December 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

The month started out really cold, but we had some nice 40s-ish weather toward the end of the month. We checked out Christmas Village and City Hall a couple times, but we didn’t manage to see the new Dilworth Park light show.

City Hall Christmas Tree

Christmas Gift 2018

Toward the end of the month, since we had the week off, we had a bit of a mini-staycation. We finally saw Shoplifters, which we had intended to see during the Philadelphia Film Festival, and I enjoyed that very much. We stopped in to see the new food hall at the Bourse, which was very impressive!

During the holiday break, I also started using Eat Your Books, a site that indexes print cookbooks as well as magazines and selected food blogs. As a librarian and cataloger, naturally I love me an index. The idea is that it makes it easier to use and cross-search recipes in the cookbooks you already own. It took a good bit of time to set up the cookbooks I own and bookmark the recipes I already knew I wanted to try or had cooked already; going back to Pinterest and adding my online recipes will be a whole other challenge. However, I do hope this can be a better alternative to managing recipes, as Pinterest gets more disappointing by the year, and it lacks the precision necessary to effectively search recipes by ingredient.

I’ve kept up with my streak in Duolingo and am still studying Spanish, French, and Chinese.

Travel

We went to Washington, DC this month for a work trip, which happened to take place on my birthday. I was busy at the conference most of the time, but Tom was able to do some DC sightseeing and take some wonderful pictures around town. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, and celebrated my birthday one day early with dinner at Tail Up Goat, which lived up to its accolades. The food was delicious, but I was especially impressed with the wines. On Monday, my actual birthday, after the conference we went to Mama Ayeshas for dinner, which was a very good Syrian restaurant. We were near the zoo, so we checked out Zoo Lights, and then stopped for drinks at The Gin Joint. On Tuesday, I wrapped up my conference and we headed home. Though it was a short trip and I was busy with work, I really had a lovely time and look forward to our next DC visit.

Dinner Menu from Tail Up Goat

Koosa ay Mama Ayesha's

Jab bil Toma at Mama Ayesha's

Washington DC Zoo Lights

The Gin Joint DC

Christmas at the Omni Shoreham Hotel

Birthday

Since we knew we would be out of town for my birthday, which fell on a Monday, we celebrated at home the weekend before, starting with brunch at Spice Finch. We shared a large order of shakshuka, which was really good, and also had a fattoush salad. For a home cooked meal, since we had been out of town for Thanksgiving, I asked Tom to make me a Thanksgiving dinner for my birthday. We got a turkey leg from Reading Terminal Market, on which we did a dry rub with Rancho Gordo New Mexico chile powder. Tom also made cranberry chutney, wild rice and corn souffle, apple-stuffed squash, and green beans with almonds. Of course, everything was delicious!

Shakshuka at Spice Finch

Fattoush at Spice Finch

Belated Thanksgiving Dinner

Christmas

The week before Christmas, I made a bunch of cookies to bring to work. I brought two batches of vegan + gluten-free cookies (chickpea peanut butter, oatmeal date tahini), and two batches of cookies that included butter & eggs (buckwheat chocolate chip, thumbprint with homemade jams). Though I knew there were people that would eat the vegan & gluten free cookies, I was surprised at how popular they were. Even people without dietary restrictions asked for the peanut butter chickpea recipe, and one person was moved nearly to tears after not having been able to eat sweets all year due to health issues. I was able to bring leftover thumbprint cookies home to Tom, but since he missed out on the buckwheat chocolate chip, we made some more on Christmas.

We started our Christmas meals on the 23rd, which made it easier to enjoy fresh seafood from the farmers’ markets. That day, for brunch we made cheesy breakfast egg and polenta casserole, and for dinner we had fish posole stew with cod, clams, and shrimp. On the 24th, we went to breakfast at Parc, and spent all day making cassoulet from My Paris Kitchen. We’ve made cassoulet several times now, but this time was definitely the best, as it was the first time we finally had all the ingredients in place, including Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans and duck confit legs. We had a heck of a time finding a ham hock, but luckily everything came together. On Christmas Day, we made Spanish breakfast casserole – we had previously made this on Tom’s birthday and it got burned, so this was a bit of a do-over. We confirmed that the recipe is terribly flawed, though, so it wasn’t really our fault that it got burned the first time. It still got a little crispy, but it was much better this time. In the afternoon, we went to a movie, Mary Poppins Returns, and then we had an early dinner at SuGa.

Christmas Eve Brunch at Parc

Christmas Cooking

As usual we exchanged gifts with each other and it was lovely. Tom got me the Rose Water & Orange Blossoms cookbook, which I’m excited to cook from, as well as a large mortar & pestle and DVDs of the Star Wars movies we didn’t own yet.

Christmas morning 2018

New Year’s

On New Year’s Eve, I cooked up half a batch of Rancho Gordo Lucky 2019 Black-Eyed Peas, using a recipe for Red Red (which also helped use up the end of my red palm oil). I had hoped to cook a side of collards, but none were to be found at the farmers’ markets. I had bought a batch of kale the previous week, but on the night of, alas, we found that that had slimed over. Luckily we had a tiny amount of spinach left and were able to make a salad, so we did have a smidge of greens. I also roasted up a purple sweet potato and served it simply with garlic yogurt. It was a very satisfying meal despite the mishaps. Earlier in the day, we enjoyed lunch at Cheu Noodle Bar.

New Year's Eve Cooking

For New Year’s Day, we had more of a BBQ theme for dinner. I made a batch of Santa Maria Pinquito beans, which though it was cooked on the stovetop, tasted better than any baked beans I’ve made to date. We roasted some chicken legs with a homemade BBQ sauce made from apple butter & peach butter, and Tom made a batch of corn muffins. We enjoyed this meal with a bottle of Paso Robles cab that I had gotten from Plonk. This, too, was a wonderful meal. Earlier in the day, we enjoyed lunch at Tio Flores.

Santa Maria Pinquito Beans

Farmers’ Markets

There isn’t too much to say about the farmers’ markets this month, but my favorite thing was getting more dried pepper from Z Food Farm, including aleppo, urfa biber, and fatali, as we have been really loving their dried espelette pepper.

Wine

I got another uninspiring box from Tasting Room this month. It was fine, but nothing to get excited about. I’m not sure why I haven’t quit yet, I just keep thinking maybe something will get better; and in the meantime, even if it’s not great, it is wine that shows up at my doorstep.

This month’s Plonk white wine club was wonderful as always. It included a Grechetto from Lazio, a Godello from Spain, an Albariño from Spain, and a Vermentino from Corsica. I felt like some more wine for the holidays, so I ordered a “dinner party 6-pack” for the first time. I got a mixed pack that included three reds, a rosé, and two whites: Fableist cabernet sauvignon, Enkidu petite sirah, a rosso piceno from Le Marche (montepulciano & sangiovese blend), an Aligote Bourgogne, a Portuguese white, and a cab franc rosé from Bordeaux. I could actually see getting one of these every month.

Wine for the holidays

Dining In

Here were some of our other favorite recipes this month:

  • Pasta & lentils – this sauce came out really “meaty”, almost like a bolognese
  • Minestrone – this was delicious, and used up the last of my Marcella beans
  • Sweet & spicy chicken – this was a repeat of a recipe we really liked, and it held up well
  • Slow-roasted chicken over mushrooms – Tom read something about this using a whole chicken, but we just made up our own version, with two chicken legs nestled over maitake and cremini mushrooms at 325 for about 90 minutes.
  • Spaghetti squash & Rambling Roots “comeback” sauce – we love this because it is so simple and satisfying
  • Seafood stew from Koreatown cookbook – not as good as what we could get at a restaurant, but still a pretty good homemade version. I made a stock from anchovies and kombu per the recipe that was pretty fishy; in the future I might stick with a chicken broth.
  • I heard an Ottolenghi interview on Good Food where he talked about melted butter with chile flakes as a simple Turkish-inspired sauce to drizzle over anything; we tried it over scallops  and chard and it was delicious.
  • Pistachio-crusted flounder, inspired by Rose Water & Orange Blossoms.
  • Sweet rice with carrots & nuts from The New Persian Kitchen.

Dining Out

Other than our traveling and holidays, here’s where we ate out this month:

  • date night and brunch at Rex
  • dinner at SouthGate
  • brunch at Twenty Manning – I really enjoyed my chilaquiles
  • date night at Spice Finch bar – we enjoyed just getting some dips, crudite, and flatbread.
  • dinner at Giussepe & Sons – this started off promising but was disappointing overall. The food was actually really good for the most part, and we enjoyed the good quality of house wine available by the carafe. Service was reasonably friendly, but the pacing was so terrible we have no interest in returning.
  • lunch at Mike’s BBQ – I’m really glad we tried it, since it’s so popular, but I just can’t handle eating that much meat anymore. It was delicious, but afterwards we both felt awful and had to take a nap.
  • coffee at Good Karma Cafe – we hadn’t been here in 6 years, since we first moved to the city. We really enjoyed getting coffee and bagels on a rainy day and just sitting by the window with our books.
  • drinks at Friday Saturday Sunday – we hadn’t been in awhile, it’s always nice to go where they know us by name.
  • lunch at Caffe Vienna – this is a relatively new place that opened up nearby, and we really enjoyed our sandwiches.

Chilaquiles at Twenty Manning

Sandwiches from Caffe Vienna

Mike's BBQ

DIY

Making

  • I made carrot & daikon pickles from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars – they came out well, but I think this particular recipe would be better for sandwiches than snacking on by themselves.
  • classic giardiniera from Preserving Italy (with romanesco instead of cauliflower) – I look forward to trying this!

Using

  • opened last year’s peach jam to put on chicken – this was good but chunkier than I expected
  • opened peach saffron jam for cookies – this was unsurprisingly delicious
  • opened apricot anise jam for cookies – this was unsurprisingly delicious
  • opened apple jam for cookies – I’m not too excited about this, I don’t think I’d make it again
  • opened carrot cake conserve for cookies – this is weird and delicious all at once
  • opened LTP whole red hot peppers to add to Spanish breakfast casserole – I’m so glad to have these around! Next year I want to make more, but separate jars for each kind of pepper.
  • opened last year’s apple butter & peach butter for BBQ sauce – really can’t go wrong with having apple or peach butter around!

