Thursday, July 08, 2021

Pastrami Sandwich Pasta

Despite only just learning how to make homemade pasta, I'm now getting fancy with it. I have found that I prefer forming pasta by hand than rolling it out with Kitchen Aid attachments. For one thing, I can sit while I'm working rather than stand in front of the counter, and my bad back appreciates that. For another thing, I find it more suited to my creative mind. Hand-forming pasta shapes is almost like making edible beads. (For those who don't know, I have a jewelry business on the side.)

A couple of weeks ago, I tried making cavatelli for the first time, with the help of Mr Minx. It worked out so well, I decided to buy one of those little grooved paddles used to make gnocchi and tried making malloreddus, aka Sardinian gnocchi. Only malloreddus are made with semolina, and mine are not; technically I have no idea what the things I made are called. Someone on Instagram suggested "gnocchi" or "gnocchetti," but doesn't that normally bring to mind the pasta commonly made with potato?

So what did I do to cause myself so much nomenclatural consternation? I used rye flour. And all-purpose wheat flour. And some ground caraway seeds. You see, I wanted them to taste like rye bread. I was feeling all clever and decided that rye pasta needed a mustard cream sauce and pastrami.

I would have preferred to use pastrami from a real Jewish deli, but I didn't feel like making a special trip. Boar's Head, Dietz and Watson, et. al., are just not the same thing, but they were as close as I was going to get. If you can get real pastrami (or corned beef), then by all means use the good stuff! As for the mustard cream sauce, I used a combination of spicy brown mustard and dried mustard, but you can use whatever you prefer in whatever amounts most please your palate. I used about a quarter cup of liquid mustard. YMMV. I had some smoked mozzarella in the fridge that I put on top, but I'm betting Swiss would be great and fit with the theme nicely.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the way the dish turned out and thought I'd share the recipe guidelines with you. Enjoy!

Pastrami Sandwich Pasta

For the pasta:
1.5 cups finely milled rye flour (I used Arrowhead Mills)
1.5 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, ground to a powder in a spice mill
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
About 1 cup water

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
Spicy brown mustard
Mustard powder
Sherry vinegar
1/4 lb pastrami, chopped
Cheese of your choice (I used cubed smoked mozzarella)
Parsley for garnish
Additional caraway seeds (optional)

To make the pasta: Place flours, ground seeds, and olive oil in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add most of the water and turn on the machine. After a few turns of the hook and scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, check to see if the mixture seems too dry. If that's the case, add more water. If you add too much, the dough will make an unpleasant squishy slapping sound in the mixer.  Never fear! That can be fixed by adding more rye flour until the dough seems dryer yet holds together. (It is better to err on the side of dry than of wet.) Remove the dough from the bowl to a board and give it a few kneads. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Flour a cutting board and prepare some baking sheets with parchment. Give them a generous dusting of semolina or regular flour to prevent sticking. If you have a grooved gnocchi board, give that a light dusting, too. If you don't have one, don't worry about it; you'll just be making cavatelli instead.

Remove the rested dough from the fridge. Cut off small pieces of the dough and roll them into snakes that are a bit less than half an inch wide. Cut the snake into pieces about an inch long. Take each piece and roll into a hot-dog shape by pressing it with your first two fingers and rolling it toward yourself. A video really helps:


I actually use my thumb and roll the pasta away from me, but whatever works!

Place the pasta on the prepared baking sheets and toss with the flour. Repeat until all of the dough is used up.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until the pieces float and stay there, 3-8 minutes, depending on the size of the pasta. Reserve a bit of the cooking water to thin the sauce, if necessary.

To make the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Sprinkle onion with the flour and stir to combine. Let to cook a few moments before adding the cream. I wanted my sauce to be obviously mustardy, so I added about 1/4 cup of the brown mustard and a good teaspoon of the dried mustard, plus a few teaspoons of sherry vinegar to add the requisite tang. You may feel the brown mustard alone does the trick, so I suggest seasoning to your taste. Add half the pastrami to the sauce.

Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce, using reserved cooking liquid if the sauce seems too thick. Serve pasta topped with more of the pastrami, a bit of cheese, and some parsley. A sprinkle of caraway too, if you're as fond of the flavor as I am.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Top Chef Portland

Did anyone watch Top Chef Portland? I think it was one of the best seasons ever. 

