Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sour Cream Biscuits

I had a tub of sour cream in my refrigerator that needed to be used up. And so I decided to try a new recipe, sour cream biscuits. They only have five ingredients and were extremely easy to make. I was able to prepare everything in under ten minutes. Twelve minutes in the oven, and I had piping-hot biscuits. However, mine came out a bit misshapen, and had a bit of a baking soda after-taste. But for the minimal effort needed to make them, I have no complaints!

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
3 tsps baking powder
¾ cup sour cream
1 ½ tbsp water

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the sour cream and water and mix to a soft dough. Add more water if necessary. With floured hands, shape dough into round biscuit shapes. Bake at 450 degrees F for 12 minutes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

One Cupcake, One Can of Pumpkin, One Satisfied Fall Craving

Around November I start to crave pumpkin-flavored treats. Whether it’s pumpkin pie, a pumpkin spice latte, or a pumpkin muffin: I can’t resist. I normally make a pumpkin pie for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. But this year I decided to try something a little different. This was an exercise in bucking tradition in favor of a different kind of dessert-morsel. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin pie, and these cupcakes don’t replicate the specific textures and flavors of that tried-and-true favorite. What they do have is the sweetness of maple, the slight sugary tang of cream cheese icing, and all the richness of pumpkin spice. The cake is moist and soft. I highly recommend these: everyone I’ve given them to responded with a resounding “Mmmm, pumpkin!”

Try my recipe for delicious Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting!

Batter Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature 

1 cup dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

1/2 cup milk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin

Frosting Ingredients

16 oz cream cheese, softened

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Combine and sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add eggs one at a time to the butter, then alternate adding the flour and milk. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Fill cupcakes liners about ¾ full. Bake cupcakes about for 25 minutes. Makes 18. For the frosting, combine all ingredients and beat until fluffy.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Dining Hall Mission

Every year Penn forces their freshmen to purchase dining plans. The meals are mediocre most of the time, but worse, the food is extremely overpriced and nobody ever uses up all of their meal swipes. So I came up with a plan: with only about a month left in the semester and 75 meals remaining to my name, I knew I would have to do something drastic if I wanted to put my meal plan to good use.

So, I decided to find out: is it possible to eat every single meal in the dining halls for a week?

7 days and 19 meals later I can tell you that yes, it is possible, but not very much fun. There were some surprises along the way (food that was actually worth eating) and some low points (food that was plain inedible). All in all, I'm glad the week is over.

I ate 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 7 dinners, and 2 brunches in the week. 15 of the meals took place at 1920 Commons, 3 at Hill. and 1 at Kings Court. Brunch was by far my favorite meal that was served in the dining halls. At one brunch I had a made-to-order omelet with ham, mushrooms, and green peppers that was tasty. At the other, I had broccoli quiche and bacon.

Another one of my favorite meals was an Asian salad I had one night at Commons. Usually when I look at the salad bar, I am saddened by the lack of variety in the salad dressings so when I saw one night that they had Asian sesame dressing I was intrigued. I made a spinach salad with shredded carrots and sesame crackers and the dressing. I was surprised that it was actually really good.

The week contained more misses than hits though. One morning for breakfast at Commons I had a sausage and cheese sandwich so hard I could have chipped a tooth. Another day I had a super dry piece of salmon with an overly sweet glaze on it from Hill for lunch.

So I guess my mission was a success. I only have 50 meals left, which I'm sure I'll be able to use up before the end of the semester, and I proved that it's possible to eat in the dining halls for a week. I'm taking a break for a little while now, but I'm sure I'll be back to Commons soon enough.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

First Installment of Bloggers' Bites: Thanksgiving Style

In honor of the holiday that is all things gluttonous and delicious, we bring you our first ever Bloggers' Bites, a new series in which we have members of our blog team chime in on all things food.
This week's question: What is the dish you are most looking forward to this Thanksgiving?

Alyssa Birnbaum: Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. Man versus bald game bird. There are some who drown the poultry in gravy or cranberry sauce because the meat is too dry, but let me assure you, when the turkey is done right, it is delicious on its own. Baste that gobbler correctly and I will sit in my finest elastic-wasted clothing and pound down the turkey until the tryptophan kicks in and knocks me out.

