March 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

All things considered, this has been a pretty interesting month.

We had 3 Noreaster storms, resulting in several snow days and delayed openings. The first one was the worst, showing up unexpectedly in the middle of a Friday, with extremely strong winds and icy snow. No one was prepared for it, the trains shut down, and people had a terrible time getting home from work. I got home OK on the subway, but Tom had to take a taxi, and several of my co-workers said it took over 4 hours for them to get home – they couldn’t catch buses or taxis and were stuck outside that whole time. The third storm was on the first day of spring, just to rub things in. So, it still doesn’t feel like spring yet.

fuck this shit

We went up to Fox Chase a few times this month to help pack up Tom’s mom’s house, and were treated to homemade beef bourgignon by Dennis, as well as lunch at Iron Hill Brewery.

We were thrilled by the Star Wars Rebels season finale!

We were fortunate to make it to the Philadelphia Orchestra twice this month. The first time was when my friend Amy G was in town and was able to get some discounted tickets, which included a violin concerto and Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony. The second time was for a program Tom chose, which included a trumpet concerto, Stravinsky’s Firebird, and Prokofiev’s 5th Symphony.

Backstage at the Kimmel Center!

I love Daylight Savings time, but man the transition this month was tough as far as sleeping. We are really enjoying the extra daylight in the evening, though. When the weather was actually nice, we took a pleasant walk on the new segment of the Schuykill Banks trail from South to Christian. I know it will still be many years away, but I still look forward to being able to walk all the way to Gray’s Crescent and Bartram’s Garden.

Schuylkill Banks

Work has been good. I went to a lunchtime yoga wellness program that was really great, and I also attended my first book club meeting. I’m stoked that next month I’ll be able to start working from home 1 day a week! I’m also getting a thrill out of cataloging government documents.

The Public Library Association conference was in Philadelphia, and we did get to spend time with one friend, but I wish I had seen more people. Unfortunately the storms put a big damper on the conference for everyone. That week, unrelated to the conference but coinciding with it, we went to a book talk by Tom’s friend Lynn to hear about her book, Vibrator Nation, so that was fun, especially since it meant getting back to University City for food & drinks.

Farmers’ Markets

The markets aren’t too exciting this time of year anyway, but this month was especially disappointing, since, due to the storms, our seafood vendor, Shore Catch, wasn’t able to get to sea, so we weren’t able to get any fresh fish. For a few weeks, we got frozen salmon from the other farmers’ market, and then the last week, we made a special trip to East Passyunk to go to Ippolito’s fish market. That was a fun treat – we ended up getting scrod and skate.

Wine

This was my first month getting a full shipment of 6 bottles. They let you preview your shipment online, and if there’s something you don’t want, you can switch it out. But, you can only switch out 3 times for the shipment, and what you get when you switch is chosen for you, so there’s a risk that when you switch, you’ll get something even worse than what you started with, and you can’t switch it back. To me, this is nonsense; I don’t need to be playing games (which is literally what this amounts to) with my purchase. So, that was annoying, as I ended up with one wine I really didn’t want. To be fair, I drank that one first, and it turned out fine.

This is the only wine I liked this month

In general, the stuff they are sending matches well with my desired food pairings (vegetables, fish, chicken) so on that front I can’t complain, but on the other hand, nothing excites me. All the whites I’ve received are more on the fruity/floral side than what I would prefer. It also annoys me that their wine tasting cards are inaccurate. For example, I got two bottles of Bergerac Blanc, which were described as having varietal “100% Bergerac Blanc”; but there is no such grape, Bergerac is a region, and the grapes were sauvignon blanc, semillon, and muscadelle, clearly printed on the bottle.

Additional sales: You can buy more of something you’ve already been shipped, but there is no way I can tell of seeing their entire inventory. Their wines are a tad more expensive than what I’d want to pay, so in addition to not being thrilled with the quality of any wines I’ve received thus far, I’m not interested in ordering extra.

As mentioned previously, their rating system is stupid. Thumbs up, Thumbs down, or No rating, is not adequate; since most are just OK, I don’t rate, and since I don’t rate, I can’t really improve what they send.

This was my second month of a 3 month subscription of two whites per month. Once again, the wines were very interesting. I got a Pinot Bianco from Friuli and a Malvasia Bianco from Salina (an island off Sicily). They were both pretty good but not as outstanding as the wines I got last month.

I wish there were a rating system, but this is much more like a traditional winery wine club where you get what you get (everyone gets the same thing) as opposed to something personalized, so ratings are moot.

The plusses are free shipping and excellent quality, interesting wines; the minuses are slow-ass ground shipping from California, which takes about a week. Prices are reasonable considering the quality of the wine, but a little higher than what I want to be paying on a regular basis.

Additional sales: You can buy whatever they carry, whether or not you’ve gotten it in a shipment (minimum 2 bottles each). You can also order a “mystery box” – which I admit I would trust them with based on the wines I’ve had so far. As far as I can tell they have no ros√©s ūüė¶

Even though the business model of this club annoys me, I will probably stick with it due to the excellent selection. I’m thinking of switching to a mixed x 4 bottle club instead of the white x 2 bottle club.

This was my second full month with the wine club, with 12 x whites. I absolutely LOVED the California white blend I got. Most of the others were pretty good, but I had my first true clunker, too (a CA sauvignon blanc), as well as one that was not quite awful but not quite good (a Portuguese sparkling)- so 4 out of 12 bottles were not things I wanted to drink. That ain’t cool.

I decided to order more roses + reds from their online store, thanks to a $20 credit, but also how awesome their online store is. It’s easy to filter by what matches your tasting profile, then by other factors such as varietal, style, country, etc. I really enjoyed the Italian red and the ros√©s that I ordered in addition to the wine club.

Everything about this club is WIN. Shipping is only $9.99, and wine prices are exactly the price range I’m comfortable with ($12-$15). Basically this has already become my #1 wine source. I plan to make many additional purchases in addition to the wine club.

This month I¬† received one of my biannual wine club shipments. This one contained Vermentino, Roussane, Dianthus Rose, Cote de Tablas, Tannat, and Panoplie. I was a bit shocked by the price on the Panoplie- it was much higher than they usually send in a wine club and far beyond my comfort level. I will have to save it for special occasion. So far, I’ve tried the Vermentino, Rose, and Cote de Tablas, which were all wonderful.

Tablas Creek Spring 2018 VINsider club shipment – image via Tablas Creek

I was annoyed that the monthly club shipment was quite late Рit was near the end of the month by the time I got it. However, I was rather pleased when it finally came. The theme for this month was Portugal. The white was a very fancy looking alvarinho , and the red was a grape I had never heard of, 80% baga, 20% touriga naçional. The alvarinho was excellent, and the red was very good.

I only went to the actual store once at the beginning of the month, and a few times at the end of the month. I’m getting closer to my goal of being almost free of them! I just need to time some additional shipments so that I have wines around at the end of the month + beginning of the next month.

Beer

For what it’s worth, I’ve checked into 1000 unique beers on Untappd

Dining In

  • We made chicken marsala, which always turns out lovely
  • For Tom’s birthday, I made cassoulet from My Paris Kitchen. I was pretty stoked to order tarbais beans from Rancho Gordo. I see more mail ordered heirloom beans in our future!
  • We made jungle curry clams from Night + Market
  • We made caramel salmon from Dinner
  • We twice made stir-fried bok choy w/peanuts from New Vegetarian Cooking
  • We made red beans & rice for lunches
  • We made chicken with harissa marinade from Zahav – this turned out great, and I would like to try it with fish as well
  • I had fun trying a few new cooking oils: mustard seed and avocado. I love the mustard seed oil with salad – it tastes like wasabi.
  • We made skate meuniere after a fun trip to Ippolito’s
  • I made baked flautas for lunch – OMG I frickin’ love this (thanks Local Mouthful!). I used whole canned pinto beans, green chiles, frozen corn, jack & cheddar cheese, and an assortment of homemade salsas: fermented tomato salsa, canned green salsa, canned tomato salsa, canned red escabeche peppers, and fermented jalape√Īos. I love bean burritos with all my heart but I’ve never found a pre-made version I care for. I think frozen burritos are awful. Legit flautas would not work since they’d be all fried and greasy, but these baked versions have just the right amount of structure so as to not get soggy or gross. This was made extra special due to all my homemade salsas and preserved peppers.
  • Tom made a delicious sausage, kale, & lentil stew¬†
  • Tom made braised chicken with lemon and olives
  • We made cod with herbed yogurt¬† – served with variation on that pomegranate chard recipe I made last month from Jerusalem, but with harvest grains instead of wheat berries. I loved the garlicky yogurt sauce with the cod! This is a keeper.
Cassoulet
peanut bok choy and turmeric cod

Dining Out

  • We went to SouthGate a lot this month: twice for brunch and three times for dinner! Some of this was definitely snow day related, since the food is so comforting and it’s literally across the street. Spoiler alert: we like it there
  • We made it back to Rex 1516 twice for brunch, once on our own and once with our friend visiting from out of town
  • I enjoyed a weekday lunch at IndeBlue with one of my former bosses
  • Tom brought home some delicious pickles from Al-Sham
  • We splurged on delivery to try the new pizza from Metropolitan Cafe, which was excellent
  • When our friend Bobbi was in town, we did a crawl of sorts, from Rex to Jet to Los Camarades.
  • Before and after attending a book event in University City, we went to both Zavino and CoZara, both hitting a spot
  • We had an excellent Friday off, in which we went to Bing Bing Dim Sum for lunch and Vernick for dinner (just bar snacks at the latter).
Margherita pizza from Metropolitan Cafe
Neighborhood crawl with Bobbi
Bing Bing Dim Sum

DIY

Making:

