Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Ground Beef

Mix it, beat it, pat it, eat it

Ground beef is popular among U.S. consumers. It’s used heavily in all-American dishes, such as meatloaf and cheeseburgers. The butcher grounds or finely chops different beef cuts to make different grades of ground beef. The most expensive and leaner ground beef comes from grinding sirloin. This variety of ground beef is also labeled “extra-lean.” Ground round is also lean. Ground chuck has more fat and is more tasty. Hamburger or plain “ground beef” – the cheapest -- may contain up to 30 percent fat. Cooks may need to add fat to the frying pan when using extra-lean ground beef. The Mixed Stew crew suggests making grilled hamburger patties with 2 parts ground chuck combined with 1 part ground round. We find that this mix makes juicy and yummy cheeseburgers. And, we treat ourselves by going to a local butcher shop for the freshest beef.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Homemade Taco Meat

Ground up goodness and the right stuff

The Mixed Stew doesn’t use or add a brand name dry (or premade) taco seasoning mix in this rendition for taco meat. Therefore, the mild and authentic flavors stand out in each serving of this Mexican favorite. We also like controlling the salt content, which can be overpowering in canned tomatoes and some dry mixes. Our recipe also makes enough for the whole family. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 large fry-pan with lid
1 teaspoon butter
½ yellow onion, diced
4 or 5 cloves garlic, chopped
½ red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1-2 medium sized jalepeno, seeded and diced
2 lbs ground beef
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
½ teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 ½ teaspoon cilantro
1 ½ teaspoon chili powder

Optional: Bottle of beer or chicken broth

Cooking and Directions:

Heat fry-pan over medium-high heat. Throw in butter to melt. Add onion while stirring. Let onion turn translucent, then toss in garlic to cook a bit before adding ground beef. Place pan cover over most of top but leaving a little opening for venting. Let meat cook and brown. This will take some time. Drain most of the rendered fats and let remaining liquid reduce. Add jalepenos, red bell peppers and continue stirring. Add between half a cup of broth, or between half to ¾ of a bottle of beer, to the mixture. Add cilantro, chili powder, oregano, cumin, and tomatoes. Cover (leaving a slight opening again) and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Let flavors blend. There should be very little juice in the finished taco meat.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Field Trip

Coffee Shop: New York, NY

This snazzy joint near Union Square caught our attention while visiting New York City. Coffee Shop is actually a diner with a full bar. (The specialty drinks are definitely worth trying.) The upscale décor of the front dining area hides a casual and more relaxing, but still very hip, second dining room. The quirky vintage red chairs and funky geometric tables reminded us of the 1960s. The Mixed Stew Crew had the Spaghetti and Meatballs ($ 13.95) and Ropa Vieja W/ Rice, Black Beans and Sweet Plantains ($ 15.95). The large food portions didn’t disappoint. Lighter fare includes Caesar Salad with Anchovies ($ 8.95) and Non Fat Yogurt & Homemade Granola Banana Split W/ Fresh Berries ($ 9.95). The Tamales of the Day ($ 7.95) pleasantly surprised The Mixed Stew crew when we tasted lamb and lamb pieces instead of chicken, beef, or pork. Don’t be intimidated by the ambience because the great food at Coffee Shop is also reasonably priced and worth every penny.

Coffee Shop

29 Union Square West

New York, NY 10003

(212) 243 - 7969

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Cocktail Onions

A classy little bite of flavor
You may have first spotted a cocktail onion in a martini. A well-stocked bar usually has olives, maraschino cherries, and these small onions. Producers take pearl onions and brine them with added seasonings, such as paprika, allspice, and peppercorns. Pearl onions already have a sweet taste that makes them ideal for turning them into cocktail onions. Expect a sweet and tangy bite in every cocktail onion. Some drinkers may enjoy the clashing pungent onion flavor with their favorite mixed drink. We found jars of cocktail onions next to regular pickled relish at Safeway. Nondrinkers may take a liking to eating cocktail onions; in fact, we suggest using them as a Korean banchan. Serve a small portion on the side with almost any savory meat dish.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: More on Onions

We can’t get enough of this pungent pickYes, we did do a post about onions, which was way, way, way back in May 2009. But we thought that there must be more about this pervasive ingredient. The word onion comes from the Latin word unio, which means one. Each plant produces only one bulb. Also, the layers form together in a union around the bulb’s center. The pungent odor comes from onions’ sulfur contents, which also causes the formation of tears when cooks cut or handle this food item. The vegetable is available-year around-in the produce section of most major grocery stores.