Stephanie Rice: Every year my family and I go to New York for Thanksgiving and eat out at an Italian restaurant (I know, quite the tradition). But, it's probably the best family ritual I have because I have tried so many amazing restaurants! So, instead of giving you my favorite dish, I'm going to give you guys my favorite Italian spot in NYC for Turkey Day. If any of you are roaming around the city, whether it's Thanksgiving or not, be sure to check out Fresco by Scotto. Featured on The Today Show multiple times, the Scotto family hits a home run with their Thanksgiving prix-fixe menu. My favorite dish is the potato and zucchini chips with gooey gorgonzola cheese. You won't be disappointed, and I guarantee you'll have one of the best non-homecooked Thanksgiving meals.

Hannah Cummons: My favorite Thanksgiving dish is pumpkin pie, hands down. I eat pumpkin pie all year round and I will never get pumpkin pied out. At Thanksgiving though, it is seasonal and occasionally, if we're feeling adventurous, we make our own pumpkin puree. Which makes pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving all the more special.

Hoi Ning Ngai: Considering that I grew up in a small family with Chinese immigrant parents, whose only foray (ever) into Thanksgiving was the roasting of some turkey drumsticks, my favorite part of my favorite holiday is prepping the turkey and watching it come out of the oven -- in all its crispy golden honey brown glory. There was always something so warm, inviting, and iconic about that Norman Rockwell painting and the way that perfect turkey got displayed on the table. So ever since I learned how to brine, butter, baste, tent, and glaze, the most important thing to me has been getting my Thanksgiving bird as moist and flavorful and delicious as possible -- and making sure my guests know exactly what should be the center of attention.

Alex Marcus: So this is the cliche of cliches, but I would be outright lying if I said I was looking forward to anything but my grandmother's turkey. She has made our Thanksgiving bird every year of my life, and it is nothing less than the most decadent, juicy, and flavorful poultry that one could ever eat. She starts with the best ingredients available, including a kosher turkey. My family doesn't keep kosher (or anywhere close--shrimp and lobster are high on the list of all my relatives' favorite foods), but my grandma insists on this ingredient because of its superior quality. And I can't blame her; the dish it evolves into is so mind-blowingly moist that it makes me wonder why we don't eat turkey every day of the year. The meat is salty, rich, and savory--almost as if it has been cooked in beef stock and basted with fat. The soft carrots and onions swimming in the pot provide a deliciously sweet contrast and, for my money, make the sweet potato and other sides completely obsolete. And we don't do this carve-the-bird-on-a-platter nonsense, either; my grandma brings it to the table already cut up and soaking in its own scrumptious juices. Then I load a pound or so onto my plate, top it with some homemade, chunky cranberry sauce, and go to town.

Zoey Toy: In my family Thanksgiving is a little different than in other families, we pretty much have two different meals in one. We’re Italian so we have Italian food first. There’s escarole soup and ravioli with meatballs and sausage. Then comes the average American Thanksgiving with turkey and almost every side you can imagine. My favorites are the dinner rolls and the creamed corn casserole my aunt makes. What I look forward to the most though is the Italian food. Yum.

Marianne O'Brien: Last year, my California-self opted out of traveling the 2878 hours home on a plane and instead went to my roommate's cozy East Coast abode outside of DC. I was in awe at the effortlessness of the whole meal -- one minute there were raw sweet potatoes, an unbaked pie, and bunches of kale lying around and the next there was one of the most beautiful, and colorful displays I've seen. No turkeys fell to the floor. No squash gratins bubbled over. There were no dogs sneaking sausages from the table. It was just so enviably... effortless. Though everything was delicious, the dish that stood out most were the sweet potatoes. They were roasted then mashed as per usual but BUT my roommate's mom added chipotles in adobo when mashing. The chipotles added a complex taste without being spicy or smoky. I usually find mashed sweet potatoes sickeningly sweet so the chipotles perfectly balanced the otherwise sweet flavor. This year, I got the recipe and I have every intention of making it.

Nicole Woon: Despite its unassuming role as the mixture that fills the cavity of a turkey, stuffing has always been my star player at the dinner table. (If you want to get technical, the proper term for the dish I'm talking about is dressing; in my household, this delicious side is always cooked outside the bird in its own baking dish.) Whether it's my mom's flavorful version (with sweet-and-savory maple breakfast sausage, crispy bacon, vibrant shredded carrots, subtle-flavored celery, and shiitake mushrooms) or my aunt's delicious oyster stuffing, this tasty side warms the heart, soul, and stomach. Suffice it to say, I always go back for seconds and make sure to pack leftovers!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

From the plain facade, you wouldn’t expect much from Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House at 927 Race St. But don’t let its starkness fool you, this noodle joint is top-notch. My floor mates and I were delighted by the steaming bowls of savory broth, filled with a heaping portion of noodles, meat and green onions and garnished with cilantro. It’s the perfect meal to warm you up on a winter day.