  • I finished making a jar of lemon garlic pickles from The Indian Family Kitchen. It was a really interesting process. First, the whole lemons were preserved in salt brine for a month, then the peels were sliced and hot packed with a pickle brine of vinegar, garlic, more spices, and the spices & salt brine leftover from the fermentation, then sealed and cured for a week. Since this is a British cookbook it didn’t call for water bath canning, but rather, was the “open kettle” method of sealing. I was skeptical, but decided to just follow the recipe. After a few days, I noticed some strange pink sludge had gathered at the top of the jar. I thought it was mold, but when I opened the jar, it wasn’t mold, just something slimy. Not wanting to take any chances, I tossed it and started over making a new batch, which I’ll try again next month. Honestly I’m not sure what went wrong. Initially I blamed it on the sketchy seal and the fact that I had been cooking hot, steamy things in the kitchen that might have caused something to bloom in the jar. On second thought, though, the slime may have developed in the fermentation step. Next time, to be safe, I’m going to water bath can for sure, and I’ll keep a closer eye on the fermentation to see if anything weird is going on; I also think I’ll add fresh spices, salt & lemon juice at the end rather than leftover brine as the recipe calls for, in case the brine has any residual unwanted funk.
  • I finished the fermented garlic paste I started last month – it looks more like pesto since it’s blue-green colored, but it tastes delish. I put an olive oil cap on it to keep it fresh in the fridge. So far we’ve enjoyed it as a quick way to make garlic bread.
  • I started and finished a batch of blaukraut, which is fermented red cabbage, apple, onion, and caraway. The recipe is from Fermented Vegetables, but I adapted it for small batch technique using a similar recipe from Ferment Your Vegetables. Very tasty! It filled a 1 quart jar and 1 smaller jar for the leftovers. One recipe said to ferment for 7 days and the other said 3-4 weeks, so I compromised at 2 weeks, but I wish I had stopped the smaller jar after 1 week for a not-so-sour version. Nonetheless the 2 week version was perfectly sour. I might prefer this to the other rye kraut recipe from Ferment Your Vegetables¬†that uses regular green cabbage rather than red cabbage.
  • I only canned one thing this month – I made calvados apple jam from Saving the Season.
  • I made a new batch of harissa and used it right away. I love having this around.
  • I made a new batch of hummus, which was delicious as always.
  • I tried making fermented celery, which I had read about in the Wild Fermentation Facebook group as a way to preserve leftover celery rather than letting it go to waste.¬† I fermented the celery slices for 5-6 days, which left them still very crispy and flavorful. So cool. I can’t wait to just have it around, and am curious as to how long it will last in the fridge. Tom used it for a lentil dish and said it worked great
  • I made a match of fermented pickled garlic cloves – I don’t really need it, since we always have garlic round, but I’m curious if/how it will be useful just in case.
  • I had been meaning to try fermented scallions for awhile now. I started a small batch with leftovers from dinner, but haven’t tried it yet. .
Alcohol-preserved ginger and turmeric
Fermented celery and Indian preserved lemons in progress

Using:

  • I’m trying to use more of my fermented ketchup from last year – with potatoes, etc.
  • We opened a jar of pickled zucchini – meh, it’s too soft and too vinegary – I would not do this again. I can toss it with some pasta but a little goes a long way
  • We opened a jar of pickled green beans – very tasty, but not as good as spicy green beans. We enjoyed this a lot.
  • We opened our last jar of homemade BBQ sauce and had it with chicken twice
  • I’m really enjoying the fermented garlic paste
  • We’re enjoying having fermented jalape√Īos around – it just simplifies things so much when you only need a bit of pepper for garnish or to throw in something
  • We are REALLY enjoying the gin-preserved ginger! This preservation method is brilliant- the ginger stays firm so much better this way than it does either in or out of the fridge or freezer, without losing any flavor or texture.
  • I used some canned whole tomatoes – I enjoyed crushing them by hand. They smelled good, but I didn’t really get to taste them, as they were mixed in with a quinoa dish I was cooking. Since the crushed tomatoes I made last summer were disappointing overall, I’m more interested in trying preserved whole tomatoes and crushing them as needed rather than preserving already crushed tomatoes.
  • We opened our last jar of heirloom tomato sauce – this was the best jar I’ve opened so far. It was much more rich and concentrated than other sauces I made last year.
  • We finished the last of my fermented salsa, so that’s it until tomatoes come back this year
  • We finally opened a jar of hot red pepper escabeche – OMG this is amazing. I wish we had opened it sooner for recipes that require hot red peppers when they’re out of season.
  • I opened a jar of the “official” (NCHFP) recipe salsa expecting it to suck, but it was actually pretty good. It’s a bit more onion-y than tomato-y, though – kind of like pico de gallo.
  • We opened our last jar of pickled peppers – I love this relish recipe from Saving the Season, it’s a keeper. As with some of the other successful preserved pepper recipes, I think oil is key to the final flavor.
Enjoying some pickled carrots, green beans, blaukraut, and hummus

Books

  • Continuing with my Malazan re-read, I finished Memories of Ice in print, and I started and finished House of Chains, the third and fourth books of the series respectively. Memories of Ice is one of my favorite books of all time, and that has not diminished one bit, after this (I believe my 6th?) re-read. I still bawled at the places where I’ve always bawled – the whole last 100 pages or so is an emotional wringer, and I love it. House of Chains has only gotten better after time – unlike Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice, it does not bring me to tears, but it is still incredibly satisfying. What I once thought were flaws in this book, I now see as strengths; the characters that I once saw as frustrating, I am now much more empathetic toward, after however many re-reads.
  • I rushed through The Left Hand of Darkness. It had been on my to-read list anyway, but since it was part of my work’s book club, I felt obligated to read it now. I had waited a long time to get it on hold via FLP Overdrive, but found that when it arrived, I wasn’t in the mood (sorry not sorry Malazan re-read). I stalled, then tried to finish it in the last 3 days before my loan expired, which was a less than optimal experience. I don’t think I was able to give it a fair enough chance one way or the other; I definitely need to read it again. Tom got a print anthology from his library, so I’ll give it another shot in print format.

Stitch Fix

I hadn’t got a fix for a while, but I was not especially thrilled with this shipment. I kept 2 pieces:a¬† black silk blouse, and a teal pencil skirt.

Last Month’s Update

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February 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

It was a short yet eventful month. The Eagles won the Superbowl, which was exciting for the city yet fairly disruptive. We ended up getting the day off work for the parade, since public transportation had all but stopped running except for getting people to and from the parade. Not being fans of crowds, we did not partake in the festivities. I used the day off to pack for my upcoming travel. We enjoyed a few warm spring-like days, but then it went back to being cool and rainy. Overall I’m really grateful for my new job. My travel reimbursement was all electronic and was processed in record time. The workplace has lived up to my expectations in terms of lively, civil discourse among staff, as well as robust and respectful services for students; for the most part, it’s a place I can stand behind. We went to see Black Panther, which was great, and we were super excited by the return of Star Wars Rebels, which is wrapping up its final season. Rebels S4E10 “Jedi Night” and S4E11 “Dume” were SO emotional!

Hera and Chopper hold hands
image via Star Wars Explained https://youtu.be/-JDYdC1kwso

In other news, I’m pleased that I feel like I’m making some progress on my finances. I transferred an IRA from my credit union to the banking service I use for my other investments. Since my credit union was still in the dark ages and didn’t provide online access to my retirement accounts, I hadn’t contributed in years. Now that I’ve moved it over, I’ll be much better able to start contributing to it again, since I can transfer funds to it electronically. Toward the end of the month, I got my tax refund, and I adjusted my withholdings so I can take a little bit home more per month but still hopefully be in good shape for next year. My speedy reimbursement from work for my travel helped me from taking too big a hit on my credit cards, and hopefully I’ll continue to make good progress paying those off (still hoping to do this by age 50). I was a little concerned when I noticed that my new take-home pay was not THAT much more than at my previous job, despite the raise. After doing some comparisons, I saw the main difference is I’m putting a lot more into my retirement contributions than I was before, which is actually a good thing, so I shouldn’t complain.

Travel

I took two back-to-back trips for work this month, first to Denver, and then to Washington, DC, totaling 8 consecutive days. By the last few days, I was pretty fried. The biggest drag was the weather difference between the two places, meaning I had to pack both bulky winter clothes as well as somewhat lighter winter clothes. I thought my poor bag was going to burst from being overpacked, but it somehow survived the trip.

Denver was pretty good. It snowed one day, but was otherwise pleasant. I absolutely loved the dry atmosphere, though many of my colleagues suffered from altitude sickness. I like downtown Denver overall, what with the pedestrian mall, the free bus, and it’s just overall so freaking clean and easy to get around. I did not care for the dudebro atmosphere at times, especially now that everyone seems high 24×7. I didn’t have time to really seek out anything special in terms of food or drink, but I did eat a lot of Mexican food and green chile, and I had pretty decent beer, but terrible wine. The conference was great – I wish I could have stayed another day.

Denver
green chili smothered breakfast burrito

I was glad to get to DC, where I was joined by Tom. We stayed in the Woodley Park / Adams Morgan area, which I was not previously familiar with, but I ended up liking quite a bit. The absolute best part was The Gin Joint, a bar that has like 100+ kinds of gin, which was right across from our hotel. We also had some enjoyable dinners at some nearby restaurants, including the Afghan Grill and the Lebanese Taverna. The conference was pretty good, too; the highlight was the reception at The Library of Congress. I had been to LoC once when I was 15 but don’t remember anything about it other than getting lost and separated from my parents on the tour. This time was excellent, as we had a special after hours experience. Such a fantastic building!

Library of Congress
The Afghan Grill

Wine

I tried a new wine club, Firstleaf. In my introductory shipment, I got three white wines, all of which were a bit on the fruity side, but fine. Nothing was outstanding. You can rate your wines to inform future shipments, but unfortunately it’s just thumbs-up or thumbs-down, no way to express “meh” or more nuanced opinions. I’m not super confident that the mechanisms are in place to refine this shipment to my palate, but I’ll give it a few months and see what happens.

