Sunday, December 7, 2008

Restaurant Review: Root (Now CLOSED)


Root is one of the newest Restaurants in Philly to dedicate itself to the art of local, low-processed food. The decor is minimalist in a very good way, the owner-chef-waiter is friendly and the atmosphere is casual yet elegant.

Many of the ingredients were not available, which is unfortunately one of the issues with serving local food. While it was not a big deal in our case and we managed to find an appetizer, two entrees, and two desserts that were delightful, we were a little disappointed that some of the things that interested us were unavailable. My suggestion would be to change the menu daily or weekly and just print menus on plain white paper, no frills, and no disappointments.

The polenta topped with mushrooms and a poached egg was delicious, beautiful presented, and a great start to a meal. We then preceded to try the monk fish and the pan seared black bass. The mole sauce for the fish was unbelievable as was the spaghetti squash, though the fish itself was only so-so. The bass was crisp and delectable, served with perfectly cooked potatoes, roasted artichoke, and cockles.

Portion sizes are realistic: not huge, not too small, but appropriate (which is rare in restaurants these days and one of the complaints about this restaurant).

K was disappointed in the deconstructed cheesecake because it did not taste like cheesecake (it is actually much more like panna cotta, and in that light it was perfect). The creme brulee trio was a surprise - the ibarra chocolate one ended up being the highlight of the evening.

Am looking forward to going back and hoping they have pumpkin ravioli this time!

Note: NOT vegetarian or vegan friendly. Wheelchair accessible.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vegan Stew

Perfect for a chilly evening and showcases lovely root vegetables.

Local Ingredients
Vegetable Stock made from peelings and greens from carrots, celery, and celeriac, onion and basil.
Dried thyme
Ray's "Wheat Meat" Seitan
Garlic from Fitler Square Farmer's Market
Onions from Almanac
Pepper, Carrots, Potatoes, Celeriac, Sweet Potatoes from Red Earth Farm

Heat a medium saucepan with oil. Lightly coat 2 C seitan with flour and saute until browned (may have to deglaze or scrape the pan to get up crusty bits). Add 2 cloves minced garlic and continue to saute until fragrant. Add 4-6 C stock and 1-2 C red wine and bring to boil. Add 2 T tomato paste and stir well. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Chop up two potatoes, two sweet potatoes, four carrots, one celeriac, two bell peppers (we peeled the sweet potatoes and celeriac, but not the potatoes) and one onion. Heat up a large soup pan with oil - add veggies plus salt, pepper, and thyme.

When potatoes are soft and beginning to brow, add seitan mixture and stir well. Bring to boil and then either simmer for 15-20 minutes or turn off heat until ready to serve and then reheat.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Green Salad with Yogurt Dressing

D became obsessed with yogurt dressing after visiting Bavaria. Decided to experiment and found that Pequea Valley holds up very well and does not become watery. A lot of recipes call for lemon juice, but red wine vinegar makes the dressing more savory. The best part is, you can "drown" the salad in dressing for picky eaters.

Local Ingredients
Pequea Valley Farms Whole Plain Yogurt (do not use non-fat or low-fat)
Peppers from Red Earth Farm
Tomato from Fahnestock (last of the season)
Greens from Rineer Family Farm

Per person: mix 2-4 T yogurt with 1/2 T red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Pile greens, tomatoes, and peppers onto a plate and spoon dressing on top. Enjoy!

Of course, you could add cucumbers, corn, onions, cooked potatoes, herbs, green beans, apples, or anything else you like.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Apple Spice cake

An easy, fool-proof cake. Goes together in minutes.

Heat oven to 400.

Combine the following dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I use King Arthur, from Vermont, available at Whole Foods)
1/2 cup maple sugar (from Fair Food)
1 tbsp. ground flax seed (from Kauffman's at the Reading Terminal Market)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (Rumford, from Whole Foods)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
pinch of cloves

Skin, core, and dice an apple.

