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What's Up Magazine

The Taste: The Main Ingredient in Annapolis

Apr 25, 2016 02:30PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Rita Calvert

914 Bay Ridge Road, Annapolis | 410-626-0388 | themainingredient.com

You might think Main Ingredient is just a neighborhood place way down on the Eastport Peninsula, which is especially touted for large lush breakfasts. Not the case at all, explains Evie Turner, Vice President of Main Ingredient Catering, Cafe and Bakery, as she describes the inner workings of a greatly loved, multi-faceted food operation.

How would you describe the style of food for your restaurant and catering business?

We are about creative American cuisine. We have our “Main Favorites,” which I would define as upscale comfort food such as our Salmon Pisana [featured], meatloaf, and our Hungarian mushroom soup, but our chefs enjoy developing their dishes with different flairs for specials or our seasonal menus. You might find crispy crunchy kale with grilled salmon and coconut rice one evening or a polenta cake topped with wild mushroom gorgonzola cream the next evening.

Our catering business has the same range of style, however we do customize most of our menus. Every client is different and if they have an idea, we encourage them to share it with us. If we can take it from paper to kitchen to execution and it’s delicious, we make it happen.

I understand that the catering division handles a lot more than just private parties and weddings. Are you still doing the school lunches? Tell us about that.

We also cater to corporations, colleges, and universities for meetings and sporting events. We have a division that delivers lunches to private schools who do not have food service. As a huge help to parents, we pack nutritional lunches and deliver.

Main Ingredient is so well-known for abundant breakfasts with glorious biscuits. How did that come to be?

We are one of the few places in and around town that has its own bakery and our pastry chefs are up early and baking from scratch daily. When a guest comes in for breakfast, our baked goods are still warm. You can’t let a biscuit sit around, you must eat them fresh! If you are longtime Annapolitan you know our pumpkin muffins! We serve them with all of our entrée salads. In catering…the “donut” muffins get a lot of attention.

With such a bustling restaurant and a lively catering business, who leads the show and do you have more than one chef? 

Tom Hogan, our managing owner, supports, manages, and leads our team along with me. We have an amazing team of people who work at Main Ingredient. We have several chefs in addition to myself. Brett Cureton is our executive chef. Andrew Meyers runs our café line, Missy Harrison is our catering chef, and Lila Wrye is our pastry chef. Christy Rosetti has been our general manager for almost 10 years in the café, where she gives a warm welcome to customers.

Talk about your bakery department and those gorgeous mile-high cakes we see. Does the bakery have its own kitchen?

The bakery has their own section of our kitchen. I am sure they wish they had more work area. As our cake designers are truly gifted artists, they need their space to create their masterpieces.

Does your restaurant change menus seasonally; how do you come up with fresh menu ideas?

We do change our menus seasonally. We all love to eat, cook, and enjoy new dishes. Our culinary team is always sharing ideas, menus, and photos from travels or our own experiences. The catering crew attends conferences to stay on top of trends and menu development. We even have a “top chef” contest every quarter, when our team develops a special dish for the weekend. They receive the ingredients and are told whether to prepare an entrée, appetizer, or salad. Whoever sells the most specials over the weekend, wins!

Is there any particular single ingredient or style, like smoked foods, that you see developing above others this year?

I would say that the biggest trend is clients who want to know where their food is coming from and they like the story behind what they are eating. Clients are more knowledgeable now. They want locally-sourced meat and seafood. In catering, it’s all about the condiments. For example, you have to have more than your basic condiments with your slider bar…be sure to include bacon jam and siracha ketchup.

Chef Cureton, if you could tell the home cooks of the world one thing, what would it be?

Very important are the seven P’s of: “Prior proper planning prevents pretty poor performance.”

Chef, what is your ultimate day, including your favorite dish you like to cook?

Sailing across the Bay with Newcastle in hand while fishing for my rockfish dinner!

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Salmon Pisana

Serves 2

Our Salmon Pisana is one of our most popular entrees with a flavorful salmon filet crowned with robust Mediterranean ingredients over Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Polenta triangles. For firm polenta, it’s a good idea to plan to make it in advance.

  • 2 (7oz) Salmon filets
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts
  • 2 tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • Half of 1 fresh lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

Heat oven to 325F.

Season salmon with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add salmon and sear for three to four minutes. Flip salmon and add artichoke hearts, capers, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, sliced lemon, and white wine. Place sauté pan in oven to finish cooking, for fifteen minutes. Pull out pan and finish by topping with butter.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Polenta

  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomato paste (pureed sun dried tomatoes with olive oil)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil chiffonade (fine slices)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring vegetable stock, tomato paste, and cream to a boil. Slowly whisk in cornmeal adding a little at a time, giving it time to cook and thicken, about 4–6 minutes. Once thick, add fresh basil and grated parmesan. Pour into greased small pan and allow to set up overnight under refrigeration.

Polenta may be cut in triangles, dredged in flour, and sautéed or deep fried for 5–7 minutes.

To Assemble

Place polenta triangles on serving plates. Top each portion with a filet of salmon and artichoke heart sauce.

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As a food writer, blogger, food stylist, Rita Calvert has partnered in writing cookbooks and developed product lines to showcase the inspiration, art and nourishment of food. “The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up!” is her most recent book with co-author farmer, Michael Heller. She now focuses on, “The Great News About Grass” and foods from sustainable farms.