Monday, October 31, 2016

8Ball Meatball

Spaghetti and meatballs is the dish that had the biggest impact on my life. It was what we had for dinner every Saturday night when I was a kid, and it kicked off my special night of activities. After dinner, my dad would go out and buy the early editions of the Sunday newspapers (we had two major papers back then) so I could plow through the pages and pages of full color comic strips. Then I would stay up and watch Ghost Host or Creature Feature or maybe even an old serial like Flash Gordon or The Crimson Ghost. But it was the spaghetti and meatballs I looked forward to the most: hearty and spicy and soul satisfying. I loved it so much, I asked my mom to teach me how to make it. By the time I was 12, I was the one who made dinner every Saturday.

Over the years, I played around with different styles of and recipes for meatballs. I'd like to think I'm a bit of a meatball connoisseur, so when a new place in Fells Point called 8Ball Meatball opened, I knew I had to try it out. As is usually the case with us, other commitments got in the way, but we were recently asked to attend a media dinner to check out what was going on at the meatball emporium.

We started with cocktails and 8Ball Meatball has some pretty sweet adult beverages to choose from. The Otoño, ordered by a friend who generously let us taste her drink, is a citrussy blend of Suerte tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and spiced simple syrup; the Minx swears it was her favorite thing of the entire evening and wishes she had stolen more sips than the several she already had.

The drink the Minx ordered for herself was the Pear and Cider Punch while I went for the Cranberry-Ginger Highball, both from the Fall cocktail menu. While both rum-based drinks were unmistakably seasonal in flavor, each was light and refreshing on that particular warm Indian Summer evening.

8Ball Meatball's menu offers a handful of ball-inspired appetizers (plus a few others) to start one's meal. The fried pickles appetizer was especially tasty, lightly battered pickle slices fried to a light golden brown with a Ranch dipping sauce.

Goat cheese balls were served with a "Summer" salad of greens, blueberries, watermelon, and strawberries, all drizzled with a sweet glaze--a light contrast to the crunchy coating of the somewhat hefty balls filled with creamy goat cheese.

We also sampled the quite spicy Buffalo chicken balls with their traditional bleu cheese and celery garnish.

Entree decision-making is both simple and complex at 8Ball Meatball. Simple in that every choice involves meatballs. Complex in that several decisions must be made: select a meatball; select one of six sauces to go with it; and finally, decide how you wish to have it served. Your balls can come in a bowl of four; you can get three balls in a sub roll with cheese; or you can have an individual ball on a slider bun. There's also a variety of starches and salads that can be placed alongside or under your balls. You could also choose to put an egg on anything (why not?)

I chose the bowl of meatballs served over pasta. Normally, you can choose up to two different meatballs, but in the interest of journalism, I talked them into serving me four different balls so I could write about each one. The veggie ball is a dense composition of beans, soy, nuts, and tempeh making for a hearty, firm, bite. The classic is a traditional, tender meatball made of beef, pork, and veal. Although the tender pork ball is labeled as spicy, I found it to be pleasantly mild and probably my favorite of the four. That night's special meatball was Italian sausage with onions and peppers and it tasted exactly like you would imagine. I could've enjoyed an entire bowl of those!

My one strategic error was choosing the spicy pork sauce. Although it tasted fine, I'm afraid it made it difficult to discern the flavors of each ball. I would probably opt for the classic or pesto sauce next time.

The Minx ordered two pork and two chicken balls with a Parmesan cream sauce over the risotto del giorno, which happened to be butternut squash. The pork balls were her favorite as well.

Despite the preponderance of spherical proteins at 8Ball Meatball, they'd like everyone to know that they are more than just meatballs. Those tasty drinks, for one thing, which are enough to have us coming back for more. Additionally, they are open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. But if you find yourself roaming around Fells Point any day of the week and are looking for a place to have a drink and a nosh, the food is fun and the prices are beyond reasonable.

8Ball Meatball
814 S. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21231

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Cardamom Carrot Ice Cream

Ever since I discovered the book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, I've been somewhat obsessed with making ice cream. I prefer a custard-based ice cream, made with eggs, to the so-called Philadelphia-style (without eggs) because it has a smoother texture, but hate having to use so many eggs. Egg yolks, rather, which leaves 5 or more whites to use in something else. Yeah yeah, egg white omelets, meringue, yadda yadda. Still - it makes more work for me to think of another application. Jeni's recipe is just as smooth and creamy as an egg custard based ice cream, but is thickened instead with cornstarch and cream cheese. A pack of cream cheese lasts long enough in the fridge to make several batches of frozen treats, and can always be put into service as a bagel schmear.

