Honey-Sriracha Glazed Buffalo Wings
February 8, 2011, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Appetizer, Chicken | Tags: , , ,

This past weekend was the Wing Bowl in Philadelphia.  Wing Bowl began in the early 1990s with 2 contestants and 150 spectators and has grown into an event where 25 contestants competing for the Liberty Bell Trophy with the enough spectators to fill the 20,000+ seat Wells Fargo Center where both the 76ers and the Flyers call their home.  From what I read (I did not attend), it’s quite the event.  People begin showing up around 4am and fill the stadium by 5am.  The event starts soon thereafter with the procession of the competitors and their “wingettes.”  Last year’s champion, El Wingador, a fat man with a bleach blond mullet, was carried in on a throne.  El Wingador later ate 254 wings, but lost by 1 wing to winner “Super Squibb.”  Celebrities in the crowd included hot dog eating champion Kobayashi and adult film star Ron Jeremy.  To read more on this event click the link above.

Wing Bowl was not my ultimate motivation for this post.  Luckily, the Super Bowl was the same weekend.  The Super Bowl is the greatest excuse to drink beer and eat incredibly unhealthy food while simultaneously watching great football and commercials.  Wings and several IPAs totally fit the category of unhealthy food and drink.  And for the record, I enjoyed watching the Packers beating the Steelers.  I would rather see any other team win then Pittsburgh!

Honey-Sriracha Glazed Buffalo Wings (from Serious Eats)

If you have never had Sriracha, shame on you.  Unlike ketchup, Sriracha is good on everything.  Thus, wings that combine the flavors of Srirach, orange blossom honey and lime should be out of this world.  Turns out, this was a fairly accurate description based upon the critique from my friends Saoirse Owens, Priya Patel and Radnor Law.

The recipe is good and requires no deviations or comments.  Just be careful not to burn yourself when frying the wings. The initial placement/drop of the cold, raw wings in the hot vegetable oil can cause the oil to splatter.  Serve warm with carrots, celery and blue cheese dressing.

Balsamic Chicken Wings (from Food Network)

Think of this as a bonus to this post.  I didn’t want this post to have a generic title like “Chicken Wings” so I put this one following the Honey-Sriracha Glazed Buffalo Wings.  It’s place in the post or it’s lack of attention in the title does not indicate that this is bad or even second best to the first recipe.  It is quite good as well and merely has a different taste than the Sriracha wings.  These may even be considered “healthier” than the Sriracha wings since they are baked rather than fried.

Again, no deviations from the recipe or comments to share.  Follow the recipe and serve with carrots, celery and blue cheese dressing.


Dulce de Leche Crepes
February 1, 2011, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Desserts, Pastry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Friday marked the end of Restaurant Week in Philadelphia.  Restaurant Week is a culinary-focused event in which over 50 restaurants in the city offers special two or three course prix-fixe menus for prices of $20 for lunch and $35 for dinner.  What is odd about Restaurant Week is that it is not a week-long event, but is two weeks – twice a year.  The appeal of this event tends to slightly lose it’s luster when offered so frequently.  Although the name “Restaurant Week” is a bit of a misnomer, the popularity of the restaurants that compose this event is not.  The food is awesome everywhere.  Every course of every meal I have had at a Restaurant Week restaurant has been outstanding.  This time I went to Fork, which offers American bistro cuisine in a relaxed restaurant atmosphere.  Everything on their Restaurant Week menu sounded incredible and I ended up selecting  the creamy cauliflower soup, braised short ribs with creamy polenta and braised leeks and the vanilla creme brulee.

