve. Located on the corner of 13th and Chestnut, it is a short SEPTA ride away.

Right near City Hall and the heart of Philadelphia, Fogo de Chao is located in a pristine part of Center City. Once you walk in, you are immediately welcomed by a friendly host. As a Brazilian Steakhouse, Fogo de Chao has a unique experience. There is an elaborate salad bar for starters and a little place card on the table for you to begin your carnivorous adventure. Once you flip over the place card from red to green, the waiters come over and bring you whatever steak you fancy.

In a sense, Fogo de Chao is much like a buffet, except the food is brought to you. Their selection of fire-roasted meats is plentiful. From chicken to beef and everything in between, Fogo de Chao has it all. Waiters will bring you sirloin, ribs of any kind, filet mignon, chicken legs, lamb chops, sausages, and everything I tried was cooked to perfection.

At first the sheer variety of cuts may be overwhelming, so slow down and try a little bit of each meat. Don’t be shy to kindly pass off a cut you don’t want and flip over your place card if you want to take a rest from eating; this helps notify the waiters. The salad bar helps you in between because the meats are dense. But be sure to try their most esteemed cut, called the Picanha.

Fogo de Chao offers lunch Mondays through Fridays and is open for dinner every day. The price is fixed like a buffet, albeit a little more expensive (around $30 for lunch and $50 for dinner). Still, the Fogo de Chao experience is one you won’t want to miss out on.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Foobooz.com The Blog

New to Philadelphia? Wondering what the restaurants are like here in the City of Brotherly Love? Well, with Philly being a city of bloggers, there are a lot of sites out there highlighting the city’s thriving restaurant scene. Few have been more successful, however, than my personal favorite: Foobooz.com.

Foobooz is devoted to bringing Philadelphians the best in “food, drink, gossip and deals” in the city’s restaurants. Its bloggers declare that “food and drink are keys to happiness, and there are few places better to indulge in other than Philadelphia.” They prove this statement by providing weekly updates on the best new eateries, bargains, and hidden treasures that this city’s restaurant scene has to offer.

To be honest, I have been a diehard Foobooz fan for about six months, and I check the blog almost daily for updates. It lets me know the latest in closings, so I can try out that restaurant before it shuts down for good. It also highlights notable openings, so I can keep up with what’s new and trendy in Philadelphia eating. Foobooz also provides info on local culinary events in the area, from Restaurant Week to Center City Sips, so if you’re looking for something fun to do you can always be in the know.

Their site even provides a demographic of their readers: young adults with college educations who often dine out (sounds like many Penn kids). The bloggers have compiled a list of their “Best of Philly” picks, along with event calendars and maps of every bar, eatery, lounge and café in the region. You’d be hard pressed not to find a good suggestion amongst the numerous posts.

They also provide fun little updates like “Eyeball Benders” that showcase an interesting photo of a local eatery so readers can test their knowledge of restaurant decor. All in all, whether you are a newbie to the Philly scene or a seasoned veteran, Foobooz is definitely worth checking out, especially if you want to keep up with the latest happenings. Also, it doesn’t hurt to look cool when you can make restaurant suggestions to your friends.

Monday, March 9, 2009

French Women Don't Get Fat - The Myth Unveiled

After about six weeks of living in Paris during my semester abroad, I began to notice something rather peculiar- everyone on the exchange program (myself included) seemed to be getting leaner by the day. What was more bewildering was that there had been no drastic change in our eating habits or any sudden adoption of a smoking ritual for the sake of full cultural assimilation. On the contrary, we were all being treated to 3 course meals, either by our host families or in the arrays of restaurants and cafés from the 1st to the 16th quarter. So what was happening to us? Were we magically being morphed into the slender silhouettes of teenage French girls who as they become women never seem lose their adolescent frame? To this question, Mireille Giuliano, former executive of Veuve Clicquot and LVMH, offers a few explanations in her best-selling book French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure. A synopsis or other form of oversimplification cannot do this truly witty, interesting, and non-dogmatic piece of writing any justice, so I will simply attempt to recall the points that stood out the most to me while I was transitioning into the habits of a French woman.

