Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Foodies about Town

by Erin and Xani

This past Sunday, we decided to FINALLY go to the Farmer's Market (the one underneath Route 83, right near the maximum security prison! Ah Baltimore...). For some reason, we hadn't been to this Baltimore foodie landmark in all our collective years of living in Charm City, and the long weekend was the perfect opportunity to check it out. It also didn't hurt that it was BEAUTIFUL outside that day, so we got up early and off we went to market....

The market was packed, as regular market-going friends said it would be. There was lots of hustle and bustle but an all around good vibe. The tables of fresh produce went on and on, with beautiful fruits and veggies, herbs, breads, and plants all calling out to us. And let's not forget about the SNACKS. There were lots of yummy prepared food stands at the market: coffee and pastries, Jamaican patties and samosas, falafels, pad thai and other asian foods, Maryland crab and cream of crab soups, kettle corn, mini donuts, ice cream, and pit beef. Something else, however, caught our eye: The Mushroom Stand.

We perused their lovely selection of mushrooms (more on that below), and noticed that they were selling delicious-looking grilled mushroom sandwiches, mushroom salads, and most importantly, mushroom fritters. We had to have them.

We had to wait a few minutes but finally our number was called. We got our fritters, fresh from the fryer, which were topped with feta cheese and hot sauce. We also got a few greens and basil leaves on the side. This dish was EXCELLENT. The mushrooms were hot and crispy but at the same time they had a nice, delicate mushroom texture. The feta and hot sauce (which sort of tasted like Buffalo wing sauce) went so well with the mushrooms, and the greens and basil were cooling to the palate. Does anyone know what ethnicity this superb dish is from??

After our awesome snack, we meandered around and around and around the Market (per our usual terrible grocery shopping skills), noshed on a few little things, and bought some produce (including white nectarines, an assortment of mushrooms, onions, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, and parsley) and a jalapeno-cheddar bread. We also got Moroccan sweet mint iced tea from the Jamaican food stand (their last one-- we learned that things at the farmers market sell out early, so best to be vigilant!). It was deliciously refreshing, sweet, and minty.

Erin enjoying some tea

Pictures of our haul:

One surprise/disappointment of the market was the lack of things other than produce for sale. There was one place selling eggs, one place selling dairy (but a pretty limited selection) and one place selling cured pork products (which looked awesome-- 2 kinds of chorizo!). Wonder if the Saturday Waverly Market has a greater selection of types of goods? Anyway, we will definitely be visiting this Market again- it was so much fun! We can't wait for cozy fall produce and...PUMPKINS!

After the market, we changed out of our flip-flops and into our walking shoes, and headed to Fells Point. We had spotted a gelato place in Fells Point a few weeks ago that we wanted to try, so we decided to walk from Federal Hill to Fells Point (a bit of a hike, but it was so gorgeous outside we didn't mind) to try out the gelato.

It was worth every step. The gelateria is called Pintango and has a unique selection of gelati and sorbetti. We of course had the goal of trying as many flavors as possible, so we ended up getting two flavors of gelato and two flavors of sorbetto. As for gelato, we got Spicy Chocolate and Crema; for sorbet we got Peach and Mojito. And HOLY CRAP this was good stuff!! The Spicy Chocolate was actually spicy (see the flecks of red pepper below), and the Crema was sweet and creamy, and cooled off the spice from the chocolate.

While the gelati were amazing, the sorbetti were even better. The mojito had strong flavors of mint and lime (see flecks of mint below) and it was seriously like drinking a mojito! The peach was also like real life: it was like biting into a peach. It was earthy (read: tastes like dirt, but in a good way!) and not too sweet, and super-refreshing. SO DELICIOUS! Already we are thinking of excuses to get back to Fells Point and eat more of their delicious products....

After our trek back to Fed Hill (discussing the ice creams all the way home, of course), we went our separate ways for a few hours to take care of some important things (i.e., studying for EP, napping for Xani).

