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Windfall of peaches – prep for jam

Canning! (as inspired by all of the lovely posts by Food in Jars)

Yesterday, I had a bit of a windfall in peaches, with the adorable berry boys, who sell orchard products at the farmers market across the street and are objectified by half of my co-workers, looking all befuddled when I asked to buy their defective fruit – and instead giving me the lot for free.

So this morning I cleaned away the bad spots and chopped up the good parts, and ended up with a decent haul:

  • 4 cups of yellow peaches, which I have packed up with 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup white sugar as well as both the zest and juice from two lemons and a pinch of salt. I am thinking of adding allspice and chipotle when I go to cook this into jam – what do you think?
  • 4 cups of white peaches, which I have packed up with 2 cups of white sugar, the zest and juice of 4 limes, and a pinch of salt. For this one, I am thinking of lots of ginger and some lemon grass (because I happen to have a bunch in my fridge right now). And then if I am doing that, then maybe a wee little stir in of my thai green curry paste.
  • 1.5 cups of assorted plums and nectarines (and one white peach that was in disguise as a nectarine), which I have packed up with 3/4 cup of sugar and the juice of half a lemon (and a pinch of sugar). And I have no fancy ideas for this one.

And then I had to wash up and go to work.

I think I won’t have time to cook the jam until Sunday, but that should be okay. I’m planning to spend the time in between looking for a wide-mouthed funnel.

Oh, yeah, I also quested for canning jars at both of my local supermarkets and two of the small grocers with no success, but I did luck out at the local hardware store, and he’s going to order some of the wee, cute 4oz jars for me. They won’t be in for a week or so, and by then I’ll know whether or not the jam thing works for me. If not, they are still cute, versatile jars.

Open Chef-A-Me

I think I heard about this event through Food in Jars, but I can’t find the twitter to prove it. But somehow, news came through the ether than Philadelphia has a new food thing going – where completely amateur chefs can take over a professional kitchen for one night only and serve amazing food to 70 people or so. Just say, “Open Chef-A-Me.”

How could I resist? So I bought a subscription (since no matter how bad it could be, it would definitely be completely different the next time).

Last Monday was the first one. I switched my work schedule to daytime hours and I hopped on a bus over right after work… and found the venue, Ava with plenty of time to spare.

A little wandering around South Street (and, more interestingly, Bainbridge) later, and I popped back in only 20 minutes early. And there were still only a handful of people. I ended up randomly joining a couple at a table and having one other woman join us later. As one of the guys of Chef-A-Me explained, that’s part of what’s cool about the way Chef-A-Me is framed – with tables large enough that probably at least two groups of people end up merging and talking to each other, but small enough that you can form actual conversations. This is one of the rare events that has made a conscious decision to chose smaller venues even though demand for their tickets has been increasing.

So let me tell you about my nifty dining companions first, and then I promise I’ll get to the food and the chefs. There was an architect, her techie/literary husband, and a freelance writer, who writes a bit for CitySearch. Turns out the other three had all done graduate work at Northwestern, and two of them in the journalism program. While they were discussing the various merits of alumni associations, I praised the Johns Hopkins one, which I have quite enjoyed even though I didn’t attend the school. And then it turns out that three of us had all participated in their youth nerd camp! It really was a joy to get to meet my dining companions.

And the chefs:

The Food!

First Course

Langoustine Buzara (from Tim): Here’s a picture of the serving, but a lot of the yellow tones are washed out. It looked much tastier, and I ate at least 4 of them! It had lovely tender flesh with a slightly muskier taste than lobster. I tried sucking on the biggest limbs, but that plan didn’t work. Each serving also came with a basket of garlic toast on a lovely sesame crusted bread, which soaked up the juices beautifully. I didn’t have a lot of luck sucking on the heads, but scooping them out onto the bread worked well. The light tomato and onion broth was, also, just as tasty and promised. And I did use up a few more bread pieces soaking up the sauce – and then spent a decent amount of time worrying whether I’d be able to fit the rest of the meal in my stomach. Here, have a recipe that is not at all dissimilar

Shrimp Guacamole (from Sarah): So the introduction to this dish was confusing, with Jesse (the spokesman Chef-a-Me guy) saying that it was flavored with shrimp juice and Sarah clarifying that it was flavored with the liquid in which the shrimp had been marinated and that her vegetarian friends thought this was still okay for vegetarians to eat. If it’s just the same ingredients as the marinade, sure – but if it’s the actual liquid in which raw shrimp have been sitting then not only does that not sound vegetarian to me, but also it sounds a bit dodgy food safety-wise. And the guacamole did have a distinct flavor of shrimp. That said, and having heard the spiel, I ate it anyway and loved it. I think shrimp-flavored guacamole is a wonderful, beachy sort of delight. And what a perfect touch with the roasted poblanos – it hit exactly on the line of tingly without being spicy. It was served on top of a tostada, and was plated close enough to serving that it stayed crispy all the way through eating. And it was topped with a single shrimp. If Tim’s part of the first course had not been so extravagant, the single shrimp would have been too few, but for that meal it was plenty. The tequila part of the marinade was not particularly noticeable.

