Friday, July 19, 2019

Flashback Friday - Au Bon Pain UMMS

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on July 12, 2011.

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Thai  peanut chicken wrap
When it was announced that Au Bon Pain was taking over the space at UMMS that for many years was inhabited by a Donna's, I greeted the idea with enthusiasm. Sure I was annoyed that a nationwide chain would be replacing a branch of the home-grown roasted vegetable maven's popular coffee shop, but after 12 years, I was tired of the food's high prices and the employee's attitudes. The folks at Au Bon Pain have so far been nothing short of courteous, and dare I say it, downright pleasant - always a good thing to encounter first thing in the morning, pre-caffeination.

While this neighborhood is already rife with restaurants that offer sandwiches, I was mostly excited about Au Bon Pain's array of fresh pastries and hot soups that would now be available to area diners. However, it's summer - too hot for soups - so I have stayed with sampling sandwiches for now.

On a recent weekday not long after Au Bon Pain opened the deli side of its operation, I tried the Thai Peanut Chicken Wrap (all natural grilled chicken, field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, fried wontons, and Thai peanut dressing). The chicken, despite being white meat, was fairly moist, and I liked the inclusion of field greens rather than romaine or iceberg. The sandwich was crunchy and fresh tasting and the plethora of vegetables made it seem actually somewhat healthy. My only complaint - and it's a big one - is that they omitted the peanut sauce. Without the sauce, the sandwich was overall on the dry side. I'll chalk that up to being so new.

On my second try, I got the Roast Beef Montana, which had roast beef, an herbed cream cheese, and oodles of spicy brown mustard on a toasted cheese baguette. While mustard on roast beef violates Minx's Rule of Meat and Condiments (mustard on pink cold cuts, mayo on gray or white ones), the beef was pink enough to nearly qualify. As with much deli roast beef, it was kinda rubbery, but it tasted fine. Could have done with half the mustard, but maybe they were trying to make up for the lack of sauce in my Thai peanut wrap. The marinated red onions, however, were a nice touch and I wish there had been a wee bit more of them.

Finally, on an afternoon during which I was a bit pressed for time, I tried a Mediterranean Wrap (field greens, roasted red pepper hummus, feta, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, and sun-dried tomato relish) from their Grab N Go section. The wrap was not soggy in the least and boasted a filling heavy on cucumbers and olives with a bit of zesty sun-dried tomato flavor. The hummus was barely detectable, and then only as a texture. Not bad at all, and definitely a quick way to get in and out of the busy restaurant at lunchtime.

While the selection of sandwiches isn't groundbreaking or anything, and the chicken salad isn't half as good as that served by the hospital cafeteria (made by Aramark!) I think ABP fills a need for those of us in a hurry or who want a chocolate croissant or giant pecan roll for breakfast.

Au Bon Pain
UMMS
22 S. Greene Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(800) 825-5227

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dining in New York, June 2019 - Part 2

I usually plan meals in advance of a trip to NY, except if I'm meeting someone there for dinner.  I trust a resident of the city to do a better job of choosing a place than I might. But I did plan my own Monday breakfast at Pondicheri. This modern Indian restaurant not far from my hotel has several interesting options for a morning repast, including stuffed South Indian dosas, omelettes and sandwiches, coconut pancakes, and masala fried chicken. I was originally going to get the keema (a minced lamb dish) and eggs, but when I realized there would be a chance of smelling like fried lamb all day, I opted instead for the saag and egg on sourdough toast.

The toast was thickly cut and topped with a generous portion of spicy creamy spinach and a just barely set sunny side up egg. It was messy and delicious. (Move over, avo toast!) The kale and cucumber salad on the side was equally tasty, but I was picking kale out of my teeth for hours afterward....

Though I was in town to attend the Fancy Food Show, I like to take a break from walking through the many aisles of specialty foods and do a bit of non-food shopping. My primary goal was to buy some dancing shoes. Mr Minx and I recently started ballroom lessons, and I have found my various non-slip-soled shoes to be an impediment to proper spins on the dance floor.

After breakfast I strolled over to a shop on Madison Street that had a small collection and nothing for my problem feet. I then hiked over to 8th Ave to Worldtone Dance. (The blocks between 7th and 8th Avenues must be the longest blocks in the city. So. Much. Walking.) Worldtone's selection was another thing entirely. The photo below shows less than half the shoes they carry for women, and they not only had shoes with some arch support, but also ones that had cushioned insoles. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pair that had both AND low heels, so I settled for the heels and the comfort--I can add arch supports. The staff there was quite helpful and seemed happy to bring out piles of shoes for me to try on. They were also good at answering questions and instructing me on how to fasten the curious buckles that come on dance shoes.

After a bit more shopping, I hit up Bergdorf's for some perfume-sniffing and got a lovely makeover from David at Estee Lauder, my dining companion of the previous evening. He can make even me look good.

Later on, my roommate Dara and I met her high school chum Michael for dinner. He had chosen Cafe Fiorello, a New York institution situated across the street from Lincoln Center. Dara and I shared a chilled octopus salad while Michael enjoyed items from the vegetable antipasti bar.

I wasn't supposed to eat pasta, allegedly being on Whole30, but Cafe Fiorello is a bit spendy. The only things I could afford were pasta-based, so I sprung for the carbonara. Topped with a whole poached egg and a generous quantity of guanciale lardons, it was a worthwhile splurge.

Dara was craving eclairs, and Epicerie Boulud next door had them. Since I had already blown the diet (the day before...lol), I had a yuzu tart. It was very much a lemon meringue pie, with yuzu, and a crust that was a bit difficult to puncture with a plastic fork. However, I managed to soldier on!


Pondicheri
15 W 27th St
New York, NY 10001

Worldtone Dance
580 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018

Cafe Fiorello
1900 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Epicerie Boulud
1900 Broadway
New York, New York 10023


* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Flashback Friday - Aarti's Tandoori Marinade

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 27, 2010.

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I noticed that a few people have found my blog by doing a Google search for Next Food Network Star contestant Aarti Sequeira's tandoori paste. So I dug around on the Food Network Web site and found it. I was going to post it here, or maybe just the link, but I thought, "why not try it for myself?"

