Friday, April 29, 2011

Heading to New York...

...hope to share a couple of NY foodie adventures with you in the coming weeks!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fumetto #15 - Bigfoot Contessa

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Taco Experiment

This sounds like great fun! I love tacos (making them and eating them) and am almost tempted to compete...except that I hate cook-offs.

The Food Experiments Continues Multi-City Tour with
Stop in Washington D.C. with The Taco Experiment

BROOKLYN, NY (April 11, 2011) – Brooklyn Brewery is bringing the Food Experiments, a highly successful series of amateur cook-offs launched in Brooklyn, on a multi-city tour that has debuted in Austin and New Orleans and continues on to Washington D.C. with “The Taco Experiment.” Over twenty home chefs will create delectable taco dishes for the chance to win cash, prizes, and a round- trip ticket to New York City to compete in the Food Experiments All Stars Competition. The Taco Experiment will take place on May 15th, 2011 at the Rock n Roll Hotel 1353 H St NE 12:00 – 4pm.

The Food Experiments stands out in New York City’s cook-off circuit for attracting the most committed, passionate, and daring competitors. The series is the brainchild of two of the most competitive cooks to grace the cook-off scene, Nick Suarez and Theo Peck. After continually facing each other on the winner’s podium, the once-rivals joined forces to create a cook-off that they would be excited to enter. With the sponsorship of Brooklyn Brewery, they are now bringing the fervor of the Food Experiments to cities across the nation. "We've had a blast working with Nick and Theo over the last couple of years. The Food Experiments embody the creative culinary spirit of our home borough and we're excited to take this piece of Brooklyn on the road," said Steve Hindy, Brooklyn Brewery President.

The Food Experiments is currently seeking adventurous home chefs to enter the Taco Experiment. “I can’t wait to see what the contestants come up with,” said Theo Peck, co-founder of the Food Experiments. Along with the audience, a panel of judges from the D.C. food scene will taste all the entries and pick a favorite. In addition to culinary glory, winners will receive prizes from local sponsors, cash and/or a round-trip ticket to New York City to compete against winners of other Food Experiments. Not only do the Experiments offer an opportunity for unsung home chefs to gain recognition and appreciation from the masses, they bring together people who are passionate about food in a party-like atmosphere.

The D.C. Taco Experiment
Sunday May 15, 2011
12:00 - 4 pm
Rock and Roll Hotel 1353 H St. NE Washington, DC 20002
Lauren De Santis, Producer/Host, Capital Cooking
More judges to be announced soon
$10 in advance, $15 day of event - Includes tasting samples and a beer from Brooklyn Brewery
A portion of the proceeds will go to the Capital Area Food Bank

Ticket link:


For more information visit:
Watch a short video about the Food Experiments at
Chefs, press and food bloggers are invited to pre-Taco Experiment Happy Hour on Thursday May 12, 2011 from 5pm to 7pm at Birch & Barley located at 1337 14th Street.

About The Food Experiments: Nick Suarez and Theo Peck, New York City’s “cook-off royalty” (, created The Food Experiments in 2009. The Experiments are a series of cooking competitions that challenge amateur chefs to create around 300 samples of a dish featuring an “experimental” ingredient or theme. Seven sold-out Experiments have taken place in Brooklyn involving beer, cheese, chocolate, tacos, brunch, Brooklyn roots, and holiday themes. Brooklyn Brewery is presenting a national tour that will feature Experiments in Austin, New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

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Strawberry Shortcake

This year's Easter dinner was much like last year's, except that I spent much of the morning baking two small loaves of whole wheat bread plus biscuits for dessert, rather than relying on my brother to hit the bakery on the way over. While YiaYia's stuff is quite good, homemade is always better.

One of the foodie pages I follow on Facebook gave me the idea to serve strawberry shortcake for Easter, so I was happy to see that the Giant had a bogo sale on 1-lb boxes of berries. I picked them up on Friday, along with the vital wheat gluten I was going to need for my bread, forgetting the second most-important element of strawberry shortcake.