click the book cover to visit the author's website

Generally speaking, French women seem to be blessed with good genes. They don’t diet, they’ve never seen the inside of a gym, and they are constantly eating baguettes. Yet they don’t get fat. Despite our tendency to regard them as having a superior genetic make-up, Giuliano explains that it is not by good fortune, but rather by fortunate habits that French women are able to stay slim sans effort. A fundamental difference between the American and the French way of burning calories is physical exercise or a lack thereof. In Paris, for instance, the ease with which public transportation can be utilized makes having a car highly impractical. Therefore everyone either walks to their destination, takes the metro (which requires a lot of walking through tunnels and hiking stairs), or rents a vélib (public bicycles). Simply put, they exercise without even thinking of it. Elevators are also rarely spotted in French buildings meaning that if you live on the 13th floor of your building, you will most likely need to trek up at least 14 flights of stairs, multiple times a day. I for one underwent the grueling task of always having to climb up to the 15th floor each time I went to visit a friend, but as I got used it, it stopped feeling like work. So you see, in the US, gyms are mainly a simulation of the day by day habits of French people and because these habits are embedded into their routine (no change of clothes, no sneakers and no extra shower) it’s not work. In the book, Giuliano offers some tips on incorporating these “non-exercise” exercises into your daily habits such as deliberately seeking out stairs to climb and shunning all elevators. Oh, such discipline.

HERE French Women Don’t Get Fat discusses how these women have been culturally conditioned to think about food in a way that is more favorable to attaining and maintaining a slender figure, such as learning to appreciate the flavors of fresh ingredients rather than obsessing over the calorie count of a meal.

The mentality towards food is another differentiating factor of French vs. American eating habits. Suggesting no fads and no irrational exclusion of carbohydrates, Giuliani emphasizes the importance of using fresh seasonal ingredients to create wonderfully flavorful meals. In contrast to the American food market, which is bombarded with processed, packaged, and chemically enhanced produce, French foods tend to be simple and more natural, thus less harmful to your system. The principles she advocates are very retro; for instance, eating in moderation. French women also eat meals made up of diversified content; some greens, a protein, and a carbohydrate (each ingredient is a star on its own). The combination of all food groups even in the smallest portions leads to a higher degree of satisfaction and satiation. Exclusion of a certain food will only lead to a more intense craving of it. As an avid connoisseur of food and wine, Guilano also communicates the pleasures of eating delicacies such as oysters that she frequently complements with a glass of champagne (Veuve Clicquot most likely), a combination that is as high in gratification as it is low in calories.

Despite our newly modernized version of conventional wisdom, three course meals are essential. French Women Don’t Get Fat claims that sitting down to have a meal with wine, chatter, and a constant change in tableware makes the event more ceremonious and thus more anticipated (you’re also less likely to eat between meals). Although these meals tend to be three courses or more, they are extremely small in portion (French women would probably fall over their seats if they were ever to be served what we consider to be a normal plateful of pasta from Red Lobster). For me, it took a while to adjust. During the meal, I would find that each course was never filling, but by the time desert was plated (yoghurt, fruit, or a cheese platter) I realized that it was such a delightful and refreshing finale to the overall-meal. I no longer felt like I needed another crepe. More interestingly, I began to appreciate the feeling of not being overly full substituted with the fulfillment of having had a meal that caters to every dimension of my cravings.

The book is wonderful. Giuliani goes into more detail about tips on how French women stay thin such as never snacking (they just don’t eat between meals…it’s crazy), favoring dark chocolate over milk chocolate, and eating beautifully baked baguettes that are surprisingly low in calories ( baguettes in France tend to have a thinner crust and airier middle than those here). Carbohydrates are not your enemy!!! The book is also decorated with a ton of recipes after each chapter or segment such as Dr. Miracle’s leek soup. Unlike other books, French Women Don’t Get Fat doesn’t provide a magical diet. Instead it reminds us of how food used to be approached before diets and fads called for eradicating proteins, banishing carbs, and acquiescing to weird concoctions of lemon, maple syrup and God knows what else.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Is in the Air

The Penn Appetit Blog is going to go somewhat dormant this week for Penn's Spring Break, but we'll still have posts most days, and we'll be back full-time beginning Monday, March 16. Until then, take some time to read some older posts and check out some of the other blogs we've featured recently in our Friday Blog Lovin' posts. Enjoy!

