Wednesday, July 31, 2013


We planted our first in-the-ground garden this summer. Well, it's a raised bed, but it's not our usual container garden. Besides a plethora of tomatoes, we put in eggplant, jalapeno and frying peppers, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, okra, collards, brussels sprouts, strawberries, and nasturtiums. While the plants are flowering like crazy, we've gotten only one eggplant and four cucumbers--surprisingly, not a single zucchini--thus far. And tons of tomatoes.

So what to do with one eggplant, one frying pepper, and some tomatoes? We happened to have celery and onion in the fridge, and eggplant + celery = caponata. Caponata is an Italian vegetable dish with an agrodolce flavor that comes from vinegar and sugar. We had those, too.

Though the eggplant was fairly small (fist-sized), combined with the other vegetables, it produced a overflowing cup full of sweet and sour relish. While the stuff would have been great on toasted bread, bruschetta-style, I decided to serve it over some mahi mahi. Any other mild while fish would work, too.


extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 large stalk celery (or two smaller stalks from the inside of the head), cut into small dice
1 Italian frying pepper (or half a ripe bell pepper) cut into small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small eggplant (about fist sized), unpeeled, cut into small dice (or about half a regular eggplant)
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 cup chopped olives
4 teaspoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons champagne vinegar
1 tomato, cut into small dice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a sauté pan and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 6-8 minutes, until onion is soft and translucent and starting to brown a little on the edges. Add the celery, pepper, and garlic, and cook another 4-5 minutes, until vegetables start to soften. Add the eggplant and red pepper flakes next, and cook for about 7-10 minutes more, until the eggplant is tender. Add more olive oil at this point if the eggplant starts to stick to the pan.

Stir in the capers, olives, brown sugar, and vinegar. Add the tomato and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook another minute or so more, just to warm up the tomato. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Next Food Network Star Season 9 Episode 9 Recap

After several "and then there were..."-less weeks, Alton is back with his favorite phrase. Five Wannabes left, one apparent position as Food Network "star" available (and two or three on the Cooking Channel).

This week's Mentor Challenge is basically just a 20-minute commercial for Special K. And speaking of Special K, that commercial with the dippy-looking chick who tries to avoid the cupcake-pushing giant cupcake by closing the top on her convertible while leaving the driver-side window open annoys me. He's still there, dope. He can still see you, and you can probably still smell that sweet, sweet cupcake. (The beginning part of that commercial, where the woman closes the door in the face of the young donut-selling little girl doesn't bother me at all. I hate donuts with multicolor sprinkles.)

So...on with the challenge. The Wannabes must use Special K products in a well-balanced meal. Damaris and Rodney are assigned breakfast, Nikkidinki gets lunch, and Russel and Stacey need to concoct something for dinner. They get thirty minutes to cook, and then one minute to present their dishes to Alton, judge and jury of one.

As the Wannabes cook, Alton goes around to annoy them, a la Tom Colicchio. He dings Nikkidinki for not having authority because she never asks the question, "why." I show my authority by asking that question all the time. WHY are those particular contestants left? WHY are the challenges so stupid? WHY am I watching this? (I do it for you, my loving fans.) Nikkidinki is making a salad with eggplant and Special K croutons, which makes me ask once again, WHY? Thankfully, her oil is too hot and her croutons carbonize, saving poor Alton from having to experience that particular horror.

Rodney's making - you guessed it - breakfast pie. Nobody could accuse him of being a one-trick pony. Stacey thinks she has this challenge in the bag. As a working mom, she's often exhausted coming home from the diner, and her kids have no choice but to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner.

Cooking time is up and Rodney presents his dish first. He's a bit more controlled than usual, but doesn't follow the directions completely. In the one minute presentation, each Wannabe must offer a tip, like, "Don't make your breakfast pie crust with Special K. Instead, take your kids to Denny's for pancakes," and he missed it.

Damaris has made French toast crusted with cereal. Alton doesn't think it's possible to make French toast in half an hour, but I do it all the time and it's terrific. Contrary to popular belief, bread doesn't need eight hours to soak up a couple of eggs and milk. In any case, Damaris does a good job with both her presentation and dish.

Nikkidinki has just tossed a handful of strawberry Special K on her salad and makes up her presentation as she goes along. Apparently her husband loves cereal so much, he puts it on his salad. Um, no. But Alton pretends it tastes good so she seems safe.

