|Photo | Drew Lazor|
|Click to enlarge|
|Photo l Marie DiFeliciantonio|
|Buttered up and oven-ready|
Have you ever tried roasting your own? Once you split the plums lengthwise, scoop out the innards (I save for soup stock but you don't have to) toss with olive oil, salt, and maybe a little basil you put 'em on tray lined with parchment in a 225 oven then forget about it except for the occasional look and turn for 5 or 6 hours. Cool and if any of them make it past the next hour (seriously, it's like candy) store in the fridgie. It makes the house smell great, too. Oh.. and if you want to go whole hog (or tomato in this case) I once made yogurt from the goat milk at FairFood, drained and put a dollop on each tomato half. Fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil. The only problem is you wish you'd done more tomatoes-not matter how many you've made. I've never tried anything but the plummies, but often thought cherry tomatoes would do well by that method, kinda like a tomato raisin.Learn more from Lari Robling in her cookbook that revives home cooking from the past, Endangered Recipes: Too Good to Be Forgotten (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).
organized an $11-a-head winter dinner party. This time around, she shows you how to shop for and prepare a super-easy dish for a get-together.
|Photo l Rosey Lakos|
|Chocolate-orange and Meyer lemon manjars|
Former mistress of the kitchen at Capogiro Gelato Artisans on 20th St., Janina Larenas has returned to her native Santa Cruz, California to wrangle books. Fortunately for her sad, left-behind friends, she's still sharing her magical recipes via Paul Davis' Web magazine IsGreaterThan.
This month Larenas partners up with photographer Rosey Lakos to present an informative how-to slideshow on making the South American milk-caramel treat manjar. Similar to dulce de leche but less sweet, with a hint of bitterness, these manjars are based on sweetened condensed milk and flavored with either Meyer lemons or chocolate and orange.
Visit the article on IsGreaterThan to learn the simple method for this treat; you'll have to figure out your own excuses to eat it on everything.
|Photo l Michael Persico|
|Matzagna al Pesto for Passover|
Born in Rome and raised in Riverdale and Manhattan, Il Portico (1519 Walnut St.) chef/owner Al Delbello shrugs at the notion of "typical" seder dishes. "Typical depends on your background," the chef says over a plate of his matzagna al pesto, an airily layered take on lasagna he makes especially for Passover.
Il Portico, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary in September, was one of the first restaurants to colonize Philadelphia's Restaurant Row, as well as bring the cuisine of the Roman Jewish ghetto to the city. "Il Portico d'Ottavia was the walled Jewish ghetto," says Delbello. "This cuisine is over 2,000 years old. It is very different from Eastern European Jewish cuisine, from Sephardic cuisine."
Now appearing on Il Portico's menu, matzagna al pesto is a delicate combination of unleavened matzah squares (standing in for the usual flat lasagna noodles), bÃ©chamel sauce, basil pesto and ricotta cheese, garnished with pine nuts. The recipe comes down through Delbello's family, many of whom own and operate restaurants from New York to Hong Kong, Bali to Istanbul.
"The Jewish faith spread throughout the world," sayd Delbello. "So every culture has their own style of cuisine. It was the Jews who brought fennel, eggplants and artichokes to Italy in the first place."
Learn to make Il Portico's kosher for Passover matzagna al pesto, after the jump.
Matzagna Al Pesto (Matza Lasagna with Pesto Sauce)
Recipe courtesy Al Delbello, executive chef/owner, Il Portico
2 cups pesto sauce
8 egg matzot
2 cups ricotta sauce
1 cup milk
Coat the bottom of deep square baking dish slightly larger than the matza with pesto. Make alternate layers with uncooked matza and pesto sauce with dollops of ricotta sauce. Continue to make layers until you have exhausted all the ingredients. End with the ricotta sauce. Pour all the milk over the prepared matzagna, covered with aluminum foil, and bake in preheated 350 F oven for 30 minutes. Serve hot or at room temp.
Salsa Di Ricotta Per Pesach (Passover Ricotta Sauce)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons Passover cake flour
1 1/2 cups hot milk
1 cup ricotta
Heat the butter and flour in a saucepan and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the milk all at once and cook another 2 minutes, and whisk. Add ricotta and simmer, stirring until ricotta is almost completely melted
Yields approx. 2 cups
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|Medi-Veggie Snack Wrap|
In 2006 McDonald's introduced the American eating public to the $1 Snack Wrap. Fried or grilled chicken, or even a shuddersome wedge of what passes for a burger, are dressed with shredded lettuce and cheese and wrapped in a flour tortilla. We don't know why the Snack Wrap exists, what deep ravenous need it fulfills, but we knew we could make a better, healthier and worlds more satisfying 3 p.m. bite.
Bitar's Market (947 Federal St.) in South Philly is a Lebanese sandwich shop/market with two equally appetizing faces. The tiny sandwich shop-side vends combinations like the grilled chicken Angelo Cataldi sandwich with roasted red pepper spread, lettuce and string cheese ($5.50) as well as more traditional lamb gyros, chicken kebabs and falafel-stuffed pitas. On the market side lives any Middle Eastern ingredient your cookbook can send you out for -- beautiful handmade pita in a multitude of sizes, the essential herb blend za'atar and creamy, salty Bulgarian, French or Greek feta by the pound.
