Thursday, July 30, 2009

Waffle Brownies

Yum. I want some.

Top Chef Masters - Caption This

Hmmm...what are Chefs Suzanne Tracht and Art Smith thinking/saying? Please offer your suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Yep, you read that right. Inspired by this Vosges product, I decided to try my own version.

I was lazy so I used pancake mix + crumbled bacon + semisweet chocolate chips. Heaven!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crabby Bloggers

So what did I do on Sunday evening instead of dutifully watching and recapping the Next Food Network Star?

Played with crustaceans at L.P. Steamers! I gleefully pounded them with mallets and ate them. With these people, most of whom were equally violent:

Food bloggers!

On the left: Sweet Mary, Wendi of Exit 51, and Meg of Pigtown Pigout/Pigtown Design. On the right: Neal, aka Mr Minx, Dara (hiding) of Dining Dish and Baltimore Dining Examiner, John, aka the Baltimore Snacker, Julie of Kitchenography, and Liz, of What's to Eat Baltimore? and Baltimore Sustainable Food Examiner.

This was my first time meeting these lovely people (except for, well, my husband), and I must say that I had a great time and look forward to our next get-together.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blueberry Ketchup?

This weekend I got adventurous with blueberries.

I love blueberries and whenever I find them on sale at the supermarket, I buy several pints. They're not just for pancakes and muffins - blueberries are great in sauces and with savory items, too. Plus they're high in antioxidants, so shouldn't one eat as many as possible, especially in season?

I was feeling like a burger, and we had ground lamb in the freezer. What goes with burgers but ketchup? How about blueberry ketchup? And to make it more exotic, I gussied everything up with spices from the East. I stopped short of making my own hamburger buns, but knew we had seeded rye and there's always a selection of cheese in our fridge. Patty melt! Mmmm...always loved those. So here's my version, featuring blueberry ketchup!

The smoky hot mayo and sweet ketchup paired perfectly with the burger, which was somewhat spicy but retained a lot of luscious lamb flavor. I pan-fried the meat but think it would be even better on the grill.

Moorish Patty Melt with Manchego Cheese, Smoky Hot Mayo, and Blueberry Ketchup

1 lb ground lamb
1 T minced onion
1 T minced fresh cilantro
1 T minced fresh mint
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 t hot paprika
1/2 t Sriracha or other hot sauce
1/2 kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
manchego cheese

Blend first 10 ingredients together and form into patties. Grill or pan fry in a tiny bit of oil until done to your likeness. When burgers are almost done, top with manchego cheese and allow it to melt.

Blueberry Ketchup

1 pint blueberries (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 T minced onion
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 T lime juice
1/2 t ground ginger
1/8 t salt
1/8 t freshly ground pepper
1/8 t ground cardamom

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer until the blueberries pop and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly, then pour the mixture into a bowl through a strainer, pressing hard on the solids to mash them. Add the mashed solids to the bowl and stir well.

Pour ketchup into a glass jar or bowl. Chill until thickened, 3-4 hours. Makes about 1 pint.

Smoky Hot Mayo

1/4 t ground chipotle
1/4 t Spanish smoked paprika
2 T mayonnaise (I used Kewpie)

Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Place in fridge at least 30 mins to allow flavors to meld.

To assemble sandwich:

Rye bread
sautéed onions
thinly sliced fresh tomato and lettuce, if desired

Lightly toast rye bread. Spread generously with Smoky Mayo. Top with lamb patty, sautéed onions, a dollop of Blueberry Ketchup, lettuce and tomato. Top with second slice of toasted rye.

Serve with Blueberry Ketchup for dipping. Serves 2.

I made some edamame succotash and "crash hot potatoes" on the side. (the potatoes were fantastic tasting AND fantastically simple.)

No Next Food Network Star Recap This Week

Sorry people - Mr Minx and I did something other than the usual rotting our brains in front of the boob tube last night. I believe most people call it "getting a life" - a social life. Yeah, I had never heard of it before either. Anyway....more on that later.

So no recap. I don't even know what happened at this point. Guess I should go visit the Food Network site....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why I Don't Drink Coke

engrish funny carbonated colon
see more Engrish

Love that oaramel colon!

