Urban Farm Fermentory, Portland, Maine

Urban Farm Fermentory TaproomUrban Farm Fermentory Taproom

While traveling in Portland, Maine, with Corey and his family, I visited Urban Farm Fermentory, which is a brewery that specializes in kombucha and cider. You may be wondering what kombucha is exactly. If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known either.

Sign in Office of Urban Fermentory Farm Describing the Kombucha ProcessUrban Farm Fermentory’s Description of the Kombucha Process

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). Once the kombucha has finished fermenting, this SCOBY is removed, then the kombucha is strained—though some is sold unfiltered—and bottled. Kombucha can be flavored when bottled by adding chopped fruit, fruit juice, flowers, herbs, or a combination thereof.

The next step after bottling is carbonation. This can be achieved through a second fermentation process, which occurs when bottles of kombucha are left at room temperature for 1 to 3 days.  Once the desired carbonation level is reached, the kombucha is strained, rebottled, and refrigerated. Cooling slows down the rate of fermentation. Kombucha can also be carbonated through forced carbonation.

Kombucha is slightly alcoholic, usually containing 0.5 to 3 percent alcohol, which in 2010 induced government regulation and caused Whole Foods to pull kombucha from their shelves due to the lack of proper labeling.

So now that you know the basics of kombucha, let’s get back to Urban Farm Fermentory.

Kombucha and Cider Offerings at Urban Farm Fermentory Taproom Kombucha and Cider Offerings at Urban Farm Fermentory Taproom

We visited Urban Farm Fermentory with a Groupon that included a cider and kombucha tasting, a brewery tour, and a 32-ounce growler of your pick. I highly recommend getting this Groupon if it’s still available, as it allows you to explore many different kombucha flavors and gives you a look into the kombucha-making process.

Urban Farm Fermentory tries to source all its ingredients locally. This not only makes their kombucha very fresh but also means that their flavors and offerings vary seasonally.

Urban Farm Fermentory Kombucha Flavors on Tap:

  • Original
  • Cucumber
  • Rose Petal
  • Cascade & Amarillo Hopped
  • Honey Chamomile
  • Sweet Basil
  • Blueberry
  • Ginger

Urban Farm Fermentory Cider Flavors:

  • Pink Peppercorn and Basil
  • Dry Cidah
  • Sour Cidah (dry cidah and aged kombucha blend)
  • Cyser Apple Honey Wine (mead)
  • Cascade Hops

The cucumber kombucha was my favorite. It was cool and refreshing, slightly tart and bubbly. It was like drinking from a garden in summertime. I also really enjoyed the honey chamomile kombucha—deliciously smooth, sweet, and calming, with very little tartness. The ginger kombucha was also very tasty. It was an interesting take on ginger tea; similar to ginger beer (not ginger ale), but not as sweet and carbonated.

The bartender let us to taste our favorite flavors again and make our own blends. Ginger and blueberry went together nicely, as did sweet basil and cucumber.

Urban Farm Fermentory’s kombucha contains 1.5% alcohol (though their ciders are much stronger). I like that they don’t sacrifice quality to meet government regulations but choose instead to have their product labeled as alcohol. A quote from their website: “Our potent, probiotic Kombucha (fermented tea), with its 1.5% ABV and tart, acidic bite, is one of the few true examples of the form left after the infamous kombucha crackdown of 2010.”

Kombucha is a refreshing, ostensibly healthy drink. Some people drink it as a hangover cure, while others tout its health benefits. If you want to learn more about kombucha, check out this article.

Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery Tour

The tour guide was friendly and casual. He showed us some of the equipment and fielded our questions. The brewery isn’t very big (10,000 ft2), so it was a short (but interesting) tour.

Cider Press at Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery Tour Cider Press at Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery

Syphon Filler Machine for bottling Kombucha and Cider Syphon Filler Machine for Bottling Kombucha and Cider

Urban Farm Fermentory KegsUrban Farm Fermentory Kegs

We weren’t allowed to photograph the kombucha tanks due to proprietary knowledge. So if you want to see that, you’ll just have to visit!

Urban Farm Fermentory ArtworkStaff Murals at Urban Farm Fermentory

There are also a number of wall murals (reminiscent of street art) in Urban Farm Fermentory. Our tour guide said that the young people who work here want to make the space visually exciting and fun. Almost every room in the brewery has one or more murals, most of which were created by the employees or their friends.

Info about Visiting Urban Farm Fermentory:

Address:
200 Anderson St
Portland, ME 04101

Phone: (207) 773-8331

Hours: 12 PM – 7 PM, Tuesday – Saturday

Website: http://www.urbanfarmfermentory.com/

Cost:

Prices at Urban Farm FermentoryPrices at Urban Farm Fermentory

Note: Unfortunately, Urban Farm Fermentory doesn’t currently ship its kombucha or cider to individuals outside of Maine (though they do have distributorships in various northeastern cities).

If you’re curious about kombucha and happen to be in or near Portland, Maine, check out Urban Farm Fermentory. It’s a great introduction to kombucha and they’re always brewing up delicious new flavors.

If you’ve made SCOBY or kombucha before, please share your experience. Also, if you’re looking for other things to do in Maine, Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier is worth a visit!

