Last month was back in Frederick!! It was a pretty hot day, even though there were only four of us we made a nice afternoon meal. Since my favorite coworker Veena is Indian and J-dogg has a certain fondness for Indian, when I found this cookbook (Masala Farm) at the library it peaked my interest. After thumbing through the pages, I saw alot of awesome farm tidbits and realized it had a “eat local” vibe to it too, which I liked. So even though this protein wasn’t particularly local, I made a shrimp curry! with local corn! And it was very tasty.

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Maria made AWESOME deviled eggs, Alayne made a huge buttermilk ranch salad, Joanne made delicious quinoa cakes and I made the aforementioned shrimp curry. Maria was sweet and brought some local chocolate ice cream for dessert.

So to start off Alayne got busy on her salad. It had avocado, cucumbers, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and red onion. And she coated it all nicely with that from scratch buttermilk ranch dressing. And fun fact, I’ve been using that buttermilk to make myself pancakes over the past month. YUM.

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Here was Maria getting her deviled eggs ready.

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Lots of delicious ingredients went into this concoction, herbs, peppers, curry spices, etc. And this was her first time using a piping bag to fill these. Splendid job Maria!

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And voila – our appetizers. Deeeelish.

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Then we went back to the kitchen and got working on the curry and side dish. From what I could remember there was potato, quinoa, mushrooom and some spices and then it was all rolled in panko. Tasty little morsels!!

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I used some fresh corn, unfrozened good shrimp from Wegmans, lots of curry spices and (WATCH OUT) coconut milk! My coconut fears are slowing fading away. Especially since my coworker Virginia handed me a (unbeknownst to me) coconut oreo cream cookie and I liked it!

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It went well with the whole wheat roti I picked up from the Indian Store.

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And for our drinking entertainment, I made some lychee mimosa kind of drinks and fresh mint green tea from my backyard! Lovely afternoon and I’m so happy to have my buddies at my house.

Texas is big and hot, and it does not have my old friends in it. But there is Tex-Mex – a great cuisine that combines some of the best Mexican and American ingredients. During one of my recent trips around the state, I got a recommendation from a new Houston friend to try the Reata Restaurant in Fort Worth. Fort Worth was a nice surprise. Robby and I really liked it and felt that  it’s underrated among Texans. Reata was a highlight of the trip there. So I brought their cookbook back with me to Maryland and joined my old friends for the March Cook Book Club. Joanne was gracious enough to let me use her house to cook, host the dinner, and stay the night. We ate a wonderful breakfast the next day on her patio in the perfect spring weather.Untitled

Maria is always so organized; she showed up with a wonderful shrimp ceviche. It was fresh and very addictive. I even had some for lunch the next day, and it was perfect. This will definitely be added to my normal rotation at home.
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I went to Totilleria Sinaloa in Fells Point and reminisced about walking there from my house. I bought chips to snack on and tortillas for my enchilada dish. The ladies also made some homemade tortillas that we fried and used for the ceviche and soup.
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Alayne made a Caesar salad that was rich but not heavy and used — surprise, surprise — vegan mayonnaise. She didn’t tell us until after we were enjoying it. Which was a good idea because I probably would have been prejudiced against it. It was a great salad.
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I made a drink called the Caramel Cowboy. Butterscotch Schnapps, Amaretto, and bubbly. It was so tasty that it elicted this statement from a CBC member: “I will ride this Cowboy all night long.” Enough said.

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Although I made a few of the entrees from the book before CBC, I decided to make a dish I ate at the restaurant but did not test: Ancho Chili Steak with Cheese Enchiladas.
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While the enchiladas were cooking, we enjoyed some unexpectedly delicious cream of jalapeno soup made by Joanne. She poured an ungodly amount of cream into it, and we were all a little worried but it turned out delicious and not too creamy.
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Julie choose to make the beans as a side dish to go with my steak. She added an entire six-pack of Negro Modelo to the beans and could have used more if we had more time for beans to absorb the beer. They tasted a little bitter, but I liked how it contrasted with the rich food.
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The steak was a bit of a disappointment to me. I ate it at the restaurant, and I remembered it as really tasty, dark, intense and flavorful. I marinated my steak all day but it came out a little bland. The recipe does not call for salt in the marinade, so next time I might add some.

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Elizabeth chose the fruit tacos for dessert. They were fun and challenging to make. She made some kind of dough then spread it out on a baking sheet to cook. The hard part was rolling the shells while they were hot.
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Next, they were filled with ice cream and marinated berries. We placed them on top of melted chocolate and topped them with shaved white chocolate.