The whipped cream. Hence the obviously-canned variety festooning my biscuit. Thanks to Dad for bringing it over. :)

You're probably going to say that the most important part of something called "strawberry shortcake" is obviously the shortcake, but honestly, have you eaten berries on top of a biscuit without that crown of white? Or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream? A drizzle of cream? (Ok, I have, but it had pork belly on it instead.) Kinda doesn't cut it.

In any case, my shortcakes were pretty delicious. I used a fairly basic scone recipe and added cornmeal for extra texture and flavor. They turned out light and fluffy, and were the perfect whipped-cream-to-mouth vehicle.

Perfect Shortcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 6-cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk, stirring just until mixed.

Divide (very sticky) dough into 6 balls and place one each into prepared muffin tin cups. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top. Remove from muffin tin and allow to cool on a wire rack until ready to use.

Using a serrated knife, split cakes horizontally. Top with chopped strawberries macerated with a little lemon juice and sugar (or any other fruit you might like) and lots of whipped cream or slightly melty vanilla ice cream.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Choyhona Silk Road Bistro

After reading 1000yregg's blog post on the new cuisine in town, Mr Minx and I decided that a visit to Choyhona Silk Road Bistro was in order. Choyhona serves food from Uzbekistan, the most populous country in Central Asia, located just north of Afghanistan. The cuisine features lamb, yogurt, and grain-based dishes like breads and dumplings, and isn't dissimilar to other cuisines in the region.

When we arrived at the restaurant, there were two small but boisterous parties going on, with a third scheduled for later in the evening, so it appears that the Uzbek population in the area has already discovered the place. We sat in a quieter far corner of the room and ordered a table-full of food. The prices are outrageously cheap, so we went a little crazy, knowing that leftovers could be utilized for lunches later in the week. We started off with glasses of the homemade fruit drink, which was a cloudy pink and tasted vaguely of cherries.

Out of several varieties of salads (the descriptions of which reminded me of both the Middle Eastern veg and yogurt salads and the chopped veg salads popular in Eastern Europe) we went for the suzma with radish, a combination of sliced radish and cucumber in a tangy yogurt sauce with lots of chopped dill. With it came the bread we ordered, a Frisbee-sized loaf of tandoori nan that bore no resemblance to the more familiar Indian flatbread of the same name.

suzma salad with radish
tandoori nan
Uzbeki nan is a far sturdier bread which Mr Minx thought was more akin to a soft pretzel in texture, possessing a dense breadiness and a glossy smooth crust. (Note: leftover bread, split horizontally, makes a damn good pizza crust when topped with a bit of sauce and cheese.)

We also tried two versions of the dumplings called manti, a steamed version stuffed with cubed potatoes and served with sour cream, and a crispy fried version stuffed with bits of lamb and served with thinly sliced lightly pickled red onion.

steamed manti with potato filling
crispy manti with meat filling
The steamed version was similar to thick-skinned pierogi, while the crispy version was completely different, more like meat pies. Both versions were HUGE, nearly as big as my fist. While both were tasty, I preferred the crispy version because of the interesting play of texture between the crisp outside and the still-soft inside surface of the dough, reminding me a bit of a Chinese-style pan-fried dumpling.

We also tried two of the several varieties of kabobs, the lamb rib, and the "delicatessen." Forewarned by 1000yregg, we knew that the delicatessen kabobs were actually bits of lamb testicle. They had a somewhat fluffy or springy texture, like a fish meatball, and a very very delicate liver flavor. I quite liked them.

"delicatessen" (aka lamb testicles) and lamb rib kabobs
The lamb ribs were still on the bone, and extremely juicy - and my favorite part of the meal. The kabobs were served with a pitcher of pomegranate molasses for dipping.

And just because of the name, we ordered the "Jiz-biz," which was lamb chunks served over french fries and topped with more pickled onions. The lamb was toothsome and there were some nicely juicy fatty bits; the fries looked great, but were a little greasy for my taste.

We finished up with an order of baklava, which the restaurant was happy to serve on two plates for us. The Uzbek version of the sweet bore little resemblance to the syrupy and occasionally-cloying filo and nut pastry that most of us are familiar with; rather, I felt Choyhona's was far closer to a French mille feuille, as the pastry was drier and there was a creamy layer hidden within. 

half a serving of baklava
Overall, an interesting and rib-sticking meal. We were very pleased with the meat dishes and plan to go back and try more varieties of both kabobs and salads.

