Saturday, August 22, 2009

Long Island Crab & Corn Cakes

Whenever the topic is crabs -- or crab cakes—the state of Maryland comes to mind. But Maryland isn’t the only place to catch crabs, there’s plenty of blue crabs in the bays of Long Island and the season here is in full swing.

I like to go crabbing in the evening, when blue crabs swim to the surface and can be lured in toward a net with a flashlight. During the day, we toss in a line with bait (usually chicken) and wait for a tug to reel them in. And what do I do with them? After boiling the crabs and carefully picking the meat out of the shells, I make crab cakes.

This is my favorite recipe; it combines crabmeat and another seasonal Long Island treat -- corn. These two ingredients really work together well. There’s no need to catch your own crab, crabmeat from a fishmonger or canned crabmeat both work well. Serve them with some homemade tartar sauce.

1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 ear of fresh corn
16 ounces lump crabmeat
¾ to 1 cup fresh bread crumbs*
1 egg
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Vegetable oil, for cooking

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in small frying pan over low heat. Add shallots and cook until shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Steam corn or cook corn in boiling water about 4 minutes. Cool and remove kernels. Combine corn and crabmeat in large bowl. Add bread crumbs and mix lightly, trying to keep lumps of crabmeat intact.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together egg, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, Old Bay and Worcestershire sauce. Mix in shallots and cilantro.
4. Pour egg mixture into crabmeat and gently combine. Divide mixture into about 6-8 portions and flatten into thick patties. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes to set.
5. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and a little vegetable oil, enough to coat the bottom of a large frying pan, over medium heat. Add crab cakes, in batches if necessary (do not crowd otherwise they will be difficult to flip) and sauté until golden brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Serve immediately.

*For breadcrumbs, can use about 5 inches of french bread. Slice as if making a sandwich and scrape out (or pinch out) white portion, leaving crusts.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Borlotti Bean Salad

My husband has this habit of buying mystery fruit and vegetables. When he brings these unknown items home, we have a conversation that goes something like this:

Me: What's this?
Him: It's a bean (or fruit or something equally obvious and unhelpful.)
Me: Well, what kind of bean?
Him: I'm not sure (or "I forgot.")
Me: So, what are you going to do with it?
Him: I don't know.

Yesterday he picked up a bunch of fresh, shelled, what-turned-out-to-be Borlotti beans. These tannish beans with pink splotches, about the size of kidney beans, are sometimes called cranberry beans. They're popular in Italy and Portugal, and no wonder -- their nutty flavor is delicious.

After finding out how long Borlotti beans need to cook, I came up with this salad recipe that includes roasted cherry tomatoes (the first big batch from my garden), sundried tomatoes, and a red wine vinaigrette with pesto. There was only one problem: I didn't make enough. This totally tasty recipe can easily be doubled.

For roasted cherry tomatoes:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. In medium bowl, mix tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet or pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 45 minutes, then set aside and let cool.

For Borlotti beans:
2 cups fresh, shelled Borlotti beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Salt, to taste

Over medium-low heat, cook sliced garlic and olive oil until garlic is fragrant, about a minute, Stir in Borlotti beans to coat in oil. Add water and pepper and simmer, covered, until beans are soft but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, salt to taste. Using slotted spoon, transfer beans into large bowl and cool.
For the salad:
Roasted cherry tomatoes
Cooked Borlotti beans
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped basil
Red wine vinaigrette, to taste (recipe below)

In bowl with beans, add roasted tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, chopped basil and enough vinaigrette to coat (or to taste, I probably used less than half amount below.) Toss well and serve. Adjust seasonings.
For red wine vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 generous tablespoon pesto

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil and then the pesto.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Asian Soba Noodle Salad

Sometimes I think I could eat something every day and never get tired of it. This summer, this salad featuring soba noodles, Napa cabbage and a really tasty Asian-inspired dressing, is one of those dishes.

I’m a big fan of soba noodles, skinny Japanese noodles made from buckwheat. I’m also a fan of Napa cabbage, a light, crunchy cabbage that is ubiquitous in Chinese stir fries. And it’s a good thing, because we recently had somewhat of a Napa cabbage crisis: A friend gave use several heads of cabbage the same week our CSA delivered a head.

My husband’s solution to this crisis was kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish made by fermenting cabbage and other vegetables. We used this YouTube video to make the kimchi and it turned out great (although I am still humming the background music.) I have to say that, for me, it was an entirely unique way of preparing food. It also called for ingredients I’ve never used, like sweet rice flour and garlic chives. Who knew?

I, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do with the cabbage: Make this salad. It’s perfect for lunch or a light summer supper. I think it would also work well as a side dish with grilled meat.

For the salad:
3-4 ounces snap peas or snow peas (one big handful), blanched 3 minutes
1 bunch soba noodles (they usually come packaged in 3 or 4 separate bunches), cooked about 5 minutes, drained and rinsed under cold water
Half head napa cabbage (depending on its size and your taste) halved lengthwise and sliced in thin ribbons.
3 scallions, cut in 1/4 inch slices, including green part
1/2 cucumber (or one small cucumber), chopped 1/4 pieces
1 red peppers, cut in quarters lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 wide ribbons or julienned
1 carrot, made into ribbons with a peeler or julienned
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
A handful of sprouts (optional)
A handful peanuts (optional)

Mix all ingredients well in large bowl and toss with dressing.

For the dressing:1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of half of one lime
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well or combine all ingredients in a tupperware type container, cover, and shake to combine.

Makes 2 generous main courses

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pasta with Feta Cheese, Spinach and Sundried Tomatoes

We’re having a heat wave here, with record high temperatures and stagnant, sultry air . In this weather, my strategy for cooking is simple: spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.
This recipe exemplifies the laziness of summer. Crumbled feta and grated parmesan cheeses are simply folded into hot pasta, then combined with a flavorful mixture of sautéed spinach, onions, garlic and sundried tomatoes. I used campelle, but other types of pasta that hold sauce well -- such as orecchiette, gemelli or fusilli -- will also work well.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 medium-large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (or more to taste)
1 6-7 oz. bag of baby spinach
1 lb. box pasta, such as campanelle
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt, to taste
1. In large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add chopped onions. Saute onions, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add red pepper flakes and sundried tomatoes, stir. Then add spinach, cooking until spinach is wilted. Set aside.
2. Cook pasta as instructed, drain and place hot pasta in large bowl. Add feta and parmesan cheeses and mix well, allowing cheeses to melt. Fold in spinach mixture, pepper and salt. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with parmesan cheese.
Serves 4

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mud Pie

I don't know for sure if mud pie originated in Mississippi (and apparently either does anyone else), but I do know it's one of my husband's favorite desserts. He used to get his mud pie fix from Starbucks, which, for an all-too-brief while, made a sort of ice cream sandwich version that was really great. I still search grocery freezer sections for their mud pies, but I haven't seen them for more than a year. So, when my husband's birthday came around last week, I decided to make a mud pie.

This recipe, based on one my mom used to make, is an ice cream pie as opposed to a gooey chocolate-filled pie also called mud pie. My mom made it the easy way; she just bought already-made coffee ice cream and chocolate sauce, adding kahlua to the sauce, then made a pie crust and put it together. Still in the midst of ice cream-making mania, I decided to make everything from scratch, but, to be honest, next time I'll probably skip the homemade ice cream and just mix in a couple of tablespoons of kahlua into a softened pint of Haagen-Dazs.

Mud Pie

For the crust:
1-1/4 cup chocolate wafer crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter

For the fudge sauce:
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon kahlua

For the coffee ice cream filling:
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup dark-roasted coffee beans
1-3/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon finely grinded espresso powder
1 tablespoon kahlua

1. Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate wafers and butter, stir until well blended. Press into 9-inch pie pan and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely.

2. Fudge Sauce: Combine in a bowl over hot (not boiling) water 1-1/2 C chocolate chips, heavy cream, and butter. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remover from heat, stir in kahlua or other coffee liquor. Chill 10 minutes. Spread 1/3 cup sauce on bottom of chocolate wafer crust. Chill 15 minutes. Reserve remaining fudge sauce for the top of the pie.

3. Coffee Ice Cream: Combine Milk and coffee beans in a heavy saucepan and heat over medium heat to a simmer. Pour hot mixture into a bowl, cover and set aside for an hour. In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat sugar and egg yolks until mixture is thick and pale yellow, about four minutes. Beat flour and salt into egg mixture. Reheat coffee mixture until bubbles form at the side, remove from heat and remove coffee beans from milk with slotted spoon. Slowly pour hot milk into eggs, whisking constantly, to temper eggs. Pour entire mixture back into the saucepan and place over low heat, whisking constantly until custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not boil. Remove from heat and pour coffee cusard through a strainer into a large bowl. Cool 5 minutes, then mix in cream, vanilla, espresso powder and kahlua. Chill, covered, at least 4 hours. Stir and freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer instructions. When done, pour ice cream into pie crust and freeze until hard. Remove from freezer and cover with remaining fudge sauce. Return to freezer until set.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ginger Margaritas