So last weekend I found myself toasting spices in a skillet, adding them to yogurt, and making a marinade. While I had most of the whole spices on hand, I did not have fresh ginger, and I increased the amount of paprika because the dish looked a bit pale when I used the amount as written. Plus I made half as much. My edited version of her recipe follows.

I served the chicken with various sides including the okra dish we got from B'More, some raita made with radishes and cucumber, a quick stir fry of onions and mushrooms seasoned with a little cumin and the leftover tamarind dipping sauce from our B'More samosas, and naans from Trader Joe's.

Our cilantro plant had gone to seed, but I used it for garnish anyway. The fresh and soft green seeds tasted almost exactly like the dried coriander in the dish, but with a tiny bit of cilantro-ish-ness.


It was really good! The spice mix was so aromatic, three days later the house still smelled like an Indian restaurant. And the sauce was so tasty, I stored the leftovers in the fridge for future use. So far, it's made a great spread for a tuna salad sandwich on leftover naan. :)

Tandoori Chicken (inspired by Aarti's recipe)

Spice Paste
2 fresh green cayenne peppers or 1 large jalapeno
1 1/2 Tablespoons fenugreek seeds
1/2 Tablespoon coriander seeds
5 cloves
Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
2.5 Tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cloves garlic
Juice and rind of 1 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups full-fat plain yogurt
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon canola oil

Put the chiles, fenugreek, coriander, cloves, the seeds from the cardamom pods, paprika, and cinnamon in a saute pan and heat over medium heat until fragrant and toasty, about 5 minutes. Shake or stir the pan frequently to prevent burning. Grind to a powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

Blend the garlic, ginger, and lime in a food processor until the mixture is very smooth. Add the spice powder and blend again. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Blend the spice mix with the two cups of yogurt. Use half of the yogurt mixture as a marinade for the chicken. Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours and up to 8.

Add the oil to a saute pan and heat over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to pan. Turn heat

Find Aarti's original recipe for Tandoori Chicken here.
And read Aarti's blog here.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Dining in New York, June 2019 - Part 1

It might seem that I go to New York a lot. I do--at least 3 or 4 times a year, and mostly for the purpose of eating. My most recent trip was to the Fancy Food Show, which I attended with the lovely Dara of Dara Does It and Dining Dish.

Though we both start out in Baltimore, we don't travel together. She favors the bus, while I take Amtrak. I mean, I ride the bus twice a day, five days a week. I deserve to travel in relative comfort sometimes! Our various means of transportation get us to the city at different times and in different places. So while Dara goes straight to the Javits Center and starts walking the show, I hoof it from Penn Station to our nearby hotel and check into our room. With that accomplished, I take the subway to Javits Center.

In past years, I emerged from the 7 train to a Hudson Yards complex still under construction. This time, my path was scaffolding-free. Since I was so close, I decided to check out the mall part of the new complex and have lunch. On my way in, I chuckled at the many people waiting in line to walk around in the Vessel, a huge sculpture made of staircases in the form of a shawarma (or gyro or al pastor) rotisserie.

You see, it, right? Shawarma.
Once inside, I made use of the touch-screen map kiosks to find Fuku, a fast-food fried chicken restaurant that is part of David Chang's Momofuku empire. I wanted to try one of his chicken sandwiches for a while now, but I had concerns. Would it be too spicy? and could I order it without its usual topping of chickpea butter? The answers were "no," and "yes," in that order. While the sandwich was indeed spicy, it wasn't beyond a level I could tolerate comfortably. And the cashier didn't blink when I asked her to leave off the butter. (Chickpeas and lentils give me severe stomach cramps.) I don't know what the butter added, but I certainly didn't miss it.

After the sandwich, I went upstairs to Van Leeuwen ice cream. I sampled a couple of both the dairy and vegan flavors and ended up with a scoop of Earl Grey. The ice cream was smooth and creamy, but not overly unctuous, and was a perfect antidote to the spicy sandwich I had just consumed.

The mall was otherwise unremarkable, full of overly expensive shops catering to the one percent. Not my scene. Yes, I do go to Bergdorf Goodman just about every time I visit New York, but only for the beauty floor; seldom do I purchase anything. I'm rather obsessed with perfume, and Bergdorf's has one of the best selections of fragrance around. Also I like to visit with friends who work there.

Speaking of friends from BG, I had dinner that evening with my friend David, a makeup artist with Estee Lauder. He was going to be in the Village, so we agreed to meet at North Square at the Washington Square Hotel.

Neal and I had stayed at that hotel 15 years ago, and I had no idea there was a restaurant. Or maybe it wasn't there back then. In any case, North Square seemed to be a popular place, as it was full by 6:30.

We started our meal with blistered carrots with lemon tahini, pomegranate, and pistachios. It was a generous portion and could make a nice light entree with a salad or a side. I liked the contrast of tender carrot and the various crunchy toppings.

For my entree, I had the coriander-crusted scallops with quinoa pilaf, sauteed market greens (spinach) and coconut lemongrass sauce. While the scallops were nicely cooked, and everything was tasty, I didn't really detect either the coriander or the lemongrass. David had a burger, which he seemed to enjoy.

We passed on dessert. I had already been bad and had ice cream at lunch, not to mention more ice cream at the Fancy Food Show. And I was supposedly on the Whole30 diet. Not on this day, sister!

Fuku
20 Hudson Yards
New York, NY 10001

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
20 Hudson Yards
New York, NY 10001

North Square
Washington Square Hotel
103 Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10011

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Flashback Friday - French Laundry Salmon

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on July 30, 2008

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After reading this entry on the blog French Laundry at Home, I was determined to try it for myself. After all, I owned the cookbook, and had neglected the huge tome ever since I purchased it from a book discounter several years back. Mr Minx and I both enjoy salmon, and I thought the recipe could be fairly simple, with some modifications.

The original recipe calls for creating a rub of citrus zest, salt, and sugar in which the salmon would marinate for a period of time. That was easy enough. Then it should poach in 110º olive oil. Yeahh...olive oil is expensive. Sorry. I'm not going to waste a bottle of it to cook fish. I figured pan-sautéeing would be good enough.

