Philly Italian Market

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Need a little ethnic inspiration? Take a tour of the 9th Street Market in Philadelphia. One piece of advice….arrive hungry and preferably with a brother who has completely mapped out all the stores and restaurants he wants to see.

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Our first stop was Fante’s Kitchen store. Filled with quality products from all over the world I quickly gathered up a few things I did not know I needed including this adorable heart-shaped cutter. Suffice to say I felt like a kid in a candy store.

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The streets are lined with vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables among other things. It feels a little bit like a flea market married a farmer’s market and this is their baby. Prices are competitive. Locals are sniffing melons and filling bags with beans, mushrooms and blueberries. One can even buy mangoes by the crate. I just loved this box full of baby eggplants. Bring cash.

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By now we are getting hungry. Family owned Isgro’s Italian pastries are in order. Eat dessert first. My niece shares a bite of her chocolate mascarpone cannoli and my brother shares his sfogiatella. It makes sense why this bakery has been in business since 1904. These pastries are pure perfection and bring me back to just about every extended family gathering  I have ever enjoyed my whole life.

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Cheese, meatballs and pasta follow. Further, we enjoy a chocolate shop, spice shop and more than one butcher. Take your pick of restaurants and bring a cooler bag to take home fresh pasta and other delicacies.

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Still hungry? Feel free to wait in line for this guy’s recommendation.

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Completely inspired I knocked out a big pile of fettuccine for Sunday dinner. Making fresh pasta is easy. For every pound of semolina flour mix in 2 to 3 eggs, a pinch of salt, a touch of olive oil and some water to mix into a smooth dough. Knead the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. Then, crank it out. It cooks in just a few minutes in boiling salted water.

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Crispy Coconut Curried Devils

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Today is about food. I know it’s been awhile. Moving forward the blog should mirror real life. Lately, real life is less about obvious grief and more about cooking, baking, photography, gardening and that little jelly bean better known as my grand-daughter. Make no mistake. My son is my first thought when I open my eyes in the morning, the last when I close them at night and many moments in between. I celebrate William in all that I do. Like grief, his inspiration is never ending. Enough said. Let’s move on. More food and less grief. I NEED it to be this way.

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Do you like deviled eggs? How about Crispy Coconut Curried Deviled eggs? I created this recipe for a contest sponsored by Eggland’s Best. As many of you know (because you have been voting for my entries non-stop) the contest theme is “foodtography” and I was lucky enough to have 3 of my food photos accepted. One, my smoothie bowl cake, made it to the final 4 (woot woot). While voting for the deviled eggs many of you asked for the recipe. Today, I am happy to be able to share it with you.

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Crispy Coconut Curried Devils

6 Eggland’s Best Eggs, hard-boiled, cooled and peeled

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon sweet Asian chili sauce

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley, plus additional for garnish

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil for deep frying

1-cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs

½ cup flaked unsweetened coconut

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 Eggland’s Best Egg, lightly beaten with 1-teaspoon water

1 scallion, finely chopped

Slice hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise. Press yolks through a strainer into a bowl. Add mayonnaise, lemon juice, chili sauce and curry powder; blend well. Stir in parsley and salt and pepper to taste; set aside. Heat 3-inches of vegetable oil to 350°F. In another bowl, mix panko and coconut. Dredge each egg white half in flour. Dip in egg wash to coat and then dredge in panko-coconut mixture. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Pipe or spoon yolk mixture into hollows of egg whites. Arrange on serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley and scallions.

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Rebuilding The Culinary Cellar

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Loss comes in many shapes and forms. Today, I want to talk about loss of possessions; the kinds of things that are near and dear to one’s heart and can never be replaced. Things that shape your identity and mark treasured life moments. Things that celebrate who we are. For example, years ago I lost the itty, bitty diamond in my engagement ring. It wasn’t an expensive piece, but the love and sentiment behind it made it feel like a huge loss. The ring symbolized a most happy once in a lifetime moment; a traditional sign of love that could never be replaced. I still think about it from time to time. Sure, I got a new ring. It’s bigger and brighter, but it just isn’t the same. Yes, it is just a thing and things can be replaced, but with cherished memories attached it is hard to let go.

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Another loss I want to share with you today is a big one that affected my friend Debbie and the culinary world. Debbie writes one of my favorite blogs, The Culinary Cellar. I had the privilege of visiting Debbie when William was starting his Navy career at Great Lakes, IL. While he was in boot camp I was sitting at Debbie’s kitchen table enjoying the warmest hospitality and most delicious baklava pastry.

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However, the biggest treat is waiting for me in Debbie’s basement. I get a tour of her famous culinary cellar. As I descend the stairs my eyes fall on numerous shelves bearing the weight of nearly 4000 cookbooks. In front of me is a massive old-time library card catalog filled with thousands of hand-written recipes collected since Debbie was 12. This is a lifetime of memories showcasing her love of cooking and generations of award winning talents.

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The variety of books is like none I have ever seen. There are rare and antique volumes. There are obviously much-loved books dog-eared and stained. There are souvenir books from all over the world documenting memories of family vacations and travels. Some are autographed by famous chefs and most have hand-written notes lovingly penned into the margins giving advice about a recipe. Each and every book has a story beyond its pages. Each and every one is treasured and so loved that she shares it with the world through her blog. She is a generous soul.

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Now imagine the devastation when in the middle of the night during a violent storm a town retention pond fails and pours 7 feet of water and a ton of mud into Debbie’s cellar wiping out just about everything. Nine tons of cookbook debris were lifted up and dropped into a dumpster just a couple of weeks ago. Imagine opening that door above to this: 19990436_10102505366467335_4001791307728415727_n

A lifetime of memories and a valued collection washed away in an instant. How does one recover from such a physical,  emotional and shocking loss?

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Well, if you are a part of the Debbie Vanni family, you just do. Talk about super human strength. The rebuilding of the culinary cellar is already in progress. Support from family and friends and strangers far and wide has Debbie re-grouping and cutting her losses. She is no Debbie Downer! Truly an inspration. I look forward to visiting again some day.

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To read more of Debbie’s story check out her blog here The Culinary Cellar

thank you to Debbie for sharing theses photos with me