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Posts posted by rlibkind

  1. The reason I buy a prime rib steak or strip is because I want marbling of fat to contribute flavor and mouth feel. This is totally irrelevant for ground meat because you can specify/add as much fat as you want. When I want good burgers I ask my butcher to grind a good looking piece of chuck (Choice) with added fat if I think it needs it. (If I want to be fancy I'll have him add some short rib or brisket to the mix.) Paying the prime premium for what will wind up to be hamburger is, IMHO, unnecessary.

  2. 130525lambribs.jpg

    Border Springs Lamb Farm opened its Reading Terminal Market retail outlet about a month later than planned, but the Virginia sheepery appears to be worth the wait, based on the fresh breast of lamb I purchased this morning.

    For the moment they are only selling fresh lamb and sausages, but they hope to offer prepared foods sometime next week. And the prepared foods have me salivating -- see the menu synopsis at the end of this post.

    I was taken aback when I asked the price of the lamb breast, a cut I adore. At Martin's and Giunta's the going price is less than $4/pound; Border Springs charged nearly $8. But before walking away I asked Aaron, one of the folks behind the counter, to open up a pack so I could examine it. Upon inspection I quickly agreed to purchase two breasts (four pounds) for my Fairmount block's Memorial Day party. These were the meatiest breasts of lamb I've ever encountered, but with still enough fat to endear them to me. Just look at the accompanying photo and see if you agree. On the package the whole breast is identified as "short ribs". When cut into riblets they're often called Denver Ribs, since much of the U.S. lamb industry is based in Colorado.

    Since lamb ribs, even these relatively lean ones, tend to flare up on the grill, I'll be simmering these in water to pre-cook. Once the block party begins I'll finish on the grill with a sweet cumin-inflected sauce to give them the desired char.

    Boneless, the breast of lamb (a.k.a. lamb belly) is an excellent meat to baconize, something I did a few years go with success. But since Border Springs will be selling lamb bacon, I may let them do the curing and smoking in the future.

    Other than the breast, overall prices at Border Springs are close to what you'll pay for the commodity lamb found at supermarkets and most butchers. (And I'm not disparaging the "commodity" product; lamb from high volume producers is one of the best quality and least processed red meats you can find.) The rack of lamb and loin chops are $15/pound, about what you'd pay elsewhere. Bone-in leg is $9, also competitively priced. Shoulder chops are $7.50-$8, vs. $7 at most other establishments. So the premium, where it exists at all, is negligible if the quality is as good as it looks to be.

    When they start cooking next week, Border Springs will even offer breakfast dishes:
    lamb hash with potatoes, onions, peppers and friend egg or lamb sausage with gravy and biscuits, $6.50. Lunch sandwiches will include gyro or sausage at $7.25-$7.50, or meatloaf, pulled shoulder, or smoked leg at $9.50, lamb burger for $11. Eat-in or take-out items will include pot pie or lamb rice and chick pea bowl at $11, lamb stew at $10, and kebabs in Korean marinade at $5 apiece or two for $9.

    I plan to work my way through the menu with gusto.

  3. 130517bostonlettuce.jpg

    Farmers' markets don't have a monopoly on local produce. At the Reading Terminal Market Iovine Brothers Produce has been featuring local lettuces. Earlier this week there were gorgeous heads of Boston lettuce for 89 cents a pound. Today I spied baby romaine heads at 99 cents. Both come from Flaim Farm, a large grower in South Jersey. In addition, the Fair Food Farmstand at the RTM offers plenty of local produce, including those strawberries from A.T.Buzby.

  4. For the past two Sundays there have been strawberries at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market, courtesy of South Jersey grower A.T. Buzby. They've been deep red, inside and out, with decent but not knock-your-socks-off flavor. I've had some leftover in the 'fridge for nearly a week, without too much deterioration.

    The relative refrigerator longevity derives from the design of the berry, introduced about a dozen years ago in Florida for its commercial industry. It was created for its ability to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping and still retain good color, shape and flavor.

    In coming weeks we'll see plenty of other stawberries with deeper flavor, if sometimes less perfect shape and a more diminutive size. But as a harbinger of things to come, Buzby's product was much welcomed, and delicious atop fresh-baked Bisquik short cakes with fresh whipped cream.

