Reading Viaduct to Become The Rail Park

“There’s beauty in the way it is now, but there is tremendous beauty in the way that it could be in the future.”

Over the past few months, I’ve seen several individuals who I follow on Instagram upload photos taken at the Reading Viaduct. What I could tell from these photos is that the space is very much abandoned, strewn with graffiti and unruly vegetation. However, beautiful in its own right, I made it a summer goal to make my way over there to snap some photos and see this under-explored location for myself.

As it turns out, figuring out how to access the viaduct proved to be quite tricky, and an extensive online search not only provided me with the entrance’s exact location, but also made me aware of plans for an elaborate park to be built on the very same grounds in the near future. While I was thrilled to learn about such an exciting project in my own city, this realization made me even more motivated to check out the space, as I wanted a chance to see it in its pre-construction state. As such, Dan and I headed over yesterday evening and had a blast exploring. The juxtaposition of the abandoned railroad structures covered in colorful street art with wildflowers and wild berries was quite striking.  My favorite part was the tire swing that we discovered toward the end. I highly encourage any adventurers to check it out before it’s too late.

With that being said, the vision for the project is that The Rail Park will eventually span 50 city blocks, uniting many Philadelphia neighborhoods. The Reading Viaduct, initially built in 1893 and ultimately abandoned in 1992, will be the first phase of the project and is slated for construction in 2014. Whether the city will break ground before the year’s end is uncertain, but either way, the start of something beautiful is on the horizon.

If you’re interested in learning more about this project, visit The Rail Park’s website. Be sure to check out the informative and inspiring video on the homepage.

“What does a place like this mean for a post-industrial city? It’s a way to communicate that past, but it’s also a way to reclaim those spaces. I think it’s that collision of past and future that makes The Rail Park so exciting.”

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Oven-Roasted Roma Tomatoes

These babies are the epitome of simple deliciousness. While they’re mouth-watering year-round, I highly recommend giving them a go while tomatoes are in their peak season (read: now). They are good enough to be enjoyed on their own, as a side dish, but add instant wow factor to salads, pasta dishes, and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. However, my absolute favorite way to enjoy oven-roasted tomatoes is in the form of crostini, paired with goat cheese. The sweetness of the oven-roasted tomatoes in combination with the tartness of the goat cheese is UH-mazing. Simply follow my crostini recipe, which can be found here, and substitute these delish tomatoes for the oven-roasted peppers that the recipe calls for.

What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F
  • Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and arrange the tomatoes, cut side up
  • Brush the grape seed oil on top of the tomatoes
  • Roast in the oven for 45 minutes

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Chilean Sea Bass with Mango Salsa, Cilantro Pesto, and Black Bean Rice

As promised a couple posts ago, I’m back with a Mexican-inspired dish complete with cilantro pesto. Lately, I’ve had a lot of fun trying out different varieties of pesto. They’re such a simple addition to any dish, yet they contribute so much flavor. You can check out my recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto here and my recipe for Arugula Pesto here.

I have to admit, I have never loved seafood. In fact, I spent the majority of my life disliking most of it… until recently. I can only imagine my mom snickering as she reads this post. There have been quite a few things that I used to loathe as a child and teenager that I now couldn’t live without. Beets, sweet potatoes, avocados, and now, fish, are just a few examples that come to mind. I swear there is some truth to the idea that your taste buds change every seven years.

Anyway, case in point: I have been craving fresh fish more and more recently. I make a decent effort to eat a balanced diet, but poultry and red meat aren’t always appealing to me as sources of protein – especially during the warmer months of the year. Now that I’m loving fish, I have not only lighter and healthier options, but also much more variety to choose from.

Luckily, I have a basic understanding of the flavor profiles and textures of different fish thanks to waitressing at a high-end sushi restaurant for a couple years. Now I get to put that knowledge to use for the benefit of my own tastebuds. Yesterday, I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up two filets of fish for Dan and I. The fishmonger on duty not only suggested Chilean sea bass, but also provided me with some prep tips to go along with it; I am so happy that he did. It was perfectly cooked and tasted so good with the mango salsa and the cilantro pesto.

Note: The recipe provided yields four servings.