Of course, me being me, I haven't made any of Jeni's recipes, but I have used her technique several times already. The Key Lime Pie ice cream I made in August was a huge success. Last month I made a Peanut Butter Pie ice cream, upping the cream cheese and adding both peanut butter and peanut powder. This time, I wanted to do something with cardamom. Cardamom is an underutilized spice, at least in this country, but it's popular in both Scandanavia and India. I wanted to make an ice cream that was flavored only with cardamom, but with some sort of textural interest. There's an Indian dessert that I love called gajar ka halwa, made with carrots and milk and seasoned with cardamom. I thought adding some of that to the ice cream, along with crushed cashews, would work nicely.

And it did. It was rich and cardamom-y, tasting a lot like kheer, an Indian rice pudding, which made me think I should have added some basmati rice as well. But we're not making frozen rice pudding here....

Cardamom Carrot Ice Cream

For the ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, or to taste

For the carrots:
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
2 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons milk
6 tablespoons sugar
Big pinch cardamom

To finish:
1/2 cup cashews, lightly crushed

For the ice cream: Mix 2 tablespoons of the whole milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until smooth. Prepare a shallow ice bath: in a large bowl or baking pan, place an inch or two of cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside.

Cook the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cardamom in a large saucepan until it comes to a rolling boil, Boil for 4 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn't boil over (stir when it starts to expand), remove from heat, and slowly whisk in the slurry. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Blend a few tablespoons of hot milk mixture into the cream cheese to loosen it, then pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan of milk. Whisk well until smooth. Taste for seasoning and whisk in more cardamom if you would like a stronger flavor. Pour into a container with a tight-fitting lid and place the container into the ice bath until cool, ensuring that the water level doesn't come up as far as the lid. When the mixture seems mostly cool, refrigerate until completely cold.

For the carrots: Combine all ingredients except cardamom in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the carrots, about 10 minutes. Season with cardamom. Scrape into a lidded container and refrigerate until ready to use.

To finish: Freeze ice cream according to manufacturers instructions. Once ice cream is mostly done, start adding the carrot mixture a little at a time. It will have chilled into a mass, but you can crumble it with your fingers into the ice cream maker. Once the carrots are combined and the ice cream is done, scoop some into a lidded storage container. Layer on some of the cashews. Continue to add ice cream and cashews to container until both are used up. Press a piece of wax paper onto the surface of the ice cream. Seal container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Order&Chaos Coffee

Planit is a creative agency. They do ads, branding, marketing, graphic design, everything. Their space on Key Highway is full of insanely creative people doing award-winning things. Mr Minx and I do business with the good folks at Planit Agency all the time. They are unfailingly helpful, kind, and generous.

And now they sell coffee.

Well, Planit doesn't sell coffee. But Order&Chaos does. This new coffee shop owned by Planit founders Matt Doud and Ed Callahan shares Planit's new digs, and the PR side of the business can be seen in action through the shop's large glass windows. But don't go for the view--go for the coffee, which is roasted nearby at 100+ year-old Locust Point stalwart Pfeffercorn, making Order&Chaos a true neighborhood coffee shop.

After sampling their wares at a recent media event and leaving with a can of ground coffee to make at home, I gotta say that Order&Chaos is worth the drive to South Baltimore. Their espresso drinks are made in the only Slayer espresso maker in the Baltimore area, and include cappuccinos, lattes, and everyone's favorite fall drink, the pumpkin spice latte. (I had one - it's very good, with a much more rounded and less-bitter flavor than Big Coffee's PSL.) There are other interesting drinks on their menu as well, such as the Cafe Gommosa, which is an espresso shot poured over marshmallow, and a "dirty" chai--chai tea with an espresso shot. The brewed coffee is smooth and rich and packs a deep flavor. Their decaf as well has been blended and roasted with care and stands up to the very best caffeinated brews.

While you're at O&C, try one of their liege waffles. Liege is a style of Belgian waffle that is sweeter and chewier than a standard waffle. They're made with a yeast-raised dough that's studded with pearl sugar. The sugar melts in the waffle iron (which doesn't get as hot as a standard waffler) and forms crunchy caramelized bits that make these waffles an ideal afternoon snack. You know, when you need that little extra jolt of energy to get you through the rest of the day. They are perfectly acceptable for breakfast, of course, but then you might miss out on one of Order&Chaos' other pastry offerings, which include items by Patisserie Poupon.

