Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beck's Opens Its Pantry

Beck's Cajun Cafe has gone retail. The Reading Terminal Market eatery is now packaging three different spice rubs and two sandwich spreads.

The rubs come in three varieties:

Angel Dust
, designed for chicken and seafood; Devil Dust, for those who like their meats or veggies a bit spicier; and Rub-A-Dub for grilled red meats and pork.

Proprietor/Chef Bill Beck is also offering Creole Mayo for use as a sandwich spread or dip, and Olive Salad condiment/relish, an essential ingredient in any mufaletta.

The three-ounce rub tins sell for $6.95, or $18 for a set of three. I don't have a price on the spreads.

For those who prefer to eat-in, Beck has a new sandwich on his menu just in time for the Auto Show, which opens Saturday: the Train Wreck Po' Boy. The $7.95 sandwich is loaded with andouille sausage, steak and salami, along with the regular standard lettuce, tomato, pickle and creole mayo fixings. The name of the sandwich doesn't do much for me, since for more than two decades I worked for a railroad and got early morning calls whenever there was a train wreck.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chick peas in the pod

And after shelling
Fresh Legumes

I love chick peas, a.k.a. garbanzos or ceci. So when I spied fresh chick peas in the pod at Iovine Brothers today, a grabbed them.

At $5.99/pound they are dear, and the yield of edible bean is only about 65-70 percent of the pod weight. Plus, since there are only one or sometimes two beans to a pod, a bit of work is involved in prepping; it took me nearly a quarter of an hour to shell five ounces of pods, which produced enough beans for one modest portion of 3-3/8 ounces before cooking.

When in doubt, I turn to Mark Bittman for cooking advice, which in this case suggested (for all fresh legumes) bringing the beans to a boil in water to cover, then simmering for 20 minutes before testing for doneness. (I added plenty of salt to the cooking liquid.) I pulled them after about 17 minutes cooking, and they probably could have been pulled two or three minutes earlier. Still, most of the beans retained the meaty mouth feel I associated with garbanzos as well as a fresh, more nuanced version of their characteristic flavor.

The salt in the cooking water, and a grind of black pepper over the drained beans, was a perfect seasoning, though there's no reason why you couldn't treat them like peas with some butter on top. I imagine they'd also do well mashed (a play on the Englishman's mushy peas) or pureed.

All in all this was a delightful vegetal treat to break up the winter root vegetable blahs.
Beer Garden Update

Iovine Brothers' acquisition of The Beer Garden should be completed within a few weeks, at which time reconstruction will begin, according to Jimmy Iovine. He adds that although not assured, he still thinks it is possible to obtain authority to sell beer for consumption in center court and other Reading Terminal Market seating areas. RTM management, however, has expressed concerned such a policy might negate the RTM's attractiveness to families with children.

When the transfer of ownership and licenses are completed, the Iovines will expand the Beer Garden to encompass the current public seating area and add a kitchen. Numerous taps for microbrews is part of the plan.

It's much too late for the work to be done before the auto show later this month, but the Iovines hope to have it all in place by Flower Show, which opens March 6.
Mid-Winter Catch-Up

It's been two months since my last report, due to some family health issues (well on their way to a successful outcome), holiday hectic-ness and my own laziness. I'll try to make up for it with this and subsequent reports.

Terre Madre Festival

On December 10 the RTM held its inaugural Terre Madre Day, named after the huge, artisinal food celebration/convention held every other year in Turin, Italy. Since Paul Steinke, the market's general manager, attended last fall's event in Italy, he brought a bit of it backby organizing a day to show off local foods here.

In the photo, food author Aliza Green, ably assisted by Betty Kaplan, cook up some flank steak from local beef for tasters, while Mike Holahan of Pennsylvania General Store passed out some of Uncle Jerry's Pretzels. Among the other participants: Bee Natural, Blue Mountain Vineyards, Metropolitan Bakery, Birch Run Hills Farm, Earth Bread + Brewing, and Cope’s Dried Corn.