Monday, August 29, 2016

Explore Cuisine's Chickpea Spaghetti

Explore Asian, a company specializing in Asian-style pasta products, has expanded and changed their name. Explore Cuisine, as they're now known, recently introduced a new line of pastas made with beans and pulses that are certified vegan, organic, and gluten free. They sent us a few items to sample, including spaghetti made in Italy with chickpea flour. Since the Minx is unable to eat chickpeas, I chose a night when she was out with friends to put together a sauce for the chickpea spaghetti to consume on my own.

We had olives and capers in the fridge so I decided to make a puttanesca sauce. I also had some beef koftes (meatballs) left over from a few days earlier, so I crumbled them up and put them in the sauce. To recreate the recipe for you as close as possible, I've included instruction on how to season fresh ground beef with the proper spices. Of course, if you are vegetarian or vegan, you can skip the meat and just make the sauce, but don't forget to add the extra spices. This, of course, is tasty on any type of pasta.

The chickpea pasta itself was really good; I couldn't tell that it was not made from wheat flour until I added the sauce. At that point it became a little mushier than semolina flour pasta. But the flavor was good, and I'd definitely eat it again.

Middle Eastern-inspired Puttanesca Sauce

To make the sauce:
1 can (28 oz.) tomato puree
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 medium onion chopped
1 carrot chopped finely
1/4 pound mushrooms chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/4 cup olives chopped
1 tbsp. capers chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a pan over high heat and wait until the oil is shimmering. Combine onion, carrot, and mushrooms in pan and sprinkle with some salt. Sautee in pan until onions are translucent. Add tomato puree, tomato paste, garlic, olives, and capers to the pan and stir until all the ingredients are blended. When the sauce begins to bubble, turn the heat to low and cover pan. Allow to simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If the sauce begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a little water. The basil should be added just a few minutes before serving.

To make the meat:
1 pound ground beef
1 clove garlic chopped
1 tbsp. coriander
1 tsp. all spice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp, pepper

Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Crumble the ground beef mixture into a pan over high heat. Cook the meat, stirring frequently, until the meat has developed a brown crust.  Drain the excess fat and pour the cooked meat into the sauce about halfway through the sauce's 2 hour cooktime, to allow flavors to meld.

* 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, August 26, 2016

Farm to Chef 2016

Farm to Chef is back for another exciting season! Once again, thirty chefs will collaborate with thirty farms to produce amazing dishes with fresh, locally produced, ingredients. This year's competition will be held at the B&O Railroad Museum on September 26th at 6:00pm. Tickets are available via Eventbrite. Early bird tickets (until September 5th) are $95, with the price going up to $110 thereafter. No tickets will be sold at the door, so get yours now!

Proceeds benefit Days of Taste, an interactive program that encourages elementary school students to appreciate the taste and benefits of fresh food by introducing them to the basic elements of taste and teaching them about food’s journey from farm to table.

Click here to see a list of this year's chefs (including Neill Howell of the Corner Pantry, Donna Crivello of Cosima and Donna's, and Sarah Simington of Blue Moon Cafe).

Examples of chef's dishes from 2015.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

Baked Oatmeal

I started a diet in March that involved giving up wheat, sugar, and dairy. It wasn't as difficult as it sounds, actually. I suppose the worst of it was giving up sugar. I have a terrible sweet tooth, and eat entirely too much chocolate, pastries, and ice cream. That's why I have been a fatass pretty much my entire life, apart from a handful of slimmer years that resulted from starvation dieting and some pretty intense cardio in the form of country line dancing (it was the 90s).

I love bread, too, but with no wheat allowed, I couldn't have my usual breakfast sandwich. So I had to resort to eating a lot of oatmeal. Muesli (or "overnight oats") was my go-to work breakfast. I could mix it up the night before and by morning it would be all ready to eat. But a month of muesli is a bit much. I decided to try baked oatmeal as an alternative. The texture would be quite different and I might even be able to fool myself into thinking I was eating a piece of cake for breakfast. Well, that didn't work, but I still enjoyed it.

My favorite version of baked oatmeal involves oatmilk or hempmilk, Earth Balance margarine in place of butter, with a nice handful of fresh blueberries (or juice-sweetened dried blueberries) and almonds mixed in for texture. An 8" square pan makes enough breakfast for an entire week, plus more, so it's pretty economical, too.