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Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love its spookiness, as this allows me to embrace morbid concepts in fun ways. For example, these chocolate raspberry cupcakes play on hyelophobia, or fear of glass. The sugar glass–its jagged edges covered in red food coloring–looks very much like broken shards of glass smeared with blood. The buttercream icing with red swirls further plays on this theme.

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Glass Cupcakes Topped with Buttercream Red Swirl

These chocolate-raspberry glass cupcakes are as tasty as they are ghastly. The chocolate cupcake base is filled with homemade raspberry curd. Rich, decadent chocolate goes well with the sweetly tart raspberry curd. I chose raspberry curd because I think raspberry and chocolate are the best dessert combination ever, but also because it goes well with the “glass” and “blood” cupcake theme. When you bite into this cupcake, you see red raspberry filling–it’s a nice gory touch. But you could also try lemon curd or another fruit-flavored curd.

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcake

Chocolate-Raspberry, Curd-Filled Glass Cupcakes

If you don’t have time to make these cupcakes from scratch, you can always buy cupcakes and just make the sugar glass; they will still look absolutely wicked. The sugar glass is made by boiling sugar and water until it reaches the “soft-crack stage” (270° F). You really need a candy thermometer for this to work, preferably a digital one. As soon as 270° F is reached, pour the sugar syrup onto a lightly greased cookie pan. Shake the pan from side to side to spread out the syrup. Then allow the sugar glass to harden–which will take 30 minutes to 1 hour–before breaking it into shards.

Glass Shards

Freshly Broken Shards of Sugar Glass

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

You can enhance the goriness by covering the sugar glass’s edges with Wilton’s no-taste red icing color using a toothpick. I also spread the icing color in vertical lines in a pastry bag before filling the bag with the buttercream icing. This is what gives the buttercream icing its red swirl.

If you’re looking for another creepy Halloween desert, check out these blood-splattered cookies. Also, if you have any Halloween recipes or craft ideas, please share–I’m always looking for new ideas.

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Raspberry Curd

Serves About 3 cups
Meal type Condiment
Website adapted from Java Cupcake
A sweetly-tart raspberry curd made with real raspberries. Perfect with scones or as a filling in cupcakes. This raspberry curd recipe is easy and delicious

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 Cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 6 egg yolks (lightly beaten)
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Note

Do not let the curd rise above 170°F as this could cause the eggs to scramble.

Directions

Step 1
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar, raspberries, egg yolks, and salt. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and the raspberries have broken down. Stirring constantly.
Step 2
Cook at a low simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. The curd is done when a candy thermometer registers 170°F.
Step 3
Stir in the lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Try to press out as much of the juice as you can from the pulp and seeds.
Step 4
Cover the curd and place in the refrigerator. Allow to chill for at least 4 hours before using. The refrigerated curd will keep 2-4 weeks.

Chocolate Raspberry Curd Filled Cupcakes

Serves 24 cupcakes
Meal type Dessert
Website slightly adapted from Java Cupcake
These chocolate cupcakes are filled with homemade raspberry curd. The rich, decadent chocolate goes well with the sweetly-tart raspberry curd.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 2/3 cups sour cream
  • Raspberry curd homemade or store bought (see recipe on blog)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper cases.
Step 2
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add the heavy cream, brewed coffee and vanilla extract. Heat until just barely simmering. Remove from heat and allow to cool as you prep the other ingredients.
Step 3
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Step 4
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream and eggs.
Step 5
Slowly pour the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the sour cream and egg mixture; whisk until smooth. NOTE: Make sure to slowly add the chocolate mixture to the sour cream and egg mixture to prevent the eggs from cooking. Do not add it all at once.
Step 6
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour in three parts, whisking after each addition until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated. Whisk batter until smooth, about 20 strokes.
Step 7
Fill the cupcake cases three-quarters full. Bake 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning them out on to a wire rack.
Step 8
Core the center of each cupcake using a paring knife or an apple corer. Using a spoon, fill each cupcake with raspberry curd.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing with Red Swirls

Serves yields icing for 2 dozen cupcakes
Website Adapted from Java Cupcake
This vanilla buttercream icing with red swirls is perfect for festive occasions, such as Valentine's Day and Halloween. The icing is smooth and creamy.

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 4 Tablespoons cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 2 Pounds powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Optional

  • Wilton no-taste red icing (for red swirls)
  • cupcakes

Directions

Icing
Step 1
Using a stand mixer or electric beater, beat butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Add 1/4-1/2 cup cream and beat on high for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Mix in the pinch of salt.
Assembly
Step 2
Using a toothpick, add the Wilton no-taste red icing color in vertical stripes up the insides of a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip. Add the buttercream to a pastry bag. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake.

Sugar Glass

Serves Makes enough for 2 dozen cupcakes
Meal type Dessert
Website adapted from Juniper Cakery
Sugar glass is a cool decorative technique. The sugar glass is made by boiling sugar and water until it reaches the soft-crack stage (270° F).

