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Preparation

No one likes summer quarter, especially when you’re old enough to have a graduate degree. This past week has been borderline intolerable for me. My lease is almost up, finals are approaching, I have freelance projects constantly tapping me on the shoulder and I have to force myself to try a new recipe while if left to my own devices I would just order in.

But, no! Not this time. This time will be different. This time I will forgo Indian takeout and cook a feast. Against my better judgement.

Tomato season has me inspired to stick with Italian. As you may have gathered from my past recipe tests I try not to eat a lot of pasta, not because I don’t love it because I love it far too much, so I’m branching out further than I anticipated.  Which I’m quite excited about! And I would have lovely blog post with gorgeous photos for you today had I had time to run to Reading Terminal this weekend to gather ingredients, but alas, I have not had the time.

So what’ the plan for this week? Two dishes: chicken cacciatore (433) and squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and herbs (309). I’ll make them together but will publish the recipes different weeks in order to free up some more time for writing papers and studying. Please forgive me, I am but a multi-tasking college student.

I’ll head to the Reading Terminal tomorrow and scoop up some squash blossoms from Iovine Bros., herbs from OK Lee, and mushrooms from whoever has them the cheapest. I don’t remember how much the squash blossoms at Iovine are, but if they’re pricey I’ll just cut the recipe in half. I’m only feeding two people anyway. I’m quite excited, though. I’ve always seen the squash blossoms at Iovine and wished I had a use for them, if this recipe works out I’ll have a great appetizer for entertaining.

As for the chicken cacciatore, not only have I never made it but I’ve never eaten it. I’m partial to chicken Marsala which seems to be less intensive. The recipe sounds delicious though and I’m always looking for new ways to serve chicken.

See you all Friday, squash blossoms abound.

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Well, dear readers, it would seem that I received some fairly interesting feedback on my last recipe test. Although its legitimacy is still unconfirmed, it appears that John Becker of the Joy of Cooking family commented on my last post suggesting I try roasting up some tomatoes and garlic in place of a sauce for the Italian meatballs. Needless to say, this week’s project has been decided upon.

In other news, I’m now on Twitter! @CBTestKitchen. Tweet me some suggestions for recipe tests.

Our second order of business, bodega groceries. Now, corner stores aren’t exactly renowned for their fantastic produce quality but I am hear to preach the positives of doing at least some of your shopping at your local bodega assuming you live a stone’s throw like I do.

Up at the corner of 12th and Spring Garden is a little Mexican convenience store without a name. It’s about three blocks from my apartment, it’s open pretty late, and the prices are unreal. I love shopping there, but only for specific items. Namely things that I am going to use immediately and/or want to be ripe. For example, I don’t buy avocados anywhere else. $1 a piece and they’re always ready to use. The same goes for bananas, mango, and peaches, and if they go bad before I get to use them I can simply peel them and throw them in the freezer for smoothie ingredients. Seriously, every time I shop there I feel like I just robbed them blind.

Today’s bodega haul

This was $10. A dozen eggs, three avocados, two peaches, five bananas, garlic, a mango and nine tomatoes. True, I need to use most of it in the next few days (save for the eggs, they’re good for a few weeks) lest it start to go bad. But to be honest I find that the things I buy from the bodega going bad less often than when I buy grocery store produce, probably because I tend to stock up more when I go elsewhere.

The selection at the bodega is limited and they’re frequently out, but the prices are so low and the location is so convenient that it’s worth digging through bruised fruits and overripe veggies when my crisper drawer is running low.

Plus, where else can I get last minute guacamole supplies for under $5?

I figured nothing would kick off a cookbook experiment quite like a stand-by Joy of Cooking recipe. I decided to go with a classic and something I’ve always struggled with–meatballs. I’ve only attempted meatballs a handful of times and with little instruction but they always came out dry and, occasionally, inedible.

Being lucky enough to live a 10 minute walk from Philadelphia’s incredible Reading Terminal Market, I opted to shop for ingredients there. I didn’t have to start entirely from scratch, but pretty close. What was meant to be a temporary housing situation for me turned into a one year lease but I still treated my apartment like a hotel for the most part. In other words, I never really stocked my pantry.

The Terminal was surprisingly vacant for 5 p.m. and I made a bee-line for Martin’s Quality Meats. The recipe called for 100% ground beef, but I’ve always enjoyed pork/veal/beef meatballs so I decided to pick up half a pound of each of beef and pre-mixed ground. $3

Next I stopped by OK-Lee produce, the end-all of cheap fruits and veggies, for some fresh parsley. 69 cents

I picked up some peccorino cheese (substituting for parmigiano reggiano) at Downtown Cheese, then stopped by Salumeria for tomato paste. $1.50 + 3.69 = $3.19

On my way out of Reading Terminal I picked up some day-old rolls from Metropolitan Bakery to turn into bread crumbs. $2

Without counting the ingredients I had at home (wine, eggs, and all-purpose flour) my total came to $10.88.

To be continued Friday…