Blog Editor

Saturday, March 7, 2009


chocolates at Naked Chocolate Cafe
photo by Michael Chien

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Blog Lovin' - Pita Chips

Blog: pickycook

I'm a big fan of pita chips, and have been searching for the perfect flavor to complement my favorite dips. I'll be trying this simple, yet enticing recipe over break!

Note: Click here to see the original post

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Best of Philly: Falafel

Crispy on the outside, moist chickpeas and secret spice blend on the inside, and tastebud-exciting all over, falafel is a food most of us are familiar with--falafel balls freshly fried, creamy hummus, a variety of fresh and pickled salads, tehineh (sesame paste), and pita. Seems simple, right? Like any simple food, however, it is both easy to make and easy to mess up. But when you find a good falafel it is one of the most exciting and satisfying meals there is.

I set out on a mission to find the best tasting, most authentic, take-out falafel sandwich purveyor in Philadelphia. After much walking, tasting, and deliberating, I've narrowed it down to the top three.

Mama's Vegetarian
18 S. 20th St. (bet. Market and Chestnut); $6; Cash Only; Kosher
Mama's is usually so busy you'll have to wait a few minutes for fresh-out-of-the-fryer falafel, but the wait is worth it. The Large Mama's is a five-falafel gem with optional hot sauce, traditional salad toppings (tomatoes, onions, pickled cabbage), a generous dollop of hummus, and a finishing squirt of tehineh. You choose white or wheat pita, and the Israeli experts will assemble your meal in a way that smacks of military efficiency. The sandwich gives hot, spicy, crispy, and fresh in every bite. I often go out of my way to get falafel from Mama's, making it a necessary side trip when I go shopping or studying downtown.

128 S. 12th St. (bet. Walnut and Chestnut); $5.75; Glatt Kosher
Like Mama's, Maccabeam is Israeli, and at both you'll hear Hebrew from the staff and, oftentimes, the clientele. And like any good Middle Eastern joint they are not shy on portions. The sandwich was stuffed to the brim, but the taste of the falafel was not lost in the hodgepodge of other flavors. The server smashes the falafel in the pita with his tongs, spreading it throughout the sandwich and showing he knows what he's doing. This sandwich had an excellent combination of crispy and moist, salty and spicy, freshness and tang - with the pickled cabbage a particular standout.

603 S. 4th St. (at South); $5.30
The unassuming front opens into a genuine Middle Eastern take-out counter, complete with falafel fryer, shewarma spit (you've seen it at Greek Lady; it's what they would call gyro), and Arabic. Doubling as a sit-down Lebanese restaurant, you can also get your goodies to go, including a falafel sandwich jam-packed with mouth-watering goodness. Like Maccabeam they smash their hot, fresh falafels - as if the Arabic accents weren't enough proof of these guys' authenticity. Lots of tehineh and a fully-stuffed pita combine for a sandwich that is as delicious as it is messy. I couldn't get enough and finished it all the way down to the last drop of tehineh on the foil wrapper, all the while dripping cucumbers, tomatoes, and tehineh onto the unsuspecting South Street sidewalk.

Friday Blog Lovin' - Savory Scones

Blog: Sunita's World

These mini rosemary and carrot scones are a fresh interpretation of a very versatile bread. Check out this blog for other scone recipes and more sweet and savory treats.

Note: Click here to see the original post

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Not a Chocolate Person . . .

there's nothing wrong with shying away from chocolate
photos by Elizabeth Cunningham

Vanilla over cocoa. Blondies over brownies. Vanilla cake over chocolate. Oatmeal raisin over chocolate chip. I’m just not a chocolate person, and apparently, that’s strange.

Somehow, over the course of human evolution, it has become bizarre for a person not to like chocolate. This aspect of my likes and dislikes sets me (and others of the same opinion) apart, as if millions of years ago, distaste for chocolate would have led us along the path to apes and monkeys, rather than Homo sapiens. We’re a small group, but we’re passionate. First choice: not chocolate. Case closed.

