May 28, 2014

Summer Crab & Corn Frittata

3 cups small diced (peeled) Yukon potatoes
1 large bunch spring onions (about 8), white and green parts diced (divided use)
2 1/2 cups blue crab meat
3 ears' worth of fresh corn kernels (about 2 cups)
10 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
3 oz crumbled feta
2 teaspoons Old Bay*
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, heat oil and butter. When hot, saute the potatoes, and white parts of the spring onions until the onions are translucent and the potatoes are nearly fork-tender. Add the crab, green onion, and corn and saute until it is warmed through. Whisk the spices, cheese
and milk into the eggs.

Pour over the vegetable/crab 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. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is just beginning to brown and the center no longer jiggles. Check to make sure it is fully cooked by sticking it with a thin knife. Remove from pan and slice.

*If needed, I used crab leftover from picking steamed crabs so I didn't need this much Old Bay. However, if using fresh crab meat from the store, you can Old Bay it up!

My thoughts:
We're back in the US! Honestly, I miss Portugal, grilled seafood all the time is a lifestyle I could really get used to having. To celebrate our return, we had steamed crabs. I think we overestimated our hunger because we overbought and ended up with a lot of crab meat leftover. Not a bad problem to have! I thought I'd make a frittata that used one of my other favorite ingredients: fresh corn. Maryland corn is quite ready yet but Florida corn is and it has been quite tasty. I love spring onions (remember-they are the ones that are more bulbous at the end and are in season now) so I used them instead of regular onion and I love both the flavor and pop of color they provided. This is a hearty frittata, I suggest serving it with a simple side salad. It doesn't need much else.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

May 21, 2014

Peach-Pepper-Cola Barbecue Sauce

8 oz peach pepper jam (I used my peach fish pepper jam)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chili sauce (like Heinz)
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup Coca-Cola
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon pecan liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon allspice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and simmer on the lowest setting until heated through and it reduces and thickens, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Keeps in the fridge about a week.

My thoughts:
Are you ready for the unofficial start of summer? I know I am! It has been a dreary, snowy, rainy, dim spring. I should not have to pull out my light machine in April. But May is here and I am trying very hard to look past my spring bitterness and gear up for summer. In that vein, I used peach jam I canned last year at the hight of the summer to give it that summer flourish. Peaches make me think of the South so I added in some other Southern classics, Coca-Cola and a splash of bourbon. The result? A hot-sweet sauce that is as good slathered on grilled meat as it is topping a burger or meatloaf.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

May 19, 2014

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Cake


1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
pinch salt

for the glaze:
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa


Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a standard loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the egg, buttermilk, and canola oil. Slowly stream in the dry ingredients (while the mixer is running) and mix to combine. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan, bake 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out nearly clean. Unmold to a wire rack and cool.

Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle over cake.

*I get my buttermilk from our local dairy via the milkman(!). It is very, very thick so I thinned the glaze out with a bit of milk. If using store-bought buttermilk this should not be an issue.

My thoughts:
This is where I tell you I am insane. I must be to make this cake on the afternoon before heading on a two week trip to Portugal. In my defense, I am packed (liquids and all!), cleaned out the fridge, printed all documents and had buttermilk to use up. Plus, May marks the 10 year anniversary of this blog! How could I let it pass without cake? This cake is marvelously simple and moist, it comes together in a flash and keeps well. I think it is even more chocolatey the next day. That is the beauty of a cake made in a loaf pan and lightly glazed.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

May 17, 2014

In the Garden with Rachel #4: Pawpaw Trees

I hope you are all enjoying these little posts about our Baltimore City backyard. This week, I thought I'd share another slightly unusual plant we have in our backyard, the pawpaw. It a unique fruit as it is somewhat mango-like in appearance and from a tropical family of trees but is native here in the Mid-Atlantic and in other temperate areas of North America. They are found most often in the wild near water, but it is possible to plant them in the backyard with success. We bought ours from a nursery that specializes in native plants, but they are available online. It grows well in moist soil which is perfect for our damp-prone yard.

We have four pawpaw trees, we had planted two but didn't have much luck with them blossoming or fruiting so we bought two more for better cross-pollination. This year each (and one in particular) are all blooming quite a bit so we are hoping they fruit. Last year we had a lone pawpaw, but it fell off/was eaten by birds before we could harvest it.