    Asparagus has come into its own, and what I've had has been good. Two weeks ago Tom Culton had both cultivated and wild asparagus. Tender spring greens are easy to find, too, including dandelion greens suitable for adding raw to salads or cooking.

    Another welcome returnee at last Sunday's Headhouse market was a snow pea variety of sugar snap peas at Culton's stall. The regular sugar snaps should be appearing soon, too.

  5. Although I earlier chimed in emphasizing whatever's fresh, gotta say that when very fresh I prefer oily fish: mackerel, bluefish, etc. but it's got to be fresh, especially bluefish which deteriorates faster than any other fish I know. Best fish I've had in recent years was some tinker mackerel I caught in Maine just three hours before cooking. Mighty fine eating!

  6. Funny, I just made a lemon-poppyseed pound cake last weekend and it turned out great.

    Used Cooks Illustrated recipe which calls for cake flour, and since its a pound cake there's no milk, but a half pound of butter. Melted. No lemon extract (but a little vanilla), with a little lemon juice in addition to zest. All ingredients (sugar, zest, juice, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt) except flour and poppy seeds mixed in food processor with melted butter drizzled in; flour sifted in traunches after transferring processed ingredients to large bowl, then poppy seeds folded in.

    With a lemon juice-sugar glaze poured off baked pricked loaf, tons of lemon flavor. And cake had held up very well, no drying, for last three days wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. I'm no baker, but this was a cinch to make. Almost as easy as a mix. I put half the 5x9 loaf in freezer, and I suspect it should hold up well.

  7. I don't know whether or not this is a "true fact", but I was taught that if you get albumin you've over-cooked the salmon. I'll ha e to check my Harold McGee tomes.

    I dry cure a small filet (one pound) for no more than two hours in 1:1 kosher salt/sugar (1/4 cup each) with lemon zest added, wrapped tight in plastic. Rinse off cure, thoroughly dry, bake at 225F for 25 minutes if still cold from fridge, 20 if at room temp. Finished product has very thin pellicle, and melts in your mouth if you start with a fine piece if Chinook; still excellent with sockeye (which may require less cooking because its fillets are thinner), just not quite as superb. I wouldn't try Coho for this. Ditto all but the highest grade Scottish or Norwegian farmed product.

    Credit for this recipe goes to Vadouvan who does not appear to be too active on eGullet these days.

  8. Glad to see this topic bumped up.

    So many great pizzas in NJ, so little time.

    Is Benny Tudino's still in business and good? It was Albanian owned when I frequented the joint in the mid-1970s.

    Trenton tomato pies are insane. At least at the De Lorenzo's on 33 near 130.

    I am confounded that two Elizabeth stalwarts received only fleeting mention in this topic: Spirito's and Santillo's. Spirito's us a bar/restaurant. Santillo's is takeout only. Alan Richmsn gives the latter it's due here:


    When I moved to Phila from Hoboken nearly 35 years ago pizza (and good hot pastrami and corned beef) were two serious lacks. The city had much improved on both scores in recent years (Slice for tomato pies, Osteria Vetri. and some more recent additions like Nomad), but it takes a lot more effort to find a decent pie here than in NJ. Still too many awful Greek style pies.

  9. You're in New Jersey, so eat Jersey foods!

    Go to the local diner (Red bank has a good one downtown last time I checked) and get a breakfast of Taylor ham (actually pork roll) with egg and cheese on a kaiser roll.

    For lunch go to any place that makes hot dogs, even a push cart, tho you'd be wise to seek out an "Italian" dog: all-beef frank deep fried with onions, peppers and potatoes served on pizza bread.

    And speaking of pizza...too many good places to mention all over. But in 35 minutes you could be in Elizabeth for Santillo's (take out only) or Spirito's.

    And just over the Raritan River bridge in Edison is Harold's, get the large pastrami sandwich and you'll have enough leftovers to feed the entire state of Arkansas.

  10. Easy is best. Which is why I rarely roast a whole chicken these days but can still get a chicken with great roast flavor.

