Monday, November 30, 2009

A Vegan Thanksgiving

The day before Thanksgiving began with a successful second loaf of vegan cornbread to supplement the loaf which I made the previous day for stuffing.  What resulted was a wonderfully golden loaf of corny goodness that was not too dense, not too sweet, and entirely irresistible.  Needless to say, I have been picking at it all day and can only hope that there will be enough to do my cornbread stuffing tomorrow! That was the entire reason I made this gorgeous loaf, pictured below, but I think it will turn into a standard in my repertoire.  Not to mention it's vegan!
Amazing Vegan Cornbread
Ingredients:

- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 Tbsp if flaxseeds ground mixed with 1 Tbsp of unsweetened almond milk
- 1/3 cup agave (can add more for a sweeter bread, mine is for stuffing)
- 1/2 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)
- 1 cup almond milk

Instructions:

Just pop it in the oven in a glass baking dish (sprayed w/ oil) for 20-25 minutes at 400 F, until it is deliciously golden brown!  Like I said; it is a really easy mixture of ingredients.  I proceeded to cut it into tiny cubes and lay the pieces on a baking sheet on top of the stove (since I had more oven-work to do) to dry out for the stuffing.




The stuffing I made with it turned out to be fantastic as well:


Vegan Crustless Sweet Potato Pie
 My next effort in the culinary works was roasting 4 sweet potatoes in the oven for my vegan, crust-less pie.  All I used was a blender and a spoon. How ridiculously awesome is that?


Ingredients:

- 1.5 cup almond milk (unsweetened)
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
- 2 cup mashed, roasted sweet potato (yum! feed Ian the skins :D)
Mix these together in the blender (purée) and add to it:
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup light brown surgar (depending on sweetness at this point)
- 1 Tbsp molasses
- 1/4 tsp. each ground ginger, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg
- 1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon

 Instructions:
Let it whirl until totally puréed in the blender and pour into a pie plate (ideally 9").  It rises quite a bit during the cooking process and gets a really nice crust on the top.  The sides act as a sort of crust as well, and it doesn't require the heavy pastry that is so characteristic of a pie.

Try out this avante-garde style of pie-making, and see what people say when there is no buttery pastry to bite into.  I guarantee only the staunchest of pie purists will even chide you as they gobble down this marvelous concoction regardless!  My family, omnivores and pie-enthusiasts alike, gobbled it up, and my dad, one who does not like dessert in the least, actually raved about it as well.  I was amazed.

Dolsot Bibimbap



Photo by Alice Gao

My Kosher Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I ate at my grandparents' house in New Jersey. What was special about this meal is that it didn't have all of the trappings of a normal thanksgiving meal.  Our thanksgiving mixed ethnic dishes with the traditional thanksgiving fare. The meal was kosher fleyshik, meaning it was a meat meal (since turkey is counted as meat) and so no dairy products could be used as ingredients in any of the dishes, in addition to normal laws of kashrut (no pork being the most famous, etc.).
The normal Thanksgiving dishes were there for the most part, though those were not exactly the highlights of the meal. There was a distressing lack of stuffing and gravy, which was problematic because the turkey was fairly dry (though there was a decent cranberry sauce). The mashed sweet potatoes made with bits of pineapple and topped with gelatin-free marshmallows were good, but a little bit too sweet. The freshly baked multi-grain rolls were great, as they were hot and had a nice full, but not overwhelming, flavor.
The Jewish components of the meal were the stand outs. A pareve (no dairy or meat ingredients) pea soup with barley was the first thing served, and in addition to being tasty, it wasn't too watery or too stew-like. At the table we also had potato knishes, which at our table were mashed potatoes inside round dough sacks; when hot, they went quite well with mustard (though eventually they became cold and fairly tasteless given the lack of seasonings inside). The salad course consisted of Israeli salad, which is essentially diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions with creamy tahini, which is made from ground sesame seeds and other flavors (lemon juice, salt), used as a dressing. The highlight of the afternoon, undoubtedly, had to be my Savta's (grandmother's) braised brisket.  The night before, my friends parents were kind enough to let me try some of their brisket, which had just finished smoking and was very hot and very good. However, the one during the meal blew that one out of the water. The smell of it was enough to make me forget about everything else on the table. The taste, the juices, and the tenderness of the slices all combined to form an amazing meat dish. Overall, what the traditional meal lacked in taste the ethnic foods more than made up for.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Challah


My mom is Jewish, which of course means a lot that is completely extraneous to this blog. One very relevant result is that I know how to make the same challah that has been in my family since, well, forever. The Appelbaum (my mom’s maiden name) challah is not like the one you will find in fro gro, which is quite good. I’m warning you that it is not sweet and therefore goes very well with honey. I love it though and can eat (and have eaten) the entire bread in one sitting!

Ingredients:
1 package yeast
1 cup warm water
3 eggs (you only need the yolk for one of them)
2 Tbl oil
1 Tbl sugar
1 tsp salt
A little less than 4.5 cups flour


1. Mix the yeast with the warm water. Stir until dissolved
2. Add 2 eggs, oil, sugar, salt. Mix.
3. Here’s where it gets a little touchy-feely. Add about 4 cups of flour until you can knead the dough. Stop adding flour once the dough feels a little sticky.
4. Knead
5. Brush a little oil on top
6. Cover with a damp towel for 2 hours – 1 day
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
8. Knead. Add more flour if needed until the dough is just a little sticky.
9. Braid
10. Brush the egg yolk all over the top and sides
11. Let the bread rise for ½ an hour
12. Bake for about 20 minutes. I like to undercook mine so this could theoretically take anywhere from 15-40 minutes.


Remember – don’t be stingy on honey!
Photo by Dana Robinson

A Bountiful Feast (part two)

The Friday after Thanksgiving was significantly more laid back. A little more than 1/10 the people were in attendance and there was a discernible beginning and end to the meal, as opposed to the hungry pillaging of Thursday. Only one turkey this time but it elicited quite the positive buzz. My boyfriend was able to sit down with us on Friday (Thursday was a hectic bustling between both our houses that ended in separate meals but plenty of relative interactions) and claims he has never had such a juicy turkey - quite the bold proclamation considering his mother was responsible for their thanksgiving turkey. The turkey was grilled on a charcoal grill and had a similar taste to the smoked turkey (in fact, the most common reaction was to the smokeyness) but was by far the most moist and tender of all four turkeys this year. We served it with the (inevitable) leftover mash potatoes and my mother's intensely handmade gravy. Turkey neck, giblets, hearts, and wings were roasted in a pan filled with chopped onions and apples sprinkled with rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage. After the pan had accumulated the coveted "brown bits" at the bottom, it was basted with hard apple cider. Meanwhile, apple cider and chicken broth reduced in another pan. The apples, onions, and basted turkey bits were added to the cider and chicken broth along with cream and more seasoning for a worth-the-labor apple turkey onion gravy. She has made it every year and people are newly impressed each time.