I wish fine restaurants would respect our minority. On a recent vacation, my family chose to dine at one of the fine restaurants in town. The appetizer and entrée menus were marvelous, offering options for all palettes. Caesar and house salad. Gazpacho and French onion soup. Mahi mahi and filet mignon. A wine list to dazzle the most selective connoisseurs. Yet the dessert menu fell short, much to my personal disappointment. My eyes scanned the list, taking in the exquisiteness of each dish: dark chocolate crème brulee, sampler of various truffles, chocolate mousse, and lime sorbet. Really? My only non-chocolate option was lime sorbet? I chose the last item on the menu, and I’m not quite sure whether I did this because it was what I wanted to eat, or for reasons more meaningful: to support those people who aren’t satisfied with chocolate.

It’s not about wanting the healthier option; it’s about wanting a food choice with color and bursts of flavor. It’s about wanting options which don’t fit under the umbrella category of “chocolate.” Take, for instance, the following:

Chocolate covered strawberries. I don’t get them. While I completely appreciate the adorable patterns chocolatiers and bakers create atop these succulent berries (drizzled dark chocolate atop white, tuxedo patterns made of multiple chocolate types), count me out. I can’t help but wonder what compels some people to coat a perfectly delicious red strawberry in a brown shell, which both melts on your fingertips and breaks apart the moment you bite into the dessert—only to land on your shirt or pants, which you recently cleaned, of course. The strawberry alone would be just perfect.

Now don’t get me wrong— you’ll find me eating chocolate every now and then, but as result of a craving, not an obsession. (And plus, instant hot chocolate doesn’t count). Ladies: you’ll hear me on this. Chocolate absolutely constitutes its own food group. However, when I want to eat chocolate, I want to be eating chocolate . . . not a fluffy cake with an artificial taste only remotely reminiscent of cocoa. I want a fantastic square of perfectly smooth dark chocolate. Don’t hide a berry within its depths or add essence of coffee or mint. Keep things simple. However, given the option, my loyalties lie with all things not cocoa-related.

Finally, a message to all chefs: challenge yourselves to create gourmet dessert not made of chocolate. Or at the very least, please offer lime sorbet on your menu. It might not compare to your dark chocolate crème brulee, but it doesn’t contain chocolate, and that alone is reason for ordering it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A New Food Truck City

Thanks to being a senior and some clever schedule manipulation into four-day weekends, I was lucky enough to spend the last few days in Portland, OR, hanging out with my sister who goes to school there. We ventured into downtown Portland for lunch one day and happened upon a gaggle of visually entrancing food trucks lined up all over the streets. They put Philadelphia's to shame. You had your Mexican, your Thai, Japanese, Greek, Middle Eastern, Italian, German bratwurst, Peruvian, Bosnian . . . wait, Bosnian? Yes, there was a Bosnian food truck, by the name of Zora's Pitas or something along those lines.

I couldn't help but be drawn to this unexpected cuisine. The only thing I could connect Bosnia with in my mind was Slobodan Milosevic, never having heard of Bosnian food as something to write home about. But boy, was I wrong. A menu that smacked of Arab influence (there are or were, I believe, many Muslims in Bosnia) was limited in choice but surprisingly deep in flavor. The main highlight were pitas, which were kind of like spanakopita, or what I imagine spanakopita to be like, never actually having had it. I ordered a platter split between the spinach, egg, and cheese pita (with a long and complicated name I regretfully cannot remember) and the grilled zucchini pita. These generous sandwich-pastry-vegetable-wrap portions were served with a roasted pepper sauce and a cucumber-yogurt sauce (a staple side in both Arab and Greek cooking), and filled me right to the brim. The menu also offered meat choices; pitas filled with meat with a name that sounded suspiciously like burekas, as well as meatballs they called cofta (kofte for those more acquainted with Middle Eastern cooking) in either a red or white sauce.

I was delighted with my unexpected ethnic lunch. I can now cross one more cuisine off my "to try" list. Do I have one of those? Well, I do now.

Braised Pork Loin

Try this delicious recipe for pork loin. It yields 6 servings.

