Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chili Vinegar: Do Try This At Home!

Philly Food Lovers' Chili Vinegar
1 pint white vinegar
1 large jalapeno pepper (or enough fresh chilis of your choice to make about 1/4 cup pureed)
4 coffee filters
Sauce pan, blender, funnel, strainer (or two)  medium sized bowl

Puree pepper and vinegar in blender.  Heat to simmer in saucepan over low.  Cool completely, and using funnel, pour mixture back into vinegar bottle.  Set this aside and forget about it.  The longer you let it infuse, the hotter it will be.  Anything from an hour to a week works. When your aging process is complete, place coffee filter in strainer over bowl.  Carefully pour vinegar into strainer and let it drip into bowl.  Once filter becomes saturated it will no longer strain, so you will need to move onto the next filter.  Continue this process until all the vinegar is filtered and solids are removed.   Rinse bottle thoroughly.  Discard the pepper solids, and, using funnel, pour strained vinegar back into bottle.  Decorate as desired and present to impressed friends.

NOTE:  This same process applies to fruit vinegars:  peaches, blueberries and raspberries that are past their useful life as consumable fresh fruit make wonderful flavored vinegar.  Use the same procedure describe above, but age on the longer side--at least 3 days.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Love Squares

Our friend Chef Jon Jividen has come up aces again. He combined two of our favorite things:  Chilis and chocolate to create Cantina Fudge Coffee Brownies with Chipotle, or as we deem them, Love Squares (recipe below).

We have already discussed how the body's response to chilis mimics the physiological effects of erotic arousal.   We recently learned that the chemical ingredients in chocolate can create the euphoric feeling we experience when in love.   With the combo Jon drummed up, well, we think we know what we're doing Saturday night.  (Hold on, we need a moment.)

Chocolate contains small amounts of three substances, caffeine, theobromine and phenyethylamine that, together, quite simply, make us feel good.  We all know the delights of the morning caffeine burst--but chocolate contains much less caffeine than coffee or tea, so the effect is more of a gentle caress than a hearty jolt. Theobromine is also a stimulant, but much milder than caffeine.  Phenyethylamine is reputed to be a mood elevator and an anti-depressant. The combination of these three substances, giving you extra energy, making your heart beat a little faster, making you a bit jumpy and slightly giddy....well, you can see how chocolate could be linked to love.

Jon says:
"This recipe has two great angles going for it; the sweet/hot flavor dance and the combination of chocolate and coffee.  I have found that coffee does beautiful things with chocolate. The two complement and enhance one another and a dash of coffee in any chocolate dessert
will actually ‘bump’ the flavor and intensity of chocolate. (What could be better than a fabulous chocolate truffle and a cup of espresso)?  Chipotle chilis are one of my favorites. I love the smoky richness and depth of flavor. I have utilized them in this recipe, along with de Arbol chilis.
So, what happens when you combine chocolate, coffee, smoke and heat? Something close to ethereal."

‘Cantina’ Fudge Coffee Brownies with Chipotle

6 oz. (1 ½ sticks sweet butter)
1 11 oz bag semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped  ( Ghirardelli or Callebaut brand )
1 generous tsp ground chipotle chile powder
1 scant tsp ground ancho chilie powder
1 ½ TBS. finely ground French roast coffee beans (any dark roast will suffice )
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs, (room temp)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
optional:  3/4 cup chopped walnuts – (or Macadamia, cashews, almonds or pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease  an 8” x 8” square baking pan. (see note below re:  pan)
Melt butter and 5 oz. of the chocolate in double boiler or saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.
When melted and blended, remove from heat and add chilis and coffee. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Whisk eggs and sugar together in large bowl until smooth and light in color.
Add the chocolate/butter mixture to the bowl, then add remaining ingredients – including the extra 3 oz. of chopped chocolate.
Fold ingredients together until just blended.
Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 minutes in lower shelf of oven.
NOTE:  You may also use an oblong 8"x12" pan.  The brownies will be slightly thinner so reduce cooking time to 30 minutes.
Remove and let cool to room temperature.  Cut into squares and wrap or store in air tight container.

Of course, it's best to proceed cautiously with love potions...just ask Ron Weasley.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Murky World of Chili Con Carne

The quickest way to insult a Mexican is to insinuate that Chili con Carne is a Mexican dish; the quickest way to insult a Texan is to add beans to your Chili con Carne.  The pure bred Texan version is allowed the occasional onion or tomato, but beans are a no-no. Why make so big a fuss about such an unpretentious dish?

