Monday, October 29, 2012


I got very excited (well, somewhat excited) when I heard that an Indian food truck was cruising the streets of Baltimore. Word was that not only did it serve Indian food, but it also had a tandoor oven on board. This I had to see for myself. So a few weeks ago when the nondescript orange truck with the name "Sultan" painted on the side pulled up to the already-congested corner of Baltimore and Greene, I ditched my original lunch plans.

We usually gauge the deliciousness of an Indian restaurant by its chicken tikka masala. While not an authentic Indian dish (it is apparently of British origin), it is found on Indian menus everywhere and is a Minx family favorite.

As I waited for my lunch, I peeked over the counter into the truck and saw the tandoor. I watched one of the two guys on the truck take a bit of dough, roll it into a small round, and slap it onto the inside wall of the oven with a gaddi (a pillow-like pad traditionally used to make tandoori breads). In a few seconds, he retrieved the bread with a long hook and placed it atop my food.

Freshly-baked naan
My chicken also came with a bit of salad, and a container of yogurt sauce flavored with green chiles and cilantro. The chicken itself, four nicely-sized chunks of breast meat, were moist. The sauce was neither as creamy nor as sweet as some versions I have eaten, but was very good, and there was just enough of it to moisten - but not soak - the basmati rice underneath.

For my second Sultan tasting, I tried the "pulled lamb" which can be had either over rice or as a sandwich on naan. The generous portion of tender lamb, bathed in a deliciously spicy and somewhat hot sauce, made for quite a hearty sandwich.

I'm still impressed that they make their own fresh naan. Nothing better than one straight out of the tandoor!  I look forward to trying more from the Sultan truck. If you see it in your 'hood, you should definitely give it a try, too.

Sultan on Urbanspoon

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Homemade Pickles

Making pickles at home is easier than one might imagine. Only two ingredients are needed:


The recipe:

First, buy a jar of your favorite pickles - gherkins, bread & butter, kosher dills, whatever floats your boat.

Eat pickles. Reserve jar and liquid (refrigerate until ready to use).

Buy a cucumber, preferably an unwaxed one. Wash well, cut into spears or rounds, and pack into the reserved jar full of pickle juice.

Wait at least a few days before sampling. Two weeks is a nice stretch of time.


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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Black Bean Burgers

The last time I made black bean burgers, I had chopped both the beans and the mushrooms too finely, resulting in a patty that was too soft, albeit very flavorful. This time, I left the mushrooms in larger pieces and simply broke the beans up into smaller bits. A bit of oatmeal added still more structure. While the patties were still on the soft side, they held up much better to the crisply toasted bun.

I seasoned the patties with a sprig of fresh Greek oregano, chopped finely. It really didn't need much more than that, but you can add some garlic too if you'd like. I also stirred some chopped cilantro and preserved lemon into a few tablespoons of Kewpie mayo, and topped the burger with a bit of truffle-flavored goat cheese. The resulting combination was rather scrumptious, if I do say so myself.

Simple Black Bean Burgers

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
pinch salt
olive oil
1 15oz can black beans, drained
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano (or a large pinch of dried oregano)
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying
cheese, if desired

Saute the mushrooms and onion with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon or so of olive oil until the mushrooms have given up all of their liquid and the onions have softened.

Roughly chop the black beans in a food processor, or mash with a potato masher. Add the mushroom and onions, the oats, the egg, and oregano, and mix well. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Form into 4-6 patties and refrigerate for an hour or so to firm up.

When ready to cook, heat a large skillet and add a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the burgers and fry over medium high heat until the bottoms are browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. Flip burgers and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Top with cheese during last few minutes of cooking.

