Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw

For a single person that finds it hard to eat vegetables before they go bad, cabbage is a godsend. That head will sit patiently in your crisper bin for a month or more, waiting to be picked up and loved. Just slice off a bit for a small batch of coleslaw one night, and shove the shaved head right back in the fridge for later batches of coleslaw. Small batches also let you experiment with different coleslaw recipes...which is just what I did.

I was looking for a coleslaw recipe unlike one I have had before, and settled on a warm coleslaw with bacon (fake bacon), or a sweet and sour coleslaw with dried cherries. Being as it’s hot as hell, I’m saving the warm coleslaw for a winter date.

This recipe is best a few hours up to a day after it is made. If the coleslaw sits any longer the dried cherries absorb the liquid, plump up, and look like bloated, dead bodies. Not good.

I upped the cherries and the vinegar slightly from the original recipe, and wrote the recipe as I prepared it.

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw
Adapted from Complete Vegetarian Kitchen by Lorna Sass
Serves 6-8

6 cups cabbage, tightly packed and sliced thinly
2 large carrots, grated
1/2cup dried cherries
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon allspice

  • Put sliced cabbage, grated carrots, and dried cherries in a large bowl.
  • In a small jar, combine the oil, syrup, cider vinegar, salt, and allspice. You do the hokey poky and you shake it all around.
  • Poor the dressing over the cabbage, and mix.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour, and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Free Fruit

Heads up, city scavengers! No really. Turn your head skyward. Mulberries are ripening as you read this. Walking down a city alley this past weekend, I noticed that a mulberry tree in an empty lot was loaded with fruit. Mulberry fruit looks and tastes similar to blackberries, but they’re above your head and out of sight on the branches of trees with leaves of many different shapes – some lobed and some unlobed.

White mulberry (Morus alba) grows in poor conditions like those found in vacant city lots, and is actually a non-native invasive plant. If I had one in my backyard, goody two shoes here would do the right thing and cut it down, then replace it with a native red mulberry (Morus rubra).

If you find a tree, load up your Tupperware with the berries, and eat them raw on your front stoop, or use in recipes just like you would blackberries. Ah, summer. Just don’t sit on a fence post like a bird and spread these invasive seeds.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

For Pete's Sake

Royal Tavern is our neighborhood go-to bar, but we thought we’d try out nearby For Pete’s Sake on the corner of Front and Christian on recommendation of a friend. I’ve been driving by the corner bar and eatery for years, and the sidewalk tables are always filled.

With our first (poorly lit) visit we sampled the mixed tomato and mozzarella salad with basil, pesto, and balsamic drizzle. The tomatoes were fresh and flavorful, as were the pesto and balsamic drizzle.

Next up is the only vegetarian entrée, the grilled veggie wrap with portabello, asparagus, caramelized onions, spinach, tomato, mozzarella, and balsamic in a tortilla accompanied by hand cut fries. Visually, I happily mistook the caramelized onions for a healthy portion of sauerkraut. Unfortunately the onions were not sauerkraut, but limp and tasted like they had had the flavor boiled out of them. I’m not sure what For Pete’s Sake definition of caramelized is. The wrap also suffered from a lack of “special sauce” to bring any flavor to the medley of vegetables. We ended up spreading the pesto from the tomato and mozzarella salad on the wrap and dipping the wrap in the drizzle.

Sometimes I cannot choose dessert, so ask for the server’s recommendation. (The server we had both times is very nice.) She recommended the chai cheesecake, and I cringed since cheese cake is one of my least favorite desserts. The cheese cake was good. Yay, team!

The second visit kicked off with a key lime martini recommended by the server, which was phenomenal. It was like drinking key lime pie, coconut crust and all.

I did not want to revisit any foods from the first visit, so was pretty much left with a house salad or hummus to choose from. That day they were featuring a trio of basil, eggplant, and beet hummus with grilled pita. The basil hummus was like a mashup of pesto and hummus, the eggplant hummus was like a mashup of baba ganoush and hummus, and the beet hummus was like a mashup of Pretty in Pink and hummus. While the beet hummus was the most compelling visually, it was the least distinctive. A few vegetables would be nice, as bread and dip get tiring after a while. I realize this dish is usually meant to be a shared appetizer, but you don’t know how many times the hummus appetizer is the only item I can eat at bars. Hummus gets boring.

The boy had the fish and chips. No real complaints on his part. I did stick my fork in the carrot and raisin salad. I think the salad may have been old, as it tasted like Elmer’s glue and the raisins looked a little pruney.

