Friday, September 30, 2011

Flashback Friday 9.30.2011

This post is from February 18, 2007

Steak Continental

This was my mother's most-used cookbook. As a young wife and mother, she consulted this venerable tome for all of her American-style cooking needs - meatloaf, pot roast, fried chicken. (The authority for Polish cooking was my grandmother, of course, who lived downstairs.) Over time, she added recipes that she found elsewhere, like this one for "Steak Continental." (See it typed out on the pages pictured?) It was one of my favorite meals, and I would often beg Mom to make "flank steak." God, it was good.

2 lb flank steak or 3/4" thick round steak
1 clove garlic, quartered
1 tablespoons salt
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves

Score flank steak or trim all fat from round steak. Mash garlic with salt; add soy sauce, tomato paste, oil, pepper, and oregano. Mix well and rub into steak. Wrap in waxed paper and let stand in refrigerator 6 hours or overnight. Broil 5 to 8 minutes each side. 4 to 6 servings.

I found the recipe printed in various places on the Internet, no credit given, often with ketchup replacing tomato paste, but otherwise verbatim. Where did this recipe come from originally? Who deserves credit for this simple and delicious method of meat preparation?

I made this last night, without the oil and oregano (it's not enough oregano to make a difference, and who needs the extra oil?) and using 3 cloves of garlic. (Yeah, you wusses probably will want to stick to the recommended 1 clove, but 3 or 4 makes for a far superior flavor.) Despite Tony Bourdain's aversion to the gadget, I love my Pampered Chef garlic squoosher, so omitted the whole garlic/salt mashing mess (it's not so great for a knitter's hands to smell garlicky). And six hours really isn't enough time to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat - I recommend a good 24-hour period (take flank steak out of the freezer on Friday, marinate on Saturday, cook and serve on Sunday).

The meat is garlicky, with a nice char on the edges, and tender within (if cooked to medium-rare). It's a versatile dish, that if made for two, gives up lots of tasty leftovers. The flavor profile is one that goes equally well with a mound of mashed potatoes or a pile of Asian-style sesame noodles. Sliced cold, it's tasty on a salad. And it works just as well on the grill as in the broiler, so it's perfect for summertime entertaining.

Take it from me, it's great. Go make some.
Parenthetically Yours,

Posted by theminx on

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Miguel's Cocina y Cantina

MinxEats is a proud supporter of Dining Out for Life and we did our part this year by dining out at Miguel's Cocina y Cantina, which offered 50% of their take to Movable Feast. We are big fans of Mexican food and Mr Minx and I looked forward to sampling chef owner Michael Marx's authentic fare from the moment I made our reservation.

Miguel's is in the hideous new Silo Point complex and is a bit hard to find, so thank goodness for the well placed signs and arrows. Once inside, we were taken to a tiny table across from a large bank of windows in the bar area. It was dark and gloomy outside, so unfortunately, it was rather dark and gloomy inside as well. And a bit noisy, despite the few other diners partaking of our normally early dinner hour.

While perusing the menu, we nibbled on a basket of freshly fried corn tortilla chips accompanied by two salsas - a tangy bright tomatillo and an almost creamy roasted tomato. I had a bad day and was in the mood for a margarita - the Miguel's, with Espolon Silver, Gran Gala, Miguel’s mix (simple syrup + fresh lime juice) really hit the spot. Mr Minx tried the Agave wheat beer, which was light and mild.

Chips and salsas and the Miguel margarita
While my mood was gloomy, the food definitely was not. Because the prices at Miguel's are reasonable and we wanted Movable Feast to get as much money as possible, we ordered three appetizers - the guacamole for two, the shrimp corn cakes, and the birria Guadalajara. The guac and corn cakes came out first, competing for space on the table with the basket of chips and salsa, and our beverages. The guac was nice and chunky, had a nice kick of heat, but was perhaps a tad too acidy for me. It came with fried flour tortillas, which were flaky and brittle and didn't work as well with the thick dip as corn chips did. The corn cakes were terrific - three delicate and fluffy discs topped with a scattering of very flavorful shrimp, some salsa fresca, and a drizzle of crema.

Shrimp with corn cakes
Guacamole for two
Our third appetizer, the birria, arrived with our entrées - enchiladas de pollo, and carne asada. My two large enchiladas were filled with pulled chicken bound together by a bit of cheese and were topped with a lake of molé negro. The molé was surprisingly mild and sweet, redolent of Mexican chocolate. Under the enchiladas were black beans and an arroz verde made with a pesto-like mixture of cilantro, basil, and pumpkin seeds that gave it a lovely nutty flavor.

Enchiladas de pollo
The carne asada - which also came with arroz verde and a pile of sliced zucchini cooked with achiote and a good dose of cinnamon (weird, but it really worked well) - was very tender and full of flavor. The molé Amarillo reminded me a bit of New Mexican red chile sauce, but with a brighter flavor. The components of this dish really worked well together - it was meaty, creamy, nutty, spicy, and tangy, all at the same time.