Dessert was the leftovers from Thursday. Knowing I would have to write this blog I admitted for the first time this year to my family, and I will do so publicly here, that I, Hannah Keyser, do not like pie. I realize this makes me unAmerican or even insane but it's true. Why separate the sweetness from the comforting carbs into two separate elements? I recognize that this makes me uniquely unqualified to comment of Thanksgiving dessert but I suffered through a few bites of pecan pie and I can tell you that if I liked pie, I would have loved this pie. I even when back for a second bite. But Thursday I indulged in dessert worth indulging in: chocolate cake. The same culinarily ambitious aunt responsible for the fried turkey has recently pursued a cake decorating hobby that results in multilayer confections that are almost too sweet to eat. This particular one was a chocolate cake base, a chocolate mousse, a while chocolate mouse and chocolate ganache on the top and outside. It was not Thanksgiving at all and I loved it.




Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Blog Lovin' - Because you still have leftovers


Blog: Not So Humble Pie


Get ready to be more thankful for your leftovers.  Check out this blog for a recipe for turkey eggs benedict. 




Note: Click here to see the original post.

Turducken

This Thanksgiving, I thought I knew what I was going to eat, you know, the regulars: turkey, mash potatoes, stuffing, a dinner role, and a piece of pumpkin pie. While your family members may be a little more surprising, the food of Thanksgiving will be the same year in and year out. This Thanksgiving though, one of my culinary dreams was unexpectedly realized, my aunt made a Turducken.

I have wanted to try Turducken since I first hear about it a few years ago. There is something completely novel about stuffing two birds inside of another bird, and filling that with stuffing. I have tried in vain a couple of times to convince my family to make Turducken, but since many of them subscribe to a vegetarian lifestyle, that was a hard sell. So I thought I would have to wait to try Turducken until a friend's family took pity on me or until the time came that I would have to make a large meal for many people, an event still many years off.

My aunt ordered it off the internet, and I regret not asking the website so that I could investigate the stuffing that came in the bird(s). I believe it was a traditional stuffing of offal, bread and nuts. The meats were not immediately distinguishable, which was funny, as we were all sitting around the table asking, wait, which one is that? After a few taste tests we were able to determine what was duck and what was turkey, but the chicken remained elusive, and no one is really sure there was a chicken in there at all. The tastes of the meats and the stuffing melded together through the long cooking process. The duck did not taste exactly like duck, and the turkey tasted a little different too, but in any case, it was delicious.

The Turducken was a truly a dream realized, so this Thanksgiving, I was thankful for my extended family who love a good gastronomic adventure.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Martha Stewart Thanksgiving

Last night was Thanksgiving dinner at the Russo house. We had all finally settled around the large dining room table that had already been set with the festive table covers, tablecloth, flowers, and food on the buffet station. My grandpa started talking by telling us this ha…ha…ha…. joke, and then my mom gave us all a prelude to the meal. Apparently, everything came from Martha Stewart. She wanted us to decide whether it was worth it or not for her to come out of jail to make this meal for us. So with that we all went up to try some of the Martha Stewart food we did want to get cold.

First on the line was a buttery potato dish that was just so inviting. I’m quite certain butter makes everything taste and look good. Next was cornbread. I had already sneaked a bite in before dinner so I knew it was delicious. Following the cornbread in the lineup came the string beans, roasted vegetables and squash, wild rice with cranberries and chopped pecans, and finally the turkey.

My eyes satisfied, I proceeded to the tasting part of the meal. The potatoes were so mushy and buttery they just melted in my mouth. They were so incredibly rich. The cornbread had that taste like it was doughy, but it wasn’t! It’s kind of like undercooked bread that I find so delicious. I actually held off on the string beans. The vegetables and rice were, I’m sorry to say, not so enticing. The turkey however, was amazing. As always, my mom knew exactly how to cook it. The meat was so juicy, the apple juice sauce so sweet, and each perfectly cut that everyone gave her so many compliments. We had a 15 pound turkey for seven of us, meaning there were definitely plenty of leftovers!

My family time during all of thanksgiving was so nice. The food, of course, was a major highlight, but I think the best part is having my mom, dad, grandpa, and siblings all together to laugh at each other and occasionally with each other, and have these few times to share together. I hope everyone else’s Thanksgiving was as good as mine and that they are having a great time with their or someone else’s family!

Thankful For You, and You, and You, and You, and..

There are a lot of people at my Thanksgiving. We only gather with my Dad's side of the family - but he has 10 brothers and sisters and among them all I've racked up something like 30 cousins. It is not usual for our dinner to count to reach 60. And the amount of food we serve could feed twice that - and does with a follow up party the following day. My family is slightly crazy and completely unabashed and there are plenty of hilarious stories that provide conversation fodder for years to come - but that's a different blog.


The best part about all those people and all that food is all the options and innovations it allows for. For starters, there are four turkeys (technically, only three are served Thursday and one debuts on Friday). Here's the rundown:


1. Smoked: People love this Turkey. But even if they didn't, my Dad would make it anyway just for the sense of manliness that comes from smoking an entire turkey all day. All dinner he can't stop talking about the subtle flavors different woods impart - hickory this year. The favor is (predictably) smokey and the meat moist from hours of brinning pre-smoke. That's him with his masterpiece to the right.
2. Fried: My aunt and uncle fry an entire turkey and, like most fried food, it is sinfully good - crunchy skin, tender meat and surprisingly rich in flavor.
3. Charcoal Grill: This is today's turkey so so stayed tuned for an update on the the newest method.
4. Turducken: That's right, we had a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with stuffing courtesy of my culinarily ambitious aunt. When cut open it was a bit of a showstopper and people raved. One slice was almost enough for a full meal but on a holiday as decadent as Thanksgiving why not have meat with meat with more meat... plus everything else. The stuffing in the Turducken was bread and wild rice based with no meat - just different enough for people to take notice.

