Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Leftover Soup

The problem with going to H Mart is that we tend to get carried away with buying fresh produce. Three kinds of mushrooms, Chinese broccoli, bok choy, okra, two bunches of cilantro, two bunches of scallions, a daikon, a knob of celery root, two chayotes, and asparagus is a lot for two people to eat in a short period of time. One of the problems with H Mart is that the produce seems gorgeous, but it goes bad relatively quickly. In two days, the asparagus was not only squishy on the tips, but also moldy on the bottom. The broccoli  leaves turned yellow almost instantly, the okra got slimy, and the daikon went limp.

So what to do with broccoli stems, limp daikon, and lots of mushrooms? Plus some roast chicken that my MIL didn't want and leftover 8-treasure sticky-rice-stuffed duck from our latest excursion to Grace Garden?

Why, make soup, of course.


Mr Minx, aka the Soup Meister, is quite adept at throwing disparate ingredients together with some stock and coming up with a tasty soup. This was no exception. The duck and its stuffing made the soup taste long-cooked, with definite and heavy Asian influences. The broccoli and daikon were cooked a relatively short period of time so both retained a bit of crunch. Overall, a hearty dinner, full of flavors and textures, and great for a chilly, rainy, day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dining Influences

Top Chef Masters host and food journalist Kelly Choi tweeted recently: "Tru or false? Who I hang out with has a major influence on what I eat. (Feel free to elaborate)"

As elaborating will take far more than 140 characters, I'm going to answer the question right here.

Once upon a time, I would say that statement was true. When I was a kid, the people I spent the most time with were my family, so my diet consisted of the American-style stuff my mother cooked for dinner (pot roast, meatloaf, Shake 'n' Bake), Grandma's Polish food (kielbasa, kotlety, barszcz), and the Italian food my Aunt Stasia learned from her in-laws (braciole, pasta), with occasional excursions outside the bubble for fast food and Chinese.

I didn't have a lot of friends in grade school; it seemed that as soon as I got close to someone, she transferred elsewhere. In any case, my over-protective mother wouldn't have let me stray away from home (or even cross the street) to share meals with other kids' families. But on the very first day of high school I found a Best Friend.

Because I took two buses back and forth to high school, my mother had less of a hold on my wanderings; once my BF had access to a car, she lost all control. Mom was lucky though - BF was incredibly boring. Excruciatingly so. We took being "good girls" to an extreme. A hot night on the town for us usually involved a PG- or G-rated movie or duckpin bowling. Or mini golf. And fast food.

Not only boring, BF was also a bit controlling. We did what she wanted to do (I hate mini golf!) and ate what she wanted to eat. I suppose I was so happy to have a regular friend who wasn't going to disappear at the end of the school year, I didn't care. So I didn't complain that our diet consisted of Burger King and pizza. Burger King, because she could have it her way and her way was two plain hamburgers. "Plain" as in no condiments whatsoever, just a bun and a thin disc of a meat-like substance. Personally, I've never cared for the faux grill flavoring at BK, and if I must eat a fast food hamburger I prefer Wendy's or even McDonald's; when out with BF those were options only if there was no BK around for miles. On those rare occasions when happenstance forced her to eat non-BK meals, BF would complain about having to wait for her plain burgers, or that they contained too much gristle, which she would pick out and flick at me from across the table. (OK, maybe she was a little abusive too?)

As for the vast amounts of pizza we consumed, need I mention that it was also plain? Maybe she'd go a little crazy and order extra sauce, but pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms were never options.

I ended up spending the night at BFs house on many an occasion, in my zebra-print sleeping bag on the hideous, smelly, orange shag carpeting in her bedroom. Her mother was a decent, if limited, cook. Her vegetable soup was incredibly good, and her pot roast - although vastly different from my mother's - was tasty as well. We also ate hamburgers and pork chops, and that's about it. If there was anything vaguely ethnic about a food, it was not served in that little house off Harford Road. Excepting pizza, of course. Astonishingly, despite her love for that cheese-laden Italian-American staple, my BF had never eaten spaghetti...because her mother did not like it. Nor had she eaten Chinese food, nor any other ethnic cuisine, for the same reason. Later, as an adult, during a dinner at Angelina's (she would eat crabcakes) and after a lot of coaxing, BF tried a bite of the ravioli I had ordered and seemed astonished that it tasted good to her. One small step for mankind, one giant leap for her.