Carne asada
The birria had yet another, completely different, sauce, this one primarily tasting of dried chiles and cumin. Combined with the very tender, very lamb-y lamb, it seemed almost like an Indian dish. It was topped with a garnish of toasted almonds, which lent a pleasant crunch to the dish.

Birria Guadalajara
Finally, we ended up with two desserts, the churros, and a chocolate bread pudding, both accompanied by Taharka Brothers vanilla ice cream and a puddle of cajeta (goat's milk caramel - if you haven't tried this stuff, go find some NOW!). The bread pudding had a rather loose consistency, and was very moist and fudgey, but not overly chocolaty. The churros were even better, with super crisp, cinnamon sugar-dusted outsides and an almost creamy middle. Both were large enough to share.

Chocolate bread pudding
We were pretty happy with the goodies we sampled from the limited menu offered for Dining Out for Life and look forward to a return visit to taste some flautas, carnitas, and maybe a taco or two.

Miguel's Cocina y Cantina
1200 Steuart St
Baltimore, MD 21230
(443) 438-3139

Miguel's Cocina y Cantina on Urbanspoon
Posted by theminx on

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kitchen Sink Chili and Cornbread

When the Ravens play at 4pm, we tend to eat dinner in front of the television. Most of the time, I'll make something that doesn't involve utensils, but this particular Sunday, I had lots to do between waking up and settling down on the sofa, so I decided to whip up some chili.

Chili is great because there's relatively little prep and plenty of unsupervised cooking time. Just chop up an onion, open some cans, and go do other stuff while the meal basically makes itself.

I had some odds and ends that I wanted to use up, so they went into the chili. Also, straight-up ground beef seemed really expensive last week for some reason, so I bought whatever other ground meat I could find that was less-expensive. All-turkey is kinda boring, so a package of mixed meats went in with it. Honestly, we couldn't tell that it wasn't beef chili, what with all of the other flavors going on.

Kitchen Sink Chili

2 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cups chopped onion
drizzle olive oil
1.5 lb meatloaf mix (ground pork, veal, and beef)
1.5 lb ground turkey
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup leftover salsa (I used salsa verde)
1 5oz can chopped green chiles
1 roasted red pepper, diced (from a jar, or roast it yourself over a gas flame until blackened, place in a paper bag until cooled, peel off charred skin)
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups chicken stock
1 jalapeno chile
2 dried chipotle peppers
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
honey or agave syrup, if necessary
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream, cilantro, chopped scallions, shredded cheddar cheese for garnish.

Mix first four ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a dutch oven, heat a bit of olive oil and add onions. Cover pan and sweat onions until translucent. Add ground meats. Cook until meats are no longer pink, breaking clumps with a wooden spoon. Stir in garlic and half of spice mixture. Add salsa, chiles, red pepper, tomatoes, beans, chicken stock, jalapeno, and chipotles. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, stirring every once in a while. After two hours, if there seems to be too much liquid, remove lid and turn up heat to evaporate some of it. When consistency is more to your liking, check for seasoning and add the remaining spices and the cocoa powder. If you think it needs a bit of sweetness, add the honey. Allow to cook for another 30 minutes or so, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and serve in bowls with garnishes and corn bread or muffins.

Moist and Dense Corn Muffins

2 cups corn meal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
2 eggs
1 8.5oz can creamed corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 scallions, white and some green part chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tins or corn stick pans with a bit of butter or oil. Place pan in oven to heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the corn meal, baking powder and salt. Stir in the milk, eggs, creamed corn, and oil, mixing together until the batter is smooth. Stir in frozen corn and scallions. Pour batter evenly into preheated muffin tins or corn stick pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 regular or 6 jumbo corn muffins.

Posted by theminx on

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fun with Chicken Liver

When I was perusing the chicken section of the local supermarket, I couldn't help but notice that a pound of chicken livers cost a measly $1.89. Because chicken livers are so rich, that $1.89 could go a long way, so I put a tub into the cart. Once I got home, I put them in the fridge and wondered what I could do with them other than making a paté. Then I noticed that I also had a carton of ricotta cheese in there. Doesn't chicken liver and ricotta sound like a good ravioli filling? I thought so, but wasn't about to go through the rigamarole of making ravioli. Instead, I thought I'd make crespelle, or crepes, roll them around a chicken liver filling, and bake them with a coating of cheese.

Don't let the idea of making crepes scare you - they are really pretty foolproof if you use a recipe that calls for enough eggs. The egg makes them elastic, you see, and not all that prone to tearing. And the egginess makes the flavor and texture an awful lot like pasta, but with much less effort.

The combination of chicken livers + ricotta + lemon is delicious - rich, yet somehow light at the same time. Because the livers and crepes are both on the soft side, I added a couple of spoonfuls of toasted walnut pieces to the filling, to add some much-needed crunch. These would make a fantastic appetizer (one per person) or an interesting savory accompaniment to a hearty bowl of curried pumpkin soup. In fact, curry in the liver mixture (minus the lemon) and some thinly sliced apples would be another pretty delicious crepe filling.