I didn't do a recap, and I'm not sorry. It was nice to actually enjoy watching the show rather than taking notes and trying to come up with jokes. Because the pandemic caused this season to be very straightforward, with a big focus on the food itself--no gimmicky challenges, no traveling for the finale--I think my recaps would have been pretty dry anyway. 

I love that most of the contestants were non-white. It gets a little dull watching white folks cooking the same French-inspired stuff all the time. Latin American/Mexican and Asian cuisines are my jam, so I would have been quite happy to judge all of the goodies presented by Shota, Maria, Gabe, Jamie, Byron, and Avishar. Dawn was my favorite contestant though. She must have made some fabulous food if she could survive leaving stuff off plates on multiple occasions!
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I even thought Dawn could pull off a win all the way into the finale's Chef's' Table, but after listening to the judges deliberate, I realized that Gabe was the winner. Deservedly so, as his food shone all season long. But have you read about the controversy surrounding his firing from restaurant Comedor? Apparently he was in a "consensual sexual relationship" with a female staffer--in other words, fucking around on his wife--pre-Top Chef, and cut the woman's hours once he returned. Allegedly for a "decline in her performance." We can assume this means on the job, but maybe she just didn't want to sleep with him anymore? That sort of toxic male behavior should no longer be acceptable in the culinary industry. I'd love to see that big check taken out of Gabe's hands and put into Dawn's. Or Shota's. 

Is anyone watching Top Chef Amateurs? I'll be tuning in. 

* 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.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Pancho's (Sponsored Post)

Who doesn't appreciate some cheesy goodness now and again? I'm not just talking a slice of cheese on a sandwich or sprinkled on a taco. I mean real, ooey gooey, sexy cheese, draped over everything from a tortilla chip to a stuffed pepper.

I'm talking queso. Specifically Pancho's cheese dip.

There are only two Pancho's restaurants (in West Memphis, AK, and Memphis, TN) but their famed cheese dip is available in 1200 locations across the country, including Giant Food Stores in Baltimore, and the Weis Market on Goucher Blvd in Towson. (Check their store locator--https://panchosdip.com/store-locator--for info.) People have called this stuff the Best Dip on the Planet; it even has a fan club. I can see why. It's not too thick, not too spicy, and it tastes fresh. As I was putting these dishes together, I was literally scooping the cheese out of the tub with my fingers and eating it.

But then, I do like me some cheese.

I crumbled some freshly fried Mexican chorizo on some Pancho's to make a super easy and delicious choriqueso dip. And I thought it made a brilliant topping for some Mexican-style stuffed bell peppers.


Papas con Chorizo-stuffed Bell Peppers with Pancho's Cheese Dip

2 fist-sized red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
Salt
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cut in half from top to bottom, seeds removed
Your favorite salsa
Pancho's Cheese Dip
Minced green onions or chives

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water seasoned with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Put the chorizo in a saute pan set over medium-high heat. Breaking the chorizo up with a wooden spoon, cook the sausage until it's crumbled and browned. Add the minced garlic, turn the heat to medium, and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove the meat and garlic from the skillet, leaving the fat. If there doesn't seem to be much fat in the pan, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Add the potatoes to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the potatoes start to brown. Return the chorizo to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Fill each bell pepper half with a heaping amount of the chorizo and potato mixture and place them in a baking pan--ideally an 8" glass pan. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. NOTE: If it's too hot to put the oven on for this long, as it is in my house right now, you can microwave the peppers for 10 minutes on a covered plate to make them tender. Then they'll only need about 15 minutes in the oven. 

Put a puddle of salsa on each of four plates. Top with a pepper half. Generously drizzle Pancho's Cheese Dip over the peppers, and garnish with the onions or chives.

Serves 4.


Posted on Minxeats.com.

* 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!

Friday, June 25, 2021

Flashback Friday - Scallops with Lavender Honey Brown Butter

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on November 21, 2012.

Scallop dishes at restaurants don't seem quite as astronomically priced these days as back then, but they're still not cheap.
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Remember when I complained last month that scallops are the restaurant world's biggest rip-off? Here's some proof. I paid $15.95 per pound for U-10 drypack scallops at the local Giant. U-10 means there are fewer than ten scallops per pound - these three babies weighed .37 lb. ("Drypack" means they were packed and shipped on ice without the use of preservatives. They sear quite nicely and don't leach a lot of moisture into the pan.)