Baked Oatmeal

2 cups quick rolled oats
2 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)
2 tablespoons melted butter (or Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or agave or maple syrup)
2 eggs, beaten
Pinch salt
Pinch cinnamon (can also add cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, etc.)
Fruit and nuts of your choice (bananas, dried berries, almonds, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine oats, milk, butter, sweetener, eggs, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in fruit and nuts. Pour into a 8- or 9-inch square baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, until set.

Serve hot, warm, or even cold. If you're feeling decadent, mash it up a bit while it's hot and pour over some half and half, add fresh sliced apples cooked in butter and brown sugar, or sliced peaches, or whatever fresh fruit you have on hand.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Thai Lettuce Wraps

If you're a regular reader of Minxeats, you've probably noticed that I tend to cook with and promote various specialty food products in the warmer months. That's because I've recently been to the Summer Fancy Food show and either picked up some samples to play with at the show, or were sent products to try. One of my favorite products from the show this year was Runamok Maple Syrup, which comes in 10 varieties (including smoked, rum-barrel-aged, cardamom-infused, etc.) and is really quite delicious stuff. I'm not a big pancake/waffle eater, so I've been trying out recipes that use the syrups in a more creative way.

The Makrut Lime Leaf-infused syrup really speaks to my creative nature. If you're familiar with Thai food, you're probably familiar with makrut lime leaf (also called "kaffir" lime); its aromatic citrussy flavor is a staple in that cuisine. My thoughts naturally turned to using this syrup in Asian-inspired dishes, like this one for pork lettuce wraps. It's kinda Thai, inspired by the spicy meat salads known as larb. It comes together quickly, and apart from the maple syrup and Thai basil, uses ingredients found in most grocery stores.

Of course, you can still make the dish without either the syrup or the basil. Just substitute regular maple syrup for the Runamok and add the finely grated rind of 1 lime. There's no substitute for Thai basil, IMHO, so just don't worry about that part.

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
6 scallions, chopped (divided use)
1 lb ground pork
1/2 bell pepper, diced
Handful of green beans, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons Runamok Maple Makrut Lime Leaf Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon lemongrass paste (I like Gourmet Garden, found in produce sections of most major supermarkets)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped Thai basil
2 teaspoons sriracha, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried thoroughly
Lime wedges for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saute pan and add 4 of the scallions. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the ground pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula and stirring regularly. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the pork is starting to brown and is mostly broken into small pieces. Add the bell pepper and green beans and cook for about 4-5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, fish sauce, lemongrass paste, garlic, herbs, cilantro, and ginger. Pour over the pork and vegetables in the pan and mix well. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pan. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the pork absorbs most of the sauce.

Taste for seasoning. Add salt, if needed (you could also add more fish sauce).

Put the lettuce leaves in a bowl. Put the cooked pork in another bowl. To eat, put spoonfuls of pork mixture into lettuce. Squeeze over a bit of lime, and more sriracha, if desired.

* 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, August 15, 2016

Popkoff's Palmeni

Popkoff's is a California-based company that has been making Russian-inspired pelmeni and vareniki for over 50 years. Vareniki are like pierogies that are stuffed with a variety of meats and vegetables. Pelmeni are similar, but smaller and round, reminding me a bit of tortellini. Popkoff's recently sent us a selection of their pelmeni to see what kinds of recipes we could come up with using them. I chose to start with the beef pelmeni and decided that a rich mushroom sauce would work nicely.

Popkoff's pelmeni come in freezer packs and cook up quickly. Add the contents of the packet to boiling water and they are fully cooked in about five minutes. As soon as they are rolling about on the surface of the water, they are done. The sauce recipe below is also quick and easy to put together. The most difficult part is making the roux, and that's not very hard at all.

