May 31, 2010

Mango Ketchup

3 cloves garlic
1 shallot, chopped
1 inch knob ginger, chopped
1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped
2 cups cubed mango (I used Alfonso mango)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon pepper sherry
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until really, really smooth. Pour into a small sauce pan and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

My thoughts:
As anyone who knows me (or is a long time reader) knows ketchup, traditional, tomato ketchup is one of three foods (along with pumpkin pie and cantaloupe) I absolutely will not eat. It is so cloying and sweet it hides that flavor of whatever you put it on. Not my style. I prefer sauces that accent flavor, not obscure it.

I dip my fries in frites sauce (homemade or the ones I brought back from Belgium) or spread my burgers with blue cheese dressing, a variety of mustard or mashed up avocados and my seafood with rémoulade, cocktail or tarter sauce. But no ketchup. Although ketchup is most commonly tomato, it doesn't have to be. When I was in Miami for the mango festival a few years ago I tried mango ketchup for the first time. Not too sweet and no tomatoes. This isn't an exact replica, I can't quite remember what was in it but I've had the kept the idea of making a mango ketchup of my own in the back of my mind every since. I finally had the opprotunity to do it and I am glad I did! My mango ketchup is spicy, gingery and full of bright mango flavor. Perfect for your tropical influenced sandwiches.

May 28, 2010

Cara Cara Mango Shrimp

2 lb peeled shrimp
2-3 mangos, cubed (try Tommy Atkins or Francis)

1 shallot, minced
2/3 cup cara cara (or regular navel) orange juice
3 tablespoons mango juice (homemade*)
3 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons oranges
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Prepare grill to manufacture's recommendations. Brush the grill rack with oil. Whisk together the marinade in a large bowl. Add the shrimp. Marinate the shrimp for 10 minutes. Reserve the marinade. Thread on bamboo skewers alternating with mango. Grill, flipping once and brushing occasionally with reserved marinade, until the shrimp is fully cooked.

*I just squeezed juice out of some mango scraps into a measuring cup.

My thoughts:
I am excited to finally start posting grilling recipes again! I've been grilling like crazy (even in drizzling rain) for the past few months developing new recipes to post here this summer. I have a lot of great recipes lined up. As I have done the last couple of years, I plan on posting a new grilling recipe every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Last year I was so busy writing my cookbook and posting twice weekly new recipes on C&L (I developed 300 recipes between May and October last year for the book) that I dropped it down to a new grill recipe every other week. I am happy to say that despite some other big projects in the works, I am going to return to the weekly posts.

For my first recipe of the unofficial summer season, I had to share this shrimp dish. It is so good. I love grilling with mango, during the caramelizing process it get so sweet and juicy. Cara cara oranges are a new favorite. Giant sized, they are more floral tasting and less acidic than other oranges. Their juice paired wonderfully with the mango. I had asked for requests over at the Coconut & Lime Facebook page when I announced the return of my grill Fridays and someone wanted a good grilled shrimp recipe. I think this fits the bill! Shrimp can be tricky to grill because they cook so quickly but in this case that is not a problem because the mango also cooks quickly. I served them with a side of rice which was merrily being made in our rice cooker while we grilled. No muss, no fuss!

May 26, 2010

Strawberry-Apricot Slow Cooked Pork Short Ribs

1 large onion, diced
4 1/4 lb pork short ribs

for the barbecue sauce:
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 apricots, pitted
1 habanero
1 cup diced strawberries
8 oz tomato paste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
freshly ground black pepper


Place all of the sauce ingredients in a blender (I used my Vita-Mix) and pulse until smooth. If necessary, cut the short ribs in half to fit into your slow cooker. Broil until lightly browned on each side. Drain off excess fat. Place the onions in a single layer along the bottom of a oval four or 6 quart slow cooker. Top with the ribs and then pour the sauce over top. If the ribs are cut in half, place one layer on top of the onions then pour half of the sauce on top. Add the remaining ribs and remaining sauce. Cover and cook on low 8 hrs.

My thoughts:
I know when one hears "slow cooker recipe" one normally thinks of winter-friendly hearty soups and stews but when I was writing my slow cooker cookbook last summer, I realized how much I liked using it in the warm weather. We live in an older (1930s) house without central air conditioning and only have one window unit so the kitchen gets pretty hot once warmer weather hits. Using the slow cooker allows me to cook without heating up the kitchen at all.