Pawpaws are insect-pollinated but not generally by the typical insects, the blossoms' smell is faint but of rotting meat (not noticeable to humans) so it attracts blowflies and carrion beetles. We were given the hint to hang rotting meat in the trees to attract pollinators! We haven't done that yet, but I think we will, gross as that sounds! We really want some pawpaws this year. The trees are big and strong but if not properly pollinated we won't be able to make any of the exciting recipes we've been thinking of for the last few years. There is a real dearth of exciting pawpaw recipes out there and I'd love to create and share some.

Pawpaws were quite a colonial favorite, Jefferson had some planted at Monticello and apparently Washington was a big fan as well. I'd love to try to make some colonial-style sweets with them or perhaps a pawpaw shrub.

Interesting in learning more? NPR has a good article here about pawpaw foraging and a few recipes and a guide to where to find pawpaws (from 2011 so it may be slightly outdated)

May 16, 2014

Pickled Calabacita Squash

3 calabacita squash*, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings
1 large jalapenos halves, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup pickling salt or kosher salt or sea salt


Whisk together the water, vinegar and salt until the salt is dissolved. (If you simmer the mixture as you whisk, the salt may dissolve more quickly but this isn't necessary) Allow to cool to room temperature. Evenly divide all of the spices, onion, squash and peppers between 1 pint and 1 quart jars.

Pour in the vinegar mixture. Close the jars. Refrigerate. Allow to sit 1 week before eating. Refrigerate and keep up to 6 weeks.

*can substitute zucchini

My thoughts:
The other day I was picking up my usual groceries and came across a big bin of calabacita, or Mexican squash. They look a lot like zucchini but instead of dark green, it is variegated grey-green and white (it looks a bit darker in the picture than in real life) and a bit stubbier. They taste a lot like zucchini too, except maybe slightly sweeter.

In my excitement, I bought a bunch not thinking I wouldn't have time to get to it before leaving on my trip. So I decided to turn it into a quick pickle that I could enjoy a bit now and fully when I get back. Like my zucchini pickles and crookneck squash pickles from a while back, this pickle stays very crisp and only gets tastier the longer it stays in the brine. I didn't both water bath canning mine because I just made a small batch and didn't have time, but that's fine, these spicy pickles aren't going to last long anyway.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

May 14, 2014

Wild Sardine Spread

4.2 oz canned sardines* in extra virgin olive oil
4.2 oz canned sardines in water, drained
1 tablespoon Dijon
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
1 large shallot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot peri-peri sauce
1 stalk celery, finely diced
freshly ground black pepper

Place the sardines, Dijon, capers, pepper, peri-peri and shallot in a food processor or better yet, a mini chopper and pulse until a fairly smooth spread forms. Remove to bowl and stir in celery. Refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving.

*I used canned wild sardines by Wild Pacific, they are really tasty!

My thoughts:
My mind has been on sardines lately. I ate them a bit as a kid on crackers but it wasn't until recently I gave them much thought. Why am I thinking of them now? We are in Portugal, the home of the sardine-crazed. We've been planning the trip for months, Matt's even taught himself Portuguese and made a spreadsheet. To get myself in a Portuguese frame of mind, I made this spread right before we left. I don't know if I will have anything like it in Lisbon, Cascais or Porto but I did throw in some peri-peri sauce for a Portuguese flare. It isn't the prettiest spread but it is delicious, I'm sad sardines are so unpopular in the US, they are sustainable, meaty and tasty. And good for you!

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

May 12, 2014

Cilantro Pickled Jalapenos on

I've started to contribute to the food section of Today's post features my recipe for refrigerator or canned Cilantro Pickled Jalapenos.

Find the recipe here.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

May 11, 2014

In the Garden with Rachel #3: Beach Plums

Last year we planted something that I am especially excited about: beach plums! Seldom, they are native to East Coast from Maine to Maryland. They are short bushes that normally grow along the water, but they can be grown in backyards and since ours is so prone to flooding, perfect for us! I like a plant that can stand up to a little water.

We planted four last year, but it looks like one isn't doing as well, it has a few leaves but no flowers and is very small. Honestly, I'm happy it was only one bush left in peril, the other three look great, considering how freakish the weather has been in Maryland this past year. They are only in bloom now, but I am looking forward to trying to make something with their unique plums which range in size from "normal plum" to cherry sized and itsy bitsy, even on the same bush. I found a cookbook, Plum Crazy: A Book About Beach Plums, (possibly the only beach plum book out there) last year and I look forward to making something with beach plums this year. Last year the bushes were really small but we did get a few tiny, tart plums. This year I am hoping for a harvest!

May 09, 2014

Garlic Smashed Potatoes with Bacon

1 lb "baby" Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
2 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 450. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the potatoes until fork-tender. Place on a parchment paper and use a potato masher to lightly "smash" each potato until the skin cracks.

