Archive for January, 2012

January 21, 2012

January in Philadelphia

237 Saint James Place Philadelphia, PA 19106 (215) 625-8800

We spent last weekend in Philadelphia. After scoring tickets to Jerry Seinfeld with Larry Miller at the Academy of Music, we took the next important step and made dinner reservations.

Zahav, which means gold in Hebrew, has received high acclaim for its traditional Israeli cuisine by Chef Michael Solomonov . It was praised by Esquire as one of the country’s best restaurants in 2008. Needless to say we were excited to be there. After enjoying cocktails at the bar, our party of 8 sat down at our table to plates of homemade hummus and laffa bread. We selected the Mesibah party tasting menu, which included their signature dish, a whole roasted lamb shoulder braised in pomegranate juice. Although the lamb took quite a long time, the service was impeccable and the apologies were overflowing due to the wait. The small plates included crispy haloumi with dates and squash, persimmon salad with feta, olives & radish, and fried cauliflower with a dill, mint, garlic sauce – just to name a few. Each were uniquely delicious, like nothing we’d experienced before. With more wine, more mezze for the table and extra family style desserts, we finished our meal at about midnight. Whew!  That said, the food was amazing! The service was attentive and the drinks kept flowing. We’d go back in a heartbeat! The house-made hummus and laffa bread are worth the trip alone.

717 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106 (215)925-6000

I was excited to sit down Saturday night to a traditional steakhouse dinner, with a glass of red wine and great friends at Union Trust.  I had the Bigeye Tuna Tartare appetizer made with sriracha and avocado, served with killer homemade potato chips. Really good! We each ordered steaks and selected sides to share – aged cheddar grits, asparagus and roasted mushrooms. I should mention that my husband’s steak eating has evolved over the years from hockey puck well-done to an almost acceptable medium-well. I, on the other hand like my steak Pittsburgh rare-plus. This translates to a perfect char on the outside and a little more than rare on the inside. Our dinner arrives and after a few minutes, Alan realized that he had my steak and I have his – a sentence worse than death for him. We switched plates but I had unfortunately eaten some of his NY strip, thinking, “I can’t believe they overcooked my steak.” Ah ha! Regardless, everyone loved their dinner. With enough time still on our hands before the show, we ordered desserts, one of which turned out to be a huge piece of the driest German Chocolate cake. We sent it back and they happily brought a moist and delicious piece. The manager gave us two of our desserts on the house, more than making up for the cake snafu.

We left the restaurant proud that we were ahead of schedule, only to have the cab driver drop us off at what we were told was the Academy of Music, but turned out to be the Kimmel Center. It was orchestra night, not the entertainment we had planned or dressed for. With 15 minutes until Jerry, we found we weren’t alone as another couple ran down the street with us to the correct venue. How does a cab driver not know the difference? Anyway, the show was hilarious! Upon returning to our hotel, the Sofitel on South 17th Street, we went into the bar with our friends. I ordered their homemade ginger ale and loved it. Super refreshing with bits of real ginger and fresh lime. I contacted the Sofitel when we returned home and they were nice enough to share the recipe.

Sofitel Liberté House-made Ginger Ale


INGREDIENTS (one serving)

Put the frozen ginger purée in the bottom of a 10oz glass, add the simple syrup and lime juice, stir. Add lots of ice and top with club soda. Serve with a wedge of lime. You can purchase the brand of ginger purée they use at the Sofitel from Amazon. I’ve linked it above. I didn’t feel the need to spend the $25 and figured out how to make my own:


  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh ginger root, peeled
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice

Put the ginger in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until finely chopped. Push down from the sides of the bowl and add the sugar and lime juice. Process again until very fine. Place in an ice-cube tray and cover. Freeze until ready to use. I think this would be nice to even use when making Jasmine or Basmati Rice.

* To make simple syrup, place 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves – about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Can be used to make cocktails and even homemade sorbet. According to Food and Wine magazine, simple syrup can be stored in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

So alas, that was our trip to Philly. But I’d be remiss to not share one of the best meals of my weekend, Sunday afternoon lunch. Can you guess what it was? Roast Pork with broccoli rabe, long hot peppers and provolone from Tony Jr’s For around 8 bucks, this topped the list of my weekend meals. Jerry Seinfeld and a roast pork sandwich… what more could a girl ask for?

 TONY JR’S  118 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103  (215) 568-4630

January 17, 2012

Fresh Fennel & Orange Salad

Fresh Fennel & Orange Salad

I’ve discovered that if you name a dish after your child, the chances they’ll eat it increase. Although my daughter has a hearty appetite and a fairly sophisticated palate, sometimes salad is not the most exciting choice at the dinner table. When I make this, I always refer to it as hers. She especially enjoys this with the addition of crumbled blue cheese or feta. The salty cheese adds another layer of delicious flavor, though I’ve opted to leave it out in this simpler version. For a super healthy dinner, we’ve added grilled chicken to make it a meal.

This salad is very light and refreshing. The thinly sliced fennel gives a nice crunch and its sweet anise flavor is a perfect match to the oranges.  If you’re unsure about fennel, you should give it a try. It’s a versatile veggie that’s delicious raw and thinly sliced in salads, or even roasted in the oven. Cooking it in the oven mellows the flavor and it’s really nice when roasted alongside carrots or even potatoes. The New York Times featured a segment in their series “Recipes for Health” about fennel and included various recipes. If my salad hasn’t inspired you enough to try it, possibly Martha Rose Shulman’s oven roasted fish with fennel will have you shopping for fennel on your next trip to the market.

INGREDIENTS (Serves about 4)

  • About 5-6oz mixed baby greens or other favorite lettuce mix
  • 2 navel oranges, segmented and juiced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored & thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Place the mixed greens, fennel and onion in a salad bowl. Segment your oranges and squeeze the orange skeleton over a bowl to gather all the fresh OJ. Add the orange segments to the salad bowl and measure out 2 tbsp of the fresh orange juice for the dressing. Combine the orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and red pepper (if using) in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Taste for seasoning.

Dress the salad right before serving.



While helping cook for a charity dinner years ago, a friend/caterer shared her tips and techniques for slicing and segmenting oranges. I’ve found this short video on Food52 which walks you through those steps. Click here to see the video.

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