David Eyre’s Pancake

Good morning, sunshines! Happy Saturday. Let’s talk about pancakes, and how you need to make this easy, magical dish sometime this weekend, maybe even now. If you’ve been up for a bit and want to get your day started, feel free to scroll down to the recipe below. But if you’ve just rolled out of bed and need a bit of time to adjust, please read on.

This, by the way, is what you have to look forward to:

IMG_2483

But don’t take my word for it!

And now, the bit of introduction.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Let’s get: dessert in Philadelphia!

A fun post for the end of the week. If you’re out and about in Philly, and are craving a bit of something sweet (TGIF, after all!), here are a few top contenders:

1. Yogorino frozen yogurt.

With all the fixings.

With all the fixings.

There are a lot of amazing frozen yogurt, or “froyo” places in Philly. My closest friends swear by Igloo’s Greek frozen yogurt, which has that unmistakable yogurty tang; Pure Fare’s supposed to have good vegan froyo (made with coconut milk, I think); plus many other stops. But to me, none of these even approach Yogorino’s deliciousness. That complex flavor! That lack of cloying, artificial sweetness! All those saucy toppings! Pictured here is a cup with chocolate nougat sauce and pomegranate seeds; I happen to adore their pistachio sauce and bittersweet chocolate sauce, which hardens to a semi-soft shell. Plus they have late hours and punch cards, which basically means I’m hooked for life. (Tip: though the University City location has an impressive, spinning astro-wheel of gelato, the froyo somehow tastes better at the Rittenhouse Square location. Strange but true.)

Yogorino, 233 S 20th St and 3201-3229 Chestnut St.

 

2. Salted caramel budino at Barbuzzo.

Heaven.

Heaven.

Okay, people — this is IT. This is the best dessert in Philadelphia. You dive in first through a layer of deep brown salted caramel sauce, pausing first to get some of the thick whipped cream with chocolate cookie crumbs. This then yields to the budino, that gorgeous, lush, pristine goodness whose texture is somewhere between a crème brûlée and a pudding; it’s golden with brown sugar, egg yolks, butter, and rum, with a complex soft, cool richness. Then, finally, you hit the bottom of the jar to the chocolate cookie crust, a moist layer that gives the whole concoction a playful edge. The combination is exquisite, hitting all the right notes of sweet, salty, and a bit sour with the whipped cream, which I’m convinced has crème fraîche or sour cream in it.

For those of you not in Philly, Bon Appétit published the recipe for this dessert, which is finicky enough that I just go out and buy it, but not impossible enough to stop me from trying it when I leave this budino-blessed city. And for those of you in Philly, apparently they sell these in 6-packs for $48, so you can always have a budinolicious day. Awwww yeah.

Salted caramel budino, $8. Barbuzzo, 110 South 13th Street.

 

3. Macarons from Miel Pâtisserie.

Cuties.

Cuties.

Food fads come and go (I’m looking at you, cupcakes and cronuts), but hopefully macarons will last forever. Okay, so they’re finicky doll food and a bit frou frou. But how else, other than Skittles, do you get to taste the rainbow? Plus, they make great gifts!

These particular iterations from Miel Pâtisserie are really quite good; you should especially try the salted caramel, pistachio, and rose flavors. (Sugar Philly also makes a mean macaron.)

Macarons, $2.50 each. Miel Pâtisserie, 204 S 17th St.

 

Those are a few choice choices, based both on taste and by what I happen to have photos of on my computer. Where in Philly do you like to get dessert?

Great New Reliable Green Beans

photo 2

I don’t love redemption narratives, at least when it comes to thinking about my own life. There’s always the chance that one’s triumph will sour, plateaus will be reached, or any number of twists and turns that these stories are err to in real life. Yet I’ll make an exception for green beans. Growing up, I mostly encountered frozen green beans and green beans out of a can. And I hated them. Their limp, beige-green color made me ill, as did their potted-water smell; even disguised under cheese sauce and in a vegetable mix with corn and sliced carrots, nothing about them was appealing. (That said, Thanksgiving green bean casserole — you know, the one with the cream of mushroom soup and crispy onions on top? — was and is still incredible. But those aren’t really beans anymore, a fact I note in love (!) rather than disgust.)

