The Ultimate Traveling Appetizer: Crab Salad Cups

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Oops, missing the bacon garnish; just imagine it’s there (but wasn’t needed)!

Okay, maybe not actually the ultimate traveling appetizer, but a very good one at least.

Transportable, as in these puppies can go on the road.  Yes, the other puppies are on the road too (or ferry boat as it may be).

To a holiday party!

A Family dinner.

Or even the notorious office Christmas potluck.

Flexible. Not only can they be made earlier in the day or even the night before, they inherently come with a “choose-your-own-flavor adventure” built-in.

Not a fan of blue cheese and avocado (no judging here)?  Mango and curry can step in.

Prefer cilantro to arugula?  Great!  (Just don’t tell my brother Scott).

Don’t feel like whipping up that corn creme, or can’t since you haven’t yet splurged on a Vitamix (who are you anyway?), no worries, a little creme fraîche or yogurt can be gussied up with lemon juice and pepper instead.

Or, for a little more heat, shake in some chipotle chili powder.

For a different dimension, smoked paprika could attend…

… you get the idea.

Elegant. Forget the little smokies or the tasty, but expected, humus dip and wow your guests or hostess with these little jewels instead.

Easy. Whip up the dressing, pat dry the crab, chop a few things and mix it all up. After a little trip on the assembly line, the little glass cups can be put back in their box and refrigerated until ready to use (or take to the potluck, family dinner or party with friends).

And the best part:

No heating required! (Who has room in the oven when there is a turkey in there?… or a holiday ham, prime rib roast… or perhaps there’s no oven at all)!

Seriously though, to be honest, the best part is the crab.

Just saying! Pull out your wallet, it’s the Holidays!!!!

Over the Sound and through the woods…

Are we there yet?!

This ride sure beats the Mayflower!

Is it too early for sugar plum fairies to be dancing in my head?

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The Ultimate Traveling Appetizer: Crab Salad Cups

The quintessential holiday appetizer, 1st course or salad, all piled into a tiny, portable glass.

It’s a traveling appetizer that works as well at home as it does on the road.

Seafood – check

Crab – double check

Greens – check

Red garnish – check

Elegant Holiday Spirit – check (not that kind of spirit, but hopefully you have one in hand)

When the meal is heavy, the first course should be light.

When it’s a party meal, there should be something festive, tasty and fun that is healthy, filling and unforgettable.

Tall order?

Small cup.

Done.

  • Author: Stacey Bender
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: Zero
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Approximately (14) fourteen 4 oz cups
  • Category: Appetizers
  • Cuisine: Holiday + Universal

Ingredients

3/4 lb Dungeness crab meat, rinsed, gently squeezed dry and patted with kitchen towel

Lemon Juice, approximately from one full lemon

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1 ear of corn

1/4 cup fresh, full fat, Greek style or local yogurt

1-2 oz good quality blue cheese (I used Maytag Blue), or more to taste

1 Avocado, peeled, seed removed, diced and doused with lemon juice, sea salt and pepper

2-3 green onions, chopped

2 TB mixed fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley, savory, basil

1/4 cup very thinly sliced fennel, diced and doused with lemon juice, sea salt and pepper

Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Zest of 1/2 orange (approximately 1 TB)

Instructions

  1. Put the fresh, dry crab in a mixing bowl and let chill until you are ready to assemble.

2. Wrap the corn in plastic wrap and microwave for 1 minute.  Alternatively, steam or boil in water until just crisp tender.  Cut the corn from the cob.

3. Put the corn in your Vitamix or food processor.  Add some pepper and pinch of sea salt along with the yogurt.  Process until the consistency of cream.

4. Put a few spoonfuls of the corn creme, along with 1/2 of the blue cheese in a medium bowl and blend with the back of a spoon.  Add lemon juice and additional blue cheese to taste.

5. Mix in 1/2 the avocado, green onion/herbs, fennel, 1/2 the pomegranate seeds and orange zest.

6.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.

7.  Assemble the cups by first filling each with a spoonful of the corn creme, followed by a little chopped arugula, then the crab mixture.

8.  Sprinkle some of the remaining pomgranite seeds on each.

9.  If serving later, cover each glass cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate until use.

10.  To serve: Unwrap the plastic and top each with a few sprigs arugula, squeeze of lemon and dusting of chopped bacon.

Notes

I got the glass cups at Crate & Barrel a few years back.  They came six to a box and were inexpensive plus came with unlimited possibilities.  You could easily swap the glass cups for leaves of endives for serving.  Add more avocado if you like.  When I say “douse it in lemon juice”, I mean, squeeze fresh lemon juice over and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4 oz

Keywords: Holiday Appetizers, Easy Appetizers, Crab Appetizers, Individual Appetizer Cups,

Squash Soup & Other Roots

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The first time I made squash soup, I acted as if I had already made it so many times before that it was as second nature as walking my dog(s).

Tom and I had arrived back home in Alaska for Thanksgiving that year.  It was the same year my brother, Scott and his wife Christine, announced they were pregnant with our soonish to be niece, Catherine (who, by the way, has recently started a master’s program at Trinity College in Dublin).

None of us knew that at the time then, of course.

We were so young.

Somewhere between childhood scrawniness and adulthood, I had gone from the sugar-loving, vegetable-loathing, picky eater that I was, to the mad about everything, food-loving, “best Italian chef” in Seattle.  Ok, so mom has a way of, er, exaggerating.

So, I feel an explanation might be in order?

I am not the “best Italian chef” in most places I suspect, but I’m pretty good, and I do live in Seattle.

The “Best Italian Chef” part, was the way my Mom introduced me to a crowded room at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, during her 50th birthday party.  Yikes, what the heck?

I have possibly been trying to live up to that tittle ever since.

