Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

We're taking the rest of the year off. See you in January 2018!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Maple Walnut Biscotti

In my family, one either likes biscotti or they don't. My Dad and I have always been fans of the Italian cookies, the crunchier the better. (So much nicer to dip into coffee or tea if they don't immediately fall apart!) I have made them now and again, and he and I are pretty much the only consumers. Mr Minx has always contended that he does not care for the cookie. Until now.

I wanted to get a head start on making biscotti for Christmas, along with all the other various cookies we always bake, and thought I'd try a new recipe. I found one from King Arthur Flour that sounded great--maple walnut. I love both flavors, and we happened to have both ingredients on hand. I still had some of the little sample bottles of Runamok Maple syrup that I picked up at the Summer Fancy Food Show last year, each containing about 1/4 cup. The recipe called for 1/4 cup of syrup, so it seemed like kismet. But the only flavor we had a full bottle of was the Rye Barrel Infused one. Which of course tastes and smells like rye whiskey. So I sloshed in a wee bit of Old Overholt, too.

These biscotti are super crunchy, with a subtle maple flavor and a hint of something-something from the rye. Mr Minx ate several without my prompting, proclaiming them "very good." Perhaps he is coming around to enjoying super crunchy cookies and won't turn up his nose at them in the future. Or maybe I just got these exactly right for his tastes. In any case, they're certainly something I plan on baking again. Dad, of course, loved them too.

Maple Walnut Biscotti (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, toasted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup Runamok Rye-barrel infused maple syrup
1 tablespoon rye whiskey
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 1/2 cups AP Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Coarse sea salt, preferably Maldon

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment. Spread the walnuts on one sheet in a single layer and toast for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven, until they're light brown and fragrant. Allow nuts to cool. Reserve baking sheet and parchment.

In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugars, maple syrup, and rye whiskey. Add the butter, beating well to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the nuts.

With floured hands, pat the dough into two rectangles each about 10" long x 4" wide and 1/2" thick on the parchment-covered baking sheet. Wet your fingers and smooth the tops. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake dough for 30 minutes. Remove baking tray from oven and let cool for about ten minutes.

With a serrated knife, slice the loaves into 1/2" thick slices. Place the slices, standing upright, if possible, in a single layer on the second parchment-lined baking sheet. If you need more room, use the sheet that the dough was baked on as well.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning once if biscotti are on their sides, not at all if you were able to get them to balance upright.

Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Flashback Friday - Mo's Seafood

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on December 3, 2012.

My family had been going to Mo's Fisherman's Exchange on Joppa Road for years. It was one of my mom's favorite weekend dinner spots, and while there was little or no ambiance, it was a good place to get tons of food for relatively little cash.

Mo's closed that dreary location earlier in the year and opened a new place a bit further west on Joppa Road, in the revamped former home of the Orchard Inn. The menu isn't that different, but there seems to be more (and younger) clientele, plus two outdoor dining areas - the combination of which spiff things up considerably.

One thing I really like about the new Mo's is that the menu offers "small" and "large" portions of many items. A single fried soft shell crab with a single side dish costs a reasonable $12. Two soft shells cost $20. The same pricing applies to their backfin crab cake (jumbo lump cakes are also available). I asked nicely and received one each of the crab cake and the soft shell for $20. My choice of side dish was a seemingly bottomless bowl of cole slaw.

The crab cake was heavily flavored with mustard, and had a decent amount of breading, but it was also full of crab lumps. While perhaps not the best crab cake in town, it was pretty good. The soft shell was presented within pieces of buttered toast, which made for a silly-looking, but tasty, sandwich.

Mr Minx had ordered the broiled seafood platter on a prior trip to Mo's and decided to change things up by ordering the fried version, which came with a crab cake, scallops, shrimp, and a plethora of clams. That's a lot of fried food. Needless to say, I had fried clams for lunch later in the week.

MinxBro ordered a much abbreviated version of Mr Minx's dinner, the crab cake and four fried shrimp from the "lite fare" menu. I don't understand what is particularly light about fried seafood, but at $13, the price was right.

Dad bucked the trend and ordered the "crunchy burger," topped with cheese and onion straws. The hefty burger, with uninteresting fries, was only $7, and according to Dad, nicely done.

