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Well, despite the weathermen predicting a big Nor’easter for this weekend, our DD, my DH, my MIL and I, all planned to make our annual pilgrimage into the heart of South Philly. A revisit of the Italian Market is a must at least once a year. I can’t tolerate hot oppressive weather so we tend to go in the Spring or Fall. We have our tradition Italian market stores that we go to. Most are along 9th Street, except the pastry shop which is on Christian St. One of the markets is known for making fresh pasta, another one carries exotic meats, a kitchenware store, a cheese shop, fruit and vegetable stands and the pastry shop. Today we went to all of the shops except for the exotic meats butcher although we did look in the window. The thing that caught my eye was boneless Iguana. The iguana fillets looked like boneless chicken thighs. The Butcher also had some sort of skinless animal hanging upside down in the window, which we weren’t sure what it was? It did not sit well with my MIL. I went into a different butcher shop as I was looking for lamb shanks and was able to get two nice looking ones.
What we bought: At the pasta store: Black Raviolis, and freshly made capellini ~ At the veal and lamb speciality store: Lamb shanks ~ At the kitchenware store: Seafood forks and a small mesh strainer ~ At the Cheese Store: Gorganzola, garlic & herbs spreadable cheese and Moliterno Al Tartufo which is a semi hard cheese with ribbons of black truffles coursing through it. The cheese has an earthy taste, and will probably be as close as I will ever get to tasting a black truffle due to the expense. At the Pastry store: A marscapone cheese stuffed eclair, a whipped cream stuffed pastry pictured above on the left of the photo, 6 elephant ears and 1/2 pound of chocolate Italian cookies. Also we stopped into a Olive Oil & Baslamic Vinegar store: I tasted then bought black walnut infused Baslamic vinegar. Although we saw stand after stand, block after block of fruits and vegetables we didn’t purchase any.
We also went to a local speciality market as they had samples for tasting. DH and I shared a fresh mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, tomatoes, with bell pepper pesto and a dark balsamic vinegar drizzled over it sandwiched between two pieces of focaccia bread which we purchased and a bottle of spring water. It was delicious!
From there we went to the local Amish market. I bought coleslaw, soft pretzels, a dark chocolate solid bunny, barley sugar hard candy and chipped steak to make beef jerky. It was an amazing day and it was nice that the weather although in the 40 degree F range was perfect for walking the streets of Philadelphia.
While DH, MIL and I were out in Tucson, Arizona a couple of years ago, my Sister-in-law requested that we buy prickly pear paddles and ship them to New Jersey so she could make a sauce from them at Thanksgiving. Her theme was going to be all about the Southwestern USA. This was brought about as She and her DH had purchased a house in Tucson which they would be retiring in. So we went out there to see her new house and tour the area. We went to numerous supermarkets and specialty foods outlets, but no paddles. So after going to numerous stores and not finding the paddles, MIL called home to have my sister-in-law send the actual name. That is when we realized that MIL had been having us look for the wrong thing. Even the fruit was hard to come by, but we finally found some. MIL made the arrangements to ship them home which cost about $45. in shipping. They arrived in good condition. After we got home back to New Jersey, I went to our local grocery store, and there in the produce section were the paddles and the fruit.
So since I tasted the fruit of the prickly pear, I decided to taste the paddle as well. I watched a video on the Internet on how to clean and cook them. Even still I managed to get stuck with one of the thorns. I tasted a raw piece of the cleaned paddle. It was crunchy with a clear slime textured juice, and wasn’t bad at all. I could see tossing it into a salad. I then cooked the rest of it which caused the slime to be even more abundant. It reminded me of my experience with okra when I was a kid. If I was starving or out in the desert in need of nourishment, then it is good to know that these are edible and contain moisture. But otherwise, these are not my cup of tea.
Okay folks, this was not what imagined would be in side this gorgeous looking fruit. It is native of South Africa, which is where our oldest daughter’s ex-boy friend is from. Over the course their relationship I have tasted or tried different South African foods, most of which were delicious. However, the Horned Melon was in my opinion a total waste of money. Only after I paid $6.99 for it did I bother to look it up to see what it was all about. If you are in the desert, and you are extremely thirsty, a lot of liquid can be had from one of these beautiful gems. I sliced it in half as shown and scooped out the seeds, liquid and semi jelly consistency of the flesh. I used a mesh sieve to strain the seeds from the green slime. According to one site on the Internet, the Horned Melon is similar in taste like something between a banana, lime and cucumber rolled into one. To me it tasted quite tart and sour with no sweetness at all. I added it to a smoothie, which I drank but didn’t really care for the taste. I also added it to flavor hot green tea.
You may be surprised to know, that until last night, I had never eaten acorn squash. I decided to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it in the oven for an hour at 350 degree F. Unlike butternut quash and spaghetti quash, the acorn variety is not sweet at all. Once it finished roasting, I let it cool for about 15 minutes and scooped out the flesh. Added butter and Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt. It was good, but I prefer the butternut and spaghetti squash more. What I thought was odd, is the green part of the skin turns black when roasted, however the orange part remains orange.
I lived a sheltered life growing up as my family did not experiment in trying a lot of different foods or foreign cuisines. My Dad did one time convince my Mom to cook okra since he was convinced it was one of his favorite vegetables. It was the only time I can remember that my Sister and I did not have to eat everything on our plate. It was determined that it was not his favorite vegetable! It consisted of green wagon wheel like disks in a raw egg white like slime. Which years later, I found out the slime is the thickening agent in gumbo. And most people either fry okra or they put it in soup. And incidentally, the vegetable that my Dad had mixed up with okra was actually Zucchini. This post is the beginning of a quest to knock off food items on my food bucket list. So from this time forward, I will be trying new foods to me and giving my impressions on them whether good or bad.
The Papaya: I chose this piece of fruit from our local South Jersey grocery store. Of course, I don’t know if this one was at optimum ripeness. The flesh was sweet where it was the reddish and rather blah where it was yellow. The flesh is also not firm, it is rather velvety in texture, almost mushy. I also ate a piece of the skin, and determined that one should discard it. The flesh is easily removed from the skin. This piece of fruit cost me $2.50 and with that said, I have to say, I won’t be running out to buy another one any time soon. Although my friends who are foodies, have stated that papayas are great in a fruit cocktail, made into ice cream, smoothies or sorbet.