Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gluttony at its best

It always works like this. Weeks will go by before I come across an exciting food item worth posting, and even then they're really not that exciting (Quinoa cereal? Please, that's SO passe). But then, I'll spend a weekend eating so much delicious food that I can't even bring myself to start a blog entry because I know I'll never stop gushing about how much happiness my digestive system experienced in such a short amount of time.

But, it's Wednesday, and if I don't talk about this past weekend today, it will be too late (alas).

It started out Friday night after seeing Wall-E (if you are that one person who hasn't seen it, go see it!). Unfortunately, the movie got out at the most inconvenient time when the Vietnamese restaurant Chris and I planned on going to closed (at 9pm on a Friday night? How are you still in business?), so we dropped by the Greek Lady nearby. It was the perfect late-night snack place (with surprisingly amazing tzatziki), so much better than your average pizza parlor stuck in the middle of a two-street intersection.

Saturday lunch was at a small Japanese place, where I encountered a dish new to me: Hew dup bap, which is kind of like the Korean version of Japanese Chirashi (Raw fish over sushi rice). Also, I have no idea why they have that one Korean dish thrown in their menu. Aside from raw fish, the Korean version has lettuce, carrots, cucumber, and Gochujang mixed in. I thought that the Gochujang would completely overpower the raw fish, but it actually worked out really well. This is definitely a dish that can be made at home. And I'll definitely remember to take pictures, because it's quite lovely looking.

Continuing our walk in West Philly, Chris and I dropped by the Naked Chocolate Cafe. Being a savvy member of Philly Carshare, Chris got us a major deal where we can get two desserts (both under $6) for the price of one. We naturally got two things that were as close to the six-dollar mark as possible: a cheesecake and an Oreo tart (which was HUGE):

Half way through, we both realized that this was more than we could handle. We had learned our lesson: instead of acting like kids in a candy store (or in this case, twenty year-olds in a chocolate store), we should have gotten something small, and made of chocolate. But, this was definitely an experience. Next time I go, I'm getting the drinking chocolate.

Our day concluded with dinner at Zot, a Belgian place where you choose the type of meat that you want along with your choice of sauce and side. But we went instead for a whole kilo (it goes surprisingly quick) of mussels steamed with rosemary, onion and garlic. It was SO good. At the end, I ended up dipping the last of our bread and even frites (Belgian Fries) in the remaining savory, seafood-y, creamy white mussel juices. I was so tempted to ask if I could pack it out, but was a bit afraid to ask.

Sunday was another glorious day. We went to Linvilla Orchards for berry-picking. I came back with a pound each of blackberries and blueberries, and 5 pounds of peaches and nectarines. I now have so much berries that instead of having berries with yogurt, I eat yogurt with my berries:

Life is good when it's filled with fruit (and a dollop of yogurt with a drizzle of honey) on top

But when presented with so much fruit, there is only one other thing to do: make a fruit tart. When my parents and I lived near a Whole Foods, I could always, without fail, buy one of their mini fruit tarts and polish it off as soon as I get home. Frankly, I would choose a fruit tart over something chocalate-y any day. Any time I see the combination of a buttery and slightly crumbly crust, the amazingly light but smooth pastry cream, and the fresh fruit on top, I'm immediately convinced that this is the best dessert ever, only something like a perfect creme brulee can occasionally out-compete.

Fresh Fruit Tart (From the Joy of Cooking)

For the Dough:

Wisk together in a bowl:
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/3 cups of sugar
1/4 tsp salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces*

Mash with the back of a fork until mixture resembles course crumbs.

1 large egg yolk

Mix together with a spatula until the dough comes together in a ball. Great the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Dust the pan with flour and tap out excess. Pat the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Thoroughly pick the bottom and sides with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake until golden brown, about 22 minutes.

