Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Philly Food Lovers! We're taking a break to eat, drink and be merry over the holiday weekend; we'll be back next week full of new year's resolutions, some of which we may even keep. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Robin's Lebanese Mackerel



At a dinner party with friends a few weeks ago, we were surprised to be served the oily sea fish, mackerel.  Now mackerel is one of my favorite fish, but you don't often get exposed to it - outside of restaurants - because of its dense, pungent flavor (which I adore). 

This recipe, taken from a gorgeously illustrated cookbook by a famous Lebanese master chef, puts a middle Eastern spin on the workaday mackerel, fusing sweetness and saltiness in a divine combination.  Thanks to Ottolenghi: The Cookbook for inventing the recipe, and our host, Robin, for presenting this with an equally impressive Camargue red rice and quinoa salad with orange and pistachios.  Now that was one helluva meal.

Not only is mackerel delicious, it is also extremely good for you.  As one of the so-called "oily" fish, mackerel is rich is fatty fish oil and the wonder vitamin Omega 3.  As researcher Michael Byrd argues, "fish oil benefits are downright amazing...If you haven't already been swept up in the net yet, here are 7 proven Omega 3 benefits you should know about..."  He goes on to list how fish oil helps to:
  1. Manage Pain and Inflammation
  2. Improve Cardiovascular Health
  3. Reduce likelihood of a stroke or heart attack
  4. Improve Brain performance
  5. Reduce depression
  6. Lower the incidence of childhood disorders
  7. Reduce incidence of colon, prostate and breast cancer
Just one of the above is reason enough to increase the amount of oily fish we consume.  Why not try this recipe today?  It takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Grilled mackerel with green olive, celery and raisin salsa

Ingredients:
    8 mackerel fillets, pin bones removed
    2 tbsp olive oil
    coarse sea salt and black pepper

    For the salsa:
    125g celery stalk, thinly sliced
    60g good quality green olives, stoned and thinly sliced
    3 tbsp good quality plump raisins
    1 ½ tbsp sherry vinegar
    4 tbsp olive oil
    3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
    1. Stir together all the salsa ingredients.  Taste it; it should be sweet, sour and salty.  Season with salt and pepper and leave to sit for at least 15 minutes for the flavours to evolve.  (At this point, the salsa can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, if necessary. Before serving, allow it to come to room temperature, refresh with extra chopped parsley and adjust the seasoning.)
    2. Set an oven grill to its highest setting.  Toss the mackerel fillets gently with the oil and some salt and pepper.  Lay the fillets on a flat oven tray, skin side up, and place under the hot grill for 3-4 minutes, until just cooked.
    3. Serve the fish hot or at room temperature, with a spoonful of salsa on top.
    Our friends at Philly Wine Finders, suggested the following wine pairing for this dish: 

    "For an oily fish like mackerel you'll want to pair this with a high acid white wine.  A good one that we had recently is Sella & Mosca Vermentino from the Italian island of Sardinia.  It is similar to Pinot Grigio but has stronger aromatics and a little more zip. It's medium body and high acidity will hold up well to the mackerel and the olives. At this moment it is widely available in the state stores in Philadelphia.   If you want to get daring and go Lebanese you could try Massaya Classic White, a blend of sauvignon blanc and clairette.  There are a few bottles available at the Society Hill store, the PA code is 25517."

    Thanks for the suggestion! 

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    Fish for Healthy Teens (and beyond)

    Fish oils are the new health 'wonder' food - not a week goes by, it seems, without yet more research confirming how good they are for you. Not only do they help children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia, and adults with conditions as schizophrenia and depression, fish oils can also protect the heart and reduce the pain of arthritis.

    A recent study conducted by Boots, a national chain of Pharmacists in the U.K., found that regular doses of fish oils dramatically boosted young children's performance at school. Nearly three quarters of the youngsters - who were of mixed academic ability - showed improvements in numeracy, reading and writing after taking fish oil supplements for nine months.