There are two types of noodles to choose from at Nan Zhou. The shaved noodles are flat and wide, made by using a knife to shave off each individual noodle from a ball of dough. The hand drawn noodles, for which Nan Zhou is known, are long and skinny, like spaghetti. They are made by folding and refolding stretched out noodle dough, until the long noodles are formed. This traditional way of making the noodles is supposed to give them a more “springy” texture than those machine-made.

And then there was the meat! The menu lists the same noodle soup, with the only difference being the meat. We tried everything from duck to pork to oxtail, all of which were succulent. But for the more adventurous, there is beef tendon, and for the vegetarians, tofu.

The soup bowls ran us between $5 to $7 each, a steal for such amazing comfort food. For me, Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House is now a must-go for any future Chinatown visits!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Celebrating Harry Potter

Are you sick of monotonous muggle food? For all of you Harry Potter fans wanting to bring the wizarding world to life in honor of the newest movie, here are three delicious recipes straight from Hogsmaid:

Yields 6-8 glasses

1 cup butterscotch schnapps
7 cups cream soda (almost one 2 liter bottle)

Carefully mix just before serving, adding the schnapps to the soda then stirring gently to mix well, or the fizz will dissipate too soon.

You can also find butterscotch flavoring near the vanilla flavoring in the baking section of the grocery store, but it is more difficult to find, and actually the flavoring is 35% alcohol where the schnapps is only 15% alcohol by volume, so if you're making large quantities of butterbeer, just buy the schnapps.

Cauldron Cakes
Yields about 3 dozen cupcakes from a standard cake mix

Your favorite devils food cake recipe, made into cupcakes and black string licorice

Bake your cupcakes according to the instructions, without using paper cup liners. Slice off the top of the crown of each cupcake so that when it is turned upside down, it sits flat. This gives you more of a cauldron shape than a cupcake shape. Cut the black string licorice into small pieces and poke them into the cupcakes as cauldron handles.

Pumpkin Pasties
Yields about 3 dozen miniature pasties

2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1 1 lb. can pumpkin
(or 2 cups fresh, roasted in the oven then pressed
through a strainer to save your Pumpkin Juice to drink!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 2/3 cups evaporated milk (1 can)
1/2 tsp. allspice
9 oz pie crust pastry (enough for two single standard pie crusts)

Bake the pie filling only (no crust) in a large casserole dish in hot oven (425 degrees) for 15 minutes. Keep oven door closed and reduce temp to moderate (350 degrees F) and continue baking for 45 minutes or until table knife inserted in center of dish comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Make or purchase pie crust pastry. Roll thin and cut into circles approx 4" in diameter. Put a spoonful of the cool pumpkin mixture towards one side of the center of the circle. Fold over the crust into a half-circle and firmly crimp the edges closed. Slice three small slits in the top for venting, place on a greased cookie sheet, and bake only until crust is a light golden-brown. Great served at room temperature, then you don't have to worry about your guests possibly burning their mouths from the steaming hot pumpkin inside!

Thanks to these recipes, you don’t have to apparate to Hogwarts to eat these treats, you can make them right at home!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Penn Appetit Talks with Chef Daniel Stern

We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Daniel Stern, chef of the acclaimed MidAtlantic and R2L restaurants in Philadelphia, and formerly of the celebrated Gayle in South Philly.

How would you say your cooking style has evolved over time?
I think as a chef you grow and you never stop growing. A lot of it is about the experience of getting inside the food and the flavors and really understanding them and also having the confidence that you know what it is you’re looking for. And sometimes when you just have time to work with ingredients or play with things or have creative time, it takes you somewhere that you didn’t know you were going.

What is one example of a dish that evolved through that creative process?
When I opened Gayle, and I had a smoked salmon dish on the menu, and you know, it’s just a nice cut of smoked salmon and some apples and little salad or whatever, but somehow or another it evolved into a soup, a chilled soup with apples and some potato garnish. There are always things that I find that I make and somehow they get filed away somewhere and they show up later on as a component of a dish that I never thought I would use.