Side Dishes:
1. 30 pounds of mash potatoes: enough said.
2. cornbread: Ok, so the cornbread fell short this year. My grandmother offered to takeover one of my usual obligations and whether through ailing eyesight or negligence ended up using something other than corn. But we forgave her because her other carb contribution lived up to to its usual heady expectation.
3. homemade sourdough and pretzels: My grandmother has been making the bread for her family since my Dad sliced it for sandwiches in grade school. Nowadays, all 30 grandchildren flock to her house for fresh baked bread from miles away. My brother, Sam, is particularly enamored.
4. Cranberry sauce: This one has subsets. My immediate family takes great pride in our cranberry sauce and we whipped up options before the big day and were greeted by two more variations. Our classic cranberry sauce has a port wine base and lots of orange peels to add flavor (after a few days the peels become candied and are my favorite part). For a twist this year, we also made an "exotic" variation that included cardamon and tons of vanilla. It was certainly exotic, but for foodies looking to add some spice to one of the most classic meals of the whole year, it was a worthwhile adventure. The other chefs in the family (those responsible for the fried turkey and turducken) supplied a simple cranberry sauce and retro cranberry jello-like mold full of pineapple and strawberries. I regret being turned off by the texture because from my unscientific polling, it won in the "seconds" round.
5. Empanadas: So maybe the pilgrims and Native Americans didn't share these Spanish treats!


To save you any more salivation, I'll save the desserts for the round two wrap up after tonight's dinner. Happy Eating All!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Black Truffle Fettucine Alfredo Recipe


This recipe produces a delicious, rich pasta dish – a true comfort food. The fragrant earthy flavours of the winter black truffle (which, at $700 a pound, cost more than silver) transform this dish into an elegant example of haute cuisine. Of course, if you are not ready to invest in few ounces black gold, this dish may be prepared without the truffles and will still taste quite good!

Black Truffle Fettucine Alfredo:

For the Sauce:

2 cups cream
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup grated Parmagianno Reggiano
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano
Salt and freshly-cracked pepper to taste
1-2 grape-sized black truffles, peeled. (available at most gourmet foods markets)

1 pound fettucine, cooked al dente

Over medium heat, warm the cream and 7 tablespoons of the butter. Meanwhile, slice truffles thin, but not paper-thin. Sautée with remaining one-tablespoon butter over medium heat until aromatic and lightly browned. Once cream comes to a simmer, stir in cheese until melted and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Finally, toss with pasta and serve.

It's Up to You Morimoto

        A couple of weeks ago, my cousin took me out for lunch at Morimoto.  Morimoto has arguably the best Japanese food in Philly, so I was pretty excited for some good quality sushi. My cousin, however, being the experienced world traveler and food guru, recommended the omakase. I had never heard of the word, much less tried it so I decided to give it a shot.
              For those of you as cultured as I am in the art of Japanese cuisine, omakase (お任せ)translates to “it’s up to you.” Omakase gives a chance for the chef to have a little fun and showcase his cuisine through a series of dishes that change slightly with every visit. I likened it to Iron Chef where the chef chooses to prepare certain dishes to show his skill and creativity. The chef also uses some unique or higher quality ingredients, which makes for a luxurious experience. 
              Unfortunately, I missed out on having the best omakase in the world at the Tsukiji market in Tokyo this summer.  That doesn’t mean that I merely “settled” for the omakase at Morimoto. It was still quite good. The lunch omakase prices range from $40 to $80. I had the $60, and it was totally worth it. We had more than five courses and had some imported tuna belly and caviar.
              My personal favorites were the first and last course. The first course was toro tartare with caviar, tempura, scallions, and fresh wasabi. It had a very clean, refreshing taste. The spicy wasabi complemented the salty caviar, and the tempura flake added a nice crunchy texture that I really like. The last course was flourless chocolate cake with mousse and caramel sauce. The cake was 56% cocoa and came in just the right portion size. The mousse contrasted nicely with the cake, which made it rich but not overwhelming. I never imagined that the best flourless chocolate cake I have ever had would come out of a Japanese place.
              Other courses included a shrimp tempura (tasty but kind of average), scallop carpaccio (it just melts in your mouth), Chilean seabass with a black bean sauce (a little salty for my liking), and sashimi that included tuna belly imported from Japan (the best sushi I’ve had since going to Tokyo this summer). Overall, I found omakase quite satisfying. For the variety and quality of foods you try in one sitting, it really is worth every penny. 

Article by Samantha Shen

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

WIMB: A cautious proclamation of victory

[Part 4 of Worms in my Basement]


It's been about a month and a half since the inception of my assault on the fruit flies and I am very happy to report that I can count on my own digits the number of fruit flies I have seen in the past week.


I am amazed at the effectiveness of the various components of the Operation particularly because I found so few success stories in my searches for advice on the situation. I am extremely relieved that I have (hopefully) avoided the eviction of the worms from the basement. I have started bringing the worms food scraps again and there seems to be no resulting increase in the fruit fly population. I am careful to bury the food scraps well and am remaining vigilant for the time being.


Another exciting development is that there is some really nice-looking compost in the bin. It is now mixed in with the unprocessed scraps but I was able to separate out some of the finished product to give to a friend. Hopefully it proves healthy and full of nutrients in its first application!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Penn Music Mentoring Bake Sale

What: Penn Music Mentoring Bake Sale
Where: Locust Walk (rain location: Houston Hall)
When: Monday 10:00 - 2:00
Price: $1 biscotti and 3/$2 holiday cookies


Support local music education while enjoying delicious baked goods and live holiday music!

Funnel Cake

You can now make funnel cake yourself. In your dorm. That’s right – funnel cake is no longer reserved for boardwalks and theme parks.


I first came to this realization when shopping with my mom at Bed Bath and Beyond when I saw a make-your-own funnel cake mix. I had always loved professionally made funnel cakes, so naturally this possibility intrigued me. I waited for the opportunity for which I could make the whole batter: my hall’s Thanksgiving dinner.


I quickly finished dinner to prepare the much anticipated dessert #4. As always, I ran into a few minor glitches which hopefully you can avoid:




Problems
1. Smoke alarm
2. Lots of little burnt pieces
3. Inability to flip
4. Look like blobs


Solutions
1. Put the fan on and make sure nothing is under the burners.
2. Try to take the little pieces out after each funnel cake and pour the batter close to the oil.
3. Use tongs to flip
4. Who cares? It looks homemade...


Otherwise these were extremely easy to make. I just added 2 ¼ cups of water and poured the mix into vegetable oil. Once the bottom got brown I flipped the funnel cake, placed it on a plate, put powdered sugar on it, and served!

Caprese Salad


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Blog Lovin' - Apples to applesauce



Blog: honey & jam

Check out this blog for a delicious recipe for homemade applesauce--perfect for Thanksgiving!


Note: Click here to see the original post.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fun Food Fact!

