Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fish 'n' Chip Fridays at The Corner Pantry

Visit The Corner Pantry (6080 Falls Road) on Fridays for real British fish and chips! Chef Neill Howell will be serving up beer-battered cod, house-made chips, and the traditional side of mushy peas, accompanied by tartar sauce and malt vinegar, every Friday from 11am - 7pm. It will even be served on newspaper, as they do in the UK.


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Monday, September 29, 2014

Baked Mushroom Spring Rolls

At last year's (2013) Summer Fancy Food Show, I had a taste of The Ginger People's Sweet Chili Ginger Sauce and fell in love. It's a lot like the sweet chili sauce one finds accompanying fried things at Thai restaurants, only better. When I found it at the grocery store (I do believe it was MOM's Organic, but it may have been Whole Foods) I bought a bottle...which then languished in our pantry for at least six months.

Every time I opened the pantry, I spotted the bottle and made a mental note to make spring rolls at some point. Every time I closed the pantry, I forgot that thought. (Hey, I'm old. Memory's not what it used to be.) Except the very last time, when I remembered to write "spring roll wrappers" on the grocery list hanging on the fridge all of 18 inches away.

I decided that vegetarian or vegan spring rolls would be easier than the meaty sort, so mushrooms also went into the shopping cart that day, as did a head of cabbage.

I was making cole slaw for another meal, and after I chopped up the cabbage, I saved a cup of it for the spring rolls. In retrospect, I could have used more cabbage and fewer mushrooms, but I liked the idea of mushroom spring rolls. They would seem meatier, so we wouldn't miss the, er, meat. And a fear of frying (in addition to a fear of absorbing too much cooking oil/not needing those extra fat calories) led me to bake the spring rolls. Baking produces a crunchier eggroll than frying does, but it's also not greasy, so not a bad exchange.

You, of course, can make these the way you like. Heck, put some ground pork in the pan with the mushrooms if you want. I won't tell.

Baked Mushroom Spring Rolls

1 pound of mushrooms (your choice), chopped
2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
Big pinch of salt
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Soy sauce
1 package egg roll wrappers
3 scallions, chopped
Cooking spray

In a large pan set over medium-high heat, cook the mushrooms in the oil with a pinch of salt until they give up most of their moisture. Add the onion and cabbage and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook an additional minute. Season with sesame oil and soy to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature/refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a baking sheet by topping it with a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment. Keep a small bowl of water at the ready.

Take one spring roll wrapper and arrange it so the corners are facing the compass points (the southernmost/bottom point should be pointing directly at you). Place two heaping tablespoons of the mushroom filling in the lower center of the wrapper; top with a sprinkling of the chopped scallions. Fold the bottom point up over the filling, then fold the east and west points in to form an envelope. Dip a finger in the water and apply it to the northernmost tip. Roll the whole thing up and place on prepared baking sheet.

Repeat with the remainder of the filling. I got 12 rolls; you'll get more or less depending on how generous your "heaping" tablespoons are.

Spray tops of rolls with cooking spray. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms have begun to brown. Using tongs, turn rolls over, spray with more cooking spray, and bake an addtional 10-12 minutes, until rolls are crispy.

Serve with your favorite spring roll dipping sauce.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Roasted Poblano Soup

I'm a big fan of poblano peppers, so when I see them at the farmers' market, I buy 'em. In the past, I've stuffed them, used them in pimento cheese, chili, and in black bean soup. This time, they star in a soup of their own. It's a bit spicy, only somewhat creamy, and overall fairly light. We ate it hot, but it would be lovely served chilled as well.

Roasted Poblano Soup

1 pound poblano peppers
1 cup diced onion
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Handful of cilantro, both leaves and stems, roughly chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup half and half
Pinch smoked paprika
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked corn kernels

Roast the peppers over a gas flame or on a grill until blackened all over. Put them in a plastic or paper bag to sweat. When cool enough to handle, rub off the blackened skin then deseed the peppers and cut them into strips.