Baron Ambrosia

I just read an interesting article in the New York Times about public-access food show hosted by a guy who calls himself "Baron Ambrosia." "Bronx Flavor," the brainchild of writer/director/editor/producer/star Justin Fornal, is a half hour program about local restaurants, each episode exploring a different cuisine. Kinda Bourdain-esque, but not really.

Go watch. Full episodes are available on his site, Bronx Flavor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sichuanese Cookery

Mr Minx and I went to H Mart last week to pick up some needed staples: Kewpie mayo; dark soy; noodles; Mexican chorizo. I also wanted to pick up some chile bean sauce to use in Sichuan cookery. You see, after reading Fuchsia Dunlop's excellent Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, I bought her Sichuan cookbook, Land of Plenty.

The first thing I attempted was "ants climbing a tree," or, vermicelli noodles with ground pork.

I had eaten an excellent version at Grace Garden and wanted to recreate it. Unfortunately, this recipe didn't do the trick. My noodles were spicy and salty and that's about it - missing any nuance of flavors found in Chef Li's version. I kinda had an idea that would be the case, so I also cooked up a stir fry of scallops, langoustine tails (advertised as such at Trader Joe's but they sure taste like crawfish to me), oyster mushrooms, and gai lan (Chinese broccoli) in black bean sauce to go with. I love how gai lan is both bitter and sweet at the same time.

Next time I have a hankering for ants climbing a tree, I'll try this recipe. Or this one.

The second recipe I chose from Land of Plenty was for a family favorite, kung pao chicken. It was scrumptious, and my house now smells like a Chinese restaurant - sweet, meat, and garlic. I didn't use the "generous handful of dried red chiles" called for because 1) I didn't have them; 2) I like spicy food but I didn't want to hurt myself; I used cayenne instead. I'll definitely make this one again, maybe with shrimp next time.

Kung Pao Chicken (adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop)

4 chicken thighs, boned and skinned, cut into small cubes
2 large cloves of garlic, minced, and an equivalent amount of fresh ginger, cut into thin slices
5 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
2/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
cayenne to taste
Sichuan peppercorns

for marinade
1/2 t salt
2 t light soy sauce
1 t Shaoxing rice wine or medium-dry sherry
2 1/4 t cornstarch
1 T water

for sauce
3 t sugar
1 1/8 t cornstarch
1 t dark soy sauce
1 t light soy sauce
3 t Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
1 t sesame oil
1 T water

1. Place chicken in a bowl with marinade ingredients, set aside.
2. Combine sauce ingredients in small bowl. Add minced ginger. Set aside.
3. Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. When hot but not smoking, add chicken and after chicken cubes have separated, add ginger and white part of scallions. Stir fry until the meat is cooked through. Season with cayenne and, if you have it, ground Sichuan pepper.
4. Stir the sauce and pour into the pan, continuing to stir the meat. When the sauce is thick and glossy, stir in the peanuts and remove from heat.
5. Garnish with scallion greens and serve with rice.

Serves 2 - 4, depending on appetite and side dishes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

McDonalds Around the World

Check out what McDonalds offers in their non-US locations. Some of it looks like real food. I'd eat this:

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Next Food Network Star Episode 7

This week, the final four are still sweating in Miami and Iron Chef Michael Symon has been flown down to give them this week's challenges. The man just won a James Beard award - isn't he better than this?

You have every right not to be impressed. The "Miami Morning show" turns out to be Looks cheesy to me (viral videos and links to Perez Hilton) but perfect for the Next Food Network Star!

What our wannabes don't know is that their coffee has been replaced by Folger's crystals each demo has been rigged for disaster. As if they don't bring enough disaster on their own.

First up, we have Debbie, who is making crispy catfish with edamame succotash. Except her catfish is really chicken and there are few utensils in the kitchen. But there is a big tool named Dave. Unperturbed, she rolls with the punches and delivers a near-flawless performance.

The judges are delighted.

Next we have Melissa, who has to deal with dorky Dave meddling in everything. He initially introduces her as "Debbie Lee" and proceeds to get her name wrong every time he mentions it.