The fish was supposed to marinate for 1 hour for every half inch of thickness (if memory serves). That would be less than two hours for the salmon I had on hand. Unfortunately for us (and the fish) following that time frame proved impossible as the kitchen sink decided to back up and refuse to drain at just about the time I was ready to remove the fish from its citrus spa treatment and had pots and pans stacking up to be washed. The cookbook admonishes that leaving the fish in the marinade would result in a dish that was too salty. So as Mr Minx ran out to get some drain cleaner, I, in desperation, resorted to rinsing the fish in our tiny bathroom sink. As I opened the foil wrapper, I was sad to see a puddle of liquid under the fish. Not only would it be too salty, it would also have the consistency of rubber bands because too much moisture had been drawn from the flesh.

Maybe poaching in oil would have restored some resiliency? But I was not to find out.

In addition to all of the citrus zest, the recipe also calls for marinating orange segments in a mixture of simple syrup and vinegar to create a confit (you catch that, Kit?) As I had a whole grapefruit on hand, I used that as well. It turned out fine.

Another component of the dish was pea shoot coulis. The local supermarket doesn't carry pea shoots, and they're probably not in season anyway, so I used sugar snap peas. Unfortunately I had no tamis in the house so the purée wasn't as smooth as it should have been, and I opted not to thin it out so it was more like a mash. Or mushy peas. Only not mushy.

I didn't think that pea puree was enough of a veg, so I made asparagus as well. And of course the dish had no starch element, and that's simply not allowed in Casa Minx! So I fried up some sliced yellow potatoes, simply seasoned with salt and pepper.

Plated, it looked pretty enough. But the citrus flavor was barely noticed beyond the salt. And the texture of the fish was terrible. The confit was mild, as were the peas. The potatoes, however, were quite good. If not for the chopped chive garnish and the asparagus, this would have been a fairly flavorless meal.

One I'm not likely to try again.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Flashback Friday - Service? What's That?

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 3, 2007. I remember this meal very well.

We have been back to Michael's and it was much better. No sign of the annoying waitress either.

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Last night I went out to dinner with my friend Stacey and her friend Alex. Friday night at 7pm is a bad time for dining out in Baltimore if one doesn't have a reservation, but we gave it a shot. Alex wanted seafood, mentioning crab cakes in particular, so I did a quick Google search to see where they might be found in the northern Baltimore County area. I knew Ocean Pride would be packed, and they were. We definitely didn't want to wait 45 minutes, so headed further up York Road. I had never been to Michael's Café, but read that they had crabcakes, so we gave it a go. Unfortunately for us, they could accomodate us right away. At least, we got to sit down. Actual accomodation was a long time in coming.

Right away, our waitress came up to recite a list of specials in her bizarrely nasal Minnie Mouse with strep throat voice. She took Alex's drink order for an iced tea and left. A minute or so later, she brought the tea, and a small plate of butter, and then disappeared for a bit. Which was fine. Since one of us is constantly talking, I needed the extra time to grab a minute here and there to actually concentrate on the menu. Bread eventually came, but Minnie Mouse disappeared fast without taking our order. After what seemed like an eternity, she returned and we requested the seared Ahi tuna, calamari, and crab/shrimp dip appetizers. Alex and I ordered crab cakes for our entrees, and Stacey decided on scallops. And because some of us really needed a drink, I selected a bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel, very nicely priced at $25.

Alex's side salad came first, a decent-enough looking mix of greens and other salad veggies, with dressing on the side. Unfortunately, it looked as if the dressing cup had come off of someone else's plate - it was barely half-full. Alex wanted extra dressing, so needed the waitress. When she arrived with our wine (presenting it to Stacey, even though I was the one who ordered it), her response to the request for extra dressing was, "no." Considering we had been sitting in the restaurant for about 45 minutes already and had only gotten one salad, some rolls, and now wine, I didn't think Minnie had any right to attempt humor. She did bring the dressing with the appetizers, which we fell upon with vigor.

The ahi tuna was quite nice, albeit outrageously priced at $12. (One can get a more generous portion of even o-toro for less at a reputable sushi restaurant.) Seven long thin slices of tuna, raw in the middle and crusted with peppercorns and sesame seeds, lay atop mesclun greens dressed in a nice soy vinaigrette, with small dollops of wasabi sauce and a Thousand Island-looking aioli at the compass points. The tuna was delicious, as were the greens, and a larger portion of both would have made a nice dinner in itself. The menu claims that the calamari is "hand breaded," but I believe those hands worked for a frozen seafood plant somewhere far away. The adequate portion of squid, both rings and tentacles, were unexceptional, the bland breading tasting of nothing, and the accompanying marinara was merely something red and wet in which to dip the seafood. As for the crab and shrimp dip, I was hard-pressed to find any actual seafood in the pink-colored cream cheese goo, but it was tasty enough slathered on the crisp slices of garlic bread that came with it.

Surprisingly, the entrees came not long after the dinner plates were cleared. At least the kitchen's timing was good, if not the waitress'. Each of us got two vegetables with our protein, but somehow my green beans ended up on Alex's plate. Minnie Mouse went to fetch some for me and actually did arrive before I was finished eating. My single crab cake was full of lump crab, with very little binder, but it was overall fairly bland and needed more seasoning of some sort. The side of tartar sauce tasted weird, and I didn't bother with the cocktail sauce, since I don't think it goes with crabcakes. The potato, baked in foil, was predictably arid, but the beans, once they arrived, were cooked perfectly crisp and bright green; slicked with a touch of fat of some sort, all they needed was a bit of salt to bring out their flavor. Stacey's scallops came in a ghost-white creamy wine sauce, but the generous portion was well-cooked and flavorful. Her side of beets came from a can. Alex did not comment on the quality of her entree, but I did notice her request for mayonnaise (presumably for her fries) was never fufilled.

Minnie Mouse's appearances at our table were sporadic, and she never seemed to be around when we needed her. For instance, when our appetizers arrived, she still had not brought Stacy a place setting or napkin. After her fork ended up with the dirty appetizer dishes, she was not given a replacement with which to eat her entree until she managed to flag someone down. When pouring my wine, Minnie slopped it all over the base of my glass, and I was afraid to lift it lest I dribble on my shirt. She offered to bring a napkin to clean it, but that took 10 minutes. By the end of the meal, we were completely exasperated and opted to find dessert elsewhere. It was close to 9:30 p.m. when we left the restaurant, and I noticed the table next to ours was turned over twice while we were there. Oddly enough, they had the same waitress.

