Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Smari Icelandic Yogurt

There are so many yogurt types on the market today--French, Greek, even Icelandic. Iceland is famous for their skyr, a super thick yogurt made since the 9th century. But you don't have to be a Viking to enjoy Smari yogurt. If you find it in local stores, pick some up, as it's a treat. There are other skyrs on the market, but I find them dry and chalky, whereas Smari is rich and creamy.

Smari yogurt is higher in protein than any other yogurt sold in the US. It's also loaded with calcium. The milk and fruit used in Smari--the only certified organic Icelandic yogurt available--are not treated with any hormones, pesticides, or herbicides.

Flavors include Pure, Strawberry, Blueberry, and Vanilla plus four new flavors: Peach; Coconut; Pure Whole Milk; Vanilla Whole Milk.

Not only is the yogurt really very good, but the packaging is almost completely recyclable. The labels are printed on cardboard, which zips off for easy disposal in the recycle bin, and the now naked plastic container can be rinsed and recycled, too.

We tend to eat yogurt for breakfast, but the Pure and Vanilla flavors, especially the whole milk versions, are ideal for baking as well. (I like to add some yogurt to pancake batter, so they don't turn out too spongy, but then I tend to like thin pancakes. YMMV.)

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review: Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook

Doesn't that look good? It's a dish of Brussels sprouts, dried cranberries, pecans, and sorghum.

I've seen quite a few gluten-free cookbooks come across my desk recently, but none have been as comprehensive as Camilla Saulsbury's new Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes. While 100 percent of the recipes in this book are gluten free, it reads more like a primer for incorporating ancient grains (oats, amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, etc.) into one's diet. The whole gluten-free aspect is more of a happy bonus. In other words, this book is a great kitchen tool for everyone who wants to switch up their diet a bit, not just for the gluten-intolerant.

Unlike other gluten-free cookbooks, Saulsbury doesn't resort to using gums and stabilizers to give her recipes more familiar textures. Instead, she sings the praises of whole grains, many of which are completely foreign to most Americans.

It's not a vegan cookbook, nor diet-y in any way. Every dish looks really terrific, so of course we had to try a few ourselves, just to make sure.

The first dish we tried is a dressing of Brussels sprouts, pecans, dried cranberries, and whole grains. We chose to use sorghum. Sorghum takes a heck of a long time to cook. Even after one hour, the little round grains were still on the chewy side. But the combination of flavors in the dish, while fairly simple, were really delicious. We ate it as a warm salad entree, but you can serve it as a side dish. It would make a perfect addition to a roast chicken dinner, and would actually work really nicely as a Thanksgiving side, too.

Next we tried spiced bar cookies made with oats and dates, because we had all of the ingredients on hand: dates, coconut oil, teff flour (left over from our attempt at Ethiopian injera), and oatmeal. The flavors were terrific - malty teff and cardamom played really nicely with the sweet and chewy dates - but the bars are a bit dry and crumbly. They're pretty good crumbled over a dish of ice cream, though, and would make a nice combination of flavors to top a fruit cobbler.

Though neither of us are gluten intolerant, we're really enthused about Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook overall. We've even invested in some amaranth and quinoa so we can try more whole grain eating.

If you can't find Bob's Red Mill products in your local grocery store (we've found some, but not all), you can order them online from Bob's, or even at Nuts.com.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Savory Sweet Potato Biscones and Pimento Cheese

A recent delivery from our produce delivery service (it's not really a CSA, so I shouldn't call it that) left us with three mammoth sweet potatoes. Mr Minx isn't really a fan of the tuber, so I have to find creative ways to use them up. My sweet potato spaetzle were a hit, as was the super-moist sweet potato snack cake. He even enjoyed the sweet potato and black-eyed pea hummus I made a couple years back, and he's not a fan of the beans, either. This time, I decided to try sweet potato biscuits or scones, something that I could use as a sandwich bread.

I definitely didn't want the scones to be sweet, so didn't use any sugar. Instead, I leaned heavily toward the savory spectrum by adding chopped scallions and jalapeno pepper.

Ham biscuits are a classic, but I find that some biscuits are just too thick and dense to wrap around meat and cheese. Plus, they usually crumble into chunks after a few bites. I made mine thinner and somewhat lighter. They are somewhere between a biscuit and a scone, a biscone, and are easily fork split to accommodate a filling.

My filling of choice was pimento cheese and ham. Or more accurately, Canadian bacon. The rounds of bacon were the perfect size for the biscones, and matched nicely with the savory cheese topping.