I seared the scallops in a bit of olive oil, removed them from the pan, and turned off the heat. To the still hot pan, I added a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of honey, about a teaspoon of dried, food-grade, lavender buds, and a teaspoon of chopped preserved lemon. The honey caramelized almost instantly, creating a rich, lightly sweet sauce for the scallops, which were also garnished with a sprinkle of green onion and a few more lavender buds.

Had I ordered this in a restaurant, it would have cost $35. Cost me around $6 to make at home. And they were damn fine.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, June 21, 2021

WholeMinx

I have no idea what week this is. I'm guessing Week 116? It's crazy how staying home for a year has altered my reality. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's for the better.

While it was a bit weird not eating in restaurants, especially as food writers, hubby and I quickly got accustomed to regular carry-out meals. When the weather is nice, we dine outdoors at a few of our favorite places, with a caveat: no tents. I mean, that's not really outdoors, is it? The rest of the time we're eating leftovers or something I've concocted. The grocery store that we visit every two weeks has had all of the necessities for many months now, and I can get fancier produce delivered from Washington's Green Grocer

I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, though I am not anywhere near a vegetarian. Some days I'm doing the whole Mark Bittman "Vegan Before 6" thing, not eating any meat until dinnertime. Other times--more rarely--I have meat for lunch (it depends on what leftovers need to be eaten soonest). I have been doing my own version of Whole30 for the last 2 years now, and it's a lifestyle that works for me. I'm going to call it WholeMinx.

The basis of Whole30 is to eat only whole foods and to give up processed ones. Also, one must give up grains, sugars, alcohol, dairy, and legumes. It's pretty strict about what one cannot eat, but it does allow fruits, veg, meats and fats. It's not a weight loss diet, but one intended to "reset" eating habits from crappy to healthy. Still, I've lost 50 lbs so far. I've always had trouble losing weight. The last time I did significant dieting, I ate 700 calories per day and exercised like a fiend. Those calories weren't always nutritious...I went more for filling. In other words, I ingested terrible low-calorie bread that was probably more cardboard than wheat, low-fat cheese slices, and "diet" salad dressings and such that are more poison than food. I'd eat cans of zucchini in tomato sauce (about 120 calories) for dinner. Yes, I felt light-headed frequently. But the weight fell off me, and, for a few years, I was slim (ish) and cute (er). But that kind of eating is not at all sustainable, so I fell back to old habits and gained all of the weight back, and more, rapidly.

That was dumb. And unhealthy. Now I know better.

After a few weeks of doing Whole30, I decided that wheat was probably my downfall. Bread and pizza are my favorite foods, and I can't say no to cookies, cake, pie, or donuts. If I eat any of those things and count calories, I don't lose weight. But if I don't eat any of that stuff, and don't count calories, I do lose weight. If I add a little sugar to my diet, but stay off the grains, I continue to lose weight. Adding beans and corn (which they count as a grain, but I count as a vegetable) to my diet does not affect the weight loss. Dairy doesn't, either. In other words, I found that if I eat a balanced diet of everything but grains, I can lose weight. Not just like that, of course, I have to exercise, too, and reduce my portion sizes, but considering I can eat just about anything I want, that part is fairly easy.

I'm going to tell you about my typical eating day, and you're going to say it sounds like a punishment diet. But it really isn't. These days, eating is one of the few things I look forward to, and I make sure to create meals that I really enjoy. (I am fortunate to like pretty much all fruits and veg, which makes things so much easier. YMMV.)

Weekdays


Breakfast
: a smoothie. I've never been a smoothie person; the ones from juice bars are crazy expensive and full of sugar. But I got a bag of Bob's Red Mill Vanilla Protein Powder as part of my ongoing promotion with them and figured I had to use it. I put a single scoop (using the scoop that comes in the bag, a serving size is 2 scoops) in a blender with a whole banana (frozen, if possible), a cup of hemp milk (use the milk of your choice), and various goodies like chia seeds, golden flax meal, matcha, gotu kola, collagen, and cacao nibs, plus some water to top it off. (I bought some reusable smoothie straws to make drinking easier.) The protein powder has monkfruit extract, cornstarch, and a tiny bit of sugar, so it's definitely not Whole30 compliant, but it fits fine with WholeMinx. I also drink at least one cup of coffee and have a bowl of assorted berries and pineapple.