You would assume that I would try to create a Fork-related post, but instead I focused on oddities or things that just don’t seem to make sense in regards to food.  The name “Restaurant Week” definitely fits that description since it’s offered four weeks out the year.  Another oddity that was recently brought to my attention by friend Alex Gutweiler was this recipe for English peas by Paula Dean.  It only has two ingredients, peas and butter!  I recommend reading the comments when you have the time as they are hilarious.  My last food oddity, and subsequent attempted segue into my post, is my friend Cole Griswold’s alcohol-induced desire to make crepes after a night out in college.  It was bizarre at the time and slightly bewildering to this day.  Why crepes? Why at 2AM?  Well, based the combination of Cole’s desire for a French/Latin American pastry and the other previously mentioned oddities  I decided to make Dulce de Leche Crepes for you.

Dulce de Leche Crepes (from Alma de Cuba)

Since I had been to Alma de Cuba during a past Restaurant Week I didn’t want to go there again, but I did want to highlight something that is offered there and also has some personal twist on my very loose theme of oddites in food. The dessert I decided to make, Dulce de Leche Crepes,  is described on the Alma de Cuba menu in the following way:

“Vanilla crepes filled with dulce de leche and served with truffled streusel, bitter chocolate glaze and smoked vanilla ice cream.”

Obviously there was not a recipe to accompany the menu descriptions, but it was not very difficult to tease out the required ingredients and reproduce this dessert.  I used this recipe for the vanilla crepes, this recipe for the dulce de leche and this recipe for the streusel.  Here are my recipe notes/suggestions: For the crepes, use 1 3/4 cups milk, 3 whole eggs, 1.5 tablespoons vanilla, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar instead of the listed amount for each of these ingredients.  Also, sift the flour and combine all of the dry ingredients and, while stirring, gradually add it to the wet ingredients to avoid clumping.  For the dulce de leche, patience and time is a must.  It takes a while to make (2-3 hours), but it is worth it.  Also, occasionally remove the foam that accumulates on top.  For the streusel, I added a teaspoon of both cinnamon and nutmeg because  I wanted to streusel to be very aromatic.

The picture below represents the delicious mess that might be left after finishing this dessert!

Penne with Arrabiata Sauce
January 31, 2011, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Dinner, Pasta | Tags: , , , , ,


Judging from my lack of posts you might guess that I’ve been busy lately.   I swear the days are getting shorter and my schedule longer.  The longer I live in Philadelphia, the more I’ve become, well, “Philadelphian.”  Although I’m almost positive most cities have a similar characterization, and therefore making my argument moot, people in Philadelphia always seem to be in a huge rush.  Cars, buses, cabs and even pedestrians go zooming passed everyday.  Where are these people going?  Are they running late to their destination?  Super busy? Or, do they have the next great idea and are on their way to develop that idea (after all, Philly was recently named a hub for creative activity)? Who knows, but if you don’t keep up or get out of their way they’re going to let you know about it with honking horns and dirty looks. I, by no means, am a daily exception.  I think we all have our moments.  To combat my “moments” and avoid the daily rush I’ve tapped a very underutilized resource, namely, 5 to 7AM.  I use this time to exercise, usually to swim, bike or run, and to read email as well as the news.  The result is a very invigorating and productive morning, eager and able to tackle the next phases of my day. For those of you who say “no way!” to 5am, then organization and efficiency of the back end of the day is a must.  To help you out, I present this post, “Penne with Arrabiata Sauce” as a quick, easy and delicious dinner that you can fit into your daily rush.

Penne with Arrabiata Sauce (from my Mom)

This sauce has four user-friendly ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  I admit that I’ve never used fresh tomatoes in this recipe, but I’ll defend myself by saying that making this sauce is made on a “I’m-too-tired/busy-to-put-any-effort-into-my-cooking” kind of day and having a can of tomatoes stored away in my cupboard is easier than timing the use of fresh tomatoes.

The recipe: Warm a medium-sized pan over medium heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil.  While the olive oil warms, mince two cloves of garlic.  Add the garlic and let cook for one minute.  Add as much or as little red pepper flakes as you like.  My mom’s recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon, but I typically add 1-2 teaspoons.  Cook until the garlic begins to brown.  Add the 15 ounce can of peeled, whole tomatoes as well as any liquid component that accompanies the tomatoes.  Stir the tomatoes in with the olive oil mixture.  Cut the tomatoes into thirds or quarters.  Add a few fresh basil leaves or a teaspoon of dried basil.  Allow the sauce to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.   As the sauce simmers, the tomatoes will soften and they can be chopped into smaller pieces if desired.  Add 1 pound cooked penne to the sauce, stirring to incorporate the sauce amongst the noodles.  Add fresh mozzarella, serve and enjoy!


