Monday, July 31, 2017

Easy Chilled Root Vegetable Soup

In the summer, I love making cold soups - just toss a bunch of stuff in a blender, add stock if it's not already liquidy, and refrigerate. So easy. Gazpacho is my fave; it takes no time at all if I'm really lazy because I'll used canned tomatoes and jarred roasted red peppers. But woman does not live by gazpacho alone. Sometimes the farmers' market (or grocery store) has other interesting veg on offer, like celery root.

I love celery root, or celeriac, both raw and cooked. I use it raw in a salad like celeri remoulade, and I always roast it as part of a Thanksgiving side dish. For this dish, I used it two ways, both raw and cooked--very Fine Young Cannibals of me. (Despite the cannibal reference, it's completely vegetarian and can be made vegan as well.) I thought my concoction was reminiscent of vichyssoise, the classic French chilled potato soup, but with the twist of celery root. Also, regular onion was used in place of the traditional leeks, but you could certainly substitute 2-3 leeks if you prefer.

I can't not make a bit of celeri remoulade if I have a celery root. The flavor is hard to describe, but I'm crazy about it. Celery root tastes somewhat like celery, very aromatic, but has a texture closer to a carrot or parsnip. Sliced thinly and combined with a mustardy remoulade sauce with lots of tangy capers, it's great as a substitute for cole slaw with dishes like bbq or crab cakes. And it added much-needed texture to the pureed soup. Even if you don't like celery (it's not my fave) you might enjoy celery root, so I say it's definitely worth trying if you see it somewhere.

Celery Root Vichyssoise

1 medium celery root
3 medium potatoes, like Yukon Gold, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cups of stock (I used 1 Bou Bouillon cube in the Vegetable flavor)
2 or more cups of milk (use your favorite non-dairy milk for a vegan version)
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons capers in brine
1 scant tablespoon mayonnaise
Dash champagne vinegar
Dijon mustard
Lemon juice
Several sprigs fresh thyme

Peel the celery root. Thinly slice about 1/4 of the root and cut the slices into matchsticks and set aside. Cut the remaining root into 1" chunks.

Put the chunks of celery root, along with the potato and onion, in a large saucepan. Add the stock and milk and the bay leaf and bring mixture to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat to a simmer. Watch the pot so it does not boil over and cook the potatoes and celery root until tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf from the pot and add about half of the potato/celery root/milk mixture to the jar of a blender (do not fill all the way). Remove the stopper from the blender lid and place a folded tea towel on top. Hold the towel down tightly over the opening and start the blender on the lowest speed. If the mixture is too hot, it will shoot out the top of the blender, so it's very important to keep a tight grip on the towel. If the mixture is adequately cool, it will blend without exploding. Still, it doesn't hurt to keep your hand on top. Puree the mixture, adding more milk if it's too thick, into a soup-like consistency. You don't want it too runny, nor do you want something resembling mashed potatoes. Pour the puree into a container with a lid and add the remaining potato/celery/milk mixture to the blender. Repeat the steps to puree. Add the new batch of puree to the container with the first batch and stir. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

While the soup is cooking, put the capers on a cutting board and smash them into a chunky puree with the side of a knife. Make a dressing with the mayo, vinegar, a small dollop of Dijon, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the capers. Taste for seasoning and add salt if you need it, but the ingredients are probably salty enough. The dressing should be lightly tangy and taste of capers. Toss with the matchstick cut celery root and refrigerate  until ready to use.

To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls. Top with a handful of the celery salad, and garnish with the thyme leaves and fresh pepper.

Serves 4.

* 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, July 28, 2017

Flashback Friday - Green Tomato Relish

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on July 23, 2013.