This was the only remarkable wine from my Firstleaf shipment.

This was my second month with The Tasting Room by Lot 18, and this time I switched to an all-white case, which included two ros√©s. This club continues to be spot-on in terms of my taste, so I am very pleased. There was only one wine I thought was only OK because it was too oaky. I am overall loving this club, but my one complaint is I’d like to be able to do a mixed club that was more white than red rather than the other way around. I loved the red wines they sent me in my first shipment, but I can’t do 8 reds + 4 whites, as I barely drink 2 bottles of red wine per month.

At long last I FINALLY got my first shipment from Plonk. I was really down on this because I prepaid for 3 months on the 4th of January, but it took until mid February to see any wine. Unlike the other clubs, Plonk doesn’t have much in the way of account management on their website, so if you want to make any changes in your subscription, you have to do it on the phone or email. WUT. NO. Also, when my wine finally shipped, it was via slow-ass ground shipping that inched its way across the country, taking over a week. Anyway, once I got the wine, all was forgiven. These were some of the best wines I’ve had in ages. One was a Sardinian white grape I’d never heard of (Nuragus), and the other was a super minerally Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Barbara. Despite the shitty business model, I’ll probably stick with this since the wines are so good.

Last but not least (no actually, this is least), the State Store wine club had a stupid theme, “Wines to Love,” for Valentine’s Day. The wines were actually OK – a Chablis and a California North Coast Rhone Blend. Both were totally decent, but the clock is ticking on this wine club.

Dining In

I think we did pretty well this month in terms of trying to use more recipes from cookbooks:

  • I made a few more recipes from the Zahav cookbook: Moroccan carrots, and kale & apple walnut salad.
  • From the Dinner cookbook, I made cod with mushrooms
  • From New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, we made spaghetti squash with mushroom ragout.
  • From Jersualem, I made a delightful dish of chard & wheat berries
  • From Preserving Italy, we made spaghetti al limone
  • From Night + Market, I made a version of green papaya salad with green apples rather than green papaya. This was a really well balanced dish that I look forward to making again.
Zahav recipes at home

For internet recipes, we made

Seared scallops with pistachio dressing
Crispy mustard roasted chicken

In other cooking news, I bought a mini-food processor last month, and it’s working out well. Its capacity is very limited, but it does help for small quantity pastes and stuff.

Dining Out

We didn’t go out much this month, but I think most of it was memorable.

We went to brunch at Tio Flores and Southgate, both of which were delicious as always. SouthGate was also an awesome place to go for dinner after a long day of traveling.

We tried to give Keen another chance – we had wanted to go to SouthGate after the Eagles parade, but it was packed, so we had little choice but to go to Keen. We would love for this restaurant to be successful, but sadly, our experiences have been much like Craig Laban’s zero-bell review.

We had a lot of fun for Tom’s birthday. The weekend before, we went to Victor Cafe for dinner and drinks, as is somewhat of a tradition now. On the actual night of his birthday, we went to Almaz Cafe for Ethiopian food, which was fantastic. Afterwards, we had some delightful drinks at Rex 1516, thanks to Paco.

breakfast burrito at Tio Flores
Ethiopian food at Almaz Cafe

DIY

New projects:

  • I started a batch of lemon garlic pickles from Indian Family Kitchen – it’s different from preserved lemons I’ve made before, in that it uses water in the brine rather than packing them tight for the lemon juice. I’ll be interested to see how they turn out next month.
  • I made citrus salt from Preserving Italy – I liked that this just involved air drying, not oven drying, as I had bad luck with trying to make flavored salts last year (forgetting it was in the oven and burning it).
  • I started a garlic paste from Fermented Vegetables – it was my first time trying the bag weight method. I was also trying out new kind of salt (Redmond sea salt). The garlic turned bright blue immediately! But the book says this can happen and there is nothing wrong with it.
  • I made ginger preserved in gin and turmeric preserved in rum from Food in Jars. I’ll be interested to see how well this works for keeping the ginger fresh – the alcohol is supposed to burn off when you cook it, so I’ll see how it works in stir fries.
  • Finally, I canned some apples in calvados syrup from Saving the Season. Even though we can get apples most of the year, I figure it doesn’t hurt to have some put away for snackies, especially given how much we’ve been enjoying having canned peaches around.
citrus salt
preserved ginger and turmeric
apples in syrup

Past projects we opened:

  • peaches with bourbon tea syrup – we preferred the cold pack we opened last month (peaches with grappa syrup) over this one, which was a hot pack. The flavor was still really good, and I knew going in that the white peaches were going to discolor, so it was just a reinforcement to 1) use yellow peaches and 2) cold pack in the future.
  • passata, heirloom tomato sauce, and roasted tomato sauce – we do like these more reduced sauces better than the regular tomato sauce recipe, but we would also prefer that it be seasoned with garlic before canning. I should try making some spicy versions of sauce, too.
  • orange crushed tomatoes – I noticed from this time and last time that the citric acid is really noticeable in crushed tomatoes. I’m seeing the downside of water bath canning tomatoes, which requires added acid, as opposed to pressure canning.
  • blueberry gin jam! I had given some away at Christmas and was glad to finally try it myself. It had good blueberry flavor, not too sweet, but I wish more gin flavor came out.
  • green tomato pickles – we had these with sausage. Meh, they’re all right. A little too savory and pickley for my taste.
  • chile jam – we had this as a glaze for chicken. For some reason it doesn’t seem as spicy as I remember.
  • salsa verde – we opened another batch of this to have with scallops. I am pleased that this is Tom’s favorite salsa and am glad that I made so much of it! It’s also fun that each batch is slightly different, based on what kind of peppers were available at the time.

Books

  • I finished Deadhouse Gates¬†(print)- I cried when Duiker died, which goes to show this book continues to have an emotional impact even though I’ve read it lots of times.
  • Every Heart a Doorway¬†(Kindle via the library)- I really enjoyed the faerie kind of concept, even if the murder-mystery part was pretty predictable. I’ll probably read the other books in this series, but I’m in no rush.
  • The Guest Cat¬†(print via the library)- I read this book because it was part of a book club at my work. I was really moved by the cat – it was a simple, beautiful story. I enjoy when poets write prose.
  • Homegoing¬†(Kindle via the library)- holy crap this was amazing – it was my favorite book in a long time. I read it all in one setting, as I just couldn’t put it down. I look forward to reading it again, especially now that Tom bought it in print.
  • Ten Thousand Skies Above You¬†(Kindle via the library)- this is the second book in Claudia Gray’s Firebird series. I questioned the star-crossed lovers narrative that it started with, but it got more interesting by the end. It ended on a cliffhanger, but the 3rd book isn’t on FLP Overdrive! So I’m not sure when I’ll finish the series.
  • Jerusalem¬†(Kindle, got on sale) – though there was some overlap in recipes, this cookbook was a nice contrast to Zahav because it reflects the broader cooking traditions of many cultures in the city, not just Jewish cooking.
  • Night + Market¬†(Kindle, got on sale)- a very fun Thai cookbook. I love the wine pairings, practical advice, and bold flavors.
  • Thrawn¬†(Kindle, got on sale) – the writing is actually pretty good for a Star Wars novel. I found it to be a really interesting look inside Thrawn’s head, making him a more sympathetic character. Now I’m very curious to see where he’ll be at the end of Rebels
  • I started Memories of Ice¬†(print) as the next book in my Malazan re-read
  • I started New Vegetarian Cooking¬†(Kindle, got on sale).

Last Month’s Update

January 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

Um, this month pretty much sucked. As December ended with a death in the family, January began with the aftermath, with freezing temperatures and snow to top it off. Though I hate snow, I was glad for the two snow days off work, though we didn’t do anything fun, because bereavement. We spent a few days in the Northeast for the funeral, before and after, and started the long, sad process of trying to clean up the house. A week later, I did take a personal day, which we used to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi again, which was fun.

Sunrise in Fox Chase, the day of the funeral
Winter in Philly is pretty much gross

Farmers’ Markets

The first few weeks of January, farmers’ markets were canceled, first due to the holidays and then due to the weather. We were very glad mid-month when the markets were back on schedule, though sadly we did not take any pictures. We haven’t been feeling too bogged down with winter foods yet – on a typical week we get a squash (spaghetti or butternut), broccoli, kale and/or spinach, fresh herbs, mushrooms, onions & scallions, garlic & ginger, coffee, chicken, and fish. We are still seeing occasional peppers, which is nice, and if necessary we’ll supplement with some out-of-season zucchini, green beans, or cucumber from the produce market. Opening jars of last year’s summer preserves has certainly helped supplement as well.

Wine

Inspired by a post in Billy Penn, I decided to try out a few additional wine clubs. Currently I just have Tablas Creek and the ridiculous state store wine club. I’ve been waiting for some of my favorite California wineries to get PA shipping licenses but it just hasn’t panned out. Ideally I’d rather just be able to order retail from my beloved hometown wine store or from a proper wine store in Jersey, or from wherever I damn well please, but since the state of PA won’t let me, I have few options. So I figure, might as well take advantage of what I can, especially if I can try new wines, and save myself a trip to the stupid state store.

Anyhoo, I signed up for The Tasting Room by Lot 18, and Plonk.

So far, I am pretty thrilled with The Tasting Room. One of the things that attracted me to this club above the others is that they send you a wine sampler before you commit to the club in order to best determine your tastes. Many of these sites make you take some dumb online quiz to supposedly determine your wine preferences (do you take your coffee black? do you prefer dark or milk chocolate? the smell of sea spray or tropical forest?). While The Tasting Room did have such a quiz, I’m glad that it was followed up with ACTUAL WINE, in 6 oz mini bottles to avert waste and expense. Of the 6 samples they sent, we loved 5 and hated 1, so it was already off to a pretty good start, but we got the opportunity to make sure that we staved off any future oaky chardonnay shipments before they came. For the first shipment of full bottles, we liked everything, though some more than others. Being able to rate each wine helps curate our future experience. So, it’s like the StitchFix of wine.