In a pouring vessel, combine wet ingedients:

1 cup of oatmilk, made by whizzing 1/4 cup rolled oats (Kauffman's) and water to make 1 cup in a blender for a few seconds
1/4 cup canola or your favorite flavorless oil
1 tbsp. cider vinegar or juice of 1/2 a lemon

Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Toss in apple. Pour into cake pan or ceramic pie plate (which is what I like to use). If you have some pecans or walnuts lying around, sprinkle a few on top. Bake at 400 for about 35 minutes. Actually, you can leave the oven on for 20 to 25 minutes and then turn it off leaving the oven closed until you want the cake. It will finish baking and you will save energy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Blueberry Pie

Local Ingredients
4 C. Blueberries (from assorted farmer's markets and stores)
1/2 recipe pie crust

1 tart apple, grated (unseasonable, but helps it keep it's shape)
3/4 C sugar
2 T flour
1 t lemon or lime juice
lemon zest (optional)
1 T cinnamon (optional)

Roll out pie crust and fit into pie pan. Preheat oven to 400*.

Mix blueberries with grated apple, flour, sugar, lemon juice and optional cinnamon or lemon zest. Pour into prepared pie crust. Top with another pie crust and flute edges. Prick with fork to allow steam out and bake 40 minutes or until lightly browned.

Notes: Do not leave out the apple which helps the pie bind together. Otherwise you will need to add tapioca or corn starch which changes the texture and flavor.

I used half whole wheat and half all purpose for the crust which made for a much denser but flavorful crust. Some people get fancy by brushing egg white or sugar on the crust, some like an intense lemon flavor, some like cinnamon. Great use of our spring bounty of blueberries!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Corn and Tomato Salad

(Warning: recipe blatantly stolen from a friend and adapted.)

Local Ingredients
Corn on the cob from Rineer Family Farms at Rittenhouse Farmer's Market
Wissahickon Tomatoes from Rineer
Red Onion from Red Earth Farm
Feta from Sue's Produce
optional: cilantro or favorite fresh herb

Remove husks and silk and boil ears of corn in salted boiling water 5-10 minutes until tender. Let cool slightly. Using a good quality chef's knife, turn ear on it's end and remove kernels (or use a special corn huller).

Dice tomato and onion and mix with corn kernels and cilantro. When ready to serve, top with crumbled feta and mix slightly.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Zucchini/Potato/Goat Cheese Frittata

Mmmm... this was delicious.

We used some items from our farmshare, delivered weekly by Red Earth Farms.
Red Onions
Red New Potatoes

Other Local Ingredients:
Appletree Farms Goat Cheese from Sue's Produce or any local cheese, crumbled or diced
Eggs from Rineer Family Farms at Rittenhouse Farmer's Market
Mushrooms from the Kennett Square mushroom guy at Rittenhouse Farmer's Market

Heat up a cast iron skillet until hot. Add oil (safflower works well, olive oil is fine) until hot. Add finely sliced onions and let onions cook until caramelized. Add finely sliced potatoes and saute until nice and brown and soft (about 10 min).

Remove onions and potatoes. Add the zucchini and mushrooms, cook until tender. Meanwhile, heat up the broiler of your oven.

Re-combine potatoes with the veggies; season to taste with salt and pepper; a spready into an even layer in the cast iron pan. Drop spoonfuls of goat cheese on top of the veggie mixture. Beat 4-6 eggs together in a separate bowl, season with salt and pepper, and pour onto the veggie mixture. Place the entire pan under the broiler until the eggs are cooked, the top is puffy and browned, and the goat cheese is delicious and melty.