Serve on rolls with your favorite condiments.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hunger Doesn't Take a Holiday

The Maryland Food Bank will host its 4th annual Elect to End Hunger holiday box packing event on Thursday, October 25, 2012, from 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM at its Baltimore distribution facility. Hundreds of volunteers will form assembly lines, packing 12,000+ boxes full of traditional fixings like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing. Boxes will be paired with turkeys, partially subsidized by donations from the Orioles Food & Funds Drive, and distributed to soup kitchens, pantries and shelters across the state. Holiday meal boxes and turkeys will reach needy families in November and December, ensuring happy holidays for many who would otherwise go without. The cost of items in the box is covered by generous corporations like HMSHost, which has served as Title Sponsor for the past three years.

Elect to End Hunger was developed in partnership with local elected officials’ spouses four years ago and is held in October, just before Election Day every year. At the first Elect to End Hunger, volunteers packed 4,800 holiday meal boxes. This year, 12,800 boxes will be packed at the Maryland Food Bank’s Baltimore County facility, with an additional 3,000 packed at branches in Wicomico County and Washington County.

What: Elect to End Hunger Holiday Box Packing Event

When: Thursday, October 25, 2012, 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM

Where: Maryland Food Bank, 2200 Halethorpe Farms Road, Baltimore, MD 21227

About the Maryland Food Bank:
The Maryland Food Bank’ mission is to lead the movement and nurture the belief that together we can improve the lives of all Marylanders by ending hunger. The Maryland Food Bank has facilities in Baltimore County, Washington County and Wicomico County comprising more than 125,000-square-feet of warehouse, refrigerator and freezer space. Last year, the Maryland Food Bank distributed more than 26 million pounds of food to a network of 600 soup kitchens, pantries and shelters across the state.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Manor Tavern

On a rainy night in early October, our 12th wedding anniversary to be exact, Mr Minx and I drove the long and winding road to the Manor Tavern, in Monkton. The restaurant, though not new, has been going through some changes recently, at least in management, and, from that, one might surmise that the kitchen has some new tricks up its sleeve. Or not. The tavern is currently owned by the partners of Au Poitin Stil and the Kooper's restaurant group, along with Jim Franzoni of nearby Verdant Valley Farm; however, Chef Travis Szerensits has been in the kitchen since before the current owners took over. The menu that results from this combination of old and new guard is a curious mix of favorites like crab cakes, a nice selection of burgers, very expensive steaks, and things that might appeal to a (somewhat) hipper crowd like truffle fries and pork belly sliders.

What passes for decor at the Manor Tavern is a mishmash of large saws, framed racing silks, old toasters, and assorted oddball flea market items that hovers somewhere between "granny" and "quaint." I had hoped for "old money horse country," but neither being from old money nor particularly horsey, I probably wouldn't know it if I saw it. Perhaps crosscut saws and antique toasters are indeed involved.

The restaurant was fairly quiet on the evening of our visit, with a few tables of retirees here and there, but the roaring fireplace was welcoming, as was the staff. Our waitress was particularly solicitous, keeping our glasses full and the plates coming in a timely fashion.

The temperatures had plummeted during the day, so Mr Minx thought a steaming hot bowl of gumbo would make a nice appetizer. It didn't have enough of that dark roux deliciousness for my taste, but Mr Minx liked it just fine. Because I had the cozy fireplace at my back, I didn't need to fill my belly with a bowl of warmth. Instead, I chose the eggplant napoleon. The eggplant was admirably crisp, and the goat cheese was a lovely creamy counterpoint, but both the eggplant and the tomato could have used some salt. The mixed greens on the side appeared to be elderly arugula with unpleasantly hard stems, but I liked the tart dressing. There was a miserly drizzle of pesto infused olive oil on the dish (and some balsamic syrup), which really perked up the flavor of the tomato; I wish there had been more.

I had checked out the menu in advance and once I saw scallops on offer, my mind was made up. I really need to stop craving the things, but I'm having a hard time finding satisfaction. My most recent experiences with scallops have led me to believe that they are the biggest rip-off on a restaurant's menu. At Pierpoint, four tiny specimen were a whopping $29. At Manor Tavern, four similarly-sized ones were $26. (So why were the three slightly-larger scallops at Earth, Wood, and Fire only $12? Perhaps scallops aren't as pricey as restaurants would like us to believe.)