But that's not all. We also ordered onion rings, a fried calamari appetizer, and coconut shrimp. Yes, entirely too much fried food. The portion of calamari was huge, more than enough for the four of us (especially since Dad won't touch the stuff), and perfectly cooked, with a generous portion of tender tentacles. The coconut shrimp were nicely crispy, but the coconut-flavored dipping sauce is too sweet and a bit overkill.

As was the whole meal. But I dare say we'll be back to this new location far more often than we visited the old one.

Mo's Seafood
1528 E Joppa Rd
Towson, MD 21286
(410) 823-3030

Mo's Seafood on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Celebrate the Holidays RA Sushi Style

RA Sushi has introduced three winter cocktails, the Peartini, Spiced Apple Blossom, and Black Cherry Collins. They all look and sound amazing, and if you can't make it to the restaurant, you can whip one up at home. I'm partial to the Peartini myself.

Also, if you're looking for a gift for someone who already has everything, RA Sushi has gift cards available. And when you purchase a $50 gift card, you get a $10 one for yourself in return! This offer is available through Dec 31st, 2017, while supplies last.


For each drink:
4 pear slices
2 oz Absolut Pears vodka
.5 oz St. Germain liqueur
.5 oz Creme de Nigori sake
1.5 oz lemon sour

1 pear slice
1 rosemary sprig

1 cocktail shaker with strainer
1 muddler
1 martini glass

Muddle 4 pear slices in cocktail shaker until even consistency is reached. Add remaining ingredients into shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Strain mixture into chilled martini glass. Garnish top with pear slice speared on rosemary sprig.

Black​ ​Cherry​ ​Collins​ ​Cocktail

For each drink:
2 oz Sailor Jerry spiced rum
1 oz Black Cherry Real puree
1 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz lemon juice
1 oz club soda

1 lemon wheel
1 Luxardo cherry

1 cocktail shaker with strainer
1 toothpick for cherry garnish
1 tall cocktail glass

Add all ingredients except club soda into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Strain mixture into ice filled glass. Add club soda to top off cocktail. Pierce lemon wheel and cherry with toothpick and place in glass.

Spiced​ ​Apple​ ​Blossom​ ​Cocktail

For each drink:
1.5 oz (1 shot) SKYY Honey Crisp Apple vodka
.5 oz St. Germain liqueur
.5 oz Wild Turkey bourbon
1 oz Lime Sour
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz Apple Juice

Cinnamon sugar for glass rim
3 apple slices cut 1⁄8 inch thick
1 cinnamon stick

1 cocktail shaker with strainer
1 highball glass for serving
Ice cubes

Circle rim of highball glass with water then add cinnamon sugar around glass and 1 ice cube inside, set aside. Add all ingredients except apple juice into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Strain mixture into ice filled highball glass. Add apple juice to top off the cocktail. Garnish with 3 apple slices and cinnamon stick.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Toys for Tots at Nickel Taphouse

The Nickel Taphouse is collecting for Toys for Tots! Just bring in a new unwrapped toy and you can get a glass of wine or a beer from Evolution for just ONE PENNY. And while you're there, enjoy some of their delicious Buffalo brussels sprouts, a tender beef on weck sandwich, or one of the many other goodies on the menu.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Lemon Chicken and an Instagram Giveaway

Although the "experts" don't recommend it, we Minxes do much of our cooking in extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil has a low smoke point, but we don't do much high-heat cooking. Or if we do cook over high heat, it's not for a prolonged period. We've never had any issues. (If we don't want the olive flavor in our finished dish, of course we use something more neutral.)

Recently, we've tried flavored olive oils just to up our game a little. Ariston lemon-infused olive oil is made in the Kalamata region of Greece from Koreneiki olives, which produce a buttery and smooth oil with a pronounced citrus flavor. It would be perfect as an ingredient in sweet dishes as well as savory. Think olive oil gelato or cake. I went a little more conventional with it, using it in a vinaigrette for the salad we served on Thanksgiving (made with radicchio, endive, roasted pears, and butternut squash) and as a flavoring for a chicken dish.

Lemon and chicken are a perfect pairing. Sometimes it's hard to get enough lemon flavor into the chicken by just using lemon juice and rind; it also can make the dish too acidic. But lemon-infused olive oil adds the lemon flavor without adding acidity. Check out my recipe using Ariston lemon-infused olive oil below.

If you want your own bottle of Ariston lemon-infused olive oil to play with, Gourmet Steve, purveyor of delicious olive oils and balsamic vinegars is giving one away to a lucky Minxeats reader. But you need to do a few things first.