With limited offerings for vegetarians and hit and miss food, I think I’m sticking with my normal joint. If I could get a table outside, For Pete’s Sake would be a nice spot for drinks.

For Pete's Sake, 900 S. Front St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Mon.-Sat., 11:30-Midnight; Sun.,12PM-10PM

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Urban Gardening - Late June

It’s been hot recently, and I’m very proud of the boy’s efforts in watering the garden and keeping things alive. (I only visit on the weekends to tidy the garden and lend my expertise.) Things are getting lush and full – not that filling this tiny space is hard. The sweet peas expired with the heat, and have been pulled out along with at least half of the lettuce. The rest of the lettuce will reach it’s demise soon. Remember the herb containers we planted back in May? They've filled in and look gorgeous, if I must say so. Herbs alone can be a boring mass of green. The addition of ornamental plants brings some color and interest. The tall container on the top stoop is full of ornamentals with lemon grass being the only herb in the pot. All the other pots are full of herbs with just a few ornamental red verbena trailing and weaving their bright heads amongst the green.The tomatoes and cucumbers are climbing the walls. Cucumbers do it on their own with tendrils; tomatoes need help with a little twine. Often there's more vertical space available in cities than flat ground, so use it.While tying up the tomatoes, I saw the cutest thing - the boy secured the tomato to the lattice by tying the twine into a bow. So cute! I just tie two half hitches and move on.The kohlrabi are ready! They're amazing glaucous purple globes with leaves radiating out like tentacles. The kohlrabi planted on the shady side of the garden were slow and never developed a bulbous base; they were pulled out to make room for a crook neck yellow squash that just went in. I know. There's no room for it.
Things a comin': purple eggplant flowers, baby jalepenos, baby cherry tomatoes, and baby cucumbers. Can't wait!

Not only is it the time of the year for vacations and weekend trips, the boy travels a lot for work, so the heat and absence of a person to water can take a toll on plants. We move the containers into the shade when out of town, and do a little rain dance. Of course, the containers and beds get a loving soak from the hose before we depart. So far, so good. Hope your garden and containers are looking good and surviving the heat.

Urban Gardening - Early March
Urban Gardening - Early April
Urban Gardening - Mid-April
Urban Gardening -Early May
Urban Gardening - Late May

Monday, June 18, 2007


Can you believe that I’ve had bags of potato chips (crisps) and other savory snacks from my trip to the UK last summer in my pantry for almost an entire year? I’m envious of all the curry snacks over there and simply adore them. I meant to get around to sampling and reviewing the various bags of curry flavored snacks from the UK that we silly Americans don’t have, but didn't.

While I have no willpower with sweets and desserts, I do have willpower with chips, nuts, and other savory snacks. I don’t purchase chips and can stare down a basket of tortilla chips without flinching. It’s not that I don’t like chips; I like them all right. It’s that I know they’re bad for you and, if given the choice between fried salty sin and buttery sweet sin, I would rather ruin myself with dessert. When I do eat chips – mostly at parties – I prefer bbq or some other flavor punch like Cool Ranch Doritos. Absolutely addictive!

I realized I had forgotten to blog about the chips from the UK a little too late to be relevant to my trip. I put it off. I put it off some more. I forgot about them. What is in that bag? Oh, chips from last summer. Well, now it’s about a week shy of being a full year from my UK vacation, so I decided to open the bags. As stupid as the passing of a year is for a reason to get around to something, I guess the stupid excuse did get me to open the bags and give ‘em the ol’ chew and review.

Walker's Sensations Gently Infused Lime and Thai Spices - These potato chips were my favorite. I suppressed my chip willpower and ate the whole bag. Tangy lime hits the tongue first, and a truly gently Thai curry flavor lingers.

Walker's Sensations Vintage Cheddar and Red Onion Chutney - Not a curry, but I have love for red onion chutney, so this one's slipping in. The initial scent and flavor is similar to Cheddar Ruffles, but more subtle and, due to the onion flavors, more complex. This one was my second favorite (First and second favorites where actual fried potato chips, which probably figured in their high ranking, but the flavors were the best overall, too.)

Kettle Crispy Bakes Korma (Coconut, Ginger, and Coriander) - These hollow crips are baked and made with a large percentage of lentil flour (very Indian!). The texture was that baked, puffed texture you get with other snacks that are so much better when fried, but you put up with to reign in the ass. The coriander seasoning stood out, and, as I chewed, the back of my mouth tasted like a balanced curry.