By the way, did you notice that Alton is wearing Viet's unlucky red pants? Or are they Chad's?

Stacey's presentation is far more natural than her norm, possibly because she didn't have much time to write a script and memorize it. Alton makes a comment about how kids would like her chicken, so I took that to mean it was too sweet.

Finally, Russell makes a decent enough dish, but Alton tells him he needs to make more "eye-love" to the camera.

Despite her sweet chicken, Alton gives Stacey the win, and an advantage in the next challenge.

They all jump into the Partridge Family Bus and head to Phil Trani's restaurant in Long Beach. It's one of those old-school continental cuisine joints that should have gone out of business twenty years ago, but according to them, it only opened twenty years ago. The place is doing so poorly that Robert Irvine has been called in to "fix" it, and the Wannabes are going to help him overhaul the menu.

Stacey's advantage in this challenge: she gets to assign dishes to her co-stars competitors.

Phil Trani comes out to meet them, along with his two managers, Amber and Ashley. They will present the dishes that need the most help.

First is chicken cacciatore with pasta, which Stacey assigns to Rodney, because it's not pie and she can't imagine that he can make pie out of it. She would be very wrong.

Tournedos of beef topped with large button mushrooms and a side of garlic mashed potatoes is foisted onto Damaris, who doesn't like steak. The Playmates helpfully offer that the potatoes are half real, half from a box. Which begs that popular question, WHY?

Stacey herself takes the crab stuffed halibut that comes with a baked potato. The Playmates don't like it because it looks like an omelette and not seafood. Boy, they'd hate all of the various crab imperial-topped dishes one finds in Baltimore. But...who cares?

Salmon-loathing Nikkidinki gets salmon with onion pepper relish and rice pilaf. Now all of the Wannabes are resenting that they became so friendly and shared their innermost thoughts with the enemy. Stacey looks sweet, but she's evil incarnate!

Finally, Russell gets a boring and underseasoned stuffed chicken breast with yet more rice pilaf. The Playmates say it's not really rice pilaf, just regular rice with stuff in it. Now that, my friends, is a culinary sin.

The contestants get one hour to cook, and then a focus group of loyal customers and first timers will taste and critique, along with Hugh and the Playmates.

When the cooking is finished, Rodney presents first. He's made chicken cacciatore pie, of course, and his flour-coated t-shirt is evidence. The pies themselves aren't that great - he deep fried them, but they are pale and the dough is undercooked - but his presentation is memorable. He tells the focus group that "Pie Style is contagious," and you know they're wondering where the closest free clinic might be.

Damaris' presentation is good - she's cute, memorable, but her dish of filet mignon with real mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli is boring and doesn't show any of her Southern charm. Where are the peaches? The bourbon? The boob shake?

Russell, by transforming his boring stuffed chicken into spinach-wrapped chicken poached in vermouth, has created the dish of the evening. He shows some confidence in his presentation and is well-liked by all.

Nikkidinki produces a perfectly-cooked salmon, but there's far too much of what she calls a rice pilaf on the plate. When quizzed about it, she says rice pilaf is just rice with stuff in it, which of course is not true. Even the Playmates can tell you that. Finally, Stacey's halibut roulade is dry and underseasoned. She spoke well, but, ironically, the Playmates thought she came off a little fake.

Back in the Temple of the Giant Glowing Vagina, Alton, Giada, and Robert Irvine compliment Russell on his dish and tell him he's safe from elimination.

They then send the other four to the green room while they discuss their fates, judging them on their performance throughout the entire competition.

I figure nobody will get eliminated this week, but it ends up being Nikkidinki, long the favorite. She's deemed not to have enough authority. Because, you know, Guy Fieri and Sandra Lee are some of the most authoritative characters on TV.

Speaking of Guy Ferry, he'll be producing the pilots that three of the Wannabes will be making next week, in the penultimate episode of the season. That's right, folks - two episodes left!

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Mission Chinese Food

Korean-born, Oklahoma-raised Danny Bowien is one of the hottest properties around. In 2011, Mission Chinese Food, in San Francisco, was named one of Bon Appetit's best new restaurants, and now he's featured in the July 2013 issue of Food & Wine as one of the country's best new chefs.

