Monday, June 25, 2012

Home Slice

I love really good pizza. Give me a crispy thin crust with delicious, flavorful toppings and I'm a happy girl. My hilarious friend Richie would call my kind of pizza "artsy." You know...arugula, goat cheese, prosciutto, roasted garlic...that kind of stuff. Fancy pants.

I love to grill my own pizza on my snazzy Weber electric grill - it's so easy! The first time I made pizza at home, I used the kitchn's fantastic blog post on the subject as a reference.

Everyone's so busy these days, so I think it's perfectly fine to use pizza dough from the prepared food section at a store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Save yourself some time, hon. However, if you'd rather do the whole scratch thing (and save some money, too), it's not hard at all. Here's Ina Garten's recipe. I've also made Pioneer Woman's dough, too.

Whether you make the dough or not, the key to grilling pizza is to work super fast with a VERY hot grill. Be sure to have your crusts and toppings close by. Just put the crust on the grill, brush both sides with olive oil, grill both sides for a few seconds, add your toppings (I put the cheese on before the sauce like they do at John's Pizzeria in NYC) and close the top (I turn the heat down a smidge) and grill for about 4-5 minutes. Easy as pizza pie.

What you choose to drink with your pizza depends on your own personal preference or mood and also different things go with different toppings. Check out my friend's blog Scribbleskiff for some ideas (like pairing spicy, meaty toppings with an IPA...) The pairing combinations are almost endless! Lately, my fave combo is goat cheese, mozzarella and arugula pizza with a glass of Torrontes. that I have the chickens out back, I sometimes top a pizza with a fried egg soon.

If you'd rather have a pro make your pizza, Baltimore has several great spots for delicious artisanal pizza. My favorite is Iggie's in Mt. Vernon. I love, love, love the Cipolla pizza with onion confit, mozzarella, pancetta and ricotta. Also, the Funghi with mushroom ragu, leeks and mozzarella. Holy moly, it's good. Oh, and p.s. Iggie's is moving to Ruxton later this year. Good for folks in the county...sad for me.

Not only is the pie amazing at Iggie's, they also give a portion of their proceeds to a different charity every month's a BYOB joint. Nothing better than sitting outside on a Sunday afternoon with a friend enjoying pizza and wine!

Other great pizza in Charm City? The pizzas at Birroteca are very good. The duck pizza is's topped with a duck egg. Duh. Also, the spicy fennel sausage and mushroom pizza makes me very, very happy. And...Hersh's in South Baltimore is excellent, too. I took some friends visiting from out of town there and they raved (me, too!) Not only is the food really amazing - the housemade sausage is not to be missed - but the beer selection is pretty darn impressive and changes all the time. Great cocktails, too, hon. I also love the pizzas at two of my favorite wine bars, 13.5% (eggplant pizza - and I don't really love eggplant!) and Grand Cru (the nature pizza and leek + goat cheese are ridiculous.) There's also Joe Squared in Station North and Power Plant Live and Bagby Pizza in oh-so-schwank Harbor East. I'd also recommend you give Tooloulou on Harford Road a try - they have really delicious and creative pizzas. Try their smoked duck pizza - tomato sauce, house smoked duck, caramelized onion, sweet peppers, goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic reduction. YUM. Two other newer pizza places, Toss and Earth Wood and Fire have tasty pies, too.

Come's too short for boring pizza. Go for the best. Abbondanza!

Duck Duck Goose pizza at Birroteca

Pepperoni and roasted cherry tomatoes at Tooloulou

Diavola pizza at Iggie's

Roasted veggie pizza by me

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ay, chihuahua!

I don't have a huge sweet tooth. It's not that I don't enjoy sweets, I just don't always seek them out. Desserts have to be really, really good for me to want to make them or order them when out to dinner. One example is the CMP at Woodberry Kitchen. That is insanity.

Then, last summer, a friend told me about a cookbook she'd just gotten, Paletas by Fany Gerson. Paletas are Mexican ice pops...fruit based and really refreshing vs super sweet, for the most part. So, I decided to give it a try.

I ordered myself a copy of the cookbook, along with popsicle molds and those cute little wooden sticks - gotta love Amazon (and the fact that my debit card is on file...) I had never made popsicles before...but now that I have, I can't help but think there have got to be endless flavors you could try. I will consult one of my fave cookbooks, Culinary Artistry, and its awesome (I mean, really awesome) list of 'food matches made in heaven.'

