Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Winter Project

Best/worst city slogan ever.

For those paying attention, you know that I actually live in Wilmington, Delaware, but mostly write reviews of Philadelphia restaurants. Why no love for Wilmington? Because, well, Philly is were I spend my weekends and non-working and non-sleeping hours.

But, I’m about to give you some love Wilmington! Even though the only readers I have in Wilmington are people looking for Buckley’s brunch menu. (You really need to get a site up, Buckley’s.)

Due to the nature of my job, I have lots of free time in the winter, so...I figured during the week I could get off my ass occasionally, walk out my front door and down the street to see what I could find in the lunch department in downtown Wilmington.

Why lunch? Because 9-5 is when downtown Wilmington is open, and I’d like to keep my destinations in walking distance. Plus, I always bring my lunch to work, and would like to see what Wilmington has to offer. And, I hate to admit this, but I'm uncomfortable eating dinner alone lunch is another story, though. So, lunch it is!

Now, I know this new venture is going to alienate most of my Philly readership (all four of you), and is not the wisest decision, but, don’t worry (not that anyone is), I will still be covering my Philly beat.

But, please, do still read. My first lunch outing is kinda fun and strange.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

White Fruitcake

As if my copious mayonnaise consumption weren’t proof enough that I’m a disgusting individual, I made fruitcake this past weekend. I’m one of the fifty people out there that actually likes fruitcake. In fact, I’ve been known to foster unwanted gift fruitcakes at my house.

My Dad also likes fruitcake. Ever since he’s discovered my blog (beware of links), he emails me occasionally with recipes or ideas. I’ve yet to follow through. Not that they aren’t lovely idea, it’s just that I don’t actually plan what I’m going to post. Posts just happen.

My secret ingredient: crystallized ginger.

The other day, he asks me if I have the prize-winning fruitcake recipe (not his recipe, someone else’s). Because it's prime time (maybe even a little late) to make fruitcake, if you want it ready for Christmas. Yep, I’ve got it. I was actually planning on making fruitcake last year, and a year later is about the perfect time to get around to doing things.

Blue ribbon be damned, I could not follow the recipe. It called for creaming butter and sugar for 15 minutes, and everyone knows I have no patience. And for giggles, I added crystallized ginger. I went with my Dad’s suggestion of using Sunmaid's Jumbo raisins – they’re huge! He just moved into a new house with a slow oven, and declares that slow and low is key. Mine was done in 2 ½ hours at 225°. We’ll compare notes at Christmas. (I hope I win.)

My camera got a bath after this shot.

And for those of you that bitch about fake fruit in fruitcakes…It’s candied, not fake. Get over it – or make one with only dried fruit. And if you still can’t get over it, send all shunned cakes to my house.

White Fruitcake
Adapted from Revised Version of Spices of Life Past and Present by Lee A. Harley, Sr.

20 ounces candied pineapple, cut into ¼ inch pieces
12 ounces candied cherries, cut in half
4 ounces jumbo raisins
8 ounces dates, chopped coarsely
2 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped finely
1 ½ cups pecans, chopped coarsely
1 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
2 cups flour
¾ cup butter, (room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs (room temperature)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon mace
2 ounces sweet wine, (port or cream sherry)
brandy, rum or other spirits to add after the cake is baked

  • Preheat oven to 225°.
  • Mix fruit, ginger, and nuts in a large bowl, keeping a few pieces out for decorating the top of the cake.
  • Sift flour, and mix about 1/3 cup flour in fruit and nut mixture until coated.
  • Cream butter and sugar together in a small bowl and beat for 15 minutes, if you can stand it that long. I lasted 5 minutes.
  • In another small bowl, beat eggs on high for 1 minute. Add the cinnamon and mace to the egg mixture.
  • Add the creamed butter and sugar to the fruit and nut mixture, mixing well. Then add the egg mixture, mixing well. Then add the flour in three parts, mixing after each addition. Then add the sweet wine and mix. (It’s best to just reach in there and mix with your hands.)
  • Fill a greased, or greased parchment-lined bundt pan (or a few smaller pans) with the batter, pressing down and smoothing out the batter. Decorate the top with nuts or fruit.
  • Bake at 225° for 2-2 ½ hours, or until center of cake is done and straw inserted in middle of cake comes out clean.
  • When completely cooled, unmold cake and wrap in foil for a week to cure. (Some add spirits after cooling, but I'm following the recipe sent to me, and will wait.)
  • After a week of curing, sprinkle a few ounces of any combination of spirits (brandy, whiskey, port, rum, scotch, sherry) on top for the cake to absorb. Repeat, adding spirits every few days until the cake is moist throughout, or until you’re satisfied with the results.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Update: No longer open.

