Thursday, July 31, 2008

Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Cabernet-Mustard Sauce, Livin' La Vida Costco

I love Costco. For those of you who don't know or have Costcos in your part of the world, it is a "wholesale" buying club. For a $50US annual fee, members have access to thousands of items at heavily discounted prices. You can buy everything from computers to cars to caskets. They sell books, clothes, wine and all sorts of food.

Costco is also about bulk shopping. If you want olive oil, the smallest amount is (2) 2-liter jugs, ketchup - (3) 44 oz. bottles - that's right, a gallon of ketchup. The compensating factor in all of this is that prices are 1/3 to 1/2 what they would be in a "normal" store. Now this is not weekly shopping, more like once every two months, but the price-quality combination can't be matched.

When I buy foodstuffs there, it's either something that can last a long time, (e.g. a 25 lb. of all-purpose flour), or can be subdivided. I buy whole pork loins (6 - 8 pounds @ $5.99 pound), or any kind of beef, from strips of steaks to entire tenderloins ($9.99/lb). When I get back from Costco my kitchen quickly turns into a butcher shop as I trim, divide, shrink wrap and freeze various cuts of meat.

This is not the place if you're an impulse shopper, unless you enjoy the risk of soup by the gallon or 20-lb. bags of dog treats. The one thing more important than my Costco shopping list is the list on the back telling me what we don't need.

Costco, I love it.

Today I'm making a grilled beef tenderloin with a Cabernet-mustard sauce. The pictures will reveal that even Crabby screws up; I obviously overcooked the beef. Most of the ingredients come from Costco, though not the parsley, there's no chance I could go through that much shrubbery before it spoiled. Enjoy.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Cabernet-Mustard Sauce
by Crabby, inspired by various cookbooks and magazines
Serves 4

1 piece beef tenderloin, approx 1 -1 1/4 lbs.
Salt & Pepper

3 TBSP butter, separated into 1 TBSP pieces
1/2 cup chopped shallots
3/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon Wine
1 TBSP Dijon or Country Style Mustard
1 TBSP capers, drained
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Preheat your grill over high heat. Salt and liberally pepper the beef. When grill is ready, lightly brush the grill grates with oil.

Place beef on oiled grate, turn down heat to medium high. Turn beef approximately every 3 minutes for a total cooking time of 9 minutes (this should result in a rare to medium-rare piece of beef).

Please note, beef tenderloins seem to have a triangular shape so you should be able to grill the meat on three sides. If your piece will not cooperate, grill each side for approximately 4 1/2 minutes, (Depending on the thickness of the beef, more or less grilling time will be in order. Don't panic! At $9.99/ pound you can afford the occasional screw up).

Remove beef from the grill, tent with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.


While meat is grilling, melt 1 TBSP butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until just softening, approximately 2 minutes.

Add the wine, mustard and capers. Simmer the mixture until it starts to thicken, (anywhere from 2 - 5 minutes).

Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in remaining butter 1 TBSP at a time, making sure the first piece is fully incorporated before adding the 2nd TBSP.

Remove from heat, add the parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the beef and serve with a spoonful of sauce.

There you go, a nice cut of beef and a very simple sauce. Combined with a California Cabernet and you have the body of a great summer's dinner.

That's it for today; remember crablings, you can do it, you can cook.

Now if I can just find a place to store 54 rolls of paper towels. Be back soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tomato Tree - Day 58

A couple of weeks ago Apple introduced their new iPhone. There was endless video of people camping out in line, followed up by breathless reports of fantastic sales figures. One million phones sold in one day! Wow! Interestingly, no media outlet pointed out that in 2007, Nokia sold an average of 1.19 million phones a day every day of the year.

Of course there were a few worms. The first few days Apple stores and AT&T couldn't unlock the software to turn the phone on. A small problem, but hey, you have the new iPhone, you should be happy! Then there were those pesky problems with MobileMe; seems that having the phone turned on was no guarantee that it would actually do what Apple said it would. Well, it only affecting 1% (10,000) of you. Get over yourselves!

Hype and hubris.

The tomato tree still stands, though the base has developed some worrisome rust. The legs are, precariously, holding on. The Better Boys are ripening quite quickly. The Brandywines are lagging; I'm not sure we'll see any this year.