Period.

What does this have to do with squash soup you ask?  I will tell you.

Mom loved/loves squash soup and asked me to make it for the aforementioned Thanksgiving dinner as a starter.

Period (again).

Well, at least she didn’t ask me to participate in the making of the main course, because next up was the Thanksgiving menagerie whose highlighted poultry venture was none other than “Turduken” (the seasonal star of the time period).

The soup, by the way, turned out great.  The Turduken…uh, no comment.

Enough said on that piece (pieces?) of poultry.

Back to the soup.

Tom and I traveled from SEA to ANC that year, in tow with our dog Buffy, three winter coats, one large suitcase containing our shared clothing and one medium sized case that hauled a thick stack of magazines from Bon Appettite and Gourmet.

I had never even made (actual) soup prior to this, so in my inevitable style, I made the task much more complicated than it needed to be.  After pouring over the magazines into the wee hours of the morning, hoping to become enlightened as to the perfect formula for squash soup, I fell asleep.  When I woke up, I decided to just wing it.

I combined everything I had read into three pans, several mixing bowls and one pot.  The one pot of soup probably made more of a mess in the kitchen then the rest of the meal combined.

If only I knew then what I know now, I could have cleaned a lot less dishes.

Naw….I would have still made the same mess.

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DELICATA SQUASH + CARROT + BEET SOUP

This can be made in under an hour.  Even less if the squash and the beets have already been cooked.  A microwave can be used to speed up the process for the vegetables, a trick that I recently discovered on Chef Steps.  For this recipe, I used some previously roasted squash and beets, but did cook the carrots and leeks using the microwave method.

If you don’t have a Vitamix, you can use another blender or food processor; you will just need to simmer it on the stove after it has been blended.

Ingredients

2 medium delicata squash – cut into 1″ thick rings, with seeds and pulp removed

1 medium to large beet – scrubbed clean

3 medium, full-size carrots – scrubbed clean and cut into 1″ long pieces

1 medium leek – cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ thick slices

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup plain, good-quality yogurt

1/4 cup sherry (brandy will also work just as nicely)

The juice of one small lemon

1 tsp good-quality curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 tsp salt and add more as needed)

Prepare

  1.  Cook the squash by putting it on a sheet pan with enough water to cover the bottom.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook until tender at 350-degrees F (for approximately 20 minutes).  Alternately, you can microwave them in a bowl covered tightly in plastic wrap for approximately 3 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Cook the beet by roasting it in a 400-degree F oven wrapped in foil until tender (approximately 1 hour if cooking 3-4 at a time; less time if cooked alone).  Alternately, you can boil in salted water until tender (approximately 20-30 minutes).
  3. Cook the carrots and leek by putting in a bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap and microwave until tender (approximately 3-4 minutes).  Be careful to remove plastic wrap cautiously so as not to burn yourself with the hot steam that will escape.
  4. Remove the skin from the beet by rubbing it away with a paper towel.  Cut it into 1″ cubed chunks.
  5.  Put all the veg + the chicken stock into a Vitamix, blender or food processor and blend.  If using a Vitamix, set it to the soup setting which will go until it is silky and hot!  I love that feature!
  6. Add the yogurt, sherry, lemon juice, curry powder and season with salt and pepper.  Do another quick blend.
  7. Adjust seasoning to taste and voila!  Done! (FYI, if you don’t have a Vitamix, simply add to a stock pot and simmer to heat and concentrate the flavors.

Serve

There are so many options and I am all out of dishes, so go forth and be creative!

 

Winnie the Poo

Flashback, a year ago.

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Hello, hello again!  My one year anniversary!

Summer Tomato (sauce) is my hero.

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I rescued a box of tomatoes a few weeks ago, but Saturday, I had to rescue them again.  Sadly, I had been inadvertently holding them captive in our (hot) garage, on top of the recycle bin.

I know!  This is not exactly the best foot to come forward on after my absence from this site for so long, but I had the best intentions.

Really, I did!

There was a pile of them.  The tomatoes that is, not the intentions.  They (the tomatoes) were red, plump and waiting to become sauce.

They were begging to become sauce!

At least I think that’s what they were saying to me, each morning as I passed by them to get into my car, or as I lifted them away to open up the lid of the bin they were blocking.  It was hard to know for sure but, what else would they be asking me to do?

Yes, surely it was sauce they were hoping to become.

Soon, there was a liquid oozing out from within their little nest.  I barely noticed at first, due to the mountain scene that was printed on the side of their otherwise white box.  What looked completely normal on Monday, became more pronounced by Wednesday.  The line weight seemed to be a little thicker, I remember thinking.

It wasn’t until Thursday that I realized the line weight of the mountains were now bleeding into and darkening their sky.  It wasn’t from the original graphic but, in fact, was an add-on from the tomato artists working hard from within their confines.

Friday came and I knew I was neglecting them, but still, I had more important things to do, leaving no more time yet to make sauce.

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Like kayaking with us?

I know, you probably don’t understand.  What could possibly be more important than transforming the beautifully aging summer tomatoes into sauce?  Not just any sauce, but the sauce they had waited their whole lives to become, right?

I did though, neglect them, and of that I am not proud.

I am proud today.  Of those fabulous tomatoes, this scrumptious sauce and my decision to finally get my priorities in order!

Sort of like our friends, Piotr and Inna.  They are finally tying the knot this week, today actually!  Yes Piotr, I said knot, not noose).  I mean, they have only been dating now for 8 1/2 short years.

They (Piotr & Inna) prefer vodka to wine so, hey guys, if you make this sauce, by all means, skip the wine and go for the vodka.  Stir in a little cream and a happy marriage that will make!