Although parts of the meal were enjoyable, I can't say I plan to return to Michael's Café. It's a standard, run-of-the-mill Maryland seafood restaurant, somewhat dingy, with mostly unexceptional food and poor service. We were seated within sniffing distance of the restrooms (which are badly located behind a short partition and which open directly into the dining room) and practically on top of a service station with various piles of whatnot on it but not useful things like napkins and silverware. Some attention to detail was evident in the meal: the green beans; the nice crisp dinner rolls; the perfectly cooked tuna. But other signs suggested the kitchen was on auto-pilot: the half-full salad dressing; the canned beets; the dull calamari. I can't blame the fact that it was prime time on a Friday night - the place was full but not busy, there was no line to get in, and the pace overall seemed to be quite leisurely. Nobody looked harried, distraught, or overworked.

Michael's is a place that has its regulars, and indeed I knew one gentleman who confessed to eating there every weekend, at the bar. That's well and good for them, if they like what they get. They can have it.

Michael's Cafe Raw Bar & Grill
2119 York Rd
Timonium, MD 21093
(410) 252-2022

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Flashback Friday - Cook Somethin' Up

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 22, 2008.

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Check out my late friend Jim Six's song, Cook Somethin' Up, "a tasty blues concoction filled with references to celebrity chefs from the Food Network."

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Flashback Friday - Memorial Day Tapas

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 01. 2009.

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I don't know why I got it my head to make tapas for Memorial Day. Not exactly traditional, is it? I thought it would be a good excuse to get out the grill and cook up the leg of lamb that's been in our freezer for a while. Not that lamb needs excuses. Nor is tapas the most popular way to accompany it. But once I get something in my head....

Since Mr Minx had to fiddle with charcoal and all that, I thought it would make it worth his while to toss some chicken breasts on it too, to eat later in the week. Then I invited my brother, which killed the leftovers idea.

The spread consisted of grilled chicken and lamb (mingling on the same plate, both marinated in lots of garlic and soy, with tomato paste on the chicken and brown sugar on the lamb), grilled shrimp, potatoes and chorizo (from José Andres' tapas cookbook), endive salad with bleu cheese, tomato and herb salad (herbs freshly-plucked from the freshly-planted garden) with goat's cheese, marinated mushrooms, and "crab" balls. There was also some red pepper mayo for dipping, bread, and Marcona almonds. Oh, and a pitcher of sangria!

Cheap sangria: 1 bottle Sutter Home "white Cabernet Sauvignon" ($5.99), 1 orange, 1 lemon, 1/4 cup leftover cheap brandy, 1/4 cup cheap Triple Sec. Fruity and boozy and a fine accompaniment to my selection of eats.

I tried to get a good combination of textures, flavors, and temperatures going and think I was pretty successful.

The endive salad was pretty basic: sliced Belgian endives, bleu cheese crumbles, balsamic vinaigrette. I usually add walnuts, but bro is allergic to them, and anaphylaxis is a real buzz kill. The tomato herb salad had pineapple mint; sweet, Thai, and variegated basil; French tarragon; chives and chive blossoms; and some store-bought cilantro (it refuses to grow in my garden). And a couple gobbets of goat's cheese. The tomatoes were the "on the vine" type, which I've been having roaring success with recently. Don't know where in the world they were grown (nobody will ever accuse me of being a locavore) but they have been juicy, red, and sweet.

The potato recipe called for Spanish chorizo, which I could not find at Giant. Go figure. However, I always have Mexican chorizo in the freezer so used one of those. Being raw, they have a very different texture, and are flavored primarily with annatto. Unfortunately, the pimenton called for in the recipe was quite masked by the annatto. The potatoes were tasty anyway, but I will endeavor to make them with the proper chorizo next time.

The marinated mushroom recipe came from a little tapas cookbook called Tapas Fantasicas that I got for Christmas a couple years back. Sherry vinegar is very...pungent...so I was worried that the mushrooms would be too tart. I used a combination of baby bellas and shiitakes, and it really was quite delicious. I'd make them again.


Marinated Mushrooms

1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 T sherry vinegar
2 T water
1/2 t dried tarragon
1/2 t brown sugar
dash Tabasco
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until softened. Add mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Continue to cook for another minute or two. add vinegar, water, tarragon, sugar, Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Cover pan and simmer on low for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Remove from heat. Cool mushrooms in marinade. Eat at room temperature.


As for the "crab" balls.... Remember the fish tacos I made earlier in the week? Weirdly, after I washed and dried the fish, my hands smelled like crab meat rather than fish. So I saved a piece of the cooked fish, for experimental purposes. I flaked it, added crab cake ingredients (Old Bay, bread soaked in milk, mayo) and made three small balls which I fried up for tapas. They fell apart, as my crab cakes usually do, but they tasted reasonably crabby. Because it had been sauteed, he meat was a little tough; if I try something like this again, I think I'll poach the fish so it stays soft.

Gotta admit - Mahi from Trader Joe's is far cheaper than crab meat, and it's no less crabby than the flavorless non-blue-crab "jumbo lump" they sell at the supermarket.


Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Flashback Friday - Pho Dat Than

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 24, 2011.

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With the recent demise of one of the few Vietnamese restaurants in the area, Saigon Remembered, I decided we need patronize the other Viet joint in town to make sure that one stays around for a while. Pho Dat Than, an offshoot of a Columbia restaurant of the same name, is located just below the annoying traffic circle at the crossroads of York, Joppa, Dulaney Valley, etc., in Towson. Luckily, the circle can be avoided by parking in the lot behind the Recher Theatre, accessible via either Joppa Road or Towsontown Boulevard.

Pho Dat Than's decor is pleasant enough - it's simple and tidy, with mint green walls, high-backed booths, and tables arranged in neat rows. On the early Friday night we were there, the restaurant had a decent number of diners, and I could see carry-out orders lining up on what used to be a sushi bar in the back. That boded well for weekend traffic.