Interestingly, my non-tomato tree plant is doing quite well, with none of the blossom end rot displayed by the upside-down tomatoes. They were planted the same day using the same new dirt. They've been treated exactly the same, (except for the fact that the Tomato Tree plants require much more water).

"The Tomato Tree eliminates common pests and diseases". "The Topsy-Turvy gives you up to 30 lbs. of fruit per plant" - I'll be lucky to get 10 lbs. "The Topsy-Turvy eliminates backbreaking work" - Unless you're under it when your taking it apart to ship back.

Hype and hubris. The beat goes on.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tomato & Cheese Galette and The Farmers' Market

I have mixed feelings about "Farmers' Markets". I understand the disney-esque attraction. You get to meet Farmer Brown up close. He and his family tell you about the wonders and tribulations of this year's growing season. And we all get to feel like we're not only helping a local farmer, but, because we've come to know the Farmers Brown, that we are now somehow part of the growing process. It's a regular "stick it to the man - get back to the land" fantasy.

But here's the thing. First, I have no real idea if Farmer Brown is a good guy. He tells me he's all organic and doesn't hire illegal immigrant labor, but how do I know? Maybe he fertilizes with the run-off from a nuclear power plant and has orphans chained to his corn stalks. Second, as I'm driving around it's amazing how often I find the same Farmer Brown selling his wares at Farmers' Markets all over the county. I don't begrudge FB making his living, it just takes some of the allure off when I think of his 16' diesel-belching truck making a 7-days-a-week loop to towns separated by as many as 30 miles. Bucolic carbon footprint indeed.

Then there's the issue of the choice. Due the inherent restrictions of the growing season, everyone has basically the same produce at the same time. You're not getting fresh corn in April unless Farmer Brown has had it brought up from Florida, which sort of defeats the purpose. Nope, you're getting it when it ripens. I understand that that's one of the attractions, produce fresh from the farm. It just means that the whole place is somewhat homogeneous by it's very design.

Anyway, SSSal likes going down there every week. I drop in once in awhile. The early tomatoes are starting to roll in; here's a recipe to have ready when they really start showing up, Tomato & Cheese Galette by Julia Child. SSSal says that it's a bit difficult if you're not used to working with doughs, but the results can't be argued with. Give it a try, even if you mess up, there's bound to be more tomatoes waiting at the market.

Tomato & Cheese Galette
from Baking With Julia, by Dorie Greenspan based on the work of Julia Child

The Dough Recipe makes enough for 2 Galettes.

Galette Dough

3 TBSP sour cream (or yogurt or buttermilk)
1/3 cup (approx) ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
7 TBSP cold unsalted butter cut into 6 to 8 pieces

Stir the sour cream and cold water together in a small bowl; set aside. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and cornmeal in a food processor. Drop the butter pieces into the mixture and pulse until incorporated (the dough will form pea sized little balls).

With the machine running, add the sour cream/ice water mixture. Mix until the dough forms.

Remove the dough. Cut in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least two hours.

Tomato & Cheese Galette

1 portion Galette Dough, chilled
2 oz. Monterey Jack Cheese
2 oz. mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
2 - 3 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4" slices

Pre-heat your oven at 400 degrees. Place the rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Do this ahead of time, really, and have it right next to your rolling space.

Roll out the dough to approx an 11" circle, 1/8" thick. The dough is soft and difficult to work with - do your best and be speedy. You'll need to lift it up now and then and toss some flour under it and over the top. Roll the dough up around your rolling pin and unroll onto the prepared baking sheet.

Scatter the cheeses and basil (I like to add some freshly ground pepper at this point), onto the dough, leaving a 2"-3" border. Place the tomato slices atop the cheese forming concentric circles, with a slight overlap among the tomato slices. Fold the uncovered border of the dough up over the filling, allowing the dough to pleat as you lift it up and work your way around the galette. Go with it, it is meant to be rustic-looking and will pleat naturally as you go around the circle. Your second one will be better than the first!

Bake the galette for 35-40 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow the pastry to cool for 10 minutes. Then slide the galette off the baking sheet onto the rack to cool further.

Serve at room temperature with fresh basil leaves as a garnish.