San Antonio, TX lays claim to being the birthplace of Chili con Carne, according to food researcher, Linda Stradley in her expansive account of the murky myths and folklore surrounding this popular dish (see whatscookingamerica/net)

Chili historians claim that Chili con Carne originated with cowboys on the road, who would reconstitute their rations - dried slabs of beef - and make it more palatable by boiling up the beef in water flavored by chili peppers. 

The original Cowboys cheerleaders -- dig those pants. 
Delve into the origin of the dried chili powder however, and all hell breaks one seems to be able to agree who devised the powdered version which underpins most Chili con Carnes made at home today.

No matter.  The following recipe forwarded by our neighbor Dana's godmother is sure to upset any of our Texan readers.  It's barely recognizable as a Chili con Carne, but we can't wait to try it over the Thanksgiving Holidays!

Give thanks to Diana Charnok for her exciting rendition of  
Chili con Acorn Squash.

6 slices bacon
1 large yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 jalapeno pepper (or more to taste)
1 large bell pepper
2 Tbsp safflower oil
1 lb Italian sausage, casing removed
1 lb meat loaf mix (ground beef/veal/pork)
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp dry hot mustard
dash celery seeds
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
6 cups fresh plum tomatoes, crushed in your hands, with liquid
1 can each:  pinto, black, garbanzo and kidney beans with liquid
6 roasted and spiced acorn squash (instructions below)
Garnishes:  sour cream, pepitas (roasted seeds, see below), melted cheese, splash of beer

* Heat oil in large pot.  Add bacon, onion, garlic and peppers.  Cook 3 minutes. 
* In a separate pot, saute  Italian sausage  ground meat. 
* Drain most of the liquid from the meat. 
* When browned, mix the whole mess together in large pan and add wine, Worcestershire sauce, 
and seasonings.
* Simmer 10 minutes.
*Meanwhile, Squish tomatoes in your hands and add them to simmering pot. 
 *Add beans with liquid, and simmer all ingredients for 1 hour. 
*Scoop the chili into the prepared squash shells and serve with garnishes.
For  Pepitas: 
Cut each squash in half, remove seeds. 

Spread seeds on baking sheet, drizzle with oil and sprinkle seeds with cinnamon 
and nutmeg.  Roast at 350, stirring frequently, until toasted, approximately 10 minutes. 
For Squash:

Roast the halves, on baking sheets, cut side up, at 350 degrees, for 45 mins, or until squash is 
cooked through.
To serve: 
Load up the squash with your chili meat.  Top this concoction with sour cream, pepitas and a 
splash of beer  

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chili Musings from Cantina's Chef

Our new friend Jon Jividen, Chef at 12th Street Catering, which also operates 12th Street Cantina at Reading Terminal Market, was chatting chilis with us the other day.  He invoked a version of the old adage "You are what you eat" and discussed the fact that he can glean a lot of information about people by their food selections.   Jon elaborates, with respect to chilis:  "Why is it that when we eat spicy foods containing hot chilis, we suppress the initial ‘burn’ of pain, only to consume another mouthful and repeat the process?  That behavior has been coined ‘mouth surfing’. When our taste buds detect capsaicin,  (the chemical in peppers that causes the burn), our brains release endorphins; a natural pain killer ‘feel good’ chemical. Our unconscious response is…'The pleasure was worth more than the pain;' quickly followed by 'I want to do it again!'".    Kind of explains why people have more than one child.

Unless you are like Ben Stiller's character in Along Came Polly, in which case, chilis are not for you.

Fortunately, we are not in this category.

Jon also described a theory of his that is often discussed among food historians and culinary anthropologists.  The idea is that spicy chilis have played a major role in contributing to the aura of particular societies.   Consider Mexico.  We associate Mexico with lots of color, conviviality, fiesta and excitement. Could part of this social behavior be due to extensive use of chile peppers in their diet??  He brings the point home with the following suggestion:  The next time you are with friends sharing a bowl of extra spicy salsa, watch the mood of the group ramp up as more salsa gets consumed.  (Leave Margaritas out of the equation….maybe try a Hot Mango Mess instead?)

We are also indebted to Jon for this fab photo, an idea on how to use chilis in a creative and colorful centerpiece.  This is for a rather elaborate buffet but a scaled down version would be hot hot hot at your next dinner party.

Finally, we tip our toques both to Jon for his interesting insights into chilis, and to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) who is the author of the quote  alluded to above; the original translation is:  "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are."  Brillat-Savarin could be called the godfather of all food bloggers.   A French lawyer and politician who gained fame as an epicure, Brillat-Savarin is  largely credited for founding the whole genre of the gastronomic essay. Merci, Monsieur.