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One of the most fun parts of the evening was recording the quotes that poured out of everyone’s mouths. It may have been the Caramel Cowboy’s we were drinking, but more likely we ladies were just being goofy and having a great time together.

See if you can guess who said what:

“At least I know I’m crazy.”

“From my butt to the pot.”

“There’s not enough goodness on my plate.”

“You keep me from dancing, you are an idiot.”

“The best Wal-Mart’s are in Florida. No one wears any clothes there.”

“So take this as a learn. P.S. I am not being insulting.”

“That’s not right. It looks like dandruff.”

“I got dandruff on my taco.”

A cold month deserves some hot warm spicy food and Patricia Wolfert’s “The Food of Morocco” supplies us with a large dose of sunshine, warmth and spice. The Charm City Cookbook Club girls got together with their men and a few last minute guests and cooked up a spicy, lemony, Moroccan storm.

We started with some olives and spiced almonds from Trader Joe’s. You need something to keep you going while you cook. Elizabeth then took us into salad with a beautifully prepared blood orange, romaine and toasted almond salad. The salad called for rose flower water which we thought Maria was going to bring, but she had already marinated her raisins in it so we used the raisin infused rose flower water with the lemon for the dressing. Beautiful and tasty.

Here is the table all set with Elizabeth’s salads.

Meanwhile everyone is frantically cooking in the kitchen. Chris and Pam, who were last minute invites because of a drop out, took up the challenge of making bread. The Msemmen pancakes, made with semolina flour, were an intensive process involving making the dough, letting it rise, then pressing it into a large square. Thanks goes to Pam for the patient patting of buttery squares.

After this you brush with Oudi (thyme scented butter) or Ghee if you’re cheating, fold it into a smaller square and fry. As you can see,  Chris has a deft hand balancing  frying and drinking wine.  Note as well Maria’s tarte tatin and Julie’s soup simmering in the background.

Julie’s butternut squash and tomato soup was divine served with the bread. The goat cheese she put on top was so fragrant that people were sneaking it as she ladled the soup in the bowls and topped it with the harissa and cheese.

Next up the main course and side. Alayne had chosen the winter squash and caramelized onion dish and she caramelized and caramelized and caramelized. She cut the squash in 1/2 and roasted it cut side down in the oven. Then combined the two, adding toasted almonds and raisins and popped it in the oven.

I decided to make braised lamb with fresh spinach, confit lemon and olives. My lamb had been sauteed before the cookbook club members had arrived and had been simmering on the stove with it’s spices for 3 hours. I sauteed the spinach:

then added it and the olives and the confit lemon slices. We served this with Finn’s couscous that he made in the traditional manner, adding water and steaming three times. This process takes some time and is finished off with the thyme scented oudi he had made as well.

Dinner was complex, spicy and lemony with hints of olive. The butternut squash casserole and couscous were a perfect foil to the lamb and spinach dish.

All in all I felt the book was a success. It brought a bit of the warm Mediterranean to cold wintry Baltimore. The complexity of the recipes challenged us, the book had beautiful photography and cultural notes throughout. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to explore Moroccan cuisine.

Hey look! I’m going to write about food! Specifically delicious food, that we got to eat while sipping on some delicious tea! I had cookbook club at my house in November and because it was so close to thanksgiving, we wanted to do something light and dainty. So I found this cookbook at the Frederick Library. Oh how I love dainty afternoons at my house.

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I got out all of the pressed pretty linens, doilies, and Alayne and Julie brought their fine china and tea cups.

But before we got to sit down all happy and ready to chow, we had to cook! So go check out shots from that!

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Coming up with a cookbook for Charm City Cookbook Club can be a challenge. Thankfully Joanne suggested we do Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey, in case you didn’t know, is an acclaimed Indian actress. And her Indian cookbooks have introduced the cuisine to millions.

What I like best about Jaffrey’s recipes is how straightforward they are and how much taste they pack. She isn’t about the fancy techniques for the sake of just doing them. P.S. She didn’t learn to cook until she was an adult. One of my favorite of her books is “Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India.” It’s a sweet story, and there are recipes, too.

So back to the samosas. Alayne found a good place for the dough to rest:

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And while we were waiting, we snacked on some spiced chickpeas.

