Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
March 28, 2011, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Salad, Side Dish, Vegetable | Tags: , , , ,

This is a more of a continuation of the last post than a new post.  This brussels sprouts dish provided a healthy complement to the white truffle mac ‘n’ cheese.  It was an addition that I was hoping would be used to provide a simple and alternative flavor to the rich, creamy flavors of the mac ‘n’ cheese.

My delicious meal of white truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, brussels sprouts, bread and wine was complemented by the wonderful personalities and conversations of/with Saoirse and Ciara Owens and Juan Graham.  It was a great and relaxing way to end the weekend.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta (from Food & Wine)

I feel redundant, but this is a straightforward recipe.  Believe it or not, three pounds of brussels sprouts do fit in one pot of boiling water.  Lastly, I have one addition and one suggestion for you.  The addition: increase the sun-dried tomatoes to roughly 10 ounces and add 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts to the final product.  Toast pine nuts over moderate heat, no oil required.  The suggestion: The recipe states to cook the brussels sprouts, cut side down, with 1/4 cup olive oil over high heat until slightly browned.  I can’t believe anyone has a pan big enough for 3 lbs of brussels sprouts to be facing down on the pan.  So either divide the oil and brussels sprouts in three batches or forgo the requirement that they all lay cut side down.  I learned by doing and therefore needed to use additional olive oil which resulted in a final product that had slightly too much olive oil.


White Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Grilled Chicken

Dangerous!  This is a word that can accurately describe certain parts of Philadelphia.  More frequently than I care to read or hear in the newspaper or radio are episodes or sprees of crime happening in the City of Brotherly Love.  Where’s the love you may ask?  Apparently not in north or south Philly where, according to my very unscientific media-based observation, a huge portion of our city’s crime takes place.  One of the more recent and prominent episodes involved the “Kensington Strangler,” in which a 22 year-old man assaulted and strangled to death three women over a one month period.  While there should never be any “fame” in crime, Philadelphia does have its fair share of infamous criminals.  Many of these criminals, including “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone, spent time in Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, once the most famous and expensive prison in the world.  According to it’s website, Eastern State Penitentiary is “known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true ‘penitentiary,’ a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts.”  Eastern State Penitentiary is no longer a prison and is now a museum open everyday from 10am to 5pm.  It is an impressive place and is definitely worth checking out, especially around Halloween.

White Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Grilled Chicken (from L.A. Times)

Dangerous is not only a word that describes the past and present criminals of Philadelphia, but also this macaroni and cheese.  It will be known for its “grand architecture” (white truffle olive oil amongst other things) and it’s required self- “strict discipline” to avoid over consuming such a flavor- and calorie-rich dish.  It is possible that enjoying this dish will inspire “penitence” and “true regret” and create a yearning to immediately resume healthy eating and an exercise regime.  There are 2 types of cheese – Boursin Garlic and Herb Gournay cheese (oh so good!) and mozzarella , one quart of heavy cream, crispy pancetta and bread crumbs sauteed in pancetta fat.  I’m not recommending enjoying such a rich dish as a daily ritual, but it is worthwhile making this on a special occasion.  Trust me, it’s dangerously good!

I recommend adding some fresh mozzarella cheese to this prior to serving (not part of the original recipe) and serving it with some sort of fresh vegetable (see next post) and a great wine (perhaps a cabernet or a rioja or a zinfandel).

Roquefort Cheese-Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Onions on a Toasted Brioche Bun
March 25, 2011, 9:54 am
Filed under: Dinner, Red Meat | Tags: , , , , , ,

At the beginning of 2010 I told myself that I was going to create the perfect burger.  After quite a few attempts throughout January and February I had had enough red meat to last me the remainder of the year.  My stomach, and I’m sure my cholesterol, were relieved.  Although I decided to put my goal on hold did not mean I could not test and find the best burgers of the chefs/restaurants of Philadelphia.  To date, the best burgers are found at Village Whiskey, Rouge, Good Dog, Butcher & Singer, Pub and Kitchen and 500 degrees.  The best by far is at Village Whiskey.  Their signature burger, the Whiskey King, is out of this world, but even their most basic burger is fantastic.  I find the Village Whiskey and Butcher & Singer burgers to be upscale-good, but for a more neighborhood-good burger I love the Good Dog Burger.  It’s a roquefort cheese-stuffed burger with lettuce and tomato served with sweet potato fries.  It is well prepared, unique and delicious.  The personality of the burger fits with the ambiance of the Good Dog Bar – chill, relaxed and comforting.

