Posts from June 2014

Blue Crab

06/29/2014

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I spent this past weekend in Horseshoe Beach, a quaint little fishing town in the Northern Gulf side of Florida. A group of ladies ventured over to spend time gabbing, cooking, eating, canoeing, and swimming. I think we all returned home with full bellies and souls.

Our friend Val is an expert fisherwoman. Although the rest of us tried to catch these beautiful crabs ourselves, it was Val who brought home the dinner. How one catches crab is to dangle a chicken bone on the end of a fishing pole’s hook. The curious crab will wander toward the hook, and a second person grabs them with a net. This is all suppose to work good and fine if you have lots of patience for this kind of thing. After 15 minutes of trying, I thought my time was better spent bobbing and swimming in the ocean. Val, though, with her incredible knowledge of the sea, brought home five beauties for “crab-itizers,” along with other Gulf goodness that we put on the grill.

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Val only kept the males and threw back the females for re-population. You can tell the difference between the genders by the pattern on their apron, or their underside. (You can see the difference between “Jimmy” and “Sally” here.) However, they all are a beautiful blue color that looks the color you think the sea should be.

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The crabs were placed live into a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, or until they turned bright red.

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{Nicole, enjoying the day’s catch.}

We dunked them in melted butter (which they hardly needed) and ate every last morsel of meat. Fine food & fabulous friends always equals a wonderful time.

Curried Chicken Salad on Lettuce

06/26/2014

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Ode to our Florida Garden’s Lettuce:

Oh lettuce, you fed us so well,
From September to May, your greens were swell.
Now your long season is done,
Back to the store for lettuce we unfortunately run.

Ingredients:

1 lb cooked chicken, chopped
1 bag lettuce greens
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 c almonds, chopped
2 T curry powder (or more, if preferred)
1/4 c mayo
dash of crushed red peppers
S&P
1/4 c dried cranberries

Instructions:

Mix the chopped chicken with the onions, almonds, curry powder, crushed red peppers, S&P and mayo. Stir in the almonds and cranberries after. Place on a bed of lettuce, or between two slices of hearty wheat bread if desired. It makes a great summer lunch for those growing fresh greens.

Fish with Tomato & Peach Salsa

06/22/2014

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In honor of the summer solstice, we had a small gathering to honor the longest day of the year. I like the ancient Greek myth that described how seasons came about back before they knew about planetary tilt. Persephone, the beautiful goddess of vegetation, was abducted by Hades, king of the underworld. Her distraught mother pleaded to let her return to the earth. Hades conceded, but only allowed her to return for half the year. Thus, when she returned, Persephone brought sunshine, causing the world to bloom in flowers and fruit. When she left in the fall, everything would then wither and die in the cold. Living in Florida, sometimes it seems like Persephone is just a snowbird, and she comes to park it down here with the golfers and retirees for the winter. I love a place that Persephone never leaves, but I will still revel in her actual summer return knowing that she brings food and foliage to the rest of the country.

Our tomatoes are ripe! We’re growing sun-gold cherries, an heirloom variety that turns orange instead of red. They’re wonderfully sweet, and our vines put them on by the dozens. The big slicing tomatoes don’t grow well here–apparently the humidity causes them to easily split and rot–but these little cherries thrive in the hot sun.

We ate the tomato salsa with mackerel and sea trout caught by Gary, and porgie caught by Jason.

Ingredients:

Fish:
1-2 lb flaky white fish
2 T chili powder
2 T paprika
2 T cumin
S&P

Salsa:
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 ripe peaches
3 green onions
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeno
4 T lemon juice
4 T olive oil
S&P

Instructions:

For the fish, wash and pat the fillets dry. Mix the spices together to form a rub. Rub the spices generously over the fish. Next, cut up the salsa ingredients and combine in a bowl. Set aside. Grill the fish on a hot grill until done (this can also be done in a skillet on the grill–put oil in the skillet, and put the fillets in. This makes it so you don’t smell/smoke up your house). Serve it with rice and the salsa on top. It’s a summer meal that would make Persephone proud.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

06/18/2014

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I spent a long wonderful weekend in Iowa for Father’s Day. The weather was gorgeous, I got to water-ski, and spend quality time with my family. Good things!! (The only thing I could have done without was the 17 year cicada hatch–apparently there were 1.5 million cicadas per acre! They were everywhere, which is basically my worst nightmare.)

We had lots of great meals, which included plenty of asparagus. My grandma grows asparagus, and made this über-delicious soup. I’ve been craving fresh asparagus since they don’t grow around these areas. Since it’s one of the first green vegetables to grow after a long winter, it tastes like the promise of summer.

This is my grandma’s recipe. We basically licked the bowl clean.

Ingredients:

2 lbs fresh asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 c chicken broth
2 T butter
2 T flour
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1 c milk
1 c whipping cream

Instructions:

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add asparagus and cook covered for 8-10 minutes, or until tender. Place the asparagus and the broth in a blender. Blend until smooth. Set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour, and S&P. Add the milk and cream all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until it thickens and is bubbly. Stir in the asparagus mixture and heat through.

Chopped onion, basil, tarragon, or parsley could also be added.

