Thursday, July 22, 2010

Melon Soup with Crab

This might not be shocking to most, but we are going through one hell of a heat wave.  According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 2010 is set to be the hottest year on record... world wide.  The northeast has been hit especially hard, with temps in Boston, New York and Philly topping 100F in early July.  And it hit 129F in Pakistan in June... [political side note: why exactly are we there again?]

Since my roommate and I have decided to ban the use of the stove (we don't have A/C and it is all kinds of miserable in my apartment), I wanted to make something cold and refreshing for dinner, something that required no cooking and, thankfully, no stove.

The melons were on display immediately upon entering the grocery store.  Its obvious I'm the only one craving cold, watery fruit.  The cantaloupe smelled divine so into my basket it went.  I had bought some crab from the Asian grocery store a few weeks ago (frozen) so decided to try and put these two things together and make something delicious out of them.  Melon + Crabs = Very summery.

Ingredients (4 servings): 
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tbsps chives, diced
2 tbsps lemon juice (I used the juice from one lemon, which I assume is roughly 2 tbsps)
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsps greek yogurt
2 tsps dijon mustard
1 lb crab meat (I highly recommend using fresh if you can)
1 ripe cantelope, peeled and diced into 1" cubes
2-3 tbsps honey or simple syrup, depending on the sweetness of your melon
salt and pepper
champagne (optional)

Step 1: Prep the shallot and chives
Step 2: Mix together the shallots, chives, and next 4 ingredients (lemon, oil, yogurt, mustard) and season if it needs it.  Gently fold in the crab, trying not to break it up too much.

Step 3: Add the cubed melon, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and your sweetener of choice (honey, sugar, etc) to a blender and hit "Puree"


**look how sweet and juicy this melon is!!  Yay!!



















Step 4: Assembly (and booze addition if you're so inclined).

Mound the crab mixture into the center of each bowl.  Pour the melon puree around it, and garnish with chives. 

*Optional* If you a big fan of food-wine pairings, as I am, mix 1/2 C of champagne into the pureed melon before adding it into the bowls.  The chammers gives the soup a little more depth and bubbles.  Yeah, that's right, I got really excited about bubbles in my food.   I am 5 years old.
 
I liked this soup, it was very different, but if I ever made it again I have big changes in mind.  First of all, I think fresh lump crab meat would have done wonders for this dish.  The frozen stuff from Super88 really didn't have the flavor or texture I was looking for.  I admit that I'm a bit of a crab snob seeing as I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay and all.  I don't think Boyfriend was a big a fan either.  Again, I think it was the crab.  Also, if I make this again I think I'll add some spice/heat to the crab mixture.  I think hot chilies or ginger would balance the sweetness of the melon and crab nicely.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I "heart" Fist Pumps

I am admittedly falling farther and farther behind on updating this blog.  I blame it on my job.  How dare my job require so much of my attention at work?!?!

A couple of weeks ago (see? I'm sooo late posting this!! Damn you job!) I had a great weekend with my best friend Natalie and the other bridesmaids in her upcoming wedding.  Where did we go?  Did you get it from the title?  That's right, Jersey Shore baby!

While we didn't really go out hard-core and do "the shore" justice, we did hit the beach and spend time getting to know each other better over lots of drinks and great food.  My favorite was our "porch picnic"... we literally sat on the front porch and noshed until the bugs started getting way too bite-y.  I got to introduce the girls to my "almost famous" Sangria, Natalie whipped up some of her "almost famous" guacamole and we had cheese, olives, and watermelon to really top off the night.






It really doesn't get much better than this!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Memories of Ibiza


Every year me and my two best girlfriends take a trip together.  These "Girl's Vacations" have really kept us close despite the hundreds and thousands of miles that have separated us since college.  A few years ago, we decided to spend 10 days in Spain.  A few days in Madrid, then a short flight out to Ibiza.  We quickly discovered that, dare I say, we're getting a little old for the party scene that makes Ibiza so popular.  We gave it our best effort though, and managed to stay out until sunrise on a couple occasions.

Some of my most memorable experiences from that trip aren't the parties and craziness, but the times when just the 3 of us sat around a table, eating and talking, both reminiscing and questioning the future.  The meals served at those tables didn't really matter - one night we simply drank sangria and ate chips and guacamole on our hotel patio.  And that night in particular was one of the most memorable nights of the trip, one we still talk about to this day.

I have been thinking about a particular meal I had in Ibiza ever since the day I ordered it.  Gingered Risotto with Scallops.  I remember thinking that ginger seemed like such an odd ingredient for risotto.  It was divine.  I finally decided to try my hand at recreating that dish, but with some adaptations of my own.