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • candy thermometer
  • small saucepan
  • cake release spray
  • rimmed cookie tray or baking sheet

Directions

Step 1
In a saucepan add the sugar and water together and set on the highest heat.
Step 2
Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet by spritzing lightly with cake release.
Step 3
Stir the sugar mixture occasionally and leave to bubble until the sugar mixture reduces and reaches around 132 degrees C or 270 degrees F. You should start to smell a faint burnt caramel scent. The mix may also begin to turn a slight champagne gold color.
Step 4
Remove the pan from the heat. Quickly pour your sugar mixture onto the rimmed cookie sheet. Quickly spread the mixture to the edges by tilting the sheet. Don’t worry if the mixture doesn’t reach the edges; sometimes the cake release spray will stop it from spreading too much. Leave to cool and harden (this takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour).
Step 5
Don’t leave your ‘glass’ for too long, however. Sugar glass is hygroscopic, which means that it quite readily absorbs moisture from it’s surrounding atmosphere. As soon as the mix has cooled and hardened, quickly smash it in the required jagged shards before it loses that lovely brittle and hard quality!
Cupcake Assembly
Step 6
Place a glass shard or shards on top of the red swirl buttercream icing for each cupcake.

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery Point, Maine

I love traveling and exploring different parts of the world, learning about cultures and experiencing the uniqueness and beauty of a given place. Traveling expands your mind and changes your worldview. Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I’ve been lucky to have many occasions to travel of late. My mother-in-law got married this past weekend, so Corey and I flew to Maine to witness and celebrate this momentous occasion. After the ceremony, we all went to Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier—a popular local seafood restaurant that’s known for serving fresh boiled lobster.

Man Holding Lobster from the Live Lobster Tanks at Chauncey Creek

Man Holding Lobster from the Live Lobster Tanks at Chauncey Creek

Close-Up of the Live Lobsters

Close-Up of the Live Lobsters

Maine has a maritime culture, with much of its economy based on the lobster industry. This restaurant embraces that culture with a nautical theme. Brightly colored picnic tables overlook Chauncey Creek, and fishing nets and buoys hang from the ceiling. There‘s even a dock in front of the restaurant for those arriving via boat (which one couple did while we were there). A sign made from an old wooden board humorously reinforces the lobster culture:

Sign at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Sign at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Steamed Mussels at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Steamed Mussels at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Boiled Lobster with Melted Butter at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Boiled Lobster with Melted Butter at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

A Close-Up of the Beautifully Cooked Lobster

A Close-Up of the Beautifully Cooked Lobster

Lobster Beware!

Lobster Beware!

The simple menu centers on fresh seafood. We ordered steamed mussels, coconut shrimp with fries, corn on the cob, and four two-pound lobsters. You have to get the boiled lobster—order from inside a small shack, where they have live lobster tanks. Select the lobster size you want, and they’ll bring it to you freshly boiled. They also provide lobster bibs, napkins, crackers, moist towelettes, and silverware. Note that it’s a casual BYOB joint, not a typical full-service restaurant. You can bring tablecloths, glasses, beer or wine, or anything else that you want.  They deliver the food to your table, and you get to work removing the steaming hot lobster meat.

The Seating Area at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

The Seating Area at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

The View from Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

The View from Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Info about visiting Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier:

Address:
16 Chauncey Creek Road
Kittery Point, ME 03905

Phone: 207-439-1030

Chauncey Creek is open seasonally from Mother’s Day through Columbus Day.
Mother’s Day through Labor Day – Open every day 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Closed the Tuesday after Labor Day
Post-Labor Day through Columbus Day – Open Tuesday through Sunday
11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Casual attire, BYOB establishment. They do not split checks (so if you’re going in a large group, plan accordingly). Lobster prices vary seasonally; expect to pay an upcharge compared to grocery stores in Maine (we paid ~$15/lb, compared to ~$6/lb in stores). The view, fun atmosphere, and convenience make the extra cost worth it.

Chauncey Creek is a fun place to eat that features an unpretentious atmosphere and lobster fresh from the sea. If you want to experience Maine local color and some seriously delicious seafood, try Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier. You won’t be disappointed!

If you’re craving lobster and can’t get to Maine in the near future, here’s a French recipe for Lobster Thermidor—a very different cooking style from the lobster at Chauncey Creek, but good nonetheless.  Also, because the cooked lobster meat is combined with cheese, wine, and breadcrumbs, the lobsters need not be straight from the sea.

If you have any lobster recipes or restaurant recommendations, let me know in the comments.

If you want to read a fictional book about the lobster community in Maine, I highly recommend The Ghost Trap by K. Stephens. I really like that the book shows us a side of Maine rarely seen. It’s about a community of lobstermen who risk their lives and souls everyday on the formidable sea. It shows the struggle, fear, and stress of relying on the bounties of the sea for survival, but more importantly it explores the nature of man and the psychological cloaks and motivations one uses to get by. It’s a tragic story of love and loyalty, humor and sadness, and friends and family.