The New York branch of Mission Chinese Food opened in 2012, and I've read nothing but raves. (Ok, there have been some bellyaching on Yelp, but that's to be expected.) On my recent trip to New York, I planned to be in the vicinity (SoHo) and thought it would make a great spot for lunch.

Turns out lunch is the best time to visit Mission Chinese Food. I got there a few minutes before the opening time of noon and there was already a short line. (At dinner time, the tiny restaurant's line, and, consequently, the wait, is far longer.) After a brief amount of time, I was taken to the dining room and, as I was a lone diner, given a seat at the bar, where all of the servers were incredibly nice and attentive to my needs.

Mission Chinese is famous for their spicy "Americanized Oriental food" with dishes like kung pao pastrami and thrice-cooked bacon. Both of those entrees have two flame symbols next to them on the menu, which according to the legend means "very freakin spicy." It was very hot and humid in New York and I had already done my fair share of sweating, so I figured one-flame spicy was about as hot as I wanted to go. I ordered two dishes from the hot appetizer section of the menu, the shaved pork belly with soy caramel, garlic, and Sichuan pepper, and the salt and peppered soft shell crab with buttermilk ranch dressing.

The menu suggests that the pork belly needs an accompaniment of a la carte rice, so I shelled out the additional $2 for a bowl. I suppose that was a warning to me that the dish was very spicy, but I chose not to heed that warning, instead putting faith in the fact that the dish had only one flame symbol. Dummy.

The dish was served cold, rather than hot, but that did not detract from the flavors and textures of this dish. The shavings of pork belly were meltingly tender. The sauce was a darkly-flavored melange of garlic, caramelized soy, maybe some Chingkaing vinegar, with some raw garlic on top for good measure. And it was full of the sensation the Chinese call ma la - numbing and spicy. There was so much Sichuan peppercorn in the dish, my nose went numb after a few forkfuls. What was worse, the dish was firey as I was eating it, of course, but when I attempted to put out the flames with the rice, it only served to fan them even higher. So the rice was a big bomb. What I needed was a glass of milk. If I drank milk.

The soft shell crab was much milder, provided I didn't eat any of the slices of green chile pepper scattered on top. It was a tad too salty though. I can't fault the crisp texture of the crust, or the ranch dressing, which tasted like tartar sauce, if tartar sauce were made with buttermilk.

There was a large party at the table next to the bar and they ordered a great many delicious-looking dishes. I heard several times, "this is really spicy," and have to wonder why restaurants make food hot just for the sake of making things hot. Some of us enjoy a nice bit of heat, but we're not all "chile-heads."

Senses completely overloaded, I headed out once more into the incredible humidity, in search for something cooling, like ice cream.

Mission Chinese Food
154 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002

Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Best of Baltimore!

See that purdy blue graphic in the left sidebar? You know, this one:
That means Minxeats was named Baltimore's Best Food Blog for 2013. We are incredibly flattered and honored!

If you don't believe me, you can pick up a copy on newsstands starting tomorrow, July 26th!

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Mason Dixon Master Chef Competition to Enter Round Two

The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament, a live, local, interactive culinary competition, completed Round 1 competition this week. The original field of 16 top area chefs is now down to just eight, as the competition enters Round 2 and the final month of competition. Each week the competition is getting more intense and the scores tighter; one match this week was decided by .04 of one point!

Matches are being held throughout the summer on most Mondays and Tuesdays at the Mari Luna Bistro in Baltimore. Round 2 matches are listed below. 10% of each ticket sold goes directly to Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, the competition’s charity partner.

Tickets*: $25 for general admission (includes tax)
$45 for judging experience (includes tax)
Available for purchase at:
*Tickets must be purchased in advance for the above pricing. $35/ $55 at the door (if available).

The $25 ticket price includes admission to that night’s competition, wine/spirit tasting, passed hors d’oeuvres during happy hour, dessert and coffee bar, all taxes and a 10% donation to charity. Tickets are on sale now, and are expected to sell out quickly.

