it's okay to play with your food

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Foodie-Friendly Gifts

As it's the season of giving and all, here are some items that are delicious, adorable, helpful and/or fun. While not all of them are edible, each is sure to please the foodie in your life. And all of them are Philadelphia, born and raised.

Sara Selepouchin
Sara Selepouchin is a screen printer and fellow Newbold resident. She creates single color prints and specializes in diagrams, where she pulls apart the pieces of everyday things, such as the canner, bbq and KitchenAid mixer below. She prints on helpful kitchen items like oven mitts, tea towels and placemats, like her Joy of Cooking Diagram Placemat Set.

She is hosting an open house this Friday, December 4th from 6 to 9 in her studio (on the fourth floor of 319A N. 11th St.). You can also find her wares on Saturday, December 5th at the Crafty Balboa Holiday Show (Broadstreet Ministry @ 315 S. Broad St.) from 11am-5pm. Or visit her website!

Jose Garces and Marc Vetri
Two of Philadelphia's culinary golden boys have recently entered the publishing world. Garces, the newly crowned Iron Chef America, has Latin Evolution, a cookbook focusing on innovative Latin cuisine. Vetri talks about his personal experience mastering Italian cuisine in Il Viaggio di Vetri: A Culinary Journey. You can find them, and other books on food (all with a Philly slant), at the Foobooz Holiday Shop.

Steve Poses
For the home entertainer in your life, consider gifting
At Home by Steve Poses. You may recall that I saw Poses talk at the Free Library a few weeks ago and was inspired by his charm and insistence on the importance of home entertaining. His tips ran around my head throughout Thanksgiving preparations and will certainly remain relevant through the holiday season and beyond.

John and Kira's Chocolates
They make delicious chocolates and have box sets perfect for holiday giving. Plus, they recently partnered with ROOT liqueur; you can now find ROOT chocolates by John and Kira exclusively at Art in the Age.

Food in Jars
If making gifts yourself is more your speed, check out
kitchenplay favorite Food in Jars. She is posting recipes for "Gifts in Jars," like apple-cranberry jam and vanilla syrup. I also suggest my Bitter Whiskey Hot Fudge recipe from kitchenplay May 2009.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Support Brew on 12/11

For those of you following kitchenplay's coverage of Brew, you know that it's already a great coffee shop with the dream of becoming a coffee and beer-to-go shop. Actually getting the beer component of Brew up and running has been delayed multiple times over various neighborhood issues. However, fans of Brew have a chance to rally for the establishment on Friday, December 11th at the License Transfer Hearing.

Whatever your interest - local businesses, Newbold, good beer - it's an opportunity to demonstrate your support.

Sign up for the hearing at Brew by December 4th.

License Transfer Hearing in Support of Beer at Brew
Friday, December 11th @ 10am
801 Market Street, entrance at Marshall's Store

Update 11/30: Meal Ticket has the scoop here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


After a full day of gluttony, followed by a couple more days of nibbling and picking at leftovers, surely many of you are feeling sated and in need of a food respite. Why speak of luxe desserts and carb-heavy side dishes at a time like this?

To that I say, doughnuts!

Apple cider doughnuts, to be precise. Melanie and I made these a few weeks ago, on a perfectly brisk fall day.

Apple Cider Doughnuts
Adapted from Lauren Dawson at Hearth Restaurant from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 18 doughnuts + 18 doughnut holes (suggested yield for a 3-inch cutter; my larger one yielded fewer)

Most apple cider doughnuts, despite their name, are kind of a bummer because they don’t taste very apple-y. One of the many things that appealed to me about this recipe was the way the apple cider was reduced and concentrated to hopefully give it more presence. And despite the fact that these are cake doughnuts, which have always played second fiddle to yeast doughnuts in my experience (likely because cake are more likely to get stale sooner, or you know, by the time you buy them), I think this is all the more reason to make them at home.

Personally, I don’t think a sweetened doughnut needs any kind of topping, but I went with a cinnamon-sugar coating anyway. Hearth dips theirs in an apple cider glaze, and serves them with applesauce and barely-sweetened whipped cream. We had ours with a dark beer.

1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil or shortening (see my explanation in the post) for frying

Toppings (optional)
Glaze (1 cup confectioners’ sugar + 2 tablespoons apple cider)
Cinnamon sugar (1 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon)

Make the doughnuts: In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, gently reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed (with the paddle attachment, if using a standing mixer) beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto one of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Pull the dough out of the freezer. Using a 3-inch or 3 1/2-inch doughnut cutter — or a 3 1/2-inch round cutter for the outer shape and a 1-inch round cutter for the hole from a set like this, as I did — cut out doughnut shapes. Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the second sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes. (You may re-roll the scraps of dough, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional doughnuts from the dough.)

