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Can’t swing a cat without hitting a coffee shop

So I don’t go to coffee shops all that often because I’m cheap, but I am very much a product of gentrification in that I gain great glee from just knowing that my neighborhood has an abundance of coffee shops. There are significantly more than when I first moved in, and I love it.

And apparently, our local coffee shops are awesome enough that people are making a movie about ’em.

Personally, I looked at the pictures of filming and thought, “West Philly Grounds? That’s a great logo. There should totally be another coffee shop with that logo.”

Another salad – arugula & apricot

On a base of baby arugula, cut fresh apricots into eighths.

Shave fine slivers of purple onion on top.

And thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese (actually, I think a heady blue cheese would be better, but I didn’t have any).

Toast a handful of almond slivers.

Make salad dressing: dip the tip of a spoon into chipotles in adobo sauce and pull out a little sauce. Then acquire an equal amount of chinese mustard (or more, if yours isn’t spicy enough to clear your sinuses). Mix that together with 2 Tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar and 2 teaspoons of sweet red wine. Taste and make sure the adobo is present but not overpowering, and rebalance as necessary.

Throw toasted almonds on top, dress, and eat.


A friend of mine was in town this weekend, so we walked over to 40th & Chestnut for my favorite local Thai place, only it was closed. Luckily, there’s another Thai place less than a block away… also closed. Indian was out; we weren’t sure about Korean; and I didn’t do a good job selling the Mexican tapas place. So we kept walking on Chestnut until we hit 23rd, and then cut south for Erawan Thai.

Appetizer Sampler: fried pork dumplings were awesome; shrimp wrapped in spring roll wrapper & fried was tasty, but keep a hold of the tail; spring rolls were good; the fish cakes, however, tasted only vaguely fishy and mostly of lemon grass, all kind of spongy-textured and held together in a membrane.

Golden Eggplant (my dish): Excellent! Tofu and Eggplant in a mildly spicy sauce. The eggplant melted in your mouth and the whole dish was very satisfying and comforting.

Ultimate Pad Thai (friend’s dish): Chosen because it had clearly been a re-boot of the Pad Thai series, I got the impression that this dish did not disappoint.

The service was excellent, and there was abundant water and only a little mocking of how much I drank.

Salad time again!

I made a nifty salad this weekend.

I started with Dole’s Sassy Baby Blend (not from brand loyalty, but because that was the clamshell salad mix on sale that week. Aside from some (not too many) awkwardly non-baby radicchio bits clearly there to same money, it was a good blend).

Then I tossed in some curly parsley left over from making lasagne.

And I sliced in two round radishes.

Then I wen to work on the dressing –

I tossed in the lemon zest left over from making Smitten Kitchen’s Raspberry Buttermilk Cake (note: both the lasagne & the cake were creations of my friend, so I’m not taking credit for them – but they were both very tasty).

Then I added 2 teaspoons of ginger spread (which I loved so much that I will not have to seek it out and buy my own jar) and some apple cider vinegar. Popped that in the microwave for 30 seconds to liquefy it.

I tasted it, and it needed some sweetness and acidity – So I squeezed in a lemon, and it was just about perfect.

Only then, I thought that the dressing and the salad would go well with apples, so I quartered and cored and apple and then sliced it into some remaining lemon juice.

conclusion: I really liked it, but I probably could have added another apple or two (they were small). It had many sharp tastes of early green Spring, but it tied together well and was mellowed a bit by the ginger and sweet lemon juice.

More lipids! Roasted asparagus with truffle oil

In the dark days of last winter, my friend gifted me with a sexy olive oil and a small bottle of truffle oil. And I managed in that same evening to mention that I haven’t been putting oil in my homemade salad dressings. *facepalm*

But, really, why is there oil in all of the salad dressing recipes? It doesn’t seem to add much to the flavor. A bit of mustard goes much farther for making the dressing coat the lettuce than oil (especially if your leaves are less than perfectly dry). And it doesn’t add much in the way of umami unless you add more than a couple teaspoons.

So what do I use fancipants oil for? Mostly finishing tarkas, sometimes dipping bread, and also historical cooking for no explainable reason.

In general, it’s when the flavor of the oil will matter.

So there I was with a beautiful bunch of local (to Baltimore) asparagus. And I remembered that one time I made roasted asparagus for a date and it was the best thing ever.

Now, I have a terrible memory. Not only do I forget most things, but also I occasionally remember things that never happened. To this day, I am pretty sure I remember a scene from Blade Runner, which I have been unable to find in any of the versions of the film.

So I have a very distinct memory of opening up The Joy of Cooking and reading up on asparagus. I remember it saying that few people appreciated that the very best preparation for asparagus was roasting it at high heat.

Only, I went to my Joy of Cooking to double check the cooking time and temperature… and there is no mention at all of roasting asparagus. So I checked my other cookbooks to see whether I was mistaken as to the title… nope. I can’t find anyone advocating it, but I swear it was delicious.

So I went ahead and made up the time and temperature.

Roasted Asparagus w/ Truffle Oil

Rinse asparagus and pat dry. Snap off the tough bottoms of the stems (as you do) (Or, you know, cut them).

Okay, so given a choice, I always go for the thinnest asparagus available. Therefore, I didn’t bother with blanching them first. If you are going for thicker stems, there be blanching here. (tip: if you don’t trim the ends off first, you can easily blanch asparagus by holding the woody part and then swirling the tip through the boiling water)

Pop into a 450F oven.

Five minutes later, turn the spears and drizzle with truffle oil.

After another three to five minutes (if you have skinny spears), it should be done. Grab one and munch on it to be sure. Mmmmm – maybe another.

Finish with a sprinkling of salt.