after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Archive for the ‘Cooking Adventures (with Recipes)’ Category

In Ina We Trust

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t says:  A while ago, g got me some bananas.  For some unknown reason, these bananas went un-eaten (very unlike me).  But I had no fear … because when bananas go bad, g shifts into banana bread mode … and life gets good.

This particular month, she let me choose the recipe – and choose I did.  You see, for me, the only thing banana bread is missing is chocolate, so when google revealed an Ina Garten recipe, it was a done deal.  Here’s the copy-pasted recipe.

For the bread:
– 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3 to 4 very ripe bananas)
– 1/4 cup sour cream
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel topping:
– 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
– 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
– 3 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8x8x2-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, beat in the egg, vanilla, banana, and sour cream and mix until combined. Don’t worry—it may look curdled. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

For the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a medium bowl and pinch the ingredients together with your fingers until the mixture makes crumbles. Add the chocolate and combine.

Distribute the streusel evenly over the batter, sprinkle the almonds on top, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan and serve warm or at room temperature.

How’d it turn out?  Take a look:

extreme close-up!

extreme close-up!

How’d it taste?  Heaven.  Seriously.  Pure heaven.  Even g agrees that it was “holy crap” good, not hesitating to mention this recipe to friends immediately.  Throw out anything you might have thought about banana bread, and instead replace it with something more like banana “cake” … with a crazy good topping.  Super-moist, flavorful, accented with just the right amount of chocolate (I went with 60% cacao – the bitterness with a nice foil to the sweet cake) – it was one of the first times that I didn’t wish for something else to add (we did use pecans instead of almonds in the topping, however – they were on sale).  Is it blog-worthy just to put up someone else’s recipe and rave how good it is?  I have no idea – I put it here just so I can find the recipe more easily when it comes time to make it again.  Speaking of which: have we made it again (it’s been about a a month since we made it last)? Hell no.  Why not?  Because I’d eat it all by myself … in a single sitting … sorry g.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 August 2016 at 1:45am

July-to-August Review!

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t says:  We’ve had a pretty month since coming back from London – the summer is flying by!  We need to play a little catch-up.


V Street!  That’s right – we finally did V Street.  Well, to be clear, g had done V Street several times before, but I had not.  This is one of her favorite dishes, and was demonstrative, in general, of the style of food there.  What you see above I think is called their “Peruvian Fries”.  In an interseting-taasting aioli, herbs, and peanuts, the nicely cooked potato wedges were fantastic!  However, I have to say that I wasn’t quite as blown away as she, as I was expecting something “punchier” – tangier, spicier, louder.  The other dishes, too, just felt a little muted to me, not quite hitting the expectations that I had after having eaten at Vedge and reading V Street’s interesting menu.  It’s not “bad”, but I’ll leave this place for the vegans (and g).


oh – and don’t do the custard – the texture is atrocious.  (unless you’re used to vegan ice cream).


Hop on over to Jersey and visit Vineland, our hometown.  It’s a quaint little city, Vineland, with not a lot of the craziest gastronomic advances going on – but that’s fine – that’s just Vineland!  That said, I’ve had these pretty amazing ravioli at Larry’s so I just had to give them a shout-out!  Often filled with ricotta+vegetable (pea, or caramelized onion, or whatever) and sparsely dressed, it’s my new favorite when visiting our parents!


Ah, yes – the good ‘ol blurry photo.  Why bother including it?  Because it’s a reminder to one and all that Mercato is still frickin’ killing it, Italian-BYO-style.  Remember when Philly was reknowned for its Italian BYOs?  When Mercato, Melograno, Modo Mio, and La Viola were all the rage?  Before we cared about celebrities and expensive tasting menus.  Well, we won’t forget those good ‘ol days (obviously we are old and crotchety and resistant to change).  The above is a dish from Mercato during the “Summer Tuesday Tastings” they got going on.  Pasta, braised meat, pistachio, and some shreds of cheese?  Yes please.  God it was good.


It has been a while since we did brunch here on adsz – we just kept going to the usual suspects.  But now, check out the newest king of the hill: TRIA!  Yes, that’s right – TRIA (the one on Fitler Square).  These blueberry ricotta pancakes were absolutely insane!  So delicately light and fluffy, (but substantive) and full of flavor.  It was incredible.  And there were still like three other dishes we wanted to try!  Get their early, avoid the lines, order a glass of Riesling (obviously!), and enjoy breakfast!


