Friday, December 14, 2018

Happy Holidays!


Minxeats will return in January with more recipes and restaurant posts! In the meantime, we hope the rest of 2018 treats you well.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Best Ever Rolled Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies seem pretty simple, right? Just flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, and eggs. The ingredients might not vary much from recipe to recipe, but the proportions sure do. I've seen recipes that involve 2 cups of sugar, 5 cups of flour, and only 1 1/2 cups of butter. Also ones with less sugar and flour but also less butter. And none of them seem to have very much vanilla, which should be the main flavor component.

Personally, I'm not a fan of making rolled cookies. Too much work. I'm a drop-by-spoonfuls kinda gal. But Mr Minx had a hankering to make rolled cookies. He even went out and bought a rolling pin. If he was going to do all the heavy lifting (or rolling), then I was willing to go along with it. I even had a recipe at the ready.

Years ago, I had a group of friends that got together at the holidays. One of these friends is no longer a friend because he's a big jerk, but at the time he had a girlfriend who liked to bake. Her contribution to the party that year was sugar cookies...the best damn sugar cookies I have ever eaten. Though I would probably not make them myself due to my aversion to rolling pins and hard work, I asked her for the recipe. It has moderate amounts of sugar and flour, a cup of butter, and a whole tablespoon of vanilla. I think that's the secret right there. They are sugar cookies with actual flavor.

The dough needs to be refrigerated before baking, otherwise it's too soft to roll and cut. But once chilled, it cuts like a dream (especially with sharp, brand-new, cookie cutters like ours) and bakes up into lovely crisp and buttery cookies redolent of vanilla that can be iced or, if you're lazy like us, sprinkled with festive sugars.

Laura's Sugar Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda (or dump it in a bowl and stir thoroughly with a fork). Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes or so. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then add the vanilla and eggs. Beat until combined, another half minute or so. Turn the mixer off and add the flour mixture all at once. Beat at low speed until all the flour is incorporated, another minute or so, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice. If the dough seems too stiff for your mixer, use a wooden spoon and combine by hand.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate dough about 2 hours, until firm. If it's in the fridge for longer and becomes rock hard, allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before rolling.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

On a floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/8-inch. Sprinkle with flour as necessary to keep the rolling pin from sticking. Cut dough with cookie cutters and carefully transfer each to a parchment-lined baking sheet (use a spatula). Sprinkle with colored sugars.

Bake for 6-8 minutes, until firm and only vaguely golden (they should not brown very much). Use a spatula to transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Flashback Friday - Scallops with Lavender Honey Brown Butter

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on November 21, 2012.

Scallop dishes at restaurants don't seem quite as astronomically priced these days as back then, but they're still not cheap.
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Remember when I complained last month that scallops are the restaurant world's biggest rip-off? Here's some proof. I paid $15.95 per pound for U-10 drypack scallops at the local Giant. U-10 means there are fewer than ten scallops per pound - these three babies weighed .37 lb. ("Drypack" means they were packed and shipped on ice without the use of preservatives. They sear quite nicely and don't leach a lot of moisture into the pan.)

I seared the scallops in a bit of olive oil, removed them from the pan, and turned off the heat. To the still hot pan, I added a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of honey, about a teaspoon of dried, food-grade, lavender buds, and a teaspoon of chopped preserved lemon. The honey caramelized almost instantly, creating a rich, lightly sweet sauce for the scallops, which were also garnished with a sprinkle of green onion and a few more lavender buds.

Had I ordered this in a restaurant, it would have cost $35. Cost me around $6 to make at home. And they were damn fine.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Gingerbread Linzer Tart

I made the original variation on this tart (with chocolate cookies and raspberry jam) 20+ years ago. I have no idea where I got the recipe, but every once in a while I pull it out and make it for dessert. It's pretty simple, and the results are delicious. Last year, I decided to tinker with the flavoring a bit. Rather than chocolate cookies and cocoa powder, I opted to use gingerbread cookies and spices. I almost made a cranberry curd for the filling, but I was stressed out and feeling lazy, so I used a jar of Polaner seedless blackberry All-Fruit. Everyone seemed to like the variation, so I thought I'd share it with you here.