Breakfast is preceded by a half hour video workout of some sort. My favorite is Jessica Smith's Walk On series of low-impact walking cardio, but I also ride my exercise bike, do weight training with dumbells and kettlebell, and just walk around the neighborhood. This might sound horrible to some of you, but I have to admit that my mornings have become my favorite part of the day.

(Who am I? and what did I do with Kathy?)

Lunch
is often a cold cooked beet dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and topped with crumbled feta, bleu, or goat cheese and some walnut pieces. Sometimes I make some non-garbanzo bean hummus (they give me stomach cramps) and eat it with the beets, or roasted carrots, a sweet potato, or winter squash. For crunch, I'll eat some Simple Mills almond flour crackers (which are super yummy). Today, however, I have some leftover carry-out chicken wings. Mmm!

Dinner is whatever we feel like eating. Except pizza. If hubby wants pasta, he has pasta and I eat zucchini noodles. If we get carry-out Chinese or Indian or Thai or Vietnamese food, I don't eat the rice. I've had burgers in bowls from Five Guys and wrapped in lettuce from Red Robin (damn, I miss the buns though), super fatty pork belly from Red Pepper in Towson, and Korean BBQ fries from The Local Fry. Pretty much anything goes.

I do have a late snack most nights, either dried or fresh fruit or a few nuts.

Weekends


Breakfast
one day is sunny-side-up eggs, which I eat with Utz plain potato chips instead of toast, plus fruit and coffee. The other day is occasionally a grain-free porridge made with stuff like coconut flour and hazelnut meal, or oatmeal for Mr Minx and a sweet potato or leftovers or an RX Bar for me.

No lunch normally. Maybe a handful of potato chips.

Dinner is whatever I feel like eating that doesn't involve wheat or other grains. Last week it was pork chops with sautéed grapes and leeks. This week we'll be celebrating the 4th with various grilled meats and corn on the cob.

So not torture! I am eating so well and feeling good these days. I did have a plateau earlier in the year that lasted a few frustrating months. In May I allowed myself pizza and pie and other wheat-y stuff, which made me feel like crap but reset whatever it is in the brain that decided I had lost enough weight. I lost 4.5 lbs in June, and if I keep up that pace, I should reach my 2020 goal by mid-fall.

If you've read this far down the post, you probably deserve a medal or something. At least a fun new recipe. And I promise you'll get one, just not today. I really wanted to re-set this blog, which has felt neglected recently (by me and by you!) and hope to feature more nutritious food in the future. That is not to say "diet" food - I won't be trying to sell you on anything with that word on the label. But I will promote more products that fit in my new eating lifestyle, and hopefully in yours, too.

I predict the pandemic will be with us well into 2021. This is as good a time as any to start taking better care of yourself. Stop using being stuck at home as an excuse for constant baking and binge eating. Use the extra time--if you have it--to start a new exercise routine. No need to go crazy, just take a walk around the neighborhood every day rather than turning on the TV. Exercise is just as good for the mind as it is for the body, and we all could use a mental pick-me-up right now.

**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, June 18, 2021

Flashback Friday - Rice Salad with Chinese Sausage and Roasted Broccoli

flashback friday graphic
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.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Crepini Egg Wraps

While Whole30 has been largely successful for me, I have definitely modified it to my tastes. One of the big no-nos is using a legal food, eggs for example, to replicate a non-legal food, like a taco shell. That is apparently "not in the spirit of the diet." I call bullshit, because the spirit of the diet lies in the dieter, not in the list of forbidden foods. While I have gotten used to eating potatoes as my primary starch, one can't really wrap a taco in them, or use them particularly successfully to sop up egg yolk, etc. I understand that grains are forbidden on Whole30, and I do my best to avoid all of them, including ground corn, so I won't eat a corn tortilla (though I will eat fresh corn), or rice, but I draw the line at giving up clever facsimiles made from "legal" substances. 