Truffles are some of the worlds most expensive foods. Ironically, the latin origin of the word truffle comes from the latin word tuber, which means "lump." Well, these lumps of deliciousness can go from anywhere between $130 to $2,000 a pound and come in four main varieties: white truffle, black Truffle, Chinese truffle and black summer truffle.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Food Event


Coffee Smart

I've been drinking coffee now for about two years, but it wasn't until I got to Penn that I really became "addicted."  I need my cup to start my day and to keep me up through those long nights of studying.  I love living in Hill for the social aspect and the dining hall, but also because Starbucks is right across the street.  I drink my coffee black sometimes with Splenda, but the stronger the coffee the better. As my cups became more frequent, I began experimenting with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. A hall-mate of mine discovered, and I agree, that cinnamon and nutmeg are definitely the best combination. I also tried and enjoyed Cafe Americano.


After a month at Penn I thought I was a coffee expert. Another of my hall-mates proved me wrong by simply asking if I prefer medium or dark roast. I had no clue. He taught me about the different roasts and blends, about the processing of the coffee beans, and about an amazing little shop (also conveniently across the street) where you can get the smoothest and richest blends for cheaper than your cup at Starbucks. Avril 50 is located on Sansom (look for the yellow awning) next to Bubble Tea and has a "hole-in-the-wall" sort of feel. The owner brews different blends daily, including his special "Avril 50 blend" as well as a Dark Sumatra and Dark Chocolate Almond blend. Now I ditch the liquor flavored coffees from Starbucks for my cup of Avril 50 or Dark Sumatra. I'm amazed at the intricacies of what is to many people just their morning caffeine fix and I'm excited to learn and explore more!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top Chef Season 6: Episode 12 Recap

Last night, the top five "Cheftestants" had their hands full with an episode inspired by the legendary culinary competition, the Bocuse d'Or. The quickfire involved creating a dish that featured a "protein inside of a protein inside of a protein," drawing inspiration from guest Gavin Kaysen's dish from the 2007 Bocuse d'Or. Jennifer emerged from her recent slump (yay!) with a calamari steak stuffed with scallop and salmon and won the challenge and thirty extra minutes to cook during the elimination challenge, and boy did she need it.


The elimination challenge was also in line with the Bocuse d'Or, as the chefs had to choose either Atlantic salmon or lamb and prepare it with two garnishes for a panel of esteemed guest diners, including Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud. Each presentation had its own problems, but Kevin's impeccable preparation overcame the judges' qualms that it was too simple, and he took home victory, along with a $30,000 bonus prize and an opportunity to vie for a spot on the US team for the next installment of the Bocuse d'Or. Eli's lamb sausage experiment was not nearly as successful, though, and he had to pack his knives just short of the finale trip to Napa. Next week, the production relocates to Napa Valley, and one more chef will go home before the grand finale.

Let's get as many Shabbat dinners as possible going on in the Radian at the same time!
Sign up below to host your friends for Shabbat dinner on Friday, November 20 in your Radian apartment.


Plan to celebrate Shabbat however you want (cook dinner with your friends, order in, organize a potluck, etc.!) and we'll help you plan AND pay for it!
All hosts and their guests are invited to free Capogiro and discussion led by Rabbi Joel. If you haven't met him yet, this is your lucky day! We'll meet in the Club Lounge on the 11th floor at 9 PM.

Rabbi Joel's discussion topic:
Bringin' Sexy Back: Jewish perspectives on sex and relationships -



Come and explore various understandings of the most intimate of relationships. Study the Talmud's position on positions, the rabbis' view on foreplay, and discuss what it takes to be in a committed relationship.

Questions? Contact Arielle Salomon

Crepes

Crepes: by Morgan Russo
Do you ever want to treat yourself to something yummy? Maybe as a reward for getting everything done on your to-do list or just because you’re just getting that craving? I get that feeling a lot – generally for chocolate. Chocolate. What a wonderful word. My freshman year I was surrounded by so many different choices to satisfy this craving. I sampled everything – from Naked Chocolate to Insomnia Cookies to the chocolate cookies at Einstein (by the way these are absolutely amazing and only 99 cents). However there was one place that really hit the spot. Le Petite Creperie. Their savory crepes are amazing but I must admit the ones with Nutella are heavenly. One bite and you are floating an inch above the ground in a state of utter bliss.

Unfortunately, I ran into a minor crisis this year. I am living in Rodin, a fair walk from my portal to heaven. After a brief moment of panicking I quickly came up with a solution: I can make my own crepes! I got a crepe pan and started making them the next day. I had to experiment a bit before getting them right, but I think I’m getting pretty good at them by now. I get really creative with the filling now as well. Instead of just Nutella, I’ve expanded my range (believe it or not) to include granola, jellies, fruit butters, honey, peanut butter, chocolate almond butter, marshmallow fluff, etc. 

I make crepes for my living group and hall now and I love it! The best part is seeing my friends get transformed into another world, just like I was. I don’t make them pay or anything; the smiles are the best payment ☺.

Here’s the recipe I use. It says it makes 8, but my crepe pan is kind of small so I can make a lot more (I think about 15).  I got this recipe from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/basic-crepes/detail.aspx

Ingredients:
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 cup water
¼ cup butter, melted
½ tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions:
  1. Mix all the ingredients together and beat until well combined.
    Put in fridge for 2 hours to a day (this is not in the directions for this recipe, but I’ve realized you should do this for the right consistency)
    Pour a thin layer onto a pan over high heat.
    Once the bottom is slightly brown flip.
    Add whatever ingredients you want to one side of the crepe – be creative!
    Flip the other half over – kind of like an omlette
    Serve! You can put powdered sugar on top. 

Photo by MAGGIE EDKINS

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Sayonara Sushi: The Rise of Izakayas in America

    Sayonara Sushi: The Rise of Izakayas in America 

    Ten years ago, the idea of eating slices of raw fish dipped in soy sauce was a completely foreign concept to most Americans.  Fast forward to the present, and sushi has become a fixture in mainstream American dining, with a plethora of Japanese restaurants in every major city.  Now, the newest up-and-coming Japanese dining trend is the izakaya.   

    Izakayas are Japanese drinking establishments that specialize in serving small dishes meant to be shared by everyone at the table.  Initially, izakayas catered to Japanese male blue-collar workers as places to unwind and drink after work.  However, now these Japanese-style pubs attract a larger demographic, including college students, travelers and workers of both genders.  Izakayas are immensely popular in Japan.  Wherever I went in Tokyo, I could not avoid the trademark red paper lanterns hanging in the doorways of the myriad izakayas lining the streets.  It's understandable why people keep flooding these izakayas given their simple yet effective concept: a wide selection of delicious and inexpensive Japanese food served in a casual, congenial atmosphere.
      
