Friday, February 25, 2011

Catch Saturday Night Fever!

Heat things up at the Valentine to the Market Ball--we can't promise line dancing, but we can promise a Fever-ishly good time!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Never Can Tell....

As Chuck Berry sang, "You Never Can Tell".  And he's right; you never can tell what might happen at the Valentine to the Market Party.    You just might come home with a trophy, or possibly something better....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Time of Your Life....

Come have the time of your life at the Valentine to the Market Party this Saturday! There will definitely be some dirty dancing.

Looking for inspiration on some new (or old) moves?  Watch this!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You're the One that I Want!

We always wondered just how Olivia Newton John squeezed into those skin tight satin pants when she morphs into sexy Sandy at the end of the movie Grease

Hope that we look half as good as she does when we doll ourselves up for the party of the Season at the Reading Terminal Market this Sat nite.  Tickets are still available here.

Put on your dancing shoes and show your Valentines that you're the ones that they want!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shall We Dance?

Absolutely! Don't miss the dance party of the year: The Valentine to the Market. You never know, your king may be looking for his next queen, and he won't find you if you aren't there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Maniacs Welcome!

Jennifer Beals would need to spruce up her look a bit, but once she dons appropriate attire, she'll be welcome at the Valentine to the Market. We'll see you (and any other maniacs you can round up) there!

Friday, February 18, 2011

History in a Box...

Remember the old Wilbur's chocolate factory near the Ben Franklin Bridge?  How many times have you driven past this and caught this stately building out of the corner of your eye?

Once upon a time, Philadelphia boasted some 20 or more chocolate retailers, according to the The Pennsylvania General Store.  In this most chocolatey of months, the Store is celebrating Philly's chocolate pedigree at the Reading Terminal Market by offering the Philadelphia Chocolate Collection, sourced from producers in the Pennsylvania region. This collection features the best known names from times of yore and features firm faves such as Lore's Milk Chocolate Marshmallows and confections dreamed up by choclatiers like Zitners, Asher,Wilbur, West Chester's Eclat & our personal pick...Neuchatel with its Dark Chocolate Truffle from Oxford.

And if you are inspired to make your own Pennsylvania chocolate, we suggest Philly Food Lovers' Chocolate Dipped Strawberries.  They pleased our crowds on Valentine's Day, and are sure to please yours any day of the year.  I once presented a tray of these to my hairdresser, who was nursing a broken heart from an internet romance gone bad.  They cheered him up significantly--at least enough to drag himself out of the doldrums to do my highlights.  And I am confident that they will have the same effect on you and yours.  Even if there's no broken heart involved--and I sincerely hope there isn't--these lovely little nuggets are sure to brighten someone's day.  

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1 dozen large, perfect strawberries, washed and DRIED
1 cup Ghirardelli dark chips (60% cacao)--if you prefer to keep it local, use dark Wilbur Buds, chopped
parchment paper

Rinse strawberries, and set out to dry.  If you don't have time to allow them to air dry, use a hairdryer.  Seriously.  If they remain damp, the chocolate won't stick.    Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a microwave proof bowl for 3 minutes on 50% power.  Stir til smooth and dip the berries til thoroughly coated.  Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and either allow to harden at room temp (1-2 hrs) or refrigerate to expedite the process (20 minutes.)

These are best enjoyed with loved ones the day they are made.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dig Your Way Out of the Dog House

Looking for some poor ol' Spike from Tom & dig your way out of the Dog House?  Perhaps your Valentine's Day gift missed the mark on Monday?  Never fear, the Reading Terminal Market has come to your rescue with the Ultimate Valentine's Gift!  If your beloved is a foodie then this will surely make him/her salivate...The package includes:

  • Two VIP tickets to the Valentine to the Market Gala on Saturday, Febuary 26
  • Serve as Sous-Chef to T.V. Celeb and reknowned local Chef Michael Schulson at the Cook-Off at the Valentine to the Market V.I.P Pre-Party (apron provided to protect your finery).
  • Chef's table dinner for two on the evening of your choice at Sampan, Michael's much vaunted Asian inspired restaurant.   
Only 1 of these packages, priced at $2,000, is available.  Hurry if you want to snag this opportunity--a true "Get out of the Dog House" pass if there ever was one!

