Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mexican Fiesta

Alison and I recently welcomed a new roommate into the 884 collective. Ironically, she used to live in my room when Alison first bought her house, then moved away from Philly for work, and now she's back! To celebrate we hosted a small Mexican Fiesta in her honor.
Brigids and Mexican Fiesta 012
We started with some homemade guacamole, one of my all time favorite dips.

For the guacamole you'll need:
4 Haas avocados
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1 small red onion, chopped finely
1 small poblano pepper, chopped finely
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
Juice of a lime

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Scoop the flesh into a large bowl. I like to chop my garlic a little bit, then add about half a teaspoon of kosher salt and use the side of my knife to turn it into a paste. Add the onion, garlic paste, peppers, lime juice, and cilantro and use a large fork or a potato masher to mix it all up. I only mash a little bit as I like to retain some integrity of the avocado.

Thanks to Sher over at What Did You Eat?, I was inspired to make my own refried beans! I took a shortcut or two as I was pressed for time, but I promise to try a more authentic version from dried beans next time.
Brigids and Mexican Fiesta 014

For the beans, you'll need:
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 green onions, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can refried beans
1/4 cup water (you may not use all of it)

Heat oil in a medium pot, add onions, peppers and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent and everything smells ready.

Add the refried beans and stir. At this point, I had to add a few tablespoons of water to thin the beans to the consistency I desired. Ultimately, I added 1/4 cup of water total. Then I added the drained and rinsed black beans and let the whole pot just hang out on low heat until I was ready for them.


As my friends were munching on the guacamole I put together a huge tray of Nachos for them. I layered good quality tortilla chips with the beans, sauteed peppers & mushrooms, hot sauce and cheese and then baked them in the oven for about 10 minutes until all the cheese was melted. I would have liked to cook them a few minutes more so that some of the cheese could get golden brown, but we were starving and impatient. Nothing compliments a cheesy appetizer quite like a good beer. This night we were lucky to have friends who brought over a variety case of Magic Hat. This variety case was quite good. It had my favorite, #9, a pale ale with hints of apricot; HI.P.A, a hoppy but not too bitter pale ale; Circus Boy, a light hefeweizen, and finally a "mystery beer". I have to admit, I didn't try the mystery beer. I think that's totally bizarre to not identify the beer they're selling. I mean, really, it works for Dum Dums and Airheads, but beer? I don't think so.
Brigids and Mexican Fiesta 009
For the main course, I made enchilada stacks. Most of our guests were serious meat eaters, but we had a vegetarian and others that liked meat a little less, so I made two versions. For the veggie version I sauteed red, green, and yellow peppers with mushrooms and garlic. For the meat version I cooked fresh chorizo and ground turkey together.
Brigids and Mexican Fiesta 011

For the enchilada sauce:
1 can green enchilada sauce
1 can red enchilada sauce
1 can crushed tomatoes with green chilies

You'll also need:
1 package of 12 soft taco size tortillas. I used flour tortillas because my store was totally out of corn tortillas (boo hoo) and while it wasn't my preference, the results were equally tasty.
Cheese (lots of it if you're like me, and whatever kind you like) I used pepper jack and cheddar.

Spray the bottom of a 13 X 9 glass casserole with cooking spray and ladle in a little bit of the enchilada sauce. Lay down one layer of tortillas. I cut some of the tortillas in half to fit better in my dish. On top of the tortillas place a generous layer of the chorizo/turkey mixture (or the veggies!) cover with grated cheese and a few ladles of enchilada sauce. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas, chorizo/turkey mix, cheese and sauce, but the final layer should be tortillas covered with sauce and cheese (see picture above). I got three nice layers out of my ingredients.
veggie tortilla pie
After baking for about 35 minutes, all the cheese is melted and the sauce bubbles up around the sides, making a cohesive lasagna-like pie. This is the finished vegetarian version, spruced up with a little fresh cilantro at the end.