    Recently, the izakaya model has spread to America, with New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco being hotspots for these drinking destinations.  On my last trip to New York, I stopped by St. Mark's Place, where most of the izakayas in the city arelocated.  On a Tuesday night, I had to wait in line for a table at a tiny, hole-in-the-wall izakaya called Yakitori Taisho, which was as crowded as any izakaya in Tokyo, albeit much more boisterous and not as clean.  Judging by the sheer number of people that I saw walking in and out of different izakayas, however, it is clear that Americans have fully embraced the izakaya.  Their rise in popularity stems from the current tapas (small-plates) trend combined with the surge of sushi and Japanese restaurants on the dining scene - a fusion of both crazes into one.   

    Another reason why izakayas are so appealing is the vast range of dishes they offer.  At Yakitori Boy in Philadelphia's Chinatown, selections include sushi, yakitori, soba, tempura, oden (fish cakes), teriyaki and donburi, just to name a few.  The encyclopedic menu, with page after page filled with pictures, can be exciting but also overwhelming to choose from.  Luckily, since the dishes are meant to share, there is no need to be too picky - just order a number of items that you want to try, and have a little bit of everything.  True to its name, Yakitori Boy is known for its yakitori (skewered chicken) and kushiyaki (non-poultry skewers).  When you walk into the restaurant, the first thing you see is the open kitchen, where the chefs cook the skewers over charcoal grills.  There is a dizzying selection of yakitori - with everything from chicken skin and short ribs to squid legs and yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls).  The quail egg wrapped in bacon, one of their most popular yakitori, is fantastic - soft, chewy and savory.  There are some dishes on the menu that many people probably are not familiar with, including okonomiyaki, a seafood and vegetable pancake, and takoyaki, fried octopus ball-cake, but izakayas are all about trying a range of creative dishes, and that is what makes them different from your typical American pub or bar.  

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    A Splash of Scarlet




    Photo by Sika Gasinu

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Saturday Blog Lovin' - Something for your noggin






     Blog: Natalie's Killer Cuisine

    This blog puts an interesting twist on a holiday favorite with a recipe for eggnog ice cream.  Check out this blog for other seasonal and delicious recipes. 



    Note: Click here to see the original post.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Fun Food Fact---The Blueberry Mystery


    Two summers ago, I took a week-long course mainly based in agricultural and food sciences at Cornell University. All of the students enrolled in the course visited the university's blueberry orchard.  As we sampled the many varieties of blueberry, we were treated to some unexpected blueberry-related information. It turns out that the majority of a blueberry's flavor lies in its skin. A neat trick that any skeptics out there can try is to carefully peel the skin off the blueberry as much as possible, rinse the remaining part of the blueberry, and then eat it. The fruit should no longer have its distinct blueberry flavor. What is more interesting, however, is to ask someone else to close their eyes as you feed them the blueberry. You may be surprised to find that many people cannot tell what they are eating! 

    Photo by  Zachary Wasserman

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Unusual Spices

    Usual Spices

    Spice:Lemon Balm
    And the winner is…Named “Herb of the Year, 2007” by the International Herb Association!
    Where it’s from: Originally grown in southern Europe and northern Africa.
    What it looks and tastes like: Deliciously green, it has citrus and mint undertones.
    Culinary versatility indeed: Frequently combined with allspice, bay leaves, mint, pepper, rosemary and thyme, it is used in green salads, stir fries, herb butter and stuffing. Try your sorbets, fruit drinks, pastries with a sprig or splash of lemon balm.
    “Balm of Hurt Minds”: William Shakespeare was a purported fan of lemon balm; in Antony and Cleopatra and Macbeth he uses lemon balm to shake his protagonists out of their sorrowful stupor. Not surprisingly, lemon balm has mild anti-depressive properties and is used commonly in teas and essential oils for anxiety, fatigue and headaches.
    Other Health benefits: Lemon balm has been revered for centuries for its healing properties and its power of longevity.
    Spicy? Quite the contrary
    Recipe idea: Use it the next time you make cheesecake!
    Where to buy it: Blake’s Herb Center 1250 N 52nd St

    Spice: Sumac
    Misunderstood: Sumac is unfortunately often confused with its close cousin poison oak, a rather decorative red plant found on the roadside in the U.S.
    “Will the real Sumac please stand up?” Sumac is a fiery red berry with a fruity-tart flavor, and not at all malicious!
    Where it’s from: Found around the Mediterranean area including Sicily and Iran.
    Casa Blanca’s secret ingredient: Arabian, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine use sumac in place of lemon, vinegar or tamarind, because of its more subtle astringency. The spice is great for grilling, on fish, chicken, potatoes and beets. The next time you go to Casa Blanca or Hanan Middle Eastern food carts, look out for the sprinkles of red on your grilled chicken or kefta – that’s sumac. Whole or cracked Sumac berries are sometimes soaked in warm water to create a fruity, sour juice for marinades and salad dressings. The powdered form teams up with thyme, sesame seeds and salt in a common Middle Eastern spice blend called za’atar
    Health Benefits: Sumac is a diuretic and is used in a tonic to relieve upset stomachs and fevers.
    Red= hot? Only a 1/10.
    Recipe Idea: Devilled-egg salad sandwich!
    Where to buy it: The Spice Corner in the Italian Market, Whole Foods.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Live Blogging Top Chef Season 6: Episode 11

    10:15
    After a week hiatus, Top Chef: Las Vegas is back, and the final six are facing off tonight, as the competition gets down to the wire. The chefs head to the Venetian, as opposed to the usual M Hotel, for the Quickfire, and Padma surprises them by ordering room service for herself and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. They have thirty minutes to whip up a meal and serve it to the ladies, who are relaxing in bed in their suite. Everyone is a little on edge, and preparation seems a little more hectic than usual, which is saying something. Nigella slams Bryan's bizarre vanilla/crab combo and Robin's blintz, but she praises Eli's reuben eggs benedict and Kevin's take on steak and eggs, ulimately rewarding the former, who earns a spot in the new Top Chef Quickfire cookbook. The elimination challenge involves each chef cooking a dish inspired by one of the city's most famous casinos for a crowd of 175. Good luck conjuring up a recipe inspired by the Bellagio, Robin...

    10:23
    The contestants have a day to explore their respective casinos, taking in the over-the-top and unusual features of each one. Michael opts to take his New York, New York assignment as a tribute to the city's firefighters, but Jen has no idea what to do with her dish inspired by the Excalibur. Bryan draws inspiration from the Mandalay Bay's shark tank, and self-proclaimed artist Robin decides to base her meal around a huge ceiling sculpture in the hotel's lobby. Ok, you do that, and let's see how it turns out for you. Kevin's only assessment of the Mirage is that it's "tropical", which I guess he could take in a number of directions. Only Eli is really disappointed, learning that Circus, Circus isn't exactly the big top that he expects, and he proceeds to vent to the rest of the chefs. Like he's going to earn much sympathy at this stage.