Chicken Liver Crepes

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb chicken livers, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 cup mirin
2 ounces full- or low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3 scallions, finely minced
2 heaping tablespoons of chopped toasted walnuts
salt and pepper to taste
crespelle (recipe follows)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
grated lemon zest for garnish

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter has melted, add onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add spices and garlic and cook an additional minute. Add chicken livers and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Pour in mirin and stir to loosen any brown bits that may be stuck to the pan. Cook an additional minute or two, then remove from heat.

Allow livers to cool for about 10 minutes. Place about 2/3 of the livers in a food processor and purée, if necessary, adding dribbles of heavy cream or half and half to facilitate blending. Chop remaining 1/3 of chicken livers by hand and add to puree along with ricotta cheese, honey, lemon zest, scallions, and walnuts. Mix well, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble:
Schmear a heaping teaspoonful of chicken liver on half of each crepe. Fold in half to cover liver, and then in half again, so the filled crepe is triangular. Fill remaining crepes. (Refrigerate any leftover chicken liver purée. Eat as a snack on fresh crusty bread.)

Preheat broiler. Place crepes on a cookie sheet, overlapping slightly or not at all. Broil crepes for 3-4 minutes, until edges brown. Remove from oven, flip crepes, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and return to oven for another 2-3 minutes.

Garnish with additional lemon zest.

Crespelle (Italian Crepes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put flour in a large mixing bowl and slowly drizzle with milk, stirring constantly to avoid making lumps. Add eggs one at a time beating with a fork until a thin batter is formed. Add salt and let stand 20 minutes. Spray non-stick skillet or pancake griddle with cooking spray and heat pan over medium heat until hot (but not smoking). Add 3 or so tablespoons of batter to the pan, spreading it quickly with the back of a spoon or ladle to make a round about 6" in diameter. Cook until crespelle is set (top will look dry), about 30 seconds. Remove from pan and place on place. Cover with a sheet of waxed paper. Stack subsequent crespelle in the same manner. Repeat until batter is gone.

Cover plate with plastic wrap and store in fridge until ready to use.

Posted by theminx on

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cooking with Flowers

While it seems a bit late to be posting about this, the peppery and juicy nasturtium leaves and basil gone to flower in my garden say otherwise. A while back I got a review copy of a cute little book called Eat Your Roses: ...Pansies, Lavender, and 49 Other Delicious Edible Flowers, by Denise Schreiber, published by St. Lynn's Press. From it, I learned that there are many more edible flowers out there, from calendula to pansies, and I wish I had planted more varieties this year.

Schreiber, a horticulturist, offers recipes from appetizers to desserts, all using edible flowers such as the nasturtiums in my own container garden. She also helpfully offers a list of flowers that are not edible, just so the reader doesn't go crazy and start grazing on everything that grows. :)

I keep on meaning to try some of the recipes in the book, particularly one of the liqueur recipes, or the rose petal jam, but haven't gotten around to it. Hopefully in the Spring I'll remember to stock up on edible flowers like anise hyssop, chamomile, and borage.

Always nice to know that a garden can be pretty and edible, too.

Posted by theminx on

Thursday, September 22, 2011


When I can find even the slightest coolness in the air, I automatically think to Fall. And when I'm thinking Fall, I automatically start to crave cold-weather food - even if it is still 85F outside. (I'm sure the availability of pumpkin spice lattés at Starbucks in early September has something to do with this.)

Recently I've been feeling like I'm in a food slump, and what better way to get out of it than to try something completely new? Something with a degree of difficulty. Like maybe...cassoulet. I've only eaten the dish once, at B&O American Brasserie, and I was surprised to find how much I liked it. Cassoulet is a hearty and soul-satisfying French peasant dish of fatty meats and white beans topped with crisped bread crumbs. I'm not a huge fan of beans. Well, I like them ok, but they don't like me all that much. Black beans, however, I have no issues with, so I thought why not make a Southwest twist on cassoulet?

More authentic versions of the dish involve confit duck and saucisson à l'ail - two ingredients not found on many local supermarket shelves. If one can find them, they're el mucho expensivo. (Wegman's and Shop Rite both have D'Argtanan duck confit at like $10 per piece.) Since I was already eschewing tradition with the beans, I decided to use el cheapo chicken thighs and relatively inexpensive and available-everywhere chicken sausages.

The results were, if I say so myself, ah-mayz-ing. The chicken was fall-apart tender but the beans still had lots of texture, the sausages added zing, and the crumb topping offered a much-needed crunch. The flavors were subtle, slightly smoky, and perfect on a chilly Summer evening.

