Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Omaha Steak

Happy Holidays from Nebraska!
christmas 013
And what better way to celebrate being back in Omaha than with a nice piece of meat. This was my first try at Beef Wellington, a non-traditional version. Instead of the traditional mushrooms and pate, I went with gorgonzola and sauteed mushrooms. We also had twice baked potatoes, green beans and orange-glazed shallots.

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The shallots were really the highlight of the meal. I found the recipe in my first issue of a new food magazine, "Everyday Food". When I showed it to my mother, she insisted we have them as an accompaniment to our Christmas dinner.

For the shallots you'll need the following:

1 pound of shallots, peeled, sliced in half, leaving the stem end intact.
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Over medium-high, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the water, orange juice, vinegar, and sugar to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and the shallots are tender. This should take about 45 minutes.

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This is what the liquid should look like after 45 minutes of cooking, all luscious and syrupy.

I've done a bunch more cooking here in Omaha, but I've also been going out and catching up with old buddies.
sara jill e
Which usually entails drinking big beers like the ones Sarah, Jill and I are holding in the picture above. While this is incredibly fun, it does make me lazy during the daytime and has led to blogging procrastination.

More soon,


Monday, December 18, 2006


Lunch is probably my least favorite meal of the day. It always feels rushed to me, and occasionally is skipped altogether, and then I get cranky. My favorite lunch, however, is a short walk from my office to the lunch trucks on 12th and Berks Street.
This is the Number 3 with noodles instead of rice. A mix of bok choy, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, bean spouts and tofu are stir-fried and then cooked with udon noodles. A brown sauce covers the noodles and seasame seeds are sprinkled on top. The sauce is not as sweet as say, Terayaki sauce, but the other flavors are all present. I make sure to get some hot chili sauce to mix in. This and a Diet Coke cost $6.10.

THE Holiday party!

If you weren't there, you were either too far away to come or part of the evil Psychology department. Ha!

884 threw a banging party last Friday. Numerous justifications were made for the party, we just passed our prelims, it's the holiday season, blah blah blah, but what it really came down to was that I wanted to cook lots of yummy snacks and drink too much, so that's what I did.

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With some help from the roommates, of course. I could have never lifted this keg of beer anywhere, nevermind all the way onto the back porch!

Pretty Ladies!

I even bought a cute shirt and borrowed some big girl earrings from Alison to complete the outfit. Here we are with some friends from school. Left to right, Tiffany, Alison, e and Alyssa. I have incredibly drunk and sexy hair, no?

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I invited lots of people, including some old buddies from my day's TA'ing at Temple. They kept the party classy by bringing us some Carlo Rossi. Oh, the laughs we had when those jugs rolled into 884.


Of course, I went nuts making snacks. If you click on this photo, it will link you back to my Flickr, where you can read the notes attached to this picture. But, notably, in the foreground there are both Black Moons and Oatmeal Cream Pie cookies.


More food continued to flow from the kitchen until, well, until I was on my 4th or 5th Cranberry and Vodka, then I didn't seem to care much about people eating.

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As you can see from my facial expression, I didn't need any more Cranberry and Vodka, but they just taste so good! I was happy to have persuaded my good friends Blake and Donal to come out to Philly from New Freedom.

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Other notable party attendees are pictured here. Jeff and Billy. They also brought me some sassy napkins with hula girls on them, for the next time I throw a "fancy dinner" or so they suggested.

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James, Healey and Sharleen also showed up for some good party times. They are so sweet, one of them even said "These Oatmeal Cream Pie cookies have changed my life!" Wow. Changing lives through cookies, this sounds like my kind of thing.

So, it was a fantastic party. The keg ran dry at the perfect time, and we all crashed where we could to get some sleep. We've deemed this party a success and I'm already excited about the next one...hopefully in the spring, right around my birthday.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Full Plate Cafe - Brunch

Fried Egg BLT

I love eggy breakfasts. My friends over at A Full Plate cafe, make one of the best breakfast sandwhiches. Turkey bacon, lettuce, tomato, two fried eggs and whole wheat bread make an incredible late morning or early afternoon meal. They also cook their homefries using both sweet and white potatoes as well as leeks, so they have a nice subtle onion flavor.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Il Cantuccio

Our former roommate Andy and his fiance, Kim, were in town for our Holiday party on Friday night and were staying through Sunday to see the Temple vs. Maryland women's basketball game. Saturday night they had no plans, so Alison and I met up with them for dinner at Il Cantuccio, an Italian BYO in Northern Liberties.
To start, we got the Misto, a plate of mix Italian assorted items according to the menu. Starting to the right of the spoon, grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes, zucchini fritata, grilled green beans, tomato stuffed with peas, roasted red peppers, black olives, fresh mozzarella cheese, marinated mushrooms, bruscheta, and broccoli. The shining stars were the green beans and the fritatas. And I hate to say it, but I was terribly disappointed in the olives. For such a good overall restaurant, they could have done better than corner store black olives. A shame.
Bread with pesto and red pepper
Fresh bread with pesto and some sort of red pepper spread. I'm fairly sure it's a white bean spread with the addition of red pepper for slight flavor, but more for color. Either way, the mixture of the pesto and the mystery spread on the warm crusty bread is fabulous.
Andy ordered the same thing he did last time visited this restaurant even though before ordering he swore he'd never had it before. Pictured is Andy's dinner, Toscana, homemade sausage with white beans in a red spicy sauce next to toasted bread.
And it was ironic that Kim called Andy out on his repeat order when she had lasagne on the visit as well! This was distinct in that it was bolognese lasagne and last time I believe it was without meat.
I had one of the nightly specials, Pappardelle with shrimp, asparagus and fresh crab meat, served with a brandy cream sauce. This was really delicious. Here the problem is really aesthetic, I wish they'd left the asparagus in larger pieces so they had a real presence in the dish.
Red Snapper
Alison had the fish special, baked red snapper with arugala, served with mussels and clams in a white wine garlic sauce. So pretty and so delicious.

