Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sweet and Tangy: Temple Oranges

To the orange connoisseur, there's no finer specimen than the temple orange. a older mandarin-sweet orange hybrid that's both sweet and tangy. It has a complexity of flavor that no other orange can match.

Alas, because it has seeds many folks avoid the temple orange. That's their ill-fortune and your good luck. And at three for a buck at Iovine Brother's Produce at the Reading Terminal Market these large oranges are a good buy.

Though the skin is tight to the flesh, Temples can be easily peeled and sectioned by hand, much like its tangerine ancestor.

As with any other citrus fruit, you want it to feel heavy in the hand for its size -- that means there's plenty of juice inside. The thin skin will be shiny but not without some spotting

Whether eaten out-of-hand, juiced, sectioned for salads or used in baking the temple orange is a stand-out winter fruit. But get them now: the season is short, less than two months from late-January until March.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pearl's Starts Breakfast, Brunch

Ship's bow statue at Pearl's Oyster Bar
Pearl's Oyster Bar introduced a breakfast/brunch menu last week, featuring egg dishes accompanied with seafood, including a crusted shrimp/egg Po' Boy on a Sarcone's roll, and eggs benedict serve with either crab cake, shrimp and grits, or smoked salmon. French toast is also on the menu. I'll vouch for the cheese grits.

With the help of 10,000 librarians attending their association's mid-winter meeting at the convention center Pearl's owner David Braunstein appears to have picked a good week for introducing the breakfast menu. By the time I left the market about 10 a.m. Saturday, nearly half of the restaurant's seats were occupied -- not bad considering Pearl's is only eclipsed by the Down Home Diner and Molly Malloy's in seating capacity.

Since taking over the business from his parents Braunstein (together with executive chef Jason Ledee) have made substantial tweaks to the menu. Most of the classics remain, though not the fried clams. The snapper soup is a good one: when I sampled it two weeks ago it had plenty of snapper meat, lots of traditional flavor, but none of the over-cornstarch gloppiness that detracts from some versions. The plate of a dozen Cape May Salts I tried were properly shucked with a minimum of broken shells and served with the classic mignonette sauce (hot sauce, lemon also available).

Amazingly, Pearl's offers buck-a-shuck oysters from 4 p.m. to closing on weekdays. Since Pearl's doesn't sell booze, it's hard to image Braunstein is making any money on the deal.

New RTM Website Long Overdue

Next month the Reading Terminal Market plans to go live with a new website. It's much overdue. The current website has minimal functionality, its merchant list/map is both out-of-date or just plain doesn't work. The new site is also expected to be more mobile-friendly.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Sourdough Pizza? Yes!

Photo courtesy of Angelo's Pizza
Danny DiGiampietro has been a bread jobber -- a route-man delivering bread from Sarcone's and other bakeries to sandwich shops and other eateries (including Tommy DiNic's) -- for years. But his true love is the baking of bread and its sidekicks. For about a year he ran a small bakery in South Philly while maintaining his route, where he also toyed a bit with pizza-making. For a variety of reasons, the bakery didn't work out, though not because of any flaws in his product. DiNic's only switched to Sarcone's after Danny's closed shop.

Late last year Danny opened a new venture across the river in Haddonfield: Angelo's Pizza, 122 N. Haddon Ave. The menu is simple: pizza, cheese steaks, chicken steaks, fries, salads and escarole soup.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I stopped by today and were blown away by the pizza. She went for the pepperoni, I opted for sausage. Instead of using crumbled meat, Danny slices the sausage in thin lengths to adorn the pie. The pepperoni is cut in the usual rounds. He uses fresh mozzarella and/or high quality regular mozzarella, depending on the type of pie ordered. And after coming out of the oven he tops most with a little fresh grating cheese.

The crust is thin, crispy and delicate and is made from sourdough. It's what Danny's pies are all about.

I never thought of fermented dough for pizza, but it works. Indeed, sourdoughs are hardly unknown in Italian baking. Danny takes it easy on the tartness, so the sourdough doesn't call attention to itself, but when you bite into the unadorned puffy crust on the pie's margins you will detect a slight tang that complements rather than competes with toppings.

What makes it even more unique is that Danny didn't begin with a commercial sourdough starter. He set out flour mixed with water and let the local Haddonfield yeasts do their thing. Works for me.

He's selling a lot of cheese steaks, too. Danny's picky so he uses prime beef. He's also cooking long hots, which can adorn the steaks or the pizza.

You can watch a cheesy video of Danny at work here.

(Full disclosure: I got to know Danny from hanging out at the Reading Terminal Market when he was making deliveries to DiNic's and consider him a foodie friend.)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

New Year's Treat: Not Pigs in Blanket

For New Year's Day football-watching (and Superbowl Sunday as well) She Who Must Be Obeyed and I set up a variety of small bites for noshing through the day and night. In years past Pigs in the Blanket have been the star attraction, but we also indulge in appetizers from the frozen aisle at Trader Joe's and other emporiums: phyllo-wrapped savory treats, dips and chips (including guacamole) and similar high-calorie, high-fat fare.

This year I wanted to replace the worst offenders with something less enlarging to the gut, or at least not quite as unhealthy. I still went with the guac (homemade). But instead of oversalted tortilla chips I swapped them out with pita chips.

Still, I wanted something special and a little out of the ordinary.

Coming to the rescue was Otolith Sustainable Seafood, a small Philadelphia purveyor which does some of its own fishing in Alaska and also buys seafood from other small fishing operations in the Sitka and Petersburg areas. Almost everything is individually quick frozen and everything I've tried so far has been absolutely delicious. In fact, the king (chinook) salmon is the best I've ever had, including during a two-week visit to the 49th state.

For New Year's I took advantage of a special Otolith offering: salmon roe. The deep reddish-orange roe (also known as ikura) came in four-ounce refrigerated jars, priced at $10 apiece.

To serve them I used mini-pastry shells (about the diameter of a quarter) purchased from the South Philly Ikea's Swedish Food Mart. Into each went a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt, then a heaping spoonful of roe. To finish out my plate I filled the remaining pastry shells with more yogurt, then a curl of smoked salmon.

Next time Otolith offers salmon roe, I won't wait for New Year's to indulge. Otolith sells its seafood at local farmers' markets (including Rittenhouse and Headhouse) as well as through some natural food stores in the area. They'll also deliver to your door.