I’m already a bit annoyed with Plonk since after a full month I have yet to get a shipment, but they only process them at the beginning of the month. I’m also a bit annoyed that it’s not personalized, but this is not unlike most winery wine clubs so it’s not that big a deal. Better luck next month, and I’ll have something to report!

I’ve been thinking about canceling the state store wine club for awhile, but have just been going month-to-month. This month’s theme was Spain, and both wines were quite good, so this membership survives another month.

Dining In

For Christmas, I got Tom the Half Baked Harvest cookbook, and from it he’s made a few wonderful recipes so far, including sesame fish, veggie burgers, and apple & brie soup.

sesame tuna
apple brie soup

Tom got me the Zahav cookbook, and I’ve made a few things, including tahini green beans, Israeli salad with pickled persimmons, and red pepper salad, along with the hummus recipe I’ve been making all along. Tom also made delicious pita to go with these tasty treats.

In addition to our cookbooks, we made a few decent Pinterest recipes, including garlic rosemary cranberry chicken,  scallop saganaki, and spicy-ginger-lemon chicken.

Dining Out

We’ve started making a habit of brunch at SouthGate, which is most welcome. On our day off, we tried out some sandwiches at Stockyard, which were very tasty, and we also had more beers and snacks at Second District Brewing. At the end of the month, we had an impromptu Sunday Supper at Russet, which was delightful.

local Ploughman cider at SouthGate
whole pig banh mi at Stockyard. Photo by Tom Ipri

DIY

I figured this would be a slow month for projects, but a few managed to materialize.

My dad sent me some unsolicited citrus from Arizona, which I had a hard time using up. I didn’t want to make marmalade again, so instead I ended up making canned tangerine slices with orange blossom water and vodka, using a cold pack recipe from Saving the Season. I look forward to seeing how they turn out.

Last month, I tried a Zahav-inspired cabbage ferment, but it was a complete fail. It probably would have worked better as a quick pickle.

Also last month, I forgot to mention that I made lemon-infused olive oil using a recipe from Preserving Italy. It turned out great and is excellent for salads.

I had leftover white and red wines we didn’t want to drink, which I finally decided to consciously turn into wine vinegar. It will take awhile, but we’ll see if they end up usable. If not, better to try than to just dump the wines down the drain.

This month, I made more wine-soaked carrots from Preserving Italy, which has turned out to be a staple.

For  a fish recipe this month, I made a quick pickled ginger, which turned out delightful. It really tasted just like something from a restaurant, so I was very pleased.

Thumbing through Saving the Season, a recipe for negroni jelly caught my eye. Jellies were something from last year that I feel like I didn’t get enough practice with, and um, we love negronis. This recipe was designed to be a byproduct of¬† a blood orange marmalade recipe. So, I decided to make both the blood orange marmalade and the negroni jelly byproduct, despite the fact that I really didn’t want¬† a bunch of jelly in my¬† life. I made both at the same time, and due to the multitasking, I think I actually screwed up the jelly, as it had the chance to cool down and got too thick. As for the marmalade, I’m not sure yet, I only know there is TOO MUCH of it. I am glad I finally bought a jelly bag, though – it really would have come in handy when I was trying to filter bitters a few years ago.

January 2018 preserves

We opened some previous months’ preserves:

  • salt-preserved green tomatoes: yikes, these were way too salty! I would not make these again.
  • spicy pepper relish – very tasty, though it could be spicier
  • fennel relish – very good, a pleasant, mild relish
  • zucchini relish – interesting! the celery seed really comes through, and the red wine adds to the earthiness
  • yellow crushed tomatoes – not bad, and I do like the novelty of different colored crushed tomatoes
  • smoked paprika tomato jam – we had this as a glaze on fish and it was pretty good
  • peaches in grappa syrup –¬† awesome! They were not too sweet, the peaches had a great firm texture, you could definitely taste the grappa flavor but it was not too boozy, and likewise there was plenty of vanilla but it was not overpowering. These were the best canned peaches of all time, and I can’t wait to make them again this summer.
  • I gave up on the cornichons and tossed them out. The gherkins were too porous and overall recipe was too tarragon-y

Books

  • Another Brooklyn – another excellent work by Jacqueline Woodson. I just love her writing style.
  • Zahav -Tom got me this cookbook for Christmas, and I enjoyed reading it all the way through. I learned a lot about what makes Israeli cooking distinctive, and I got a lot of good ideas. I made several recipes this month and will continue to do so.
  • Dinner – this was on sale on Kindle for $1.99 and I had heard such good things about it, I decided to try it out. It is really jam packed full of recipes you could put together on a weeknight that are not too elaborate but are still really interesting. I look forward to trying some of these out, and I can see buying the book in paper form so that it would be easier to navigate.
  • Killing Moon – I enjoyed reading N.K. Jemisin’s work in another fantasy world – it was a really well imagined setting and a captivating story. I will look forward to reading the sequel.
  • A Thousand Pieces of You – this was my first non-Star Wars Claudia Gray book and I really liked it. It’s a very interesting inter-dimensional travel story with a bit of mystery and a bit of romance.
  • I started re-reading Deadhouse Gates as part of my Malazan re-read, but did not finish by the end of the month. Sadly it was quite difficult to get used to reading a big heavy hardback after getting spoiled with the Kindle, but I didn’t give up, and eventually my eyes adjusted. It would be nice to own the whole series on Kindle, but that would be quite an expensive investment, so I’ll stick with my hardcover collection for now.


Last Month’s Update

December 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

This month was my first at my new job, which has meant getting to know a new campus, figuring out my new subway commute, trying new food trucks, etc. I might be slightly obsessed with the different colors and patterns of subway tiles on the Broad Street Line.

We got our first snow of the season, which thankfully didn’t stick around too long. I am not looking forward to winter. We enjoyed a few get-togethers with friends, including a birthday party held at a used bookstore, and a friend’s annual gl√ľhwein party. It got miserably cold and snowed again at the end of the month.

Day-after first snow at Temple U
Late-December snow in Fox Chase

We saw the new Star Wars movie¬†and really loved it. Our expectations were low after The Force Awakens, and due to the fact that we’ve grown to like Rogue One and Rebels over the main storyline movies. Nonetheless we loved the new direction of The Last Jedi. The only downside was we didn’t care for the “Black Box” theater at the Prince Theater where we saw it the first time, so we hope to make up for that by seeing it in a proper theater next time around.

Unfortunately the month ended on a very sad note, as Tom’s mother was in the hospital and then passed away suddenly. We are all grieving and are grateful for the love and support of family and friends.

Farmers’ Markets

This month I tried getting cut flowers from the farmers’ market for the first time, in an effort to spruce up my new office. I’m not sure how well this is going to work. The first week, some of the flowers had shriveled up between Saturday when I bought them and Monday when I came to the office. The second week, the flowers had some kind of dry pods that made a huge mess. Still, I like the idea. We’ll see. Winter might not be the best time for this experiment.

We tried some special local oatmeal via Z Food Farm, which was enjoyable during our time off. We also got some great hard cider from Frecon Orchards, which we used both for our cooking adventures and for drinking.

Frecon Farms Wæs Hæl

Wine

There’s not too much to say about wine this month. I was on the verge of canceling the state store wine club, but this month they sent Italian wines, so I’ll keep it for now. The red wine was from Alto Adige, made from 94% Schiava and 6% Lagrein. The white was a sauvignon blanc from Friuli.

Birthday

My birthday was on a Sunday, so we celebrated all weekend. (Normally I would have also taken a day off work, but I couldn’t since I had just started a new job, and it turned out fine since my birthday was over the weekend anyway.)

On Saturday, we had a lovely brunch out at SouthGate. I am not into bloody mary cocktails, but I was intrigued by theirs and decided to try it. I couldn’t finish it, but it was very good and very savory, and it came with a delightful sidecar of spicy soju. I tried their shortrib moco loco for my entree, which was fantastic. We also shared some kimchi deviled eggs, and Tom got the Korean fried chicken with green tea waffles.

Brunch at SouthGate

For Saturday dinner, Tom cooked for me, and made a slow cooked tomato gravy and braciole, which we had over fresh pasta, and which was unsurprisingly delicious.

linguine with red sauce and braciole (photo by Tom Ipri)

For Sunday brunch, Tom made me chilaquiles divorciados, using some salsa I had canned in summer, one roasted tomatillo and one chunky tomato.

chilaquiles divorciados

For Sunday dinner, we went out to Friday Saturday Sunday. We have been to the bar many times, but it was our first time getting a table and eating in the dining room upstairs. As expected, it was excellent. We shared a bitter green salad (with nori caesar dressing – I love the idea of using seaweed rather than anchovies to flavor a caesar), grilled octopus, sweet potato agnolotti, and roasted chicken.

Friday Saturday Sunday

Christmas

For Christmas, we made this into a multi-day cooking affair. On the 23rd, Tom made some homemade bread, and for dinner we had orecchiette with tiny lamb meatballs.

homemade bread
orecchiette with tiny lamb meatballs

On the 24th, Tom made croque madame using the homemade bread from the day before. For dinner, we did our variation on the Feast of the Seven Fishes by making a seafood paella. We only have a 9 inch paella pan for two, so 3 “fishes” were plenty (scallops, clams, and shrimp), but I could see also trying to make room for maybe some octopus and crab meat. We cooked the seafood separately and added it to the top of the paella at the end, which isn’t traditional, but I think it worked better, since that way the scallops got a nice sear, and the shrimp were extra seasoned with smoked paprika and garlic.

croque madame
Paella

On the 25th, for breakfast I made a mushroom strata with the rest of the homemade bread, which was quite good. Despite the bacon and tallegio, it wasn’t as heavy as some stratas I’ve made. For dinner we had cider-braised pork with applejack and dates (recipe from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, only we used applejack instead of Calvados and dates instead of prunes), and an apple-walnut radicchio salad.

strata
Pork with Applejack and Dates

We also made 3 batches of cookies:

peanut butter sriracha cookies

We enjoyed exchanging gifts with each other and a few family members. Highlights included author jersey t-shirts from our local used bookstore, Neighborhood Books – Heller 22 for me, Pynchon 47 for Tom – as well as some cookbooks (Zahav, Half Baked Harvest), ornaments, jewelry, glassware, knitted hats from my mom, hand-blended tea from my cousin Jenny, and a Chopper hat!