Add enough oil or shortening to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350°F*. Have ready a plate lined with several thicknesses of paper towels.

Make your toppings (if using): While the cut doughnut shapes are in the refrigerator, make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners’ sugar and the cider until the mixture is smooth; make the cinnamon sugar by mixing the two together. Set aside.

Fry and top the doughnuts: Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on paper towels for a minute after the doughnuts are fried. Dip the top of the warm doughnuts into the glaze or cinnamon sugar mixture (if using) and serve immediately.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I've been a part of a friend-based Thanksgiving for the past six years. Friends meet up in Philly from all over the East coast (and on occasion, farther away) and share the responsibilities of the meal. We eat a lot. We drink even more. Last year, we worked off Thanksgiving dinner with a dance party.

This will be my second year hosting. The turkey has been ordered from the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market. I recently purchased a dining room table with plenty of room for guests. I only have five chairs (for a party of 12), but I'll figure something out.

I always make at least one thing that I am 100% confident in (maple nutmeg cream pie) and then something else that I've never made before. Last year it was pigs-in-a-blanket, a simple but effective appetizer. I am still debating my new project for this year. We have mac and cheese, two kinds of stuffing, a yam souffle and cranberry sauce already on the dinner menu. Desserts are covered. Maybe another veggie side dish? I had roasted cauliflower with pine nuts last night at a new restaurant in town... it got me thinking about roasted Brussels sprouts with pine nuts and bacon...

If you are still looking for some inspiration, here are a few recipes that have served me well over the years...

Potato Leak Soup: In my childhood, my chef father always put together Thanksgiving meals that were gourmet to the hilt. Potato leak soup is the dish I associate most with Thanksgiving (yes, even more than turkey, believe it or not). Disclaimer: I have never tried this particular recipe, but of the ones on Epicurious, it was closest to what my dad would make.

Sage and Honey Skillet Cornbread: I made this a few weeks ago for a chicken fry. Golden, moist bread lined on the bottom with fresh sage leaves; it's also very simple to put together.

Pigs in a Blanket: An appetizer for pre-meal noshing is a must. I like these because they aren't too hard to make or too filling and are crowd pleasers (even if some people loathe admitting how much they love them). That said, Mike and I are planning on making homemade hot dogs (Mike) and dough (me), so we are upping the difficulty ante a bit.

Maple Nutmeg Cream Pie: this has been my Thanksgiving staple for the past three years. I was first drawn to it for how unique it is. While there is nothing wrong with apple and pecan pies, I like preparing something a little different for the end of the Thanksgiving meal. Now I love it for how simple and aromatic it is. Making the custard filling, full of fresh nutmeg and pure maple syrup, is almost as delicious as eating it.

Roasted Root Vegetables
: A great and simple side dish, provided you have the oven to spare.

If you make any of the above recipes, send me pictures!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

E's Whoopie Pies at the First Person Festival

The First Person Festival is underway! We've met Ruth Reichl, consumed burgers, and eaten America. We still have one more foodie event on the roster, The Girl from Foreign, with Indian food courtesy of Ekta.

And in more foodie/First Person news, E from Foodaphilia is stocking our concessions stand. And here is the line-up:

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Chocolate Whoopie Pies
Coconut Crunch Cookies- coconut, toffee, almonds, oatmeal
Junk in the Trunk- white and dark chocolate, cookie pieces, pretzels and potato chips

A BIG thanks to E and A Full Plate Cafe for their support of First Person Arts!

The First Person Festival is taking place November 3-8 at the Painted Bride, 2nd and Vine St.

(photo from Foodaphilia)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hanging Out with Ruth Reichl

I have already expressed my fondness for Gourmet and the sadness brought on by its recent demise. So I was especially excited to attend First Person Art's First Taste Preview Dinner with Ruth Reichl at Supper this past Monday. And then First Person asked me to blog about it. Rather than re-recount the event, allow me to share what I wrote for First Person's blog. Visit the original post for some great pictures of Ruth at the event.

Ruth Reichl Quiz

Which of the following statements about Ruth Reichl’s early career as a food writer is false?

A) She published her first cookbook at age 21.
B) She wanted her first gig as a food critic so she could satisfy the fellow members of her commune with free food.
C) She crafted her early restaurant reviews as if they were plots out of film noir and sci-fi flicks.
D) All three statements are true.