Creamy Tomato Soup

06/12/2014

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On busy days when Gary and I are in the cheating mood (meaning eating already prepared meals for dinner), our staple is canned Amy’s Organic Cream of Tomato soup. Throw soup in a pot, add a grilled cheese, and boom, dinner. But with all my canned tomatoes in my cupboard, I figured this would be easy enough to make, and it was. I made a large batch, froze it in serving sizes, and voila, we have Anna’s Organic Cream of Tomato soup instead.

I got this recipe from the Novice Chef. She calls it the “Panera Copy Cat Recipe – Creamy Tomato Soup.” Having had Panera’s tomato soup, which is also delicious, I admit it’s just as good.

Ingredients:

2 t olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 quart canned tomato juice or 2 (28 oz) cans peeled tomatoes
1 c chicken stock
2 T sugar
1/4 c half and half
8 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
S&P

Instructions:

In a heavy pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add onion and cook, stirring as needed, about 8 minutes. Add your canned tomatoes (or tomato juice), chicken stock, and sugar. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, for 12 minutes or until it has thickened. Add the half and half, basil, oregano, and S&P. Using a blender, puree soup until there are no large chunks left.

Related Recipes:

Novice Chef: Panera Copy Cat Recipe – Creamy Tomato Soup

Dill Pickles

06/09/2014

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My friend Melissa came over yesterday to pickle 19 pounds of cucumbers she was fortunate enough to obtain.

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We spent the afternoon chopping and canning. With Gary helping along too, my mom’s quote rings true: many hands makes light work. The time breezed by, and before you knew it, we had about 10 jars each to add to our canning collection. We pickled beans from our garden as well using the same recipe.

Ingredients (makes 6 quarts):

At least 10 cucumbers, sliced in spears
1 quart cider vinegar
2 quarts water
1 c canning salt

For each quart jar, add:
1 bunch fresh dill weed
1/2 t mustard seeds
1/2 t dill seeds
1/2 t jalapeno flakes (or crushed red pepper flakes)
2 cloves garlic

Instructions:

Boil your six pint jars and lids to sterilize them for at least 10 minutes. In another pot, mix together the vinegar, water and salt. Bring this to a boil for 5 minutes. While you’re waiting for the liquid to boil, add the spices and garlic to each jar, once the jars are sterilized. After that, add your cut cukes. Stuff them in a jar, and pour the boiling liquid up to the neck. Put on the lid and screw it down tightly. After the liquid cools, the vacuum seal should pop. Your pickles take about a month to cure, and should be good for up to a year.

Pasta Salad with Kale

06/05/2014

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Cold pasta salads are a great summer staple. When the temps are warm, throwing some meat on the grill + this easy salad makes for a light and delicious meal.

We (still!) have kale and green onions growing, and our tomatoes are just starting to produce. I used all of these of course, but you can add just about anything you grow in your garden either cooked or raw. I think it would be great with roasted peppers, squash, eggplant, blanched asparagus, you name it.

This is one version of mine. I’m sure there will be many more permutations throughout the summer.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c orzo pasta
1 bunch kale, de-veined and chopped
4 green onions, chopped
3/4 c cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c kalamata olives, chopped
2 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c lemon juice
2 t Herbs of Provence
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
S&P

Instructions:

In a pot of boiling water, cook the orzo pasta for 8-10 minutes, or until done. Strain, and run cold water over the pasta. Set aside. Chop all the vegetables. Mix the dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, and S&P. Add the veggies to the pasta, and pour the vinaigrette over it. Add the cheese. This can be eaten immediately, or it can sit in the fridge and marinate for a couple of hours.

It’s best paired with Rosé wine and eaten outside on a hot summer day.

Carrot and Chickpea Salad

06/02/2014

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I pulled up the last of the carrots this past weekend. To honor their long-lasting season, I made a salad that used them as the focus instead of as just the garnish. This recipe comes from TWO of my favorite food bloggers: Deb Perelman and David Lebovitz. Deb’s Smitten Kitchen just posted this last week, and of course I had to try it. I didn’t change much–mostly just sunflower seeds instead of pistachios only because I forgot to get those at the store–so most all the ingredients and instructions are Deb’s. It’s a good summery salad that has the right blend of sweet and savory.

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can chickpeas
1 T olive oil
1/2 t kosher salt
2 t cumin
1 lb carrots
1/4 c parsley
1/4 c sunflower seeds
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 c lemon juice
3 T tahini
2 T water
2 T olive oil
crushed jalapeno flakes  (or crushed red pepper flakes)

Instructions:

First, heat your oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the chickpeas and pat them dry. Combine the 1 T olive oil and 1/2 t salt and 2 t cumin in a bowl. Dump in the chickpeas and coat them well. Put them on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes. Next, make the dressing. Combine the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, water, and 2 T olive oil, and pepper flakes in a mason jar and shake well. Next, grate the carrots, chop the parsley, and combine in a bowl. Stir in the dressing. Right before you’re ready to serve, add the nuts and the chickpeas. (If you add them too early, they’ll get soggy.) We ate it with pork chops, lettuce from our garden, roasted potatoes, and Gary’s homebrewed beer.

Related Recipes:

Smitten Kitchen: Carrot salad with tahini and crisped chickpeas

David Lebovitz: Salade de carottes râpées

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