For more information, and to purchase, visit and click on the tab marked "Ultimate Valentine Gift".

A gifted chef with a knack for sharing his hard-won knowledge of Asian culture and cuisine in a friendly, approachable way, Chef Schulson makes frequent print and television appearances, having starred in TLC’s competition series Ultimate Cake-Off, Style network’s series Pantry Raid and Discovery Channel’s Go Ahead, Make My Dinner.

Go ahead, Make Your Squeeze's Day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

M-ole, M-ole, M-ole, M-ole, Feeling Hot, Hot Hot

Sure, we all love chocolate in its traditional forms, when it is usually presented as a sweet.  But no discussion of chocolate would be complete without a mention of mole sauce, which is generally considered the national dish of Mexico.

The history of the dish is disputed.  Some claim it was 'necessity is the mother of invention', in which 16th C. Mexican nuns, whose cupboard was bare, frantically prepared a  meal for a visiting archbishop with the ingredients on hand.  They ground various spices, chilis and chocolate, simmered the mixture for hours, killed the only animal on hand, which happened to be a turkey and roasted the bird with the makeshift sauce.  The bish loved it and mole was born.

Another account credits the Aztecs with inventing the dish.  Believing that the European conquistadores were divine apparitions, they served them a feast laden with chocolate, which was then considered sacred.  Others historians disagree, claiming that this would be the Christian equivalent of making veal marsala with sacramental wine.

Whatever the heritage,  mole is here to stay.   Candidly, people tend to love it or hate it.  But we think the haters simply haven't had good mole.  When done properly, it rivals the most complex and sophisticated of dishes; think of a Thai or Indian curry with deep layers of flavor, or a perfectly executed French Bordelaise.  We suggest sampling it at 12th St Cantina; their chicken mole is muy bueno.   Alternatively, the Cantina sells prepared mole for the time-strapped or novice cooks among us.     If you are inclined to make your own, here's an easy version:

Easy Mole Sauce (makes enough to serve 4-6)
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons vegetables oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon aniseed
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1-pound can tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

In a large heavy skillet sauté the onion in the oil over moderately high heat, stirring, until it is golden brown. In a mortar with a pestle (or spice grinder) crush the coriander seeds and the aniseed, stir them into the onion mixture with the chili powder, the sugar, the cinnamon, and the cloves, and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the cocoa powder, the peanut butter, 2 cups of the broth, the tomatoes, the raisins, the garlic paste, and salt to taste and simmer the sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.    In a blender or food processor purée the sauce in batches, adding the remaining broth as necessary to thin it to the desired consistency.   Coat skilled with thin film of oil, and heat.  Add chicken or fish and sear quickly to seal in juices.  Transfer the sauce to the skillet, cover and simmer the mixture on low,  15 minutes for fish, 30 for chicken. Serve  over rice if desired, sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

Forgive us, but we couldn't help ourselves....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is upon us, Pholks and they don’t call this the City of Brotherly Love for nothing.   

Lucky for you, our fair city contains one of the best places on earth to procure creative, unique and affordable valentine gifts: Reading Terminal Market.   That’s right lovers, no excuses for handing over a bunch of wilted flowers grabbed in desperation from the gas station, or the last lonely card left (for good reason) on the drugstore rack….here are just a few suggestions to warm the hearts and parts of your nearest and dearest, all conveniently available from one of Philadelphia’s true gems….

1.   The perfect date night:  Take your Valentine to the hottest party of the year:  Heat Up YOUR Night at the Heat Up The Night Gala--Dinner and Dancing at the Market--trust us, this is the best VD gift on the planet.

2.     Terminis  Red Velvet Cupcakes--even if you reside semi-permanently in the dog house, a box of these should earn you a brief furlough. Aren't they adorable? 

3.  Pitchers and Catchers Report this week….let your sports fan know you care.    Pennsylvania General Store has a respectable supply of Phillies caps—and they’re red!

4. You never go wrong with chocolate. We loved this funny twist...but if you think your Valentine wouldn't get the joke, Chocolate by Mueller has lots of other options.

5.  Heat things up…..with a gift certificate to LaCucina.    Date night cooking classes might be just the thing to fire up the, um, stove.

6.  You know what they say about the way to a person's heart....Gourmet foods from Downtown Cheese (or the multitude of other sources in the Market) are sure to please.

