Monday, June 19, 2017

Indian Ceviche

It's Fancy Food Show season again and food samples have been showing up on our doorstep. A box of popcorn products was eagerly anticipated particularly because it contained three bags of Masala Pop. I had tasted Masala Pop's Rose Caramel flavor at the show last year and was excited that not only did it taste delightfully (yet subtly) of rose, but it was also a kettle corn-style product that wasn't overly sweet. The package we received from the company also included Chai Caramel, with true sweet-spice chai flavors in a light caramel glaze, and Savory Coconut, which has a lovely turmeric/coconut thing going on.

I decided that the Savory Coconut would be smashing on ceviche. What? You've never had popcorn on your ceviche? It's a popular accompaniment to the dish in Ecuador. It gives the ceviche a nice crunch.

If you can get impeccably fresh shrimp, then you can probably make this dish the traditional way, by "cooking" the protein with the citrus juice alone. However, as most shrimp available are IQF (individually quick frozen) and who knows how many times they may have thawed and refrozen by the time they get to your house, I recommend lightly cooking the shrimp first with heat. I poached mine in salted water just until they were pink, iced them down immediately, and popped them in the fridge until I was ready to assemble the dish.

Because the popcorn had Indian flavors, I decided to do the same with the ceviche by adding pinches of cumin, garam masala, and ginger. Not a lot, just enough to be noticed. Coconut milk might have been a nice addition, but I didn't want to detract from the coconut flavor in the popcorn. Feel free to add a few dribbles if you are so inclined.

This makes a lovely appetizer, lunch, or even a light summer supper with a green salad and some bread.

Shrimp Ceviche with Indian Flavors

3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
Juice of 2 limes (divided use)
Salt
1/2 lb 31-40 shrimp
3 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped tomato
1 tablespoon finely minced tender cilantro stems
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch garam masala
Pinch ground ginger
Tabasco or hot sauce to taste
Cilantro leaves
Masala Pop popcorn

Combine the red onion and the juice of half a lime in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Cover and set aside for at least an hour.

Poach shrimp until just pink in simmering salted water. Chill shrimp in an ice bath and refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove shells and chop shrimp into dime-sized pieces. Combine with the peppers, tomatoes, cilantro stems, and spices. Drain the onion and add to the shrimp, along with the juice from the remaining 1 and 1/2 limes. Taste for seasoning and add salt, a few shakes of hot sauce, and additional pinches of the spices if you feel it needs them. Refrigerate until cold, about an hour.

Serve garnished with cilantro and Masala Pop popcorn.

* 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, June 16, 2017

Waterfront Kitchen Mixes Old and New

We 've written about Waterfront Kitchen on numerous occasions, both on this blog and in our books. The incredible view from their airy dining room, the emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients in their cuisine, and the friendly atmosphere have always been a constant. The menu itself has changed over the years as each new chef has brought his own personal spin on the restaurant's traditions. Chef Cyrus Keefer, who's become well known in Baltimore for his inventive cuisine, is the current chef at Waterfront Kitchen and he brings a whole hosts of new ideas to the menu. We were eager to check it out. 

The Minx started off with the Strawberry & Basil cocktail made with basil vodka and muddled strawberries. I've finally come around to drinking gin in the summertime so I ordered the gin-based Cucumber & Lavender. Both drinks were light and refreshing for a warm day.

While our plan was to focus on some of the more popular dinner menu options, Chef Keefer had put together a special tasting menu for a group coming to the restaurant that night and he wanted us to sample some of the items. The pork belly pizzette was served on a soft crust topped with romanesco cauliflower, two kinds of cherries, and edible flowers from the BUGS greenhouse down the street. As we've mentioned in other posts, Waterfront Kitchen gets a great deal of their fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables from the Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students (BUGS) Greenhouse, which is on the Living Classrooms campus on Caroline Street. Kids from low-income neighborhoods develop social, academic, and creative skills by learning how to grow food. They also sell some of the produce at an annual farmers’ market event.

We fell in love with Chef Keefer's calamari when he was working at Birroteca, and it's still amazingly tender in this latest incarnation, served with baba ganoush made black by squid ink and a green olive insalada. The delicious house-marinated green olives are also available as a separate dish with some hummus, greens, and flatbread. Also on the dish are some of the edible flowers from the BUGS Greenhouse which bring a floral dimension to the dish I've never experienced before.

These shumai-style dumplings held a mixture of confit chicken and housemade 'nduja, a spicy, spreadable, pork salami. N'duja has become a new favorite thing of mine and this combination, nestled in a tender dumpling wrapper, took me to my happy place. At first glance, I thought the flecks in the sauce were grains of rice, but it turned out to be chopped up pieces of that tender calamari we love so much, Chef Keefer never stops inventing.

Okay, so now we're moving on to the regular dinner menu. We wanted to focus on the tried-and-true sorts of dishes that summer tourists might order, so we started with the clam chowder. This version of the New England staple has a bisque-like miso-enriched broth. The clams are served in their shells, and chunks of sunchoke, also called Jerusalem artichoke, stand in for the potatoes.

We had to try the crab cakes because - Baltimore - and we were intrigued by Chef Keefer's pronouncement that the cakes have no filler in them whatsoever. What they do have is plenty of lump crab and just the right amount of seasoning and another element that we won't give away. The result is a meaty yet light crab cake that's quite flavorful. The cakes were served with deviled asparagus, a subtle chorizo vin blanc, and a romesco sauce made with shishito peppers.