There you go. A great, pretty simple recipe to take advantage of summer's and your local farmers' market bounty. Until next time remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Now if I can just figure out how the Amish get to all these markets if they're against cars and trucks?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stewed White Beans & The Tour de France

For the last 5 years CrabCake 2 has been fascinated by The Tour de France. It started with the last of the Lance Armstrong years and has continued on, unabated through rider defections, retirements and doping scandals. Everyday, he wakes up at the crack of whatever and plops himself in front of the TV to watch the race and listen to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin announce the day's action.

CC2 has become a true fanatic and connoisseur. Now, being middle-aged, to me the Tour is little more than a rolling example of better living through chemistry. Despite organizers' efforts, there is a car-wreck fascination with keeping track of the banished, performance-enhancing-drugged rider count. That said, there is still something mesmerizing about watching over a 100 riders attempt to complete the 2300 mile race.

The ultimate moment of the Tour comes in the Alps. The stage, (this year the 17th of 21), is a 130.8 mile race through the mountains, culminating with a 10 mile, virtually vertical ride to the summit of L'Alpe-d'Huez.

For most of the last ten miles the thousands of spectators are in no way separated from the riders. As the racers slow, having completed 121 miles of riding, and climb the final ascent at a mere 15 miles per hour, the spectators surround the riders, shouting encouragement or slurs while running along side.

Here's what I've observed about the fans. They are almost exclusively white, or pink depending on the depth of their sunburns. They spend a great deal of time with virtually no talent to develop costumes mirroring the colors of their favorite team or home country. They are oblivious to the fact that they may affect the outcome of the race by hitting a rider or being hit by one of the accompanying vehicles in the motorcade. And, while I can't speak to the riders, the fans certainly seem to be juiced on performance debilitating drugs that make their ability to remain upright an athletic accomplishment in and of itself.

Stewed white people. Ah, summer in France.

Well that roundabout trip brings us to today's recipe. It suffers from a somewhat unappealing name, Stewed White Beans, but don't let that deter you. It's a great side dish for just about any meal. It's also flavorful and nutritious enough to serve to your vegetarian friends as a main course. Amusez vous.

Stewed White Beans
from Weber's Real Grilling

1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cans (14 oz each), (white) cannellini beans
1/4 cup lightly packed, torn fresh basil leaves

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil, then cook the onion, garlic and pepper flakes until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans, stir well to combine. Season with salt & pepper.

Bring the beans to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove beans from heat. Allow to cool slightly and add torn basil leaves. Serve.

There you have it. Open a few cans, saute a little bit, simmer some and you end up with a very versatile side dish. Roast or grill something to go with the beans, sit down in front of the TV and watch the race. Vive la France, Vive la Tour.

A la prochaine, you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Blueberry Buckle & The Ann Arbor Art Fair

There are various signposts in the course of a year; New Year's Day, the first day of spring, Fourth of July. Around here one of those signposts is the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Purported to be the largest art fair in America, it draws local, national and international artisans whose booths take over most of the downtown streets.

The fair is actually a combination of three fairs that draws roughly 500,000 people annually to the city of Ann Arbor. For four days the streets are cordoned off and booths are set up selling everything from sculptures to jewelry, from glass works to clothing; a shopping orgy of everything from paintings to macrame, sold by artists you'd actively ignore if their works were in a gallery.

It runs for four days in the middle of July during what is invariably the hottest week of the summer. I hate it. I hate it for a number of reasons, even though I take an evil glee in keeping track of the daily number of visitors taken to the hospital for heat stress. I hate it because it's impossible to go downtown. After having ceded the city to the student population for much of the year, we lose it again to this roving band of Amish, retired, "natural", hey-haven't-you-heard?-the-60's-are-way-over, "craftsmen" who set up shop on the city streets. Parking disappears, forget about going to a restaurant.

The second reason I hate it is that SSSal loves it and I'm always recruited to be the shuttle bus for her and her friends. Every year I'm destined to be making at least one drop-off and pick-up run, (more if they start to buy big items). SSSal tends to only buy small, glass based items. Many of the designer plates you see in my photos are art fair purchases. Thankfully she has the patience and interest to troll the booths for these finds, I don't.

