June 28, 2013

Blue Crab Tomato Frittata

1 3/4-2 cups blue crab meat
1 small onion, diced
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 1/4 cup diced fresh tomato
1/2 cayenned pepper, diced
8 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons Old Bay
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 325. In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, heat oil and butter. When hot, saute the tomatoes, peppers and onions until the onions are translucent. Add the crab and saute just until it is warmed through. Whisk the spices, cheese and yogurt into the eggs. I like to use my eggbeater because it makes me feel old timey and really beats the eggs and other ingredients until they are fluffy.

Pour over the vegetable mixture. Tilt the skillet slightly and turn to coat the ingredients in the skillet with the egg mixture. Keep on medium heat and cook until just beginning to set. Place in the oven about 10 minutes or until the top is just beginning to brown. Check to make sure it is fully cooked by sticking it with a thin knife. Remove from pan and slice.

Yield: 6 servings

My thoughts:
I actually made this last October when I picked some tomatoes and cayenne peppers out of my garden but I thought it was a little late in the season to share fresh tomato recipes, people had moved on to apples and pumpkins. But it was really tasty so I filed this away to post this summer. We had just picked crabs and had some crab meat leftover so I thought that would be the perfect Baltimorean combination. The crab was already slightly Old Bay-y so I added some more to the frittata.

June 24, 2013

Homemade Raspberry Lime Baltimore Snowballs


for the "syrup":
1 1/4 cup (fresh) raspberries
juice and zest of 2 small limes
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup simple syrup or liquid turbinado sugar (to taste)

to serve:
finely crushed ice

Place all "syrup" ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. If necessary, strain (using a metal sieve and a whisk) and discard solids. Use over crushed ice. Refrigerate leftover raspberry mixture.

Yield: about 1 pint flavoring

My thoughts:
Now that is summer, my thoughts turn to snowballs. A regional Baltimore treat, they are made with crunchy, finely crushed ice and served in cups, often topped with gooey, soft marshmallow or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. They are not to be confused with snow cones (shaved ice in a cone) or shave ice (a Hawaiian treat of very finely shaved, snowy ice topped with syrup). In Baltimore, just about every neighborhood has a snowball stand, ours is right down the block and sometimes, if you're lucky, they have homemade flavors in addition to the usual Koldkiss. The snowball stand I went to as a kid was run by an elderly lady who sold cow tails and other cheap candy, slices of homemade cake and zucchini bread and her homemade chocolate snowballs. They were so good! I have to master chocolate next. And marshmallow.

Our raspberries are ripe now, earlier than usual, so I thought I'd make my own fresh fruit snowball (or if you must, sno cone) "syrup" with no artificial dyes or HFCS. I'm so glad I did! Like a good Baltimorean, I like an egg custard (the original snowball flavor because it was so easy to make) or blood orange  snow ball but for raspberry, you can't beat homemade! It was refreshing and perfectly sweet-tart from the the mix of fresh raspberries and lime juice. Sort of a grown up version of the neon red stuff up on the corner.

For the ice, you need to use an ice shaver that can make coarse  ice (there are many home models available cheaply that can be adjusted to make coarse or fine ice) or get ice from your local snowball stand and run home.

June 21, 2013

Southern Style Yellow Tomato Gravy

2 cups chopped yellow tomatoes, with liquid
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon thyme
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a small skillet, melt the butter. Saute the onion and pepper until the onion is just softened. Sprinkle with flour and cook 2-3 minutes or until the flour is a nutty dark tan. Add the tomato, milk, spices and stock. Bring to a low boil for 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

My thoughts:
Tomato gravy is one of those old timey dishes that unless you grew up with it (not me) lived in the South (barely, and only if going by the Mason-Dixon line) or read a lot of books that take place in the South/food history (true!) you might not be familiar with. It is a shame because it is basically a white gravy made better with the addion of tomato. Normally, I've seen it with regular, red tomatoes but I had some yellow ones and used them. I love the color and the slightly less acidic, bright flavor they brought. Tomato gravy is frequently found on biscuits or meatloaf but I like it as shown here over grits.