Everything was well-received by my friends and the new roomie!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mondays I work (I feel silly calling it work, as it's often the highlight of my week) at one of my favorite little cafes, which happens to be owned by two good friends of mine. This past Monday, Shannon felt like something with peaches. Instantly, I thought cobbler because the northeast has been rather chilly as of late, and nothing warms you up more after dinner than some warm fruity dessert.
Blueberry peach cobbler with ice cream
And if a little ice cream happens to fall in it, well, that's not a terrible crime. The blueberries just happened to fall into this dessert as well. As I was cutting the peaches, Shannon found half a bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer, and it was serendipitous because peaches and blueberries go so well together.

For the filling:
3 lbs of peaches, skin on, sliced thick. I cut each of my peaches into just 8 pieces.
1/2 bag frozen blueberries
3 Tbsp of citrus juice. I used lemon.

For the topping:
2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsp salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Place peaches in buttered 13X9 inch glass dish, sprinkle frozen blueberries on top. Sprinkle lemon juice over the fruit.

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Mix in the egg. (I used a fork at first, but after a few minutes when it wasn't coming together, I added a tablespoon of the melted butter and got in there with my hands, until small crumbs formed.)Sprinkle this mixture over the fruit.

In small bowl combine cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle over the crumb topping. Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the top and bake 375 for 45 minutes.
Blueberry - Peach Cobbler
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.
Blueberry Peach Cobbler
The fruit gets nice and juicy as the top bakes and softens and sweetens the whole experience. I think nectarines and raspberries would be a tasty combination as well.

While I wasn't explicitly tagged by anyone, one of my favorite food bloggers, and one or two fairly new to the scene that I'm enjoying tremendously, have shared a little more of themselves lately. I realized that I've been blogging for a few years now and never participated in any of the many meme's that fly around. Why not start today?

5 Things You May Not Know About e

1. French music is a guilty pleasure. I don't speak a single word of French. Wait - that's not exactly true. Seven years ago when I was traveling around Europe with two friends, Natalie taught me how to ask "How much is this?" but I could never understand what anyone was saying in response. Regardless, Tryo is one of my all time favorite bands of French origin and I rarely have a clue what they're singing about.

2. Cauliflower is the only vegetable I don't like. No circumstances make the consumption of cauliflower easier for me.

3. I'm in my 4th year of Ph.D studies in Sociology. My focus is in the Sociology of Medicine, Health, Healing and Illness. I've recently started work on my dissertation proposal. I hope to research the "pathways" with which people come to utilize Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Specifically, I want to find out the reasons why people make the choice to use Acupuncture, Chiropractic or Reiki, in addition to, or instead of conventional medicine.

4. My brother is a glassblower/lampworker in Ft. Collins, CO. Everyday I envy his artistic talent and lack of institutional work setting.

5. My senior year of college, my friends and I averaged about 5 games of Scrabble a day. It was ridiculous, gluttonous in a way, and I jump at the chance to play when it's offered to this day.

I tag anyone who would like to share a few things about themselves.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Saturday I spent some quality time with two good friends. We went to the Tutankhamen exhibit at the Franklin Institute.
king tut exhibit
It was really great, but terribly crowded and by the time we walked back to my neighborhood, we were starving and frozen. Luckily, the cozy warmth of Bridgid's was only a few more blocks away. You can check out Bridgid's menu here.
smoked fish plate
We started with cocktails, of course, and the smoked fish plate. Generous portions of smoked whitefish, smoked salmon, horseradish, and capers were served on a salad with tomatoes and a light dressing. Previously, I hadn't had any experience with a smoked fish other than salmon, so I was excited to try the whitefish and I really enjoyed it. Whitefish is more subtle in flavor than salmon so the smokey flavor was intensified in the whitefish.
shrimp cardinal
For dinner I had Shrimp Cardinal. Large shrimp sauteed with mushrooms in a lobster broth served over linguine. I broke the no cheese on seafood rule, but I wasn't in an Italian restaurant, so I figured I was safe.