The answer is D.

Reichl shared the tale of her unconventional start as a writer at last night’s First Taste Preview Dinner. A packed house at Supper listened as Reichl joked about her early days in Berkeley and her wobbly transition to the big leagues at the LA Times. Despite her eccentric beginnings, she ultimately crafted a career as one of the top food journalists in America without so much as a degree in writing or journalism. (She has a master’s degree in art history.)

Some of the most touching remarks of the evening came from Mitch Prensky, chef and owner of Supper. He admitted that his childhood was not a typical one. With parents in the food business, average family outings included trips to Zabar’s and Dean and Deluca. Prensky also acknowledged the influence that the California cuisine movement of the 70’s (and Reichl herself) had on his own cooking style. It was obvious that Reichl is a food hero to Prensky and he was clearly honored to be preparing a meal for her.

Of course, the Q & A visited upon the recent (and controversial) decision by Condé Nast to stop publishing Gourmet after 68 years in print. Reichl handled the questions with grace, though it was clear that she was saddened by the change.

The rest of the evening included a four-course meal prepared by Prensky and ended with a book signing. It was a lovely kick-off to the 8th Annual Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art, featuring the wit and humor of one of our top food writers and memoirists.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Unhappy Housewife

Normally, I'm quite satisfied in the domestic role, certainly as it pertains to the culinary arts. However, last weekend my friend Elizabeth Hershey, an immensely talented photographer, and I played around with the image of a less-than-content housewife. This resulted in cupcakes thrown on the floor, cleaver wielding and many sips of Jack Daniels.

She just posted some of the pictures to her blog but I wanted to post a few of them here.
(And a disclaimer, I didn't bake the cupcakes. They're courtesy of Acme.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sausage and Mushroom Soup

Last Friday was another dinner at Mike's. He took the lead with an entree of squid in red wine with lentils while Mary made dessert. The only appropriate addition in chilly, rainy weather of the sort we'd been having was to cook up a soup. And something in the mushroom barley family seemed perfect.

My "mind mouth" was working overtime on Friday. My mind mouth is what I call it when I'm putting together a recipe and mentally tasting things to see how they will work together. I looked through a bunch of recipes to get a general sense of how mushroom soups work: use dry and fresh mushrooms, carrots and celery are great
(leeks are a good addition too), wine and sherry are often incorporated in the broth. I decided to use three types of mushrooms, two fresh and 1 dry variety, add a beef sausage, and use a flavorful beer for the broth. No barley because I couldn't find any in the shops along the Italian Market area and didn't have the wherewithal to walk to the Acme in the rain.

And... it was pretty awesome.

But still no camera cord, so no pics. Pout.

UPDATE: Camera cord has been found, obvs...

Sausage and Mushroom Soup

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for about 20 minutes
1 large onion, diced
1 lb. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
Soy sauce, about two tbls. or to taste
A few tablespoons of water
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 carrots, sliced in rounds
2 celery ribs, sliced
Sprigs of fresh thyme and chopped fresh sage (in about a 2:1 proportion)
1 lb. beef sausage
12-16 ounces beer (I used Yuengling's Black and Tan)
6 cups chicken broth
A lot of freshly ground pepper (Add salt depending on how salty the broth is. The boullion I used was super salty, so I didn't add any more)
Fresh parsley, chopped

In a pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onions for about 6 minutes or till golden. Add the mushrooms, soy sauce and some water. Cook down till all liquid is absorbed. Add more liquid if it's getting too dry before the mushrooms seemed thoroughly cooked.

In another pan, melt more butter over medium high heat. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and bit more water. After about 5 minutes, add the fresh herbs. Let cook together for about another 5 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Brown sausage in the soup pot. I had a 1 lb. rope so I browned it in longer sections, chopped them up smaller, browned them some more, then chopped them up one more time into thinnish slices. Remove the fat and deglaze the pot with about half a cup of beer. Combine the sausage, vegetables, more beer and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with a garnish of fresh parsley.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On My Friends and Steve Poses

I just returned from another Author Event at the Free Library of Philadelphia, inspired to take up the keyboard and write. This time, rather than reeling from the ire of Mark Bittman, I am completely charmed by the idealism and good cooking karma of Steve Poses. Poses is famous in Philadelphia as the founder of the Frog and the Commissary, two restaurants at the forefront of the Philly restaurant emergence in the seventies. He later turned his attention to catering, opening the Frog Commissary. Now he has taken up a new cause, to actually increase home entertaining in the U.S. by 10%. How he will document this uptick, I do not know; but the enthusiasm with which he advocates for the surge is contagious.