7.  There's no greater luxury than hand-milled soaps.  Terralyn has a beautiful selection--they smell intoxicating, they look lovely, and they contain natural, healthy ingredients that are good for your skin.  Her massage oils make a great Valentine's gift, too....

  8.  And keeping with  the bath theme, check out these adorable rubber duckies from Amy's Place.  The shop stocks a fantastic array of kitchen gadgets and funky homegoods, too.

 9.  If the object of your affection is culinarily inclined, consider a cookbook.  The Cookbook Stall has an enormous variety--including aphrodisiac recipe collections, very apt for V-Day.
10.  You tell us.  This list has barely scratched the surface.   What is YOUR perfect Market Valentine gift?

So head on over to the Market.  We know February is the shortest month, but it will feel mighty long if you blow it on Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chocolate to Heat Up the Night

In the countdown to Valentine's Day, and the hotly anticipated Heat Up the Night Market Gala, we turn our attention, naturally, to chocolate.   We've discussed the amatory associations of chocolate before--the chemicals contained in this divine substance mimic the body's response to the euphoria of limerant love.  Chemistry aside, we know we love it.  For excellent Valentine gift ideas, chocolate and otherwise, visit the Market.   You know what they say about the way to a person's heart.....

With the mercury dropping and the snow lingering on the ground you may be looking to warm your heart, and possibly some other parts as well.  Despite what Punxatawny Phil said, winter is certainly still in force here and hot chocolate may be just what the doctor ordered.  This version, a rich, thick, European style drinking chocolate, is best sipped from small cups in lieu of dessert.   We can't make any claims on this elixir as a love potion, but I would be mighty fond of a person who rustled this up for me on a chilly evening.

Hot Chocolate for two

1 heaping Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp water
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate (Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips work well)
whipped cream for garnish if desired

Mix cocoa, sugar and water in small saucepan to form paste.  Heat over medium til bubbly.  Add milk and chocolate, stirring constantly til completely melted, blended and hot.  Pour into cup, garnish with whipped cream and cinnamon or cocoa powder if desired; serve immediately.  Sparkler optional.

Drink up, you sexy things! 

We started to create a list and description of the different types of chocolate and their uses, but found the information far too extensive for a blogpost. For details on chocolate in all of its forms--cacao nibs, liquor, powder, bittersweet, unsweetened, milk or white chocolate (which, to our minds, should be exterminated), read this. Thank you,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Farah's Saffron Chicken

We couldn't very well explore the world of spices without mentioning saffron, likely the world's first cultivated spice and certainly the most expensive. There is archeological evidence that saffron was used way back in 1700BC on the island of Crete.

It takes an acre of land, or about 75,000 crocus flowers to produce a pound of saffron, say nothing of the significant labor it requires to harvest. Saffron farmers extract the stamen of the crocus by hand, and these temperamental little flowers only bloom for 1 week each year. Consider that next time you dig into a fragrant boullabaisse or paella.  (Source:

See those reddish threads?  They are hand picked to produce....

We tapped our friend Farah again, this time for her favorite use of saffron.  She chose a recipe that hearkens back to her Indian heritage:   her family's version of Kesar Murg, which is Hindi for....
Saffron Chicken
Serves 6
6 large pieces boneless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion 
1 inch piece fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp Saffron dissolved in a little milk
1 tsp Coriander powder
4 tsp cashews, pureed, or 4 tsp cashew butter
1 cup Yogurt
2 Bay leaves
1/2 tbsp whole Cloves
1/2 tbsp green Cardamom pods
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp white pepper
chili powder and salt to taste
fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish

Puree onion, garlic and ginger in blender or food processor with 3 Tbsp oil.  In large pot, heat remaining oil. Add puree, along with bay leaves, cloves and cardamom pods and fry on low heat til oil separates from solids.
Add coriander powder, cashew puree (or cashew butter) and stir.
Add boneless chicken, stir to coat. Mix in yogurt, salt, pepper, chili powder, and saffron/milk mixture.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till chicken is cooked, approximately 25 minutes.
Whisk in cream. Serve with naan, crusty french bread, or  basmati rice.

Fortunately, culinary culture does not clash but marries happily--in contrast to the social and linguistic culture clash spoofed in this amusing clip from Outsourced.  Enjoy.....