We've planted tomatoes in containers for several years now. The smaller, miniature varieties grow like gangbusters, but the full-sized fruits are always a disappointment. This year, we put in a raised bed garden and planted it with several types of large tomatoes. They're growing well - yay! But not wanting to have more ripe tomatoes than we can handle at one time, I've been culling them while green. There's only so many times one feels like fussing with fried green tomatoes, so I wanted to do something different. Easier. I thought maybe a green tomato relish could be interesting, but when I looked for recipes on the Web, all I found were supersweet versions that would be best used on a hot dog. I wanted something far more subtle, something slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and not at all pickle-tasting.

Basically, I chopped my green tomatoes, added a bare minimum of seasoning, and was pretty satisfied with that. I served it over pan-seared salmon and barley "Alfredo." (Prepare a package of quick cooking barley, drain and add a big blob of butter, a couple tablespoons of heavy cream, and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir well, season to taste.)

Green Tomato Relish

olive oil
3 green tomatoes, cut in small dice
1 tablespoon diced onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add tomatoes and onion. Cook for a minute or so, then add the garlic. Stir frequently for another minute, then add the brown sugar and vinegar. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and hot sauce (I like Tabasco's green jalapeno sauce for this) to taste. If you feel the tomatoes need more sugar or vinegar, then add to taste. Cook for another minute or so. The tomatoes should still be somewhat crisp.

Store in the refrigerator in a covered jar until ready to use.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Charred Carrot Salad

I am really in love with charred carrots. I've made them at least twice before (here and here) and will make them again and again. I love the way the burnt outsides add another dimension of flavor to the sweet and earthy vegetable. It takes away a bit of the sweetness, actually, making them more palatable to people who are not all that fond of cooked carrots (like Mr Minx). I also love the way they smell while they are charring over the gas flame of my cooktop. Yes, they smell burnt, but that's not a bad thing.

In the past, I put the charred carrots in the oven to finish cooking, but when it's 1000 degrees outside, the microwave is a less-sweaty alternative. Takes much less time, too.

For some reason, I find that charred carrots go really well with Middle Eastern flavors, like harissa, so I whipped up a quick vinaigrette with some stuff I had on hand--lemon juice, Dijon, honey, and harissa. I don't like oily vinaigrettes--I prefer them to be on the acidy or sweet side, so I used just enough extra virgin olive oil to add richness and bind the other ingredients together. I think I made about three tablespoons of the dressing in all, so start off with tiny amounts like the juice of half a lemon, a small squirt of the mustard, a dollop of the honey, a wee bit of harissa. Beat well with a fork, then add a tablespoon or so of the oil. Beat again. Taste. If it needs more of anything, add it. If not, then you've made a very flavorful dressing with not a whole lot of work.

Add nuts and cheese to the salad--I had walnuts and bleu, but pistachios and feta would be amazing. Scallion and mint add still more flavor.

This salad would make a great meal all on its own with some good buttered bread, I think, but it would also be a fab side dish for some simple grilled chicken.

Charred Carrot Salad

4-5 medium carrots
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon harissa or to taste
Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey or to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced on the bias
Chopped walnuts or pistachios
Bleu cheese or feta crumbles (omit if you prefer a vegan dish)
Fresh mint leaves

Peel and trim the carrots. Blot carrots dry with a paper towel and blacken on a very hot grill or over an open gas flame. Turn them regularly to blacken all sides. As the carrots are done, place them on a microwave-safe plate. When all carrots are thoroughly charred, cover the plate with plastic wrap and microwave on high power about 4-5 minutes or until tender. Remove plastic and allow carrots to cool on the plate.

Make a dressing with the lemon juice, harissa, a squirt of Dijon, the honey, and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Beat with a fork until emulsified and taste. Add salt if needed. It should be very thick and pungent. Add more lemon or harissa if you want it more tart or spicy.

When carrots are cool, cut them on the bias into about 2" long slices. Mound them on a plate, drizzle with dressing, and top with scallions, nuts, cheese, and torn fresh mint.