Roquefort Cheese-Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Onions on a Toasted Brioche Bun (adapted from Good Dog Bar and Restaurant)

Since I find the Good Dog burger so enjoyable I wanted to re-create it myself.  It’s creation in my kitchen is based on my recollection of my Good Dog experience, the small details I noticed while enjoying burgers at other places and what I have read about burgers on various blogs.  The first thing that came to my attention was the composition of the burger.  It appears that restaurants never just buy ground beef, make burger patties and then throw them on the grill.  Their meat is a combination of several cuts of beef.  I used short rib, brisket and chuck (75/25 meat-to-fat blend).  I asked the butcher at the store to ground all of these and when I returned home I mixed them together.  The second thing I learned was to minimize the amount of time you handle your meat.  I made a fairly good sized ball of meat and stuffed some Roquefort cheese in the middle. Thirdly, make the burgers 3/4 inches thick.  Fourth, using your thumb make an indentation at the center of the burger.  Doing so prevents the burger from bulging at the center and reduces the temptation to press down on the burger and consequently push the moisture  out of the meat.  Fifth, if you are preparing many burgers sear each side of each burger and just before serving put the burgers over the grill and finish cooking.  Lastly, it seemed that most burgers in the city serve their burgers on toasted brioche buns.  I did the same.  I had some trouble finding a place to buy these, but fortunately I lucked out and found some at Le Pain Quotidien.  I think in the future I will make my own brioche buns as these were smaller than I preferred.  I served these with some sweet potato fries and some cold beers.  Delicious!

Buttermilk Cake with Riesling-Poached Pears and Vanilla Crème Fraîche
March 24, 2011, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Desserts, Fruit | Tags: , , , , ,

Philadelphia is a very underrated city.  This assumption is not based solely on my opinion, but also on the opinion of Time & Leisure Magazine.  Time & Leisure named Philadelphia one of the 25 most underrated cities in the world.  I realize that I share many of these highly non-scientific polls in my blog, but I totally agree with this one.  As the fifth largest city in the U.S. we have so much to offer.  We have a big city atmosphere without that big city overwhelming feel, plenty of amazing restaurants (including Vetri, which is a finalist for the James Beard Award for best restaurant in the nation), plenty of history, art, music and theater, the largest municipal park in the country in Fairmount Park, fantastic sports teams, some say the greatest density of places of higher education than anywhere else and plenty of ways to stay active and healthy outdoors such as running, biking or rowing along the 215 miles of trails or 34 miles of waterway.  Even though Philadelphia is great now, it’s only going to get better.  Philadelphia’s mayor has a green initiative to increase the amount of green throughout the city thereby attempting to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the country, the addition of more running and walking trails and to turn an old pier to a new park along the Delaware River and Ben Franklin Bridge.  Furthermore, as you walk around the outskirts of Center City it is clearly evident that the lesser appealing neighborhoods and rowhomes are improving. So truly, to many of those who are not aware of what Philadelphia has to offer, our city may seem ugly and boring, but really it’s one of the best places to live in the East.

Buttermilk Cake with Riesling-Poached Pears and Vanilla Crème Fraîche (from Food & Wine Magazine)

This post is from Food & Wine Magazine which you may remember is a result of my cousin’s magazine drive.  I chose this recipe for this post because of how the author describes the pears: “We get these crazy organic pears that are ugly as sin.  Peeling them, though, reveals a fruit so beautiful and juicy…”  However corny this may be, I relate this description to the impression that many people outside Philadelphia have of our city and it’s reality which is very briefly highlighted in Time & Leisure Magazine.

I would recommend a couple of things: make everthing a day ahead of your intended serving date.  It doesn’t take long to make, but it is fairly labor-intensive.  Store the pears and crème fraîche in the refrigerator.  However, allow the pears to return to room temperature before serving.  Lastly, don’t make your own crème fraîche.  It involves leaving cream, etc at room temperature for over a day.  I attempted it but feared that I was going to get my guests sick so I ended up buying some from Whole Foods and then adding the confectioners sugar and vanilla bean.

Seared Tuna Steaks with Citrusy Soy Sauce, Crisp Sushi-Rice Cakes and Asian Cucumber Salad
March 1, 2011, 10:33 am
Filed under: Dinner, Fish, Vegetable | Tags: , , , ,

I subscribe to several magazines – Time, Cooking Light, Food and Wine and Philadelphia Magazine.  The first three subscriptions (Time, Cooking Light and Food and Wine) are the result of my participation in my cousin Anna’s magazine drive.  Buying magazines through these drives is great.  Not only do you get great deals on magazine subscriptions, but you also support schools and, obviously most importantly, the prizes that the kids earn.  I will never forget the days of working towards those spy sunglasses, the “money machine,” and all you can eat Taco Bell!  Apparently prizes have improved slightly.  My cousin yearned to sell enough magazines to ride a limo to McDonald’s.  I’m sure to a 3rd grader life doesn’t get any better than this and I was more than happy to help her reach her goal.  This post is dedicated to Anna since the recipe came from one of the magazine’s which helped her reach her goal.

Seared Tuna with Citrusy Soy Sauce, Crisp Sushi-Rice Cakes and Asian Cucumber Salad (from Food and Wine Magazine)

This recipe was part of a section in Food and Wine Magazine highlighting the unofficial “edgy” category of wines.  Edgy wines are described in the article as “natural” and then some, with a slowly evolving taste.  They use natural ingredients with little or no chemicals.  The authors broke “edgy” wines into several categories, the “Traditionalists” (producers who have been making wine the same way for hundreds of years), the “Revivalists” (winemakers which have recently rediscovered ancient methods) and the “Experimentalists” (producers which combine ancient and avant-garde techniques).  This particular recipe fell under the latter category, the “Experimentalists,” which was described as having umami flavors (the infamous 5th taste, also known as savoriness) which the author thought went well with “rich, supple orange wines from California” which also share this taste.