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rub Me the Right Way!

Rub-a-dub-dub.....ok, we don't want to think too much about three tradesmen in a bath together (or do we?) but that's what sprung to mind when this post started to take shape. No, what we'd prefer to dwell on is the way a blend of spices (aka 'rub') can transform a basic bit of animal protein into something nearly divine.

We sought the advice of barbecue guru and Down Home Diner owner Jack McDavid, and he did not disappoint.   If you've ever had the pleasure of sampling Jack's cooking, you won't hesitate to take his advice.  If you haven't, what are you waiting for? 

Blackened Rub For Pork, Chicken and Fish
11/2 Tbs Paprika
1 Tbs  Granulated Garlic
1 Tbs Onion Powder
1 Tbs Thyme
1 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Cayenne
1 tsp Oregano

Chipotle Pepper Rub For Beef, Pork and Chicken
3 Tbs Brown Sugar
2 Tbs Chipotle Powder
1 Tbs Paprika
1 Tbs Oregano
1 Tbs Dry Mustard
1 Tbs Cumin
1 Tbs salt

General guideline is 2 Tbsp spice rub per pound of meat or fish.  To maximize flavor, coat the meat or fish with the spices and rub the mixture into the surface.   Wrap in cellophane for about an hour at room temperature and cook as desired.

After the exertions of all this cooking, you may be in need of some rubbing yourself.  Check out Eviama Spa for delicious treatments, many of which feature herbs and spices.  The magicians at Eviama use lavender oils and baths to soothe and relax.  They blend mint with coffee grounds to exfoliate the feet, and they use rosemary and sage in massages and other body treatments to energize and rejuvenate.  Yum.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nutmeg Snaps and Monks Behaving Oddly

Grenada is often referred to as the Nutmeg Island, and nutmeg itself as "Grenada Gold." For centuries, this spice was grown exclusively, like contraband, first, by the Portuguese, then by the Dutch, rulers of the island. Thankfully, the Brits came along.   They opened up the market for this exclusive spice by smuggling seeds of the nutmeg tree out of Grenada, and propagating and cultivating this spice farther afield. 

Throughout history, nutmeg has been endowed with possessing magical powers.  Probably the most ridiculous (and unsubstantiated) folk story we came across is the story of a monk, who allegedly advised young lovers "to carry vials of nutmeg oil and at the appropriate time, to anoint their genitals for virility that would see them through several days."   Hardly monastic advice, that.  And speaking of MONK-eying around....who'd have expected a Capuchin monk to form a heavy metal band?

This is the point at which we advise our readers not to believe everything that they read on the Internet.  Nutmeg oil, indeed.  Unless it's a recipe, in which case, you know it's good to go.  No one would have the audacity to mess around with food!

Thanks to the online Encyclopaedia of Spices for the back story to nutmeg; even bigger thanks to Marcy Leader for sharing yet another one of the mouthwatering cookie recipes for which she is rightly famous! (Ever tried her Rosemary Shortbread..?)


1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

In large bowl of mixer, cream butter & sugar until fluffy.  Add egg yolk and beat well.  Stir in flour and nutmeg.

Using lightly floured fingers, spread dough evenly in an ungreased 15x10" jelly roll pan.  Beat egg white slightly and brush on top, smooth with fingertips. 

Bake at 275' until golden brown, about 1 hour.  Cut while hot into 2 x 3/4" bars.  Cool on racks.

**Important to cut cookies as soon as they come out of the oven -- otherwise, they shatter.

Aside from her nutmeg flats, Marcy is lauded for her addictive, dried rosemary, cookies, which are baked to a top secret recipe.  We've pleaded with her to divulge, but she refuses to share!  If you're interested in obtaining your own fix, then email Marcy directly at

You wouldn't believe the stories that people spin around Rosemary...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bugs' Favorite Vegetable, Fit for Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire

What's Up Doc?  Carrot Fennel Souffle, of course!

We all remember the Looney Tunes from childhood....Bugs the wisecracking Bunny munching on a carrot and causing havoc for man and beast.   Well, this carrot souffle would be far too rich for Bugs's  blood, but it might please Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire.  He could serve it in his mansion or his yacht.