My sauce started out as quick sauce, like the one that Alex Delany character was chatting about for “Rent Week” recently. I had more than 4 tomatoes though and somehow, roasting them just seemed like the right thing to do. For me. No offense Alex. I know none will be taken.

You can make as much or as little as you have tomatoes.  I hadn’t bought the Farm, as Alex suggested one could, but I did have a very large box which I heaved onto the counter.

First order of business was picking through it, rinsing off each tomato, quickly cutting a small knife around the top to remove their cores and plopping them, one by one, onto a sheet pan.

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Oh ya, you can throw on an onion or two if you like.

Occasionally, I would come upon a tomato that had expired but not before adding its’ imprint onto the ever evolving mountain scene of previously mentioned box.  Sadly, I have no photos of their work but luckily, there were more sauce maker’s than artists in the bunch; I was able to salvage many more than I had to throw out.

Once the tomatoes are all hanging out on the pans, take your bottle of olive oil and drizzle it liberally over the whole lot. Do the same with your balsamic vinegar but use a less heavy hand. I like to put my finger partially over the opening to give it better control.

Now grab a healthy scoop of Kosher salt in your fingers and scatter it, fairly evenly, over each pan; you needn’t be too careful, by this time, hopefully you have a little skip in your step and your movements are fluid.

Do the same with your pepper mill and then grab a few heads of garlic. After removing the cloves from their skin, kind of tuck them into the tomatoes randomly. You might have enough for each one but no worries if a few of them miss out on a poke.

Next come the herbs. Whatever you have in the garden will work just fine, especially if it is oregano and basil. A little rosemary is also nice. Thyme, tarragon, summer savory, what have you. Clean them off and just toss them over. Adding a dash of dried oregano adds another layer and you might like to sprinkle on some red chili flakes too. Your choice.

Pop them into a preheated 350-degree oven and let the magic begin. Soon you will be having thoughts of sitting at a table in the dark corner of your favorite bistro in Italy, candle light, chianti and music or overlooking the olive trees in Italy.

The smells will permeate the whole house as if an Italian opera is singing wildly from the oven. No matter your mood, these smells will only help make it better. I can hear my bother’s Mother-In-Law, Doris, singing now….

The beautiful thing here is that you can just let them cook as you go about your business such as planning your next trip to Italy perhaps?

After an hour or so, they will become slightly colored. This is a good thing.

There will be a pool of juices surrounding them and steam might hit your face lovingly as you open the oven door. Yes, they are having a day at the hot springs. They are enjoying their spa. But as with all things good, less is sometimes more. It might be time to turn down the heat or even turn off the oven all together. Your choice.

If you are going to be home and keep checking in on them, perhaps let the flavors grow more aromatic at 200-degrees. If you want to leave, turn the oven off and let them rest there as it cools down. There is no right or wrong here. Just don’t let them burn.

Once they have been removed from the oven and are cool enough to handle, you can do one of two things (well I am sure there are more than one or two things you can do but…).

Either put them in a food processor (in batches), or, as I did, put them in a large pot and puree them with an emulsion blender.

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Now here is the tricky part, on my end.  It needn’t be tricky for you, I might add.

Either way, you can quit right here, after adjusting of salt, pepper and chili flakes, or, you can continue on the sauce making journey, as I did.  I decided that I wanted them to have a little bit more complexity.

I like to add carrots and red wine to my sauce.  Since I didn’t roast any carrots with the tomatoes, as an after-thought,  I decided to braise some carrots in the oven in the current state of tomato sauce and an addition of red wine (are you listening Piotr and Inna?  Insert “substitute vodka here“).

If you decide to humor me and follow my lead, simply take a small oven-proof vessel, add some peeled carrots (say 8-10 oz worth), top them with a few ladles of tomato sauce and then cover them over with red wine (uh hmm…or vodka).  Pop them in the oven (which has been pre-heated to, oh, say, 350-degrees) and let them braise until tender.  You might need to add a little more liquid….or not.  They don’t even have to be that tender, if we are being honest but just tender enough.  This could take another hour or it could take less.  Again, your choice.  See how flexible I am?

Now, again with the choices, you can either put the carrots and their sauce, into the bit pot of sauce and emulsify more.  Or, add it to a food processor, and puree.  I chose the latter of the two options because, well, I didn’t feel like I had adequately messed up the kitchen yet.

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Now, by this time, you could truly call it quits, for real this time.  Or, you can turn on the stove and let your sauce come to a simmer and add a little more wine (or vodka + cream).  You know what I did, I’m sure.  I let it simmer for about an hour, just because.

With my box of tomatoes (there must have been 8-10 lbs), I was able to yield 25 cups of sauce.

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Now back to the important stuff.

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Where’d everyone go?

Larb Gai – an unusual grind

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I had a surprising revelation while I was making my dog’s food the other day.

Previously, I quickly figured out that their food is much healthier and sometimes of better quality than the meals Tom and I eat.  But that wasn’t it; that wasn’t news to me.

It also hadn’t taken me long before realizing that if you have really good-quality meat, cooking it without the fat and seasonings we humans like to use, doesn’t compromise the flavor.  Yes, I snack on their food as I cook it.

What I hadn’t considered though, is grinding cooked meat.  I used to start out with raw ground meat, which I often ground myself (wait, can you still call it ground meat when you put it in a food processor?).  Yes?  I agree.

So, the other day, I had just baked off some large turkey breasts and when they had cooled down, I chunked the meat and put it into my Magimix.  What I ended up with was highly flavorful, nicely minced meat.

Okay, so this was not an earth-shattering revelation, I realize.  However, seeing as I had simultaneously been contemplating what to make for dinner, I realized the answer was, of course, Larb Gai!

