Friday, February 24, 2017

Sweet Potato Black Bean Patties

This was one of those meals that I threw together to use up various oddball ingredients we had hanging around. We had just received a box from Washington's Green Grocer. In it were some finger limes and sweet potatoes; we had black beans in the cupboard amd feta in the fridge. I've been trying to make one vegetarian dish per weekend, so I figured I could use all of these things and come up with something pretty tasty.

Originally, I was going to make tacos, but then I found mini naan breads at the grocery store. They're soft and puffy like Greek pitas, and were a more substantial wrapper for the fairly substantial potato/bean cakes.

The cakes are slightly sweet, because of the potato, so the finger limes helped add acid. It wasn't quite enough acid for Mr Minx. He's not a fan of sweet potatoes, and he needed some spicy tomatillo salsa to cut the sweet. (My favorite tomatillo salsa is Desert Pepper brand. Hard to find, so I buy several jars at a time when I do see it.)

Sweet Potato Black Bean Patties

1 large sweet potato
Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 scallions, chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Panko breadcrumbs

To serve:
Warm flour tortillas or mini naan breads or greek pitas
Yogurt mixed with a little harissa to taste
Scallions
Chopped tomato
Extra feta cheese

Peel the sweet potato and cut into evenly sized chunks, about 2" square. Put in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain water and mash potatoes with a potato masher into a smooth puree. Scoop potatoes into a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to cool.

While potato is cooling, wipe out the saucepan and add a bit of olive oil. Cook the onion and scallions until wilted. Add the black beans and cook, stirring regularly, for a few minutes until everything is warm. As you stir the beans, they should break down into a chunky mash - this is what you want. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then add the bean mixture to the bowl with the sweet potatoes. Stir in the seasonings and the egg until well combined. Stir in the cheese and enough breadcrumbs (up to 1 cup) to form a soft dough. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour to firm up even more (it will still be pretty soft).

When ready to cook, remove dough from fridge and form into patties about 2-2 1/2" in diameter and 1/4" thick. Cook in a large saute pan with a bit of olive oil until browned on both sides. You'll need to do this in batches. Drain cooked patties on paper towel-lined plates.

To serve: Place two or more patties on your bread of choice, Top with yogurt, scallions, tomatoes, and feta.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Quick Sticky Buns

Sometime before Christmas, I received a package of samples from Davidson's Organics. Though I had never heard of them, Davidson's has been around for 40 years already. Goes to show what I know, huh? Davidson's specializes in tea, every type, from black to green to herbal, both loose leaf and bagged. Lots of fun blends like jasmine almond with orange and tulsi red vanilla. I love tea, both to drink and to cook with, so I was especially excited to receive two of their specialty tea products, jelly and chocolate, both made with Earl Grey tea.

I sat on them for a while, trying to think of what to concoct. They also sent some holiday tea bags, so I sipped tea and thought on the matter. Then it came to me. I'd make cinnamon rolls.

Yes, I know cinnamon rolls are not the first thing one thinks of when contemplating both chocolate and tea jelly, but stay with me here. The chocolate, which is flavored with both Earl Grey tea and lavender, would go into the filling, and the jelly would be part of the glaze. And I just happened to have some puff pastry in the freezer. And yes, I do know that cinnamon rolls and sticky buns are made with an enriched yeast dough, not puff pastry, I also knew that puff pastry would work just fine and it would be much much faster.

The texture of the pastry, after baking, reminded me of the creme horns my Mom liked - flaky and crisp. The chocolate didn't melt much, so there were still nice crunchy bits of both the choc and the nuts inside. I liked the combination a lot. And the icing, made with the jelly, powdered sugar, and a bit of lemon, added another dimension of flavor, and not just another layer of sweet.

Quick Earl Grey Sticky Buns

1/2 bar Davidson's Organics Earl Grey Lavender Organic Dark Chocolate
1/2 package puff pastry
Brown sugar
Cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts
2 tablespoons Davidson's Organics Earl Grey Tea Jelly
Powdered sugar
Lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Grate the chocolate and set aside.

Defrost the pastry according to package directions. Unfold sheet and go over it with a rolling pin to smooth out the creases and to enlarge the square by about 1/2 to 3/4 inch both in height and width.

Sprinkle the pastry with a thin layer of brown sugar, then shake on some cinnamon (but not too much). Add a layer of the chocolate and another of the nuts. Roll the pastry into a log, being careful not to lose too much of the filling in the process. Cut the roll in half, then cut each half into three pieces. Place pieces open-side-up on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes until browned and puffed. Set aside to cool.

Make the icing by microwaving the jelly until liquid, about 1 minute. Stir in enough powdered sugar to make a runny glaze. Flavor with a bit of the lemon juice.

When the buns are cool, drizzle with icing. Makes 6.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Emergency Chili!

