Life in Philly
What a start to summer. The month started off hot & humid, then got nice and cool for the middle of the month, then ended with a horrendous heat wave. In the middle part, there was some lovely deck weather and time to take nice, long photo walks all over the city. It was an eventful month for Tom, as his childhood home was sold. I got to visit Temple’s Ambler campus, which was simply lovely in terms of landscape architecture. We attended one protest, but missed another. I finally got a haircut, for the first time since before my job interview last summer – I have no idea why I waited so long, but I’m pleased regardless.
This month definitely started out spring (strawberries, asparagus, peas) and ended in summer (cherries, apricots, and even a tiny box of tomatoes!). This is the first year I cared about or even noticed when apricot season is – I hadn’t realized it was so much earlier than peaches. I grew up with a ridiculously productive apricot tree in our backyard and got apricot-ed out by the late 1980s. Perhaps I’m finally ready to get over that, but baby steps. I had forgotten what a delight apricots are to work with, what with how they halve with just your hands and can be pitted so easily. They have a lovely, bright flavor as well as color – but no need to go overboard, they’re still not peaches.
This was another excellent month with Plonk. I enjoyed all 4 bottles in the June club, plus the three bottles I had purchased separately toward the end of last month. We also finally tried the outlier from last month’s club, an Australian riesling, which was lovely and surprisingly dry. I would like to order more from Plonk, but my only reservations are the slow shipping and the fair but still high-for-me prices. It will just have to be more of a splurge than something I can do regularly.
I’d have to say this was another so-so month with the Tasting Room club. I really enjoyed the pinot blancs and Côtes du Rhone blancs, as well as another surprisingly dry New Zealand sauvignon blanc. However, they really need to stop sending me pinot grigios, and I didn’t care for the pinot noir. I still haven’t tried the prosecco. I’m going to take a break from Tasting Room for the month of July, and then resume in August, going down to 6 bottles instead of 12. Maybe by then they’ll add some more wines to their selection; right now I feel like there’s nothing in their inventory that fits my profile that I haven’t already tried.
This month’s theme was New Zealand and included a sauvignon blanc and a pinot noir. I haven’t had the pinot noir yet, but the sauvignon blanc had heavy tropical fruit, unsurprisingly, and I just didn’t enjoy it. This was my final month of my 1 year test run with the state store’s “Aficionado” club, and frankly I couldn’t hit “unsubscribe” fast enough. I look forward to re-purposing the $$ I was spending on this experiment toward something more reliably enjoyable.
I continue to enjoy making lots of different bean recipes with my Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. This month featured:
- pizza beans! (Royal Corona beans) – the recipe definitely lived up to the hype, and I LOVE the giant Royal Coronas.
- spring minestrone verde (Marcella beans) – this was delightfully green and springy.
- Boston baked beans (Raquel beans) – this was very good, but I want to experiment with different baked bean recipes.
- California tamale pie (Cassoulet beans) – this was great!
- polenta with borlotti beans & tomatoes (Anson Mills polenta, Rancho Gordo cranberry beans) – this was fine, but I think I’d prefer white beans rather than borlotti.
- red wine pinto beans – so good! It is an absolute must to make this with Benton’s bacon -it is one of my favorite bean preparations to date.
- chili sin carne (Ayocote Negro beans) – this chili packs a punch, thanks to Rancho Gordo New Mexico chile powder! It was a very interesting recipe, as it has no tomatoes; the preparation reminds me more of a mole.
- tomato butter bean skillet (Royal Corona beans) – OK but nothing special, I don’t think it really highlighted the beans well.
- white beans & roasted garlic dip (Marcella beans) from New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – we served this with scallops & green beans. It was pretty good, but too salty, and it didn’t last long.
- black bean curry (Midnight Black) – this was very good, though I would leave off the potatoes next time. The bean broth was heavenly.
I’ve been keeping notes and finally figuring out some best practices with certain beans, as far as whether or not and how long to soak, but practice is still needed! Toward the end of the month I tried using the pressure cooker to cook beans for the first time, and I might be a convert. It doesn’t save THAT much time but it does save a lot of babysitting – you can just let the beans go do their thing and they come out perfectly with minimal effort. I’m glad I got over my fear of the pressure cooker and tried it, as I think it will make it much easier to cook beans in the summer without heating up the apartment.
Other than beans-
- shakshuka – I’ve made this any number of times before, but this time Tom cooked and followed the recipe properly! Charred veggies make all the difference – in the past I’ve ignored that part, much to my present regret.
- lacquered scallops – this time we made the lacquer properly w/oat and rice flour (thanks to an order from Anson Mills) with carrot romesco (inspired by an Instagram post from @gwsabatino)
- one pot harissa chicken – this was fabulous. We made the David Lebovitz version, which is based on a Melissa Clark recipe, so we’ll have to try the original sometime.