Anyhoo...Manor Tavern's menu advertised their scallops as being accompanied by a grilled corn puree, basil pesto, crispy hazelnuts, and shaved chow chow. In theory, that sounds great. In practice - not so much. Yes, the scallops were perfectly cooked, seared on the outside, tender and lightly translucent on the inside, and fairly aggressively seasoned. The corn puree - which was so sweet I mistook it for a butternut squash preparation - was silky and buttery. The kitchen could have stopped right there and I would have been pretty happy. (Happier still if it were half the price or had twice as many scallops.) But the rest of the items on the plate just didn't need to be there. The "pesto" was dry and crumbly, as if the maker forgot to add the all-important olive oil, and the seven naked hazelnuts added nothing to the dish. The "chow chow" was just a tart cole slaw with a faux country name applied to it. It had neither the sweetness nor the variety of spices found in the green tomato and/or cauliflower relish with which I am familiar.

Plus, the symmetrical plating was borderline silly.

Mr Minx fared much better with his entree, the beer can chicken. A whole chicken, Natty Boh can still stuck up its keister, was brought to the table along with a carving knife and a separate plate bearing the side dish - horribly overcooked broccoli. Broccoli aside, the chicken was very good, the skin charred in spots, redolent of thyme and cumin, with juicy meat underneath. We put a real hurtin' on that bird before designating the few remaining parts to a doggie bag.

Finally, we tried dessert. Mr Minx had the brownie sundae, which came in a mason jar for no particular reason. The brownie was served warm, but it was too sweet and seemed more like a flourless cake sort of thing than a brownie. My flourless chocolate "pie" (it did have a strip of uninteresting crust along the top) was marginally less-sweet. It was served with a dollop of Prigel Creamery's cinnamon ice cream that, disappointingly, tasted more like red hot candies than the spice. I encountered pebbles of ice, which spoke of improper storage.


A meal this uneven suggests the kitchen is still trying to find a balance. The simpler, more homey, dishes were more successful than the two that involved fancy plating; while they weren't bad, they were far from perfect. If I'm going to shell out good money, I expect perfect, or at least very close. However, the table of old timers behind us seemed to enjoy their crab cakes (which were so lightly broiled as to appear raw, and I have to wonder how close the accompanying "Tidewater slaw" was to my "chow chow") and the couple to the side were making yum-yum sounds over their steaks. Obviously there are people who think that the Manor Tavern does some things right. And they do. Just not everything.

Manor Tavern
15819 Old York Rd
Monkton, MD 21111
(410) 771-8155
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Friday, October 19, 2012


Okra is a very maligned vegetable. People who have never even tried it will make a face and say, "eww, it's slimy!" Oh grow up. Give it a chance before you judge it.

I find the texture of lightly-cooked okra is better-described as "creamy." It's really only slimy if you slice it while raw and then rub your fingers in it as it oozes on your cutting board. (Oh, just toss it into a hot frying pan, you wuss.) Yes, okra does contain a bit of goo that binds the seeds together, but so do tomatoes and cucumbers and I've never heard anyone complain about them. Plus, okra isn't eaten raw; once it's cooked, any of the ickiness that makes adults flap their hands in distress completely dissipates.

"But how does it taste?" ask the okra virgins. I think the earthy green flavor is like a combination of mushrooms and corn, both of which rank among my favorite things to eat. Your mileage may vary (I know there are mushroom haters out there, too).

There's no better way to eat fresh okra than to sauté it in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil and butter until the pods are tender (five minutes or so). Add salt and pepper and eat 'em hot. Okra's also good dipped in flour/egg/bread crumbs and shallow-fried until brown and crispy. Stewed sliced okra, cooked with tomatoes and spices is also nice, as is the classic okra-enriched gumbo. And a good gateway experience for some people might be okra pickles. (I've seen Talk of Texas brand in most area supermarkets.) They're crunchy and garlicky and great in a vodka martini.