1. Follow Gourmet Steve on Instagram
2. Follow Minxeats on Instagram
3. Leave a comment on this blog post (or on the photo on Instagram) about how you would use lemon olive oil if you won.

A winner will be chosen at random on December 18th and will be posted on the Gourmet Steve site on the 19th.

Good luck!

Lemon Chicken with Creamed Spinach

2 teaspoons Ariston lemon-infused olive oil, plus more for finishing
2 teaspoons regular extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, patted dry
Kosher salt
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 lemon, sliced
1 10-ounce bag frozen spinach
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt to taste
Chopped scallion or chives
Pomegranate seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat the 2 teaspoons of lemon-infused and regular olive oils in an ovenproof non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic clove and cook it for a minute or so, until it starts to lightly brown. This will impart some garlic flavor to the oil. Don't let the garlic burn, or the flavor will turn acrid. Remove the browned garlic, chop finely, and set aside.

Place the thighs into the hot oil and sear on both sides until browned. Sprinkle each side with kosher salt. Tuck the thyme and rosemary around the chicken while it's cooking. When chicken is golden brown, remove the herbs and top each thigh with a slice of lemon. Place pan in the oven. Roast until chicken is completely cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F, 20-25 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, put the spinach in a saucepan and warm gently over medium heat, stirring regularly so it doesn't stick to the pan. Once the spinach is warm, add the cream and butter and the reserved chopped browned garlic and turn up the heat a tad to get the cream bubbling. Season with nutmeg and salt. The spinach will be lightly creamy but should still taste fresh. Remove from heat and keep warm until chicken is done.

To serve: Mound spinach in a bowl or on a plate and top with a chicken thigh. Garnish with scallions, pomegranate seeds, and a drizzle of lemon olive oil.

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, December 08, 2017

Flashback Friday - A Quick Trip to NYC

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on December 18, 2012.

I like to visit New York a couple of times a year, mostly to sniff perfume, but also to eat. I hadn't been up there since January, so it seemed like a good idea to visit the big city during the Christmas season. My train was getting in to Penn Station just before 11am, the time when Shake Shack opens, and I felt that would be a good way to start my day.

Shake Shack has been generating long lines and tons of good buzz since it opened in Madison Square Park in 2004. There are now six locations in New York, two each in DC, Connecticut, and Florida, one in Philly, and two in the Middle East (with London coming soon). The world is apparently obsessed with burgers. I love them myself and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. As with the Five Guys' hoopla, I find it's mostly much ado about nothing. The Shack Burger is a fine, tasty burger. The edges are slightly crisp, the cheese is melty, and the bun is properly squishy. It's a good fast-food-style burger. Nothing orgasmic, earth-shaking, or life-changing. I'd eat it again if it were in front of me, but I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to do so.

Single Shack Burger
Later in the day, I hoofed it from 5th and 58th to the Time Warner Center at 8th and 59th. Why is it that a three block walk across town feels like 10 blocks? Up several escalators, I found A Voce. (You may remember that the restaurant's executive chef, Missy Robbins, cut her finger so badly in the first episode of Top Chef Masters season 4, she had to leave the competition.) I had tried to make a reservation the day before, but was told by Open Table that no reservations were available for that evening. I decided to walk in and take a chance. If they had nothing for me, I'd head up another floor and try Chopped judge Marc Murphy's Landmarc. But the hostess was able to seat me at a two-top facing the bar, where I was attended to by a handsome and charming young waiter. The service was really quite fantastic at A Voce - attentive, yet casual. At one point, my waiter wanted to know how I was doing with my appetizer, but he couldn't get close enough to my table to speak to me, as a water boy was in the way. He merely raised a questioning eyebrow and gave me a thumb's up. I nodded in affirmation, he smiled and walked away. I didn't even have to stop chewing.

Funghi al forno: roasted trumpet mushrooms, fonduta, mache, hazelnuts
The meal started off very well. There were a number of appetizers I wanted to try, but I settled on the funghi al forno. The roasted mushrooms were almost meaty in texture, and indeed required a steak knife to slice into manageable pieces. The fonduta - a truffled cheese sauce - was incredibly rich, yet not overly so. Once the mushrooms were gone, I found myself reaching for a piece of focaccia to sop up the remaining sauce. The hazelnuts added a toasty nutty crunch to round out the dish. Really lovely overall.