Since the start of the recession, many magazines have become advocates for entertaining at home as a way to cut spending. For Poses, the issue is not one of economics but community building. He discusses the joys and breaks down the steps of home entertaining in his new book, At Home by Steve Poses and the companion website, At Home Online. Purchase of the book gets you a code that gives you exclusive access to the website. The website includes all of the recipes in the book (and then some) that are easily printable, plus other tips and tricks. A glance through the book quickened my salivary glands. (Kaffir lime-infused vodka? Yes please!)

The talk made me even more appreciative of my personal food community, my friends, with whom I eat and cook on a regular basis. I don't even think of these meals as "dinner parties," they comprise such a natural part of our social scene, but that is essentially what they are. Peppered throughout
kitchenplay are the names of my food partners in crime: Mike, Sarah, Daniel are but a few. Sometimes I'm cooking for them, them for me, or we're cooking together. It's a very simple, non-stressful part of our circle.

I realize that not everyone has a food community already, and I'm lucky that so many of my friends just love cooking, but I highly recommend building your own. It's as simple as hosting a potluck or staring a regular Sunday dinner routine. Poses is right; sharing a pot of homemade soup with friends is so much more satisfying than any meal in a restaurant.

That said, there's a "dinner party" tomorrow night and I'm thinking of making a mushroom barley soup to precede Mike's squid in red wine with lentils. I gotta start looking through recipes.

At Home with Steve Poses: A Caterer's Guide to Cooking and Entertaining is available only on his website.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cake Time

This past week brought two occasions for cake baking, a fundraiser planning meeting and a long weekend with friends in Rhode Island. For the first cake, I stuck with a staple, a cake I've been making for years with great success: a chocolate-covered gingerbread cake. The second cake was brand new, a flourless chocolate cake with a cinnamon-ricotta dollop. I went for a flourless cake since our host for the weekend had recently gone gluten-free. Both cakes come from epicurious, with some additions/alterations by kitchenplay.

And sadly, I can't find my camera cord, hence no pictures right now. :(

Camera cord has finally been recovered! Pics below!

Chocolate-Covered Gingerbread Cake from Epicurious

from kp: I double the cake recipe and bake it in a bundt pan. Cooking time is
more like 45 minutes as a result. I keep the glaze recipe the same and drizzle it on the cake, rather than frost the whole thing.

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch square metal baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment. Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.

Mix warm water and baking soda in small bowl until baking soda dissolves. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, molasses, eggs, and fresh ginger in large bowl until well blended. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with water mixture in 2 additions, beating until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on rack 20 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake to loosen. Invert cake onto rack; cool. Peel off parchment.

For glaze:
Bring first 3 ingredients to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and vanilla; stir until smooth. Let stand until cool but still pourable, about 20 minutes.

Place cake on rack set atop baking sheet. Reserve 1/2 cup glaze. Pour remaining glaze over cake, spreading with spatula to coat top and sides. Chill cake and reserved glaze until reserved glaze is just firm enough to pipe, about 1 hour.

Transfer reserved glaze to pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain tip. Pipe 5 diagonal lines atop cake, spacing evenly. Cluster crystallized ginger atop lines. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Flourless Chocolate Cake from Epicurious
from kp: I doubled this recipe and baked it in a 9-inch round pan. It didn't change the cooking time. I served it with a cinnamon-ricotta dollop (recipe below).

  • 4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.

Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.

Dust cake with additional cocoa powder and serve with sorbet if desired. (Cake keeps, after being cooled completely, in an airtight container, 1 week.)

Cinnamon-Ricotta Cheese by kitchenplay

Ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)

Sugar (about 2 tbls)

Cinnamon (about 1 tbls)

Nutmeg (about 1 tsp)

Smidge of salt

Blend together all ingredients to taste with an electric mixer or by hand. Serve with flourless chocolate cake.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Love Cake

This is just too cute... from Britain's Rocky and Balls...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ciao Gourmet

Sadly, Gourmet Magazine is being cut from the Conde Nast publication roster. And while the magazine had become very ad-heavy in recent years and was trying a little too hard to be cool and hip for the young foodie set, it is still my preferred food magazine. It's the one I grew up with. My father has been subscribing to Gourmet since the 70s and it was a staple in my home as a child. When I first started cooking (save an adventure with the recipes from my first issue of Seventeen), I always referred to Gourmet. I also recently argued with my father about holding on to his stash of old Gourmets, if only for my own personal magazine collection. I most certainly hope he heeded my advice.