I play a lot with temperatures and textures, and I remember before I opened Gayle, being in my home kitchen I was doing some catering and I was making rice for some reason, and I noticed that when I was cooking the rice, there was some of the liquid or whatever that kind of dried to the side of the pot, and I peeled it off, so then I started playing around with that, and I overcooked a bunch of rice and put it in blender, and that turned into ten different things. We have a horseradish ice-cream that we serve with oysters over at R2L, and it’s not a typical ice-cream, and its’ made because I happened to be in the kitchen one day and I noticed something, and it’s rice turned into something that could sit for a little longer than regular ice-cream, and also be neutral, and you can flavor it with whatever you wanted to.

Do you have time to cook for your family?
I just made my wife a surprise birthday brunch last Sunday. You know, French toast, and strata, and potatoes, and salmon salad, pastries.

What did she like the best?
I think she just liked the surprise the best. But I would imagine she enjoyed the quiches with lots of cheese…and the Bloody Marys, they were pretty good.

What trends do you notice in the Philly food scene?
I’m not such a trend watcher, but like I said, there are not just people opening little BYO’s anymore, which are great, but people are branching out into more diverse kind of restaurants. And I love that we’re sort of a city of neighborhood restaurants, but also you see people starting to open things that are a little more risky, and a little more edgy, and that helps keep the energy up.

Do you have any easy meals that college students can make?
It’s funny, but there’s so many decent canned products now, like there are organic beans and soups and stuff like that, and then you just go and get a piece of chicken or something and throw it in there. It’s pretty simple. Believe it or not, I’m like a nachos and pizza freak. I do that at home all the time. Just beans, and some meat or chili mix, some good cheese. Stews are really easy to do in one pot. Just chicken, and either some vegetables and some store bought stuff, and a nice loaf of bread, add garlic and butter, and you’re all set.

What kind of cheese do you use?
I think cheddar. Good white cheddar.

No jalapeños?
Yes, definitely.  I like spicy.

Why did you want to showcase traditional Philadelphia food in a slightly more upscale environment?
I’ve worked for a lot of very well known chefs who are from other places, but they all came here to cook, and to open their restaurants. Whether it’s France or Switzerland, everyone has their regional cuisines that they’re proud of, and we have that in this country as well. I love cheesesteaks, or whatever, but that’s not all we’re about.

We noticed that you don’t have any cheesesteaks on your menu.
We have a great roast pork sandwich though.

If you had to do an updated version of a cheesesteak, what would you do?
At my other place, I actually have a cheesesteak on the menu, and it’s more of a finger food, but it used to be a venison cheesesteak.

What’s your biggest food weakness?
French fries.

Where do you get your French fries?
That’s the thing—it doesn’t matter. They could be good, they could be horrible. If I go to the stadiums, the Crabby fries from Chickie’s and Pete’s. We have a great version here at MidAtlantic, they’re al little different. They’re more wedges, and we prepare them a little differently than traditional fries. We blanch the potatoes first and cut them in wedges and then fry them. They’re insanely crispy, and we have a nice dry salt that we put on them, a seasoned salt that we make here. They’re a little addictive.

What would you eat for your last meal on earth?
As much time as I spend working and playing with food, it really comes down to who you’re with, so it would be more about probably sharing a really killer pepperoni pizza and a nice bottle of wine, and possibly a martini, and just having it with my friends and family.

What advice do you have for people who want to get involved in the restaurant industry?
It’s roll up your sleeves, find someone who is willing to take you on, listen, learn, and be open to working hard. I remember talking to one of my mentors, and we were kind of discussing cooking as an art. And this is somebody who, to me, brought cooking to a new level, and really made it an art form. And he said to me, “Daniel, it’s not an art, it’s a trade. It’s something that you have to work at very hard, very diligently, and you have to practice, and you have to learn the fundamentals, and…work. Do things over and over and over and over again until you learn them from the inside, you know? And I think that’s really the way it is.

-- Noa Bendit-Shtull

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Easy Hors D'oeuvres

I love having dinner parties and I think hors d'oeurves can be more fun than the main course. I love the idea of finger foods so with that in mind I came up with two recipes.

Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Bites

One large onion of any kind
About 6 oz. of goat cheese
Small baguette or a package of crackers (for example: Ritz)
2 tbsp Oil
Salt and pepper

First, cut the onion into slices about half an inch thick. Then to a pan on low heat add the oil, then the onions. Once in the pan, you can add salt and pepper to taste. The onions
should not brown on the edges immediately, if they do, turn the heat down. The slower the onions cook the more they will caramelize in the pan, the key is not to rush the cooking process. It took me about 20 minutes to cook mine. While they are cooking make sure to keep an eye on them because they can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds. The onions will first turn translucent and then slowly they will become light brown. Once they reach this color, they are done and you can set them aside to cool as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Next, slice the baguette into thin slices. When I made this recipe I used crackers so that's fine too if that's all you have. Then, take the goat cheese and spread a small dollop onto each of the slices or crackers.
After that, just add the onions on top and you're done. And don't forget to enjoy!