Serves 2 - 4

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Flashback Friday - Tomatillo Soup

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on August 18, 2014.
Once in a while I taste something in a restaurant that I feel I must duplicate at home. The tomatillo soup with caramelized tomatoes and cilantro that my brother ate at SoBo Cafe recently was one of those dishes. I had coincidentally just purchased a pound of tomatillos at the farmers' market, so it seemed like something I *needed* to make.

It seemed simple enough to reconstruct the dish. I could tell there was a creamy element to the soup, as well as a nice smoky dose of chipotle pepper. For the caramelized tomato element, I'd just make some oven-roasted tomatoes, like the ones in this recipe, only with a bare tablespoon each of the balsamic and olive oil, and no garlic.

With the help of a blender, I put together a soup that seemed pretty darn close to SoBo's version. It was tangy, creamy, and refreshing, with a bit of sweetness from the tomatoes. I loved it, but Mr Minx thought it was too tart. If you make it and find that to be the case, you could always add a bit more honey or agave syrup to the soup to balance out the tangy tomatillos.

Creamy Chilled Tomatillo Soup

1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
Pinch salt
1 pound fresh tomatillos, rinsed after husking
1 big handful cilantro leaves and stems
1 teaspoon chipotle powder (you could also used minced chipotle in adobo, but it could affect the color of the soup)
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
1/2 cup full fat or 2% Greek yogurt
Salt to taste
Caramelized tomatoes
Cilantro for garnish

Cook the onion in the olive oil and salt until translucent. Set aside to cool. When cool, add to the pitcher of a blender along with the tomatillos and cilantro. Puree the vegetables and then add the chipotle, honey, and yogurt and process again until smooth. Season with salt to taste (a half teaspoon or so).

If you want a smoother soup, pass the tomatillo/cilantro mixture through a sieve before adding the seasonings and yogurt.

Garnish each serving with 3-4 tomatoes and some cilantro leaves.

Makes about a quart.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

NY Dining, June 2017

When I went to the Fancy Food Show in June, I was prepared for an orgy of eating. The show itself is a festival of cheese, charcuterie, pastries, and more nutritious snacks like kale chips and fruit juices, but woman does not live by grazing alone. I also ate lots of real food.

I started off with a Cambodian sandwich of five spice-glazed pork belly at Num Pang Kitchen in NoMad. Like a banh mi, the sandwich involved meat, spicy mayo, carrots, cukes, and cilantro on a crisp baguette. I felt the pork belly was slightly tough and didn't have much of the advertised five spice flavor, but overall the sandwich had a nice combination of flavors and textures.

Later, after walking through the Fancy Food Show for a couple of hours, I needed a pick-me-up,. An Earl Gray milk tea with "3js" (boba, pudding, and herbal jelly) at Gong Cha--a tiny tea shop in Koreatown down the street from my hotel--looked good, and it was. Except that I picked up a skinny straw, which made drinking fairly impossible. Every sip was blocked by a big black tapioca pearl. Eventually I managed to finish the liquid and soft additions and ate the boba by shaking them into my mouth. Awkward, but tasty.

For dinner, my roommate--the beloved and legendary Dara--her friend Jeff, and I had Chinese food. The Pride parade had ended minutes before; 5th Avenue and its cross streets were eerily quiet, apart from the sound of street cleaning machines and leaf-blowers. Our first choice for dinner, Cafe China, was packed, with an hour wait for a table, so we wandered up a few blocks to the bigger and less-full Szechuan Gourmet. We ordered Szechuan Pork Dumplings with Roasted Chili Soy, Beef Chow Fun, Braised Whole Bass with Sichuan Chili Miso, and Braised Crispy Tofu with Chili and Sliced Pork.

I used to love the Szechuan won tons at a place in Randallstown called Szechuan Best; they've sadly been closed for quite a number of years. The dumplings at Szechuan Gourmet were tender with a nice porky filling, but the sauce wasn't spicy enough and was also quite sweet. And garlicky. I was afraid to breathe near people for a good part of the next day because I was sure I had awful garlic breath. (Nobody recoiled in horror, I'm happy to say).

