Thursday, July 30, 2009

panko-and-parm crusted zukes plopped with cran-goat cheese

It is a delightfully big deal that my hometown finally has a farmer's market.

Trust me, we are the snails in the rabbit race of culinary modernization and, in our country-esque landscape it is obviously fitting that warm weather stands house some of our area's finest.

Although I will politely say it is still up-and-coming with little to be offered, there was a diamond in the rough this past weekend. Amazing Acres Goat Dairy, located mere miles away from the summertime market, perfectly whirls everything from dill, chipotle and cracked pepper, to rosemary-lemon and cranberry, into their creamy blends of cheeses. A self-proclaimed sucker for goat cheeses (uhm, all cheese actually, reread blog name), I had to snatch a pack of my own, opting for the sweetest, the cranberry, to satisfy my always-present sweet teeth.

Being that it is summer and fresh produce is aplenty, I was also sure to grab armfuls of gorgeous zucchinis, which I decided, would pair beautifully with Amazing Acres' cheese.

Baked Parm-Crusted Zucchini
Serves 4 as side dish or snack

1 large zucchini
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to season

Preheat over to 450 degrees. Prepare baking sheet with cooking spray. Slice zucchini into 1/8-inch thick rounds. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Coat each slice on both sides with oil. Toss the oiled zucchini thoroughly in the bread coating, lay flat on baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes.

Once slightly cooled, crumble goat cheese on top of each piece and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

almost devilish, almost meatless

I have always been the oddball in the family.

Well, if you met my two older brothers you would think that I am the most normal, by appearance, but when it comes to what I allow to enter my two skinny lips, I am instantly a weirdo. For example, if they'd order a hamburger coated in cheddar, I'd order a lamb patty plopped with feta. They'd order a Yuengling, I'd order a Hop Hog -- you get the point.

Thus, being the adventurous one, it would be expected of me that if I were to make the classic picnic staple, deviled eggs, I would not follow my mom's highly-acclaimed recipe (sorry, Mom). Swirling a little bit of Miracle Whip with a little bit of yellow mustard, her yolks have always been so loved, and this love also comes from my scarfing-self.

So simple, yet so perfect, dozens of these fine eggs are packaged in Tupperware containers for many, upon many friend-and-family functions. However, some times the best things are born from escaping your comfort zone, so I allowed myself to take the Claudia Strauss Torch and devilishly sneak into my own, slightly gourmet, world of hard-boiled eggs, courtesy of Almost Meatless.

In AM, authors Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond, who are also fellow Philadelphians, satisfying sculpt, as the title assumes, health-conscious recipes that scale back our meaty intakes, without sacrificing the flavors we carnivorously crave. And, coming from a girl who's a post-vegetarian, now embarrassingly-addicted meathead, I have been dying for a book with such a balance!

Here, I cross their starting line with a sampling of their retro-styled devilish eggs, which by the way, received extreme gratification from my experienced mother with a two-thumbs up.

Deviled Eggs
Serves 4 to 8
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 dozen eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup mayo
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon grated shallot
1/2 teaspoon sriracha or hot sauce
5 cornichons, diced
salt & fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon paprika, for garnish
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Bake panko crumbs on a rimmed sheet for about 10 minutes. Cool. Slice eggs in half. (Tip: Spray knife with cooking spray for easy slicing!) Scrap yolk into large bowl. Add mustard, mayo, turmeric, shallot, sriracha and cornichons. Whisk until smooth; season to taste with salt and taste. Using a teaspoon, fill each egg with a heaping dose of yolk mixture. (To be fancy, use a piping bag.) Just before serving, add pinch of baked panko and dust evenly with paprika.

Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press and the authors.

Friday, July 24, 2009

boosting on lancaster brewery's beers

I used to consider myself a wine snob.

I swirled and sniffed as if it was my job (well, sometimes it was). By nature, I then would turn my tarty snout to anything hop-related. A tan pint of anything foamy was never a request, and thinking back now, what was I thinking?!

A few months back, B and I attended a beer-tasting shindigg in a friend's backyard. Cases and coolers of microbrewed specialities filled a substantial part of their grassy parts, and sips of Miller Light and Yuengling were satisfyingly scarce. We guzzled Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss and Sunset Wheat, Dogfish Head's Festina Peche, Old Rasputin's Imperial Stoudt, Shipyard Brewery's Pumpkinhead Ale, and my favorite, Lancaster Brewing Company's Strawberry Wheat.

With such an extreme introduction to what the brewing world had to offer, I was automatically hooked into the hoppy world and had decided that I am far from ever escaping. Thus, paying a visit to the brewhouse of my [one of] favorite fruity beer was obviously, a no-brainer.

B and I, with the accompaniment of his dad, journeyed to Lancaster to scope out what really makes this local brewery top-notch. Setting up a private tour with their welcoming brewmaster Bill, and making sure we each had a brew in hand, we sampled pre-beer malted barley in all-of-its forms, had sneak peeks inside their stainless-steel brewing tanks, smelt the bittery potentness of their award-winning hops, punched the mashed spent-grain post-fermentation that's housed in barrels for area farmers, and most importantly, filled our bellies with the freshest and tastiest gulps any girl (plus boys) could wish for!

malted barley one-hand, brewski the other

brewing tanks

hoppity-jarred hops

mashed spent grain

processing Strawberry Wheat

And, while I am already obsessed with the Strawberry Wheat, and now, the Country Cream Ale, I think the upcoming September-release of the Shoo-Fly Porter may just have this Pennsylvania Dutch girl gushing!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

raisin-studded cinn-spins smothered in an apple cream cheese glaze

Honestly, I would rather have the real thing.