BF and I went to different colleges and eventually started spending less time together. Almost immediately, I started making friends who appreciated food. Eventually, the love of food became a near-requirement for my friendships. All of my current friends are fairly adventurous eaters, except one, but I will allow her to blame it on various digestive disorders, even if it drives me bonkers (and I am skeptical).

Although at this point in my life I am now in many cases the influencer rather than the influencee, the answer to Kelly Choi's question is still "true." What else would be the reason for eating mostly Chinese food with one friend? For not preparing lamb or anything with sour cream when Dad comes over for dinner? (Or for contemplating making duck if I know his duck-hating GF will be around?) I also avoid cooking with or eating peanuts before and during visits with my highly-allergic brother. Of course one's company affects what one eats! Sharing meals is a hugely important part of human socialization. Through food, we get to know one another, whether we realize it or not, and if we do realize it, that may come years later.

BF and I parted ways fifteen years ago now. On one occasion I didn't say "how high" when she said "jump" and was abruptly cut from her life. After reflecting on our relationship, I can't say I miss her, although I do find myself wondering what her life is like now. Somehow I doubt she's broadened her culinary horizons very much, but hopefully she has moved past mini golf and duckpins and maybe even allows a spot of ketchup to sully her hamburger from time to time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shrimp Bloggers

I can't tell whether this commercial is meant to be a shout out or an insult to food bloggers. In either case, I'm sick of seeing it already.

Chiles Rellenos - Yet Again

Our recent trip to H Mart yielded several types of produce, including some huge poblano peppers. These babies were HOT! After roasting them over an open flame (i.e. the stovetop) and allowing them to steam in a paper bag, the fumes that emanated as I peeled and de-seeded them made me literally gag. Ai chihuahua!

Considering I've posted about chiles rellenos several times already, you know I love making and eating stuffed peppers--as long as they aren't bell peppers. (If bell peppers ceased to exist, I would not miss them.) This time I stuffed them with the blue crab meat I had originally picked up to use with the rockfish. I eschewed the usual Maryland-style Old Bay-inflected mixture and instead added pinches of cumin and ancho chile powder and a wee bit of molé paste to an otherwise fairly typical crab cake base of milk and bread (also called a panade), egg, and mayo.


Rather than batter the peppers, I simply pan-fried them as-is in a bit of canola oil. They looked stunning, especially when topped with a bit of colby jack and cotija cheeses, a drizzle of sour cream, and placed on a bed of TJ's chipotle salsa, but somehow the flavors were off. The intensity of the pepper and the salsa made the crab seem fishy, although bites of the crab on its own tasted just fine. So, good idea, bad execution? Or just a bad idea? Regardless, I shan't attempt this combination again. Next time, I go back to a pork or chicken stuffing for my peppers. And hopefully they won't be as incendiary.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chinese New Year Celebration Welcoming the Year of the Tiger - A Month Delayed

We were originally scheduled to visit Grace Garden for a Chinese New Year feast in late February, but the blizzard(s) had other plans for the restaurant's roof. After closing for a few weeks for repairs, Grace Garden re-opened and thankfully re-scheduled our orgy of gastronomic delights. Mr Minx and I were two of 36 members and friends of the Charm City Chowhounds who paid a mere $25 per person to enjoy ten courses of some of the best Chinese food in the area. Regular readers already know how much I enjoy my trips to this small restaurant in the wilds of Odenton.

After the crowds were assembled around three large round tables equipped with lazy susans, dishes, and utensils, and the din of people chattering reached near-unbearable levels (I couldn't hear myself speak), the food started coming out and soon nothing was heard but the sounds of slurping and murmurs of pleasure. Ok, but it did get quieter.

First up: Brocade Pouches of Many Treasures - described on our special menu as "pomegranate-shaped wonton chicken soup."