For the Risotto:
I've already discussed my love of risotto, to read up go here.  Its a basic recipe that is so easily adaptable.  I changed up a couple ingredients to give it a more "asian" flare this time.

1C Arborio rice
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 - 1/2 C dry wine (I used a nice Rose')
2-3 C chicken stock/broth
1/2 C snap peas, sliced (from my CSA box)
1/2 C shitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1/2 tsp hot sesame oil, optional, depending on how spicy you like your food
1-2 tbsps crystallized ginger, minced
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter

First, prep the non-rice ingredients (snap peas, mushrooms, parm, etc) because once you start with the rice you have to stir constantly and won't have time to do any other prep work.

The nice thing about risotto is that the method never changes.  You'll need 2 saucepans - one for the risotto and one for the stock.  Heat the stock over med-low heat, just to keep it warm.  In the other pan melt down 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil.



Add the green onions to the butter/olive oil and cook until soft, about 5min.  Add the rice and stir to coat all the rice kernels with the butter/oil mixture and slightly toast them, 2-3min or so.  Next add the wine and stir until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.  Now is the "fun time" when you start the slow additions of stock and continuous stirring.... for about 15-25 minutes.

When the rice is almost done, add the mushrooms, snap peas, grated ginger, hot sesame oil, and 3 tbsps parm.  Stir to combine, you'll probably need one more addition of stock, and let it cook together for a couple more minutes.  Remove from heat, and stir in the crystallized ginger.

For the Scallops
I used frozen bay scallops.  I thawed them under cold running water and dried them with paper towels.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Heat up a skillet over med-high heat with some butter and olive oil. Add dried, seasoned scallops and don't move them.  You want the natural sugars to caramelize and sear so don't be tempted to "stir" the scallops. Just let them go for a minute or two, then shake the pan to flip them over, and leave them alone again for another minute or two.  Then remove from heat. Don't overcook!  An overcooked scallop is the worst thing ever.... such a waste!

Serve the risotto topped with your scallops and a sprinkle of the remaining Parmesan cheese.  I had a nice glass of my Rose' with this dinner, and Boyfriend chose a glass of hefty Barolo.  For more about this Rose', check out my wine blog.

Boyfriend is a big fan of ginger and told me numerous times that he loved this and I'd have to make it again.  I plan to... it was sooo good!  The texture and sweetness of the scallops was a perfect compliment to the sharp, biting ginger.

It wasn't exactly what I had in Ibiza, but it was darn close.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Southwestern Fritters

I've discovered another way to squeeze some of your seemingly endless summer squash into a few more dishes.  I made these fritters fairly quickly and wanna know the best part?  I was able to freeze a whole batch of them, take out a few for dinner a day or two later, put them in the toaster oven to bake for 10min or so and Ta-Da! Just as tasty as when they were fresh out of the frying pan!

Soooo.... this post will be the test as to whether or not Boyfriend actually reads my blog.  See, he hates zucchini.  Hates.  The problem is that I get tons of squash in my CSA box every week and I'm sorry, but I personally can't manage to consume it all alone.  So I attempted to sneak it into a meal and see if he could taste it.  Tricky, I know.  To be completely honest, I'm feeling pretty confident after the Incognito Beets adventure.

Ingredients
1 large or 2 medium zucchini
1 medium-large potato
1 small onion, diced finely
3/4-1C flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsps milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp lime zest
2 tbsps fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

First, grate the zucchini and the potato and place into a colander with some salt to pull out some of the moisture.  I wish I had a box-grater because using my hand-held grater got pretty old, pretty quick.







Let the veggies sit and drain in the colander for about 10min or so while you prepare the other ingredients.

Dice up the onion and cook it for about 5min in an oiled and heated skillet.  Once the onions are done, add them to a medium mixing bowl.

Grabbing small amounts of the potato/zucchini mixture in your hands, squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can and add this mess to the onion and mix.  Add the remaining ingredients (flour, egg, etc) and stir to combine.  Be careful with the flour, you'll need more or less depending on how much liquid you were able to remove from the squash and potato.  Basically, you want a smooth, almost pancake batter-like dough - but slightly thicker in consistency.

Let the batter sit for about 30min to rest and mingle.

Heat 1/4" of vegetable oil to "shimmering" for frying your fritters.  Drop large spoonfuls (2 tbsps?) of the batter into the hot oil, without crowding, and fry for approximately 4 min per side until golden brown and delicious.







I drained these on paper towels and once cool, placed them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer for 2-3 hours.  Into a freezer bag they went, and now I can have them anytime the mood strikes me.