Besides tasting good, okra is low in calories and high in fiber, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins C and B6. So really, there's no good reason *not* to eat okra.

Okra season might be over (or close to it) but whole and sliced pods can be found in the freezer section of many area supermarkets. Give it a try; you might find yourself liking something new.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stoney River Sweepstakes

Back in 2010, during the claustrophobia of Snowpocalypse, Mr Minx and I escaped the snowy confines of our house and ate dinner at the nearby Stoney River Legendary Steaks. It wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but we both really enjoyed our sandwiches (a burger and steak sandwich). We've been meaning to go back, but are always loath to deal with the mall parking lot.

Anyhoo...winning a year's worth of Stoney River Steak dinners would definitely be worth the return trip, dontcha think? That's one of the runner-up prizes. The grand prize in their Sonoma County Wine Country Sweepstakes is a 4-day, 3-night, all expenses paid trip for four to Sonoma wine country.

To enter, just click here and give them your e-mail address.

For more chances of winning, enter the code from a Stoney River receipt in the space provided, or join their Red Canoe Society.

The sweepstakes ends October 31st. Good luck!

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Coconut Curd

I love lemon curd. And lime curd. Especially if it's homemade. And it's so easy to make, there's really no excuse to buy ready made curd from the store (plus, the jarred stuff just isn't creamy/custardy enough). Basically, any fruit juice can be made into a curd (but I wouldn't try pineapple or papaya, in case their special enzymes do weird things to eggs), so why not coconut milk?

Turns out, it works beautifully. The result is like a jam version of coconut custard pie, terrific on everything from toast to oatmeal, but perfect eaten directly from a spoon.

Coconut Curd

4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup coconut milk (or one 5.5oz can)
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Whisk together egg yolks and sugar until combined. Place in a saucepan and stir in the coconut milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat a wooden spoon, about eight minutes. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, until each piece is completely absorbed.

Store in a covered jar. Eat within 2 weeks.

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Monday, October 15, 2012


I had to tinker with the color on this photo so the pepper didn't look
black. Now it looks like it was taken in the 1970s.
Sometimes I get carried away. I know a quesadilla should be primarily cheese--after all, the "quesa" part of the word comes from queso, which is Spanish for cheese--but I like mine filled with other, non-cheese stuff. Maybe even more other stuff than cheese.

With a similar dish, the grilled cheese sandwich, I'm pretty much a purist. I don't like too many other flavors gunking up the gorgeous cheese + greasy bread glory. But then really good bread, soaked in melted butter, is a bit more interesting than a flat flour tortilla with a bit of crispness.

(Please keep in mind that I'm Polish.)

For this dinnertime iteration of the more-stuff-than-cheese quesadilla, I added creamy "refried" beans, and a chunky filling of chorizo, leeks, and some poblano peppers I picked up at the farmers' market. It made for an interesting and spicy combo.

Quesadilla with Refried Beans, Leeks, Chorizo, and Poblano

1 15oz can pinto beans, drained
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 leek, thinly sliced on the bias, well-cleaned and drained
olive oil
2 Mexican chorizo
2 poblano peppers, roasted, skin and seeds removed, diced
pinch sugar
flour tortillas, fajita-size or larger
shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, or a combination

Dump the can of beans into a skillet and add the stock or water and cumin. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until much of the stock has boiled off and the beans are soft. Smash them with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until they resemble "refried" beans. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

Wash out the skillet and dribble in some olive oil and a pinch of salt. Remove the pesky plastic casings from the chorizo and add the sausages to the pan. Break up the sausage into small bits with your trusty wooden spoon. Add the leeks and cook them until very wilted, stirring frequently. During this process, the bits of sausage will firm up (they were raw to begin with) and cook through. Stir in the peppers and a pinch of sugar to balance out the heat from the sausage and peppers.

To assemble quesadillas: place a tortilla on a plate or other flat surface. Smear a tablespoon or so of the beans onto half the tortilla and top with about 2 tablespoons of the chorizo/leek/pepper stuff. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of shredded cheese, then fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling.