Books

  • I re-read all three books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.
  • I read Thrawn Alliances, which had a really intriguing premise, though I didn’t always enjoy the execution.
  • My hold for A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax came up on Overdrive at a really inconvenient time when I was busy with work, but I managed to finish it in the last 2 days before it expired. It was fine.
  • I finally finished Catch 22 (!), which I had started back in July when we were on vacation. It still remains one of my favorite books.

Stitch Fix

I got a Stitch Fix toward the beginning of the month that I didn’t care too much for, but I kept a jean jacket, and a silver-striped button-down shirt.

Last Month’s Update

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November 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

I wish I could enjoy Fall more, without the spurts of winter sneaking in early! It’s hard to remember how to dress for Fall and transition weather. I am glad I missed Philadelphia’s first snow, as I was fortuitously out of town. It was exciting that Tom and I bought some classy new hats, and I finally got around to ordering a scarf in “Chopper” colors (grey, orange, yellow, and white). In the latter half of the month, I was really down and demotivated due to the weather, so I finally invested in a SAD lamp; I think it really helped, though I’m returning the florescent version I bought with a LED version. Overall this month was characterized by being TOO BUSY, though I really enjoyed a vacation toward the end!

Fall day at Temple

Schuylkill trail in Autumn

Travel

I took a one day work trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, in order to visit NCSU’s Hunt Library. There’s not too much to say about that, other than the library was lovely, we learned a lot, and I was glad to have missed Philadelphia’s snow storm, even if it did mean that our return flight was delayed.

NCSU book bot

Over Thanksgiving, we took a 5 day trip to Montreal, which was fantastic. It has been and remains probably my favorite city in the world.

Thanks to Tom’s brother Dennis, we drove there via New York. Who knew, New York has amazing rest stops!

New York Thruway Rest Stop

We visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts twice, which we quite enjoyed. We also saw a really cool exhibit about Expo 67 at the Montreal History Museum. We saw the Basilica Notre Dame, and we saw some neat skyline views from L’Observatoire Au Sommet Place Ville Marie. To top it off, we got a great insider tour of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), thanks to one of Tom’s friends who works there. We got by OK with a smidgen of French; certainly the review we had done with Duolingo was helpful. It was super cold and snowy most of the time, so unfortunately we didn’t get to walk around as much as we would have liked.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Montreal view from L'Observatoire 360

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation film archives

Naturally, we had some great meals, including:

Smoked Salmon and St-Viateur Bagel at Bar George

We also enjoyed the hotel bar (Le Cordial at the Delta). On our last night, we stopped by the local SAQ to get some boozy Québec souvenirs, including ice wine, ice cider, cider-based vermouth, and the very intriguing Ungava gin. We look forward to going back another time, with better weather!

Drinks at Le Cordial Delta Montreal

Farmers’ Markets

I was surprised at the beginning of the month to finally see tomatillos! I had expected them earlier in summer, but better late than never. Naturally I had to make another batch of salsa verde. I was still buying some peppers toward the beginning of the month, but this soon transitioned to fall apples, squashes, and sweet potatoes. By the last market of the month, it was definitely starting to look more wintry. We finally got some dried espelette pepper powder from Z Food Farm, and it’s dreamy.

Saturday shopping 11/3/18

Wine

I got two shipments from Plonk this month: the monthly white wine club, and a Thanksgiving six-pack. As usual, the white wine club continues to be excellent: this month we got: Fernao Pires from Portugal, gavi, pinot blanc, and assyrtiko.

The Thanksgiving wine pack didn’t come with any sort of list of the wines or tasting notes, nor were most of the wines available on the website, so they were a bit of a mystery! It was a very nice selection, though: a rosé, sauvignon blanc, silvaner, negroamaro, cagnulari, and a beaujoulais.

Plonk Thanksgiving Wines 2018

Dining In

We made a lot of tasty things this month, including:

  • butternut squash chili (this was a made-up recipe, but loosely based on squash chili mole, minus meat, with several kinds of Rancho Gordo beans)
  • fessenjan chicken
  • tilefish with harissa & rose (recipe from Jerusalem)
  • clam pan roast
  • muhammara (as a snack, also with eggs)
  • skate piccata
  • breakfast quesadillas with rio zape beans and homemade salsas & hot sauce
  • arctic char with za’atar, sumac, and espelette
  • chicken curry & black lentil dal – the black caviar lentils are turning out to be my favorite thing from the last Rancho Gordo bean club shipment.

Breakfast quesadilla

Dining Out

Other than our trip to Montreal, we went out a few times this month in Philly. Highlights were several visits to SouthGate (spicy lobster soup for dinner, and scotch egg for brunch). We also enjoyed brunch at Audrey Claire, dinner at Tio Flores, and Mexican pizza delivery from Rosario’s.

Bulgogi Scotch egg at SouthGate

DIY

Making

Preserving is definitely slowing down, but I still made some things this month:

Pear mostarda

Using

  • I used some homemade salsa verde for a simple pozole verde.
  • I opened some apple butter from last year and was glad it was still good.
  • We finished up some fermented salsa & some sweet corn salsa.
  • I opened my first jar of this year’s heirloom tomato sauce, which was quite delicious.

Books

  • The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax – I’m not really proud of myself for continuing to read this series, but they’re simple reads when I’m in a rut.
  • Best Served Cold – I am not sure why I had put this on my holds list. I hadn’t realized it was in the same world as the First Law series, and it’s been so long since I read those books, I didn’t recognize any of the characters or the setting. It was a pretty straightforward revenge story. As far as Abercrombie goes, I preferred the somewhat less violent Half a King series.
  • I finished The Art of Simple Food – this is a good guide to cooking simply, and I’d recommend it to anyone intimidated by cooking. It was not a lot of new information, but it was good to see a lot of what we already do.
  • I started re-reading Ecology of Fear (h/t Gustavo’s LA Times article about the fires in California)
  • The Lathe of Heaven – I loved this so much I read it twice!
  • Something Happened – I’m not sure how I feel about this book; it was disturbing, but I’m glad I re-read it.

Last Month’s Update

October 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

As usual these past few years, it seemed to skip from summer to winter, skipping fall. It was difficult to transition so quickly to cold weather without more of a gradual buffer. There have definitely been a few crisp, fall days, though – basically the weather’s all over the place. Only toward the end of the month did we start to see some fall color.

I’ve continued to progress in my Duolingo Spanish lessons, and toward the end of the month I started reviewing French and Chinese as well. For French I tested out of the first 10 lessons and for Chinese the first 12, so I remember both fairly well.  I took a placement test for Norwegian that I utterly failed, which is sad but confirms that I learned very little in my 1998 immersion course.

Travel

I went to Henderson, NV and Las Vegas for a work conference. I really enjoyed myself and the weather – it’s the perfect time of year to be there. I didn’t rent a car so I was nervous about getting around, but I ended up using public transportation quite a bit. From my hotel (south of the Strip), I was able to take the RTC bus to my favorite places in Henderson (Eastern Ave) and also Town Square (luckily I did not need nor want to go to the Strip). The mobile app was super easy to use and a 24 hour residential pass was only $5; I was able to buy it on my credit card using the app and then scan a QR code on the bus. I only needed a Lyft twice, and people were super friendly. Despite obviously not being a pedestrian town and giant roads with people driving 60+, unlike Philly I felt like people waited for me to cross, looked for pedestrians, and did not actively try to hit me when I crossed the street. I hit some sentimental favorites for food, including Original Sunrise Cafe, BJs, Del Taco, In-n-Out, and El Pollo Loco, plus I had lunch at Shinya Maru Ramen with a colleague. I had never visited UNLV’s Lied Library before and was really impressed with the building.

Original Sunrise Cafe

El Pollo Loco
In-n-Out

Staycation!

My work trip to Vegas bled right into our planned staycation, which, as with past years, coincided with the Philadelphia Film Festival (PFF27).

  • Day 1: we had breakfast at On Point Bistro, where I had breakfast nachos and Tom had a yogurt parfait. I worked during the day and Tom went to 3 movies. We met up for dinner at Noord, where I had a lovely endive & apple salad and a braised rabbit leg, while Tom had a spicy lamb casserole and fried fish over split peas.
    On Point Bistro

    Noord
  • Day 2: we started the day with brunch at Suraya. We both had pastries, then Tom got tehina yogurt and I got labneh with veggies. We had a little time before our movie, so we explored Cherry Street Pier. We saw the movie All About Lily Chou Chou, which was very thought-provoking. Afterwards we had cider flights at Hale & True, and then cooked dinner at home. We made arctic char marinated with yogurt & garam masala, red lentil dhal, and roasted broccoli.
    Suraya

    Hale & True
  • Day 3: we went to brunch at Aksum Cafe, where I had fava beans & eggs, and Tom had chicken & waffles. It was really greet to see West Philly & Baltimore Ave, as we hadn’t really hung out in that neighborhood before. We saw one movie together (Studio 54), and then Tom saw another movie on his own (Cold War). We had dinner at Spice Finch, which was excellent. We shared charred carrot hummus, broccoli tabouleh, peri-peri shrimp, and baked cheese. We finished with a lovely dessert cocktail with armagnac, pineau des charentes, st germain reduction, montenegro, and angostura.

    Aksum Cafe
  • Day 4: we had breakfast at Sandler’s on 9th and both got the “train wreck” sandwich. Overall it was a really nice space with intriguing food, and we would be interested in going there again. We saw the movie Foreboding,  which I thought was quite good. We had an early dinner at Panorama, which is one of our sentimental favorite restaurants though we hadn’t been there in years. We enjoyed roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, pasta (tortellini & crespelle) & more pasta (rigatoni & pappardelle). After dinner we went to another movie, Non-Fiction, which was great.