Chopper hat and Chopper shirt

For the 26th, we enjoyed a nice afternoon tea at The Dandelion, and for the 27th, we had a delicious meal of red sauce, meatballs & ravioli at Dennis’s, to round out the Christmas festivities.

The Dandelion

New Year’s

For New Year’s Eve, rather than going out for tamales as we usually do, instead we made a cornbread tamale pie. Tom made a batch of beer bread from the Half-Baked Harvest Cookbook, which turned out great. On New Year’s Day, we made cider-brined turkey legs with applejack gravy from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook,¬†which turned out pretty well – I especially liked the gravy.

Dining In

We did a lot of cooking for the holidays, but other than that we didn’t try many new recipes this month. The standouts where spaghetti with spaghetti squash and tadka dhal from The Indian Family Kitchen. Also, for lunches, I enjoyed making the insalata di riso from Preserving Italy, which was a great way to use up various opened jars of pickled things in the fridge.

Otherwise, we looked for inspiration from past recipe success rather than trying new recipes. This included:

Dining Out

We didn’t go out too much this month, other than for my birthday. After my first day of work at my new job, we did go out for a special dinner at Southwark. It was nice to finally sit in the dining room and try the food rather than just sit at the bar.

Southwark – photo by Tom Ipri

In the neighborhood, we spent some additional time at SouthGate, Keen, Friday Saturday Sunday, Little Spoon, and Tio Flores. I really hope for more meals at SouthGate in my near future, I just really enjoy it there.

Mandu at SouthGate
chilaquiles con carne at Tio Flores

DIY

Now that canning season is over, it’s basically back to ferments. I made a batch of fermented radishes and a batch of fermented jalape√Īos, both to use as toppings/condiments, or for recipes that just call for a small amount. I had some leftover buttermilk from Thanskgiving, so I turned the rest of that into a delicious buttermilk ricotta, with the recipe from Preserving Italy. My pickled mustard greens from last month never quite turned as bright yellow as I hoped, but I went ahead and stopped the ferment once it seemed nothing new was happening. This time of year I can get napa cabbage from the farmers’ market in a reasonable quantity, which I much prefer to the giant heads at the grocery store, so I made kimchi (the “everyday” kimchi recipe from Ferment Your Vegetables). I still had a bit left of my last kimchi, which was still fine, so I mixed in the old with some of the new when it was finished. It was very bubbly, so I’m quite excited to see how this one ages. I also started a sauerkraut based on a pickle we had at Zahav. I was hoping when I got the Zahav cookbook that this recipe would be in it, but it wasn’t, so I improvised. It’s napa cabbage with red onion, sumac, mint, dill, za’atar, aleppo pepper, and clove. It won’t be ready until next month but I look forward to trying it.

We opened a few jars of things canned in summer: roasted tomatillo salsa and chunky tomato salsa, both of which we used in my birthday chilaquiles, and a jar of pickled peppers from Saving the Season. The chunky tomato salsa was very spicy, and I was quite pleased with it. The tomatillo salsa wasn’t spicy enough, but it was still tasty enough that I’d make it again. The canned pickled peppers are naturally more vinegary than the oil-preserved peppers we had just finished up, but I still like them.

I decided to finally give up on the homemade miso & soy sauce I started in June, which were supposed to ferment for a full year. Both had developed mold, which is a lesson learned both in terms of brine level as well as keeping more of a constant eye on things. It’s especially disappointing to have these not work out, since I injured my finger pretty bad when I was making them. Oh well, I still have plenty of soy beans if I decide to try again.

Books

I started the month by reading Vicious by V.E Schwab. I had enjoyed her Shades of Magic series and snagged this in a Kindle sale since the library doesn’t have it. I enjoyed it and will look forward to the sequel.

I was in a lull with my Overdrive hold queue at the library, where I didn’t want to place any more holds until my current holds came up, so I bought another book I had been looking forward to, Deadhouse Landing, the sequel to Dancer’s Lament. So, first I had to re-read Dancer’s Lament. Both were great, and I loved the way Deadhouse Landing expanded the story and introduced more familiar characters and settings. As soon as I finished, I wanted to be back in the Malazan world, so I re-read Gardens of the Moon. I would have kept going, but, some of my library holds came up, and I hit the dilemma where continuing with Malazan would have meant either going back to print (that font is small!) or having to buy things all over again in Kindle format.

After about 6 months I finally got my hold for The Stone Sky, the conclusion to N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series. Wow, what a fantastic ending to the series. This world was so rich, and I felt like there was just as much if not more world-building in the last book as there was in the first book – so much revealed and so much to learn. I highly recommend the whole trilogy.

In the meantime I also re-read Bloodline, in lieu of the new Star Wars movie. It fills in some important plot points relevant to the new trilogy that I wanted to be reminded of.

Last Month’s Update

November 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

This was my last month working in University City(!), so I did my best to savor the walk to work on the Schuylkill as well as all the food on the way. I made sure to sample all the breakfast pastries and sandwiches at Walnut Street Cafe, Res Ipsa, and Rival Bros (though I live near the latter, I probably won’t go there as often since it won’t be on the way to work anymore). I was fortunate to get to have lots of lunches and parties with work people, including at COOP, Zavino, Sabrina’s, Lemon Grass, and Sang Kee.

Farewell gifts from work

Finally, I had Thanksgiving Break and about a week off to finish the month. It’s finally feeling autumnal, though there wasn’t much in the way of fall color in the city. While my time off between jobs was far too short, it was a nice combination of relaxing and running errands that I normally don’t have time for when I’m working, plus a bit of personal care. I took my Kindle to the patio as well as to some parks and caf√©s. It’s hard to imagine you’re on the beach when you’re not, but that’s the mindset I tried to evoke.

Farmers’ Markets

We’re fully into Fall, and have embraced all the squash and apples that that entails. I always especially love our farmers’ market bounty the weekend before Thanksgiving and all the extra goodies we get for the festivities.

Wine

We went to a Thankgiving-themed wine class at Jet Wine Bar, which was enjoyable as always. Our favorites were the Domaine Plageoles Gallac Mauzac Nature 2015 and the¬†Domaine de Botheland Laurence et Remi Dufaitre, Beaujolais-Villages L’Air de Rien 2013. The¬†Tenuta la Favola Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2015 was also quite nice, not nearly as fruity as most Nero d’Avolas.

This month’s State Store wine club was another disappointment. The theme was South Africa, and I got a so-so sauvignon blanc and a pinotage. If this mediocrity keeps up I’m going to have to cancel.

Thanksgiving

We had two Thanksgiving meals, one for the two of us and one with Tom’s mother and brother. This year, we got all of our recipes from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. We also got some fantastic hard ciders from Ploughman Farm Cider.

Thursday:

  • Tennessee Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Apple
  • Cider-glazed Root Vegetables
  • Braised Brisket with Apples and Hard Cider
  • green beans
  • desserts from The Baker’s Jar

Friday

  • We brought Squash Apple Gratin and an Apple Walnut Salad with gorgonzola and radicchio
  • Tom’s brother and mother made turkey, gravy, savory bread pudding, cranberry sauce, green beans, pumpkin pie, and coconut cream pie

Between both meals, the leftovers kept us going for most of the next week!

Dining In

We got exhausted with hunting down new recipes, so instead we revisited some past “recipe success”

Scallops with apple cider glaze

One new recipe we tried was the pasta e fagioli soup from Preserving Italy, which was absolutely fantastic. We will definitely have to make it again soon! Part of what made it so excellent was the “pesto abruzzeze” that was also in the book – as well as some really fantastic 1732 meats pancetta.

Dining Out

We got out to a few regular places as well as some other places where we hadn’t been in awhile:

Luke’s Lobster

We also got to try a few new places, which was exciting:

  • Keen is finally open! We’ve been waiting for this for years. We had some snacks and beers and really enjoyed the vibe at the bar. We look forward to going back soon.
  • We went to Second District Brewing on one of my days off and both the food and the beer were delicious. We will definitely be getting back there during winter break.
  • I tried the Turducken sandwich from Jake’s Sandwich Board, which was great. I definitely need to try more sandwiches from there.
  • I got takeout from Mama’s Vegetarian, and the falafel, hummus, and pita, were all deserving of the high praise.
  • I tried the new(ish) Rival Bros on Spruce Street – the food and coffee weren’t different from the one on Lombard, but it was nice to experience it in a somewhat bigger space.
KEEN
Second District Brewing
Rival Bros
Mama’s Vegetarian

DIY

The canning season is officially over, so I didn’t do much in the way of preservation or other DIY projects this month. The Food In Jars Mastery Challenge was fermentation this month, but since I’ve been fermenting for over a year I didn’t feel obligated to participate. I did make:

  • pesto abruzzeze from Preserving Italy
  • healing bitters
  • fermented mustard greens
  • cranberry fruit paste – I used this recipe to use up some leftover cranberries. It didn’t set as well as my apple-pear paste last month – I think it may have needed to cook longer in the saucepan before I transferred it to the oven, as it just didn’t seem to want to lose all its liquid and was still kind of jam-like.
  • quark – I made this to use some extra buttermilk. It’s somewhere between yogurt and cheese, like sour cream but made with milk instead of cream. It was way easier to make than yogurt, so I can see making this as an alternative.

We didn’t open many of the preserves from previous months, but we did finally try my blueberry chutney with roasted chicken, which was very good.