Mushroom Sauce

1 medium onion chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the flour and olive oil in a pan over high heat. Stir constantly until the mixture becomes liquid and takes on a tan hue, about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium high and add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to roux. Saute until onions are translucent. Slowly add the heavy cream and half-and-half, stirring constantly until everything is incorporated. Add thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

* 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, August 12, 2016

Tofu for Tofu-Haters

Fried tofu bao, plus one bao with fried eggplant, just because.
I know there are those out there who say they will eat tofu no how no way. "It's yucky," or "it doesn't have any flavor" are common complaints. For one thing, it's not at all yucky, and for another, the lack of inherent flavor is one of the things that makes tofu so versatile. You might have heard that it absorbs the flavors around it, but that's not necessarily true unless you simmer it in a very flavorful sauce for a long time. However, a neutral protein like tofu can really make other ingredients shine because they will stand out in contrast to the soy's bland smoothness. One of my favorite tofu recipes is very simple and very delicious. In it, bold garlic, soy sauce, and chile flavors are emphasized by the milky tofu, which also provides a silky and soothing foil to the palate.

Another thing one can do with tofu is to fry it until it's crispy crunchy, like potato chips or fried chicken. It becomes all about terrific texture and works really well in something like Taiwanese-style steamed buns, or bao. You can buy frozen bao in Chinese supermarkets, or you can make them at home, or, you can totally cheat by using refrigerated biscuit dough (find that recipe here). Pillowy buns, crispy tofu, a bit of creamy Sriracha mayo or sweet hoisin sauce, sliced cucumber, cilantro, and an optional topping of crushed peanuts and sugar (to which I added black sesame seeds), makes a mighty tasty snack.

If you don't want to go to all that trouble, just mix up a dipping sauce of mayo, sriracha, a bit of sugar, some minced green onion, and a pinch of salt. Dip in crispy tofu squares and enjoy.

Super Crispy Fried Tofu

1 14- to-16-pounce package extra firm tofu (the refrigerated kind)
Corn starch
Vegetable oil for frying

Remove the tofu from the packaging and discard the liquid. Wrap the tofu in a layer of paper towels and place on a plate. Put another plate upside-down over the tofu and weight plate with a jar or can. Refrigerate for at least four hours, changing the towels at least once during that time.

When you're ready to cook the tofu, remove the soggy towels and discard. Cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 5 or 6 slices.

Put a half cup or so of corn starch in a bowl. Dredge each slice of tofu in the cornstarch, patting it into each piece and shaking off excess. Put dredged tofu pieces on a plate until you finish coating the rest of them.

Add a couple tablespoons of oil to a large non-stick skillet and heat over high heat. Add the tofu pieces in one layer and cover the pan. Cook until crisp and brown on the bottom, 4-5 minutes. Check the browning process occasionally (it will seem to brown slowly at first) by picking up a piece with kitchen tongs. (Be careful when lifting the lid off the pan! Condensation will have accumulated and will drip off the pan into the oil, causing spattering. It's best to lift the lid straight up, not on an angle, and move it away to the side quickly.)

Once tofu is browned on the bottom, turn pieces and cook an additional 4-5 minutes until the other side is brown. If you feel the tofu is browning too quickly, turn the heat down a bit. (If it browns too fast, not only can it burn, but it won't be as crisp because there will still be moisture inside.)

Remove tofu pieces from the heat and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Season tofu with a pinch of salt while still hot.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Breslin

There are some restaurants where everything on the menu looks so appetizing, it's nearly impossible to make a decision. The Breslin is one of them.

When I was in NY for the Summer Fancy Food Show, I did a lot of my eating inside the Javits Center--some cheese here, a little prosciutto there, maybe a bite of energy bar or kale something or gluten-free whatever, and then a bit more cheese, washed down with organic coffee or fancy tea or a shot of mezcal (or three). But even with all that snacking it's possible to be hungry for a sit-down meal. Even after snacking AND having a plate of pasta and a beer at the opening night cocktail party, there's still room for more, particularly if it's fried.

The Breslin, April Bloomfield's Michelin-starred British gastropub in Midtown's Ace Hotel, seems to specialize in fried food. There is a lot of it on the menu, and we ordered most of it, plus oysters on the half shell and a salad. You know, to be healthy.

But first - a cocktail. This one was called Life on Mars? and contained Virgil Kane rye, hibiscus, Cardamaro (a cardoon-infused amaro) and pressed lemon. It was bright, both sweet and tangy, with a lovely lemon aroma.