My friends were equally pleased with their meals, pork tender loin and stuffed lobster. Each of our entrees was 20 bucks or less. This restaurant is one of the best in the Art Museum Area. They serve great food at reasonable prices and they offer a variety of Belgian beers and local favorites, including Yard's on a gravity tap from the ceiling.

24th Street, Between Aspen and Meredith
Tue-Fri: 11:30am-3pm
Mon-Sat: 4:30pm-11pm
Sun: 4:30pm-9pm
Bridgid's in Philadelphia

Friday, February 16, 2007

Las Cazuelas - Desserts

Recently a bunch of friends got together to celebrate a birthday. We went to Las Cazuelas, an amazing BYOB Mexican restaurant on 4th and Girard in Northern Liberties. You won't find tacos and burritos on their menu, they offer real Mexican entrees and nightly specials.
You can also Bring Your Own Bottle of Tequila and they'll give you the margarita mix for free! That's very cool in comparison to other places in the city that charge up to $15 dollars a pitcher, just for the mix!
Sue's Birthday 052
We had a delicious meal, and I didn't take a single picture of the food. Maybe I was enjoying being a little lazy and it was a party! Additionally, a previous post shows some of the best dishes Las Cazuelas creates. But this was the first time on any of my visits that we've ordered dessert. Lots of dessert. I wish I could recall exactly what the above dessert was named. I know that it was Banana, and maybe some sort of liquor. I was worried about this one because of the banana flavoring. I like bananas but I loathe banana flavored things like Circus Peanuts. But the banana was subtle and natural. I love when a cake has lots of interesting layers providing flavor as well as visual contrast on the plate. Sorry for the blurry picture, I blame the drinks. Chocolate cake is topped with chocolate cream (spiked with Jim Beam, I think), topped with banana cake, topped with vanilla cream, topped with chocolate cake, more cream and more chocolate. I think there were some walnuts on the outside and inside the banana cake.
Sue's Birthday 050
We also ordered Tres Leches Cake. A spongy vanilla cake is soaked in a mix of three milks (evaporated, condensed and whole milk or cream). This is the best version of this dessert that I have ever had. Seriously, it's not soggy, it's spongy, but moist and they serve more of the Tres Leches sauce on the plate mixed with chocolate. The sauce also makes it on to their Sunday brunch menu as a syrup for mango hotcakes. Try them with a cup of their Mexican spiced coffee.
Sue's Birthday 051
And then we had this chocolate cake. It had a nice chocolate buttercream in the middle of two layers of cake and was covered with a very good ganache. I know, three desserts is quite a bit, but there were eight of us, and we were drunk and happy, so why not?

Las Cazuelas
426 W Girard Ave
Between N Lawrence St & N Leithgow St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 351-9144
Las Cazuelas in Philadelphia