As the years have gone by, and I’ve gotten older, wiser, and a kitchen of of my own, I’ve learned to tolerate green beans, especially the overflowing baskets you get at the farmer’s market. They’re fresh and snappy! Delightfully green and healthy! They go with anything! Good, old reliable green beans. I made them amadine, that toasty, sweet-savory dish prepared with butter, almonds, and garlic; I made them bright and bustling with lemon, drawing out their green flavor with olive oil and a healthy smattering of parsley, all pulled together by the rich, nutty undertone of pine nuts. I even grew to like them nearly raw, quick-blanched and served with hummus, green goddess, or red-pepper dip. Like broccoli or even summer squash, they’re a substantial green vegetable that you can turn to automatically as a side dish, one not expected to upstage the main course but that helps to fill out the meal.

Then this past year rolled by, and I found two versions that changed the way I thought about (or rather, tasted for) green beans. Rather than boiling the beans and quickly sauteeing them with your nuts and aromatics, these recipes called for the beans to cook for a good long time, in the pan, with butter. One of the recipes said you want them to “stew in their own juices,” which was a revelatory way of thinking about green beans; both of them told you to cook them until they browned, shrunk, and got tender. This, as I found, intensifies the flavor, a pure concentrated green bean goodness that one very rarely experiences in other preparations. Once the beans are browned and almost caramelized, you then throw a good amount of chopped garlic into the pan, enough to flash cook it but still keep its bite, which provides a welcome contrast to the vegetal sweetness. And voilà! Beans living up to their fullest and best potential.

 

The cooking process.

The cooking process.

 

Penelope Casa’s Garlic Green Beans (from Food52)

  • ¾ pound Fresh Green Beans
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Clove Garlic, crushed
  • Coarse Salt

Trim the green beans. Melt butter in a skillet, add beans, and cook over medium to med-high flame, stirring, until they beging to brown.

Lower the flame, cover, and cook 15-20 min, or until the beans are your desired tenderness, stirring occasionally.

Mix in crushed garlic, sprinkle with salt, and serve.

 

Chinese-Restaurant Style Green Beans (from Fine Cooking)

  • 1 Tbs Less-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbs Honey
  • 1 Tbs Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1# Younger Green Beans, trimmed
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tbs Minced Garlic

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the green beans and ½ tsp salt and toss with tongs to coat well. Cook, turning the beans occasionally, until most are well browned, shrunken, and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. (The butter in the pan will have turned dark brown.)

Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the garlic is softened and fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully add the soy mixture (you’ll need to scrape the honey into the pan). Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glazey consistency that coats the beans, 30 to 45 seconds.

Immediately transfer the beans to the serving dish, scraping the pan with the spatula to get all of the garlicky sauce. Let sit for a few minutes and then serve warm.

 

Hunger games; or, Blondies

So there I was, weekday night, watching the second installment of the Hunger Games for my utopia/dystopia class. It was the party scene in the Capital, where one of Katniss’s fancy make-up artists was explaining to Peeta the properties of a small goblet of lavender liquid. It’s for when you’re full, says one. It makes you sick, the other adds. So you can go on eating! The first one smiles. How else could you taste everything? This then becomes a segue into Katniss’ and Peeta’s disgust at the lavish excesses of the Capitol, as well as its related political and moral failings.

Then, naturally, I started thinking about blondies.

photo 4

I admit it wasn’t the most opportune moment. Focus, I thought. Focus on the movie. Look, here’s Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Want. Blondies. Now?) He and Katniss are having a freighted conversation. (Buttery crumb. Golden deliciousness.) Okay, he just said the party is appalling. Appalling. People are starving in District 12. How can you think about baking at a time like this? 

Then Philip Seymour Hoffman said: Still, if you abandon your moral judgment, it can be fun.

That was it. I abandoned the movie and scooted into the kitchen.