    10:38
    After such a tense Quickfire, dinner preparations are relatively tame, and all of the chefs seem to have developed ideas that are at least somewhat relevant to their assignments. Whether they actually succeed, though, remains to be seen. Once they arrive at the venue where they'll be serving their guests, though, Michael gets nervous about finishing his chicken, and Robin's sugar pieces break apart completely. The judges' evaluations get off to a weird start, with Jennifer's beef that they hardly say anything about at all. They love Kevin's salmon, though, and his line to the finale seems very much intact. Michael's breaded chicken and blue cheese disc also earns top marks. Robin's overdue elimination may finally come tonight courtesy of the tepid response to her panna cotta. The brother's go two for two tonight, as Bryan's halibut definitely pleases. Eli serves up one of the strangest dishes of the season, though, with a soup combining raspberries, popcorn, and God knows what else, completing a pretty obvious top/bottom divide for the night.

    10:53
    The suspected top three, Kevin, Michael, and Bryan, take their assumed places in front of the judges and have very little explaining to do before Nigella announces Michael as the winner once again. He takes home a bottle of Terlato wine and a three day trip to Napa, not bad for a night's work. Jennifer admits her faults, as usual, and the judges come down on her tough beef and bland sauce, while they accuse both Robin and Eli of falling short of their lofty ambitions. Padma is especially harsh on Eli, calling his meal something that she "would never want to eat again." So will Jen's downward slide cost her tonight or will Eli's first major stumble, and it's a big one, send him home, or will Robin FINALLY pack her knives?

    11:00
    With tears already streaming down her face, Robin gets her long-overdue boot. As the weeks went on, her abrasive personality became more and more grating, and she outlasted many more deserving chefs. We're left with a totally deserving top five, and next week looks like a major test, with uber-chef Thomas Keller and a mysteriously challenging task.

    Dinner with Morgan Russo

    Dinner with Morgan Russo (fellow Penn Appetit blogger)

    Morgan and I "food met" just a few weeks ago, when she interviewed me for a food and culture class. (Anyone else think that sounds like the greatest class ever?) I say "food met" because we are on the club swim team together and neither one of us knew about our mutual interest in food. Anyway, we did the interview questions and soon moved into a less formal conversation. We talked about our own personal eating habits and what kind of foods we liked. She also let me see her books from the food class, which I want to start on as soon as those pesky exams are over! We had a lot to say to one another, so we decided to continue the conversation over a dinner the following week.

    Morgan loves to cook, and she made LOTS of pasta and vegetables for us! She used whole grain pasta, which went really well with the herbs, cheese and zucchini. We soon discovered that the pasta tasted better as we added more olive oil and garlic. Morgan cooked two vegetable dishes as well, one of which was a spicy Indian dish (we also have a taste for spice in common) and the other a more traditional zucchini and pepper dish, heavy on the butter. We added more spice and improved the curry as the meal progressed. The buttered vegetables were perfect as they started, Morgan and I agreed. Basically, butter, cheese, and garlic were the star seasonings of the night.

    Dinner with Morgan was a nice venture back into home cooking for me; my love for restaurant food and microwave dinners is no big secret. However, I now see it as an experience that highlights the experimentation involved in cooking. We played around with cheeses and spices; I had a heavy hand with her garlic. The food fit our tastes more as we moved through the dinner, showing the progressive art behind cooking. Chefs have a lot of freedom in their dishes, although maybe less if they bake. Even just on our Thursday evening together, we created new things as we went along, which is one of the best powers possessed by those who prepare food.

    And thanks again for the food, Morgan! It was truly delicious.

    Food Cart Culture

    While looking at the preceptorials offered this semester, I saw a preceptorial on Food Cart Culture...of course I had to sign up.  After being initially waitlisted, I was accepted and given the opportunity to listen toa rousing discussion regarding the culture behind the food cart as well as to devour free sandwich from Hemo's.  They offered us chicken, steak, or vegetarian sandwiches, all served with either ketchup or the irresistible Hemo sauce.  Naturally we all devoured the sandwiches out on the sidewalk in the rain before we could even make it back to the classroom.

    Our professor was entirely unsure what she meant by the name of this preceptorial.  So she really brought us there to ask us our opinions on what food carts are and what sort of role they play in our culture.  We discussed different concepts regarding food carts such as money, business, ethnic cuisines, standards at food carts, as well as connotations of food carts in Philadelphia versus other cities and countries.  Some well-traveled students offered their opinions and experiences regarding food carts in other countries and the possible socioeconomic status linked with them.  Other students discussed their favorite food carts in Philadelphia and whether or not they had preconceived notions regarding food carts before coming to Penn.  Obviously we took a survey of our favorite food carts as well as the sorts of offerings to which we were drawn to as consumers.  Interestingly, though we did not choose Hemo's for our free excursion, it turned out to be one of the class favorites!  Besides the classic sandwich trucks such as Hemo's, fruit trucks are also very popular.

    One thing I found most riveting in the discussion was the connotations regarding gender and food carts, not to mention the name food cart versus food truck.  Apparently in Philly, they are food trucks.  Elsewhere, they are called food carts.  Regardless, the class unanimously agreed that food carts are male-dominated eating establishment.  Though fruit trucks are popular with both men and women searching a nice in-between class snack, our class had the notion that generally men eat at food carts due to the swiftness of service and the generally female disinterest in eating alone.  The women in the class vocalized the importance women place on eating together as a social activity, whereas all agreed that men eat simply to reduce hunger.  Food carts will always be a prominent hang-out for Penn students, for they are easy to find, cheaper than dining halls, varied in their offerings, and aware of regulars.  A google search willl bring up countless websites and blogs dedicated to these eateries, and there are several excellent student-created resources online for food cart reviews right here in Philadelphia.  There's no reason to hesitate....try them all!

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    "Food For Democracy: From Neighborhood to Nation"

    The Fox Leadership Program Politics of Food Speaker Series, FarmEcology, and The Food Trust Present:

    "Food For Democracy: From Neighborhood to Nation"
    Discourse and Refreshments
     with Debra Eschmeyer.

    November 11th, 5 p.m.
    Stiteler Hall Forum
    Food will be served courtesy of Bon Appetite!!!