Larb basically translates to “minced meat”.  Of course the Gai is for chicken, but I have no idea what turkey is in Thai.  But anyway, since I was staring down at a Magimix full of minced turkey meat… I knew what I needed to do next, regardless of the proper naming.

Yes, you guessed it, I needed to make more of that minced meat.  You knew I wouldn’t steal the meat I had minced for my fur babies, now didn’t you?

So I did.  Minced more meat, that is.

The first time Tom ordered Larb Gai from our old favorite Thai restaurant, Rama’s on Post (sadly no longer around), I was dubious.  Not because Tom’s dad said it was the best Thai food outside of Thailand, but because the sound of a minced chicken salad kind of gave me the willies.  I know, is that actually a thing?

It turned out to be delicious.  For awhile, I couldn’t get enough.

I had to get past the fish sauce first, of course. Which I did and my refrigerator has not been without it for the past twenty years.

So, if you find yourself with a 1/2 lb of chicken breast (or turkey) that you don’t know what to do with and you are craving something light and crisp, salty and sweet with as much spice as your tongue will allow, this is what you should do:

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MAKE LARB

  1. Put that breast (of chicken or turkey meat) on a baking sheet, adding just a wee bit of water (Stacey speak for about a 1/2 cup).
  2. Cover it with foil.  Bake it at, say, 350-degrees F; it’s not all that particular, as long as the meat is cooked through.
  3. As the meat cooks, you can toast some brown (or white) rice.  I like to use about 1/2 cup dried.  When it is toasted, around 10 minutes in, let it cool then puree it in a grinder.
  4. Meanwhile, make a dressing by mixing together 2 TB fish sauce, 1 TB coconut sugar, (or whatever kind you have), 4 TB lime juice, a piece of chopped spicy chile pepper (such as a thai chili, jalepeno or seranno, or again, whatever you might have), and 7 TB of hot water (from the tap is just fine, albeit better if filtered).
    1. Sirracha sauce is also kind of a must-have.  You can mix it into your dressing with sheer abandon or dole it out slowly, using a cautious hand.  I like to build up the heat to just a comfortable burn.  This allows others to add to the fire at their discretion, should they choose (AKA: pass the bottle to serve on the side).
    2. Give it a taste, adjusting as needed.  I sometimes like to add extra lime juice to give it more tang.  The sugar will help offset the heat and the water will balance the salt from the fish sauce.  Information for your own personal use.  Just say’in, have fun!

4.  Dice up a sweet onion and chop a tassel of fresh basil, cilantro and mint.

5.  When the breast of bird is cooked and cooled, mince it quickly in a food processor.

6.  Mix together the minced meat, ground rice, dressing, sirracha sauce (as much as you dare), onions and herbs.

7.  Adjust the flavors.

8.  Serve a mound of the mixture over a leaf of lettuce or cabbage.  If serving on individual plates, put enough leaves to be filled and wrapped in proportion.

9.  Cooked brown or white rice is a nice side.  Cucumber slices tossed in a little white or rice vinegar + sugar + salt are a nice garnish.

Don’t forget, as I mentioned, make sure to have fun (and good to share in a group)!

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Chow hounds at the trough…

 

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Stuffed

 

lamb chop vs. Lamb Chop

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Sometimes, introducing someone new to the family can make tensions flare. Since introduction, the flames have tapered down, but haven’t fizzled out yet. So rather than worry about the sparks, we decided to light a candle instead. A birthday candle, that is.

Zoe came to visit about a month ago.  Yes, another sweet dog in a sad situation in need of a good home.  “Two is a couple, three is a crowd,” Tom said.  “Don’t bring another dog home.”

I didn’t listen.  A trait that doesn’t always work out well for me.

“She’s not staying,” I assured him.  “We are just watching her for a few days.”

Winston was very jealous.  He pouted.  He hid under the bed.

Ginger was very aloof.

But Zoe wanted to stay forever.  She showered Tom and I with kisses and love. So many kisses.

Winston wanted Zoe to go back to from wherever she came.  Harrumph.

Zoe tried to win him over with her charm.  She rubbed past him and tilted her rump up near his face.  Submissively, she rolled over and kicked up her feet in play.  She thought he was swell.

Nothing but pouts.  His once perky ears, flat as pancakes.

Then one day, Winston decided to play!  Soon they were romping and rolling and running around the couch.  On every completion of the race course, Winston would stop and keep looking to me for permission to continue; a big sloppy smile with tongue hanging out of his mouth.

There is some barking.  We are working on that.  There is tension, sometimes; like when Ginger blindly stumbles into Zoe, she attacks.  Or when it is time to lick the bones from the lamb chops . . .  Everyone is happily licking away; two lamb chops, three dogs, four hands . . . (insert dog fighting noises here) you can imagine those sounds.

What happened?  Who knows but two bones went in the trash immediately, one dog skulked off as one was lifted quickly out of harms way.  The third dog, Ginger, was clueless, where did everyone go?

Zoe has wiggled her way into our hearts though and Winston, albeit still a bit jealous, has found that it is kind of nice to have a spry gal pal that plays and loves.

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“Zoe, no bark!!!”

Welcome to your forever home Zoe and Happy 9th Birthday!

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“I like salmon cake!” No lamb for them tonight.

 

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LAMB CHOPS seared with dijon, garlic & herbs

Here’s the deal: I love lamb. Lamb chops, lamb roast, ground lamb . . .  I used to call Buddy “Lamb Chop” sometimes. He was so scrumptious and delectable. We used to kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss!  How we miss that kid.

He was also known as “Peanut”, so now that we have Zoe, I think “Pine Nut” seems to be a more appropriate fit for her, since she is half his size.

