Summer Squash Soup

I don’t really follow recipes: I mostly just look at a few, or none, and cook with what I have. I’ve been amazed at my ability, even enjoyment in following the recipes in Simply Natural Everyday, but for this summer squash soup recipe, I made a few substitutions, as is my thrifty/curious cooking way. While I kept the yellow squash, zucchini, Thai red curry paste and coconut milk, I left out the tofu “croutons” and added mushrooms instead, used lite coconut milk instead of regular (blasphemy!), almost doubled the curry paste, and threw in some extra garlic. A perfectly suitable solution to all those summer squashes, especially if you have air conditioning, a cool evening, or a kitchen table directly under a ceiling fan (like me).


Han Dynasty, or, a spice lover finally makes it to “handynasty”

Considering my deep and abiding love for spice, it’s amazing that it took me so long to make it to Han Dynasty, colloquially known as “handynasty.” I think it’s Old City location (versus Chinatown) threw me off, but when I went out of my way to make it in the door, bottle of crisp white wine in hand, I was not disappointed.

Many people are scared of the hot hot heat that is Schezuan, but don’t be afraid – Han has coded each menu item with a spice number. I have a pretty solid spice tolerance, but really, the “10” here didn’t kill me at all – just made me want more. This sultry dish was a “dry pot,” a metal bowl of vegetables and meat (sadly, the cooks refuse to substitute tofu) in hot chili oil with plenty of fresh chilis over a flame. In theory, the flame “dries out” the dish before it reaches your table. We didn’t find that to be the case, but it didn’t affect the deliciousness of the dish.

I had the pickled tofu which, coming in at a 5, made me concerned that it would be too tame. I asked our waiter to kick-up the spice quotient, and it came just perfect. On a side note, if you avoid pools delicious oil in your food, this is not the dish, or even the place for you. The oil helps to bring out the heat and flavor of the dried chilies, and is entirely necessary. That doesn’t mean that you need to drink the leftover pool at the bottom of your bowl.

After hearing so much praise about the Dan Dan noodles, I gave them a go and they were good – a spicy sort of cold sesame noodle, and definitely enough to share between two. The angels did not sing, but these noodles are certainly a step-up from a sesame noodles appetizer. With the addition of my companion’s chicken dumpling soup (which he deemed fantastic) we ended up taking piles of food home. It’s only fair to mention, at this point, that the prices are more than reasonable, and BYOB sweetens the deal.

I must, in good faith, warn you that the service was totally bizarre service. Different people were constantly arriving at the table to take our order (which one was our server? I don’t know) deliver or take things away, and check on our meal. Like, every 5 minutes. I was seated by an employee and then told by a different employees that my previous conversation didn’t count because employee #1 “doesn’t speak any English.” The food came out blazing fast – they’re just trying to get people in and out of the door. So YOU have to carefully pace your meal. Order one appetizer, then another, then wait away, then order your dinner. And try to ignore the distracted waitstaff and chefs fighting (and throwing dishes) in the kitchen.

Han Dynasty on Urbanspoon

Raw Turnip, Kholrabi, and Apple Salad

So many greens! I don’t know about you, but when I pull a beet up from my garden or pull turnips out of my CSA share, I’m not looking at one vegetable, but two – the bulbs and the greens! So many people chop their greens off and throw them in the compost, but it’s like throwing away a head of lettuce or a bunch of kale. These greens can be easily used as you would any other green, just chop them off the bulb right away (if you leave then attached they can wilt the bulb) and use them within a few days, before they yellow and brown. This bright and tangy salad was the result of a very hot day, and a lot of greens.

Raw Turni, Kholrabi and Apple Salad
1 large bunch turnip greens
1 large bunch kholrabi greens

4 Tbs. olive or sunflower oil
6 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. dijon-style mustard
2 Tbs. good-quality maple or agave syrup
2 garlic scapes (choped) or one garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

4 white turnips
3 lrg. kholrabi bulbs
1 green apple
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cups assorted salted nuts

Wash and thinly slice the greens. Place them in a large bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the greens and give them a quick “massage” with the dressing. Let rest in the refrigerator. Peel the turnips and kholrabi, cutting out any soft or woody spots. Julienne or shred the root vegetables and the apple and place in a medium bowl, tossing with the lemon juice. Add the root vegetables and apple to the greens, along with the salted nuts. Toss, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4-6.

