One of my favorite parts of summer cooking is collecting my farmshare from Greensgrow Farms. Every other weekend, I get a beautiful, diverse harvest of fruits & veggies along with a local cheese and my choice of protein. Alot are basics I’m used to working with (eggplant, tomatoes, onion, squash, salad greens) but sometimes I need to do some research on how/what to prepare with an item. Early in the summer, I got a fresh bunch of crisp dandelion greens. I know they work pretty well in a salad, yet I wanted to do something a bit more fun with them. I poked around the interwebs… but the real inspiration was right there in my memory.
I was blessed with a family who made a point to expose us to great food & restaurants and encourage us to expand our palettes. One of my most ingrained food experiences takes me back to an out-of-the-way, before-its-time spot off the Manatawny River in Pine Forge, PA – Gracie’s 21st Century Cafe. As a kid, I loved the experience of just being at Gracie’s – the zen gardens Kerry & I would play in while we waited for our table, the cooky toys & games on the bar, the jokes my dad made about “writing” his name in the shaved ice in the men’s urinals. It was always a treat when we were headed to Gracie’s.
But the true beauty of Gracie and her restaurant was the creativity she put into her menu – the unapologetic art to her food. I can close my eyes and recall the first time we ate there, the first time I felt true inspiration in a dish. That day’s special was a dandelion ravioli. Dandelion? Like the flowers Gramps is always trying to kill in his yard? Well, kind of, my dad explained… dandelion greens in this case. He happily ordered and shared them with our curious palettes. Love!
So that brings me to what I prepared with my dandelion greens – a light ravioli that I’m sure would make Gracie proud. They were simple, elegant, and beautifully flavored w. a toss in melted black truffle butter. I invite you to give them a try!
My fresh ricotta + dandelion ravioli recipe after the jump!
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After our Spring Patio Brunch, Kerry came to scoop Tom, Dre, & me to join her at the Italian Market Festival. 9th Street was alive with South Philadelphians, music, arts, &, of course, amazing food! We settled our brunch over a few beers and perused our snack options. Dessert was up first! The Italian Market has always had a battle of the cannoli between Isgro Pasticceria on 10th & Christian and Termini Bros. on 7th & Dickinson. This day, Termini Bros. wins with their fresh “filled to order” cannoli! The cream was a cool, decadent on a hot South Philly day.
Termini Bros. Cannoli - Filled to order with a smile!
Termini Bros. Cannoli
Making our way back down 9th street, we relocated the impressive Trompo of marinated pork for some tasty Tacos al Pastor. Again, “to order” service with a smile!
Trompo of Al Pastor on the Italian Market
The spiced pork was moist & tender and brimmed with flavor & depth. What I was truly impressed by, however, were the tortillas. Each order didn’t just call for hand-shaved pork, but also hand-pressed & fresh grilled corn tortillas. To top them off, literally, were fresh cilantro, mango, and salsas. Taqueria Los Taquitos de Puebla (9th b/t Ellsworth & Federal Sts.) “officially” wins best tacos in Philly!
Tacos al Pastor
UPDATE: Special thanks to Drew Lazor, of CityPaper’s Mealticket food blog fame, for the shout-out! Without you, dude, we wouldn’t be able to do what we all do so well.
Italian Market + Food Love = Al Pastor Lust
I prefer to cook what my dinner guest craves, so I indulged Dre’s request for baked ziti. I was low on spaghetti sauce and had some veggies that needed to be eaten. I blanched broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, onions, & garlic, opened a large can of crushed tomatoes, and warmed them together with seasonings in a saucepan.
While the sauce simmered, I decided on large rigatoni and boiled them until al dente in salted water. I like fat noodles when making baked pasta dishes as they tend to fill with your sauce when tossed. The jumbo macaronis for my Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese worked great! I folded ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella into the warm sauce, tossed it with the cooked rigatoni, and dumped it into a greased casserole. Once the sliced mozzarella I tiled on top began to brown & bubble, I pulled it from the over and served Dre a big, hot scoop of Baked Toni.