We enjoyed six petite Puffer's oysters, salty little diploid Wellfleets from Cape Cod. The dilly pickle juice we spooned on top was a refreshing accompaniment.

The salad was a simple affair of butter lettuce, cucumber, radish, scallions, crunchy sunflower seeds, and creamy ranch dressing. It wasn't our token vegetable though; we also ordered radishes. They were cooked, possibly lightly deep fried, juicy and tender, with a darkly piquant sauce.

We also enjoyed the beef and Stilton pie. It was a tiny little thing, bursting with shredded meat and the mellow funk of that famed British blue cheese. I wished it was bigger.

We also shared the Scotch egg. I'm not the biggest Scotch egg fan in the world, because I have a thing about plain pork sausage. We ate a lot of "breakfast" sausage growing up and I never did like the flavor. That's usually the kind of sausage used as a wrapper on a Scotch egg, and of course this one was no different. What was different was the nicely crispy crust on the outside and the perfectly gooey soft-boiled egg on the inside. Cooking an egg like that, peeling it without making a mess, then wrapping it in sausage and deep frying it is a bit of culinary engineering that I can admire.

Similarly crispy was the fried duck leg. Meltingly tender on the inside, the meaty confitted leg had just the right amount of luscious fat. Unlike the beef and stilton pie, the duck leg was plenty enough to share without feeling deprived.

While the savory part of the meal was quite delicious and satisfying, the dessert felt like a cheat. As in we were cheated. The menu description simply said "carrot cake/compressed pineapple/coconut ice cream." The words "carrot cake" conjure up a thick slice of moist brown cake studded with shreds of carrot, nuts, and maybe even a little pineapple, topped with cream cheese frosting. I suppose what we received somewhat evoked the real thing, but was in reality a fussy little arrangement of bits and bobs. Two tiny, crouton-sized, pieces of actual cake, a thumb-sized quenelle of ice cream, some powdered coconut milk, toasted coconut, and a few chunks of pineapple. For $12.

I have nothing against fancy plated desserts, but they really need to be exquisite to earn the hefty price tag they usually wear. The cake was ordinary, the ice cream wasn't particularly flavorful, and coconut milk powder can be purchased in any Asian supermarket, so I hope nobody wasted time and effort producing it in the restaurant kitchen. Considering that The Breslin is very much like an English pub, the arty-farty desserts are not in keeping with the whole theme of the place. Disappointing.

Dessert aside, I enjoyed our meal at The Breslin enough to go back for breakfast the next day.  There were pastries to choose from, lighter dishes like yogurt and granola, and heartier, eggier, options like a full English breakfast.

I went for creamy and rich Greek yogurt with tiny, sweet, strawberries, local honey, and pistachio praline, and a house-made buttered English muffin and a cup of Stumptown coffee. It was a satisfying start to the day.

The Breslin
The Ace Hotel
16 W 29th St
New York, NY 10001
(212) 679-1939

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Friday, August 05, 2016

Apricot-Cardamom-Pistachio Ice Cream

Last summer, we made a lot of frozen desserts. We had borrowed a friend's ice cream machine (which we still have - oops!) and were cranking out a new flavor every weekend. Now we have our own fun little Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, and we hope to start using it regularly.

This summer's inaugural batch used up a selection of apricots that had been purchased at the farmers' market across from my office. I bought them on Tuesday for Mr Minx to eat, but he kept forgetting. By Saturday, one of them was rotten, and I needed to do something with the rest so as not to lose my investment (they weren't cheap). I also wanted to involve one or more of the Runamok Maple syrups that I picked up at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June. One of them is infused with cardamom, and I knew cardamom and apricot went well together. I also wanted to add a bit of texture to the ice cream and knew pistachios would work with both of the other players. The next question was how best to use the cardamom syrup so it didn't get lost in all that cream.

The answer was pretty simple: I used it to candy the nuts. While I did add a big pinch of ground cardamom to the ice cream itself, it was subtle. The candied nuts supplied stronger hits of the sweet spice, which made each bite more interesting.

It might seem like there's a lot of sugar in this ice cream, but apricot puree is tangy. You can probably reduce the sugar to 2/3 cup, but don't go any further than that, as less sugar will affect the way the ice cream freezes.