There is one reason I enjoy the Art Fair. It is also the signal of the halfway point of summer. In a very few weeks, the real bounty of the growing season will be coming in. Sweet corn, cucumbers, raspberries, peaches, tomatoes and blueberries. As a kid, blueberries always meant the end of summer vacation. As an adult, blueberries are the harbinger of fall. Soon the heat will break, the students will return and football (the American kind) will be back on TV.

Tomatoes are a celebration of summer, blueberries are a portend of winter. So here's a preemptive recipe. A treat to prepare as the blueberries come to market in your area. Oddly enough, SSSal says this recipe works better if you've frozen the berries. Blueberry Buckle, a morning coffee cake, made better with the use of the Baker's Edge Baking Pan. Enjoy, there's still a long way to go this summer, but fall's acomin'.

Blueberry Buckle
by SeaShellSal (handed down from iMogene)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a glass baking dish with Pam, preferably the kind with a bit of flour, especially for baking. Or use the Baker's Edge pan for improved "corners".

Mix together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon:

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup softened shortening (Crisco - do not substitute butter)
1 egg
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk (no fat is acceptable)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups drained blueberries (Note: Freeze blueberries overnight. Toss with 2 TBSP flour before adding to the mix. DO NOT THAW)

The batter will be gooey. Spread it in the bottom of your pan. Don't worry about getting it smooth as the cracks and crevices are good to hold the crumble topping.

For the Crumble Topping, stir together:

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix in with a fork
1/4 cup softened butter (not melted)

Sprinkle the topping over the batter and pop in the oven.

The buckle will take 40 - 45 minutes on regular bake in a glass baking dish. In the Baker's Edge pan, with convection bake, the cooking time will be dramatically shorter (approx 30 minutes). The buckle is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; I would suggest checking every 5 minutes after the first 25 minutes of baking. You want a nice brown crunchy top.

There you go. I think I'll go downtown for lunch. Until next time, remember, you can do it you can cook.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Otsu - Soba Noodle Salad with Pan Fried Tofu or "Should Eat Foods"


Quivering gelatinous mass or
tasteless injection molded blob? The answer tonight on FOX News!

As I've pointed out before, SSSal and I once spent a year cooking things we'd always hated: eggplant, fennel etc. The experiment worked in that we now know the difference between the foods we truly hate and those we thought we hated. Of course there are a couple of foods that are still open to debate, e.g., eggplant - SSSal loves it, Crabby finds it vaguely repellent, etc.

One of the other swing foods is tofu. Understand that both SSSal and I find it to be a tasteless mass, whose real value is in visual appeal and added bulk. It's culinary styrofoam. Bland, forgettable, designed to absorb sauce and take up space. Wow, gimme a plate of that!!!

But wait. SSSal and I, "being of a certain age", now find ourselves worrying about nutritional values, bone density and protein - cholesterol trade-offs. We have entered that dreaded phase of life, "The Should Eat Food " stage. We should eat more vegetables. We should eat more fruit. We should eat less red meat. We should, we should, we should. Eating is suddenly Roman Catholic.

Then there's tofu. High in protein, calcium, iron and magnesium, (sounds like I'm building a TV set not dinner). Low in calories and virtually no cholesterol. It's healthy. It's good for you. You should eat it. Gawd, I can't stand it. Tofu is one of those foods where humans start to confuse quantity of life with quality of life.

But, I love SSSal and want our lives together to last as long as possible. So, in an effort to find the maximized point on the quantity vs. quality curve, I give you Otsu, a soba noodle salad with pan fried tofu. This salad is a two-fer, not only healthy tofu, but also super healthy soba noodles. Heck, eat this 24/7 and you might live forever, you won't have many dinner companions, but you'll live forever. Be forewarned, I found the dressing a bit "zesty", if you're sensitive to that taste, I'd add the lemon juice a teaspoon at a time, tasting along the way. Enjoy.

Otsu - Soba Noodle Salad with Pan Fried Tofu
from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson


Grated zest of 1 Lemon
Fresh Ginger, 1" cube, peeled and grated
1 TBSP Honey
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (for something less spicy, cut back to 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TBSP Sesame Oil


12 oz. dried soba noodles
12 oz. extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise, seeded & thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Combine the lemon zest, ginger, honey, cayenne and salt in a blender, process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, vinegar and soy. With the machine running, slowly add the olive and sesame oils.