Ryvita Sweet Chili Minis - These were essentially rye crackers, again, with a puffy, airy texture. The initial taste is tangy and sweet, sort of like bbq sauce, but oddly not quite so. A slight heat was noticeable a little later. These were my least favorite, and not because of the rye; the rye was not perceptible. The initial sweet taste was just odd.

Waitrose Red Thai Curry Flavor Crunchy Coated Peanuts - If you like chips and you like nuts, stay clear of crunchy coated peanuts and avert a bad food habit - you will eat nothing else but these snacks. I discovered these things years ago in Asian Markets, ate a bag, enjoyed the hell out of it, disowned them, and never looked back. Super addictive! These in particular had a pleasant, mild curry flavor that was coconut forward.

Now all these bags are open, and I have to eat them. Oh, the torture. Maybe it's a good thing the US doesn't have curry chips; I don't have to be tempted.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Why haven’t I found an Indian restaurant in the city of Philadelphia that I like? I don’t even have to love it, just like it. I prefer Southern Indian cooking, with its fresh, light, hotter dishes that are more vegetarian friendly, to Northern Indian cooking, which tends to incorporate a lot of cream sauces and paneer. I want dosas, dahi puri, and bhel puri, but I can’t seem to find these foods any where around here because, unfortunately, most Indian restaurants serve Northern Indian cuisine.

One Southern Indian restaurant I do know of and have visited a few times is Devi out in Exton, PA. I have no reason to drive the 30-45 minutes it takes to get to Exton, except to dine at Devi, which serves vegetarian Southern Indian food. A few years back I had a client that lived in those parts of the woods, and was always excited to wrap up work in time to hit the lunch buffet. I have not visited in probably two years, so took a detour from King of Prussia to see what Devi was up to.

Starting at 9 o'clock: raita, sambar, pakora, naan, biryani, channa masala, vegetable khorma.

Starting at 9 o'clock: moor kalumbi? (not sure), channa masala, rice, naan, vada, and pakora.


Gulab jamun, and kheer.

The Saturday buffet was much busier that the weekday buffet, and most of the diners were of Indian origin – a good sign. Everything on the buffet is vegetarian, so dig in without trepidation. On the main hot buffet I found idly (rice and lentil patties), vada (lentil donuts), naan, sambar (soup), pakora, rice, biryani, about four or five curries, and some odds and ends I cannot remember at this moment. The salad buffet had raita (yogurt sauce), fruit, lettuce, and vegetables. The dessert buffet had ice cream, kheer (rice pudding), and gulab jamun (fried balls soaked in rose water and syrup).

Important to know as you pile your plate is that a server will come to your table and ask if you’d like a dosa (thin, crisp crepes typically filled with spiced potatoes) that is included in the buffet price. This is a nice touch, as many buffets don’t include this quintessential Southern Indian dish because they are time consuming to make, and if left on the buffet become a soggy mess. Devi prepares the dosas to order and brings them to your table. The potato filling in the dosa is on the skimpy side, but this is a buffet, cheapo! Plus, you’ll be busting the seams of your pants half way through your first plate anyway.

I was disappointed to see channa masala, vegetable khorma, and palak panneer on the buffet, since these curries can be had at most Northern Indian restaurants, although the channa masala and vegetable khorma were the best executed curries on the buffet. The kheer was a little thin, but the gulab jamon were excellent, and this ultra sweet dessert with sometimes overpowering rose water flavor is not my favorite Indian dessert. The balls of dough were soft and rose water did not overpower.

While Devi has the best Indian food I have had in the Philadelphia area yet, I wish there was a Southern Indian restaurant closer. Devi is still not up to par with the best Indian restaurant in the world – Touch of Indian in Columbia, South Carolina – which, coincidentally, is run by a woman named Devi. I will be having the pleasure (hopefully) of dining at Touch of India in a few weeks and proving my rants to be true to my boyfriend. I can’t wait to share such food beauty with someone.

If anyone has testimonials of Southern Indian restaurants in the area, let me know – I’m dying here. In the last few weeks I found out about Uduppi Dosa House in Bensalem, and their menu looks very, very promising (I spy bhel puri!), but have not tested the waters. It’s on “the list.” I'll get at time I'm in Bensalem? I've never been to Bensalem.

Devi, 151 W. Lincoln Hwy, Exton, PA 19341
(610) 594-9250

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mo's Bacon Bar

This post makes the third post in a row about food that some may find disgusting. (I promise the next post will not make you gag.) Even though I have not tried Mo’s Bacon Bar - yes, bacon and chocolate! – introduced earlier this month from Vosge Chocolat, I've got to tell you, I'm über excited about the bar.