Sweet Potato Biscones with Pimento Cheese

For the biscones:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons baking powder
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup cold mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup milk
2 scallions, minced finely
1 jalapeno pepper, minced

For the pimento cheese:
4 ounces of extra sharp cheddar cheese
Scant 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used Duke's)
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper

Canadian bacon or ham, optional

Make the biscones: Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingers until the flour looks like coarse meal. Combine the sweet potato and milk and stir into the flour mixture until mostly combined; then add the scallions and jalapeno and mix until completely combined and veg are fairly evenly distributed.

Flour your hands and pat dough out to about 1/2" thick on a flour-coated board. Use a floured glass or biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12-16 biscones, depending on how big a cutter you use.

Make the pimento cheese: Grate the cheddar into a bowl. Stir in the mayo and peppers. Beat well with a fork until the cheese starts to break apart and integrate with the mayo. (You could also whiz it in a food processor, but I didn't think it was worth dragging it out and getting it dirty for such a small amount.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

Fork split the biscones, smear with pimento cheese and top with a slice or two of Canadian bacon. Sliced tomato is nice, too. Eat.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tuttorosso Tomatoes

Tuttorosso is teaming up with Ali Maffucci of Inspiralized to host an "Inspiralize the Spring" Facebook promotion. Running from March 25th (today!) to April 15th, the promotion gives fans a chance to win weekly prizes. You say, "Prizes! We all love prizes! What kind of prizes?" I say spiralizers (spiral cutters), aprons, and the Inspiralized book. There's also a grand prize package that includes all of the above, plus a picnic basket and kitchen gadgets. Just go to https://www.facebook.com/tuttorossotomato to enter.

We customarily buy Tuttorosso or Red Pack tomatoes anyway, so were happy to get the word out about this promotion.

So what does inspiralization mean and what does it have to do with tomatoes? Ever hear of "zoodles?" They're noodles made from spiral-cut zucchini. Lightly cook them or use them raw, zoodles are a healthy and gluten-free pasta substitute. Tuttorosso's web site has four delicious-looking recipes for vegetable noodle dishes, and we're sharing one with you here. We need to get our hands on one of those spiralizers ourselves so we can make this dish (but might just do it and serve it over conventional pasta - shh! don't tell!)

Tuscan Sausage and Kale Ragu with Butternut Squach Fettuccini

3/4 pound Italian sausage, decased and crumbled
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28 ounce) can Tuttorosso® No Salt Added Peeled Plum Italian Style Tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons Tuttorosso® Tomato Paste
1/4 cup red wine, or beef broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 cups Tuscan kale, chopped
1 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium butternut squash
olive oil, to drizzle
fresh basil, to garnish
Parmesan cheese, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place a large pot over medium heat and add in the sausage. Crumble the sausage further with a wooden spoon and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Then, add in the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes and let cook for 2-3 minutes or until onions turn translucent.

Using your hands, crush the tomatoes over the pot. Using a wooden spoon, further crush the tomatoes so that no large chunks remain. Add in the tomato paste, wine (or broth), basil, oregano, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low to a simmer. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until reduced by half and then stir in the kale and beans. Cook for another 5 minutes or until kale wilts and sauce is thick like a ragu.

Peel and spiralize the butternut squash, using Blade B. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out the butternut squash noodles. Drizzle with olive oil and massage it into the squash with your hands. Once you add the kale to the ragu, season with salt and pepper and roast for 8-10 minutes or until cooked to al dente.

Divide the butternut squash noodles into bowls and top with the ragu, making sure to discard the bay leaf. Garnish with basil and Parmesan cheese.

If you don't have a spiralizer, you can use these tips to hand cut your veggies into pasta.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Phillips Seafood Restaurant

The Minx and I each had dined at the old Phillips location in Harborplace on numerous occasions going back to the restaurant's opening in the 80s and including a couple of times in recent years. Since they moved to Power Plant, however, we've never had the opportunity to check out the new digs. So when they invited us to a media dinner to sample their current menu, we jumped at the chance.

The first thing that struck me as we were escorted to our table was that the decor is more refined than the 80s mall version of a seafood joint that the old Phillips had. Dark wood, plush booths and banquettes, and chandeliers indicate that they want to be taken seriously as a fine dining establishment. The giant sailing ships are a nice touch as well.