We reconvened later in the evening at Xani's house to make dinner using our finds at the Market. While noshing on the jalapeno bread we bought, we finalized the menu. Thanks to Xani's decently well-stocked pantry at we were able to parlay the mushrooms and onions we bought into a mixed mushroom risotto. We also had a salad using the cucumbers, onions, and heirloom tomatoes (which, as you will see below, were an interesting color-combination... or, as Erin so gently calls them, "nature's freaks") from the market, plus some greens and fresh corn Xani had in her fridge. Xani made a simple lemon vinaigrette for the salad, which was delicious.

The risotto was big success. As anyone who has made risotto before knows, it can be a tedious process, and if something goes wrong and it doesn't come together in the end, you are pissed! Luckily, everything went fine with this one. Erin did a great job cleaning and prepping the various types of mushrooms which we got from The Mushroom Stand, which included creminis, enochis, blue oyster, yellow oyster, and one lone chanterelle mushroom! Xani chopped the garlic and onion and a little thyme, then sauteed them in oil until soft before adding the mushrooms and then the arborio rice. Then came some white wine and once that was absorbed, ladle after ladle of hot chicken stock. More stirring, and the rice was getting creamier and creamier... finally all the stock was added, the rice was perfectly cooked, it was time to add a sprinkling of parmesean cheese and get to eating!

The final dish was so flavorful-- the freshness and variety of mushrooms really seemed to bring it above and beyond your ordinary mushroom risotto. Our light summer salad was a perfect side dish. We were both too full after dinner to eat any of the nectarines we bought (although we have been eating them all week, and they are delicious!)

WHAT A DAY! After all that, we were both completely exhausted. Luckily we had Monday off of school/work to recover!

It was a great day together, enjoying much of what Baltimore has to offer to its foodies. Can't wait for our next trip to market!

Happy exploring,

E & X

Foodie Blogroll!

EP and I are happy to report we have joined the Foodie Blogroll (which you can see on the sidebar, left)! It's a great way to find more great food blogs and to (hopefully) get even more people reading Black Coffee and a Donut! Enjoy!


P.S. I'm heading to the beach (!!) tomorrow and not sure how internet access is "down-y O-shun" but I will do my best to fill you all in on the delicious beach eats!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

All American Breakfast, for One-- An Essay

by Xani

Sometimes, on a lazy weekend, there's nothing I like better than whipping up a little breakfast. I usually don't get around to doing this til noon or so, but hey, if its the first meal of the day, its breakfast. Especially if it involves sizzling bacon, perfect potatoes, and eggs done just the way I like them...

So on a recent Saturday that's just what I did! First step, bacon strips go in the pan over medium-high heat (I use a flat, non-stick griddle pan, with very short edges, i.e., not completely flat, or things will fall off the sides. Also, its big enough to cook several elements of the breakfast at once!). Once the bacon has cooked (I like mine pretty crispy) and rendered out its fat, remove the bacon from the pan and put on a paper towel-lined plate to drain (I suggest making an extra piece to nibble on while you cook the rest of the meal... hey, you know you want to!). Meanwhile, there will be puddles of delicious bacon fat sitting in the pan... this stuff is super-hot, so you want to carefully drain it into a heatproof dish. Some fat will remain in the pan. This is a good thing. You can keep the reserved fat nearby in case your pan dries out and needs more (this will definitely happen if you are cooking for more than one).

Next, the potatoes. I had boiled a few small, white potatoes the night before. They were completely cooked so I knew they would only take a few minutes in the pan (if you are going to start with raw potatoes don't try this method, but it would probably work with any leftover potatoes, baked, boiled, mashed [wow that sounds good, might need to try that sometime!] or in a pinch i have even used frozen tater tots which came out perfectly!). I cut them into chunks, skin and all, and threw them into the pan along with a handful of medium-diced onion, and some salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes and onions over medium heat. You eventually want to get them golden brown on all sides, and for the onions to be soft and aromatic... add more bacon fat if things start to get sticky. (Really, that should be my mantra for everything in life!)

