Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dining Out: Da Vinci

We live in South Philly. South Philly is Italian.  South Philly is a lot of things, but a lot of what it is is Italian.  My next door neighbor speaks only Italian.  There are a lot of great restaurants here, and many of the restaurants here are Italian.  I don't know how to make this clearer.  

Before I felt like I was someone who could cook, I could cook Italian.  Sous Chef Brian and I are both part Italian.  We were both raised on Italian food.  And yet, in this Italian neighborhood, we've been consistently disappointed in the Italian restaurants.  There are exceptions, sure.  We had an amazing dinner at Le Virtu several months ago.  We really liked everything about our experience at The High Note six months ago. We go to bakeries and buy tomato pie. But most of the places around here seem to drown the food in cream sauce and cheese, and then you can't taste anything. I really have nothing against cream sauce and cheese, you know that, but I want to taste my food.  Lots of times we're served red sauce swimming in oil.  It's not ok. 

One of the things that holds us back, beyond our negative experiences, is our own menu limitations.  I'm not going to eat veal or mussels, and that makes it tough.  Brian's going to eat less of that than I am.  So we check menus in advance.

Last week we were celebrating (it's my birthday, he released his EP, we've been together for a million years last week, it's even our houseiversary) and figured it was time to try another Italian joint.  The first place we picked wasn't open, and the next two menus we looked at were a bit too meat-focused, so we ended up at Da Vinci.   It had decent Yelp reviews and the menu looked good.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spring Pasta Salad with Balsamic-Yogurt Dressing

As I was putting lunch together today, Sous Chef Brian said, "This'll be a great post celebrating the new spring veg!" And I thought, yeah, if every other post hadn't already been that.  I mean, new spring veg are VERY exciting, but really, there's a limit.  Plus, I've failed on the veg a bit - I got those gorgeous peas in our first CSA haul and I thought I'd use them in this dish, but they didn't make it.  Turns out peas are "urgent" and you should pretty much just eat them as soon as they show up. 

But it's still exciting, since these are my first tomatoes of the year and we've eaten them in everything over the past few days, and while asparagus and radishes aren't brand new, they're still a welcome treat, so yay, spring veg!  

This is pasta salad, so of course, you can make it with whatever you get at your local market that week, it doesn't need to follow a recipe.  I used yogurt to make the dressing creamier and pretty much relied on the veg themselves for flavor, with a bit of cheese and some basil. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

CSA Summer 2012 - The Goods - Week 1

It's CSA time!  I'm so jealous of all the people who started weeks ago, but we've started now and it's awesome.  We had about a month gap between our winter buying club and the start of the new CSA.  I went to the farm market on opening day, and it was one of those beautiful experiences where all the farms were like, "Welcome back!" and everyone was happy.  And then I went two weeks later and it was crowded and angry there, so I'm pretty happy to have my CSA veg.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Same Dinner Different Day: Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple salsa is good, but it can be a lot of flavor and maybe you don't want it tearing up the inside of your mouth for two consecutive days.  Cooking the pineapple takes out a lot of the sting, and turns yesterday's taco topper into today's one-wok dinner. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest Post: Pineapple Salsa

So the other day, Rose had to go out to a meeting and she left me in charge of dinner. 98% of the time this means I should order us some takeout out from one of our favorite places. She leaves the bad-decision-making up to me when it comes to our food intake.

This night though, I wanted to impress her. I am Sous Chef Brian after all. All this time in the kitchen with her means I have to have learned something, right? So I formed a plan. Tacos! But I wanted something more than just tacos. I don’t mean to be insulting to anyone here, but anyone can make some decent tacos. To surprise my wife, I decided to take some of the pineapple in the fridge and make something she would never expect. A pineapple salsa.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pear Cakes

This isn't a fail, in that they tasted good.  But they weren't pretty.  So you can improve on my technique or maybe don't serve these to guests. 

In 2001 I had some cookies, and they were awesome.  They were LU Pim's Orchard Pear biscuits.  Here's a conversation on The Kitchn about how awesome they are.   Pim's are around in orange and raspberry flavors, and they're great, but not like the pear ones.  These were very special cookies, with a firm cake base and a fruit jam filling, topped in dark chocolate.  One day, I couldn't find them anymore, and every year or so I check the interwebs and they're just not there.  

Lately, cookies around here are pretty limited.  I get my local fancy oatmeal cookies, because I can't make them worth a damn, and I make a pretty banging chocolate chip cookie, and then once or twice a year I take a photo inside my purse and we see these:

Really, that's the range, and it's a good thing that I don't bake more cookies, because I'm just terrible at it.  I can bake bread.  I can bake bread like it's a hundred years ago and I have to, but sweets are not my forte.    It's fine, because we're not big sweets people.  But I'm haunted by how good these pear biscuits were and once I saw that local pear jam was available all winter, I committed myself to trying to recreate them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Garlic Ginger Seitan Lettuce Wraps

There are a lot of ways to get food into your face.  A fork, for example, is pretty classic.  But forks don’t taste particularly good, and they can hurt your teeth.  So we move on to things like fingers, which can be a mess, and again, painful.  But bread and tortillas are pretty handy.  So is lettuce.  I forget about lettuce wraps sometimes.  Lettuce wraps are ideal for spring, I think, because they give you a vehicle for moving food from plate to face without overwhelming whatever bright fresh flavors are in your dinner.  Plus, the lettuce is pretty good right now.  

Also, everyone I know is getting married right now.  Friends were married this past weekend and more friends will be married this coming weekend. This happened a hundred years ago too, but I was part of everyone then.  Now, it seems like every other week someone is announcing an engagement or having a wedding. The first time I had lettuce wraps was on my honeymoon, a hundred years ago, in some fake-fancy themed restaurant in Las Vegas.   So maybe that’s why we went for it tonight.  I think it was Sous Chef Brian’s idea.

These are seitan lettuce wraps, and they’re vegan and delicious, but you could do the exact same thing with chicken and please the meat people.  It’s also – like an egg roll, or a lasagna – a great way to use up whatever’s hanging around the fridge. 

click the thing you want to read about