We served with some wonderful fresh salsa made by one of the chefs, a loaf of french bread from metropolitan, and a lovely bottle of Prosecco. Yum yum.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Veggie Fajitas

Local Ingredients
Zucchini from Red Earth Farm
Baby Bella Mushrooms from Avondale, PA
Garlic from Highland Orchards
Scapes from Jeff at Fitler Square
Tomatoes from Fahnestock at Rittenhouse Square Farmer's Market
Green Onion from Red Earth Farm
Assorted Peppers (canned last summer)
Parsley from Rittenhouse Square Farmer's Market
1 lb nature's soy tofu

Veggie Filling
3 small zucchini, sliced (or julienned)
2 C mushrooms, sliced
2 scapes, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin
1/2 t chipotle
1 T hot sauce
Juice from 1 1/2 limes
1 T agave
salt and pepper
optional: tequila

Mix ingredients above and marinate 5-10 minutes. Heat skillet (preferably cast iron) until hot, add high heat oil until hot, and add zucchini mixture. Saute until mushrooms release their juices.

2 tomatoes, chopped
5-6 pickled or fresh peppers, chopped
2 T parsley, chopped
1 green onion sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Add above ingredients to blender and blend until frothy. Let sit for a few hours.

Press water from tofu using kitchen towel and a plate.
Slice thinly and dust with flour, cumin powder, chipotle powder and salt

Heat cast iron until very hot. Add oil until hot. Quickly add tofu in one layer and turn heat off. Cook for 1 minute. Turn heat back to high and flip tofu pieces over. Repeat if necessary to cook all of the tofu.

Lightly warm tortillas (flour or corn) and top with veggie mixture, salsa, fried tofu and sour cream. Roll or fold and enjoy!*

*very messy!

Pasta with Shrooms

Local Ingredients
Mushrooms from Highland Orchards at Fitler Square
Asparagus from Buono Amici at Fitler Square
Shallots from Highland Orchards at Fitler Square
Parsley from Rittenhouse Farmer's Market

1/2 lb pasta (rotini, fettucine, or fusilli)
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
4 C chopped mushrooms (any variety works)
1 C asparagus broken into bite size pieces
1 shallot, minced
1/2 C white wine
2 T chopped parsley
1/2 C parmesan cheese, finely grated
toasted pine nuts to garnish

Melt butter and oil in a large pan. Add mushrooms, asparagus, and shallots. Cook until asparagus is tender about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water until ready.

Add wine to the mushroom mixture and reduce heat to simmer. Stir pan to incorporate browned bits (deglaze the pan with the wine). Stir for a few minutes. Add parmesan, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add cooked pasta to mushroom mixtures, combine, and serve in bowl sprinkled with roasted pine nuts. Optional garnish: roasted red peppers.

Optional: Add 1/4 C sour cream or creme fraiche after adding the pasta. Warm slightly before serving.

White Bean & Asparagus Salad

Local ingredients:
Asparagus (Rineer Family Farm, Rittenhouse Farmer's Market)
Tomatoes (Fahnestock Farms, Rittenhouse Farmer's Market)
Shallots (locally grown, from Almanac Market)
Thyme (originally from Greensgrow in Kensington, now growing on my deck)

While I am in no way claiming that the majority of the ingredients in this salad are local, it does showcase the delicious local ingredients listed above.

Large white beans, i.e. butter or lima beans (I used Rosa brand)
Asparagus, blanched and broken into 1" pieces
Tomatoes, diced
Artichoke hearts (sliced, in olive oil)

Toasted pine nuts for garnish

Olive oil (mainly form the jar of artichoke hearts)
Sun-dried tomatoes (reconstituted in boiling water and then finely chopped)
Vinegar (I used Martin Pouret vin rouge vinegar, can be found at Claudio's in the Italian market)
Finely sliced shallots
Lemon juice (and zest, if desired)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix salad ingredients (except pine nuts; add these right before serving).
Have dressing separately and add to asparagus, tomato and beans right before serving.

Can also top with fresh grated parmigiano, if you'd like.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Apple Rhubarb Compote

What I really wanted to make was a rhubarb crumble, but apparently I slept in too late to snag some of the spring's first rhubarb from the Headhouse Square Farmer's Market (2nd & Lombard).

So instead I headed home and visited Almanac Market, at 4th & Poplar. This lovely little market tries to get as much locally grown produce as possible, and I lucked out: 3 lonely little stalks of red rhubarb from Green Meadow Farm (Gap, PA) awaited me there.