June 19, 2013

Thai Basil Baby Summer Vegetable Salad

1 1/4 lb mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/4 lb yellow baby carrots, cut into coins
5 "mini" cucumbers, cut into coins
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 (loose) cup Thai basil, chopped
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Toss all of the vegetables together in a small bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes prior to serving for best flavor.

My thoughts:
It isn't quite tomato season yet here in Baltimore but it must be somewhere because I found some beautiful, ripe very tomato-y heirloom tomatoes at Costco this weekend. I normally don't buy tomatoes out of season but these smelt so much like tomatoes I couldn't resist. I hate when perfectly good looking tomatoes smell like nothing and taste like less. These tasted like I plucked them from the garden myself, making them perfect for a quick and easy salad. I had baby cucumbers and baby yellow carrots so I tossed them in as well. Our Thai basil is already doing great in the garden so I made that into a satisfying dressing and let the whole thing marinate for a few minutes. I love raw sides for the warm weather because I pretty much hate making side dishes anyway and when it is hot, I really don't want to turn on the stove unless I have to. This was a perfect size for a cookout.

June 17, 2013

Bratkartoffeln (German Home Fries)

1 1/2 lb small yellow potatoes, parboiled
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 strips thick cut bacon (preferably German bauchspeck), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Peel and slice the potatoes. Heat some canola oil in a pan. Saute the onions until they are a deep gold, about 20 minutes. Add the bacon and cook until nearly fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook until they are browned and cooked through. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I was looking up the definition of home fries the other day and came across a mention of bratkartoffeln, the German version home fries. I hadn't heard of them before but when I read what they were (basically potatoes fried in bacon and onions sprinkled with parsley) answered a question I'd always had about home fries. Why were the home fries my Grandpop would make so good (and made with bacon and onion) and the home fries I'd get in restaurants so boring (mostly just plain fried cubes of potatoes)?

I think my Grandpop was making a version of bratkartoffeln, possibly without even realizing it. I had a similar eureka moment earlier in the year when I discovered that the "meat cakes" he had been making were very similar to frikadellen, another German dish. It makes sense, thanks to a ton of German immigrants in Baltimore in the 1800s we ended up with a lot of German influenced recipes (like sour beef, Baltimore's gingersnap-laden answer to sauerbraten) and smearcase (the German/Penn-Dutch influenced Baltimorean answer to cheesecake) that were made by many Baltimoreans whether they have German heritage or not.

Much like this bratkartoffeln, which is very similar to the home fries I ate growing up. The major difference is in the technique. This recipe has you caramelizing the onions, then cooking the bacon and then adding parboiled potatoes. Grandpop's home fries have you cooking the bacon, removing it and draining the pan before cooking the onions and raw potatoes together and then adding the bacon back in. Both are delicious but the flavor in bratkartoffeln is richer (no draining of the fat) and deeper (very caramelized onions, very browned potatoes) than the home fries. Grandpop's version is a fair bit healthier, I'd wager and very good as well.

June 14, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken Ragu

1 lb ground chicken
1 1/4 lb sweet Italian turkey (or chicken) sausage, casings removed if necessary
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 green onions, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1-2 tablespoon(s) hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoon Merlot vinegar
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
14 oz canned diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add the ground chicken, sausage, onion and garlic. Saute until the chicken and sausage is fully cooked but not browned, breaking up any large pieces as you cook. Add to a 4 quart slow cooker. Break up any more large chunks. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to evenly distribute. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Note: This makes a lot of sauce, enough for 8 or more. I jazzed up the leftovers by turning them into an easy pasta bake by adding cheese.
My thoughts:
Another steamy day, another good excuse to use the old slow cooker. This time I made a sauce that tastes like it was simmered all day (because it was) but required virtually no work on my part at all. Using ground poultry instead beef or pork made for a lighter dish but thanks to the sausage and seasonings was still very flavorful. The perfect low fuss weeknight meal.