- Crushed Tomatoes – (1) large can
- Broccoli – (0.5) head, trimmed into small florets & blanched
- Mushrooms – (1) cup, sliced
- Garlic – (1) T, minced
- Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
- Dried Basil – (1) T
- Red Pepper Flakes – (1) tsp
- S&P – to taste
- Ricotta – (1.5) cups, part skim
- Shredded Mozzarella – (1) cup, low moisture – part skim
- Fresh Mozzarella – (6) oz, sliced (or enough to cover most of the dish)
- Grated Parmesan – to taste
- Rigatoni – (1) lb, cooked al dente & tossed w/ olive oil
- Olive Oil – as needed
- Heat about (2) T of Olive Oil in a saute pan. Add garlic & onion and cook until caramelized, about (5) min.
- Add mushrooms & saute until browned on both sides, about (3) min per side.
- Dump entire contents of the canned crushed tomatoes into a sauce pan. Add cooked mushrooms mixture, blanched broccoli, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and S&P. Stir and bring to a simmer.
- While sauce simmers, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about (10-12) min.
- Drain rigatoni and return to stock pot. Add a bit of olive oil & toss to prevent sticking.
- Remove sauce from the heat and dump into a large mixing bowl.
- Fold in ricotta & shredded mozzarella cheeses unti combine.
- Add rigatoni and toss to coat completely.
- Pour the rigatoni & sauce mixture into a greased casserole dish.
- Tile sliced fresh mozzarella on top.
- Bake at 350 degrees for (25) min or until the cheese is browned & the casserole is bubbling.
- Let cool for about (3) min and serve with grated parmesan cheese.
Sarah was kind enough to leave behind some Pizza Dough for us to experiment with after our “Build Your Own Pizza Night”, describing it as the “weird batch”. Dre & I decided to give its “weirdness” a whirl with some Sunday night stromboli & calzone.
Sarah's "Weird" Delicious Dough!
I fulfilled my new addiction to the sweetness of Roasted Tomatoes by popping a batch in the oven while I began filling the dough. I opted for leftover Roasted Yellow Peppers & Zucchini from our “Build Your Own Pizza Night” with Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, Mozzarella, Asiago, Tomato Sauce, & Fresh Basil. Per my lactose intolerant boyfriend’s nonsensical request, I filled his with “just cheese” including Mozzarella, Asiago, & Ricotta with a swipe of Tomato Sauce, a layer of Roasted Tomatoes, chopped Fresh Basil, & extra Minced Garlic. They weren’t too pretty going into oven once folded and likewise once they were baked, but they were delicious! The “weird” dough created a flaky crust a la a homemade Hot Pocket, versus a traditional stromboli/calzone crust. Yum!
My Roasted Veggie "Hot Pocket"
Dre's Cheesy Tomato "Hot Pocket"
Last season of Top Chef, we started a tradition of “Family Dinners” at my house to watch each week’s episode along with a home-cooked meal! Tom, Dre, & Lex were the regulars at last season’s dinners, but couldn’t be happier to add Sarah to this year’s season. She brought along her homemade pizza dough for the return of Top Chef AND the return of “Build Your Own Pizza Night,” my favorite dinner theme!
The original plan was to do grilled pizzas, but after a summer of cooking and roasting Grape Tomatoes (via The Bitten Word’s amazing recipe) & Yellow Bell Peppers for pizza toppings, my grill ran out of gas. At least we always have the oven for back-up. I also prepared sauteed Zucchini, Chicken Andouille Sausage, Crab Meat, & Creole Shrimp, along with shredded Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda, Asiago, & Ricotta Cheeses, as topping options. Can’t forget some tomato sauce, as well! We all got to loading our shells with Dre opting for a Crab White Pizza & Tom piling on just about everying!
We were 3 episodes behind with all of our busy schedules, so we got together on a Thursday night to cook & recap via the DVR while the pizzas baked to perfection…
Dre's Crab White Pizza - Pre-Baked
My Pizza w/ the works
Build Your Own Pizza Night
Homemade Pizza Dough a la Sarah
Roasted Tomatoes, Yellow Bell Peppers, & Zucchini
Chicken Andoille Sausage
Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda, Asiago, & Ricotta
Fresh Basil & Lemon-Thyme