Southwest Cassoulet

1 lb black beans, picked over and rinsed
olive oil
6 chicken thighs, bone-in, with skin
6 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground chipotle (or 2 teaspoons smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb fully-cooked chipotle-flavored chicken sausage

Crumb topping:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Place beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. You may also use the quick-soak method: in a large pot, cover beans by 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow beans to soak for one hour. Drain beans well in a colander before using.

In a dutch oven, cook chicken in a bit of olive oil over high heat, turning occasionally, until skin browns and renders its fat. Remove chicken from pot; remove and discard skin. Add sausages to chicken fat/oil in pot and brown on all sides. Remove from heat, cut into 1/2" slices, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Add onions and carrot and a pinch of salt to remaining chicken fat/olive oil in pot and cook over medium heat until onions become translucent. Stir in garlic and spices. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add bay leaf, beans, and chicken stock. Return chicken to pot. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about one hour.

When the beans are done, remove bay leaf and chicken from pot. Discard bones and break meat up into coarse chunks. Stir chicken and reserved sausage pieces into beans. Add salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour bean and meat mixture into a 13 x 9 baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Cassoulet before crumb topping
While beans are baking, make crumb topping. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat; add bread crumbs, salt and chipotle, and cook, stirring, until crumbs are crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in cilantro.

Raise oven temperature to 400°F. Remove casserole from oven. Smash some of the beans with the back of a fork to thicken mixture. Top with crumbs. Return and bake until crust is golden, about 10 minutes.

Cassoulet after crumb topping.

Posted by theminx on

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pasta Blitz

We find ourselves at the Fairgrounds Plaza shopping center on Aylesbury Road on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes we dine at Yamato Sushi, other times, we're grocery shopping. (At the start of the school year it's worth the drive to Timonium in order to bypass the zombie-like Towson University students debating the merits of Skippy over Jif in supermarkets closer to our home.) Just about every time, I'd look at the sign for a restaurant called Pasta Blitz and wonder just how good the food could be at a place that uses such a Mickey Mouse font on their signage. (Literally, the font is based on a stylized version of Walt Disney's handwriting.) Ironically, the word "blitz" doesn't conjure up as warm and fuzzy an image.

But, as it turns out, the food is pretty good.

We read somewhere that they serve "New York-style" pizza, our favorite, so we forced ourselves past the signage. Inside the restaurant, we found warm terra cotta walls festooned with fake grapevines and a second, friendlier, name on the menu, "Il Basilico." Il Basilico serves not only NY style pizza, but also the thicker Sicilian variety, in addition to various pastas and grilled dishes. On our first few visits, we stuck to pizza, trying the "Bijoux," a white pizza with calamari, tomatoes, and mozzarella, and the "Di Pierno's," with mozz, arugula, and grilled shrimp. Both were quite nice, with a thin, foldable crust, tasty toppings, and lots of garlic. While the pizza crust is good, their artisan-style homemade bread is even better - chewy and crusty, with a springy crumb. It's nearly impossible to stop eating the bread, which is a dumb thing to do when waiting for a pizza, but hey - pizza is perfectly doggie-baggable!

On our most recent visit, we tried a more straightforward pie with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni. While the crust was a bit paler than we like, it still possessed a crisp-yet-foldable texture. The amount of pepperoni could have been more generous, but otherwise there was a good balance of crust to sauce to cheese.
NY-style pizza with pepperoni
We also tried a plate of linguini with shrimp in a "fra diavolo" sauce. What we received was a visually gorgeous plate that packed a real punch of flavor. "Fra Diavolo" means "brother devil" in Italian, and Satan himself must have been the devil in question this evening, because the sauce was pretty damn hot. While lip-tingling-ly spicy, the sauce was also full of bright tomato flavor and a healthy tinge of the shrimp's brininess along with a refreshing bite of parsley. And tons of garlic. For those of us not afraid of heat, it was pretty glorious.

Linguini with shrimp fra diavolo
We also sampled a side dish of asparagus in a cheesy sauce. The sauce seemed like it would be a much better accompaniment to broccoli, but the asparagus was perfectly cooked and we gobbled it up in between bites of spicy pasta.

Asparagus in a butter and cheese sauce
In addition to being delicious, the food at Pasta Blitz/Il Basilico is pretty reasonably-priced. The bill for our dinner of pizza, pasta, asparagus, and one beverage came to a little over $36 before tip, and we took home enough pizza for another meal, plus a lunch-sized portion of pasta. (Yes, we filled up on the bread.)

It was definitely worth the effort it took to get past the sign. In fact, I'm going to try to forget it's called Pasta Blitz at all.

Pasta Blitz/Il Basilico
49 W Aylesbury Rd
Timonium, MD 21093
(410) 453-6603

Pasta Blitz on Urbanspoon

Posted by theminx on

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pasta Primavera

I love going to H-Mart, but sometimes I go a little crazy in the produce department. Last week, we ended up with bok choy, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, sugar snap peas, Asian eggplant, and two bunches of Chinese broccoli, but had no real plan on how to use these goodies before they went bad.