- pistachio and lentil dip – this was a nice substitute when my hummus went bad!
- “Triple-the-fish seafood hotpot” from Half Baked Harvest
- sesame noodles with asparagus from New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
- salt & pepper walnuts from New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
- spicy chicken with red palm oil – I was looking for another use for red palm oil and this worked nicely
- ricotta gnocchi with asparagus and prosciutto – it’s always nice to make this once every spring
- chicken w/porchetta salt, lemon, garlic, herbs – this was based on an Instagram post by @domenicacooks, and was a good excuse for me to make the porchetta salt from Preserving Italy
- skate from Shore Catch, prepared simply with rice/oat flour lacquer and butter, served with arugula salad with fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh mozz, and lemon olive oil
We didn’t go out too much this month, but did have some nice meals at the usual spots, plus a few new places. We were so glad that TALK finally opened, and it was nice to try Twenty Manning’s new brunch.
- dinner at Southgate
- dinner at Audrey Claire
- brunch at Tio Flores
- dinner at Heritage
- brunch at Rex
- brunch at Twenty Manning
- drinks at TALK! – we’re so excited to see Amanda and Alex again
- lunch at Bar Bombon – I tried this on a day off and especially liked the bar menu
- I made strawberry jam with pinot noir from Saving the Season. Strawberries are so foamy! Though there are more strawberry preserves recipes I want to try, I stopped after this batch as I didn’t want to get overwhelmed with jam, plus the strawberries were really attracting flies
- I made two cherry recipes: spiced cherry preserves and cherries in red wine cold pack.
- I finished the homemade bacon from last month – after 2 weeks it had lost nearly 50% of weight(!), which was way too much. I didn’t expect to check on it so soon – next time, if working with such small quantity, I will be sure to check sooner. It was only supposed to lose 20-30% of weight over 3-4 weeks. So it might be too dry, more like jerky, but we’ll see. I sliced it up and put in the freezer and look forward to using it!
- I did a few things with apricots: apricot anise jam from Preserving Italy and honey-spiced apricot halves.
- As mentioned above, I made porchetta salt from Preserving Italy
- Asian plum sauce – we opened this and tried it with chicken and fish
- Bread & butter pickles – these were surprising! I honestly had low expectations, but the cucumber was still crisp (even after a year), and while they were sweet, they had a very pleasant flavor, like my mom’s spiced pickled peaches. I probably wouldn’t make them again, but this was a good recipe.
- I finally opened my LTP pickled peppers – I wish I had opened them sooner. They are basically perfect, and I would definitely use this method again.
- In my Malazan re-read, I finished Reaper’s Gale and started Toll the Hounds, both of which are hardcover/paper. Reaper’s Gale remains one of my favorite Malazan books, so that was great, but Toll the Hounds is one of my least favorite, so I haven’t gotten very far; I took a break once a bunch of my library holds came in on Kindle.
- I finished Down Among the Sticks and Stones, the second book in the Wayward Children series – this was hard to finish as I didn’t really get into it at all. It was boring staying with just the two characters, Jack and Jill, and just visiting their one portal world. Not to mention IMHO they were some of the least likable characters from the first book, so it was hard for me to get into a story just about them, though of course it did bring insight to their characters and their actions from the first book, plus gave a more in depth look at a portal world experience from beginning to end.
- Reaper at the Gates – I bought this the day it came out and loved it – this series continues to be great and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
- Phasma – I really liked the narrative structure of this one, flipping between torturer and captive, but not really getting into Phasma’s head at all until the very end. It actually had me on the edge of my seat, even reading while walking since I couldn’t put it down.
- I read several Star Wars comics via Kindle (on Tom’s iPad) – starting from the beginning of the canon timeline, including Darth Maul and Obi-Wan & Anakin. The art was well done in both, and both stories contributed well to the overall canon.
- Last Shot – it had a very cool ending, but it was a bit dull getting there. The flashbacks were disruptive and didn’t pay off until the end – not to mention one of them is clearly a continuity error and needs to take place several years before the book says it does. But L3 is the best!
- Beneath the Sugar Sky – I liked this almost as much as the first book of the Wayward Children series and certainly more than Down Among the Sticks and Stones. It was a return to Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children and featured a variety of characters who had all been to different portal worlds, and you actually get to travel to several different portal worlds.
I kept 4 things, which I don’t like to do because it never works out economically (it’s cheaper to keep all 5 things because of the discount than it is to return 1 thing you don’t like; if you’re going to return 1 thing, you need to return 2 things in order to actually save money), but that’s how it goes. My favorite thing is a green shirt and black skirt. The earrings are nice, and the dress is pretty, though I’m a little paranoid about how snugly it fits due to my belly.
Last Month’s Update