I stumbled upon the newly opened BYOB Korean restaurant, Meju, in Old City a few weeks ago. It was after 10p.m., and I was already happily liquored-up when I walked in the cozy BYOB that was getting ready to close. Unaware of their hours, I asked if they were closing. Yes, but they happily set a table for us.

Now, I would never impose on a hard-working, tired restaurant crew (I make a point to not even enter restaurants 30 minutes before closing), but they seemed genuinely carefree and unbothered by our presence. Had they rolled their eyes or hesitated, instead of cheerfully waiving us in, I would have gladly turned around.

After the lone dinner party remaining exited, the crew cleaned up, and set themselves down at the table behind us and had a snack and chat, all the while attentively and happily attending to our table. The service was so genuinely nice – not even considering we were there after hours.

I came in really seeking a late night snack of kimbap, Korea’s version of sushi. I used to eat kimbap every week at my favorite Korean/Southwestern restaurant (unlikely combination) in my hometown (and, dang, if they aren't closed at Xmas when I go home), so miss kimbap very much. Sliced thinner than sushi, the carrot, pickled daikon, and spinach-filled kimbap is great for people like me with small mouths – tasty, too.

We also ordered the vegetarian dolsot bibimbap, a rice dish served in a scorching-hot stone bowl and topped with vegetables and tofu. Our food came with about eight of so small dishes of spicy banchan, which we polished off. Never once trying to rush our table, the nice server offered us refills of our banchan. We declined, as we were stuffed and didn’t want to take up more of their time.

Besides the food being excellent (sorry, no pics; I was not anticipating eating out), I am truly amazed at how nice the staff was to a couple of people who walked in after hours. I’m doing a side job tomorrow a block from Meju, and I know exactly where I’m eating when my day is done.

Meju, 213 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA, 19106

Friday, November 23, 2007

Apple-Cranberry Pie

I should have participated in that post-every-day-in-November-cause-I’m-a-badass-blogging-mofo NaBloPoMo, ‘cause I have posts out the wazoo to get around to. I’m trying really hard to stick to my normal regularity of posting, but the shit’s getting backed up. I’ve got about six restaurant reviews to get around to, and the unveiling of my winter project, but other posts keep popping up. I can’t decide…do I post that restaurant review, or get started on the winter project, or post that timely recipe? Timely recipe wins.

I made the apple-cranberry pie from Cook’s Illustrated for Thanksgiving. It’s the pie that came with the revolutionary foolproof vodka pie crust, but Smitten Kitchen beat me to the punch on the pie dough (she beats everyone, so no biggie).

Smitten Kitchen just reneged her recommendation of the pie crust due to its stickiness, but still declares it the flakiest yet. I experienced stickiness when mixing the dough, but after the dough slept in my fridge overnight bundled in plastic wrap (at least 45 minutes in the fridge is recommended, but I stretched the pie making over two days), the stickiness was no more. Rolled out perfectly. And the baked crust? Flakiest yet.

So, no more on the crust. Go get the recipe at Smitten Kitchen. The cranberry and apple filling, though! Yum! I’m not a die hard apple pie fan, and wondered why I was even making an apple pie – other than the fact that Cook’s Illustrated wills me to make their recipes through mind control.

The cranberry mash is layered on the bottom of the pie, and apple slices sit on top, guaranteeing cranberry and apple in every bite, but no mixing or polluting of the individual flavors. The scent of butter, apples and roses seduced me as I drove the 45 minutes to my friend’s house for Thanksgiving with the warm pie riding shotgun.