Despite the asshattery, Melissa attempts to create her "signature dish"of tapenade caviar with potatoes. When she says that the tapenade is made from olives, capers, and anchovies, Dave announces that he hates olives. Then he wants to "help" her.

Dave dumps in a bunch of tabasco sauce and, lucky him, gets to taste the resulting mess.

Jeffrey's demo has many technical difficulties involving the mic. First it's his body mic not working so they lower a boom into his face. He says "no problem" and keeps talking about his gorgonzola, caramelized pear, and arugula grilled cheese. Dave continues to be "helpful" by stating the obvious.

They take the boom away and give him a hand mic, which he has to juggle along with his chef's knife.

Despite the issues, Jeff takes it all in stride. Sad to say, no online hosts were hurt during the taping of this segment.

Finally, we have Jamika, who gets the wrong time cues and an over-friendly cameraman who gets into her personal space. She's not happy and does most of the segment with her head down and a grimace on her face.

After all is said and done, the judges judge: Jeffrey needed to engage the other people on the set more (would stabbing Dave count as "engaging?"); Jamika lost her sense of fun and seemed too serious and perturbed; Melissa was too frenetic and spoke too fast when stressed. But Debbie took control of her situation, was "brilliant" according to Tushface, and wins the challenge.

The next morning, the wannabes head down to the Eden Roc pool where they once again find Michael Symon, this time with four woodfire grills, four workstations, a fully-stocked pantry, and a dude in a chef's coat.

Ooohh! So much better than TGI McFunster's or Crapplebee's! That's Chef Michael LaDuke of Red Lobster, btw. I know, you're impressed. Bet you didn't know they had chefs!

The challenge is to cook a fish + crustacean/shellfish combo using the woodfire grill. Maybe it will be featured in one of the Red Lobster commercials they play during every fricken commercial break. You know, the ones where they show impossibly tiny "lobster" tails being tenderly brushed with some sort of mucilaginous goo while being sensuously licked by the flames of a carcinogenic wood fire grill.

Umm, Pizza Hut?

Because Debbie won the mini challenge the day before, she gets to choose her fish first. And she takes Tilapia. Why??? Melissa was smart enough to take Arctic char, Jamika chose mahi mahi, and Jeffrey took barramundi.

The wannabes get 45 minutes to create their dish, but after a few minutes, this happens:

Because this episode is all about screwing with the wannabe, the judges throw in an extra challenge.

Jeffrey insists that he cooks "without borders" but we always see him running towards Mexico (he'd ace a Taco Bell challenge). So the judges take away his chiles and give him Asian ingredients in their place.

Jamika is making a dish with pineapple; that is taken away and replaced by two big celery roots (right - like Red Lobster has celeriac on their menu).

Melissa is doing a dish with multiple types of citrus.

She says "bye-bye" to the lemons and hello to a big bowl of habaneros. And of course we saw this coming from a mile away....

In their stead, Debbie gets jars of capers, olives, and anchovies so she can add a Mediterranean touch to her dish.

Jeffrey claims to be "totally panicking." Melissa decides to take things in stride and throws some habaneros on the grill to temper their heat. She wants to make something spicy enough to please Bobby Flay, but mild enough for the happy homemakers to cook up as well. Debbie plays along with the challenge and opts to make a chermoula marinade and a fennel-orange salad. But Jamika - she's just annoyed. And Tushface unwisely teases her about it.

Finally, after the allotted 45 minutes is over, the judges get to taste the results. Debbie forgets to use one of her new ingredients...

And, surprise! she lies about it. First it's "they're in the vinaigrette" and then "oh, I didn't get capers, only olives and anchovies." Why do these people not remember that everything they say and do is on tape?

Melissa was complimented on the mildness of her chiles, the good wood flavor, and her surprising calmness under pressure.

Jeffrey pulls off a dish that manages to have lots of great sweet and savory flavors and not be Mexican-inspired.

But poor pissed-off Jamika is told that she didn't embrace the challenge.

That's how I feel about Guy Fieri.