I like to cook using seasonal, local produce so I started experimenting with using summery ingredients like berries and vegetables in my slow cooker recipes. For this recipe I made a barbecue sauce that is naturally sweetened with fruit to go over budget-friendly pork short ribs. The ribs can be a little fatty so I cut off some obvious fat and broiled them to remove even more which meant the final dish was pretty lean. Strawberry barbecue sauce sounds a little odd but it totally works; it is slightly hot from the pepper and has a fruity sweetness without being a really sweet sauce. It is pretty thick, which good for slow cooker recipes, you don't want it running off the meat when it cooks. I planning on making the sauce again and using it on something else.

If you don't have a slow cooker, try cooking it slow and low in the oven.

May 24, 2010

How to: Clean Soft Shell Crabs

Start with a live soft shell blue crab. They are in season now so if you live in an area where they are available, they should be fairly easy to find alive. Buy them on the day you plan on eating them and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to prepare them. I keep them in the box they come in or on a plate covered with a paper towel. If you do have to use frozen, they probably have already been cleaned. Defrost them and double check before cooking. I don't recommend buying dead (refrigerated/"fresh") soft crabs. Soft shell crabs are very perishable and should be cooked or frozen within a day of their demise. If they are already dead, you have no way of knowing when they were caught or how long they have been kept refrigerated and that puts you at risk for food poisoning. Frozen crabs can be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator.

Start by cutting off the mouth and eyes of the crab using a knife or kitchen shears. I used kitchen shears because I could cut using my non-dominant hand while the other wielded a camera but a knife works just as well. There is some goo behind the eyes. Use the tip of your knife or closed shears to scoop it out. Don't worry about the crabs moving around, the cold makes them pretty dopey and once you do this step, they are dead. Keep the rest of the crabs refrigerated while you work on each one.

Flip the crab over. That pointy bit is the apron. Bend it towards you.

Cut it off at the base of the crab.

The appearance of the apron depends on the sex of the crab. It might look like this. Cut it off in the same way.

Flip the crab over. Lift one side of the shell. It isn't attached on the ends so it will open easily. Those squishy pale things are the gills. Use your fingers to pull them out or your shears to cut them out. Repeat for the other side. You're done!

This is just to show you how the shell is attached to the crab. There are some organs in the the middle section but they will be thoroughly cooked when you cook the crab and are safe to eat. If you really want to remove them for some reason, you will have to cut the bottom of the shell. I don't bother. I think it makes some of the juices run out and I like a juicy crab.

Cleaned and ready to go!

Try this method of cooking them up!

My thoughts:
If I had a favorite food I think it would be soft shell crabs. It seems like they are increasingly difficult to find so when I do, I snap them right up. When I was a child my mom would buy at least a dozen soft shell crabs at a time. She'd prepare them, we eat a couple of soft shell crab sandwiches and then she'd freeze the remaining ones in bundles of two and every week for the rest of the summer we'd defrost a pack and have another sandwich. In my opinion, that is the best way to eat soft shell crabs: dredged in flour with a little salt and pepper and pan-fried in butter. On white bread. Nothing else that might possibly distract from the crab's flavor. I do have to say that I had a soft crab sandwich that had a cornmeal crust that was pretty good. The crab was huge though, I haven't found a crab that big at the market yet, and that helped the crab flavor stay strong.

May 21, 2010

Apricot Sour Cream Upside Down Cake

4 halved, pitted apricots
1 cup flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature, divided use
1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)
1/2 teaspoon roasted ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat 7 tablespoons of butter and light brown sugar until creamy. Add the egg, sour cream and vanilla paste, beat thoroughly. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder ginger and salt. Add to the sour cream mixture and beat until well incorporated. The batter should be very fluffy and slightly sticky. Use the remaining tablespoon of butter to heavily coat the bottom and sides of a heavy duty 8 inch baking pan. Sprinkle the dark brown sugar over the butter, top with the halved apricots placing them pit side down. Arrange the apricots so they are evenly distributed in the pan, then top with cake batter. Smooth the cake batter to all of the edges and make sure no apricots are peeking out. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, then invert to serve. Hint: Run a butter knife around the end of the pan if having trouble with the release.

My thoughts:
This a simple, old fashioned cake. No fancy ingredients so there is nothing to detract from that lush apricot flavor. It requires no icing or special skills or equipment. It can go from raw ingredients to baking in the oven in about 10 minutes. And I love it. It is just a really good, honest cake. Despite the caramelized topping, it isn't terribly sweet. Honestly I'd be tempted to eat a slice for breakfast. It does have fruit!

May 19, 2010

Deviled Shrimp Pasta Salad

1 1/2 lb freshly steamed, peeled shrimp
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup diced onion
8 oz cooked, small pasta

for the dressing:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Old Bay
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Place the shrimp, celery, onion and pasta in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir to coat. Sprinkle with seasonings and fold to distribute evenly.