    I use the best bird I can easily buy (that usually means Bell & Evans or Eberle) and ask the butcher to remove the backbone and split the bird. At home I salt it for an hour then before cooking use whatever spices or herbs suit my fancy. (Last night it was a classic thyme/sage rub). I turn up all three burners of my gas grill to high. When ready I turn off back burner, apply oil to grates over that area and cook split halves skin side up. About 15 minutes in I switch positions of halves to insure even cooking, but keep them skin side up through the entire cooking process. (I also cooked the back alongside them and gnawed on that as an appetizer while the rest finished cooking.)

    The 3.5 pound bird took half an hour last night. As juicy as any bird I've ever roasted with a lot less work. And the skin was as perfectly done as could be: deep mahogany, crackly thin. It tasted roasted, not grilled, because all cooking was indirect.

    When I'm really ambitious I'll spatchcock the bird myself (including removal of breastbone, delicately) without splitting, then cooking by same technique, though it will take a bit longer.

  11. The Reading Terminal Market has needed a full-time donut stand for years, as I've regularly reminded market management at every opportunity since before starting writing this blog. The only time fresh donuts have been available has been during the Pennsylvania Dutch festival and other special events.

    In few weeks I'll be getting my donuts. The Bieler family, which operates both Bieler's Bakery and AJ Pickle Patch, is reconfiguring the latter to add the fried treats. To make room, Alvin Bieler will be dropping the packaged, jarred and canned items now sold at AJ. The salads and barrel pickles will remain, and the stall will be renamed Bieler's Donuts and Salads.

    Saturday was the last day for AJ. In coming week's the Bieler's will be reconfiguring the space and installing donut-making equipment and display cases.

    To clear out the stock, on Saturday AJ was selling the canned and jarred items at $2 apiece: a nice savings considering they retail for $4-$6. I picked up some some pickled vegetables, tomato jam, grape jelly and red currant jelly.

    I wouldn''t expect the Bielers to emulate Federal Donuts' exotic flavors. Plain and sugared, perhaps glazed or frosted, with cider donuts in season. Maybe some jelly or creme filled donuts, too. But if you want chicken, you'll have to settle for the rotisserie birds up the aisle at Dienner's -- or visit one of Federal's two shops.

    Although Bieler's will no longer sell the canned and jarred items, a similar stock is carried by Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce. Another seller of similar goods (though tending to be international in origin rather than Lancaster Countian) at the market is Jonathan Best.

  12. It's not from the Gorton's fisherman, thank heavens. The frozen fish sold at some Philadelphia farmers' markets by Otolith Sustainable Seafood is among the finest fish -- fresh, frozen, dried, cured, whatever -- I've tasted.

    This past Saturday I quick thawed (according to package instructions) a filet of King (a.k.a. Chinook) salmon purchased in early November from Otolith's stall at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market. I cooked it about as simply as you can: hot cast iron pan, maybe a tablespoon or two of neutral vegetable oil (expensive olive oil would be wasted in this application), just salt and pepper as seasoning. The filet (which I cut into two six ounce portions) was a tad over an inch thick, so over the medium high flame with a hot pan it just took a little over 10 minutes to cook. I served it alongside a rice pilaf studded with raisins, pine nuts, gently sautéd onions and par-cooked diced carrot, seasoned with half a teaspoon each fresh ground cumin and cardamom seeds and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, plus salt and pepper.

    The fish turned out succulent, beautifully colored with a deep salmon flavor. The leftover oil in the pan smelled fishy, but the fish didn't. She Who Must Be Obeyed, who detests "fishy" fish, devoured her portion. The crispy skin was a real treat: you could package this stuff and sell it next to the pork rinds at Wawa. If tuna is chicken of the sea, a good salmon is heritage pork.

    Although some of the credit goes to the variety of salmon (Chinook is my favorite, closely followed by sockeye) the real reason for its deliciousness goes to the way it was caught, handled, frozen, shipped and stored.

    Based on what I could divine from Otolith's website, it appears this fish was caught out of Sitka in Southeast Alaska in September. My guess is the fish was caught by trolling, in which the salmon are hooked and handled individually, rather than gathered with a seine or gillnet. The fish are headed and gutted onboard, iced, then brought ashore where they are quick frozen.