Place in a skillet that has been greased with a bit of cooking spray. Cook over medium-high heat until the bottom gets brown and crispy, then flip. Cook on the other side for a few minutes, and remove from pan.

Cut into wedges and serve with salsa of your choice, sour cream, or au naturel.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apple Crisp

I've blogged about apple crisp here before. The first time was after trying Top Cheftestant Robin Leventhal's Quickfire-winning recipe. It was good, but the orange zest in the topping kinda threw me a flavor curveball that I'm still not sure I liked. Last Fall, I tried famous chef Betty Crocker's version. It was fine, but the cook time of the recipe was off. This time, I decided to take matters in my own hands and put together my own recipe. It's very simple, nicely spiced, and has a super-crunchy topping that stays crusty after refrigeration.

I used Macoun apples, but you can use any type that float your boat.

Crunchy Apple Crisp

6 apples (use your favorite)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
large pinch salt
1 stick cold, unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease an 8" or 9" round or square baking pan.

Peel and slice apples. Arrange in the baking pan. (I used one of those peeler/corer/slicer gizmos, which makes the chore go by lickity split. It also leaves the equivalent of half a cup of apple sauce/juice on the countertop.)

Combine the next ten ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and, using your fingers, smush it around in the bowl with the dry ingredients until pretty well incorporated and the mixture is lumpy. Use the topping to completely cover the apples in the pan.

Bake at 375 for 50-55 minutes until bubbly around the edges and browned on top. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and serve topped with freshly whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Japanesque Eggplant

I've been on an eggplant kick recently. Mr Minx had always claimed to hate eggplant, but I find if I puree it with various seasonings, he'll eat it. I usually lean toward Mediterranean flavors, like a babaganoush or something with tomatoes, but recently I decided I would do something with a Japanese feel. We have a tub of miso in the fridge that I don't get to use very often, so I blended a few spoonfuls with eggplant that I nuked into submission. The dish was a pureed riff on a Japanese broiled eggplant dish, and I think the flavors were spot on.

Miso Eggplant Dip

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 medium eggplant (to produce about 2 cups of cooked flesh)
3 tablespoons white miso
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
pinch cayenne
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Place sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, and cook, shaking the pan regularly, until the seeds are fragrant and have turned a slightly darker shade of brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove stem end and cut the eggplant in half from stem to base. Place halves cut side-down on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with plastic wrap and nuke for 8-10 minutes until deflated and soft. Set aside and allow to cool.

When cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the eggplant into the bowl of a food processor. Add the miso, mirin, and rice wine vinegar. Stir in the cayenne and add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop into a serving bowl.

When ready to serve, combine olive and sesame oils and drizzle over the eggplant mixture. Sprinkle on the toasted sesame seeds.

Serve on crackers or French bread.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Choice Bites 10.9.12

Grant Achatz' team at Chicago's Alinea recently spent five days cooking at Eleven Madison Park in New York. And vice versa. All of the advance prep work that needed to be done (since Alinea's menu and servewear is so famously complex) is rather fascinating. NY Mag's Grub Street has the scoop.

Bravo's Top Chef is so popular, they've opened a restaurant. An extended pop-up, Top Chef Kitchen sold out within an hour (I know - I tried to get a reservation within minutes of receiving the press release). Food Republic has a bit more on the concept, plus links to the official Web site.

Elvis Presley's daughter has a food truck. Sorta. Does it serve deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches? Nope. Fish and Chips. Which isn't exactly more healthy.

Have you read the horrible news that there may be a shortage of pork products in 2013? How will we get our bacon fix? Some say not to worry - it's not true. (Besides, the world is going to end in December of 2012, so we won't need the bacon anyway.)

For the prurient among us, Neil Patrick Harris has a food-porn-only Twitter account @NPHFoodPorn.