2 tablespoons coarse salt (some extra for potatoes)
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper (some extra for potatoes)
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground mustard
1 boneless pork loin, about 2 pounds, tied
2 tablespoons olive oil and (some extra for potatoes)
2 ½ cups dry white wine
8 red potatoes, quartered
10 carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed with the flat side of a large knife
6 portobello mushrooms tops, thickly sliced

Combine salt and spices, then coat the pork with the spice mixture, and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. In a separate bowl coat quartered potatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat a large Dutch oven (or any large pot with a thick bottom) over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add pork to pot. Sear pork until golden, turning with tongs, about 2 minutes per side. Stir in wine and scraping bottom of pot to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, basting meat with cooking liquid several times and turning once. Remove pork from pot, and set aside.

Stir in potatoes, simmer covered for 5 minutes. Stir in carrots, onions, and garlic. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes then add the mushrooms. Make a well in center; return pork to pot. Simmer until vegetables are tender and a meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 degrees for medium, about 15 minutes. Let rest in pot 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Transfer the vegetables to a platter with the sliced pork. Pour sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl; pour over pork.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dried or Fresh Fruit - Your Pick

Have you ever had the experience of buying a bag of dried mangos, thinking only to indulge in a piece or two, and five minutes later find yourself walking over to the trash can to throw away your empty package? I certainly have. Same with dried cherries, dried blueberries, dried figs, dried plums, dried apricots, raisins . . . heck, even Craisins. But just because they’re fruit of the dried variety doesn’t mean we should let down our guard when consuming these delightful snacks. That’s why I've done some research with many a reliable online source to see what the pros and cons of dried fruits are – and ultimately, to figure out if we should just stick to the natural kind.

photo by Jonathan Coveney

So we all know why we have dried fruits in the first place. Before big bad chemicals came into existence, drying – or in other words, sucking the moisture out of the fruit – was an effective method of preservation. However, that moisture-sucking leaves the fruit with more concentrated levels of sugar (due to sugar formation during the drying process) and therefore denser calories. What’s more, because of its heightened sweetness and condensed size, the dried version becomes easier to over-consume. A quick look at some calorie comparisons between the natural and the dried (provided by DietDetective.com) gives us some answers as to which may be preferable for those who shy away from weight gain.

Fresh apricots: three, 50 calories, 2.1g fiber
Dried apricot: Six pieces (40g), 90 calories, 3g fiber

Fresh blueberries: 75 berries, 58 calories, 2.4g fiber
Dried blueberries (sweetened): ¼ cup (75 berries), 150 calories, 4g fiber

Fresh grapes: 1 cup, 62 calories, 0.8g fiber
Dried grapes (raisins): One small box (1.5 ounces), 129 calories, 1.6g fiber

Fresh cherries: 27 cherries (without pits), 116 calories, 3.9g fiber
Dried cherries: 1/3 cup (27 cherries), 160 calories, 1.5g fiber

Fresh: Raw mango (1 cup sliced), 107 calories, 3g fiber
Dried mango: 12 slices unsweetened (76g), 212 calories, 2g fiber

One thing you may notice from this information is that although dried fruits tend to be higher in calories, they tend to also be higher in fiber. Dried fruits, despite their high sugar levels, do have their nutritional merits in the form of higher fiber content and greater antioxidant content, as well as more complex carbohydrate levels.

So in the end, it’s really up to you. Dried fruits are nutrient-dense, but they’re also calorie-dense. They taste good, but there’s a danger of eating too much of them at once.
I do concede that dried fruit is super convenient in terms of preparation and mobility, as opposed to fresh fruit that you have to peel or slice. Oh, and the longer shelf-life is another benefit, of course.

But personally, my philosophy is to pick dried fruits over other snack choices such as chips and cookies, but when possible, pick fresh fruit over dried fruit. And when picking the dried fruit, I try to choose the ones that have less added salt and sugar, or preferably, all-natural. Now you just have to keep that in mind on your next 2 a.m. trip to Fresh Grocer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Upcoming Food Events

Flower-Inspired Food Tour
Where: All over Philadelphia, beginning at DiBruno Bros, 1730 Chestnut St.
When: March 2 - 7, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
What: A unique food tour inspired by the concurrent Philadelphia Flower Show, featuring hand-crafted treats and botanical delights. Click here to reserve a spot.
How Much: $39 per person

"Fork You" Live!
Where: Foster's Urban Homeware, 399 Market St.
When: March 7, 2:00 pm
What: A live filming of the popular podcast, forkyou.tv. Part of Fosher's free cooking demonstration series.
How Much: Free!

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