While The Minx spends the better part of most weekends developing complex and imaginative recipes to share with our readers on this blog, I'm charged with the responsibility of concocting regular weekday dinner sustenance from whatever foodstuffs we have available in our refrigerator and pantry. Often my task is not unlike an episode of Food Network's Chopped in that I have to assess what random proteins, leftovers, and vegetables we have on hand and whip up an entree in under one hour. The job is always made easier if I have a go-to protein in the fridge like those handy pre-cooked chicken sausages that every grocery store seems to have nowadays, or a leftover chunk of steak from a restaurant meal. That's why, when we were contacted by Keystone Meats to try some of their canned meat products, we were intrigued. 

This can  makes you think of chili, too, right?
Keystone Meats is a fourth-generation, family-owned business in Lima, Ohio that produces canned meat products and soup bases. In addition to the shredded beef, Keystone also makes ground beef, plus shredded pork, chicken, and turkey. The beef is sourced from local farms and the finished product is simply beef and some sea salt in a can. It's tender and flaky as if you had slow-cooked a chunk of beef yourself and shredded it with a fork. The first thing The Minx and I thought of when we saw the can was chili.

We've all had those day when it's cold and damp and a bowl of hot, spicy chili would really warm your soul. The trouble is, a proper chili takes hours to prepare and you've just come home from work and want the chili now! The biggest obstacle to making a good pot of chili is the time it takes to cook the meat until it's tender and shreds easily. I've often used ground meat to make a quick chili, but it's not the same. With Keystone doing the hard part for you, an emergency bowl of chili is attainable. Using basic ingredients, I was able to put together a flavorful and hearty meal in about 45 minutes.

The Minx really loved it. She was astounded that the meat came from a can. It was tender and moist, like long-cooked pot roast or even short ribs. And it certainly did not taste like it came from a can.

Emergency Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles
1 can (14.5 oz.) Keystone Beef
2 cloves garlic
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt to taste
Chopped scallions
Cilantro
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add diced green chiles, beef, and garlic and stir until all ingredients are integrated. Add diced tomatoes and stir. Sprinkle in seasonings and turn heat down to simmer. Allow the chili to simmer for as long as possible. Ten minutes would be good; 20 minutes would be better. Adjust seasoning to your liking.

Garnish to your liking with scallions, cilantro, cheese, and sour cream. Serve with cornbread.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Ekiben

Ekiben has been on the lips and Instagram accounts of Baltimoreans ever since it opened its doors in Fells Point last March. Before the brick and mortar shop opened, owners Nikhil Yesupriya, Ephrem Abebe, and Steve Chu sold their pan-Asian wares at the Fells Point Farmers' Market. I love the fact that the three partners are from completely different ethnic backgrounds (South Indian, Ethiopian, Taiwanese), and that they met at UMBC. That's what college is for, right? Not only to get an education, but also to branch out from one's potentially insular upbringing and see the world. In the case of Yesupriya, Abebe, and Chu, it was the world of food. While the dishes they serve at Ekiben (itself a Japanese word referring to a specific style of bento box served at railway stations) have a strong Taiwanese bent, the partners season their dishes with flavors from each of their heritages.

The must-try dish is the tempura fried broccoli, topped with shallots and fresh herbs and seasoned with rice vinegar. For $2 more, non-vegetarians can get thinly sliced Chinese sausage, too.

Back when Harborplace first opened, there was a stall selling deep-fried, batter-coated vegetables. I tried to avoid the broccoli, because invariably the florets were soggy with uncooked batter. That is not the case at Ekiben, where every bite is encased in a thin and crisp coating. The combination of flavors and textures in this dish is terrific.

We also did two of the buns that are available every day - the Neighborhood Bird and the Tofu Brah. The former includes a Taiwanese curry fried chicken thigh of vast proportions topped with spicy sambal mayo, pickles, and fresh herbs. The latter is tofu in spicy peanut sauce, topped with seasonal slaw, and fresh herbs. All their sandwiches are mammoth, served on steamed buns that are positively cloud-like in appearance and texture. They are well-suited for a sturdy filling like the chicken thigh, but not substantial enough for the sloppy tofu and its mountain of toppings. Make sure to equip yourself with lots of napkins if you're going to tackle the tofu sandwich, and lean over your plate (cardboard takeout container) so if you do have a spill, you won't waste it on the floor.

Though a tad difficult to eat, the tofu sandwich was delicious. Next time, we'll try it over rice. Also next time, we'll get the Original bun, which features Thai chicken meatballs in a coconut black peppercorn sauce. We hear the catfish is tasty, too, as is everything else on the menu.

Why couldn't Ekiben have been around when I lived in Fells Point, just three blocks away?

Ekiben
1622 Eastern Ave
Baltimore, MD 21231
410-558-1914
ekibenbaltimore.com

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