    Read more about the study here.

    Fish is important not only for enhancing the old gray matter, it's also been proven to boost athletic performance, which is one of the reasons our friend Marla prepares this recipe for her two sporty teenagers.  The recipe is vitamin packed and super-easy.  

    "This is my daughter's favorite fish dish," said Marla.  "It is kid tested and approved! One of the things I like about this is you can substitute almost any fish.  My only caveat would be don't use Flounder, because I just don't think the texture lends itself well to this recipe."

    Fish with Tomatoes and Rosemary




    Four - 1/4 Lb. fish fillets (Salmon, Cod, Tilapia)
    salt and pepper
    4 tsp. Olive Oil
    1 Tbsp. lemon juice
    16 slices lemon
    4 sprigs rosemary
    24 cherry tomatoes, halved
    Green onions, sliced (optional)


    1. Preheat oven to 475.  Cut four 12-inch long pieces of foil or parchment paper.
    2.  Rub each fillet with salt, pepper and 1 tsp. oil, and 1/4 tsp lemon juice. For each packet, put 2 lemon sliced in the center of the foil, top with the fish fillet, a rosemary sprig, and 2 more lemon slices; surround with 12 tomato halves and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sliced green onions (if using).  Draw up the sides of the foil and seal the packets well - leaving room around the ingredients so they can steam.  Put packets on a baking sheet.
    3.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until the fillet is cooked.  (Open a packet to test.)  Spoon into soup plates and serve immediately.

    Dead simple!

    Saturday, December 25, 2010

    12 Days of Christmas at the Market

    On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.

    Forget the partridge.   With all of this holiday feasting, a simple piece of fresh fruit from one of the Market's produce merchants may be just what the doctor ordered. 


     Still hungry?  Try some jarred pears or pear jam from Kauffmans.

    On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two turtle doves...

    Birds again?  We think not.  But give us chocolate turtles from Chocolate by Mueller  any day. For the naughty among you, beware of this stocking filler  on Christmas morning: 
    And if you are in search of a festive sweet, consider a chocolate reindeer lollipop, sure to be a hit with kids  from one to 92...




    On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens...

    Enough with the poultry already.  How about some French cuisine--the crepes at Profi's Creperie are not to be missed.  We gorged on the nutella/strawberry/blackberry/banana filled crepe, but the savory options looked quite tempting as well.




    On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four collie birds...

    We're not at all sure what a collie bird is; we prefer the lush and exotic Birds of Paradise from Market Blooms instead.  Imagine these on your holiday table--gorgeous!


    On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five golden rings...
    Is there anything more intoxicating than the smell, sight and sound of golden pretzels, straight out of the oven from Miller's Twist?



    Except possibly the chocolate covered pretzels from the Pennsylvania General Store














    On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six Geese a-laying...

    You will certainly find six geese (though perhaps not a-laying) as well as ducks, turkeys, chickens, pheasants, and most any other edible bird your heart desires at the Market.  We loved this photo of Godshall's version of Duck, Duck, Goose, courtesy of their  ever-helpful butchers.

    On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming...

    We don't eat roast swans anymore but it was fave feast for England's King Henry VIII.   Nowadays, we'd prefer to eat something that swims under the sea instead--John Yi's salmon, swordfish, and tuna are much more to our liking.  For recipe ideas and more on fish, see phillyfoodlovers.com.


    On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight maids a-milking...

    Bassett's Vanilla Butterscotch ice cream might just be the best sub zero invention since the ice cube.  Seriously, we suspect that if they served it in the hotbeds of tension across the world, there would be fewer scary headlines in our morning newspapers.


    On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing...


    At the Gala, of course.  Don't miss the Valentine to the Market where lords and ladies will dance the night away in celebration of our beloved Market.  Tickets make a smashing holiday gift!  Buy them  here.