I made two kinds: watermelon and sour cream, cherry + tequila. Don't worry, you won't get drunk from those...but now that I think about it, you could add more tequila... On the watermelon ones, I used a tad more sugar than the recipe suggested. also, on the cherry ones, I'd add more cherries and the leftover cherry juice, too. Both kinds were delicious! I shared the watermelon ones with some of my friends' young children and even they said, "Do you have more??"

Next up, spiced tomato + tequila. (wait...more tequila? is that a problem? define problem.)

The cookbook also includes recipes for raspados (shaved ice) and aguas frescas (refreshing drinks.) is an easy recipe using fresh berries and yogurt from Martha Stewart.

Get it!

p.s. Thanks, Nicole!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A perfect fit in Hampden


A new restaurant in my 'hood recently that is not only a nice place to go for dinner, but also comfy (nice but not too fancy) and not overpriced - The Food Market. It opened less than two weeks ago and I've already been a couple of times. And I'm not the only one - you addicted ones, you know who you are...

The Food Market's food has been described as "blue collar food with white collar execution" which, to me, sounds a little gimmicky, but it's actually a good frame of reference. Let's just say it's good food, with interesting ingredients, presented creatively...and at the same time, not fancy schmancy. This is Hampden and I love Hampden. 

Approachable, fun dishes abound...and they are grouped in sections called little, small, big and in between. I'd try something from each fried chicken and biscuits with (kick ass) black hot sauce, fluffed blue cheese and celery juice syrup; duck confit potato skins with mornay, cheddar and green peas; salt & pepper tuna with avocado tzatziki and marinated cucumber; shrimp with cajun cream, cheddar grits and andouille chip; lobster fingers and fries with honey mustard and drawn butter; scallops with roasted tomato risotto, spinach and cream chipped bacon; Amish soft pretzels with beer cheese fondue or buffalo pickles with crumbled gorgonzola and hot sauce. And desserts? Holy dirt. The peach cobbler with Taharka vanilla ice cream? Serious biz. And the Heath Bar bread pudding? Yep. time, I'm gonna have the whipped cheesecake. The way our server swooned when she described it made me kinda wish I would have taken it to go.

And, unlike my other super duper Hampden fave, Corner BYOB (still dreaming of the pork loin I had about a month ago...) they have a full they have some delicious cocktails with fun ingredients and names like the Hampden Hurricane, the Gin Na Say Pa and the Full of Grace - those change often. I also loved the grapefruit sangria! I'm guessing the Full of Grace is a nod to the John Waters film, Pecker, which was filmed at the Hampden Food Market when it was an actual store. (Am I right, guys?)

They also have a nice list of draft beers (hello there, Boulevard Brewing's Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale), as well as bottled (Ommegang Hennepin - yum) and canned beers (Schlitz, seriously...) and a nicely chosen little wine list, too. Also, there are some non-boozy selections like Strawberry Basil Smash and a Virgin Mojito.
Bottom line, what I like best about The Food Market is that it's not trying too hard. make things look effortless takes some real effort. Chef Chad Gauss and manager Elan Kotz have a lot of experience in the restaurant biz (as do all of the folks who work for them) but they also know Baltimore. You cannot force things on people in Baltimore...we can smell it. So, The Food Market just sorta fits in. Comfy, but feels like a a treat night out. And, it's right next to Zissimo's. Good stuff.

And you know what else? These guys are smart. Free valet parking. They're on Open TableBrunch is served from 9-3 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The brunch menu also offers bloody marys and mimosas; silver dollar pancakes with lemon ricotta, rosemary butter and berries and creamed chipped beef on fried dough. (Yes, please.) Also, they serve dinner nights a is open til 1:00am. Coming soon...Happy Hours and pop-up events. Follow 'em on Facebook so you don't miss out!

With a start this good, I have a feeling it's only gonna get better. (Oh, and they're working on the noise...)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It's a good day...

A quick post to share some photos from this weekend's farmers market.

Simply put, this stuff just makes me happy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pleased as Punch

Who doesn't love punch? If you love parties, I'm sure you love punch. I certainly do. Punch is so festive - it's interactive, everyone shares from the same bowl, the evening's just getting's just fun. 

Punch is especially fun when it's enjoyed in a gorgeous setting like the annual Traditional Beverages event at the historic Homewood Museum. Add the fact that the punch recipes were created by incredibly talented folks like Corey Polyoka and Connor Rasmussen of Woodberry Kitchen, Brendan Dorr of B&O American BrasseriePerez Klebahn of Mr. Rain's Fun House and Doug Atwell of my most favorite new bar, Rye. (Have you been to Rye? Oh dear Lord. Go.) 

