Monday, October 20, 2014


We tried Liv2Eat last month during the Dining Out for Life event. It was our first time there, despite including the restaurant in Baltimore Chef's Table. (Hey, if we ate at every place it was suggested we *had* to eat, we'd never eat at home.)

The restaurant space is bright and light, with both high and low tables that somehow make the rooms seem less crowded. The menu is short, full of seasonal goodies with no differentiation between appetizers and entrees except for the prices. It was also happy hour, which meant we scored less-expensive booze, but we passed on the $8 mussels and $10 burger. (The latter, made with Roseda beef, sounded like a pretty good bargain. Next time.)

I started off with the Sungold tomato gazpacho. While I normally like the grainy texture of an unstrained gazpacho, the smoothness of Chef Kevin Perry's version elevated the summertime soup. The flavor was bright and sunny, like its color; a refreshing way to start a meal on a warm-ish evening.

Mr Minx chose the jamon salad, a huge pile of mixed greens and herbs, Granny Smith apples, and toasted hazelnuts, tossed in a light tangy vinaigrette on a bed of thinly sliced cured ham. I couldn't decide if the salad needed the ham, or if the ham needed the salad; nevertheless, all of it was tasty and I was happy to help eat it.

Because this event was raising money for Moveable Feast, I ordered an expensive entree, two crab cakes, with potato puree and cabbage slaw (one cake was available at half the price). The crab cakes were excellent, pan-crisped and dressed with a wee bit of a creamy mustard sauce. The crab itself tasted like it had been freshly picked, and I could detect neither binder nor filler. The lightly vinegary slaw tasted like it was made by someone's grandma, and in combination with the potato puree reminded me of a summertime picnic.

My handsome dining companion went for the sirloin steak, served medium rare, with more of that excellent potato puree. The menu listed arugula as a side, and our thoughtful server suggested that Mr Minx request something else, since he had just finished a large salad. The chef provided sauteed spinach and a mix of mushrooms, both of which were appropriate accompaniments to the meat. And Mr Minx enjoyed every morsel, including the slightly sweet yet meaty-flavored sauce.

The desserts that evening included cookies and milk and flourless chocolate cake, but we passed in order to pig out on ice cream at The Charmery, another Dining Out for Life participant.

We enjoyed our meal at Liv2Eat, and the service was friendly and thoughtful. What more can one ask?

Parking is a bit of a challenge in that neighborhood, because it's largely residential, so you may have to park around the corner or a couple of blocks down the street and walk a bit. It's well worth it, and burns off a couple dozen calories in the process.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Farmbox Direct & Winter Squash Soup

Squash, pomegranate, turnips, carrots, pear, apple, grapefruit, lemon, cucumber, green beans,
kiwi berries, garlic, tiny onions, and Havarti cheese. Whew!
I recently was approached by organic produce delivery service Farmbox Direct asking if I would be interested in their product. Of course I was, so they sent me a free box of goodies, which you can see above. Farmbox Direct offers three sizes of boxes at three price points, the box I received was a small, one person, box.

Farmbox Direct founder Ashley Turner hand-picks all of the USDA Certified Organic producers that her company uses, including the dairy farmers and bakers whose products can also be added to a shipment. Each week, subscribers get an email with information on the contents of that week's box. They are then able to make up to five substitutions (swapping out apples for additional lemons, for example) and add other grocery items to their shipment. Boxes and packing material are eco-friendly, and shipping is FedEx Periship, for perishable goods.

I think programs like Farmbox Direct are great for folks who don't want to subscribe to a traditional CSA, which involves regular weekly deliveries and payment in advance. If you don't want a box one week, with Farmbox Direct, you can skip it. It's ideal for people like us, who, for work purposes, end up eating dinner in restaurants more often than not, and can't always use up an entire shipment in one week.

If you want more information on Farmbox Direct, check out their Web site.

So what did we do with all of our produce? Well, the onions, some garlic, pomegranate and the squashes went into this yummy soup.

I've seen a lot of squash and pumpkin soups that are more like a puree than an actual soup. Soup shouldn't stand up in a mound in the bowl! This recipe has plenty of broth, so it's pleasantly thick but not a porridge. And the warm spices make the common squash seem almost exotic.