Beet Green Tart

I grew heaps of beautiful chiogga beets this year, and they just keep coming in the CSA. I can’t bring myself to compost those healthy greens, so I blanch and freeze some of them for winter and use the rest as I can. While searching for a new and guest-worthy recipe, I can across this one for a turnip green tart. I used beet greens instead, rice milk instead of the heavy cream, and some parmesan instead of the gruyere (so, not the same recipe at all).

I also had a homemade pie crust waiting in the freezer, and decided to use that instead of making a new cornmeal crust. I was worried that the pastry crust would be too sweet, but my guests loved the buttery sweetness with the beet green flavor. It’s too hot in Philadelphia to turn your oven on today (98 degrees!) but you can always blanch and save your beet greens now and save them for later.

PHS Pop-Up Garden and Square 1682


In partnership with Philly Homegrown, PHS created a beautiful pop-up garden in the formerly empty lot at 20th and Market. Just look at all the beauty next to those boring skyscrapers! You’re welcome to pop-in on Wednesdays and Thursdays and spend some time in the garden.

The garden will stay up until October, then come down for the winter and pop-up in a new location next Spring! I stopped by for a short workshop on vegetable growing. These Wednesday workshops are free and easy to squeeze in over your lunch hour:
• August 4: Gardening Odds and Ends — Fabulous Containers
• September 1: Edible Landscapes — Growing Beautiful Food
• September 22: Edible Landscape — Planting and Harvesting

After the workshop I popped over to Square 1682 with some fellow food writers. Along with five other local hot spots – R2L, , Table 31, Sampan, Barbuzzo, and Paradiso — Square 1682 has agreed to use ingredients from the pop-up garden in special dishes whose proceeds benefit City Harvest, PHS’s program that provides fresh produce for underserved Philadelphia residents. Pictured above is petite salad with little gem lettuce, pickled vegetables, and a honey lemon dressing.

But this is the dish that melted my heart: Pesto Marinated Burrata with yellow pickled beets, endive, frisee, dried apricots and cranberries, and a sherry vinaigrette. I’d love to visit again some day and try their famous vegetable tasting menu!

Square 1682 on Urbanspoon

Broccoli Gribiche

This salad has been rocking my world. I’m not really a big broccoli fan, so I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy the large and lovely crowns that appear in my CSA box. The above salad is from Super Natural Everyday (I know, I know, just buy it already) with a few variations. I didn’t have fingerling potatoes, but I had plenty of new red potatoes, so used those. And I didn’t have the fresh tarragon the gribiche recipe called for, so I used dried, plus marjoram and some fresh parsley. Roasted vegetables + boiled eggs + sauce that includes mustard and capers? You see why I’m in heaven. I made a similar version for a 4th of July BBQ last weekend, and it was a big hit. I had a box of grape tomatoes, so I threw those in the roasting pan, as well, and used fresh dill in the sauce. There are as many gribiche recipes as there are chefs in the world, so experiment a little (or use what you have in your kitchen!) and enjoy it over some roasted vegetables. And do NOT forget the large grain sea salt – the perfect kick. The recipe below is one I’ve posted before. I LOVE LOVE LOVE cornichons, so if you have some of those, definitely throw them in!

Sauce Gribiche
serves 2, generously

1 large egg
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste
2 Tbsp. finely chopped herbs (parsley, dill, chives, etc.)
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1.5 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and finely chopped
4 cornichons, finely chopped
3 Tbs. olive oil
Salt, to taste

Soft boil the egg (so the yolk is just set) – about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the shallot and the lemon juice in a small bowl, and let macerate. Combine the herbs, lemon zest, capers, cornichons, olive oil and salt in a small bowl, whisking well. Peel the boiled egg, dicing finely, and add to the sauce. Add the lemon juice and shallots, quickly whisking to combine. Taste, and add lemon juice or salt, as needed.

Early Summer Harvest

In addition to the full share CSA from Lancaster Farm Fresh that I share with my housemate, I have two 8X4 raised beds that I constructed in the abandoned yard next to my house. This year I really got on the early planting, and this early attention has yielded great early summer crops. I thought I’d share a few photos with you:

I grew heirloom Lincoln Peas from Landreth seeds – so sweet!

It’s not secret that I love beets. These beautiful heirlooms grew gorgeous, with very sweet greens.

I broke up two heads of organic garlic late last fall and planted the individual cloves before the ground froze. By summer solstice, I had these gorgeous heads of new garlic, which I braided and hung in my pantry.