    Panorama
  • Day 5: Unfortunately we both had to work, so that broke up vacation a bit. We met up for dinner at Oloroso, where we had charcuterie & cheese, grilled octopus, roasted cauliflower, wood oven brussels sprouts, clams, and bacalao croquetas.

    Oloroso
  • Day 6: We started the day with breakfast at Queen Village Ants Pants, then we went to two movies: Ramen Shop and Asako I & II. We really enjoyed the former movie and were really disappointed by the latter. After the movies, we had beer & banchan at SouthGate, followed by dinner at Helm Rittenhouse. Our dishes at Helm included: okinawa potato, kale, chicken rillette; fig, blue cheese custard, prosciutto; cassoulet, veal, pear; sweet potato gnudi, goat cheese, roasted onion; corzetti, chestnut, matsutake; sunchoke latka, poblano, sunflower sour cream). The highlight of the meal was the sweet potato gnudi, but we enjoyed everything. Overall the food and experience was a lot  like Pumpkin, except without having to BYOB. We would definitely go again.
  • Day 7: We had breakfast at Knead Bagels, but it was a bit unsatisfying. We had some time, so we went to the Rail Park and revisited Cherry Street Pier (with much better weather). I liked getting a better sense of the artists’ community in the neighborhood near Fringe Arts and Painted Bride. Our afternoon movie was Ash is Purest White, which we followed with drinks & snacks at Royal Boucherie. We returned to Suraya for dinner and enjoyed fattouch, muhammara, whole grilled poussin with toum, and knafeh.
    Rail Park

    Cherry Street Pier
  • Day 8: we started the day with breakfast at Cafe Ynez. Tom went to several movies, while I stayed home and got a haircut & pedicure. We met up for beer at Sancho Pistolas, and then had dinner at Nunu. We enjoyed the yakitori tasting (chicken breast, chicken thigh w/scallion, scallops, milk toast w/cheese, chicken liver, potatoes) as well as dan dan squash salad, and more yakitori: mushrooms, brussels, chicken meatballs w/egg yolk, and hangar steak. We finished everything off with a sake flight, which was lovely.

    Nunu
  • Day 9: We were glad to get back to the farmers’ markets to stock up for vegetables for the coming week. We kept things simple by getting brunch at Marathon, where we both had whole wheat banana pancakes. Our afternoon  movie was  Long Day’s Journey into Night, and ended up being our last move of the film festival. We cooked dinner at home, including scallops, green beans, and leftovers from Helm.
  • Day 10: Tom’s back was hurting, so we skipped the movies and relaxed for the day. Our last dinner of staycation was a very special one, as it was our 9 year anniversary of meeting each other, and we decided to splurge with  a visit to Vetri. Our first meal there had been earlier this year for Tom’s birthday, and we had been looking forward to going again, especially in a different season.

It was probably the best staycation yet!

Farmers’ Markets

  • I thought I was done with tomatoes & peppers, but then I got the book Preservation Pantry and had to try a few things. I got green & red tomatoes, and sweet & hot peppers.
  • I saw fresh aleppo and urfa biber peppers at Z Food Farm and had to get them. Since I had no immediate plans for them, though, I decided to finally buy an immersion circulator so I could pickle these whole.
  • We missed a couple Saturdays between Las Vegas and Staycation, but we picked back up at the end of the month. I was actually glad to still be able to get peppers, though of course tomatoes are basically over. We did get our first few fall things, including some apples, persimmons, and a spaghetti squash.

Wine

I got wine shipments this month from Tablas Creek, The Tasting Room, and Plonk, but really the only thing worth mentioning is Plonk. As usual, the wines were very interesting, including an Auxerrois from Baden, a Passerina from Le Marche, a Greek blend of Malagousia, Assyrtiko and Roditis, and a Greek Moschofilero-Sauvignon Blanc blend.

Bean Club!

My bean club arrived while I was in Vegas, but Tom was kind enough to unbox it for me. I had joined a spoilers group so I knew which beans were coming, but still, it’s exciting when the box shows up. It was a rather polarizing shipment, at least on social media. There was a strong contingent of people who like things to be simple and uncomplicated who really seemed to gravitate toward the shipment, and there are people who are more experimental who found it boring. I lean closer to the latter camp, BUT, I recognize that the longer I am in the bean club, the more things will cease to seem new and interesting if I’ve had them before. Still, I think I’d rather buy the “basics” on my own and have the club shipment contain a few more special beans. That said, there were several new and special things in this shipment, including black-eyed peas for New Year’s (!), black (beluga) lentils, and Mexican stoneground chocolate. I’m excited about all of these things. Repeats for me included Midnight Black (one of my favorite beans, so it is always good to have it around), Marcella (again, a classic white bean, so wonderful to have around), Vacquero (I bought this a few months ago and really like it, but it was a little too soon to see it again. Nonetheless it is a tasty and versatile bean), and Garbanzo (I used garbanzos all the time for hummus, but the Rancho Gordo beans seem wasted in that context; I’d rather use these for recipes that call for whole garbanzos).

Dining In

  • Toward the beginning of the month, we made Jerusalem hummus from Zahav, with Spicy carrot salad from Jerusalem, and homemade pita bread. It was certainly tasty but I’m not sure I would make this at home again. It was a bit too much meat for us, and I think this is the sort of thing I would rather have out at a restaurant rather than at home. The spicy carrot salad, though, was of course lovely.
  • The first weekend of the month, we did some outdoor grilling with Dennis, with sausages from Rieker’s.
  • Sichuan mahi mahi – this was excellent, we should certainly make this again
  • Japchae from Koreatown cookbook – I’ve been cycling through a few different japchae recipes – you wouldn’t think it would be complicated, and it isn’t, but it’s interesting to see how different the recipes can be
  • Red lentil dhal from Dinner cookbook – you guys, this was a really good recipe. It was so much more convenient to use red lentils rather than yellow dal, and the tadka was really easy, the only whole spices were cumin and cardamom. While I happen to keep lots of spices around, this recipe would be totally doable without an Indian market or Amazon at one’s disposal.
  • Clams with fettucine & red sauce – Tom made this once while I was away and then we had it again toward the end of the month, and it was delightful.
  • Spaghetti squash with black beans and cheese – this was our first spaghetti squash of the season! We served it with corn tortillas, scallions, and homemade salsas (fermented red tomato salsa, salsa verde, and corn salsa)
Sausages from Rieker’s. Photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

Obviously our main Dining Out this month was for Staycation. Other than that, our most notable outings were brunch at TALK, where we had a fabulous meal, and Second District Brewing, where we went for a date night of Szechuan hot dogs.

Carrot beignets at TALK. Photo by Tom Ipri
Second District Brewing. Photo by Tom Ipri

DIY

Making

  • green tomato enchilada sauce from Preservation Pantry – I’ve never made a salsa verde from green tomatoes rather than tomatillos, so this should be interesting. Luckily I was still able to find some green tomatoes at the market.
  • cherry bomb pepper “hot sauce” from Preservation Pantry – this seems more like a salsa; I’m not sure if it’s some kind of PNW regional thing to call this “hot sauce” but I would not call it that myself. Z Food Farm still had cherry bomb peppers so I took advantage of that.
  • I bought an immersion circulator!!! I started by making Low Temperature Pasteurization pickled peppers for aleppo and urfa biber red peppers. I was excited to see both types of peppers at the market but wasn’t sure how to use them right away, so I figured I’d pickle whole them for later. I only used garlic and vinegar so I hope they can be used in a variety of applications. Now that I have the immersion circulator, I’m super excited for other possibilities. It was really easy to use and I was impressed with its precision.
  • pear mostarda from Preserving Italy – this had been on my list for awhile but I hadn’t made it because it’s a 4+ day process. It’s pretty interesting, but it’s hard to find a use case for it. The pears got quite dense, almost more like dried apples. I used mustard oil since I didn’t have mustard essence, and I added some mustard seeds as well.
  • persimmon chutney from Preserving by the Pint – I wasn’t intending to make this, but I was inspired by the presence of persimmons at the market. It’s quite similar to a mango chutney recipe – I hadn’t thought of using persimmons that way, but it’s a good idea. I changed a few of the spices to add flavors from my favorite mango chutney recipe, as well as a little bourbon.
  • After staycation, we were well overdue for a fresh batch of hummus. To save time, I made the garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker.
photo by Tom Ipri

Using

  • The matbucha and peperoncino cream were a hit with grilled vegetables – we finished bottles of both.
  • I had to toss jars of chili jam & cowboy candy from last year – the former lost all flavor, and the latter’s jelly liquified. Oh well.
  • We opened some more salsa verde & corn salsa – I’m so glad we have plenty of these to last through the winter.

Books

  • Preservation Pantry – this was recommended on Food in Jars, and when I checked Amazon, I found that the Kindle version was on sale, so I jumped on it. This was one of my favorite preservation books in recent memory, and right away I made a few of the recipes. I really liked the way the author included practical recipes for using the preserves, and the way she approached each ingredient from a perspective of using all of the parts to avoid food waste.
  • Koreatown – I’d had this cookbook for awhile but hadn’t read it. I really liked it, especially since it had a lot of Los Angeles references. I’ve got so many recipes to try!
  • I started reading The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner, which is a collection of Terry Pratchett short stories, but frankly I got really bored, as a lot of these are pretty repetitive and not very good. Apparently he wrote these stories when he was quite young, in his late teens.
  • I was lucky to be able to finish There There, which through some Overdrive glitch I got to keep reading on my Kindle even though Tom’s copy had expired. It was excellent, and I’m glad to see it has been getting such acclaim.
  • New Persian Kitchen – this had been on my list for a few years, so I was thrilled when it went on sale. This book has so many amazing recipes, I feel like I bookmarked the whole thing.
  • The Spice Companion – Heather at Rex had recommended this to me several years ago, and I’m so glad I finally read it. I feel like I learned so much about spices, and I look forward to trying some new ideas.
  • I started reading The Art of Simple Food
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax -I had been meaning to re-read this for years, and since I was in a bit of a fiction rut, I checked this out from the library. Except for some appalling orientalism, I thought the story held up pretty well.
  • I re-read Strange the Dreamer, which was one of my favorite books from last years, as the sequel had recently been released. I still love it.
  • Muse of Nightmares – this is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer, and I am thrilled that the author made this a duology rather than dragging it out into a longer series. This was wonderful, and the two books together make a delightful pair.
  • The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax – since they’re so easy to read, I thought I’d try another Mrs. Pollifax book. The formula gets old after awhile; I can’t see reading more than three of these. But it’s still entertaining.