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Canal House Lentils, Teriyaki Shiitake Mushrooms, and Kale with Sesame Oil

Canal House Lentils, Teriyaki Shiitake Mushrooms, and Kale with Sesame Oil

Canal House Lentils, Teriyaki Shiitake Mushrooms, and Kale with Sesame Oil

Corey wanted us to try incorporating three days of vegetarian meals into our weekly diet in an effort to eat healthier and be more environmentally conscious (fruits and vegetables produce more calories per unit of energy expended in the production thereof). This hasn’t been nearly as challenging as I expected. There are so many flavorful vegetarian dishes out there, and I’m enjoying experimenting with new recipes and styles of cooking!

One of our favorite vegetarian meals—Canal House lentils, teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, and kale with sesame oil—was in the January 2014 issue of Bon Appétit (the same issue that featured this wonderfully spicy pork and mustard green soup). Most cooking magazines’ January releases feature healthy, low-calorie food to cater to those making diet-related New Year’s resolutions.

I often look at these issues askance. This isn’t because I dislike healthy cooking, but rather because I believe that taste should come first, and all too often it seems that these recipes sacrifice flavor for health. However, Bon Appétit got it right with this issue: the dishes pack in the flavor while remaining healthy and nutritious.

Canal House Lentils, teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, and kale

Canal House lentils, teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, and kale with sesame oil is an Asian-fusion meal drawing inspiration from Japanese breakfasts, which tend to be savory and satisfying. I typically cook this meal for dinner, but I do sometimes eat the leftovers for breakfast; it’s so tasty, why not?

The lentils’ flavor comes from sautéed garlic and leek, tomato paste, and soy sauce. The tomato paste adds richness to the dish, while the soy sauce adds saltiness to the earthy lentils. The teriyaki mushrooms are made with shiitakes—my favorite kind of mushroom. They’re gently cooked over medium heat until tender, then tossed in teriyaki sauce. This results in deliciously sweet and savory mushrooms.

The kale is very simple to prepare. Just combine olive oil and sesame oil in a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Then add the prepared kale; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 7-10 minutes. The kale will be tender but will still retain some of its lovely texture. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, with tons of vitamins and minerals, so it’s a great green to cook with. I can’t get enough of kale these days! You can also put it in soups, make it into chips, or simply sauté it.

All the components of this meal complement each other very nicely: the soft, sweet mushrooms with the earthy lentils and the slightly bitter kale with sesame oil. I usually serve this meal with a side of white rice (feel free to substitute brown or yellow rice if preferred) so that it will offer complete protein. Canal House lentils, teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, and kale with sesame oil is easy to prepare, healthy, and most importantly, tasty!

If you’re looking for other yummy but healthy vegetarian options, check out this Korean mixed rice bowl with bean sprouts or this kimchi fried rice.

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Canal House Lentils

From magazine Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit
Canal House lentils are flavored with garlic and leek, tomato paste, and soy sauce. The finished dish is rich, savory, salty, and earthy.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Medium leek (white and pale green parts only, finely chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional

  • thinly sliced scallions (for garnish)

Note

Lentils can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Directions

Step 1
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add leek, garlic, and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until fragrant and tomato paste begins to darken, about 4 minutes. Add lentils and 2½ cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, 45–55 minutes.
Step 2
Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 10 minutes; add soy sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve lentils topped with scallions, if desired.

Kale with Sesame Oil

From magazine slightly adapted from Bon Appétit
Kale with sesame oil is simple and delicious. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, with tons of vitamins and minerals, so it’s a great green to cook with.

Ingredients

  • 2 Bunches kale (ribs and stems removed, leaves torn)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Teaspoons sesame oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional

  • sesame seeds (for garnish)

Note

* Kale can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

* Sesame oil will become bitter if it gets too hot, so cook over gentle heat.

Directions

Step 1
Rinse kale; shake dry, leaving some water clinging. Heat olive and sesame oils in a large skillet over medium heat. Add kale; season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, tossing occasionally, until just tender, 7–10 minutes. Garnish with sesame seeds, if using.

Canal House Teriyaki Sauce

Serves Makes about 2 1/2 cups
From magazine Bon Appétit
Canal House teriyaki sauce is easy to prepare and requires only 3 ingredients found in most grocery stores. It's great on mushrooms, chicken, and fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

Note

Teriyaki sauce can be made 1 month ahead. Store airtight and chill.

Directions

Step 1
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 40–50 minutes; let cool.

Teriyaki Shiitake Mushrooms

From magazine slightly adapted from Bon Appétit
The teriyaki shiitake mushrooms are gently cooked until tender, then tossed in teriyaki sauce. This results in deliciously sweet and savory mushrooms.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 Ounces shiitake mushrooms (stems removed)
  • 1/4 cup Canal House teriyaki sauce (or store bought teriyaki sauce)

Note

* Mushrooms can be made 5 days ahead; cover and chill.

* The mushrooms are not salted as they cook—this is intentional. The teriyaki sauce they’re tossed in adds plenty.

Directions

Step 1
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 8–10 minutes.
Step 2
Add 2 Tbsp. water to skillet and cook, tossing mushrooms occasionally, until water is evaporated and mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl and toss with teriyaki sauce.