Friday, October 22, 2010

And The Winner Is....

Marica Pariante Angelides, for her mortifying tale of unwittingly lecturing a culinary legend:

"When I first moved to the US from Italy in 1992 I worked as a lawyer for the Italian Vinegar Consortium. They sent me to a major Food Expo in California--not for my culinary knowledge, which was minimal, but because I was the only person on the team who spoke English. I was manning the booth when an elderly woman approached. I shared with her my rudimentary cooking skills as they related to balsamic vinegar. As I spoke, she nodded and I noticed a large and hushed crowd gathering around us. I was surprised how interesting they found my talk, and rambled on for several more minutes. I learned hours later that I had given a cooking tutorial to none other than Julia Child and a  swath of her admirers. Now THAT was embarrassing!"  Marica wins a bottle of our homemade chili vinegar (not balsamic).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Philly's Own Galloping Gourmet?

We take exception to the term "amateur chef." It seems to imply a lack of competence or professionalism on the part of some cooks, simply because they don't work in restaurants. We were pondering this term as we prepared to profile one of our favorite foodies who could be (in)accurately described as such. Rodney is not paid to cook, but he is no amateur. His braises are legendary. His lemon curd sublime. And while we occasionally rue the fact that he does not showcase his culinary prowess to a wider audience, we relish the fact that this grants us more access to it.

As a frequent, dare we say, constant habitue of Reading Terminal Market, it was only a matter of time before Rodney was corralled into collaborating with us.

We thank him for sharing a chili cocktail recipe that he invented just for Philly Food Lovers:

Hot Mango Mess

2 parts vodka (he recommends Grey Goose; we concur)
5 parts mango juice
1 part lime juice
1 part chili simple syrup (recipe follows)
sweet spice for dusting (recipe follows)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker of ice.  Shake well and pour into martini glass rimmed with sweet spice. 

Chili Simple Syrup
1-2 chilies, seeded (depending on desired heat)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water

Bring ingredients to boil in saucepan.  Let boil until reduced to syrupy consistency.

Sweet Spice
1/2 cup raw sugar
dash cayenne pepper
double dash chili powder

Blend all ingredients; pour into dusting tin or flat dish to rim chilled glasses. 

Maybe Rodney will snag a gig as the millennial version of the Galloping Gourmet....Unlike Graham Kerr in the clip below, we're sure he can get his souffle out when the time comes...

And for this week's contest: Come up with the successor's name--what WOULD we call Rodney if he succeeded Graham Kerr (aka The Galloping Gourmet) with his own special brand of food and entertainment?  Post entries on our Facebook page.  The winner will be announced Monday October 25, Rodney will cast the deciding vote, and yes there will be a prize.

Monday, October 18, 2010

India's Secret Weapon


Some like it hot.  And some like it scalding hot.

According to Wired magazine, India is investigating the use of the ferocious bhut jolokia chili pepper as a replacement for tear gas in its weaponry.   On the chili heat index, the bhut jolokia is over a million times hotter than its cousin - the unassuming Bell pepper and over 100 times hotter than a Jalapeno. Phewee.

Turning away from the subject of War, we return to our preferred topic, of Love.  And Jalapenos.  Thanks to our neighborhood friend, Farah, for confiding to us her secret weapon: Jalapeno Pakoras.   Farah recollects how in Singapore she bewitched her fiance, now husband, by customizing this recipe and marrying the flavors of East and West...Of course, we know that her boundless beauty, limitless charm, and mad sex appeal contributed to his ardor, but the pakoras are pretty great, too.  (Farah, who is a former Miss Singapore, is the one on the right...)

Jalapeno Pakoras (or A Mexican Starter with an Indian Twist)

1 dozen jalapenos, poblanos or any peppers good for stuffing

8 oz Paneer  or Feta, Cheddar, or any mild cheese
1 tbs mild chili powder or paprika
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste

1cup all-purpose flour   
1 tsp cumin powder 
2 tbs garlic powder 
2 tbs paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
Partially slice open the top of each pepper and remove the seeds keeping the top still attached.
Crumb or grate the cheese into a bowl and mix in the chili, coriander, cumin powders and salt to taste.
Massage all the spices into the cheese and mold the cheese into 12 equal balls.  Stuff the peppers with this mixture.
For the batter, combine the  flour and seasonings in a bowl.  Add water, a bit at a time until you get a thick and sticky batter.
Dip the stuffed peppers into the batter and coat with the breadcrumbs.
Place the peppers onto a baking sheet on a baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes until golden brown or fry in hot oil for a few minutes on each side.  