Our Bitar's-sourced snack wrap is a vegetarian assortment of hummus (or baba ganouj, or both) spread on pita toasted on one side in olive oil, a few slices of that sharp feta and crisp cucumbers topped with a heaping handful of mixed winter greens. Crushed into a portable cylinder, the contrasting textures and bright flavors snap against the warm delicate pita, crispy on the inside and soft outside.
Learn how to assemble our Medi-Veggie Snack Wrap after the jump.
Medi-Veggie Snack Wrap
Yields one wrap
Go Get This:
One 8-inch Bitar's hand-stretched pita
Few tablespoons of hummus or baba ganouj, or both
Few slices of Bulgarian feta to taste
Half a cucumber, peeled and sliced
Big handful of raw greens (spring mix, arugula, weeds, whatever you like)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Now Do This:
Pour about a teaspoon of olive oil into a 10-inch or larger skillet. Heat until shimmering over medium heat. Tilt pan so olive oil covers the surface in a thin layer.
Place the pita in the warm oil and allow to toast, about 1-2 minutes. Do not flip; you want the outside of the wrap to stay nice and clean and soft.
Remove warmed pita and place toasted side up on a plate. Spread with hummus or baba ganouj or both, just 3/4 of the way across the round. See photo.
Layer sliced feta over spread(s). Add sliced cukes. Place big handful of greens on top.
Roll wrap, starting with side that has lots of ingredients on it.
Eat. Feel smugly healthy.
More than just its throat-soothing, influenza-defeating properties, what my mother likes best about Boilo is the danger. "I found an article that said making Boilo was the number one cause of house fires in the anthracite-coal regions of Pennsylvania in the '30s," she practically bubbles. A simple mixture of oranges, lemons, ginger ale, honey, cinnamon and caraway hit with eye-watering amounts of moonshine (we used Everclear grain alcohol, lacking a still of our own), Boilo is akin to a hot toddy on steroids.
Boilo, known as the anthracite coal miner's cure for anything that ails you, was not a part of my mom's Drexel Hill childhood. She learned about it from her mother's sister, Joan, who recalled her own mother Felicia Ciokajlo (nÃ©e Swatski) making it with her own homemade ginger ale in Mt. Carmel, around two hours northwest of Philly, the early 1930s. "I've seen several different recipes," my mother related as she juiced orange and lemons for our Boilo project. "Some call for anise, mace or allspice, but I knew my family was poor they didn't have a car and they couldn't have afforded spices like that. Moonshine, however, they definitely had."
Intuitive cook that she was, my great-grandmother made her Boilo without a recipe. It was up to my great-aunt Joan to write to her second cousin Joseph Ciokajlo for more information. Joseph passed along a recipe he'd gleaned from a New Philadelphia grandmother that does use lemons an exotic item in Depression-era Mt. Carmel but none of the fancy spices my mother finds so unlikely. Despite the name, no boiling happens, as that would evaporate away the microbe-killing booze. As for the danger element, I heartily recommend keeping this project far from open flames, as Everclear or any high-proof alcohol is extremely flammable. Pouring the booze carefully into the pot, my mother looks positively giddy. "Just a lovely mother-daughter afternoon making hooch!" she exclaims, then adds her second-favorite quote from her stash of Boilo lore. "At this point in the recipe, the Boilo may explode."
Nazdrowie to that.
(from "a New Philadelphia grandmother," as written by Joseph Ciokajlo in a 2003 letter to Joan Wright, nÃ©e Ciokajlo, adapted by Felicia D'Ambrosio and Catherine Giacobbe)
1 Liter bottle good-quality ginger ale
1 heaping tsp. caraway seeds
6 sticks cinnamon
1.5 quarts honey (local preferred)
1 gallon Everclear or 100-proof whiskey (Four Queens suggested in original recipe)
Equipment: 2 big pots, one with tight-fitting lid; cheesecloth, juicer/reamer, colander, funnel, clean dishwashing gloves
Halve and juice all of the oranges and lemons into the stockpot that has a lid. Throw the rhines (sic) into the pot, along with all of the juice, pulp and seeds. Solids will be strained out later in the process.
Place the stockpot over medium heat and add the liter of ginger ale, caraway seeds and cinnamon sticks. Pour in all of the honey.
Allow the mixture to come to a simmer when it foams, give it a good stir. Cover pot with lid and turn the heat down to medium-low; allow mixture to cook at a bare simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Place a colander in the second large pot. Pour the hot juice-honey mixture through the colander to strain out the big pieces.
Wearing the dishwashing gloves and working carefully (the rinds are very hot), squeeze all of the pulp and liquid out of the rinds through the colander. Discard eviscerated rinds and rinse the colander.