Last Month’s Update

September 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

What a long month! It started with Labor Day weekend, which brought an end to Tom’s extended time off before starting his new job. Since then, we’ve been working together, which has been great, especially for being on the same schedule and walking and taking the subway together.

We got out and about a few times this month. One Sunday (the only nice, sunny day all month, that I can remember) we went to Longwood Gardens (in between celebrating Dennis’s birthday for brunch and dinner). I had no idea it was so far outside of Philly, nor what else to expect. It reminded me of the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena in terms of the huge scope and scale. It was rather overwhelming, so we only got to a small part of it. Before next time, I would like to do more research to better plan a future visit. We also went to a David Byrne concert at the Mann Theater, which was excellent – one of the better concerts I’ve ever been to since moving to Philadelphia. We checked out the new public art exhibition “Pulse” at Dilworth Plaza, which wasn’t very interesting during the day, but while we were there, we enjoyed finally seeing the Octavius V. Catto Memorial.

Longwood Gardens
Octavius V. Catto
David Byrne at The Mann. Photo by Tom Ipri

Tom and I have been using Duolingo since July – he is taking French, and I am taking Spanish. I now have a 70 day streak going, which would have been longer if I hadn’t missed a day while we were on vacation in California. I’m enjoying it very much and certainly feel better about my Spanish than I did after taking a an intro course at Long Beach City College many years ago. Speaking of apps, I also re-started using Lose It and Waterlogged to track my food and water intake – not to lose weight per se, but more to get back into the habit of tracking things and to be more thoughtful about it.

Most of the month still felt like summer, I guess, or some dreary version of it where it was warm & humid but also cloudy & rainy. It felt like the sun only came out a few times all month. There were a few crisp, cool days that made it start to feel like Fall, but it still doesn’t feel very autumnal to me yet.

Thanks to a bug scare, I finally got a tool for sweeping underneath the refrigerator and the oven, and I can’t tell you what a relief it is to be less worried about what is lurking under there after living here 6 years.

Oh, and this month I FINALLY broke down and bought archival-quality mylar sleeves and leather albums to re-house two of my oldest magnetic photo albums. This project had been on my to-do list for at least 15 years, ever since I learned about how terrible magnetic photo albums are for photo preservation back in library school. But I had put it off all these years, because frankly, these supplies are really expensive. For the past few years, one of my albums had gotten to the point where the glue was dried up and all the photos kept falling out. But the real kicker was recently when one of my other albums got damaged by a loose spring under our couch, which is where I had been storing these. Altogether I spent $200 to re-house just these two albums – yikes. But I’m glad it’s done. Now I just have to think about the photos that are still in magnetic albums but just not in as bad shape, as well as those that never made it into albums in the first place.

There’s a new Sprouts Market in the neighborhood, which is pretty exciting. It’s a lot easier to get to than Whole Foods, and we really like their selection.

Farmers’ Markets

At the beginning of the month, I was still digging on tomatoes, peaches, corn, and peppers. I had wanted to get some blueberries, but by the time I thought of it, it was too late. I was hoping for groundcherries and tomatillos, but they never came. By the end of the month, tomatoes were sad, we gave up on corn, peaches were gone, and only peppers were still going strong. I was impatient for hot peppers, which finally came the last 2 weeks of the month. One week there was a fakeout with fresno chiles, but the week after that the espelettes and cherry bomb hot peppers had arrived. I am still definitely not in the mood for apples, squash, or any form of fall preserving. I did buy some Asian pears on the last weekend of the month, but only because I wanted to preserve some to use with some Korean recipes.

Wine

Yet again, my Plonk wine didn’t arrive until the 20th of the month, which drove me crazy with impatience, but as usual, when it arrived it was lovely. We enjoyed all four white wines: Xare-lo (Pansa Blanca), white pinot noir, Alvarinho, and a Cretian wine with an indigenous grape called Vidiano.

Dining In

Over Labor Day weekend, we did a lot of home cooking, including:

  • summer chilaquiles – for this I opened a jar of tomatillo & green chile sauce that I had made last month with my Hatch green chiles
  • “Turkish” hummus from Zahav cookbook – this recipe uses butter & garlic instead of tahini. It was a bit too rich and fatty to finish, but it was interesting to try it
  • paella, using Royal Corona beans, shrimp, scallops, and clams
  • slow cooker pulled pork chili with cornbread – this is one of our comfort food favorites
chilaquiles
paella
“Turkish” hummus
slow cooker pulled pork chili. Photo by Tom Ipri.

Once Tom started his new job, we took a break from any elaborate recipes, but still managed to make some nice things. We got this lovely  spicy Vera casarecci pasta, which added a lot of oomph to simple dinners.

We also made a few things to use up what was left of our last Rancho Gordo bean club shipment, since the next one will be arriving in October.

Spanish alubia blancas

Otherwise, home cooking highlights from this month included:

  • shakshuka
  • swordfish with savory mint sauce
  • salmon with Indian-spiced marinade, ghee-roasted corn, & tomatoes.  The marinade was based on a chicken recipe, and I used Mexican crema instead of yogurt since that’s what I head
  • buttermilk roasted chicken – I continue to use a cross between the smitten kitchen recipe and New York Times recipe (paprika from one, honey from the other)
  • mustard fish
  • vegetable biriyani from Indian Family Kitchen
shakshuka
salmon

Dining Out

We’ve been managing to go out for brunch nearly every weekend, as part of our new routine. This month we went to Rex 1516, Sidecar Bar, In Riva (for Dennis’s birthday), and South Philadelphia Taproom. Sidecar had a new brunch menu, so that was an interesting change, and we had never made it to brunch at South Philly Taproom before, so that was really good to try.

Huevos rancheros at South Philly Taproom. Photo by Top Ipri

We’ve also been doing some sort of date night every week, which has included Brigantessa, Pumpkin, Southgate, L’Anima, and Le Virtu. We also went out to Radice with Dennis and L’Anima (again) with some friends in the neighborhood. L’Anima is a new Italian BYOB in the neighborhood that we really like so far. Le Virtu extended their Sunday-Monday night fixed price $35 supper to include Tuesday-Wednesday, and it was fantastic.

Scallops pesto at L’Anima. Photo by Tom Ipri

Thanks to my new work buddy, I’ve been able to try a few lunch places I hadn’t been to before at Temple, too, including Crisp Kitchen and Blaze Pizza.

DIY

I decided on hard cutoff after Labor Day weekend – I wasn’t going to preserve any more peaches or tomatoes, just hot peppers. However, I did sneak in a few more things with tomatoes and sweet peppers. I bought a new book, The Joys of Jewish Preserving, which I enjoyed trying a few new recipes from.

September Preserves. Photo by Tom Ipri

Last of the peaches:

Last of the corn:

  • roasted corn salsa from Food in Jars – though, I didn’t get a good char on the corn, so I’ll have to try this one again next year

Last of the tomatoes:

Sweet & hot peppers:

  • fresno chile fermented hot sauce from Ferment Your Vegetables – not knowing when or if Z Food Farm was going to have their espelette peppers, I jumped on these Fresno chiles the week before, and without having a clear plan, decided to make hot sauce. It came out delicious, but not sure it’s going to be hot enough, so once the espelette peppers came in, I started a new batch.
  • more sweet & sour roasted peppers from Preserving Italy
  • spicy pepper relish from Saving the Season
  • pickled hot pepper rings from Preserving by the Pint (I made this twice, once with espelette peppers and once with cherry bomb peppers)
  • sriracha-style hot sauce from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars (with espelette peppers) – my eyes were definitely watering just from being in the same room while these were being cooked, but it was worth it; it tastes very much like the real thing.
  • fermented hot pepper rings (with cherry bomb peppers) – I figured I’d cover all my bases by fermenting some of these in addition to the canned pickles – last year I hated running out of hot red peppers, so this year I’ve made sure to have plenty
  • Middle Eastern marinated sweet peppers from Joys of Jewish Preserving – I love these already because they include garlic. If this works out, it may be my go-to pepper recipe next year.
  • peporonata cream from Preserving Italy – this is just for the refrigerator but already I like it as sort of a hot pesto to throw into things.
  • Matbucha from Joys of Jewish Preserving – I love this so much – it’s made from tomatoes, red bell pepper, and hot red pepper. I made one extra jar, but next year I can see making even more.
Matbucha

Other:

  • spicy pickled green beans
  • more hummus (from Zahav cookbook)
  • buttermilk from DIY Fermentation
  • crema
  • canned Asian pears – I am definitely not feeling Fall preserves so far, but after reading a Korean cookbook in which Asian pears were a key ingredient, I decided to preserve a basket of these while they were in season so that I could determine what to do with them later.

Using:

Here are some of the things we opened this month:

  • fig jam (from Preserving Italy, made last year) – this came out OK, but next time I’d try a different recipe just for variety
  • tomatillo & green chili sauce (w/chilaquiles) – this was a little too sweet for my taste, but it was good in this context
  • peach mustard & mostarda (w/chicken) – these were just some leftover bits, but I thought they worked well
  • tomato-serrano jam & Brock tomato jam (w/breakfast panini) – both of these tomato jams are so good with eggs and cheese
  • We used the homemade crema in a salmon marinade as well as drizzled over tacos
  • We used the homemade buttermilk in chicken marinade
  • We opened the matbucha right away and had it with eggs – delightful! It was like a Middle Eastern salsa. I made sure to make another batch.
  • We used some of the peperoncino cream with broccoli – it was really good, and I look forward to using more of this.

