it's okay to play with your food

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Keeping It Real

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Ruth Reichl. I greatly appreciate my weekly email newsletter from Gourmet Magazine: Gourmet Weekly. Editor Reichl shares food happenings like seasonal produce, fun condiments and innovative cooking ware. Much of it however is grossly expensive.

For instance, this week's subject line is Luxuries to Help Beat Winter Blues. How this is any different from the usual content is beyond me, but I appreciate that the exorbitance is out in the open. It features a black truffle salt ($17.99 for a 3.5 oz. jar) and a $115 felted scarf in the style of a slab of bacon. I love knowing that these things exist. I don't love knowing I can't afford them without committing to a steady diet of peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

That said, little things in my life have been making the air less bitter, the wind less brutal. Here is my list of more modest, but still potent, luxuries to stave off those winter blues...

Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is my guilty pleasure food. With its Slim Jim associations, I usually hide my predilection for it. Though, to my credit, I only like the good stuff. And today I stumbled upon the mother lode: homemade beef jerky at the Dutch Market Place in Reading Terminal - not to be confused with the Dutch Eating Place. It was delicious: sweet, salty, and spicy. ($4.20ish for 1/4 lb.)

French 75s

The French 75 is my favorite cocktail. I discovered it at Southwark, a South Philly establishment that specializes in retro drinks. Made up of gin, champagne and lemon juice with a flirty garnish of lemon peel, it is summer time in a glass. ($9.00)

Blood Oranges

'Tis the season for citrus and blood oranges are flush with color and flavor. And they're the slightly sinister members of the fruit family. (Price varies)

Free Downloads from eMusic

Signing up for a free trial at eMusic gives you access to 25 downloads of great independent music. Then you can join for a monthly membership and keep downloading. Not about food, but a daily dose of good music can be just as nourishing. (Two week trial, free; see for membership rates)

This weekend: a Peruvian inspired menu of greens, malanga and spicy roasted chicken

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Vegetable and White Bean Soup

The abundance of vegetables in my fridge, plus the dreary Monday night weather, called for a vegetable soup. I very rarely make veggie soups; they tend to bore me. Minestrone? Blah. But with garlic sauteed veggies and a touch of dill, I may be a believer after all. I also experimented by adding a drizzle of homemade Dijon vinaigrette before serving.

Vegetable and White Bean Soup

1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
4-5 carrots
1 large green squash
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 pound pasta (I used gemelli)
1 large can cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
dill (fresh or dried)
salt and pepper
splash lemon juice

Serve with grated parmesan or homemade Dijon vinaigrette drizzled on top (omit the lemon juice if adding vinaigrette). Recipe for the vinaigrette is below.

Saute onion in olive oil till translucent. Add garlic, carrots and squash. Saute till just tender. Add broth, bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.

Start cooking pasta separately.

Add beans to soup. Continue simmering till beans are tender. Season with dill, salt and pepper.

When pasta is done, toss with olive oil to keep from clumping together.

Add pasta to soup just before serving. Garnish with cheese or Dijon vinaigrette.

Dijon Vinaigrette

large plop of Dijon mustard
splash of white wine vinegar
olive oil

Mix mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add olive oil slowly in a thin stream, mixing as you pour.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ingredient of the Week: Indian Eggplant

Each week, I buy my produce from Iovine's in the Reading Terminal Market. And each week I am impressed by some new item they have that I've usually never even heard of before, let alone cooked with. Ingredient of the Week will be a regular feature on kitchenplay, in which I choose a new ingredient and create a recipe with it.

This week I chose Indian eggplant. They are beautiful. Small, bulbous, a dark burgundy color, with curt green stems shooting out from their tops.

Inspired by the name, I envisioned a curried stew (like a Baingan Bharta) and quickly procured the garlic, ginger and carrots I deemed necessary to go along with it.

Roasted Eggplant Curry Stew

1-2 lbs. Indian eggplant, sliced thinly into rounds
1 large onion, diced*
3-5 garlic gloves, minced
ginger, minced
3-5 carrots, chopped
1 large can tomatoes
1-2 tbls. Madras curry powder
1/2 can coconut milk
1 can chickpeas
thai basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

garnish with thai basil, serve with yogurt

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss eggplant with salt, pepper, and olive oil in roasting pan. Roast for 25-30 minutes, till tender.

Meanwhile, saute onions till translucent. Add garlic, ginger and carrots, stirring occasionally. After approx. 5 minutes, add tomatoes and eggplant. Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add curry powder and coconut milk. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a masher or your spoon to mash the eggplant.

Add chickpeas. Put flame on low and let cook for another 10-15 minutes, till chickpeas are tender.

Finally, add chopped thai basil. Serve with more basil on top and yogurt, if desired.

*I waited to do all the necessary chopping till the eggplant was in the oven, and the timing worked well.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Nothing says romance like balls. Especially balls in chocolate, cheese or cinnamon/butter coated form. In celebration (mockery) of Valentine's Day, let us take an up close and personal look at balls.