Now here we go … here we go …  Look at these four beignets, sitting in a row. Stuffed with apples or chocolate or crawfish, Brenda’s does the most amazing sweetly fried dough that I have ever had.  The catch?  Brenda’s is in San Francisco (  Consequently, we’ll just have to keep going back every time we visit …


Oh – and Brenda’s does upside-down peach cobbler pancakes, too – imagine peach pie (with crumble topping) but in pancake form.  Seriously – blew my head off.  So delicious.


Also on a recent visit to SF, I dined at Saru, a place we first visited for lunch some time.  As usual, it was delicious, from the charred shisito and daikon salad …


… to the nigiri I chose from the menu.  Now, because I dined alone, I had the chance to make a few observations.  The first one was weird.  I arrived at restaurant opening, which meant there was a line.  While there were parties of 2 and 3 and 4 being turned away with wait times of about 30 minutes, I knew that a solo diner like me would just sslliiddee right in.  So when I finally got up to the host and hostess, I told them, “party of 1, please” and looked over to the bar, eyeing an open seat, smiling.  So he nodded and I swear he was about to seat me, right up until, I overheard her lean in to his ear and telling him, “make him wait”.  WTF!!  But it’s ok – I waited the 20 minutes (I visited a nearby chocolate shop) and it was worth it.  The sushi is crazy.  The other observation is that Saru is only prepared for a single ordering for each party – the “oh if we’re hungry we’ll just order more” tactic doesn’t work.  The kitchen is small, busy, and doesn’t have time to go back and make another order for you  – they want you in, ordered, fed, and gone, ready for the next party.  Lingering, ordering “just a few more” is discouraged – that messes with their workflow.  The couple next to me didn’t understand this.  It was an interesting exchange to say the least: “another 45 minutes for just 1 more roll and a few nigiri?”.  So remember: order, eat, leave.


k and cm took me to a wonderful little restaurant for seafood pasta, cioppino, and oysters – so great.  No idea what it was called, but I can’t wait to go back!


Remember when we said we needed to go back to Mercato more?  Done!  Boom!  My dish: pasta, meat, cheese – done!  g’s dish: pasta, meat, cheese – done!  So simple,  SO GOOD.  It used to be second fiddle to Melograno, but no more – Mercato is our new-old-fave Italian BYO.


Oh, yes, this.  I’ll just leave this right here.


And to close: check out our pseudo-porchetta.  Let’s zoom in:


From “All Abour Roasting”, the lovely sage, rosemary, thyme, and garlic sang between the two slabs of meat (5lb pork belly, 3lb tenderloin).  Yea – it was as good as it looked – had it with some broccoli rabe, provolone, potato rolls.  Next time, I’ll cook it a little slower so it’ll be a bit more tender, but nevertheless, 6 people demolished 8lbs of meat over two days.  Success!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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t says:  Ah, yes.  Valentine’s Day.  g and I love celebrating it, but we just hate eating out at restaurants during it.  Determined to stay at home for yet another Valentine’s Day, this year we enlisted the help of a and v to make it a truly special day …

… but first: we have to play some catch-up.


what the hell is this?  “rice crunchins?”  this is what they now serve instead of Rice Krispies at my workplace.  wwhhaatt?  but it’s just like Rice Krispies, right? …


… WRONG.  The shapes are these square-ish things that, when exposed to milk, have a crunch that is completely inferior to the original Rice Krispies.  Who thought this was a good idea?  I don’t even like Rice Krispies that much to begin with, and even I can tell that this is horrible!


February 2015, Thursday Lunch, Party of 2.  I had a chance to catch up with k at Barbuzzo and let’s just say that it continues to rock my world, even after all these years.  Yes, the budino is wonderful.  Yes the pizza was delish.  But come on: this frickin’ burrata gets me every time.  That creaminess, and that baslsamic, and that oil, and that perfect bread.  It just doesn’t get better than that!  If I could do this at home, I’d eat it every day for breakfast.