Two-Bite Caprese Salad

About 6 oz. Mozzarella cheese
Half a pint of cherry tomatoes
A few leaves of basil
Small baguette or a package of crackers
Salt and pepper

First, slice the baguette into thin slices, you'll need ab
out 25 for this recipe as well. Next, slice the mozzarella and put a slice on each piece of bread (or cracker), these slices should be thin too. Once you've done that you can either put them on a baking sheet and put them in a low oven (about 200 degrees) to melt the cheese or you can put them on a paper plate and heat them in the microwave for 20-25 seconds.

Next you should slice the cherry tomatoes. Depending on their size you can get between 3-5 slices from each tomato. The slices shouldn't be too thick or too large. Place two slices on top of each piece of cheese.

Then, cut your basil, you can do a thin strips of basil or if you have small leaves you can put one small leaf per serving. Last, add a light sprinkling of salt and pepper over the top and you're done. If you want to go one step further you could add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to the top as well.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ensalada a la Chilena

In the 4 months I have lived in Santiago, Chile, I have come to regard Chilean home food as simple.  There are no complicated cooking methods; there are no complex sauces or garnishes; there are no complex chopping techniques used to prepare the food.  What is special to me about Chilean food is the great combinations of different foods.  Chileans have wonderful dishes that are both easy and unique.  In fact, Chilean food is a brilliant inspiration for the college age cook.  Whenever I am served something delicious, I always wonder "Why did I think to do that?"

One of those dishes is the Chilean salad.  The thing about Chilean salads is that they do not follow the typical American mindset of lettuce, other vegetables, and dressing.  Chilean salads do not include lettuce most of the time and they never have anything more for dressing than lemon and salt.

The quintessential Chilean salad is Ensalada a la Chilena or Ensalada Chilena.  This is a great combination of sliced tomatoes, sliced raw onions, chopped cilantro, oil and salt.  To make the onions taste less sharp, the raw onions should be salted and rinsed with water to remove any bitterness.  Then, all the ingredients are thrown together to make an AMAZING salad.

For another adventurous salad, the onion, cilantro and salt combo can be used with peas instead of tomato as well.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sharing Art: Chef Poon's Culinary Preceptorial

Each semester, I set myself the obligation to register for preceptorials. Usually, though, when I check out the listings, the "obligation" part disappears, leaving only the uncontrollable desire to register for at least ten. Then, I spend a month and a half crossing my fingers in hope and anticipation.

And this semester, I hit the culinary jackpot of preceptorials: Chef Poon's Asian Culinary Institute!

For those of you not familiar, Joseph Poon is an incredibly versatile public figure. More than 30 years ago, he arrived in Philadelphia with $8 in his pocket. Now, after starting the successful restaurants Sang Kee, Joe's Peking Duck House and Joseph Poon Asian Fusion, Master Chef Joseph Poon is busier than ever. He conducts Wok 'N' Walk tours of Philadelphia Chinatown, teaches cooking classes, and leads trips to China. His desire to pass down his art to talented, eager followers has led him to participate in numerous philanthropic events each year.

You could easily call his Penn preceptorial a philanthropic event, too - Chef Poon gave himself away completely. At the first session, more than fifty students crowded into the Bodek Lounge in Houston Hall to observe his mind-blowing cooking skills. He proved a master of multitasking: boiling, frying, and sauteeing simultaneously, while cheerfully cleaving away at a fresh chicken. A mere hour and a half of Chef Poon's magic transformed a single bird into eleven different dishes, from chicken burger to General Tso's chicken.

All the while, he was telling us his life story, marked by struggle, disappointment, and obstinate perseverance. Met with unresponsive chefs, he learned a great portion of his art all by himself, and has largely relied on his own devices for support. He self-funded his university education, and also a four-month intensive course at the Culinary Institute of America. Now, he is constantly sharing his experience with the community, having realized the transience of life after a successful battle with cancer.