Onions originated in Asia and the Middle East. The Ancient Egyptians used them for currency during the building of pyramids. Christopher Columbus brought them to the West Indies. The onion became popular across all socioeconomic levels—especially among the poor--since the vegetable was a simple means in spicing up any prepared meal. Select onions that are neat, nicely formed, and have no bruising, discoloration, or mold. Look for dry skins and no holes or openings at the neck. Onions are high in Vitamin C, chromium (a mineral that helps the body process insulin), and contain several anti-inflammatory chemicals. Here is a short primer on onions:

Walla Walla - This is a sweet golden onion that’s also named for a city in Washington state where it’s grown. Production is controlled and only onions grown in a specific area of Walla Walla valley can be labeled as Walla Walla onions. These onions are in season from June through August.

White - This is very popular in Hispanic kitchens and well known for their tangy and crisp taste. White onions are more fragile and have a tendency to rot faster than other onion varieties.

Yellow - They are the most common and most widely used variety of onion. People think of this variety when a recipe simply calls for onion. These have a higher sulfur content and stronger flavor compared to white onions.

Red - This variety may be eaten raw. Cooks add them to salads for their color and milder flavor. We also suggest grilling red onion.

Vidalia - These golden brown onions are one of the most popular sweet varieties and are named for a town in Texas. By law, only onions grown in certain areas of Georgia and Texas can be labeled Vidalia onions. Harvesting season runs between April and June. Look for the white flesh and somewhat flat and round shape. These onions are great for making onion rings.

Boiling - These are smaller versions of their larger cousins and come in white, yellow, and red. They grow up to two inches in diameter and are usually cooked whole.

Candy – This relatively new hybrid yellow onion is mildly pungent and sweet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: Enoki Mushrooms

A long stem fungi that turns heads
Look for these skinny and lengthy mushrooms at your Asian supermarket or gourmet foods store. Enoki mushrooms resemble knitting-needles. In fact, they’re also known as golden needle mushrooms and are members of the Flammulina velutipes family. The wild variety, has a brown color and broad cap, grows naturally on the stumps of the Chinese Huckberry trees, which are called Enoki in Japanese. Meanwhile, the cultivated variety looks completely different with a white or cream color, long stems, and small caps. Many consumers prefer the cultivated variety with its stronger and sweeter flavor. Asian chefs add these mushrooms to soups and salads.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday's Bread Bowl: Japanese Onion Soup

A blend of cultural cuisines
This soup may be great for soothing your senses and appetite. It’s a comfy Japanese alternative to French Onion Soup. Enjoy the clear broth with morsels of green onion, ginger, and celery. The mushrooms provide a savory and chunky bite to this elegant Asian soup.

What you will need:

1 large pot with lid
1 wooden spoon
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced small
1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated
2 tablespoons green onion, minced
1 1/2 cups enoki mushrooms, chopped
1 (32 oz) Carton Swanson Beef Broth
½ carrot, chopped
½ garlic glove, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Place pot on medium-high heat. Pour in all of the broth and cover. Bring to a boil. Add yellow onion, celery, ginger, enoki mushrooms, carrot and garlic. Stir well. Add pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat to medium-low and recover pot with lid. Let everything simmer for five minutes. Remove pot from heat. Add egg while constantly stirring hot soup. Finally, add green onion. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Field Trip

IKEA Restaurant: College Park, Md.

