Life in Philly
What a long month! It started with Labor Day weekend, which brought an end to Tom’s extended time off before starting his new job. Since then, we’ve been working together, which has been great, especially for being on the same schedule and walking and taking the subway together.
We got out and about a few times this month. One Sunday (the only nice, sunny day all month, that I can remember) we went to Longwood Gardens (in between celebrating Dennis’s birthday for brunch and dinner). I had no idea it was so far outside of Philly, nor what else to expect. It reminded me of the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena in terms of the huge scope and scale. It was rather overwhelming, so we only got to a small part of it. Before next time, I would like to do more research to better plan a future visit. We also went to a David Byrne concert at the Mann Theater, which was excellent – one of the better concerts I’ve ever been to since moving to Philadelphia. We checked out the new public art exhibition “Pulse” at Dilworth Plaza, which wasn’t very interesting during the day, but while we were there, we enjoyed finally seeing the Octavius V. Catto Memorial.
Tom and I have been using Duolingo since July – he is taking French, and I am taking Spanish. I now have a 70 day streak going, which would have been longer if I hadn’t missed a day while we were on vacation in California. I’m enjoying it very much and certainly feel better about my Spanish than I did after taking a an intro course at Long Beach City College many years ago. Speaking of apps, I also re-started using Lose It and Waterlogged to track my food and water intake – not to lose weight per se, but more to get back into the habit of tracking things and to be more thoughtful about it.
Most of the month still felt like summer, I guess, or some dreary version of it where it was warm & humid but also cloudy & rainy. It felt like the sun only came out a few times all month. There were a few crisp, cool days that made it start to feel like Fall, but it still doesn’t feel very autumnal to me yet.
Thanks to a bug scare, I finally got a tool for sweeping underneath the refrigerator and the oven, and I can’t tell you what a relief it is to be less worried about what is lurking under there after living here 6 years.
Oh, and this month I FINALLY broke down and bought archival-quality mylar sleeves and leather albums to re-house two of my oldest magnetic photo albums. This project had been on my to-do list for at least 15 years, ever since I learned about how terrible magnetic photo albums are for photo preservation back in library school. But I had put it off all these years, because frankly, these supplies are really expensive. For the past few years, one of my albums had gotten to the point where the glue was dried up and all the photos kept falling out. But the real kicker was recently when one of my other albums got damaged by a loose spring under our couch, which is where I had been storing these. Altogether I spent $200 to re-house just these two albums – yikes. But I’m glad it’s done. Now I just have to think about the photos that are still in magnetic albums but just not in as bad shape, as well as those that never made it into albums in the first place.
There’s a new Sprouts Market in the neighborhood, which is pretty exciting. It’s a lot easier to get to than Whole Foods, and we really like their selection.
At the beginning of the month, I was still digging on tomatoes, peaches, corn, and peppers. I had wanted to get some blueberries, but by the time I thought of it, it was too late. I was hoping for groundcherries and tomatillos, but they never came. By the end of the month, tomatoes were sad, we gave up on corn, peaches were gone, and only peppers were still going strong. I was impatient for hot peppers, which finally came the last 2 weeks of the month. One week there was a fakeout with fresno chiles, but the week after that the espelettes and cherry bomb hot peppers had arrived. I am still definitely not in the mood for apples, squash, or any form of fall preserving. I did buy some Asian pears on the last weekend of the month, but only because I wanted to preserve some to use with some Korean recipes.
Yet again, my Plonk wine didn’t arrive until the 20th of the month, which drove me crazy with impatience, but as usual, when it arrived it was lovely. We enjoyed all four white wines: Xare-lo (Pansa Blanca), white pinot noir, Alvarinho, and a Cretian wine with an indigenous grape called Vidiano.
Over Labor Day weekend, we did a lot of home cooking, including:
- summer chilaquiles – for this I opened a jar of tomatillo & green chile sauce that I had made last month with my Hatch green chiles
- “Turkish” hummus from Zahav cookbook – this recipe uses butter & garlic instead of tahini. It was a bit too rich and fatty to finish, but it was interesting to try it
- paella, using Royal Corona beans, shrimp, scallops, and clams
- slow cooker pulled pork chili with cornbread – this is one of our comfort food favorites
Once Tom started his new job, we took a break from any elaborate recipes, but still managed to make some nice things. We got this lovely spicy Vera casarecci pasta, which added a lot of oomph to simple dinners.
We also made a few things to use up what was left of our last Rancho Gordo bean club shipment, since the next one will be arriving in October.
- beans & broccoli rabe from New Vegetarian Cooking (last of the Azufrado beans)
- Spanish alubia blancas (twice)
- summer minestrone (last of the Cassoulet)
- rustic yellow eye bean soup (last of the yellow eyes)
- shrimp fajitas with Moro beans & homemade crema
- black bean dip from New Vegetarian Cooking (using leftover Moro beans, served as a base for scallops)
Otherwise, home cooking highlights from this month included:
- swordfish with savory mint sauce
- salmon with Indian-spiced marinade, ghee-roasted corn, & tomatoes. The marinade was based on a chicken recipe, and I used Mexican crema instead of yogurt since that’s what I head
- buttermilk roasted chicken – I continue to use a cross between the smitten kitchen recipe and New York Times recipe (paprika from one, honey from the other)
- mustard fish
- vegetable biriyani from Indian Family Kitchen
We’ve been managing to go out for brunch nearly every weekend, as part of our new routine. This month we went to Rex 1516, Sidecar Bar, In Riva (for Dennis’s birthday), and South Philadelphia Taproom. Sidecar had a new brunch menu, so that was an interesting change, and we had never made it to brunch at South Philly Taproom before, so that was really good to try.