Right now, Matt and Ed want Order&Chaos to become an integral part of their South Baltimore neighborhood, but I say look out for future world domination.

Order&Chaos Coffee
1410 Key Highway
Baltimore MD 21230

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Indonesian Fusion

The Indonesian dish, Gado Gado (literally "mix mix") is a potpourri of various ingredients served with a spicy peanut sauce.  Though traditionally a salad, I decided that gado gado would make a fine burrito filling. (Actually, pretty much anything and everything tastes pretty good wrapped up in a flour tortilla.) I was heavily inspired by the yummy bulgogi burritos I get from the KoCo Truck that parks in front of my office once a week. If that Korean dish of meat, rice, and fiery gochujang sauce can translate into a Cal-Mex favorite, why can't a favorite dish from another Asian nation?

My Gado Gado Burrito is cheap, filling, and easy. You really only have to make the peanut sauce. Leftover rice is fine, as are leftover veggies. You can use cold roast chicken in place of the tofu, if you want. Hate cilantro? Use basil or arugula. Use all three. Hate burritos? (Seriously? How can you hate burritos?) Then assemble all the ingredients in a bowl, top with the peanut sauce, and eat it as a salad. Allergic to peanuts? Sub in almond butter. Allergic to almonds, too? Well, then you should probably eat something else.

Gado Gado Burrito

For the peanut sauce:
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons brown or palm sugar
1 cup coconut milk
4 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Hot sauce

For the burrito:
4 large eggs
2-3 small potatoes (I used heirloom All Blue potatoes, which is the purple color you see in the pic)
Burrito sized flour tortillas
1 cup cooked jasmine or basmati rice
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges and seasoned with salt
1 package baked tofu in plain, sesame ginger, or teriyaki flavor, cut into strips

To make the peanut sauce: In a medium saucepan, cook the ginger and garlic in a bit of oil until fragrant. Stir in the peanut butter and the brown sugar. Whisk in the coconut milk to thin the mixture, then season with the lime, soy, and fish sauce. Add your favorite hot sauce and additional salt to taste.

To make the burrito:  Bring a saucepot of water to a boil over high heat. With a slotted spoon, gently lower the eggs into the water. Set a timer for 7 minutes, and cook the eggs at a simmer. Prepare an ice bath by putting several ice cubes and cold water in a medium bowl. When the 7 minutes is up, gently remove the eggs to the ice bath and allow to cool completely before peeling.

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Allow to cool, then peel and cut into small cubes. Set aside until ready to use.

Place a tortilla on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Nuke on high 30-45 seconds until the tortilla is hot and pliable. Top with a few spoonfuls of the rice, some tomato wedges, a few strips of tofu, one of the boiled eggs, cut in half, a couple spoonfuls of potato, and a healthy drizzle of the peanut sauce. Top with several sprigs of cilantro. Roll up, burrito style, then cut in half. Serve with additional peanut sauce for dipping.

Makes 2-4 depending on how generous you are with the fillings.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Mediterranean Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is a southern specialty. A fairly simple combination of shredded cheese, mayo, and chopped pimento or roasted red pepper, it's great slathered on everything from crackers to burgers. Not being particularly southern, I am willing to take liberties with the recipe and make it my own.

We had a jar of fairly mild harissa paste in the fridge looking for things to do. I decided to employ it in a pimento cheese that could hail from a land in the vicinity of the southeastern Mediterranean sea. Most pimento cheeses use cheddar as a base, but I wanted something more neutral so the feta cheese could be prominent. The harissa stands in for the pimentos, but you could certainly add red pepper to your cheese if you choose. Don't forget to add the herbs, which add more character to the salty cheese.

I spread it on ciabatta and topped it with an over-easy egg, and it was mmm! Next I'll use it on a lamb burger with lots of red onion and fresh tomato.