Continue reading

Organization; or, Kitchen systems

A few times a year, my random internet browsing brings me to the world of productivity or “life-hack” websites, which are at once completely awful and compulsively seductive. Reading them is like walking around a megastore or department store without knowing exactly what you want, with all the bright lights, lack of clocks, and circuitous routes calculated to get you stuck in an endless purgatory of desire.

I should say, of course, that I believe it’s important to be self-conscious about how you structure your work day. Part of being in grad school is figuring all that out, attending to what you need to actually get things done and in a way that is as “productive” and “pleasurable” as possible, and so that it doesn’t expand to take up every hour of your day. I put these adjectives in quotation marks because of the tendency to fetishize them, i.e., the mandate to “love your work” or the fantasy that we can turn ourselves into efficient, frictionless workbots. So for those of you who, like me, happen to stumble into the realm of lifehacking –which sounds kind of gross, right? like a cat with a hairball or a violent dismembering of life?–and want to make it not a total waste of braintime, I’d advise only spending a few minutes browsing these sites. The first ten or so minutes are usually the best, letting you pick up a few nuggets here and there before your brain glazes over. For there are some useful suggestions out there, I think — and if anything, they get you thinking about your practices of everyday life.

This time, it got me thinking about how this might apply to cooking, a really important practice in my life that means so many things to me and in so many different ways over time. It is, or has been:

  • a total release from the demands of my worklife
  • a period of concentrated play akin to meditation
  • work. just….work.
  • seasonal
  • a social activity
  • a solitary activity
  • something I want to fastidiously document
  • something I want to do and then relinquish, immediately
  • an indulgence
  • a discipline
  • at times, completely avoided or forgotten
  • economical
  • $$$$
  • fun! satisfying!
  • self-defining

And many more things.

Today, I want to discuss a few habits that have stuck with me for awhile when it comes to cooking, or at least for a bit before I discarded them in favor of other practices. This is just a glimpse into how one home cook processes the wealth of information out there about food, recipes, books, techniques, and restaurants. (Disclaimer: this is more a post for myself than any form of advice!)

Continue reading

Let’s go to: Famous 4th Street Delicatessen

Pickled pleasures.

Pickled pleasures.

Delicatessen is a beautiful word. According to the OED, it is first defined as “delicacies or relishes for the table,” from the German word Delikatessen, on loan from the French word délicatesse. Its second, and perhaps more common definition, is “a delicatessen shop.” While this is often shortened to the more familiar and friendly “deli,” I really love the full word with all of its delicate sounds and flavors. Saying it is like eating an amuse-bouche, tickling the palate and heightening one’s taste for what’s to come. The full word evokes the wonder and feeling of one of its earliest recorded descriptions, as “a house which abounds in foreign dainties of all sorts.”

For those of you who have been to Philadelphia’s Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, “dainty” is not quite the first word that comes to mind. Perhaps you think “bold,” “extreme,” or as a friend puts it, “meat, huge, and fantastic.” This is as much a matter of the delicacies’ size (towering sandwiches, tureens of soup, and platters of cake) as it is of their flavor (glistening pastrami, smoked fish, invigoratingly vinegared salads, full-bodied sweet and sour cabbage soup), all delivered in a bright white-and-black tiled storefront. The sandwiches may be rather expensive (especially if you order the “zaftig” size), but they will stuff two people with enough leftovers for another day or two, depending on whether you like your corned beef on rye, in eggs, or in a stuffed baked potato.

Continue reading

The good-enough blogger; or, Chia seed pudding

Chia Seed Pudding

The ideal shot. Of course, this isn’t what real life looks like (more after the break…)

A long time ago, one of my academic acquaintances made a remark that has since stuck with me. I knew you were really a grad student, he said, when you stopped blogging regularly. At the time I laughed, perversely somewhat proud that life had swallowed me whole I had become a full-time academic. Later, the comment gave me serious pause. Why should grad school get all the fun, or at the very least, all my writing energy? And yet how couldn’t it? At this point, I started to find polished, professional-looking grad student food blogs uniquely irritating, second only to certain cherished sites that made the eventual, yet still utterly betraying turn into marriage plots (“I’ve been waiting a long time to introduce you to X….” “X approves of this dish…” “Reader, I married him.” UGH. Unless you are the totally badass Charlotte Brontë, please never, ever use this last line.) But that’s a subject for another post.