    On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords a-leaping,...
    Put some pep in your step with a revivifying juice smoothie from the Four Seasons Juice Bar.  They recommend the strawberry/peach/mango/banana blend, and of course the wheatgrass juice, which is reputed to bolster  health in a variety of ways.  You'll need this extra energy to dance the night away with the nine (or more) ladies at the Gala!

    On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping...

    Have you ever seen the wizards at Terminis pipe the filling into their cannoli?  Talk about Christmas magic....Traditionalist go for the ricotta filling with and chocolate chips, but don't miss the newfangled and equally delicious chocolate and vanilla custard fillings.   While you're there, try their justifiably world-famous vanilla cupcakes.


    On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me twelve drummers drumming... 

    How about a dozen fried chicken drumsticks from Delilah's at the Market?  Ok, we generally stop at one or two, but it takes significant will power.   They are delicious!
















    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    The Feast of the Seven Fishes

    Yes, we know it's a Christmas Eve tradition.  On December 24 many Italians and non-Italians alike serve an enormous feast featuring seven or more distinct seafood dishes.  More on that later.  But for those of you who are slightly less traditional, allergic, or simply eschew fish, we offer you a tongue-in-cheek version of the menu; a fishless seven fishes:
    • Macaroni and cheese made with crab-shaped pasta and topped with crushed goldfish crackers.  (that's two fish!)
    • Caesar Salad (dressing contains anchovies)
    • Flying Fish Beer
    • Fish House Punch--a cocktail recipe that was commonly consumed Colonial Philadelphia's fishing and hunting clubs; George Washington et al may well have consumed a version of this concoction when they weren't otherwise occupied--freezing at Valley Forge, fighting the British, and forming a new nation.  The recipe makes just under 1 gallon--mix all ingredients and let stand at least one hour to dissolve sugar.  Serve with plenty of ice.
      1 cup superfine sugar
      2 cups ReaLemon bottled lemon juice
      1 qt dark rum
      2 cups cognac
      1 cup peach brandy or Schnapps
      1 qt water
    • Swedish Fish--repulsive, I know, but also irresistable 
    • And for dessert, Ben and Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream
    But back to tradition.  As stated, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is an absolute at many Italian tables on Christmas Eve.    What I found really interesting, however, was the staunch devotion to this tradition, even among those who don't eat seafood!   I interviewed two Italian American hostesses who cannot abide even the smell of fish, but cook an extensive seven fishes feast on December 24 each and every year.  The other fascinating fact about this custom is that most people who adhere to it do not know  the origins of it beyond the fact that it is a Christmas Eve tradition.

    Never one to shy away from a culinary mystery, we dug in and discovered, not surprisingly, that the origins of the seven fishes feast are Catholic.   There is unanimous agreement that the idea of eating only fish on December 24  honors the waiting for the birth of Jesus.   As on Good Friday and during Lent, Catholics abstain from meat as a way to pay respect to Jesus (though most seven fishes feasts are anything but abstemious.)  There is dispute among historians as to the precise basis for the number seven;  some claim it echoes the seven sacraments, others the seven days it took God to create the heavens and earth, still others ascribe it to the seven virtues and seven sins.  One devotee of the tradition claimed it was for luck, as in "Lucky 7." Her family always cooks eight fish dishes just in case one doesn't work out--talk about superstitious!

    Whether you are Italian or not, here are some excellent resources if the seven fishes are on your agenda for the Christmas Eve:

    Mario and 1/7 of his Christmas Eve Feast




    And here's another take on fish consumption entirely.  For reasons unexplained, my husband and daughter love this ad.  I do not share their adoration, but you might, and it certainly was on topic for today.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Fast Food Fish

    Alex invents inspirational fish dishes to lure her guppies to the dinner table...
    Frozen fish sticks are not exactly awe-inspiring. Yet, when we think of fish, that's what we tend to serve up to our own dear little minnows for dinner. Surely we can do better than that.

    How can you encourage a testy two-year old, or even a finicky teen, to eat more fish? 