To make a tasty lamb chop, it can be as simple as sprinkling them with salt, then smothering the little chops in dijon, lemon juice, garlic and herbs.  A hot grill or skillet sears each side, leaving the middle cooked as rare as you prefer.

I use a scant 1/2 tsp of salt + 1 chopped garlic clove per pound of lamb. Pepper is free-flowing  from the grinder and a dab of Dijon mustard with a small handful of fresh herbs. Mint, thyme, rosemary, tarragon or parsley are all good choices.

Drizzle with olive oil, rub in the seasoning and let sit for an hour, covered at room temp.  On a heated grill or a very hot skillet, cook for a few minutes on each side, making sure they are browned nicely before turning them over.

This is wonderful served with al dente cooked green beans, tossed in cooked lentils, tucked over thick, roasted eggplant and a dollop of creme or a good-quality feta cheese.

Alternatively, you can roast a leg of lamb like I did here and serve it tossed in lentils and arugula, as I did here.  Still, roast the eggplant on the side and make the following sauce to drizzle over:

YOGURT SAUCE

This is a super-simple sauce.  All it takes is the best yogurt you can get, plus, cumin, coriander, grated parmesan and cucumber.  That said, I used a new yogurt that was AMAZEBALLS!!!  (called White Mountain Organic Bulgarian Yogurt from Austin, TX).

Mix together the ingredients below:

1/2 cup yogurt (see brand above, or use the best available to you)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground corriander
1 TB finely grated parmesan
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB grated cucumber
Fresh ground pepper to taste

ROAST LAMB, ARUGULA, LENTIL SALAD

So, another way to slice this is by doing a nice salad of arugula and lentils topped with yogurt roasted lamb and roast eggplant.  Not so much a recipe a recipe as a way to serve some great things all together as a meal.  Improvise!

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“Nothing to see here.  Party on!”

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Pine Nut vs. Lamb Chop!

Club Paris: Filet Mignon – the best damn steak I’ve ever had

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As you all must have guessed by now, I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where forty years ago still existed the myth that everyone was an Eskimo, ate whale blubber, owned a team of sled dogs and lived in an igloo.

Seriously, it was the number one question other children asked of me when my family and I vacationed in Hawaii or California.

“Do you live in an igloo?”

I was a little annoyed at their ignorance, but should probably have been more appalled at what they weren’t being taught in school.

There was not much of a downtown, not many noteworthy restaurants and if you wanted the latest in clothing or music you had to get it from the “Lower 48”.

We were always a few months behind the top 40’s on the radio and unless you considered plaid flannel or down parka’s a fashion statement, Alaska was certainly not the instigator of new trends.  Yet amazing how flannel and puffy jackets have made their way into our fashion “sense”?

Even so, there were a few restaurants that I came to love as a child and still cherish in memory as an adult.  The Lucky Wishbone, of course (that goes without say)!  Clinkendaggers, Mauzi’s, Sorrento’s, and the elusive Double Musky Inn (which I never ate at as a kid but imagined it to be the fancy place with a dark, moody interior, soft candle light and super good food; my imagination couldn’t have been more inaccurate, as I learned as an adult when I finally went).

Ahhhh, and then there was Paris!  Club Paris, that is.

Club Paris is a hole in the wall in the best sense, a 1950’s wood-paneled little place that introduced me to my first filet mignon, prime cut.

I remember my first visit; I went with my best friend’s family and was blown away by the flavor and texture of that steak.

That three inch high, perfectly cut, cooked and prepared piece of beef that tenderly slid into my mouth and melted like butter against my tongue.

The outside was brown-crusted but inside was bloody, juicy and rare.

Up until then I don’t think I had ever bitten into anything so incredible.

Although I remember the atmosphere being dark and smokey (and certainly smoke-filled it was at the time), feeling almost foreign to the types of places I frequented with my own family; I really can’t picture anything in my mind other than the actual piece of beef sitting on my plate and the flavor that lingers on my palette, even to this day.

I am not sure why I never went back, over so many visits, over so many years.

I wanted to.  I meant to.  I didn’t…

Until last year.  December 20, 2017 to be exact.

Mom took Tom and I to lunch after she and I received a much appreciated massage from a place located across the street.  It was still dark, but no longer smokey.

It had not ever been remodeled, I suspect.

Our waitress was likely the same one I had the first time I ate there 35 years prior!  She was not one to sugar-coat anything and was impatient with extraneous words.  Needless to say, I went from being called, “Hon” to not, in a hurry.

I got the steak sandwich.

It was basically a filet mignon with a slice of toast cut into a triangle set on the side, per our server’s recommendation, and was she right!

Yum!  This was the steak I remembered.  Three inches high, seared to perfection, dark crust and blood-rare inside.

I have never been to France, but, I will always have Club Paris!

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Pickled onion, courtesy of Irma Cardona-Edwards Enterprises International DBA, Irma Inc

FILET MIGNON WITH PICKLED ONION AND ROASTED TOMATO

I like a rare steak.  Very rare.  You can cook yours a little longer if you like, but I am going to keep mine rare.

My sister-in-law, Irma, has an impressive cellar closet filled with homemade pickled veg in her Alaskan kitchen.  She is also in the process of making her own wine.  I added her pickled onions to the steaks as an after thought, but one that worked out really well.  It was a nice accompaniment to the lushness of the steak.  Soon you will be able to buy them from Irma Inc (we hope) but until then, she offered to write up the recipe for you to try at home…stay tuned…I will be posting it soon.