PART 1: BLACK BEAN RICE

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 a Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. grape seed oil
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or broth of your choice)
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

What you’ll do:

  • Combine the onion, garlic, and grape seed oil in a medium-sized pot; sauté over medium heat until the onion and garlic are soft and golden brown
  • Add the rice and broth; turn the heat up to its highest setting and bring to a boil for 5 minutes
  • After five minutes have passed, turn the heat to its lowest setting, apply the lid, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes
  • After 20 minutes have passed, stir in the black beans and cayenne pepper; reapply the lid and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes
  • Remove from heat, allow to cool, and spoon into a serving dish

PART 2: CHILEAN SEA BASS

What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Combine the grape seed oil, black pepper, and salt in a mixing bowl
  • One filet at a time, cover both sides with the grape seed oil mixture; then, place onto a piece foil and wrap by creating a seal at the top
  • Once all the filets are wrapped in foil, place onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 minutes

PART 3: MANGO SALSA

What you’ll need:

  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1/2 a red pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 a red onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Cracked black pepper and Himalayan salt to taste

What you’ll do:

  • Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir together
  • Spoon into a serving bowl

PART 4: CILANTRO PESTO

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • Cracked black pepper and Himalayan salt to taste

What you’ll do:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth
  • Spoon into a serving bowl or mason jar

Plate each serving as pictured. For the cilantro pesto specifically, place a generous-sized dollop onto the plate and drag across the plate with a teaspoon. Elegant plating made easy!

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Simple Pleasures Sunday, Part II

If there’s one thing Society Hill residents know how to do, it’s throw together a mean window box. Ever since springtime, the ten-minute walk down Pine Street to get to my gym and pool has become infinitely more enjoyable thanks to these beautiful blooms. Between Society Hill’s cobblestone streets and well-maintained, historic row homes, I am grateful to live in a neighborhood that is both scenic and peaceful year-round. However, these charming window boxes add even more character to my ‘hood in the warmer months, and I wanted to be sure to capture them before cooler weather heads our way. Below are some of my favorite shots. Enjoy!

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Portobello Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flatbread with Arugula Pesto, Roasted Red Peppers, and Caramelized Onions

Judging by this post, this post, and now this post, I think it’s safe to say that I love a good flatbread. They’re easy and delicious, and the opportunities to switch it up are endless. Now that I know how simple it is to make homemade dough, flatbreads are cooked up quite frequently in my humble abode. It’s almost easier to throw the dough together (literally and figuratively) than to go pick some up from the store, as the basic ingredients that it requires are almost always readily available in my pantry.

A while ago, as a component of an unknown dish at an unknown restaurant, I vaguely remember having arugula pesto and thought it was a really fun and delicious twist on traditional pesto. All you have to do is substitute arugula for basil. Being a black pepper addict, I love the pepperiness of arugula. Luckily, this recipe yields some leftover pesto, and I’ve been sure to not let it go to waste. It’s been a great addition to sandwiches of all kinds. Sometime in the near future, I’d love to try cilantro pesto in a Mexican-inspired dish.

PART 1: ARUGULA PESTO

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups packed arugula
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Himalayan salt to taste

What you’ll do:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor
  • Blend until smooth
  • Spoon into a serving dish or mason jar

PART 2: DOUGH

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package Fleschmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. grape seed oil

What you’ll do:

  • Combine warm water and yeast in a small bowl; stir and allow to sit for 5 minutes
  • In a large bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt; mix together with a whisk
  • Add yeast mixture and grape seed oil to the large bowl; mix with a hand mixer until the dough forms
  • On a well-floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding the remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed
  • Form the dough into the shape of a disk

PART 3: FLATBREAD

What you’ll need:

  • Dough
  • 1/4 a medium-sized Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. grape seed oil
  • 1/2 cup arugula pesto
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers (my recipe here)
  • 5 oz. goat cheese

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 ºF
  • In a small pan, sauté the sliced onion in grape seed oil over medium heat until soft
  • Meanwhile, spread the dough onto a greased baking sheet
  • Next, brush the arugula pesto onto the dough
  • Then, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the pesto, and arrange the portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and caramelized onions as pictured
  • Lastly, crumble the goat cheese on top of all the other ingredients
  • Bake in the oven for approximately 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown

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