    We cast our net wide, and asked three of our most health conscious girlfriends to divulge their secrets, for the benefit of all. Over the next 3 days we will share with you their ideas for reeling little kids to the dinner table...


    From our friend Alex - mother of 3 young nippers - Yes, you guessed it, the kids are not exactly big fish fans. "Usually fish for them means panko crumbs on a tilapia filet then pan fried...then we call it Costa Rican chicken. Don't ask!

    "That said, they all love mussels and clams in broth of white wine, garlic and parsley.

    "Recently I made something which a friend, Sonia, coined "Faux Pho". I was on a takeout Pho kick at home and wanted to recreate it, but with fish. One of my children wolfed it down...the other two not so much."

    Faux Pho (or Singapore inspired noodles with fish)



    Bring container of Vegetable (or chicken) stock to a boil. 
    Add minced garlic and ginger (no real specific amounts here)
    Add some diced lemon grass and a couple whole stalks 
    Add sliced shitake mushrooms

    Lower flame and continue to cook till mushrooms are soft

    Add package udon or soba noodles and cook till noodles are al dente (they will continue to cook so do not overcook at this point)

    Add 3/4 pound of wild salmon cut into cubes. Mix once and turn off flame. Fish will cook through. 

    Add a dollop of chili paste (adjust according to heat preference), bean sprouts, spinach and loads of basil and serve. Spinach, sprouts and basil will wilt just the right amount from the heat.

    Alex concludes: "I thought this was fantastic. Made up on a whim. I am sure any veggies would work as well as a variety of firm fish. "

    Salmon on display at the market: 
    Doesn't it just put you in mind of a Still Life by one of the Dutch Old Masters..?

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Curry in a Hurry

    What's better than a spicy, hot curry to warm up these cold wintry nights? Lest you fear the grind of grinding spices and endless simmering, fear not. We've got a gorgeous recipe that will whet your appetites, impress your friends, tantalize your tastebuds, and best of all can be done in a jiffy, courtesy of our friend Farah.

    Farah Kapoor's Curry in a Hurry




    Ingredients
    1 1/2 lbs cod cut in 1 1/2 inch pieces--John Yi's cod is perfect for this recipe; monkfish works, too.
    1 jar good quality marinara sauce
    1 tsp red chili powder
    1 tbsp ground coriander
    1 tbsp ground cumin
    2 bay leaves
    Salt and pepper
    2 tbsp cream
    A handful of fresh cilantro chopped

    Method

    1. Empty the jar of marinara sauce into a pan and mix in the bay leaves, coriander, cumin and chili powders.

    2. Cook on low for about 10 minutes until you smell the spices.

    3. Dust the pieces of fish with salt and pepper.

    4. When the mixture is simmering, add the fish and cook for about 5 minutes until just cooked through.

    5. Add cream and cilantro; remove from heat and enjoy with basmati rice or naan.


    We thought this speed cooking competition in China was interesting; Farah's recipe is not this quick, but her fish is no longer moving when she serves it.....

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    "Eat Your Fish While it is Still Fresh..."


    "Eat your fish while it is still fresh and marry your girl while she is still young." Thus runs the sensible (?) sounding wisdom of an old German proverb.

    Fish folklore is rich and varied, yet common threads run across every imaginable culture. The fish, almost universally, is characterized as a female symbol. Because the fish is a denizen of the deep and its domain is water (with its connotation of the womb and birth), it is understood to symbolize Mother Earth and her fecundity. As a representative of female fertility, the fish is associated with many a creation myth --generating lively tales in Indian and African mythology, for example.
    
    
    The astrological sign for Pisces
    For those in the know, the fish (Pisces) in the Signs of the Zodiac, is also characterized as one of the female signs (passive and receptive that is, unlike, say the supposedly 'manly' Aries).  

    As a Piscean, who is married to a fellow Piscean, I can smugly say that this is one of THE optimum astrological pairings...If you too are interested in establishing your compatability with other star signs, check out this fun astrological website, which will tell you outright who to make a bee-line for...and who to avoid! 


