Monday, July 18, 2022

Street Cauliflower - Sponsored Post

Is there any such thing as "street cauliflower" for reals? I had it at Baltimore-area restaurant La Food Marketa and loved it. A riff on a Mexican street food dish commonly made with corn and known as elote (on the cob) or esquites (off the cob), LFM's version topped cauliflower with cotija cheese, taco spice, and chili lime mayo. A tortilla crumble was employed for a much-needed texture contrast. When I got home that evening, I realized that I was in possession of a cauliflower and could easily make a riff on this dish at home. 

My pantry is currently stocked with food samples after a trip to NYC for the Summer Fancy Food Show. Among them are products from Runamok Maple and Olivia's Croutons. Normally when I make esquites, I whip up a little sauce with mayo, sour cream or yogurt, chipotle, lots of lime, and a bit of maple or agave syrup to balance out the tangy flavors. It's reminiscent of the sauce the late, lamented Gypsy Queen food trucks used on their crab cake tacos, and I've made it numerous times. This time, I omitted both the sweet stuff and the chipotle and drizzled Runamok's Chipotle Morita honey directly onto the cauliflower. (And then I had a spoonful of it for a "cook's treat.") It has a nice balance of rich honeyed sweetness and smoky chipotle heat, and I can see myself using it in a lot of applications, both savory and sweet. 

I didn't have any tortilla chips on hand, If I had, I wasn't inclined to do anything other than bash them into bits--forget making a crumble. But I did have a box of Olivia's Cornbread Dressing! The cubes of crisp cornbread are seasoned lightly with somewhat Thanksgiving-y herbs, but after sampling a few several, I determined that they wouldn't detract from the overall Mexican-ish flavors of the dish at all. 

I hesitate to supply a recipe, since I just winged it (wung it?) as I usually do. I'll just offer guidelines, since I know many people prefer a recipe, or at least a list of ingredients.

Street Cauliflower

1 whole cauliflower (or hell, a bag of frozen cauliflower)
Full-fat plain yogurt or sour cream
Chili powder
Crumbly tangy cheese, like cotija or feta
Runamok Maple Chipotle Morita infused honey
Olivia's Cornbread Dressing
Chopped green onion or slivers of red onion

Trim the stem and any green leaves off the cauliflower. Cook in your favorite method. I put it, whole, in a big pot with enough salted water to come up about halfway, brought it to a boil, then turned down the heat and covered the pot. When the fork was tender most of the way through when I stuck a knife into it, I took it off the heat and drained off the water. You could also separate the florets, toss them with a little olive oil and salt, and roast them in a 400F oven until they're a texture you like. Or just pop a bag of frozen cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl, cover it, and nuke it until hot and tender.

While the cauliflower is cooking, make the yogurt sauce. Put a half cup or so of sour cream or yogurt in a bowl. Add a heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise (or leave it out, if you prefer). Add chili powder to taste - start with a teaspoon, mix it in well, and add more if you want. Then squeeze in some lime juice. Taste, add more lime, add more chili powder, etc. until it tastes pretty good. Then add the magic flavor enhancer - salt. Not too much. Just enough to bring out the flavors of everything you just put in. If you happen to use a salted Mexican-type seasoning rather than chili powder, then ixnay on extra sodium. You could use Tajin and leave out the lime, too, unless you want more tang. It's up to you. 

Pile the cauliflower on a plate. You could put some salsa down on the plate first, like I did, but it's totally optional. (I had half a jar of tomatillo salsa that I didn't want to go to waste.) Dollop with the lime yogurt, drizzle on the honey, sprinkle on the cheese, crushed cornbread croutons, cilantro, and onions. 

Serves 2 as an entree, 4-6 as a side, dependent on one's appreciation for cauliflower.

* 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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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Sourdough Grilled Cheese Sandwiches - Sponsored

Who doesn't love a grilled cheese sandwich? It's one of the easiest and tastiest things to make for lunch or dinner (heck, breakfast too). Accompanied by a bowl of tomato soup, it's meal perfection. Soup in a can makes that part of the meal easy-peasy, but sometimes assembling a sandwich--and then having to cook it--takes too much energy. Lucky for those of us in the Baltimore area, Lane Levine of A Friendly Bread has created pre-made grilled cheese sammiches that come frozen. Just break it along the score and pop it in the toaster or oven (or microwave, if you're not afraid of what those things do to bread products) and voila! A crisp and delicious sandwich.  

All you need to do is open a can to complete your meal.

Right now, A Friendly Bread's sourdough grilled cheese sandwiches come on country sourdough with sharp cheddar and mozzarella, and cinnamon raisin with brie and mozz. You can order the sandwiches for home delivery in Baltimore, or pick them up at Eddie's of Roland Park and Graul's, plus locations in Virginia and the Philadelphia area. There are also sourdough toasts, if you're into crackers, and Lane's promising croutons next. Click here for current shop locations, with more to come.

* 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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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Moroccan-ish Chicken - Sponsored Post

Recently, I've been very into the flavors of the Middle East and North Africa. Kabobs; dips made with eggplant, beans, walnuts, and/or peppers; harissa; tahini; halloumi; yogurt - it all has me drooling. One of my favorite flavorings from this region is preserved lemon, a powerful lemon flavor that is also quite salty. I've been buying jars of whole lemons for a few years now and recently tried a jar of preserved lemon puree, which is much easier to use and produces less waste. (Most recipes call for using only the rind and discarding the pulp.) A spoonful of it added to a savory dish adds strong lemon flavor without
the mess of zesting a fresh lemon. Of course the flavor of a preserved lemon has a bit of a fermented note that makes it somewhat different from the fresh fruit. But it's still unmistakably lemon.

Also recently, I've come into a selection of Follain Nothing But Fruit preserves, including a lovely three fruit marmalade, sent to me by their American distributor, Bewley Irish Imports. A sample spoonful made me think of preserved lemon, albeit sweet, not salty, and I thought it could be nice to combine the two to make a glaze for baked chicken. A little bit of harissa paste for spice, and it was a real winner. Three ingredients. Couldn't be simpler.

Spicy Glazed Lemon Chicken

2 T Follain NBF Irish Three Fruit Marmalade
1 t preserved lemon puree (I used Casablanca Market)
1 t harissa paste (I used Trader Joe's)
5-6 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 375F.

Stir first three ingredients together to make a spicy, citrusy, sauce. Set aside.

Place chicken thighs skin-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Turn skin-side-up and salt the top. 

Bake 45 minutes; the internal temperature should be at least 165F, and the skin should be crisp with the fat mostly rendered. Remove thighs from oven.

Preheat broiler. Spread marmalade sauce over chicken and pop under broiler until sauce is bubbly and blackened in spots. 

Serves 3-6 people depending on your sides. I roasted baby potatoes tossed in olive oil and salt with the chicken and cooked some green beans. Olives make a good accompaniment, too. 

* 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, March 07, 2022

Gluten-free Pumpkin Spicewalla Chai Masala Streusel Muffins

One of the most important things in my kitchen is my collection of herbs and spices. Without them, food would be bland and uninteresting. I have never been brand-loyal--I buy everyday spices that are the most affordable, but once in a while I splash out for a blend that seems too delicious to pass up. I'm always open to trying new things, so I was pretty pleased when Spicewalla offered to send me a selection of their spices to play with. Four were savory blends, but I cracked into the two sweeter items right away. The first thing I did was to make golden milk with their Golden Milk blend (Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Black pepper, Nutmeg, Roasted Coriander) warm hemp milk, and a dash of maple syrup for sweetness. I like to make a base mixture first, combining a few heaping teaspoons of spices with non-dairy milk to make a very runny paste and keeping that in the fridge. Then when I want a bit of warm golden milk before bedtime, I mix a few spoonsful of the paste into about half a cup of hemp milk and warm it in the microwave, adding a bit of maple for sweetness. (A half cup is plenty, as I don't want to drink too much liquid before going to bed at night.) Spicewalla's blend has all the right elements for a tasty and soothing sweet-savory beverage.

The other spice I used right away was the Chai Masala blend, though not to make chai. (Did you know that since "chai" means tea, saying "chai tea" is like saying "tea tea?") I thought it would be perfect as the spice in some pumpkin muffins. And damn if I wasn't absolutely right! Spicewalla's freshly-ground small-batch blend of ginger, cinnamon, green cardamom, black pepper, clove, and allspice was the perfect seasoning for these ultra-moist muffins. Like pumpkin spice, but with a little bit extra. While plain muffins are nice, muffins topped with streusel are even nicer, texture-wise. I also added chopped walnuts to the batter. Chopped, toasted, pecans or almonds would work as well, or you can omit both the streusel and the nuts. Up to you. 

Did you catch the words "gluten-free" in the title of this post? Since 2019, I've been on a mostly gluten-free diet, which I have found is a big help in losing weight. Sometimes, though, I crave a sweet treat that's not a piece of chocolate (though nothing is wrong with that!), like a cookie, cupcake, or muffin. There are several good gluten-free flour blends on the market, but I am not particularly crazy about the texture of ones that are primarily rice flour; I find it to be gritty. Almond flour makes a tasty wheat flour substitute, but I find that makes things too dense. A combination of GF flour and almond flour is just perfect, and what I used in this recipe. (If you're ok with gluten, you may substitute 1 3/4 all purpose white flour for the GF and almond flours.)

I know, enough talking. Here's the recipe.

Gluten-free Pumpkin Spicewalla Chai Masala Streusel Muffins 

For the muffins:
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, only if your flour blend doesn't already include xanthan gum)
3/4 cup finely ground almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Spicewalla Chai Masala spices
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional

For the streusel:
1/4 cup Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Spicewalla Chai Masala spices
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

To make the muffins:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease one 12-well or two 6-well standard-size muffin tins.

Whisk together the eggs and pumpkin purée. Set aside.

Whisk together the gluten-free flour (with additional xanthan gum, if needed), almond flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, and Spicewalla Chai Masala spices.

Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the butter until fluffy. Add in the flour mixture and combine until it looks like wet sand. Add the egg/pumpkin mixture a bit at a time, beating well after each addition. The final mixture should be light and fluffy. Stir in the walnuts, if using.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup to the top. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

To make the streusel:
Combine all of the ingredients until it forms crumbs. Sprinkle about a tablespoon onto each muffin, pressing it in so it sticks. 

Bake the streusel-topped muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, until the middle springs back when lightly touched. Let rest for 5 minutes before removing muffins from the pan. 

12 servings

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I received a collection of spices from Spicewalla, including the Chai Masala spices, but I am not being otherwise compensated for this post.