Choyhona Silk Road Bistro
607 Reisterstown Road
Pikesville, MD 21208
(410) 878-2929
Choyhona Silk Road Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Exotic Banana Bread

Two weeks ago I had a bout of illness that left me dining on bananas and dry crackers for a couple of days. My loving husband had picked through a pile of neon green unripe bananas to find ones I'd eat, and while bananas are fine and all that, they're not my favorite fruit by a long shot. I got sick of the sight of them pretty quick with two quite ripe ones left to rot on the kitchen counter.

Although I might have been sick of bananas, I was not sick of banana bread, so when I felt well enough to venture into the kitchen, I put those two leftovers and one blackened one from the freezer to work. My favorite banana bread recipe comes from Martha Stewart; it's moist and rich and fattening and I find myself eating entirely too much of it. This time, however, I decided to switch things up a bit and find a recipe that used coconut milk. I was planning to use some in a sauce and knew I wouldn't need an entire can; rather than store it in the fridge and risk the dreaded blue mold, it was better to use it up.

I found a couple of recipes on teh Innernets and did a riff on them, changing up the spices a bit and using whole wheat flour. To be healthy, you know. :) The result - a pale, dense bread with a mild, lightly spiced, banana flavor that is delicious when toasted and buttered. To kill some of that healthy thing.

Exotic Banana Bread

4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup well-shaken coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup roughly chopped cashews

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8" x 4" loaf pan with release spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Whisk in eggs, then add coconut milk, vanilla, and bananas.

In a separate bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, spices, and salt. Slowly add to coconut milk mixture and mix until combined. Stir in coconut and nuts.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Fancy Schmancy

Sometimes I'm too ambitious for my own good. The other day, I decided to make some mahi mahi for dinner. Because we had a couple of oranges and ripe avocados, my original idea was to make a pretty orange-and-green salsa-like topping for the fish. And then I noticed that we had a handful of cloves of black garlic and mmm...wouldn't that taste good?

Unfortunately, black garlic + citrus + avocado = ugly.

I cut the orange into supremes, something that always gives me trouble. I can usually get three or four slices cut before the whole fruit collapses in my hand, making the remaining slices impossible to remove whole. The avocado was a bit too soft, so rather than nice cubes, I had ones that were a bit smooshy on the edges. And unfortunately, the black garlic lent its blackness to the mix, almost like a jolt of squid ink. Oops! Rather than a broken orange/pasty avocado/black stuff salsa, I mashed it all into a guacamole...which was a more uniform army-green color.

Very ugly, but also very delicious. I'd eat this slop again in a heartbeat!

The guac in this pic has been color-enhanced for your protection.

Citrus Guacamole

2 navel oranges
5 cloves black garlic
2 ripe Haas avocados
juice of half a lime
1 scallion, green and white parts, chopped
salt and pepper

Slice bottom end off orange. Hold it, cut side down, on a cutting board and with a very sharp knife, slice off the skin and pith, leaving only the flesh. Pick up the orange and cut out slices between the membranes, placing orange "meat" in a bowl. After removing all of the "meat" of the orange, squeeze out the remaining juice from the leftover pulp into the bowl over the segments. Repeat with second orange.

Mince the black garlic as well as you can (the stuff is super-sticky) and add to oranges and juice in bowl

Cut avocados in half, twist out pit, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into the bowl with the orange and garlic. Mash well. Add lime juice, scallions, and salt and pepper to taste.

It's not pretty, but it tastes damn good.
If you're curious about the other elements in the photo, the mahi (broiled simply with salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil) is atop a bed of Trader Joe's brown fried rice with mushrooms, with the addition of a bit of napa cabbage and turkey bacon. Drizzled on the plate is a bit of cilantro oil made by whizzing cilantro in a blender with canola oil and straining out the solids. More turkey bacon was used as garnish, as were fresh chives from the garden.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fumetto #14 - Big Daddy's Hose

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