We had some leftover roast chicken in the fridge that I needed to use, so I figured a pasta dish might be the way to go. Of course the mere mention of pasta always turns Mr Minx on, so I couldn't change my mind. In the end, I decided that an Asian-style peanut sauce might work well on pasta with some of the veg. Kinda like a pasta primavera, only not at all Spring-like.

Pasta with Peanut Sauce

1 bunch Chinese broccoli
2 6" long Asian eggplants
1 tablespoon brown sugar
soy sauce
canola oil
1/2 cup sliced onion
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes (or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 carrot, julienned
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 lb pasta of your choice

Slice broccoli stems into long diagonals; roughly chop the greens. Blanch stems and greens separately in boiling salted water until the stems are tender but still crunchy (about 3 minutes) and the greens are bright green. Cool broccoli down in a large bowl of ice water. When cooled, drain thoroughly, squeezing water out of greens. Set aside.

Cut off stem end of eggplants and slice into long diagonals about 1/2 inch thick. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add a bit of cooking oil. When pan is very hot, toss in eggplant and cook for 4-6 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add brown sugar and stir to coat. Dribble in a few teaspoons of soy, turn the heat to medium, and cover pan. Cook an additional 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more soy if the eggplant seems dry or is sticking to the pan, until the vegetable is soft and brown. Move from pan to a bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain off all but a few tablespoons of water and leave in pasta pot.

While pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In the large pan used for the eggplant, sauté sliced onion over medium-high heat with a bit of oil and a pinch of salt until wilted and just beginning to brown. Add chicken stock. With a fork, stir in peanut butter until well incorporated, then add honey, hoisin, vinegar, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-low and taste for seasoning; add soy sauce if needed. Stir in sesame oil, then add carrots, cooked broccoli stems and greens, eggplant, and chicken, tossing well to coat. Cook for a minute or two to warm the chicken through.

Add sauce and vegetables to pasta in pot and stir well to coat.

Serves 4-6

Posted by theminx on

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dining Out for Life 2011

Please don't forget that this Thursday, September 22, is Dining Out for Life, an annual, nationwide event that raises much needed funds for local charities. In Maryland, that organization is Moveable Feast, a group that provides food for HIV/AIDS and breast cancer patients, and others with life-threatening illnesses.

This year is especially hard for Moveable Feast because they didn't get funding from an important federal grant. Because of this, clients will be receiving fewer meals delivered on fewer days per week, and children of clients will begin to be removed. You can help by making a donation. Dining Out for Life makes it easier, because the restaurants make a donation for you.

Please check out the list of participating restaurants below, make a reservation, and dine out for life.

Alonso's - 50%
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Tel: 410-235-3433
Reserve Online Now
The Brewer's Art - 50%
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Tel: 410-547-6925
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Clementine - 50%
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Tel: 410-444-1497L,D
Gertrude's Restaurant at the BMA - 50%
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Tel: 410-889-3399
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Loco Hombre - 50%
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Tel: 410-889-2233D
Miguel's Cocina y Cantina - 50%
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Tel: 443.438.3139D
Woodberry Kitchen - 50%
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Tel: 410-464-8000D
The Dizz - 33%
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Tel: 443-569-5864L,D
Iggie's - 33%
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Tel: 410.528.0818L,D
'b' A Bolton Hill Bistro
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Tel: 410-383-8600D
Bistro Rx
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Tel: 410-276-0820D
Blue Agave
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Tel: 410-576-3938
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Bonjour Bakery/Cafe
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Tel: 4103720238B,L
Cafe Gia
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Tel: 410.685.6727D
Cafe Hon
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Tel: 410-243-1230D
Chameleon Cafe
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Tel: 410.254.2376D
City Cafe
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Tel: 410-539-4252
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Tel: 410-679-9805D
Grano Emporio
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Tel: 443-438-7521D
Jack's Bistro
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Tel: 410-878-6542D
Joe Squared
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Tel: 410.545.0444L,D
Koco's Pub
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Tel: 410-426-3519D
La Palapa Grill & Cantina
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Tel: 410-465-0070D
Laurrapin Grille
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Tel: 410-939-4956
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Tel: 410-356-3030
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Luna Blu
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Tel: (410) 267-9950
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Marie Louise Bistro
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Tel: 410.385.9956
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Meet 27
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Tel: 410-585-8121D
Mia Carolina
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Tel: 410-526-5711D
Minato Sushi Bar
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Tel: 410-332-0332L,D
Miss Shirley's Cafe - Inner Harbor
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Tel: 410-528-5373B,L
Miss Shirley's Cafe - Roland Park
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Tel: 410.889.5272B,L
Mr. Rain's Fun House
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Tel: 443-524-7379
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Mt. Vernon Stable & Saloon
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Tel: 410-685-7427L,D
Mt. Washington Tavern
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Tel: 410-367-6903
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Pappas Restaurant - Glen Burnie
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Tel: 410-766-3713
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The Rumor Mill Fusion Bar and Restaurant
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Tel: 410.461.0041
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Ryleigh's Oyster
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Tel: 410-539-2093D
Sascha's 527
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Tel: 410-539-8880
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Saute' Restaurant & Bar
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Tel: 410.327.2883D
Sotto Sopra
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Tel: 410-625-0534
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Todd Conner's
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Tel: 410-537-5005D
Village Square Cafe
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Tel: 410.433.2233D
Yellow Dog Tavern
View Details
Tel: 410.342.0281D