Apricot-Cardamom-Pistachio Ice Cream

For the nuts:
1/2 cup pistachio nutmeats
2 tablespoons Runamok Maple Cardamom Maple Syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons butter

For the ice cream:
6-8 fresh apricots (to make about 1 cup of puree)
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

To make the nuts: Prepare a sheet pan with a piece of parchment or a silicone baking sheet/Silpat.

Heat the Runamok Maple Cardamom-infused maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbly. Add the nuts. Stir the mixture constantly until the nuts are glazed and most of the moisture is evaporated. Don't cook much beyond this point - you don't want the caramel to be hard, otherwise it will be hard and potentially tooth-sticky once frozen.

Remove the nuts from the heat and immediately spread out onto the sheet pan, separating them with a fork. Allow to cool. They should still be tacky to the touch when cool.

To make the ice cream: Wash the apricots thoroughly. Cut in half, discard pits and stems, and whiz the flesh in a food processor to make a puree. Strain to remove skins, if desired (I left them in). Refrigerate puree until ready to use.

Place the milk and sugar in a sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat until just starting to bubble around the edges. Do not let come to a boil, and definitely don't let it burn.

While the milk is warming, whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Using a ladle, dribble some of the hot milk into the eggs in a thin stream, whisking constantly. After about half the milk has been whisked in, pour the egg and milk mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk. Cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to coat a spoon, whisking all the while.

Strain the custard and stir in the heavy cream. Refrigerate until cold.

Combine the cold custard with the cold apricot puree. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Once the consistency starts to visually resemble soft serve ice cream, start dropping in the nuts, a few at a time, until all are incorporated. Scoop the ice cream (it will still be quite soft) into a covered container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

* 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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Thursday, August 04, 2016

National Root Beer Float Day

National Root Beer Float Day is Saturday, August 6th. I know I can use any old root beer and ice cream combo to make a tasty drink, what really floats my boat (see what I did there?) is one made with the boozy Not Your Father's Root Beer and Graeter's Ice Cream. Mmmm....Graeter's. (My favorite!)

While Graeter's Madagascar Vanilla Bean ice cream is perfect for a root beer float, so is their salted caramel flavor. I think so anyway. It adds just the right amount of salt to cut some of the sweetness. One of their chocolate flavors would be great too, but maybe not one with chocolate chips as they'd plug up your straw and impede the flow of root beer+ice cream to your gullet. And we can't have that.

Honestly, I don't know why Small Town Brewery calls their product, "Not Your Father's Root Beer," because my Dad will definitely drink it! It's an ale that tastes exactly like root beer - sweet, with the typical root beer melange of wintergreen/ sarsparilla/ vanilla/ anise notes, but it's 5.9% ABV. In any case, it's an alcoholic beverage, so don't give it to your kids. And please drink responsibly.

For those of you lucky enough to be living in states where ice cream and alcohol can be purchased in the same store, you can pick up pints of Graeter's and six-packs of Not Your Father's Root Beer at places like Kroger, Giant Eagle, and Harris Teeter. Then you can rush right home and make yourself a sweet treat. Even luckier people who have a Graeter's Scoop Shop (and can get fresh Graeter's ice cream any time they want - my dream) in their town can get someone else to make a root beer float for them in a branded commemorative mug. Here in Maryland, you have visit two stores (for example, Dulaney Wines and Spirits is a couple doors down from The Fresh Market in Towson) to get your boozy root beer float supplies, but heck, Graeter's is so tasty, it's worth any minor hassles you might face to obtain some.

If you do indulge, take a pic of your drink and post it on Instagram. Don't forget to use the tag #nationalrootbeerfloatday, and you can tag me, too, @Daminxy1, while you're at it so I can see your posts.

* 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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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Purple Cauliflower Tacos

I purchased the most gorgeous purple cauliflower at the University of Maryland farmers' market the other day. It was ridiculously purple, and I had to have it. But when I got it home, I tucked it into the bottom of the fridge and forgot about it for a few days.

Then came the weekend and I had to rustle up something for dinner. Purple cauliflower to the rescue! I'm perfectly content to eat my cauli simply steamed and salted, maybe with a nice knob of butter on top. Honestly, I could eat a whole head myself--and have--and be completely content. But that wouldn't work for Mr Minx. He likes to have a more balanced meal, one with starch and protein. But I didn't feel like fussing with protein. I wanted to do something creative with the beautiful purple cauliflower.