February 2015, Friday Diner, Party of 3.  Ok.  Buried within today’s post will be this one picture.  This will be our little secret.  Hidden in West Philly, there is a restaurant called Szechuan Chili.  I was directed there by a coworker, and his one recommendation has changed my life forever.  This restaurant serves “Americanized” Chinese food as well as their more traditional dishes … where are exactly like Han Dynasty’s.  What you see above you is the aftermath of some Dan Dan noodles that were just as good as Han’s (less pork, better spice, less gummy noodle), a huge pot of pickled vegetable fish soup (better balance of sour and spice, more fish, and noodles!), and their Chinese broccoli (perfectly cooked!).  We also sampled a chicken dish and their cumin lamb, both of which were awesome.  AND it’s BYO.  AND it’s staffed by real Asians.  AND they’re really nice.  AND there are no undergrads, d-bags, or main-liners.  While it’d be foolish of me to say that “I’d never go to Han again”, I guess what I will say is, “I’ll go to Han … but I’ll know deep down inside that Szechuan Chili is just as tasty, $1 per entree cheaper, with larger portions, and lets me feel like I’m truly supporting a family business” (whether or not that last bit is true is completely unknown to me).  Next time you’re in West Philly, check it out.  Just make sure you bring your wine from home, because the local PLCB (50th and Baltimore) absolutely blows. (They do have Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling in the refrigerated case, tho – a good standby for spicy foods).


Which brings us back to V-Day.  The four of us cooked (cheese, charcuterie, salad, pork belly, pork chop, risotto, Fednuts, chocolates), drank (see below), talked, and laughed.  While an at-home double-date is unconventional for a “Valentine’s Day” date, it’s everything we could have wanted on a made-up holiday like this …


Even though it’s a Hallmark holiday, we took it very seriously in the wine department.  Our grape graveyard of the night featured a 2013 Illumination (personally flown back from CA by yours truly, as it’s hard to find on the east coast), a 2010 M. Etain (sold out in 48 hours to its mailing list customers upon offering in 2012 and now only available at a handful of retailers for a ridiculous up-charge), NV Pol Roger (wine of the Royal Wedding), and a NV Perrier Jouet (i.e. why-drink-Moet-if-you-drink-Jouet).  While I know that none of these will make a master sommelier swoon, for non-bawlers like us, they were an excellent reminder that although we love our usual “weekday-warriors” and “cellar-defenders”, sometimes it’s nice to “treat yo’-self”.

mission: sprouts and fennel

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t says: g and I were in the mood for a veggie-centric dinner, so we were set on grilling up some fennel and Brussels sprouts … until it rained.  Damn!  No outdoor grilling for us …  To the broiler!!

    Because I'm trying to cook anise and Brussels sprouts at the same time, I have made up a pretty involved manner to broil something, and not just "broil for 20 minutes, and you're done".  That'd be too easy.  AND, it'd result in unevenly cooked food!  So this is how I do it ...

Because I’m trying to cook anise and Brussels sprouts at the same time, I have concocted a pretty involved manner of cookery involving broiling … but it’s not just “broil for 20 minutes, and you’re done”. That’d be too easy. AND, it’d result in unevenly cooked food! So this is how I choose to do it …

0)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

1)  Arrange halved sprouts in the center of a lipped baking pan, as above, such that all of the sprouts (~30 Brussels sprouts, therefore ~60 halves) have their cut side facing up.  Place the layers of fennel bulb (~2 bulbs worth) on the extreme right and extreme left of the pan, and arrange them such that they all curve upwards.  Drizzle with olive oil and aggressively season with salt and pepper.

2)  When ready, change the oven over to the “BROIL” setting, and get ready to start cooking with the oven door propped slightly open.  Now it’s time rock and roll: the cookery is a 4-step process …
2a)  Place baking sheet on oven rack ~6″ from the heating element, all the way to the left.  In a normal sized oven, this will place the right-most Brussels sprouts directly under the heating element, while the left-most fennel will be all by their loansome, barely getting any love/heat.  Continue until the sprouts right underneath the heating element are golden brown (~5-7 minutes).
2b)  Move the baking sheet all the way to the right.  Now the left-most sprouts will be directly under the heating element, while the right-most fennel (which has also been nicely browned) will be cooling off way away from the heating element.  Continue until the sprouts right underneat the heating element are golden brown (~5-7 minutes).
2c)  By now, all the sprouts are beautifully browned, but as usual for broiling, they are not yet cooked completely (you can try one to see how it is, and unless you got some really small sprouts, they’re probably very raw-crunchy (as opposed to cooked-crispy).  Thus, remove the baking pan from the oven and flip all of the sprouts over, so now the cut side is facing down.  Repeat steps 2a and 2b in an effort to brown this side of the Brussels sprouts.  When you are done, this is what you’re left with!

Voila!  Beautiful fennel.  And almost-copmpletely done sprouts!

Voila! Beautiful fennel. And almost-completely done sprouts!

3)  Remove the fennel and arrange on a plate in a dramatic fashion … like this:


Sure is pretty!