    Have fun with this: Love compatability website.

    With all the feminine connotations, it's odd therefore that in terms of its alleged capability as an aphrodisiac, fish (and seafood) is most beneficial to Men.   In science-lingo "fish provides long-chained fatty acids such as DHA and EPA...these fish oils could improve blood flow to the genital region and also have beneficial effects on seminal fluid and sperm."  Hmmm.



    Luckily for all our male readers, The Herbiary sells supplements with fish oils at the Market.  And, better still, you can buy the highest quality fish and seafood (of any description) from  John Yi Fish Market, or The Golden Fish Market


    If you don't fancy the lingering smell of fish in your house, feel free to cheat and visit The Oyster Bar for fresh oysters, clam chowder and other fish-related favorites. Or try Wan's Seafood or the Coastal Cave for fresh and prepared treats from the deep.


    If Octopus is not your thing...look out for the salmon, cod and mackerel recipes which we'll be posting over the next few days.



    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    A Holiday Flirtini

    In her scintillating essay Berries as Symbols and in Folklore, Courtney Alexander from  Cornell University shares the dark and dirty secrets of all sorts of berries.  Did you know that the seemingly innocuous blackberry (and also elderberries) are associated with wickedness and evil in both Pagan and Christian mythology?  The mythology surrounding the cranberry however is a tad less exciting... 

    Ever wondered why cranberries are so named?  

    Oddly enough, a bird - the crane - is associated with the naming of this fruit.  Common folkore claims that cranes liked to snack on them; others believe that the pilgrims of Massachusetts thought their blossoms looked like a crane’s head.  Strange, but true.  

    Personally speaking, we struggle to see the resemblance.

    
    Cranberry blossoms....
    
    What were those Pilgrims drinking..?

    Perhaps they had partaken of one too many Cranberry Raspberry Flirtinis over the Holiday Season (see recipe below). 



    Or maybe they over indulged on this be-jewelled Cheesecake recipe with a Port wine glaze, from Epicurious.com - the glaze turns the cranberries into little rubies.

    If you're excited by this Cranberry recipe and want to experience many more, then stop by the Ocean Spray website - which is jam-packed (pun intended) with Cranberry-fueled delicacies. 





    INGREDIENTS: Cranberry Raspberry Flirtini

    2 ounces Ocean Spray® Cranberry Juice Cocktail
    1 ounce vodka
    1/2 ounce raspberry liqueur
    1 ounce champagne or sparkling wine
    Ocean Spray® Fresh Cranberries and fresh raspberries, garnish

    DIRECTIONS:

    Combine the cranberry juice cocktail, vodka, and liqueur in an ice-filled martini shaker. Shake gently and strain into a large martini glass. Top with champagne and garnish with fresh cranberries and raspberries.


    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Cranberries: Eat, Drink, and Be Decorative

    As one that finds many of the traditional uses of cranberries rather off putting (that canned jellied sauce that rolls around the bowl on Thanksgiving gives me the willies) I was delighted to discover three new uses for these wonder berries that are sure to please.

    Eat......

    Cranberry Nut Bark

    1 bag Ghirardelli double chocolate chips
    3/4 cup dried cranberries
    3/4 cup nuts (unsalted or lightly salted pistachios, cashews or macadamias recommended))

    Microwave the chips in a glass bowl for 4 minutes on 50% power.  Stir til smooth.  Add cranberries and nuts.   Stir again.  Spread entire mess onto cookie sheet lined w/ baking parchment.  It should look like a large, bumpy, brown amoeba.  Refrigerate 30 minutes or more.  When hard enough to snap into bite-sized pieces, do so.  (mess free tip:  use the parchment paper to hold and break the chocolate so you don't smudge your hands, leave fingerprints on the product, or worst of all, ruin your manicure.) Put pieces into cute little cello bags and tie with a ribbon.  Recipe makes about 1-1/4 lb bark, or enough to fill 3 cello bags for gifts.


    Drink....