The delicious food was by Spike Gjerde and Woodberry Kitchen. Spike reminded guests to appreciate the hard work and important contributions of the farmers, food producers and watermen of the Chesapeake Bay region. I love that he made a point to say a few words on such an important aspect of the world of food. Support LOCAL people! (I was happy to see that the strawberries we enjoyed for dessert were grown in White Hall, MD by my friends Joan and Drew Norman of One Straw Farm.)

Traditional Beverages event isn't just about actually learn about the history of each year's theme. In past years, they've focused on champagne, beer, wine, bourbon and more. According to Polyoka of Woodberry, the word "punch" comes from the Hindi word "panca," which means "five." When it originated in India centuries ago, it had five ingredients: citrus juice, water, arrack (a coarse spirit made of palm tree sap), sugar and spices.Then, when it migrated to Colonial America, arrack was replaced by rum. Serving punch was a way of showing your wealth - sometimes referred to as "art in a bowl." 

So, the five's what you need to have in a traditional punch recipe: something sour, sweet, strong,  weak and spice. A traditional punch should never be too sweet or sour, should be strong, but not taste too much like alcohol. 

As guests entered the lawn of the Homewood Museum at Johns Hopkins University, they were greeted by Polyoka's Clipper Punch. It was my favorite of the punches served. Here's the recipe:

Clipper Punch
makes 8 6oz servings

12oz Jamaican Overproof Rum (Smith & Cross)
4oz VSOP Brandy (Raynal VSOP)
2oz Batavia Arrack
6 lemons peeled and juiced
1/2 cup brown sugar
24oz chilled black tea
Grated nutmeg

In a large punch bowl, add the peels of 6 lemons, being careful not too include too much white pith from the lemon peels. 

Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and muddle with the lemon peels, extracting the oils.

Add rum, brandy and arrack and stir into the sugar lemon mixture.

Add the juice of 6 lemons and 24 oz of black tea.

Place in refrigerator to chill or add a large block of ice.

Grate nutmeg on top and enjoy.

A warning, friends. Punch is tricky. That's why punch glasses are so small.

Chef Talk with Jon Lindenauer

Chef Jon Lindenauer has pretty much done it all. Check it out:
  • Attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and studied under Chef Hartmut Handke. 
  • Cooked at top four-star restaurants in New York City, including Jean Georges and Les Cèlebrites. 
  • Served as a food and wine consultant for Michael Skurnik Wines.
  • Worked as a freelance consultant for The Food Network’s “Iron Chef” television program. 
  • Held the position of Chef de Cuisine for Bon Appétit for six years. 
  •, he is Director of Creative Research & Menu Design at The Classic Catering People, where he worked as a chef from 2001-2002.

Lindenauer says, “Coming back to Baltimore and to The Classic Catering People is in a lot of ways bringing my career full circle. One criticism people often make about catered food is that taste and quality diminish because it’s prepared en masse. That’s simply not the case. The Classic Catering People has always been a trusted household name and I’m ready to take the company a step further, driving home the message that à la carte catering for any size event is possible.”

We sat down with Chef Jon Lindenauer to get to know this fabulously talented Baltimore boy.

Charm City Cook: What do you love most about food? 
Jon Lindenauer: The never-ending quest to learn more and the creativity involved. You are giving a part of yourself, and when you sit down to a meal with others, you are all similar. The barriers come down.

CCC: What aas it like to work at Bon Appetit? Was it at all intimidating going in? I’d think that might be a bit like a fashion stylist going to work at Vogue. 
JL: It was amazing! It was not really intimidating because I was ready for it, and after working in NYC for top chefs and opening restaurants, not much intimidates you. You know your capabilities.

CCC: What sorts of things are you doing in your new position as Director of Creative Research & Menu Design with Classic? I would think it would be kind of different all the time.  
JL: Creating menus and recipes. Cooking with the fantastic chefs and staff at The Classic Catering People. And, yes, it is different everyday – and that’s what I thrive on!

CCC: Was food a big part of your upbringing? Did you cook when you were a kid?  
JL: Very much so. I was making sauces and baking when I was 9 years old.

CCC: Lots of kids get to choose the meal on their birthday…anything they want (to a point, I suppose…) What would be your ‘birthday meal’ now?  
JL: Hard to say…Depending on my mood, but since my birthday is in the summer, I’d go with BBQ or something Asian and fragrant.