A baking note: The butter tends to ooze out of the bottom of the pan, so it's a good idea to bake this on a foil-lined baking sheet. If you use a tart pan or baking dish without a removable bottom, you won't have this issue, but it will also be a little harder to cut into wedges and serve.

Gingerbread Linzer Tart

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 1/3 cups gingerbread cookie crumbs (I used Pepperidge Farm Ginger Family cookies)
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 whole egg
1 jar Polaner All-Fruit seedless blackberry jam, or your favorite blackberry jam
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Place ground almonds, cookie crumbs, flour, sugar, ginger, and cloves into a large bowl and mix well. Distribute the butter over the mixture and add the egg. Work the dough with your fingertips, rubbing in the butter and making a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pat about 3/4 of the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Spread the jam thickly over the crust but not quite to the edges. Roll pieces of the remaining dough into strips and arrange on jam in a lattice pattern. Sprinkle on the chopped almonds.

Bake for 35 minutes. Let the pastry cool completely in the pan.

Carefully remove the sides of the pan. The crust is fairly sturdy, so this shouldn't be a problem. You can use a knife to coax the bottom off the tart, but I usually just leave it there. Place the tart on a serving plate and cut into wedges.

Serves 12.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Flashback Friday - Farro Risotto

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on September 18, 2012.

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When my dad and I went to The Fork & Wrench a couple of months back, the best thing I ate was the farro risotto that accompanied my fatty and under-seasoned duck breast. (Yes, I am still bitter about that. I wanted the scallops, dammit.) I fell in love with the pleasantly chewy texture of farro and vowed to recreate the dish at home.

Unfortunately, farro isn't one of those things available in just any grocery store, so I had to turn to teh Innernets to find a source. Farro ain't cheap, because in most cases, it has to be ordered in bulk. However, I did find one company, Capri Flavors, that let me order a single pound of the stuff for a relatively mere $4.44. (I also bought some other Italian goodies and was pleased that my order shipped so quickly.)

Despite being pretty gung-ho to make the risotto...err...farrotto...I put the stuff in the cabinet and forgot about it for several weeks, digging it out only recently to play with it.

I wasn't sure how long it would take to cook the stuff - would making a farrotto take longer than a risotto made with rice? or steel cut oats?  So I consulted the Google. Giada the Human Lollipop suggested soaking the farro in water for 30 minutes, which softened the stuff up nicely. After draining, the farro only needed about 2 cups of stock to make it tender enough to eat, but I used three. I used only onion and salt and pepper as seasonings, but that was adequate--the result was quite tasty. Next time though, I think I'll try adding some mushrooms.

Here's a recipe of sorts...I don't think this sort of thing is rocket science, since I didn't measure anything and it came out fine. You might want to read it all the way through before you start cooking.

Saute 1/2 cup chopped onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. That seems like a lot of oil, but once the onion has softened, toss in 1 cup of farro that has been soaked in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes and drained. Stir until the farro is coated with oil (add more if necessary) and starts to brown, 5 minutes or so. Meanwhile, have 3 cups of chicken stock warming in a saucepan nearby. When the farro is toasty, put in a cup of stock. Stir regularly until stock is mostly evaporated, then add another cup. Hell, put the rest in - it won't matter. Cook over medium heat until there's just a bit of moisture left, then put in a couple tablespoons of butter and a splash or two of cream (heavy, light, half-and-half - whatever you have). Cheese is nice, too - I added a half cup of shredded Muenster, because that's what I had. Stir until it's all nice and creamy, season with salt and pepper, and then eat. Right out of the pan, if that's what floats your boat.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Pepita Sun Butter

When I was approached to try Organic Pepita Sun Seed Butter from Naturally Nutty, I had to say yes. Especially when I found out that it won a 2018 Specialty Food Association Sofi Award. (I go to the Association's Summer Fancy Food Show every year, and know that it's a big deal.)

All of Naturally Nutty's butters contain not only nuts and large seeds, but also nutrient-rich smaller seeds like flax, hemp, and chia. There are over 20 flavors in the line, including mocha almond and cinnamon vanilla sunflower butters. They do peanut butter too, smooth and crunchy of course, but also in flavors like white chocolate coconut and butter toffee.

Pepita Sun Seed Butter is flavored with organic vanilla powder, allspice, and cinnamon, and is a close cousin in flavor to pumpkin pie, making it a perfect treat for this time of year. I like it by the spoonful right out of the jar (the way I usually eat nut butters!) or dolloped onto oatmeal or chia pudding. It's also great on toast and english muffins, or any way you'd use peanut butter.