Sweat the onion in a bit of olive oil for a minute or two before adding the pepper and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the half and half and seasonings (you can add more to taste, but don't add so much as to overpower the flavor of the peppers). Add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Remove soup from heat and allow to cool. Place cooled soup in a blender and whiz to puree.

Garnish soup with corn kernels and some cilantro.

Serves 2-4

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Paolo's Tapenade

Anyone in Baltimore remember Paolo's? When the Harborplace location opened, it became one of my favorite downtown restaurants. I was first introduced to (the now impossibly dated) raspberry vinaigrette at Paolo's, and the concept of tapenade as "butter." Back then, most restaurants offered butter with their bread--the whole olive oil thing hadn't quite caught on yet in Baltimore. Paolo's served bread sticks and a tasty green olive-based tapenade.

I loved that tapenade, and usually requested more. One of the restaurant's hosts worked with a theater company that I also did some work for, and I was happy to see him bring a veritable vat of green olive tapenade to a company party. Thinking back (waaay back), I probably parked myself in front of it and ignored the other guests (most of whom I didn't particularly like--I think that was true of 90% of the members of this particular group).

Flash forward about a decade to the early 2000s, when Mr Minx and I had dinner at the Towson Paolo's. During our meal, we noticed something rank-smelling. We checked on the table and under the table before realizing it was the crab on his pasta dish. We never went back. Rotten crab aside, I still enjoyed the tapenade. And the raspberry vinaigrette. (I still like both.)

For some reason, that tapenade popped into my mind, and I decided to email my contact at Paolo's parent company for the recipe. Before I did that, I checked the restaurant's Web site (there are still Paolo's in DC and Reston) and found it there. It seemed like a good thing to make for a Stitch-n-Bitch snack. So I did. I reduced the recipe by half and still ended up with a quart. The original also called for chickpeas, which don't sit well with me, so I used cannellini beans instead.

It wasn't quite as I remembered it--I think the chickpeas are probably crucial--but it was really good. I enjoyed it, and my fellow stitch-n-bitcher enjoyed it too.

Green Olive Tapenade (adapted from Paolo's)

1 medium eggplant
8 ounces canned cannelini beans
1 15-ounce jar green olives with pimentos, drained
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded (can be from a jar)
1 large handful fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Split eggplant in half. Place cut-side-down on a microwave safe plate. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 10-15 minutes, until soft and deflated. Remove from microwave and allow to cool.

When cool, scoop eggplant flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Add the beans, olives, bell pepper, parsley, garlic, and half the olive oil. Pulse to a puree. Add the remaining olive oil and season with pepper. Pulse to combine.

Serve with crostini or crusty bread.

Makes a ton.


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Pittsburgh!?!?*

* This should be said in the manner of Joe Flacco in a 1st Mariner Bank commercial.

So I went to Pittsburgh. For a funeral, which seemed entirely fitting. It was a quick trip, much of it spent on the road, but my traveling companion, Kim, and I made the experience as fun as possible. And we squeezed in two restaurant meals.

I had quizzed a friend, whose spouse hails from the city that supports the Baltimore Ravens worst enemy, about restaurant recommendations. She offered up several, a few of which came with the caveat that she had not tried them but had heard good things. Another restaurant, the Pleasure Bar, came with praise from both her and her husband. We decided to check it out.

The name conjures up visions of a cozy and dark space that serves up both good food and fine libations. Instead, the corner restaurant in Pittsburgh's Little Italy seemed rather generic and certainly not cozy. The menu comprised Italian-American favorites like ravioli, eggplant parm, and stuffed shells. We started out with an appetizer order of fried calamari. It was ok, nothing special, and possibly not house-made. Lemon wedges would have been more useful than slices.

I wasn't in the mood for Italian food, but was contemplating the eggplant parm. Then I spotted the crab cakes. Yes, I know that it's a really dumb idea to order crab cakes anywhere outside of Maryland, but I wanted to know how badly they could be fucked up in a place like Pittsburgh.

Turns out, pretty fucked up.