    Debra Eschmeyer is an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Food and Society Fellow and the Marketing and Outreach Director of the National Farm to School Network <http://www.farmtoschool.org/> and the Center for Food & Justice. Debra’s previous non-profit work spans the globe in the humanitarian, conservation, sustainable agriculture, and food justice realms. She works from her fifth-generation family farm in Ohio, where she continues her passion for organic farming raising fruits, vegetables, chickens, and pigs.

    please circulate email/flyer widely!
    We look forward to seeing you there!

    Craving a Caprese Salad

    For the last few weeks the only thing I've really wanted to eat for dinner is a caprese salad. I cannot explain this sudden craving, I have never held a great love for caprese salads, and I have to admit I do not even like tomatoes that much. For about the last two weeks however, I've had a caprese salad five nights out of seven.
    Over the weeks, my caprese salad has changed and a matured. At first, I bought fairly cheap mozzarella, run of the mill tomatoes and I left out the basil completely, because no matter how many times I ate a caprese salad that week, I would never be able to use it all before it began to rot. And at first, with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar, that was more than enough.

    However, after one week of eating a middling caprese salad though, I still wanted to eat the salad, but I wanted to eat a better one. I bought better mozzarella and I bit the bullet and bought basil (and a considerable portion of that did in fact go bad). These were marked improvements in my nightly caprese salad experience.
    I am entering week three of this food craving, and believe me that is a long time to continue wanting to eat the same thing every night. And it is strange, I still want a caprese salad, but I don't want the same caprese salad. Last night, I improvised a tossed caprese salad and tonight I'll look into a caprese panini. And maybe one day soon I'll improvise my way out of this weird craving.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Bagels and Lox in West Philly

    On Sunday morning, a group of students gathered in Hillel to have a time-honored, traditional Jewish brunch. Two students, Alex Winters and Andrew Roberts, organized the brunch, ordering lox, bagels, and cream cheese from three eateries. The suppliers were Cream & Sugar, Metropolitan Bakery, and Koch's Deli. The goal: to see who had the best lox and bagels in West Philadelphia.

    There were three tables, each numbered, with loads of fresh bagels, lox and cream cheese sitting on tables (a.k.a. stations). However, Station 2 decided to prepare the sandwiches ahead of time, taking away the opportunity for us to make it with our own proportions. I took half of a plain bagel from each table, slathered it with cream cheese, and laid on some lox, and then sandwiched it. After eating all three, we reviewed the bagel, lox, and cream cheese from each place on a 1 to 10 scale.

    Station 2 had the typical greasy lox (which I enjoy) but unfortunately didn't put enough of it on the pre-made sandwich. Station 3's lox was just a little on the meaty side, and the lox at Station 1 was a nice in between. The flavors of the bagels from station 2 (I also tried their everything) was a little too strong, and the bagel itself was also a little bit hard, making it a little too chewy. Station 1's bagel initially also felt a little hard on the outside, but softened up on the inside and didn't take away from the sandwich. Station 3's bagel felt and tasted closest to a New York bagel and added to the sandwich. Station 2 initially didn't put enough cream cheese on the bagel for me to get an accurate idea of how their cream cheese was, but they provided a slightly runny chive cream cheese to add on. The taste was good, but the texture wasn't right. Station 1's cream cheese was similar to Station 3's (both traditional cream cheese) except that 1's was a touch sweeter.

    The participants received  the results of the voting a few hours after eating along with what the number of each station corresponded to. Metropolitan Bakery (Station 2) and their prepared sandwiches finished third in all 3 categories, all at least one point behind the 2nd place finisher. Station 1 corresponded to Cream & Sugar, and they had the distinction of having the best cream cheese and best lox. However, this wasn't enough to finish first overall, as they only won those 2 categories by a slim margin over Koch's (Station 3), which had the highest overall score due to their large margin of victory in the bagel category.

    Morimoto Sushi Closeup


    Photo by Jane Cheng

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Saturday Blog Lovin'- Unbreaded


    Blog: Unbreaded


    Philly may be known for its cheesesteaks, but that doesn't mean the city hasn't also become famous for its other inter-bread offerings. If sandwiches are your thing, check out Unbreaded, a Philly food blog dedicated to delving into the art of the sandwich as prepared across the city. If you think you've seen and tasted all of Philly's sandwich scene, think again--the blog specializes in reviewing often unexpected culinary combinations. And while many of the offerings may seem exotic, even if you're just craving an old fashion sequence of bread, meat, bread, this blog is the one for you.

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Fun Food Fact----Cranberries!

    This deliciously tart fruit  was named "crane berry" by Dutch and German settlers after the shape of the fruit's blossoms. When the vines bloom in the late spring and the flowers' light pink petals twist back they have a resemblance to the head and bill of a crane.  Eventually, linguistic laziness worked its magic and the word "crane berry" became cranberry.


    Also, 20% of the 400 million pounds of cranberries grown in the United States each year are consumed during Thanksgiving.




    Source: http://www.oceanspray.com/about/cranberry_history2.aspx

    WIMB: I'll take 5 million

    [Part 3 of Worms in my Basement]

    After extensive research, I energetically undertook a number of fruit fly extermination and suppression measures as part of Operation Fruit Fly Destruction. First, I set up several homemade traps around the bin. These are simply shallow dishes filled with apple cider vinegar and covered with plastic wrap with small holes poked in it. The flies are attracted to the sweet vinegar and can't get out once they've entered through one of the holes.

    I also hung fly tape and put a more solid lid on the bin. Many of the sites I read said that rotting food needs to be buried deep in the bin so that the flies can't reach it to lay their eggs. To this end, I disguised the bin's fertile breeding grounds with several inches of shredded newspaper.

    These strategies were all intended to trap the living fruit flies (which can live for up to 2 weeks) and to curb their reproduction. I still needed a way to ensure that my basement's fruit fly population would go extinct.

    Enter the nematodes. Beneficial nematodes are marketed as "microscopic warriors" that will eat fruit fly larvae, along with many other garden nuisances. They are often used by gardeners as an organic method for dealing with insect pests. Thus, I found myself, in the wee hours of the morning, ordering 5 million beneficial nematodes off the internet. When they arrived in the mail a couple days later, I applied them to the compost and encouraged them on their mission.