"Never stop being creative," he said at the second preceptorial session, where he demonstrated his superb fruit and vegetable carving skills to the amazement of all students. Under his carefully controlled knife, slices of watermelon turned into dinosaurs and dragons; leeks, turnips and beets into flowers, and pineapple slices into bunnies. A student on each side, Chef Poon gave crash courses in carving, all the while insisting on minimal waste. Watermelon rind is trash to us; it's art in waiting for him.

Both preceptorials were accompanied by tasty giveaways, generously supplied by Chef Poon himself. Since his goal in the sessions is to teach students something new, he asked follow-up questions afterwards, rewarding right answers with his recently published cookbook - Life is Short...Cooking is Fun.

It looks like Chef Poon perfectly knows how to enjoy life and the art of cooking. During the sessions, his vigorous speech was flowing freely, peppered with jokes and anecdotes. He shared multiple life stories with us; at the end, he gave all his edible sculptures away for students to take home. Joseph Poon is not simply a master of cooking - he is also a master of sharing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fittingly Fall

After gutting a squash, you find yourself with a dilemma, do you discard those seeds, even though you know it would be easy as pie to toast them?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quintessentially Québécois

When one thinks of French cuisine, thoughts may lead to the corner bistros along the cobble-stoned streets of Montmartre or Michelin-starred restaurants on Champs-Élysées. But this past summer, my travels led me somewhere closer than Victor Hugo’s motherland that evoked familiar French culinary flair and yet represented a distinctive cuisine in and of itself. Just under a day’s drive from Philadelphia, Montréal and Québec offer an unmistakably Continental-style culinary culture and atmosphere that visitors can immersed in thoroughly as if they were in Europe.

Contemporary French-Canadian cuisine, as typified today in Montréal and Québec City (two of the most populous cities in the province of Québec), draws its initial influence largely from France and Ireland because of the ethnic migrations from these countries since the 16th century and less prominently from the Canadian First Nation cuisines. More recently, Québécois cuisine has broadened into integrating Jewish, American Southern (think barbecue meats), Mediterranean, and Central European cuisines. While the French influence is still easily recognizable, it is just as easy to distinguish overt and subtler variations in the Québécois cuisine today.

Even in the marketplace, the experience is a curious familiarity of a French marché (or outdoor market) blended with a characteristic Québécois identity. At the Jean-Talon Market, a favorite farmers’ market among locals and visitors alike in the Little Italy neighborhood, I instinctively felt as if this was a bustling market in a regular French quartier. From a glance, you will find your requisite French boulangeries (bakeries), charcuteries (meat delis), and fromageries (specialty cheese stores). But looking more carefully, you will also discover specialty stores for hundreds of varieties of olive oil, Middle-Eastern and Asian spices for princely prices, exquisite types of wild and cultivated mushrooms (have you ever heard of lobster mushrooms?), and a gelateria offering a dazzling array of Italian gelato.

In Montréal and Québec City, I dined at several places including a restaurant with a relaxed and informal setting, a bistro with intimate al fresco dining (think elbow-room seating), cafes blasting cheesy French music, a cozy crêperie with dozens of sweet and savory options, a croissanterie (café specializing in croissants) that brought me back in time, and a fast food joint selling the ubiquitous poutine (French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds). But alas, it is not possible to share about them all and I will have to whet your appetite with just one of my favorites during the trip.

Coming closest to what you would imagine a French restaurant to be is Au Petit Extra, located just off the Rue St Denis tourist belt in Montréal, and a well-kept local secret. The setting is very informal, no pretensions of grandeur whatsoever, and the servers are friendly and eager to explain each dish even if French is not your forte. Based on a Montréalean friend’s advice, I ordered from the table d’hôte (set course menu) and thoroughly enjoyed the foie gras medallions with fig appetizer, followed by the classic French duck confit, and topped off with a chocolate fondant for dessert. The smooth and creamy foie gras medallions balanced by the light hint of sweetness of the fresh fig and accompanied with a sip of Prosecco was a virtuoso combination. The duck confit was faultless, baked to a crispy finish and was wonderfully tender and juicy within. The intense flavor was further enhanced through the excellently paired French wine from the Sancerre region. Unlike the petite morsels most people come to expect of French restaurants, Au Petit Extra will leave even the heartiest appetite well-satiated.

Of course, while nothing beats being there in person to savor authentic Québécois food, if you can’t travel to Montréal or Québec anytime soon, there are just a few places to venture for a preliminary taste of an all-time Québécois favorite, the poutine, right here in Philadelphia. Adsum, Matt Levin’s new bistro in Queen Village serves a fancy version of foie gras poutine as an appetizer while the Institute in the Spring Garden neighborhood also offers regular poutine on its bar menu.

