Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Carrot Cake" Quinoa Salad

Admittedly, "carrot cake" salad sounds disgusting. And maybe you're thinking that adding quinoa to the mix makes it even worse. Well, all you skeptics are wrong. This easy quinoa salad gets its sweetness from carrots, raisins, and the dressing (which has honey), but it still has all the hearty goodness of quinoa. It's not quite sweet enough for dessert, but it's so yummy that you might want to eat it for dessert...and breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Some notes: I make the quinoa in my rice cooker which is even simpler than on the stove. You can vary the ratios of ingredients according to your tastes - these are just guidelines. And of course, this is easily scaled down or up depending on the number of people eating. Don't be afraid to make extra though, because it's great the next day too!

"Carrot Cake" Quinoa Salad (Gluten-Free)
Serves 3-5 as a side dish


For Salad:
1.5 c. quinoa, uncooked
1-2 medium carrots, grated
1/4 c. toasted slivered almonds
1/2 c. raisins

For Dressing:
1/4 c. + 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 scant tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. spicy mustard
1-2 tbsp. honey
salt and pepper, to taste


Cook quinoa according to package directions or in a rice cooker. Meanwhile, plump raisins by soaking in water for a half hour to an hour. After quinoa has cooked and cooled, combine all ingredients for salad.

In a separate bowl, make dressing by whisking all ingredients together. Pour dressing over salad and mix to coat. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Durian - The King of Fruits

On a cold January evening stroll in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, something caught my attention. Outside of a hole-in-the-wall produce market was a cardboard box full of thorny, light brown objects the size of watermelons. They were durians, the famed Southeast Asian fruits that you either love or hate. I had heard of the durian before, having seen bizarre food enthusiast Andrew Zimmern sample one on an episode of his TV show, Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern. Zimmern, who salivates over pig offal, gags at the smell of durian, which he describes as having the odor of rotten, mushy onions mixed with garbage. The durian in Chinatown looked innocent enough, and it certainly did not smell. I thought to myself, “It’s a fruit. How vile could it really be?” The allure of the durian overcame me and in the spirit of culinary adventure I brought one back to my dorm room.
Outside of Asia, durians are primarily sold frozen to preserve them during the shipping process. The durian I bought was no exception. As I waited for the durian to thaw, I prepared myself for what lay ahead. A quick search online revealed that many rank the flavor of the durian among the best they have ever experienced, while others side with Zimmern, considering it inedible. It is not often that one has the chance to experience completely new flavors, so I really hoped that I would be able to appreciate the durian.
I could not wait any longer. I pulled out a pocketknife and got to work on the partially thawed fruit. As I sliced it open, I could not help but notice that its pale yellow flesh bared an uncanny resemblance to human entrails. When I caught a whiff of the characteristic odor, I began to think that maybe it would taste as rank as I had heard. Nevertheless, I took a spoonful of the creamy flesh, which has the texture of a slightly stringy banana. I promptly spat it out. The flavor was exactly as Zimmern had described it. I took another bite, hoping that I would somehow come to appreciate the taste on my second try. Again, I was unable to swallow it.
I suppose I was not born a durian lover, or perhaps, like many flavors, durian is an acquired taste. In any case, I am glad to have tried it. It is a flavor – and an experience – that I will never forget.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday Blog Lovin' - Because you work hard for your money

Blog: 30 Bucks a Week

These frugal foodies do their best with a budget. Check out this blog for affordable and delicious meal ideas!

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fun Food Fact!

Chef George Crum created the first potato chip recipe at Moon's Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, on August 24, 1853.

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Live Blogging Top Chef Season 6: Episode 6

After a summer hiatus, I'm happy to be back live-blogging Top Chef again. This season the chefs are in Vegas, and we definitely have a talented bunch this time. I hope someone out there still wants to read, because I'm excited to be writing here again!

