By Emily Ryan, The Mercury
Men and women, young and old crowded the sidewalk, waiting to cross the street to Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. Once inside, they snapped pictures, stood in lines and scrambled to find seating. While tourists tasted cheesesteaks, shoofly pies and pretzels, regulars reached for fresh meats, fish and produce.
“The Market has been going for over 100 years. It’s a very vital part of Philadelphia life,” described Irina Smith, who co-wrote The Reading Terminal Market Cookbook. “I think it’s just a vibrant place.”
Learn its history, meet the merchants and sample their recipes in the cookbook’s new edition, an updated version of the 1997 classic.
“For a cookbook that’s a very good life. Of course, I think it’s due to the Market. It just sustains itself over the years. It’s not something that’s here and gone,” said co-author Ann Hazan.
The women, loyal shoppers for more than 35 years, share a passion for cooking.
“My daughter was raised in the market. I used to put her in the stroller and take here there to shop,” Hazan recalled. “She just always remembers Bassetts Ice Cream and 4th Street Cookies. Those two merchants really stood out.”
The market boasts roughly 80 places to enjoy, ranging from Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties to Miller’s Twist, The Tubby Olive to Tommy DiNic’s and Wan’s Seafood to Wursthaus Schmitz.
“It’s wonderful that you have all these different foods under one roof,” said Smith, whose daughters also cherish fond market memories.
“Each merchant has a story to tell,” she said. “They’re all my favorites. I love them all.”
Among them: Michael Holahan of Pennsylvania General Store, in business 28 years.
“I love that every day, you get to be some part of people’s lives,” he mused. “When they’re having lunch at the market, they could be having an important meeting or a first date. How many first dates do you think there have been at the market?”
Or first Thanksgiving turkeys?
“The Reading Terminal Market is, at its heart, about a place that we get the food we feed ourselves and our families,” Holahan stressed. “You’re likely to see a lady on a tight budget there and a lady from a Rittenhouse tower in the same food line. We’re looking for people who like to cook.”
Feel inspired? Try making Moroccan chicken or Irina Smith’s baked fish with tomatoes and olives.
“Irina and I, just like Alfred Hitchcock when he used to appear in his shows, we put some of our recipes in there, using ingredients from the market,” Hazan explained.
Plus, find favorites from the first cookbook along with new fare like Elvis Cake, a peanut butter-banana treat fit for the King.
“The Market is so diverse in its food, the merchants, the people who go to the Market, and I think we capture that in the cookbook,” she said.
“I want them to know what a treasure we have in the Reading Terminal Market. It truly is very unique.”
Irina Smith’s Baked Fish with Tomatoes and Olives
This tasty dish uses the wonderful supply of fresh fish from any of the fish purveyors in the Market. I often serve asparagus in season or green beans as side dishes along with warm, crusty bread.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
4 large potatoes, skin on, finely sliced
6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2½ pounds fish (cod, halibut, sea bass or salmon), cut into 6 equal pieces
Salt and pepper
1 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
½ cup pitted black olives, optional
Fresh green peas for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the oil and butter in an ovenproof roasting pan. Add onions and cook for a few minutes, until beginning to soften. Add garlic and potatoes and mix well with the onions. Stir in tomatoes and add the wine. Bubble rapidly until reduced by half. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the tomatoes have softened.
Add fish to the pan, nestling it among the potatoes and tomatoes. Spoon some of the sauce over the fish and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook 10 minutes longer, or until the fish is just cooked through. Sprinkle with parsley and olives. Garnish with green peas, if desired. Makes six servings.
Irina Smith’s Curried Carrot Soup
My mother made wonderful soups, especially during the cold, rainy English winter months. This is a variation of a soup she used to make. It’s good either in winter or summer, hot or cold. Adapt the coriander and curry powder more or less according to your taste. Sometimes I add plain yogurt instead of coconut milk. This soup freezes well.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon seeded and minced fresh serrano or jalapeño pepper
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon curry powder
Freshly ground black pepper
8 cups chicken stock
¾ cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots, onions and leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, peppers, coriander, curry powder and a generous pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock, cover partially, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the vegetables are very soft, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
In either a food processor or blender, puree the soup in batches to desired consistency. Pour into a large bowl, then add the coconut milk and lime juice. Chill if serving cold. Heat through if serving hot. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Makes four to six servings.
The spice mixture in this recipe from Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties is made in a quantity far larger than what you’ll need. The unused portion freezes well and can be used in other recipes. A lot of liquid will remain after roasting. Reserve that liquid and use it as a base for soups or for cooking rice.
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley
1 medium onion, quartered
¼ cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon black pepper
Salt to taste
2 chickens, 3 to 3½ pounds each
Fresh coriander for garnish
In a food processor or blender, process the parsley and onion. Add garlic powder, ground coriander, ground ginger, black pepper and salt, and blend to a smooth paste. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread ½ cup of the spice mixture on the bottom of a large baking pan. (Reserve remaining mixture for another recipe.) Place chicken on top and add enough water to come up sides of chicken. Bake uncovered for approximately 1½ hours, or until chicken is very tender. Cut chicken into serving pieces and place on a platter with some of the pan juices. Garnish with fresh coriander. Makes eight servings.
All Recipes courtesy of The Reading Terminal Market Cookbook, second edition
• Reading Terminal Market opened on Feb. 22, 1892.
• In 2014, the American Planning Association named it one of the 10 Great Public Spaces in America.
• Travel Channel’s Adam Richman crowned DiNic’s roast pork the “Best Sandwich in America.”
• Philbert the Pig, a huge bronze piggy bank, sits in center court, collecting money for charity.