Books

  • Akata Warrior – this was amazing, I loved it. Tom helped me find my print copy of Akata Witch, which I plan to read (re-read?) soon.
  • Strange the Dreamer – wow! I am blown away by the imagination of Laini Taylor. Toward the end I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a standalone book or the first in a series, and… of course it turns out to be the first in a series, so I’ll have to patiently wait to see what happens next!
  • Provenance – this was also quite enjoyable. I didn’t realize it was going to touch so much on the events of the Ancillary Justice series. The main character had a serious case of imposter syndrome that was realistically portrayed to the point where it was giving me anxiety, which I have mixed feelings about, but overall, a great new installation in this universe.
  • Gemina – the second book in the Illuminae Files series. I got this in print from the library since the first book of the series was so frustrating to read on the Kindle. That was definitely the right choice as there are so many powerful scenes conveyed through the art rather than with words. This certainly encouraged me to continue this series whenever the 3rd book comes out, as well as to check out Illuminae in print to re-read it in its native format.
  • A Conjuring of Light – the third book and conclusion to the Shades of Magic series. It was a satisfying ending, but for some reason I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first and second books.
  • Oathbringer – the 3rd book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. Despite being a 1200+ page book, I found it to be not very substantial – kind of like the later Wheel of Time books. I might feel differently on a re-read, but I overall just feel like this entry didn’t move the series forward significantly. I also probably was less interested since the primary character this time around was Dalinar, whom I find to be a bit of a yawn.
  • Borne – Tom had checked this out from the library and recommended it – a very thoughtful and imaginative tale.

Stitch Fix

I got a great Stitch Fix and kept all 5 pieces:

Current Air Ghita Mini Pleat Bell Sleeve Blouse, Brixon Ivy Cyndi Lace Pencil Skirt
Leota Seraphina Cotton Blend Textured Knit Dress
Octavia Joyce Infinity Check Skarf, 41 Hawthorn Rayma Blazer

Last Month’s Update

October 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

Most of the interesting things that happened this month in Philadelphia were during our staycation, which I’ll discuss more below. Other than that, the highlight was going to our friend Emily’s for a “Tea & Kittens” party, in which she served an English afternoon tea and we got to meet her new kittens. I brought over some black currant jam I had made earlier in the summer, and Tom made scones. Emily made a delicious spread of tea sandwiches and even more scones with clotted cream.

Tea & Kittens

New York

My childhood friend Heather was in New York for a few weeks for work/school, and she invited me up for a get-together with another childhood friend, Melissa, who lives in NYC. I took a bus up and back the same day, and the three of us got together for lunch and a walk on the High Line. It was great to see them, and all in all, a nice little trip.

Friends

Staycation

At the end of the month, at long last, it was our week long staycation in Philadelphia! We’ll blog about it in more depth at SuperPlus Eats, but in the meantime here’s a rundown:

Day 0: We got off to an unofficial kickoff after work on Thursday, with cocktails at Friday Saturday Sunday and Rosario’s pizza delivery at home.

Cocktails at Friday Saturday Sunday; Rosario’s pizza at home

Day 1: I still had to work on Friday, but Tom had the day off and went to 3 movies! Afterwards we met at a South Philly classic Italian-American place, Dante & Luigi’s. We shared appetizers of roasted peppers and broccoli rabe. I got the perciatelli bolognese, their specialty, which was a veal ragu with bucatini noodles.

Dante & Luigi’s

Day 2: We started the day with a trip to the farmers’ market, followed by brunch at Cuba Libre. We enjoyed the chips & dips and some brunchy cocktails. I had the brunch paella for my entree, and we shared some churros for dessert. It was OK but I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to return. After that, Tom went to a movie, and we had dinner at home.

Brunch at Cuba Libre

Day 3: This was a pretty special day, in which we were joined by Tom’s brother Dennis. We started with brunch at Walnut Street Cafe, which was delicious. Afterwards, we visited Cira Green, then went down to the Walnut Street dock to catch a boat tour to Bartram’s Garden. As with our last Schuylkill River boat tour, we really enjoyed the trip and the very informative guide. We had 2 hours at Bartram’s Garden before we had to catch the boat back, which included a 1 hour guided tour and 1 hour on our own to explore. None of us had been to Bartram’s Garden before, and we all loved it. After the boat tour, we were able to grab a beer at 24 Cafe before Dennis headed home, and we went home and cooked up some scallops.¬† We finished the evening with a movie at the film festival, Lady Bird.

Bartram’s Garden

Day 4: This was another fun day. We started the day with breakfast at Sam’s Morning Glory Diner, where I got the neighborhood frittata (provalone, spinach, red peppers). Afterwards, we visited the new Museum of the American Revolution, followed by a beer at Twisted Tail. Tom went to the movies, and then later we met up for dinner at Barcelona Wine Bar. We shared cheese, charred tomatoes, shishito peppers, octopus, and meatballs, along with some lovely glasses of wine. Afterwards we checked out ITV for a cocktail.

Zagar in South Philly on Day 4

Day 5: This was a bit of a lazy day. We had originally set this day aside, without any movies, thinking we would go on more of a day trip outside the city. However, we both got a little sick, and it turned out to be raining most of the day, so instead it was just a nice peaceful day at home to relax. We went out for lunch at Dan Dan to get some spicy noodle soup, and then for dinner we went to a new place in the neighborhood, Trattoria Carina, for some Italian comfort food. Both outings were wonderful.

Lunch at Dan Dan
Dinner at Trattoria Carina

Day 6: This was another fun day. We had breakfast at On Point Bistro, where I got a proper huevos rancheros. We went to a movie together, the Norwegian movie Thelma. Afterwards we headed up to Fishtown for dinner at Root wine bar. It was happy hour, so we enjoyed some of their innovative gin & tonics, as well as a bunch of appetizers and wines by the glass. The fennel zeppoli and mushroom croquetas were real standouts, as were the mushroom toast, tomato toast, and cheese plate.

Huevos Rancheros at On Point Bistro
Gin & Tonic at Root

Day 7: This day was a little hit or miss. We had wanted to go to Porto, a Portuguese restaurant, for breakfast, but found out it was permanently closed. We went to Hawthorne’s instead, which was OK; the breakfast was nothing special, but overall we did like the vibe. Tom went to the movies, then we met up for drinks at Bar One and then dinner at Monsu. We both got the menu turista at Monsu, which is a total steal for $40. In fact it was far too much food and we both stuffed ourselves and felt super bloated afterwards. I would definitely go back, though, just pace it differently and try to mix in more vegetables. I got calamari, rabbit agnolotti, beef cheek, and panna cotta.

Spicy Negroni at Bar One

Day 8: The day got off to a special start with lunch at El Compadre. As with last year’s visit to South Philly Barbacoa, we were treated to outstanding food and hospitality. The cafe de olla alone is worth the visit, but we also really enjoyed the chicken mole tortas. Chef Cristina treated us to some complimentary apple bread as well as some pumpkin atole. We definitely need to make it back here more often. After lunch, Tom went to the movies, and then we met up for dinner at Melograno, an Italian BYOB not far from where we live that we had been meaning to get to for 6 years. The food and service were excellent, and we look forward to going back there as well. I had a chestnut pasta with vegetables, as well as a smoked tuna appetizer with cannellini beans.

El Compadre

Day 9: We started the day with our weekly trip to the farmers’ markets, this time having to stock up on more food since staycation was almost over. After that we went to brunch at Blue Duck on Broad, which might have been the biggest disappointment of staycation. The food was actually OK (I got the duck benedict, which was most memorable due to the use of potato rolls and not so much for the duck), but the vibe sucked – no draft beer, too many TVs, too many bros. We went to a movie together, 11/8/16, which turned out to be our last movie of the film festival. Afterwards we got a drink and some calamari at Whetstone, then went home and cooked dinner.

Duck Benedict at Blue Duck on Broad

Day 10: Last day of staycation! A big rainstorm came in so we didn’t go to any movies, though we had originally planned to see at least the animated shorts and possibly also the live action shorts. Our original brunch plans didn’t work out, either, but we made up for it by visiting Sweet Lou at Rex 1516 and had a delightful brunch there. I got the chipped brisket, which was excellent, and Tom got the fried chicken & waffles. We went home and relaxed the rest of the afternoon, then finished staycation at Pumpkin. Our courses included butternut squash soup, purple sweet potato, sunflower seed risotto, sausage for Tom and salmon for me, chocolate cake for Tom and panna cotta for me.

It was all over too soon. I want another week!

Farmers’ Markets

Tomatoes are definitely winding down – I still bought a few large tomatoes as well as some green tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes are done – they’re still at the farmers’ market but they don’t last more than a day. No more corn, zucchini, or peaches. We’re still buying plenty of peppers, but we’re not quite ready for winter squash. We did buy a lot of apples, so it appears that’s the easiest way to ease into fall!

colorful tomatoes

We made a special trip to Headhouse farmers’ market one week, where we got pink oyster mushroom from Queen’s Farm, a delightful radicchio, and some amazing Anadama bread from High Street on Market.

Headhouse Farmers’ Market

Wine

I got my biannual wine club shipment from Tablas Creek. We enjoyed all three of the whites, but the three reds all need to age some more before we open them. I made an extra order of a new wine they offered for the first time this year, a picardin, but it was way too fruity for our tastes; we can’t drink it, so we’ll save it for cooking.

The state store wine club this month was nothing to write home about. There wasn’t really a theme other than “new releases.” The red was a Ribera del Duero, which was fine. The white was a Napa chardonnay, which was unsurprisingly too oaky and fruit for us.

Dining In

We didn’t cook much this month due to Staycation. However, earlier in the month we did have some very nice home cooking successes:

Scallops with pea puree – photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

Most of this month’s dining out is described above in Staycation, however before that we did have a few other lovely outings. When my dad was still in town, we had brunch at Noord, which was probably my favorite brunch of the month and perhaps even the whole year. The hospitality was excellent; I felt like I was dining with family. The food was amazing: fresh hot rustic bread, bottomless French press coffee, and seasonal vegetables including some wonderful heirloom tomatoes. I can’t wait to go back! We also took my dad to Pumpkin, which meant we actually went there twice this month. Turned out we hadn’t been for 3 years, so we’re making up for lost time.