We can't guarantee that these will lasso you a spouse, but we promise they will taste great.
All this talk of food and love put us in mind of the old adage, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach," and of the irreverent and amusing Robert Byrnes version:  "Anyone who says that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach flunked geography."    Also reminded us of this bizarrely erotic food/seduction scene in 9 1/2 weeks.  You won't believe what Mickey Rourke looked like before he started wearing chihuahua ashes around his neck...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Choosing Your Chili

There are literally hundreds of varieties of peppers.  Now, we think you can't really go wrong with any of them, but if a recipe calls for a poblano, which is large, fairly mellow, and used most commonly for stuffing, and you use a habanero, which is tiny and lethally hot, you may be in for a rude awakening. 
We found the following resources to be quite helpful in sorting through this condunrum:

Chili Pepper Varieties
Choosing Chili Pepper Varieties

You also want to be very careful when handling peppers--many cooks wear gloves to prevent irritations.  The peppers' residue can linger on your hands, and if you touch your eyes--or any sensitive other part of yours or someone else's--severe pain may ensue.  See our Facebook page for an embarrassing example of this phenomenon, and to enter this week's contest.

And here's a recent discovery, a fabulous use of whole dried chilis.  We promise, even if you think you loathe cabbage, the following recipe from our friend Pia (a big fan of Reading Terminal Market) will change your mind.  Pia is a marvelous cook and hostess who hails from  India.  Her execution of her native cuisine is legendary and invitations to dinner at her house are coveted dearly.  Good thing she is not stingy with her hospitality.

Bombay Cabbage with Dried Chilis (serves 6)

1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon salt
4 small dried chilis
1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
1/2 head cabbage, sliced thinly or shredded
3 Tablespoons plain yogurt

Heat oil on medium-high.  Add mustard seeds and cook til they begin to pop.  Add remaining seasonings, stir, then add cabbage.  Stir thoroughly til cabbage wilts, 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat, cool slightly, and add yogurt.   Stir and serve, or set aside and reheat later.

While Pia's cabbage recipe does not require any advance prep of the dried chilis, many do.  Here is a quick tip on how to handle the rehydration process:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Three Dishes, Four Chilis

Speaking of chilies, here is a go-to menu for a fall/winter dinner party that features four different varieties and forms of our favorite heater-uppers--fresh jalapenos, dried anchos, chipotles in adobo, and chili flakes.  And, yes, you can procure virtually everything you need for these delish dishes at Reading Terminal Market.

Even better, you can do pretty much all of it ahead of time, which leaves you free to enjoy your guests and your cocktails before serving this masterpiece of a meal.

Kachumber Salad

3 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 pt cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro rinsed well and chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped  (see video below for procedure)
juice of 2 limes
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)

Mix all ingredients.  Allow salad to sit for at least one hour before serving.  Can be made 1 day ahead.

To clean your jalapeno::

Chili Braised Short Ribs

Doubly Hot Chocolate

For each serving:
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1/4 cup dark chocolate morsels (bittersweet or semi sweet)
1/2 cup milk
sprinkle of red chili flakes

Mix cocoa, sugar and water into paste in small saucepan; heat on medium til bubbly. Add milk, morsels and chili flakes. Continue heating on medium/medium low. Stir til blended and completely melted. Serve immediately, or set aside and reheat as needed.

We promise, your guests will be wowed.  And, with the reputed aphrodisiac quailities of chilis, it could be a long and interesting night for everyone.  Wow, indeed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chili --A Food that Bites Back

Word is out: hotels in NYC are infested with bed bugs. Fox News reports that a high-rise in Philly is suffering the same problem...What's this got to do with a food blog?  Well chilis apparently are a natural fumigant, repelling vermin including bedbugs and rats. (see Chilies when burned supposedly give you protection against vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night (chilis are a key ingredient in some exorcisms according to another online source). So how come they also double up as an aphrodisiac?

Now this gets technical. Or physiological, to be more precise. In the words of Discovery Health, the side effects you get from eating chilies (such as profuse sweating, a faster heart beat, increased blood circulation) are identical to those experienced when you are getting aroused.  Capsaicin, which is also a powerful painkiller, is the chemical responsible for creating these particular amatory special effects.

So what do the bed bugs, vampires and werewolves know about chilies that we don't..?

Chill out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Under the Bridge" track:

Note to self:  remember to call their fan club to find out what conditioner their lead singer uses.  Luscious locks...