So I made tacos. With cauliflower fritters, harissa mayonnaise, pickled carrots, and esquites. You may think that one (or more) of those things doesn't belong, but oh, they do! These tacos were full of intense flavors and textures - the herbal and crispy fritters, the pop and sweetness of fresh corn kernels, the salty funk of feta cheese, and the spicy tang of the yogurt. They were soooo good!

The fritters themselves were a bit of a gamble. I had never made them before, so wasn't sure about the texture at all. Would they fall apart in the pan? Would they get crispy enough? Should I make balls or patties? No, yes, and both. The cauli mixture (I can't really call it a batter) was very sticky. There was a lot of veg and very little binder, so it was easiest to make quenelle-style blobs that were roughly the same size and place them into the pan. Once I deemed the bottoms were browned enough, I flipped the balls onto their opposite sides as best I could, then smashed them flat with the spatula. Like a smashburger. It worked perfectly--they didn't fall apart, and it was easier to get them browned on all sides, as after smashing there were only two of them. I flipped them once or twice to make sure both sides were amply browned before draining them on paper towel-lined plates, and cooked them in two batches so as not to crowd the pan.

Since I had made the fritters with feta and mint, I thought I should just stick with Middle Eastern/Mediterranean-inspired flavors. I had a jar of fairly mild harissa in the cupboard that I thought would make a nice sauce with some Greek yogurt, and figured pickled carrots could add a bit of tang. (I totally cheated with the carrots. We were gifted with a jar of pickled yellow beets a while back, and after we ate the beets themselves, we saved the brine. It was perfect for a quick pickle with no effort on our part. I recommend saving your favorite pickle brine in its original jar in the fridge for such occasions.)  But then I had two ears of sweet bi-color corn to use. I was originally going to put the corn in the fritters, but thought it might get lost and simply become a texture. Salsa came to mind, but then I decided to make esquites, the off-the-cob version of Mexican street corn. Completely Minx-ified, of course, with little or no authenticity. It's the taste that counts, right?

Pretty and delicious. What more do you need from dinner?

Purple Cauliflower Tacos

For the harissa yogurt:
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2-3 tablespoons harissa, or to taste (depends on the brand you use)
Lemon juice
Pinch salt

For the esquites:
2 ears corn, cooked and still warm, kernels removed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped scallions

For the cauliflower fritters:
1 medium head cauliflower
1/2 cup chopped mint and cilantro (one or the other, preferably both)
1 scallion, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup AP flour
Vegetable oil for frying

To serve:
Pickled carrots
Feta cheese
Taco or fajita-sized flour tortillas

To make the harissa yogurt: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make esquites: Mix everything together in a bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature

To make the fritters: Remove the leaves and bottom of the stem from cauliflower and discard. Rinse the cauliflower well and place in a large pot with a couple inches of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Cook the cauliflower until a knife inserted through the top goes through with only slight resistance. Drain the water and transfer the cauliflower to a bowl.

Flip the cauli over and remove the rest of the stem and any overly large "branches" that might still be a little hard. Bash the florets into small pieces with a potato masher - you don't actually want to mash the vegetable, just to break it into very small bits. Discard any other hard stem bits you may find during this process. Stir a large pinch of salt into the cauliflower and let it cool to room temperature.

Once cool, add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. You'll have a purple and green sticky mess in a bowl. Using two tablespoons or your hands, form the mess into 15 or so football-shaped blobs, placing them on a couple of plates or a clean cutting board.

Heat a tablespoon or so of the oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet. Place as many of the purple blobs in the skillet as will fit comfortably without crowding. Cook until the bottoms are nicely browned, 3-4 minutes. Flip the blobs so the browned sides are facing upward, then gently smash each ball into a patty with your spatula. Continue frying until browned on the bottom side, then flip again to cook the exposed still-purple bits that didn't get browned the first time around. Once browned on both sides, remove to a paper towel-lined plate and hit with a pinch of salt. Repeat with remaining blobs.

To serve: Place a stack of tortillas on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a damp paper towel and nuke for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until tortillas are warm and pliable.