I had already perused the somewhat messy online menu and knew what I wanted us to try. But first, we ordered some iced coffee. The Vietnamese version differs from the more familiar Thai in that rather than receiving a glass of ready-made coffee, a cup of sweetened condensed milk topped with a metal brewing device full of coffee grounds and water, along with a glass of ice, is brought to the table. I was afraid that I'd spill the coffee all over the place while transferring it from cup to glass, but with judicious use of the saucer (and assistance from our waiter), it was easier than it appeared. The coffee was rich and dark and sweet - everything a good iced coffee should be, except cold, since the ice melted on contact with the hot coffee.

We started our dinner with an order of Bò Lá Nho (grilled beef in grape leaves). I recalled having this dish at Saigon Remembered and liking it very much. Pho Dat Than's is different in that the grape leaf rolls are larger, with less of a smoky flavor than those at SR. However, the juicy chopped beef (rather like a succulent meatball) and slightly charred bits of grape leaf were a lovely combination of flavors and textures, and much more to my liking than the usual rice-stuffed Middle Eastern/Greek version.

Next came an order of Muc Rang Muoi (crispy spicy squid). The only dish that didn't come with a small bowl of nước chấm, the ubiquitous fish-sauced based accompaniment for many Vietnamese dishes, it still benefited from a drizzle. The calamari was not as crispy as I'd have liked, possibly because it was served on a bed of roughly-torn iceberg lettuce, nor was it spicy, but it was pleasantly chewy and otherwise tasted fine.

Bún Thit Nuóng Cha Giò (grilled pork & cha gio vermicelli) was a huge bowl of slender rice noodles topped with thinly sliced grilled pork, beansprouts, carrots, shredded lettuce, cilantro, plus crushed peanuts and scallions. It was very similar to the other noodle dish we tried, the Bánh Uot Cha Lua Thit Nuóng (plain rice crepe with Vietnamese ham and grilled pork), which only differed in that the noodles were thin and sticky sheets - similar to the wrapper of the Chinese dim sum dish cheong fun - and the inclusion of steamed pork roll, which I suppose was the "Vietnamese ham."

The combination of smoky pork and bland noodles, sparked with additions of nước chấm and cilantro, was delicious. I preferred the vermicelli over the crepes, which were too gelatinous even for me. The pork roll (which I initially took for chicken or turkey) provided nothing but texture to the dish, as the flavor was nearly nonexistent. I could detect a vague peanut aura and maybe nuances of wet newspaper, but that's about it. Stick to the grilled pork.

Overall, the meal was pleasant and the quantity of leftovers made for a tasty supper a couple days later. I'm looking forward to going again, to experiment with different meats and definitely try the pho, which seemed to be on quite a few tables while we were there.

Pho Dat Thanh
510 York Road
Towson, MD 21204
(410) 296-9118




Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Flashback Friday - Rice Salad with Chinese Sausage and Roasted Broccoli

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on April 30, 2014.

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Have you ever read a food magazine and felt the urge to cook one of the recipes RIGHT NOW? As in, drop the magazine and run to the kitchen immediately? I had that feeling when I spotted the recipe for savory granola in the April 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. I had just turned the oven off 10 minutes earlier after removing a tray of roasted broccoli and knew I wouldn't have to wait for the thing to pre-heat (it takes forever, which can be a real buzz-kill during a cooking frenzy). We had most of the ingredients--old fashioned oats, walnuts, sesame seeds, fennel, seeds--and I substituted for a couple others (pumpkin seeds in place of sunflower seeds, skipped the pistachios entirely). I mixed up the ingredients pronto and banged them into the hot oven.

Now you must recall that I had just roasted broccoli. At 450°F. So the oven was a wee bit hotter than it needed to be, hence the charred appearance of my salad topping (some of the black bits are black sesame seeds though). No matter, even slightly burnt, the granola was AMAZING. It took all of my willpower not to shove handfuls of it into my face hole. The combination of nuts + fennel seeds is delicious and I wish I had thought of it myself.

Rather than eating all of it right then and there (it makes about 3 cups), I decided to use it as a component in the dinner I was preparing--cold rice salad with Chinese sausage and a peanut butter vinaigrette. Oh, and roasted broccoli.

I wanted the salad to have a peanut sauce flavor, but not a standard sweet peanut sauce. Instead, I made it ultra vinegary, using both rice wine and Chinese black vinegar (also called Chinkiang vinegar). Chinese black vinegar is, as Isaac Mizrahi is fond of saying, EVERYTHING, Darlings. It's mellow, malty, and woodsy, with a burnt caramel aspect. If you're a vinegar fan (and I know not everyone is...weirdos), then you have to try it. I then added a bit of agave syrup, soy, and sambal oelek for heat. (We use Huy Fong brand, the company that makes the ever popular "rooster sauce" sriracha. Oelek is different in that it's just crushed chiles in vinegar and salt, no garlic or sugar.) It was perfect on plain steamed rice garnished with Chinese sausage and scallions.

I tossed the broccoli into the salad after the sauce was added, because I didn't want the broccoli to have soggy florets. And then I sprinkled a bit of the granola on each serving.

So. Good. I need to make this again very soon.

Rice Salad with Roasted Broccoli

Roasted broccoli:
3 broccoli crowns
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt

Peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
5 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1/4 teaspoon salt

To assemble salad:
3 cups cooked, room-temperature rice (Jasmine is nice, or basmati)
3 Chinese pork sausages, sliced into coins, lightly fried, and drained on paper towels
1/2 cup julienned carrots
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

Savory granola (optional, but delicious)

To make broccoli: Preheat oven to 450°F.

Remove thick stem from each broccoli crown. Break the floret into small pieces. Cut the stem into lengthwise slices. Toss both florets and stems with olive oil and salt and arrange in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning broccoli halfway, until tender and browning in spots. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make peanut sauce: In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir well. Taste for seasoning--it should be vinegary, lightly salty, and lightly spicy. Add more salt and sambal if you wish.

To assemble salad: Using a fork, stir rice into prepared peanut sauce until well-coated. Add the sausages, carrots, and scallions and toss to combine.

Serve at room temperature with a helping of broccoli and a sprinkle of the savory granola.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Flahback Friday - Coconut Macaroon Cake

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on May 19, 2014.