 

Pudding, in real life. Seems a bit smaller, doesn't it, and more humble? Threatening, even, to disappear?

Pudding, in real life. Seems a bit smaller, doesn’t it, and more humble? Threatening, even, to disappear?

 

Now, I am interested in the inbetween of being a grad student and food blogger (and I should also say, cook), and the various strategies, compromises, and creative means one employs to be both. Sometimes that means not writing about literature, or not writing about food; sometimes that means doing both and feeling that awesome warm fuzzy feeling of cross-disciplinarity (and not just feeling fuzzy, a less desirable side effect). Recently, it’s meant choosing familiar or time-economical recipes. And with this particular recipe, it meant multitasking, leaving things be, and then deciding to feel okay with the result, which was a bit soupier than I wanted it to be.

The good enough student blogger / blogging student. I think I’m down with that. Now, onto pudding.

Continue reading

Public service announcement; or, On food reading

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing these days, and one of the lessons I keep returning to again and again is the durable link between being a good writer and being a good reader. It’s all too easy to prize output over input, to measure one’s progress based on pages produced rather than pages consumed. (You probably know where I’m going with this.)

Reading rainbow, in paler shades of white.

Reading rainbow, in paler shades of white.

This was my recent library haul, from the Free (public) Library of Philadelphia. They’ve got a surprisingly great selection of cookbooks and food writing, and I find it way more pleasurable to take my time reading them at home than at Barnes and Noble, hunched over a stack of pristine, crisp clean copies trying not to microbend the pages. (Though that has its furtive pleasures too, I suppose.) Today, I checked out Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires (because what a perfect title!), Julia Child’s My Life in France (long overdue), Donroe Inman’s Wintersweet (because nothing’s cooler than reading about winter baking projects in the summer), and Chad Robertson’s Tartine Book No. 3 (confession: for the single pastry section, not the many on bread). Hopefully these, and many more, will prove good companions during this long month of writing, or at least give me a few ideas and recipes to add to my collection.

So this is just to say: get thee to a public library! Reclaim that breathless, expanding, quick-spinning bibliophilia of your childhood, or discover it (and how it changes) in the many phases of adulthood. To me, after logging many hours in a university library following trail after bibliographic trail, all this whimsical choice feels so good.

Cereal monogamy; or, Granola

I’ve been wanting to share these two granola recipes for a long time now, but I didn’t have any pictures (until now) in part because I usually make them haphazardly and in a hurry and eat them early weekday mornings for breakfast. While these qualities don’t lend themselves that well to photo-ops, they do make these recipes really, really good candidates for your baking repertoire. Fast, easy, and adaptable; pantry-friendly and freezer-durable; it lasts for weeks, doesn’t get tiresome (at least for now), and makes the perfect gift. What is there not to love?

My permanent Granola Box, which lives in my freezer and is never, ever empty. (Yum!)

Continue reading

A quiet return; or, On toast

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

(T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)

 

Sunday morning was a beautiful morning. It started out with a short conversation with my family, as I made my way over to the new Rival Bros Coffee shop in Fitler Square. It was, by all accounts, a glorious summer day. After this long winter, I’ve never been more conscientious of the way we turn towards sunshine like the heliotropes that (therefore) we are, nodding as we welcome the lengthening days and the new evening walks. From this book I know the word for “the warmth of the sun in winter” (apricity) but have yet to find the word for the same phenomenon in summer — that is, a true summery warmth rather than blistering heat, which we in Philadelphia have good reason to loathe. In any case.

Coffee — zoom! And off we go! This coffee shop makes their drinks with two shots of espresso, which after a long break from coffee-caffeine, meant all the edges of the world got sharper with each sip. Rather than the hundred indecisions, visions, and revisions that Prufrock experiences, I felt, temporarily (and for once), full of writerly vim and decisive vigor, good news for the paper I was writing but less so for my increasingly racing heart. What stopped me from a complete surrender to coffee’s maniacal effects was this: Continue reading