Not long ago, I read about Crepini wraps, made from egg and cauliflower, in a specialty food magazine. I inquired about samples, and two days later received both large and small wraps in my mailbox. I figure the large ones could be used for bigger sandwich-style things, and the smaller ones as taco shells.
 
They smelled a little farty when I opened the package, but that's the whole cauliflower thing. The flavor, however, is pretty neutral, like a flour crepe, and pretty close to the same texture. They are super thin, but not super delicate. Still, I found that I liked to double the large ones before wrapping up any goodies and tripling the small ones for tacos. I mean, 24 calories is still much fewer than the amount in a corn tortilla, right?

I tried the large ones with grilled sausages (while hubby ate a hot dog bun), with eggs as a breakfast burrito, and on their own as "bread." The small ones made lots of tasty tacos. 

While Crepini Egg Thins aren't a perfect substitute for bread, etc., they are pretty damn good. I am quite pleased that I discovered them and will be buying them regularly in the future.

Thanks, Crepini, for the free samples!

* 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.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Stroll Down Bleecker Street

Even before my first trip to New York, I was somewhat obsessed with Bleecker Street. It all started while I was in college, studying visual communications. A very famous illustrator who probably made pretty good money was a guest speaker at my school. During his talk, he dropped the fact that he lived on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Though I knew I didn’t quite have his talent, my life goals suddenly involved living in NY in an apartment on Bleecker. Looking back, I realize: 1) I had a bit of a crush on the guy; 2) He probably lived over a restaurant and existed in a constant fug of melted cheese and oregano. But what’s so bad about smelling like pizza all day every day? (I could probably rationalize it then. Now, not so much.)

I never did move to New York, but most of my visits to that city involve a stroll down Bleecker. In the days when a friend of mine worked at a now-defunct restaurant in the West Village, I liked to explore the neighborhood before meeting up with him for dinner. I would emerge from the Christopher Street station and, ninety-nine percent of the time, walk down a block and turn left onto Bleecker. A right turn would mean walking up the more expensive end of Bleecker, the one lined with clothing boutiques that are far less-interesting to me than restaurants. If you’re a Sex and the City fan, the original Magnolia Bakery is on that end, at W. 11th Street, but that’s about it as far as food is concerned. Unless you want to want to purchase pricey togs and accessories, head southeast.

There are also boutiques on the next two blocks of Bleecker, and I skip them all. Let’s face it--I’m a realist. I know I can’t afford anything in those shops, so there’s no use torturing myself by looking at any of it. But there are restaurants, too, like A.O.C., a little French joint where one can sit in an outdoor garden and enjoy a croque madame or duck confit while pretending to be in Paris. Modern Greek cuisine is offered down the street at Nisi Estiatorio. I like that I can get baklava oatmeal or grilled octopus for brunch and lobster moussaka for dinner.

Continue down to the next block for more food, though the walk can be mildly confusing with the criss-crossing of streets. The next intersection involves both Barrow Street and 7th Avenue. As you’re heading south(-ish, Manhattan isn’t on a straightforward N, S, E, W grid because the whole peninsula slants to the northeast), you’ll see Hummus Place and Bleecker Street Pizza on the left, though both are actually on 7th Avenue. Just keep walking straight. Once you’re across 7th Ave, you’ll see O. Ottomanelli & Sons, an old-school meat market that has been around forever. Next door is Ghandi Cafe, where the rather large menu of Indian favorites belies the rather cramped space. Bantam Bagels comes next, but you won’t find the NY classic with a schmear here--they specialize in bite-sized bagel nuggets filled with flavored cream cheese. Across the street you can eat sushi at Kumo, or, if you prefer your seafood cooked, there’s Fish next door. Craving pizza? John’s of Bleecker Street has been making coal-fired pies since 1929. You can’t get a slice there, only whole pies, but it’s worth a visit if your ultimate goal is similar to mine: taste all of the pizza NY has to offer (a lofty goal, I know.)

If you’ve ever had a hankering for ice cream flavored with, say, corn, or maybe sweet potato studded with bits of brie cheese, then you should hit up Cones. This shop specializes in helado--Argentinian ice cream similar to gelato--and sorbets, sometimes in unusual flavors. But also more familiar ones like pistachio, mint chocolate chip, and passion fruit.