Move the colander over the original pot and line it with cheesecloth. Pour the mixture through the cheesecloth to catch any remaining solid bits or seeds. You may need to scrape the cheesecloth with a wooden spoon to press the liquid through. Gather the cheesecloth around the remaining solids and squeeze hard. Discard solids in cheesecloth, and return the strained mixture to low heat.
Here is the dangerous bit: Working carefully so as not to splash (Everclear is extremely flammable and cannot come into contact with open flames), pour the gallon of grain alcohol into the pot. Despite the name, DO NOT BOIL.
Warm the mixture through gently for just a few minutes and then remove from heat. Using a ladle and funnel, decant the Boilo back into the gallon Everclear jug.
Stopper the jug and store in the pantry, or use it to fill smaller glass bottles or jars for gift giving.
Serve Boilo warm by placing the jar in a gently simmering pan of water with the lid off; the water should come three-quarters of the way up the jar. Remove from the pan with tongs and serve straight up in shot glasses.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|My funky honey|
In a quality establishment, a typical 1-ounce serving of artisanal cheese with a blingy accoutrement and crisp carbohydrate vehicle generally runs $5 to $8. Though the virtuoso cheese gets butts in the seats, it is often the accompanying spiced nuts, infused honey, preserves or mostarda that coaxes moody fromage into really singing.
This must have been my reasoning when I bought a $25, 8.8-ounce (250-gram) jar of Sabatino Tartufi truffle-infused honey.
It was after the farm-table dinner at Talula's Table; I'll say Bryan Sikora's heady cooking must have fried my food-budget defenses. At any rate, I did retain enough sense to check that the honey did indeed contain the actual spendy fungus and not just 2,4-dithiapentane, the most common chemical compound (marked "truffle essence" or "flavor" on ingredient labels) that's blended with olive oil to produce inexpensive but one-dimensional "truffle oils."
Sabatino Tartufi truffled honey is distributed by Sabatino North America, headquartered in the Bronx. Its ingredient list reads: "acacia honey, white truffle (tuber albidum) 1.5%, flavour." The signature earthy pungency of fresh truffles, chopped and in evidence as a sort of floating plug on top of the golden liquid, is smoothed and tamed by the super-sweet honey.
The complexity of the fungus was highlighted when the honey was drizzled over Black River Blue from Wisconsin (purchased at Green Aisle Grocery, $5 for 8 ounces). The sugary, tongue-coating honey cut through with salty, citrusy blue cheese and the initial funky truffle attack gave way to a long thoughtful finish. The tartufi showed equal ardor for biscuits (pictured) that were too flat to call successful, but too tasty not to repurpose as a scone-like launchpad for other flavors. Sliced hosui (Asian apple-pear) provided the obligatory plant component and a watery crunch to an otherwise fatty plate.
Very well, very decadent. But worth the price? Here's a Bang vs. Buck breakdown:
One absolutely lavish serving of Black River Blue with Sabatino Tartufo truffle honey and Asian pear
One ounce of Black River Blue cheese at $5/8 ounces.: $.63
About 5 percent of the $25, 8.8-ounce jar of truffle honey: $1.25
One hosui pear from Hung Vuong Supermarket: $1
Though 25 clams is a lot of money to spend on a condiment, the stuff elevated the plate from the standard, well-loved combination of blue cheese, honey and pear to a transcendent, money-can't-buy-this kind of moment. Overall you're still saving major paper on a rare and unique gustatory experience -- excellent bang for your buck.
|L.P. adventures in the refrigerator|
Around 6 p.m. each day, I begin to rummage through my cabinets and refrigeration units in search of little nuggets that I'll throw together and call dinner. Usually, I find fish filets, ground beef, chicken and a handful of veggies. On nights I am feeling particularly uninspired and burned out from cooking the larger part of an eight hour shift, I'll throw that ground beef in a pot and make chili. At first, pretty much the only thing standard about my chili was that I never used actually chilies. In recent attempts, I have found a combination that is savory, sweet, and spicy. Still no sign of chilies, but I love this rendition.
Hit the jump for the recipe.
1lb. ground beef (I usually buy 85/15 or 90/10)
2 tbsp. canola oil
Â½ onion, chopped (Vidalias are great, but plain white or red will do)
Â½ pepper, chopped (green peppers are the cheapest)
Â½ bunch scallions, chopped (chives are ok if that's what you have)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Â½ bunch cilantro, chopped (as finely or roughly chopped as you like)
2 large cans diced tomatoes in juice
Â½ cup honey
2 tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. cayenne (add more or less if you like or don't like your spice)
2tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot. Once it is glistening hot, add the onions and peppers. Sweat the liquid out of those then add your garlic. Once the garlic is slightly browned add the beef and cook that a few minutes (Remember, you don't really have to cook the beef until it's completely done because it will continue to cook as it stews with the other ingredients).
Now, throw in the cans of tomatoes, cilantro and scallions. Let that reduce down until it's a bit thicker, then toss in all the spices, salt, pepper and the honey. At this point, the longer you let it simmer (on very low heat) the better it will taste and all the flavors will marry. It's up to you how long you feel like waiting to dig in.
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