Speaking of lovely, that focaccia came with a dish of whipped ricotta with fresh basil, drizzled with olive oil. Good thing there wasn't a spoon with it, otherwise I might have embarrassed myself by eating it straight from the container.

Pici: cocoa pasta, duck bolognese, golden raisins
While the first course was successful, the pici that I ordered for my entree was a total disappointment. Pici is a hand-rolled pasta, somewhat like a thick spaghetti. Imagine making a snake of modeling clay by rolling it between your palm and a table top, and you've got pici. Because they're somewhat thick and about  4" long, picking them up with a fork is like wrestling with a bowl of tarantulas. They're not easily twirled, so a fork full had random ends hanging out in each direction, some of which were happy to slap me in the face as I brought the fork to my mouth. Eventually, I used my knife to cut them into shorter bits. In any case, awkwardness was the least of the dish's problems. The sauce was a bolognese in name only. It had an agrodolce (sweet and sour) thing going on that could have been quite delicious had the sauce had any other thing going on, too. The tiny nubbins of ground duck (which could have been any meat - turkey, rattlesnake) served as a textural element only, and I couldn't taste the cocoa in the pasta. After three or four bites, I was bored with the dish. Thankfully, it wasn't a large portion, so I pushed on and finished it, knowing that a doggie bag wouldn't safely survive the three-plus hours it would take me to get home.

On the side, I had a generously-portioned bowl of beets. I suppose it was sized for the table, but I love beets so a mess of them is fine with me. They were served chilled and topped with finely chopped pistachios. Some of the beets tasted citrussy, others tasted slightly pickled - there was definitely more flavor in the side dish than in my entree.

Since I had a glass of wine with dinner, I passed on dessert. It was just as well, as I was presented with a mignardise of two very soft, house-made, limoncello marshmallows. One bite was enough sweetness for me.

I love New York. I love dining in New York. Sure, I'm disappointed sometimes, but I am always happy to have the opportunity to try popular restaurants and formulate my own opinions about them.

Shake Shack
300 W 44th St
New York, NY 10036
Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

A Voce Columbus
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
A Voce Columbus on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Foodie Gifts by theminx

If you're still stumped for holiday gifts for your foodie friends, please check out my RedBubble shop: The image above shows food-related patterns, all designed by me. They're not only available on dresses and leggings, t-shirts and miniskirts, but also scarves and household items like pillows, duvet covers, mugs, clocks, and more.

There are also several floral designs available in my shop--roses, daisies, waterlilies, mums, and more--if your giftee isn't into food so much.

Today is December 5th. If you order in the next couple of days, you'll definitely get things in time for Christmas. If you order today, you can get something for Hanukkah, but don't wait too long as that holiday is pretty early (12/12) this year.

* 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, December 04, 2017

Dining Out at By the Docks

Last spring, The Minx and I were invited to the newly renovated By The Docks to check out the new decor and menu. While we thoroughly enjoyed everything during our last visit, they are not resting on their laurels; we were recently invited back to try some of their new menu offerings.

One of the changes is a wine program coordinated with Lanterna Distributors, Inc., a family-owned company that sources quality wines from around the world. On this evening, I chose the Pinot Patch Pinot Noir, a smooth-bodied wine with a subtle smokiness. I don't pretend to be a wine expert, but I found that it went well with even the various seafood dishes we tasted.

We started with octopus served with a Greek salad of diced tomato, cucumber, and peppers, Greek yogurt, and toasted pita points. By The Docks takes great care to tenderize and properly cook the octopus so that the result is tender and meaty. Eaten all together, it's a Mediterranean delight! The octopus isn't on the menu yet, but it will be starting in January.

We also had a plate of the crabby nachos which would be an excellent accompaniment to a glass or three of wine or any other spirit. The crispy tortillas are smothered in creamy crab dip and cheese, providing both crunch and a lusciously smooth bite.

We could have stopped there, but we couldn't resist their housemade onion rings. The crunchy coating is not too heavy or greasy, providing a light crunch with the tender, sweet onion inside. Again, great snack to enjoy with adult beverages.

It's difficult to choose an entree at By the Docks, because everyone wants to eat one of their enormous crab cakes. However, some folks in our group tried different items so we could sample more of the menu. (Most of us went for the crab cake though!) The jambalaya was a mildly spicy blend of sauteed chicken and shrimp, Andouille sausage, peppers, onions, and mushrooms served over a bed of seasoned rice. Sort of a Greek interpretation of the Cajun/Creole dish.