                                            Ho Ho Ho

    2  parts  Vodka
    1 part Cointreau
    2 parts cranberry juice
    1 part pomegranate juice
    splash of fresh lime juice

    Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.  Strain into martini glasses.  Spread holiday cheer.




    And Be Decorative.....
    We had a lovely chat with the florist at Market Blooms.  While she does not use cranberries regularly, she did feature them prominently in a winter wedding--using them to fill the vases for added color and texture.  We took her idea, simplified it a bit, and came up with the following centerpiece, which will see you through any dinner from now til New Years:

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Cranberries- the Heavyweight Hitter

    Cranberries are said to be aphrodisiacs--but are they really? Likely, their reputation is based on the heavyweight health benefits of these mightly little fruits rather than their power as an actual love potion. 

    Cranberries contain large amounts of Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and improves the function of various glands necessary for amatory activities.  Additionally, cranberries deliver a robust shot of Vitamin A, which is essential for healthy circulation.  If the blood isn't flowing properly, well..neither is the lovin'.

    Finnish folklore also mentions cranberries' amatory properties.  According to Kalevala, the Finnish book of epic , Marjetta (a virgin) conceived her son by swallowing a whole cranberry.   Not the first immaculate conception story to hit the airwaves, but I'm pretty sure it's the only one that attributes the 'miracle' to a fruit.

    Native Americans, and later Pilgrim settlers extolled the health benefits of this mighty fruit.   In particular, Native Americans utilized the berries to combat infections of the urinary and reproductive systems.  Whether the consumption of these tart little berries warmed the hearts and parts of the likes of Squanto, Miles Standish, and Priscilla Alden is unclear, but they remain a crucial part of traditional holiday meals, so anything is possible.



    And no discussion of love and cranberries would be complete without a mention of the bitterness of each; unrequited love is about as bitter as fresh cranberries--trust me on this one; I tasted one yesterday for research purposes and a serious pucker ensued.  (No immaculate conception ala Marjetta, though; at least I hope not.)  The Cranberries do a great job describing the bitterness of love's sad end with their hit Linger...


    To buy the freshest, brightest, shiniest cranberries for your feast, stop by Iovines, OK Lee, Fair Food Farmstand, or any one of the Market's produce merchants.  If you're a baker, then dried cranberries are stocked by The Spice Terminal.   If you're not a baker then look out for cranberry muffins and other treats at the Market's fabulous bakeries.   We are partial to the cranberry scones at Metropolitan, but we've never met a baked good we didn't like, especially as prepared by one of the skilled artisans at Reading Terminal Market.  Deeeee-lish.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Ginger Gifts--On and Off a Desert Isle


    We couldn't possibly complete an exploration of love and ginger without a reference to Ginger Grant, the "movie star" stranded with Gilligan et al (played by actress Tina Louise).  Thanks to Catherine Signorello (she of the famed cookies) for bringing this omission to our attention.  Despite our determined attempts, youtube would not allow us to post the vid directly, but we couldn't resist sharing the link to Ginger vamping it up on the uncharted desert isle along with this pic of her glam self flaunting her many gifts. 


    And speaking of gifts,  'tis the season.   As we began to consider the holidays, we uncovered some interesting gift notions about ginger--both the comestible ingredient and the vessel, pictured here:

    A ginger jar is a Chinese porcelain jar, traditionally used to store a variety of goods. The jars acquired the name "ginger jars" because they often contained ginger when they were exported to the West.

     In China the jars have a variety of cultural roles. Some were made as gifts to emperors. Others--and you knew we'd circle back to love eventually--were traditional wedding gifts to grooms. 

    If porcelain jars are not on your groom's wish list, (or appropriate for your mailman, hairdresser, babysitter, or mechanic), try one of the following ginger-rific delectables, both sent by readers, one savory, one sweet...