June 07, 2013

Crab Cakes with Dill & Capers

1 shallot, minced
16 oz backfin blue crab meat
16 oz lump blue crab meat
2 eggs, beaten
2 thin slices sourdough bread, torn into small bits
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 1/2 tablespoons nonpareil capers

Place the crab meat in a large bowl. Whisk together the mustard, mayo, pepper and celery seed. Stir it into the crab without breaking up the lumps of crab meat. Add the remaining ingredients and gently mix in by hand. Cup handfuls of the crab mixture and mold into balls. Cook immediately or refrigerate until ready to cook, up to overnight. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a large skillet and fry the crab cakes until golden, flipping once. A large, shallow spoon makes flipping and removing crab cakes from the pan a breeze. Drain on paper towel lined plates before serving.

Tip: if your crab meat is very moist and you are having trouble forming your cakes, add a small sprinkle of bread or cracker crumbs.

Yield: 10-12 crab cakes

My thoughts:
I feel like a bad Baltimorean for making a crabcake that doesn't involve the revered Old Bay. Is a crab cake made in Baltimore without Old Bay still a crab cake? Or is it an abomination best not spoken of? I'm happy to say that while it is not the crabcake I grew up with, it is still very, very good. Dill is always good with seafood and capers add that salty savory punch that Old Bay normally would. I kept the bread, which I liked but I switched up to sourdough. I know a lot of people like just using bread or cracker crumbs but I grew up using bread (it is common in homemade Baltimore crab cakes) and I like it. All in all, it is a bright, flavorful and rather complex crab cake. I like the leftovers cold the next day for lunch.

June 05, 2013

Spinach and Caramelized Fennel Dip

6 oz steamed baby spinach, squeezed dry
1/2 cup large dice fennel
1 shallot, minced
8 oz brick Greek Cream Cheese and Greek Yogurt
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat a small amount of oil in a nonstick pan. Saute the fennel until softened and lightly caramelized.

Add the fennel to a food processor. Pulse into small bits. Add the spinach and pulse twice. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until a relatively smooth dip forms.

My thoughts:
I'm back with more fennel. I've been buying it a lot lately because 1. it must be in season somewhere because the bulbs have been huge and beautiful lately and 2. our local grocery store has switched to pricing them by the bulb vs. per pound which means no more $10+ bulbs! Love that. I also picked up some spinach because it was on sale and I want to increase our iron intake. I was planning something else with the spinach but our dachshund, Pippi (seen here enjoying Pineapple-Chile Paletas), had to have emergency back surgery. I skipped making dinner that night, of course! She's recovering now at the vet's office so I am trying to keep myself busy by making food. Somehow we ended up with pretzel chips, pita chips and tortilla chips in the house so dip sounded like a good idea. I found this blend of Greek yogurt and cream cheese near the cream cheese at the supermarket and bought it not knowing what do with it. I spied it while looking for sour cream in the fridge so into the dip it goes! It helps this dip stay on the healthy side. Hey, this dip has veggies and protein and low fat dairy. You can't get better than that in a dip! The fennel gives it a slightly sweet depth of flavor and well, who doesn't love spinach dip? I like mine fairly smooth so I pulsed it a bunch but if you want a chunkier dip, add the spinach at the end instead of the beginning.

June 03, 2013

Pineapple & Sage Agua Fresca

1 large gold pineapple, cut into chunks
2-3 sprigs fresh sage
4 cups water, divided use
1/4 cup sugar (optional)

Place the pineapple, sage and 1 cup water in a blender. Blend until very smooth. Place a fine sieve over a bowl or pitcher and whisk the mixture until all of the juice is extracted. Discard the remaining solids. Add the remaining water and (if needed) sugar. Refrigerate at least 4 hours prior to serving.

My thoughts:
Literally "fresh water" agua fresca is water based drink that is made with fresh fruit. It is the perfect beverage for a hot day because it is lighter than juice but just as refreshing as water. We are growing sage in our garden this year and it was just big enough to pick some today so I thought I'd toss it in to temper the sweetness of the pineapple a bit. My pineapple was super sweet (it is pineapple season, after all) so I didn't have to add any extra sugar but it is traditional and you might need some.