Sorry for no final pie-innards picture (it’s rude to run around with a camera at someone else’s Thanksgiving table). But, trust me; it was beautiful and tasty. Cranberries and apples work well at Christmas, too, ya know! Apple-Cranberry Pie
adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries
¼ cup orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon for top of pie
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 ½ pounds sweet apples (6-7 medium), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 recipe Foolproof Pie Dough
1 egg white, beaten lightly

  • Bring cranberries, orange juice, ½ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, while pressing the berries against the side of the pan with a spoon to assist in breaking the berries down. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the berries achieve a thick consistency (scrapping spoon across bottom of pan leaves a trail that does not fill in). Remove from heat, and stir in water. Cool to room temperature (30 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, mix ½ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon salt, and cornstarch in large microwave-safe bowl. Add apples and toss to coat. Microwave on high, stirring every 3 minutes, for 10-14 minutes or until the edges of the apples are slightly translucent and liquid has thickened. Cool to room temperature (30 minutes).
  • Move oven rack to the bottom and place a baking sheet on the bottom rack. Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Roll one disk of the refrigerated dough out to a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick on a generously floured surface. Place dough in pie pan, leaving a 1-inch dough overhang. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Spread the cranberry mixture evenly in the dough-lined pie pan. Top with apple mixture.
  • Roll the second dough disk out to a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick on a generously floured surface. Place on top of the pie, leaving a 1-inch overhang.
  • Cut both layers of the overhanging dough, leaving ½ inch overhang. Fold the dough under so it’s flush with the pie pan edge. Crimp pie edges. Brush top of pie with egg whites, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut slits in top of pie dough.
  • Place pie on preheated baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°, rotate baking sheet, and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes, or crust is deep golden brown.
  • Cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

Thanksgiving cupcakes from Whole Foods.

How could I resist a carcass-topped cupcake? And the mini-meal made me want to break out the dolls I never owned and play house.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash

Here’s one last recipe from Bon Appètit’s Thanksgiving issue, plus a fun little experiment. I chose the one sweet potato dish from the other five regular potato dishes in Bon Appètit’s Thanksgiving potato section because sweet potato soufflé is always on our holiday table, unlike mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are – brace yourself – never on our table. Rice is the vehicle for all gravies and sauces on Thanksgiving and the other 364 days of the year.

Oh, you want to know about the experiment, and could care less about my lack of mashed potato consumption? OK.

Instead of sweet potatoes from the market that are breed for sweet flesh, I used the sweet potatoes from the garden center that are bred for ornamental foliage. The two plants – grocery store sweet potatoes and garden center sweet potatoes – are the same plant, Ipomoea batatas, just different cultivars.

My quest was to see if the ornamental sweet potatoes bred to look pretty in gardens are sweet enough to warrant eating. I normally toss these tubers every year when I do garden clean-up, but this year curiosity got the better of me.

I dug the tubers from three different ornamental sweet potato cultivars (Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Red, Marguerite, and Ace of Spades), threw them in my car, and forgot about them for a few weeks. So, unfortunately, when it came time to identify which tuber was which, I had no clue. A good scientist I do not make!

Confusing picture. Four potatoes, but three cultivars - last two are the same cultivar.

I boiled and roasted some of each variety, and then it was time for the individual taste tests. They were all sweet, none drastically more so than the next. And was I glad, because if one was better than the other, I was going to kick myself for letting the tubers roll around the back of my car for weeks, and not remembering which was which.

So, on to the bourbon-walnut sweet potato recipe in Bon Appètit. Trying to be a good scientist, I made a control batch from sweet potatoes from the market. Yum. A sweet, but more rustic dish than the baked sweet potato soufflé typically topped with marshmallows. I adore the marshmallows, by the way.

The mash made from the ornamental sweet potatoes, thanks to their collective white, yellow, and purple flesh, looks about as appetizing as dirty bath water. But guess what? In a blind taste test, they taste just as good as the store bought sweet potatoes bred for eating. The only thing that gives the ornamental sweet potatoes away, besides their color, is a slightly lumpier texture. But lumps can be cured with longer cooking or pureeing.

Stick with the more visually appetizing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes for the holiday table, but don’t toss those tubers from your flower beds – eat them!

Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash
Adapted from Bon Appètit
8-10 servings

4 pounds sweet potatoes
½ cup whipping cream
6 tablespoons butter
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Roast whole potatoes on a baking sheet for 1 - 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Cool until you can handle, then scoop flesh into a large bowl. Mash potatoes coarsely.
  • Heat cream and butter in a saucepan over low heat until butter melts. Slowly combine cream mixture into potatoes. Then add syrup, bourbon, and spices. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sprinkle with nuts and serve.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Urban Gardening - Ah, the Memories

Left: Early March; Right: Early April

Left: Early May; Right: Late May

Left: Late June; Right: Early July

Left: Early August; Right: Mid-September

Right: Early November; Left: Mid-November

This is my favorite part about taking pictures of the garden: looking back on the progress. I also like time-lapse photography, flip books, and boxes of chocolate. And boxes of chocolate.

I ripped out the garden this past weekend, even though we haven't had a killing frost yet. I'm tired, the plants are tired, and I prefer working outside when it's not 20 degrees.

Considering the mediocre light that reaches the raised bed on the patio surrounded by a
three-story house on one side and a fence on the other three sides, I think the urban vegetable garden was a success. The tomatoes, with their light-seeking, vining habit, and the shade tolerant lettuce were the most prolific crops.

Whether or not we do it again next year is up to the boy, since it is "his" garden, after all. I would like to think that he enjoyed the produce and herbs just a few strides outside his kitchen. He has even taken to the sport of sneaking up on the rascally squirrels to snap their mugs for Philly's most-wanted lineup. Word on the street is one of them's a cop-killer.
I noes eat toemater. I swearz.

Urban Gardening - Early March
Urban Gardening - Early April
Urban Gardening - Mid-April
Urban Gardening -Early May
Urban Gardening - Late May
Urban Gardening - Late June
Urban Gardening - Early July
Urban Gardening - Early August
Urban Gardening - Mid-September

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tiffin Store

How long has the Indian delivery and sit down restaurant, Tiffin Store, on the edge of Northern Liberties and Fishtown been open? And how many glowing reviews has this place received? And why have I just gotten around to trying out Tiffin?

Answers: about a year; many glowing reviews ; and my Philly outpost is – get this – one intersection and twelve row houses outside of their delivery area. How frustrating is that?

I know I can haul my ass up to Tiffin’s small store front on Girard Avenue and pick up some grub, or dine in, but Tiffin’s whole shtick is that they deliver tasty Indian food and have convenient online ordering. I want to push keyboard buttons and have Indian food magically appear at my house. No fair!

So...I finally went all the way up to Tiffin. Tiffin’s bright yellow exterior is not easy to miss. Open the door, proceed down the hall, and hang a right into Tiffin’s humble dining area outfitted with five or so bright yellow Ikea tables and black Ikea chairs (gotta love Ikea…or not), a beverage cooler stocked with American and Indian sodas, a counter and laptop computer for taking orders, and an open kitchen. The interior is not fancy, but Tiffin does most of their business through delivery, so you’re just fortunate that they even have tables for dining in.

The menu is definitely Northern Indian, so you’ll find lots of unleavened flat breads, and mild, creamy curries . Unfortunately, the bread oven was on the fritz the day of our visit, so no breads were available.

onion bhaji

We started with onion bhaji (pakora or fritter), a fried appetizer of onions, potatoes, and spinach dipped in gram flour. Mmm. Fried. I rarely eat fried foods, but, when I do, I enjoy the heck out of them. These fried balls had subtle Indian spices peeking through the grease.

aloo papri chaat

My favorite Indian appetizers are chaats, a savory snack or small dish made with varying puffed flours. We tried the aloo papri chaat made from lentil wafers and topped with potatoes, chick peas, yogurt, and chutney. There’s something about crunchy puffs and creamy yogurt paired with sweet and sour chutney and hot spices that really pleases me. It pleases me so much; I’m declaring Tiffin’s aloo papri chaat my favorite dish of the visit.

malai kofta

I admit that I’m partial to spicier Southern Indian cuisine over Northern Indian cuisine, but I do enjoy (and frequently eat) Northern Indian food. My litmus test for Northern Indian curries is malai kofta, a mild, cashew cream curry with vegetable dumplings. I’ve had malai kofta as mild as primavera sauce (tasted like it, too – yuk), but I like my malai kofta creamy, yet tangy and spicy. Tiffin’s malai kofta passed my approval on flavor (tangy, not bland) and was mildly spicy. The vegetable balls were probably the softest malai kofta balls I’ve ever had – and that’s not a bad thing.