For the Pastry Cream:

Beat in a medium bowl until thick and pale yellow:
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbs all-purpose flour
2 tbs cornstarch
4 large egg yolks

Combine in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer:
1 1/3 cups whole milk

Gradually pour 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking to combine. Scrape the egg mixture back into the pan and cook over low to medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and corners of the pan to prevent scorching, until the custard is thickened and beginning to bubble. Then continue to cook, whisking, for 45 to 60 seconds. Scrape the custard into a clean bowl. Stir in:
3/4 tsp vanilla.

Cover the custard with parchment paper, and refrigerate.

Now, for the tart!

Brush the crust with some melted fruit jelly to moisture-proof your tart. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to set the glaze. Spread:
1 cup of pastry cream**

Arrange over the cream your favorite fruits. We put a layer of thinly-sliced peaches on the bottom, and spread blue- and blackberries on top. If you have any of the melted jelly left, feel free to drip that on top of the fruit.

*Don't think about this part (...especially the fact that every slice = a tablespoon of butter) too hard.
** If you're like me, who continued for 60sec when you really should have only gone for 45sec, and discovered that your now refrigerated pastry cream looks more like clotted cream, just add a splash of whole milk and stir it in.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I'm sick of greasy omelets. As much as I enjoy going to Vicky's and gobbing up their mushroom and cheddar omelet in between bites of buttered whole-wheat toast and highly paprika-ed hash browns, sometimes, I just can't go about the whole day feeling like I've ingested the daily output of an entire dairy farm. So, instead, the healthy omelet! It's a one-egg omelet with some cheese melted on top of the still-warm base and lots of greens in the middle. I like sharp cheddar, but any cheese will do fine (feta, anyone?)

Lunch! A one-egg omelet with cheddar and spinach.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quinoa Cereal

Let me say this out right: I love grape nuts. I love them with soymilk and warmed in the microwave for 45 seconds so that they're chewy and and nutty and absolutely delicious. It's the greatest compromise between my love for having something warm and grape nuts in the morning. Ever.

It's kind of my idea of perfect breakfast.

Are you done giving me those looks now? Ok, let me tell you about the real purpose of this log entry now.

Once in a while, disaster strikes, and my family-size box of grapenuts runs out and I'm too annoyed by the co-op to buy their small box which costs almost 6 dollars. That's when I look for any kind of grain I can get my hands on the night before, boil it until it's soft, and heat it up in a pot with some soy milk, nuts, cinnnamon, and fruit. I did it with quinoa for a while, and have done it with barley. And I have to say, it's almost has good as grape nuts.

Quinoa cereal

1. Prepare grain according to the directions on whatever container it came it. For quinoa, it's typically a 2:1 water to grain ratio. Bring water to a boil, add quinoa, bring it back to a boil. Then turn the heat down to a simmer until it's soft and chewy, about 15 minutes. Use immediately or store in the fridge.

2. In a small sauce pan, combine quinoa and enough milk or soymilk to cover. Add fruit, cinnamon, nuts, yogurt... etc. Heat until warm but not boiling.

Quinoa in soymilk with cinnamon, a banana, blueberries, and topped off with yogurt.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I made pizza last week, using this recipe for the dough (although I ended up adding a lot more flour in order to make the dough un-sticky). For the toppings, I brushed some olive oil, some of the pesto Natasha brought from home, sliced tomatoes, and some cheddar (I didn't have any Parmesan or mozzarella at the time. Oops). If its success were to be measured by its prettiness, I'd say it turned out quite well --

Chris was skeptical about the cheddar, so he requested one side to be cheddar-less. I think he was won over by the unconventional deliciousness in the end though.


The sous chef, calmly doubting my choice of cheese amid the kitchen frenzy.

The pesto + tomato combination was delish, but the dough tasted more like a very large cracker instead of a stretchy, doughy pizza. And I don't know whether I should have kneaded the whole thing more or let it rest more before I baked it. More experimentation definitely seems to be in order.

The pizza's endgame.