Now, when the potatoes are almost done (maybe 5 minutes or so left), crowd them all onto one side of the pan. This is to free up space for the eggs. While some people think eggs are among the easiest things to prepare, I have always found them a challenge. Perhaps this is because I have BIG shoes to fill-- those of BCD Dad. Ever since I was a child, I have been a fan of his many egg preparations. Fluffy, creamy scrambled, perfect fried, and, hands-down, the best omelets I have ever had. No joke-- years ago I completely stopped ordering omelets in restaurants; no matter how many I tried they were never nearly as good as Dad's! BCD Mom often says that if things got really bad Dad could always get a job as a short-order cook!

So, over the years I've been trying to master his techniques. He shared with me his secret ingredients (basically lots of bacon fat or butter, or sometimes both) and his methods: very low heat for the scrambled eggs, very high heat for the omelets, the fillings, the flip, the fold... it's a lot to take in! But one preparation that I've finally mastered is the fried egg, and its one of my favorites.

Your pan should be over medium heat, potatoes on one side, other side liberally greased with bacon fat. Crack your first egg into a small bowl and then slide it carefully into the skillet (or if you are a daredevil like me, directly onto the hot pan-- potential tiny bits of shell be damned!). Repeat with the other egg (and so on, if you are making more than two, but don't overcrowd the pan or you won't have room to flip later). They will sizzle and begin to turn opaque on contact. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Leave them be for a minute or two (the non-stick pan/bacon fat will ensure they don't stick), except you may want to use your spatula to "tighten up" the whites (nudge them in toward the yolk, therefore making flipping easier). After a couple minutes the bottom of the eggs should be cooked (firm with light brown bits), the yolk will still be completely runny and there may be some gelatinous, uncooked white on top, too. If you are a sunny-side up person, you're on your own here... you can eat the sucker all raw and runny, or you can spoon some of the hot fat from the bottom of the pan and pour it over the top of the eggs in an attempt to get it a little more cooked. I never understood those sunny-side up people, anyway... for the rest of us, its time to flip. This part can be a little intimidating, but honestly, its not that hard once you practice a couple times. And, even if the yolk breaks, it all tastes the same anyway.

The whites from the two eggs have probably fused together-- use your spatula to cut them apart so you can flip them individually. Lift the edge of the egg, again it should be firm and slightly browned underneath. Slide your spatula completely underneath the egg, using the side of the pan to push the egg onto the spatula. The yolk will be wobbling and threatening to break, but don't let it get to you! Once the egg is completely on-board, use your wrist to gently flip the egg back into the pan (gently= hopefully not breaking the yolk. into the pan= onto a bare surface of the pan, i.e. not onto the other egg, the potatoes, the stovetop, or the floor). Repeat with the other egg. Success! Once the eggs have cooked on their flip side for 30 seconds or so, you will have eggs over easy. Another minute or two, eggs over medium. Cook the hell out of them, over hard (you can tell how cooked the yolk is be pressing lightly on the exposed yolk facing up-- if it feels completely liquid-y, it is. Keep checking them and eventually you will feel them begin to firm up and feel more like a hard-boiled egg).

Correct level of done-ness needed before flipping

Correct done-ness of yolk for over-medium eggs-- mostly cooked, very slightly runny-- why can they never get this right at the diner?!

Once you have cooked them to the desired done-ness simply use your spatula to lift them out of the pan and onto your plate. The potatoes should be nicely cooked by now, they go next to the eggs. Then a couple strips of the bacon (unless you already ate it all, you little piggie!). Accompany with toast, juice, coffee... whatever you like. If you are lucky enough to have a cute little patio and a gorgeous day, I highly recommend eating outside!

Hope you enjoyed my little essay/tutorial on All-American breakfast as much as I enjoyed cooking, eating, and writing about it! Sorry I couldn't provide more pictures-- breakfast for one means both hands were too busy cooking to take many pictures. How does everyone out there in Internet land like their eggs?


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