Second Course

Braised short ribs with grilled corn, pepper, and onion relish (from Tim): Okay, so the corn relish? That was amazing, and I wish the recipe were up on his food blog for me to steal. It was spicy, lively and versatile. It was, perhaps, not the best pairing for the short ribs, however, because it made the ribs seem to have less flavor in comparison. Don’t get me wrong – the ribs were distinctly tender and delightful, but it was hard to single out the joy of their particular seasoning and sauce with the roasted corn salad jumping up for attention and love.

Spicy Quail (from Sarah): described as quail marinated and glazed in brown sugar, soy sauce, clover honey, jalapenos, and garlic and then roasted. It was not spicy hot, but it was spicy flavorful – and so beautifully caramelized, it was just a minute or so short of burned – apparently consistently, because all I heard was joy from people eating it. Half a quail was just the right portion, and luckily we had abandoned table manners back with the langoustines so I could just pick up the little legs and gnaw the meat off. It was served on top of a slice of crusty bread topped with what seemed like fig and balsamic vinegar jelly, but I could be wrong. It was tasty, though, so I’d love to know the real answer. And then it was served with chickpeas cooked down with lime, purple onion, cracked pepper, and lots of thyme. \o/!


The two chefs had to collaborate for the dessert course, and Tim generously told the story about how he had insisted on making something showy and made it rather hard to come to a balance that would showcase both of their talents. But the end result was delicious!

Strawberry Shortcake-esque – Tim make the base out of tres leches cake, and Sarah added both the freshly whipped cream and the strawberries, having been marinated for 24 hours in basil and brown sugar (though not much brown sugar because they were not too sweet). The end result was gooey and melty and awesome.

Oh, and I have to thank my dining companion Tara, who brought wine from Norton vineyards, which she had learned about while traveling in Argentina. Their Chardonay was unlike any I’d had before – it had a deeper, round taste that was as if the grapes had been harvested just before they would have been too ripe. But this odd wine went well with every course, from the seafood to the ribs to the dessert – strong work!

The next one will be August 24th, and I suppose I might see you there.

ETA: Philly.com has a behind the scenes article on the event here with some of Tim Crowe’s recipes.

Vegan Cream Cheese Experiment

So I volunteered to help some friends make food for a Vegan Bruncheonette thing they are doing this weekend to raise money to go off for yoga teacher training.

Only I won’t be around this weekend, so I had to think of something on the spot that I could make ahead, and I said to my self, “Hey, I know there’s vegan cream cheese – it must be better with stuff in it than plain. I could make flavored cream cheeses.”

And the guy said, “Why, yes, that’d be wonderful.”

So I said, “Where’s the best place in Philly to buy vegan cream cheese?”

And he gave the wrong* answer – “I have a recipe.”

note: after checking recipes online, I did go back to him and say, “Do you really think this sounds like appetizing food?” and he was still pleased with the idea.



Yester morning (Monday) I ran around shopping for silken tofu and cashew butter. Last night, I borrowed the use of a friend’s food processor at 10pm and tried out a couple recipes.

I have to say that the results were kind of nasty.

But they did firm up into a more cream cheese-esque firmness this morning (Tuesday), and I figure it’s as good as any other homemade vegan cream cheese. Blech.


So the next stage of the plan will be to flavor the hell out of them tonight Tuesday night.

Here’s the list of things I’m thinking of adding. Let me know if you have any other ideas/suggestions.

The first batch was made with: silken tofu, cashew butter, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and white sugar

  • Korintje cassia cinnamon, cinnamon, brown sugar, toasted walnuts, and buckwheat honey**
  • bronze fennel, black pepper, Japanese pepper, black cardamom, lemon zest, nutmeg, and clove
  • black olives, green olives, and toasted almonds

The second batch was made with: silken tofu, canola oil, rice vinegar, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and white sugar

  • roasted garlic & herbs from my garden (chives, parsley, rosemary, thyme, savory, and lovage)
  • pesto (Genovese basil, purple basil, toasted pine nuts, roasted garlic, and black pepper)
  • chipotle & adobo, garlic (roasted and fresh), brown mustard, and molasses

*Only wrong in that I hadn’t expected the extra layer of complication and uncertainty of results. IN fact, the whole experiment was rather fun.

**Great Vegan Honey Debate is discussed at length here.


Results as each was made –

So far, the pesto one has turned out surprisingly well.

The chipotle one, however, is not for the faint of heart. I ended up adding dijon mustard in order to get enough bulk to make my mini food processor happy, and then a tiny little bit of molasses for sweet. But I still had to add the entire portion in the food processor before it stopped tasting of ick, and that might be too spicy for a lot of people. I’ll add a little warning on the label, and no one will believe me, but that’ll be fine.

have just made the garlic and herbs one. Right now it is very disappointing, but I yet have confidence that it will turn awesome over the next couple days as the flavors mingle.

Olives – I don’t know, since I don’t like olives. I ended up buying ones with pits in my quest to get only 6 olives per color, so I wasn’t able to mark the container with a pretty olive slice.

fennel – meh. It’s flavors did suit the tofu concoction well, but you’d have to like the tofu concoction in the first place to enjoy this one.

honey/cinnamon/walnuts – winner! This one was tasty. I wouldn’t put it on a bagel, but I had no problem just eating the spoonful that wouldn’t quite fit in the container.