Cheese and Crackers

It’s been said that there are two guarantees in life: death and taxes.  In Philadelphia, there are also guarantees: winters will be frigid and summers will be excruciatingly hot, people will eat soft pretzels regardless of the time of day and Philadelphians live and die with their professional sports teams.  In my life there are also guarantees: I will run, I will work extremely hard in school or work and I will have cheese and crackers a few times in a week.   I figure as long as I uphold my first guarantee, to run, I can uphold my last guarantee, to enjoy cheese and crackers.  My explorations into cheese isn’t profound (mostly due to the ridiculous and outrageous costs of cheeses), but I have enjoyed quite a few varieties and continue to learn about others through people, restaurants and books.  I know what flavors and textures I like and what I don’t, and I know cheese doesn’t always have to be on cracker, but also on a burger, part of a sauce and even an ingredient in ice cream.  This post, a trio of cheese balls, unfortunately stays away from the unique and moves just beyond  the classic.

A Trio of Cheese Balls (from the kitchn)

First of all,  I should define each of these cheese balls.  Moving from left to right, Cheddar and Olive Cheese Ball with Dijon, Lemon and Dill, Blue Cheese Ball with Candied Almonds and Goat Cheese Ball with Chives, Cucumber and Caramelized Shallot.  They are all great, but please do not underestimate the contribution  of each ingredient (when shopping or eating) to the overall flavor to the cheese ball.  Certain ingredients, especially the green olives in the Cheddar and Olive Cheese Ball, provide a vital flavor that moves the cheese from ordinary to extraordinary.  I do not recommend serving all three simultaneously unless you have a large and/or a cheese-happy crowd.  Lastly, the best of the trio, by far, is the Blue Cheese Ball with Candied Almonds.

If you decide to indulge, a few tips: First, goat cheese is very soft so a small adjustment must be made when adding the chives, cucumber and caramelized shallots.  Blend/pulse the chive-cucumber-shallot mixture separate from the cheese.  Spread the mixture out over a plate and dab it with a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.  Without doing so the cheese ball will not solidify enough to actually form a ball and instead form more of a thick dip.  Second, make the cheese balls a day or two in advance to allow the flavors to fuse.  Lastly, cover the balls in their respective coatings just before serving.

Protein-Rich Black Quinoa Salad
January 13, 2011, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Dinner, Salad, Side Dish, Vegetable | Tags: , , , , ,

Since this is the first true post in 2011 (I made the food from the last post on Dec 31st) I thought it was mandatory that it be a healthy dish.  And maybe rightfully so for Philadelphia if you believe Men’s Health Magazine.  According to Men’s Health, Philadelphia is near last in fitness and overall health categories.  I neither agree nor disagree with Men’s Health’s ranking of Philadelphia.  It’s hard to take a magazine seriously that also ranks the  drunkest cities in America!  However, at the same time there are many days where the lines at Wendy’s are more populated than the running trail or the gym.  To dissect Men’s Health’s results and understand it’s flaw, one has to understand the make-up of this city.  The majority of the city can be found outside the tall buildings of Center City in poor neighborhoods. Although not an excuse for poor overall city health, it does tend to skew the city’s image for someone outside Philadelphia.  We do not have an extensive subway system (not that we truly need one) and as a result, many people walk and bike to work. The city has even begun a bike-share program similar to  the car-share program, Zipcar.  After-work hours and weekends provide lots of activity such as running and biking, swimming and hiking in Fairmount Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country.  If you combine the physical activity aspect of our city with the availability of fresh and relatively low cost fruits and vegetables (Note: it was recently reported that Philadelphia’s food stamp program, SNAP, is used more in Reading Terminal Market, than in anywhere else in the city.  A diverse and healthy selection of foods can be found at Reading Market.), I think we have a city that is just as healthy as any other large city.