Back across the street is Kesté, but this time the pizzas are wood-fired and Neapolitan-style. The crust is thin and blistered or “leopard-spotted,” and the toppings are plentiful. The menu boasts over 40 variations of white, red, and specialty pizzas including ones topped with housemade truffle burrata or porcini mushrooms and a walnut cream. There are over a dozen gluten-free pizzas, and a cheese-free vegan pie available, too. Also on this side of the block is my favorite tea shop, David’s Tea. The Canadian chain has three locations in Manhattan, but this one is my favorite. I like to snag something iced (or hot, depending on the season) to sip as I wander around, but usually end up buying quite a bit of loose tea as well. (Cardamom French Toast black tea and Coffee Pu’erh are two of my current faves.)

Murray’s Cheese is in the next block, next to Amy’s Bread, the perfect places to stock up for an impromptu park bench picnic in one of the green spaces nearby. If you’d rather eat your cheese indoors, Murray’s has a Cheese Bar up the block. The menu is predictably cheese-tastic, with items ranging from fondue and lobster mac & cheese to brie and mushroom soup, Buffalo cheese curds, and raclette for two. The dessert menu includes cheesecake, of course, but also s’mores made with a Spanish cheese called Arzua Ulloa. And now I’m seriously craving cheese, but as I’m on Whole30 right now, it’s verboten. [sad emoticon] [crying emoticon] [cheese emoticon]
A massive slice at Joe's
I have a couple of favorite places in the next block: taco joint Tacombi (with other locations in town if you can’t make it to this one); and Pasticceria Rocco. Going to Rocco’s is practically a tradition in my family; my Dad used to bring home boxes of their Italian cookies when I was a kid, and now I do the same. Their vaguely chewy hazelnut biscotti are one of my all-time favorite cookies, and I have a soft spot for their pignoli and meringue cookies as well. Rocco’s has gelato, too, but if that’s what I’m after, I go to Grom, on the corner of Bleecker and Carmine Streets. I’m a sucker for the pistacchio, but am happy with any flavor they offer. On that same block of Carmine is Joe’s Pizza, home to one of the best slices in the city.

While there are lots of tasty places on Bleecker itself, don’t be afraid to wander down one of the side streets. The first cross street after Christopher is Grove Street, and if you don’t wander, you won’t find Buvette or Via Carota, serving French small plates and rustic Italian fare, respectively. Turn left on Carmine after visiting Grom, cross 6th Ave, and you’ll find yourself on Minetta Lane which takes you to Macdougal Street and Minetta Tavern (home to one of the best burgers in the city), the enormous slices at Artichoke Pizza, plus several other eateries and cocktail lounges. The whole area is lousy with bars and restaurants that make up the many reasons I find myself exploring this area over and over again.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Flashback Friday - Pulled Pork with Peaches

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on March 28, 2014. I know Lent's not over, but whatever - I don't participate. So pass the pork!

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The February issue of Saveur magazine has several interesting recipes for peaches, which seems odd when there's snow on the ground. But canned peaches can be just as tasty; indeed the focus of the article was canning. And while I don't do any canning myself, Del Monte, Libby's, etc., does.

When I spotted a relatively inexpensive pork shoulder at the grocery store, I decided we needed to try the peach-braised pulled pork. Once home, I realized the recipe called for a 3 lb boneless shoulder, and we had just purchased one that weighed 8.5 lbs, bone-in. It also called for whole cloves, smoked paprika, and lager beer. We had ground cloves, no paprika, and a couple bottles of my brother-in-law's home brewed ale. So I do what I always do--make substitutions. Allspice works just as well as cloves when it comes to matching with peaches, and as long as the beer wasn't stout, it would be fine. As for the paprika--I could have sworn I had a big bag of it in the cupboard, but I suppose I'll have to order more from Penzey's or the Spice House. There's really no substitute, so I just skipped it completely.

I knew from the get-go that 3 hours wouldn't be enough cooking time for the porky behemoth we bought--but what would be?

Three hours into cooking, the meat was cooked but still a little tough. I decided to hack the shoulder into chunks, to help it along. By four+ hours, I was getting impatient and hauled the thing out of the oven. It was plenty tender, but not tender enough to shred with two forks. Instead, I chopped it up with a big knife, all the while sampling it to make sure it was good. I'm all about quality control.