The fish was the best of the other three dishes, with tender meat in a tasty sauce. The tofu dish was odd, as something labeled "braised and crispy" should be. The tofu was not at all crispy, but it had been fried before braising, which gave it a firm-ish texture. The pork had been quick cooked, so it was tender, but curiously flavor-less. The whole dish was, actually. It was definitely the least-sweet Chinese dish I've ever tried, and also most bland. The chow fun was just ok, maybe a bit greasy, as it often can be, and seriously lacking in wok hay. The term "wok hay" means "breath of the wok," and refers to a particular quality that is achieved through cooking food quickly in a properly hot wok. It's rare, but most often I have found it in beef chow fun. Wok hay has a flavor that is hard to describe, but once you taste it, you will always recognize it.

The next morning, I met my friend Daisy at The Breslin for breakfast. I think The Breslin is my favorite restaurant serving modern American cuisine in NY. It's close to my hotel, the food is good, and breakfast is uncomplicated yet not boring. I enjoyed my sunny-side-up eggs with harissa-braised kale and applewood-smoked lamb bacon, even without toast (which apparently is a la carte). The kale was super tender and lightly spicy, and the bacon tasted like...bacon. I wasn't even offended by the brown edges on the eggs, which are not usually the way I like them. Daisy had a lovely little charred ramp frittata, and we also drank plenty of coffee to fuel our day. She went to the Fancy Food Show, but I had other plans: perfume sniffing at Bergdorf's, Barney's, and Saks.

I figured that Urbanspace Vanderbilt was somewhat on the way back to the hotel, so after a disappointing morning of sniffing but not buying, I stopped in for lunch. Urbanspace is a food court near Grand Central Station with 19 vendors, including Roberta's pizza, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Dough donuts, and lots of other good stuff. After I walked around the place twice, I decided I wasn't hungry enough to eat anything more than a single al pastor taco from La Palapa Taco Bar. It was piping hot and fresh, good without being anything to write home about. The horchata I got to drink was excellent though. Next time, I'll go with a friend and skip breakfast.

Saks was next, then Penhaligon's. I did finally find a scent I liked--Creed Vetiver Geranium--but the price is a whopping $315. The sales associate said they were doing a $20 discount, which would have taken the price down to $295. I had $150 worth of gift cards, but even then, the scent would cost me $145--an insane price considering the over 50% discount. The SA at Penhaligon's was helping a couple, but still took the time to mansplain to me how to smell perfume. I left.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I felt I could use something sweet and popped into Paris Baguette next door for a treat. I had a "cruffin," one of the laminated pastry inventions inspired by Dominique Ansel's "cronut." Basically a croissant manipulated into a muffin shape, filled with a bit of vanilla custard, and garnished with a sprinkle of sugar and a chocolate straw, the cruffin hit the spot.

Later that evening, Daisy and I went on a Hornblower cruise to the Statue of Liberty. Sponsored by Urbani Truffles, the cruise involved loud live music and plenty of food: whole pig porchetta, arancini, truffled burrata, meatballs in truffle cream sauce, truffled pasta, risotto. Despite a decent dinner on the high seas, we stopped at Joe's Pizza for a slice afterward.

It was perfect--thin crisp crust that crackled when I folded it, an unsweetened sauce, and just the right amount of cheese. I'll definitely have to make a habit of stopping there when I'm near Bleecker Street.

Grom was conveniently located a few doors down, so we stopped in for (very expensive) gelato. I don't remember the price being so astronomical on past visits; I'm betting the whipped cream (which I never had before) was the culprit. What other reason would two small gelati cost $16? In any case, I had pistachio and it was as delicious as ever.

We made one more stop at a cocktail bar called The Up & Up for a nightcap. I enjoyed The Quilt Room (Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged Bourbon, rooibos and rose hip tea blend, lime cordial, lemon juice, honey, and Angostura bitters) and should look more into making tea-based cocktails at home.