4)  Now, the sprouts have one problem left … when you turned them upside down to broil their undersides, the beautifully browned cut sides are now a little mushy!!  Boooooo!  Having crispy leaves is the best part!!  So now what you do is turn them all back over … stick them back under the broiler for a few minutes … and when you see that they’re getting to an almost-but-not-quite-burnt state, you take ’em out … and, of course, arrange them nicely on a plate:


Brussels sprouts can handle this amount of char – they taste awesome this way!

And there we go – roasted fennel and a broiled Brussels sprouts!  It seems like I’m nit-picky [and I am!] but it’s worth it!


Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 May 2014 at 9:30pm

olive oil chocolate mousse?

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t says: I came across this bizarre recipe.  Somebody try it out and tell me how it is!

Recipe courtesy of James Beard Foundation

Pastry chef turned Indian take-out queen Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez demonstrated how to make this rich, dairy-free chocolate mousse at her chocolate workshop at the Beard House. The recipe was inspired by her good friend, Teresa Barrenechea, author of The Basque Table (2005) and The Cuisine of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking (2005) and chef/owner of Marichu restaurant in NYC. For the most delicate flavor, choose a sweet, subtle olive oil, such as those produced in the Lake Garda region of Italy.


6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup brewed espresso
2 tablespoons liqueur, such as blackberry brandy

Yield: 8 servings


Melt the chocolate over a double broiler and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on high speed until light and lemon yellow in color. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, as you would for a mayonnaise. Once the olive oil has been incorporated, add the melted chocolate, espresso, and liqueur. Mix on low speed until combined.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they form medium peaks. Fold the whites thoroughly into the chocolate mixture and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

13 February 2014 at 12:47pm

the fruits of summer

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t says:  Ahhhh, summer.  I wish you’d never leave:


grilled peaches!  yay!  a light dusting of superfine sugar and some direct heat makes a brilliant accompaniment to some butter pecan ice cream …

(but don’t get me wrong, summer, peaches or not – I do wish you were a little cooler and less humid …)

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 August 2013 at 10:00pm

korean roast chicken

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t says: My cooking method of choice for some time has been braising – it’s just so much fun! The one meat that I’m just not 100%-pro-braise for is chicken – and I’m pretty sure that it’s because of a single problem: soggy skin. I mean who likes soggy skin?! No one! Chicken skin is supposed to be crisp and delicious! And between Rotisseur and FedNuts, there’s a lot of good skin out there! I was determined to put together a recipe that offered great skin, reasonably-tender-meat, and minimal time commitment (braises take way too long). So, with the help of Molly Stevens’s “All About Roasting”, I went back to basics: roasting skin-on chicken thighs.

garlic, gouchichang, lemons, roasted sesame seeds, salt, pepper, rosemary, orange liqueur, chicken


the rub

the rub

Step 1: The rub. The above is a concoction of a heaping teaspoon of gouchichang, a heaping teaspoon of roasted sesame seeds, a half teaspoon of sesame oil (you can use whatever oil you want – I like the sesame flavor), 4 cloves of minced fresh garlic (yes, it’s a LOT of garlic), a dash of black pepper, and then enough lemon juice to make it spreadable (~0.5 lemon). So basically, it’s made of everything awesome, mashed together (and yes, it needs to be mashed to release some of the garlic essences). And, because I added gouchichang and sesame seeds, I can now call this “korean roast chicken”.  Afterwards, coat the entirety of each chicken piece with the rub – and make sure you get a good amount between the skin and chicken.  Let the chicken temper at least a half hour.

the pan

getting fancy in the pan

Step 2: The pan. Here’s where we make it fancy. Place a slice of lemon wherever you plan on placing a chicken thigh. Top it with a sprig of rosemary. Add a half teaspoon of orange liqueur to each slice (we tend to have GranGala on hand, but whatever).  You don’t want to put in more orange liqueur than can be contained a single lemon slice, as the excess will leak away from the lemon, and then burn and smoke when heated in the oven (trust me – I made this mistake already).


the assembly

Step 3: The Assembly. Place each piece of chicken on top of each slice of lemon. Basically, each piece of chicken is on its own lemon pedestal. It’s weird, but I feel that these slices of lemon really add some zing! Season with salt and pepper.  Snake some remaining sprigs of rosemary between the chicken – if nothing else, the pan will look more festive, and your house will smell like rosemary, so what do you have to lose?

Step 4: The Cookery. 450 degrees for 30-35 minutes (40 minutes was great, but I’m anticipating I could go shorter and it’d be juicier).

And that’s it! Based on how hot you like it, you could smother more of the sauce on the chicken before cooking.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 February 2013 at 5:54pm