We started with drinks and, although it was dinner time, the Minx opted for the Bloody Mary. I chose the Phillips Amber Ale made by Heavy Seas under the Clipper City brand. The Bloody Mary was rather mild without the usual overwhelming flavor of Worcestershire sauce, and only lightly spicy. But there was a bonus skewer of shrimp, olive, pepperoncino, pepperoni, and cheese to nibble on, making the drink somewhat of an amuse bouche. My ale was light and smooth, no doubt brewed to go well with crabs and other seafood.

In ordering, we wanted to try a blend of traditional and newer dishes, so we started with a bowl of the crab vegetable soup. My mom had a few dishes that she made particularly well and crab soup was one of them. This crab soup tasted just like hers, so I was quite pleased. Not too spicy so the flavors of the vegetables and the crab (both in ample quantities) could shine through.

In the new category, we tried the warm tomato pie. I was envisioning some sort of tomato aspic in a pie shell, but this buttery-crusted pie contained chunks of fresh tomato baked just long enough to warm them. The tomatoes are topped with a roasted pepper aioli and dolloped with what the menu called "sherried crab" but was in actuality a cold crab dip, creating a rather nice blend of textures, flavors, and temperatures.

For our entrees, we thought the grilled rockfish with crab imperial was a traditional Baltimore choice. Rather than placing the crab imperial on top of the fish, it was served in a separate mini-skillet. I dolloped the creamy side dish on top of the fish anyway. It just seemed right. The rockfish itself was quite substantial and perfectly cooked. I also appreciated that the crab imperial was not overly mayonnaisy like some preparations I've had. It was nice and creamy with a bit of crust from broiling the top. Although Phillips is all about the seafood, I have to say the vegetable (asparagus and potatoes with the platter, snow peas, baby carrots, red onion, and potatoes with the rockfish) were exceptional. Lightly sauteed, they retained a nice bit of crunch; the potatoes had tender, almost creamy, insides and crisp skins.

The Minx thought we should also try the classic seafood platter featuring salmon, crab cake, and a shrimp skewer. The shrimp had a mild sweetness to them and the salmon was moist and tender. The crab cake on the platter is not jumbo lump crab meat like their Ultimate Crab Cake preparation, but a more traditional style cake with backfin. Still, if I was wandering around the Inner Harbor all afternoon and stopped in to Phillips for a hearty meal, this would really please my soul.

We were too full to order dessert, but our waitress tempted us by bringing over the dessert tray anyway. We eventually acquiesced and ordered a slice of their lemon cream Smith Island cake to go. Made on Smith Island, this variation on the classic is bright and rich at the same time. Thin layers of yellow cake are mortared together with lemon curd and topped with a cream cheese icing. We ate it as a snack just before going to sleep. Not a bad way to end the day.

Phillips Restaurant has weathered the myriad of changes that have occurred in the Inner Harbor over the past 35 years and it has managed to stay up-to-date while honoring the traditional seafood dishes that have made it a Maryland culinary staple. Their current menu of food and libations reflects the trends of today without alienating those who are looking for a crab cake or some raw oysters on the half shell. And despite being a Wednesday in March, the dining room was packed with additional patrons waiting in the lounge, even at 6:30.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Meyer Lemon Muffins

When life gives you lemons...

...make lemon muffins.

I had this great plan to make a simple dessert that a friend taught me some years ago involving oranges and alcohol. I knew there were oranges in the fridge, so I grabbed a couple. I cut into one. It was unusually fragrant for an organic orange, so I tasted a piece only to find it was terribly sour. I tried the other one, and it too was very sour. Then it hit me - they were Meyer lemons. I had received some from a recent CSA delivery, but I thought there had only been two lemons, not four. The two I had in front of me were huge, the size of oranges. Their labels only said "organic" and had a number. I just assumed they were oranges.

You know what you get when you assume, right?

So now I had two precious Meyer lemons that I had to use right away. At first I thought to do a riff on Nigella Lawson's flourless clementine cake, but realized it would need far more than two lemons and more eggs than we had in the fridge. I suppose I could have done math and made a much smaller cake (I do have a set of adorable mini springform pans), but math and I have never gotten along. I didn't want make something that required only the juice or only the rind, because it seemed wasteful, and I had recently made a batch of lemon curd. So I consulted the almighty Internet and found the perfect recipe on the LA Times web site: lemon muffins that used every part of the lemon except the seeds.

I imagine this recipe could be used for oranges or limes or regular lemons. There's a whole cup of sugar in them, which takes care of any sourness issues. The end result is moist and very lemony, and really quite delicious. And they freeze like a dream!

Meyer Lemon Muffins (adapted from the LA Times)

2 Meyer lemons
2 cups flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut about 1/3 off of one of the lemons. Cut that small part into 18 tiny wedges. Chop the remaining lemon into pieces and puree them in a blender.

Combine flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, butter, and pureed lemon. Pour into the well of flour/sugar and stir until just combined.

Grease 18 muffin cups and spoon the batter in.

Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over each muffin. Top with a wedge of reserved lemon.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove muffins from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 18 muffins.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

East Meets West at Wit & Wisdom

Superstar chef Michael Mina will be joining Wit & Wisdom's Zack Mills and Dyan Ng in the kitchen next Wednesday, March 25th, for a little battle of the coasts. That would be fun to watch, wouldn't it? A little Top Chef right in Baltimore. There's no real battle though, instead, the chefs will be preparing a five-course dinner, with each course featuring a favored ingredient of each coast.

The dinner starts at 6:30 and will feature the following dishes:

East| Chesapeake Oyster| bloody mary granita, celery
West| Hog Island Oyster| white soy & tangerine

East| Blue Crab Cake| flying dog deadrise ale braised cabbage, old bay sabayon
West| Monterey Red Abalone| lobster rouille, pickled lemon butter, afelia cress salad

East| Maryland Rockfish| chesapeake clam chowder
West| Sonoma Sea Salt-baked Pacific Halibut| artichoke & razor clam barigole, buttered cabbage fondue, salsify chips

East| Gunpowder Bison| rye berries, tuscarora root vegetables, black garlic barbcue sauce
West| Brandt Farms Beef Short Rib| spring pea puree, crunchy potato, oxtail marmalade

East| Corn| browned butter ice cream, crispy pork cracklings, old bay
West| Baba| ghirardeli chocolate, grand marnier, soft cream

$150 will get you dinner. Add $50 for optional wine pairing. And...Chef Mina is happy to sign copies of his cookbook for an additional $35.

For reservations, please call Shannon Toback at (410) 223-1464 or email Shannon.Toback@fourseasons.com

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Waterfront Kitchen

Waterfront Kitchen, the lovely Fells Point restaurant with some of the best harbor views in town, has a new chef. David Hynes may be from hipstery Brooklyn, but his culinary philosophy is very much in keeping with WK's classic vibe. According to chef Hynes, he enjoys making dishes that are familiar, but with his own twist on tradition. He's already collaborating with the restaurant's master gardener, Jo Cosgrove, who will be growing new and exciting ingredients in the garden and BUGS greenhouse down the street. We heard him request kaffir lime that evening, and can't wait to see in which dish he uses that aromatic ingredient.

Mr Minx and I were invited to a media preview of the chef's menu. We started out with passed hors d'oeuvres that included crab hush puppies and Korean pork belly atop crispy rice cakes and three of the cocktails from general manager Nicki Kern's revamped bar program. We tried both the Grapefruit Lush (Art in the Age Rhubarb Tea, St Germain, honey, and grapefruit juice) and Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (Espelon blanco tequila, agave nectar, habanero, Granny Smith apples, spices) and enjoyed both, particularly the fruitiness the habanero added to the latter.

For dinner, we had our choice of appetizer and entree. Mr Minx had the roasted cauliflower puree, which was lush and smooth, with distinct butter and lobster flavors in addition to the expected cauliflower.

I had the frisee lardon salad, which had a pleasantly unexpected twist.

The soft boiled egg had been lightly crumbed and fried, but was still lovely and molten inside. Rather than lardons, I received a slab of roasted bacon, and the greens were nicely dressed with a somewhat Caesar-y Roquefort dressing. I loved it.

I also loved my roasted Hudson Valley duck breast, which was cooked to a lovely rosy medium, its crisp skin flavored with a hint of five spice. The vegetables under the duck were called a caponata, but I'm going to be argumentative and say it was actually a ratatouille. No matter, the vegetables were crisp tender and nicely seasoned, and the gastrique of sherry vinegar and orange juice added a light piquancy to the dish.

Mr Minx had the rockfish, or striped bass, as they call it everywhere outside of Maryland. It was served with nicely caramelized brussels sprouts and topped with a raw fennel and apple salad that added a necessary hit of acid.

For dessert, we shared a trio of flourless carrot cake with bruleed cream cheese, raisin bread pudding, and chocolate mousse cake with a passion fruit sauce. The carrot cake was the most intriguing of the three, moist and rich, with ground almonds subbing for the usual flour. I also appreciated the crust on the bread pudding and the fabulously tart passion fruit sauce.

Going by what we were served that evening, chef Haynes is off to an excellent start. Check out his lunch, dinner, and brunch menus on the Waterfront Kitchen Web site and note that brunch is now served on both Saturday and Sunday, with bottomless mimosas or bloody marys. We hear rumors about an upcoming bloody mary cart, too, which would allow diners to customize their brunchtime libations. Personally, we want to wrap our jaws around that shredded duck banh mi, offered both at brunch and weekday lunch....

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Meyer Lemon Curd

Just about when most of us have had enough of winter, a bright burst of sunshine hits the markets in the form of Meyer lemons. It's believed Meyer lemons, native to China, are a cross between a true lemon and a Mandarin orange and their exquisite orange-y aroma would back that up. Meyer lemons aren't quite as tart and acidic as ordinary supermarket lemons, which makes their flavor ideal for preparations that feature their sunny flavor. Lemon curd, for example.

Lemon curd is super easy and rather fast to make, and like most things, homemade is always better than store bought. I like it on toast or scones, but it also makes a nice filling for layer cakes and turns a piece of pound cake or scoop of ice cream into something just a bit more tasty.

Meyer Lemon Curd

4 Meyer lemons
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk

Finely grate the zest of two lemons and set aside. Juice three of the lemons; if that doesn't give you 1/2 cup of lemon juice, break into the fourth one.

Put the juice, sugar, and butter into a saucepan and heat on low until the butter is melted. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and egg yolk. When the butter is melted, slowly add the juice mixture to the beaten eggs, whisking the whole time. Once combined, pour it all back into the saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook the curd, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens. This will happen fast, so don't leave the stove or stop stirring.

Once the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon, remove it from the heat. Pour through a strainer to catch any curdle-y bits. Stir in the reserved lemon zest.

Pour curd into a jar or other container with a cover. Refrigerate until cold.

Makes about a cup and a half of curd.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Oy Bay!

In the middle of all the crappy precip we had at the end of February/early March, the freezing rain and snow, we had a bright spot. Oh, it was raining most of the day on that particular Wednesday, March 4th, but the streets weren't icy for a brief shining moment, allowing us to participate in a lovely dinner at Clementine.

All dinners at Clementine are lovely, of course, but this one especially so as it featured oysters. Chesapeake Bay oysters, from Barren Island Oysters on Hoopers Island, to be exact. Five courses of oysters plus a non-oyster dessert, each paired with both beer from Flying Dog and wine from Boordy. Does it get much better than that?

I think not.
Barren Island oysters on the half shell, served with blood orange lemongrass mignonette
and chile and garlic sauerkraut. Paired with Bloodline Blood Orange Ale and
2014 Sauvignon Blanc 
Barren Island oysters are plump and buttery, and some of the best locally raised oysters we've tried. They were delicious served raw, particularly with the sprightly blood orange lemongrass mignonette. They were aptly paired with Flying Dog's Bloodline, an ale flavored with blood orange, and Boordy's 2014 Sauvignon Blanc.

Next up, the oysters were lightly pickled and served with a beet salad. I must admit I was skeptical about the concept of a pickled oyster, but I needn't have been. A pickled oyster isn't that far different from a raw oyster dosed with mignonette, and their briny sweet-tart quality matched remarkably well with the earthiness of the beets. A pescetarian surf and turf, if you will.

Pickled oyster salad with arugula, beets three ways, and apple horseradish vinaigrette
paired with Supertramp Tart Cherry Ale and 2014 Sauvignon Blanc
We then had a lovely oyster stew with bits of bacon and small chunks of potato, paired with Flying Dog's Pearl Necklace oyster stout. This beer is brewed with Rappahanock River oysters, but they don't really add any flavor. Pearl Necklace drinks like any fine stout, with lovely dark roasty coffee-like flavors and a buttery finish. Proceeds from the sale of the beer benefit the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a fine cause.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership, or ORP, has planted over five billion new oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Oysters are not just a tasty food source, they're also nature's filters, cleaning about 50 gallons of water per day. That's per oyster. The more oysters, the cleaner the Bay. The cleaner the Bay, the more it becomes a better habitat for the marine life for which it is famous.

If you'd like to help the ORP rebuild both the oyster population and oyster reefs, check out their site at http://www.oysterrecovery.org/, sign up for their newsletter, and buy a t-shirt or make a donation.

Oyster stew with bacon, smoked hummingbird tomato, and potato,
paired with Pearl Necklace oyster stout and 2014 Sauvignon Blanc
The stew was followed by a double main course. The Roseda hanger steak was absolutely perfectly cooked and seasoned, and there was a lovely touch of anise flavor from the Pernod. A softness of barely cooked oysters added a nice textural contrast to the beef.

Carpetbagger steak: Roseda hanger steak with oysters, spinach, tarragon, and
tamarind, and oyster liquor- and Pernod-poached and roasted fingerlings, paired with Gonzo
Imperial Porter and 2012 Merlot Reserve
It's probably a bit shocking to admit that neither Mr Minx nor I have ever eaten oyster stuffing, but it's true. But now that we've had the delicious oyster and roasted fennel stuffing in the delightful quail dish, we're going to make it for Thanksgiving. If we could get everyone to eat quail, heck, we'd make this entire dish for Thanksgiving. The squash and brussels sprout gratin was especially delicious.

Roasted quail with oyster and roasted fennel stuffing, cranberry apple gremolata, and
brussels sprout, butternut, and maple gratin, paired with Lucky SOB Irish red
and 2012 Cabernet Franc
After stuffing ourselves on oysters, we went on to a oyster-free dessert course. I went for the coconut cream tart, and Mr Minx had the fig and sesame tart. I thought the coriander and cardamom flavors were a bit too subtle in the coconut tart, but the coconut cream itself was rich yet light and despite being quite full of food and beer, I finished it. The fig and sesame tart was as earthy as mine was ethereal, but maybe a bit too heavy after all of the food we had consumed. Delicious nonetheless.

Coconut cream tart with coriander and cardamom, paired with Hefeweizen and Veritas Ruby Port
Fig and sesame tart with clementine gastrique and mild chocolate chile sauce
paired with Horn Dog Barleywine and Veritas Ruby Port
Gotta say, that was probably the best meal we've had at Clementine yet, and we've had a few. The food was terrific, service was great, and we learned more about a great cause that's near and dear to our hearts.

For more information on the situation of Chesapeake Bay oysters and restoration and farming efforts, check out this article at Food Republic. And stay tuned--there will be more from us on the subject of oysters in the not too distant future.

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Monday, March 09, 2015

Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts

When I was a kid, I felt like a bit of a weirdo because I didn't know anyone outside my family that liked Brussels sprouts as much as I did. (Truth be told, that's not the only reason I was weird.) I even liked them boiled and stinky; I suppose that came from living in a Polish household where cabbage was a regular part of mealtime. Nowadays, it seems like everyone likes Brussels Sprouts, or at least restaurants seem to think so. More than any other vegetable, the mini cabbages are served in interesting ways. One never sees green beans or peas or broccoli done up "Buffalo style," or deep fried and served with pancetta, or in a Dijon cream sauce, but that's the norm for Brussels sprouts. And I like it!

I was fortunate enough to marry someone who shares my affection for the little guys, so we eat them fairly often at home. We've even grown them (with mixed success) in our backyard garden. Ordinarily, we make them one of three ways: halved, tossed with oil, and roasted; leaves separated and steamed; grated raw in a salad. It's nice to mix things up sometimes though, so when I spotted a recipe for Brussels sprouts prepared in a kung pao-style sauce, and realized we had a bag of them in the crisper, it seemed like kismet.

The original version of the recipe calls for double the amount of ingredients listed here. It also requires much more sambal AND a handful of dried chiles. While we do enjoy spicy foods, we find sambal oelek (at least the Huy Fong brand we normally buy) to be incendiary and cut back on the amount used. Your mileage may vary, of course. We cut back on the amount of sugar quite a bit as well; the sprouts were still delicious.

Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Handful unsalted, roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss Brussels sprouts and 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast, turning once, until softened and browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Put remaining oil in a saute pan and turn heat to medium-high. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a couple minutes, stirring regularly. Stir in sambal, then add soy, sugar, vinegar, and 1/4 cup of water and bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with enough water (2 teaspoons or so) to make a runny paste. Stir into the sambal mixture and bring to a boil. Simmer until the mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon.

Add cooked Brussels sprouts and toss to coat.

Serve topped with peanuts.
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Posted on Minxeats.com.