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Sugarloaf Crafts Festival - GIVEAWAY

The Sugarloaf Crafts Festival is coming back to Timonium from September 30 - October 2. While everyone knows that they can buy hand-crafted pottery, leather goods, and jewelry at Sugarloaf, some may not be aware that there are food products available, too. Yummies include:

Maple syrup from Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple
Balsamic vinegar from BR Blends
Gourmet pretzels from Pretzelphoria
Gourmet olives from Leonard Mountain
...and more!

I have two pairs of tickets to the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival for two lucky winners. The tickets are good for all three days, so if you don't have time to see everything in one day, you can go back. All you need to do is leave a comment and a valid email address, and you'll be entered into the random drawing. We'll contact the winner via e-mail (so make sure to leave an e-mail address!)

Contest ends Monday, September 26th at noon.

The rules:
--Only Entrants who provide valid e-mail addresses will be considered in prize drawings.
--Unless otherwise specified, Entrants must be 18 or older and located in the US or Canada only.
--The odds of winning are dependent on how many entries are received.
--Winners will be chosen randomly and notified via email.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011


The July issue of Bon Appetit featured a recipe for grilled lobster paella that turned me on so much, I immediately ordered a paella pan and a bag of rice. My original plan was to make the dish for Labor Day and invite my dad and brother over to dinner, but as we got closer to the holiday, the forecast called for rain. Rather than forcing Mr Minx to risk getting soaked just so I could try a recipe, I decided that it would be best to cook the paella on the stovetop. Since we had to scrap the whole grilling idea, I also opted to make a more traditional paella with chicken and seafood and save the lobster version for another occasion.

I was a bit nervous, as this was my very first paella. I've only ever eaten it once, in the form of some leftovers from a Tio Pepe Restaurant Week lunch; that paella was simply horrible, but I figured a well-made one had to be better. Prettier, too.

See? Pretty.
I used the recipe that came with my pan, omitting the bivalves and substituting sugar snap peas for regular peas, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it all was. Basically, one browns chicken in some olive oil, adds chopped onions, garlic, smoked paprika, and soft chorizo to the pan to cook for a bit, and then pours in chicken stock that has been infused with saffron. At that point, any stirring must cease in order for a crust of rice to form on the bottom of the pan. This is called the soccarat, and is the real goal of the paella cook. Once most of the stock has been absorbed, shellfish and vegetables can be added to the pan. When the shrimp are pink and bivalves are open, the paella is ready to eat.

Seasonings, rice, and stock added and bubbling away.
Like magic! Completed paella!
Cooking the chicken was a bit problematic. I had a hard time getting it to brown, and then, even after sitting in bubbling stock for half an hour, it didn't cook all the way through. I'm going to blame this on the fact that I used skin-on, bone-in thighs and legs. Next time, I'll use boneless skinless thighs. Other than that, the paella was perfect - there was even a bit of soccarat on the bottom - especially with a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Everyone had seconds, so it was a hit that will be repeated sometime in the future.

There's no one recipe for paella, and the dish's relative simplicity lends itself to all sorts of variations and experimentation. Expect to see some flights of fancy from me on this blog in the future. :)

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Choice Bites 9.13.2011

Ben & Jerry's is putting out a new flavor inspired by a skit on Saturday Night Live called Schweddy Balls. Will you try it? (It might be the closest that any of us get to Alec Baldwin.)

Apparently Bethenny Frankel's products are as natural as her boobs. To those who watch those Housewives shows - why?

You never know what you're going to find in an Applebee's salad. Make sure to check out the slide show under the article, too!

Emeril's going to be in a movie. Sorry, but it sounds a bit like an April Fool's joke to me. Or maybe something from The Onion.

If you can't afford Botox, for heaven's sake, don't inject yourself with hot beef fat. Everyone knows pork fat would work much better!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Meatless Monday - Savory Bread Pudding

Every year for Mr Minx's birthday, we head to his mom's house for steamed crabs. While crabs are yummy and all that, they're often not enough food - most of the time we're tired of picking before we're full! This calls for a supplementary nosh, which this year was a savory bread pudding made with the rest of our windfall of tomatoes.

I baked it in the morning before heading to Dundalk; it was still warm by the time we tucked in, but cool enough to eat with crab spice-coated fingers.

I like using Emeril Lagasse's recipe for wild mushroom bread pudding and altering the heck out of it. Basically I keep the proportion of eggs to cream to bread and change the flavors to suit my mood and what's hanging around in the fridge.

