Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Recipe: Ham & Cheese Quiche

Yield: one pie
Time: 30 minutes prep; 45 minutes baked at 350F

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 c.) of butter
  • 3/4 c. of flour
  • pinch of salt
  • one large or two small onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 c. of diced ham
  • 1/2 - 2/3 c. of Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 4 large eggs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • water (for crust), plus approx. 1 Tbs. of water, milk, or cream per egg, for the filling
  1. cut the butter (you may substitute lard or shortening) into the flour, with a pinch of salt, until the butter is about the size of small peas
  2. add cold water, 1 Tbs. at a time, mixing it in, until the dough comes together but isn't too sticky
  3. form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for 20 minutes
  4. while the dough is in the fridge, slice and sautee the onions on medium-low heat until they cook down and start to carmelize (about 10 minutes)
  5. set aside the onions to cool while you make the egg mixture
  6. beat the eggs with the water, milk, or cream until frothy, then stir in the ham and half the shredded cheese
  7. roll out the pie crust, pop it into a pie pan, and pinch up a bit of a rim
  8. spread the onions in the bottom of the crust, then pour the egg mixture on top
  9. sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the filling
  10. bake for 45 minutes at 350F, until it starts to brown, and smells done
  1. I happened to use Swiss because it's what was already open, but cheddar works really well, too.
  2. The beauty of quiche is that the filling can contain pretty much anything you want -- broccoli & cheese, mushrooms, crabmeat, etc.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Brats, Corn, and Taters

I wanted to test out our new grill this evening. We had some frozen pork chops, but not enough time to thaw them properly, so we got out a couple of brats. There were also a couple of ears of corn. That alone wasn't quite enough, so I cut up a potato and roasted it with nothing but canola oil, salt, and pepper.

Not exactly a large meal, but it was too hot to each that much, anyway.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: Cabanas

Type: Bar & Grill
Location: 429 Beach Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204
Phone: 908-884-4800
Happy Hour: Yes, from 4-7 pm, half price for beer, margaritas, and wine by the glass

Here is the website for the place. The menu is here.

During the season, or even on a weekend, off-season, this place is party central. Normally, I don't like that kind of atmosphere, but we didn't encounter that on a Thursday night in April. The place was virtually deserted except for a few staff, and two other couples, one of which couldn't stop smashing face at the bar, between sips of whatever, and bites of food.

Our waiter was a young guy, eager, and attentive, for the most part, but wasn't too quick to bring our check when we were ready to leave.

I had to have the french onion soup, and a crabcake sandwich. I've had better french onion soup for a buck less, in a diner, to be honest, but this wasn't bad. The crabcake sandwich was fresh, and tasty, without a lot of breadcrumb filler or coating, but it was nothing that couldn't be found elsewhere around town, for the same price. The tartar sauce was bland -- almost like straight mayonnaise. The tortilla chips that came with it were pretty good, with enough salt to stand on their own, which was good, given that the pico de gallo served was a very skimpy dollop.

The burgers are cooked the way they should be. Medium rare comes out pink in the middle, not red or overcooked. Again, they are nothing special that cannot be found elsewhere in town for the same price.

There is a pool table in the house, so maybe on a slow night, I'd go there again to shoot some pool, but if it gets crowded, I think I'd stay away. The food was alright. The waiter was alright. I just get the feeling that if if it got busy, and noisy, I'd go elsewhere. Beachside party bars aren't really my thing.

Review: The Cape Orient

Type: Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Pan-Asian
Location: 315 Ocean St. (Washington Commons Mall), Cape May, NJ 08204
Phone: (609) 898-0088
Price Range: $9 to $25 for entrees
Take-Out: Yes
Delivery: No
Catering: Yes
Lunch Specials: Yes
Liquor License: No

We've been to this restaurant a couple of times over the years, while we've vacationed in Cape May during bird migration in Fall and Spring. Its website is here. Not many restaurants in Cape May are open this time of year, and those that are open are generally only open on weekends as of now, or tend to be located in hotels, or on the outskirts of town.

The first time we went to The Cape Orient, we found it by accident, when we happened to get hungry after trudging around trails and beaches in the sand and muck looking for birds, then returned to town to wander around for a break in the late afternoon. That was several years ago; we had Chinese food. The service was quick and attentive, and the food quite good. I forget exactly what we ordered, but it was probably a bowl of soup each, and one dish to split.

This time, it was one of the few places open on a Wednesday within easy hoofing distance from the B&B in which we were staying, so we figured why not try it again? It was just as good as we remembered.

I decided to go for Thai this time, and ordered the Thai spring rolls, plus the green curry chicken. I'd wanted the three-mushroom soup of the day, but at 6:30 pm, they were already out of it. The spring rolls made up for it. They were not at all greasy, and came with a wonderful light dipping sauce that was vinegary with herbs. The green curry was perhaps a little sweeter than I'm used to, but was very flavorful, and had snow peas, mushrooms, and baby corns in abundance, with just a few bits of red onion and red bell pepper.

Both my appetizer and entree came with some salad greens dressed in something a little more vinegary than your average Japanese carrot-type dressing, but with a touch of sweetness to balance it. I happen to like my salad dressing on the vinegary side, unless it's blue cheese or russian.