All around, a great meal. We had three bottles of wine between the four of us, and they were all leftover from the holiday party, so it was nice to splurge a little bit on dinner. I love Il Cantuccio, they just need better olives and I wish they fit my graduate student budget a little bit more!

Il Cantuccio
701 N 3rd St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 627-6573

And remember the 3 Rules for dining at Il Cantuccio
1. No cheese on seafood
2. No credit cards; cash only
3. They charge $5 to share plates

Additionally, they're not shy about hurrying you along if you haven't finished your wine by the time you've paid your check. It's a small place with maybe 8 tables, and they like to get people seated since there is absolutely no waiting area. Be prepared to make a reservation and still wait a bit.
Il Cantuccio in Philadelphia

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thanksgiving - Philadelphia

So you all know my camera was lost, but that Donal was kind enough to let me borrow his so that Foodaphilia didn't have to take a leave of absence. I'm just now getting around to Thanksgiving blogging, and I'll just save you the excuses for my tardiness.

My Thanksgiving was pretty casual. Angela came down from Boston and we had Liz & Sue as well as Shane & Kasi over for dinner. These are all friends who were temporarily orphaned from Arizona, Ireland and Seattle, but were happy to eat and drink with me!

Carrots and Cranberry
We had the basic spread. I steamed these carrots with a piece of orange rind in the water so it had a slightly citrus scent. And, while I did manage to get my mother's cranberry sauce recipe in time for Thanksgiving, I was too exhausted to make it, and thus we had some Cran-Fruit from the grocery store.
The turkey came out beautifully. I reserved a fresh free-range bird from Whole Foods a few weeks earlier. I picked it up on Tuesday night, let it soak in a brine on Wednesday night and roasted for three hours on Thursday afternoon.
Cornbread and Sausage Dressing
Using last year's recipe from America's Test Kitchen, I made Sausage and Conbread Stuffing. The only substiution I made was using my own recipe for Cornbread. This picture is pre-baking and doesn't reflect the true awesomeness that is this dressing.
Using leftover frozen bread dough from Monkeybread, Angela and I made cute little rolls. Awww, aren't they cute?
Potatoes and Gravy
Then, of course, you have the traditional mashed potatoes. Kasi and Shane helped to mash these up with butter, buttermilk, salt and pepper.
Here's another shot of the turkey, look how golden brown and crispy! I attribute this to a cup of brown sugar I add to my brine. It doesn't make the bird sweet in anyway, but the molasses in the sugar aids in the browning of the skin.
I took some help with the pumpkin pie crust, purchasing it from the store, but the filling is homemade, and all aspects of the apple pie are from scratch!
Black Moons
And when have you known me to be able to go without ending a huge meal with something chocolate?? Not often, so I made a batch of black moons.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monkey Bread

Thanksgiving morning, I was looking for a crowd pleasing breakfast. It's a bit silly that I just said "crowd pleasing" because it was just 4 of us, Angela in from Boston, roommate Jamie, and too sauced to drive home Mindy, plus me. The afternoon before I removed 3 loaves of frozen bread dough from the freezer and let them thaw according to the package directions. I knew one loaf would be enough for a dozen rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, so what to do with the other two?? Make Monkey Bread!

1-2 loaves of frozen bread dough, or two rolls of refrigerated canned biscuits.
Cinnamon Sugar
Melted Butter

Angela and I worked in true Fordist fashion and set up an assembly line to ease mass production. I cut and shaped dough balls and coated each one with the melted butter before placing it on a plate covered with the Cinnamon Sugar. Angela tossed to coat each piece of dough before placing them in a bundt pan. We covered it in plastic wrap let the whole thing rise in the fridge overnight The next morning we removed the plastic and baked it at 350 until it looked done, I think it took about 25 minutes.
Monkey Bread
Notice, I placed the bundt pan on a round cookie sheet just in case there were any bubble overs. Running a knife around the edge separated the sticky bread from the hot pan, and I inverted it on the same cookie sheet I'd just baked it on.
Monkey Bread
The butter and the Cinnamon Sugar create a killer syrup that coats each and every dough nugget while they bake. The end result is a nice hot start to any morning! Becuase of the pull-apart nature of this pastry, I'm sure its especially fun for children.