The broth came out first and we all eagerly helped ourselves to a serving. The "pomegranate-shaped" wonton, in the form of beggar's purses, came next, followed by plates of baby bok choy. When assembled, this wasn't your mother's won ton soup - the broth, although billed as chicken, had vaguely seafood-ish flavors and a hint of chile heat. The "wonton" was actually an egg-white omelette or crepe wrapped around a chunky filling of chopped shrimp, pork, and other goodies. Unusual and very good - we could definitely have enjoyed a larger portion, but we were each sharing with 11 other people....

Next up came a dish billed as Laughing Mouth Always Open - stir-fried clams with XO sauce and minced pork.


We each got about three clams, the taste of which was a tantalizing melange of the dried-seafood flavor of XO sauce and the pebbly texture of the pork.

For our next course, we received Gold Coins Everywhere, which were shrimp-paste-filled shiitake mushrooms over lettuce and hair moss. The "hair moss" must have been the green vegetable bordering the dish, one the many variations of the genus Brassica that is so popular in Chinese cuisine. This dish reminded me of something one might have at dim sum, with the shrimp paste not unlike shrimp balls, or the filling one might find in eggplant, tofu, or dumpling dishes.


Next we were served Happy All the Time, or lemongrass fried lamb chops. This was one of the best things EVAR! The chops were succulent, still somewhat pink inside, the outside savory with lemongrass and spices. I wanted to grab the platter and sneak off with it, but alas, I had to share with my tablemates. If only this were a regular menu item, the Minxes would order it every time. And maybe an order to-go.


Another favorite of mine was A Million Wishes Fulfilled, a.k.a 8-treasure sticky rice-stuffed duck. I've seen this ordered by other diners and was put off by the raw-looking paleness, but it is truly a dish that tastes far better than it looks. It is a study in unctuousness. The duck meat itself is impossibly tender, the sticky rice stuffing, which absorbs much of the fat and juice from the duck, is an oily delight, and the skin itself just melts in the mouth. For a little bit of textural content, the rice contains bits of chestnuts and ginkgo nuts. There was plenty of this dish to go around, so I had my fill. And we took the leftovers home with us. Score!


In contrast, the flavors in Every Year is a Prosperous Year, a dish of whole fish and tofu cubes in a spicy bean-paste sauce, were sharper and more pungent. I think the dish could have been far spicier, particularly considering the mild dishes that preceded it. The fish were small and I got more bone than fish (the cheek) but the meat was succulent and I kept going back for spoonsful of sauce to moisten bits of rice.


Got to have a vegetable at some point, and the one we were served was called Golden Branches and Jade Leaves which was pea shoots with egg. I was extremely curious to try the gelatinous brown chunks, since I knew they were the whites of preserved eggs. They tasted like...egg white. The greens themselves were delicious, crisp, a touch of Spring. I could have done without the egg flavor, however.


As we neared the end of the menu, we were presented with a dish to which I was looking forward: Dragon King Celebrates an Abundant Year, which was pan-fried lobster in a sweet-ish sauce reminiscent of sweet and sour. But...not the gross and gloppy pineapple-and-bell-pepper-infected sugar-fest that constitutes sweet and sour in most American-style Chinese joints. This one was possibly a more-authentic tomato paste-and-vinegar concoction, light on the vinegar. In any case, the lobster was tender and although it was a bit hard to extract the morsels of meat from the sauce-coated shell, it was worth the mess.


Our final dish was billed as Golden Fried Rice, although it doesn't look particularly golden. It was full of bits of shrimp, fish, and scallop and topped with crunchy fried garlic. Not a stereotypical soy-colored fried rice at all, and even tastier.


But wait - there's more! We thought we were finished eating, but were brought a bonus dish of Grace Garden's now-famous Fish Noodles!


Yum. 'Nuff said. (We also got to take home the leftover noodles and fried rice.)

Finally, for dessert, we were presented with scary Jell-O. A downer in a meal of high notes. The menu said something about rice cakes, but apparently things changed. The agar jelly, flavored with red bean and some sort of tea (jasmine?) was certainly lighter and possibly more refreshing, but I can't say I'm a big fan of gelatin in any form. Maybe if it were all tea jelly, I could have enjoyed it more. In any case - I ate it. Yeah, I'm a hypocrite. :)


That's it! What? You thought there'd be more? Eleven courses is plenty, believe me. After the first three I thought we'd have to go for a cheeseburger afterwards, but once the heavier dishes came out I was able to eat my fill. And then some.

