Cheese Plates at the Swift Half

Cheese Platter at the Swift Half
Cheese Platter at the Swift Half

While spending an Saturday afternoon checking out the shops and scene at the new Piazza at Schmidt’s, I got a little hungry. Not a lot hungry, but beer and a snack hungry. Already a fan of the Good Dog and Grace, I decided to check out the legendary bartender/owner Fergie’s new spot, the Swift Half. With generous outdoor seating and the luck of a Phillies game on the Jumbotron, my friend Ryan and I ordered up some hoppy beverages and I took a look at the menu.

While there are a few tasty looking vegetarian options – a beet and goat cheese sandwich, a vegetarian shepards pie and petite cucumber finger sandwiches, I had a few options, but the cheese plates really caught my eye. For just $5 you can choose a lovely cheese, paired with sliced baguette, fresh fruit and accoutremonts. I choose the boucheron, a French goat’s cheese that is interestingly firm on the inside and softer on the outside. It came paired with fresh blueberries and a thick blueberry sauce. A generous slice of delicious cheese, spreadable fruit, and just $5? I’m hooked.

Swift Half on Urbanspoon

Soft Polenta with Roasted Delicata, Pumpkin Seeds, Kale, and Baby Tomatoes

soft polenta with roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, kale and baby tomatoes
soft polenta with roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, kale and baby tomatoes

After a lovely Saturday in the city, I invited friends over for dinner and a movie. I’m thrilled about the appearance of squash in my CSA, but had never before cooked or eaten delicata squash. I decided to use it like I would pumpkin (which was the right choice, since it’s quite sweet) and roasted it with garlic, then served it over soft, buttery polenta topped with pumpkin seeds, roasted and tossed with a bit of cinnamon, clove, and cumin. Long strips of pecorino (both inside and on top of the polenta) added a nice sharpness to the sweet richness of the dish. A side of braised kale with baby tomatoes added to the vegetable count for this very local, very comforting, delicious dinner with friends.

Jalapeno Salsa

Jalapeno Salsa
Jalapeno Salsa

I love salsa, and jalapenos, and luckily my CSA has been giving me plenty of both. My salsa is a combination of a few recipes from the classic Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, a basic encyclopedia of home canning.

Jalapeno Salsa
makes 4 pints

5 cups chopped tomatoes
3 cups chopped jalapeno peppers, unseeded
3/4 c. chopped white onions
1 cup white vinegar
5 cloves garlic
4 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1/2 t. cumin

Bring tomatoes, jalapenos, onion, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, salt, and cumin to boil over medium-high heat. I like to use my la cruset, but a good soup pot will work fine. Stir frequently, until the salsa thickens – about 15 minutes. Can using as you would tomato sauce, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top of a boiled jar. Remove air bubbles, wipe jar rim, and screw band down on top of a pre-soaked lid. Process jars in a large pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and carefully remove jars after 5 minutes. If jar tops do not “pop” and indent, process again. Cool and store. You can begin enjoying your salsa after it mellows, in about 4 weeks.

Eggs for Dinner

Eggs for dinner
Eggs for dinner

Sometimes, after a long day, I just can’t bring myself to cook a real meal. That doesn’t mean I can’t still have a quick, delicious, balanced dinner full of seasonal produce. Eggs are my go-to for easy dinner nights and I never seem to tire of them, especially if they are fresh and local. On this particular night I toasted half of a Metropolitan millet muffin (just a tad sweet) and smeared it with butter and topped it with a local egg fried with just a few slices of hot pepper. In the last few minutes of frying, I threw in a big handful of miniature heirloom tomatoes, until just a few burst. Sea salt. Steamed green beans on the side. Perfect.

Grilled Seitan Fajitas

grilled seitan fajitas
grilled seitan fajitas

Yesterday I posted a photographic and narrative guide to making your own grilled BBQ seitan. Now that you’ve made it, what do you do with it? I often eat it right off the skewer, but there are plenty of other things to do with seitan. With all the delicious summer produce, I’ve been really excited about fajitas lately, and they don’t take long to make!

Some whole wheat flour tortillas. Your delicious grilled BBQ seitan. Some fresh sliced heirloom tomatoes, avocado, grated local cheese, like pepper jack or garlic cheddar. Tomatillo salsa (I can’t stop making my own!), and grilled or fried (with a hot, quick heat) onions and peppers. Cilantro. Pile it all on. Try to roll it up. Enjoy.

Peppers, Onions, Garlic
Peppers, Onions, Garlic

Make your own grilled BBQ seitan

Grilled BBQ Seitan
Grilled BBQ Seitan

Homemade seitan can seem like a tricky proposition, but it’s not that difficult (and much cheaper!) when you get the hang of it. Ever since I tried the amazing seitan at Horizons, I’ve recommitted myself to perfecting my seitan efforts. Above – the seitan. Already boiled, marinated, grilled, and ready to be devoured. But how do you get there? First, pick a recipe. I like the recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and Veganomicon, and tend to make a seitan that’s a combination of the two. My key ingredients are fresh garlic and nutritional yeast. Don’t skip them!

dry ingredients
dry ingredients

Put all your dry ingredients into a large bowl. Salt, wheat gluten, and nutritional yeast, plus any dry herbs or spices you want to add. It doesn’t look very appetizing now, but it will get there.

wet ingredients
wet ingredients

MIx your wet ingredients in a small bowl. A bit of vegetable stock, soy sauce, olive oil, and I throw the garlic in now. Now dump the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, and and stir until the the dough forms a wet ball.

dough ball!
dough ball!

Knead the dough ball with your hands. Knead it hard. Keep kneading the dough, flipping and turning it (much like bread dough) until it becomes very springy and glossy – this means the gluten fibers are formed. When you think that you’re done, knead it a little more.

finished dough ball
finished dough ball

In a big pot, boil a few cups of vegetable stock. Then, add what you want. I like soy sauce, wine, bay leaf, and sometimes a fresh chili. Divide the dough ball into four parts, and then form each part into a thin log. Drop the logs into the boiling stock. Boil for just 5 minutes, and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot slightly with a lid, and simmer for an hour. The dough logs will puff up, and look very unattractive. This is why I didn’t even bother taking a picture of them. They sort of resemble organs. Slice up the logs in chunks or strips and marinate in whatever you like. I like a secret sauce that included hot Louisiana BBQ sauce, jerk seasoning, calypso hot sauce, and some other secret things. Marinate over night if you can, or for at least a few hours.

Grill it! Either on skewers on the BBQ, in a George Forman grill if its rainy, or on a greased grill pan on the stove. There you have it. Delicious.

Rib Cook-off! (even for vegetarians)

3rd Annual Rib Cook-Off
3rd Annual Rib Cook-Off

I know it sounds crazy – a rib cook-off for vegetarians? But it’s true. I’m very excited to be a judge in this year’s Full Plate Cafe annual rib cook-off. In the vegetarian division! I can’t wait to taste all the veggie ribs from both the professional and amateur divisions. Competitors – here’s a hint: I like it spicy.

For just $20 you get all your can eat ribs and drinks from Root and Stoudt’s and some live entertainment – all afternoon long. I hope to see you there, faces covered in BBQ sauce!

3rd Annual Full Plate Cafe Rib Cook-Off
Piazza at Schmidt’s
$20
Doors Open at 1pm