    Photograph by Elizabeth J. Colaianni,

    Jessie Burns's Ginger Miso Dressing

    1/4 cup golden miso
    1/4 cup honey
    1/4 cup water
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    1 teaspoon sesame oil
    1 teaspoon soy sauce
    1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

    Whisk with wild abandon, pour into jar, beribbon attractively and hand over to delighted friend.


















    Paula Fein's Ginger-rific Chocolate Squares

    3 bars Green & Black’s Ginger chocolate, broken into pieces (available at Jonathan Best)
    1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 5 or 6 pieces
    3 Tbsp  agave nectar (also called agave sweetener)
    2 cups all natural mini marshmallows
    3 cups ginger snaps

    In a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, combine chocolate, butter and nectar.  Stir constantly until most of the chocolate is melted.  Turn off the heat, continue stirring until chocolate is entirely melted (ginger bits will remain solid). 

    Place gingersnaps in a large baggie; crush with a rolling pin.  Leave some larger chunks.

    Remove ½ cup of chocolate mixture and set aside.

    Add ginger snaps and marshmallows to the chocolate mixture in the saucepan.  Mix thoroughly.  Turn this mixture out into a 9X9 ungreased square pan and press down with a spatula.  Use the remaining ½ cup of chocolate to smooth over top.  Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight.

    When chilled, cut into 25 squares.  (Optional:  dust with confectioner’s sugar, place in pretty box or cello bag tied with festive ribbon.)

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    'Tis the Season--Cold and Flu Remedies

    There are 180 different varieties of cold viruses - a horrible fact.  We were equally horrified to learn that the only place on earth where they do not exist is in the frozen wastes of Antarctica.  Despite our abhorrence of the coughs and general malaise that a cold bestows, we have no desire to relocate to such an inhospitable place--it is much too far from Reading Terminal Market to contemplate. Instead, we decided to delve into some weapons against the common cold.  And our featured food, ginger, keeps popping up.

    Three different friends, all hailing from disparate parts of India, swear by the following tincture.  (Thanks to Pia, Farah and Anjali for substantiating its efficacy):



    Ginger Turmeric Tea

     1 inch piece fresh Ginger  (approx 2 tsp grated)
    2 tsp honey
    1/2 tsp  turmeric
    1 cup boiling water
     
    Mix together and drink hot.



    Lynette Chen, Reading Terminal Market's Tea Expert and Proprietor of Tea Leaf  recommends three herbal brews to bolster the immune system and battle the nasty bugs.

    In her herbal tea range, she offers Organic Echinacea (the wonder drug extracted from coneflowers), Organic Ginger Root and an Immune Enhancing Blend.  Chen also dispenses a free leaflet providing instructions on how to make a "proper cup of tea" and other tea recipes for Chai and Thai Iced Tea.


    After consuming a welcome cup of tea at Tea Leaf, we hot footed it over to The Herbiary, and chatted with Andrew Celwyn, Owner of this fascinating purveyor of medicinal herbs, teas and tinctures.  Coincidentally, November's herb of the month is Ginger.  Celwyn explained why the Indian brew is effective - he claims it is the turmeric, which is rumored to be a natural anti-inflammatory, rather than the ginger, that hits the spot. 


    Ginger root, when boiled in a tea, is however marvelous at settling the stomach and also allegedly increases circulation.  According to the team at the Herbiary, it's Nature's pick me up - a wonderful tonic.

    What do you reach for when a nasty cold takes hold of you..?

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Dinner Tonight, Starring Ginger

    After Thanksgiving dinner and the ensuing leftovers, we were thrilled to bid the turkey adieu and sample something ginger-rific.    Visit the Market to provision for this marvelous meal.

    We are grateful to our friend Peter Angelides, a strict Reading Terminal Market for-all-things grocery shopper, who generously shared his famous flank steak preparation.