They call NY the "city that never sleeps," at least in a song. I can attest to the Herald Square area being very sleepy and deserted at 2:30am. My only company on the way back to my hotel were the homeless people snoozing on the sidewalks.

The next morning, I had absolutely no desire to eat breakfast. I needed coffee, because I was exhausted from lack of sleep, but my feet ached too much to look for a Starbucks. Instead, I went straight to the Javits Center for another day of Fancy Food Show wandering. I was happy to find a local vendor giving away decently-sized samples of cold brew coffee right out front, and I gulped one down before heading to the show floor (where I indulged in a latte from the Ethical Bean Coffee booth, as I usually do).

I was leaving for home after the show, but I had just enough time to stop somewhere for dinner. The idea of Korean tapas was intriguing, so I tried a few things at Barn Joo 35. I really wanted to try everything on the menu, but had to settle for just a few items.

Check out the online menu, which is gorgeously photographed.

My waiter steered me toward the crunchy tofu balls with caramelized kimchi. It was a little on the sweet side, which I expect in Korean food, and the balls were indeed crunchy on the outside (and fluffy on the inside). The kimchi wasn't as intense as fresh (well, non-caramelized) kimchi, more mellow and sweet, and with a softer texture. I enjoyed it.

I also enjoyed the galbi buns. Galbi is normally made with flat-cut short ribs which cook up to a chewy deliciousness, but the filling in these buns was a more tender cut, perhaps conventional short ribs. They were lightly glazed with galbi sauce and topped with a scallion and cabbage salad and served in folded steamed buns. Two buns plus the crunchy tofu made for a nice medium-sized dinner. I also enjoyed a housemade yuzu soda because I felt it was too early for a cocktail. "What???" you say, "It's always 5 o'clock somewhere!" It was 5 o'clock in NY, but I was going to stagger several blocks with a very heavy backpack and didn't need any more impediments to walking.

I picked up three donuts at Underwest Donuts at Penn Station for Mr Minx before I boarded my train. Underwest was Underwhelming. The rest of the eats I had, however, were pretty darn good.

Barn Joo 35
34 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001

Gong Cha
12 W 32nd St New York, NY 10001

233 Bleecker St New York, NY 10014

Joe's Pizza
7 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014

Num Pang Kitchen
1129 Broadway New York, NY 10010

Paris Baguette
6 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

Szechuan Gourmet
21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

Underwest Donuts
2 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121

The Up & Up
116 Macdougal Street New York, 10012

Urbanspace Vanderbilt
East 45th & Vanderbilt Ave, New York, NY 10169

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

July is National Ice Cream Month!

And July 16th (today) is National Ice Cream Day!

To celebrate this momentous occasion, Graeter's Ice Cream (my personal favorite) is offering customers single dip cones today for $1.47. Why that specific price? Because this year Graeter's is 147 years old. If you're a July birthday baby, too, you can get $1.47 scoops all month long. Lucky.

Graeter's will also be unveiling two Summer Bonus Flavors in July. On the 10th we got Peanut Brittle; the next flavor will be announced on July 24. August 7th and 21st will also be Bonus Flavor Days. Check out their Facebook page for flavor announcements.

An additional flavor will be released in July that will only be available at the Cincinnati Zoo.

So what are you waiting for? Go hit up your local Graeter's and get your celebratory scoop. And have one for me - we don't have Graeter's in Baltimore (although we can buy it in a few supermarkets by the pint).

* 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, July 14, 2017

Flashback Friday - Gazpeacho

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on August 25 2014.
We've been getting some fabulous peaches from the local farmers' markets this summer, big juicy beauties. Sadly, I'm allergic to peaches (plums, apricots, cherries....). It comes from an overdose when I was a kid. My Dad used to work in Philadelphia, and on his way home from the office, he'd stop at a PA roadside stand and bring home half bushels of luscious peaches. Mom wasn't a baker or canner, so we ate the peaches raw by the bowlful. After two or three summers of indulgence, I could no longer eat stone fruits without feeling weird. My eustachian tubes would feel swollen and my eyes would itch, and I figured it was best to just give up the fruits rather than risk potential anaphylaxis.