The Mixed Stew Crew joins the many IKEA fanatics fond of the Swedish company's furniture, knick-knacks and food. We'd gladly grab the latest Stieg Larsson novel and head to the giant IKEA in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., and relax in the eatery. The cafeteria-like approach might be a little off-putting, but trust us, it's worth trying the food, which is much better than what you'll find in Swedish Meatballs most cafeterias. The famous ($ 4.99 for a platter) gives offers so much bang for the price. The flavorful meatballs (15) come covered in thick and creamy gravy. The rich, satisfying, and yummy mashed potatoes make this menu item a hit. It reminds us of the American comfort food standard of meatloaf, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Look for the maroon spoonful of Llingonberry jelly that provides a contrasting and tangy flavor burst to the meatballs and gravy. The lingonberries get us excited every time. We shared a large seasonal salad which helped cut the richness of the meatball platter, which each person in our party had to have. Finally, The salmon filet with vegetables and potato medallions is a more decadent option for hungry diners. For early-risers, the breakfast special is one cent shy of a dollar and comes with bacon, scrambled eggs, and potatoes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Watermelon Granitas

A twist on a summer favorite by adding green tea

These watermelon granitas can be a delightful end to any summer meal. Serve these instead of fat-laden ice cream for a frozen treat that’s refreshing and light. The addition of green tea infused with honey also makes it more delish. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 large bowl
1 hand blender
1 metal fork
1 shallow pan
4 cups, iced green tea (add 3 tablespoons honey while brewing tea)
4 cups, ripe watermelon
½ cup sugar (or Splenda)

Preparation and Directions:

Combine green tea, watermelon, sugar (or Splenda) in large bowl. Pulse mixture with hand blender until pureed. Next, pour smooth mixture into pan. Freeze for 1 hour. Rake mixture with fork and freeze for another hour. Finally, rake one last time and serve in cups.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Watermelon

Luscious, juicy and sweet: a sexy summer fruit

Chop into this fruit for a refreshing and sweet treat. Chilled wedges of watermelon can even be a thirst quencher. Watermelons are more than 90 percent water. The plant—a vine--comes from the Cucurbitaceae family, which means it’s also related to pumpkin and squash. The growing season for watermelon occurs during the summer months. Look for the red, orange, yellow, and white flesh varieties. Some have black seeds while others have brown seeds while others contain no seeds at all. This fruit originated in Africa where Ancient Egyptians cultivated and cherished the fruit’s refreshing properties. It later spread to China and Europe. Native Americans were growing watermelon in the 16th century. Today, consumers may find watermelons year around in most major grocery stores. But summer time is the best time to get them fresh. Look for watermelons that feel heavy for their size with a smooth skin that’s neither to dull or too shiny. Watermelons contain a lot of Vitamin C and Vitamin A.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Gorgonzola Cheese

Creating a stink can be a good thing

Make room for this funky and smelly cheese from Italy that’s a member of the blue cheese family. Gorgonzola has been made in Italy since the Middle Ages. This cheese is made of either cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Lactic acid bacteria and mold spores help give this cheese its sharp and pungent flavor. Look for a crumbly texture, white color, and blue or green veining throughout pieces of this cheese. Authentic gorgonzola cheese is traditionally aged for six months or longer. The aging process determines the consistency and texture of the end product. Firm gorgonzola is aged longer than creamy gorgonzola. Add this cheese to salads, pastas, or use it as a topping for pizza.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Tomato and Watermelon Salad

A tart combo of pink and red
This colorful salad is perfect for cooling up the hot summer. The blend of ripe watermelon, ripe tomatoes, and onion becomes a tangy, tart, and sweet mix. A dressing of rice vinegar enhances the flavors of each of the ingredients. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 large bowl
4 large tomatoes, quartered
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cups watermelon, cut into wedges
1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, diced into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mint, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons basil, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of black pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Combine vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt, basil, and mint in bowl. Mix well. Add watermelon, tomatoes, onion, and gorgonzola cheese. Toss well. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Field Trip

The Blue Moon Café: Baltimore, Md.

This stylish and urban food joint attracted our appetites, which meant a recent first visit. We give The Blue Moon Café high marks for its tempting temping breakfast and brunch menu items. The Captain Crunch French Toast ($ 9.99) is their breakfast special that’s become very popular throughout Baltimore. The joint has even been featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Three thick slices of this one-of-a kind toast come with a healthy dollop of whipped cream, fresh blueberries, powdered sugar, and sliced strawberries. We even ate them without pouring on the pancake syrup since each bite was sweet and flavorful. Of course, there’s an extra crunch in every bite of this breakfast special. This restaurant also has several yummy renditions of eggs benedict. Pictured below is the Lump Crab Eggs Benedict ($ 14.99). The breakfast fare also includes Mexican huevos rancheros ($ 11.99) with eggs, Mexican chorizo, and crisp hash browns. Make sure to stop by the Blue Moon Café on your next trip to Baltimore, Md.