My thoughts:
Working from home, it is easy to fall into a lunch rut. It is time consuming to go somewhere just to pick up lunch (and expensive!) and I don't always have leftovers of any real substance to eat. I end up eating odds and ends of things and not really enjoying my lunch. Finally, I've started buying a little extra of whatever we are having for dinner to make something different with for lunch the next day. It doesn't always work but when we are having shrimp, I steam up some extra and make shrimp salad or even have shrimp cocktail. When I am feeling extra peckish, I made this salad. It is filling and the dressing really sets it apart from other shrimp salads.

May 17, 2010

Candy Lovers Cookies

6 oz cut up miniature candy bars (20 Hershey miniatures, cut into eighths)
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Chop the candy bars into small pieces.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla; combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Form cookies by dropping tablespoons of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Yield: about 2 dozen
My thoughts:
Baltimore is not terribly far from Hershey, PA aka the Sweetest Place on Earth. Hershey Park has long been my family's favorite amusement park and my parents still go to Hershey several times a year, even if for just a visit to Chocolate World where you learn about Milton Hershey and his vision (did you know that to this day a percent of the profits from Hershey products goes to fund the Milton S. Hershey School?) and go on a virtual chocolate factory tour. I think I know all of the words to that tour and am still a little puzzled why they edited out the "each Kiss is untouched by human hands" line during the demo of Hershey Kiss packaging during a recent update. As a bit of a germaphobe, I always found that reassuring. Anyway, I don't eat candy terribly often so when I came in possession of a bag of Hershey miniatures, I tried to think of something fun to do with them. Looking at the tiny bars I realized that they could easily be cut into chip-like chunks and baked into something. Cookies was the obvious choice and it was a good one, the different candy bars (I used a mix of Special Dark, Mr. Goodbar and Krackle) ensured that each bite was different. I used a disproportionate amount of Special Darks so the cookie wouldn't be tooth-achingly sweet but any combination would do. They really are fun cookies, chewy and chocolate-y and no more difficult than a regular chocolate chip cookie. The only drawback, now The Candy Man is stuck in my head.

May 14, 2010

Island Style Salmon Chowder

3 slices thick cut bacon
15 oz canned diced tomatoes
5 1/2 cups fish stock
1 lb cooked salmon, cut into chunks
2 cups peeled, diced white potatoes
3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup dark rum, optional
2 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
1 green onion, diced
1 or 2 Scotch Bonnet pepper(s), minced
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Drain on a paper towel lined plate. Crumble the bacon and set aside. In a large pot, saute the onion, shallot, garlic, pepper, potatoes, celery and carrot in a couple tablespoons of bacon grease until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the tomato, spices, bacon, broth, Worcestershire sauce and rum. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat. Simmer until the potatoes are nearly fork tender. Stir in the thyme, green onion and parsley and salmon. Cook until the salmon is heated through. Discard the bay leaf prior to serving.

My thoughts:
This recipe was somewhat inspired by Bermuda's fish chowder and the conch chowders popular in the Caribbean. I've been researching vacations (oh, for a break from cooking and dish washing) and of course, that involves researching the local cuisines. While salmon isn't the traditional fish found in these local chowders, the fact that I had a pound of it leftover after another meal made me give it ago. It worked really well! Salmon is "meaty" enough that it doesn't breakdown in the soup and its richness contrasted well with the lush spice of the broth. It is also the perfect chowder as we creep towards warmer weather, it isn't as heavy as most chowders and everyone knows spicy foods cool you off!

May 10, 2010

Rachel's Hot n' Spicy Shrimp Étouffée

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1/4 cup flour
2 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 habanero peppers, minced
1 1/2 cup lobster or shrimp stock
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large tomato, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound shrimp
2 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
1/2 cup diced green onion

cooked white rice to serve

Place the butter, Creole seasoning, and flour in a skillet. Cook 1 minute, stirring twice. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and habanero. Sauté until the mixture is golden. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened. Add the shrimp, parsley, and green onion. Stir. Cook 5-10 minutes or until the shrimp is fully cooked. Serve over rice.

My thoughts:
I can't believe I haven't shared my recipe for étouffée until today! I searched my archives like five times before accepting that I haven't posted it before. That is just wrong. My étouffée rocks. Traditionally it is made with the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine: onions, celery and bell pepper but I find bell peppers insipid so I use habanero peppers instead. Their fruity hotness really adds a ton of flavor and takes the whole dish to a new level of awesomeness. I also simplified the roux process a bit so it is nearly foolproof but still has the nutty, rich flavor only roux can provide. No one could tell the difference between an étouffée made the traditional way and one made using my quick and dirty method. The trick is making sure the flour gets good and golden during the vegetable sauteing set. So don't fear the roux! It is what gives the étouffée its signature creaminess and depth of flavor.