Cook the soba noodles per package instructions. When done, rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain well.

Drain the tofu. Pat the block dry with paper towels. Cut the tofu into rectangular pieces roughly 1"' in length. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, (I added a small amount of olive oil to help the browning process). Add the tofu, cooking 1 - 2 minutes per side, until the cubes are nicely golden brown in color.

In a large bowl, combine the soba, chopped cilantro, green onions cucumber and dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the cooked tofu and mix gently. Serve on a platter garnished with sesame seeds.

There you go. A light dinner, or a small serving first course. I'll be honest, I prefer my cool peanut soba to this recipe, but this one is probably better for you. Anyway, until next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grilled Swordfish with Tomato & Onion Relish, Food & Wine Matchmaking - Lesson 2.

Time to get back to cooking. My last two posts "Death in the Afternoon" and "Wine Lesson 1", while spectacularly entertaining, have drifted away from my blog raison d'etre. So as penance for my profligate ways today I give you a three-fer. Yes that's right, three for the price of one, a recipe, a technique and your second wine lesson. Let's get started before this post reaches War and Peace proportions.

First the technique. For years I have struggled with lighter, skinless meats burning horribly on the grill. No matter what I did, no matter what extra grill grates I employed, nearly every piece of fish or boneless, skinless chicken breast flirted with incineration. No more.

Here's a trick I picked up from the folks at America's Test Kitchen, yes, those anal-retentive, suck-all-the-available-joy-and-spontaneity-from-your-cooking testers from Cook Illustrated. When grilling, take a piece of aluminum foil and fold it in half. Form it into a grilling tray and place it on top of the grill grate. That's it.

It doesn't seem like enough, but it separates the flesh from direct contact with the grates, but provides enough heat to create those sear marks that everyone raves over. Try it with the following recipe.

Grilled Swordfish with Tomato & Onion Relish


1 TBSP finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup oil, canola, walnut, grapeseed but not olive oil.
1 1/2 lbs fresh, boneless swordfish fillets

At least 2 hours before grilling combine the shallots, red wine, orange juice and oil in a medium bowl and blend well. Pour the marinade into a resealable bag, add the swordfish, seal and refrigerate.

Tomato & Onion Relish:

2 TBSP dark brown sugar
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Rind of 1 orange, finely grated
2 cups peeled, seeded & chopped tomatoes
1 cup peeled, seeded, sectioned and chopped oranges
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

Combine the brown sugar, orange juice, vinegar and orange rind into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium high heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup (approx. 10 - 15 minutes).

While the liquid is reducing, place the tomatoes, orange sections and onion into a sieve and drain thoroughly. Pour the solids into a mixing bowl (retain the juices to adjust the relish if needed). Add the hot sauce and mix well.

Preheat your grill over high heat. remove the swordfish form the marinade and pat dry. Place the fish onto your homemade grill pan. Place on the grill and cook for approximately 4 minutes per side depending on thickness (this recipe assumes 1 1/2" thick fillets).

Remove form the grill and serve with a dollop of relish and a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Which brings us to phase three of today's post. the food-wine combination. As I mentioned in the last food wine lesson, WWBob provided me with the pairings and he made a clear distinction between French Sauvignon Blanc and New Zealand SB. Today we're drinking two New Zealands both from the Marlborough region, a Nobilo and a Cloudy Bay.

Of the two wines pictured, the Cloudy Bay was a clear winner. It had a tropical fruit flavor at the very beginning that quickly gave way to a grapefruit sensation. It was a perfect foil for the richness of the swordfish, while complimenting the relish very nicely. The Nobilo was nice but it just didn't match the fish as well.

I believe Cloudy Bay is a widely distributed wine that's available nationwide. It's a great partner to a rich fish like swordfish.

Phew, I'm tired. No more fooling around, only quick posts from here on out, alright, a few nasty ones about the Tomato Tree, but otherwise, just remember...

You can do it, you can cook.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tomato Tree - Day 43

Tonight's Episode: Death in the Afternoon.

