Friday, March 23, 2018

Flashback Friday - Edamame Hummus

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This post originally appeared on on June 12, 2013.
I've been on a hummus kick lately, have you noticed? I really do love the stuff and would eat it more often if it wasn't normally made with chick peas. Those little bastards give me such intestinal distress, I can't even look at them without getting gassy. In their place, I've been making hummus with just about every other bean under the sun, mostly with success.

Not long ago, we bought some edamame hummus from Trader Joe's, and man, that stuff was delicious! The best bean yet. So when I decided that our Memorial Day dinner would involve kebabs and various Mediterranean-inspired sauces, I put edamame hummus on the list of must-makes. Coincidentally, I received Louisville chef Edward Lee's new cookbook, Smoke and Pickles, at around the same time and the first recipe I turned to when I opened the book at random was his version of edamame hummus. It was kismet.

Lee makes his hummus chunky and uses it as a side dish. I wanted a more traditional dip/puree, so I added a bit more water to the food processor when I was blending. I also didn't need quite so much hummus, so I halved the recipe. Here's my take on it:

Edamame Hummus (adapted from Smoke and Pickles)

2 green onions, white and light green part, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup frozen edamame
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Saute the green onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook 6-8 minutes, or until beans are no longer crunchy. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Puree the mixture in a food processor until fairly smooth, adding additional additional water to help the process. Taste the mixture and adjust seasoning with more lemon juice, soy, and olive oil, if necessary.

Serve at room temperature with unsalted tortilla chips or pita.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Spotlight on: Hersh's

Not sure if anyone knows, but I've been writing a restaurant column for the City Walker App Blog. The purpose of the app itself is to give visitors a local's-eye-view of a city, so they are able to experience it in the same way residents do--on foot. (Not that anyone actually walks anywhere anymore.) The blog offers a bit more detail; I have endeavored to take users on a stroll through the city while pointing out restaurants along the way. In addition to the walking posts, I have been writing others that put certain favorite restaurants of mine in a spotlight. I thought I could share those here with you.


When I was much younger, Baltimore was a pizza wasteland. Sure, restaurants touting their nightmarish “fresh dough” pizza were all over the place, and yes, I ate my share of it, always hoping to find a slice that actually tasted good. The whole ‘fresh” dough thing was quite a misnomer; it was made in a factory somewhere and trucked into restaurants around town, so how fresh could it be? Well into the 1980s, Baltimore-area pizzas consisted of these flabby, flavorless crusts topped with bland red sauce and puddles of rubbery salt masquerading as cheese. Though cooked up in mom-and-pop establishments, they were awful enough to make Pizza Hut and Domino’s seem like the good stuff.

There were, of course, exceptions to the rule. My favorite pizza came from a regional chain called Pappy’s, where they served birch beer by the pitcher and gave styrofoam hats to kids. You know, the ones that are modeled after straw boaters and seen on the heads of barbershop quartets and election day candidate-hucksters. I was probably 10 when I had my last Pappy’s pizza so can’t be held accountable for my taste back then. There was also Matthew’s Pizzaria in Highlandtown, Squire’s in Dundalk, and Pizza John’s in Essex, all of which are still in business lo these many decades later. The former has a strong fan base, but I’ve always thought their pies were bland. Squire’s pizzas are anything but, with a very herby and somewhat sweet tomato sauce and a crust that is crunchy rather than crispy. I’ve never been to Pizza John’s, but I hear that they serve thin NY-style pizza and they make their own dough, so I should probably get my ass out there, right? In any case, none of the pizzas of my Charm City youth could hold a candle to most dollar slices in New York. For a while there I decided I didn’t really like the stuff. Fortunately, in the 00s, a bunch of pizza joints opened up in Baltimore, all serving thin-crust goodness with toppings like pesto and arugula. I realized I did like pizza, even craved it, though none of these newer establishments were what I’d call a “holy grail.”

Then I tried Hersh’s.

Hersh’s is on the very end of Light Street, a good mile’s walk from the Inner Harbor. Owned by siblings Josh and Stephanie Hershkovitz, Hersh’s serves Neapolitan-style pizza and a whole lotta other yummy Italianate things. But first, the pizza. It’s cooked in a wood-fired oven and is served uncut, like in Naples. The crust is thin with a perfectly blistered cornicione and some leopard-spots of char on the crust and upskirt. While the pizzas look so damn good you just want to pick it up and shove it into your pizza-pie-hole whole, cutting it into at least four slices is probably a better way to approach things. Less hot cheese in the lap. Also as in Naples, you can’t just come in and expect to get a giant pie slathered in shredded cheese and slices of pepperoni perched on a 5-napkin oil slick. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) If you’re really into pepperoni, you can add some to a Margherita (otherwise topped with housemade mozz, grana padano, and fresh basil), but why not put a little more excitement in your life? My suggestion is to order the Tre Porcellini if it’s on the menu. It’s topped with three different pork products–sausage, braised pork, and guanciale–along with provolone, garlic and red pepper flakes, and it will take you to hog heaven. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) The Fumo e Fuoco is my fave, topped with smoked mozz, grana padana, and soft rounds of fried eggplant, all drizzled with a spark of chili oil. Excellent for dinner, even better when eaten cold for breakfast.