INGREDIENTS

(2) 6-8oz center-cut prime filets of beef tenderloin, 2-3″ thick
1/2 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grape seed oil for cooking the steak
2 TB unsalted butter
1 tsp chopped garlic

2 Kurabata tomatoes (or other smallish variety)
2 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
Olive oil to drizzle on tomatoes, plus salt and pepper to taste

2 medium pickled onions (recipe to follow…soon)

PREPARE

1. Season the steak with salt and pepper at least an hour before cooking or earlier in the day.  They will want to rest outside of the fridge an hour before they are cooked.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 F

3. Cut a small circle of the core stem away from the top of each tomato and stuff in a garlic clove.  Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of oil.

4. Roast the tomatoes for approximately 30 minutes, until tender and wrinkled but still plump with juices.  Set aside in a warming drawer until ready to serve.

5. Melt the butter with the garlic.

6. Heat a cast iron skillet until it is very hot.  Add a little grape seed oil and as soon as it is hot enough to rolling smoothly across the pan, add the filets.  Don’t move them for 2-5 minutes, keeping at a medium-high heat.

7. Once the bottom is nicely browned (which you can see by looking at the side), turn the filets over and let cook until another lovely crust forms.  This might be a total of 7-10 minutes.  Test by inserting a meat thermometer into the side horizontally.  Look for a temperature of 120-130F for rare and 135-140F for medium-rare.  Don’t forget that once you remove it from the heat, it will continue to cook while it rests.

8. Immediately pour over the melted butter and garlic, let it sizzle, then transfer it to a plate, along with the juices, to rest for a few minutes while getting the rest of the dinner plated.

TO SERVE:

On warm plates, place one roasted tomato and one filet.  Put one pickled onion on top of each filet, holding it in with a decorative pick (if desired).

Pour the steak juices over and if you like, drizzle each plate with some aged balsamic, or just the pan juices work too.

It would also be nice to roast some asparagus alongside during the second half of cooking the steak (after it is turned) and perhaps a few halved, roasted potatoes would serve well alongside too.

If you prefer, just toast some white bread, spread it with garlic butter and reserve your greens for a salad with blue cheese dressing instead.

There are no poor choices here.  As long as you cook a good steak!

PS_2

Where’s the beef?

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And in case you didn’t notice last week….  Hello!!!

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Yes, I’m talking to you!

 

Hello Refreshing Crab + Grapefruit & Avocado Endive Bites

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PS_2

I need a refresh.

I need to be refreshed!

Takin’ a break from the heavy, with a little trip to the lighter side; let me give you the scoop:

I’m done saying goodbye for now. Too many goodbyes lately. It is time to say hello!

Hello grapefruit and avocado. Hello to blue cheese too. I’ll take the crab over being crabby.

But be sure to keep it on the light side though.

Who else loves finger food?

 

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Did someone say food?

CRAB + GRAPEFRUIT & AVOCADO ENDIVE BITES
makes approximately 16-20 pieces

Need an appetizer? Short on time? Look no further.

Fresh crab needs little more than a little citrus to play dress-up, but with a few extra moments, and the right accessories, you can have a platter of appetizers that will wow and impress; ready to go in 15 minutes or less, or your money back. Wait, did you give me any money?

The thing about crab, is that it should be about the crab. Avocado and grapefruit are the accessories. As with any good accessory, it must add color, texture and/or a little pizazz.

The thing about appetizers is that they should be easy to make, easy to eat and leave your palate refreshed, revived and ready for more.

The thing about this appetizer is it is versatile. Don’t feel like grapefruit, trade it in for an orange? Tired of avocado? Lose the grapefruit and try on some beets and apples instead. Feeling herbaceous? Mix in a some chopped herbs such as dill, tarragon, cilantro or thyme. Your’e one of those? Skip the cheese, whisk in a little more oil.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb fresh Dungeness crab, picked over for any shells

1 TB freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 TB finely chopped shallot
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 TB good quality olive oil
1/2 oz mild, creamy blue cheese, crumbled (approximately +/-)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 green endive head
1 red endive head

A few grapefruit segments minus the skin, cut into small chunks
1/2 an avocado, skin removed, cut into dice

Micro green pea vines for garnish (if you can’t find, use another green herb or micro green garnish)

PREPARE

Don’t let the long list of steps fool you. Each task is quick and straight forward.

1.  I like to start by making sure the crab is clean and dry. Start by putting it in a bowl. If you shucked it yourself, make sure you pick away any brown stuff left over from cleaning. Using paper towels, squeeze out all the excess moisture.

2.  In a separate bowl, preferably glass or stainless, combine both citrus juices with the shallot. Add the mustard and stir to combine.

3.  Whisk in the oil.

4.  Add about 1/4 of the blue cheese crumbles and whisk to blend the cheese, smashing large pieces so they combine with the liquid. It is fine to have some chunks but they should be small. Taste, then add more of the blue cheese until it is blue enough for you. It should remain citrus-forward in flavor; remember, it is all about the crab. You will be stirring the remainder of the crumbles into the crab.

5.  Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

6.  Trim the ends of the endive heads and carefully remove each leaf, setting them out on a plate.

7.  Spoon a small amount of the vinaigrette onto each endive leaf then add the remaining vinaigrette to the crab mixture, tossing to coat well. Stir the rest of the blue cheese crumbles into the crab.

8.  Place a few pieces of avocado over each endive leaf then top with some crab mixture.

9.  Top each leaf with one or two avocado pieces and grapefruit chunks.

10.  Garnish each leaf with a micro green or herb sprig and transfer each one to a platter.

Voila!

PS_Zoe 3

Why hello lil’ monkey!   Who are you?

Lamb Stuffed Cabbage (and an announcement)

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Some things last longer than others, it’s just the way life is.

Cabbage is heartier than lettuce.

Pickled vegetables last longer than fresh.

And we humans, live much longer than our beloved dogs.

A few weeks after Buddy left this earth, we went to “the cabin” for the weekend; our first trip there without him smiling crazily in the back seat with his sister, or curled up comfortably on my lap.