Have I posted this here before as a flashback? No matter, it is well worth the repeat!
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I'm a huge fan of coconut. I can remember when my Dad used to impulsively buy sweetened coconut flakes and we'd tear it open and eat the stuff straight out of the bag with our hands. (Each of us have always had a huge sweet tooth.) Mounds and Almond Joy were among my favorite candies, and I looooved macaroons. (That's macaroons, with a ROON, not macarons, with a RON, although many pronounce the latter like the former. Wrong, wrong, wrong. They are completely different confections.) Flipping through the April issue of Martha Stewart Living I found a recipe for a coconut cake that combines both cake and macaroon and immediately decided it would be the perfect dessert for Easter dinner.

The only problem? Mr Minx hates the texture of grated coconut. He says it's like eating plastic shavings. He does like the flavor of coconut, however, so he said he'd force himself to eat it if he had to. Now that's a good husband.

The way the recipe read, it seemed like it would be a coconut-flavored cake layer topped with a layer of macaroon. I figured he could just cut off the top and eat the bottom. Alas, the macaroon layer was heavy and sunk down into the batter, which, containing leavening, rose up and around the shredded coconut. So while there were cake-y bits within the cake, the shredded coconut pretty much permeated everything.

He ate it anyway, and I promised that I'd try it again, omitting the macaroon-y bit altogether. The bottom part, flavored with both coconut oil and Coco Lopez, might be an interesting base for a pineapple upside-down cake. Or just fine on it's own.

Here's the cake recipe, from the Martha Stewart web site.

I didn't have heavy cream on hand to make her recommended chocolate sauce. I wanted something runnier anyway, that could be made well in advance and didn't need heating to loosen up before drizzling. I found David Leibovitz' recipe online and added some sour cream and vanilla, just because I felt it needed more flavor.

Chocolate Sauce (adapted from David Leibovitz)

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons sour cream

Whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it starts to simmer, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until melted. Whisk in the vanilla and sour cream and allow sauce to cool to room temperature. Pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Drizzle over cake. Or squeeze directly into your mouth--I won't tell.
Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Flashback Friday - Savory Oatmeal

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on May 7, 2014.

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I have never been a big fan of oatmeal. The snotty, somewhat gelatinous texture always turned me off. Fortunately, my mother never liked it, either, so she didn't force us kids to eat it. In fact, Cream of Wheat ruled in our house, at least until I hit school age. Because I usually had a hard time waking up in the morning, instant oatmeal was occasionally called into play to get me fed and out the door, pronto. (We tried instant Cream of Wheat, too, but that was like eating sawdust soaked in hot water. Truly horrible stuff. My mind can still conjure up the malevolent taste of the apple cinnamon flavor.)

I managed to go decades without ever touching oatmeal again, but when the spectre of high cholesterol loomed, I thought I'd give the stuff another chance. Mr Minx was also of the yay Cream of Wheat/nay oatmeal way of thinking, but he was willing to give it a try as well.

The snotty texture of oatmeal is due to the whole boiling and stirring technique of cooking. With those two elements eliminated, the stuff is actually quite palatable. Turns out, oatmeal just needs to rehydrate, and that can be done quite efficiently with the heat off. Just bring water to a boil, turn off the heat, and stir in the oats. Allow them to rest for 10 or 15 minutes and they will absorb all of the water without getting slimy.

I first tried savory oatmeal at Blue Grass Tavern. It was served as an accompaniment to a sausage-stuffed quail topped with a poached egg and hot sauce. A riff on breakfast, if you will. I liked it, but wasn't sure if I should try it at home. But I realized I was getting tired of the usual weekend breakfast of either oatmeal with Nutella or oatmeal with maple syrup. Out went the sweet stuff and in went some cheese and hot sauce. The usual pat of butter was replaced with a spoonful of bacon fat. And it was delicious.

Savory Oatmeal

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon bacon fat or butter
1 heaping tablespoon grated cheese
Sriracha
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Splash milk

Place 1 cup of water in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and stir in oats. Cover pot and walk away for about 10 minutes. If the oats haven't absorbed all the water after that time, give them another few minutes.

While oats are "cooking," place bacon fat or butter and cheese in a bowl. Top with hot oats and stir well. Season with sriracha, salt, and pepper to taste, and add a bit of milk to the bowl to loosen the texture a bit.

Serves 1

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, May 13, 2019

What's Your Beef?

What’s Your Beef in the kitchen?! Throughout May, in celebration of National Beef Month, join our friends at Keystone Meats as they invite fans from all over the U.S. to vote daily on their biggest kitchen problem. Keystone is ready and willing to solve it with recipe-ready, all-natural beef. When you vote, you will be entered to win a year’s supply of Keystone Meats!

If you’ve got a beef in the kitchen, tell us about it! After years of headaches, vote on your biggest kitchen beef and you could win! https://keystonemeats.com/whats-your-beef-in-the-kitchen/

My personal beef: cooking in the summertime. I want to eat flavorful meals that come from my own kitchen, but don't require a lot of cooking. This means we default to cold things, like salads, sandwiches, and gazpacho. But with Keystone products, all of the heavy lifting has been done for us--we just need to embellish the meat. (No, that's not a euphemism.) Take this relatively lazy bibimbap. It involved making a sauce, warming the meat in said sauce, and serving it over rice with some veg. We have a rice cooker, so that part was a no-brainer, but if you don't, I won't tell if you buy pre-cooked microwave rice, or use leftovers from Chinese carry-out. In any case, none of it heated up the kitchen, and we had a super tasty dish that was both hearty and light in not a lot of time.

Easy Bibimbap
The sauce can be made a couple of days in advance. If you are only feeding 2 people, you can make half the sauce, or make the whole recipe and use it on something else, like roasted cauliflower or broccoli.

For the sauce:
1/2 cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper bean paste)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 green onions, both white and green parts chopped

To serve:
2 14.5-ounce cans Keystone All Natural Beef
Cooked rice
Sliced cucumber
Shredded carrot
Baby spinach
More chopped scallions for garnish
Sesame seeds for garnish

Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir. If you're making it in advance, keep it in a lidded container in the fridge until ready to use.

Put the beef (with juices) in a saucepan with the sauce. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat until about half the liquid has evaporated and is looking somewhat glossy. Remove from the heat.

