Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ringing In 2010. Gravlax & Oysters

It's a New Year and I have been ignoring this blog for far too long (yes, 3 years!) Not too much has changed over the years, which is a good thing, since sometimes you want things to stay as they are. Frank and I rang in the year in a quiet fashion, but we went to town through our meals! A bit over indulgent, but hey, that's what celebrations are for. I recently purchased a book called What to Drink with What You Eat and The Flavor Bible. Both are comprehensive guides to food pairings and I find them both fascinating. This compelled me to try out what they say is the perfect pairing of Guinness and oysters. I personally think Corona and oysters are perfect together, but the Guinness combo was interesting. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, as I found the Guinness to be too earthy with the oysters and I like to cute the brine and creaminess with something a little crisp. The oysters came from my new favorite place in town, Fish King!

The lineup was Malpeques, Hama Hamas, and Fanny Bays. The Malpeques were my personal favorite. In addition we got some of Fish King's Ahi Poke, which is nicely heavy on the Soy Sauce, but not too salty. We had Meyer lemons from the tree, freshly grated horseradish and the obligatory bottle of Tabasco. We bought a dozen of each oyster and it took us 3 days to eat them all, even though Frank kept saying he could finish them off right then. On the 1/01/10 we supplemented the oysters with some ahi sashimi and the next day with brie and cured sausage. Yikes!

On to the Gravlax!

Enough about oysters. I think my favorite thing this New Years was the homemade Gravlax! Fish King had some gorgeous Scottish salmon and I have been itching to make my own cured salmon for some time now. I found quite a few simple recipes on TasteSpotting but this is the one I went for, by Six Course Dinner and it was sooooo good! Next time I will try adding the Scotch! We had it with homemade goat yogurt cheese, more of those Meyer lemons (our tree exploded) on top of some Acme Olive Bread that I had kept in the freezer from our last trip to SF.

Overall, not a bad start to the New Year...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Classic Maryland Style Soft-shell Crabs

I love 99 Ranch! This grocery chain has become my go to place for seafood. I am always on the hunt for crabs and can usually find them, but the quality is sometimes questionable and I don’t want to spend a small fortune to get them. 99 Ranch to the rescue! My latest find has been frozen soft-shells from Vietnam. The price was around $17/dozen and they were a pretty nice size, about 4-5 inches. That’s relatively cheap. They were really pretty and fresh looking. Clean white meat, bright blue shells, I almost thought they would start to move, which kind of gave me the creeps. Best thing is that they are individually wrapped and already cleaned. First dish I wanted to try was pan-frying them in a seasoned coating. This is my standard for making soft-shells. Of course it has Old Bay in it.

6 fresh or defrosted soft-shells
1-11/2 c flour
1/8-1/4 c Old Bay Seasoning
2 eggs beaten
1/2-3/4 c Canola Oil
1 tsp water

(Sorry about the measurements on this. I add to it, as needed, because sometimes you need more coating and oil for frying)

1. Pat the soft-shells so they are relatively dry.
2. Mix the flour and Old Bay together and put on a plate for coating the crabs.
3. Whisk the eggs and add a little water to thin out. Place on a separate plate for dipping the crabs in.
4. Coat the crabs, one at a time, into the egg and then the flour mix. This will be a thin coating. Set aside on a plate till ready to fry. Don’t wait to long or the coating will start to break down.
5. In a fry pan heat the oil and when a drop of water sizzles in the pan place the crabs’ shell side down into the oil. Watch out, as the oil will splatter.
6. Fry for about 3-5 minutes and flip gently when golden brown and fry the bottoms for another 3-5 minutes.
7. Drain the excess oil off on a paper towel and serve with lemon wedges.

I made the dish shown above with a side of red chard from the garden that I diced and quickly sautéed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Zucchini Bread with Basil and Golden Raisins

It was bound to happen. I have too much zucchini growing in the garden. All of it sprouted from the soil without any interference (or encouragement) on our part! I must admit that this year’s crop is delicious. The squash has a light creamy flavor. Sautéed in olive oil results in a buttery taste and texture. I think we ate zucchini with every meal for a week and actually didn’t tire of it. I obviously have zucchini on the brain if I happened to notice that one crop we picked happened to look like a value scale. I guess it’s the artist in me!

Last year I experimented with a zucchini bread that wasn’t too sweet and more interesting then just zucchini. I know the classic odd pairing is zucchini with chocolate, but I wasn’t after a dessert bread. So here is my take: Zucchini Bread with Basil and Golden Raisins! It bakes up beautifully. Stays very moist and not too sweet.

11/2 c flour
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 c Canola Oil
2 large eggs; beaten
1/2 c sugar
1/12 tsp vanilla
1 lb zucchini coarsely shredded
1 cup fresh basil; shredded
1/2 c chopped golden raisins

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a parchment lined loaf pan. Mine is shiny metal not the black heavy kind.
2. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients.
3. In another bowl combine the wet ingredients except for the zucchini, raisins and basil.
4. Fold the zucchini, raisins and basil into the wet ingredients.
5. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Do not over mix.
6. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a skewer pulls out cleanly from the center. Remove from pan and let cool.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Birth of the Fuzzy Devil!

Also known as: Where is the drink in this shot? Oh shoot! Quick! Photograph this before it's all gone!

It's lots of fun trying to come up with drinks! I don't know if the reason the final concoction tastes so good is because by the time you've figured out the recipe you've had 2, or 3 or 4... Yikes! We were over at a good friend's place this Sunday killing time before a wedding reception and thought we would have a drink or two. Seemed like as good a time as any to experiment. This is the result. The combination of the pear and the floral aroma of the elderberry (it also edges on being musky) combines into a not too fruity, perfumed delight!

