July 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

It’s been really hot and gross pretty much all month, with quite a few thunderstorms. On the plus side, there have been some really beautiful sunsets.

The Democratic National Convention was in town, but unlike with the Pope visit last year, it ended up not really affecting us directly, in terms of getting around, etc.

Sadly there’s not too much to say about our month in Philly since we spent most of it inside trying to stay cool!

Farmers’ Markets

Tomatoes were really late this year, but they’re finally here. We’ve been getting lots of tomatoes, corn, and summer squash. I’ve been too lazy to take pictures every week, but here is a representative haul:

Dining In

As it’s been too hot to go out, we’ve been doing a LOT of cooking in.

One of our new things is to do a “fancy” pasta on Friday nights, which still feels as easy as lazy pasta, but more celebratory. In addition to the below recipes, we also fancied up some easy non-recipe dishes by 1) using fresh instead of dried pasta and 2) topping it with burrata!

fresh fettucini with tomatoes, olives, basil, and burrata

As usual, we get chicken and seafood every weekend at the farmers’ market. Occasionally we supplement with seafood from Di Bruno Bros. That means we’re pretty much always on the look out for chicken and fish recipes. We tried quite a few new ones this month in addition to repeating some favorites, like shrimp & corn chowder, fish in parchment, fish with red pepper sauce, and chicken souvlaki. We also tried chicken brined with feta cheese, but that was a bit boring.

Scallops with tomato-olive salsa

We also tried cooking a whole sea bass. Shore Catch sells them already gutted and cleaned so I thought it might be easy, but I was wrong. I consulted a few branzino recipes and stuffed the fish with lemon and thyme, with lots of olive oil, salt & pepper. The fish itself was delicious, but this is definitely something I’ll leave to professionals in the future. It sure made me appreciate the delicate hand of restaurant servers who carve the branzino tableside, and it also makes me appreciate how much those whole branzino dishes cost, as there is a lot of labor involved.

We’re still trying to make lunches to bring to work, but really only one recipe this month was a true success. In addition to lunch, this was fantastic for brunch with eggs on top!

Despite it being hot, we made a few big batches of things on the weekends, like veggie chili and stewed pinto beans, that we were able to use during the week for lunches and/or weekend brunch. We also made a standby, summer vegetable enchiladas.

This is a tasty egg dish I made with stewed pinto beans, corn tortillas, eggs, cheddar & jack cheese, homemade queso fresco, and homemade fermented corn salsa

In addition to all the veggies, it’s also peach season. We tried a few savory peach recipes that both turned out great. In addition, Tom made a delicious honey-vanilla mascarpone dip that we enjoyed with plain peaches for dessert.

Peach-burrata pizza

Dining Out

As mentioned above, we barely went out this month. On 4th of July weekend, we went up to Fox Chase to visit family and had a nice lunch at Hop Angel. On 4th of July itself (a Monday), we went to brunch at Tria Fitler Square.

We did a few date nights toward the end of the month. The first was at Ralph’s, the oldest Italian restaurant in the U.S. It was good to cross it off the list, but overall we weren’t too impressed. The service was lousy, the wine was terrible, and the food was good (the veal parm was fantastic) but overall not as good as some of the other South Philly Italian-American places we’ve tried.

Veal Parm at Ralph’s

We also had a date night at Sawatdee, one of our favorite Thai restaurants. It was during the DNC, so afterward we went to Rex1516 where they were having a few DNC cocktail specials (Martini with regular Bluecoat gin, Martinez with Bluecoat barrel aged gin).

DIY

The availability of summer produce has opened up some more opportunities for vegetable fermentation with recipes from Ferment Your Vegetables.

Inspired by a visit to SouthGate last month, I made a batch of green bean kimchi, which turned out delicious. I also made a fermented corn salsa and a fermented tomato salsa, both of which have been great to have around. The corn was a particularly active ferment, so it was fun to watch it bubble away. I’m not a huge fan of cucumber pickles, but I decided to try a small batch of spears anyway, and I loved how they tasted with the black pepper & mustard brine, with plenty of garlic.

July ferments

I also give ginger beer another try, since one of my theories as to why my previous attempts didn’t go so well was the weather. Well, I did get it to bubble this time, so something worked. However, it still went flat when I bottled it. I used a growler for bottling, maybe that wasn’t airtight enough. When I get the energy to try this again, I’ll try to use swing-top bottles.

Stitch Fix

Once it got really hot, I was ready for some new summer clothes. I ordered a StitchFix box for mid-July, but was a little disappointed this time around. I kept two tops, but sent back a top, a maxi dress, and some jeweled sandals. I scheduled another one for about a week later, and was annoyed that it seemed especially tone deaf following the previous return, as they sent yet another maxi, and PANTS during hot-ass summer. However, from the second fix, I kept a top, a skirt, and a beautiful dress. I debated keeping the second maxi dress – it was gorgeous, but I just can’t see an opportunity to wear it, unless, you know, I’m like vacationing on the beach, which isn’t happening. I got a load of compliments on the dress I kept.

Katniss Crochet Yoke Top
Katniss Crochet Yoke Top
Montgomery Cross Front Knit Top
Montgomery Cross Front Knit Top
Bastille Tulip Sleeve Blouse, Sadie Printed Swing Skirt
Bastille Tulip Sleeve Blouse, Sadie Printed Swing Skirt
Millie Textured Knit Dress
Millie Textured Knit Dress

I also made some small progress in buying things for myself without the aid of StitchFix. I bought a few long necklaces from Etsy (pictured below), as well as some shoes from Earth (the shoes are in all the pictures above), all of which worked out well. I am particularly pleased with the combo of bright red shoes with a red necklace that I got this month. Still, I made some mistakes – after being annoyed with my first StitchFix box I ordered some stuff from Eddie Bauer and had to send almost all of it back. I still can’t quite be trusted to dress myself, but baby steps.

These are the necklaces I bought on Etsy
These are the necklaces I bought on Etsy this month

Books

It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of the month I was still reading Dancer’s Lament. Well, I finished it and loved it. Esslemont is redeemed, though, I look forward to getting back to me re-read of Erikson’s Fall of Light, because even though both authors are writing in the same world, I love Erikson’s increasing richness in his use of the English language.

I did a quick read of Daniel Clowes Patience, a graphic novel which Tom had checked out from the library. It was a really interesting, trippy story, and might be my favorite of Clowes’ works that I’ve read.

I checked out The Sympathizer via interlibrary loan. The writing was excellent, and I was enjoying the story, but I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time to finish it before I had to turn it back in (I didn’t start reading it until the week before the due date), so I skipped around and ended up reading a disturbing rape scene that made me not want to keep reading it at that time. I think I would like to come back and revisit the whole book sometime when I have more time to read the whole thing.

Last Month’s Update