After nearly a month and a half of growing, after two recall notices, after many measures intended to provide public safety, the Tomato Tree Stand had it's first death. Chipmunk? Poodle? Hummingbird? Senior Citizen? No.

The first casualty of the Tomato Tree was, a tomato. Yes, Christine - The Stand of Death, has resorted to cannibalism. Yesterday afternoon I found a ripening tomato destroyed by some sort of fungus. What's interesting about this problem is that among the vaunted advantages of the Topsy-Turvy Tomato Planter, is the elimination, that's right, elimination, of ground fungus, harmful bacteria and cutworm damage.

As the pictures show, Crabby is having some sort of fungus/bug problem. Can anyone out there in Crab Nation identify what is happening to my tomatoes? Anyone, please?

To my thinking, the whole point of the Topsy-Turvy was to have tomatoes sooner (per the infomercial), with fewer diseases/pests (per the infomercial), and less overall stress, (read the recall notices). So far, nada. Yes I do have some tomatoes starting to ripen, but they are ravaged by some disease. The other plants in the planter show almost no fruit. August is beginning to look like a grim harvest.

Next time back to recipes. May God have mercy on my tomatoes.

Crabby Quiz: Pretty easy one this time. There are two literary references in this post, at/near the beginning. Please identify.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Food & Wine Matchmaking - Lesson 1

Apple Pie:Vanilla Ice Cream. Hot Pizza:Cold Beer.

Classic pairings. Each is wonderful on its own, combined they are spectacular. Today were going to have our first in-depth food-wine match-up.

A few weeks ago I sent Wine Wizard Bob a list of wine varietals and asked him to pair them up with the perfect food. Over the coming months I'll be preparing a meal designed to highlight the combination of a specific food with a specific type of wine. I'll share the recipe and my wine tasting notes with all of you. Feel free to recreate the experience on your own.

However, before we go on, there is one unbreakable Crabby rule when it comes to wine tasting: We will talk like humans. The first person to describe a wine along the lines of, "sprightly, with the petulant insouciance of Hemingway in Cuernavaca", will be banished from Crab Nation for life. Your membership will be revoked and you will be sent to live with those shiftless lobsters down the reef. Understand? Good!

Now on to the tasting. First on WWBob's list was Sauvignon Blanc, which ends up being a two-parter. What's great about part one is there's no cooking, only buying cheeses. Perfect for a hot summer night when all you want is a cool drink and a little something. Let's hear from WWBob:

"Classic wine and food pairings are all about simple ingredients, perfectly prepared. One of these tasty "togethers" is Goat Cheese and Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley of France. Not surprisingly, the best goat cheese comes from the Loire as well. The best town for goat cheese is Chavignol, its Crotin du Chavignol is the apex of goat cheese.

The twin towns of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, (not to be confused with Pouilly-Fuisse!), make the best Sauvignon Blanc. Chavignol is adjacent to Sancerre. The soil for both the cheese and the grapes is a composite of clay and limestone. This soil combo creates a wine with a zippy light lime flavor and hints of fruit in a dry crisp white. It doesn't get easier than that and it makes just so much sense."


So I went down to my local market and picked up 2 bottles of wine, a Domaine Daulny, Sancerre, and a bottle of Les Pentes, Poilly-Fume (both around $17). I also got three pieces of goat cheese: an aged (2 weeks) cheese from a local creamery, a French Chabichou du Poitou and an unfortunately named Bucheron Goat Log. Both the wines and the cheeses were opened one hour before the tasting began.

First the wines.
Sancerre: Yellow-Green color, tart-sweet flavor of lemon, lime and (faintly) orange, smell of freshly cut grass.
Pouilly-Fume: Yellow-Green color, citrus fruit flavor but not as tart/sharp, earthy-mineral taste. Same fresh cut grass smell.

The cheeses.
Bucheron: Tangy, creamy with a faint musty smell no real taste beyond the tartness.
Lincoln Log: completely forgettable, bland, no zip, no taste, no nothing.
Chabichou: Smooth, peanut butter like texture, strong musty smell, just a bit of tart sensation.