Our final entree was another New England classic, the lobster roll. The roll itself was the classic toasted split-top hot dog bun. From there, things take an eclectic turn as green curry and avocado sauce redolent of kaffir lime are tossed into the hefty pile of lobster meat and delicate pea shoots are sprinkled on top. Served with a side of French fries, this is a lobster roll that is a cut above.

Waterfront Kitchen's pastry chef, Kelsey Willis, is only 21 years old but she shows a finesse with desserts that belies her youth. Our dessert had squares of moist chocolate cake filled with a beer-flavored custard all enrobed in a classic chocolate ganache. Housemade Old Bay-seasoned caramel corn is sprinkled on top and the plate is decorated with white chocolate tinted in yellow and red, making the dessert resemble an abstracted Maryland flag. On top of all that, it tasted great.

We're happy that Chef Keefer is working at Waterfront Kitchen these days, giving us an excuse to eat there more often. Not that we need an excuse, it's just that we don't get to Fells Point as often as we should.

Waterfront Kitchen
1417 Thames St.
Baltimore, MD 21231
(443) 681-5310
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Rhubarb Mostarda

I picked up some rhubarb at the farmers' market a couple weeks ago, because I like to buy rhubarb. I never know what to do with it once I have it though. I never buy enough for pie, and even if I did, never remember to buy strawberries. Sometimes I just boil the rhurbarb with sugar for a while and call it a jam. This time I wanted to be different and try something savory. I saw something called rhubarb mostarda on a restaurant menu; a google search brought up a recipe from a blog called the Joy of Cooking. That recipe claimed to be more of a chutney than a true mostarda, and I wanted something more similar to the pear mostarda I had eaten at Momofuku Ssam Bar. That is, something that tasted very much of the source fruit, but also very much like mustard. I basically just eliminated the golden raisins called for by the recipe and changed the other proportions a bit. I also used brown mustard seeds because that's all I could find in the pantry, despite swearing that I recently bought a fairly large quantity of yellow mustard seeds for another project. (I'll probably find them when I don't need them and then misplace them again.)

What did I serve the mostarda with? Braised pork belly. I had some sliced pork belly languishing in the freezer and figured it was best to just use it up. There's really no recipe here, just guidelines: brown the pork belly on all sides. Add enough chicken stock to cover and then season it as you wish. I added a tablespoon of brown sugar, a couple glugs of soy sauce, a half-teaspoonful of grains of paradise (you can use regular peppercorns), a bay leaf, a clove of garlic, a bit of fresh thyme, some onion powder, and some smoked paprika. Cover and cook at a low simmer  until very tender, 3-4 hours. Remove the meat from the pot and reduce the sauce until it's thick and syrupy. Add the pork back to the sauce and turn to coat.

I also made some simple polenta as a base, and cooked some frozen peas (what? you think I'm going to shell peas? if I could even find them now), added a knob of butter, and lots of fresh chopped herbs from our newly-planted garden (mint, basil, chives, thyme flowers).

Personally, I think this turned out great. I should do the pork belly thing more often. It's dead simple, just throw stuff in a pot and cook it, and it comes out restaurant-quality. The fat was juicy, the meat was moist, completely yummy. And the tangy mostarda was a perfect foil.

Just a really nice dinner all around, and despite the fancy looks, not a lot of effort. I even got Mr Minx to trim and chop the rhubarb for me.

Rhubarb Mostarda (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

1 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons water

Put all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook until rhubarb is soft and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Stir regularly to prevent rhubarb from sticking (mine didn't, but YMMV.)

Store in a covered jar in the fridge. Makes about 1/2 - 3/4 cup.

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Friday, June 09, 2017

Flashback Friday - Coconut Macaroon Cake

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on May 19, 2014.
I'm a huge fan of coconut. I can remember when my Dad used to impulsively buy sweetened coconut flakes and we'd tear it open and eat the stuff straight out of the bag with our hands. (Each of us have always had a huge sweet tooth.) Mounds and Almond Joy were among my favorite candies, and I looooved macaroons. (That's macaroons, with a ROON, not macarons, with a RON, although many pronounce the latter like the former. Wrong, wrong, wrong. They are completely different confections.) Flipping through the April issue of Martha Stewart Living I found a recipe for a coconut cake that combines both cake and macaroon and immediately decided it would be the perfect dessert for Easter dinner.

The only problem? Mr Minx hates the texture of grated coconut. He says it's like eating plastic shavings. He does like the flavor of coconut, however, so he said he'd force himself to eat it if he had to. Now that's a good husband.

The way the recipe read, it seemed like it would be a coconut-flavored cake layer topped with a layer of macaroon. I figured he could just cut off the top and eat the bottom. Alas, the macaroon layer was heavy and sunk down into the batter, which, containing leavening, rose up and around the shredded coconut. So while there were cake-y bits within the cake, the shredded coconut pretty much permeated everything.

He ate it anyway, and I promised that I'd try it again, omitting the macaroon-y bit altogether. The bottom part, flavored with both coconut oil and Coco Lopez, might be an interesting base for a pineapple upside-down cake. Or just fine on it's own.

Here's the cake recipe, from the Martha Stewart web site.

I didn't have heavy cream on hand to make her recommended chocolate sauce. I wanted something runnier anyway, that could be made well in advance and didn't need heating to loosen up before drizzling. I found David Leibovitz' recipe online and added some sour cream and vanilla, just because I felt it needed more flavor.

Chocolate Sauce (adapted from David Leibovitz)

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons sour cream

Whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it starts to simmer, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until melted. Whisk in the vanilla and sour cream and allow sauce to cool to room temperature. Pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Drizzle over cake. Or squeeze directly into your mouth--I won't tell.


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