Protein-Rich Black Quinoa Salad (From 5 second rule)

Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of exercising.  Not because I’m like the majority of people who stated that this is the year they get back to the gym, but because I’m getting back into shape in preparation for training for a triathlon.  In other words, I’m training to train for a triathlon.  As anyone who has ever trained for athletic endeavors such as a triathlon or a marathon knows, with increased exercise comes increased need for energy.  I eat and I eat often.  In order to ensure that my muscles do not counter-productively wither away I have to make sure I consume plenty of protein.  I could speak for a couple hours on protein (in graduate school I gave two, one-hour presentations on protein to an undergraduate class), but just know that protein is an important macronutrient for overall health and sports performance.  This salad is packed with protein, great for both athletes and overall healthy eating.

If you already checked out the link to the recipe you know that it calls for pomegranate molasses.  Don’t worry, it’s not difficult to make.  It merely involves 4 cups pomegranate juice, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice.  Combine the ingredients in a moderately sized pot over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow it to reduce to 1 cup, about 70 minutes.  Transfer to a container, let cool for 30 minutes and then store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Using the pomegranate molasses, make the dressing for the salad.  Combine 2 teaspoons molasses, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.  Season with fresh ground pepper and salt.

Quinoa.  It’s name alone makes it intriguing.  Let’s be honest, there are a lot of words that sound nothing like how it is spelled.  Unless you live in Philly you probably still haven’t figured out how to pronounce “Schuylkill” as in the “Schuylkill River Trail” that I continually refer to when I reference my running.  To be honest, for the longest time I didn’t know how to pronounce “quinoa.”   I thought it was pronounced similar to one of my favorite vacation spots, “Kiawah.”  Nope.  Apparently it’s pronounced “/kin-wa/” or “/keen-wa/.”

Quinoa, a grain, is prepared like rice.  It must be rinsed and then is cooked in water until the quinoa is tender, absorbs a great majority of the water and lets out a white curlicue tendrils.  Remove any remaining water and let it cool to room temperature.

Dice the cucumber and avocado, collect 1 cup of fresh pomegranate seeds (~1 pomegranate) and rinse 15 oz of black beans.  Combine these ingredients with the cooled black quinoa.  Mix in the pomegranate molasses mixture and add additional salt to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things
January 7, 2011, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Appetizer, Desserts, Dinner | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

2010 was a great year.  I accomplished a few of my goals, one being creating this blog, and was able to cook a lot more than I have in the past.  Overall, living in Philadelphia is awesome.  There is plenty to do, see, eat and drink.  God forbid you actually want to get out of the city for a bit, New York City and Washington, D.C. is just a 2+ hour Megabus/Boltbus ride away.  Like I always mention, Philly has awesome restaurants and food stores and markets.  In reflection of my 2010 eating experiences I thought I would make a few of my favorite things: Royal Palm Dates from Alma de Cuba, Crab Cakes from DiBruno Bros and Salted Caramel Budino from Barbuzzo.  They do not necessarily reflect my favorite restaurants in the city, but each represents  something I highly recommend if you happen to stumble upon them.

As for 2011, I plan to share more of the same as well as some of my food experiences outside of the kitchen as well as the people I share them with.   I will try my best to stay consistent with the blog postings (hopefully each Sunday).  Furthermore, I have big things planned for my blog which I hope to show you all in a couple months.  Happy 2011!