Books

  • Darth Plagueis – In general I don’t want to read Star Wars books that are not in the canon, but this one had been recommended, and I’m really glad I read it. It ties in beautifully with Episode One. I hope that parts of it become canon as James Luceno continues to write in the Star Wars universe.
  • Canto Bight – this is a silly bit of Star Wars fun – it doesn’t advance any characters or plotlines in the canon, but all the stories were well written and entertaining. I enjoyed it.
  • Joys of Jewish Preserving – as mentioned above, I enjoyed this very much and already tried a few recipes.
  • Maangchi – I had been wanting this for awhile and was happy it went on sale. There are so many good looking recipes in here, I can’t wait to try some.
  • In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison – this should be a good one, and I have a lot of recipes bookmarked.
  • I finally finished reading a bunch of other cookbooks: Tasting RomeMadhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, Momofuku, Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes, and Grand Central Market Cookbook. I’m less likely to try recipes from most of these, but we’ll see.

Stich Fix

I kept three pieces this time:

Last Month’s Update

 

August 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

It was a pretty good month overall, despite the hot weather. Tom finished up his last two weeks at his job and had two weeks off before starting the new job in September. During that time he was able to relax, see some movies, and do some cooking. We went to a few movies together: Do the Right Thing (BYO at the Roxy) and BlacKKKlansman, both of which were excellent. We got to go to a roof deck party when the weather was decent, which was nice. And, Tom bought us some new furniture, which makes a vast improvement in our living space. Thanks, Tom!

Farmers’ Markets

We’re enjoying one of the best times of year for the farmers’ markets. I’m trying to concentrate on preserving savory things, so I gave up on berries and plums (maybe next year), and have been concentrating on peaches, tomatoes, corn, and peppers. Early in August there were still some apricots, but those didn’t last long. We still have yet to see hot peppers or many tomatillos. We’ve also really been enjoying skate wing and swordfish from Shore Catch.

Wine

We got two orders from Plonk this month – one was their summer rosé six-pack, and the other was our usual white wine club order. In both cases, the shipping continues to be ridiculously slow (I didn’t get my wine club until the 20th of the month, though it’s supposed to ship in the first week). The rosés were all very nice, and the white wine club was an excellent selection as always. My favorite was a Croatian wine (Posip), but we didn’t care too much for the Hungarian wine (Zefir), which was a bit too perfumey. There was also a nice Moroccan wine and a white Bordeaux.

I got a Tasting Room club shipment of 6 bottles of white wine, after having taken a break for a month and reducing the quantity. I was overall disappointed; most of the wines we like are repeats at this point, and when we take a chance on something new, we end up not liking it. I’m going to skip September and try again in October. If this continues I’ll have to cancel, as I hate spending money on wine I don’t like.

Dining In

I used my bean club discount to buy some more Rancho Gordo beans: Vacquero, Moro, Rio Zape, Midnight Black, and prepared hominy. Of the new beans, I love the Vacquero, which has a beautiful black-and-white cow pattern and cooks up very creamy, but am not as impressed with the Moro, which is supposed to be in between pinto and black, but I didn’t think its flavor was that interesting, and I had a hard time cooking it down. I am totally enamored with Rio Zape right now; I didn’t get it at first, but now it’s definitely occupying a pinto part of my heart. The hominy and black beans are just good staples to have around.

Vacquero beans

In other excitement, I ordered a box of Hatch green chiles (Big Jim variety) from New Mexico. I used some of it right away, froze some fresh, and froze some roasted. I love the medium heat on these. I definitely want to do this again next year, but the question would be, should I stick with Big Jim, or kick it up a notch to Sandia?

Hatch green chiles!

Other than that, here are some of the things we made this month:

  • From New Vegetarian Cooking: Beans with Broccoli Rabe (using yellow eye beans), and Rio Zape beans with Cumin and Chile. I had made both of these recipes before, and they continue to be reliable.
  • Chicken legs glazed with homemade preserves: once with blood orange marmalade, and several times with apricot BBQ sauce.
  • Open-faced quesadillas, using Domingo Rojo beans.
  • Steve’s nearly magic tomato sauce with Flageolet beans, eggs, tortillas.
  • Swordfish cubes w/Greek salad – we’ve found we really enjoy cubing swordfish and then baking it, rather than attempting to pan fry or roast it whole.
  • Shrimp with hot paprika, Azufrado beans, and chorizo – we finally got some hot paprika to have around (in addition to smoked and sweet) and are digging it.
  • New Orleans red beans & rice with Domingo Rojo – also great as leftovers with eggs on top.
  • Tom found the best clams & pasta recipe –  we did this twice with clams and once with scallops.
  • Our usual veggie chili, but this time with Rancho Gordo Midnight Black and Vaquero beans instead of canned. This version of the chili had a thicker broth than usual, so delicious.
  • Posole with summer veggies – I used roasted peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans – then we repurposed this with eggs on top for brunch.
  • Flageolet beans with slow-roasted tomatoes – I made this for lunch one day; these beans definitely go great with tomatoes.
  • Peach pizza – this is the third year we’ve made this, and it continues to be delicious.
  • Moroccan chicken with tomato saffron jam – recipe from a free ebook by Diana Henry.
  • pressure cooker corn risotto – it was our first time making risotto in the pressure cooker, it’s pretty amazing how quickly it cooks, though the result is not nearly as starchy.
  • Hatch green chile sauce – I brought this as a side dish for a party, then we used the rest for swordfish. I was very pleased with how this came out.
  • corn pappardelle – one of our summer favorites.
  • Spanish chicken with Bravas sauce – using Cassoulet beans. It was a reminder of how good these beans are.
  • Salmon with charmoula
  • Moroccan carrots from the Zahav cookbook, served with hummus & pine nuts.
red beans & rice
Moroccan chicken with tomato saffron jam

Dining Out

The highlight of the month was a tomato-themed dinner at Bistrot La Minette. We also had excellent brunches at Noord and Royal Boucherie, and date nights at Le Virtù, Sawatdee, and SouthGate. One night we met Dennis and Emily for dinner and drinks at TALK, which was excellent. We also enjoyed Goldie falafel a few times for lunch.

Tomato dinner at Bistrot La Minette – photos by Tom Ipri
brunch at Noord

DIY

Making

It’s peak season, so I’ve been preserving a whole bunch of stuff:

    • Stone fruit:
      • apricot BBQ sauce w/gochujang from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars – this wasn’t really very BBQ-y at all, really just an apricot sauce. It’s good, but it needed more gochujang, and I wouldn’t call it BBQ without some tomato.
      • more peach almond marsala conserve from Preserving Italy, since we liked it so much last year.
      • pickled nectarine slices from Preserving by the Pint – the fruit was too ripe, so they didn’t stay as firm as the recipe calls for, but I love the pickled flavor.
      • peach saffron jam (we had leftover peaches after our peach pizza, so I threw this together last minute) – the recipe uses a food mill, so the peaches didn’t need to be peeled – it seemed more like a butter, but we’ll see if it set more like a jam when it’s opened.
      • more peach-tomato BBQ sauce from Saving the Season – this time I didn’t let it  reduce as much and got three 1/2 pint jars out of it. I love this kitchen sink recipe.
      • green tea chai spiced peaches – this had been on my recipe list for awhile – I really like the spices and am interested to see how it turns out. In the future, though, I need to remember that peaches are always better cold packed.
    • Tomatoes
      • heirloom tomato sauce from Saving the Season – going forward, I decided that the ROI on making tomato sauce using expensive farmers’ market tomatoes just isn’t worth it – it’s expensive AND time consuming, better to just buy tomato sauce. But this time I did manage to produce the right amount for a pint. I still want to preserve tomatoes, just in other recipes.
      • yellow tomato & basil jam – this was interesting and pretty – I’m interested in trying it again with green zebra tomatoes.
      • basic salsa from Food in Jars – this was pretty good, but not quite as good as the other chunky salsa recipe I’ve been using – it could be much hotter. It’s definitely a good “basic” recipe to use as a starting point, though, to be spiced up as desired. Red bell peppers give it a nice sweetness and contribute to the color. I would make it again and add more jalapeño.
      • more chunky tomato salsa (w/Hatch green chiles!)
      • more Brock tomato jam – I had initially thought about testing the pH to see if it could be canned, but decided not to bother since it has oil in it.
      • new batch of fermented tomato salsa from Ferment Your Vegetables
    • Sweet peppers
      • marinated mixed peppers from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars (made two batches)
      • roasted red pepper relish from Saving the Season – in the future, I think this should be my go-to pepper recipe, though it has competition from the NSFIJ honey recipe and Preserving Italy oil preserve. I like that it’s topped with olive oil, though that’s frowned upon in some canning circles; that actually makes this recipe best of both worlds.
    • Tomatillos and green chiles
      • tomatillo & roasted green chile sauce from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars – off the bat I thought it was too limey! I would leave off the lime zest next time. But the fact that I used fresh roasted chiles and didn’t bother to remove the seeds also made this nice & spicy.
      • more salsa verde (w/fresh Hatch green chiles) from Saving the Season
    • Celery
      • more fermented celery – I had to dig up the recipe though I swear I thought I wrote it down somewhere. For the record, it’s 2% brine, 3 garlic cloves, 3 bay leaves.
      • more pesto abruzzese from Preserving Italy – this batch made too much for a pint, and was way more carrot-y than last time.
      • pickled celery from Saving the Season – using some nice celery from Z Food Farm – this should be interesting.
    • Other canning
      • pickled green beans from Saving the Season – just garlic, dried pepper, black peppercorns (same seasonings as simple fermented version)
      • sweet corn salsa from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars
      • preserved fig quarters with whiskey from Preserving by the Pint
      • Tropea onion jam from Preserving Italy – this recipe was on my “winter” list, but I saw actual Tropea onions at the farmers’ market (from Z Food Farm) and decided to make it now, rather than using plain red onions.
    • Other non-canning
      • lemon olive oil from Preserving Italy
      • savory mint sauce from Preserving Italy (served with fish)
      • hummus
      • fermented potatoes – I have never made a stinkier ferment. It was actually fine while it was fermenting, I loved the bubbles. But once I tried to roast them up, my apartment suddenly smelled like stinky tofu at a Taiwan night market.
August 2018 preserves – photo by Tom Ipri
  • Using
    • apricot-gochujang BBQ sauce (see above) – I used this right away rather than canning it, I don’t remember why, it was probably a weird amount and I didn’t have the right jars – we’ve had it on chicken (very good) and fish (not a great pairing)
    • finished last year’s pesto abruzzese and started a new batch – I’ve been using this a lot with beans.
    • finished fermented celery and started a new batch – I’m so pleased with how well this keeps, it’s so great not to have to waste celery.
    • opened 1 jar of blood orange marmalade – it’s pretty good! Now I won’t hesitate to either keep or give away the rest of my jars (of which there are far too many!)
    • opened lemon garlic pickles from Indian Family Kitchen – very tasty!
    • I had to toss last year’s 4 pepper jelly – I should have opened it sooner. It was about a year old and the solids had separated rather than holding their suspension in the jelly. Too bad, the little I tried when I first made it was very tasty. I guess I suck at jelly.
    • opened our last jar of blueberry gin jam from last year
    • opened 1st batch of strawberry jam (Preserving Italy recipe) – I had overcooked it, so we tossed it
    • opened 2nd batch of strawberry jam (“fancy” recipe from Saving the Season), and it was excellent – just the way I like my strawberry jam
    • finished date chutney – almost a year old, was starting to get crystalized
    • finished fermented salsa and started a new batch.
    • got rid of all my sauerkraut – it was all good, but just couldn’t eat it all, and needed the jars & fridge space
    • opened a jar of the corn salsa – it’s very nice, much better than the corn relish I made last year

