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Friday, June 26, 2020

Borscht and Pampushki | A Recipe from Albina Truax

This spring, we are sharing stories and recipes throughout the region. This week's recipe for Borscht and Pampushki comes from one of our interns Albina Truax. If you have a recipe you'd like to share, please email Lia Hyman at or Ana West at




I was born in Ukraine and lived there for about 17 years. My mum in Ukraine would often cook us borscht. Growing up, I did not like it because of the boiled vegetables. When I came to the United States, people would ask me if I liked borscht since I am a Ukrainian; I told them no. When I got married, I began to introduce my husband to my culture. His mother asked me if I like borscht, so I finally made it and found myself liking it! Borscht is a part of my culture.

Yield:4 servings


  • 12 cups water

  • 1/2 of medium-big green or red cabbage, thinly sliced

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 3 medium carrots, chopped or grated

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 large beet, peeled and cut into matchsticks

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 1/2 of 6 oz can tomato paste, low sodium (if you would like very saturated color in your borscht, add more)

  • 2 tsp salt

  • 3 bay leaves

  • 1 tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice

  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated

  • Ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1/4 cup dill or parsley, finely chopped

  • Sour cream and pampushki, for serving


1.    In a medium pot, add water, bay leaves, and bring to a boil.

2.    While the water boils, wash, peel, and cut vegetables.

3.    Add cabbage to boiling water, cover, and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.

4.    Prepare a large skillet on medium heat and swirl 1 tbsp of oil to coat. Add onion, carrots, and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5.    Add beets, remaining 1 tbsp of oil and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

6.    Transfer sautéed veggies to a pot along with potatoes, tomato paste, and salt. Cover bring to a boil and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.

7.    Turn off heat. Add vinegar, garlic, and pepper. Stir and let borscht sit for 10 minutes to allow flavors to marry each other.

8.    Add dill, stir, and adjust any seasonings to taste.


Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream, pampushki, and garlic clove on the side (to taste).


Refrigerate borscht in a pot you cooked it in for up to 5 days. Reheat by simmering on low in a small pot only amount you are planning to consume. Freeze in an airtight glass container for up to 3 months. Then thaw on a counter overnight and reheat.

Add other things in the soup to your taste. For example, you can add celery or red bell peppers to add more flavor. Experiment!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Spam Musubi as Survival and Celebration | A Recipe from Rowan Ching

Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, Rowan is a performer and theater technician committed to using art as a vehicle for social change. He has been working with Interfaith Philadelphia since January on the Crafting Community Project, using his skills as an artist to foster interfaith and intercultural understanding. Rowan selected this recipe to share, as it has been a way for him to connect with his upbringing and survive during this pandemic.

Growing up in Honolulu, Hawai’i, Spam musubi were a staple of every bake sale, picnic, and sporting event. They were sold at every convenience store or grocery deli, covered in plastic wrap and ready to be taken to the beach or picked up as an after school snack. Everyone knew of one or two aunties that made them best.

As a kid, my family would make spam musubi using a special plastic mold to shape the rice. Since I didn’t have one moving out east, I came up with this simple method instead. I’ve also seen some folks line the spam can with plastic and use that as a mold for the rice too! At its simplest, spam musubi is sautéed spam and rice wrapped in seaweed and there’s no real “wrong” way to make it.

I didn’t actually like spam as a kid, so I would often pull the spam off and give it to a friend and continue to munch on the yummy seasoned rice underneath. It wasn’t until my early 20’s when I was facing food insecurity that I began to turn to spam as a cheap, and surprisingly delicious, form of protein. Now I make spam musubi for my friends and housemates when they go out to protests--a quick and easy snack that allows me to share a taste of home with the people I love in Philly.

Spam was popularized in Hawai’i during WWII when the islands were unfortunately used as a US military base. My grandmother’s generation grew up eating Spam due to wartime food shortages. Eating Spam during difficult times reminds me of my grandparent’s resilience and the wisdom that things will always pass.

One thing to note when talking about food from Hawai’i: Hawai’i was a sovereign and internationally recognized kingdom until it was illegally overthrown by American businessmen in 1893. Only the indigenous people of Hawai’i are Hawaiian (in contrast with PA residents who are “Pennsylvanians”). All other settlers to Hawai’i, no matter how long their families have been there refer to themselves as “locals” rather than Hawaiian. Spam musubi is therefore a local dish of Hawaii and is not considered “Hawaiian” food.

Spam Musubi Recipe 


- 2 cups of short grain white rice (Also called sushi rice. I get mine from Hung Vuong Market)

- 1 can of spam

- 1 tbs sugar

- 2 tbs shoyu (soy sauce/tamari)

- 1 pack sushi nori (sheets of seaweed, easily found at Hung Vuong)

- Oil for cooking (I use sesame for more flavor)


- 1 tsp garlic

- furikake (seaweed rice seasoning that I thought of as "rice sprinkles" as a kid)


1. Cook rice as directed on the package. I find that using a rice cooker works best but the stovetop method will do.

2. Mix shoyu and sugar together

3. Cut Spam into 6 equal pieces. Keep the spam can nearby.

4. Soak the Spam in the shoyu mixture for 10-15 minutes. I find putting all the ingredients into a plastic bag helpful, but use whatever container works best to make sure the spam is coated.

5. Heat a pan with about a spoonful of oil on medium heat. Add the garlic to the pan to brown if you are using it.

6. Add the slices of spam to the pan. Cook for a few minutes on each side until lightly browned.

7. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. This prevents the rice from sticking to the pan.

8. Scoop the rice into one side of the pan and press to form an even 1-2 inch layer of rice. This should be the surface area of about 6 pieces of spam. If you want, you can measure with the spam can to make sure your spam will fit.

9. If you have furikake, sprinkle it over the rice to your taste.

10. Place all six pieces of spam atop the rice in a single layer.

11. Cut around the spam to form six even spam and rice units.

12. Use scissors to cut the nori sheets into thirds

13. On a surface covered in plastic wrap or parchment paper, (I usually just use the other side of my baking pan) place a cut piece of nori.

14. Using a spatula or rice scooper, take one spam-rice unit and place it atop the nori piece. Wrap the spam and rice in the nori. There is no wrong way to do this.

15. Repeat step 14 for the rest of the spam-rice units.

16. Serve and enjoy fresh or wrap individually to eat on the go!

To learn more about how recipes like Rowan’s are being shared through the Crafting Community Project, visit

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Patacón and Guacamole Snack | Recipe and Interview with Aidé Cuenca

If you live, work, worship, or volunteer in South Philadelphia, submit your recipe for the cookbook here. Submissions are due by June 20th.

Born and raised in Ecuador, Aidé Cuenca lived in South Philly with a Mexican family while she worked as education director at the Aquinas Center, a local community center. In this role, Aidé oversaw afterschool programs, English as a Second Language classes, an urban immersion program for high school and college students, and more. 

After she shared her recipe for guacamole y patacones for the South Philly Cookbook, Interfaith Philadelphia summer intern Gilana Levavi interviewed Aidé to learn more about South Philly, faith, culture, food, and more. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Q:  What do you think should be celebrated or amplified about South Philly? 

A: “There’s a lot of diversity there. One of the things that I miss the most and I really love about South Philly was that you were able to encounter so many traditions, so many [different] food[s], so many cultural backgrounds...And I think that brings a unique opportunity and a lot of potential to create a community. 

“...I want to say that food was one of those ways to find a common space to have conversations, to talk about sometimes difficult stuff, or sometimes to celebrate people’s achievements.”  

Q: How do food and shared meals intersect with your culture, faith, and experience in South Philly? 

A:  “Growing up with my family…food was always there. It was always a way for my mom especially to express her love, and express the way that she cared for us. 

“...I found that in South Philly. Folks were generally sharing, inviting you, and telling you, I care and I love you. [They would say,] ‘Here...have some cookies…have some food. I made this. Do you want to try?’ It makes you feel part of the community. It makes you feel like I’m not a stranger anymore here.” 

Q: What do you want people to know about your culture or faith tradition? 

A: “As a Catholic, I believe that we have a lot of things to learn from each other. But also in our practices, we talk about caring for each other, being in solidarity with others, and praying for others. I want people to know that that is the kind of Catholic I am.”

Q: If you were at a table with people from different religions or cultures from yours, what respectful and curious questions might you ask to get to know them better?

“...What’s the most important in your faith tradition? What’s the most important thing that you celebrate?...How do you celebrate it? What does it mean for you and for your community members?

“...Maybe the celebrations that we have within our faith traditions…look completely different, but the meanings sometimes that [are] behind [them] share some commonalities.

“...A lot of the time, I believe that we don’t want to ask those questions because we are afraid…we are nervous about how other people will see [us]. But if we are already at the table sharing food, I think that sets the environment...that sacred space to say, okay, if I’m going to put you in a vulnerable position [or] situation, I also have to get there as well.” 

Aidé’s recipe for Patacón and Guacamole brings together patacones or fried plantains, which are common in Ecuadorian culture, with guacamole, an avocado-based dip that is common in Mexican culture. 

“That unique way to mix or combine things….makes whatever you already have more delicious,” said Aidé. “Every time that I have patacones and guacamole, I think about my Mexican friends; I think about that beautiful culture as well.” 


Ecuadorian Patacón and Guacamole Snack
Yields two portions. Approximately, from one medium green plantain you can get 12 patacones.



  • 1 green plantain

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

  • Salt to taste


  • 2 medium ripe avocados

  • 1 medium tomato

  • ¼ cup red onion

  • ¼ cup green pepper

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • one lime

  • cilantro

Directions for patacón:

  1. Cut the ends of the green plantain

  2. Cut the long side of the plantain. With the help of your thumb remove the peel.

  3. Then slice into 1 inch pieces.

  4. Heat up a pan with vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the green plantains (the oil is covering up to half of the green plantain). Fry them approximately for 2.5 minutes. 

  5. The green plantain will take a golden color. Flip them and wait for the other side of the plantain to cook. 

  6. Once cooked, remove them from the pan. I turn off the burner with the frying pan for now. Let them cool for a few minutes. With the plantains still warm, use a cup or glass to smash them. The thickness of the patacon depends on your taste!

  7. Light the burner to heat the oil for the final step. Wait until the oil is hot. Place the smashed plantains again and leave them for about 50 seconds (your timing will depend on your oil´s heat). Flip them over. This part is even faster since the oil is pretty hot. Use a spatula to take them out and use a towel to remove the excess of oil. Add a pinch of salt.

Directions for guacamole:

  1. Dice the tomato, ¼ cup onion and pepper.

  2. Dice the garlic very finely. The measurements of the lemon, coriander and salt depend on your taste. Add these ingredients at the end of the mix in the step 5.

  3. Cut the avocados in half.

  4. Crush the avocados with the help of a fork until they are pureed.

  5. Add to the avocado the diced tomato, onion and pepper. Then add the garlic, salt, lime and cilantro until you are happy with it.

  6. Time to enjoy this delicious Mexican dip with some Patacones made in an Ecuadorian style.

Aidé, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with Gilana, and for being part of the South Philly Cookbook project!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Quick and Easy Socially Distant Recipes | From Rev. Alison Cornish

This spring, we are sharing stories and recipes throughout the region. This week's recipes for chocolate cake and spinach lasagne come from Rev. Alison Cornish, Directory of Seminary and Training Initiatives at IP. If you have a recipe you'd like to share, please email Lia Hyman at or Ana West at

These recipes were chosen by the Rev. Alison Cornish as "quick and easy" picks. If staying at home means that you're cooking more than you have before, try your hand at these two recipes for dinner and desert - perfect for beginners and busy cooks alike.

Spinach Lasagne 

Sauce - mix together:
  • 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp each chopped garlic, chopped onion, oregano, basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Filling - mix together:
  • 1 pkg frozen chopped spinach - thawed
  • 1 lb cottage cheese
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 lb mozzarella
  • uncooked lasagne noodles
  • rectangular lasagne pan - 3 noodles wide
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Layer in the pan:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3-4 Tbsps of sauce
  • layer of uncooked noodles
  • 1/2 of filling
  • sauce
  • noodles
  • rest of filling
  • rest of sauce
  • shredded or sliced mozzarella
           3. Cover with foil - bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes; uncover and bake for another 20 minutes; let sit a few minutes before cutting and serving

Six-minute Chocolate Cake (vegan!) (from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts)
  • 1½ cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water or coffee (I prefer using coffee)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into a 9” round or 8” square cake pan. 
  3. In the measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, cold water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk.  When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes and set aside to cool.

(From Alison: "There’s an optional glaze that I’ve never made because the cake seems fine served just with ice cream – basically, it’s just semi-sweet chocolate, melted, mixed with hot water and vanilla – seems like gilding the lily to me!")

Friday, June 12, 2020

Coconut Rice & Peas | A Recipe from Shayla Felton-Dorsey


This spring, Interfaith Philadelphia issued a call for recipes for the Crafting Community Project’s South Philly Cookbook. We are featuring some of those submissions in the run up to the new deadline, which is now June 20th. If you live, work, worship, or volunteer in the neighborhood, please share a recipe or reflection on food and community here. For a taste of the cookbook flavors now, check out this feature below!  

is a passionate Philadelphia chef whose focus is on the relationship between food and culture. Shayla’s 'cooking gene’ comes from being raised in a family of restaurateurs that includes the late Queen of Soul Food, Sylvia Woods of Sylvia’s Restaurant, and Chef Melba Wilson of Melba's restaurant in Harlem. Formerly a New Yorker, Shayla now calls Philadelphia home. 

Shayla incorporates combating food insecurity along with creativity, reducing food waste and being plant forward with her recipes. She has been featured in Movitos Magazine and in Edible Philly Magazine facilitating a pro plant-based class, and on Spiritual Connect Radio, as a voice for her community. In 2017, Shayla was certified as a Community Chef Educator with Just Food; an organization that pioneers food justice and advocates for sustainable agriculture.

In 2018, she launched Shayla's Savour, personal chef service, whose signature is curating intimate experiences that feature global cuisine, transporting her guests all around the globe. She received her certification in 2019 from the National Council for Behavioral Health in Youth Mental First Aid and partnered with the Free Library Philadelphia to facilitate Self-Care Workshops for “One Book, One Philadelphia” on topics at the intersection of health and nutrition. Shayla is the president of the Philadelphia chapter of “Just Call Me Chef”, which is a sisterhood of mentoring and networking among African-American women chefs.  

Shayla provided delicious, plant forward recipes for the South Philly Cookbook. Check out our Instagram stories under Highlights, labeled “Recipes!” to see her demonstration and ingredients for a summery peanut butter banana shake. Here’s another Shayla’s Savour recipe that’s a perfect way to use some fresh thyme growing in the pot on your windowsill. Or, pick up a bunch of thyme at your local farmers’ market. 




 4 cups long-grain rice, rinsed well

 5 1/2 cups water

 2 cups coconut milk

 3 to 4 cups pigeon peas, cooked and drained (Can substitute with Red Kidney Beans)

 1 cup scallions, chopped

 8 sprigs thyme

 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, whole

 1/4 cup olive oil (Can substitute with any oil)

 Salt to taste



  1. Over high heat in a heavy-bottomed stock pot, combine and stir all the ingredients. 

  2. Bring to a boil uncovered, then reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, rice should be cooked.

You can find Shayla on the following platforms:

Monday, June 8, 2020

Moong Daal Vadas/Pakoras | A Recipe from Arisha Syed

This spring, we are sharing stories and recipes throughout the region. This week's recipe for Moong Daal Vadas/ Pakoras comes from one of our former interns and Walking the Walk alumna Arisha Syed. If you have a recipe you'd like to share, please email Lia Hyman at or Ana West at

Growing up in an Indian and Pakistani Muslim household, my family has traditionally served these vadas/pakoras to break our fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Vadas can be made with all sorts of lentils, but my family has always loved the green lentil version since they're extra crispy and delicious! Not only are green lentils high in fiber and protein, but these are deep you truly can't go wrong! Sit back and enjoy with a cup of masala chai! 

Moong Daal Vadas / Pakoras (Green Lentil Fritters) Recipe: 

  • 2 cups whole or split green lentils
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 tbsp ginger
  • 4 green chili peppers
  • 1 cup scallions
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves (optional)

To fry:
  • 2 cups vegetable / canola oil (any neutral flavored oil will do)


Soak green lentils for 4-5 hours. 

Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a pan until aromatic (about 3-4 minutes). Make sure to keep moving around the seeds to avoid burning. Let spices cool, then coarsely grind in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. 

Wash and drain lentils completely. In food processor, blend lentils with all remaining ingredients into a coarse batter.

Heat oil on medium-high heat in a deep frying pan. Make small fritters with a tablespoon, carefully drop into oil, and fry until golden brown and crispy (about 3-4 minutes). When fully cooked, lay them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Serve with green coriander chutney, tamarind-date chutney, or yogurt dip (available at traditional Indian stores or Amazon).