This is a dish with bright colors and fresh flavors.  I thought the citrus flavors from the soy sauce definitely brought this dish into any sort of “Experimentalist” category.  The citrus helped balance any overwhelmingly salty tastes that most normally associate with soy sauce.  It was almost a refreshing renewal to a common Asian sauce.

The recipe was deceivingly easy and quick to prepare.  I prepared the cucumber salad first using a mandolin to cut the carrots, English cucumber (seedless cucumber) and scallions into thin slices.  I tossed them with the juice from one lime and set aside.  I next made the sushi-rice cakes next.  These were slightly challenging solely due to the stickiness of the sushi-rice.  The recipe says to cook each side for 4 minutes, but I might only do so for 3 minutes next time.  Just prior to serving I put these in the oven to warm.  Lastly, I made the tuna and citrusy soy sauce.  Pretty straightforward to make.  The aroma and flavors of the soy sauce were awesome!

February 21, 2011, 4:54 pm
Filed under: Chocolate, Desserts | Tags: , ,

I’m fairly confident to state that everyone wants to be the best at something.  I could not imagine wanting to settle for second best or even average.  I’m not so confident as to why some seek that stardom.  For some, it’s solely financial while for others it’s the pure enjoyment in the subject matter and for others its the enjoyment of the competitive spirit of the pursuit of being the best.  Regardless of the motivation, it’s really important.  Our inherent desire to be the best is why scientific discoveries are made, lives are saved, excellent works of literature, theater and film are created, important laws are written and enacted, and great restaurants and food is made.  Without this desire and it’s subsequent product, we would most likely live in futility and eventually waste away into nonexistence.  This seems a bit harsh, but must hold some truth.  Philadelphia was recently recognized for a few of its culinary-related “bests,” including receiving numerous James Beard Award nominations in multiple categories, having one of the best public markets in the nation and even receiving recognition in the New York Times for it’s great dining scene.

This post shares what my neighbor, Ashley Cohen, calls the “best” brownies she has ever tasted.  Specifically, she said they were “astoundingly,  dangerously good.”  She enjoyed them so much she bugged me for a couple more and even considered returning from a dinner so that she could pick them up (she was afraid someone else would eat them if she did not do so).

Grasshoppers (Recipe from Baked Explorations)

I made these grasshoppers as a birthday treat for friend and fellow research coordinator, Laurie Doghramji, who works at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (which according to some is one of the “best” hospitals in the country…insert eye roll here).

The grasshoppers present with a very professional final look even after contributing an effort that errs on the side of Betty Crocker boxed brownies.  I realize I sound like a broken record, but this is a simple recipe.  To simplify the directions: 1. make brownie layer 2. make mint layer 3. make chocolate ganache layer.  In the future I might increase the mint layer by 50% and I will always cut the brownies when they are chilled.  Doing so avoids adding brownie crumbs to the mint layer which maintains that clean, professional look.

Linguini With Roasted Beets, Fresh Tarragon and Caraway Seeds
February 21, 2011, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Dinner, Pasta | Tags: , , ,

This past week was Valentine’s Day and apparently, according to CNN Money, Philadelphia knows how to celebrate.  Their ranking is based upon the amount of money spent per transaction on Valentine’s Day.  In Philadelphia, individuals spend $134.93, earning 4th place on the list.  At the top was Phoenix at $160.41 followed by Houston ($149.78) and San Francisco ($149.19) and then Philadelphia.  New York City rounded out the top five at $130.30.  Supposedly, while Phoenix and Co spent the most, NYC is the sexiest based solely on lingerie sales while San Francisco and Boston tied based on the number of marriage proposals.  These are fun statistics, but I hope no one actually bases love/romance on money spent!  In keeping with this theme, there was a great article in the Miami University Student Newspaper about the culture of dating and how technology is changing the way we date.  Today’s post maintains the Valentine’s Day theme although really only through the association of the color red with the holiday, but gesture of preparing a meal, as well as the flavor of the dish, well exceeds the $135 you might spend elsewhere for Valentine’s Day.

Linguini with Roasted Beets, Fresh Tarragon and Caraway Seeds (from Food and Style)

I don’t necessarily find the color of this pasta appetizing, but then again, you should never judge a book by it’s cover.  Beets are a very under-appreciated vegetable.  The flavors of (cooked) beets are sweet.  I’ve primarily only had them pickled and accompanying several other items as an appetizer.  However, caramelized beets in the with of balsamic vinegar and caraway seeds are incredibly more delicious. The combination of the three presents the beets with a “deep, rich and earthy flavor.”  The blog which created this recipe, Food and Style, also suggested pairing it with a wine called “Le Cigare Volant” from Bonny Dune Vineyard.

As for my suggestions, make the beets a day or two ahead of time.  Otherwise, this is a very time consuming recipe.  Lastly, serve the dish with any red wine that you love, although the Le Cigare Volant was pretty good.  Enjoy and Happy Valentine’s Day!