Friday, December 06, 2019

Flashback Friday - Toss

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This post originally appeared on on December 7, 2011.

For several weeks I kept my eye on a "coming soon" sign on the building at 5716 York Road, just north of the junction of York and Bellona, and right next door to the establishment bearing bold black on yellow signage emblazoned with, "Chicken, Steak, and Chocolate Cake." What was coming soon was Toss, the umpty-umpth pizza joint on the short stretch of road between Bellona and Belvedere. Unlike most of them, however, Toss offers "gourmet" pizzas, on your choice of regular, thin, or wheat crusts. Additionally, they offer sandwiches, salads, and chicken wings baked with olive oil and herbs.

The day after Thanksgiving, I wasn't ready to face turkey leftovers (still not) and it seemed like the perfect time to order a pizza. To be delivered, because Mr Minx was attempting to crank out the remainder of the 50,000 words required to win NaNoWriMo and didn't want to leave the house merely to refuel. We used Toss' nifty online ordering system to try the Pizza Prosciutto topped with caramelized onions, proscuitto, and mixed greens on a "regular" crust.

Toss is smart. Rather than pile the greens on the pizza and have them go soggy on the way to our house, they put a pile of mesclun in a separate container.

DIY pizza topped with greens
The crust was the perfect thickness for us, on the thin side, but not crackery. It had a generous amount of fresh mozzarella melted over sautéed onions and bits of proscuitto. I would have liked the onions to have been really caramelized to a nice dark brown, to add a bit of sweetness to the pie, but otherwise the pizza was pretty good. Definitely one of the better delivered pizzas in the area.

We like fries with our pizza, but Toss' menu indicates that "Mediterranean" fries are only included with any of fourteen sandwiches they have available. I decided that we needed to try the roasted eggplant sandwich with mozzarella, feta, roasted peppers, red onions, olives, and pesto - just to get the fries.

The fries were unevenly cut strips and blobs of potato, flavored with garlic and herbs and fried until crisp. Definitely something that should be offered separately. The sandwich was just short of outstanding. Its roll (probably made from the same dough as the pizza) was lightly crisp on the outside, fluffy inside, and still warm. The filling tasted mostly of pungent kalamata olives and could have used more pesto, but otherwise was a nice melange of soft, melty, and salty bits. Mr Minx, who is not a fan of eggplant at all, happily scarfed up an entire half. far so good. We enjoyed both the pizza and sandwich and look forward to an occasion to order from Toss again. I'm thinking wings, a meatball sandwich, and a mushroom pizza are in our near future.

5716 York Road
Baltimore, MD 21212
(410) 433-8677

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Flashback Friday - Pumpkin Butter

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This post originally appeared on on November 8, 2011.


The other day, I had a dream about making pumpkin butter.

In the dream, I stood in front of my stove, stirring a pot filled with pumpkin purée, brown sugar, and spices. As the mixture bubbled, it perfumed the air with the delicious scent of Fall. And Thanksgiving.

When I awoke, craving pumpkin butter, I knew I had to make the dream come true. (Considering how hard that is to do with most dreams, I couldn't let this opportunity pass!)

I dumped a can of pumpkin into a saucepan, added some brown sugar and spices, and hoped for the best. Both in my dream and in real life, it was a simple and relatively quick process. Not to mention inexpensive. For a couple of bucks ($1.50 for a can of pumpkin, a few cents more for the bits of sugar and spice I already had on hand), I had a heaping pint of deliciousness that would probably cost between $5 - $8, had I bought the product ready-made at the store.

Pumpkin Butter

1 15oz can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to lowest setting. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a pint jar. Unless you want to go to the trouble of sterilizing/canning, do not store pumpkin butter unrefrigerated. Eat within two weeks.

Makes about a pint.

Note: if you want to make your own pumpkin purée with a fresh pumpkin, I won't stop you.

Spread thickly on your favorite bread, or eat straight from the jar with a spoon.

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Friday, November 22, 2019

Flashback Friday - Pot Roast

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This post originally appeared on on November 2, 2011.


My mom made the best pot roast. She used the simple recipe from her battered 1953-edition of the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook: coat a chuck roast with flour, brown in drippings made from its own rendered fat, add potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery, either water or stock, and simmer for 2.5 hours until done, after which time the gravy can be thickened or not. The end. The recipe is literally a single paragraph in the "meat" section.