    Ginger Soy Flank Steak

    1.5 pound flank steak (from your favorite Reading Terminal Market butcher--Marica recommends Martin's)

    Marinade:

    2 Tbs of soy sauce
    1 Tbs of white vinegar
    2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice  (visit your favorite produce merchant)
    2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, grated
    1 large garlic clove, minced
    1 Tbs of honey (Bee Natural is a great source)

    Mix all marinade ingredients.  Marinate meat overnight.  Broil meat 6 minutes on the first side, 5 minutes on the second.  Let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain. 

    We also thank our friend Paula Fein for sending us her ginger cake recipe which was most welcome after too much pumpkin pie.  


     

    Paula's Spicy Ginger Cake

    4 oz fresh ginger root
    1 cup mild molasses
    1 cup vegetable oil (preferably grapeseed oil)
    2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon ground cloves
                                                           ½ teaspoon  black pepper
                                                           1 cup water
                                                           2 teaspoons baking soda
                                                           2 eggs at room temperature

    1.     Position the oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 ½ inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper.

    2.     Peel the ginger and grate it very finely, preferably with a microplane grater. 

    3.     Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.

    4.     Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture.  Stir in the fresh ginger.

    5.     Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter.  Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about one hour, or until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.

    6.     Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.  Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.

    7.     Dust the top of the cake with confectioners sugar.  For a professional presentation, you can place a decorative cutout on the cake before you dust it with the sugar.  Use a piece of tape to pick up the paper cutout.

    8.     Serve with a dollop of tart lemon curd, lightened a little with whipped cream and fresh berries.


    Bon Appetit!

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Bottoms Up: Ginger Tipples

    We've talked a fair bit about ginger--its value as an ingredient in a variety of dishes, its medicinal properties, and even its potential as a love potion--but how about as a beverage?    We explored the alcoholic forms of the root, from  ginger beer to ginger infused vodka and finally our newest discovery, Snap.  We uncovered a treasure trove of possibilities and chose a few that showcase a variety of cocktails. 

    Ginger Beer
    We tend to associate Ginger Beer with tropical locales--the Caribbean and parts of Africa--but believe it or not, it originated in Jolly Olde England in the mid-18th Century.  British soldiers, desiring a taste of home, brought bottles of Ginger Beer with them to their posts in  farflung colonies.  When the Brits left, the beverage stayed and became a local refreshment.   Brits tend to view Ginger beer in the same way they regard Marmite...they either love it or hate it (kind of like Coors Light or Scrapple to us Yanks).  One thing we can guarantee you, you're going to love the following cocktail cabinet collection of ginger-based libations...

    Dark and Stormy

    2 oz rum
    3 oz ginger beer
    lime wedge (optional)

    Pour rum and beer into a highball glass filled with ice.  Garnish with lime if desired.  Variation: For a Moscow Mule,  substitute vodka for the rum.


    When Life Gives You Lemons....

    Use them to make this ginger-licious drink.    This comes from our friend Rodney VanNesse, cook extraordinaire and gifted mixologist.  (This serves one, but even if you are solo, make more; these things are gooood. )

    2 oz Ginger-infused vodka (see recipe below)
    2 oz fresh lemon juice
    1 oz simple syrup
    3 basil leaves

    Muddle the basil in vodka and lemon juice.  Add ice and simple syrup.  Shake and strain into martini glass. 

    For ginger-infused vodka:  Chop  4T fresh ginger.  Add to 2 cups of your favorite vodka (Grey Goose or Ketel One recommended)  Let soak several hours.  Strain and enjoy.


    This next pair comes from our friends who make Snap, that lively and lovely ginger liqueur that combines the yumminess of a cookie with the warmth of a good cordial.

                                                                                        
                                                                                        Oh, Snap
    1 oz 
    2 oz sparkling wine
    lemon twist (optional)

    Pour Snap into champagne flute.  Top with sparkling wine and garnish with lemon twist if desired.





    Snap Happy
    1 1/2 oz snap
    1 1/2 oz bourbon
    orange wedge (optional)

    Shake Snap and bourbon with ice.  Strain into martini glass.    Garnish with orange if desired.

    Good thing this research took place heading into a holiday weekend...Cheers! (Hiccup)