Dumpling King – North Miami Beach, FL

Green Onion Cake at Dumpling King Miami

Green Onion Cake with a Sweet and Spicy Sauce at Dumpling King

Dumpling King was our last restaurant adventure in Miami before returning to Chicago. It came highly recommended by one of Corey’s colleagues and fellow foodies, so we were eager to squeeze it in before we left. We’re so glad that we did! We’d been craving some authentic Chinese food (which there isn’t much of in Miami), and this sure hit the spot.

From the outside, Dumpling King didn’t look too impressive; it’s located in a strip mall in which building repairs were underway. But we didn’t let that stop us, and neither should you! After all, one of my favorite restaurants, Raku in Las Vegas, is located in a strip mall. I still dream of their homemade tofu and crispy shrimp, and I can’t wait to go back to Las Vegas to eat at Raku (among other things).

The day that we went to Dumpling King was a real scorcher, and when we arrived I was craving a refreshing beverage. Luckily, they had a wide selection of bubble teas: sweetened teas with tapioca pearls. I ordered the pineapple green tea. It was the perfect drink for a hot summer day, and I loved the cute panda graphics on the cup!

We started off with the green onion pancakes. They were crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. The dish was served with a sweet-and-spicy dipping sauce that paired well with the mild green onion pancake.

Fried Fresh Pak Choi with Mushrooms at Dumpling King

           Fried Pak Choi with Mushrooms and Green Onion Cake at Dumpling King

We then ordered the fried pak choi (bok choy) with mushrooms. The  name is deceiving, as the baby pak choi is sautéed rather than fried. I think this method of cooking is preferable, since it lets the natural flavors of the vegetables shine. The pak choi was the perfect texture: tender yet still somewhat firm. The mushrooms soaked up the delicious cooking sauce, so when you bit into the mushrooms, flavors of garlic, soy, and ginger were released.

Pork and Celery Boiled Dumplings at Dumpling King

             Pork and Celery Boiled Dumplings with Fried Pak Choi and Mushrooms

Of course, a trip to Dumpling King wouldn’t be complete without an order of dumplings! But this is where the language barrier caused a mix-up (the server spoke very little English, a testament to the establishment’s popularity with Chinese residents of Miami), so read on to get the inside scoop. Our friend had recommended the soup dumplings (also known as xiao long bao). Soup dumplings are made by wrapping chilled gelatinous broth into a dumpling skin; when they are heated, the inside defrosts and becomes soup. This results in a truly remarkable dumpling experience—or so I’m told, as I have yet to try them.

We did not see “soup dumplings” or xiao long bao on the menu. We asked the server if they had soup dumplings, and she pointed to the soups on the menu. We tried explaining that we didn’t want soup, but rather dumplings that contained soup. She said that they didn’t have that, but fear not—they do! They’re just listed on the menu as “Shanghai Style Steamed Dumplings.”

Not knowing this at the time, we ordered pork and celery boiled dumplings. The dumplings came out piping hot. The dough was fresh and the filling was hearty. The quantity was quite impressive for the price: 12 generous dumplings for $6.50!

This is a great restaurant for authentic Chinese food, especially dumplings. It would be a good casual spot to visit with friends or family (they also do take-out). What it lacks in atmosphere and location it makes up for in tastiness!

Dumpling King's Menu North Miami Beach

Dumpling King’s Menu

Menu Dumpling King North Miami Beach

 Dumpling King’s Menu cont.

Info about visiting Dumpling King:

Address:

237 NE 167th St

North Miami Beach, FL 33162

Phone: (305) 654-4008

Hours: 11 AM – 9 PM, seven days a week

Cost for entrée: $6.99 – $12.99

If you’re in Miami and want some tasty Chinese cuisine, check out Dumpling King! If you do, tell your story in a comment here.

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White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese

white truffle oil mac and cheese

White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese with Rosemary

My first experience with truffle mac and cheese was at Clusters & Hops, an excellent restaurant in Tallahassee that features unique dishes like Parmesan-crusted ostrich filet and espresso-crusted filet mignon with wild mushrooms and Cognac caramelized onions. But my favorite dish of theirs (and one of their signature dishes) is truffle mac and cheese. A blend of cheeses and truffle oil–the exact varieties and proportions of which they jealously guard–gives it a silky smooth texture, a wonderfully intoxicating truffle taste, and leaves you craving more as soon as you take the last bite.

When we moved from Tallahassee to Chicago, I set out to re-create this dish in my own kitchen. I thought it might help us survive Chicago’s brutal winters. I’ve played around with many different recipes since then and I’ve finally found a winner–one that approaches the truffle oil mac and cheese found at Clusters & Hops.

My white truffle oil mac and cheese is made with equal parts Parmesan and fontina cheese. The parmesan is sharp and earthy, while the fontina is soft, creamy, and tangy. Combined, they work wonders on the palate. But the truffle oil is what really takes this dish to the next level. Its intense aroma and earthy flavors make this a truly indulgent meal. A fresh rosemary garnish finishes the dish and make the luxuriant flavors pop.

A Note about Truffle Oil

Much controversy surrounds truffle oil; some chefs love it, others abhor it. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this polarization. First, truffles are the most expensive food in the world, with the European white truffle selling for as much as $3600/pound. Truffles are thus a coveted commodity in the cooking world, but many restaurant-goers cannot afford to pay for the “real thing,” so chefs turn to truffle oil to capture the flavors and aromas of truffles.