Books

  • I finished Aftermath 3 – overall I enjoyed this series very much. After finishing it, I hit a bit of a lull as to what to read next.
  • I continued Catch 22
  • I read several cookbooks: Afro Vegan, Food in Jars (checked out from the library), Preserving by the Pint, and Jam Session.
  • Toward the end of the month, to try and break up my lull, I read A Million Worlds with You, the final book of Claudia Gray’s Firebird series. It was a fine ending, but I feel like this series peaked with the first book.

Last Month’s Update

July 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

It was a great month overall, though the heat in Philly was rather oppressive at times. Luckily, we spent a good portion of the month in California. 🙂 When we got back from vacation, we had a visit from my friend Sarah for a few days, and Tom got some very good news about his job (more on that later). We saw Star Wars Episode IV at the Mann Theater with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which was fantastic. We also went to a Phillies-Dodgers game with work colleagues, where we had delicious hot dogs (it went into extra innings, but the Phillies won; I was actually rooting for the Dodgers, so boo). I was saddened by the passing of Jonathan Gold; I’ve never really reacted to a “celebrity” death before, but this one really got to me. On the last day of the month, I took a work day trip to State College; it was interesting to see more of the rural PA countryside.

photo by Tom Ipri
Phillies vs. Dodgers, 7/24/18

Travel

We had a wonderful vacation to California for my friend Anton’s wedding party. We’ve been on so few proper vacations, as most of our travel ends up being work-related, so this felt long overdue.

Marina del Rey

We flew into San Jose, and started our trip in Cupertino, which was the location of the wedding hotel. It was a little funny to be in the place where the iPhone factory settings default to – there were certainly Apple office buildings everywhere. However, it wasn’t just an office park suburban hellscape – while there was not a ton of stuff immediately near our hotel, within about a mile’s walk there were a great deal of tasty Asian restaurants and other food options. After a long day of planes and airports, we were in the mood for something cool and light, so we opted for Rootstock Wine Bar and had a few snacks. The next morning, we found a pretty good breakfast place, and then after relaxing the rest of the morning, we headed to the wedding party.

Cupertino
Rootstock – photos by Tom Ipri

The wedding party was held in Sanborn County Park in Saratoga, aside a grove of lovely redwood trees. It was a perfectly relaxing, chill setting. The marriage ceremony had been held the day before at San Francisco City Hall, so this was a social get-together. There was a delicious spread of Filipino food, as well as a taco truck and churros truck, and Anton and colleagues provided live music. Afterwards we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed some excellent gin and tonics at the bar.

Sanborn County Park – photo by Tom Ipri
with the bride & groom – photo by Tom Ipri

The following morning, we found a great breakfast place in West San Jose, which I’ll call Absolutely Bill’s Cafe, where I had some excellent chilaquiles. We took Highway 17 down to Santa Cruz. I had only been to Santa Cruz once in the mid-1990s didn’t know quite what to do or where to go, but we parked in a metered spot, added all our quarters, and headed toward the pier. I really liked the view from the boardwalk and all the tasty-looking seafood, but unfortunately we didn’t really have time to enjoy much of it – we just took a nice stroll and took photos. Next time I would certainly like to stay longer and see more of the city and get a bite to eat.

Santa Cruz

After Santa Cruz, we continued driving to Monterey. We found a place to park and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, ending up at Abalonetti. We got an appetizer of Gilroy roasted garlic, which ended up being a whole garlic bulb for each of us! I got calamari tacos, and Tom got fish & chips. After lunch, we walked around and went to the Salvador Dali museum.

Monterey
Monterey
Roasted Gilroy garlic at Abalonetti

After that we headed to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where we would be staying for the next three days. Oh, it was heaven! When we checked into our room, I noticed there was no air conditioning and was a little concerned. But we opened the window and there was such a lovely ocean breeze, which was even better. I loved that it was a good 20 degrees cooler there than anywhere else. Once we were settled, we walked around town a little bit. For dinner, we hadn’t done a whole lot of research, but ended up at a decent Italian place nearby, Bistro Giovanni.

Our room in Carmel
Bistro Giovanni

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast at The Village Corner, then headed down to the beach before it got too hot & crowded. Ah, the beach! It was a pretty steep walk, which was fine on the way down but quite the effort on the way back up. We hadn’t previously been thinking about wine tasting in Carmel, but once we realized there were so many tasting rooms, we decided to check it out. Before lunch, we tried Albatross Ridge, which had a lovely tasting room, and quite excellent local Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We went to lunch at Dametra, which had looked tantalizing the night before when we were seeking dinner, but turned out to be just OK – we both had rather dry falafel. After lunch, we went wine tasting at Caraccioli Cellars, which featured a very nice sparkling and an excellent rosé, as well as nice Chardonnay and Pinot. We relaxed back at our room for awhile, then had a wonderful dinner at Cultura. I have to say it was one of the better modern Mexican places I’d eaten at, ever. In addition to our food, the wine & cocktails were excellent. We were especially pleased with the barrel aged mezcal negroni, which used St. George’s Bruto Americano in place of Campari.

The Village Corner
Carmel
Albatross Ridge
Cultura – photos by Tom Ipri

The next morning we had breakfast at Lafayette Kitchen and returned to the beach for another walk. Afterwards, we decided to repeat our pattern from the day before, with a wine tasting before lunch & after lunch. First, we went to Wrath, which was my favorite Carmel winery of the trip. All of the pinot noirs were outstanding, and they had several lovely sauvignon blancs, including one in a can. Of all the tasting rooms we visited, this was the winery I most wished shipped to PA. We had lunch at Grasing’s Seafood, which was overall unimpressive. I did get a small portion of expensive abalone, but it was overshadowed by the excellent heirloom tomatoes it was served with. After lunch, we went to two somewhat disappointing wine tasting rooms, Scratch and Hahn. As with the day before, we spent some time relaxing in our hotel room, then went to dinner at Yafa, which was our best meal in Carmel. After dinner, we went back to Cultura for some after-dinner drinks.

Lafayette Kitchen
Carmel
Wrath
Yafa

On our last morning in Carmel, while there was another breakfast joint we wanted to try, we ended up back at Village Corner since we had enjoyed it the first time. We spent the remainder of the morning relaxing in our room, waiting as long as we could to check out, because we so didn’t want to leave! We just got into such a wonderful relaxy zone while we were there. We had originally thought about having lunch in Big Sur en route to Paso Robles, but Highway 1 was still partially closed, so instead we went back up to Monterey for lunch. We took the “17 mile drive” in Pebble Beach from Carmel to Monterey, which was quite lovely.

Lone Cypress on the 17 mile drive
A nice picture Tom took of me on the 17 mile drive

Rather than stopping back at the wharf, we ate at a place slightly off the beaten path, Monterey’s Fish House. Google told us to take a weird back way back to the 101. The whole way down to Paso I was regretting even thinking about adding this to our trip, as I was having Carmel withdrawal. It didn’t help that when we finally got to Paso a few hours later, it turned out the hotel I had picked out was way more out of town than I thought it would be. Next time, Paso Robles Inn or bust! It was hot and we were tired and it was a pain in the ass walk to downtown, even though it was only a mile, since it was not very pedestrian friendly. We stopped at Thomas Hill Organics for a glass of wine, and we thought we had secured a reservation at The Hatch for dinner. When we got to The Hatch, it turned out to be a weird blip in the Yelp Reservations system and they didn’t have our reservation at all. They still seated us, but rushed us out. The food was OK, but not remarkable, so it was all rather disappointing. Luckily this was almost made up for by some excellent after-dinner drinks across the street at Fish Gaucho, which boasted one of the best mezcal selections I’ve ever seen.

Paso Robles
The Hatch – photo by Tom Ipri

The next morning, we had a good Mexican breakfast at Los Robles Cafe. After walking around town a bit, we got in the car and drove to Tablas Creek Vineyard for a tasting. It had been so long since I had been to Paso, it’s sad to say that Adelaida Road didn’t even look familiar anymore, but it was a lovely drive. We had a very nice tasting there, but we didn’t want to mix more drinking and driving, so that was the only place we stopped. We came back into town and had a nice lunch at Farmstead Kitchen before heading back to our room to relax. For dinner, we trekked back into town and ate at Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ, followed by a wine tasting at Indigenè Cellars. Both were in a little back alley behind where Artisan used to be – it was kind of a cool setting, it felt very different for Paso. I don’t know how to explain it, but Paso 10 years ago had more extremes, like stuffy/fancy and provincial/low-brow with nothing in between, and now there is this layer of places that are both relaxed/casual and high quality, which didn’t used to exist, and I love it.