Thankfully, it turns out my allergy is to raw fruit. Once it's cooked, even a little bit, I'm good. Because of my allergy, I nuked the sliced peaches for 2 minutes and let them cool before putting them in the blender. You, of course, can use raw peaches. White or yellow will do. White peaches are a bit sweeter than yellow, which can be a little tangier. I used yellow because I thought white peaches (which become pink when cooked) + cilantro = the color of barf. Yellow peaches and yellow peppers work much better with the green of cilantro. Of course, you may choose the omit the cilantro, if you're one of the unfortunate who think that it tastes like soap.

By this point, after I've posted so many tomato-less variations on gazpacho, you probably think I'm allergic to tomatoes, too. I am happy to say that's not the case. I just like variety.


2 yellow or orange bell peppers
1 pound ripe peaches
2 medium cucumbers
1 handful cilantro
3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast the bell peppers over an open gas flame, under the broiler, or on a grill, until skin is blackened all over. Place peppers in a paper or plastic bag, close bag, and allow to steam. When cool enough to handle, remove the blackened skin, stem, core, and seeds, and chop peppers into chunks.

Peel peaches and cut into chunks.

Peel cucumbers and chop.

This recipe makes about 2 quarts, so you'll probably want to make this in two batches. Put half of the ingredients into a blender and puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Do the same with the remaining ingredients.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to blend the flavors. Eat chilled or at room temperature.

Serves 4-8.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Pizza Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese has been a staple food down south for generations, and now it's becoming ubiquitous in other parts of the country. At least that's the way it seems to me, a Marylander. My state is technically south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but up here in Baltimore we are definitely not the South. Still, I see pimento cheese popping up on menus everywhere around town, put to use as a burger topping and even as an accompaniment for the unusual (but tasty) combination of fried oysters and waffles. And why not? It's delicious, and if you have the right ingredients on hand, simple to make.

While there is both cheese and pimentos (or roasted red peppers) in pimento cheese, mayonnaise is possibly the most important ingredient. Without it, it's difficult to get the cheese to spread. Duke's is the mayo to use, if you can find it, otherwise, use your favorite. Other than that, pimento cheese requires seasonings, which can be as simple as salt and pepper and a dash of hot sauce, or a bit more complicated with the addition of garlic and onion powders, maybe a bit of Worcestershire sauce. Chef Richard Blais' recipe strays from the South to the Southwest, with the addition of cilantro and poblano peppers. I bastardized the concept quite a bit when I added feta and harissa paste to make a Mediterranean-style pimento cheese, and now I'm going to do it again with my latest cheesy invention: Pizza Pimento Cheese.

Seemed like a no-brainer: add sundried tomatoes and pizza herbs, swap out the cheddar for mozzarella. Add pepperoni, too, because why not? and garnish with fresh basil and thyme. Toasts topped with this concoction made a perfect alternative to a hot grilled cheese sandwich when eaten with a bowl of chilled gazpacho on a hot summer day. And it tasted like pizza. What's not to like?

Pizza Pimento Cheese

8 sundried tomato halves
3 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1/4 cup Duke's mayonnaise
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted red pepper or pimento
1/2 cup finely diced pepperoni
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Rehydrate the tomatoes by soaking them in boiling water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain well and chop finely. Set aside.

Combine the cream cheese and mayo in a large bowl. Add the cheeses, pimento, pepperoni, and seasonings and stir well to combine. Alternately, you can pulse it a few times with a food processor. Stir in the chopped sundried tomato. Taste for seasonings and add more oregano or garlic if you feel it needs it.

Spread on lightly toasted bread. Top with fresh basil and thyme. You could also add more pepperoni, if you want.