Mediterranean Pimento Cheese

4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2-3 teaspoons harissa paste (or to taste, depending on the strength of your harissa)
3 heaping tablespoons mayo
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 teaspoon dill seeds, crushed

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until fairly homogenized in texture. There will still be small lumps of feta. Pack into a lidded container and refrigerate for several hours so the flavors can mellow. Serve with crackers or as a sandwich spread.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Curated - A Kitchen Table Dinner Series

Starting tonight, October 19, Wit & Wisdom will be presenting a series of curated multi-course dinners at their chef's table. "Curated - A Kitchen Table Dinner Series," is a weekly experience that will allow guests to experience everything from seasonal recipes to international cuisines, different cooking techniques, unique food and wine pairings, and many of Wit & Wisdom’s classic dishes. Guests will be able to enjoy dinner while seated at the restaurant’s chef’s table, dubbed “The Kitchen Table," enabling a more interactive and intimate experience with Wit & Wisdom’s chef Zack Mills and the rest of their award-winning staff.

Curated will take place every Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. beginning October 19.

I think this is a great idea! It gives Baltimore diners something fun to look forward to every week during the fall and into the new year. They all sound great, but I'm leaning toward the Pabu dinner, the dessert dinner, Sustainable Seafood (naturally), and the French dinner. How about you?

For more details and to reserve your spot at the Kitchen Table, please call Reservations at +1 (410) 576-5800.

October 19
“Wit Gone Wild”
Four course dinner featuring local wild game
$75 (Optional Beverage Pairing $45)

October 26
"Pabu Satori Dinner”
Let’s toast to the opening of Pabu in Boston with eight courses of your Pabu favorites.
$125 (Optional Beverage Pairing $50)

November 2
“Heritage Pork: Swine & Dine”
Six course dinner featuring heritage pork.
$75 (Optional Beverage Pairing $45)

November 9
“Five Years of Wit”
Five courses featuring five our most popular dishes over the past five years.
$65 (Optional Beverage Pairing $45)

November 16
“Fall Harvest”
Seven courses highlighting the beautiful seasonal vegetables.
$75 (Optional Beverage Pairing $45)

November 30
“Grandmother's Italian Kitchen”
Six traditional Italian courses that your grandmother would approve of.
$65 (Optional Beverage Pairing $35)

December 7
“Truffle Dinner”
Five courses of truffles – need we say more?
Market Price

December 14
“Michael Mina Classics”
Six courses featuring all of Chef Mina’s signature dishes.
$95 (Optional Beverage Pairing $55)

December 21
“Dyan’s Dessert for Dinner”
Five courses featuring sweet and savory desserts – you won’t even miss your entrée.
$50 (Optional Beverage Pairing $35)

December 28
“Dinner on the Half Shell”
Enjoy four courses with oyster inspired dishes.
$50 (Optional Beverage Pairing $35)

January 4
“Global Journey of Food & Wine”
Flavors from around the world are featured in this five course dinner.
$75 (Optional Beverage Pairing $45)

January 11
“Sustainable Seafood Supper”
Five courses of eating responsibly
$75 (Optional Beverage Pairing $45)

January 18
“Classic French Cooking”
Eight courses of fine French cuisine
$90 (Optional Beverage Pairing $45)

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Monday, October 17, 2016

La Food Marketa

I'm a big fan of Hampden's The Food Market. Chef Chad Gauss' food is inventive, and many of the options are of the small plates variety. I find that in so many restaurants I am more attracted to the appetizers than to the entrees, so this is right up my culinary alley. When we heard Chef Gauss was opening up a Mexican-influenced eatery called La Food Marketa in the culinary wasteland known as Baltimore County, we got excited. And even more excited when we were invited to a media dinner to sample a nice portion of executive chef John Bedingfield's menu.

We started off with adult beverages. There's wine and beer, specialty cocktails, fancy margaritas, and several versions on a sangria theme. I went for the grapefruit sangria (sparkling wine, grapefruit, honey dew, watermelon) while Mr Minx opted for the Spanish sangria (tempranillo, orange juice, pineapple, orange, pear), both of which made us happy.

We then received a parade of small plates from the "chiquita" and "pequeno" sections of the menu.

There was the "Bandito Box," which included salsa, queso, salsa verde, pico de gallo, and chips, and the Fish Taco Dip (smoked trout, dill sour cream, guac, pico, chili spices)...

...a duck confit stuffed pupusa (spicy cabbage, radish, cilantro)...

...charred octopus (churasco onions, chorizo chimichurri)...

...something called the "Sunken Crab Burrito," (melted cheese, mexican shrimp gravy)...

...and Street Corn (cotijo cheese, taco spice, tortilla, chili lime mayo). We enjoyed them all. The fish taco dip was a riff on a fish taco, of course, but also of that pot luck favorite, Seven Layer Dip. I wished we were sitting closer to the bowl of queso, but maybe distance was a good thing, otherwise I'd have eaten it all with the thin and crispy tortilla chips. Loved the charred flavor of the octopus, and that the pupusa was filled with a bounty of shredded duck. I didn't find the burrito to be particularly crabby, but all that soft tortilla and cheese action was beguiling.