Marla's Fiery Peanut Salsa Marinade

Thanks to Marla Neeson for offering up one of her fave chili recipes.
* 2 dried chipotle chilies
* 1/2 cup water
* 2 large ripe tomatoes (pan roasted until blistered, black and soft, then chopped with skin)
* 10 cloves garlic (pan roasted until brown and soft, peeled, and finely chopped)
* 1 tsp. finely ground canela (Mexican cinnamon)
* 1 medium sized white onion (thickly sliced, pan roasted until brown and soft, and coarsely chopped)
* 2 whole cloves, ground
* 1/4 tsp. salt
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh marjoram
* 1 Tbsp. olive oil
* 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
* 1/3 c. chopped, unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
In a heavy skillet over medium heat, toast chilies until brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly, slit open,and remove seeds.  In a large bowl, toss chilies with the water and let soak 10 minutes.  In a blender, puree chilies with water.  In a bowl mix together with remaining ingredients except peanuts.  For best results, add peanuts to prepared salsa no more than 1 hour before serving.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Apples to Their Core

And the winner is.....Sonia Grasse:  "whichever way you slice it, it's going to be a Gala affair!"  This was clever, witty and most importantly, promoted the Valentine to the Market Event, which is, after all, our primary purpose.  Runners up were Marla Neeson:  "Is Barack seeking seeds of wisdom? No, just the ingredients for a killer apple pie." and Amanda Aslansan, whose off-the-record entry was hilarious but unprintable if we wish to retain our PG rating.  Her official entry "Don't upset the apple cart' wasn't too shabby either.

Fantabulous Fall recipe from October's issue of Bon Appetit. An apple pie with a crunchy topping. Not only does the recipe call for tart Granny Smith apples, but also the apples themselves are sweated down in apple cider. The market is awash with this gorgeous ingredient currently. Stock up at Iovines,  or the Fair Food Farmstand and delight your friends with this confection.

The poll results?  Apple Martinis are disgusting, by an overwhelming majority of 66%.

And we leave you with a few interesting apple facts....

  • The ancient Greeks loved the apple. Instead of slipping a ring onto a fair maiden's finger, a Greek warrior was supposed to toss an apple to the - ah - apple of his eye. If she caught the fruit, the act was as good as an engagement.
  • In Medieval England, an autumnal celebration centered around the fermented fruit of the apple tree and the almost Bacchanalian merriment that would ensue. (The supposed purpose was to ensure a bountiful harvest, or so the story goes.)
  • The Adam's apple is so-called because of a popular idea that it was created when the forbidden fruit got stuck in Adam's throat when he swallowed it.
  • Twenty-five percent of the apples harvested in the US are exported. That's big business. Not surprisingly, Philly's own Ben Franklin started it. He had Newton Pippin apples exported from America to London in 1768.

We're spicing up the next few weeks with chili peppers.    Visit and help us heat things up!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Passion for Apples

If you're an Apple news junkie, then you'll know that Apple Passion is a news aggregator rounding up the latest insider info on Apple Inc.  As a food junkie, you're more likely to associate it with a dazzling Vodka and Amaretto-based cocktail to which you set fire, before quaffing.  Want the recipe? has this and an array of other Fall concoctions that will, quite literally, warm the cockles of your heart. 

Just this week we had a heart-warming conversation with Emily, product manager at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. 

Emily has a passion for apples and shared her opinion about which of the apples they carry make for the best grilling, baking and eating apples. 

  • Thinking of baking?  Try a Mutsu (weird name, but apparently they are perfect for baking).  Or perhaps a Honeycrisp, which exudes a gorgeous aroma of honey, with an undertone of cider, while cooking. 
  • For the grill, consider an Empire apple, because it keeps its shape when cooked. 
  • For that baked apple recipe, try a Granny Smith, which is tart and won't be overwhelmed by the dried fruit and sugar that you'll be heaping onto it.

Fair Food Farmstand is run by a non-profit organization and buys from over 90 farmers in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey regions.  They like to work with small-scale farmers and producers who believe in sustainable and humane farming practices.  The apples currently on sale are grown on farms that have stayed in the family for some 5 or 6 generations.  Emily shared a little known fact with us; close by to one of these farms is the National Apple Museum in Gettysburg.  Apparently, the museum is well worth a visit!

Don't expect the Museum to showcase the Apple's checkered mythology. 

Outside of the Garden of Eden, it has also been implicated in the Trojan War, when Venus - or Aphrodite, hence the name Aphrodisiac - was awarded the Apple of Discord by Paris.  The adulterous Paris under the protection of Venus, then successfully kidnapped Helen of Troy from her rightful husband.  Thus the troublemaking Goddess is often depicted on coins, in paintings and in racy statuary, as cradling an apple.

Venus with Apple by Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen. 1813-16.