Buy Naturally Nutty products directly from the company, or from Amazon.

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Flashback Friday - Edamame Hummus

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 12, 2013.

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I've been on a hummus kick lately, have you noticed? I really do love the stuff and would eat it more often if it wasn't normally made with chickpeas. Those little bastards give me such intestinal distress, I can't even look at them without getting gassy. In their place, I've been making hummus with just about every other bean under the sun, mostly with success.

Not long ago, we bought some edamame hummus from Trader Joe's, and man, that stuff was delicious! The best bean yet. So when I decided that our Memorial Day dinner would involve kebabs and various Mediterranean-inspired sauces, I put edamame hummus on the list of must-makes. Coincidentally, I received Louisville chef Edward Lee's new cookbook, Smoke and Pickles, at around the same time and the first recipe I turned to when I opened the book at random was his version of edamame hummus. It was kismet.

Lee makes his hummus chunky and uses it as a side dish. I wanted a more traditional dip/puree, so I added a bit more water to the food processor when I was blending. I also didn't need quite so much hummus, so I halved the recipe. Here's my take on it:

Edamame Hummus (adapted from Smoke and Pickles)

2 green onions, white and light green part, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup frozen edamame
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Saute the green onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook 6-8 minutes, or until beans are no longer crunchy. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Puree the mixture in a food processor until fairly smooth, adding additional additional water to help the process. Taste the mixture and adjust seasoning with more lemon juice, soy, and olive oil, if necessary.

Serve at room temperature with unsalted tortilla chips or pita.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Raw Spice Bar #sponsored

Fall is apple season, and all I want to do is bake them up in some delicious way. Like good old baked apples, for example, peeled and cored apples stuffed with butter, spices, and brown sugar and baked until tender. I like to serve them warm with a dollop of whipped cream, or--even better--a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. And whipped cream. Apple pies, too. Mr Minx made a fab apple galette a couple of weeks ago, mounding sliced apples seasoned with a little lemon juice into a pie crust brushed with apricot jam and baking it until golden brown.

I normally only season apples with cinnamon, but when Raw Spice Bar sent me a selection of their freshly ground spice mixtures to try, I found myself using a far more exotic blend on my fall apple creations. Their Apple Pie Spices contain not only cinnamon, but also nutmeg, allspice, ginger, green cardamom, star anise, grains of paradise, and rosemary. Yeah, those last four are pretty out of the ordinary for apple pie, especially the grains of paradise. It's an African pepper that while not as spicy as the usual black peppercorns, still has a kick. Somehow, though, the disparate spices all work pretty harmoniously with apples. I'm thinking this blend would work well with other fall-ish creations, too, like pumpkin pie or bread and in oatmeal cookies.

Rather than a typical two-crust apple pie, I decided to try my sample of Raw Spice Bar spices in an open-faced apple tart. I used a removable-bottom tart pan that doesn't get nearly enough love, and a grand total of five ingredients. (If you want to make your own pie crust, that will add a few ingredients to the list, but not many.) the result was pretty darn good, if I do say so. And pretty, in a rustic sort of way (I am not a perfectionist).

Raw Spice Bar has several interesting spice blends, along with individual spices. I think I want to try the Ethiopian Berbere, Persian Advieh, and their salt-free chili powder when I place an order, also the Bourbon-smoked New Mexico smoked paprika, and the Hatch and Urfa Biber chiles. Their spices are sold in small portions so they're always fresh, and their subscription service means you will get a new fresh batch on a regular basis. Check them out.

In the meantime, here's the apple tart recipe. Enjoy!

Apple Tart

1 refrigerated pie crust
4 large apples, like Cortland
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Raw Spice Bar Apple Pie Spices
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Unroll pie crust into a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Carefully press crust into all of the pan's nooks and crannies and trim the excess dough at the top. Refrigerate the crust for 15 to firm up.

Peel and core the apples. Cut each into quarters and cut the quarters into 6-8 slices. Toss the apple with the sugar and spices.

Remove the crust from the fridge. Starting from the outside and working in, arrange the apple slices--curved side up--in concentric circles. Don't worry if it's not neat or perfect. Once you have filled in the entire tart, take some of the remaining slices (you will have plenty) and insert them in between the pieces already in the pan. If there are leftovers, eat them.