But enough about the pizza. While a pie and a beer, glass of vino, or a crafty cocktail can be a perfect meal for some, Hersh’s kitchen magic is not limited to things on crusts. You see, Hersh’s isn’t a pizza parlor. It’s an Italian restaurant. Yet, it’s impossible for my husband and I to eat at Hersh’s and not order pizza. However, we like to make it one course of a multi-course meal and share everything. So we might start off with one of the antipasti, most likely the wood-fired octopus or maybe the meatballs in tomato sauce over housemade ricotta, then move on to a salad. Right now there’s a lovely Autumn Salad comprising escarole, apples, pecans, parm, and gorgonzola dolce in a dijon-apple cider vinaigrette that sounds perfect. And while the more protein-focused of Chef Josh’s main dishes are going to be dynamite, we usually lean toward ordering a plate of his tender housemade pasta, like a classic spaghetti Carbonara, or maybe some roast pumpkin gnocchi with crispy braised pork and arugula-pumpkin seed pesto. (Yeah, I’m drooling too.) Once we’ve demolished those items, then we’ll have pizza. And if we can’t finish it, that’s when it becomes breakfast the following morning. There’s really no losing with this meal plan.

So if you’re in the mood for really great pizza and a plate of pillowy ricotta ravioli or maybe tagliolini with some sort of seafood on top, you definitely need to walk all the way down Light Street to Riverside to eat at Hersh’s. (And if your feet are sore from all the other walking you’ve been doing, jump on the bus. The Silver Line goes straight down Light and stops within a block of the restaurant.

1843 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(443) 438-4948

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Flashback Friday - Fabio Viviani's Mama's Meatballs

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This post originally appeared on on June 5, 2013.

Everybody loves Fabio Viviani. I know Minxeats readers do, because we still get tons of hits from nosybodies googling "is Fabio Viviani married" on a regular basis. Come on - if you were a real fan, you'd know that he's divorced from his first wife and really doesn't have time for a relationship right now, much to his mother's dismay.

Richard Blais, who competed against (and beat) Fabio in the Top Chef All-Stars season, loves Fab, too. I recently found a brief piece in which the two compliment each other's cookbook. In it, Blais waxes rhapsodic about Fabio's meatballs, claiming that ricotta cheese gives them the "most amazing texture." Now, we just so happened to have a quart of ricotta in the fridge, purchased during a 2-for-1 deal. The expiration date on the package is late June, so there was no real hurry to use it up, but before I forgot about it--lost it in the bowels of the always-full fridge--I thought it should be meatball time at Casa Minx.

I got no arguments from Mr Minx. Spaghetti and meatballs is probably his favorite dish, and he knows I'm always looking for a meatball recipe that is reminiscent of my Aunt Stasia's. Her balls were big and soft, cheesy and evenly-textured. (Ok, who's going to be the first to take that sentence out of context?) A quick online search later and he had Fabio's meatball recipe in hand.

We wanted to make the recipe exactly as written, so a trip to the store was necessary to pick up the cup of grated Parmesan, the shallots, and the panko that we didn't already have in stock. A couple hours later, we feasted. The result was, ah...pretty good. But despite half a cup of ricotta and a whole cup of parm, the meatballs were pretty firm. We blame that on the panko, a super-crunchy Japanese breadcrumb that's best used for coating fried foods. Also, the shallots hadn't melted into the meat, so there were little crunchy oniony bits here and there. Sure, the meatballs were moist, but then, I've never really had a dry meatball.

The recipe seems like a good springboard for experimentation. Maybe substitute a bread-and-milk panade for the panko. Cook the shallot a bit or puree it before adding to the meat mixture. More ricotta. Something.

In the meantime, does anyone out there have a recipe for a soft, cheesy, evenly-textured meatball? No offense, Fabio, but your balls just didn't cut it.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Breakfast and Lunch at LB Bakery

I've popped into LB Bakery from time to time to grab a cup of La Colombe coffee and a flaky croissant to go, but I've never stayed for breakfast. One reason is because I'm always in a hurry in the morning, but also because they didn't serve a hot sit-down breakfast until recently. I suppose that's the most pertinent reason, huh? In any case, this little cafe on the ground level of the Lord Baltimore Hotel now serves both breakfast and lunch in addition to their usual assortment of pastries, macarons, and refrigerated sandwiches. A few weeks ago, Mr Minx and I joined several of our foodie friends at an introductory brunch to sample the new menu.

We started off with the crisp Belgian waffles garnished with fresh fruit and maple syrup, then went on to a super-fluffy, goat-cheese-stuffed, omelette with a side of potatoes. I don't normally do omelettes because I have an issue with browned eggs, but this beauty was so perfectly cooked, I was happy to make an exception.

If you're an everything bagel with smoked salmon kinda person, then this generous platter with all the fixings you could ever want will make you happy. Again, smoked salmon isn't my thing (I am a lousy brunch person, aren't I?), but I truly enjoyed a portion of bagel schmeared with cream cheese and topped with a smoky slice of capers, eggs, onions, and a soupcon of dill.

After tasting breakfast, we also sampled some lunch items, like the lump crab cake sandwich with fries and the fish and chips. The fish was so crispy on the outside yet moist on the inside, which is how it should be. Both the crab cake and the fish are perfect choices for a Lenten lunch.

Of course we also had to sample Executive Pastry Chef Mary Elizabeth Plovanich's sweet yummies, including ginormous macarons, chocolate tarts, and key lime bars (my fave). Her desserts never disappoint.

Now when I stop into LB Bakery in the morning before work, I might just have to linger a while and enjoy that omelette again.

LB Bakery
20 W Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

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