The reason some chefs scorn truffle oil is because most truffle oil is chemically synthesized, without the use of any actual truffles. It’s made with a chemical called 2,4 dithiapentane, which is the primary component that gives truffles their aromatic smell. However, there are some truffle oils made with actual truffles. You can tell if truffle oil is made from truffles or with 2,4 dithiapentane by checking the ingredient label. If you see “truffle aroma” or “truffle essence,” it’s chemically made.

Personally,  I like truffle oil and believe it allows people to experience the taste of truffles without the prohibitive expense. So if you want to try a truly delicious meal, try this truffle oil mac and cheese!

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White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese

Serves 6-8
Meal type Main Dish
Website adapted from Instructables
This white truffle oil mac and cheese is made with Parmesan and fontina. The truffle oil's intense aroma and earthy flavors tastes delicious.

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups heavy cream
  • 9 Ounces dried short pasta (should yield about 4 1/2 cups cooked pasta)
  • 3 Tablespoons white truffle oil
  • salt (to taste)
  • 8 Ounces fontina cheese (freshly grated)
  • 8 Ounces Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
  • 3/4 cups panko bread crumbs

Optional

  • chopped fresh rosemary

Directions

Step 1
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once boiling, add a liberal amount of salt and pasta; cook according to package instruction until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Step 2
While the pasta is boiling, butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
Step 3
In a large saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Step 4
Add the pasta, truffle oil, and salt to the cream, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Step 5
Add both cheeses and stir until the cheese is just melted. If the consistency seems too thin, just add more cheese. If it seems too thick, add more cream.
Step 6
Pour the pasta mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
Step 7
Broil until brown, about 2 minutes.
Step 8
Remove from oven. Top with the fresh rosemary. Serve and enjoy!

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

I love cupcakes, but not as much as my sister Sadie. She’s a cupcake fiend! She visited me in Miami over the Fourth of July weekend, and there were two things that she absolutely had to do before leaving Miami: go jet-skiing and make cupcakes.

Jet skiing was an adventure—at some points I wasn’t sure that we were going to survive! I’d never driven a jet ski before, and at first it was scary. It’s easier to steer at high speeds, but to go that fast is intimidating. So I started out really slow, which made my steering horrendous.

But Sadie egged me on. I found this quite hilarious, as I’m partly to blame for her adventurous nature—I took her on an inverted rollercoaster when she was 5 years old. She loved it and laughed the whole time!

My sister’s fearless nature inspired me to go fast. I summoned the inner Klingon in me and said, “Today is a good day to die.” I squeezed the gas and we flew. It was smooth sailing from there. Sometimes you have to embrace adventure!

Our cupcakes, while not as adrenaline-packed, were an adventure in and of themselves. It can be challenging to create recipes, but never let fear get in the way of your creativity. Sadie wanted to make a cupcake that had an unexpected ingredient or unusual flavor, and so our chocolate-Sriracha ganache was born. But what kind of cupcake would go well with this?

We didn’t want to make chocolate cupcake base because the ganache needed to stand out from the cupcake itself. So we decided on sweet coconut cupcakes as a cool counterpoint to Sriracha’s mild heat.

The coconut cupcakes are moist and sweet. We used coconut milk, instead of water or regular milk, to enhance the coconut flavor. We also added sweetened coconut in the batter. For the ganache, we used Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate. This resulted in a dark chocolate bittersweet taste accented with a hint of warmth from the Sriracha.

If you’re up for the adventure, try out these coconut cupcakes with chocolate-srircaha ganache. They’re out of the ordinary but very good.

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache image

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache Topped with Sweetened Coconut Flakes

Creators of the Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

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Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

Serves makes 12 cupcakes
By author Rosanna Bell and Sadie Shireman
These coconut cupcakes with chocolate-sriracha ganache are deliciously sweet with a hint of warmth. Be adventurous and try these coconut cupcakes!

Ingredients

cupcakes

  • 1 stick butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes (plus additional for garnish)

ganache

  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate (such as Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate)

ganache (Optional)

  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha

Directions

Cupcakes
Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with baking cups.
Step 2
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric beater over medium-high speed, for 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until fully incorporated. Mix in the coconut milk.
Step 3
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Step 4
Slowly beat in the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Fold in the shredded coconut flakes.
Step 5
Spoon batter into cupcake tins.
Step 6
Bake cupcakes, rotating the pans halfway through, 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack. Allow cupcakes to cool to room temperature.
Ganache
Step 7
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the ganache: bring the cream to a boil, remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit in the cream for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Add the Sriracha, if using. Let the ganache cool to room temperature.
Step 8
Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache; if you want to, you can remove the cupcake wrappers before doing this. Turn the cupcakes right side up, sprinkle with coconut flakes if desired, and let the ganache cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve!

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi and Potato Crisps

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi and Potato Crisps

I really like authentic dishes that represent their native lands. But, I also like it when chefs fuse two disparate cuisines and pair them in an exciting way. This apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi does just that.