Royal Palm Dates (adapted from Alma de Cuba)

There was no actual recipe to follow for these, so I had to use my memory and a few pictures from the internet to create them.  From my internet search, it looks like these are a fairly common appetizer, although it didn’t look like too many used blue cheese and endive leaves as well.  The almond skins must be removed and can be easily done by blanching in boiling water.  Stuff 1-2 almonds in each pitted date, wrap in 1/3 slice of bacon, and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In  a bowl, mix sliced almonds with thinly sliced red onion and blue cheese.  Place a heap of this mixture on each endive leaf, add the bacon-wrapped date, and top with a little melted blue cheese.  Yum!

Crab Cakes with Spicy Aioli Sauce (Adapted from DiBruno Bros)

DiBruno Brothers has some pretty rad pre-made food selections (in addition to their other store selections) for those days you really have no desire to cook.  Although its hard to go wrong, I recommend the crab cakes with aioli sauce.  They are unbelievable!  I made these for my parents on new year’s eve and my dad said they were as good as any he has ever had (That’s a compliment, right?).  As for the spicy aioli sauce, it was more or less my own recipe: 1 pint mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, 1 small jar roasted red peppers (blended), and hot sauce, salt, pepper to taste.

Salted Caramel Budino (Recipe from Barbuzzo)

Welcome to the best dessert in the city.  This isn’t merely my opinion, but apparently the opinion of others.  Up to this point, if there was one thing you had to get/make in Philly/my blog, it would be this dessert.  It’s that unreal.  It’s easy to make and just as easy to order.

Chocolate Pomegranate Torte
December 26, 2010, 4:43 pm
Filed under: Cakes, Chocolate, Desserts | Tags: , , , , ,

Did you know that according to Greek mythology the seasons of the year are partly attributed to the goddess of the underworld, Persephone, and eating pomegranate seeds?  According to mythology, Hades kidnapped Persephone and forced her to live in the underworld and be his wife.  Persephone’s mother, Demeter (goddess of the harvest), went into mourning and caused all vegetation to stop growing.  Zeus, not wanting the earth to die, ordered Persephone’s return.  However, it was law that if anyone consumed food or drink in the underworld they were doomed to spend eternity there.  Because Persephone had no food, Hades tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds and thus she was condemned to spending six months in the underworld every year.  During these six months, Demeter mourns and does not give fertility to the earth.  Thus, the reason why we have the fall and winter seasons.

In Philadelphia, Demeter must have really wanted us to suffer for Persephone’s mistake.  During the winter months, daylight is precious and the days are full of frigid temperatures and brutal winds sweeping between the tall buildings.  Depending upon who you ask, we are either blessed or cursed with plenty of snow as well.  Luckily, with the cold weather comes plenty of great things – holiday parties, hot chocolate, eating at one of the many fantastic Philly restaurants, running on the near-deserted Scuylkill River trail with my dog, skiing, movies, reading, and eating a variety of sweets. Combining the latter with a fruit that is in season this time of year, the pomegranate, can make some incredible desserts.  One such dessert, a chocolate pomegranate torte, is the focus of the post.

Chocolate Pomegranate Torte (From Fine Cooking)

This torte takes quite a bit of time to make and thus I suggest spreading its preparation out over a couple of days.  On the first day, I made the cake and jelly and then spread the jelly over the cake to allow the jelly to set.  According to the website where this recipe originates, it says this is the thing to do anyways as the cake has the best texture and flavor when allowed to set for a day or two.  After making this torte four times over the past few years I have one improvement to the recipe, double the jelly. When the torte is made exactly as directed, it is difficult to pick up the flavors of the pomegranate jelly over the chocolate cake and glaze.  I found the jelly much more prominent and flavorful when it’s recipe is doubled (as it should be), and overall, the torte much more extravagant.

After allowing the cake to set for a day or so, it’s time to glaze the cake and pomegranate gel.  The most important aspect of this step is to not try to make it perfect.  The more you touch it the rougher the glaze will look.  Minimal movements will give it a professional and shiny finish.  To glaze the cake, pour it over the middle of the cake and spread it to the edges, allowing it to fall over the edges.  Using a spatula, spread it evenly and quickly to give the edges a smooth, clean appearance.  Allow it to set over several hours and then serve.