Friday, November 16, 2018

Flashback Friday - Lamb unKebabs

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on May 13, 2013.


My favorite flavor palettes come from China and Thailand and I find myself using them pretty frequently in my weekend dinner-making. Despite the vibrancy of seasonings like Sriracha, star anise, and Thai basil, eating similar flavors over and over can get, well, boring. So one recent weekend, I mixed things up a bit and prepared a meal with origins in the Mediterranean. And I don't mean Italy or Greece - Turkey's there too, along with Egypt and Syria, Albania, and Bosnia.

Lamb is a popular protein in that part of the world, and it is often flavored with what we might otherwise consider "sweet" spices. You know, the seasonings most familiar to us in pumpkin pie - cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Combined with cumin and paprika, these sweet spices both camouflage and accentuate the characteristic "gamy" flavor of lamb.

These rather sausage-like lamb patties, borrowed heavily from a kebab recipe found in chef Silvena Rowe's Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume: Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean, would be perfect skewered and cooked on the grill, but they were also quite tasty when pan-fried and served with a sprightly salad of tomato, feta, and olives.

Lamb unKebabs (adapted from Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume)

1.5 lbs ground lamb
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
pomegranate molasses (optional)

Mix all ingredients except molasses thoroughly. Form into eight small patties. Refrigerate on a covered plate for at least one hour and up to overnight to allow flavors to meld.

Cook patties in a bit of olive oil in a hot pan until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Serve with tomato salad and a drizzle of the pomegranate molasses.

Tomato Salad

2 ripe tomatoes, de-seeded and cut into large dice
1/4 cup chopped black and green olives
1 tablespoon minced chives
splash balsamic vinegar
splash lemon juice
splash agave syrup or honey
pinch salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup cubed feta cheese

Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl. Allow to rest at room temperature for at least half an hour so flavors can meld. Add cheese when ready to serve.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Chipotle Catering Giveaway #sponsored

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and along with them come the requisite parties. In my office, we tend to do potluck, but after umpteen years of eating the boss's rubbery warehouse store shrimp cocktail, my co-workers and I greet the idea of our annual holiday party with something less than enthusiasm.

Sometimes a couple of us go in for catering from a local fast casual restaurant. Like Chipotle. Everyone's eyes light up when they see the spread of meats, beans, and toppings that they can use to customize their meal. It's so much better than Rhonda's cop-out big box store potato salad and Phil's crudite plate!

Chipotle can cater a party as small as 6 guests and as large as 200, and with only 24 hours notice. Chipotle's burritos, bowls, and tacos are familiar to everyone. They've always used real ingredients, prepared by hand, without added flavors, colors, or additives. And who doesn't love a taco? #tacotuesday is a thing for a reason.

Doesn't your party deserve goodies from Chipotle, too? You know it does! Learn more at Chipotle's Catering site. Once you pick up your order, all you have to do is unpack the boxes, and it's ready to go. Bowls, forks, napkins, serving spoons, and tongs are included.

You can try Chipotle Catering for FREE, cuz I am hosting a giveaway! The winner will get a card good for a spread of food to feed 20 people. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post telling me where you plan to serve your free feast. I'll pick a winner on Monday, November 19th and contact you via email for your address so I can put your prize in the mail ASAP. Catering cards expire on Dec 31, 2018, but that's plenty of time to let Chipotle cater your party.

More rules (mine, not theirs):
Continental US only.
Must be 18 or over to participate.
Deadline: November 18th
You must include your email address in your comment so I can contact you!

Questions? Leave a comment and I'll try to answer you ASAP.

* 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, November 12, 2018

Gypsy's Truckstaurant

I have been a big proponent of the Baltimore food truck scene since Day 1. I am fortunate enough to work near an officially city-sanctioned food truck hub, and if I wanted, could have a truck lunch every day. Many trucks have come and gone over the past several years, some I have liked very much. But my favorite is the long-running, award-winning, Gypsy Queen Cafe. Twice a week, one of their two trucks would park right in front of my building. I soon found myself spending a bit of time every Friday with Annmarie at the black truck known as "Little Gypsy."

Full disclosure: Annmarie provided recipes for each of our three books. We are friends, but it was the truck that brought us together.

Eventually, the so-called food truck hub in my area began to be overrun with renegade trucks. Trucks that didn't even have signage. Trucks that served mostly fried foods that were likely purchased in bulk at a kitchen supply store. They'd get to the hub at 7am and leave no room for the regular trucks that served more interesting and house-prepared foods. Little Gypsy stopped coming around, though I do see the original truck once in a while.

Food Trucks in Baltimore seem to be going strong, as seen by the recent Food Truck Week and various festivals. But I rarely bother to get a truck lunch anymore.

Now if I want one of Annmarie's crab cakes, I can go to the Gypsy Queen Truckstaurant. While it's not convenient to work, the hours are longer, so I can have dinner as well as lunch. Or both.

The Truckstaurant is situated in a former garage on Clipper Mill Road. If you're trying to find the place while heading south on Clipper Mill and have driven as far as Birroteca, you've just passed it. Turn yourself around and go back a few hundred feet; you can definitely see the sign when approaching the restaurant from that angle. Eventually there will be a sign on Clipper Mill, which will make finding the place much easier.

The restaurant is much like a Tardis--it's far bigger on the inside than it seems on the outside. Annmarie and Tom did most of the work themselves, including painting and decorating. The result is a fun and eclectic space that feels like its been around for ages. It's homey and comfortable, with booths, a back lounge, and a long bar. There's also a dining space with tables on the other side of a clever partition made from empty wine bottles donated by restaurants and friends.