Firstly, Vosge Chocolate makes great and interesting chocolate. The Naga Bar, made with milk chocolate, curry powder and coconut, is my absolute favorite, but other interesting ingredients used in their Exotic Candy Bars include olives, chilies, ginger, green tea, cardamom, and other not so traditional and traditional flavors.

Secondly, Bacon and chocolate! These have got to be “two great tastes that taste great together.” Coming from Vosge, you know it's good. They wouldn't put out something repulsive. That's just not good business. And, ya know, it's not just bacon and chocolate; it's applewood smoked bacon, Alder smoked salt, and deep milk chocolate. Yeah, Vosge is not the first to think of this. Others have experimented at home, and chocolatiers have done it, too.

“But wait,” you might say, “you don’t’ eat meat.” No, I don’t, but I must confess that curiosity would get the better of me if this bar were in front of me. I would take a nibble. (Mind your comments; not only am I curious, I’m also a member of the Uruguayan soccer team.) That’s why I haven’t ordered the bar for myself. I’m giving the bacon bar to my Dad for Father’s Day, and he’s going to tell me all about it. He’s a chocolate connoisseur and a pork connoisseur, so Mo’s Bacon Bar could not have come out at a better time. I can’t wait to call him Sunday. I’ll update with his opinion when I get it.

Update - The package arrived early, and my Dad emailed me his opinion...

The chocolate was truly special. You can tell with the eating that it is very high end stuff. Even sweet M. couldn't resist having a piece of each one. She was the first to try the bacon and was stunned at how "chocolate" and "baconny" it was. I thought it was very good, lots of bacon taste and the two tastes mixed very well. I was surprised. But, like you, I liked the curry and Hawaiian one better. She wants to take the rest of the bacon one to little H. who says bacon is his favorite food.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Vegetarian Philly Cheesesteak

The last (and only) time I ate at Gianna’s Grille, the punk dive serving meat, vegetarian, and vegan sandwiches and pizzas in the South Street area of Philadelphia, was before I started this blog. Gianna’s Grille was, in fact, my first foray into veggie Philly cheesesteaks. Gianna’s Grill kept popping up in recommendations and searches for vegetarian cheesessteaks, so I took off work one rainy day and drove into Philly with much anticipation to have my first cheesesteak.

Anticipation quickly turned into disgust. The G.G. Special (veggie steak and cheese sandwich) smelled like dog food. I’ve never been back – until a few days ago.

I was told the soy chicken was the way to go. I’m already bastardizing the cheesesteak by subbing soy for meat, so why not bastardize the sandwich further with soy chicken. I ordered the Freebird (veggie chicken and cheese sandwich) with soy cheese and onions. (Order correctly, as the menu and many hand written signs instruct, or else your vegetarian/vegan punk ass ain’t getting’ a refund, yo.)

The Freebird is filled – filled! – with similar soy nuggets as those in the G.G. special, but, thankfully, not seasoned with au de dog food. The soy cheese (specify vegan soy cheese if you’re vegan) acts like a gooey combining agent that keeps all the soy nuggets inside the roll.

Unlike the G.G. Special, I found the Freebird edible. I don’t know if I’d eat it again, though, as the flavor was one dimensional and the sandwich was grossly large – just as I imagine the real thing to be. This sandwich would be great if you were drunk and starving late at night after the bars let out. Gianna’s isn’t open that late, so I don’t see this happening.

Gianna's Grille, 507 S. 6th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19147
Phone: 215-829-4448
Tues.-Thurs, 12PM-8PM; Fri.-Sun., 12PM-9Pm; Mon., closed

Friday, June 8, 2007

Kool-Aid Pickles

While I was away recently, I left a food experiment in my refrigerator. No, not your usual what-molded-while-I-was-away experiment. I read an article in the New York Times about a food craze that’s getting the kids down South and in other locations excited – Kool-Aid pickles! - so gave it a go.

Apparently, Mom and Pop owned convenience stores and neighborhood entrepreneurs are selling dill pickles pickled once more in Kool-Aid. It sounds gross, but Kool-Aid pickles can’t be any worse than the pink pickled pig’s feet and pink pickled eggs in those large plastic jars sitting by the register at convenience stores that we used to dare each other to eat when I was young. (No one dared touch the pig’s feet, but a few brave souls tried the pickled eggs. No one went back for seconds.)

I made a double strength batch of cherry (red) and tropical punch (blue) Kool-Aid. I drained the dill pickles, and poked the pickles with a fork about 15 times to let the Kool-Aid seep into the pickle. I then left the pickles swimming in the double strength Kool-Aid in my refrigerator for a little over a week.