This will make Ruth Reichl's appearance with First Person Arts even more interesting, I say!

Friday, October 2, 2009

First Person Arts (and Eats)

My latest gig is with the awesome organization First Person Arts. I'm coordinating volunteers for their Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art, taking place November 3 - 8. kitchenplay was one of the first things we talked about in my job interview, in part because food is a topic prominently showcased throughout the festival. A number of events focus on food and food writing, including a preview event with Gourmet editor, Ruth Reichl. How could I not share all of this with you?

First Taste Preview Dinner with Ruth Reichl
Monday, October 26

Supper Restaurant

Enjoy a four-course dinner from Supper chef Mitch Prensky and hear about Reichl's life with food from the woman herself.

Edible World: Foobooz Burger Cruise
Tuesday, November 3

Meet in the lobby of 1 S. Broad St

Foobooz editor Arthur Etchells leads a tour of burger eats around town.

America Eats
Wednesday, November 4

The Painted Bride

Food writer Pat Willard took up where a WPA-era writer left off: documenting the regional cuisines of the United States. Join her for a presentation of her findings over a buffet of traditional American eats.

The Girl from Foreign
Sunday, November 8
The Painted Bride

noon to 2pm

Sadia Shepard discusses her memoir, The Girl from Foreign, and presents a screening of her film, In Search of the Bene Israel, telling the tale of her personal journey through her Jewish Indian heritage. Her story is rounded out by Indian food from Ekta Indian Restaurant.

Ticket prices and more information can be found here. I'll be reminding you about these events closer to the actual dates too.

And if you're interested in volunteering with the Festival, write me at!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

summer into fall

Over these past couple months, the real world necessitated that kitchenplay take a back seat. Honestly, I didn't have much to write about anyway. Many meals were eaten in a hospital waiting room or out of a box or skipped entirely. But as the air in Philly has morphed from a muggy heat to a brisk cool, it's time to bring my attention back to food, the making and the sharing of it. After all, fall is my favorite season, with thoughts of apples and pears, cinnamon and ginger. It's time to turn on the oven again and start baking spice cakes and maple cream pies. Soups and stews are to be shared with friends on chilly Sunday evenings.

Yesterday, I was able to both savor the spoils of my summer garden at lunchtime while creating a very autumnal dessert in the evening. It was a perfect way to say adieu to one season and welcome in another.

I can't say my first garden was a rousing success, but I have been harvesting a few things over this past month. Homemade tomato sauce made use of my first eggplant. A tomato and green pepper found their way into a hoagie. And just yesterday I savored my first (and only) cucumber. Eaten with my sole ripe tomato, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, it made for an awesomely fresh and simple salad.

And then dinner approached and I needed to create a dessert to bring to Mike's. Wholly unprepared, I threw a few boxes of raisins, a bag of nuts, butter and some spices into a bag. At the last minute, I added my bottle of orange blossom water. I knew I wanted to build something around apples and picked up a couple pounds of green ones at the market on 16th and Washington. Apple cake was what I had in mind, but sadly, Mike lacked the ingredients that I was too disorganized to procure myself. But something else worked its way into my brain, something that was a perfect use of every ingredient I had in my bag: baked apples. It also turned out to be a great accompaniment to Mike's rustic dinner of chicken with vinegar and homemade pasta.

Baked Apples with Orange Blossom Water
by kitchenplay

One small bag of chopped nuts
3 small boxes of raisins
A generous splashing of orange blossom water
Cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, ginger
A lot of brown sugar
A smidge of salt
6 tart apples, cored
6 tablespoons of butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Soak nuts and raisins in orange blossom water for about 10-15 minutes with spices, brown sugar and salt. Put a tablespoon of butter in each apple. Mix in the nut and raisin mixture with the butter. Let the mixture overflow just a little bit from the top of each apple. Put apples in a baking dish and bake for 3o minutes. After 3o minutes, reduce heat to 200 degrees and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve with ice cream or, if you are so lucky, calvados laced frozen yogurt made by Mike.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I'm a little late jumping on the P.Y.T bandwagon, having missed the blogger luncheon that owner Tommy Up so smartly arranged last month. But I made my way to the new joint at the Piazza at Schmidt's before the ROOT Cocktail Competition and finally tasted the burger that has been - both literally and figuratively - on the lips of food bloggers around town.