Instead, his remains were in a beautiful wooden box as smooth as his once silky hair, yet so small it seemed unlikely he could fit inside. The box sat next to Ginger in their double wide “deluxe snoozer” that they traveled in on so many occasions in the past.

After a lovely, but very emotional weekend, on the way back home we stopped (as we always do) at Hunter Farms. As I was paying for my fresh produce, the Farmer’s daughter mentioned that my box of goods was much smaller than usual.

There were many wonderful things that would usually have ended up in my cart, like the blueberries I hadn’t even bothered to look for, fresh, plump, sweet; the ones Buddy loved to eat.

Or the nectarines that were so plentiful, it seemed too much trouble to choose which ones.

There was also a single head of cabbage, larger than any other I had ever seen. I almost picked it up, but passed it by instead.

I do love the cabbage from their garden. It is always the perfect cross of bitter and sweet, just as our last few months with Buddy had been.

After I finished checking out, her words compelled me to go back and claim the last cabbage. “That will be $1.00”, she said.

I used part of the cabbage to make a coleslaw flavored with apples which I paired with fresh halibut. I used it in a stir fry, as well as the base for my sesame-chicken salad. We used it on sandwiches instead of lettuce, tossed briefly in spiced crema for our tacos, and we ate some plain, sliced the way I used to slice it for Buddy.

Weeks had passed with not eating it at all but it was still there, crisp, sweet and ample enough to continue feeding us more. It had not browned nor gone limp. It remained with us reminding me of the cabin, the Farm and of Buddy.

A few nights later, I made lamb-stuffed cabbage for supper. It brought back memories of Buddy making large circles around the outside of the cabin. He used to walk all the way around from the gazebo in the back yard, over the gravel path, along one side and across the front drive that led him around to the other side, past the garden and back to us again.

This went on and on for upwards of an hour, nose pointed forward, with a serious face and without breaking his stride.

He did not stop to sniff things along the way, as Ginger surely would, nor did he squat or lift his leg to pee.

He was on a mission, yet I am still not sure what that mission was? The first time that he did this was the first time we had cabbage from Hunter Farms, a number of years ago.

So it is fitting that the dinner I served to introduce our new family member, Winston, to some close friends, was the stuffed cabbage. I used another cabbage I brought back from Hunter Farms three weeks ago. It too was still fresh, and continuing to nourish.

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We certainly hope Winston stays just as fresh, and stays a very long time.

We proudly introduce to you: Winston Bender: 12 lb, 6 oz

Winnie the Poo
Born January 1st, 2007

LAMB-STUFFED CABBAGE – serves 8

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The first version I made was with un-cooked, un-soaked, long-grain white rice.  I used

only 1 cup.  It was still a bit crunchy and didn’t fluff and vocalize loudly in the dish.  I can’t say it wasn’t tasty because, it was.  I just felt the absence of rice and wished the rice had been been more prevalent and soft.

This version replaces long-grain rice for short grains.  The short grains flew over from Italy to join the lamb as outsiders in what is actually a traditional Polish dish; hence the need to soak them for a bit in hot water to soften after their long journey.  The almonds and currents were party crashers as well.

INGREDIENTS
1 large head green cabbage
Salt and pepper to season
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups tomato sauce (I use my basic tomato sauce which I keep on hand, frozen but you can use jarred if you don’t want to go to the added effort)
Lamb mixture:
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
1 3/4 cups Italian short grain rice (such as Carnaroli or Aborio), soaked in boiling water overnight or at least 1 hour
1/3 cup slivered almonds, crumbled by hand
3 TB dried currents
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dry oregano
1/4 fresh-packed parsley, chopped
Vegetable mixture:
2 TB butter
2 TB olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 small leek, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeño, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Kosher salt
Garnish:
French or Sheep and Goats milk Feta, crumbled
Chopped fresh parsley

PREPARATION
1. I like to get the cabbage ready first but it can be done at anytime. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. To help make it easier to separate leaves, turn the cabbage over to expose the stem. With a long, thin knife, carve around the stem and dig it out as best you can (as if you are going after it with a cookie cutter).

3. Add the head of cabbage to the boiling water. The outer leaves will loosen first. Keep removing the leaves whole as they loosen. After several minutes the whole cabbage should be soft enough to have all leaves separate. Set the leaves aside.

4. In a saute pan, melt the butter and add the olive oil.

5. Add the onion, leek, jalepeño and red pepper. Cook over low heat until soft, approximately 10 minutes.

6. Add the 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp Kosher salt.  Stir this in for a few minutes on low and then shut off the heat and let it come to room temperature.

7.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the ground lamb, drained rice, almonds, currents, salt, oregano, currents and parsley.  

8.  Add the vegetable mix to the lamb mix and stir to combine.

9.  Divide mixture into equal portions.  There will be approximately 1/2 cup per leaf of cabbage but will vary depending on size of leaves.  You can make small packets or large packets accordingly.  If you have some small and some large leaves, adjust portions accordingly.  You will need enough cabbage leaves to cover bottom of deep skillet and cover the top.

10.  Put one portion onto each leaf, adjusting quantity according to size of leaf, and roll them up, tucking in the sides.

11.  Layer the smaller or extraneous cabbage leaves over the bottom of a deep casserole and place the rolls on top, seam side down.

12.  Pour chicken stock and tomato sauce over rolls.

13.  Top with a layer of cabbage leaves and cover pot.

14.  Transfer to 350-degree oven and let cook for 1 1/2 hours.

15. When fork tender, Remove from oven and let sit a 1/2 hour before serving.

TO SERVE
On heated plates, spoon some tomato sauce down and top with one or two rolls (size and hunger-dependent).  Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped fresh parsley.