When I returned home from my trip, I peeked in on the little cukes. They were not evenly dyed by the Kool-Aid, but it was time for the moment of truth. Were these kids on to something? Or were they taste bud-challenged?

I bit into a cherry Kool-Aid pickle first. Not horrible. It tasted like cherry Kool-Aid and a dill pickle. (Sorry, there’s just no other way to describe it.) The second and third bites, though, made me a little nauseous. Oh, this is so wrong! Pregnant women couldn’t even crave something like this.

Next up were the tropical punch pickles. These I liked better. The tropical punch Kool-Aid complimented the dill pickle better than the cherry Kool-Aid. (Never thought I'd say that sentence.) The tropical punch pickles tasted more like a pickle than Kool-Aid, which is why I could actually finish a blue pickle without feeling ill.

Conclusion – These kids is Ka-ray-zee! Or maybe I fugged up the experiment somehow. I doubt it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Banana Pudding Ice Cream

The instructions for the ice cream maker I found at a garage sale were quite simple – freeze container, turn on machine, fill container, wait 30 minutes. Settling on the first batch of ice cream to make was not so simple. In fact, it turned into a big deal.

So excited to make ice cream, I went out and bought The Perfect Scoop, an ice cream and frozen dessert cookbook by David Lebovitz, with anticipation of making one of the esoteric flavors like goat cheese ice cream or basil ice cream. My partner was not too excited about such flavors, and wanted something basic. After an entire night of debating ice cream flavors, we agreed on the classic Italian chocolate and hazelnut gelato.

A day packed with activities caused us to reach the grocery store most likely to have hazelnuts in stock at a time other than Christmas late in the day. The store was closed. The Crapme (Acme) had nothing but long lines moving no where. Long story a little shorter, I didn’t quite follow a recipe from David Lebovitz’s book, although it was my every intention to follow directions, but the world was against me. The first ice cream batch sucked – not the Perfect Scoop’s fault. Next time I'm going to add the recommended ingredients.

The world was working with me the next day. Really, I wanted banana pudding ice cream all along, but the boy said, "No." Thankfully, he went home and left me to my devices – and vices. Banana pudding is one of my favorite homemade desserts, and one of the first things I learned to cook by my grandmother’s side when I was young. Banana pudding is made with vanilla custard cooked over a stove, not banana Jell-O pudding. If this is all you’ve ever had, you’ve not had banana pudding.

Hmm, custard that goes in banana pudding is exactly like custard that goes in ice cream. I cracked open The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook in hopes of finding a banana pudding recipe, but there wasn’t one. There was a recipe for banana pudding ice cream, though. Sweet ice cream Jesus, my prayers have been answered.

This ice cream tastes exactly like homemade banana pudding, and the texture is perfect – perfect! – after a day in the freezer. I almost considered charging myself $5.89 per scoop, it was so good.

I added more vanilla wafers to the recipe, and think it could stand for even more, but I’ll print it as I made it. (The additional wafers are the only deviation from the original recipe.)

Banana Pudding Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt and Ted Lee

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 ripe bananas, sliced in half crosswise and lengthwise
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 large egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
14 2-inch vanilla wafers, coarsely chopped

  • Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until frothy. Add brown sugar and sauté the sugar until it bubbles, abut 1 ½ minutes. Add bananas, stir and turn in sugar for about 1 ½ minutes until softened.
  • Pour rum over bananas in skillet, and let cook for a couple of minutes to burn off the alcohol (important, or else ice cream won’t freeze). Place contents of the skillet in a blender or processor.
  • Beat the egg yolks with a whisk, then add the sugar and beat until the mixture is a light yellow color, about 1 ½ minutes.
  • Warm the milk over medium heat in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until a thermometer reads 150° (6-8 minutes). Pour ½ cup of the hot milk in the blender with the banana mixture, and puree for 1 minute.
  • Add the remaining hot milk slowly to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the thermometer reads 170° (8-10 minutes or until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spoon). Turn off the heat.
  • Add the banana mixture to the custard and whisk for 1 ½ minutes. Let the custard cool to room temperature, then whisk in the cream.
  • Refrigerate for 4 hours or until the custard is cold. (I skipped this part with no resulting problems.)
  • Poor mixture into the ice cream maker and churn. A few minutes before the ice cream is done, add the cookie bits and churn for a few more minutes.
  • Eat right away for instant, soft ice cream gratification. Freeze ice cream in the freezer to harden.