Los Robles Cafe – photo by Tom Ipri
Tablas Creek
Farmstead Kitchen
Jeffry’s BBQ

The next morning, we had an amazing breakfast at Kitchenette in Templeton, from the former Artisan folks (thanks to our pourer at Tablas for the hot tip). It was casual counter service, but super good, fresh/local food. We didn’t linger long in Templeton, but even a short drive through town made me want to spend more time there, and made me regret that we didn’t make it to McPhee’s. Templeton just has a small town, old-West feel with so much good food & wine. While we didn’t stop for any further tastings, we also found our way to the Tin City section of Paso, that has an amazing concentration of tasting rooms plus a brewery. It’s a definite must for next time.

Kitchenette

Despite our enjoyable breakfast, we were ready to bust out of there and make our way back to Monterey for lunch. We made the drive, and returned to Fisherman’s Wharf to try a different place. We ended up at Scales, which was one of the places we had considered on our first day. I have to admit I had been a little turned off by the blatant hawking on the outside, but once on the inside it was quite lovely and serene. My beers kind of sucked, but our artichoke & calamari appetizer was excellent, and Tom and I both enjoyed our entrees. Tom got a seafood pasta, and I got a mixed seafood grill with swordfish, salmon, and shrimp. After our lunch, we drove back to San Jose, to a hotel near the airport.

Scales Monterey

We had arrangements to meet Anton for dinner, so we only barely had time to drop off our stuff before it was time to head out again. We were tired of driving, so we took a Lyft to Redwood City. The place he had picked out (Vesta) had a great pizza menu, and we opted for most of their seasonal specials: an heirloom tomato & burrata salad, roasted carrots, cherry pizza, and peach pizza. After dinner, we headed back to Anton’s place to visit awhile longer. And then, sigh, it was time to head back, and then get up early for our flight back to Philadelphia.

Vesta Redwood City

I probably get more homesick each time I go to California, and this was no exception. We only brought back a few souvenirs in person, including a bag of locally roasted coffee beans from Carmel, and a bottle of wine from Tablas Creek. After our return, we bought some more things online to remind us of our trip, including:

  • Pepper Plant hot sauce – this was at every single restaurant we went to on the Central Coast, from San Jose even down to Paso. Apparently it’s a local favorite!
  • can-shaped beer glasses – they had these at Jeffry’s BBQ in Paso, and I don’t know why, but I’m totally enamored with their form factor. I’ve been steadily breaking water glasses at home and it was getting time to order more pint glasses anyway, so these fit the bill. I don’t recall seeing them before the trip, but now that I’m aware of them, I’m seeing them everywhere.
  • can caps – I had no idea these were a thing, but we saw them at one of the wine tasting rooms in Carmel that sold wine by the can. Every once in awhile I do want to save the partially opened contents of a beer can, so these are great.
  • Bruto Americano – thank goodness the State Store carried this online. We had it in a cocktail in Carmel and really liked it. FINALLY a Campari substitute we can get our hands on!
a tasty, tasty order from the State Store when we returned.

Farmers’ Market

Despite loving our vacation, we were quite anxious to get back to the farmers’ market. On our first weekend back, we got in late on a Saturday, so it was a good excuse to go the Headhouse Farmers’ Market on Sunday. We got some wonderful Anadama bread from High Street and some lovely tomatillos, as well as corn, tomatoes, and a skate wing from Shore Catch.

The following week we were back at Fitler and Rittenhouse and I was glad to get plums, cherries, tomatoes, peaches, and corn so I could start preserving again.

7/15/18
7/21/18

Wine

Plonk

My monthly club shipment didn’t arrive until after we got back from California, which is really late in the month even for Plonk and their slow-ass shipping. We drank two of them when Sarah was visiting, so I didn’t really pay close attention to them, but they were good. The real standout was Caiatì, 100% Pallagrello Bianco, an indigenous grape from Campania.

Dining In

When we returned from vacation, it was time for our quarterly Rancho Gordo bean club! Here’s what we got this time:

  • Alubia Blanca – little tiny white beans, so cute, but very delicate
  • Azufrado – brilliant, excellent substitute for cannellini, very meaty white bean
  • Domingo Rojo – excellent red bean, makes a deeply flavored broth
  • Flageolet – surprisingly green, vegetal, delicate. Good substitute for yellow wax bean, good salad bean
  • Scarlet Runner – big, meaty, like a dark version of Royal Coronas
  • Yellow Eye – creamy, delicious, sturdy, perfect for baked beans
  • Spelt – basically, farro. Very nice quality, with a rich, nutty flavor. I didn’t realize there were 3 kinds of farro, and this is the long grain kind.
July 2018 Rancho Gordo Bean Club

Here are the bean recipes we tried this month:

More black bean veggie burgers!
shrimp with azufrado beans

Other memorable home cooked meals from this month include:

  • Chicken with Zahav parsley-onion marinade. This might be my favorite marinade of the three chicken marinades in the book – I would love to do them all at once with kabobs
  • Japchae! I finally bought some sweet potato glass noodles, so these were fun to make at home, such a light, satisfying summer recipe with veggies
  • We made skate wing twice, using the Anson Mills lacquer (rice flour & oat flour), with cayenne, chili powder, and cumin
  • Swordfish tacos! Swordfish cooks so much more easily and consistently when we cube it and bake it in the oven, as opposed to pan frying in a skillet. It was the perfect combination of moist and flaky.
Skate wing with 3-bean sald

Dining Out

  • For the 4th of July, we met Dennis for lunch at Tio Flores and visited the South Street beer garden
  • Naturally, we were happy to get to SouthGate after our vacation – it’s a comforting place to go when we get in late from the airport. We also went there for dinner following my long day at State College.
  • When Sarah was visiting, we visited Cafe Lutecia for BYO dinner, and Little Spoon for breakfast
  • We enjoyed brunches at Twenty Manning and SouthGate

DIY

Making:

  • Apricot jam with maple and vanilla from Saving the Season – I’m still on an apricot kick
  • Plum preserves from Preserving Italy – I scorched it a little, so I hope it’s OK
  • Cherry preserves with pinot noir from Saving the Season – this was my first time buying or using powdered pectin. I used a can of Pinot Noir, which was a convenient way to use wine for cooking without opening a whole bottle.
  • Peach chutney from Saving the Season – this time I was able to use fresh turmeric instead of powdered and I think it made a big difference. I added nigella seeds (as inspired from The Indian Family Kitchen), but forgot to add bourbon, so I’ll need to make another batch
  • Tomato sauce from Preserving Italy – as usual, I’m disappointed in the low yield
  • Mustard
  • Fermented escabeche pickles (carrots, jalapeño, onion, garlic)
  • Salsa verde from Saving the Season
  • Roasted tomatillo salsa – I prefer the salsa verde recipe above, but this one is good to have around for chilaquiles
  • Sweet & sour roasted peppers (oil preserve) from Preserving Italy
  • Honey-sweetened apricot-thyme jam (this was my first time doing a jam with no granulated sugar! YOU GUYS, this is amazing, I had to immediately buy Naturally Sweet Food in Jars)
  • Chunky tomato salsa – this was a hit last year, so I was looking forward to making more
  • Peach slices in bourbon (maple-sweetened) from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars
  • Amy’s tomato jam (honey-sweetened) from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars
  • Italian plum conserve from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars
Apricot-maple vanilla jam
July 2018 preserves – photo by Tom Ipri

Using

  • One of the apricot-maple jam jars didn’t seal, so I put it in the fridge – it is friggin delicious. I wish I had more of it.
  • We’re continuing to enjoy the LTP peppers
  • We finished the Asian plum sauce (with chicken)
  • We finished an earlier batch of salsa verde

Books

  • I continued Toll the Hounds, but didn’t get very far. Partly because it’s the slowest, dullest book of the Malazan series, and partly because it’s a print hardcover, and I spent much of the month traveling and prioritizing Kindle books.
  • I read Trail of Lightning, which was absolutely fantastic. It helped that I had studied Diné Bahane’ in college, so the idea of a 6th world and many of the references made sense. This has to be one of my favorite post-apocalyptic scenarios.
  • I started Catch 22, but didn’t finish. This book is such a joy – every chapter makes me laugh. It holds its place as my favorite novel.
  • I read Star Wars Aftermath 1, Aftermath 2, and started Aftermath 3. This series was surprisingly good. Mister Bones may be my new 4th or 5th favorite droid. All of the characters were engaging, and I had no idea the series would be so sexually progressive. I’m a new Chuck Wendig fan!
  • I read Children of Blood and Bone, which was wonderful. I look forward to the next book in the series.
  • I read Evernight and was extremely disappointed in it. I picked it up since I like Claudia Gray but without knowing much about it. If I had known it was YA vampire I would imagine I would have run screaming; or, maybe at one point I knew that but wanted to give it a chance. Either way, in the beginning I hated it because it was just awful prep school snobbery. Then the vampire shit started and it got even more awful. I read some reviews, and the people who didn’t like it were mad about the twist; I didn’t mind the twist at all, I thought that part was clever, I just thought it was awful because of the shitty, sick, controlling relationship. You guys, abuse is not romantic, full stop. I can’t believe I even finished this book, but I am certainly not continuing the series, and I would not recommend it to anyone.
  • As mentioned above, I finally bought Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. When I started the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge last year, I was immediately horrified by all the sugar in so many preserving recipes. I’ve been following Food in Jars for many years, but I’m a bit surprised that Marisa doesn’t discuss this issue more and use it as an opportunity to promote the book, which only uses natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and dried fruit. I would personally be happy to never use granulated sugar again, so I look forward to making as many of the recipes in this book as I can, as well as learning how to make these adaptations myself.

