Friday, January 30, 2015

Butternut Squash Toast

New Year's Eve 2014 was very much a repeat of New Year's Eve 2013: we went to Cunningham's for dinner, came home to watch Kathy Griffin taunt Anderson Cooper until midnight, then toasted the new year with champagne and Christmas cookies. We love that Cunningham's opened in our area; it's ideal for both casual and fancy meals, and because it's so close, we don't have to worry too much about encountering drunken revelers on our way home.

The restaurant offered a prix fixe dinner last year, but we opted to order from the regular a la carte menu. It was less-expensive that way, and allowed us to skip dessert. Plus, there were more selections. I had been intrigued by the idea of butternut squash toasts, a dish that was praised by Richard Gorelick in his 2013 review of Cunningham's. He describes the toast as comprising ricotta, maple syrup, and cider vinegar, in addition to the squash. We ordered the toasts as one of our appetizers and really enjoyed it, even Mr Minx, who is not the biggest fan of squash.

Those flavors stuck with me, and a few weeks into the new year, I decided to try to replicate it. But before I reinvented the wheel, I looked on teh Innernets to see if anything like it was out there. Lo and behold, there was--a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which had been restyled and reblogged a couple of times. It involved squash, ricotta, maple syrup, cider vinegar, and thick slices of toast, so I'm pretty sure it's the inspiration for Cunningham's dish. And it seemed easy enough to make at home.

What's not easy is peeling butternut squash. Jean-Georges' recipe called for roasting and mashing, but I liked the diced squash at Cunningham's. Thought it would be more attractive as well. J-G also called for what seemed to be an inordinate amount of cider vinegar and maple syrup--1/4 cup each--and 2 teaspoons of salt. Yowza. No need for either excess; the dish is even better when it's not cloyingly sweet. Besides, all of that additional liquid would make the dish too soupy. Yes, I do have the audacity to question Jean-Georges. Cooking is all about what pleases the eater, not the chef. And this dish is so good, I'd do it all over again.

Butternut Squash Toasts (adapted from a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten)

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Large pinch aleppo pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cup maple syrup
Country bread, cut into 1-inch thick slices
Ricotta cheese
Coarse salt
Minced chives and chile threads for garnish

Preheat oven to 450. Combine squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, aleppo pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a bowl and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast, stirring twice, until tender and lightly caramelized, 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the onions and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are well softened and darkening, about 20 minutes Add the vinegar and maple syrup and cook an additional 10-15 minutes.

Combine squash and onions in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Add a touch more maple syrup if you want it to be sweeter, but we enjoyed it on the more savory side.

Lightly toast bread. Spread some ricotta on toasts, then top with the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with chopped chives and chile threads.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bloody Mary Beef

Sometimes a recipe sounds better than it actually is. I got excited about one for Bloody Mary Beef from Jamie Oliver's new Comfort Food cookbook. I like a good Bloody Mary on occasion, and think the flavors of horseradish, Worcestershire, and tomato would be smashing with beef. And it is, but if one follows the recipe to the letter, the flavors are a bit weak. Too much tomato, not enough anything else. But, if one ups the amount of aromatic Worcestershire sauce, adds horseradish (found in the original internet version but not in the cookbook version), and re-seasons the dish before serving, it's actually pretty good, with a nice depth of flavor

If I tinkered with it enough, I could probably make it great. For now, though, this is a pretty good stew to make when you have a bit of time on the weekend. It's great with horseradish mashed potatoes, but it makes such a large amount, you'll find yourself serving it again later in the week as a pasta sauce or with rice.

Bloody Mary Beef (a Jamie Oliver recipe, with some alterations)

Olive oil
1 2lb beef chuck roast
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 bunch of celery, trimmed and cut into 2" lengths
2 red onions, cut into eighths
1 32oz can of tomato puree
5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
3 tablespoons vodka
Juice of 1 lemon
2 fresh bay leaves

Heat a large pot or dutch oven over high heat and add the olive oil. Pat the roast dry and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Brown meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total, and remove from pan. Add celery and onion to the pan with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften.

In a bowl, stir together the tomato puree, Worcestershire, horseradish, Tabasco, vodka, and lemon juice. Put the browned meat back into the pot on top of the vegetables and add the tomato mixture plus one cup of water. Toss in the bay leaves.

Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover pot and cook meat until fork tender, stirring occasionally, about 3 hours. Remove meat from pot and shred with two forks or slice thinly. Add back to pot and stir well. Cook an additional hour. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and additional Worcestershire and Tabasco, if necessary. It's not going to taste exactly like a Bloody Mary, but you want to at least get the idea.

Serve with horseradish mashed potatoes.

Serves 6-8.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Cyrus Keefer's Pique Pop-Up at Sotto Sopra

Chef Cyrus Keefer, formerly of Fork & Wrench and Birroteca, will be opening his own restaurant in Hampden. The 25-seat Piqué will feature seasonal cuisine with French and Asian influences. We attended the Piqué pop-up at Sotto Sopra last week and were treated to a selection of the chef's dishes.

We started out with passed apps, including fried chicken liver tacos (which should become a Thing), steak tartare, and Keefer's now-famous escargot buns. Then we sat down to six courses, all of which were flavorful, imaginative, and elegantly presented. Not to mention beautiful. See photographic evidence, below.

Pork belly dumpling, whiskey vinegar, dashi crema
Insalada Bianca - cippolini onion, pickled mushroom, cauliflower, tart apple, mascarpone
I loved the subtle touches in the meal, the crisp soy nuts in the salad, the roasty sunchokes in the duck dish, the silky little shrimp on the chawanmushi (egg custard) dish.

Tender octopus - tomatillos, green curry, coconut poached potato
Egg custard, marinated tomato and olive, smoked olive oil
Duck pot au feu, roast turnips, black garlic, ginger, Thai basil
Spice cake, caramel, meringues
If you'd like to support Chef Keefer's endeavors, he has a Kickstarter to raise funds to open the restaurant. A high-end French/Asian place will be a new concept for 36th Street, don't you think? And a welcome one, indeed.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food

I received several cookbooks for Christmas, and hope to talk a little about each of them here. First up is Jamie Oliver's new one, Comfort Food: the Ultimate Weekend Cookbook.

The book is thick and heavy, so it might seem that there are hundreds of recipes included. Rather, the bulk of the book is food porn--lots of pretty pictures of the various recipes included. And when I say "various," I mean the recipes are all over the place. Oliver's idea of comfort food includes dishes from India and Indonesia as well as British favorites like toad in the hole, sticky toffee pudding, and beans on toast.

I've bookmarked several recipes to try, including the three mentioned above, plus one called Bloody Mary Beef, which seems like a good thing to cook up on a cold winter day, as it spends 5 or so hours in the oven.

The first recipe to strike my fancy, however, was for quesadillas made with brussels sprouts. Unusual? Yes. But also quite good. I would never have thought of this combination, but it worked very well.

The recipe is pretty simple. I can't share it exactly as written, but it's not rocket science.

Slice up a large onion and half a pound of brussels sprouts (I added a handful of sliced mushrooms, too, because I had them). Toss them in a large saute pan with a pat of butter, or, use a glug of olive oil, as I did. Sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, the leaves from 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, and a big pinch of salt. Cover pan and cook over medium-high heat for about ten minutes, stirring frequently. Remove lid and cook for another ten minutes or so, until onions and sprouts caramelize nicely. Turn off the heat, hit with a squeeze of lime juice, and scrape into a bowl. Wipe out the skillet and spray it with release spray.

Lay a large flour tortilla out onto a plate or cutting board. Top with enough of the brussels sprouts mixture to cover almost to the edges. Sprinkle with a handful of grated pecorino cheese (as per recipe), or your favorite combo of melting cheeses. I added some shredded sharp cheddar, too, since I had some. Top with a second tortilla.

Heat pan and carefully transfer filled tortillas, making sure not to slop filling into the pan. Cook over medium heat until browned and crisp on the bottom, 2-3 minutes. Flip gently and repeat on second side.

Transfer quesadilla to a cutting board and cut into 6-8 wedges. Serve with sour cream, salsa, guac, chopped green onion, whatever floats your boat. I whipped up a quick sauce with ground chipotle pepper, a dash of agave syrup, pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lime stirred into sour cream.

A brussels sprout quesadilla might seem weird, but it was really very delicious. Both Mr Minx and I love brussels sprouts in pretty much any form, so this was a big hit. We made two quesadillas for dinner and had enough sprouts and onions (and mushrooms) left over to make another one a couple days later.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Roasted Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup

I love roasted root vegetables. One of our Thanksgiving side dishes last year involved seven different kinds--sweet potato, celery root, golden beets, baby turnips, watermelon radish, carrots, and parsnips. They were cut into small dice, tossed with olive oil and salt, and roasted until tender. Unsurprisingly, this simple dish was a big hit at the holiday table and I hope to make it a staple.