I could just let the photo below speak for itself. Gooey melted cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, a soft potato roll and a perfectly medium rare patty. The creamy onion spread, which tasted more garlicky to me, was excellent. Can a burger melt in your mouth? The P.Y.T Burger can.

Since I was there by myself, it was hard to rationalize getting the burger, the fries AND a full alcoholic milkshake. But I really wanted one of those milkshakes! I wondered aloud if they ever made half-sized ones and they happily obliged. I selected the Jon Valdez: coffee ice cream, Kahlua and Patron XO. The alcohol wasn't overwhelming. It's a thick, delicious milkshake with just a hint of something adult in there. And though the menu only includes 4 varieties, 15 recipes exist. I eagerly await when the others will make their debuts.

From Tommy Up's active tweeting, word is that the menu is expanding to include a Cobb salad and Tempura (yes, fried) burger. I definitely want to check out the non-beef options on the P.Y.T menu, like the Calibunga Burger (seared white beans) and TLC (ground chicken burger).

Summer 2009 is the Summer of Burgers in Philly. The question is, where do I eat next? Squareburger? Newly anointed home of the best burger in town, Butcher and Singer? Personal favorite Good Dog? The nationally burger-famous Rouge? With so much awesome burger action, you'd
almost forget that Philly is a cheesesteak town.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

7 Simple Salads: Salads 2 - 7

To recap, despite my disdain for Mark Bittman, I was intrigued by his recent NYT article, 101 Simple Salads for the Season. So I decided to spend a week trying out a new salad each day, starting with number 2, tomatoes and peaches with cilantro. My recent quality time with Bittman has been more fruitful than I expected. The nice thing about these salad recipes is how flexible they are and once you acquire a bunch of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and accessories, you can start making up your own dishes and playing with what he's suggested. Of all the ones I've tried so far, I think the first one remains my favorite.

Number 14. Thinly slice carrots, or grate or shred them (the food processor makes quick work of this). Toss with toasted cumin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice and cilantro. Raisins are good in here too. There is no better use of raw carrots.

Lemon juice and cumin are a delicious combination. I could just drink this dressing straight. I bet that marinating the carrots in the dressing for 15 minutes or so would be nice.

48. Toss roughly chopped dandelion greens (or arugula or watercress) with chopped preserved lemon, chickpeas, crumbled feta and olive oil. (Before you start cursing me out, here’s a quick way to make preserved lemons: chop whole lemons and put in a bowl with the juice of another lemon or two, sprinkle with a fair amount of salt and let sit for an hour or so.)

The preserved lemon trick didn't work out as well as Bittman promised, though maybe I could have chopped the lemons up smaller.

39. Yucatecan street food as salad: Roast fresh corn kernels in a pan with a little oil; toss with cayenne or minced chilis, lime juice and a little queso fresco. Cherry tomatoes are optional.

This doesn't look particularly great, but it was tasty. The tart lime was nicely paired with the sweet corn. Though it wasn't as substantial as some of the other salads and would have been better as a side dish rather than a meal.

18. Roughly chop cooked or canned chickpeas (you can pulse them, carefully, in a food processor) and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, lots of chopped fresh parsley and mint, and a few chopped tomatoes. Call this chickpea tabbouleh.

This ended up being a nice variation on no. 48 above. I used the remaining preserved lemons and added feta. No tomatoes on hand though.

30. Fast, grown-up potato salad: Boil bite-size red potatoes. While still warm, dress them with olive oil, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, capers and parsley. Chopped shallots, bell peppers, etc., all welcome, too.

I mixed together a dollop of Dijon with another dollop of mayo. Spicy, creamy and tangy. The warm potatoes are key.

So this isn't a salad exactly, but rather a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with cheesy rice and topped with a black bean salad and additional queso fresco. Full recipe forthcoming but it was definitely inspired by my fridge full of cilantro, mint and cheese.

Blueberries in my coffee

Trust me, kitchenplayers, I haven't forgotten you. In fact, there have been Bittman salads made, homemade soft pretzels ruined and P.Y.T grub taste-tasted. I just haven't written about it all yet. Blame it on the heat. Blame it on Live Arts. But in the meantime, check out this blueberry-laced shout-out to Newbold favorite, Ultimo Coffee at Brew.

Philadelphia Weekly's 50 Must Eats...