I took the classic Irish-American corned beef and cabbage dish, and gave it a Korean twist. The corned beef is roasted slowly in the oven with ½ cup of kimchi juice (the red liquid that accumulates inside the kimchi container). This infuses the kimchi with a hint of spiciness; it’s subtle as corned beef has a very strong flavor on its own. If you don’t have easy access to kimchi, you can still make the apricot-glazed corned beef; just substitute water or beer for the kimchi juice. Slow-roasting the corned beef at a low temperature in the oven ensures the meat will be nice and tender.

When creating this dish, I wanted to showcase a variety of flavors: sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy. The corned beef is naturally salty. The sweet apricot glaze pairs perfectly with the corned beef. The tang and spice come from the kimchi, which is served alongside the corned beef. Take a bite of kimchi with the apricot-glazed corned beef and experience the flavors.

The apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi is incredibly easy to make and requires hardly any preparation. The kimchi is already prepared when you buy it. Just put the corned beef and kimchi juice in a roasting pan, cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake 2 ½ hours, or until a fork easily pierces the meat. Remove the foil, drain the kimchi juice. Pour the glaze over the corned beef and bake for an additional 30 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove from the oven and allow the meat to rest for 25 minutes. Then serve with kimchi and potatoes. You can’t have corned beef without some form of potato!  It’s really that easy.

What are you waiting for? Go make this apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi and let me know how you like it.

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Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi

Serves 6-8
By author Rosanna Bell
The apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi is incredibly easy to make and requires hardly any preparation. The dish is sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy.

Ingredients

  • 1 3 to 4 lbs corned beef
  • 1/2 cup kimchi juice (the red liquid that accumulates inside the kimchi container)
  • 3-4 Cups kimchi
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Teaspoons mustard powder

Note

You can find kimchi at some grocery stores and most Asian markets.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove corned beef from packaging. Place fat side up into a roasting pan. Pour kimchi juice over the corned beef. Add contents of spice package over the corned beef. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, basting occasionally.
Step 2
When the corned beef is nearly done, make the apricot glaze. Combine the apricot preserves and water in a microwaveable dish. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring in between, until the mixture combines. Mix in the mustard powder.
Step 3
Test the corned beef for doneness by inserting a fork into the meat. If the fork easily pierces the meat remove from the oven. Otherwise, continue cooking until it does. Remove the foil. Drain the kimchi juice and pan drippings. Pour the glaze over the corned beef and cook for an additional 30 minutes, basting twice.
Step 4
Remove the corned beef from the oven and let rest for 25-30 minutes. Slice the corned beef and serve with kimchi.

Khong River House Miami Beach, FL

Interior of Khong River House Restaurant in Miami Beach, FL

Interior of Khong River House Restaurant in Miami Beach, FL

When dining out I prefer authentic establishments that highlight regional flavors and fresh ingredients. I love Raku in Las Vegas which features authentic Japanese cuisine and I’m a huge fan of Tony Hu’s Chinese restaurants in Chicago widely known for their regional authenticity. I love that food has the power to transport you to other places—moules marinières always takes me to France where Corey and I spent our honeymoon and whenever I eat kimchi-bokkeumbap I always imagine eating in a snack-food restaurant in Korea.

The Food at Khong River House

The food at Khong River House is a confluence of cultures and flavors inspired by the countries the Mekong River flows through: Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. This results in an exotic journey in South East Asian Cuisine.

Vietnamese Iced Tea and Tamarind Mint Iced Tea at Khong River House

Vietnamese Iced Tea and Tamarind Mint Iced Tea at Khong River House

Our flavorful journey began with a deliciously sweet Vietnamese iced tea and a refreshing mint and tamarind iced tea. Corey and I had just come from the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. We hadn’t quite adjusted from the Chicago winter to the Florida heat and we were in dire need of refreshment. These served us well.

The waiter recommended that we order two small plates and two mains to share. Though in all honesty, I think we would have been fine ordering one small plate and two entrees. But, I’m not complaining, the appetizers were wonderful. We started off with the Spicy Isan Waterfall Salad with Fried Snapper. The lightly-fried fish tasted fresh and paired nicely with the lime juice, fish sauce, salad greens, and mint. Sorry there is no picture . . . it was just so good, and we were so hungry from walking.

Pork Summer Rolls with a Spicy Dipping Sauce at Khong River House

Pork Summer Rolls with a Spicy Dipping Sauce at Khong River House

I’m a huge fan of spring rolls. They’re so much fun to make and the fillings are endless. I typically make mango and chicken or shrimp and mint, so these pork summer rolls were a fun alternative to my usual fair. The lettuce and carrots were nice and crisp; the spicy dipping sauce adding some heat to the fresh rolls.

Northern Vegetarian Pad Thai at Khong River House

 Northern Vegetarian Pad Thai at Khong River House

Corey chose the vegetarian pad Thai served in a tangy tamarind sauce with mung bean sprouts, julienned carrots, scallions, scrambled eggs, and spinach. Chopped peanuts, a fresh lime slice, and spicy red chilies accompanied the dish to add to your liking. The freshness of the ingredients were apparent and appreciated. The dish was full of flavor—tangy, salty, spicy, and sweet. The vegetables shined and we didn’t miss not having meat.