Photo credit: http://www.out-there.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nutella Cookies: What Batter Could Be Better?

Nutella is one of my favorite foods. Spreadable hazelnut chocolate, best served on a crispy slice of toast, Nutella was originally invented as a means to extend the depleted cocoa supply of the war-torn 1940s. Nutella is peanut butter’s delicious cousin, and a college student’s best friend. Full disclosure: I’ve been known to eat it straight out of the jar, especially late at night. This recipe is essentially a glorified chocolate chip cookie. But when the glory lies in gooey, creamy Nutella, you have the kind of snack that you can’t help but help yourself to. There are also good recipes for Nutella cupcakes, pastries and ice cream. Nutella makes everything better!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Nutella
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Separately, cream together the butter and sugars, then add the vanilla and eggs. Gradually add the dry ingredients until completely combined. Then stir in the Nutella and chocolate chips. Finally, drop the batter by rounded spoon onto cookie sheets, and bake for 10-11 minutes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

LIVE at the Writers House: "Philly Bites!"

Last Monday, the Kelly Writers House provided a cozy backdrop for “Philly Bites!” an intimate reading by five of the city’s beloved foodies. I must admit, it’s almost painful to attend a food reading. Without samples promised (and trust me, these writers have had their share of Philly’s finest), it’s difficult to conjure the willpower to show up. You may fear that your suddenly discovered hunger will cause you to jump out of your seat, knock over the chairs (and people) in front of you, bust open the door, and sprint to the nearest blogger-approved restaurant. I can’t say a catastrophe of the sort wasn’t close to occurring that night, but I did manage to keep my cool. And fortunately, these writers proved that food readings can evoke feeling other than insufferable cravings. I left the reading with an empty stomach, but a full heart.

Whether wishing for the recipes your grandmother fervently refused to share or finding yourself entirely too intimate with a chocolate éclair, these writers have experienced food beyond taste. Among the cast was Brian Freedman, currently the restaurant critic and drinks columnist for Philadelphia Weekly. After 11 days of wine tasting, Brian noted that he could “really use a drink” and shared the story of how he managed to end up naked with an éclair in his pants. Next up was Kristen Henri, who was awarded a scholarship for “Food Writing Passion” by James Peterson in 2007. Kirsten also recently worked as an editor for Philly’s edition of Grub Street. Kristen read a piece that described her grandmother’s desire to live on through her recipes, which she protected even from her grandchild.

After Kristen came Drew Lazor, launcher of the Philadelphia City Paper’s food blog Meal Ticket. In his piece, Drew described the many myths behind why Philly pizza “isn’t that good.” Then, Felicia D’Ambrosio, Community and Marketing Manager for Yelp.com in Philadelphia, compared a piece she wrote for City Paper with a recent blog post, illustrating the evolution of food writing in new media. Last was Collin Keefe, the brand new editor for Philadelphia Grub Street. His short, juicy bits of blogging proved Felicia’s claims correct, confirming the significance of blogs in the food industry.

Capping off the event was musical performer John Francis, who just finished his 2nd full-length record, The Better Angels. John served up a mix of American Folk, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Country. By then, the cravings were starting to get the best of me, and I realized that music is a lot like food. Heartwarming, rich, smooth… in fact, I’m getting a little hungry just writing this post.

Anyway, if you want to be fed emotionally, you can click here and listen to all the writers and John Francis once they're posted (which we're assured will be soon, even though they're unfortunately not up yet). Until then, I think I’ll stick with real food!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Do It Yourself or Buy It Yourself: Peanut Butter

Whether as a childhood snack or a late night munchie, peanut butter has an emotional connection to almost everyone. I mean, who doesn’t love the good ol' PB, an American icon? This versatile food group in it of itself can be spread on everything or enjoyed straight out of the jar (my personal fave). Most have already fallen in love with one of the many name brands, but consistency is the debate that’s stood the test of time. This article prejudices no one, so for all the creamy and crunchy lovers, I invite you to indulge in these simple ways to enjoy this comforting treat.