The magazine calls for using only half a cup of the pan juices. There were at least 2 cups, and it seemed like a real waste to toss it (and the onions, garlic, and peaches within it) because it tasted so rich and porky. So I emulsified the whole mess with a stick blender, added half a cup of brown sugar and the rest of the peaches and peach syrup, and boiled it vigorously for about fifteen minutes. And instead of serving it with sauteed onions and peach jam, I made some slaw with brussels sprouts, because that's what we had.

It was great, but we had pork for days and days. And days. Not complaining, but 8.5 lbs is a lot of pork for two people.

Peach-Braised Pulled Pork, adapted from Saveur

3 tbsp olive oil
3-8 lb boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large yellow onion, cut into quarters
2 (12-oz.) bottles beer
1 (1-qt.) jar canned peaches in syrup, drained or use store-bought
1/2 cup brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325°.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a baking pan or dutch oven large enough to hold your meat.

Season pork with salt and pepper. Brown meat on all sides, about 10–12 minutes. Remove meat from pan and add allspice, bay leaves, garlic, and onion to pan; cook until browned, 6–8 minutes. Add beer; cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until reduced by half, 10–12 minutes.

Return pork to pan and add half the peaches. Bake, covered, until pork is tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into pork reads 190°, 3–5 hours. Let cool. If pork is tender enough, use two forks to shred the meat, otherwise, chop it with a sharp knife.

Pour two cups of the pan juices, plus any solids (minus bay leaves), into a sauce pan. Puree with a stick blender. Add the remaining peaches and their juice and the brown sugar. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for fifteen minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir chopped meat into the sauce. If you are using a huge shoulder, like we did, save some of the meat for other uses, like pasta sauce.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Avocado Oil Mayonnaise #sponsored

Mr Minx and I have been on the Whole30 diet off and on for a couple of years. While it's fairly strict about the carbohydrates allowed, it's much more generous with fats. Mayonnaise is not an enemy--except if it's made with soybean oil. Soy products are verboten on the diet.

It's fairly difficult to find a commercial mayo not made with soybean oil. We've tried a couple of fancy ones procured at Whole Foods, but didn't enjoy them. One was made with avocado oil, and it was pretty awful. So when Better Body Foods asked me if they could send me some of their Avocado Oil Mayo to try, I almost said no. I am glad I didn't! Their mayo, made with 100% avocado oil, tastes like the best commercial mayonnaises on the market, without the funky flavor of other brands we've tried.

When asked to create a recipe for Avocado Oil Mayo, I could think of no better way to use it than as an accompaniment to steamed artichokes. Mayo with a bit of lemon juice makes a perfect dipper for a vegetable that we don't eat nearly often enough. Of course the mayo is also great in things like chicken salad, as a sandwich spread, in deviled eggs, etc.

Better Body Foods Avocado Oil Mayo comes in three flavors, chipotle lime, lime, and original, and can be purchased at Amazon.

* 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.

Monday, May 03, 2021

August Uncommon Tea

I'm a bit of a tea addict. I practically collect it. When I'm in NY, I always stop in my favorite tea shop and emerge with $50 worth of goodies from rooibos to oolong. I even follow tea company accounts on Instagram. And you know those scary Facebook ads, the ones that are hawking products that are almost always exactly something that you've been looking for or didn't know you needed? Sometimes mine are for tea. I'm pretty sure that's how I discovered August Uncommon Tea. In any case, they have every type of tea one needs in life, from dark and rich to light and floral with everything in between, and all are available in 14g deluxe samples, which are good for four cups of brew. Try before you buy is my motto!

I went a little crazy and purchased a baker's dozen of samples last fall, just at the beginning of peak tea drinking season. I justified the number as I planned to give a few to a tea-drinking friend, though in reality he only received three. And I had a hard time deciding which ones to give up.

Some of the teas have fairly unusual ingredients, like the Leatherbound which has an obvious caraway note. The Black Lodge features smoky banana and black truffle. I think both of these flavors are my favorites of the ones I've tried thus far.