When choosing which balls to include in this post, some were obvious. Amy Sedaris' Lil' Smokey Cheeseball is amazing. It's as big as a baby's head, creamy and delicious. I recently acquired a recipe for Isaac Hayes Salty Chocolate Balls, so that had to come along too, clearly. But what could a third ball be?

Matzoh Balls?
Sesame Balls?
Monkey Balls?

Monkey Balls... another fond memory of my Girl Scout year. For the more refined of taste, you can call it Monkey Bread, but that isn't nearly as hot! Reason #1 your mother said not to play with your food: cut up biscuit dough, coat in cinnamon sugar, drown in caramel, bake in a Bundt pan, pull apart with your fingers, lick your fingers clean. Messy AND sexy!

Please enjoy the following recipes. Make them with the ones you love, share them with the ones you love, eat them off the ones you love.

Happy Valentine's Day from kitchenplay!

Lil' Smokey Cheeseball from "I Like You" by Amy Sedaris
I challenge anyone who doesn't think cheese is romantic to get a burrata on Valentine's Day and NOT be swept off her feet.

2 cups of shredded smoked Gouda cheese (from kp: I used 1 c. smoked Gouda and 1 c. smoked cheddar)
16 ounces of cream cheese
1/2 cup of butter
2 1/2 tablespoons of milk
2 1/2 teaspoons of Steak Sauce
1 cup of chopped nuts (from kp: roast the nuts first!)

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Combine cheese, cream cheese, butter, milk and steak sauce; beat until completely blended. Chill over night. Mold into a ball the next morning. Roll it in the nut mixture. Serve at room temperature, with crackers or bread.

Isaac Hayes Salty Chocolate Balls from "Cooking with Heart and Soul" by Isaac Hayes
I haven't actually made these but they come recommended from my friend Kate, whose appreciation for both food and kitsch is well-regarded.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup of corn syrup
2 cups of milk chocolate chips
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbl. confectioners sugar

Mix graham cracker crumbs and syrup together. Mold into balls (with spoon, melon ball or using your hands). Melt chocolate in double boiler. Dip balls in melted chocolate until fully coated. Place on wax paper to set. Mix salt and sugar. Once set, roll the balls in the salt and sugar mixture.

Monkey Balls adapted from
I've only eaten these two times -in Girl Scouts and this past weekend. These memories will probably last me forever. Which is good, because I don't know when I can eat them again; they're THAT intense.

3 cans refrigerated biscuits
1 1/2 tbls. cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter Bundt pan. Cut each biscuit into quarters. Mix cinnamon and sugar in sealable bag, toss biscuit pieces with cinnamon sugar. Layer pieces in Bundt pan. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil. Pour on top of biscuits. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Turn pan upside down to serve.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

She's such a tease!

Anyone who has ever gone to the movies with me knows that I love trailers. I can't exactly pinpoint the reason for it, but I've been this way since I was a kid. So it isn't surprising that I feel the need to create a trailer of my own, of things that you can expect in the coming months from kitchenplay.

*Recipes for round things, sweet things, cheesy things...
*Highlights from my April roadtrip to Texas (hitting North Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana... expect a thorough analysis of southern BBQ)
*Party Planning Tips for events with state themes

Hopefully I haven't given too much away, but have shared enough to entice you back for more. If there is anything that you want me to cover or share (like a recipe I've made for you in the past or a recipe/menu you want me to create/find for you), feel free to put in a request!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Roasted Winter Vegetables and Confessions of the Heart

My name is Karina and I'm addicted to roasted vegetables. I love how good they taste, how easy they are to make, how pretty they look. I make them at least once a week and I usually have to talk myself down from the eating/them/all/at/once ledge. Is an addiction ok if it supplies you with necessary vitamins and nutrients? Would Vitamin A-enriched crack be legalized?

I blame the Reading Terminal Market. I blame Iovine Produce with their abundance of inexpensive and fresh veggies. They're the reason why I chose brussels sprouts over Thin Mints last week, an act that would have been unthinkable a year ago (see the January post below). I mean, who in her right mind does something like that?

My sickness reveals itself in the comfort I feel knowing that I have brought other people under this spell, such as one of my co-workers (who shall remain nameless). And here I am, putting in print a how-to-guide for a road to ruin.


that said...

last night was great. I had a date with brussels sprouts, onions, carrots, and green squash. Add a 400 degree oven to the mix, and you have a pretty hot time.

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Use a combination of any of the following:
brussels sprouts
potatoes (blue potatoes add a new color element)

I typically use 4-5 varieties at once, enough to fill up a large roasting pan by about an inch.

Pre-heat oven at 400 degrees. Chop up the veggies. I like to chop the onions and squash in rounds, the sprouts in halves, the parsnips and carrots in sticks, the turnips and potatoes in wedges, and the cauliflower into florets.

Place veggies in roasting pan. Generously pour olive oil, season with salt and pepper; mix.

Roast in oven for 45-60 minutes. Stirring once, about halfway through. Test done-ness by piercing a few veggies with a fork. I like them very soft and a dark golden brown.

Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cocktail Hour!