We had several parsnips left, and while I love to eat them straight off the foil-lined roasting pan while they are still piping hot, I wanted to do something a little different. We also had a couple of big Japanese sweet potatoes (from a CSA) hanging around. Because they were white, not orange, I thought they'd work nicely with the parsnips. Japanese sweet potatoes aren't as sweet as the more familiar orange ones, and their white color wouldn't alter the color of the soup. They got roasted, too, and both veg were pureed in a blender with the addition of a quart of chicken stock. (You may use vegetable stock, to make this dish vegan. Omit the bacon garnish, too, of course.)

I think parsnips have a citrusy flavor, so I added similarly citrusy coriander seed and a bit of lemon zest to bring that quality forward.

Roasted Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup

1 lb parsnips
2 white (Japanese) sweet potatoes
Olive oil
Salt
1 quart chicken stock
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Freshly ground pepper
Chopped scallions and bacon, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel parsnips, trim ends, and cut in half. Cut wide end in half again. Peel potatoes and cut them into chunks about the size of the parsnips. Toss with olive oil and salt and arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until very tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Using a blender, puree potatoes and parsnips with chicken stock. You'll need to do this in 2 or 3 batches so the potatoes don't gum up the blades. Pour the puree into a 2 quart pot and turn the heat on to low. Gently stir in the milk. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock or milk. Season with ground coriander and lemon zest and a couple generous grinds of black pepper. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if necessary.

Serve hot, garnished with chopped scallions and chopped bacon.

Serves 4-6.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Octopus

I didn't grow up eating octopus. To tell the truth, it seemed a little odd to me. But then every restaurant started serving calamari, which became an octopus gateway food for me. Of course, I still didn't have the opportunity to try octopus until I was well into my adult years, but when I did, I loved it. Now I order it every time I see it.

I've heard tales that it takes a long time to tenderize, so I imagined hours and hours of boiling, braising, or simmering. In reality, it takes no more long to cook than, say, beef stew. Less time than short ribs, or baking a turkey. And small octopi take less than an hour. So what's the big deal?

When I saw small octopi in the frozen seafood section of our local Weis Market, I knew it was time to take some home and cook them myself. Our cookbook, Baltimore Chef's Table, features an octopus recipe from Grille 620 in Ellicott City. I've tasted it, it's delicious, but as we don't have a dutch oven or grill pan in our tiny kitchen, I borrowed the idea but changed it up a bit. (As I usually do.) I boiled the cephalopods with lemon and garlic until tender, and then seared them in a screaming hot saute pan to get a little texture. I also added fennel and onion to the beans, and a bit of smoked paprika to the vinaigrette, to mimic the smoky flavor the meat might pick up on a grill.

For my first time cooking octopus, it was a huge success. Next time, I'll seek out a larger specimen.

Octopus with Cannelini Beans and Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette

1 lb octopus (can be one or two whole)
2 lemons, cut in half (divided use)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
Red pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 bulb fennel, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 15-oz can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon honey (I used lemon blossom honey, but any neutral honey will do)
Juice of 1 lemon
Smoked paprika
Salt, and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place octopus, 1 lemon (squeeze the juice over the octopus and toss the halves in too), the garlic, and a big pinch of red pepper flakes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn heat down a bit. You want an active simmer. Continue to simmer until a knife inserted into the neck of the octopus pierces the flesh easily, about 45 minutes. Remove octopus from pot and place into a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Over medium heat, cook the onion and fennel in a splash of olive oil and pinch of salt until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the drained beans and stir to combine. Heat until beans are warmed through.

While beans are cooking, place the honey in a small bowl. Using a fork or small whisk, blend in the lemon juice. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil, stir to emulsify into a vinaigrette, and season with a big pinch of smoked paprika, plus salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Remove octopus from refrigerator. Separate the legs from the head. If the head is large, cut into 2 or three pieces.

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a large saute pan and heat until nearly smoking. Carefully add the octopus (it might splatter). Cook for a couple minutes per side, to warm through and add some crispy browned bits. Add the second lemon, cut side down, to the pan, to brown the cut sides and to warm the juice.