    The care in handling is why frozen fish frequently can be better than fresh. That was certainly the case with the Chinook I ate this weekend: it was as good as any salmon I've ever had, including some meals in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest!

    This is not a fish for the parsimonious. If I recall correctly, the filets are $23/pound. Still, that's a competitive price: it's what you'd pay for fresh Pacific Northwest Chinook at any qualify fishmonger in season.

    In addition to Chinook, Otolith sells Sockeye, Coho and Pink salmon, halibut, rockfish, Pacific cod, sable (a.k.a. black cod), shrimp and King crab, all from Alaskan waters.

    Otolith sells most Saturdays throughout the year at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers' Market.. I expect they'll be at Headhouse when it reopens the first Sunday in May. A few retailers also carry Otolith frozen seafoods, including Green Aisle Grocery in South Philly, and, in West Philly, Milk and Honey Market and Mariposa Coop.

  13. Long roper,

    Curious, I checked upthread but didn't see where you fish in AK. Bristol Bay?

    Saturday I thawed and cooked a most delicious filet of Chinook acquired last fall at a Philadelphia farmers market. It's sold by a small quality middleman here (Otolith) who acquires direct from boats in SE Alaska. Only troll-caught fish.

    The Chinook I bought was from the September harvest out of Sitka and was right up there with the finest salmon I've ever eaten.

    When quality caught, handled, frozen and shipped/stored, frozen is better than most of the "fresh" fish you can find.

  14. Greengrocer OK Produce (formerly known as O.K. Lee) will expand into the space recently made available when Nanee's Kitchen moved within the Reading Terminal Market.

    Although it will remain smaller than the market's behemoth produce vendor, Iovine Brothers, the additional square footage will make OK's operation more efficient, as well as creating additional selling space

    The agreement for OK to take over Nanee's old spot fills in the last remaining leaseable space at the market, according to Paul Steinke, the RTM's general manager. "It's a nice position to be in," he acknowledged.

    More space could open up, however, if Downtown Cheese succeeds in lining up financing for a move it's been considering to the market's Piano Court, opposite Metropolitan Bakery and Golden Fish Market. Under that plan, Downtown Cheese would take over most, but not all, of the Piano Court seating area.

    Of course, if Downtown Cheese stays put, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Steinke would turn some of the Piano Court into vendor space.

    Border Springs Farm has won the market's approval for the design of its stall, to be located in the former Basic 4 space across from Godshall's and Franks-A-Lot. Owner Craig Rogers, who still has to obtain various city approvals, hopes to be open in six to eight weeks. Too bad the lamb purveyor won't be open in time for Easter.

    Winter Doldrums

    Besides my own personal inertia, one reason this blog hasn't been updated regularly has been the lack of excitement in what's available at the produce markets. It is, after all, late winter, with no local produce (except for what's coming out of hydroponic growers), and the opening of farmers' markets is about two months away.

    Even the citrus fruit offerings haven't been inspiring.

    And while I like greens, there's a limit to how much kale I want to eat. (Has anyone else notice what a "hot" food item kale as become this year?)

    Still there is some interesting produce out there, so long as you're willing to open up your wallet and let the food miles pile up, especially for items coming in from Mexico and South America.

    Iovine's Produce, for example, had some asparagus today. And the bagged red and green seedless grapes are nice and reasonably priced at $2.99 for a two-pound bag. Fresh chickpeas (garbanzos) in the shell remain on Iovine's shelves for $3.99/pound. Alas, frying peppers, which for the last three weeks have been priced at a bargain 79 cents a pound, have nearly doubled to $1.49. Green bell peppers, though, were 99 cents today.

    Any decent sized orange will set you back 50 cents, though smaller ones can be had at three for a buck. Florida juicers are 4/$1. A dollar's worth of lemons (3) can probably be squeezed enough to generate enough juice for a lemon meringue pie (it did for me a few weeks ago).