We’ve also been doing some sort of date night every week, which has included Brigantessa, Pumpkin, Southgate, L’Anima, and Le Virtu. We also went out to Radice with Dennis and L’Anima (again) with some friends in the neighborhood. L’Anima is a new Italian BYOB in the neighborhood that we really like so far. Le Virtu extended their Sunday-Monday night fixed price $35 supper to include Tuesday-Wednesday, and it was fantastic.
Thanks to my new work buddy, I’ve been able to try a few lunch places I hadn’t been to before at Temple, too, including Crisp Kitchen and Blaze Pizza.
I decided on hard cutoff after Labor Day weekend – I wasn’t going to preserve any more peaches or tomatoes, just hot peppers. However, I did sneak in a few more things with tomatoes and sweet peppers. I bought a new book, The Joys of Jewish Preserving, which I enjoyed trying a few new recipes from.
Last of the peaches:
- peaches with grappa from Preserving Italy
- peach mostarda from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars
- peach mustard
Last of the corn:
- roasted corn salsa from Food in Jars – though, I didn’t get a good char on the corn, so I’ll have to try this one again next year
Last of the tomatoes:
- tomato sauce with roasted garlic
- heirloom green zebra tomato jam with basil – a “green” variation on yellow tomato basil jam (note to self: maybe next time use lime zest for green version)
- tomato jalapeño jam (actually using Serrano peppers from a co-worker)
- more basic salsa from Food in Jars
Sweet & hot peppers:
- fresno chile fermented hot sauce from Ferment Your Vegetables – not knowing when or if Z Food Farm was going to have their espelette peppers, I jumped on these Fresno chiles the week before, and without having a clear plan, decided to make hot sauce. It came out delicious, but not sure it’s going to be hot enough, so once the espelette peppers came in, I started a new batch.
- more sweet & sour roasted peppers from Preserving Italy
- spicy pepper relish from Saving the Season
- pickled hot pepper rings from Preserving by the Pint (I made this twice, once with espelette peppers and once with cherry bomb peppers)
- sriracha-style hot sauce from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars (with espelette peppers) – my eyes were definitely watering just from being in the same room while these were being cooked, but it was worth it; it tastes very much like the real thing.
- fermented hot pepper rings (with cherry bomb peppers) – I figured I’d cover all my bases by fermenting some of these in addition to the canned pickles – last year I hated running out of hot red peppers, so this year I’ve made sure to have plenty
- Middle Eastern marinated sweet peppers from Joys of Jewish Preserving – I love these already because they include garlic. If this works out, it may be my go-to pepper recipe next year.
- peporonata cream from Preserving Italy – this is just for the refrigerator but already I like it as sort of a hot pesto to throw into things.
- Matbucha from Joys of Jewish Preserving – I love this so much – it’s made from tomatoes, red bell pepper, and hot red pepper. I made one extra jar, but next year I can see making even more.
- spicy pickled green beans
- more hummus (from Zahav cookbook)
- buttermilk from DIY Fermentation
- canned Asian pears – I am definitely not feeling Fall preserves so far, but after reading a Korean cookbook in which Asian pears were a key ingredient, I decided to preserve a basket of these while they were in season so that I could determine what to do with them later.
Here are some of the things we opened this month:
- fig jam (from Preserving Italy, made last year) – this came out OK, but next time I’d try a different recipe just for variety
- tomatillo & green chili sauce (w/chilaquiles) – this was a little too sweet for my taste, but it was good in this context
- peach mustard & mostarda (w/chicken) – these were just some leftover bits, but I thought they worked well
- tomato-serrano jam & Brock tomato jam (w/breakfast panini) – both of these tomato jams are so good with eggs and cheese
- We used the homemade crema in a salmon marinade as well as drizzled over tacos
- We used the homemade buttermilk in chicken marinade
- We opened the matbucha right away and had it with eggs – delightful! It was like a Middle Eastern salsa. I made sure to make another batch.
- We used some of the peperoncino cream with broccoli – it was really good, and I look forward to using more of this.
- Darth Plagueis – In general I don’t want to read Star Wars books that are not in the canon, but this one had been recommended, and I’m really glad I read it. It ties in beautifully with Episode One. I hope that parts of it become canon as James Luceno continues to write in the Star Wars universe.
- Canto Bight – this is a silly bit of Star Wars fun – it doesn’t advance any characters or plotlines in the canon, but all the stories were well written and entertaining. I enjoyed it.
- Joys of Jewish Preserving – as mentioned above, I enjoyed this very much and already tried a few recipes.
- Maangchi – I had been wanting this for awhile and was happy it went on sale. There are so many good looking recipes in here, I can’t wait to try some.
- In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison – this should be a good one, and I have a lot of recipes bookmarked.
- I finally finished reading a bunch of other cookbooks: Tasting Rome, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, Momofuku, Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes, and Grand Central Market Cookbook. I’m less likely to try recipes from most of these, but we’ll see.
I kept three pieces this time:
Last Month’s Update