We could have filled up on apps, but we got entrees, too. Mr Minx chose the duck breast with roasted mushrooms, asparagus, yucca spaetzle, and acai demi. He raved about the spaetzle, but the duck was a bit on the too rare side. Still, a very tasty combination of flavors on that plate.

I had the scallops, which were accompanied by cumin-basted carrots, avocado, pecans, "smooth potatoes" and something akin to cornbread that the menu called "sweet corn tamalitos." While I felt the potatoes and cornbread were one starch too many, I couldn't fault the sweet and tender scallops. The carrots made me happy as well. And avocado. And pecans. Yum.

Then there was dessert - chocolate tres leches cake, a pina colada bread pudding, sorbetto with torched marshmallow, and something called a "crazy banana milkshake" that involved cornflakes and pop corn. We had eaten so much other stuff we couldn't afford more than a token bite of the sweet stuff. I did sneak several tastes of the blood orange sorbetto though, and enjoyed it very much.

La Food Marketa has only been open for a month or so, but from our first visit, we can see it's definitely headed in the right direction. Here's to many happy future excursions to a fine new addition to Baltimore County's small collection of locally-owned, non-chain, restaurants.

La Food Marketa
Quarry Lake at Greenspring
2620 Quarry Lake Drive
Baltimore, MD 21209

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Thai Red Curry BBQ Sauce

It's football time again, and the Ravens have a ton of 1 pm games. I hate that. It really cuts into my ability to make interesting weekend food. You see, I only cook on the weekends (Mr Minx has weeknight kitchen duty) and I like to spread my prep and cooking out over a long period of time. If I spend a big chunk of the afternoon with my eyes glued to a football game, that gives me much less time for prep. So I tend to resort to either long-cooking recipes like chili or fast things like nachos, both of which are rather boring. To me, anyway.

I also like to make things like pulled pork. A pork butt has to cook for hours, so I pop it in the oven before gametime and by the time it's all over, the meat is ready for shredding. But I can't use bottled bbq sauce. I haven't really found one that I like. Most are too sweet, or too smoky. And I figure if I can't make an entirely inventive meal on Sundays, I can at least make one component from scratch. Like bbq sauce.

I like making sauces, and bbq sauce is easy if you have the basics: ketchup; onion; brown sugar; an acid. Mr Minx picked up a bottle of McCormick Red Curry seasoning recently, so I used it to make a Thai-ish bbq sauce. We already had fish sauce and lime juice on hand, so it was pretty easy to throw together and refrigerate before the game. Afterward, I shredded the boneless mini pork butt that was cooking in the oven and made a salad with a bag of broccoli slaw and leftover peanut sauce.

Easy, time efficient, and somewhat interesting. Oh, and tasty, which of course is the most important part.

Thai Red Curry BBQ Sauce
This sauce would also be a great glaze for chicken wings.

Olive oil
1/2 ripe bell pepper (I used yellow), roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped onion
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 teaspoons McCormick Thai Red Curry seasoning, or more to taste
Small handful torn cilantro
1/2 cup ketchup
6 ounces (1/2 12-oz jar) apricot preserves
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
Juice of 1 lime
Fish sauce
Brown sugar

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a sauce pan and add the pepper, onion, and a pinch of salt. Cover pot and cook until vegetables are wilted, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir well to combine. Cook an additional minute until garlic is fragrant. Add a teaspoon of McCormick Red Curry seasoning to the pan and stir well. Add the cilantro, ketchup, preserves, stock or water, and lime juice and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat until reduced and thickened to ketchup consistency. Season with additional 1 or 2 teaspoons of curry seasoning, and a few tablespoons of fish sauce. The sauce should be fairly tangy, but if you prefer a sweeter bbq sauce, add a tablespoon or so of brown sugar.

Remove from heat and blend to a fairly smooth puree with a stick blender. Alternatively, use a regular blender, but be very careful with blending hot liquids, as the heat buildup in the blender jar can cause the lid to pop off. Either let the sauce cool a bit, or take the center plastic cap off the blender lid and hold a kitchen towel over the lid while blending.

Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to one week. Makes about a pint.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wild Planet Organic Roasted Chicken Breast

I have to confess that I am not a fan of canned meat products. Fish is ok--tuna and sardines and anchovies and salmon and all that. But canned meat? It's usually full of salt and doesn't taste particularly good. So when Wild Planet contacted me about trying their new canned chicken product, I was skeptical. Then I remembered how much I enjoyed their canned white anchovies. (So hard to find! but worth the search; Amazon carries them now.) Sure, why not--I will try the chicken.

Wild Planet sent two cans (and anchovies! plus two other products I'll write about later). I didn't want to just slather the chicken in mayo and call it chicken salad. Instead, I cooked with it. And, I gotta tell you--warmed up, WP canned chicken breast is pretty darn good. We tried the sea salt-seasoned one first, and it was just salty enough. The texture was like albacore tuna, very meaty but a little dry. Warming it up brought out the chicken flavor and made the chicken moist as well.

It was one of those evenings when I wasn't sure what to make for dinner, and we didn't have much in the way of fresh food, apart from half a bell pepper and lots of fresh herbs from our garden. I thought perhaps I could challenge myself to use only the pre-Fancy Food Show samples we had received to try, which included some dry sausage. The original thought was to make something akin to fried rice, but ended up much closer to paella.

I do have a paella pan, but surprise surprise--it was much easier to get a socarrat (crusty bottom) with the non-stick pan! And the chicken + sausage + herbs combo was very tasty. Leftovers made a fab lunch as well.

Sorta Paella with Wild Planet Chicken

Olive oil
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced onion
Handful of mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup diced dry sausage (I used Les Trois Petits Cochons Saucisson Sec aux Cepes)
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice
2 cups chicken broth, plus more
1 tomato, diced
Big pinch Spanish paprika
Chopped fresh herbs (can use thyme, sage, basil, tarragon, cilantro, parsley, chives)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 5-ounce can Wild Planet Organic Roasted Chicken Breast
Fresh chives, chopped
Basil, torn

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, nonstick, skillet over medium-high heat and toss in the pepper, onion, and mushrooms. Add a big pinch of salt and stir vegetables to coat with oil. Stir in the sausage and turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, for 6-8 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the sausage has started to crisp up. Stir in the garlic.

Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice starts to smell toasty, about 6-8 minutes. The veg should be browning at this point, and the sausage should have rendered out much of its fat. Pour in the broth and turn up the heat to bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is evaporated, 10-15 minutes. If the broth evaporates quickly and the rice is not yet cooked, add a bit more broth. Don't worry about stirring so much during this portion of the cooking--you actually want the rice to stick to the pan. Just don't let it burn.

Once the rice is nearly done, add the tomato, paprika, and a nice handful of fresh herbs, the more the merrier. Taste for seasoning and add the pepper and more salt, if needed. Turn up the heat a little to allow the rice to crisp up; stir occasionally,

Break up the chicken into chunks and gently mix into the paella. Heat only until warmed through.

Serve garnished with the chives and basil.

* 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, October 10, 2016

Blackened Carrots with Other Stuff

I've posted about blackened or charred carrots here before. And because I like them so much, I'll do it again.

We first encountered the concept of charring carrots over direct flame at Bobby Flay's NY restaurant, Gato. There he serves the black beauties with Middle Eastern flavors like harissa + mint + yogurt. Almost any flavor profile can work with charred carrots - they are simply sweet with a nice caramelization. (No, they don't taste burnt.) While I've done the harissa thing myself, I thought I'd take the flavors up further into the Mediterranean by adding a pesto. We had a bunch of arugula hanging around, so that became the sauce's base. We were also on a weird self-imposed no-dairy, no-wheat, no-sugar diet for the month of August. While yogurt seems completely natural for this dish (at least to us and Bobby Flay), it was a no-no for us. A nice creamy alternative that was allowable is an aioli made with white beans. And garlic, of course (because it's not aioli without garlic). But not just any garlic - black garlic. Black garlic is fermented, which creates the black color and brings out the bulb's inherent sweetness. It's less pungent than fresh or cured garlic (most supermarket garlic and onions have been cured or dried for longterm storage) but is extremely flavorful. The only drawback is that black garlic's soft texture makes it a bit hard to peel and chop. But we're using a food pro here, so no worries.

There are a lot of steps to this recipe, but none are difficult. The aioli and pesto can be made in minutes in the same food processor (rinse it out between sauces). Prepare them while the granola is in the oven. While everything is chilling, make the carrots.