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Frog Hollow

When I was a very little girl, living in New Hampshire, my parents thought it would be a good idea to load my brother and me into our snowsuits and toboggan down a snowy hill. This sounds pretty innocent, but for some reason my mother put 3 year old e in the front seat of the toboggan for the ride. By the time we got to the bottom, I was scared out of my mind. I distinctly remember thinking I was blind because I knew my eyes were open but I couldn't see anything, my face was covered in snow. Needless to say, I'm not that into winter stuff, but I spent the past few days in the Poconos on a ski trip with some friends. At one point, Shannon and I almost ate a salad, but decided against it. Instead, the bunch of us subsisted on a steady diet of crap. skiiing 009
See, I told you. Chips, popcorn, dip, FiddleFaddle (impulse buy, it was only $1), Graham Crackers and Marshmallows for S'mores, Pop-Tarts and a Tupperware container full of Rice Krispy Treats and Caramel- Peanut Butter Chip Brownies. It's a really good thing I didn't take a photo of the beer, because I'd be embarrassed by the gross amount.
We stayed in Candensis, at a privately owned cabin. The owners are incredibly lucky to have such a cozy place in the woods. And they were very sweet to leave us a loaf of Lemon Poppy bread. The cabin is situated in a little secluded section of the woods, near a little pond known for the noisy frogs who live there.
skiiing 008
The cabin in 'Frog Hollow' was sort of plain from the outside, but the inside was very quirky and utilitarian. Fully modernized, but still made you feel like you were Laura Ingalls Wilder, just a little bit.
skiiing 018
Here are the aforementioned Rice Krispy treats and Caramel-Peanut Butter chip brownies, as well as some Red Velvet Cupcakes from Brown Betty Dessert Boutique.
skiiing 052
But mostly, we drank, sat by the fire and played cards or Apples to Apples, which is pretty much the most amazing game ever. Well, maybe not better than Scrabble, but pretty close. At one point, Liz had a green apple card "Zany" and chose the red apple card "Pit Bulls" as the winner because we have one zany pit bull. She was actually frightened by fizzing soda in a glass this weekend. She's scared of the mixer, mice, and her reflection in her water dish. She also won't walk further than 8 feet into the living room and under no circumstance will she enter the dining room or the kitchen.
skiiing 048
But she's so adorable, I think she could be a dog model. She's not scared of cameras.
Another high point was the arm wrestling match between Dave and Alison. But see for yourself:

Saturday, February 10, 2007

This recipe is an adaptation of Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins, which was recently featured on Stella Bites.

The adaptation part of this recipe was really an accident. I didn't have enough milk to make the recipe, but I did have some leftover coffee from the morning and still desperately wanted muffins. So I made some substitutions, performed some muffin magic, and enjoyed the results quite a bit.

muffin magic

Mocha Chocolate-Chip Muffins

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, and more for sprinkling on top
3 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1/3 cup, plus 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift all dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a large measuring cup, mix all wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir ONLY till moistened. It's very important not to over-mix quick breads, such as muffins, or they can get very tough.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners and fill with batter. I wanted substantial size muffins, and to wash only one tin, so I squeezed all the batter into just 12 muffin cups, but if I had cut back a little in each, I could have easily gotten about 4 to 6 more muffins. I sprinkled with some of the remaining chocolate chips and then baked for 18 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

muff muff muffins

The muffins were tender and soft, not overly sweet and very chocolaty. Thanks to Nigella and Stella for the inspiration.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Brunch by Ballyhoo

"To invite someone is to take charge of his happiness during the time he spends under your roof." - Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Three great friends took charge of my happiness during the past week when they invited me to their houses and cooked two incredible meals for me! When I'm given the gift of a home-cooked meal, I feel taken care of in that moment and it reaffirms to me what a lucky girl I am to have friends as great as mine. What better way to honor them than plastering the pictures all over the Internet, right?

So Ballyhoo and J invited me to brunch at their place in center city last Sunday.
finnegan with ball
This is the famous Finnegan! We worked up an appetite fighting over this ball and a small rubber tire. He's just gorgeous.
Back to the food. I knew I was in store for something, but I could have never imagined how gluttonous a brunch this was to be.
We started with a pepper stuffed with cheese and herbs, fresh tomato, sun dried tomato, and mozzarella stack, as well as baby greens with balsamic vinaigrette.
While we were eating our delicious salads, the fritata came out of the oven. Two kinds of sausage, spinach, cheese and tomato. It was hands down the best fritata I've ever had. I think he took it out of the oven a minute or two early and then let it set the rest of the way in front of us on the table while we munched on salads. Then when we couldn't' wait any longer, we devoured it.
And then there were the cookies! Quite possibly as good as my mother's oatmeal cookies. (To be honest, I had a cookie as the precursor to the whole meal when I saw the in the kitchen after first arriving, amuse bouche perhaps?)
oatmeal raisin cookie
This was no small bite before dinner though, these cookies were huge and were packed full of three kinds of very lush raisins. This picture shows no actual raisins unfortunately, but you can see the large crevice that remained after I picked a raisin out. In the background you can also catch a glimpse of the mango mimosa with blueberries I drank throughout the morning. Can you believe all this?