Bake the tart for 15 minutes at 400°F, then turn the temperature down to 350°F and bake an additional 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Melt the jam in the microwave for a few seconds, then use a pastry brush to top the tart with a thin layer.

Allow to cool completely before slicing. Remove the sides of the pan to make slicing easier. If you want, you can also slide the tart off the pan bottom, but I always leave it on. It makes life easier.

Serves 8.

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Flashback Friday - Lamb unKebabs

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on May 13, 2013.

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My favorite flavor palettes come from China and Thailand and I find myself using them pretty frequently in my weekend dinner-making. Despite the vibrancy of seasonings like Sriracha, star anise, and Thai basil, eating similar flavors over and over can get, well, boring. So one recent weekend, I mixed things up a bit and prepared a meal with origins in the Mediterranean. And I don't mean Italy or Greece - Turkey's there too, along with Egypt and Syria, Albania, and Bosnia.

Lamb is a popular protein in that part of the world, and it is often flavored with what we might otherwise consider "sweet" spices. You know, the seasonings most familiar to us in pumpkin pie - cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Combined with cumin and paprika, these sweet spices both camouflage and accentuate the characteristic "gamy" flavor of lamb.

These rather sausage-like lamb patties, borrowed heavily from a kebab recipe found in chef Silvena Rowe's Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume: Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean, would be perfect skewered and cooked on the grill, but they were also quite tasty when pan-fried and served with a sprightly salad of tomato, feta, and olives.

Lamb unKebabs (adapted from Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume)

1.5 lbs ground lamb
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
pomegranate molasses (optional)

Mix all ingredients except molasses thoroughly. Form into eight small patties. Refrigerate on a covered plate for at least one hour and up to overnight to allow flavors to meld.

Cook patties in a bit of olive oil in a hot pan until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Serve with tomato salad and a drizzle of the pomegranate molasses.

Tomato Salad

2 ripe tomatoes, de-seeded and cut into large dice
1/4 cup chopped black and green olives
1 tablespoon minced chives
splash balsamic vinegar
splash lemon juice
splash agave syrup or honey
pinch salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup cubed feta cheese

Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl. Allow to rest at room temperature for at least half an hour so flavors can meld. Add cheese when ready to serve.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Chipotle Catering Giveaway #sponsored

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and along with them come the requisite parties. In my office, we tend to do potluck, but after umpteen years of eating the boss's rubbery warehouse store shrimp cocktail, my co-workers and I greet the idea of our annual holiday party with something less than enthusiasm.

Sometimes a couple of us go in for catering from a local fast casual restaurant. Like Chipotle. Everyone's eyes light up when they see the spread of meats, beans, and toppings that they can use to customize their meal. It's so much better than Rhonda's cop-out big box store potato salad and Phil's crudite plate!

Chipotle can cater a party as small as 6 guests and as large as 200, and with only 24 hours notice. Chipotle's burritos, bowls, and tacos are familiar to everyone. They've always used real ingredients, prepared by hand, without added flavors, colors, or additives. And who doesn't love a taco? #tacotuesday is a thing for a reason.

Doesn't your party deserve goodies from Chipotle, too? You know it does! Learn more at Chipotle's Catering site. Once you pick up your order, all you have to do is unpack the boxes, and it's ready to go. Bowls, forks, napkins, serving spoons, and tongs are included.

You can try Chipotle Catering for FREE, cuz I am hosting a giveaway! The winner will get a card good for a spread of food to feed 20 people. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post telling me where you plan to serve your free feast. I'll pick a winner on Monday, November 19th and contact you via email for your address so I can put your prize in the mail ASAP. Catering cards expire on Dec 31, 2018, but that's plenty of time to let Chipotle cater your party.

More rules (mine, not theirs):
Continental US only.
Must be 18 or over to participate.
Deadline: November 18th
You must include your email address in your comment so I can contact you!

Questions? Leave a comment and I'll try to answer you ASAP.