The menu includes all of the food trucks' greatest hits, including various items stuffed into waffle cones. My favorite is the crab cone. Annmarie's crab cakes are "saucy," that is, very moist, which is the way I prefer them. They're also topped with her dynamite chipotle aioli, which is good on just about everything. Possibly even chocolate cake (though I haven't tried that yet).

There are all manner of other goodies on the menu, including chicken wings and fat dates stuffed with bleu cheese and wrapped in bacon.

One of the advantages of a brick-and-mortar version of Gypsy Queen is a liquor license, so one can have beer, wine, or cocktails with their noms. Additionally, GQ Truckstaurant has a ridiculous 7-hour-long Happy Hour Tuesday - Friday from 11am to 6pm, which seems like a damn fine excuse for day drinking.

Gypsy Queen Truckstaurant
3515 Clipper Mill Rd
Baltimore, MD 21211
(443) 869-5602

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Friday, November 09, 2018

Flashback Friday - The Food Market

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This post originally appeared on on December 12, 2012.


After being urged by several different people to try the Food Market, we did, with some delicious results.

The place is popular. Seriously. We eat dinner early, partly to miss the crowd, partly because we're old. By 6pm on a Saturday, the place was hopping, and getting louder by the minute. The music was loud, the people were louder, and the restaurant has no sound-absorbing materials at all, apart from the barely-padded banquette seats. So bring earplugs and a hearty appetite because there's lots to try.

The menu at the Food Market has categories like "little," "small," "big," and "in-between," which translates as "finger food appetizers (plus a soup)," "appetizers that require a fork," "entrees," and "sandwiches." (You're welcome.) Absolutely everything sounded like something we wanted to eat, so it was a bit hard to narrow down our choices. Eventually we settled on two littles, two smalls, and one in-between to share.

The Amish soft pretzels were less the stereotypical salty twists and more like buttery bread fingers (think Aunt Annie's). The generous portion of beer cheese fondue was spiked with jalapeno and had a nice kick. It was so good, we hated to waste it; even after the pretzels were gone, we kept the cheese sauce as a dip for french fries and the tasty foccacia that was brought to the table when we arrived.

Amish soft pretzels, beer cheese fondue
The meatloaf fries were fat little fingers of very good, very moist, homestyle meatloaf, dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. Complete overkill, but quite tasty. I think I might enjoy the meatloaf more if it were served in a more traditional manner.
Meatloaf fries crispy tempura
ketchup & black pepper beef gravy
At this point, after only two courses, I was getting full. The next two dishes that arrived were thankfully somewhat lighter. Yes, the pork belly seemed lighter than the meatloaf, probably because it hadn't been deep fried. Not that there's anything wrong with deep frying....

There was a nice ratio of fat to meat on the chubby chunk of belly, which can sometimes seem too fatty. (Not that there's anything wrong with fatty....) The brown sugar topping added a perfect amount of sweetness and married well with the toasted pecans. My favorite dish of the evening.
Brown sugar pork belly, petite greens, toasted pecans,
cherry tomatoes, bangin’ honey mustard vinaigrette

We also ordered the chopped salad, which the kitchen thoughtfully split for us. It wasn't quite a chopped salad, as the lettuce was whole and the sprouts were cut in half, but it was an interesting combination of flavors, and quite autumnal. I thought it was odd that the sprouts were warm, and everything else was at room temperature, and felt the macadamia nut crumble was merely a texture and not a flavor, but Mr Minx gobbled it up. And he's not a fan of either beets or cooked carrots.
Chopped salad lemon cream cheese, roasted brussels, beets, 
carrots, mac nut crumble, cranberry vinaigrette
Finally, we shared the Pat LaFrieda burger, which the kitchen again split for us. The saltiness of the bacon predominated, rendering even the pickles mute. But the meat was perfectly cooked, and the bun held up to the large amount of filling. The crinkle cut fries on the side were a touch of nostalgia.
Pat LaFrieda Burger diced bacon, lettuce, tomato, 
onion, sesame bun, cheese, pickles
And then we ordered dessert. I was tempted by the sound of pumpkin cannoli, but would have preferred a single large cannoli to the three small ones. I'm more about the filling than the shell, which was a bit dry and dense.
Pumpkin Cannoli
Mr Minx ordered the Heath bar bread pudding, which was lovely and moist, but far too sweet for my taste. The plain whipped cream was a welcome relief from the sugar overload, although it's probably odd to look to a pile of what is essentially whipped fat to lighten anything.
Heath bar bread pudding
I have mixed emotions about the Food Market. I love the concept, always love small plates, but think it really takes some advance knowledge of the dishes to put together a meal that feels like a meal, rather than a sundry combination of snack foods (granted, we did perhaps order oddly). Several of the diners around us were ordering big plates only, which might be the way to go. And speaking of other diners - the tables are fairly close together, so it's easy to overhear conversations. For instance, the table of annoyingly giggly female 20-somethings to our left threw out a few bons mots, my favorite being, "ooh...the Baltimore Club looks really good. Except for the shrimp salad." (A Baltimore club is generally a crabcake paired with shrimp salad. Without the shrimp salad, it's a crab cake sandwich.)

That said, I'd like to go back and try a few more things. The pork belly was seriously good (everything was, in its own way), and both the cracker fried oysters and lil' lamb porterhouses seem like items I'd really enjoy. And they have scallops, which almost always turns me on.

The Food Market
1017 West 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
(410) 366-0606

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