    I have had to stop adding more food to the bin as part of the Operation but, in the meantime, my roommates and I have become expert fruit fly trap craftswomen. We know which containers work best (the shallower the better) and the effectiveness of various liquids (red wine and my botched batch of ginger beer are quite tempting) as well as the ideal trapping spots. Now, it is simply a matter of keeping the traps fresh and being patient while the fruit flies live out their short lives and the nematodes work their magic.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Kiwi Berries




    My roommate's mom came to visit a few weeks ago and went grocery shopping for us. Among the many food necessities, she bought us kiwis. I was surprised, but at the same time, thrilled.  I didn't think many other people ate kiwis, and of all other fruits her mom could have bought, she bought kiwi? While I love kiwis, the peeling process always deterred me from eating them.
    Then, this past weekend, I was given a new product: kiwi berries. The fruit resembled grapes, yet tasted like the succulent kiwis I had always shied away from. About the size of a large grape, these fruits are coated with a greenish-blue tie dyed pattern.  The skin, much to my surprise, is completely edible. Overall, the unforeseen present as has become one of my favorite fruits. Not only does it merge a sweet berry taste with the tartness of a ripe kiwi, but also the hassle associated with kiwis is no longer present.


    Media photo from NZ KiwiBerry Growers Inc.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Fruit Crumble

    Fruit Crumble
    Ingredients:
    Filling
    6 cups of peeled and cored apples, sliced (usually about 6 large apples)
    2 tablespoon of sugar
    1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
    2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    Note: you can really use any type of fruit mixture, just keep the amount of fruit about the same. You can use just apples or berries or pears or apricots, etc.  I like to mix different types of fruit together, with apples making up the majority of the filling.  Usually, I use 4-5 apples and 1.5 cups of mixed berries.  If you add berries, you might need to add cornstarch to thicken and it might also take longer to cook. 


    Topping
    1.5 cups of all purpose flour
    1 cup of sugar
    1 tsp of salt
    2 sticks of cold, unsalted butter, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
    2 tsp of cinnamon
    Note: You can use more or less topping depending  on how much you like.


    Directions
    1) Preheat oven to 350-380 F (Temperature really depends on your oven.  The power on mine is a little low, so use 380 F)
    2) For filling, mix sugar and cinnamon together.  Then add lemon juice
    3) Put apples into mixture and toss to coat
    4) Put apples in a baking dish
    5) For topping, mix flour, sugar and salt
    6) Add butter, stir to coat pieces with flour
    7) Rub pieces of butter between your fingers until coarse crumbs form that are 1/2 to 3/4 inch in size.  No loose flour should be present and mixture is pale yellow. 
    8) Spread crumbs evenly over the fruit
    9) Bake crumble about 40-45 minutes.  Apples should be tender to toothpick.
    10) If top not brown, broil on low for a couple of minutes.


    Note: Crumble can be made day ahead and kept cooled at room temperature.  Can be reheated in oven for about 15 minutes at 250. Enjoy!


    This recipe is modified from Any Season Fruit Crumble from Fearless Baking by Elinor Klivans

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Indian Food: Restaurant vs. Home-Cooked


    When most people go out for Indian food these days, it is somewhat of an event. To be sure, if you’re in the mood for something different and flavor-packed, Indian food is the way to go. At home, I eat Indian food about five times a week, and I still jump at the opportunity to go to an Indian restaurant, in large part because it is an experience in and of itself. What is more interesting, however, is that I can get the same culinary experience at a restaurant than I would at home. 

    There is no standard for home-cooked Indian food, as this varies greatly by region and even household. However, I can safely say that if my family was to make the equivalent of Indian restaurant food at home, it would only be on very special occasions. This food, though undoubtedly delicious, is perhaps a little too rich to have on a daily basis. Everyday Indian food, therefore, is characterized by its simplicity. A typical meal that I’d have back home would consist of a few pieces of chapati or roti, which are a sort of flatbread, some type of dal (a soup or stew-like dish made of lentils or dried beans), a portion of vegetables prepared with spices and herbs, and rice. 


    By contrast, in a restaurant, you would usually first find a chaat section, which consists of a series of savory "snacks," followed by naan (a thicher, leavened, and oven-baked flatbread), rice, and vegetable dishes. There are normally some chicken, mutton, or lamb entrees; the most common are Tandoori Chicken, which is marinated in yogurt and seasoned with tandoori masala, and Chicken Tikka Masala, a dish with pieces of chicken in a creamy, tomato-based sauce. There are often different types of specially prepared and seasoned dals such as sambar, a type of spicy soup that is especially popular in parts of South India. To top everything off, you can often find an assortment of desserts such as rice pudding, gajar halva (a carrot dessert made with milk and sugar) and gulab jamun, which consists of bits of dough in a sugar syrup infused with rosewater, saffron, or cardamom seeds.

    This difference is good to keep in mind; if you ever have the opportunity to literally get a taste of everyday Indian culture, be prepared for a very different, though just as tasty, experience!

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Through the wine glass....


    Photo by Maggie Edkins

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Xochitl: El Dia de los Muertos

    I have been planning to eat at Xochtil on 2nd and Pine with my parents for some time now. We missed our opportunity during restaurant week due to reservation issues, but along came the message that they would be featuring a similar sort of four courses tasting menu during the week before Halloween.


    I had a rabbit pozole for my soup: one of the reasons for which I chose the tasting menu and Xochitl in the first place. The rabbit was so tender, and the pozole floating in the broth were very good. Unfortunately, there was neither enough lime nor cilantro to make it ring true to its Latin American nature. This was not too much of a disappointment, since the broth was a bit spicy and very rich.


    Next, I sampled a swordfish ceviche with mezcal-infused blood orange juice for an appetizer. I really enjoyed the tender, buttery texture of the cured fish. The juice was very sweet, enhancing the flavors of the tomatoes and cilantro already accenting the fish. It was beautiful presented as well, with the juice poured on table-side by our waiter.

    Our main courses were rather interesting and certainly rang of the Yucatan. I had a nicely seared, very flaky halibut on top of a bed of pumpkin seed mole. This was new to me, since I have only had authentic mole negro before. This adaptation was a bit too salty on its own, but when paired with the fish, it became much more tolerable and rather tasty. There was also a standard mole negro on the side, but it was a bit too bitter to accompany the fish well on its own. The dish lacked the cumin-coriander kick I am used to from Mexican cooking back home, but was still very good.


    Dessert, which should always be a no-brainer was not. We each tried something different, knowing full well that we would not be hungry after the other courses. Our least favorite was a pumpkin clafouti, which was neither creamy nor sweet enough to be labeled a desert. It lacked the sophistication that such a name should inspire. Needless to say, we were not impressed. However, we did like an almond layer cake in a raspberry soup. We though it was a rather tasty take on cake.


    All in all, Xochitl was a fantastic dining experience, and the tasting menu always provides excellent insight regarding a restaurant's specialties. We will probably go there again after trying other places. Though tamed for the standard American pallet, the dishes did ring rather true to their concept of nouveau Mexican fusion-style cuisine, and we enjoyed every course.

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