To serve, place the beans on a serving plate. Top with octopus. Drizzle vinaigrette over all. Garnish with lemon halves; use them to add a bit more tangy lemon flavor.

Serves 2-4.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Squash Hand Pies

Thank goodness winter squash are so hardy. We had a lone sweet dumpling squash, left over from one on-demand CSA or another, sitting on the dining room table for what seems like months. Sweet dumplings are fairly small, only about 8 ounces or so, and I had no idea what to do with just one of them. Since I was going to roast some other vegetables, I chopped it into quarters and threw it into the oven, too. I'd worry about what to do with it later. At least it was off the table.

After turning the other veg into soup, I tasted the dumpling squash. Unlike many other varieties of winter squash, it was naturally sweet, so it seemed like a perfect pie filling. Except that there was just one of them. Once roasted and scraped, there was a scant cup of filling. I seasoned it up until it tasted even better, then decided to utilize the box of pie crusts I purchased before Thanksgiving (just in case I needed to bake a pie).

All-ready pie crusts are round. I cut one into quarters and added a dollop of filling to the center of each wedge. To form roughly rectangular pies, I folded the dough like an envelope. You may choose to make them look more like a samosa. Either way, they taste yummy eaten warm with a dollop of ice cream.

Winter Squash Hand Pies

1 sweet dumpling squash
Olive oil
Salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon bourbon
Squeeze fresh lemon juice
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch cinnamon
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 all ready pie crust, at room temperature
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the squash into quarters, remove and discard seeds. Rub flesh with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until tender, 40 minutes to an hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Turn oven down to 350°F.

When squash is cool, scrape flesh from skin and put in a bowl. Season with maple syrup, heavy cream, bourbon, lemon juice, spices, and nuts. Stir well.

Unroll the pie crust onto a cutting board and cut into quarters. Brush with beaten egg. Place a dollop of the filling onto each quarter. Fold like an envelope or a samosa, pressing edges together to seal them. Brush each pie with egg and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

If there's any filling left, eat it with a spoon.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Family Meal - Baltimore

Chef Bryan Voltaggio has made quite a name for himself in the Baltimore/DC area. He started with one ambitious restaurant in Frederick, Volt, then went on to open Lunchbox, Range, Family Meal, and Aggio. There's an Aggio in Baltimore now, and just recently a third Family Meal opened here too.

Located on Pier 4, just past the Power Plant and across from the National Aquarium, Family Meal's space is open and clean, with an open kitchen and welcoming bar area. Mr Minx and I were among more than a dozen members of the media invited to a tasting of Chef Voltaggio's classic American fare.

The Keeper
The food at Family Meal borrows heavily from home cooking. Some of it, like the fried chicken, biscuits, pimento mac and cheese, and braised greens, has a Southern touch. The meatloaf, breakfast for dinner, and milkshakes bring to mind an upscale diner. And the little touches, like housemade pickles and hot sauce, creme fraiche with the chili, and the touch of salt cod in the spinach artichoke dip let you know you're in a Nice Restaurant. Albeit a family-friendly one (there's a kids' menu, too).

Onion rings
We started out with a couple cocktails, the Raven (vodka, ginger beer, black berries, creme de violette) and the Family Meal Sous Vide Sazerac (Catoctin Creek rye, lemon, fennel, peychauds bitters). Later we sampled the Devil You Knew (reposado tequila, pomegranate syrup, ginger, lemon) and the Keeper (vodka infused with "our bay" seasoning, pickle brine). All four of beverage director Dane Nakamura's drinks were refreshingly un-sweet and easy to drink. We especially enjoyed the Keeper, a nice twist on a (very) dirty martini.

On to the grub. There was so much of it, yet we didn't taste everything on the menu by far. What we did try: deviled eggs with smoked applewood bacon; cornflake breaded onion rings with bacon horseradish dip; spinach artichoke dip with salt cod, homemade seasoned soda crackers; chili with the fixins, charred lime crema, and aerated cheese; beef and onion soup; a wedge salad and a chopped salad that was like an antipasti plate or Italian cold cut sub in a bowl, but without the hot peppers; a lobster roll; fried chicken with jalapeno biscuits and housemade hot sauce; meatloaf with "everything" mashed potatoes and garlicky spinach; salmon with cannellini beans and cabbage; pimento mac and cheese; braised greens; banana scotch pudding; cream-sicle pie; and last but not least, a brownie-like chocolate dessert topped with ice cream, caramel sauce, and peanut butter powder.