Fuzzy Devil

1/2 oz Elderberry Flower Syrup (this stuff came from Ikea and definitely deserves more investigation!)
1/2 oz Organic Pear Juice
1 1/2 oz Vodka

Combine everything into a martini shaker with ice and shake and serve! Next time, we will remember that a garnish makes a nice accompaniment, but really isn't needed, is it? Well, maybe a pretty pear slice...

I have to thank Vanda for the pretty photo of the half empty glass and for getting me drunk before a wedding reception! She has a nice little blog called Suscito and a great section on films called Moviegrump.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Corn Salad

So what do you do when you have a party and you make too much corn? Corn Salad! After all the cooking from the previous day, I usually get burned out. The only problem is I start to get tired of eating the same meal over and over. I am not a big fan of leftovers... Back to the issue of too much corn:

I had some cucumber and Thai Basil from the garden and just diced everything up. Cut some cold boiled corn off of the cob and toss with the cucumber and basil to combine. Add some good quality olive oil, fresh lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

That's it! Refreshing and so easy. It has the possibility of endless variations. Different types of herbs will change the flavors. You could add tomatoes, avocado, peppers and so forth. I would suggest keeping it simple so you can clearly taste the individual ingredients. Maybe too much of something is a good thing.

Southern Fare

We celebrated Frank's birthday this last weekend. I usually like to kick off Birthdays with some kind of fun and unusual feast. For example, my last birthday, we celebrated with a champagne tasting and dishes that would compliment the different varieties. It gets to be a little time consuming and pricey, but I like doing something memorable and food events are fun! I usually pick a theme to organize the menu around. This year's birthday theme was "Southern Fare". I posted a while ago that I wanted to have a traditional Maryland-style crab feast, but for the number of guests it would have been astronomical! So a shrimp boil seemed to be the closest thing. The local Asian grocery, 99 Ranch Market, had some gorgeous looking shrimp, with heads attached, for an unbelievable price. Problem solved! I just followed the recipe that Old Bay has on their web site. Except I omitted the potatoes and cooked the corn separately, oh and definitely use the beer! We also had Corn Bread (Didn't make that! Not enough time!), collard greens made with smoked turkey legs instead of ham hocks, boiled corn (as mentioned before), Garden Salad (from the garden of course!), Watermelon and Yummy Cupcakes Red Velvet Cupcakes! To drink I offered hibiscus juice from a 101 cookbooks recipe and optional tequila. We ate outside on the picnic tables Frank and I made a year ago with the food piled in metal trays and just relaxed. I think everyone had a good time!

Fresh shrimp with heads are a must! I know it grosses some people out but sucking the shrimp heads is the best part!

Finished pile of shrimp and sausage. Don't forget the hot sauce!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Washington DC!

I am a DC girl at heart. We were fortunate enough to fly back for a few days recently. I love being back there! I don't miss the snow or the humidity (well maybe a little!) but I miss everything else! I lived in a small town just outside of DC in Maryland called, Cabin John. We were within biking distance of Georgetown, via the C&O Canal. Nearby, in Glen Echo, was an emerging art community, thanks largely in part to my high school art teacher, Walter Bartman. I can confidently say that I wouldn't have the career I have today without his instruction. He has opened up the Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery now that he's retired from the public school system. It's located in Old Glen Echo Park, which looks like it's being restored to its original glory! Wonderful place to visit. Everything is green and lush and there are things on the East Coast, I just can't get anywhere else! A few items are Blue Crab, Yuengling Beer, and Utz's Crab Potato Chips!

One of the first things I wanted to do was have some soft shell crabs, since we happened to be there at the right season. I unfortunately don't have a picture of the ones we had at dinner, but they were every bit delicious. They were prepared in the usual Italian way, coated in a light batter, pan-fried and served with a lemon caper butter sauce. I'm drooling again! I do have a great picture of what Frank's Aunt had waiting for us the next day. A big pile of steamed crabs!!! A dream come true! This trip was off to a great start!

Frank's mission was to obtain some of Utz's famous crab chips, which you can see we did! He talked about filling a suitcase with them but I just couldn't imagine bringing back a bag full of potato chips! A little salty, but every bit of the classic Old Bay type flavor you would expect from a crab chip. Delicious with an ice cold beer! Preferably Yuengling! They say that they are the oldest American brewery. I don't know if age has anything to do with it, but their beer, is rich and flavorful and immensely refreshing.

The other wonderful thing about DC is the Smithsonian Mall. I love it there! It's free and there are amazing exhibits. We had to do a whirlwind tour of the museums since we didn't have a whole lot of time and the rush through was killing me, but we did get to see some extraordinary things. I won't go into detail but if you want to see a fantastic range of art check out the following museums if you ever get there. Hirshhorn, National Gallery of Art East and West, National Portrait Gallery, and the American Art Museum to name a few. One special note is that we had a fabulous lunch at the Garden Cafe, in the West building. I was surprised to stumble upon this. The food at the museums in the past had been mediocre, but this was fantastic! We had Mimosas, Bouillabaisse, and a assortment of artisinal cheeses, as well as a few other delicacies. One dish that was quite interesting was the grilled asparagus with a Passion fruit sauce. Interesting and unique combination of flavors. The cafe was in a serene setting, in the museum, situated around on of their indoor fountains and was off the beaten path so it was quite peaceful. Service was excellent!

Here are a few other photos that Frank took on our trip...

The National Gallery has a very impressive permanent Calder exhibit.

One of the gorgeous marble hallways of the National Gallery West building.

Not Rothko's! Not sure who painted these, but the room glowed from them!

The best and only way to travel in DC, the Metro! I love the interior architecture as well!