Together. In every case the Sancerre got a more pronounced citrus flavor. It also got "flatter" with the fizziness disappearing. The cheeses made the Sancerre taste more like lemon and lime. On the othe hand, all the cheeses gave the Pouilly-Fume an almost metallic taste, (not as bad as it sounds). Any taste of fruit disappeared and was replaced by the saltiness you get from salami.

To me the cheeses made the Sancerre taste better whereas the Pouilly-Fume made the cheeses taste better. Even with all that talk about metallic tastes, in the end I wanted another glass of the Pouilly-Fume. The Sancerre just seemed too sweet unless you had the tart offset of a piece of cheese.

Well crablings, that's it for now. Some time next week we're going to visit Sauvignon Blanc again, but this time we'll be getting it from New Zealand and we'll be having swordfish.

Until next time, you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Lazy Glazey Days of Summer, Scallops with Honey-Citrus Glaze

The dogs days of summer, that seemingly endless stretch of high heat and high humidity. July and August are summer's answer to winter's February and March, an ultimately monotonous stretch of sunny and steamy instead of cold and dreary.

This time of year is about going slow and waiting, waiting for the afternoon thunderstorm to break the heat, waiting for the whine of a mosquito, waiting for tomatoes to ripen. The air itself is liquid, languorous.

Summertime leaves the skin "glistening" and the mind slowing. Estivation.
Here's an extra recipe, a perfect use for the leftover apricot nectar: Take 1 Ice-filled glass, fill with 2 parts sparkling water, 1 part apricot nectar, 1 splash of vodka, a wedge of fresh lime, sip. Ahhhhh!

So, before I slip into my best Blanche DuBois, here's a recipe for yet another glaze, (given your previous responses, you crablings love sauces and glazes). The work in this recipe is pretty minimal and thankfully is done in an air-conditioned kitchen. Today's presentation is on grilled sea scallops, though it would work equally well on boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Seared Scallops with Spicy Honey-Citrus Glaze
Bon Appetit, September 2007

Serves 4

1/2 cup orange blossom honey
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
4 tsps finely grated lemon peel
2 tsps finely grated lime peel
1 tsp hot chilli sauce (such as sambal olek) or a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes

12 -16 Dry-Packed Sea Scallops (approx 1 1/3 pounds)

Combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm, stirring to incorporate all the ingredients. When heated through, remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

Clean the scallops removing the tough tendon from the meat. Pat dry.

Thirty (30) minutes prior to grilling, toss the scallops with the room temperature glaze. Pre-heat your grill over medium high heat.

For this recipe you want to protect the scallops from direct contact with the grill, so either use a fish grilling pan or fold a large sheet of aluminum foil in half, spray with PAM and grill the scallops on top of the foil.

Grill the scallops for approximately 90 seconds per side (If the scallops are dry-packed and fresh I like them at a medium-well doneness, if you insist on completely cooked through, go for 2 minutes per side).

Remove. Serve with a light salad or some steamed rice. Listen to a baseball game on the radio. Let summer wash over you.

Serve this with a nicely chilled New Zealand (Marlborough) Sauvignon Blanc.

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers".

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Grilled Apricot-Honey Pork Tenderloin, Enough with the Burgers Already!

"Celebrate the birth of your nation by blowing up a small piece of it." - Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Kwik-E-Mart owner on The Simpsons, extolling the virtues of 4th of July fireworks.

Last night was the 4th of July. By 10 PM the persistent cadence of small explosions filled the air, as countless self-stylized neighborhood ordnance specialists set off their fireworks. By midnight most of the explosions had died out. Though there was the occasional "whump", followed by a loud report, followed by an even louder, beery cheer. I love fireworks; I just don't want to be around them when the beer takes over and a Roman Candle "sword fight" becomes a good idea.

The other time honored 4th tradition is the cook-out. This is where Dad, who doesn't cook all year, gets to show off his grilling prowess employing a grill that produces more BTUs than the sun. I've said it before, grilling is some of the hardest cooking out there. You have to be constantly on alert for flare-ups, hot spots and over cooked protein. I swear, Mom gets Dad to grill just to put him in his place; she knows how tough grilling is.

Unlike, sauteing, which requires my "get it hot, cook it fast" approach, the variables of grilling are far more complex. For the most part you want to grill steaks over high heat. But everything else needs to be babied a bit, this is true for chicken, pork, burgers, hot dogs, vegetables and fish.