Later, we see the wannabes congregate in the Miami Blue Room of Doom. Tush asks Jeffrey what he plans to do on the Food Network. Jeff goes on blahlblahblahwithout bordersblahblah but is interrupted by Bobby Flay who says he'd like to see more borders than the one made of razor wire between the U.S. and our neighbor to the south. Tush says he is a "zen master" but all that calm can sometimes seem too "vanilla."

Bobby was excited to eat Jamika's "Jamaica me crazy" dish but found it had none of the expected Caribbean spice profile. (But you know if she had jerked the fish, he would have complained that she does the same thing too often.) Symon pointed out that she got snippy with Tush (which he secretly applauded), and Fogelstein says she doesn't want to see "dour and sour."

Melissa is praised for using habaneros with restraint, but was also reminded that she was a bit frantic in the live demo challenge. Symon says she needs to prove that she can be the expert. Melissa defends herself by saying she'll have instant credibility with moms and housewives because she's one herself. She's pretty intense when she says this.

Finally Debbie is re-scolded for missing the capers. She attempts to lie her way out of it again but Fogelstein reminds her she's already tried that tactic. When accused of regularly trying to not be totally accountable, Debbie turns on the waterworks and acts hurt. The judges are unmoved.

After the criticism, Fogelstein announces that Michael LaDuke liked Jeffrey's dish best and that a version of it will be featured on the menu at Red Lobster. The three female wannabes all give a sigh of relief and offer condolences to their comrade.

Jeff is safe, but one of the girls has to go.

It's pretty obvious that they were least-pleased with Jamika this week, so it's no real surprise that she was cut. She's been hot and cold the whole time, and it's a wonder she made it this far.

Next week - the three remaining wannabes battle to the death! Well, one can dream.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Victoria Gastro Pub

I took today off to escape work and to take a much-needed trip to H Mart. Because we were going to be on the west side of town, I originally thought we could stop into Asia Court for some dim sum, but after spotting the menu for Victoria Gastro Pub on the HoCo Restaurant Week Web site, I decided I would prefer to have fries cooked in duck fat over steamed pork buns. With the mere mention of "duck fat," Mr Minx was all for the change in venue.

I looked up a couple reviews of the place and few were favorable. Some complained the fries were soggy, another said the burgers were "average bar burgers." I beg to differ.

We started out ordering a couple of beers from their extensive selection. We originally wanted to try Black Hat No. 9 on tap, but they didn't have it at the moment. Instead I chose a Lancaster Strawberry Wheat and Mr Minx had a Creme Brulee stout. And damn if it didn't smell and taste like creme brulee! (There's vanilla bean in the brew.) Unusual, and tasty. My strawberry wheat, although berry-ish, was boring by comparison.

For an appetizer we shared the Poutine - duck fat fries, duck gravy, duck confit, melted Gruyere. Mr Minx said it tasted like Thanksgiving. Fries in gravy - damp, but not soggy. We enjoyed them and would order them again.

For his entree, Mr Minx chose the Victoria Pub Black Angus Burger with smoked cheddar, aioli, lettuce, tomato, and house-made pickles on a brioche bun and a baby spinach salad with maple balsamic vinaigrette. The burger was hefty, cooked slightly more than the requested medium but it was still juicy. I loved the bun. And the dressing on the salad had a pleasant citrus kick.

I went for the "Liliputian" Cornmeal fried oysters with chipotle aioli and the roasted beet salad with raspberry vinaigrette, spiced pecans, Humboldt Fog goat cheese. The non-greasy oysters were tender in their crisp jackets, and the aioli was just spicy enough. The salad, chock full of frisee and baby greens, sported sweet roasted beets, savory pecans, and a slightly-sweet vinaigrette that was the same color as the beets. Could have used a touch more goat cheese, but otherwise quite nice.

Overall, a good experience. Our server was extremely patient, knew the answer to all our many questions, and service was prompt. Not a cheap lunch, by any means, but one could have a burger and an iced tea and get out for about $15.

I'd definitely go back. I want to try the asparagus fries and the lobster grilled cheese.

Victoria Gastro Pub
8201 Snowden River Pkwy
Columbia, MD 21045
(410) 750-1880

Victoria Gastro Pub on Urbanspoon