Soft Shell Crabs in Lemon and Butter

About a year ago, a new fishmonger opened up in our neighborhood. Curious, and great seafood lovers, Matt and I decided to walk in.

IMG_20170603_194948.jpgMuch to our pleasant surprise, it turned out that not only was our new fishmonger a great source of cooking information, but also a purveyor of the rarer fishy creatures of the sea.

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While we haven’t quite made the plunge to try sea urchins, we did jump on the opportunity to cook soft shell crabs which we happened upon this weekend.

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As it turns out, they’re very easy to make, as in basically you dredge them in milk, and then flour, and then you sear them for 4 minutes total.

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Following Lisa’s advice, we went the simple route of lemon and butter and it was a perfect light summer dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk (we used skim milk and turned out fine)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 small (4-inch-wide) live or already dressed soft-shelled crabs, cleaned (I didn’t want to deal with live crabs and our trusty fishmonger had them fresh)
  • 1 cup Wondra or all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose and it was fine)
  • 4 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee (we used ghee)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. Combine milk, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish and soak crabs 5 minutes. Lift 1 crab out of milk, letting excess drip off, and dredge in flour.
  2. Knock off excess flour and transfer to a tray.
  3. Repeat with remaining crabs, arranging them in 1 layer as coated.
  4. Heat clarified butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté crabs, upside down, 2 minutes.
  5. Turn over and sauté until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  6. Transfer crabs to a serving dish. Add butter pieces to skillet and cook until golden brown with a nutty aroma. Add lemon juice and parsley (mixture will bubble up) and remove from heat.
  7. Season sauce with salt and pepper and drizzle over crabs. Serve with fingerling potatoes or a light green salad.

Adapted from Bon Appetit Soft-Shelled Crabs Meunière.

Ricotta Blintzes with Berries

Blintzes are a brunch favorite that we almost never make because they are somewhat tedious, but the few times we do we are always left wondering – why don’t we make this more often?

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Some time ago Matt bought me Breakfast Comforts, a cookbook from Williams-Sonoma, as a Valentine’s Day gift. One might consider it a self-serving gift, but it’s turned out to provide joy for me to cook and for him to eat!

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We made a few modifications to the recipe as noted below, and the original recipe is from Sarabeth’s, one of the more popular brunch chains in New York. After making this recipe at home, however, it’s hard to justify going out and spending almost $21 per entrée!  The following makes about 10 blintzes.

Filling

16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1.5 tbsp granulated sugar
zest of a lemon (optional – I forgot it and it turned out fine)

Crepes

1.5 cups whole milk (I used goat milk, a new discovery in the store and delicious)
6 large eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1.5 tsp granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Topping

Blackberries, Blueberries, or Raspberries or some combination
2 tbsp honey

Directions

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and the six eggs.

2. In another bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and the salt. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture, just until the batter is smooth.

3. With a rubber spatula, rub the butter through a wire sieve into another bowl to remove any lumps.

4. Brush a 7-8″ nonstick frying pan with the butter and place over medium high heat until hot. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly.

5. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip and cook the other side until golden, about another minute. Transfer to a plate.

6. Repeat with all the remaining batter, adding butter as needed. Stack the blintzes separated by parchment paper until all done. You should have about 10 blintzes.

7. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, the sugar and the lemon zest if you are using.

8. Place one blintz, spotted side up on a work surface. Place about 2 tbsp of the filling just below the center of the blintz.

9. Fold in the sides, and then roll up from the bottom, enclosing the filling. Repeat with the remaining blintzes and filling.

10. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat with butter. Add the blintzes to the pan and cook, seam-side down until the bottoms are golden, about two minutes.  Adjust heat as needed so that the blintzes cook evenly.

11. Flip blintzes and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes more, or until they are also golden.

12. In a separate small pan, (I just used the one I had for the blintzes) add the berries and honey and cook over low-medium heat so that the berries release their juices and it becomes like a compote.

13. To serve, put the blintzes on a plate and drizzle with the berry compote.  (Optional: add a dusting of powdered sugar.) Serve immediately!

Filling recipe from: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/ricotta-blintzes-with-berry-compote.html

Crepe and Assembly recipe from: Breakfast Comforts, by Rick Rodgers

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw

So I had half of head of red cabbage leftover from my red cabbage, goat cheese and walnut salad and hated for it to go to waste. I was making some lovely grilled trout and corn on the cob for dinner and thought about what would go well alongside that would be fast, easy and didn’t require any ingredients that weren’t already in my fridge. I was able to throw this together in minutes in the morning and left it covered on my counter until dinner. I hadn’t planned on blogging about this since it seemed almost too simple. But when my husband saw how beautiful it looked he decided to take a photo. And then of course, it tasted great. So especially now that it is officially barbecue season, this is one side that goes with just about any grilled meat or fish. I don’t actually have a grill, but broiled or oven roasted foods work well too. The amounts are a guideline and can easily be doubled or tripled.