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Winston:  “I think I’m gonna like it here”!  Ginger:  “Good to have you aboard lil’ one.  You came to the right place for sure”.  And the new journey begins…

Minus Four

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The patter of Buddy’s paws beneath his bull-legged stance have always been a musical note to us.  They came in to our house, fast, making a quick tckckck sound as they scampered over the wood floor, onto the wool carpet and landed smack in the middle of Ginger’s bed.

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…yet clearly not the last time he would plop there.

The bed was one of many, but a favorite of hers that sat prominently at the end of our, then, glass coffee table in the living room.  There was a sunbeam on the pillow that particular afternoon and Buddy took to it as if it were his own.

Everyone took a breath to see the other shoe (paw) drop, so to say.  Ginger, who was also ten years old at the time, had been an only child since coming home and was never very accommodating to other dogs.  She saw him claim her bed, walked over and sniffed him (sniff, sniff, sniff) then, matter-of-fact, turned and walked away.  No drama.  No drama, yet.

It wasn’t long before his little legs were walking beside her on a tandem leash around the neighborhood and then back home where he planted himself on the kitchen rug, a place he frequented often, mostly because I was there, and so was the food.

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The sound of Buddy in and out of the kitchen always stayed near me as if I had a shadow, a shadow I was most happy to have.  It took him years to realize that if he stayed on the couch while I was cooking, I would still come to him offering samples.  Ginger of course, had figured this out long ago and sat on the back of the couch next to Tom, watching Buddy and my every move.

Scampering to and fro.  A yelp first, quietly using the inside voice, moved quickly to the bark.

That signature, all in, loud, ear-shattering bark.  He knew how to be heard.  No wall flower, that one, little pee-wee that he was.

But his insatiable hunger for the morsels on my cutting block, in my pan or in the oven were frantic.  He wanted it all, and then he wanted more.

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Especially as of late, he was frequently carried around the kitchen in my arms.

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And I started to realize that we were soon one, rather than two.

But on the ground he had four legs.

They were always in the kitchen, with me.

They will always be in the kitchen with me.

Though the kitchen will never be the same again.

PS_5

When there were 10

Our dear, sweet boy, in his beautiful, frail body, let go of the physical world Wednesday night,* August 23, 2017 at 5:51 pm.  A perfect gent to the end, complete with a sunbeam on his silken head, resting on his favorite blanket in our laps on his favorite spot on the deck after, moments before, having spent time in that same sunbeam while resting in Ginger’s favorite bed.

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“Thanks for sharing your bed Ginger”

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Pals forever on “our” BuG bed

smile for the cover

“Life with you has been unforgettable!  I am a happy boy!!!”

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“Thanks for the incredible journey…”

the ride

“…and the incredible ride!”

Good bye Buddy, I love you!

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“I’ll always be near…”

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*Rest in peace Laura’s dear Amber on the same day three years ago.

Sweet & Sour (summer beverages & other life moments)

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Life is precious!

We all know that I realize… but sometimes it is worth mentioning out loud.

We often take for granted the things that make us breeze through life without (much of a) care.  And then we don’t, because we are no longer breezing by.

Rather than letting life get you down, take a moment to breath in that air, especially when it is no longer breezing by.

Excuse me for a moment, for being slightly cheeky and perhaps even mouthing off something a little cliché, but let me just say, it really is thyme to stop and smell the roses, and the hydrangea, lavender, tomato plants, rosemary, basil and sage.

It is thyme to pour yourself a cocktail, drink in the summer air and wash it down with a big handful of gratitude, for the here and now.  Tomorrow is another day, but right now, it is what we have before us that makes us happy at this moment.

Yesterday, is gone.  Buddy is not.  From here, we are taking it day by day.

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Happy Summer (from our lil’ garden gnome).

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Serves 2 (up to 4 if more of a cooler with more spritz and less kick)

From the garden:
A sprig of thyme (for more time)
A few small basil leaves (because I said so)
A few lavender leaves (for calm) with a couple flower sprigs or leaves for garnish (yeah, so sue me, it’s pretty & smells nice)
6-8 blueberries (for gentle color & sweetness)
Wedge of lime (a little bite & zest)

Put garden contents above in stainless steel shaker & muddle with just a splash of vodka for mixing the contents.

Fill 12 ounce hi-ball glass or double-walled Bodum glass (to prevent condensation and ice from melting) half full with ice.

Put a few ice cubes in shaker to cool, add vodka as desired (a few glugs to half of shaker) and add lemonade to make remaining liquid 3/4 of shaker.

Shake and pour into glasses, it’s ok for the ice to fall into glasses as almost all of the ice is already in them.

Fill glasses about 3/4 full and top with lemonade for more juice/citrus or soda for less sweet and more fizz.

Squeeze and garnish with thin, fresh, lemon wedges on top or hang over rim.

Add a sprig of lavender flower for garnish, if you can sacrifice from your plant, but you can just enjoy looking at it in its container/garden from your deck or patio instead if it is just starting out.  We’re all striving for longevity you know.

Buddy and Ginger in jungle

Life can be a jungle…

Buddy and Ginger with cart

…just remember to keep on truckin’,…

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…stay close to your family,…

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…they usually have your back!

buddy nap

It is perfectly acceptable to take a nap!  Rest, rejuvenate…but do it in the shade!

Ginger has my back

That looks like a good nap, Buddy…

 

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…Shhhhhh, Ginger, I’m Earthing… zzzzzzzz

butterfly

In dedication to everyone’s furry family members, past, present and future; life would be sour without ever meeting.  And to our fellow pet lover and blog friend, Rachel’s beloved Butterfly, who passed away last week, but is still smelling life’s flowers.  Rachel, he will always be with you and play happily in everyone’s hearts he touched!