    I'm not a big egg eater, but the difference between what supermarkets sell and what's available at the Fair Food Farmstand is amazing. Fair Food's are considerably fresher, with deep orange yolks that hold their shape. Yes, they are pricier -- even Fair Food's non-organic eggs are $3.50/dozen -- but when you've got eggs this fresh and good available it's worth the premium. They made a rich lemon curd and pristine meringue for that pie.

    Though still a bit dear, the price of broccoli rabe has eased a tad, much to the relief of Joey Nicolosi of Tommy DiNic's. Joey experimented with other greens, and especially liked the way Swiss chard worked with the sandwiches, but he's sticking with rabe and spinach as the offered greens.

    Horn & Hardart Coffee

    A long time ago in a galaxy far away, before Starbucks and before Dunkin' Donuts, you could get a cup of coffee at the Horn & Hardart automats in Philadelphia and New York City. The last automat closed more than 20 years ago, and the once common high-tech eatery (for the times) has since been the subject of at least one museum show.

    But you can still get the coffee.

    The Pennsylvania General Store now stocks the H&H beans on its Reading Terminal Market shelves. Last time I checked they only offered the whole bean variety. H&H's sole blend, Liberty, is also packaged in a ground version.

    More Time for Hoagies

    Even though there are plenty of good hoagies in this town, one of my favorites remains those made by Salumeria, the cheese monger/Italian grocer at the RTM. Especially when I augment their house dressing with marinated artichokes on my prosciuitto or Italian hoagie.

    Now, I can get them beyond lunch time. Earlier this year Salumeria extended its hours for hoagie-making until 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday. Now, if only they would start making them before 11 a.m., I could eat one for breakfast.

    Emulsified Meats

    In addition to sausages the new Wursthaus Schmitz has a nice selection of German style cold cuts. Most come from from Rieker's, the wurstgeschaft in the Far Northeast. I'm a sucker for the olive bologna or veal loaf. Also nice is the suelze, select bits of tongue and other "lesser" cuts suspended in aspic with piquant pickled carrots. If you'd like a purer rendition of tongue, walk over to L. Halteman; although there's still a little gelatine to hold it together, it's more tongue-meaty.

  15. Craig Rogers, whose business card identifies him as "Shepherd", is rarin' to go with his forthcoming Reading Terminal Market stall. Last Saturday he was behind the counter with future staffers for his Border Springs Farm retail outlet.

    The necessities of dealing with designers and architects as well as city building and health officialdom means it will be a while before the first little lamb part is exchanged for cash at the stall, located where the Basic Four vegetarian lunch vendor had held court.

    Rogers raises two types of sheep: Katahdin and Texel. Katahdin is a "hair" sheep which sheds its wool, which makes the breed ideal for warmer climates. Texel is a breed which produces excellent wool. Both, however, offer good, lean meat yields.

    Border Springs' RTM outpost will sell lamb for cooking at home as well as prepared lamb dishes, including sausages. Lamb bacon will also be available, Rogers said.

    The stall is being designed by the same firm responsible for Zahav restaurant, where owner/chef Michael Solomonov's lamb shoulder banquet is likely to have its centerpiece originate at Border Springs' pastures.

    Spanish Mackerel: At What Price?

    "A fish of high quality."

    That's how Alan Davidson describes the Spanish mackerel in his indispensible North Atlantic Seafood. A larger cousin to the Atlantic or Boston Mackerel, both offer a meaty, clean-tasting sign that spring cannot be far off.

    But what to make of the price?

    Last Saturday at the Reading Terminal Market the price was $1.99 a pound at John Yi. Today's price at Whole Foods (Callowhill and 20th) was $4.99. I could see no difference, visually, in the quality of the fish. And I'll be willing to wager that John Yi has a higher turnover of the variety than Whole Foods, so the former's is bound to be fresher.

    Because of its size, the whole fish is better baked than sautéed, though I've done the latter with fillets.

    Another piscatorial sign that spring is nigh at John Yi's: roe and buck shad. Undoubtedly from Florida. The local Delaware River run is usually in May.

  16. Broccoli rabe is very easy to grow. Maybe someone in the PA area should think about planting it once the ground thaws.

    They do. It's a seasonal crop in South Jersey, but the season's over. I don't believe it's winter hardy like some greens, hence the need to bring it in from AZand CA in winter.

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