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Gypsy's Truckstaurant

I have been a big proponent of the Baltimore food truck scene since Day 1. I am fortunate enough to work near an officially city-sanctioned food truck hub, and if I wanted, could have a truck lunch every day. Many trucks have come and gone over the past several years, some I have liked very much. But my favorite is the long-running, award-winning, Gypsy Queen Cafe. Twice a week, one of their two trucks would park right in front of my building. I soon found myself spending a bit of time every Friday with Annmarie at the black truck known as "Little Gypsy."

Full disclosure: Annmarie provided recipes for each of our three books. We are friends, but it was the truck that brought us together.

Eventually, the so-called food truck hub in my area began to be overrun with renegade trucks. Trucks that didn't even have signage. Trucks that served mostly fried foods that were likely purchased in bulk at a kitchen supply store. They'd get to the hub at 7am and leave no room for the regular trucks that served more interesting and house-prepared foods. Little Gypsy stopped coming around, though I do see the original truck once in a while.

Food Trucks in Baltimore seem to be going strong, as seen by the recent Food Truck Week and various festivals. But I rarely bother to get a truck lunch anymore.

Now if I want one of Annmarie's crab cakes, I can go to the Gypsy Queen Truckstaurant. While it's not convenient to work, the hours are longer, so I can have dinner as well as lunch. Or both.

The Truckstaurant is situated in a former garage on Clipper Mill Road. If you're trying to find the place while heading south on Clipper Mill and have driven as far as Birroteca, you've just passed it. Turn yourself around and go back a few hundred feet; you can definitely see the sign when approaching the restaurant from that angle. Eventually there will be a sign on Clipper Mill, which will make finding the place much easier.

The restaurant is much like a Tardis--it's far bigger on the inside than it seems on the outside. Annmarie and Tom did most of the work themselves, including painting and decorating. The result is a fun and eclectic space that feels like its been around for ages. It's homey and comfortable, with booths, a back lounge, and a long bar. There's also a dining space with tables on the other side of a clever partition made from empty wine bottles donated by restaurants and friends.

The menu includes all of the food trucks' greatest hits, including various items stuffed into waffle cones. My favorite is the crab cone. Annmarie's crab cakes are "saucy," that is, very moist, which is the way I prefer them. They're also topped with her dynamite chipotle aioli, which is good on just about everything. Possibly even chocolate cake (though I haven't tried that yet).

There are all manner of other goodies on the menu, including chicken wings and fat dates stuffed with bleu cheese and wrapped in bacon.

One of the advantages of a brick-and-mortar version of Gypsy Queen is a liquor license, so one can have beer, wine, or cocktails with their noms. Additionally, GQ Truckstaurant has a ridiculous 7-hour-long Happy Hour Tuesday - Friday from 11am to 6pm, which seems like a damn fine excuse for day drinking.

Gypsy Queen Truckstaurant
3515 Clipper Mill Rd
Baltimore, MD 21211
(443) 869-5602

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Flashback Friday - The Food Market

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on December 12, 2012.

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After being urged by several different people to try the Food Market, we did, with some delicious results.

The place is popular. Seriously. We eat dinner early, partly to miss the crowd, partly because we're old. By 6pm on a Saturday, the place was hopping, and getting louder by the minute. The music was loud, the people were louder, and the restaurant has no sound-absorbing materials at all, apart from the barely-padded banquette seats. So bring earplugs and a hearty appetite because there's lots to try.

The menu at the Food Market has categories like "little," "small," "big," and "in-between," which translates as "finger food appetizers (plus a soup)," "appetizers that require a fork," "entrees," and "sandwiches." (You're welcome.) Absolutely everything sounded like something we wanted to eat, so it was a bit hard to narrow down our choices. Eventually we settled on two littles, two smalls, and one in-between to share.

The Amish soft pretzels were less the stereotypical salty twists and more like buttery bread fingers (think Aunt Annie's). The generous portion of beer cheese fondue was spiked with jalapeno and had a nice kick. It was so good, we hated to waste it; even after the pretzels were gone, we kept the cheese sauce as a dip for french fries and the tasty foccacia that was brought to the table when we arrived.

Amish soft pretzels, beer cheese fondue
The meatloaf fries were fat little fingers of very good, very moist, homestyle meatloaf, dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. Complete overkill, but quite tasty. I think I might enjoy the meatloaf more if it were served in a more traditional manner.
Meatloaf fries crispy tempura
ketchup & black pepper beef gravy
At this point, after only two courses, I was getting full. The next two dishes that arrived were thankfully somewhat lighter. Yes, the pork belly seemed lighter than the meatloaf, probably because it hadn't been deep fried. Not that there's anything wrong with deep frying....