Thai Coconut Chicken Curry Soup with White Rice

Thai Coconut Chicken Curry Soup with White Rice

Whenever there is a coconut curry dish on a menu, I almost always have to order it. Corey jokes that I’ll read the whole menu, even though I know I’m going to order that dish. Well more often than not, he’s right. I can’t resist the rich and utterly decadent slightly sweet and spicy coconut broth. It’s amazing and Khong River House’s version does not disappoint. It’s much heartier compared to most other restaurants I’ve been to, with tons of chicken and vegetables. I highly recommend this dish, though I might be a tad bit biased given my inclination for coconut curry.

The Venue at Khong River House

The Extensive Bar at Khong River House

 The Extensive Bar at Khong River House

The atmosphere at Khong River House is warm and inviting. Empty bird cages hang from high ceilings interspersed with bare light bulbs, but my favorite part of the restaurant is the extensive bar stocked with fresh herbs and copious amounts of liquor, wine, simple syrups, and spices. The bar has a rolling wall ladder and trust me, it needs it. We did not try any cocktails this time around, but we’ll be back. And if you’ve been there let me know which one/s I should try.

Khong River House Store Front

Khong River House Store Front

Khong River House brings South East Asian cuisine to Miami Beach. If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think!

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Mother’s Day Brunch Menu Bon Appétit 2014

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

Happy Mother’s Day! This blog post is dedicated to all the moms in the world and especially to my beautiful mother, who taught me the importance of family, inspired my appreciation for good food, and loves my sister and I unconditionally.

 

Preparing a Mother’s Day brunch is a special way to honor your mom. After all, mothers spend a lot of time making meals for their children; it’s nice to return the favor and let them sit back and relax while you wait on them. Trust me, they won’t complain!

 

My mother-in-law visited us last weekend, and I prepared her this Mother’s Day brunch menu from the May 2014 issue of Bon Appétit:

 

Smoked Trout Salad

 

Lox Platter with Capers, Radish, Cucumber, and Red Onion Slices

 

Everything Bagels with Horseradish-Dill Schmear

 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

 

I love that this menu is elegant, delicious, yet very easy to prepare—leaving you plenty of time with your mom.

Lox Platter with Capers, Radishes and Cucumber Slices, and Fresh Dill

Lox Platter with Capers, Radishes, Cucumber Slices, and Fresh Dill

Mother's Day Brunch Bagel Spread

The Full Spread (clockwise from left): Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad, Horseradish-Dill Schmear, Smoked Trout Salad, Everything Bagels, and Lox Platter

Mother's Day Brunch Lox Platter

brunch production

 Keeping It Real: Your Kitchen Might Get Messy, But Your Table Will Look Beautiful!

For this meal, I tried two new ingredients: smoked trout and rhubarb! The smoked trout was hard to find—it took three trips to different grocery stores to find it. But it was really worth it! The trout salad was the winning dish—creamy, smoky, and delightful. The moment it was gone, I was already craving more. I’ll repeat this often, especially for festive occasions and brunches! Plus, it only takes five minutes to prepare.

Rhubarb is a brightly colored vegetable with edible pink stalks, similar in shape to celery. It’s mostly served with desserts, as its tartness contrasts nicely with sweet things. I don’t know how I never tried it! Strawberry-rhubarb salad is best the day it’s made; after that, the fruit becomes too soft.

Though Mother’s Day only comes once a year, mothers deserve special treats all year long. Consider surprising your mother with this lovely meal when she’s least expecting it!

Mom and me

Mom and Me. I love you, Mom!

Corey, Susan, and David

Happy Mother’s Day, Susan! We’re so glad that you got to visit!

 

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

Serves 8
From magazine Bon Appétit
This strawberry-rhubarb salad with mint and hazelnuts is bright and festive. It's perfect for brunch or afternoon tea. The tart rhubarb contrasts nicely with the sweet strawberries.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts
  • 2 rhubarb stalks (thinly sliced)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 Pounds strawberries (hulled, quartered)
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Note

The strawberry-rhubarb salad is best the day of; after that the fruit becomes too soft.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Let cool, then chop.
Step 2
Meanwhile, toss the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Let sit until rhubarb is slightly softened and releases its juices, about 30 minutes. Toss with strawberries, mint, and hazelnuts.

Smoked Trout Salad

Serves Makes about 2 cups
From magazine Bon Appétit
The smoked trout salad is creamy, smoky, and delightful. This smoked trout salad is perfect for brunch and is a breeze to make! It comes together in minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 celery stalk (finely chopped)
  • 8 Ounces smoked trout (skin and bones removed, flaked)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, dill, or flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Step 1
Mix onion, celery, trout, mayonnaise, sour cream, dill, and lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Horseradish-Dill Schmear

Serves 1 1/2 cups
From magazine Bon Appétit
This horseradish-dill schmear is easy to whip up and perfect on bagels. Great flavor and super easy. Get the horseradish-dill schmear recipe today!

Ingredients

  • 8 Ounces whipped cream cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
  • salt

Directions

Step 1
Mix cream cheese, dill, and horseradish in a small bowl; season with salt.