Sunday, July 20, 2014

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

After eating our way through the Reading Terminal Market, we took a stroll down Market Street, to the water, having only roughly sketched out other parts of the trip. Usually we like to explore without itinerary, preferring instead to stumble upon or into things.

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A house which I was photographing upon closer inspection turned out to be a reconstruction of the house which Thomas Jefferson rented and where he wrote the Declaration of Independence

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Passing the Independence Hall and having missed the line to go inside of it, we tried the door of an adjacent building, which turned out to be open. We were then informed that we were inside a building that housed the first United States Supreme Court.

Then we stumbled into Ben Franklin's print shop.

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I'm sad to report that we didn't make it to the two notable Philly Cheese Steak places, each located across from the other, in some kind of amicable brotherly love type of cheesy rivalry (Geno's and Pat's), having veered too far off course along the winding cobblestone streets.

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Also, having gorged ourselves on DiNic's sandwiches and Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts due to a bout of uncontrollable, almost fainting, hand-trembling hunger after spending two hours on the turnpike, they no longer seemed a priority. But hunger struck again following a two hour ride back.

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So we decided to make some at home, incorporating a DiNic's staple: sharp provolone.

This recipe is ridiculously simple. All you need is a big hunk of meat, which should be put in the freezer for about an hour to enable it to be sliced very thinly. We seasoned the meat with just Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper.

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The rest is easy. Cook up the steak slices, followed by a vegetable topping of your choice (we went with jalapeno slices and onions) in the remaining meat juices in the pan. Then stuff a hoagie roll with meat and vegetables. And sprinkle generously with cheese.

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Pop it in the oven at 350ºF for five minutes allowing the cheese to melt and the bread to crispen. Then consume with reckless abandon. After four hours on the road, this was much-needed sustenance.

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Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
Serves 2

You will need:
3/4 lb sirloin (about 1 1/2 inch thick)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper (eyeball it)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded, cut into half moons
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 hoagie rolls
1/3 cup grated sharp provolone

Directions:
1. Put the steak in the freezer for 1 hour or more (it will not freeze, but firm up to enable you to slice it). With your knife at a 30 degree angle, slice the steak thinly. Season with Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with foil, set aside. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Working in batches, place a few sirloin slices in a pan in a single layer. Cook 1 or 2 minutes per side, then flip with tongs, cooking 1 to 2 minutes more, until just done. Remove into a bowl. Repeat with the remainder of the slices. Set the bowl aside.
3. With the pan going, use the left-over meat juices to cook up the peppers and the onions, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Assemble the sandwiches. Slice the hoagies about 3/4 down the middle, length-wise and place on the baking sheet. Divide the meat evenly between the hoagies. Top with peppers and onions. Top each hoagie with cheese. Heat in the oven, until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day Trip to the Reading Terminal Market

We realized we have a serious problem when, after telling people that we went to Philly, and in response to their "Oh, did you go see the city hall/liberty bell/the house where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence?" Our answer was "no, we were just there for the food."

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We spent two day-trips there, driving two hours each way to spend just a few hours in this beautiful, history-rich city. Our first stop, our longest stop, both times had been the Reading Terminal Market.

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The Reading Terminal Market is a food lover's dream. Imagine something the size of a huge railroad terminal converted to many shops and stands devoted to nothing but food.

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Located at 12th and Arch Street, the Reading Terminal Market building was built by the Reading Railroad (pronounced Reh-ding) in 1893.

The market at that location was in existence before the terminal was built. Open-air markets were popular in Philadelphia in mid-19th century and lined the city along High Street (later renamed to Market Street). One of them, which was to become the founding for the Reading Terminal food market, was located at 12th and Market.

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When the railroad selected its location to build the terminal, it faced complaints about the closing of the market and the railroad decided to incorporate the market into the terminal. Although the Reading Railroad is no longer in existence, you can still “Take a Ride on the Reading” if you play Monopoly. And the food market remains.

Today it is one of the oldest operational food markets in the country, housing over eighty merchants, where you can get anything from pickle samplings, to roast pork sandwiches, to made-on-the-spot Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts.

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The market also operates as a true food market – you can buy fresh farm produce, meat, sausage and deli meats of the most bizarre variety (such as one made with aspic and pork tongue), and fresh seafood.

After a two hour drive, venturing into the food market, we were extremely hungry. Looking for something substantial, we randomly settled on a roast beef sandwich at DiNic’s.

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A line looped around the sandwich shop. A guy with a notepad went around the line taking orders based on a limited menu, deviation from which is strongly discouraged. When a woman behind me asked for hot peppers on the side, she received a shout so curt of “CAN'T DO IT!” that she nearly burst into tears. As a result, however, the line and the orders move with remarkable, almost assembly-line type of efficiency. What we didn’t know then was that DiNic’s Roast Pork and Beef was named the Best Sandwich in America by the Travel Channel.

It was a damn good sandwich.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Anchovies

Some version of this pasta salad always appears around these parts, and it is one of Tony's favorites.

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We tend towards creamier versions in the winter, when all we want to do is hole up and have some extra calories. In the summer I like lighter dressing, usually some olive oil and lemon juice. And of course, cold salads in the hot weather are the only thing I want to eat sometimes.

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When I make this, I tend to throw in whatever I have in the pantry or hiding in the fridge. This time it was a small jar of anchovies and some peperoncinis.

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We both like pungent, pickly, and (sometimes) fishy things, and this salad has all of these. It is very easy to make, and it packs a lot of flavor. The ingredients mix well together, and the salad goes well with anything grilled, burgers or fish. We usually make a ton of it, and have left overs for lunch and the next evening.

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Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Anchovies
(Serves 6-8)

You will need:
Pasta (13 oz by weight) - about 2-3 cups uncooked, 5-6 cups cooked
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 pickled peperoncini, sliced
2 anchovy fillets, patted, finely chopped
2 tsp capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
Cook the pasta, according to package directions, to slightly beyond al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Place in a bowl and season the pasta with lemon juice and salt and pepper. Add red onion, cherry tomatoes, peperoncini, anchovies, capers, and parsley. Toss well to combine. Add olive oil and mix. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Grapefruity Margaritas

Drinks don't need a big introduction so I'll make this short.

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That and this past week left me drained so that when I was updating this post, I was struggling to formulate simple phrases, like how to describe the act of going around the rim of the glass with a lime wedge so that salt will stick to it.

Or maybe it was the margaritas.

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We had a grapefruit and some lemons lying around in the fridge which were beginning to get soft. Generally, a good use of left-over vegetables (limp carrots, yellowing celery, etc) lying around in the fridge, is to make a soup. But what to do with softening fruit that's been in the fridge too long? Make drinks, obviously.

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This margarita was the result. We used agave syrup instead of sugar/simple syrup and I liked the end result because it is not very sweet, extremely refreshing and is particularly good with the salt around the glass.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Grapefruity Margaritas
(Serves 4)

You will need:
1 cup red grapefruit juice (about one grapefruit)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice (we used 1 lemon and 2 limes)
4 oz tequila
1 1/2 tbsp agave syrup
about 3/4 cup ice
coarse salt (optional)
lime wedges

Directions:
In a blender, combine grapefruit, lemon and lime juices, tequila, agave syrup, and ice. Blend (the amount of ice will cool the drink but won't turn it into a slush; alternatively you can also combine these ingredients in a shaker and strain into the glasses). Pour some salt on a plate. Run a lime wedge around the rim of each glass. Place the rim of each glass in the salt and twist slightly. Fill with the cocktail and add a few ice cubes. Decorate with lime wedges. Welcome to margaritaville!


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