My partner in eating crime went for a Chinese combo that included soup, an egg roll, and an entree, in this case, some pork medallions, in a spicy sauce that had mostly the same veggies as mine, but with broccoli and no mushrooms. I snitched a taste of the sauce; it was spicy, but not hot enough to induce eyebrow sweat.

Neither of us have tried the Japanese dishes they offer, sushi, or otherwise. I cannot comment on those.

Decor-wise, it really is Pan-Asian. Some art is obviously Japanese, some is obviously Chinese, and one or two things are Thai. The lighting in the restaurant as a whole is not bright, but is sufficient.

Clientele-wise, it runs the gamut from couples to families with three generations. It's quiet, though. No kids run around wild, screaming, or tossing food. It appears to be popular with locals and tourists alike. The dress code is casual, but not too sloppy.

As far as the service goes, it's very prompt, polite, attentive, and not pushy in the least.

The waiter will bring your bill when you are done, but you pay up at the front desk, and leave the tip on the table. The Cape Orient does take credit cards, but we paid cash, and left a cash tip.

I would certainly go back the next time we visit Cape May. Both of us wondered why it hadn't occured to us to eat there more often. It's quite good, and certainly different from the usual pub grub, boardwalk eats, and seafood found at a beach resort town.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Recipe: Apple Crisp

This is one of those idiot-proof recipes that is fine by itself, warm from the oven, with or without a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top, or even cold the next morning for breakfast.

Yield: one bread loaf tin, or an 8" x 8" baking dish (4 to 6 servings)
Time: 75 minutes (30 minutes prep, and 45 for baking at 350F)

  • 4-6 apples (depending on size), peeled cored, and sliced/diced, not too thinly
  • approx. 1/3 c. of white sugar
  • approx. 2 tsp. of cinnamon
  • approx. 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg
  • approx. 1/3 tsp. of cloves
  • approx. 1/2 tsp. of allspice
  • 1/3 stick of butter, melted
  • 1/3 c. of brown sugar
  • 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of rolled oats (quick cooking, or regular doesn't matter)
  1. peel, core, and slice the apples into a mixing bowl
  2. mix the white sugar and spices, then toss them over the apples, a little at a time, tossing the apples around to get them fully coated
  3. Let the apples sit to juice for 10-15 minutes
  4. brush the loaf tin or baking dish with melted butter, then plop in the apples, and spread them out fairly evenly
  5. Mix the remaining melted butter with the brown sugar and oats thoroughly (I use the same bowl the apples were juicing in, so that I don't miss any of the spices)
  6. Dump the topping mixture over the apples, and spread it out fairly evenly
  7. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, give or take a few -- it's done when it smells done, the apples and sugar get bubbly, and the topping isn't too browned
  1. I've tried this with Granny Smiths, but prefer Yellow Delicious apples
  2. I don't find the need to use flour in the sugar mix for either the apples, or the topping, but if your apples are especially juicy, about 1 Tbs. should be enough, in each of the sugar mixtures, before they go on the apples
  3. This reheats really well in a microwave

Review: Villa Capri

Type: Italian Restaurant & Pizzaria
Location: 51 W. Court St., Doylestown, PA
Phone: 215-348-9656
Delivery: Yes; no delivery fee
Take-Out: Yes
Liquor License: Yes
Carry-Out Cold Beer: Yes

Villa Capri's menu is about what you might expect from this sort of restaurant: bar-type appetizers, salads, soups, veal/chicken/seafood/eggplant dishes, calzones, pizza, pasta dishes, stromboli, hot sandwiches, and cold hoagies. They also package their sauces for take-out. I wasn't in the mood for a cheese steak, but wanted a sandwich -- a big one.

Stuck without a car for the day, I ordered two hoagies (turkey & provolone, and ham & provolone), and a medium mushroom pizza for delivery. Sure, I could have made myself a ham & swiss on rye with mustard, and started some foccacia dough for a pizza crust, but I really had a craving for a hoagie, and couldn't wait for dough to rise or leftover (frozen) Easter ham to thaw.

Now, a hoagie is no substitute for a Jersey-style Sloppy Joe from Millburn Deli or Hill City Deli (a double-decker of your choice of meat or meats and cheese on rye, with Russian dressing and cole slaw), but when in PA, go with a hoagie.

Some places have 9" or 18" ones, but Villa Capri made me a couple of very tasty foot-longs for about $5 each. The medium 'shroom pizza was about twice that. There were no delivery charges, but of course, I tipped the delivery guy.

As is typical, the hoagies come with lettuce, tomato, thinly sliced red onion, and your choice of dressing: oil & vinegar, mayo, or "dry." I'm sure I could have told them to hold the onion, if I had wanted to, but I was up for it. Delivery was prompt -- within half an hour. I'm sure the pizza was what took the longest, since anyone can make a hoagie within a couple of minutes.

Here's a picture of the turkey hoagie with mayo. Extras such as sweet or hot peppers, and pickles are available for an additional charge, but I didn't bother with them.