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Ruben's Mexican Food

Ruben's Mexican Food, aka Ruben's Crepes, is a little shop on Charles Street in Federal Hill, but I know it best as a farmers' market stand, and provider of many of my Tuesday lunches.

Ruben's has both sweet and savory crepes and a handful of Mexican street foods like burritos and quesadillas. But what I enjoy most are the tacos - griddled corn tortillas filled with a choice of ground beef, chorizo, chicken, or carnitas and topped with a ladle of fresh pico de gallo and cilantro. They're a bit too sloppy to pick up and eat; I use a knife and fork so I don't dribble chorizo grease onto my reading material.

Unlike some of the fancier truck-produced tacos in town, Ruben's are simple, yet extremely savory. The meat is nicely seasoned and doesn't need to rely on fancy sauces to give it flavor. Speaking of sauces, Ruben's hot sauce is dynamite - and available by the bottle. The smoky stuff gives a great kick that intensifies with each taste, but is nicely tempered with a bit of sour cream.

I'm disappointed that I'll only be able to eat them until November, when the UMB farmers' market closes for the season.

Ruben's Crepes
1043 S Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(443) 756-0667

Ruben's Crepes on Urbanspoon

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Flashback Friday - October 5, 2012

This post was originally posted on on January 4, 2010.
What's New at the Bravo Store?

Bravo has been adding tons of new Top Chef-related items to their online store. Currently available are Terlato's Top Chef Quickfire Wines, and bouquets by Teleflora. And let's not forget Top Chef meals by Schwan's Home Service! But there are more interesting items available...let's take a look.

Click images to see larger versions
Wow - who doesn't want to look like the lovely Gail Simmons?

Or head judge and favorite of bears everywhere, Tom Colicchio?

But my favorite items in the Bravo store are these fab bobbleheads!

What would you like to see in the Bravo store?

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Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Ages ago, I used to work with a woman whose last name was Millet. One of my managees at the bookstore, she was fun, enthusiastic, and loyal - she quit when I did. We used to mispronounce her name on purpose, but it's been so many years, I can't remember if her name is "mil-LAY" and we called her "MILL-it," or vice versa. In any case, I found her on Facebook and sent her both a message and a friend request. She hasn't responded to either.

Maybe because I used to mispronounce her name on purpose. :(

In any case, the millet that is the real subject of this post is a grain. One of the oldest known to man, and a diet staple for much of the world. And until recently, it had never passed my lips. Millet isn't often found on restaurant menus in the US, which is a shame, because it's both versatile and tasty. It's actually quite reminiscent of couscous, only it takes longer to cook. Plus, it's a whole grain, so its more nutritious than couscous.

For my first millet experiment, I played with another recipe from The New Whole Grain Cookbook: Terrific Recipes Using Farro, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Barley, and Many Other Delicious and Nutritious Grains. Basically I used the method and most of the ingredients, but I changed up the seasoning to work better with the chicken molĂ© I was making for dinner that night. The original recipe was for African millet salad with corn and peppers, but instead of using paprika and allspice, I used cumin. I also substituted lime juice for the lemon juice, and instead of adding tomatoes, a teaspoon of tomato paste went into the dressing.

The result was ok. Somewhat bland, albeit lime-y. But much much MUCH tastier than buckwheat. It definitely was like couscous, so the next time I use it, I might leave it fairly plain and serve it hot with a sauce-y main dish.

Any suggestions? Also, anyone know what I should do with the box of freekah I bought at Whole Foods the other day?

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Milk Jam: Not for the Impatient

I may not be the most patient person in the world. This is why I have yet to make short ribs in my SousVide Supreme™. Oh sure, I can put a pot of chili on to cook for several hours while I do something else in another part of the house, no problem. It's the ability to leave the room and go elsewhere that works for me. With milk jam, however, I had to sit vigil over the pan, lest it boil over and bespoil my (granted, already messy) cooktop.