Overall, a great dining experience. Mr Minx and I sat with our friend and fellow blogger Dara and her friend Jeff, and met several other dedicated local foodies. I look forward to our next Charm City Chowhound adventure.

Grace Garden
1690 Annapolis Road
Odenton, MD 21113
410-672-3581

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oven-barbecued Ribs

Because my Mother-in-Law isn't as mobile as she used to be, we've been taking food to her house when we visit, rather than expecting her to cook or go out to eat. I like to prepare food Chez Minx so I only need to re-warm it once there (her kitchen is even smaller--with less counter space--than our puny galley).

We decided to pick up some meat for this weekend's visit on our recent pilgrimage to the H-Mart. Although the kidneys, pig ears, tripe, chicken gizzards, pork tongues, and black chicken all looked delectable (or not), we chose a pack of bone-in spare ribs, which I prepared the way my mama used to make ribs. To this day, I think most barbecue sauce recipes can be helped with a shot of lemon.


The package of ribs was pretty large (I didn't realize it was two layers deep) so in a smaller pan I made up a batch using the newish batch of black barbecue sauce I made a few weeks ago.


It all tasted good, but the ribs were leaner than I'd have liked so were a little on the dry side in some spots. The bigger pan came out a bit more tart than usual, and in my memory Mom's sauce was sweeter. Next time I may add a bit of brown sugar to compensate for the lemon. (I like lots of lemon.)

We served the ribs with rice and a vegetable medley comprising sugar snap peas, asparagus spears, and corn (both easy to heat in the microwave). I really should have thought to make cole slaw, because what goes better with ribs than slaw? But the thought somehow didn't cross my mind.

Despite my thinking the meat could have been better, we demolished all of it, except for one lone rib and some random chunks of lemon. Next time I may try this recipe with baby backs. And definitely slaw.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Cake Decorating is Easy"

Watch George Duran show the Today Show hosts how to decorate a cake...and see them make as big a mess of it as the rest of us. Yeah, "it's easy." Right. :)

Bourdain in Baltimore - Again


According to Suzanne Loudermilk's blog on the Baltimore Magazine site, Anthony Bourdain and his buddy Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert will be at the Hippodrome on May 22,  I'm contemplating going - how about you? Tickets go on sale today, March 24th.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Whole Rockfish

I had never purchased seafood from H Mart before. It seemed we never went early enough in the day to miss the crowds clustered around the array of fresh whole fish. But this time, we were among three whole people perusing the selection and jumped at the chance to make a whole fish for dinner. It all looked so good, and there were so many varieties, but we settled on rockfish because: 1) we knew what it tasted like; 2) I was pretty confident that I could prepare it successfully.

I found a recipe on teh Innernets and adapted it for the ingredients we had on hand. Luckily, we had purchased lemons, limes, and, on a whim, lemongrass, all integral to the original recipe.


The Raw

I thought we could make the baby bok choy we also purchased, along with some shiitake mushrooms, with the fish in our new non-stick roasting pan. (My brother-in-law delivered it last weekend. I admired his after it cleaned up so nicely post-Thanksgiving-feasting, and he thought we should have one of our own. Thanks, Craig!)

Baked Rockfish with Citrus

1 whole rockfish, about 2 - 3 lb, cleaned
juice and zest of 1 lime
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 dried red chiles, broken into pieces
1 stick lemongrass, sliced
3 scallions, chopped
cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and cracked pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.  Mix the lemongrass, chiles, lime and lemon zest, and olive oil.

Make three diagonal cuts into the fish on both sides. Place in a roasting pan. Salt and pepper the cavity and stuff with about 3/4 of the lemongrass mixture. Pour citrus juices into cuts on fish and top with remainder of the lemongrass and oil.

Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.