A souffle is literally a "breath" in French.  It's a light and airy, sweet or savory, knock-out dish, which leaves guests in awe of your culinary skills.  We've not yet tried this recipe for ourselves, but a serious cookaholic posted this recipe on Facebook, together with a gorgeous photo of her creation, and she personally attested to its deliciousness.  Unlike our earlier posts of veggie with fennel seeds, this recipe focuses on the fennel bulb itself.

Fennel is actually one of the easiest herbs to grow in your back yard.  Once it takes hold it can be invasive so you need to stay on top of the plant.  The flowers of the fennel are a bright golden yellow and if you crush the fresh fronds they release their heavenly aniseed-laden scent. 

Roll on the lazy hazy days of Summer.

Carrot-Fennel Souffle

1 lb carrots - (about 4 med carrots)
1 lb parsnips - (or approx same amount as carrots)
2 med bulbs of fennel, roughly chopped
1/2 C brown sugar
1 1/4 stick unsalted butter
4 eggs, beaten
3 Tbs flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground coriander
1.5 tsp ground cardamom
1.5 tsp good salt

1) Slice carrots parsnips to overall similar sized pieces (I did about 1/4" thick coins). Leave fennel in somewhat larger pieces, so it keeps pace with carrots and parsnips during cooking. Steam all veggies until soft and just cooked through, not to a total wet mush.

2) Remove from pan and mash veggies with butter and salt into a bowl, then mix in eggs and other seasonings. *note, I pulsed an immersion blender into the mixture a few times to get a good blended mix. No need to do a massive purée of it.

Grease soufflé pan and bake til it puffs up beautifully -- 40 mins at 350 degrees.

Savor the moment when you present this to your guests.  Bathe in their admiration!

Th--th--th--th-that's all, folks!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

KISS Boring Veggies Goodbye

Remember the days when veggies were a mere afterthought?  Just something that you ate to remain regular, to keep your parents happy, or to set a good example for your kids?  How about those long ago days when restaurants served the same sides for every entree?   (And it was nearly always a plate of overcooked greens and a scoop of starch.) Thankfully, like big hair, pleated pants and men in platform boots, that trend is over.

Veggies have taken, well, if not center stage at least a strong supporting role.  

Imagine Jerry McGuire without Cuba Gooding.  My Cousin Vinny without Marisa Tomei.  Ghost without Whoopi.  "I'd like to thank the Academy...."  Sorry, movies on the brain....

With the addition of cumin seeds, cauliflower becomes rather sublime.  Ditto brussels sprouts when doused with fennel.  Never fear, we are not preaching vegetarianism.  We are tried and true omnivores.  No, we are here today to discuss ways to make vegetables taste really, really good.  Honest.

Even people who regularly eschew the green stuff freely admit to enjoying these dishes.  And with the reputation of spices--ahem--spicing things up, you may be glad you ate your health-giving veggies in case you need some extra energy later on. 

Here are two surefire veggie winners; you can secure all necessary ingredients at the Market, of course:

Cumin Cauliflower

Serves 4-6
Prep time:  5 minutes
Cooking time:  10 minutes

1 large head cauliflower, washed and cut into bite sized florets
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and add seeds and salt.  Wait until seeds begin to sizzle and add cauliflower.  Stir thoroughly, ensuring that all florets are dappled with cumin seeds.  Lower heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until cauliflower is cooked through, approx 10 minutes.  NOTE:  This recipe can be replicated with virtually any vegetable:  broccoli, peas, carrots, potatoes, or a combo of any or all is wonderful!  This is a traditional Indian preparation, but it is great with any cuisine.

Brussels Sprouts and Fennel
Nutty veggies like cauliflower and brussels become dazzling dishes once paired with fennel seed.  But fennel is one of those spices you either love, or loathe.  I love their aniseed crunch, whereas Keri wrinkles her nose in disdain at the idea...

Tasted this unforgettable combo at a friend's house last week, and went back 3 times for a top up

Prep time: 20 mins      
Cook time: 5 mins
Serves 4-6 as a side.

(Recipe from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by Peter Berley)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb brussel sprouts, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp water
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Cider vinegar and black pepper to taste

1. Warm the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel seeds and toast for 1 minute.
2. Add the brussel sprouts, water, and salt. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. After 5 minutes, uncover and toss with cider vinegar and pepper to taste. Serve hot.