The best advice I can give you for grilling everything but a steak is: "get it hot, then turn it down". I pre-heat my grill on high for 10-15 minutes and then, just before cooking, I turn the burners down to medium. This approach still gives you grill marks, while giving your meal a chance to properly cook.

Well it's Saturday, still time to cook-out tonight and tomorrow. Here's an easy marinade for pork tenderloin. Marinade the pork for as long as you can, up to 24 hours. Tenderloins are relatively thin and grill up quickly, so most of the flavor in this meal happens overnight. Enjoy, and remember to keep your fingers away from the fireworks.

Grilled Apricot-Honey Pork Tenderloin
by Crabby
1 cup apricot preserves

1/2 cup apricot nectar
1/4 cup honey
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP Mustard

2 pork tenderloins
Salt & Pepper to taste
Vegetable Oil for brushing the grilling grate

Combine the apricot preserves, apricot juice, honey, vinegar and mustard in a medium bowl.

Place the tenderloins into a resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Seal and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Pre-Heat your grill. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade (discard the excess). Lightly dry the tenderloins with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

Brush the grate liberally with oil. Turn down the temperature to medium. Grill the tenderloins, turning once until the center is barely pink. Depending on the heat of your grill this will take anywhere from 8-10 minutes per side. Check the tenderloins with an instant read thermometer. Remove from the heat when the temperature reaches 140 degrees.

Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and let rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before slicing.

There you go, easy, hopefully no explosions, and another meal with something a bit more intriguing than burgers. Happy Birthday America, see you soon. Until then, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Jalapeno Pepper Glaze, Sweet Heat

I hate chili cook-offs. They seem to be everywhere this time of year. Every local festival or state fair has the obligatory bbq rib competition and chili contest. I love the ribs. I hate the chili. I hate it for two reasons.

First is the predictability. The "chefs" are predominantly middle-aged, goateed, distended bellied males, (though you occasionally see the goateed female), all of them touting their chili as the best because of their "secret" spices, or their "special" combination of meats. Yeah right. Ground rabbit and alligator chunks are not going to overcome the obese seasonings these chefs insist on dumping in their pots.
Face it, you've had one bowl of chili, you've had 'em all.

The other reason I hate chili cook-offs is the heat. Every single chef has to regale you with how much heat he's introduced. " I use the hottest peppers". "I use the most peppers". "I use the most, hottest peppers". Greeeaaaat. It's hard to notice any taste in chili if the cook insists on incinerating your taste buds.

To me a chef who uses too much heat is a mediocre chef. Heat is a cheat. It covers up lack of flavor, substituting a burning sensation for taste. I like my heat subtle, I like heat to add intrigue to my meal, not indigestion. I like heat with some sweet.

Which brings us to today's recipe. Jalapeno Pepper Glaze. This recipe comes from something I saw on "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS. There was no specific recipe, just a blur of ingredients dumped into a blender. The base of this glaze is jalapeno pepper jelly; it's more of a pepper flavor than heat. I prefer it with
leg of lamb over mint jelly. I'll be using Tabasco brand Jalapeno Jelly because it seems to the most widely available.

It is a great marinade/glaze for chicken, fish or beef. Today's photos show it over grilled halibut. Enjoy, and don't worry, it won't burn up your mouth.

Jalapeno Pepper Glaze
from America's Test Kitchen & some help from Crabby

1 10oz. jar jalapeno pepper jelly
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Zest of 1/2 lime
1 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 scallions, chopped into 1 inch sections
(Optional: 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, de-veined and chopped into a small dice)

Combine all the ingredients (except the optional jalapeno) in a blender. Pulse until well blended.

Taste your mixture. If you like more heat in your glaze, add the additional jalapeno. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate. This jelly should last at least a few weeks.

I spread a light layer onto whatever meat I'll be grilling. For fish 45 minutes prior to cooking, for chicken and beef 2-6 hours. Since the glaze contains sugar, when grilling use a lower heat to avoid burning.

OK, there you have it, sweet, heat and you can still taste the meat (or vegetables). Enjoy. As always, remember, you can do it, you can cook.