Banana scotch pudding, chocolate/pb/caramel yumminess
Whew.

While every dish was well-thought-out, fresh, and delicious, there were some real stand-outs. That beef and onion soup, for example, is Chef Voltaggio's spin on French onion soup. There are caramelized onions, chunks of braised short rib, and croutons, all smothered in a blanket of the stretchiest aged Vermont cheddar imaginable. So rich and unctuous, it would definitely make a satisfying meal if paired with one of the lighter salads. The spinach and artichoke dip, flavored with a soupcon of salt cod, was so far elevated above the typical home-made party-food version that it practically levitated. There were housemade saltines on the side, but I was eating it with a spoon. We also loved loved loved the desserts, particularly the banana scotch pudding, which was surprisingly light.

While Bryan Voltaggio is the owner and face of Family Meal, I also have to give a shout-out to his Chef de Cuisine, Keith Long, who is in charge of the day-to-day running of the restaurant. Full disclosure: a couple of Chef Long's recipe were featured in our cookbook, Baltimore Chef's Table.

Check out all the images from our meal in this slideshow.


Family Meal on Urbanspoon

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Roasted Shrimp

I order head-on shrimp at a Chinese restaurant (especially at dim sum), but I really don't like to eat the heads. To me, they taste funky in a bad way. However, I do like the way they look. So when I saw head-on shrimp for sale at the local Asian grocery store, I bought some. You have to admit, the sinuous curve of their pink bodies paired with the frilly heads and black eyes is quite ornamental. Sadly, they can't be put into a vase or left on the table in a bowl. (The smell would get unbearable pretty quickly.)

Even without any real idea of what to do with the shrimp, I decided they needed to be oven-roasted, whole, rather than pan-fried. Since we were also going to finish up some leftover Chinese-ish soup with the meal, I incorporated Chinese flavors into the shrimp by tossing them in a sauce of black vinegar and chile bean paste, using more of that sauce as a dip.

Eat the heads and shells, or peel them off before dipping. Either way, they're pretty tasty.

Roasted Shrimp

1 lb head-on shrimp
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons soy
2 tablespoons black vinegar
3 tablespoons doubanjian
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Sesame seeds
Handful of torn cilantro leaves

Preheat broiler.

Toss shrimp with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in one layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil shrimp for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until pink and cooked through.

While shrimp are roasting, combine soy, vinegar, doubanjian, garlic, sugar, and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and cook for a minute or so, making sure sugar is dissolved.

When shrimp are cooked, put them into a large bowl. Pour over half of the soy mixture and toss well. Pour remaining soy mixture into a ramekin, to use as a dipping sauce.

Arrange sauced shrimp on a plate. Garnish with sesame and cilantro, and serve dipping sauce on the side.

Serves 4.

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Friday, January 09, 2015

Fish Tacos

I don't particularly like fish tacos; I find them to be bland. I've had them in different places, but no matter how many toppings were added to the rather plain fish, they were all meh to me. Then I had them at Grille 620 in Ellicott City. The ones I had there were wrapped in flour tortillas, rather than the usual corn, and I think it made all the difference. Flour tortillas have relatively little flavor, so the elements inside can sing out. Corn tortillas have a little more going for them, and I feel they work better with bolder fillings.

My blog, my opinion. I don't care if flour tortillas aren't traditional. Neither am I. (And if they're good enough for Bobby Flay, they're good enough for me.)

Fish tacos usually involve some sort of white fish, plus a slaw, and a crema. Lots of times there will be pickled onions involved, too, which is my favorite part. Oh, and guacamole. I also added a tomatillo salsa, which is easy peasy to make, and tastes great on just about any other kind of taco you can imagine as well.

Pickled Red Onions

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 red onion

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a pint jar. Put the lid on and shake vigorously to dissolve sugar and salt. Slice the red onion thinly and place into a colander or sieve. Put a couple cups of water on to boil; when boiled, pour over the red onion in the sieve. Shake all of the water off, then pack onion into the jar. If the vinegar doesn't come up over the onion, add a little more. Seal jar and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Tomatillo Salsa

4-5 tomatillos
2 jalapeno peppers
3 scallions
Handful fresh cilantro
1 small clove garlic
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
Pinch cumin
Salt, to taste

Remove husks from tomatillos, rinse them and cut into quarters. Stem and deseed the jalapenos (leave some seeds in, if you want more heat). Remove root end from scallions and chop remainder into 1" pieces.