I'm afraid I scarfed down the entire ham hoagie before it occurred to me to take a picture, but it looked pretty much the same, with thinly sliced pink ham, instead of whitish turkey. The bread is chewy, which is the way it's supposed to be, without having an outer crust that crumbles when crushed to fit into a normal-sized set of choppers.

On to what's left of the pizza . . . as you can see, they use freshly sliced mushrooms, not the canned variety, and they don't skimp on the mozzarella. Interestingly enough, they sprinkle oregano on the cheese before it's baked, rather than leave it up to the person who ordered it to do so, after the fact.

The pizza in the picture is the one slice that was a leftover, and is cold. It reheated just fine on a baking sheet in the oven, until the cheese got bubbly. The crust was on the thin side, which is the way I like it.

Most restaurants/pizzarias like this don't make the thin crust really crispy (at least, not in the center), but upon reheating, it comes out that way. I prefer my pizza crust to crunch when I bite into it. Others prefer chewy crust, or even "Sicilian" pizza, but that doesn't rock my socks.

I cannot comment about the atmosphere of the place, or the difference between sit down, and take-out/delivery. What I can comment about is the quality and tastiness of the food, value for the money, and promptness of delivery. The entire order cost me a little over $20; even with the tip I gave the guy for delivering it, it cost me $25.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Recipe: Split Pea Soup

Yield: half a gallon
Time: a couple of hours

  • one ham bone, with some of the meat still on it, plus some previously picked off bits of meat that isn't viable for sandwiches
  • two small to medium sized onions, quartered and sliced
  • one large or two smaller carrots, peeled and diced, or sliced
  • one pound of dried split peas
  • approx. half a teaspoon of salt
  • pepper, preferably freshly ground
  • two quarts of water
  1. sautee the onions a few minutes until translucent
  2. add the ham, ham bone, split peas, water, salt and pepper
  3. bring to a boil then turn the heat down to low and simmer until the peas start to fall apart on their own (I let it go for a couple of hours, but it probably doesn't really take that long)
  4. pull out the ham bone and let it cool
  5. pick some more meat off the bone, shred it, and toss it back into the pot
  6. whoosh it through a blender, or use a "boat motor" type hand held stick blender, until it's fairly smooth, but you can still see flecks of pork
  7. adjust seasonings if necessary
Note: I normally use carrots in this recipe, but didn't have any this time, and I really don't think the soup suffered for the lack of them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Review: Richboro Pub

Type: Pub Grub & Sports Bar
Location: 1034 2nd Street Pike, Richboro, PA 18954
Phone: (215) 364-8606
Delivery: No
Take-Out: Yes
Liquor license: Duh. It's a pub.

We went here on a Friday evening, around 8pm. The bar was packed, but the party we were meeting had already grabbed a booth in a room off to the side of the bar, and ordered some grub -- in this case, it was an assortment of appetizers such as Buffalo wings, clams casino, mussels, tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil, and some sort of mini taco-like things. Picking away at those, along with a pint or two of Stella, and a house salad was plenty for me. Here's the pub menu.

The atmosphere is that of a typical sports bar, with TVs all over the place, but the volume was turned down fairly low, so it wasn't annoying, and we could converse just fine at a normal tone of voice. Service was courteous, with our server coming to check on us a few times. She was not intrusive, but I never got the feeling we would have had to flag her down if we had wanted to order anything else.

Foodwise, the salad was crisp and fresh. For a small salad, it seemed to be endless -- the type from which you keep eating, and eating, and the pile of greens never seems to diminish. I didn't eat any of the mussels, but the clams casino, and all the rest of it were quite good. Generally speaking, as much as I love seafood, bivalves just aren't my thing, but when clams are minced and mixed up, then baked with a bunch of other stuff, I can tolerate them. I wouldn't call the hot sauce that came with the Buffalo wings hot . . . certainly nowhere near spicy enough to make my eyebrows sweat, or my mouth go numb, but it had a little bit of a kick to it.

On a side note, I'm learning to not cheer in sports bars around BucksMont when one of my NY teams scores against a Philly team. I couldn't help smiling that the Rangers were beating the Flyers, though. I've been a Rangers fan since they were one of the original six teams in the league, and remember when the Broad Street Bullies were a mere expansion team, so you have to cut me a little slack. I'll root for the Eagles, but only when they aren't playing the Giants. ;)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Apple Pie

I baked this to bring over for Easter dinner for my parents. It's got a basic double-crust, plus the requisite spiced-up apple filling. I use lots of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, and a dash of allspice. This time around, I used Golden Delicious apples, but I normally use Granny Smiths.

Does anyone not know how to bake an apple pie? I can try to give my recipe for it, but about the only things I actually measure are the fat and flour ratio for the crust (1:3). Other than that, I just eyeball the ingredients, and go by smell/taste. I got sloppy when pinching together the crust around the rim, by using my knuckles and a pinky finger, but this was home cooking, for my family, and nobody who's going to eat this will ever care what it looks like, as long as it tastes good.

Regardless, it smelled phenomenal while it was cooling, and will slice up just fine tomorrow . . . heated at 250F while we eat dinner, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream melting over it, for dessert. Simple, but it's a perpetual crowd pleaser.