There will be lots of leftover granola, which can be used as a topping for any savory vegetable preparation, or sprinkled on plain yogurt for breakfast. Toss leftover pesto with pasta on another night, and use the aioli as a sandwich spread or dip. It's all good.

The finished dish is vegetarian; it's completely vegan if you leave the Parm out of the pesto and skip the granola. And it tastes amazing.

Blackened Carrots
If you don't have a gas oven, you can blacken your carrots on a grill.

1 bunch slender young carrots with tops, scrubbed but not peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut off the tops of the carrots and discard (or save some for the pesto!). Place the carrots directly on your stove's gas burner, as if you were roasting bell peppers. Cook until charred on all sides, turning frequently. As each carrot becomes charred enough, place it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Once all the carrots are on the foil, drizzle them with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

White Bean Black Garlic Aioli

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
3-4 cloves black garlic
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the beans, lemon juice, and salt, and black garlic in a food processor with the olive oil. Whiz to a puree. If it seems too thick, add more oil. Season with the pepper, adding additional salt and lemon juice to allow for personal tastes. Store in the fridge and eat within a week.

Arugula Pesto

Pesto isn't rocket science. If you don't have 2 cups of arugula, use whatever you have and add smaller quantities of everything else. If you have lots of mixed soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint, use them too. As long as it has cheese, nuts, garlic, and olive oil, it will taste good. Oh - allergic to nuts? Leave them out!

2 cups arugula leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
¼ cup toasted nuts (I used cashews)
1 clove garlic, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice
Kosher salt

Put arugula, cheese, nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Drizzle in the EVOO and process to a paste of whatever consistency you prefer. Like thinner pesto? add more oil. Like it thick, add less. Season to taste with lemon juice and salt. Store in a tightly covered container in the fridge and eat within a week.

Savory Granola (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup walnuts
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
¼ cup raw black and white sesame seeds
3 tablespoons hemp seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon caraway or dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella/charnushka seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg white, beaten to blend
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, seeds, salt, and cayenne pepper with egg white, oil, and agave syrup until everything is coated. Transfer mixture to a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring once, until golden, 25–30 minutes. Let cool. Store in a zip top plastic bag.

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Friday, October 07, 2016

Happy Anniversary to Us

We've been blogging here at Minxeats for 11 years, but Mr Minx and I have been married for 16. Happy Anniversary to us!

(Cake by Patisserie Poupon)

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Gluten-free Cookie Dough Bites

Who here hasn't eaten raw cookie dough? Show of hands, please!

Ok - two of you. I hope the reason is because you are sadly gluten-intolerant and not that you had one of those meanie mommies that didn't allow sweets in the house. Or worse - didn't like/didn't know how to bake cookies. I mean, come on - pre-made cookie dough can be purchased in any supermarket. Of course you two might also be afraid of developing salmonella from eating raw eggs. Never fear, oh people who don't eat cookie dough for whatever reason (except those who just don't like it, which I fail to comprehend) - I have discovered a cookie dough that can be safely eaten by celiacs and bacteria-phobes alike.

Cookie Dough Bites. That is, a substance that looks and tastes remarkably like cookie dough, except it has no flour, eggs, butter, sugar, or baking soda in it. So it's gluten-free and, if you use vegan chocolate chips, completely free of animal matter of any kind.

I spotted the recipe on Instagram. The "cookie dough" was part of a recipe for a "healthy" version of a DQ cookie dough Blizzard. I have no interest in fake ice cream or copycat recipes from fast food outlets, but the "dough" part intrigued me. Mostly because I had all of the ingredients in my kitchen: almond meal, coconut oil, vanilla, maple syrup, and chocolate chips. I was a bit skeptical that they would taste like the real thing, but the claims are true - they do! It's definitely the salt + vanilla that really sells it, so don't skimp on either. As for the texture - well, it's not exactly a perfect clone, and the "dough" is pretty soft at room temperature. I think they are best eaten straight from the freezer, maybe even while still standing in front of said freezer with the door open.

Since the chocolate chip version worked so well, I thought I'd try an oatmeal cookie dough version of my own. I took the basic recipe and added some old fashioned oats and took out the chips. You could add raisins if you want, but I have a pretty intense dislike for them. Instead, I used Runamok Maple Elderberry-infused syrup in place of the plain maple syrup. The elderberry syrup tastes somewhat figgy, definitely like dried fruit, and it worked well in this application.