Put tomatillos, jalapenos, scallions, cilantro, and garlic into a blender and puree. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the brown sugar, cumin, and salt. Cook about 5 minutes, until mixture darkens. Taste for seasoning, adding more sugar or salt if you think it needs it. It should mostly be tart, but not sour.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Minxeats Best of 2014, Part 2

Every year, we try to recap some of the best food we've eaten during the past twelve months. In Part 1, we mention all of our favorite restaurant dishes. This time, it's our own home cookin' that gets the spotlight.

February - Nutty Bars

April - Rice Salad with Chinese Sausage and Roasted Broccoli

May - Coconut Macaroon Cake

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

Korean Pork Meatball Tacos

July - Blackened Carrots with Harissa Yogurt and Carrot top-Mint Pesto


August - Gluten-free Green Tomato Caprese

Three Cheese Ravioli with Raw Tomato Sauce

Nectarine Soup with Crab Salad

September - Gluten-free Stone Fruit Crisp

Swiss Chard Gumbo

November - Tomato Garlic Parm Soup

December - Caramel Apple Cobbler

Chinese Cassoulet

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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Chef Cyrus Keefer's Pique Pop-Up

Chef Cyrus Keefer, formerly of Fork & Wrench and Birroteca, will be opening his own restaurant in Hampden later this year. Called Piqué, the 25-seat restaurant will feature Asian-inspired French cuisine made with seasonal ingredients.

The chef, who has cooked twice at the James Beard House in New York City and was featured by StarChefs.com for his culinary prowess, is raising funds for his endeavor via Kickstarter. There will also be a pop-up fundraising event on Thursday, January 22, hosted by Sotto Sopra, located at 405 N. Charles Street in Baltimore. The evening will start with a reception and fundraising silent auction at 6:30pm. accompanied by passed hors d’ouevres and adult libations. The five course tasting-style seated dinner will follow at 7pm, featuring a sample of what restaurant goers can expect at Pique. Guests will also receive information packets on the new restaurant and be asked to donate to the Kickstarter campaign.  

When: Thursday, January 22, 2015
6:30 p.m. Reception & Silent Auction
7:00 p.m. Seated Dinner

Where: Sotto Sopra Restaurant
405 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201 – valet parking available

Menu: Reception /Silent Auction
Passed hors d’ouevres and adult libations

Menu: Seated Dinner
pork belly dumplings+ whiskey vinegar/ dashi crema
insalada bianca + cippolini onion, pickled mushrooms, cauliflower, tart Apple
tender octopus+ tomatillos+ green curry+ coconut poached potato
egg custard+ marinated tomato & olives, smoked olive oil
duck pot au feu + roast turnips, black garlic, ginger, Thai basil

Cash bar

Tickets: $75 per person includes reception, seated dinner, tax and gratuity - does not include beverages during the dinner. Guests must be 21 or older to attend. Valet parking will be available. Purchase tickets: MissionTix http://www.missiontix.com/events/product/28970/pique-pop-up

Kickstarter: Readers can donate at Pique’s Kickstarter Page – Contact Chef Keefer for updated details on the launch date and link. pique.restaurant.ck@gmail.com 302-362-6738

Pique Social Media: Facebook Twitter @PIQUEBaltimore

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Monday, January 05, 2015

Minxeats Best of 2014, Part 1

Every year, we recap the best things we ate in the previous twelve months. Here are some of our very favorite restaurant dishes of 2014. (Later in the week, we'll bring you our favorite home-cooked dishes.)

Tomato | tomato marmalade, tomato water gelee, tomato pulp,
blue cheese ice cream, Barden blue cheese, goat cheese foam,
and black pepper
February: Cheese Course at Wit & Wisdom progressive dessert "dinner."

April: Korean BBQ at Honey Pig.

May: Charred carrots at Gato.

Scallop in brown butter dashi at Le Bernardin.

Pork cheeks at Kin Shop.

June: Softshell crab with bacon dashi at Fork & Wrench.

July: Octopus at Cafe Gia.

August: Kimchi soba noodle salad at Corner Pantry.

September: Chilled tomatillo soup at SoBo Cafe.

Pork belly bibimbap at Meat & Potatoes.

October: Lamb kielbasa at Parts & Labor.

Halibut at Fleet Street Kitchen.

November: Pastrami-cured salmon at B&O American Brasserie.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.