Round 2 Matches:

The line-up for July 29 and 30 matches in “Battle Latin America” include:

Match 9: Monday, July 29 - Chef Jeff Keeney of The Point in Fells versus Chef Billy Hughes of Barracudas Restaurant and Bar

Match 10: Tuesday, July 30 - Chef Mark Dunaway of Regi’s American Bistro versus Chef Christopher Lewis of Iron Bridge Wine Company

The line-up for August 5 and 6 matches in “Battle Belgium” include:

Match 11: Monday, August 5 –Chef Jirat Suphrom In versus Chef Melissa Fordham of Gourmet Again

Match 12: Tuesday, August 6 – Chef Neill Howell of Bond Street Social versus Chef Jake Hack of Chef’s Expressions

Happy Hour each evening will feature a complementary wine or spirit tasting, hors d’oeuvres, as well as special pricing on drinks and food for purchase from Mari Luna Bistro both days. Guests will also enjoy a complementary dessert bar and coffee to top off their evening. Event details available at:

When & Where:

The 8-week event kicks-off next week and continues through the summer, with two competitions each week, until August 27th.

5:30 -7:00p.m. – Happy Hour (free appetizers and wine/spirit tasting)
6:30 p.m. – Cold Prep Begins
7:00 p.m. – Chef Competition
8:00pm – Judging Begins (complementary dessert and coffee bar for all guests)

Mari Luna Bistro
1225 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Green Tomato Relish

We've planted tomatoes in containers for several years now. The smaller, miniature varieties grow like gangbusters, but the full-sized fruits are always a disappointment. This year, we put in a raised bed garden and planted it with several types of large tomatoes. They're growing well - yay! But not wanting to have more ripe tomatoes than we can handle at one time, I've been culling them while green. There's only so many times one feels like fussing with fried green tomatoes, so I wanted to do something different. Easier. I thought maybe a green tomato relish could be interesting, but when I looked for recipes on the Web, all I found were supersweet versions that would be best used on a hot dog. I wanted something far more subtle, something slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and not at all pickle-tasting.

Basically, I chopped my green tomatoes, added a bare minimum of seasoning, and was pretty satisfied with that. I served it over pan-seared salmon and barley "Alfredo." (Prepare a package of quick cooking barley, drain and add a big blob of butter, a couple tablespoons of heavy cream, and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir well, season to taste.)

Green Tomato Relish

olive oil
3 green tomatoes, cut in small dice
1 tablespoon diced onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add tomatoes and onion. Cook for a minute or so, then add the garlic. Stir frequently for another minute, then add the brown sugar and vinegar. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and hot sauce (I like Tabasco's green jalapeno sauce for this) to taste. If you feel the tomatoes need more sugar or vinegar, then add to taste. Cook for another minute or so. The tomatoes should still be somewhat crisp.

Store in the refrigerator in a covered jar until ready to use.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Next Food Network Star Season 9 Episode 8 Recap

Last week, the online competition to determine which eliminated Wannabe gets to return to the show, Last Chance Kitchen Star Salvation, ended with a cliffhanger (well, to those who care) - did Chad win, or did akaLovely? Alton, Bobby, and Giada give the bad news to the Wannabes, who had no idea there was a second, behind-the-scenes, rip-off of Top Chef-style competition going on after hours.

To everyone's great dismay (at least to those of us seated on the couch in my living room), the loser re-entering the competition is...



Now that that awful detail is done, let's go on to the first challenge. Apparently the job of a Food Network star is to describe a plate of food in such a manner as to make the home audience hungry. (I suppose that's why Rachael Ray yells "yummo!" all the time. We're supposed to have some sort of Pavlovian response.) The Wannabes have thirty minutes to prepare a plate of food and 30 seconds to describe it in such a way that the mentors start drooling all over their pocket squares (or in Giada's case, cleavage). I suppose we should call this the Buitoni Challenge, because the contestants must use that company's fresh pasta. They are admonished to pronounce things correctly, otherwise they will feel the Wrath of Giada. (She might bite them with those Colgate teeth of hers.)

Cooking commences. The edit goes to akaLovely first, and she talks about her pasta with shrimp. I can't tell you how much I dislike this character. She seems so phoney...oily...I find nothing pleasant about her. Everyone else I like, especially Rodney, who gives a shout out to Baltimore's Little Italy while he's prepping his dish. Which is not pie, by the way.

After thirty minutes, four of the Wannabes are chased out of the room, leaving Damaris and akaLovely behind. There's a twist! They switch plates. akaLovely must taste Damaris' pasta and describe it in 30 seconds. It's clear that akaLovely missed the food adjective challenge last week, because she can only come up with "beautiful," "delicious," and even manages to throw the over-used and completely out-of-place word, "journey," in there. Unless you're going to China to buy your ingredients and then bringing them back to your kitchen in Topeka to cook, you're not taking a frickin' journey. You're cooking a g-d plate of g-d pasta purchased at the local g-d supermarket. (That's "gosh-darn," by the way. Alton-speak.)