Since 3 stalks wasn't going to get me far, I adjusted my plan from crumble to compote, and decided to throw in an apple (also purchased from Almanac, but can't remember the farm that grew it) that had been sitting in my fridge for a while.

Apple Rhubarb Compote
Make sure to cut the toxic leaves off the top of your rhubarb!
Slice 3 stalks into half-inch chunks.
Peel and cut up one or two apples into small pieces.
Throw all this into a pot.
Add a little bit of water or lemon juice, and about 1/4 C sugar (or to taste- I don't like overly sweet things!). Cook over low heat with the lid off, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has dissolved into a texture that you like.

I had some this morning for breakfast, spread onto toast (Metropolitan sourdough).

Variation: Use strawberries instead of apple. This will result in a runnier texture which is perfect atop vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Spicy Thai Cabbage Salad

This is a good recipe for winter or spring, because all the ingredients are available and abundant right now.


In a bowl, mix:

Juice of one lime, preferably off the tree in your southern window. Otherwise, from Florida.
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp maple sugar, available at Fair Food Farmstand
1 tsp Maine sea salt, available at Fair Food Farmstand
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes, or a crushed dried red pepper, spicy as you like

To this mixture add:

1/3 to 1/2 head of cabbage, available at Fair Food Farmstand or your local farmer's market
(Fair Food has wonderful pale, sweet cabbage)
1 carrot, julienned fine
(delicious sweet carrots are available from the Rineer family, who will be at Rittenhouse Square starting Saturday, May 10th, 10 until 2.)
1 cup of daikon radish, julienned fine
(available at Fair Food Farmstand)
1 persian cucumber, julienned fine (available from Hillside Orchards, every Saturday from 10 to 2 at Fitler Square)
1 handful of red radishes, sliced across and then into sticks (available at Fair Foods and the Farmer's markets

Toss and allow to sit for at least 1/2 hour. Then add:

1 tbsp organic canola oil
a handful of shelled peanuts
chopped lettuce or salad mix (now available at Fair Foods and Farmer's markets)

Toss and enjoy

Savory Tart

Okay, I'll admit that my shopping was sporadic this week so a lot of the ingredients that COULD have been purchased from farmer's markets were instead purchased at Sue's. And I happened to have a leftover pie crust from making apple pie. This could also be the topping for a good pizza...and of course, feel free to use whatever vegetables that are around the house.

Local Ingredients
Red Peppers - not quite in season, so purchased at Sue's Produce
Assorted Mushrooms from the Fair Food Farmstand
Asparagus - available at Fitler Square Farmer's Market
Shallots - available at Fitler Square Farmer's Market
Parsley from Sue's Produce
Goat Cheese - available at Fitler Square, Sue's, Fair Food Farmstand
Herbed Jack Cheese from Fair Food Farmstand

Make any recipe for pie crust you like, press into a tart pan and baked for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned (preferably using Pennsylvania Pastry Flour). This can be made in a pie plate.

Roast red pepper by placing under the broiler or roasting over an open flame. Place in bag or airtight container for 5 minutes and gently pull away skin under cold water. Cut or pull apart into thin strips.

Heat butter in large skillet until bubbly. Cut mushrooms into strips and toss into butter. Cook until dry and liquid absorbed, add olive oil as necessary to prevent sticking. Add finely chopped shallots and parlsey and cook until shallots are browned. Deglaze with sherry or water and remove from pan. Pour more sherry into pan and pour this over the mushrooms. Sprinkle salt over top and let sit.

Break asparagus into bite size pieces and add to skillet with butter or oil. Saute for a few minutes until crisp-tender. Place asparagus pieces and roasted red pepper into a layer on top of partially baked pie crust. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Top with mushroom mixture. Top with grated parmesan. Optional - top with grated local jack or cheddar.

Place in oven on 350*-375* and bake 10-15 minutes until cheeses are bubbly and crust is browned.