Counter Culture Idido Misty Valley Coffee 

“It tastes like blueberries,” the floppy-haired barista at Newbold coffeehouse/beer box Brew says when asked about the single-origin 
Ethiopian blend called Idido Misty Valley. Dude looks like a CW tween soap star, not a joe pro, so we’re skeptical. But there they are: blueberries, sure enough, a whole Hammonton meadow of them rolling across our tongues like ball bearings. Organic, shade-grown and sun-dried in the traditional Ethiopian method, the coffee beans are roasted by North Carolina’s Counter Culture and delivered to Brew, where the fresh grinds are brewed individually in Bee House’s pour-over drippers for a clear, pure coffee that really sings. Voluptuous body. Dazzling acidity. It’s the best cup poured in Philly. Brew, 1900 S. 15th St. 215.339.5177.

This just begs the question, who wants to gobble through all 50 "must-eats" with me???

Monday, July 27, 2009

ROOT Cocktail Competition

My latest post on uwishunu... and I'll be in attendance. You should be too!

Root beer isn’t just for little kids and ice cream floats. ROOT is the new liqueur transforming the classic soft drink into something more adult-appropriate. Based on the (alcoholic) recipe from which root beer originated, ROOT blends smoked black tea, sundry spices and citrus peels to recreate the beverage how our forefathers drank it. ROOT has its “roots” in Philly; it’s brought to us by Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I tried it in May and can attest: this stuff is delicious.

You can check it out at the ROOT Cocktail Competition on July 28th at the Silk City Beer Garden. Bartenders from Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co., Snackbar, North 3rd, and other local bars will be creating cocktails featuring ROOT. Judges are local writers and alcohol professionals: George Costa (Southwark), Arthur Etchells (Foobooz), Marnie Old (sommelier) and Victor Fiorillo (Philadelphia Magazine).
Guests enjoy free hors d’oeurves and $5 Root cocktails. Admission is free but RSVP to

What would you make with ROOT?

ROOT Cocktail CompetitionTuesday, July 28th, 7-9pm
Silk City Beer Garden (Rain location: inside Silk City)435 Spring Garden St, Philadelphia, PA

Updated: Katie Loeb's concoction Dr. Hadley's Root Restorative took top prize.
.5 oz. Demerara simple syrup
6 large mint leaves
1.25 oz. Lairds Bonded (100 proof) Applejack
1.0 oz. ROOT Liqueur
.5 oz. Benedictine
.5 oz. fresh lime juice
2 dashes Fee Brother's Aztec Chocolate bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Garnish: a Mint sprig
Muddle mint in simple syrup. Add ice and other ingredients. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with a spanked mint sprig.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Seven Simple Salads for the Week

Loyal readers of kitchenplay know I dislike Mark Bittman. It’s less about his recipes, and more about his attitude, specifically the attitude displayed towards me and my question during a book talk at the Philly Free Library a few months ago. I won’t go into details, but you can read about my unpleasant encounter at Bite Me Bittman. My friends now get a kick out of secretly cooking with Bittman recipes, waiting till I pronounce my fondness for the dish and then revealing the “man behind the curtain.” I can like the man’s food; I just don’t like him.

That said, his latest feature in the Times caught my eye: 101 Simple Salads for the Season. I cook very little over the summer, disliking the heat my kitchen produces and the lack of central air to combat it. I often get stuck in a rut of Lean Cuisines, peanut butter off a spoon or ice cream for dinner. So his collection of innovative salad recipes has inspired me. Starting today, for the following week, Thursday to Wednesday, I am going to make a Bittman-approved salad each day.

I hit up Reading Terminal for some of the ingredients that ran through many of the recipes I'm interested in: tomatoes, peaches, cilantro, red onion, mint, arugula, celery, carrots, corn, lemons and limes. I'll likely need to make an Italian Market run over the weekend to supplement.

First up? Number 2: "Mix wedges of tomatoes and peaches, add slivers of red onion, a few red-pepper flakes and cilantro. Dress with olive oil and lime or lemon juice. Astonishing."*

This salad was, in the words of my brother, "bangin'." Peaches and herbs (no, I'm really not trying to be funny, I swear.), are my new favorite duo. I recently made a basil peach jam and the cilantro peach combination in the salad tickled my tongue. In fact, I think the same salad could be really good with basil in place of the cilantro, but try it with the cilantro first. I went for a healthy dose of lime juice which also went nicely with the cilantro (unsurprisingly) and peaches (more surprising).

And the kitchenplayer in me does appreciate how Bittman doesn't specify quantities; it's all about proportions that you think will work, that you'll enjoy.

Ok Bittman, in this imaginary little fight of ours, you're starting to redeem yourself. Let's see what else you got.

*Salt is meant to be included in all the recipes though it isn't specified. I used a nice sea salt.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary...