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw 

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 small head of red cabbage, cored and sliced thinly

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated with the large grate (or if you are REALLY lazy, you could use the bought julienned carrots)

Juice of 2 fresh limes

4 Tablespoons EVOO (I used a Meyer Lemon EVOO but you could use just a good quality plain EVOO)

1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Toss everything in a non-reactive bowl and cover for a few hours, tossing when you think of it.

Mixed Berry Scones

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When I was growing up, fruit and vegetables had distinct seasons and everything we cooked or baked was dependent on that. Frozen foods were still in their infancy and while my mother was a wonderful cook and baker, if you can believe it, having a Swanson’s TV dinner was considered a BIG deal. With global markets food seasons are something of the past. Unless I am shopping farmers’ markets, I can get beautiful berries and flavorful tomatoes all year-long. However, even with changing weather patterns, winter is still winter, summer is still summer and spring, while totally unpredictable is still spring. Chicago’s spring has been chilly and damp on some days and summer-warm on others, but it is still spring and the trees have that new green and the first flowers are blooming. All of this makes me want to start using berries in everything. However, I have learned over the years, that if the berries are going to be mixed through a batter or dough that it is actually preferable to bake with frozen fruit, which also tends to be somewhat more consistent than fresh. The fruit will squish less, keeping the integrity of the berry. (I still buy and eat fresh berries every day and enjoy those fragile and delicious farmers’ market strawberries when I am lucky enough to find them.)

I wanted to make something that ticked all of my boxes and decided on these mixed berry scones.  The recipe comes from two recipes: Cook’s Country and the Pioneer Woman with a some tweaks from me. They will work for breakfast, brunch or afternoon “tea.” And while they may look heavy, they are actually remarkably light, not overly sweet and bursting with berries.

Mixed Berry Scones adapted from Cook’s Country and The Pioneer Woman

Yield: About 8 large scones

Ingredients

Scones

1 ¾ cups (8 3/4 ounces) frozen mixed berries

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, chilled

1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

1.5 Tablespoons berry jam

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 large egg

Glaze

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon honey

Directions

  1. FOR THE SCONES: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. If your berry mix contains strawberries, cut them in half or quarters. Toss berries with confectioners’ sugar in bowl; freeze until needed.
  2. Combine flour, 6 tablespoons butter, granulated sugar, baking powder, orange zest and salt in food processor and process until butter is fully incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add remaining 6 tablespoons butter and pulse until butter is reduced to pea-size pieces, 15 to 20 pulses. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Stir in berries.
  3. Beat milk, preserves and egg together in separate bowl. Make well in center of flour mixture and pour in milk mixture. Using rubber spatula, gently stir mixture, scraping from edges of bowl and folding inward until very shaggy dough forms and some bits of flour remain. Do not over mix.
  4. Turn out dough onto well-floured counter and, if necessary, knead briefly until dough just comes together, about 3 turns. Using your floured hands and bench scraper, shape dough into 12 by 4-inch rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches tall. Using knife or bench scraper, cut dough crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally into 2 triangles (you should have 8 large scones total). Transfer scones to prepared sheet.

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  5. Bake until scones are lightly golden on top, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
  6. FOR THE GLAZE: While scones bake, combine melted butter and honey in small bowl.
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Remove scones from oven and brush tops evenly with glaze mixture. Return scones to oven and continue to bake until golden brown on top, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Transfer scones to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve as is or with Devonshire cream and more honey or jam. Berry Scones

Gingerbread

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When my son was growing up, I used to take great joy in treating him (and my husband) to home-baked goods. But even as someone who loves to bake, sometimes I just wanted something simple and fast that I could put together no matter how late is was or how tired I was. This gingerbread recipe comes from my trusty James Beard on Bread book. It is simple, delicious, makes the house smell the way houses should smell when you walk into them and did I say it was simple?? I’m sure that you can “tart” it up as everyone seems to feel a need to do today, but trust me when I say that it needs NOTHING except maybe some additional fresh, sweet butter. Serve it with dinner instead of a roll or as an afternoon snack with a glass of milk or with a cup of tea or coffee for breakfast. But serve it! And good news for those with egg allergies – there are no eggs in this recipe.