The navratan korma was the mildest of the curries we ordered – you could have fed it to a two year-old. The sauce was thick and creamy, but bland on the scale of Indian curries. Spice – and I mean heat – levels, of course, are subjective. If you like very mild dishes, or find yourself red and dripping sweat when eating Indian food (and don’t like that), you might want to try Tiffin’s navratan korma.

baingan bharta

The baingan bharta, a curry of smoked eggplant sautéed with tomatoes, onions and spices was the spiciest dish we ordered and the tangiest curry thanks to the tomatoes and lack of cream. I found this dish pleasantly spiced and smokey, but another found it too spicy. Again, heat levels are subjective.

All of the dishes we had at Tiffin were delicious, and probably even some of the better tasting Indian curries I’ve had in Philadelphia, but, of course, I’ve got a gripe.

A kofta ball, lots of peas, one carrot slice, and, what, is that a bean?

Where were the vegetables in the vegetable curries? Yeah, malai kofta never has vegetables – just those vegetable dumplings – so that curry is off the hook. But the navratan korma had about four slices of carrot and a few beans. If the baingan bharta had eggplant, it must have been pureed, or maybe it narrowly missed the spoon that ladled our curry into the bowl. Peas seem to have made it into every curry, but that doesn’t compensate for the lack of substantial vegetables in the curries.

Tiffin’s vegetable curries are huge bowls of sauce – outstanding sauce – but that’s about it. I usually have the opposite complaint of not enough sauce on sandwiches, or atop rice or pasta. I’m not requesting less sauce, but I’d like to see more vegetables in Tiffin’s vegetable curries. And delivery to Pennsport.

Tiffin Store, 710 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19123

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cranberry, Pear, and Ginger Chutney

Yep, I’m still working on some of the recipes in this year’s Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appètit. I thought I’d hit up one of the four cranberry sauces in the magazine.

My traditional cranberry sauce is my absolute favorite, and I would not be without it. Really, it’s a relish, and it’s super easy. Grind up fresh cranberries and oranges (peel and all), mix with sugar and spices, and let sit overnight in the fridge. Easy.

For giggles, I decided to go with the cranberry sauce recipe – cranberry, pear, and ginger chutney – least like my traditional cranberry holiday staple. If you can tell anything from the four or five jars of chutney in my fridge, it’s that I love chutney. The strong, piquant flavors of chutneys have a hold on me, I’m afraid.

The flavors of Bon Appètit’s cranberry, pear, and ginger chutney are quite strong, so if you have any wimpy palettes at your table, you might want to skip this one. But brave soldiers will devour this chutney. That is, if you follow my suggested changes in the recipe.

The original recipe calls for ¼ cup of grated ginger, which seemed like too much, so I halved that amount right from the start.

The two cups of apple cider vinegar did not faze me when I read the printed recipe, as I can drink vinegar straight from the bottle. But after it was all said and done, I thought the chutney to be heavy on the vinegar. So did some other people who tested the recipe. I’d suggest, at minimum, halving the vinegar and replacing the other half with apple or orange juice. (Recipe below reflects suggestions.)

This brings us to the troubling question of whether or not magazines and cookbooks actually test their recipes. Personally, I think it’s a crock if a for-profit publication doesn’t test all of their recipes. I know some do and some don’t. Which one’s exactly, I’m not sure. I do know that Cook’s Illustrated bases it’s whole publication on the fact that they test, test, and retest their recipes until they get it right. And you know what; I’ve never made anything bad from them.

I’m not saying the chutney below is bad. The recipe just needed tweaking due to, perhaps, a typo or, at worst, an untested recipe. The cranberry, pear, and ginger chutney is lined-up in the fridge door with all of my other chutneys, and most likely will be enjoyed on a cracker with cheese.