Do it Yourself (DIY): Snyder’s Honey Whole Wheat Pretzel Sticks, your favorite PB…just grab and dip ☺

Buy it Yourself (BIY): Snyder’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwiches

DIY: Chocolate Hazlenut Peanut Butter Cups (you can opt out of the hazlenut…but who doesn’t love Nutella?!)
(Yields 2-3 cups depending on what size foil you use)

About 2 cups of melted dark chocolate (between 60% and 72% cacao…I recommend the 72% Godiva bars)
Creamy Peanut Butter

Take your melted dark chocolate (or milk if that’s how you like to roll) and fill your foils 1/3 of the way up. Make sure to coat the inside of the foil with chocolate as well, so the peanut butter and Nutella have a nice shell. Place in the refrigerator until hard. Remove and fill with equal parts Nutella and peanut butter. Cover with the remaining dark chocolate and let set in the refrigerator. Enjoy the heavenly goodness!

BIY: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (obvious…I know...but great for the college budget!)

DIY: Apples in Peanut Butter (can be adapted an infinite number of ways)
Granny Smith or Honeycrisp works best here, due to their combination of sweetness and tartness.

Add-ons: Slice up the apple and dip in peanut butter, then roll in mini chocolate chips (Nestle makes the perfect mini size)
…or roll in chopped peanuts
…or Nutella
…or any other topping you can think of!

BIY: Peanut Butter Caramel Apple…you will drool at the screen: check it out!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Refrigerator Pickles

One of my goals has been to make my own pickles. Who knows why, just one of those things I thought would be neat. I started easy in my pickling by making refrigerator pickles which do not require any real canning skills. I altered a recipe I found here.

1 English Cucumber sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal
Coarse salt
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons traditional pickling mix from McCormick (I know, I know premixed spices are completely unnecessary, but I thought it would be a safe choice)

Place cucumber and celery in colander with about a tablespoon the coarse salt. Toss to coat and let drain about half an hour to an hour.

Place the sugar and vinegar into an airtight container and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. This is key to not have crystals of sugar hanging on your pickle slices.

Add the pickling spices and and the cucumber, mix just enough to combine and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
The pickles are sweet and nicely tart.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Korean Sweet Potato Recipe

About two weeks ago, I posted a recipe for making sweet potato fries. Although I was not originally planning on doing a series on recipes using sweet potatoes, I have come to post another recipe using sweet potatoes. Enjoy the timely posting as sweet potatoes are usually best harvested in autumn.

Today’s dish is a Korean dish usually served as snack called “matang.”

① Wash sweet potatoes
② Slice them in any way you want but not as thin as when making fries
③ Pre-heat oil in frying pot or pan
④ In that oil, fry the sweet potatoes until they become crisp and well-cooked
⑤ Just like when making sweet potato fries, leave the fried pieces on a paper towel until some oil gets absorbed out
⑥ In a pan or pot, pour some starch syrup in with the fried potatoes till the syrup slightly covers the potatoes
⑦ Then mix the syrup and fried potatoes well
⑧ If you would like, sprinkle black sesame for decoration

Pictures and recipe sourced from http://kitchen.naver.com/recipe/117248

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wanna S.N.A.C.K.?

I've always loved to cook; when I was little my favorite toy was my best friend's pretend kitchen set. Flash forward to my high school years and I had moved on to real food, then came S.N.A.C.K., a cooking club stands for Students Now Acquiring Culinary Knowledge. My friend and I started it one day when we had a revelation, we both liked to cook (and eat) and we should gather our friends (who also liked to cook and eat) so we could try out different recipes together. It became a sort of culinary book club where we would decide on a theme such as just desserts, Asian, breakfast, comfort food, or chocolate, and then we would decide which recipe to cook. We had our meetings at our different houses, creating culinary masterpieces, eating tasty food, and making tons of fun memories.

Making spring rolls at our Asia-themed meeting

Our first recipe, berry custard tart

My fellow founder, Russell, with our Sushi

S.N.A.C.K. started out as a summer pastime, but we all wanted more so we started our own club at school. When we all graduated we had one final meeting before everyone went off to college. At this meeting we all vowed that at our respective schools we would start our own branch of S.N.A.C.K. My friend and fellow SNACKer at Stanford has held up his end of the bargain, and that school has its own branch of SNACK now. So I feel that it is my duty to start SNACK here.

Anyone who wants to join SNACK, can. All levels of cooking skill are welcome. Just come ready to cook, eat, and most importantly have fun.

Here's the info:
What?: Penn SNACK info session/first meeting
When?: Wednesday, November 3rd, 8:00 PM
Where?: Location TBD

If you are interested in joining you can send an email to pennsnack@gmail.com and then we can email you with the location and any changes of date or time.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...