Green Salad

Just posting this to extol the virtues of fresh lettuce in springtime!

Local Ingredients
Green and Red Leaf Lettuces from Rineer Farms

Local and/or regional vinegars and oils are tough to find. I settle for buying from local merchants (meaning that at least the money flows back into the region).

1 T Trianna Organic Olive Oil bought from Joe's Coffee Bar
1 t Martin Pouret Vin Rouge Vinaigre d'Orleans bought from Claudio's
pinch of sea salt

Wash lettuces by hand and dry in a cloth towel (spinners tend to bruise these delicate leaves). Mix together dressing ingredients and toss with lettuce. Top with fruit, roasted red pepper, steamed asparagus or toppings of choice.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pecan Sandies, Shortbread, Sables, Crescents, Cookies

No one seems to be exactly sure what the difference is between these things, so I made a very basic dough and formed it in a few ways.

Local Ingredients
Daisy Organic Flours Pastry Flour
Livengood's Pecans

1 C butter
3/4 C sugar (maple sugar would work but change the flavor slightly)
2 t vanilla
2 C flour
1 C pecans, finely ground
1 t salt (Maine sea salt available at Fair Foods)

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add flour, ground pecans and salt and blend well. At this point, you can refrigerate the dough to make it easier to work with. No matter how you shape them, bake at 375-400* x 10 minutes or until lightly brown on edges or bottom.

For shortbread: press dough into the bottom of a pie plate or cake pan about 1/4 inch thick. Press down with fork all over and cut into wedges. Bake. Cool slightly and break up into wedges.

For sandies/sables: shape into balls and press an additional pecan into the top. Bake.

For wedding cookies: shape into balls and bake. Cool slightly and dredge in powdered sugar.

For crescents: shape into crescents and bake. Dip in melted chocolate or serve plain.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Penne alla Vodka

Local Ingredients
Home canned tomatoes using tomatoes from Fahnestock and Rineer Family Farms
Natural by Nature Heavy Cream purchased from Sue's Produce (18th/Sansom)
Garlic from Highland Orchards at Fitler Square Farmer's Market
Hot pepper sauce from Headhouse Square Farmer's Market

1 qt canned tomatoes
1 lb penne or rotini pasta
1/4 c olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with side of knife
hot red pepper sauce or flakes to taste
1/4 vodka
1/2 c cream
3/4 c parmesan

Process tomatoes in blender of food processor until crushed. Cook pasta until al dente. Heat oil and saute garlic until lightly browned. Quickly add crushed tomatoes Cover lightly to prevent spatters as the tomatoes heat up. Bring to a boil and add salt, pepper, and hot pepper to taste. Bring to boil for 2-3 minutes. Add vodka and simmer on medium low for 10-20 minutes. Remove garlic cloves and add cream. Bring sauce and pasta to boil together until sauce clings to pasta. Add parmesan and serve immediately.

Serving suggestion. Top with additional parmesan, parlsey, and dried dill.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Local Ingredients
Eggs from Livengood's at Reading Terminal
Spinach from Rineer Family Farm
Red Pepper from Highland Orchards at Fitler Square

If you have never seen Julia Child make an omelette, it is well worth renting her French Chef DVD just for the pure ease at which she can make an omelette in 30 seconds. She of course recommends serving an omelette for lunch with white wine and a light salad. For breakfast, I recommend slicing small french potatoes (from Rineer) into very thin slices and frying in olive oil with salt.

Saute sliced peppers in olive oil and salt until just cooked. Add a handful of spinach, mix into peppers and add water to make spinach wilt. Transfer to plate.

Beat 2 eggs with a teaspoon of water, plenty of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Heat the same pan over high heat and add butter. The butter will foam and then start to turn brown. At this point, add eggs to the center of the pan and shake and swirl the pan to distribute the eggs. Hold it steady over the heat for 2-3 seconds to let the eggs set. Spread spinach and peppers in middle of the omelette (quickly) and then jerk the pan towards you, pushing the eggs towards one side of the pan. Continue this jerking motion until the omelette folds over on itself. Jerk again to get the other side to turn over onto itself (watch the video). Turn out onto plate and enjoy.