Cranberry, Pear, and Ginger Chutney
Adapted from Bon Appètit
makes about 3 1/2 cups

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple juice or orange juice
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
2 ½ teaspoons lemon peel, finely grated
2 ½ teaspoons orange peel, finely grated
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (I used really hot homegrown and dried peppers, and enjoyed the heat)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
2 large Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut into ¾-inch cubes

  • Combine apple cider vinegar, apple juice, onion, ginger, lemon peel, orange peel, cinnamon stick, crushed red pepper, and ground cloves in saucepan. Boil mixture for about 10 minutes, or until reduced to 1 ½ cups.
  • Add cranberries, brown sugar, and pears. Stir until sugar dissolves.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until pears and cranberries are soft, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • Mash mixture coarsely, if at all, with a potato masher.
  • Cool and serve at room temperature.
  • Can be made 3 days ahead and stored in the fridge.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Los Caballitos Food Porn

A sort of enchilada casserole with eggs requested over hard.

So, here’s the dilemma I often find myself in as a food blogger: Philadelphia has a glut of great restaurants. I have barely put a dent in all of the restaurants out there (got a job and a life, even if it is paltry), and new ones pop up all the time. I savor giving new places a try, but also want to revisit my favorites. Do I grab a bite at a place I know and love (and have already written about), or take a gamble on a new place so I can report back on my findings?

This time knowing and loving won out. I’ve already written about the South Philly Mexican joint, Cantina Los Caballitos, but I do adore. Go for their weekend brunch, and, to every blogger's delight, there’s enough light to take a decent picture (unlike previous visits).

Enjoy the food porn.

Vegan tofu scramble with tortillas.

Cantina Los Caballitos
1651 E Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19148


Mon-Fri, 12pm-1am
Sat-Sun, 11am-1am
bar open until 2am

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Soy and Seitan Turkey

Remember Tofu Brain? How about The Brain of Seitan? It’s turkey time again, and I’m experimenting with another faux turkey recipe. This year it's Bryanna’s soy and seitan turkey. It’s like Tofu Brain and The Brain of Seitan got together and had a baby brain. Mmm…brains!

Tofu Brain was too tofu-mushy. The Brain of Seitan was pretty damn good, albeit a little salty, but that’s easy to fix. I’ve had my eye on Bryanna Grogan’s soy and seitan turkey since this time last year, but was saving up the experiment for Thanksgiving. I wish I had hopped on this recipe earlier. (Update: here's the recipe with step-by-step instructions.)

I will tell you about my experience, and things I would (and did) do differently. The first time I made the recipe was sort of a disaster. Mid-crisis, I ran to the faux-meat-friendly Post Punk Kitchen forums to see if any one else was having the same problems. Many people had success, with only a few not so lucky. I soldiered on. The end product was fabulous, despite my crisis.Clockwise from to left: Tofu smoothie (a.k.a. wet ingredients), very wet dough, dough covered with broth, dough before being covered with broth.

First Attempt

  • The recipe calls for 12 ounces of firm tofu. Every package I pick up is 15 ounces. I’m not tossing 3 ounces, so included it. This may have lead to my problem?
  • My dough was very wet. I added more gluten, chickpea flour, and nutritional yeast. It was still wet. Afraid I’d make a heavy dough bomb, I quit adding more dry ingredients, and carried on.
  • Bryanna’s directions give options for kneading the dough. She feels that kneading the dough is difficult, so suggests a mixer or a bread machine. I tried the bread machine since I had one. It works, but you have to clean it afterward!
  • Poured the broth over the loaves and covered with foil. Stuck them in the oven at 200° (preheated first to 350° like her directions say) for three hours. Two hours into the baking, I take a peek. It looks just like the wet loaves covered in liquid that I put in two hours ago. No! This is not going to work.
  • Poured off the liquid (saved it), left the loaves uncovered, and cranked the oven to 350°. Baked for about an hour, flipping a few times to get all sides brown (parchment paper really helps in flipping), and basting when the loaf dried out a bit.
  • Turned out great despite the gooey, wet-loaf crisis. So good, in fact, I did it again.
And on the second day, she made brains.

Second Attempt
  • Still used all 15 ounces of tofu.
  • Used ¼ cup less water in tofu smoothie.
  • Dry and wet ingredients actually formed a dough, and not a wet mass.
  • Kneaded by hand. I’m no wimp, and neither are you.
  • Baked uncovered at 350° for 1 hour 15 minutes. Then flipped a few times over the next 30 minutes to get the surfaces brown. (Total cooking time 1 hour 45 minutes)
  • Turned out great, and took less baking time!