Brunch at Noord

I had a day off for the holiday that shall not be named, and we had a delightful lunch at Cheu Noodle Bar.

Cheu Noodle Bar

DIY

This month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was a choice between pressure canning or dehydration. Well, pressure canning definitely wasn’t happening due to equipment, and anything interesting with dehydration would involve a dedicated dehydrator, so that didn’t happen either. Yeah, I accidentally dehydrated some herbs by leaving them out, but that doesn’t count. So, I didn’t participate in this month’s challenge, but finished up the last of the projects I had previously bookmarked in Preserving Italy and Saving the Season.

First off, I wanted to make stuff with green tomatoes:

  • green tomato preserves from Preserving Italy
  • green tomato chutney from Saving the Season
  • pickled green tomatoes from Saving the Season

I also wanted to finish up an idea I had last month to make crushed tomatoes with all different colors of heirloom tomatoes. I just like the idea in winter that I could make a “red” sauce that is actually green, yellow, or orange.

Multi-colored crushed heirloom tomatoes. Photo by Tom Ipri

I made one more batch each of peach butter and apple butter, primarily for gifts. I really loved how the color turned out on my apple butter, which involved 1 honeycrisp, 1 mutsu, 1 stayman winesap, and 1 crimson crisp. The crimson crisp added a lovely pink hue to everything.

The last few things I wanted to make included:

  • roasted red pepper escabeche from Saving the Season – I used esplette, cherry bomb, and red serrano peppers, in lieu of red jalape√Īo
  • pickled green beans from Saving the Season (cold pack)
  • fennel relish from Saving the Season

When we went to Headhouse farmers’ market they had some Anaheim green chilies, so I just couldn’t resist making another batch of salsa verde.

Finally, though this is ahead of schedule for the FIJ mastery challenge, I decided to make a fruit paste, the apple-pear paste from Preserving Italy. It looks great!

Apples and pears for fruit paste

We opened a few jars from previous months’ preserves:

  • small batch tomato sauce from Preserving Italy – this turned out well
  • first batch of crushed tomatoes from Saving the Season – a bit unremarkable, but this was my first try, so we’ll see how the others turn out
  • hot sauce – I’m still so pleased with how this turned out
  • apple butter and peach butter – these are just leftover bits that didn’t get canned, but they’re fun nonetheless
  • green tomato preserves – this was also a leftover bit, but man, this is definitely one of my favorites of the entire year – green tomatoes + vanilla is such a lovely sweet & savory combination
  • black currant jam – we opened this to bring to a tea party, and it was just lovely with scones. I like how the tartness balances out the sweetness
  • spiced tomato jam from Preserving Italy – this was more like a marmalade in texture – it must have been lemon zest + chili peppers that created the effect. It’s very different from the Sean Brock version that was more ketchup-like in texture.

Books

  • I started the month reading Illuminae, which is a bit hard to explain, but sort of a space opera. It was definitely not a good experience on the Kindle due to its elaborate, artistic layout; the Kindle did not allow for zooming appropriately, so many pages were just lost to me. I’m sure it’s much more immersive in print. Either way I was not into the epistolary style with the story being told via documents, chat messages, etc. It reminded me of not-so-good teen novels I read when I was focusing on YA lit in library school. But despite my dislike of the format, by the end I did get into the story and wanted to find out what happens next. I’ll just have to read the sequels in print.
  • Next up I read a Star Wars canon novel, Rebel Rising, Jyn Erso’s story from the time Galen was abducted and her mother died, to the beginning of Rogue One. Unlike the Rogue One novelization, Jyn’s voice felt authentic and believable. She had quite the rough life, and it worked for me to have her reach her nadir and completely give up on hope just prior to the events of Rogue One, making the movie all the more impactful.
  • We got a few cookbooks on sale from Amazon. Tom got the Apple Lover’s Cookbook, which is really fun both for the recipes as well as apple nerdery. So far we’ve made apple risotto and an apple walnut radicchio salad. I also got Fermented Vegetables, which was a good addition to my fermentation collection, but much more focused on large batch crock fermentation, which means I’ll be unlikely to try most of the recipes anytime soon.
  • A Gathering of Shadows – I finally got this from my hold list; it’s the second book of the Shades¬†of Magic series. I read it really quickly because it’s so engaging; I love this series and can’t wait to get the next one!
  • Akata Warrior – I started this toward the end of the month but did not finish; it’s really good so far!

Last Month’s Update

September 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

The month got off to a nice start with Labor Day weekend. We walked to the Delaware river to take some photos, stopped by Headhouse farmers’ market, and went to see a movie, The¬†Trip to Spain. The movie was mostly as enjoyable as the two previous installments, but it ended quite strangely and I wasn’t sure where it was going.

SummerFest

In the middle of the month, we took a walk to Paine Plaza to see the new All Power to All People installation, and we had a fun excursion to a Phillies-Dodgers game. Incredibly, despite the fact that Kershaw was pitching, the Phillies won.

All Power to All People, at Paine Plaza
Dodgers at Phillies

Tom’s brother Dennis got a new grill, so we went up to the Northeast to try it out. Dennis supplied veggies and shrimp, and we brought fresh swordfish and corn from the famers’ market.

Grilling in Dawg’s back garden

At the end of the month, my dad came to visit, and we enjoyed the Secrets of the Schuylkill riverboat tour.

Secrets of the Schuylkill

Farmers’ Markets

We still enjoyed a lot of summer produce this month, but the tomatoes are starting to go away already. I’m finishing up my wish list of summer preserves, so I’ll need a new hobby!

9/9/17

Wine

The September wine club’s theme was Women Winemakers. For the Aficionado tier both wines were from Lane Tanner, the winemaker for Lumen Winery in Santa Barbara County. I was familiar with her wines due to her long history of making wines in the Santa Maria Valley under her own label and with Zaca Mesa, Hitching Post, and Firestone. I love her low-alcohol style that really lets the grapes express themselves. We enjoyed the grenache blanc with our summer grilling, and the grenache at Pumpkin BYOB.

Dining In

On Labor Day, we made a delicious feast using recipes from The Indian Family Kitchen. We tried her recipe for burgers, which was absolutely delicious, and we served it with a variety of chutneys from the book, including date chutney, onion chutney, peach chutney, chile jam, apple relish, and cucumber raita.

Labor Day burger & chutneys from The Indian Family Kitchen

Other fun things we made this month included:

Syrian omelette
Chicken with pastis. Photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

This was a pretty fun month for dining out. On my own, I enjoyed the very last Friday half day of the summer on September 1 and took myself to baology to enjoy some Taiwanese snacks. They have a great combo deal where you can get potstickers, gwa baos, and ruen bings. I had veggie postickers, mushroom gwa bao, and a pork ruen bing. When I was in Taiwan I didn’t know what ruen bings were called but I used to get them at the night markets often. These were even better than the night market versions, due to the local Berkshire pork and other outstanding ingredients. I wish they were open longer hours! I also tried the Roast food truck and had some delicious Filipino Cebu style lechon (I watched them carve the whole suckling pig in the truck!) and garlic fried rice.

baology

We had some nice brunches this month, including at Rex and Mixto. We also went back to Cafe Lutecia for their BYOB for the first time in awhile. We enjoyed hanging out at Jet on Sundays with Amanda, especially as it turned out it was her last month there as she moves on to a new opportunity.

Colombian Breakfast at Mixto
beef cheek stew at Cafe Lutecia

When my dad was in town, we tried several new restaurants, with an emphasis on seafood, including Pinefish for dinner, Ippolito’s for lunch, and Indeblue for dinner. The experience at Ippolito’s was fantastic. My dad picked out a fish, which they cooked for us and split three ways (served with clarified butter), and they also cooked up some delicious chard. We ordered a couple jumbo lump crab cakes and enjoyed our meal there. They were so nice, bringing us some extra habanero balsamic vinegar to try and letting us try some seafood salad. We also really enjoyed Indeblue; we had been there before for brunch and snacks but never for dinner. We got the crispy spinach chaat as always, but also tried an amazing mushroom dosa and tandoori shrimp. I ordered a goat curry, Tom got some delicious pork vindaloo, Dennis got lamb, and my dad got seafood – all with a variety of naan, including one that was stuffed with cheese(!).

Pinefish
Ippolito’s

DIY

This month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge¬†was fruit butters, which I had really been looking forward to, because I grew up with lots of apple butter in my life and love it but had never made it. I started by reading Marisa’s post on how to make fruit butters in general. I have to admit that initially, I was frustrated with the non-recipe vagueness of the process (no clear amounts, no clear cooking times). So my first instinct was to try a recipe with more precise instructions. I chose the spiced peach butter recipe from Saving the Season, which included added sugar, molasses, and bourbon. At first I was disappointed by this recipe, as the added sugar made it too thick and jammy, not at all like the smooth consistency I was used to in apple butter. So I decided to embrace the vagueness and go back to the original Food in Jars post and get over my frustration. What it boils down to is you can take pretty much any quantity of fruit, cook it for about half an hour until it’s soft, puree it, then continue to cook it down until it’s done to your satisfaction, about another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, then season (I used a few sprinkles of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg), jar, and process for 10 minutes. This can be done in a saucepan, in the oven at 300ňöF, or in a slow cooker with the lid propped open. I tried peaches using the saucepan method and apples using the oven method. Both turned out great, but the oven method was easiest as it required the least stirring. I don’t have the type of slow cooker that can be propped open so I didn’t bother trying that. I love that these don’t need any added sugar! A week later I made another batch in the saucepan, this time using pears. I’m glad I got a food mill, as it made for a nice smooth puree. I plan to make some more peach and apple butter as I think it will make great gifts. Going back to that first batch of spiced peach butter from Saving the Season, it hadn’t yielded enough to can, so it was in the fridge as a snack. It actually grew on me over time, not as a fruit butter, but more like a fruit paste. So I ended up making some more of that as well!

peach, pear, and apple butter

So, last month’s challenge was low temperature pasteurization, which I wasn’t interested in because the only examples provided were all for cucumber pickles, which I don’t really care about. But as it happens, I had a pickled peppers recipe on my to-do list for this month, and I didn’t realize until I started making it that it was a low temperature pasteurization recipe, so I ended up completing the August challenge by accident. This method requires sustaining a temperature of 180-185ňöF for the duration of water bath processing (30 min), which is very difficult without an immersion circulator. I spent about 2 hours fiddling with one of my small burners and a thermometer trying to find a sweet spot where that temperature range could be sustained. My electric burners simply don’t maintain the same temperature, they always get hotter and hotter, even at the lowest setting. So it was a delicate balance of getting to the right temperature, keeping a close eye on it, and adding some cooler water (but not too much) if it started to get too hot. I would not do this again without the proper equipment. Whether or not it was worth it, we’ll find out in winter when I open the pickled peppers! But I’m glad I at least tried it.