The Blue Moon Café
1621 Aliceanna St
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 522-3940

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Bean Chips

A crunchy bite of a veggie delight
Can you believe these bean chips? Look for this alternative to fried potato chips at HMart, Whole Foods, or Fresh Market. A pack of .20 lbs usually costs $4.99 per pack. The beans must be vacuum fried—a process that results in a lower fat content. The process brings out more the bean’s naturally sweet flavors. The beans also gain a crisp—almost flaky—texture that makes them crunchy. Serve them on the side with a burger or sandwich for a health conscious change.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Other Green Beans

Stringy and snappy makes for healthy and happy

They’re more commonly known as string beans or snap beans. The scientific name for green beans is Phaseolus vulgaris. The vegetable originated in Peru. Spanish explorers of the New World introduced them to Europe in the 16th century. Calvin Keeney developed the first “stringless” variety in 1894 in Le Roy, NY. The “stringless” varieties have become extremely popular among modern consumers because there’s no extra hassle of removing the fibrous thread. Some gardeners may prefer the older varieties for their flavor. Today, there are over 130 known types of snap beans. Popular green beans include Contender and Rocdor.

Green beans are cheaper and in season between summer and fall. Farmers harvest them while still immature and while the inner beans are just beginning to form. Green beans average about four inches in length. Consumers should select specimens with a nice green color that come to a svelte point on either end. Avoid green beans with discoloration or bruised spots.

Green beans are related to shell beans, such as kidney beans or pinto beans. However, green beans—the pods and seeds--are entirely edible. Every serving of green beans is loaded with iron, magnesium, and Vitamin K.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: Half Runner Beans

Gravitate toward this lanky veggie

These beans are cross between bush and pole beans. Generally, half runner beans grow up to 4 inches or longer. The type of common bean originated in Central America. These are a good snap bean and have a habit of growing like bush beans. Look for large red, pink, or white pods. Cooks must tediously snap both ends and remove the side fibrous threads before cooking in any dishes. The half runner beans come in red, pink, and white and all can be used as a dry bean. Three common half runner beans are White, Mountaineer, and Volunteer. We like the nutty and earthy flavors of this vegetable. Don’t be afraid to buy half runner beans wherever you find them for sale.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Runner Beans and Salt Pork

Healthy veggies get a kick of flavor

The vendor at the farmers’ market recommended that we try making this dish using half-runner beans. The salt pork adds a lot of flavor to this dish. Chopped onion and garlic also enhance the earthy and nutty flavors of the tender cooked green beans. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 large stock pot with lid
1 wooden spoon
4 quarts water
2 quarts half runner beans, cleaned by clipping each end and removing the tough string along one side
1lb salt pork, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped

Cooking and Directions:

Place pot on medium-high heat. Let pot heat for 3-5 minutes. Throw in salt pork and let the pieces sweat. Add onion and garlic. Let onion turn translucent while constantly stirring to prevent burning of garlic. Pour in all of the runner beans. Toss well. Add and pour in 4 quarts water. Let water reach a rolling boil then lower heat to medium low. Let the ingredients simmer slowly for at least 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours and then serve.

**Helpful Hint: Take the time to remove the fiber along the side of each bean. We were in a rush and didn't quite take the time to do that with each bean. While the dish still was good, it's not so fun pulling out tough strings while eating.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Field Trip

The Saigon Pearl: Wiiliamsburg, Va.

We’re serving up an extra helping of pho restaurants this week with a trip to The Saigon Pearl in Virginia. This Vietnamese restaurant boasts a greater selection of menu items and more elegant ambiance compared to Pho Nam. Check out the Chef’s Stir Fry Special entrees ($ 9.75 to $ 16.95) and the Vermicelli Bowls ($ 8.50 to $ 9.50). We played it safe by getting pho, which was fine (but admittedly not as earthy and beefy as Pho Nam's), but we also got the grilled pork chops, shredded pork and fried egg combo, a filling dinner entree. Vegetarians will love the array of Vegetarian dishes ($ 9.75 to 14.95). If you’re visiting Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg, the Mixed Stew recommends The Saigon Pearl.