Gingerbread 

Yield: One 9 x 9-inch pan

Ingredients

1 cup light or dark, unsulphured molasses (I use dark)

1/2 cup boiling water

5 Tablespoons softened, unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups, all-purpose, unbleached flour

Directions

  1. Place the molasses and softened butter in a medium mixing bowl. (A trick for measuring out the molasses is to lightly spray a glass measuring cup with a spray like PAM and then add the molasses. The molasses will pour right out. This works with honey as well.)
  2. Add the boiling water and stir until well mixed and the butter has melted.
  3. Add the baking soda and stir lightly.
  4. Sift in the flour, ginger and salt only enough to moisten and mix the ingredients. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly smooth. Do not over mix!
  5. Turn into an ungreased 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and place in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes (ovens vary) or until the top springs back when lightly pressed and the bread begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Then inhale. This can be eaten immediately. Leftovers are also good but nothing beats it fresh from the oven. Gingerbread2

Italian Walnut and Raisin Coffee Cake

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My husband really loves raisins in his sweets – so much so that we have had a running joke for over 30 years that whenever I ask him how he likes a dessert I have just made, he says the only thing that could make it better would be if I added some raisins. So, I thought I would finally surprise him with a cake where raisins are the star, instead of a grace note to the apples that they are generally paired with. I looked through many recipes but none seemed quite right, and then I came across this unpretentious cake by the noted cookbook author and journalist, Carol Field. It’s simple and delicious with raisins spiked with rum or Marsala and toasted walnuts. Try some with your morning or afternoon coffee or after dinner, accompanied by a glass of dessert wine. And a bonus is that this makes the house smell AMAZING!

Italian Walnut and Raisin Coffee Cake by Carol Field, Italy in Small Bites, Harper Collins, 2004 

Yield: One 10-inch tube cake

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup raisins

6 tablespoons Marsala or rum

10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

4 large eggs, separated

1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon walnuts or blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Soak the raisins in the Marsala or rum for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. Cream the butter and sugar together well. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating each one well before adding the next. (I used a standing mixer, but you could do this by hand if you prefer.)

2a. Mix together the milk, reserved Marsala or rum, and vanilla.

3. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. If using a standing mixer, on low speed beat the milk mixture into the butter mixture in three additions alternating with the dry ingredients. If doing by hand, use a rubber spatula to accomplish the same thing.

4. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. With the rubber spatula, stir one quarter of them into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the nuts and raisins. Once these have been incorporated, fold in the remaining egg whites with the spatula just until there are no more white streaks.

5. Turn the batter into a buttered and lightly floured 10-inch, straight-sided tube pan, sprinkle the top with the turbinado or demerara sugar, and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a tester comes out clean. (This is what I used.)

6. If you prefer to use a 9- X 5-inch loaf pan, bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack, and cool to room temperature. This is even better the next day after the flavors have a chance to really permeate the cake.

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VARIATION

Ciambella al Anice: Use 1 tablespoon anise seeds instead of the raisins and nuts. Substitute Sambuca for the Marsala or rum, or omit it altogether and increase the milk to 1/2 cup.

 

Steak with Gorgonzola Walnut Butter

Steak can get repetitive, and so it’s always exciting to find a new twist on an old classic.

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The “butter” here is more a description of the consistency rather than actually being butter.

Putting a dollop on a seared steak just makes the “butter” ooze out onto the steak and the aromas released are fantastic. This recipe pairs nicely with a mint “tabbouleh” that is actually made with couscous.

Ingredients

  • 4 New York steaks (about 2 – 2.5 lb)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (1/2 tbsp dried)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

for the “butter”

  • 8 oz Gorgonzola cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 1 tsp white wine Worcestershire
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted walnut halves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp minced chives
  • 6 drops Tabasco

Couscous salad

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 3 tbsp diced scallions
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place steaks in a glass dish.  In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic, vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Marinate in refrigerator covered, for 2 to 3 hours.  Remove steaks from marinade when ready to grill.
  2. To make “butter,” combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process for about a minute until mixed thorougly.  Can be refrigerated, but plan to serve at room temperature.
  3. To make couscous salad, bring chicken stock to a boil and then add the couscous.  Cover until cooked (about 15 minutes).
  4. Mix in tomatoes, mint, chives, garlic, green onions, paprika and oil.  Season to taste.  Set aside.
  5. Heat up a cast iron skillet until hot, and cook steaks 5-6 minutes per side, or until cooked to desired doneness.  Shortly after turning, put a mound of the “butter” on each steak, and allow to melt slightly while the steaks finish cooking.  Serve with the couscous!

From The Wine Lover’s Cookbook, by Sid Goldstein