Variation: add local cheese of any variety. Or skip fillings all together and sprinkle with mixed herbs.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tomato Sauce (aka Gravy)

There are as many recipes for "real" tomato sauce as there are people who cook tomato sauce. Here is D's humble opinion on how to make a cheap, easy, healthy, vibrant, delicious sauce.

(See SS w Tomato Sauce for a "fresh" tomato sauce, which expresses the flavor of the olive oil and is best made in August when tomatoes are at their peak.

Local Ingredients
Canned tomatoes using fresh tomatoes from Fahnestock and Rineer Family Farms (Saturdays at Rittenhouse Square) - we canned these in July and August using salt, lemon juice, and basil
Basil from Filter Square
Garlic from Highland Orchards at Filter Square

Smash garlic cloves with a large chef's knife and remove the skin.
Heat oil in large frying pan (w lid) and add garlic cloves. Immediately turn down heat and let garlic cook as you prepare the tomatoes. Add basil leaves.

Since we removed the seeds before canning the tomatoes, the entire jar can be dumped into a blender (remove the basil leaves) and pureed. If there are seeds, tomatoes should be put through a Foley Food Mill to remove the seeds and create a smooth pureee. [If you use factory canned tomatoes (from tin cans), drain liquid and run through the blender with fresh water.]

Add tomato puree to pan and turn up heat to bring to a low boil. Add water to create a runny sauce and cover, stirring frequently.

If you have an hour, keep the sauce at a steady boil and add water periodically. If you have 2-3 hours, keep the sauce barely simmering and cover completely. Keep tasting the sauce to understand how it changes over time.

My taste test:
At 15 minutes: sauce tasted like a fresh tomato but with a lot of acidity
At 1 hour: sauce tasted like a canned tomato puree, uncooked but with less acidity
At 1.5 hour: sauce tasted like tomato juice, cooked but still not ready
At 2 hours: sauce tasted like tomato sauce, but not quite ready

NOTE: Many people add sugar to their tomato sauce to balance out the acidity. I believe this can be achieved by cooking your sauce longer and using tomatoes that are of medium acidity. If you really like the flavor of sweet sauces, sauce onions with the garlic long enough so that they both caramelize and then run the entire sauce through the food mill at the end. Onions have a lot of natural sugar that will sweeten the sauce.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Comfort Food

Local Ingredients
White Mushrooms from Fitler Square Farmer's Market
Ray's Seitan, aka “Wheat Meat” from Fair Food Farmstand
Swiss Chard from Fitler Square Farmer's Market
Shallots from Fitler Square Farmer's Market
optional: Maple Syrup from Endless Mountains

D is in the process of learning to use her cast iron skillet for everything. (Aluminum/Non Stick both are questionable and stainless requires more oil.)

Heat up the cast iron until very hot and then add olive oil. (This allows the pores to open and be filled with the oil, creating a non-stick surface). Add chopped/sliced mushrooms and stir or shake pan to coat mushrooms in oil. Continue stirring or shaking until mushrooms have released their juices, add salt and pepper to taste. Add sherry to deglaze the pan and create a rich sauce. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

Reheat pan as necessary and add more oil. Coat the seitan with flour (preferably local) and add to pan. Stir to brown and add a little maple syrup to taste. Deglaze with sherry and stir to create a rich gravy. Transfer to dish with mushrooms and keep warm.

At this point, clean out the pan with water (no soap!) and dry or use a new pan.

Chop the stems of the swiss chard and slice leaves into thin strips. Mince shallots. In a medium pan, saute the shallots (or onions) in olive oil and add the stems of the swiss chard until soft. Add leaves and a little water and salt and saute until greens start to wilt. Remove from heat and add red wine and cider vinegar to taste.

Optional: serve with fried or roasted new potatoes.