Tomato Bread Pudding

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced yellow onions
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
1.5 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
about 1/2 pound stale white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
4 roma or other similarly-sized tomatoes (divided use)
1 teaspoon softened butter

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon of the pepper and cook another few minutes to cook the garlic.

Dice two of the tomatoes, discarding seeds and juice.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and cream, whisking well to blend. Add the cheese, tomatoes, and onions and stir well. Add the bread cubes and let sit until the bread has absorbed the liquid, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 9 inch square baking dish and pour the bread pudding mixture into the prepared pan. Cut the remaining tomatoes into thin slices and arrange over top of pudding. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 45 minutes and uncover. Continue baking until the pudding rises and is firm in the center and golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

Let cool slightly before serving.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001


IMAGE: © David Turnley/CORBIS
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Friday, September 09, 2011

Flashback Friday 9.9.2011

This post is from March 4, 2006


After reading the Amateur Gourmet's post on short ribs with pumpkin orzo, I was inspired to make some for myself. I have a copy of Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook in my collection, and forwarded a link to the post to Neal, suggesting that he pick up some short ribs on his next trip to the grocery store.

Unfortunately, he came home with pork country ribs. Not to worry! I decided to work with them. My standard recipe for country ribs involves homemade barbecue sauce, but I wasn't in the mood for that today. I looked through several cookbooks and was inspired by a recipe for country ribs with mango, lime, and coconut milk from Molly Stevens' The Art of Braising . Only I decided to use blackberries instead of mango, wine instead of coconut milk, and balsamic vinegar in place of the lime juice. Otherwise it was exactly the same. I served the meat with an orzo risotto, or orzotto and edamame tossed with salt and lemon juice (I adore edamame.)

Country Ribs with Blackberry Sauce
1.5 lbs bone-in country style pork ribs, approximately three ribs
olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup Oregon canned blackberries in syrup
1 cup red wine (I used valpolicella)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 square semisweet baking chocolate
Salt and pepper

Pat the ribs dry and generously salt and pepper on both sides. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven; sear ribs on high heat until nicely browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Remove ribs from pot and add onions and carrots. Turn down heat to medium and sauté vegetables until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic. After about 2 minutes, add the wine and the vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook down until reduced to about half, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any bits from the meat. Add the berries and their juice and cook an additional 2 minutes. Place the meat back into the pot and turn the heat down to a bare simmer.

Cook for 1 hour - 1 hour 15 minutes until pork is very tender. Remove pork from pot and raise the heat. Reduce the sauce, smashing the berries with a spoon. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the honey and the chocolate, stirring to combine. Add the meat back to the pot and cook an additional 15 minutes.

Serves 2 - 3

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
8 oz orzo pasta
2 cups chicken stock or bouillion
Pinch saffron
2 oz of cheese (I used leftover truffled cheese, but any medium- to soft-textured cheese would probably do nicely)

Melt butter in a sauté pan; add onion and orzo, stirring until the orzo browns, about 5 minutes. Add stock and saffron and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cooked, uncovered, 10 minutes. Cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid is evaporated. Add cheese and stir until melted.

Serves 4-6

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Everybody Goes to Gino's...

...and I think they were all there on the same evening we decided to try out the brand-spankin' new Gino's in Towson. Not only were they all there, but they all got their food before we did.

We thought we were smart, getting to the restaurant at 4:30pm. There was no line, and there seemed to be open tables both inside and outside, so we figured we were golden. Wrong-o. After placing our order for two Gino's Giants, one with fries and one with onion rings, plus two fountain drinks, we were given two plastic cups, a plastic card with the number "1" on it, and a receipt noting the time of 4:35pm.

4:36pm: We fill our cups with fountain beverages and grab two seats at a short counter near the side entrance. The plastic "1" went into the metal ring atop the condiment caddy to alert a server to our presence when he or she brings out our food. The restaurant is pretty full and includes almost as many people waiting for carry-out as sitting at tables. Most of the seated people already have food, so I'm pretty confident that we'll have a short wait. I'm expecting 20 minutes.

4:42pm: My chair is jostled by some fatass with a balance issue. There's definitely enough room to move past me.

4:50pm: Food seems to be coming out at a decent clip, so I'm sure that we'll get our food soon.

4:55pm: It's been 20 minutes, but we're still not eating.

5:01pm: At this point, I start to wonder if offering an amuse bouche might not be a good idea, just a little something to appease those of us waiting for a while. At a fine dining establishment, we would have been done with the appetizers and waiting for our main courses by now. (Of course, were we at Alchemy, our main courses would be on the table already, too.)

5:05pm: Hey! That couple came in after we did, and they just got their food! Grr.

5:08pm: My chair is jostled again, by a server taking food to another table. Grrr.

5:10pm: That trio definitely came in after we did - and they're eating! Grrrr.