Put a warm tortilla on a plate. Smear with some of the harissa yogurt. Top with one or two fritters, depending on the size of the tortilla. Add a spoonful of the esquites, some pickled carrots, a few bits of feta, and some cilantro. Eat and repeat.

Makes 8-12 tacos.

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Monday, August 01, 2016

Maryland's Chesapeake

Mr Minx and I spent much of last year writing a book - Maryland's Chesapeake, How the Bay and Its Bounty Shaped a Cuisine. We're happy to announce that it is finally available for purchase! Today, August 1, is the official release date, so hopefully your MD-area bookstores have received it. If not, and you're not averse to making online purchases, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are both stocking Maryland's Chesapeake.

Both the fauna in the Chesapeake and the flora around it have greatly influenced the cuisine of Maryland. The Bay has sustained numerous generations of people, from the Native Americans to the British colonists to today's diverse population. Every summer, we look forward to the sweet corn, tomatoes and strawberries that are grown along the Chesapeake's shores. Long have we enjoyed the oysters, crabs, and rockfish from its waters. While Maryland's Chesapeake celebrates these delicious creatures, we hope it also serves as a reminder that unless we take steps to rejuvenate their populations and control pollution, eventually there may not be any of them left to eat.

We hope to announce signing events in the near future, so stay tuned.

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Runamok Chicken and Waffles

One of my favorite parts of the Summer Fancy Food Show is the new products aisle. Some of the products are truly tasty and seem promising, others not so much. My favorite of the "truly tasty" variety was Runamok Maple. Maple syrup is a bit of a mini-trend at the SFFS - there were at least twice as many maple vendors this year as last, but the total number was still very small.

I grew up eating Mrs Butterworth's on my pancakes, and trying real maple syrup for the first time was a bit of a revelation. Not only is the real stuff not as thick as the fake stuff (which gives tar a run for its money), but the flavor is also much more subtle. (Imitation maple gets its flavor from the lactone soloton, which is found in the herb fenugreek, used widely in Indian cooking. If you've ever found a curry to taste like maple syrup, it's actually the other way around - your "maple" syrup tastes like curry.)

Runamok Maple is definitely the real thing. It's hand-tapped maple sap, concentrated to remove much of the water, then boiled into the golden elixir that many of us know and love. And while Runamok Maple sells this "plain" syrup, which they bottle as the Sugarmaker's Cut, they also flavor their maple. Some are aged in barrels recently used to hold rye, bourbon, or rum, which imparts a distinct boozy taste to the syrup. They also have a line of syrups infused with things like hibiscus flower or elderberries. And then they do an amazing pecan wood smoked syrup that might be odd on pancakes, but works great in a cocktail or in place of bacon in our maple bacon chicken and waffles.

We fiddled around with the original recipe, substituting Runamok Pecan Wood Smoked Maple Syrup for the bacon. Because not everything needs to have bacon in it. No, I'm serious.

Runamok Chicken and Waffles
Serves 4-6

For herbed cornmeal waffles:
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 ½ cups 2% milk
½ stick melted butter, cooled
2 scallions, finely chopped
8 sage leaves, finely chopped

For chicken:
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

For gravy:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of the stock left over from cooking the chicken (if there's not enough left, add regular chicken stock to make up the difference)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Runamok Maple Pecan Wood Smoked maple syrup
1 tablespoon Runamok Maple Bourbon-Barrel Aged maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped scallions for garnish

To make waffles: Preheat waffle iron. Preheat oven to 250°F and place a baking sheet in the oven.

Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk and butter until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined. Stir in the scallions and sage.

Spoon batter into waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions. Cook until golden and crisp. Place cooked waffles onto the baking sheet in the oven. Repeat until all waffle batter is used.

To make chicken: Combine all ingredients in a pot. Bring liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down and let simmer until chicken is cooked through, about one hour. Set chicken and the resulting stock aside.

To make gravy: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, to create a light blonde roux. Raise heat and whisk in chicken stock; bring to a boil. After a minute or two, when stock has thickened to gravy consistency, lower heat to medium and stir in the cream and maple syrups. Season with salt to taste and lots of freshly ground pepper.

* 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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