Before I ordered, I asked our waitress about the origin of the crabmeat. When she went off to the kitchen to ask, I predicted she would tell us that it came from such-and-such distributor. And indeed she did. She said something about the meat being combined with their crab cake mix, which should have set off warning bells in my head. Instead, I chose to believe that it referred to breadcrumbs, egg, seasonings, and mayonnaise. After I explained that I wanted to know where the crab lived before being caught, she apologized for her mistake and ran back to the kitchen. When she returned, she said it came from "various parts of the Atlantic." She even added that she didn't really like crab cakes, but the ones at the Pleasure bar were soooo good, she would eat them.

I ordered them anyway.

In all honesty, they didn't taste bad. They did taste of bell peppers, which I don't care for and which do not belong in a Maryland crab cake. But this was Steeltown. It was the filler that was the real problem. I found a number of spongy, red-tinged objects in the cakes, and after careful analysis, I determined that they were...fake crab meat. That surimi crap that comes in cheap California rolls. I can almost forgive this, since it still sorta kinda is at least a seafood product. But the overall texture of the crab cakes was unpleasantly mushy. Had the ramekin on the side been filled with a nice remoulade sauce, there would have been a bright side. Alas, it was grainy "Alfredo" sauce.

Please indulge me in a small side rant here. The Italian chefs I know all rail on serving cheese with seafood; I just roll my eyes at this. So why is this Italian restaurant serving "Alfredo" sauce (that is, a bland white sauce with some cheese thrown in, and nothing like the real thing) with crab cakes?

Sigh. Serves me right, dunnit?

Kim ordered the rib eye steak, which, at the same $19 as my crab cakes, was a steal. You can't really tell from my cellphone pic, but it looked like it had been steamed rather than grilled or pan fried. And a goodly portion of it was gristle.

Oh well, better luck next time. Guess we should have stuck to the Italian-American food.

The next day, after the funeral, we headed back downtown to a gastropub called Meat & Potatoes, one of the recommended restaurants that had the "but we haven't tried it" caveat. We've tried it, and I have to say...we'd try it again. (Not that we ever plan to revisit Pittsburgh, but stranger things have happened.)

Burger - Caramelized onions, havarti, tomato jam, arugula, french fries
We were those terrible people who walk into a restaurant fifteen minutes before the kitchen is scheduled to close. But we ordered quickly! It was lunchtime, so their menu offerings weren't quite as interesting as those at dinner, but we quickly settled on the burger and the bibimbap.

BiBimBap - pork belly, black fried rice, pickled cucumbers, carrots, korean hot sauce, sunny side-up egg
The burger was huge, delicious, juicy (despite being cooked to medium well, as requested by Kim) and the accompanying fries were crispy and nicely browned. The tasty bread and butter pickles on the side were likely house-made. My bibimbap was outstanding. While I'd have liked more rice to absorb all of the hot sauce and pickle juice from the cukes, the flavors were bold and the huge slab of pork belly was moist and nicely fatty. (My mouth is watering as I'm typing this.) The egg yolk could have been runnier, but overall, this dish was terrific.

Cinnamon panna cotta
We splurged on dessert, because, well, we were grief-stricken (not by the previous night's meal, but by the funeral) and needed comforting. There were three choices, including a chocolate pot de creme, but I went for the cinnamon panna cotta and Kim chose the unpleasantly-named peanut butter Oreo dirt.

Peanut Butter Oreo Dirt
The panna cotta had a nice cinnamon flavor and I really enjoyed the fall-ish caramelized fruit topping, Kim's evil concoction was pretty tasty, too, and almost large enough for two servings.

So....

The Pleasure Bar wasn't pleasurable, but I'll cop to making bad choices. Meat & Potatoes was delicious, however, and I wouldn't mind checking it out again. If I didn't have to go to Pittsburgh to do so.

Pleasure Bar on Urbanspoon

Meat & Potatoes on Urbanspoon


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Friday, September 19, 2014

Swiss Chard Gumbo


For some time, the Minx has been pushing for us to eat more fruits and vegetables. While I'm not averse to eating vegetables and sometimes prefer a vegetarian meal over something meat-centric, I'm often challenged by the task of making vegetable dishes tasty and satisfying. I have a relatively small number of tricks up my sleeve, one being to make Indian-inspired dishes, but getting the seasonings just right is daunting. Another trick is to make gumbo since I've learned how to make a dark roux quickly and I can nail the Cajun/Creole flavor profile more easily.

Recently, the Minx signed us up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) that delivers a box of fresh fruits and vegetables to our door when we place an order. Among the items we received was Swiss chard, so the Minx tasked me with using the Swiss chard in our dinner. Since we also happened to have onion, celery, and a bell pepper, gumbo seemed to be the best option. It would also give me a chance to use some of the chicken andouille sausage that had been languishing in the freezer for weeks. Normally I would make rice to go with gumbo, but we happened to have some small potatoes around, so I thought that might be an interesting twist. I also threw in some okra that I had picked from the garden, but it's not absolutely necessary for the recipe. The silky Swiss chard is the star here.

Swiss Chard Gumbo

1 medium onion chopped
1/2 cup celery chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper chopped
3 andouille sausages
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
4 cloves garlic smashed
1/2 pound baby fingerling potatoes
1 bunch Swiss chard chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt to taste

Chop your onion, celery, and bell pepper and set aside. Also slice your three andouille sausages and set aside. Preheat a large pot until it starts to smoke and put in your butter and flour. Stir constantly until the butter and flour are combined and begin to brown. This is your roux. Keep stirring until the roux turns the color of dark chocolate. There will be quite a bit of smoke, so don't panic. That's just the way roux cooks. Once the roux reaches the right color, throw in your trinity (onion, celery, and bell pepper) along with the sliced sausage. Toss a little bit of salt in to release the juices from the vegetables. Reduce the heat and mix everything together. Put a lid on the pot and allow the onion to sweat.

At this point, smash the garlic with a garlic press and dump it into the 2 cups of chicken stock. Once the onions have become translucent and the roux has become liquidy, pour the stock and garlic into the pot. Raise the heat and stir. Once the mixture reaches a boil, toss in the fingerling potatoes. Depending on the size, you can leave them whole or, if they are too big, cut them into finger-sized chunks. Turn the heat to medium and let simmer.

Remove the leaves of the Swiss chard from the stems. Dice the stems and add them to the pot. Give them about 10 minutes to cook. Meanwhile, roughly chop the Swiss chard leaves. After the stems have cooked for 10 minutes, add the leaves and the seasonings. Adjust the seasoning to your own taste. Once the leaves have cooked for about five minutes, the gumbo is ready to be served.  

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Martini Mondays at Roy's

Every Monday, Roy’s guests can enjoy a specialty cocktail and appetizer for $6 each all night long.

The current cocktail and app duo is the Pacific Rim Cosmotini + Misoyaki Butterfish Lettuce Wraps. On Oct. 6, the featured items will be the invigorating Asian Pear Martini + Crispy Pork & Steamed Buns. I can attest to the deliciousness of the pork buns especially.

If you can't make it to Roy's, try one of their signature martinis at home with the recipe above!

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Our 2000th Post!

When we started blogging here at Minxeats back in 2005, we never expected to reach 2000 posts, much less have the opportunity to write two books and publish articles in local and national magazines. But here we are. Thanks to all of our readers, old and new, for sticking with us.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thai Red Curry BBQ Sauce

I imagine that many people in non-barbecue-famous states believe that bbq sauce is one of those magical substances that exist only in bottles on supermarket shelves. Most of these people have the fixins for a classic sweet tomato-based sauce in their own fridge and pantry. A lot of ketchup, some brown sugar, onions, garlic, and various savory seasonings are all one needs to make a perfect topping for grilled chicken, ribs, and pulled pork. And there's no limitations to the kind of savory seasonings that can be used. For the sauce here (pictured on pulled pork), I cleaned out the last 2 tablespoons from a jar of red curry paste and finished up a big bottle of fish sauce. If Alabama can make white barbecue sauce with mayonnaise, and North Carolina with loads of vinegar, then why can't I make a sauce with flavors borrowed from Thai food?

I can. I will. And I did. And it was pretty tasty.

I had that supermarket red curry to use up, and that stuff is pretty mild. If you want some real kick to your 'que, then use the Maesri brand paste they sell in Asian markets, or, if you have the wherewithal, make your own.

Thai Red Curry BBQ Sauce

1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch salt
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen red curry paste
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
1 tablespoon light soy
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

In a medium saucepan, cook the onion in the olive oil and pinch of salt over medium heat until translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional minute or two. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning; if you think it should be saltier, add more fish sauce. More tangy, add more lime. Thai Kitchen red curry paste is mild/not hot, so if you want heat, add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Harbor East Sip, Savor & Stroll

Sip, Savor & Stroll your way to an unforgettable evening in Harbor East! Sip, Savor & Stroll, a progressive event perfect for foodies and fun-loving city dwellers, returns to Harbor East on Wednesday, October 1. From 6:30PM-10:30PM strollers are welcome to experience some of Baltimore’s top dining destinations, sampling signature cocktails, wines and appetizers at each venue. Guests will visit a total of five Harbor East restaurants and bars throughout the night, revisiting favorites and exploring new hot spots. Touring the neighborhood in small groups, revelers can mix, mingle and savor all that the Harbor East dining and nightlife scene has to offer!

Participating Harbor East venues include: Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion, Apropoe’s, Bond Street Social, BIN 604, Lebanese Taverna, Taco Fiesta, Gordon Biersch, Talara, Wit & Wisdom, Oceanaire, and James Joyce.

Each $49 ticket includes five cocktails and an array of appetizers at five pre-determined venues, plus a complimentary welcome cocktail at check-in.

Tickets to Harbor East’s Sip, Savor & Stroll are limited and sell out quickly – interested parties are encouraged to reserve their tickets early to ensure a spot. Attendees are welcome to sign up in groups of up to 20 strollers or be matched up! Please note this is a RSVP only event and tickets must be purchased in advance.

Visit harboreast.com/events/sip-savor-stroll for more details and to reserve tickets.

Ideal for work happy hours, date night, or ladies’ night out, Sip, Savor & Stroll is a fun and unique way to sample and explore the best of Harbor East – join us for this very special evening in the neighborhood!


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Monday, September 15, 2014

Gluten-Free Stone Fruit Crisp

With all the stone fruit recipes I've posted this summer, I should retitle the blog, "Nectarine Chronicles," or something like that.

Our CSA sent us some plums that after two weeks never got soft enough to eat. The following week we received nectarines and pluots which were getting ripe a bit faster than we could finish them off. So I decided to get rid of the whole lot by making a simple fruit crisp.

We were running out of AP flour, so I used oat flour instead, along with oats and almond flour. So it's gluten-free! My favorite part of the topping is the walnuts; if you don't want to use them, you can use another nut or skip them altogether, but they really add a nice crunch.

Stone Fruit Crisp

1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 tablespoons melted butter
4 cups peeled stone fruits (nectarines, peaches, plums, etc.), roughly chopped
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine the flours, oats, brown sugar, walnuts, and spices in a bowl. Pour the melted butter over and mix well with a fork to combine.

Toss the fruit with the corn starch, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Pile into a 8x8, 9x9, or 9" round baking dish. Top with crumble.

Bake for 40 minutes, until topping is browned and crisp and the fruit is bubbling along the edges.

Serves 8.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Mint-Cilantro-Mango Chimichurri

Our visit to Ananda, an Indian restaurant in Maple Lawn (Howard County), introduced us to a variation of the beloved coriander chutney served with samosas and other fried appetizers. There, cilantro is combined with mint, mango, and avocado, giving it both richness and sweetness. I decided I wanted to make this at home and put in an inquiry to the restaurant. By the weekend, I hadn't received the recipe, so I tried to recreate it.

It's hard to find ripe avocados at the last minute, so I omitted them. While the result doesn't taste exactly like the stuff at the restaurant, it's pretty good. But what to put it on? I've been contemplating making samosas for a while now, but not that particular weekend. I did have a nice London broil defrosting though, and beef is great with a chimichurri sauce. And chimichurri is basically herbs + garlic + oil + vinegar. So I added oil and vinegar to some of the existing chutney, and it was great.

Mint-Cilantro-Mango Sauces

For chutney:
1 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, loosely packed
1/2 mango, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
Generous squeeze of lime juice
Pinch salt

For chimichurri:
3 tablespoons mint-cilantro-mango chutney
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch cumin
Pinch salt

To make chutney: Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to a puree. Add more salt to taste.

To make chimichurri: combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cauliflower Fritters

I read this post on Mango & Ginger just after I purchased some miniature multicolored cauliflower at the local farmers' market. Normally I'd steam the cauli and serve it with lashings of butter, or maybe roast it, but cauliflower fritters sounded too perfect.

I found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that combined cauliflower with feta cheese. Deb Perelman topped her fritters with a cumin-flavored yogurt and pomegranate seeds, but I was married to the harissa yogurt idea. Plus, we have a shaker full of harissa that we bought at MOM's Organic Market a while back, and I'm always looking for ways to use it.

This was perfect.

Cauliflower Fritters with Harissa Dipping Sauce (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For fritters:
1 pound cauliflower florets, steamed until tender
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying

For sauce:
1/4 cup greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon harissa powder, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

To make fritters: Using a potato masher, mash cooked cauliflower in a large bowl. Add egg and mix well. Stir in feta.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir into egg and cauliflower mixture until just combined. The batter will be very thick and lumpy.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot, plop in the batter in 2-tablespoon dollops, flattening them slightly with your spoon. Because the batter is so thick, it might seem that they won't hold together--have faith, they will. Repeat with additional batter, leaving space between each. Once browned on the bottom, carefully flip each fritter and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Drain on paper towels.

To make sauce: combine all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes 8 fritters



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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Baltimore Seafood Festival

Experience Baltimore’s best seafood at the Baltimore Seafood Festival with offerings from: Aggio, Bond Street Social, Barcocina, Langermanns, Café Gia, Farmstead Grill, Heavy Seas Alehouse, Ryleigh’s Oyster, Captain James Landing, Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, Blue Agave, Stuggy’s, Lebanese Taverna, Roy’s, Atwater’s, The Nickel Taphouse, Dooby’s, Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, Pitango, and Flavor Cupcakery.

Baltimore Seafood Festival guests will enjoy live music by Strykers’ Posse and Super Bueno, Smirnoff Crush Bar, Peligroso Tequila Bar, Wine Bar, the Groupon Cooking Tent featuring cooking demos by Baltimore’s top chefs, oyster and crab cake eating contests, local artists, and a family zone with kid-friendly attractions. The event will also feature a VIP area as well as a Domino Sugar Crab Feast Tent, featuring private tables for groups with bushel of crabs, private bars and cocktail servers.

WHAT: Baltimore Seafood Festival
WHEN: Saturday, September 20, 2014, 12pm-6pm
WHERE: Canton Waterfront Park
3001 Boston Street Baltimore, MD 21224
COST: Ticket packages starting at $29. Kids 10 and under are FREE!

For more info, visit www.baltimoreseafoodfest.com

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Asian Veggie Pancakes

A while back, I found myself with a bunch of vegetables--a fennel bulb, a bag of broccoli slaw, sugar snap peas, lots of green onions, roasted tomatoes--and not a lot of ideas. Well, there were ideas, but nothing particularly cohesive. Because we had eaten a bunch of meat recently, I wanted to make a primarily vegetarian meal. But what to do with that motley crew of produce? The tomatoes were really throwing me off, so I decided they could wait for another meal. The rest I would use in vegetable fritters.

There was also a bunch of Thai basil in our container garden. The plant was going a bit wild and needed serious trimming, so basil became part of the meal plan. And as I had just opened a new jar of pad kapao sauce, some of that would go in, too. I really love that stuff. It's spicy, aromatic, basil-y, and garlick-y, and it's good on just about everything. Mix it with mayonnaise and put it on a turkey burger. Put it in the turkey burger, too. Mix it with softened cream cheese and spread it on a bagel. Yes, for breakfast. (Hey, "everything" bagels have garlic and onion on them, so why not?) Mix it with softened butter and stuff it under the skin of a chicken before roasting. Put a tablespoon of it in plain tomato soup to eat with that grilled cheese sandwich. Pad kapao sauce is my sriracha. I've gotten my brother hooked on it, too, and the last time we hit an Asian supermarket together, we each bought several jars.

Eventually, I ditched the fritter idea and went with okonomiyaki-style pancakes. Okonomiyaki uses dashi, which isn't vegetarian, but you can certainly substitute some veg stock or just plain water in the batter. Me, I like the vague fishy flavor of the dashi.

Okonomiyaki are commonly served with Kewpie mayonnaise and unsweetened pickled ginger. Instead, I added some of my favorite chilli basil paste to a little Duke's mayo.

Asian Veggie Pancake

For pancakes:
1 cup water
2 teaspoons dashi powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
3 eggs
1 tablespoon Maesri Thai chilli paste with basil leaves(pad kapao)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3-4 cups mixed raw vegetables (I used sliced sugar snap peas, fennel, okra (because we had only 3 pods), and broccoli slaw mix)
1/4 cup roughly chopped Thai basil

For sauce:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Maesri Thai basil and chilli sauce

Put the dashi powder and water in a microwave safe bowl. Heat long enough to warm the water and dissolve the dashi, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the cooled dashi to the flour mixture, stirring to make a batter. Add the eggs and chilli sauce. Cover and refrigerate batter for at least an hour and up to three hours.

After the batter has rested, add the scallions, vegetables, and basil to the batter; it will be very thick.

Add a tablespoon of canola oil to an 12" nonstick frying pan and heat until it shimmers. Make 3 approximately 5" pancakes with the vegetable batter. Cook until bottoms are golden brown. Flip with a spatula and cook other side until brown. Remove pancakes to a paper towel-lined plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat until all batter is used.

Make a sauce with the mayo and chilli sauce. Serve with the pancakes.

Makes 9 pancakes.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Pasta Frittata with Roasted Vegetables

Sometimes simple is best.

There are times that I beat myself up over what to make for dinner on the weekends. Should I make something interesting or fancy? Something I've never made before? Something blog-worthy? Needless to say, everything we concoct in our kitchen is not blog-worthy, but we do try. And while I'm usually tinkering with a new recipe at some point during the week, there are plenty of times when I just do not want to think about it. I want to open the fridge and have something jump out at me, screaming, "I AM DINNER!" That never happens, of course, and damn good thing--screaming food would be pretty scary.
See? Scary.
But there was that bag of leftover spaghetti. Definitely not enough for two servings, and not quite enough for one serving (well, one serving for me, ok, but not one serving for Mr Minx). We also had a nearly-full carton of eggs. Didn't I just read something on Facebook about pasta frittatas? Why yes, yes I did. A giant omelette- or quiche-type thing with pasta in it...why the hell not?

I found a recipe by Gabrielle Corcos, hubby of actress Debi Mazar, and her co-star on the show Extra Virgin. It was easy peasy, and included only 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Other recipes I found called for half a cup...holy moly, that's a lot of money cheese! I decided to use Corcos' recipe as a base, and would add some veggies to it, onions and garlic, maybe green beans, corn, and tomatoes, since those were left from the CSA box. I roasted the green beans and tomatoes with a bit of oil and salt (balsamic vinegar and brown sugar on the tomatoes, too), then changed my mind. The corn went in though, as did onions, garlic, and freshly snipped chives and basil from the garden.

Did I mention that this was my first-ever frittata? Look how pretty it was! Even if the spaghetti does kinda resemble worms....

We also ate those roasted beans and tomatoes, after tossing them together and letting them come to room temperature. Definitely a filling vegetarian meal that didn't miss the meat.

Pasta Frittata, adapted from a recipe by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Kernels from 1 ear of corn
Small handful of basil, julienned
1 tablespoon minced chives
2 cups leftover cooked spaghetti, roughly chopped
5 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your broiler.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Cook the onion until lightly browned, add the garlic, corn, and pasta and stir until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the milk in a large bowl. Add the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan of veg and pasta. Pour the egg mixture over. Cover pan and cook until the edges of the frittata start to brown and the center is only slightly runny, about 12 minutes. Transfer pan to the broiler and cook until the center is set and top is nicely browned.

To serve, slide the frittata onto a cutting board and slice into wedges.

Serves 4.


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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Sobo Cafe

SoBo Cafe is my new favorite restaurant. Owner Anna Leventis hosted a signing for Baltimore Chef's Table a while back and it was a great success. Not only did we sell out of the book, mostly to SoBo's regular clientele, but we also had a terrific meal. Can't beat that combo!

I can't drink (on anticoagulants--hopefully a temporary situation) so I asked for a mocktail, any flavor. I was rewarded with a virgin strawberry mojito, full of berry and mint flavors, and did not even miss the rum. (Hey, I'm high on life anyway.) Mr Minx and our dining companion MinxBro made do with brewskis.

When I spotted the beet salad with frisee and pistachios on the menu, I knew it had to be mine. Yes, I am boring and always order the beet salad, but I like beets! I also like pistachios. The beets, both red and yellow, were tender and sweet, and worked nicely with the acidy dressing on the bitter greens.

As much as I enjoyed the salad, I wished I had ordered one of the two soups. MinxBro went for the chilled tomatillo soup. Seasoned with a hint of smoky chipotle and garnished with caramelized tomato and lots of cilantro, it was lovely. Rather than being gazpacho-like, the soup was made with a creamy substance (yogurt or cream) which gave it a nice body and smoothness.

Mr Minx chose the corn bisque with saffron butter and chives. Served piping hot, the soup tasted of pure corn and sweet butter. (When my brother and I were kids, we liked nothing more than to devour an entire box of Green Giant frozen niblets in butter sauce.) This soup was creamy and rich without feeling too decadent. Despite the saffron.

MinxBro couldn't resist the SoBo Burger, made with Creekstone Farms beef, applewood smoked bacon, roasted tomatoes, lettuce, cheddar, and house-made mayo on a house-made roll. I forgot to mention the bread we were served (and devoured) while waiting for our appetizers. Like the hamburger roll, it was made in house and it was. So. Good. Crusty without being painful, with a tender and flavorful crumb, I wanted to ask for more, but didn't want to be a pig (the slices were generously-sized).

The burger was pretty perfect, juicy and moist and cooked to the requested medium. Loved the salad and roasted fingerlings on the side instead of the usual boring fries.

Mr Minx and I were both eyeing the Korean chicken fried steak. Korean fried chicken is a thing, so why not Korean chicken fried steak? It was served with kimchi collard greens, soy-garlic mashed potatoes, and a puddle of ssamjang gravy. I don't know why more places don't borrow flavors from Korea. It's not like they're particularly difficult--sugar, soy, garlic, sesame, chiles. The collards were tender and pretty spicy, but the heat was tempered by the ample serving of potatoes.

All of the servings were pretty ample, actually, and quite reasonably priced. I ended up ordering the roasted monkfish, because I hadn't had monkfish in eons. (Yes, I am that old.) The portion was huge, 8 ounces easily, on a mound of vinegary panzanella (bread salad) enhanced with lots of crisp corn kernels and a swath of arugula pesto. There were also some lardons of pancetta. Maybe the fish didn't need all of those things, but I enjoyed the combination and had no trouble polishing it off.

Dessert was tempting, but we passed and instead took our place at the front table to sign autographs. Within a short amount of time, all of SoBo's stock of Baltimore Chef's Table was gone, and we hit the road happy, with full bellies.

A shame the restaurant isn't in our neighborhood; we'd definitely become regulars.

SoBo Café on Urbanspoon

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