A couple of weeks ago I went to Spice Market restaurant in New York City. We had a great meal, but days later I'm not thinking about the food I ate there (sorry, Jean-Georges Vongerichten), I'm obsessing about this cocktail. It may be because summer is finally in full swing here on Long Island, with high temperatures and high humidity, and it's hard to get inspired about cooking or even eating (shock!) meals. The idea of sitting on my porch with this cold, refreshing, slightly spicy margarita, though, is quite appealing.
Ginger Margarita
Spice Market via Food & Wine
For a single serving:
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons añejo tequila
1 1/2 tablespoons Ginger-Lime Syrup (recipe below)
1 tablespoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 lime wedge, for garnish
1. Mix the ground ginger and salt on a plate. Moisten the rim of a margarita glass with water and dip the rim in the ginger salt to coat.

2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the tequila, Ginger-Lime Syrup, Cointreau and lime juice and shake well. Strain the drink into the margarita glass, garnish with the lime wedge and serve.
For a pitcher:
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons kosher salt
16 ounces añejo tequila
4 ounces Ginger-Lime Syrup (recipe below)
3 ounces Cointreau
1 ounce lime juice
8 lime wedges, for garnish
1. Mix the ground ginger and salt on a plate. Moisten the rim of a margarita glass with water and dip the rim in the ginger salt to coat. Fill glasses with ice.

2. In a pitcher, combine the tequila, Ginger-Lime Syrup, Cointreau and lime juice. Stir well and pour one-fourth of the mixture into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into 2 of the highball glasses. Repeat 3 more times, using fresh ice each time. Garnish each drink with a lime wedge.
Ginger-Lime Syrup
1 cup (about 4 ounces) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 stalk lemongrass, smashed and chopped (optional)
1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Boil for about 2 minutes, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to warm, then puree in a blender.

2. Pour the puree into a fine strainer and press on the ginger to extract as much syrup as possible. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 1 week.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ricotta Vegetable Pie

Much of my cooking is based on refrigerator management; that is, using what's available in my fridge or, more likely, what needs to be used right now. This week, we received a bounty of vegetables from our CSA, including a load of yellow squash and a big bunch of escarole. Escarole? I also harvested the first couple of zucchini from my own garden, so I was feeling under a little vegetable pressure.

Recently, I discovered some recipes for Mediterranean vegetable pies in the New York Times and found them a great way to control the vegetable levels in my refrigerator. Although I took some inspiration from those recipes, this recipe differs in several respects. First, there is no crust. There could be a crust -- it would be delicious -- but I wasn't in a crust-making mood. Second, I had a big tub of ricotta cheese (it was on sale) that needed to go, so this pie is decidedly cheesier. Lastly, this is not a purely vegetable pie, I used a bit of prosciutto, but the meat could easily be eliminated.

Actually, this pie is perfect for substitutions. No escarole? Use spinach or Swiss chard or some other greens. Don't have any Gruyere cheese? Try Mozzarella or Swiss or Fontina. Fresh basil is great, but any fresh herbs or combination of herbs would do. You could also add chopped sun dried tomatoes or roasted peppers or sauteed mushrooms or a heaping tablespoon of pesto to the mix. Go wild and clean out your fridge.

1-1/2 lbs. zucchini or yellow squash (or combo)
1 head of escarole
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 slices prosciutto, chopped (optional)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated cheese, such as Gruyere
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground pepper
salt, to taste
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped basil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grate zucchini or squash. Place in a colander, salt generously, and let drain for about 1 hour, pressing down on it occasionally to squeeze out liquid. After an hour, take up handfuls and squeeze out moisture. Set aside.
3. Thoroughly wash escarole and slice leaves in 1/2-inch strips. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion and prosciutto, if using. Cook, occasionally stirring, about five minutes. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Add escarole, cover pan and cook until wilted, about 7 minutes. Add zucchini/squash, mix and cook uncovered, another 5 minutes. Drain any excess liquid from vegetables, I let them cool a bit and put them in the colander to drain.
4. In large bowl, mix cheeses, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and basil. Add vegetables and mix well. Pour into a lightly oiled (can use oil spray) 10-inch pie spring pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool 15 to 30 minutes. Slice in wedges and serve.
One 10- inch pie serves eight to ten.