Well, I can't speak for Mary's garden, but mine is growing with the help of homemade compost and a small army of children from my block.

Newbold Neighbors Association has done a great job starting a community garden this year, a couple blocks from my house. I'm just now greening my thumb, so I'm learning a lot along the way.

For instance, if you decide to shop for seedlings with three small children, the oldest being 6 years old, really pay attention to what you're buying. That way, you won't end up with 10 tomato plants and no peppers instead of the more well-rounded collection of tomatoes and red peppers you originally planned.

Similarly, if you decide to plant with three small children, pay closer attention to where they are digging and what they are putting in the ground. That way, you won't end up with a rogue tomato plant in the midst of your cucumber patch.

Sigh... but these are lessons learned along the way and hey, the kids are having fun with the garden. If you want to see children fight over vegetables, this is way. ("That's MY cucumber plant!" "No, it's MINE! THAT one's yours!" "Where's MY tomato growing?") They are also really excited for the "vegetable party" we're going to have at the end of the summer. As in, "Can we make a tomato salad? Please?"

Less overt excitement accompanied the laying of the compost. I fished out some of my compost, put it in a bag and headed over to the garden with two of the older kids from my block, about 8 and 9 years old. I hadn't noticed how the compost smelled till we got to the garden. In the words of John, the 9 year old, it smelled like "dookie." And he was right.

I suspect I wasn't turning the compost enough, letting it aerate properly. It doesn't smell now and seems to be well-integrated into the soil. Nothing has died, so I think it's ok. I went home and added cardboard to my batch in the Envirocycle and have been turning it religiously. Hopefully this next round will be more earthy, less dookie-y.

My pics are from last week, but I was just there again today. The black eggplant have quadrupled in size and the Lavender Touch eggplant is finally showing its light purple blossoms. Plus I have some very funky curly cucumbers growing. The tomatoes have yet to turn red but they are nice in size. And with all those tomato plants, there will be much tomato salad at our vegetable party come late August.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The NoLibs Series

I haven’t been as busily posting on kitchenplay lately, in part because my duties as Volunteer Coordinator with the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival are gearing up. Live Arts is a two-week long theater and dance festival in September and about 200 volunteers help make it happen. As per my job title, I get to “coordinate” them.

The Live Arts main office just moved from Old City to Northern Liberties. So while my opportunities for blogging may dwindle as the festival nears, I want to take advantage of the new neighborhood by exploring all the fine food it has to offer. I don’t make it up to No Libs often, but that is about to change.

I ate at El Camino Real a few weeks ago and am going to start off my No Libs Series with that later on this week. Any one have any tips for places to hit in No Libs?

And do you want to volunteer for Live Arts? Email me at

The To-Eat List
Bar Ferdinand
Honey’s Sit and Eat
A Full Plate
Brown Betty

Been There, Dug That
Standard Tap
Silk City

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brew Alert

Word from Brew is they could be selling beer by Thursday! Stay tuned...

Grub Street just got the word from Aaron as of a few hours ago. The word is "snags"... various snags seem to be preventing those lonely refrigerators from getting stocked with beer. In the meantime, we have delicious Counter Culture coffee and 4 Worlds Bakery baguettes to sweeten the wait.

Apparently protesting is one of the aforementioned snags. As a Newbold resident, albeit one a few blocks from Brew, I'm curious to know who is up in arms against the place. I wonder if the Newbold Neighbors Association could be of assistance. They were definitely helpful with getting
Lucky Old Souls moving along.

Friday, July 10, 2009

July Crush of the Month: The Kitchn

The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy’s food and kitchen spin-off, is nothing new to webby food lovers. And I read it, comment on it and refer to it regularly. But just this week, it’s entered my life in multiple and wondrous ways. It’s my July Crush of the Month.

So what exactly has gotten me so excited?

My latest purchase at IKEA:
cookie cutters shaped like mountain wildlife, including a hedgehog, moose and squirrel. I first read about them on The Kitchn weeks ago.

A cure for ridding my kitchen of a multitude of pesky fruit flies: a small bowl full of cider vinegar mixed with dish soap. The vinegar smell attracts the flies; the dish soap traps and kills them.

The trick for making ice cream without an ice cream maker. The lack of an ice cream maker has been gnawing at me all summer. But I think I’ve found what I need and it involves things I already have or can acquire quickly and on the cheap. In fact, I’ll be making my first batch this weekend.

funny little water thermometer that multiple friends brought to my attention. It starts singing opera when your pasta is ready!