And of course I do plan to try more. In fact, I have the site open in another browser tab and have already put a few more samples in my shopping cart. (Psychocandy! Biarritz!) This is one addiction that is not harmful--well, except that caffeine gives me heart palpitations, but I never drink *that* much tea. (That would be a lot.)

Tell me - are you a fan of tea? What is your favorite type? Do you prefer herbal blends or real tea? To be honest, I like it all. Because of the caffeine thing, I need to drink more decaf teas, so Rooibos is always on my playlist. But I can't quit black tea, which is actually my fave. I just maybe drink less of it. Maybe.

* 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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

La Calle

There are so many chain restaurants in the Inner Harbor area of downtown Baltimore, that when a locally-owned joint opens up, I get excited. Situated on a bland block of South Street, between Baltimore and Redwood, and a stone's throw from The Block, La Calle--"the street" in Spanish--is among the most exciting. While the name conjures thoughts of street food, the decor--some walls paneled, others painted the color of red mole, a full bar--suggest fine dining.

At this point, I've only ever been for lunch, so have not experienced the lobster empanadas or braised lamb shank barbacoa or chicken mole poblano, all of which sound amazing.

What I have had, so far, has been the shrimp ceviche, light and full of flavor (though the accompanying "sweet" tortilla chips are a little too thick and crunchy for my tastes).

Also a perfectly cooked, crisp-skinned, salmon that was so good I've had it twice. It was accompanied by tiny potatoes, tomatoes, and fava beans in an epazote lobster cream sauce. And it's $12. Honestly, both times it was the best salmon I've had in town in ages, hands down, and at a fraction of the price.

Several of my various dining companions went with tacos, and though I didn't get to try any of them, they looked uniformly tasty. That might be my next order, unless of course I finally go for dinner. The last time I was at La Calle, it was with Mr Minx, and he tried the al pastor torta. It's a nice big sandwich, as tortas usually are, filled with tasty and tender pork bits that I couldn't resist snatching off of his plate.

We also tried the flan, which was excellent--firm, very smooth, just sweet enough, and dusted with a smattering of sesame seeds. One of the best I've tried.

La Calle is a long walk from work for me, but well worth it. And of course if I'm feeling lazy, I can always take a bus. I'm already contemplating my next visit in a couple of weeks. Do go, because I'd love for this place to stick around for a long time.

La Calle
10 South St
Baltimore, MD 21202
www.lacallerestaurant.com

* 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.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Souvlaki Authentic Greek Cuisine

I'm always happy to explore food options in Hampden, so when we were invited to a tasting at Souvlaki, we jumped on it.

I had passed by the place a few times and even wrote a few sentences about it in an article for the City Walker App blog, but had never eaten there. (It's very easy to get stuck going to the same three favorite place over and over.) I knew Souvlaki was of the fast-casual, counter-service, genre, and that I could pick a protein, side, and sauce to make up a platter. That seemed the best option for a tasting, actually, so that's what both Mr Minx and I did.

But first, we started with the zucchini balls. Kolokythokeftedes. Say that five times fast. (Say that one time slowly and I'll be impressed.) Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, they were lovely whether or not they got a dunk in the accompanying tzatziki.

Next time, I want to try the slightly easier to pronounce pantzarokeftedes, or beet balls.

For my entree, I had the stuffed bifteki (spiced beef patties stuffed with kaseri cheese) with a yee salad (arugula, tomatoes, ntakos crumb, manoyri cheese, balsamic cream, evoo) and melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant). The beef was tender and super-flavorful, nicely seasoned, with just enough cheesy ooze. It was great wrapped in the pita and topped with some of the eggplant and a bit of the tzatziki left over from the zucchini balls. The salad was pretty good, though was slightly overdressed.

Mr Minx had the lamb souvlaki with Mediterranean fries (topped with pecorino and oregano) and more tzatziki. I loved the the touch of the grilled lemons. And the fries were fabulous. I'm not a big potato fan, and I am very picky when it comes to fries. These were crispy and golden and just lovely, and they came in a portion more than large enough to share.

I'm looking forward to going back. I want to try the shrimp souvlaki with feta cheese sauce and more of those fries. And the beet balls. I should probably try the spinach and feta pies, too, for research sake....

Souvlaki Greek Cuisine
1103 W 36th St
Baltimore, MD 21211
https://yoursouvlaki.com/

* 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.