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First up was Alayne, who faced my biggest cooking fear: frying. She made these delicate potato and pea stuffed samosas that were brightened with a little lemon. With Joanne’s expert help — and a little fry-o-lator (also Joanne’s) — Alayne made some really delicious, delicate fried, stuffed, dumplings. And here’s the bonus: Look: No grease fires!

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Next up was Elizabeth, who made soup and naan. Her butternut squash soup was spicy, sweet and delicious.

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And Elizabeth’s naan, though difficult to execute at first, came out well once she and Joanne got the hang of it.

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The main course was next. While Joanne and I got ourselves into the kitchen, Alayne, Elizabeth, and Mia decided it was time for manicures, with glitter nailpolish.

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Joanne made ground lamb with peas. It was tender and delicious, with a little heat. It tasted great.

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I made a shellfish curry with coconut milk. It had shrimp, scallop, and squid and was delicate and tasty. And really easy to make.

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So this was the first Cookbook Club since Renee moved to Houston. We miss her. It felt lonely with just five of us. We needed something sweet. So Julie made a yogurt and mango dessert that was sweet, fresh, and light.

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And there was an extra something special, too. Joanne’s birthday was in two days and Elizabeth made her pumpkin tarts in a gingersnap crust. After she blew out the candles, she was nice enough to share.

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Happy Birthday Joanne!

And thanks for a spicy, sweet October evening.

Well haven’t I been a most delinquent CBC blogger! And everyone can give me smack because I am usually so bossy for everyone elses posts! So we have cookbook club this Sunday! Indian food! But for now, let’s check out some southern food! This was Renee’s last cookbook club gathering as a resident of MD. (Don’t worry folks- she will be back in 2 years from TX! *Fingers crossed!*). And it was very fitting that this cookbook, the one that started it all, is what finished her tenure for now. The Lee Brothers – Simple Fresh Southern.

We started with strawberry wine coolers. Oh yes. They were deeelicious. Sweet and refreshing.

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And we got to snack on this pimento cheese spread. Alayne made it in advance. It so so flavorful, salty and addictive. YUM.

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Joanne pulled out her authentic southern grits and got started on them early. (so they would have a proper amount of time to cook!)

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I got started on my parsley sauce for the skirt steak. Lots of parsley and garlic and a good amount of red wine vinegar which brought alot to the recipe. Ah but this picture is Joanne’s additions to the grits. Creme Fraiche and herbs?

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Renee was making a corn soup and so we used some fresh cobs and proceeded to mash and “milk” the kernels.

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And what’s this??? A beautiful raspberry three layered chocolate cake!!! Joanne and Alayne are the best!! They made it for Maria, Renee and myself. The birthday girls for the month of August and September! Oh it was delicious – that raspberry buttercream was to die for.

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Here was that creamy corn soup. So satisfying, such pure corn flavor.

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Here was the one side for dinner, (in addition to the grits), roasted zucchini with bits of bacon?? (Am I imagining ladies?) Or maybe they were breadcrumbs!

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And here was my entree, of which I was super proud. Nice cut of steak from Wegmans… Finn grilled it up on the grill for me (awesome) and the parsley sauce was so flavorful and perfectly complimentary to the rich slices of beef.

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Lastly, we had more dessert! And this one was perfectly southern and delicious. Buttermilk pudding cakes with bourboned peaches and whipped cream. Perfect way to use those in season peaches!

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Here’s the skirt steak recipe… I am definitely going to make this again!

Ingredients:
2 lbs skirt steak
3 teaspoons salt
1 bunch parsley, flat leaf
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red chile flakes
1/3 red wine vinegar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil

Directions:
1. Season the steaks on both sides with 2 teaspoons of salt, and set them aside.
2. Stuff the parsley into the bowl of a food processor, and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, the garlic, and chile flakes. Pulse several times, pausing to push toward the blade any parsley that sticks to the side of the processor bowl, until the parsley is thoroughly chopped. With the processor running, add the vinegar in a thin stream, followed by the olive oil; process until the mixture is just shy of smooth (it should be slightly toothsome). You should have about 1 1/3 cups of parsley sauce. Reserve in a small bowl.
3. Pat the steaks with paper towels to absorb any moisture on their surface on both sides with the black pepper. Pour the canola oil into a 12 inch skillet or saute pan set over high heat, tilting the pan around as it heats until the entire bottom is coated with a thin sheen of oil. When the oil begins to smoke, add the steaks in batches, taking care not to crowd them in the pan, and sear them until each side is nicely browned, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and tent them loosely with aluminum foil. Let them rest for 5 minutes.
4. Slice the steaks across the grain into 1/4 inch wide slices. Divide the slices among 4 plates, and spoon the parsley sauce liberally over them. Serve immediately.