Geez Louise.

Not only that, she says, "maRscapone." I would have loved to see Giada jump down her throat for that, "Mas-car-po-NAY," Bitch!"

Damaris tries another tack by telling a story about heartbreak and eating pasta to soothe it. At least that seems to be what she's trying to say, but 30 seconds goes by mighty fast.

The next battle is Stacey vs. Rodney. She also starts a story that she can't finish, and you know she's just frantic without her set of mental index cards all lined up and ready to go. Rodney's mind goes blank; he keeps calling the chicken saltimbocca, "sweet," which it shouldn't be.

Finally, Russell and Nikki go head-to-head. He's now making sure that he mentions his culinary sins every time he opens his mouth, and he even applies them to Nikki's all-vegetarian burst-tomato pasta, which is anything but sinful. Nikki does marginally better, but it's pretty safe to say that all six of them suck.

The mentors think Nikki is deserving of the win, however, which gives her an advantage in the next challenge.

Another thing that Food Network stars must do is travel around to other peoples' restaurants, stuff their faces with food, and talk and chew at the same time. (Dipshits, Douchebags, and Dorks just got an Emmy nomination, so you know this style of programming will never go away now.) The Wannabes, in two teams, must hit a joint in Southern Cali famous for one thing or another and film a field piece. Nikki's advantage - she gets to choose her teammates, and she wisely goes for Damaris and Stacey. That leaves Rodney, Russell, and akaLovely to fend for themselves.

Team Girlz go to the Donut Man in Glendora, CA. Team akaBoyz go to Vito's Pizzeria, in West Hollywood. They get some time to write their piece before filming begins, and mercifully they get to do retakes.

On Team Girlz, Damaris does the intro, and she comes off as bubbly and fun. She throws the scene to Stacey, who's interviewing Jim, the Donut Man and inventor of the fresh strawberry donut, which is made with potato flour. At least, she's supposed to be interviewing him. Instead, she's so nervous and eager to get the whole thing over with that she talks over him. She even answers her questions for him while he's left gasping like a fish.

Finally, Nikki takes the end of the clip, where she must engage a customer. She asks a little girl about her favorite donut, the girl answers brightly, and the clip is ovah.

Oh, did I mention that the winning team is safe from elimination? That means one person from the losing team is outta there. We here at Casa Minx can only hope that Team Girlz is the winner and that akaLovely shoots herself in the foot.

Next we see Team akaBoyz at Vito's. Russell starts with the intro, in which he mentions a 500 year old yeast and calls it a culinary sin. Huh? Rodney gets the interview and is absolutely a riot, at least the parts that are understandable.

He's jawing with the pizzaiolo like he's done this forever. Finally, akaLovely woodenly bites into a slice of obviously cold pizza and asks a question of the two male long-time Vito's customers sitting in a booth nearby. They answer dully and she doesn't try to engage them further. She's a big dud. Get her out of there.

After the filming, the Wannbes get to take showers before meeting the mentors at the DeMille Theater in Culver City. There is also a three-person focus group present made up of people from the Hollywood Reporter, who presumably know star power. Welp, you're not going to find any here, folks! Sorry for wasting your time!

They watch Team Girlz' clip first and seem to really like Damaris and Nikki. Stacey comes off as hammy to them though, and they don't like the way she runs all over Jim the Donut Man.

All three members of Team akaBoyz stumble. Russell didn't need to make it about himself, Rodney didn't display any culinary authority; the Hollywood Reporter people thought his personality might just have been shtick (although it was clear that the mentors loved him), and akaLovely was too polished. And a big dud. Get. Her. Out. Of. There.

Back at the kitchen, the giant glowing vagina table is put back in service as the Wannabes are given the verdict. Team Girlz did well enough to win, and Stacey cries, knowing that if they hadn't won, she'd be the one leaving. Team akaBoyz presented three possible choices for elimination, although it was pretty clear that Rodney was safe.

In a non-unanimous decision, akaLovely became akaLoser. Yay! She does leave us with a threat, however, saying we'll see her again. And that's when I'll be changing the channel.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Fancy Food Show 2013 - Sweet Treats

Last week, I wrote about some of the many many (many!) savory products on display at the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show at New York's Javits Center. This week, I want to mention some of the sweets.

There were many producers catering to special diets, and gluten-free and vegan products abounded. One of my favorites was Cocomels, a caramel using coconut milk in place of the usual dairy. They're both vegan and gluten-free, also corn syrup- and soy-free, and non-GMO. Most importantly, they're delicious, chewy, creamy caramels with a hint of coconut flavor.

Another vegan coconut product is Coconut Bliss, a frozen dessert made with coconut milk. It's not exactly ice cream, but it's very good, and it comes in more than a dozen flavors that can be purchased at your local Whole Foods.

CookiNuts, by Maryland-based Sweet Nuttings, are dairy- and gluten-free treats that are reminiscent of soft, chewy, Italian almond cookies, only with a much-higher nut content. I suspect that they contain egg whites, so they are not vegan. Nonetheless, they are delicious, more nutritious, and more filling than your garden variety commercial cookie.

Then there were the chocolates. Among the many brands I sampled, one of my favorites was Chuao Chocolatier, mostly because they put bacon and potato chips in their chocolate bars. I know! The milk maple bacon bar has little nubbins of bacony goodness and a hint of smoked sea salt, and the potato chip bar has kettle chip bits mingled in milk chocolate. I also liked their dark chocolate Firecracker bar, which has chipotle pepper and popping candy mixed in.

Another chocolatier that caught my tastebuds, actually...was Hagensborg. Part of me was attracted to the company's pig motif, but another part wanted to taste all of the sustainable exotic single origin chocolate from Ecuador, Madagascar, and Santo Domingo. The 39% cocoa Ecuador milk bar was my favorite, because I like to buck the trend: I'm not all that into super dark chocolate.

Local favorite Fisher's Popcorn also had a presence at the Fancy Food Show. Now Baltimoreans don't have to make the drive all the way to Ocean City to enjoy a couple handfuls of Fisher's delicious caramel corn. It's available in bags at the Harbor East branch of Whole Foods, plus assorted other locations all over the state. (Check out this page for more information.) In addition to the regular caramel corn and white cheddar flavors, there's a new chipotle caramel popcorn flavor. My taste of this variety was only slightly spicy, so don't worry about it being too hot to enjoy.

These are but a mere sampling of the many many sweet items I tried at the show. I hope it gives you some idea of the new food items that are hitting the stores now and in the near future, and encourages you try something new and different on occasion.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kale-stuffed Mushrooms

I love stuffed mushroom caps, especially when crab imperial is involved. But if I'm going to spend money on crab meat, I'll use it in something where the crab meat shines. When I found these perfectly-sized-for-stuffing mini portobello mushrooms, I had to come up with a different filling. We had a bag of Trader Joe's chopped kale in the freezer, and I thought "why not?" I also had a package of Mexican chorizo, one of my favorite meat products ever, but if I'm going to go the healthy route with kale, for goodness' sake, why sully it with something fatty like sausage?

I know. You don't know me anymore. It's this diet thing I'm on, Mark Bittman's VB6. I'm eating vegetables for breakfast and lunch and not really missing the meat. It's not like I'm deprived - I can eat meat every night for dinner - but I'm finding I am really enjoying the plethora of veg. So yeah, I opted not to put real chorizo in the mushroom caps. Instead, I used chorizo seasoning, which I had purchased a while back and hadn't yet tried. It tastes exactly like Mexican chorizo. Seriously, it does.

The seasoning in the recipe is a guideline. You want the kale and onion mixture to be strongly flavored so it will stand out over the bland mushroomyness of the mushrooms, so feel free to add more garlic, spices, or honey to suit your taste.

Kale-stuffed Mushrooms

12 mini portobellos or large button mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
olive oil
pinch salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen kale, defrosted
1.5 teaspoons chorizo seasoning (I got mine from Spice House)
1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheddar, monterey jack, or swiss cheese

Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any clumps of dirt. Remove the stems. Using a teaspoon scoop out the gills, making the opening of the mushroom as large as possible. In two batches, place the caps on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Cook the onion over medium heat in a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt until softened and starting to lightly brown around the edges. Stir in the garlic. Chop the mushroom stems and add them to the onion along with the kale. Cook until the kale is wilted. Add the chorizo seasoning and honey. If the mixture seems wet, add a couple tablespoons of panko and stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Fill the mushroom caps with as much of the kale mixture as they can hold. Top each with a sprinkle of panko and a large pinch of shredded cheese. Bake mushrooms for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly and there are small puddles of moisture under the mushrooms.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rajma Masala - Sorta

I was looking for something vegetarian to make for dinner, something easy, with beans. I hadn't eaten Indian food in a while, so a recipe for rajma masala struck me. Only that dish is made with kidney beans. Kidney beans aren't my friend, so I decided to use my favorite bean instead - black beans.

The dish is pretty simple, despite the number of spices. It came together in a flash and was very tasty. As a plus, the spices made the house smell great for the rest of the evening.

Rajma Masala

1 cup chopped onion
pinch salt
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can of chopped tomatoes and their juices
1/2 teaspoon amchor powder (dried green mango) or 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt to taste
chopped green onion or cilantro

In a medium saucepan, saute the onion over medium heat in a bit of oil and a pinch of salt until softened and just beginning to brown. Stir in the garlic and jalapeno, then add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir constantly for about a minute until the spices are well-incorporated with the onions, then add the beans and tomatoes.

Cook for 15-20 minutes over low heat until the beans have softened, stirring occasionally. Add the amchor powder or lemon juice and salt to taste.

Serve with basmati rice.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hakata Tonton

Regular readers of Minxeats know that I'm a pretty adventurous eater. I also come from a Polish immigrant family who valued what we now like to call "nose-to-tail" eating. My Mom used to rhapsodize about a dish my Grandma prepared long ago called chłódno nogi, or cold jellied pig's feet. While the "jellied" part of the equation never turned me on, I was curious to try pig's feet. I've been a fan of crispy pork skin and collagen- and calcium-rich cartilaginous goodness practically since birth. And lucky me, there's a restaurant in New York that specializes in that very thing - Hakata Tonton.

When I was in New York for the Fancy Food Show earlier in the month, I met up with my regular NY dining companion, David, for dinner. Hakata Tonton is conveniently close to his place of employment and seemed like the obvious choice. For me, at least. Thankfully, David trusts my judgement and is willing to eat adventurously.

The menu at Hakata Tonton is fairly voluminous for such a tiny place. When we were asked if we had a reservation - on a Monday night - I at first thought the restaurant was pretentious. But then when we got inside, I saw that there were only about eight tables, plus six seats at the bar, and all were full. They squeezed us in and made us feel very welcome. After hemming and hawing over what to order - and I wanted most of it - I narrowed my choices down to three: soft shelled crab, a sushi roll, and tonsoku, aka pig's feet. Because one can't not eat the specialty of the house.

My dishes came out in rapid succession, first the crab, which was lightly battered and served atop a delicious ponzu sauce of sweetened dashi and the aromatic Japanese citrus known as yuzu.

Then came a simple maki roll with lettuce and fried shrimp.

And finally, the main attraction - three hunks of grilled pig trotter with scallions and more ponzu. The skin was crunchy/crispy, the little meat on the bones was gelatinous, and overall it was finger-licking-good.

David went for the snow crab croquettes, which had bits of tonsoku inside and sat atop a sweet-ish puree of Japanese sweet potatoes. The croquettes were very soft under the crisp crust, hence the spoon. The flavors were very mild and I wished there had been more actual crab inside.

After quite a wait, David's deep fried chicken showed up. Each of the six blobs of meat were about the equivalent of a de-boned chicken leg. The meat was juicy and perfectly cooked, and the crust was delightfully crunchy. And of course there was more of that lovely ponzu sauce on the plate. Really excellent fried chicken.

We both enjoyed our meal, and I wished that we had been a bigger party with bigger appetites so we could try more things from the menu. Several diners around us were eating hot pots filled with tofu, dumplings, vegetables, Berkshire pork belly, and tonsoku, and it smelled outstanding. I would have liked to try the ankimo (monkfish liver) in yuzu miso, the slow cooked pork buns with spicy mustard, the collagen soup gyoza, scallop fritters, and the okonomiyaki. And...maybe next time.

Hakata Tonton
61 Grove St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 242-3699
Web site

Hakata Tonton on Urbanspoon

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