The lesson here is that no matter how wet your loaf is, just bake it dry. The proportion of gluten, flour, nutritional yeast, tofu, and seasonings makes a perfect loaf. The water content may vary (tofu drained or not, more or less water), but you can bake that off.

I eat a ton (about two packages a week!) of Tofurkey deli slices on sandwiches and rolled up for snacks. Tofurkey is my favorite deli slice, and I think that Bryanna’s loaf is just as good - that's why I made it a second time, and I'll make it again!

I love the texture of this loaf firmer than tofu, but not as chewy and heavy as baked seitan. The flavor is turkey-like, and certainly open to experimentation and personalization. Bryanna's loaf does slice up thinly (not as thin as Tofurkey slices, but maybe if you had a deli slicer), and is perfect for sandwiches. Thanksgiving, too! Put some gravy on it.

Seitan (and this tofu seitan turkey) really is better the next day after it has firmed up. Make this loaf at least a day before Thanksgiving so it can set, and reheat in the oven before serving. Making ahead also allows you to not completely freak out if you have doubts about the end results like I did the first time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sure, I'll Have Another Drink

The only time a $2 slice of pizza from Lorenzo's on South Street tastes good is when you cannot remember it!

Never hand me a double at the end of the night without telling me it's a double!

Lorenzo and Son Pizza, 305 South Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19147
Mon.- Sun., 11a.m until you pass out

Monday, November 5, 2007

Food Blogger Meet-up Success!

Wow! I can’t believe how many people made it out for the first Philly food blogger meet-up hosted by the gracious Marisa of Fork You!. It was very nice to see the faces behind the blogs. And you know what? They’re all beautiful faces with great personalities.

The food! I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture, but, admittedly, I’m a little shy about whipping my camera out around folks. Marisa snapped a photo of the table and posted it before the night was even over and the kitchen cleaned.

Messy and Picky have a photo up, too. Warning: don’t let your kids play Memory with Picky unless you want to dry their tears, ‘cause Picky’s memory is sick! He actually remembered what everyone brought and did a lovely write-up about it.

And if you like Two Fat Als' toasts with onions, peppers and blue cheese or their pumpkin blintzes (loved ‘em), go get the recipes from their site.

E of Foodaphilia made my favorite treat of the night – toffee/coconut/salty cookies (do they have a name? I should ask Picky). E even caught me unconsciously eating the cookie I was supposed to bring back to my boyfriend. I guess that makes me a cookie zombie.

I'm sure other recaps and recipes are in the works from the bloggers. Um...E, can I get the cookie recipe? [Edit: E's coconut, toffee, almond crunch cookies, Teagan's cinnamon apple cake, Jennie's pea shoots and crimson chutney wrapped in phyllo, Marisa's autumnal casserole, Picky's mozzarella and pasta salad, my boiled peanuts]

But, hey, we’re going to do it again in January after all the holiday hubbub that’s approaching is out of the way. If you’re a food blogger still lurking out there, and want to join in the deliciousness, drop me a line.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's a Miracle

I’m really excited about the new plant that landed on my porch this afternoon snuggly packed in a cardboard box, because…
  1. Writing about this plant is much shorter than the other post I was prepared to write, and I’m draggin’ ass for some reason, and…
  2. *Jumping up and down* The plant is one of those Miracle Fruit plants that you've heard so much about berry makes sour foods taste sweet.

Synsepalum dulcificum has intrigued me since hearing about the magical berries on NPR. They sound like some candy drug-fantasy straight out of Willy Wonka, but they are for realz. Pop one in your mouth and lemon rinds are candy.

I ordered up my own plant from the trusted and reputable Logee’s Greenhouse. I had to wait a bit until they were back in stock at Logee’s, but there are other purveyors of the Miracle Plant to be found on the web.

A bigger pot, a wipe-off of the water-stained leaves, and a little fertilizer to bring the green back to the leaves, and my little guy should be happy. I’ve read conflicting reports about how long it takes to produce fruit, but check back in 1-10 years and I’ll give you a berry!