|Photo | Drew Lazor|
|Photo l Michael Persico|
Just hitting markets now are the very first signs of spring -- favas, fiddlehead ferns, rhubarb and lovely English peas. Encased in a fibrous inedible pod, the legume must be shucked by hand before preparation. Once you strip out the tough thread that edges the pod, six to ten perfect peas are revealed.
On sale this minute at Whole Foods Market (929 South St.) for $2.99/lb., English peas can be enjoyed a myriad of ways. Boil them for three minutes in salted water and lash with butter for the most traditional prep; or toss lightly cooked peas with parmigiano, prosciutto and a raw egg over fettuccine for a luscious carbonara variation. Though the pods are too stringy to eat, they make a nice addition to vegetable stock. Do buy in quantity -- a pound of peas in the shell yields only about a cup of the little green guys. Viva Spring!
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Our usual Eat This Immediately picks veer unhealthily towards the rich and fatty (like foie gras scrapple, 12-year cheddar, this insane burger), so we were shocked-- shocked-- to fall in love with this entirely vegan jicama salad on Distrito's (The Hub, 3945 Chestnut St.) brunch menu.
Served parfait-style in a flaring glass, chef de cuisine Tim Spinner layers brunoise jicama and Galina melon with orange supremes, pomegranate seeds and pepitas in a lemon vinaigrette, topping it with a perfectly tart quenelle of lime sorbet.
Sweet, tart, bright and crunchy, this salad was a tour de force of flavors, and certainly the maximum fruit alchemy $7 can buy.
Eat this immediately.
|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.
|Photo l James Saul|
|"Simply Honest" with chipotle sauce and "Natures" with pesto sauce from Fino's|
Vegan pizza freak-out in Mount Airy! Fino's Pizza at Germantown and Carpenter serves four kinds of vegan pie, with three different sauces to mix-and-match: choose from pomegranate, chipotle and pesto. We got so stoked on it (and so snow-laden lazy) that we ordered two:
"Simply Honest" is topped with a mountain of roasted veggies: pepper, caramelized onion with flax seed oil, garlic, baby spinach, and cherry tomatoes. If you like spicy, get it with the chipotle sauce for extra chutzpa.
"Natures" is perfect for those in need of protein power, totally loaded with vegan beef and fresh veggies galore. We had it with the pesto, which is an impressive offering in terms of veganness vs. authenticity.
Fino's owner Robert Moezi is a longtime Northwest Philadelphian and has been vegan for 26 years. When asked about the vegan options on his menu, he says "At first, I did it just for me! But then I wanted to introduce this food to other people and show them that eating healthy is not expensive."
In addition to the vegan stuff, Fino's also has an expansive menu for all pizza lovers. Exotic selections like Poblano Corn and Seafood Gumbo can satisfy a whole range of palates.
Fino's Pizza, 6784 Germantown Ave., 215-844-1188
|Photo l Josh Middleton|
|Cupcakes as you like 'em|
Some might say the cupcake market around here is as saturated with vendors as icing is with sugar. Lily Fischer and Erin Bailey sought to set themselves apart by offering infinitely customizable treats with their business, A Cupcake Wonderland. Establishing headquarters from their kitchens in Fishtown, they say their niche is their artistic, boundless approach to baking an array of treats that clients can customize any way they like. So far business is booming. Since their first official day of business in May they haven't seen one day pass without a request for cupcakes in their inbox.
Fischer and Bailey spend their afternoons chasing children at a local preschool, but at night they find an outlet for their burgeoning creativity through cupcake design. They each took art courses at Sarah Lawrence College and The Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, respectively. They pride themselves on being able to create any type of cupcake their customers can fathom. Some of their favorite concoctions have been dragons, an 18-hole golf course and black, red and white Twilight cupcakes decorated with fangs and apples. Another aspect of their business is baking cupcakes for clients who may have special dietary needs. âNo one wants to be that kid in class who can't have a cupcake because he's allergic to something,â says Lily. Just as easily as they bake regular recipes, they can turn out goodies that are vegan, gluten-free and void of other common allergens, including eggs, soy and nuts.
The ordering process begins by building your cupcake from the cookie sheet up. Choices can be made from a long list of cake options, frostings, fillings and toppings. Then you can either choose to have them plain or adorned with any type of design, which they refer to as a âFlight of Fancy.â When the order is complete they can deliver the neatly packaged goods personally, wearing a cupcake themed apron that resembles something Strawberry Shortcake would have worn in her heyday. Fischer and Bailey have hopes of expanding their self-started business in the future. They recently added kid-friendly, make-your-own cupcake parties to their services and hope to eventually open a retail space with a cupcake bar. Until then, however, they're focused on cranking out the best cupcakes possible from their own kitchens and they're having a ball doing it. âIf you're not making your cupcake with love and fun,â says Lily, âthen you're not making your cupcake.â
Check out A Cupcake Wonderland on the Web, or contact them at acupcakewonderland[at]gmail[dot]com.
Though more than one St. Valentine was martyred before the fourteenth century fad for courtly love turned them into a lace-edged clichÃ©, it doesn't have to be all blood and roses now. The Dark Horse Pub (421 S. Second St.) will host Philly's first-ever Vegan Valentine's Dance and Drinks on Sat., Feb. 13, complete with DJ, $1 off all drinks and vegan appetizers making the rounds in two connected private party rooms.
One hundred percent of the $10 cover will benefit The Humane League of Philadelphia and aid them in their work advocating for animals. Doors open at 8 p.m.; vegetarians welcome.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Got word that Allison Lubert and Heather Esposito's Sweet Freedom Bakery (1424 South St.) will open to the public next Friday, Jan. 15. The dietary restrictions-sensitive bakery, which we first detailed in October, will offer an array of cakes, pies, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, brownies and the like, all of which will be ï¿½ DEEP BREATH ï¿½ vegan and gluten-, soy-, egg-, nut-, dairy- and refined sugar-free. Both owners (pictured above at September's Appetite for Awareness event) are holistic health counselors.
Tonight ï¿½ starting right now, actually ï¿½ Royal Tavern (937 E. Passyunk Ave.) is showing a little love to the vegans and vegetarians of Philly by populating their famous chalkboard specials board with nothing but vegan/veg dishes. There'll also be some specialty cocktails to mark the event, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). This one-night-only event marks the kickoff of the Royal's anniversary celebration, which we told you about last month.
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