CCC: Baltimore can be a pretty traditional food town, especially when it comes to catering. You know, the ‘ol split plate of filet and crab cake can get a little boring. How do you get your clients to trust you and go with a little more creative menu?
JL: Talk to them about food and impassion them.

CCC: The whole idea of sustainability is such a buzz right now, but it’s real, too. How do you go local but still make it work on a larger scale at Classic?  
JL: I use the local/sustainable approach as long as it makes sense to me. I am responsible, but also must give the food quality and taste priority.

CCC: What food trend can you absolutely not stand?  
JL: I can’t really answer that. All trends have their merit.

CCC: Do you have time to watch any food tv? If so, are there any celebrity chefs you really enjoy?  
JL: Not really. I go online and watch the Basque (Spanish) Chefs, and the cutting edge chefs. 

CCC: Okay…obligatory…when you cook at home, what do you like to make? Do you have a favorite ‘go to’ meal?  
JL: USDA Prime dry-aged Porterhouse on my Weber charcoal grill, cooked over wood charcoal and Mesquite wood. Paired with sautéed mustard greens and a Malbec from Argentina, that is perfect simplicity.


Jon has generously shared his recipe for a summer fave, gazpacho. Enjoy!


Yield: 8 portions

2 cups peeled and diced (1/4 inch) hothouse cucumber
2 cups diced (1/4 inch) red bell pepper
2 cups diced (1/4 inch) ripe tomato
1/2 cup diced (1/4 inch) red onion
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup finely sliced green onion
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

1. Place all of the diced vegetables in a large bowl. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, oil, and Tabasco.  Season with salt and pepper.

2. Place 1/2 of the mixture in a blender and puree the contents. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

3. Garnish with the green onion and olive oil.

Thanks, Jon - Best of luck in your work at Classic!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Soft crabs...not be missed (or feared!)

Soft crabs. To me, they are not called soft shell crabs...this is Baltimore!

You pretty much either love 'em or hate 'em. I used to be completely wigged out by them. I think that having a job cleaning them at a seafood shop might have scarred me a bit. (Thanks, Billy.) My mom has loved them forever. Me, I've got texture issues...biting into a soft, yet crunchy LEG of a crab?

Um, no. ( two years...)

Then, I actually ate my first soft crab. My friend did them on the grill...olive oil, salt, pepper and served with a little butter and Old Bay. Honestly, it was one of the best things I'd ever eaten. I was hooked...all in. There are many ways to prepare them, but I really like frying them in a skillet with butter and salt & pepper. I  always Old Bay, though. Love the stuff. I'm a Baltimore girl.

Speaking of Old Bay, they are hosting an event later this month called "A Taste of Baytriotism" with participating restaurants offering specially created menus with many dishes featuring Baltimore's favorite condiment. I will definitely be trying some of them! How do you use Old Bay? On your fries? Popcorn? Corn on the cob? Yes, yes and yes.

Yum. And, those of you who are soft crab hold outs...get yourself to the farmers market, grocery store, seafood shop and buy some. You can find great simple recipes online if you're not completely sure what to do with them. Easiest and most traditional, though, is the old pan fry. Here's how I do it. (Some cooks skip the egg/flour.)

  • Dredge the soft crab in eggs and flour (I add Old Bay to the flour)
  • In a skillet on medium-high, add butter...then the soft crabs and salt & pepper
  • Let them sizzle on one side and turn (be careful that they don't stick, but don't turn them too often.)
  • They will be done in about 4-5 minutes. 
  • Put on soft white bread (no healthy bread, please), mayo, old bay, tomato (I like sauteed onions) 

And, there you have it. A quick, easy, great early summer meal. It can be a little messy...make sure you've got napkins nearby.

Check out Spike Gjerde's crabwich recipe. Looks good. Rull good.

Also, I've used a recipe from Tyler Florence with capers in a brown butter - served over penne. Pretty much licked the plate.

Here are a two soft crab dishes I've enjoyed around B'more recently. Where have you had good soft crabs?

Hersh's soft crab over roasty tomato aioli and pickled fennel
(The fennel made it perfect to me. Really.)

Corner BYOB's soft crab over fiddlehead ferns and garlic aioli
(Yes, I'm obsessed with fiddleheads...)
(photo from thisisgonnabegood)

And, again. Yum. If you've never tried a soft crab, let me make one for you. You will thank me.