I was one who chose the crab cake, which this evening was paired with lamb chops. My three lamb chops were perfectly medium rare, tender and well-seasoned. The dish was served with asparagus and a baked potato stuffed with cheese and bacon. I didn't think I could, but I polished off the entire entree. It was just too good to stop eating!

The Minx ordered the stuffed shrimp. Typically, I think of stuffed shrimp as jumbo shrimp butterflied and "stuffed" (really topped) with crab imperial. By The Docks takes a slightly different approach, essentially encasing the shrimps in a smaller version of their crab cake. Frankly, I'm all for this variation as it's like getting three crab cakes with a shrimp prize in each one.

The Surf and Turf was the classic broiled lobster tail and a 10 ounce filet mignon combo (although the steak looked much larger). The meat was nicely seared on the outside and juicy and pink on the inside; the lobster was perfectly broiled. Drawn butter on the side, of course!

All the desserts at By The Docks are provided by their sister business, Yia Yia's Bakery, the same bakery where we get our holiday pies every year. Last time we were at By The Docks, we tried their baklava cheesecake and Smith Island Cake. We were eager to have them again, but we also got a chance to sample their delicious strawberry cheesecake. The cheesecake is always just the right texture: not too dense but not too soft, either. The Smith Island Cake is one of the best I've ever had.

Last time we visited, I was so happy to see that By The Docks had returned to its former glory. This time, I was even more happy to find that they continue to enhance their already excellent food and service.

By The Docks
3321 Eastern Blvd.
Middle River, Maryland 21220
(410) 686-1188

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Friday, December 01, 2017

Flashback Friday - Sweet Potato Panna Cotta

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on May 6, 2015.

I'm a fan of sweet potatoes, but Mr Minx is not. I really hate having to prepare two different starches with dinner if he doesn't want any of my sweet potatoes, because of course he won't go without. So I normally don't buy them at all, and only eat them around Thanksgiving, or if I can get one as a side dish in a restaurant. But we sometimes get sweet potatoes in our shipment from Washington's Green Grocer, and then I have to be inventive. I've incorporated sweet potatoes into snack cake, scones, hummus, and spaetzle, all quite successfully. And now I've used them in panna cotta.

I saw it somewhere online, perhaps a restaurant review or blog: sweet potato panna cotta with toasted marshmallow. I had sweet potatoes, and I had nice homemade vanilla marshmallows (well, not homemade by me, but by Nikki of Mallow Crunchies), and it just struck me as something I wanted to eat. And as something I could feed to my husband.

We ate the panna cotta both refrigerated and frozen. The latter is a lot like the Indian ice cream, kulfi, especially with a dose of cardamom. The former works best with the marshmallow, but both need the crunchy, burnt sugar bitterness of the pumpkin seed brittle, which also adds texture to the creamy richness.

Sweet Potato Panna Cotta (adapted from Christina Tosi)

2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons water
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Release spray
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sugar
Marshmallows, preferably homemade

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a microwave-safe bowl. Let stand 3 minutes, until softened.

In a blender, combine the potatoes with the milk, cream, condensed milk, sugar, spices, and pinch of salt.

Warm the gelatin mixture in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, until melted. Add to the blender and blend well to combine.

Pour sweet potato mixture into a loaf pan sprayed well with release spray. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until set.

While panna cotta is setting, make the brittle. Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set aside. Pour the pumpkin seeds into a small skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan regularly, until the seeds puff up. Remove from pan and set aside. Pour the sugar into the pan with a few tablespoons of water. Cook the sugar over medium heat until it melts and then starts to turn light amber around the edges. Stir in the pumpkin seeds and cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until the sugar turns medium brown. It will smoke; open a window. Once sugar is browned and is just starting to smell burnt, remove from heat and pour onto prepared parchment. Spread brittle slightly with a wooden spoon, then set aside to cool. Once cool, break into large shards.

If you're using homemade marshmallow, cut them into long fingers. Place a few on a piece of aluminum foil and brulee with a creme brulee torch. (If using store-bought marshmallows, line up 2-3 of them and brulee.) Cut chilled panna cotta into similarly-sized rectangles. Top each one with a piece of bruleed marshmallow and a shard of brittle.

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