Real thing meaning, if I were to make cinnamon rolls, I would, without hesitation, prepare the dough myself. I would allow time for it to raise, knead the flour substance with my tough girl hands, and then, sprinkle and spin these bad boys into the best roll a bakery has ever had to offer.

But come on, sometimes you do not have time for that (my Mammy would be so disappointed). Instead, I devised a plan for anyone who's time-crunched, but still wants something similar to the real thing--in 25 minutes or less.

Makes 20 mini-rolls

1 Pillsbury crescent roll tube
4 tablespoons of butter, or margarine, softened
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
4 teaspoons of granulated sugar
4 tablespoons of raisins

Unroll the crescents onto a greased baking sheet. Do not divide into the crescent triangles, but instead, keep the dough in four rectangles. Pinch the perforations together between the triangles to seal.

Spread a tablespoon of butter onto each square. In small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle evenly over each square and then, plop each with raisins. Starting with the smaller end of the rectangle, roll up entirely and pinch edges to seal.

Slice each roll int0 five or six mini-rolls. Place the cut end down onto a slightly greased pie pan.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for about 10 minutes before glazing.

Apple Cream Cheese Glaze

2 tablespoons of apple juice
2 tablespoons of natural unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
4 oz. cream cheese

Bring apple juice, applesauce and 1/2 cup of sugar to boil. Let cool. Combine apple-sugar mix with cream cheese until smooth. Plop about a teaspoon of the glaze on top of each spin.

Friday, July 17, 2009

my favorite silver fox's layered strawberry surprise

Being that I am the go-to baker in the family, more so, the appointed baker of my immediate relations, requests for baked goods for family celebrations and picnics are regularly penciled in my planner. However, they also are an exciting source that upping my creative cake-baking juices.

My grandmother, for her July birthday, requested a "white" cake. Now, this is coming from the lady who taught me how to craft the best red velvet cake in the world (no lie) and also, allowed me to sample the best of PA Dutch cooking for my so-far-lived life--a white cake just seemed too ordinary. But, you can't deny a simple request from a elder and, my simple spin on a white cake resulted in delectable layers of vanilla sponge smothered with cream cheese frosting and the season's best, syrupy strawberries.

And, not to brag, but I think she ate more than just one humorous sweet slice.

Silver Fox Strawberry Surprise
One Two-Layer Cake

2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup veggie shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk (or soy)
2/3 cups unbeaten egg whites (about 4 eggs)
fresh strawberries (about 2 1/2 cups sliced)

Sift all dry ingredients together. Add 1/2 cup shortening, 2/3 cup milk and vanilla, and beat for two minutes. Add remaining 1/3 cup of milk and egg whites, and beat for another two minutes. Bake in two round layer pans, 8 inch x 1 1/2 inch, at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool cake completely before assembling.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 stick margarine (1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Mix above ingredients until creamy; do not melt the margarine. Once cake is at room temperature, spread generously on the top of each round. Add an overall-covering of strawberries on each layer of icing. Then, plop one layer on top of the other, and chill for about 15 minutes to set the frosting.

Monday, July 6, 2009

a pleasuresome peek into collingswood's pop shop

Nothing screams "summertime" more than a spontaneous field trip to an quasi-new place to tantalize my always grumbling tum'. My oldest brother, once a resident of Collingswood, NJ (the destination of my brief road trip), never once mentioned visiting The Pop Shop. Yes, he is a fan of the overcommercialized Cherry Hill, but come on, his sister is a food-obsessed fiend!

So, on a tip from myself, and also, a reminder that a few months back I had enviously viewed my food editor Drew Lazor chowing down on the shop's specialty, a mighty grilled cheese, while participating in Bobby Flay's Throwdown, we put the pedal to the metal.

Without a doubt or a single second of hesitation, a journey across the Ben Franklin became immediately in order for B and I. Located on downtown Haddon Avenue, a street flooded with cutesy small-town boutiques, sits the retro-styled and adorably-decorated Pop Shop.

Splashed in my utmost favorite color, turquoise, the soda shop is quaint and cozy, and supplies it's guests, at seating, with a newspaper-styled menu that's pounded with an overwhelming choice of options. Do you want the served-all-day breakfast, lunch, snacks, a vegan option, one of almost 30 grilled cheeses, ice cream, just sodas, etc.?

Being that Bobby Flay beat the shop at their own grilling game, and then, in exchange, the eatery created a similar 'wich in the episode's honor, I opted for just that, the 5B's -- a crunchy and toasted country white smeared deliciously with brie and goat cheeses, applewood-smoked bacon, watercress and tomato.
For B, he was giddy in anticipation on building his own burger (can choose between an old-school Black Angus beef burger to a salmon, veggie and chicken patty), without an exchange for an extra add-on charge for his obsessive-layering addiction. From caramelized onions, Granny Smith apples, Swiss cheese, applewood-smoked bacon -- all on sliced sourdough --his build-your-own reached an impressive top-notch slot as one of his top five favored burgers.

Other necessary notables do include anything from the fountain (I'd be a jerk not mentioning the soda at this shop!). Opting for swirls of vanilla and chocolate in my creamy and bubbly coke was definitely one of the better decisions I've made in the prime of my chowdowning. For B, he kept his build-your-own theme alive by sweetly stirring together seltzer with chocolate and raspberry.

The Pop Shop, excellent in its attempts to replicate a 50's diner without being too smack-in-the-face showy, will be seeing this girl again 'cept next time, I promise to save room for the ice cream!