It is pretty hot, if you are wimpy about spice, halve the amount of habaneros I call for or use jalapenos instead but don't sub bell peppers, they are way too bland to be a part of my hot n' spicy étouffée.

May 07, 2010

Matt's Breakfast Tacos

6 pieces of bacon
4 eggs
2 green onions, green parts, chopped
3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle (divided use)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked, cubed Yukon gold potatoes
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
6 small soft tortillas, warmed (I prefer fajita sized, but taco sized works too)
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese


Fry bacon until crisp. Reserve the drippings and break up the bacon onto bite-sized pieces. Add 2 teaspoons of the bacon drippings to a small pan and saute onion, garlic and jalapenos over a medium heat. When the onion mixtures begins to brown, add the tomatoes, the potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of the chipotle powder, and a pinch of salt. Saute for about 5 minutes until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Remove from heat and cover. While sauteing the onion mixture, crack the eggs into a small bowl. Whisk in the green onions, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder, a dash of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the bacon drippings in a skillet and scramble the eggs.

Assembling the tacos: I suggest a sprinkle of cheese then topping with egg then top with the rest of the ingredients.

My thoughts:
For brief period during the dark years before he knew me my husband lived in Texas where he became quite opinionated about things like barbacoa and barbecue. He also became enamored with Tex-Mex breakfasts. Since we live in Baltimore, our hot & spicy breakfast taco/burrito options are pretty limited. So, Matt took matters into his own hands and made these yummy tacos. No more difficult than making a simple omelette (barely more than making just eggs and bacon) but so much more fun.

May 05, 2010

Mango-Chile Ice Box Pie

4 mangos (about 4 cups mango flesh)
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup tequila
juice of 1 lime
zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1 9-inch graham cracker crust

Place all ingredients (EXCEPT the crust!) in a blender or food processor (I used my Vita-Mix) and pulse until it is very, very smooth. Pour into the crust. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

My thoughts:
A mini-heatwave struck Baltimore this weekend bringing with it high temperatures and even higher humidity. While the weather was unexpected and unwelcome for so early in May, it did remind me that ice box pie season is here. As long time readers I know, I love ice box pies. Any dessert that doesn't require using my oven in my 1930s un-air-conditioned kitchen when it over 90° goes right to the top of my list. Over the last six years I've made and posted blueberry-ginger, kiwi-lemongrass, blackberry meringue, and perhaps the most popular ice box pie, key lime in both regular my brother's favorite chocolate pie (technically a freezer pie) and coconut versions. For this pie, I drew inspiration from spicy Mexican paletas which combine fruit or vegetables with spices for a frozen sweet-spicy treat.

Anyway! This is a super simple pie, just make sure you take the time to thoroughly blend the ingredients together, not only will the pie be smoother and more consistent but if you have a fibrous mango, you want to really pulverize it or the pie will be stringy. I loved the pie because it was creamy with a downright velvety texture without being rich and had a very pure mango flavor. The spice sort of hits you after you swallow your bite which I enjoyed but the spice phobic might want to halve the chipotle, it isn't blisteringly hot but I think a lot of people are not used to spicy pie! But please, try and make this pie, it is the best mango pie I've ever had!

May 03, 2010

Lemon-Chive Asparagus Risotto

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups bite sized pieces of asparagus
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
zest one lemon

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan Saute the garlic and shallot until lightly caramelized. Add the rice, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring continually. Add the broth a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, and waiting until the liquid is absorbed before each addition. When you are about half way through the broth, add the asparagus to the rice.

Continue to add broth and stir. When the risotto is creamy and the rice is al dente remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan, zest and chives.

My thoughts:
I am excited to see the first stalks of asparagus making their way into the market. After a winter marked by two very large, late snow storms any sign of spring and warm weather is very welcome. The big farmers market opened for the first time this weekend. May is the first month one can find local produce with any sort of regularity or variety in Baltimore, some smaller markets are open year round but until now they were sparsely stocked with dairy and meats. So this time of year I eat lots and lots of asparagus.

Creamy risotto is one of my my favorite ways to use asparagus. It is easy, the asparagus really shines and typically it is not so hot yet as to make the prospect of stirring a pot over a hot stove seem unbearable. The lemon and chives add to the springy fresh flavor and complement the asparagus perfectly. What more could you ask of a weekday meal?

Note: As I normally do when I have leftover risotto, I made arancini di riso. Rather then dig through and cut the asparagus into smaller pieces, I just sort of tucked the larger bits towards the middle and surrounded them with rice.