The Saigon Pearl

1665 Richmond Road

Williamsburg, Va. 23185


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Bean Sprout Banchan

A simple salad from baby stems

This bean sprout salad (sukju namul) is ubiquitous at most Korean restaurants. Also, look for it in the prepared food section of Asian markets. It’s very simple in preparation yet flavorful. Here’s our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 medium-sized bowl with lid
1 medium-sized sauce pan
2 cups water
16 oz Mung bean sprouts
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup green onion, chopped
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Cooking and Directions:

Place saucepan and water on stove at high heat. Bring to a boil. Pour bean sprouts into hot water. Let bean sprouts blanch for 1-2 minutes. Remove saucepan from stove and drain water. Place cooked bean sprouts in bowl. Let them cool to room temperature. Next, add sesame oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce, garlic, sugar, and green onion. Toss well. Finally, let salad chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Serve with a sprinkling (garnish) of freshly chopped hot pepper.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Bean Sprouts

Groovy, tasty young veggie product

Their crisp but soft texture and slightly sweet flavor makes bean sprouts popular in many dishes. They are the edible stems of germinated beans. Mung bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, and soy bean sprouts tend to be the most popular and widely available varieties. Bean sprouts—especially Mung bean--originated in Asia and eventually spread to other regions. Some people also make their own bean sprouts at home. Many other seeds, such as quinoa, garbanzos, sunflower seeds, and lentils, can be sprouted for different culinary uses. Look for fresh bean sprouts in the produce section of many supermarkets. Select bean sprouts that are robust and crisp. Avoid water damaged and limp bean sprouts. Consume bean sprouts within 2-3 days of purchase since they have a very short shelf-life. Bean sprouts are a good source of Vitamin A.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: History of Pho

More than just noodle soup

The national noodle dish of Vietnam is comprised of a yummy broth, tender pieces of beef or chicken, and rice vermicelli has gained a lot of popularity in the West. This soup is street food in Vietnam. There are three main varieties: Pho bo uses beef. Pho ga contains chicken while Pho chay is vegetarian. Otherwise, it’s not Pho. (By the way, it's pronounced "fuh" and not "foh.") We can loosely define Pho as “Vietnamese noodle soup.” Historians have theorized that Pho is a corruption of the words pot au feu, French for beef stew, soup, and translates into “pot on fire.” The French ruled and unified Vietnam in 1887.

The Pho of North Vietnam and South Vietnam have differences that you can really see and taste. Food experts believe that real Pho originated in the North—especially in Hanoi and the surrounding regions. North Vietnamese have learned to use all the animal scraps and bones in their recipes. Vietnamese cooks took the pieces that were usually discarded by the French chefs. Thus, a style of noodle soup, called Pho bac gained a foot hold in the Northern regions of Vietnam. Pho bac has a strong, yet delicate flavor. There are no herb garnishes that are in the noodle soups from the South aka Pho Nam.

Southern Pho or Pho nam reflects the abundance of more food items and ingredients. Cooks add more herbs, spices, and ingredients to their Pho. They freely added bean sprouts, hoisin sauce, and fish sauce to flavor their Pho. The Southern Vietnamese also developed Pho ga with chicken.

The Fall of Saigon in 1975 meant thousands of Vietnamese refugees left for other countries. Many old and cherished Pho recipes accompanied them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Field Trip

Pho Nam: Catonsville, Md.

The Mixed Stew Crew enjoys dropping by Pho Nam for its authentic Vietnamese Pho and Vietnamese Stir-Fry entrees. The Pho comes in regular ($ 5.95) and large size ($ 6.95) bowls. Expect to find yummy meat pieces, like eye-of-round steak, well-done flank, fat brisket, and soft tendon floating around in a tasty broth. The soups come with a hefty side serving of fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil, chopped hot pepper, and lime wedges. Diners can add these morsels to their Pho. We also recommend the fried Vietnamese egg rolls ($ 2.85 for 2) and the Grilled Lemon Grass (Pork, Beef, or Chicken) stir-frys ($ 7.80).

Pho Nam
6477 Baltimore National Pike
Catonsville, Md 21228
(410) 455 6000