Place a mound of rice in the bottom of a bowl (drizzle on some sesame oil, if you like). Top with a portion of the warm beef, and add piles of the cucumber, carrot, and spinach. Sprinkle on some scallions and sesame seeds and serve immediately.

To eat, mix everything up with your chopstick (or fork) and enjoy.

Makes 4-5 servings.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Flashback Friday - Thai Red Curry Chicken Burgers

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on May 2, 2014.

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We have a ton of stuff on our freezer. Other than ice cream, I mean. There are several quarts of gumbo from Cajun Kate's, leftover pork shoulder from that 8-lb behemoth I cooked last month, half a roast duck from the Great Wall grocery store in Catonsville, a leg of lamb, pasta sauce, various types of sausages (chorizo, andouille, lap cheong, hot dogs), ground beef, a skirt steak, bags of nuts, yeast, coffee, and bread, and more. And this is one of those standard above-the-fridge freezer jobbies, not a big ol' chest freezer. (So don't believe me when I say we have nothing in the house to eat. What I really mean is that there's nothing that I feel like defrosting and cooking.)

There was a pound of ground chicken in there too. I can't remember why we bought it exactly, maybe to make some laab, but there it was, looking slightly freezer-burned, buried under a pile of other foodstuffs. I determined that if it was not indeed funky with freezer burn, I'd make chicken burgers with it. And not just chicken burgers, but Thai red curry chicken burgers. We had two open jars of Thai Kitchen red curry paste in the fridge, and I've been looking for a way to use the stuff up. We also had a partial jar of  Maesri "chilli paste with basil leaves" and a jar of sliced Kaffir lime leaves. I love that chilli paste stuff and have used it in a number of things over the years. As for the lime leaves--have you noticed how difficult they are to find in the supermarket? And when you do find them, you have to use them right away or they'll go bad? Then I found sliced ones in a jar at H-Mart. They're not quite as powerfully-flavored as fresh, but they'll do in a pinch. And I think their flavor is an essential match to red curry paste.

So...back to the burgers. Ground chicken can often be unpalatably dry, so I always add some chia seeds soaked in water to add moisture. The omega-3 boost doesn't hurt, either. The curry paste also helps to make the meat moist. In fact, the raw mixture will be very moist, so don't be anal about trying to get perfectly round patties. Refrigerate them for a while before cooking so the flavors meld and the patties firm up a bit.

These were a big hit. The burgers were not only moist, but also super flavorful. We ate them both on bread and as-is with a salad, using the special sauce as dressing.

Thai Red Curry Chicken Burgers

2 teaspoons chia seeds soaked in 1 tablespoon water
1 lb ground chicken
1 tablespoon coconut milk powder
4 teaspoons Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste
2 teaspoons finely minced Kaffir lime leaves
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well to incorporate the chia and curry paste. Form into patties, between 4-8, depending on the size of your rolls, number of guests, or appetite. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour so the flavors will meld.

Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When hot, add the chicken patties. Cook for 4 minutes on the first side, then flip and cook an additional 3 minutes.

Serve with Special Sauce.

Special Sauce

3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Maesri Thai chilli sauce with basil
1/2 roasted red bell pepper, diced
2 scallions, white and green part, chopped

Combine all ingredients. Serve with Thai Red Curry Chicken Burgers.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Cranberry-Blood Orange Limoncello Muffins

* The Fabrizia Blood Orange limoncello mentioned in this post has been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats.  
Fabrizia Spirits sent me three bottles of limoncello last month. The stuff is so good, I've killed half of each bottle. But I'm not only drinking it - I'm cooking with it. This month, I've done a riff on the classic cranberry-orange muffin. Rather than use fresh cranberries, I've used dried ones plumped up in blood orange limoncello. The booze picks up a nice pink color from the cranberries, which in turn makes the glaze (made with the plumping liquid) pink-ish, too. And tasty.

Want the recipe? Here you go!

Cranberry-Blood Orange Limoncello Muffins

For the muffins:
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Fabrizia Blood Orange limoncello
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of one large tangerine (Minneola) or the zest of 2 oranges
1 and 3/4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons reserved Fabrizia Blood Orange limoncello
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Combine dried cranberries and limoncello in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and allow the berries to macerate for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, drain the berries and reserve the liquid.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Line two 6-count or one 12-count muffin pans with cupcake liners.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter on high until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and tangerine zest, beating until well combined, scraping the bowl as needed.

Stir together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients and beat until just combined. Remove the mixer bowl from the stand and add 2 tablespoons of the reserved limoncello and the milk, stirring by hand with a wooden spoon until the batter is combined. Fold in the cranberries.

Spoon batter into muffin pans. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350F. Bake for 16-18 minutes more, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Remove muffins from pan onto a cooling rack.

While muffins are cooling, combine the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoon of the reserved limoncello. (There will probably be a few tablepoons left over. Drink it - cook's treat.) Drizzle the glaze over the muffins, and immediately top with a few of the almonds.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Flashback Friday - Skirt Steak and Watermelon Radish Tacos

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on May 12, 2014.

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We almost never see skirt steak in the average supermarket, so when we did see it, we bought one and tossed it in the freezer for later. And then promptly forgot about it.

Digging through the freezer some months later for something else entirely, I stumbled upon the skirt steak and figured it was high time to put it to use. I wanted to make something fajita-like (the word fajita actually refers to skirt steak) but not exactly. After an inspirational online search, I thought something in an Asian vein might be tasty and put together a marinade with various Asian elements like miso, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce. I also added honey for sweetness and a ton of garlic. Because what doesn't taste good with a ton of garlic? (Don't tell me--chocolate cake.)

After briefly contemplating frying some onions, I was lazy and chopped scallions to use raw. I also saw this to be a good time to use the watermelon radish we bought at MOM's Organic Market a few days earlier. Quick pickling seemed like the way to go. And of course, homemade corn tortillas, because they are so easy and better than store bought.

The resulting tacos had nicely spiced and garlicky meat, and a nice sweet/tartness from the pickle. I stirred some powdered coconut milk (from a trip to H Mart) into a bit of Greek yogurt to use in place of crema, and threw together a simple tomato and scallion salsa. However, the best addition to the steak-and-radish taco was a bit of crumbled feta cheese, which added a nice bit of funky saltiness.

Asian Marinated Skirt Steak

1 tablespoon red miso
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 1-lb skirt steak

Combine first six ingredients in a bowl. Place the steak in a zip-top bag and pour the marinade over. Massage the marinade into the steak for a few seconds, then close the bag, making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat your broiler. Place oven rack in highest position. Remove steak from marinade, wipe off any chunky bits and place steak onto a baking sheet with sides. Broil 3-4 minutes per side, to medium-rare. Remove steak from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before cutting against the grain into thin slices.

Serve as a filling for corn tortillas, with some pickled radishes, feta cheese, and sour cream or crema.

Pickled Watermelon Radish

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 watermelon radish, cut into thin rounds

Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the radish and toss well to coat all radish pieces. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Drain liquid before serving.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sullivan's Steakhouse

Mr Minx and I generally aren't steakhouse people, but we do like a good chunk of meat on occasion. When we received an invitation to try Sullivan's Steakhouse, we immediately said yes.

We started our meal with the lump crab cake appetizer. Don't expect a Maryland-style cake at Sullivan's. Theirs contains bell pepper and is breaded with panko. But it's moist and lumpy, and the crisp crust is a nice addition to a familiar dish.

The lobster and shrimp bisque is a must-try. It has a deeply-flavored shellfish stock base, with a hint of tomato. There's not much in the way of actual chunks of lobster in the soup, but the ones we found were very tender.

Mr Minx went for the 22-ounce cowboy rib eye, and I had the roasted rack of lamb. The steak was a bit shy of medium rare, tender, with a nicely seasoned crust. The chops were a little over mid-rare, but still juicy, and bathed in a lovely, slightly sweet grain mustard/rosemary glaze with a hint of mint.

We also had the classic steakhouse sides of creamed spinach and white cheddar and bacon au gratin potatoes. Both were impeccable. (I can eat creamed spinach all day.)

For dessert, we had the Chocolate Meltdown: a flourless chocolate torte topped with chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries and concealed by chocolate dome. At tableside, the server pours hot chocolate sauce over the dome, which melts it and reveals the treat inside. Generally, this is an Instagrammable moment, but our hot chocolate sauce was too thick and lumpy to pour properly, and the end result was a big chocolate mess on the plate. Not too pretty, but it tasted great, which of course is the most important thing, right?

In addition to their regular deliciousness, Sullivan's is bringing back Prime Rib Sundays. Every Sunday starting at 4pm, guests can dine on 12- or 16-ounce portions of hand-carved prime rib served with garlic horseradish mashed potatoes and a selection of Sullivan's signature sides.

Note: Several Inner Harbor-area restaurants have closed in the last year, some blaming it on crime. The real crime is the cost of parking. Parking in downtown Baltimore is shamefully expensive. Up to 2 hours can cost $24! That's no way to attract local diners. Pro tip: use a parking app, like Parkopedia. I found a garage that offered 3 hours for $9, and it was around the corner from the restaurant (1 West Pratt garage). Do your wallet a favor and try reserving your space in advance.

Sullivan's Steakhouse
1 E Pratt St Ste 102,
Baltimore, MD 21202

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Flashback Friday - Sausage and Peppers Lasagna

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on April 11, 2014.

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Have you ever gone to the grocery store, seen a random ingredient, and then come up with a completely weird dish in which to put it? For instance, have you picked up a bulb of fennel and thought, "I'm going to make lasagna?"

I have. Yeah, it didn't make sense to me either. Fennel isn't exactly a typical lasagna filling. And of course fennel alone might be a bit strange, so I decided it needed to be combined with sweet Italian sausage (which is flavored with fennel) and roasted red peppers. Why not? Why does lasagna have to be made with the same traditional ingredients every time? Ok, because it is delicious that way, but it can be delicious with other ingredients, too. Like sausage and peppers and fennel. (Oh my!)

I picked up a package of Giovanni Rana brand fresh pasta sheets on that same grocery store excursion. The fresh stuff cuts out the whole messy step of precooking dry pasta and carefully separating out the individual noodles so they won't stick together when they cool. I won't use the no-boil kind; they require far too much sauce and make for a lasagna that seems drowned. And while a besciamella (béchamel sauce) may be more traditional, I like to use ricotta cheese mixed with a bit of Parmesan to make my lasagna nice and creamy.

Really, I think anything goes in a lasagna, as long as there's plenty of cheese.

The result of my madness was actually pretty great. The fennel married nicely with the sausage, and even though the ingredients were non-traditional, it still tasted like lasagna.

This recipe makes a ton. Enough for 10 normal people.

Sausage, Pepper, and Fennel Lasagna

1 lb mild Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium bulb fennel, sliced thinly
1 12-oz jar roasted red peppers, chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on their size and how much you like garlic, crushed
24 ounces of your favorite marinara, homemade or jarred, 1 cup reserved
generous pinch red pepper flakes
generous pinch of fennel seeds, crushed lightly
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces fresh lasagna noodles (NOT the dry "oven-ready" noodles)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Put a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage meat from its casings and add to the pan, breaking it up into smaller pieces with the end of a spatula. When the sausage starts to let off some of its fat, add the onion. Stir occasionally, continuing to break up the sausage into smaller pieces, until the onion is translucent and sausage is mostly cooked through and browned. Add the fennel, roasted peppers, and garlic, stirring to combine. Pour in the sauce (except the reserved cupful) and add the red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat down to low. Cover pan. Cook until meat is tender and sauce is somewhat reduced, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.

Combine ricotta and Parmesan in a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Put a few spoonfuls of the reserved sauce on the bottom of the pan, then cover with a layer of pasta. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the pasta. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out chunky bits of sausage and vegetables from the sauce and layer these on top of the ricotta. Lightly sprinkle with some of the mozzarella cheese. Top with another layer of pasta, the remaining ricotta cheese, more chunky bits, and a bit more mozzarella. Add the final layer of pasta, a layer of sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes until bubbling and browned.

While the lasagna is baking, reheat the rest of the reserved sauce (combined with any leftover sausage/fennel sauce) to use at the table if the lasagna seems dry.

Allow the lasagna to rest about 10 minutes before cutting into servings.


Posted on Minxeats.com.