Oh, delicious, beautifully ripened summer vegetables. You make me weak in the knees just thinking about the abundance of sweet deliciousness that you provide during the too short season of summer in Baltimore. I love vegetables, specifically locally grown seasonal vegetables. Can you tell? I also looooove summer. So, imagine my delight when I happened to fall in line as CBC host during the month of July, when two of my favorite things were in full swing. I knew for a fact that we would be going vegetarian (a lifestyle I currently practice, except for the occasional indulgence at CBC) and I found the perfect book to bring out the best in all things vegetable: Plenty – Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. It seriously delivered and even the most hardcore of the carnivores left the table completely satisfied. So, enough talk, let’s get to it! First up, a pretty summer table:

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And a few indulgent photos highlighting some of the goods:
Maria’s fixins for her desserts (more on that later)
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Garlic galore…

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Oooooh!  Zucchini!
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Okay, enough shenanigans.  Back to business!  Our first course of the night was prepared by Renee.  She chose to make the Quesadillas for the appetizer and they were INCREDIBLE.   The quesadillas were stuffed with a creamy black bean paste, sour cream, and a beautiful salsa that included fresh tomatoes (YUM!) and avocados.  The quesadillas were then grilled to perfection and devoured by all.

Here’s pic of that gorgeous salsa:

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And here are those tasty quesdillas.  My mouth is watering just looking at this picture.
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Next up was a Garlic Soup and Harissa prepared by Joanne.  This soup received mixed reviews.  Those who could handle a lifetime supply of garlic in one bowl of soup were in heaven.  It did have great flavor, but after a few spoonfuls, I definitely found the flavor to be a bit overpowering for my taste buds.  Not to mention that my kitchen and most of my clothing smelled like garlic for about a month after this was made.  So, a small word of advice if you decide to make it:  Cook it outside on the grill, or else you will smell like garlic indefinitely.  Here’s a pic of all of that garlic from above and onions sautéing:
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And here is the final product:  Gorgeous!

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Next up was Elizabeth’s Cucumber Salad with Smashed Garlic and Ginger.  I think the title describes the ingredients quite sufficiently, but it doesn’t even come close to describing the power punch of flavor this salad packed.  The onions were marinated in the dressing for over an hour and the sweetness of the onions and ginger mixed beautifully with the tangyness of the dressing.  Beautifully balanced if you ask me!
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Finally we made it to the main course.  As a vegetarian, you tend to eat a lot of pasta.  Mainly because it’s quick and easy, but also because you can pretty much throw everything but the kitchen sink in and it will still taste awesome.  To add a little carb load to our dinner, I decided to make the Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad.  I know, I know, it says salad in the title, but I promise it served it’s purpose as a main course.   The sauce was a sweet basil pesto and the zucchini wowed with flavor after being fried and then marinated in red wine vinegar.   It was a tasty as it looks.
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And finally we made it to dessert.  Maria prepared the Pear Crostini, which consisted of grilled pears, goat cheese, and sour dough bread.  They were very tasty, athough, I think we all agreed that a drizzle of chocolate would have added the perfect amount of indulgence to finish out the evening.
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Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad (Serves 4)

Ingredients:
2/3 c sunflower oil
3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3/4 c frozen edamame
2 cups of basil leaves, shredded coarsely
1/4 c parsley leaves
1/3 c olive oil
salt and black pepper
9 oz stozzapreti or penne
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp small capers
7 oz buffalo mozzarella, torn by hand into chunks

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Fry the zucchini slices in a few batches, making sure you don’t crowd them, for 3 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides; turn them over once only.  As they are cooked, transfer to a colander to drain.  Tip the zucchini slices into a bowl, pour over the vinegar and stir, then set aside.

Blanche the edemame for 3 minutes in boiling water; drain, refresh under running cold water and set aside to dry.

Combine half the basil, all of the parsley and the olive oil in a food processor, adding a bit of salt and pepper.  Blitz to a smooth sauce.

Cook the paste until al dente; drain and rinse under a stream of cold water. Return to the pain in which it was cooked.

Poor the zucchini and their juices over the pasta.  Add the edamame, basil sauce, lemon zest, capers and mozzarella.  Stir gently together, then taste and season with plenty of salt and pepper.  Before serving, stir in the remaining basil.

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