The night kicks off with the chefs mourning the loss of the Frenchman, Mattin, last episode, while simultaneously criticizing Robin's presence in the competition and her penchant for simple cooking, a little unfair if you ask me. Padma unveils the quickfire: a challenge to create a duo on the plate representing each chef's "devil and angel" sides. Lots of the chefs go for fish, from halibut to Chilean sea bass to the Top Chef favorite scallop (from two chefs!) Ash tried to do two different types of custard, but failed in producing his angel side. Robin's choice of a simple salad and apple crisp drew praise from guest judge Michelle Bernstein, ultimately earning her a win, with immunity, and no respect from her fellow contestants. Eli even goes so low as to criticize her mention of the cancer she battled as fishing for sympathy. Magicians Penn and Teller emerge to present the elimination challenge, something about deconstructing classic dishes, like eggs florentine, pot roast, and fish and chips, in tricky ways, but their explanation is convoluted, so I guess we'll just have to wait until after the break to see what the hell they're actually doing.

As always, I love the shopping segment, and this time they have 30 minutes and $125 dollars to collect the ingredients that they'll need for the intimate dinner party. Somehow Mike doesn't know what eggs florentine are, calling them "eggs-foreign-to-me." At least he has a way with words. Philly's own Jen C., from 10 Arts, has been a judges favorite all season, but she seems to be struggling tonight with her deconstructed lasagna, so we'll see if she can get it together. Unpopular Robin isn't helping her cause with whininess in the kitchen; clearly she has no concept of the other chef's time, as she has immunity and no need to worry. From the early looks of it, Ron might be in trouble tonight. He has struggled recently, and he doesn't seem to exactly get the concept of reworking paella, so look for a possible trip to the bottom three.

In the little teaser over the break, Mike again asked about the make-up of eggs florentine, and his fellow contestants surprisingly seemed just as clueless. By the time of his presentation, to Penn and Teller, and the judges, now regrettably including Toby Young, at least for the night, he seems to have gotten the concept, but not well, as the judges aren't fans. Bryan's take on a caesar salad is more successful on all levels. Laurine and Michael are up next, and the former's fish and chips failed, while the latter's bizzare tuna "reuben" actually pleases most of the judges. Jen is in the same boat, as her initial worries prove unfounded and her "lasagna" earns raves, but her fellow presenter Ash stumbles with his version of Shepherd's Pie. Ron confirms my suspicions and seems to book a trip in front of the judges with an all-around mess. Eli, on the other hand, should be safe with his sweet and sour pork. Ashley and Kevin both please the judges, and may crack the top three, but Robin should be thankful that she snatched immunity at the quick fire, because she gets no love from the judges tonight at the elimination challenge.

As Padma calls Ashley, Kevin, Michael, and Jen up to the top four, Jen gives her a priceless "give me a break" face, shocked at the success of a dish she considered a potential flop. She doesn't earn the win, though, as Kevin comes through for his second win and grabs a set of cookware to boot. Laurine, Ron, and Ash aren't as lucky, with the "most disappointing" dishes of the evening, according to a forthcoming Padma. Ash digs himself into an early hole, basically admitting that he had no idea what he was doing this round. Laurine at least realizes her mistake in overcooking her fish and admits that she's out of her comfort zone. Ron takes probably the toughest criticism for his paella, and the loveable Haitian should pack his knives tonight.

Tom delivers the final summaries of shame, and Ron takes his expected final bow with dignity, shaking each judge's hand and fondly reflecting on his time on the show. Sad to see him go, but he seemed out of his depth the last two weeks. Next week looks sufficiently wacky, with the chefs sprinting through a home kitchen and angling for counter space. Hopefully, you'll be there to follow the action live again!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Free Frozen Yogurt at Sprinkles

Where: Sprinkles at 36th and Chestnut
When: All Day, Wednesday September 23rd
What: Free Frozen Yogurt
How Much: FREE!

Monday, September 21, 2009

5-Course Dessert Dinner at Union Trust Steakhouse for $60

Where: Union Trust Steakhouse at 717 Chestnut Street
When: Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 7 pm
What: 5-course prix fix menu comprised entirely of desserts, with each dish paired with a wine or beer
How Much:$60 per person
Reservations required. Please call 215-925-6000.

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