Last Month’s Update

June 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

What a start to summer. The month started off hot & humid, then got nice and cool for the middle of the month, then ended with a horrendous heat wave. In the middle part, there was some lovely deck weather and time to take nice, long photo walks all over the city. It was an eventful month for Tom, as his childhood home was sold. I got to visit Temple’s Ambler campus, which was simply lovely in terms of landscape architecture. We attended one protest, but missed another. I finally got a haircut, for the first time since before my job interview last summer – I have no idea why I waited so long, but I’m pleased regardless.

Temple University Ambler Campus
Pence protest at Rittenhouse Square – photo by Tom Ipri
Fitler Square

Farmers’ Markets

This month definitely started out spring (strawberries, asparagus, peas) and ended in summer (cherries, apricots, and even a tiny box of tomatoes!). This is the first year I cared about or even noticed when apricot season is – I hadn’t realized it was so much earlier than peaches. I grew up with a ridiculously productive apricot tree in our backyard and got apricot-ed out by the late 1980s. Perhaps I’m finally ready to get over that, but baby steps. I had forgotten what a delight apricots are to work with, what with how they halve with just your hands and can be pitted so easily. They have a lovely, bright flavor as well as color – but no need to go overboard, they’re still not peaches.

6/9/18
6/16/18

Wine

Plonk

This was another excellent month with Plonk. I enjoyed all 4 bottles in the June club, plus the three bottles I had purchased separately toward the end of last month. We also finally tried the outlier from last month’s club, an Australian riesling, which was lovely and surprisingly dry. I would like to order more from Plonk, but my only reservations are the slow shipping and the fair but still high-for-me prices. It will just have to be more of a splurge than something I can do regularly.

Tasting Room

I’d have to say this was another so-so month with the Tasting Room club. I really enjoyed the pinot blancs and Côtes du Rhone blancs, as well as another surprisingly dry New Zealand sauvignon blanc. However, they really need to stop sending me pinot grigios, and I didn’t care for the pinot noir. I still haven’t tried the prosecco. I’m going to take a break from Tasting Room for the month of July, and then resume in August, going down to 6 bottles instead of 12. Maybe by then they’ll add some more wines to their selection; right now I feel like there’s nothing in their inventory that fits my profile that I haven’t already tried.

State Store

This month’s theme was New Zealand and included a sauvignon blanc and a pinot noir. I haven’t had the pinot noir yet, but the sauvignon blanc had heavy tropical fruit, unsurprisingly, and I just didn’t enjoy it. This was my final month of my 1 year test run with the state store’s “Aficionado” club, and frankly I couldn’t hit “unsubscribe” fast enough. I look forward to re-purposing the $$ I was spending on this experiment toward something more reliably enjoyable.

Dining In

I continue to enjoy making lots of different bean recipes with my Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. This month featured:

  • pizza beans! (Royal Corona beans) – the recipe definitely lived up to the hype, and I LOVE the giant Royal Coronas.
  • spring minestrone verde (Marcella beans) – this was delightfully green and springy.
  • Boston baked beans (Raquel beans) – this was very good, but I want to experiment with different baked bean recipes.
  • California tamale pie (Cassoulet beans) – this was great!
  • polenta with borlotti beans & tomatoes (Anson Mills polenta, Rancho Gordo cranberry beans) – this was fine, but I think I’d prefer white beans rather than borlotti.
  • red wine pinto beans – so good!  It is an absolute must to make this with Benton’s bacon -it is one of my favorite bean preparations to date.
  • chili sin carne (Ayocote Negro beans) – this chili packs a punch, thanks to Rancho Gordo New Mexico chile powder! It was a very interesting recipe, as it has no tomatoes; the preparation reminds me more of a mole.
  • tomato butter bean skillet (Royal Corona beans) – OK but nothing special, I don’t think it really highlighted the beans well.
  • white beans & roasted garlic dip (Marcella beans) from New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – we served this with scallops & green beans. It was pretty good, but too salty, and it didn’t last long.
  • black bean curry (Midnight Black) – this was very good, though I would leave off the potatoes next time. The bean broth was heavenly.

I’ve been keeping notes and finally figuring out some best practices with certain beans, as far as whether or not and how long to soak, but practice is still needed! Toward the end of the month I tried using the pressure cooker to cook beans for the first time, and I might be a convert. It doesn’t save THAT much time but it does save a lot of babysitting – you can just let the beans go do their thing and they come out perfectly with minimal effort. I’m glad I got over my fear of the pressure cooker and tried it, as I think it will make it much easier to cook beans in the summer without heating up the apartment.

spring minestrone verde
chili sin carne
borlotti beans with tomatoes and polenta

Other than beans-

  • shakshuka – I’ve made this any number of times before, but this time Tom cooked and followed the recipe properly! Charred veggies make all the difference – in the past I’ve ignored that part, much to my present regret.
  • lacquered scallops – this time we made the lacquer properly w/oat and rice flour (thanks to an order from Anson Mills) with carrot romesco (inspired by an Instagram post from @gwsabatino)
  • one pot harissa chicken – this was fabulous. We made the David Lebovitz version, which is based on a Melissa Clark recipe, so we’ll have to try the original sometime.
  • pistachio and lentil dip – this was a nice substitute when my hummus went bad!
  • “Triple-the-fish seafood hotpot” from Half Baked Harvest
  • sesame noodles with asparagus from New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
  • salt & pepper walnuts from New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
  • spicy chicken with red palm oil – I was looking for another use for red palm oil and this worked nicely
  • ricotta gnocchi with asparagus and prosciutto – it’s always nice to make this once every spring
  • chicken w/porchetta salt, lemon, garlic, herbs – this was based on an Instagram post by @domenicacooks, and was a good excuse for me to make the porchetta salt from Preserving Italy
  • skate from Shore Catch, prepared simply with rice/oat flour lacquer and butter, served with arugula salad with fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh mozz, and lemon olive oil
One-pot harissa chicken
lacquered scallops over carrot romesco
shakshuka – photo by Tom Ipri
Lacquered scallops over white bean dip – photo by Tom Ipri
ricotta gnocchi with asparagus and prosciutto – photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

We didn’t go out too much this month, but did have some nice meals at the usual spots, plus a few new places. We were so glad that TALK finally opened, and it was nice to try Twenty Manning’s new brunch.

Audrey Claire
Tio Flores – photo by Tom Ipri
Twenty Manning Grill – photo by Tom Ipri
TALK – photo by Tom Ipri

DIY

Making

    • I made strawberry jam with pinot noir from Saving the Season. Strawberries are so foamy! Though there are more strawberry preserves recipes I want to try, I stopped after this batch as I didn’t want to get overwhelmed with jam, plus the strawberries were really attracting flies
    • I made two cherry recipes: spiced cherry preserves and cherries in red wine cold pack.
    • I finished the homemade bacon from last month – after 2 weeks it had lost nearly 50% of weight(!), which was way too much. I didn’t expect to check on it so soon – next time, if working with such small quantity, I will be sure to check sooner. It was only supposed to lose 20-30% of weight over 3-4 weeks. So it might be too dry, more like jerky, but we’ll see. I sliced it up and put in the freezer and look forward to using it!
    • I did a few things with apricots: apricot anise jam from Preserving Italy and honey-spiced apricot halves.
    • As mentioned above, I made porchetta salt from Preserving Italy

Using

  • Asian plum sauce – we opened this and tried it with chicken and fish
  • Bread & butter pickles – these were surprising! I honestly had low expectations, but the cucumber was still crisp (even after a year), and while they were sweet, they had a very pleasant flavor, like my mom’s spiced pickled peaches. I probably wouldn’t make them again, but this was a good recipe.
  • I finally opened my LTP pickled peppers – I wish I had opened them sooner. They are basically perfect, and I would definitely use this method again.

Books

  • In my Malazan re-read, I finished Reaper’s Gale and started Toll the Hounds, both of which are hardcover/paper. Reaper’s Gale remains one of my favorite Malazan books, so that was great, but Toll the Hounds is one of my least favorite, so I haven’t gotten very far; I took a break once a bunch of my library holds came in on Kindle.
  • I finished Down Among the Sticks and Stones, the second book in the Wayward Children series – this was hard to finish as I didn’t really get into it at all. It was boring staying with just the two characters, Jack and Jill, and just visiting their one portal world. Not to mention IMHO they were some of the least likable characters from the first book, so it was hard for me to get into a story just about them, though of course it did bring insight to their characters and their actions from the first book, plus gave a more in depth look at a portal world experience from beginning to end.
  • Reaper at the Gates – I bought this the day it came out and loved it – this series continues to be great and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
  • Phasma – I really liked the narrative structure of this one, flipping between torturer and captive, but not really getting into Phasma’s head at all until the very end. It actually had me on the edge of my seat, even reading while walking since I couldn’t put it down.
  • I read several Star Wars comics via Kindle (on Tom’s iPad) – starting from the beginning of the canon timeline, including Darth Maul and Obi-Wan & Anakin. The art was well done in both, and both stories contributed well to the overall canon.
  • Last Shot – it had a very cool ending, but it was a bit dull getting there. The flashbacks were disruptive and didn’t pay off until the end – not to mention one of them is clearly a continuity error and needs to take place several years before the book says it does. But L3 is the best!
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky – I liked this almost as much as the first book of the Wayward Children series and certainly more than Down Among the Sticks and Stones. It was a return to Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children and featured a variety of characters who had all been to different portal worlds, and you actually get to travel to several different portal worlds.

Stitch Fix

I kept 4 things, which I don’t like to do because it never works out economically (it’s cheaper to keep all 5 things because of the discount than it is to return 1 thing you don’t like; if you’re going to return 1 thing, you need to return 2 things in order to actually save money), but that’s how it goes. My favorite thing is a green shirt and black skirt. The earrings are nice, and the dress is pretty, though I’m a little paranoid about how snugly it fits due to my belly.

41 Hawthorn Kerensa Tulip Sleeve Blouse, Le Lis Malia Zipper Detail Skirt
Kut from the Kloth Mollee Knit Dress

Last Month’s Update