Last night was the second meeting of SPEC- the Society for the Promotion of Extraordinary Cocktails, hosted by my lovely friends Ru, Sarah, and Shonni. SPEC appeals to the dorky lush in me, as each meeting* focuses on three vintage cocktails. So while getting tipsy, you are also getting a historical perspective into the world of libations. (It's also a great excuse for drinking it up in cute outfits!)
Photo from SPEC Meeting 1

The menu included an amuse bouche of mulled cider, the Clover Club, and Sazerac Cocktail. Both the Clover Club and Sazerac used Peychaud's bitters, which Sarah had to order from New Orleans as they are not readily found in our area. The Sazerac was a bit too strong for me, but the Clover Club was fun and fruity, with the good aspects of a Cosmopolitan but lacking the Sex in the City overtones.

The Clover Club turns out to be a home-grown phenomenon, created by The Clover Club of Philadelphia in the early 20th century. My only other experience with the drink, however, was in Michigan, at Zingerman's Roadhouse. Zingerman's specializes in classic cocktails (SPEC fieldtrip, anyone?) and their CC was pretty amazing. Though I can't imagine anything with gin and fresh raspberries leading me astray. It is also commonly frothed with egg white!

Speaking of cocktails, this week I finally dug into my homemade Christmas cordial, a kumquat clementine liqueur. Inspired by this NYT article - - I made three batches of cordial- two were Christmas gifts and one was for me. Aside from looking beautiful, with slivers of kumquats and clementine floating in a mason jar, the gin based liqueur tastes amazing. I've been drinking it on the rocks with a generous portion of seltzer. The citrus and clove combination is an immediate reminder of the holidays. It's sweet but not syrupy.

Below is my slight adaptation of the NYT recipe. My main change was in the spices used, since I didn't have certain ones that the recipe called for, while I thought others would also work well. Also, mine did sit for about 5 weeks.

Kumquat-Clementine Cordial

adapted from "Haste Makes Cordial" by Melissa Clark, New York Times, December 12, 2007
Time: 10 minutes, plus one week's macerating**

1/4 cup sugar, preferably superfine
3 tablespoons clementine juice (from 1 or 2 clementines) plus 1 clementine, thinly sliced
6 kumquats, thinly sliced and seeded
1 3/4 cups gin (375 milliliters)
3 peppercorns
2 cloves
2 cardamom pods

1. Have a glass bottle with a cork or a jar with a lid ready. Place sugar in a large glass measuring cup or bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon boiling water for 1 minute. Add clementine juice, and continue stirring until sugar dissolves, about a minute longer.
2. If using a jar, place clementine and kumquat slices inside. If using a bottle, you might have to curl slices into cylinders to fit them through neck. Add sugar syrup and remaining ingredients; break star anise in half if necessary to fit into bottle. Close jar lid or cork bottle; keep at room temperature. Shake once a day for one week before serving.
From kp: If keeping it for longer than one week, I would remove the majority of the spices after one week. Personally, I think the clove and cardamom flavors would get too strong.
3. Serve as is or over ice, or with a splash of seltzer, or topped with chilled white wine or sparkling wine, or as a hot toddy topped with boiling water. Or drizzle over ice cream.

Yield: About 2 cups.

** isn't that a great word?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Rainy Days and Black Bean Whiskey Soup: Update

Despite the weather, the night was a success. Made it to the gym, made the soup, made it out to Making Time. But upon making the soup, i did realize some things I had omitted from my earlier post, so please refer to the updated recipe below.

Black Bean Whiskey Soup

1 onion, diced
2-5 cloves of garlic, diced
1 large can of black beans
1 can broth
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 red, green and/or yellow peppers, diced
About 1 cup of whiskey
1 can corn
Salt and pepper
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced (optional)

Garnish possibilities: shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream or plain yogurt

Saute onion. Saute garlic. Add beans, broth, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer. Add whiskey and peppers. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Throw in corn and chipotles. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and cumin.

Garnish with cheese, cilantro and/or sour cream or yogurt.

Up this weekend: the second meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Extraordinary Cocktails...

Rainy Days and Black Bean Whiskey Soup

As I think about my evening plans- gym, soup making, dancing- two out of the three are threatened by the downpour outside. But one is perfectly in keeping with the weather. My friend Samara is the one who introduced me to the pairing of black beans and whiskey. Her black bean dip is an addictive combination of beans, whiskey and chipotles. The whiskey adds an unexpected smokiness. This soup is inspired by her dip.

But first a disclaimer about my recipe making process. I basically make stuff up. My favorite way to cook is when I show up at someone's house and just start pulling ingredients out of their fridge and pantry, seeing how various elements match up. I don't always have exact measurements when it comes to cooking but guidelines for how things should look and taste. This is where the aspect of play comes into effect...

Black Bean Whiskey Soup

Please refer to the updated recipe above.

The objective is balance, of taste and color. The yellow corn, green cilantro and red peppers/tomatoes are a contrast to the dark beans.

If I remember anything else tonight, I'll add an update. And I need to fix my digital camera, but expect photos in the future.