Oh, and I'm sure you're curious... but I told Boyfriend that the green "flecks" were cilantro :)  He ate them right up, and so did I.  They were very tasty, similar in texture and taste to hush puppies.  Next time I might try to add some corn or black beans to the batter to boost the nutritional value.

Stay tuned, I'll be posting the rest of our dinner soon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monster Carrot!!

While I agree I have abnormally small hands.... the carrots at the Asian grocery store were OUT. OF. CONTROL. HUGE.


Just thought you'd like to know...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quiche with Greens and Bacon

I have to tell you something, it's my first time.  Not what you're thinking.... dirty....

It's not that I've never had quiche before... in fact, my dad used to make "refrigerator" quiches when I was growing up.  In case you don't know my dad, he was very creative with leftovers.  Basically take all of your leftovers, add some eggs, and BOOM - Refrigerator Omelet, Refrigerator Quiche, etc, etc.

This week in my CSA box I got some Tuscan Kale, Beets, Radishes, Lettuce, Zucchini & Yellow Squash, Cucumbers, Strawberries, and Blueberries.  Get excited for some great meals this week.  In fact, I think I might even try to make a fancy red and blue tart for the 4th of July next weekend!

Back to the quiche!  This reminds me, if you want to make a quiche for dinner, plan to start as soon as you get home from work in order to eat by 8pm.  Its the dough that takes awhile.... its always the dough....

Pate Brisee (pronounced pat breezay) is the traditional dough used for quiche.  I learned this from Julia Child.  No, not personally.  This is the first recipe I've tried out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking that was actually very easy to follow.  The dough doesn't take too long to make, but you need to let it sit in the freezer for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge before its ready to use.

So if you don't have that kind of time, just buy a pie crust from the grocery store.  I won't tell anyone.

Pate Brisee
Basically, the nice thing about pate brisee is that its a simple ratio of flour : butter : shortening (12 : 3 : 1).  In other words, 12 tbsps flour (3/4 C), 3 tbsps butter, 1 tbsp shortening (for mini tarts/quiches), or scale it up from there for bigger sized pans (or if you want to make extra and freeze it for later).  The only other ingredients are salt, a little sugar (for color), and ice water - which also fits into the ration as a "2" but the tricky thing about water is that it depends on the humidity in your kitchen, the type of flour you use, etc, which is why I didn't include it in the original formula.

I have a big tart/quiche pan so I made a large amount of dough:

3 C flour (all purpose)
1 1/2 sticks of butter, cold, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 tbsps shortening, cold
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of sugar
1/2 C ice water

Sift the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl then add the cold fats (butter and shortening) and work quickly with your fingers to incorporate the fats into the flour.  It will get crumbly and flaky, kind of like dry oatmeal.  You don't want to let the butter melt into the flour, so again, work quickly.  If your dough starts getting too soft, put it in the fridge for 10min then go back at it.  Once it has come together somewhat, add the ice water and scoop it out onto a floured surface and form into a wet ball. 

Now for the fraisage.  This is just a fancy way of getting all of the fats incorporated into the flour.  You basically use the heel of your hand to push the dough, spoonfuls at a time, away from you, dragging it along the counter surface.  Here is a good video demonstrating how to do it.




** And yes, those "dots" you see are butter... apparently I need to work on my fraisage technique...
























You need to pre-bake the dough for this recipe.  To do that, place your dough in your tart/quiche pan, line with foil and weight it down with rice, beans, baking stones, etc.  Place in a 400F oven for 8-9min, then remove the foil and weights and place back in the oven to finish cooking for another 2-3min.  Place it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

The filling can be anything you want, I chose to use up my kale and remaining beet greens from this week's CSA box along with some nice smoky bacon.



The filling consists of 3 eggs, 1 1/2 to 2 cups of kale and beet greens, 1 1/2 C light cream, some salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.


I added about 1/4 cup of a mixture of shredded fontina and this new fun "potato" cheese I found at Trader Joe's:




** I thought the slight potato flavor would go well with the other ingredients in my quiche, kind of like tortilla espanola....







Add the filling to the pre-baked shell and but back into a 400F oven for 25-30minutes.  During this time the quiche will puff up and become golden brown.... and make your kitchen smell amazing.  It will deflate once out of the oven, but still taste absolutely divine.  I fed 5 people with one quiche and still had leftovers.  Lets see: Eggs = cheap, Flour = cheap, Butter = cheap, Cream = cheap.  With a little elbow grease this whole meal probably cost me less than $1 per person.  Sweet!

I drank a nice dry Pinot Grigio with this but I think a Chardonnay would have worked wonderfully. 

Bon Appetit!
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