Makes 3+ cups.

Tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge.

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament Starts Round Two

This week, the second round of competition in the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament begins!

Round 2 will include Battles Street Food, Baltimore, and Fromage, as well as the Grand Championship Battle Royale. Remaining competitors include: Robert Simon, Admiral Fell Inn; Jonathan Hicks, Cosima; Fabio Mura, Grille 620 / River Hill Grill; Kitty Ashi, Monsoon Siam; Francois Giovanni Merle, Personal Chef and 2016 Mason Dixon Master Chef Champion; Lanydrek Christ Pandzou, SoBe Restaurant; Damon Hersh, The Inn at Brookville Farms; and Terence Tomlin, Upscale Dining Experience.

A full line-up of remaining matches is available online at Remaining Competition Dates: July 10, 11, 17, 18, 31, August 1, 13

All competitions are held at Points South Latin Kitchen in Fells Point - a fine restaurant to visit even if you're not going for the competition. Tickets for Round 2 matches are $45 ($65 for Semi-Finals and Championship matches) and available at Ticket price includes all taxes, a Boordy Vineyards wine tasting, passed hors d'oeuvres, dessert, and coffee, and of course the competition. All tickets are also "Judging Experience" tickets, allowing guests to taste each of the six courses produced by competing teams and participate in the voting.

In addition, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament donates 10% of the net proceeds of each ticket sold directly to their charity partner Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (

Meals on Wheels' mission is to enhance quality of life through the provision of nutritious meals, personal contact and related services to homebound individuals. Last year, over 740,000 home-delivered meals were prepared and delivered to more than 2,900 homebound clients through the coordinated efforts of Meals on Wheels staff and some 2,000 volunteers. Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland currently serves the following areas: Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

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Monday, July 03, 2017

Chai Butterscotch Pudding

The ceviche recipe I posted a few weeks back felt like a great alternate way to use Masala Pop popcorn's Savory Coconut flavor. You know, other than grabbing handfuls out of the bag and stuffing it into my open maw. It's tasty stuff, and pretty different from other flavored popcorns on the market. When we received that sample, we also received two sweet flavors, Caramel Rose and Chai Caramel. The rose is subtle and not overly sweet, sorta kettle-corn-ish, and the chai is a caramel corn with a definite hit of chai spices. I like to create things with food samples, not just hawk them right out, and the first thing I thought of when I tasted the Chai Caramel popcorn, besides a cup of tea, was that it would make either a nice element in a cookie bar crust, or a great topping for a creamy pudding. One infused with the flavors of chai tea.

You can use any chai tea you'd like. I had some David's Tea chocolate chili chai, so I used that to infuse the milk for about half an hour while I walked the dog. (Multitasking!) Once the milk was infused with the chai flavor, I strained out the tea and proceeded to make the butterscotch pudding recipe in this post.

I must say, I was pretty pleased with the result. Depending on the brand of tea you use, the flavor might be a little intense, so you could cut down on the bourbon if you want. Or add more--that's entirely up to you. The popcorn mirrored the flavor of the pudding and added some much-needed texture. I dare say you could also use either of the sweet flavors of the Masala Pop on regular butterscotch pudding, or even vanilla. Possibly even chocolate, if you are so inclined.

Chai Butterscotch Pudding

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon loose chai tea or 2 tea bags
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons bourbon
Sea salt

Put the milk and tea in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and allow tea to steep in the milk for at least 30 minutes. If you used tea leaves, strain the milk before proceeding, otherwise remove and discard the tea bags.

Melt two tablespoons of the butter with the brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in one cup of the steeped milk. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining cup of milk and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the bourbon, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and a big pinch of sea salt. Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to serve, or if you have far more room in your fridge than I do, pour the hot pudding into individual bowls. If you don't like skin on your pudding, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding.

When ready to serve, spoon into bowls and garnish with a handful of popcorn.

Makes 4 servings.

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