There was a nice ratio of fat to meat on the chubby chunk of belly, which can sometimes seem too fatty. (Not that there's anything wrong with fatty....) The brown sugar topping added a perfect amount of sweetness and married well with the toasted pecans. My favorite dish of the evening.
Brown sugar pork belly, petite greens, toasted pecans,
cherry tomatoes, bangin’ honey mustard vinaigrette

We also ordered the chopped salad, which the kitchen thoughtfully split for us. It wasn't quite a chopped salad, as the lettuce was whole and the sprouts were cut in half, but it was an interesting combination of flavors, and quite autumnal. I thought it was odd that the sprouts were warm, and everything else was at room temperature, and felt the macadamia nut crumble was merely a texture and not a flavor, but Mr Minx gobbled it up. And he's not a fan of either beets or cooked carrots.
Chopped salad lemon cream cheese, roasted brussels, beets, 
carrots, mac nut crumble, cranberry vinaigrette
Finally, we shared the Pat LaFrieda burger, which the kitchen again split for us. The saltiness of the bacon predominated, rendering even the pickles mute. But the meat was perfectly cooked, and the bun held up to the large amount of filling. The crinkle cut fries on the side were a touch of nostalgia.
Pat LaFrieda Burger diced bacon, lettuce, tomato, 
onion, sesame bun, cheese, pickles
And then we ordered dessert. I was tempted by the sound of pumpkin cannoli, but would have preferred a single large cannoli to the three small ones. I'm more about the filling than the shell, which was a bit dry and dense.
Pumpkin Cannoli
Mr Minx ordered the Heath bar bread pudding, which was lovely and moist, but far too sweet for my taste. The plain whipped cream was a welcome relief from the sugar overload, although it's probably odd to look to a pile of what is essentially whipped fat to lighten anything.
Heath bar bread pudding
I have mixed emotions about the Food Market. I love the concept, always love small plates, but think it really takes some advance knowledge of the dishes to put together a meal that feels like a meal, rather than a sundry combination of snack foods (granted, we did perhaps order oddly). Several of the diners around us were ordering big plates only, which might be the way to go. And speaking of other diners - the tables are fairly close together, so it's easy to overhear conversations. For instance, the table of annoyingly giggly female 20-somethings to our left threw out a few bons mots, my favorite being, "ooh...the Baltimore Club looks really good. Except for the shrimp salad." (A Baltimore club is generally a crabcake paired with shrimp salad. Without the shrimp salad, it's a crab cake sandwich.)

That said, I'd like to go back and try a few more things. The pork belly was seriously good (everything was, in its own way), and both the cracker fried oysters and lil' lamb porterhouses seem like items I'd really enjoy. And they have scallops, which almost always turns me on.

The Food Market
1017 West 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
(410) 366-0606
thefoodmarketbaltimore.com

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Snacks from the Great White North

Okay, so...the topic today is snacks, eh? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

A couple months ago, we had some friends travel down from Toronto to vacation in New York and Washington DC. Since DC is so close to Baltimore, a dinner date was arranged to meet up with them at Founding Farmers DC. Sadly, The Minx had to go solo because I had to work, but she brought back presents in the form of Canadian maple syrup and a couple of savory snacks that we don't get in the States.


One was a potato chip from Ruffles called All Dressed (or Assaisonnées in French). I guess the idea is to combine all the condiments you would typically associate with potato chips into one super flavor. The primary flavors for All Dressed are barbecue, ketchup, salt, and vinegar. In reading the ingredients, there's also a bunch of chemicals I'm not familiar with, but I have to assume they contribute to that weird sour cream taste that permeates all the Frito-Lay chip flavors (even the sweet ones, which is really gross). That said, it's a pretty tasty chip that's a nice balance of savory and ketchup-sweet.

The other snack was Hickory Sticks (or Juliennes à L'Hickory in French). I always loved potato sticks as a kid, so I was especially looking forward to these. The extra crispiness of such tiny slivers of potato really appeal to my texture-conscious palate. This version has a pleasant smokiness and, while they're a little too salty, I can enjoy them in small doses. The Hickory Sticks are branded as being made by Hostess, but both snacks are products of Frito-Lay Canada.

I suppose there's some special marketing reason why Frito-Lay would want to have some Canada-centric snacks, but I think Americans would enjoy these just fine. I hope we'll start seeing these in US supermarkets in the near future.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Flashback Friday - A Quick Trip to NYC

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on December 18, 2012.

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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
646-435-0135

A Voce Columbus
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
212-823-2523

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Thanksgiving in October

When Keystone Meats sent me several cans of their products to play with, the temps were still in the upper 70s and low 80s, yet it was already October. I really wanted to do something with pumpkin, like a nice curried soup, but I was also in the mood for an easy chicken salad. The best solution seemed to do both. And to make the chicken salad a more seasonable companion to the soup, I thought it might be nice to add some Thanksgiving-ish flavors to it. Sage and cranberries made the most sense to me, as stuffing and cranberry sauce are two of my favorite sides and are both essential elements in the traditional post-dinner turkey sandwich.

If you'd rather crack open a can of cranberry sauce and add that to the dressing instead of dried cranberries, be my guest! Some chopped walnuts would be nice in the salad, too.

Thanksgiving Chicken (or Turkey) Salad

1 teaspoon dried sage or 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
2 heaped tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon chopped scallion
1 tablespoon finely diced celery + 1 tablespoon chopped celery leaves
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 14.5-ounce can Keystone All-Natural Chicken or Turkey, drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 slices of your favorite hearty bread, lightly toasted, per sandwich

Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Pile onto bread and serve.

Makes 2-3 sandwiches.

Easy Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 cups chicken stock
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
1/2 cup coconut milk + 2 tablespoons
2 teaspoons curry powder (I like The Spice House or Penzey's)
Salt and ground white pepper
Maple syrup

Combine stock, pumpkin, 1/2 cup coconut milk, and curry powder in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cook 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper. Add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup to balance the curry flavoring, but not enough to make the soup sweet (unless you want sweet soup!)

Pour into bowls and garnish with a bit of the extra coconut milk. I put a pinch of fresh thyme on top, too, because our thyme plant is out of control.

Serves 2-3

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Flashback Friday - Time Machine Chefs Recap

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on August 17, 2012.

I might have used this as a Flashback Friday post before. I cracked myself up reading it, I thought I'd use it again.

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Did anyone watch Time Machine Chefs last night? No worries, because I watched it for you! Yes, I sacrificed an hour of my life to this entirely fake "reality" cooking competition show that ripped off everything from Top Chef to Doctor Who. Yes, I said "Doctor Who."

It really was quite remarkable.

The four contestants are no strangers to reality cooking competitions: Art Smith and Chris Cosentino are currently hating on each other on the fourth season of Top Chef Masters; Ilan Hall was the winner of Top Chef season 2; Jill Davie made a valiant attempt at being the Food Network's Next Iron Chef (but failed). Rather than competing for money for themselves or for a charity, the four are vying for the title of "Best Chef in History." How is that possible? It's really not. For one thing, there were probably far better chefs in the long history of cuisine than Art Smith and Jill Davie.

Anyhoo...the four intrepid travelers enter a giant set at the center of which is a huge blue Tardis. I mean...old-fashioned refrigerator which serves as their time machine. A Re-Tardis, if you will. The super-annoying Brooke Peterson, supposed "lifestyle expert" and otherwise loud/shrill blond, plays the role of Curtis Stone. She tells the chefs they will be traveling through time to cook, and the chefs pretend to get excited. Art Smith wants to end up in the court of Marie Antoinette because he wants to wear tights and a powdered wig, and Ilan Hall wants to roll out matzoh balls for Jesus at the Last Supper. He'd probably put bacon in them.

Peterson herds the chefs into the fridge and closes the door. Then some cheesy special effects take over and suddenly the Re-Tardis disappears...

...and reappears in China, 1416 AD - the Ming Dynasty. Or a Hollywood backlot made up to look like a market, with actors dressed up in coolie hats.

The chefs pretend to be excited. Suddenly, we see that Brooke has a completely different outfit and hairstyle, and for several minutes I'm not sure it's the same person, but another bland loud blond who is taking over the China leg of the tour.

She brings out the judges for the competition - Nancy Silverton, from LaBrea Bakery and Mozza, with obviously-dyed hair; Dave Arnold from the French Culinary Institute; and Silvena Rowe, chef from Quince at London's May Fair Hotel.

Silvena needs a show of her own. She's a big, imposing bottle blond from Bulgaria, with a tough manner. Art Smith is immediately afraid she's going to crack his head open like a walnut between her powerful thighs. And you know he wants to get nowhere near a woman's thighs.

It's explained that in China, Peking Duck reigns supreme (at least in Peking, maybe, sorta) and that despite not having the same modern conveniences as chefs do today, Ming Dynasty cooks were masters at achieving very crisp skin. The secret is to separate the skin from the meat by inflating the bird. Silvena happily demonstrates the technique - she grabs a duck, puts it to her mouth, and blows. Art's gonads immediately get sucked into his body cavity, but Chris Cosentino is turned on.

Each chef has to make a dish of crispy duck skin, and utilize any of the rest of the duck as they please. But first they have to light a communal outdoor oven, which Cosentino handles by rubbing things together to create a spark. No lighter fluid or charcoal chimneys in 1416! The four set to cooking, and Cosentino tries out Silvena's duck inflation method.

Ilan gets started by cutting off his duck's head and stuffing it before hanging it over the fire to roast. Jill Davie is running around like a duck with her head cut off, confused, and Art Smith is busy dropping celebrity names.

The end of the cooking time is signaled by a round of firecrackers going off, and the chefs' dishes are brought to the judging panel. Happily, they are all quite harsh in their criticisms, and Silvena especially seems to enjoy bringing the pain. She did, however, appreciate that Chris used her "blowing technique" on the duck skin.

The chefs are told that only three of them will get to travel back in the Re-Tardis, and one of them will be stuck there in China. Ilan and Chris are safe, and while we're hoping that Art Smith will be abandoned, it's Jill Davie who gets to spend her days in the past. (Eyeroll)

The three remaining chefs re-enter the Re-Tardis with Brooke Peterson and head off to another place and time. Their second destination is England in the time of King Henry the 8th, ca. 1532.

Their task there is to prepare a simple Sunday supper fit for a King. King Henry was fond of something called a "cockentrice" which is like an Old World turducken - several different beasts combined to make one new beast.

The beasts provided to the chefs are cod, suckling pig, venison, lamb, and peacock, and they are to use at least three of them to create their dish, which must be cooked on a rotisserie in a large fireplace. But first...they are introduced to their sous chefs.

Three women in period dress walk in with three tiny dogs wearing neck ruffles and leashes. Cosentino wonders for a moment if he's supposed to hold the dog while he's cooking before he's told that the cute little critters will be put into wheels which, once the dogs start running within them, will turn the crank that controls the rotisserie. That seems a little cruel, but once the dogs are put into the wheels, they dutifully start running, and the spits rotate at a nice speed.

This time, to signify the 2.5 hour cooking time is over, a candle has been stuck with nails. As the candle melts, the nails fall out. When the last nail falls, time is up. Rather clever, but Art doesn't understand.

Art is completely annoying. A shame he wasn't left in China. He flirts with Ilan, who may or may not be uncomfortable with it.

Eventually, the chefs get their beasts assembled. Chris started out with a deboned pig face, which collapses on the spit. He goes to alternate plan B, which is to turn it into a soup. Ilan uses a spit-roasted lamb's skull as the front of his cockentrice and inserts a peacock head into its mouth, Alien-style. His creature is the most fantastical and uses the most meats. Art's creature is just a hodgepodge, and not as well-designed as that of either of his competitors.

The judges enter to check out the spread and dine. With their hands.

They like Chris' a lot. Ilan's was the creepiest, but also on the chewy side. Art's was tasty, but not so hot looking. Brooke tells the chefs that two of them will be stuck in the Tudor period, and Ilan says, if he's one of them, he hopes he can find a job cooking. He also mentions that he has "weird man boobs," which I don't think we needed to know.

And then the judges quickly decide that Chris Cosentino is the Greatest Chef in History and put a tacky medal around his neck. What? I thought this was a series, and that the four of these chefs would be competing for several weeks, cooking in several different times and places, before someone was crowned a winner. But it seems this show is a one-off, which is a shame, because it was so cheesy, scripted, and awful that I really enjoyed it.

Posted on Minxeats.com.