5:12pm: I notice that the line for ordering food is out the door. There should be a sign out front like the ones posted near roller coasters, "one hour wait from this point." Better yet, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

5:13pm: A lone woman diner, sitting at a table behind us, manages to get the attention of a staff member to complain that she had been waiting since 4:29pm and still has not received her food. She also kindly points us out as coming in right after her and being in the same boat.

5:15pm: A server offers us a coupon for a free shake on a future visit. I think, "fat chance of that."

5:16pm: Another server comes over to check our receipt. Apparently our order disappeared and they need to know what food we paid for.

5:20pm: My chair is jostled for what must be the fifth time by a vertically-challenged busser who can't seem to be able to lift the plastic bucket of soiled napkins and food baskets high enough to avoid whacking me with it. At this point, I'm almost annoyed enough to whack her back.

5:26pm: Our food arrives. At this point, both parties that arrived after us but who were served 15 minutes earlier have finished eating and left the building.

After fifty minutes of sitting in a restaurant redolent of beef and fried potatoes, we are ravenous. After a couple of bites of both fries and burger, Mr Minx turns to me and asks, "Salty?" Yes, I have to agree - both items had been aggressively seasoned. The onion rings, on the other hand, were perfect, and just the way I like them: cut into extremely thin slices and fried to a deep golden brown. They come with a little tub of sauce that tastes a bit like a Sriracha mayonnaise, but not as interesting. It was a little too spicy for the rings, but it works with the fries. The fries are merely ok, a little hard, and of course, salty. Our sandwiches - two well-done patties topped with American cheese, dill pickle slices, lettuce, and Gino's "secret sauce," on a squishy sesame seed bun - sadly arouse no feelings of nostalgia in either of us. Not that they aren't good - apart from the surfeit of salt and pepper, they are tasty, with a good ratio of toppings to burger, and just enough sauce to drip out onto our fries but not cause the bun to disintegrate or the meat to slide out - they just taste like fast-casual burgers. Not like Gino's burgers.

Granted, it's been at least 30 years since I've had a Gino's Giant. There was a Gino's down the road from Catholic High, on Edison Highway, and occasionally a few of us would hike down there after school to grab a burger before heading home. I remember liking Gino's much more than McDonald's. The burgers seemed tastier - possibly because of the Baltimore Colts connection - and they sold Kentucky Fried Chicken back then, too.

Today's Gino's is more like a Five Guys, except with a crappy system. In my experience, at Five Guys, one places an order at a counter at one end of the store, then goes to wait at a separate counter on the other side, or at a table. Folks who are ordering and those who are waiting do not mingle. At Gino's, the restaurant is set up like a more traditional fast food joint, with ordering and pickups done at a long counter at the back of the restaurant. Unlike a fast food restaurant, however, a customer does not immediately receive a pre-made burger and fries slapped onto a tray or placed in a paper bag, quick-and-dirty service allowing the customer to get out of the way of the next patron in line. Instead, like at Five Guys, Gino's patrons have to wait for their food to be cooked to order. Those who choose to eat in can take a table, but those waiting for carry-out orders sit and stand near the counter, some getting in the way of customers who attempt to avail themselves of self-serve fountain beverages.

While getting a piping hot burger that spent no time languishing under a heat lamp is a good thing, having to wait nearly an hour (in our case) is not. The problem seems to be the order numbering system. At other restaurants, one gets a receipt with a number printed on it. The receipts come out of the computer in numerical order, so it's pretty easy for someone making food to know the sequence in which the orders were placed, and thus, the order in which they should be filled. At Gino's the numbers are completely random. Our number was "1." The number of the couple in front of us was "31." The woman who came in at 4:29pm had the number "54." The trio who were in line behind us received "100." And "100" received their food before both "54" and "1."

All I have to say is, "WTF?"

6:30pm: Editing post which has become a rant about more service not equalling better service. (Ok, so I didn't edit out too much.) All I'm gonna say is...table service is a dumb idea. Patrons are perfectly capable of listening for when their number is called, getting their fat asses up from a chair, and retrieving their meal at the counter. Instead, servers who do not know exactly where their particular customer is sitting are often forced to circumnavigate the entire dining room AND check outside before finding their quarry. The high backs on some of the booths getting in the way of a server's line of sight don't help things one bit.

Initially, I was quite happy to see that Gino's was making a comeback. That quickly turned to disappointment when I realized the only thing that the new restaurant had in common with the original was the font used in the logo.

My recommendation to folks who are still eager to try Gino's, even after reading this, is to wait a couple of months so the crowds die down a bit. Maybe the table service doesn't seem like such a dumb idea when the restaurant isn't lousy with patrons. I think I'll schedule my next visit for sometime in 2012. By that time, the new Perry Hall location should be open, and they'll get the crowds, leaving Towson a quieter place.

6:45pm: Find a giant chunk of black pepper stuck in back molar.

8600 LeSalle Road
Towson, MD 21286
(410) 583-0000
Gino's on Urbanspoon

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