The oatmeal "cookie dough" was as successful as the chocolate chip original! Is Snickerdoodle next?

Cookie Dough Bites (adapted from Neurotic Mommy)

For chocolate chip bites:
1 cup almond meal
1/8 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
Healthy pinch of salt
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

For oatmeal cookie bites:
1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
3/4 cup almond meal
1/8 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup (preferably Runamok Elderberry-infused Maple syrup)
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons crushed walnut pieces (optional)

For the chocolate chip bites: place all the ingredients except chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir until the almond meal has been thoroughly dampened by the wet ingredients - it should look like cookie dough. If it's too dry, dribble in a bit more melted coconut oil. If it seems wet, add a little more almond meal. Stir in the chips.

Take tablespoon-sized globs of the dough and form balls. Place them on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer until firm - that shouldn't take very long at all. Remove the balls from the cookie sheet and put them in a zip top bag. Store them in the freezer. Eat frozen.

For the oatmeal cookie bites: pulse most the oatmeal in a food processor until broken down but not quite a powder. Stir all the oats with the remaining ingredients except walnuts until the almond meal has been thoroughly dampened by the wet ingredients - it should look like cookie dough. If it's too dry, dribble in a bit more melted coconut oil. If it seems wet, add a little more almond meal. Stir in the walnuts.

Take tablespoon-sized globs of the dough and form balls. Place them on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer until firm - that shouldn't take very long at all. Remove the balls from the cookie sheet and put them in a zip top bag. Store them in the freezer. Eat frozen.

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Monday, October 03, 2016

Points South Latin Kitchen

When we went to Points South Latin Kitchen last winter for a media tasting, we didn't get any decent pictures to post. We've been looking for an opportunity to go back, order a large meal, and get plenty of nice photos, so we figured the Dining Out for Life event might be the best time to do it. Points South was donating 25% of that evening's receipts to Moveable Feast, a charity that delivers meals to people living with AIDS/HIV, cancer, or other life-threatening illnesses. We brought along Minxbro and Minxdad to help us drive up the bill as high as possible for a good cause.

Since the weather was mild, we took an outside table and enjoyed the hustle bustle on Thames Street while we shared a pitcher of red sangria. Since so many of the small plate items sounded intriguing, we decided to try five, the first being the shrimp ceviche. Bright and refreshing, the shrimp were dressed with salad spread across a bed of avocado.

We had eaten the carimanolas, or yucca croquettes, at the media tasting and wanted to have them again. Lightly crisp on the outside and creamy smooth on the inside, the croquettes have the added bonus of a beef filling. It's almost like a mini shepherd's pie with the yucca standing in for potatoes, but yucca has its own flavor and texture. An avocado crema is provided for dipping, adding a nice touch of tang and richness.

Since we tend to order calamari everywhere we go, we thought we'd shake things up a bit and get the grilled octopus. The octopus was amazingly tender and the accompaniment of romesco, olives, and chili-dusted jicama made for a pleasant salad dressed in smoky achiote oil.

The pork belly had a crackling crust on the fat layer and unctuously tender meat, exactly the way pork belly should be served. In this case, I don't recall having any pork belly that was quite this good.

Minxdad has long insisted that he does not like lamb, but since the rest of us do, we decided to order the Denver lamb ribs while he was distracted with people watching. Smothered in a honey chipotle barbeque sauce and complimented with garlic chips, scallions, and creamy mojo, Minxdad gobbled down every bite of his rib and declared that he would've eaten the bone if he could. Only then did we reveal to him the true nature of the protein. He offered a sheepish shrug.

Duck confit was the special that day and, given how much we all love duck, we ordered it. The confit leg was meltingly soft, with a crisp skin, exactly as it should be. It was accompanied by a bit of medium rare duck breast, which was also tender and flavorful.The creamy potatoes and roasted root vegetables and squash made for a filling entree that hinted of the coming fall season.

We finished with the beef short ribs braised in bittersweet chocolate sauce. Fork tender and infused with the spicy chocolate flavor, the ribs were my favorite dish of the evening. I could've devoured the whole dish on my own, but I'm sure I would've had a fight on my hands had I tried.

As the late summer sun disappeared behind the buildings, we felt quite full and satisfied. Not only did we have a great meal, but we were supporting a great cause. We have to make sure we don't wait another nine months to return.

Points South Latin Kitchen
1640 Thames St.
Baltimore, MD 21231
Phone: (443) 563-2018

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