I was stuffed with food and pleasure to be in such good company.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Before I left Philadelphia for the holidays, Alison and I had a little happy hour get together at Azure in Northern Liberties. Azure has a terrific happy hour, small plates are half off (get the Greek plate, the hummus and feta are awesome and you get stuffed grape leaves too), and drinks are discounted as well. So while we were there for happy hour, we noticed a sign for a special than ran throughout January "2 Entrees and a pitcher or beer or bottle of wine for $30". Sounded like a pretty sweet deal and of course we forgot to go until the very end of the month, but we made it in time.
Round Steak
Alison had the steak, served with mashed potatoes and grilled carrots and asparagus and a mushroom reduction sauce. She ordered it medium rare and it came out rare. Alison was okay with this, she secretly likes it, but would never really order it that way. But I think if I had ordered it, I would have sent it back as undercooked.
Scallop Ravioli
I had the scallop ravioli with Provencal tomato sauce, a very light sauce with basil, olive oil, tomatoes and garlic. It was a pretty dish, though my picture doesn't do it justice. To be honest, the pasta was a little gummy and the cheese inside was hard to identify, but the scallop was cooked well and the sauce was very flavorful.
zoe 013
We decided we'd rather drink wine than beer, and had two choices, a Merlot and a savaugion blanc. While I almost never enjoy Merlot, we went with the red because in general we both enjoy red wine over white, and it was actually pretty tasty with both of our meals. I know that screw top wine is actually the best way in which to store wine, but I have trouble overcoming associating screw top wine with cheap wine, so when the bottle first came to the table I was like, "uh oh". But in the end it was very nice and a totally satisfying and reasonably priced meal for both of us. The January special is over now, but I heard a rumor that it will continue as a Monday and Tuesday night special every week.

931 N 2nd Street (between Laurel & Poplar)
Philadelphia, PA 19123-2326
Phone: (215) 629-0500
Mon-Thur: 11:30am-11pm
Sun: 4pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-12am
Sat-Sun: 11am-3pm
Azure in Philadelphia

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Tiffin Store

On her way home from the cafe, Liz brought home food from Tiffin Store on Girard and 7th. Unfortunately they don't have a menu posted on menupages.com, but you can follow the above link and download a menu from there. This is a dual catering business and dining room restaurant, so you can call ahead, fax or e-mail an order to them for pick up or delivery.

Sue's Birthday 016

Pictured here, starting from top is naan, Chicken Tikki Masala - boneless chicken breast in creamy tomato gravy, Chicken Korma, Lamb Saag - cubes of lamb leg cooked with spinach and spices, raita sauce, and rice in the middle. I was pretty unfamiliar with Indian food, though I knew I didn't like strong curry flavors. I decided on the Chicken Korma - chicken chunks served in a creamy cashew sauce. Cashews are my favorite nut, so when I saw this on the menu it was kind of a no brainer, I had to try it. It was really delicious, the nuts helped the viscosity of the sauce and it was a little spicy, but not overwhelming to other flavors.

Chicken Korma

The next day, I tossed some leftover raita sauce with some baby greens and reheated my chicken korma for a really delicious leftover dinner. I'm really in love with this raita sauce, it's comparable to tzatziki sauce but with cilantro instead of dill or mint. It's awesome and I'm going to try making a homemade version soon.

Tiffin Store
710 W. Girard Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Telephone: 215.922.1297
Fax: 215.922.1567
Email: tiffin@tiffin.com
Mon - Friday: 11:30AM to 9:00PM
Saturday and Sunday: Noon to 9PM