I loved it so much, I requested it for dinner several times a month. And I loved it so much, I'd never attempted to cook it myself, knowing that I'd never achieve that degree of tenderness or the rich flavor of the gravy (which I'm pretty sure was enriched with a package of McCormick's Brown Gravy). Recently, however, I thought I'd give it a go. The BH&G recipe is deceptively simple and it would be so disappointing if it didn't turn out like Mom's. Instead, I decided to adapt a recipe of Ina Garten's. Because how can one go wrong with a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa?

The result was...meh. I'm going to blame the meat.

Fat-obsessed dieters have created a world of unfortunately lean meats. The chuck roast I picked up at Wegman's had been ferociously trimmed; had I wanted to use the BH&G recipe, it would have been impossible to sear it in its own fat, since there was none. And because of this leanness, the meat lacked the unctuous tenderness of Mom's pot roast. Then there's the wine issue. After several attempts at braising meats in wine, I've decided that I don't like the resulting flavor. Nor the pinkish grey color. The sauce that resulted from the braise was a dark puce, and I wished I had a bottle of my mother's magic ingredient, Kitchen Bouquet, in order to make it darker and richer-looking.

The whole experience left me wanting. Next time, I will endeavor to find the fattiest chuck roast possible, skip the wine, and...pick up a packet of McCormick Brown Gravy.

Pot Roast with Root Vegetables (adapted from Ina Garten)

1 (4 to 5-pound) chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1 cup baby carrots
2 onions, quartered
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
2 cups celery root, cut into 2" chunks
1 lb baby potatoes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 each sprig fresh rosemary and thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups red wine
1 cup chicken or beef stock

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pat beef dry with a paper towel. Season it liberally with salt and pepper and then dredge the roast in flour. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Sear the roast, turning every 4 or 5 minutes, until it is nicely browned on all sides. Remove meat to a plate.

Add another 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot. Add the vegetables and garlic and cook for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Bring to a boil and add the chicken stock, herbs, and bay leaves. Place roast back into the pot and return to the boil. Cover pot and place in the oven, cooking for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until meat is fork tender. Check periodically and add more stock if it seems to be evaporating.

Remove roast to a cutting board. Place pot on top of the stove and turn the heat to medium. Skim fat from sauce. Make a beurre manié by stirring together 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir it bit by bit into the sauce until thickened to your liking. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Flashback Friday - Apple Crisp

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This post originally appeared on on November 16, 2011.


It's Fall, and Fall means apples, apple pie, apple butter, apple cider, and especially apple crisp. There's almost nothing more comforting to me than a big bowl of hot apple crisp topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or maybe a drizzle of cream.

Just typing that sentence makes me want some right now.

I tried Top Cheftestant Robin Leventhal's Quickfire-winning apple crisp recipe a couple years back. It was good, but it had too many extraneous flavors. I prefer apples+cinnamon+maybe walnuts. My mom made a great version, very plain, but I have no idea where she got the recipe. Her beloved Better Homes & Gardens book only has apple brown betty, which just isn't the same. So I poked around teh innernets and found a simple recipe from Betty Crocker.

It was good, but not perfect. I used half Granny Smith and half Fuji apples, which at the end of the recommended 30-minute cook time were still somewhat crunchy. We ate it anyway. It was much better a couple of days later, when I popped the casserole back into the oven for a while. The apples grew more tender and the crumble got crustier, but there was this third somewhat gooey texture from where the topping got saturated by the apple liquid. I think it was my favorite part.

If you want that version, follow the recipe below. Either eat part of it or just stir it up a bit so some of the crisp topping can get soggy. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate. The next day, put it into a 350F oven for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes. (Yes, an additional 30 minutes seems like a long time, but remember it's now cold from the fridge.) Enjoy with ice cream, whipped cream, or a drizzle of heavy cream or half-and-half.

Betty Crocker's Apple Crisp

4 cups of sliced apples (Granny Smith and Fuji, or Golden Delicious)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cream or Ice cream, if desired

Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with shortening.

Spread apples in pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients except cream until well mixed; sprinkle over apples.

Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm with cream.

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