Pickled Peppers (Low Temperature Pasteurization)

In addition to the new challenges, I continued to work on a lot of preservation projects this month, taking advantage of the summer bounty and continuing to refine my skills. I’m getting better at not over or under filling jars (most of the time). I’ve learned that denser things like BBQ sauce and fruit butters take longer to “ping”, and I’ve learned not to skip the step of de-bubbling hot packs with a chopstick. With jams, I just trust the thermometer when it gets to 220ňöF rather than worrying about less reliable visual cues to tell if it’s ready. I’ve also learned some other tricks, like adding vinegar to my canner to keep mineral deposits from forming, and keeping a kettle of boiling water handy to replenish my canner for long processing times when too much water evaporates.

A few follow-up notes from last month:

  • We ate the peach chutney from last month, and it was fantastic
  • I popped open the cocktail onions, they were aiight, but they’ve never really been my thing so I can’t get too excited about them I guess.
  • We used the fermented pimenta moida from last month to marinate some pork tenderloin, it was great! I made some more this month since esplette peppers were still available

Here are the new preserves I made this month

  • sweet & sour roasted peppers with capers from Preserving Italy (preserved in oil, not canned) – this is delicious. Since it’s in the fridge, we’ll be enjoying this in the short term before opening any of the canned peppers. It’s basically a peperonata.
  • chile jam from The Indian Family Kitchen – we ate this over Labor Day weekend and it’s delightful. I’m glad I made enough to last the whole year because we only get red chiles during summer, and the color is fantastic.
  • smoked paprika tomato jam from Saving the Season –¬†I had a wee taste of it before canning, this is going to be great
  • spiced tomato jam from Preserving Italy – ditto
  • peach jam w/champagne from Saving the Season –¬†I’m not so into jam but I’m looking forward to this one. The recipe said you could use champagne, ros√©, or sauvignon blanc, and I used the latter. I’ve said this before, but I love how so many recipes from Saving the Season utilize alcohol for acidity.
  • BBQ sauce from Saving the Season – I was intrigued by this because it contains both tomatoes and peaches, as well as a kitchen sink full of other flavors, like porcini mushrooms and lapsang souchong. It cooks down a LOT, so the first time I made it, it didn’t actually yield enough to can. We enjoyed it in the fridge, though, so I decided to make some more. I doubled the amount I made the first time and still didn’t yield enough, but I mixed it with the leftovers from the first batch and finally had enough to can one 8 oz jar.
  • fig jam from Preserving Italy – again, I’m not too into jam, but this will be great with cheese.
  • mustard from Saving the Season – for mustard, I usually alternate between a simple recipe with beer, or David Lebowitz’s recipe, so I thought I’d try this one for something different. I found it to be too dry, but I’m very pleased with the spiciness.
  • roasted tomato sauce – I love this method of making sauce, it’s so easy! I will definitely do this again.
  • spicy pepper relish from Saving the Season –¬†I can’t wait to have this with some hot dogs
  • Heirloom tomato sauce from Saving the Season – I’ve been experimenting with a variety of different tomato sauce recipes and finally got around to trying this one out. I found it to be somewhat similar to the passata recipe from Preserving Italy. Yield was pretty low – 3 pounds of tomatoes only yielded about 12 oz. In the future I think I’d stick to the roasted tomato sauce recipe above, or the small batch tomato sauce recipe from Preserving Italy.
  • fermented hot sauce from Ferment Your Vegetables – I actually had no intent of making hot sauce this summer, but I bought “too many” hot peppers one week at the farmers’ market and didn’t want them to go to waste. I’m glad for this happy accident, as this is the first batch of hot sauce I’ve made that finally came out properly! I’ve been disappointed by my hot sauce attempts in the past, as they always end up separating. I’m not sure what was different this time other than using a food mill and erring on the side of a thicker, sriracha-like consistency, but whatever it was, it worked!
  • Colombian hot sauce¬†(Aji Picante) – this was pretty tasty, but I think it would be best with meat & potatoes, two things I don’t eat much of. It only lasts about 10 days in the refrigerator, so I didn’t get too much use out if it.
  • whole tomatoes – I got a mix of red & yellow romas, about 1 pint, but once they were packed in the jar it wasn’t quite enough to prevent some floating. I’ll be interested to see how these turn out and if it’s worth the trouble, since whole tomatoes require so much more processing time (85 min!).
  • chunky salsa – I wasn’t satisfied with the salsa recipe I canned last month. This one is so much better! Whatever I did it was the perfect amount of heat, and the consistency is just like restaurant salsa. We will definitely enjoy this come winter.
  • candied jalape√Īo¬†(aka cowboy candy) – OK, people had been raving about this all summer on the Food in Jars Facebook group, so I had to try it out. It produces this leftover hot and sweet syrup that I saved in the fridge – it’s like jalape√Īo honey, great with cheese. I’m sure the peppers themselves will also make a delightful spicy, winter snack.
  • tomatillo ketchup – I had a wee taste of the leftovers, it was so good, I can’t wait to eat this later!
  • canned green tomatoes from Saving the Season – I wasn’t initially interested in green tomatoes, but once they started showing up I got intrigued. I look forward to frying up some fried green tomatoes with these.
  • salt-preserved green tomatoes from Preserving Italy –¬†again, I initially skipped over this recipe when I first got the book, but now that green tomatoes are in season it caught my eye. This one’s interesting because it ferments for a few weeks before being packed in olive oil, salt, and fennel seed. I started the ferment toward the end of September and will finish it off next month.
Peach BBQ sauce in progress
Roasting peppers
sweet & sour roasted peppers with capers
canned green tomatoes
September 2017 preserves
September 2017 preserves
September 2017 preserves

For repeats, this month I made:

  • more salsa verde from Saving the Season¬†– we keep eating it so I will keep replenishing as long as tomatillos are in season
  • more crushed tomatoes from Saving the Season– this was from one very big, lovely yellow heirloom tomato. I was so charmed by its appearance that I now want to make more crushed heirloom tomatoes in different colors.
  • more fermented pimenta moida – this time I fermented the peppers with brine rather than just salt, which seemed to help it ferment better. I drained the brine when it was done to keep a thick paste-like consistency.
  • more fermented tomato salsa from Ferment Your Vegetables –¬†I’ve got to stock up before tomatoes go out of season
  • more fermented tomato sauce from Ferment Your Vegetables –¬†ditto
  • more fermented escabeche, this time with radishes in addition to carrots, jalape√Īo, onion, and garlic (taco pickles) – I haven’t tried it yet, but it smells fantastic.

Books

  • I started the month by reading the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson: Steelheart, Firefight, and Calamity. It has an intriguing premise (basically evil X-men), but it was so poorly executed. The main character’s trait of coming up with really stupid, annoying similes (and worse, calling them metaphors) was truly awful. The amount of machinations it took to end the book and wrap everything up was incoherent and ridiculous. I read plenty of YA and don’t usually feel that it panders down, but this is an exception. All in all, the series was entertaining and had some engaging characters and ideas, but I wouldn’t recommend it for adults.
  • Obelisk Gate – this finally came up on my hold list, and it was a welcome break from Sanderson in that it’s beautifully literary in a way that Sanderson never will be: rich and nuanced with skillful writing. I had forgotten a lot about The Fifth Season, and it was interesting to find that it’s practically impossible to find a summary of it online; the publisher must be quite skilled at pulling any possible spoilers. Anyway, this was an excellent read, and well-deserving of all its awards. I added the next book to my holds, but I’m sure it will be a few months before I get to read it.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic – I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the rest of the series. It was a smart, thoughtful fantasy romp that struck a good balance between being just plain fun and overly obtuse. Shortly after I read it, it appeared in a Tor.com article, Five SFF Worlds Tied Together by String Theory, which features two other series I love, and so I guess parallel worlds is a Thing I like that I didn’t know I liked! Anyway, I would recommend this book to everyone.
  • Heir to the Jedi – I know the bar is not that high for Star Wars novels, but this was just OK. With Luke Skywalker as a first person narrator, and events taking place shortly after the Battle of Yavin, it would be out of character for him to be anything other than young, naive, and not very smart, but it was really boring and annoying be stuck in his POV the entire time. The story itself read like a monster-of-the-week episode from Star Trek rather than a novel-length adventure, and there was very little character or plot development. Luke’s female counterpart was much more interesting than he, and I would rather this had been a dual POV novel so that we could have learned more about her. The only interesting part of the whole book was when [spoiler], and Luke felt the dark side of the Force for the first time, without knowing that’s what it was. I did grow to like the alien character whose culture speaks in math – I have to admit that (p + l) + (a + n) = pa + pn + la +ln was a funny joke (I have foiled your plan!)

Last Month’s Update