The Cooked

Despite the exotic flavors, the fish was a bit on the bland side. It was extremely moist and tender though. The shiitakes took on a silky texture that was quite pleasing, and the bok choy were perfectly cooked - crunchy and juicy. But despite what I thought was a thorough cleaning with a long soaking, they were still a tad sandy.


I served the dish with rice and garnished it with cilantro and chopped scallions. I also made a little lemon butter to pour over the bok choy. But it needed something to add oompfh. At least to my palate - I'm sure other people would find the flavorings just fine.

Monday, March 22, 2010

vitaminwater connect

Speaking of water....

So I've been talking about this new vitaminwater® connect stuff recently on the blog. I don't normally drink a lot of it because it has calories and I'm a big fan of plain ol' tap water, BUT I do find it very useful as a pick-me-up when I've done a lot of walking. Like when I'm in NYC. I walk all day and get dehydrated and a little run-down, so I might pop into a Duane Reade and grab a bottle of vitaminwater®. And chug it. Somehow it goes down easier than water, and it's not slimy like Gatorade. And even if it's psychosomatic, it gives me a little lift.

So one of the lovely PR people who works for the firm that sends me all the good info on the many reality TV shows I cover on Blogging Bravo and All Top Chef and occasionally here and on my fashion blog offered to send me samples of the new vitaminwater® flavor, connect. It's black cherry-lime and has 8 vitamins, zinc, and caffeine. And it's pretty good - it reminded both Mr Minx and myself of frozen cherry-flavored summertime fun. Fla-Vor-Ice for him, and Icees for me, although it's not half as sweet as either. If I'm in the market for flavored, nutrient-enhanced H20, I'll definitely try this flavor again. And as I will be walking my feet off all over New York in a couple of weeks, that's looking like a good opportunity to try this one again.

What do you think? Do you drink enhanced water products? Or do you prefer soft drinks?

World Water Day - Contest

Today is World Water Day.

Each year World Water Day highlights a different issue -- from water sanitation and scarcity, to the importance of consumption -- and True Lemon, a healthy crystalized water enhancer, wants to get in on the water lovin' by motivating people to put their sugary drinks down, and pick up a glass of water.  True Lemon's ingredients are 100% all-natural and make water a more appealing option without making it unhealthy, or "sugaring" down water's natural goodness.

True Lemon (also available: True Lime and True Orange) are crystallized citrus that comes in little packs perfect to carry in your purse or backpack. For those of us who are lucky to live in an area with tasty tap water (Baltimore, New York) we can drink it straight, but even then sometimes there seems to be an extra dose of chlorine in there adding its funky flavor. A sprinkle of True Lemon and voila! tastier H20.

If you would like to sample True Lemon for yourself, click here. But if you'd like to win a free selection of True Lemon products (one 20-pack box of each of three flavors), just leave a comment with your favorite lemonade recipe. The winner will be selected at random from the commenters. Please make sure to leave your name and e-mail address so you can be notified if you are a winner. If not, I'll choose another name at random. Contest ends Friday, March 26th at midnight. Good Luck!

CONTEST OVER - WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED SHORTLY.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Korean Buffet

With only two days off for Spring Break, we Minxes tend to stay close to home. It was a good time, however, to make a pilgrimage to Catonsville to visit H-Mart and stock up on exotic produce and meat.

By the time we finished standing in the long checkout line, we realized it was time for lunch. We headed a couple of doors down in the same shopping center to Hanoori Town to pick up some carry-out. The buffet at the back of the first floor food court serves sushi for $7.99/lb and hot food for $5.99/lb. Not completely trusting of sushi that's sitting out in the open, we opted for the hot buffet, trying a little bit of just about everything.
Click to embiggen

My favorite items were the kimchee and the spicy bulgogi. The kimchee was young, pretty much completely un-fermented (I really don't like the almost-effervescent quality of aged kimchee) and cabbagey/nutty/spicy. The bulgogi was similarly spicy (plenty mild for my taste buds) and the meat was tender and beefy.

On the less-successful side, the chicken wings were heavily battered and had gotten extremely soggy under the heat lamp (and over the water bath). They were probably quite tasty when fresh out of the fryer. The fried squid suffered a similar fate - soggy breading. The meat itself wasn't as tough and rubber-bandish as one might expect under these conditions, however. The shrimp, which included heads and tails, were tasteless and completely mushy and disgusting. Avoid those.

Other items were merely ok - nothing took us back to our favorite Korean buffet at the now defunct Purim Oak. But it made for a pretty decent lunch. I'd eat there again, in a pinch.

Hanoori Town
822 N Rolling Rd
Catonsville, MD 21228
(410) 747-8315

Hanoori Town on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pancakes for Breakfast

Among the special ingredients bought for those damn brownies was a carton of egg replacer. Pancakes seemed a good way to use some of it, so I substituted 1/4 cup per egg called for in my usual lazy packaged-pancake-mix pancakes.

Pancake mix usually turns out some pretty flannely cakes, so I always add at least a half cup of some additional moist ingredient. I like plain or vanilla yogurt, pumpkin, or mashed bananas most of the time, and this time used the yogurt. I also tossed in a heaping tablespoonful of Ghirardelli Sweet Chocolate and Cocoa for a chocolate-y pancake. Unfortunately, the combo of 0-fat yogurt, cocoa, and egg replacer made for somewhat dry pancakes, although they were nicely fluffy and did not suck up too much syrup.

I topped mine with a dollop of yogurt and some canned raspberries (Oregon brand - a hold-over from my childhood), as well as real maple syrup. They had potential, but weren't quite there.

Maybe I should have made some bacon on the side. :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recipe Roundup 3.17.10

Despite the last name, neither Mr Minx nor I are Irish in any way, and do not subject ourselves to the smell of corned beef and cabbage on the 17th of March (nor any other day, for that matter). But...I know some of you do. How about some other Irish recipes for this St Patty's day?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chicken with Fennel

During our weekly trip to the grocery store, I picked up a couple of bulbs of fennel because it looked nice. Come Sunday, I had no idea what to do with it, but I thought maybe I'd use it with chicken. There were some Chinese sausages in the freezer; that also sounded good with chicken, but then I couldn't reconcile the sausage with the fennel. It might have worked, who knows? But then Mr Minx mentioned "preserved lemon" which inspired me to make something Moroccan-ish.

Not pretty, but pretty tasty. I've never before eaten fennel that has been cooked for such a long time - it was succulent, slightly sweet, absolutely wonderful. The chicken was tender and the spice mixture added a nice sharp bite, as did the tang of the lemon.

I would imagine that this would work with regular lemon as well, just make sure to slice it very thinly and put it in the oven with the fennel and onion at the start of cooking time, so it will get tender.

Chicken with Fennel and Preserved Lemon

olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, sliced crosswise
1 small onion, halved and sliced
handful of sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 preserved lemon, halved, seeds removed, and sliced
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 T Ras el Hanout (recipe follows)
salt and pepper to taste
sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Drizzle the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking pan with olive oil. Add fennel and onion to pan, top with mushrooms and drizzle with more oil. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove pan from the oven and stir the vegetables. Top fennel with chicken pieces. Sprinkle half of the Ras el Hanout on one side of chicken, turn chicken and sprinkle the other side with the remainder of the spice mixture. Scatter preserved lemon on top. Turn oven temperature down to 350F and place the pan back in oven for approximately 45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are quite tender and limp. There should be quite a bit of juice in the pan - make sure to spoon this over your starch of choice.

Serve with rice or cous cous. Serves 2-6.

Ras el Hanout

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
I teaspoon turmeic
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all spices together well and store in a covered container.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cool!

A photo of one of my dishes was featured on the Voltaggio Brothers site last week! I don't think it was the best pic of the ones I submitted to the site, but I guess the Brothers V. thought it looked tasty enough.

Leftover Tacos

We had tacos for dinner the other night, using up bits and pieces of leftovers: pork tenderloin from the weekend, and both black beans and reduced-fat sour cream from that brownie fiasco. I mixed the beans with the dregs of a bag of frozen corn and concocted a kind of warm salsa, seasoning it with cumin and both jalapeno and ancho chile powders. Three wilting scallions were also called into action that evening, as was a fresh avocado, TJ's Chipotle salsa, and some whole wheat tortillas.

As we were eating, Mr Minx remarked that he would have liked to know about doing something like this in his bachelor days, but back then, a "taco" to him involved one of those nasty u-shaped hard-shell things that come in a yellow box, filled with ground beef mixed with ultra-salty packaged seasoning. He knew of flour tortillas, of course, but never thought to use them at home for anything. They seemed to be the jurisdiction of restaurants specializing in fajitas and burritos. Now we eat flour tortillas all the time - usually filled with whatever might be hanging around in the fridge.

Long have I toyed with the idea of writing a cookbook on using leftovers creatively. There's no need to eat three-day-old pork tenderloin with the same sauce and sides it was served with originally! Use it in pasta sauce, or on pizza, or...in tacos.

Would anyone be interested in my book, should I ever write it?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Banana Bread

To make up for the black bean brownie experiment, I made some banana bread, using my favorite recipe. I've been eating it for breakfast all week - it's good stuff! Nice and moist, not too rich or sweet, with lots of nuts (I used both pecans and walnuts).

Do you have a favorite banana bread recipe? Or one for any other quick bread, for that matter?

Survey

I read other blogs all the time and am always stunned at the number of comments some of them get. I have to assume these bloggers are doing something right, and I'm not. So I'm asking you, the reader, what you would like to see more of on MinxEats - how can I make this blog more enjoyable?

If you don't see your suggestion on the list, please feel free to leave it in a comment. Thanks!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Pork Tenderloin Weekend

Normally, when I open up a package of pork tenderloins, I prepare them both in the same way at the same time. But this weekend I decided to make them differently and serve one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Saturday's tenderloin was rolled in a rub of salt, coriander, paprika, pepper, and onion powder. After a quick sear, I put it in the oven at 300F for about 30 minutes, until an instant read thermometer showed the internal temperature to be 140F. It was served with a mash of potatoes and parsnips, asparagus, and a maple mustard cream sauce.

The cream sauce was so good, and there's so much left over, I think we're going to use it to gussy up some hot dogs later in the week. If it seems too fancy for hot dogs, just imagine the taste of onions and mustard together and tell me that doesn't make you think of a plump and juicy all-beef frank. :)

Maple Mustard Cream Sauce

1 small onion, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
salt
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon heavy cream
pinch of cayenne
freshly ground pepper

Sauté the onion in a bit of oil and salt until it's nicely browned and translucent. Remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup and mustard (more or less to taste). I used a stick blender to smush everything to a near-puree, but if you like the onion chunks, you can skip that step. Add cream and peppers and stir until all is incorporated. Spoon over protein of choice.
-------------------------------

On Sunday, I sliced up the remaining raw tenderloin, pounded it thin (breaking the ancient plastic tenderizing mallet in the process) and made pork "Parmesan." I used Progresso Italian bread crumbs and panko for the breading, sauced it with leftover tomato sauce, and topped it with shredded colby jack (because that's what we had in the fridge). Mr Minx had it with leftover linguine, and I had it with a bit of bread and butter. It was really good - crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. The sauce was spicy and the cheese just gooey enough. And considering I had a head cold, completely delicious.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rocco's Not the First...

...to make brownies with black beans. Check out this full-fat recipe. Doesn't sound much better though.

Top Chef Bastards Part II

Welcome back to Top Chef Bastards! (If you missed it, part one is here.) Today, three contestants get to pack their can openers and head back to New York's Chelsea Market...wait...except for Rocco DiSpirito, who can go back to skulking down 22nd Street, cursing the day he met his good buddy mortal enemy former financier, Jeffrey Chodorow, opened a Restaurant together, and sealed his fate as whipping boy to foodies the world over, including this week's guest judge, Anthony Bourdain. And of course, theminx.

After Sandra Lee pulls a surprising win in the Quickfire Challenge, the competitors realize they have to bring their "A-Game." Even Guy leaves the flaming bowling shirt at home and breaks out the chef's whites.

Host Kelly Choi, badly in need of a cheeseburger or three, joins the competitors in the Top Chef Bastards Glad GE Swanson Quaker Oats Macy's Product Placement Kitchen and presents their next challenge.


Each of the four competitors gets fifteen minutes to plan their meal with a budget of $25, after which time they are sent off to the Wal-Mart to shop. They are also allowed to use any ingredients they find in the Swanson Quaker Oats Alexia Crunchy Snacks Chef Boy-R-Dee Product Placement Pantry. Except, of course, for anything produced by Alexia Crunchy Snacks or Chef Boy-R-Dee.

For winning the Quickfire Challenge, Sandra is awarded an advantage in this challenge: an additional $15 in spending money. Which will come in handy while picking up a little post-prandial something-something at the liquor store.

Forced to use fresh foods, Sandra is stumped. Meanwhile, Rocco has decided to go low-cal, in keeping with his new cookbook, Stuff You Can't Possibly Want to Eat.

Maybe you can use those eggplants in a Tablescape, Sandy.

Back at the Top Chef Bastards Glad GE Swanson Quaker Oats Macy's Product Placement Kitchen, the chefs scramble to assemble their meals in the allotted one hour time frame.

Eureka! Aunt Sandy gets inspired.

Looks like Rachael Ray found her garbage bowl.

In 59:59, Kelly Choi enters the kitchen with today's judges: the funny-hat-wearing Gael Greene, the still-cranky Anthony Bourdain, and the boobaceous Gail Simmons. Hands up! Knives Down!

(Oh, heh. That looks like Bourdain is stealing a glance at Gail's breasteses, doesn't it? Unintentional happy accident there.)

Time to adjourn to the Top Chef Bastards Ikea Room Store Crate & Barrel Product Placement Dining Room, hurriedly constructed in the parking lot of the Hollywood YWCA, to chow down on the competitors' offerings.

The incessantly perky Rachael Ray is up first.

"For my starter, I made a yummerific BLT Salad, smothered with chopped bacon - because I'm all about the bacon - and drenched with home-made balsamic Dijon vinaigrette with lots of EVOO..."

"My entrée is a delish Grilled Fish Sammie served with awesome waffle fries. How great is that?"

"To finish this delish meal, because I'm all about the dessert, we have healthful fresh berries with freshly whipped cream. Yum-o!"

Next up is Guy Fieri, replacing Rachael's saccharine with a touch o' douchebag.

"For my appetizer, I'm driving the bus to flavor town with my Good Karma Schwarma. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!"

"For my main dish, I made my off-the-hook Mac-Daddy Mac & Cheese. Oh, that's money."

"Finally, my Shock-o-lit Habanero Mousse. This'll put some hair on your chest! Awesome!"

A much more subdued person in the form of Rocco DiSpirito presents the next three courses.

"For our appetizer, I've prepared my low-calorie yet still awesome New England Clam Chowder with cauliflower and skim milk. You're going to love it, and it has less than 300 calories per serving."

"For your entrée, I made Flash-Fried Finger-Lickin' Chicken. Only 200 calories per serving!"

"Finally, for dessert, these are my Low-Cal Brownies - only 53 calories and I bet you'll never guess what the secret ingredient is!"

Finally, Sandra Lee presents her dishes.

"For the appetizer, my delicious Porch Swing Iced Tea..."

"...followed by my entrée, mugs of delicious Spicy Red Beer..."

"...and for dessert, my delicious Mango Margarita."

After all courses are served, the competitors are sent to the men's locker room Glad Family of Products Stew and Booze room to get stinking drunk on leftover iced tea while the judges discuss the horror they just witnessed.


Finally, the four competitors are brought in front of the judges to meet their fates. Although it worked for her in the Quickfire, Sandra's excessive use of booze may have backfired on her.

Rachael Ray was disqualified because her overly-perky yet grating personality caused each of the judges to vomit.

Rocco didn't wow the judges with his bland diet food. Who puts cauliflower in New England Clam Chowder?

Guy Fieri, despite his obnoxious over-use of catch phrases and hair gel, impressed the judges with the amount of flavor he packed into his dishes.

Looks like Guy will be competing in the finale! That's definitely crazy!

Photos of actual dishes mentioned are from foodnetwork.com and abcnews.go.com
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