In a small pan, heat the butter and garlic until the butter melts. Remove from heat and stir in olive oil. Drizzle over potatoes. Bake potatoes 15 minutes or until crispy. Salt, pepper and sprinkle with bacon bits. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
This is sort of a quick version of my favorite potatoes that gives the potatoes even more crunch. Cooking the garlic in the butter really infuses the whole mixture with garlic flavor, rather than having just little bits of garlic here and there. These make a great side dish to roasted chicken or a good steak and are only slightly more work than mashed potatoes.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

May 07, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Gnocchi and Parmesan

1 2 1/2-lb spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz gnocchi*
1 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the squash cut side down on the parchment. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin is easily pierced with a fork. Scoop out the insides. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare gnocchi according to package instructions. Drain throughly. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet. Cook the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the gnocchi and cook until just starting to brown. Add the squash, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through and all ingredients are evenly distributed. Stir in the parsley. Cook 1-2 minutes until the parsley starts to wilt. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan. Serve immediately.

*You can make your own but for this dish, the self-stable kind in the air-tight tray is just fine.

My thoughts:
This is another one of those surprisingly good recipes. I picked up a spaghetti squash on impulse at the store and brought it home with no idea what I wanted to do with it. I was trying to think of a hearty side dish that would be filling enough to act as lunch the following day and remembered I had some gnocchi from a mega-sized Costco purchase a while back. I had parsley and Parmesan on hand and voila, a meal was born! It is easily now my favorite way to eat spaghetti squash. I don't think it as a pasta substitute (who are we fooling here) but it is tasty on its own and really absorbs the flavors of anything it is tossed with. I like pan-fried gnocchi the best but some times it is hard to know what to dress it with but tossed with squash was wonderful. No need for a sauce. The whole thing just came together in a really surprising and satisfying way.

Like I said, I served it as a side but it could easily be a (vegetarian!) meal onto itself.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

May 04, 2014

In the Garden with Rachel #2: Urban Apple Trees

An update in my adventures in edible gardening!

It has rained and rained all week here in Baltimore. It has been rough! Our backyard is prone to flooding and pools of water during heavy rains and in some places there were about 3-4 inches of standing water. Luckily it is sunny now and I hope it stays that way for awhile. The rain was particularly annoying because most of our trees and flowers were in bloom; our mock apples, the cherry tree, the dogwood, the ornamental plum, redbud, tulips, daffodils were all blooming at once and we did not get to go outside and enjoy them at all. Now they are sodden and dropping their blossoms.

One tree that is looking pretty peppy is the apple tree Matt planted last year. Pictured above, it is an interesting variety designed by a Czech Republic scientist that is made for urban areas. Rather than growing very tall and wide, it stays relatively short (only 8-10 feet tall) and quite narrow (only 2 feet wide!). It is supposed to encourage people to grow trees with edible fruit in congested, urban areas. We planted two different varieties but only one is blooming now. I'm a bit worried it won't get properly pollinated because I'd like apples this year (and apple recipes to share with you!). Hopefully all will be well. Gardening can be quite nerve-wracking.

If you are interesting in planting a short, skinny apple tree of your own, look for it at your local nursery under the name "Urban Columnar Apple".

Follow me on Instagram (the above links are all to pictures I've posted on there of the yard) if you want to see more garden shots (and of course what I am eating).

May 02, 2014

Pepita Cotija Broccoli Slaw

6 oz packaged broccoli slaw mix*
1/4 cup pepitas (hulled, roasted pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled

for the dressing:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until smooth. Toss with slaw mix, cheese and pepitas until evenly distributed. Refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving.

*or an equivalent amount of home shredded broccoli stems, carrots and red cabbage.

My thoughts:
Broccoli slaw mixes becoming readily available is one of my favorite innovations in convenience eating. I love cole slaw and slaws of all kind but hate shredding all of that cabbage and don't love pre-packaged (cabbage) cole slaw mix. The broccoli mix is so much better and honestly, I will never peel and matchstick broccoli stumps. I may make a lot of things from scratch, but I draw the line there. So when Old El Paso asked me to develop a recipe for a date night worthy side dish to serve with their frozen fajitas, I immediately thought of slaw. It boosts the vegetable content of the dish and is so quick, you can make it in the 13 or so minutes it takes to heat up the fajita filling. To tie in with the Mexican theme, I spiced it up with some chipotle then cooled it down with cojita cheese and pepitas.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg