Friday, January 19, 2018

Flashback Friday - Avocado Soup and Crab Salad

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This post originally appeared on on June 21, 2013.

I do most of the cooking on the weekends, except when we go out to eat (of course). If I'm thinking ahead, I plan my meals by Tuesday, our usual grocery shopping day. Most of the time though, I don't give it a thought until Thursday or Friday and then I have to decide whether I should just use what we have in the house, or schlep down to the grocery store to pick up special ingredients.

One recent weekend, we had steamed crabs on Saturday and ended up with a nice container of leftover meat. Rather than default to making crab cakes, I decided to make a crab salad and serve it with a soup made from the two ripe avocados we had picked up earlier in the week. The soup was thick and lusciously creamy, and the citrussy salad added the perfect touch of acid.

I used black garlic to season the soup because I had it. You can use one clove of regular garlic, but chop it and add it to the scallion while it's cooking to cut some of the strong garlic taste. Of course, if you like the flavor of raw garlic, don't let me get in your way!

Avocado Soup

4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
olive oil
2 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
3 cloves black garlic
couple shakes of hot sauce (I used green Tabasco)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook scallions in a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt until wilted. Add them, along with the rest of the ingredients, to the bowl of a food processor or blender and purée. If the mixture is too thick for your taste, add a bit more stock or yogurt. Season to taste, adding more lime juice, if desired. Serve chilled, topped with a handful of crab salad.

Makes 4 appetizer or 2 main dish servings.

Crab Salad

2 tablespoons orange or grapefruit juice or a combination of the two
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
1 lb blue crab meat (body and claw), picked over for shell
1 tomato, seeded and finely chopped
fresh basil and mint leaves

Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl, beating well with a fork until the dressing emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the crab and tomato in a medium bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss lightly to coat. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Cut basil and mint into a chiffonade and stir in before serving.

Makes more than you'll need for the soup, so grab a fork and dig in.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

National Today

Have you ever noticed--especially if you're on Instagram--that there are a lot more holidays than just the usual Presidents' Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, etc? Tons more, actually, and so many of them are food related. I vow to spend more time in 2018 celebrating holidays like National Meatball Day (March 9) and National Coffee Day (September 29, but every day for me). To that end, I’ve partnered with viral holiday website National Today to share the ultimate 2018 holiday celebration calendar. They have a complete list of holidays you've probably never heard of with suggested ways to celebrate each one, along with fun facts and history, too.

Here are some sample holidays, ones I plan to observe in the coming year. They're all food-related, because hey, I celebrate food every day. There are also plenty of non-food holidays like National Lipstick Day (July 29) and National Barbie Day (March 9) on which to be festive. Check out National Today's site and never miss another opportunity to celebrate something.

Incidentally, today (Jan 17) is National Hot Buttered Rum Day. Here's my favorite recipe for the drink.


National Cheese-Lovers Day (Jan 20)
Whether you prefer Gruyere or Muenster, this is the day for you.

National Chocolate Cake Day (Jan 27)
I think this holiday should be celebrated more than once a year.

National Croissant Day (Jan 30)
Let's give a cheer for these buttery French crescents!


National Pizza Day (Feb 9)
Another holiday I would celebrate daily, if I could.

National Tortellini Day (Feb 13)
A special day for a special pasta.

National Drink Wine Day (Feb 18)
Not that anyone needs a special day to drink wine.


National Oreo Cookie Day (Mar 6)
America's favorite cookie!

National Meatball Day (Mar 9)
And not just Italian meatballs...makes sure to give Swedish meatballs some love on this day.

National Artichoke Day (Mar 16)
Artichokes don't get enough love, IMHO.


National Burrito Day (Apr 5)
Why not?

National Beer Day (Apr 7)
Like National Wine Day, this could be every day.

National Pigs in a Blanket Day (Apr 24) 
I remember my Mom making these for my childhood birthday parties. A memory worth celebrating.


National Shrimp Day (May 10)
If I wasn't contractually obligated, as a Marylander, to love blue crabs best, I'd call shrimp my favorite crustacean.

National Brisket Day (May 28)
Braised or smoked, brisket deserves a shout-out at least one day a year.

National Macaroon Day (May 31)
Remember, macaroons (mack-a-ROONS) are made with coconut. Those cute pastel colored French sandwich cookies are macarons (mack-a-RONS). And they should have a day of their own.


National Donut Day (Jun 2)
Another day that could really occur 365 without much argument.

National Cheese Day (Jun 4)
Jan 20 celebrated the cheese-lover, while this day celebrates the cheese itself.

National Rosé Day (Jun 9)
Literally, ROSE ALL DAY.


National Ice Cream Day (Jul 16)
Do you like vanilla or chocolate better?

National Chicken Wing Day (Jul 29)
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy chicken wings throughout the year, but this is the only day where they are feted.

National Cheesecake Day (Jul 30)
I like my cheesecake moist and fluffy, not dense. How about you?


International Beer Day (Aug 4)
The US celebrates beer in April, but the whole world celebrates beer on this day. I think I'll join them.

National Rum Day (Aug 16)
A favorite libation that works wonderfully in Summer cocktails.

National Lemonade Day (Aug. 20)
When life gives you lemons, save them for National Lemonade Day.


National Guacamole Day (Sep 16)
Forget avocado toast. Guac belongs on chips.

National Pancake Day (Sep 26)
Have pancakes for breakfast and dinner today!

National Coffee Day (Sep 29)
I celebrate this day every day, though it officially only gets September 29th.


National Taco Day (Oct 4)
This day should run concurrently with National Guacamole Day, don't you think?

National Pasta Day (Oct 17)
Mr Minx's favorite day of the year.

National Bologna Day (Oct 24)
My bologna has a first name.... Actually it doesn't. Who names their bologna?


National Nachos Day (Nov 6)
Who doesn't love crisp chips coated with cheese and other goodies?

National Pickle Day (Nov 14)
Remember: pickle as in the food, not pickle as in getting yourself into trouble.

National Cake Day (Nov 26)
Not just chocolate cake day, though you can eat that on this day, too.


National Gazpacho Day (Dec 6)
I think of gazpacho as a warm-weather food, but I guess it's warm somewhere in the world in December.

National Ice Cream Day (Dec. 13)
I do eat ice cream all year long though.

National Bacon Day (Dec 30)
The most important holiday of all!

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Fiesta Mexicana

My brother discovered Fiesta Mexicana first, when he lived on the east side of Baltimore County. He and Dad would go to the tiny family-run restaurant for lunch on a semi-regular basis, which made me wish Mr Minx and I lived closer. The two of visited the restaurant in 2012, while we were writing Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore. We ordered the Paquet Eduques, a combo platter including two enchiladas, and one each sope, taco, quesadilla, and flauta. We would have ordered more, but in those days we were eating at multiple restaurants a day in order to write about as many as possible before we hit our rapidly approaching deadline. We especially enjoyed the authentic Mexican quesadilla, which only vaguely resembles what goes by that name here in the US.

Recently, my Dad moved to the area and we took advantage of the proximity to visit Fiesta Mexicana not once but twice in a matter of weeks. The first time, I tried the pambazo, a sandwich served in a roll that has been brushed with a savory guajillo chile sauce and seared, then stuffed with meat and garnished with lettuce, crema, and queso fresca. The normal meat filling is chorizo with potatoes, but I opted for the Milanesa, a breaded beef cutlet that they cut into pieces and pile onto the bread. The sandwich had lovely flavors and textures, from the slightly chewy seared parts of the roll to the cool cream and everything in between. I could get this every time, but there are so many other things on the menu, I'm definitely going to have to branch out.

On the next visit, I tried three of the tacos: carnitas, carne asada, and campechanos, which is a combo of chorizo with shredded beef. The fillings are generous and the corn tortillas are thick enough that they don't need to be doubled, but I was a bit disappointed. Both the carne asada and carnitas were tough and chewy, and I really couldn't tell the pork from the beef. The campechanos was the best of the three, but was also lacking in moisture.

My Dad got his favorite, the quesadillas. Made from pockets of fresh masa stuffed with your choice of meat, cheese, or veggies, these are closer to turnovers than what we normally consider a quesadilla. The texture is both crisp and tender, and they are especially good when stuffed with chorizo and potatoes, or spicy chicken. He normally doesn't like sour cream (or so he says) but he gobbled these up even with the generous drizzle of crema.

On one occasion, we ordered enchiladas to go. Normally stuffed with shredded chicken and topped with a spicy green sauce, they can also be filled with any other meat for a slightly higher price. Occasionally, molé sauce from Mexico City is available, which I am sure is a treat.

On both occasions, the restaurant was full of patrons ordering things like nachos, chilaquiles (eggs with tortilla chips soaked in chile sauce), cecina (flank steak), and tostadas, all of which looked tempting. Next time I'll try one of those, if I don't just get another pambazo.

Fiesta Mexicana
8304 Philadelphia Road
Rosedale, MD 21237
The menu can be found here.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Flashback Friday - The Oregon Grille

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on January 22, 2013.

January means Restaurant Week(s), and this year Mr Minx and I decided to stay in Baltimore County rather than stray into the City. Our first pick this year was The Oregon Grille, a cozy, clubby, and elegant restaurant just off the Shawan Road West exit on I-83. As befitting its location in horse country, the restaurant is decorated with equine prints and jockeys' accouterments. The menu has a nice mix of both seafood and meat dishes, featuring classics like steak au poivre and crab cakes, with a few more modern dishes like crispy duck legs stuffed with pears and a sushi-inspired appetizer called "spicy rolls two ways."

Sorry for the blurry photos, but the restaurant is dark-ish and a
flash would definitely have annoyed other guests.
I tried those spicy rolls as my appetizer, and they had a nice kick to them. The fish - tuna and salmon - was swaddled snugly within a nori wrapper padded with a layer of creamy rice. To continue with the Asian theme, we also tried an order of the crab and avocado wontons from the regular menu. They were heavy on the avocado, but crisp and greaseless. And prettily presented, I might add.

Mr Minx's RW appetizer was beef barley soup. It was a generous portion, with plenty of vegetables and nuggets of beef, but it needed a bit of salt.

For our entrees, I ordered the warm lobster salad, which was simply terrific. Lightly cooked julienned root vegetables were tangled with a bit of fresh watercress to form a bed for the meat from half a lobster, and everything was napped with a buttery lemon vinaigrette. On the side were pieces of truffled toast sorely lacking the truffle and a mite over-toasted, but I had a huge crusty dinner roll handy with which to mop up the sauce.

Mr Minx had the salmon with lobster risotto, crispy shrimp, and "vanilla dust" butter. Vanilla is a tricky flavoring to use in a savory dish, but it seems to be most successful with seafood. While all of the individual elements of his dish were well-cooked, the flavor of the vanilla was a bit too pronounced for his taste. I found it interesting, but a bit disconcerting because of the lack of accompanying sweetness. Vanilla = sweet stuff.

On to the actual sweet stuff. I had the orange-spiced apple crisp. The large shallow ramekin meant that there was a goodly portion of "crisp" - my favorite part. The combination of orange and apple was very fragrant and autumnal, and I quite enjoyed the dish. Mr Minx had the carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream, which was delicious and classic, if a bit dense from the number of layers of frosting.

While we had some minor quibbles about the meal, overall we really enjoyed the food at The Oregon Grille. The Restaurant Week prices are a real steal, and we recommend trying the place if you haven't already. Additionally, service was terrific, and our waiter, Tom, took excellent care of us. He even brought a tiny carafe of olive juice in case we wanted our extra dirty martinis even more dirty. We'll be back.

(Oregon Grille's Restaurant Week is extended to 2/2/2013, so there's still time to check it out this year.)

The Oregon Grille
1201 Shawan Rd
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
(410) 771-0505

The Oregon Grille on Urbanspoon

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Monday, January 08, 2018

Best of 2017, Part Two - Home-Cookin'

Our last post was full of food porn, and this one is no different, except these foods were cooked by our own hands in our own home. Enjoy! (I know the photos seem blurry, but if you click on them to get a larger version, I promise those will be much more in focus!)

I love chicken wings, especially when they're crispy and all the fat has been rendered from the skin. That usually entails deep-frying in a restaurant, but at home it can be achieved by baking.

If I didn't know the meat from Mr Minx's Emergency Chili came from a can, I would never have believed it. It was tender and juicy and cooked up in no time at all.

Homemade spinach pie is easy and as good as the restaurant version.

Smitten Kitchen's sheet pan tandoori chicken is amazeballs. Plus easy cleanup.

I think my pizza twist on pimento cheese was pretty darn clever. And of course it tasted really good, too.

I'm still on a charred carrot kick, and think the vegetable is just lovely with sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors, as in this salad with harissa, honey, Dijon, and feta cheese.

With the bounty of tomatoes we had on hand this summer, tomato pie seemed like the ideal way to use them up.

Though this chocolate strawberry "naked" cake was posted in September, it was actually served in August as my lovely husband's birthday cake. I haven't made a layer cake in a long long time, and the last one wasn't from scratch. This one was a bit of an effort, but definitely worth it.

Another successful September offering was this kung pao cauliflower, adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe. We're big fans of the sweet and nutty flavors of kung pao chicken, and this vegetarian version was pretty fantastic.

Who knew cauliflower was so versatile? We did the Whole 30 diet thing in October and with rice being one of the verboten food items, we had to be creative. Cauliflower "rice" topped with chicken sausage and homemade tomato sauce was one of my favorite dishes of the month.

Forget turkey (blech!) - we had lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner. I want to do this every year now. Maybe I will.

That's all for 2017. Looking forward to whipping up delicious things at home in 2018!

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Friday, January 05, 2018

Flashback Friday - Recycled Pot Roast

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This post originally appeared on on January 16, 2013.

It was our intention this most recent holiday season to make a Christmas dinner that took the least amount of prep work and little or no attention while cooking. We wanted everything to be easy, yet delicious, so we made a pot roast.

We had purchased a slab of chuck at Wegman's a few months earlier from which came a delicious pot roast, so we went there once again to purchase our meat. We found a 3+ pound roast for about $23 and thought we could do better with the "family pack" bulk roasts down the aisle. Indeed we did - there a two-pack that weighed about 5.5 pounds cost only $21 and change. Curious. Two pounds more meat for two fewer dollars.

After roasting our bargain meat with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and onions, it turned out we didn't need nearly that amount of beef to feed the family. A whole roast went into the fridge, with part of it ending up as cold pot roast sandwiches topped with enough horseradish sauce to make our sinuses hurt. The rest of it - about a pound and a half - went into a luscious, meaty tomato sauce. There was also a bunch of leftover onion gravy (a puree of the meat juices and about 2 cups of the quartered onion that had cooked along with the meat, seasoned with a bit of Worcestershire and herbs) so about a cup of that got added to the sauce pot as well. If you don't have any mild onion gravy leftover from your roast, or your gravy is too strongly "gravy"-flavored, you can omit it and still end up with something that's pretty delicious.

Pot Roast Pasta Sauce

2 cups diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup vodka
2 32-oz cans crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 - 1.5 lbs leftover pot roast, cut into approx 1" x 3" slabs
1 cup leftover pot roast gravy (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
sugar (optional)

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, cook the onion and carrot in 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and a big pinch of salt until softened but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. After a minute or so, pour in the vodka. Turn up the heat a little and cook until the vodka has mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. Add the pot roast, gravy, and oregano. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low. Simmer sauce for 2-4 hours, until pot roast has pretty much disintegrated and the sauce is thick.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce seems a bit acidy and needs balance, add a teaspoon or two of sugar. Serve over your favorite pasta, with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes about 2.5 quarts.

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Monday, January 01, 2018

Best of 2017, Part One - Restaurant Food

Welcome to our annual round-up of our favorite dishes from 2017! This first post will include all the restaurant dishes we enjoyed last year. Not all of them were written about here on Minxeats; some were Instagram-only posts (they'll be the ones without links). We tend to eat at the same restaurants over and over, so it makes more sense to post pretty photos than to write repetitive posts (which we are also known to do!).  (I know the photos seem blurry, but if you click on them to get a larger version, I promise those will be much more in focus!)

So. Many. Parentheses. Sorry.

The tempura broccoli from Ekiben is a flavor revelation! If you haven't tried it, what on earth are you waiting for? Be sure to order it with the optional Chinese sausage, unless of course you are a vegetarian.

Everything at Hersh's, especially the housemade pasta, like this tagliolini with shrimp and lemon breadcrumbs. And the pizza. Always get a pizza.

I loved the smoked beet reuben at Pen & Quill. Though the chef that created it is gone, it's currently on the online menu; if you're lucky, they really still do have them. A perfect reuben, with all the gooey cheese and tangy sauerkraut, with beets instead of beef.

At the B & O American Brasserie, the agnolotti with smoked carrots, morels, onions, and peas really floated my boat. Smoked carrots! Everything else we tried from the Spring menu was pretty delicious, including sweetbreads that nobody else seemed to like (they took them off the menu fairly quickly) and luscious lamb ribs.

We've tried all the sandwiches at Smoke, and the Boss Dawg is my favorite. It's got everything one needs in a sandwich: pulled pork, house-cured bacon, cheddar, slaw, crispy onions, jalapeno-bacon glaze, and pickles.

While our entire seafood-forward meal at By the Docks was really great, I can't stop thinking about the baklava cheesecake. BAKLAVA CHEESECAKE.

OMG the fried oysters and artichoke veloute at La Cuchara. Mr Minx thought they were the best fried oysters he had ever eaten. I concur.

While I was quite disappointed with the soft shell crab roll I had there in the same meal, Azumi's age dashi tofu was tender, crisp, and loaded with umami. Outstanding. Enough to lure me back to try more? Maybe.

The brisket the Turn House served at a media dinner in July was the best fuxxing brisket I have ever eaten.

Ditto for their zucchini bread, which was served with molasses butter. Find the recipe for both at Savory Experiments.

I normally don't order chocolate desserts in restaurants because they can often be too rich. But we couldn't resist this warm chocolate chess pie at Nickel Taphouse. Even my brother, who claims he's not a dessert person, couldn't help but assist in the demolition of this gooey delight.

This tomato water bloody Mary served at a lovely al fresco dinner held by Copper Kitchen was the best damn bloody Mary I have ever had. And it's dead simple.

Do you like sweetbreads? I sure do, and this pile of perfectly cooked specimens with a lemony sauce was served up at the Bluebird Cocktail Room one happy Happy Hour.

Back at B & O again, the Buffalo Pig Tails were dyn-o-mite (as was everything else).

We were invited to a Friendsgiving dinner at the Turn House where we had a lot of really fine food, but my favorite item of the evening was this chocolate nut pie. It wasn't too sweet, nor too chocolatey. I know--no such thing as too chocolatey for some folks, but there is for me.

We always go to Hunan Taste around my birthday. This year, we might have had the best meal there ever. The twice-cooked pork was fantastic and something we'll definitely order again to go with our usual Sichuan green beans and beef on toothpicks (seen in the background).

I've eaten the Buffalo brussels sprouts at Nickel Taphouse a few times this year, and they are always dynamite. So flavorful!

The pambazo at Fiesta Mexicana is definitely worth writing home about. I ordered mine with "milanesa" or breaded beef, and my mouth was very happy. Can't wait to get back there again where I just might order the same thing.

Hope you enjoyed reminiscing with us. Here's hoping for a delicious 2018!

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