Moroccan Spiced Winter Squash Soup

3 round winter squash (acorn, turban, sweet dumpling, etc.)
Olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Pomegranate arils

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut squashes in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into quarters. Place squash pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet. Rub each piece with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast until pieces are very tender and starting to caramelize, about an hour. Remove from oven and cool long enough to handle.

When cool, remove squash pulp from rinds with a spoon. Discard rinds. Put pulp in a blender, in 3-4 batches, and puree. You might need to add a little water if you don't have a high speed blender.

Melt the four tablespoons of butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent and just starting to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional minute or so. Add the squash puree, spices, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a bare simmer. Cook for 30 minutes before stirring in the cream. Taste for seasoning and remove from the heat.

Serve garnished with pomegranate arils and pistachios.

Makes at least 2 quarts.

* 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.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zucchini Bread

So we joined an on-demand CSA at the end of August, because our little backyard garden wasn't producing the way we wanted. Perhaps our lovely temperate summer had something to do with it. We aren't used to low humidity, and neither were our zucchini, eggplant, and other veg. We got a couple of nicely sized zucchini in our first box. Just two, nothing extraordinary. Personally, I love zucchini any way I can get it - raw, grilled, stewed, etc., but Mr Minx appreciates its squishy cooked texture about as much as I like lima beans. (I hate lima beans.) So rather than torture him with it, I decided to use the zucchini in a quick bread.

Before I had the chance to look for a zucchini bread recipe, Melissa Clark posted one on her Facebook page. Or she posted a list of ingredients. I saw that I had just about everything on her list and went from there. Here's my interpretation, which makes a lightly-sweet bread that is super-moist and has a nice springy texture. It's great as a snack, and for breakfast.

Zucchini Bread, adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 eggs
2 cups AP flour
1 cup oat flour (you can use more AP flour, or whole wheat)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon yogurt
2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer), combine the sugars and olive oil at medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking soda and powder, and cinnamon. In another bowl, combine the orange juice and yogurt. Alternate adding the flour and yogurt mixtures to the sugar mixture, starting and ending with flour.

Squeeze the zucchini dry and add to the batter. Pour into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting the bread onto a rack to cool completely.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Okra Etouffee

Who doesn't like okra? So delicious! I know, right?

Wait. You say you don't like okra? What? And neither do you, or you, or you?

Poor okra doesn't seem to have many friends. But I love it, and so does Mr Minx. Yeah yeah, I can hear you whining now, "it's slimy! ewwww!" Shut up. It's not slimy at all if you cook it correctly. And it tastes great, a little like green beans, I think.

So we had this huge bag of okra from the CSA, and it was going to go bad if we didn't use it up pronto. I decided we should make an okra etouffee, so consulted teh Innernets for a recipe. Just about every one I found involved dumping okra in a casserole, covering it with tomatoes, and then baking it. No, no, no...I wanted an etouffee recipe, like crawfish etouffee or shrimp etouffee. Stuff smothered in a roux-based sauce. Not just stuff smothered with other stuff. So I threw one together based on an old crawfish etouffee recipe I've used in the past. Roux + trinity + stock and seasonings. Add okra, simmer for a while et voila! Okra Etouffee.

Okra Etouffee

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup diced onion
1 bell pepper, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (we like Emeril's Essence)
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 lb okra, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Steamed white rice for serving
Chopped scallions for garnish

Melt butter in a large pot. Add the flour and open the windows. Stir flour and butter together over medium-high heat until the mixture is medium-dark brown, a bit darker than peanut butter. It will smoke, but as long as you are stirring constantly and watching it like a hawk, it should not burn. Once the roux reaches a nice brown shade, dump in the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Inhale deeply, for the scent of trinity cooking in roux is one of the best cooking scents there is. Stir the vegetables and roux until veg are completely coated. Turn the heat down to medium, add a big pinch of salt, and cover the pot. Allow the vegetables to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, Cajun seasoning, chicken stock, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Stir in the okra. Cook over medium heat for 25-30 minutes, until okra is tender. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, more Cajun seasoning, a bit of hot sauce, whatever floats your boat.

Serve over white rice and garnish with chopped scallions.

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