I stumbled upon the recipe whilst perusing the September issue of Bon Appetit at the dentist's office Yes, I let my subscription lapse. :::hangs head::: (I really should rectify that. I get Food & Wine, but prefer Bon Appetit because...a little secret...I don't care to read about wine. Apologies to whomever it was that anonymously gifted me with a subscription to Wine Spectator a few years back.) The simplicity of the recipe struck me, and I committed it to memory.

Not that difficult: 2 cups milk + 1 cup sugar + cook 45 minutes until light reddish-brown and measures a scant cup.

I busted out my fancy All-Clad saucier for the job. (It's the only piece of All-Clad I can lift without my wrists screaming for mercy.) Here he is at the beginning of the cooking process.

And here he is again, after 90 minutes. Yes, after twice the recommended cooking time, the milk jam was medium beige and measured far more than a scant cup. But I was tired of perching on a chair in the kitchen, giving it the evil eye. 

For the most part, the milk behaved itself, burbling contentedly between stirs. But every once in a while, it got too big for its britches and bubbled to the top edge of the pan, at which point I raced to turn the heat down. Despite the mind games, there were no boil-overs. Yet I was not quite victorious.

After refrigeration, the jam thickened up quite a bit, but wasn't as thick as either sweetened condensed milk or caramel. The flavor reminded me of a Japanese candy that I like called Milky. The suggested use for this milk jam is as a topping for chocolate cake when mixed with sour cream or creme fraiche, but I rather like it as a dip for fresh fruit. Strawberries are nice, as are nectarines, bananas, apples, and just about anything else.

Probably chocolate cake, as well, but I might not have enough patience to wait for one to finish baking. In the meantime, I may eat all of the milk jam straight out of the jar with nothing but a spoon for company.

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Monday, October 01, 2012

Woody's Taco Island

Woody's Rum Bar, sister restaurant to Kooper's Tavern and Slainte in Fells Point, now has a taco truck cruising the streets of Baltimore.

The world definitely needs more taco trucks, so I was excited. But the first meal I had was a bit disappointing. Tacos come in sets of three, with no mixing and matching. Two of the same tacos in an order is ok, but three is boring. However, the first variety I tried - the pork adobo ones - were not boring. On the contrary, they had entirely too much stuff going on. There was the adobo-braised pork, the pickled onions, the pineapple salsa, and a blood orange chile sauce. It was an unrelenting barrage of vinegary flavors which most definitely did not need the pico de gallo or super tangy slaw on the side. Some creamy cheese would have cut the extreme piquancy, but I didn't want to shell out the additional buck for queso, as I was already spending $9 for lunch.

Adobo braised pork tacos
The jerk chicken tacos weren't any better. Advertised as coming with honey-lime mango salsa, jicama jalapeno slaw, and fried plantains, I thought the sweetness of the salsa and the crunch of the slaw would mesh nicely with the spicy chicken. Unfortunately, the generous portion of chicken breast strips were predictably dry, the mango in the salsa was underripe and undersweet, the texture of the shredded jicama was actually somewhat unpleasant, and there was an overwhelming cinnamon flavor that almost overtook the powerful chile and thyme flavor of the chicken. The combination of cinnamon and thyme is what my mother and grandmother would have referred to as "ostry," (UH-strih, with a rolled r), which means "harsh" in Polish. And I had three of these things to eat.

Jerk chicken tacos
Enough of the tacos. Three other types are offered (steak, fish, and black bean felafel) but I feel I've had more than my fair share. Plus, there are other things on the menu, in the form of a salad and some sides - not that I plan to try any of them. Oddly, the charge for adding meat or beans to a salad is $4 across the board, while a side order of beans is only 3 bucks.

Anyhoo, I've had quibbles about food truck food from time to time. Sometimes it's great, other times it's merely ok. This time, I just plain don't like it. And I'm generally a big fan of the Kooper's/Slainte/Woody's family of restaurants. But don't let my personal tastes dictate yours - as they say, your mileage may vary. (See what I did there? Mileage? It's a food truck? Oh, nevermind.)

Woody's Taco Island on Urbanspoon

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