Monday, November 19, 2018

Raw Spice Bar #sponsored

Fall is apple season, and all I want to do is bake them up in some delicious way. Like good old baked apples, for example, peeled and cored apples stuffed with butter, spices, and brown sugar and baked until tender. I like to serve them warm with a dollop of whipped cream, or--even better--a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. And whipped cream. Apple pies, too. Mr Minx made a fab apple galette a couple of weeks ago, mounding sliced apples seasoned with a little lemon juice into a pie crust brushed with apricot jam and baking it until golden brown.

I normally only season apples with cinnamon, but when Raw Spice Bar sent me a selection of their freshly ground spice mixtures to try, I found myself using a far more exotic blend on my fall apple creations. Their Apple Pie Spices contain not only cinnamon, but also nutmeg, allspice, ginger, green cardamom, star anise, grains of paradise, and rosemary. Yeah, those last four are pretty out of the ordinary for apple pie, especially the grains of paradise. It's an African pepper that while not as spicy as the usual black peppercorns, still has a kick. Somehow, though, the disparate spices all work pretty harmoniously with apples. I'm thinking this blend would work well with other fall-ish creations, too, like pumpkin pie or bread and in oatmeal cookies.

Rather than a typical two-crust apple pie, I decided to try my sample of Raw Spice Bar spices in an open-faced apple tart. I used a removable-bottom tart pan that doesn't get nearly enough love, and a grand total of five ingredients. (If you want to make your own pie crust, that will add a few ingredients to the list, but not many.) the result was pretty darn good, if I do say so. And pretty, in a rustic sort of way (I am not a perfectionist).

Raw Spice Bar has several interesting spice blends, along with individual spices. I think I want to try the Ethiopian Berbere, Persian Advieh, and their salt-free chili powder when I place an order, also the Bourbon-smoked New Mexico smoked paprika, and the Hatch and Urfa Biber chiles. Their spices are sold in small portions so they're always fresh, and their subscription service means you will get a new fresh batch on a regular basis. Check them out.

In the meantime, here's the apple tart recipe. Enjoy!

Apple Tart

1 refrigerated pie crust
4 large apples, like Cortland
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Raw Spice Bar Apple Pie Spices
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Unroll pie crust into a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Carefully press crust into all of the pan's nooks and crannies and trim the excess dough at the top. Refrigerate the crust for 15 to firm up.

Peel and core the apples. Cut each into quarters and cut the quarters into 6-8 slices. Toss the apple with the sugar and spices.

Remove the crust from the fridge. Starting from the outside and working in, arrange the apple slices--curved side up--in concentric circles. Don't worry if it's not neat or perfect. Once you have filled in the entire tart, take some of the remaining slices (you will have plenty) and insert them in between the pieces already in the pan. If there are leftovers, eat them.

Bake the tart for 15 minutes at 400°F, then turn the temperature down to 350°F and bake an additional 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Melt the jam in the microwave for a few seconds, then use a pastry brush to top the tart with a thin layer.

Allow to cool completely before slicing. Remove the sides of the pan to make slicing easier. If you want, you can also slide the tart off the pan bottom, but I always leave it on. It makes life easier.

Serves 8.

* 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, 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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