Saturday, August 22, 2009

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Sorry about the delays this week crablings, been having some minor technical difficulties.

The tomato harvest is in full inundation mode. We've picked over 20 in the last few days and there are plenty more still on the vine, nagging me with their redness. Time to start making a dent.

I detest sun-dried tomatoes. I just don't get the concept. Take a sweet ripe tomato, slice it open and then leave it in the sun until it takes on the tensile strength of leather. Yum, yum, yum.

Why would you do that? Well Crabby, it concentrates the flavors, you say. No it doesn't, especially if I'm distracted by my teeth grinding on the flesh.

Well, it's a way to preserve them, you say. So what, I answer. If the stuff doesn't taste like summer, it the stuff ends up not even vaguely resembling an actual tomato why not just make a huge batch of tomato sauce and be done with it?

Sigh, just because it's been done for centuries and just because it's from the "old country" doesn't mean it's a good idea. I mean look at lutefisk for goodness sake.

As in many cases, SSSal disagrees with my opinion. Thankfully we have been able to come up with a compromise solution. Oven Roasted Roma Tomatoes are baked at a low temperature so that some of the water is released. But they aren't cooked for so long that they become shoe leather. If you scrape the flesh from the skins it's actually a very tasty condiment. So without further adieu, please enjoy...

Oven Roasted Roma Tomatoes
by SSSal

14 Roma tomatoes
3 gloves garlic, quartered
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Thyme leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

Halve the tomatoes and place them, cut side up, in a single layer on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle the garlic quarters among the tomatoes. Drizzle the garlic and tomatoes with the olive oil.

Generously salt and pepper the vegetables.

Sprinkle the thyme leaves atop.

Roast at 250 degrees for 1 hour. After 1 hour, reduce the temperature to 200 degrees and roast for an additional 2 hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Gently peel the skin from the tomatoes prior to serving.

Serving suggestions: add to sauces, as a spread on bread or toast or as part of a roast vegetable platter.

Pretty simple crablings. Slice, sprinkle, roast for three hours. You can't call that work!

I'm outta here for now. Until next time, remember you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tomato Day

No recipes today.

Nope. I'm tired of cooking. I've been eating too much anyway. It's bad when they tell you to suck in your gut and you already are.

Instead I'm going to update you on this year's tomato crop. After last year's Topsy-Turvy Death Plant fiasco I was a little gun shy about this season. I decided to go old school and forget about fancy inventions and just stick to basics, well almost completely.

This year there are 11 tomato plants on the deck. Eight are store bought seedlings and three have been reared from seed. We've got Early Girls and Better Boys, BeefMasters and Ox Hearts, ripening Roma and reluctant Cherries. We will soon have more tomatoes than any reasonable person will know what to do with.

And yes, I did re-erect Tomato Death Star 2008. It is the proud home to the Ox Hearts. I don't know if it's the type of tomato or the stand, but the Ox Hearts are taking their sweet, meaty time to ripen.

This year we've been dealing with a raccoon-possum issue. For about a month now the plants have been subjected to sporadic nocturnal raids. The varmints in question pick a tomato, take a bite and then leave. Everyone knows that possum and raccoon don't eat tomatoes. Every book will tell you that they in fact hate tomatoes. Regrettably, my vermin don't read.

The winning plant as far as yield goes is the Roma. Somewhere around late June it went nuclear and started budding fruit at a ludicrous rate. I was actually worried that the deck's support structure would be adversely affected by the added fruit weight. At last count there were over 40 tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness. A nice batch of sauce I'd say.

that's all for today's update. I'll be back cooking soon; face it, I have to do something with all this stuff. So until next time, remember , you can do it, you can cook especially when I'm not in the mood.

Friday, August 14, 2009

French Potato Salad

Let's get this straight from the start.

Potato salad is NOT meant to be served warm. Potato salad is NOT meant to be served hot. Proper potato salad, correct potato salad, GOOD potato salad is served cold, swimming in some unidentifiable sour cream and mayonnaise bath.

Do I make myself clear?

Yes Crabby.




Hot potato salad is an abomination. It adds heat to a picnic that's already taking place on a hot summer's day. We already have a word for warm potato salad, it's potatoes! Potato salad is meant to be a cool side dish, lovingly swaddled in a high-fat bath of milk and egg products that are designed to cause salmonella if they are not properly handled. Don't you people have any sense of tradition?

I researched hot potato salads before writing this post. The main culprits are the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese. Is warm potato salad some form of lingering WWII culinary warfare? Is it just a type of Axis Agita, meant to upset purists and crabs alike?

I understand that some of you want lower fat alternatives (God how I hate that phrase), but Crabby has a hard time rolling that way, so I turned to SSSal for help. French Potato Salad is a pleasant alternative to the mayonnaise bombs you find in supermarkets. Technically it's supposed to be served slightly warm. But I solve that problem by showing up a little late for dinner and the temperature falls to an agreeable "cool". So, please enjoy...

French Potato Salad
by SSSal from multiple sources

2 pounds, small red (new) potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled (you can use larger potatoes, but cut to 2 inch chunks).

1 1/2 TBSP salt
1 clove garlic, peeled & threaded on a skewer
2 TBSP white wine or champagne vinegar
2 TBSP Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 shallot, minced
4 TBSP mixed fresh herbs such as:

1 TBSP minced parsley
1 TBSP minced chives
1 TBSP tarragon
1 TBSP marjoram, or chervil, or anything else fresh in the garden (except rosemary)

Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. While the potatoes are simmering, lower the skewer of garlic into the water for about 1 minute. Run the garlic under cold water to stop the cooking and mince it. (This may seem like an unnecessary step, but it really does soften the garlic flavor and is worth the small effort.)

Reserve 1/4 cup of the potato cooking liquid. Drain the potatoes and arrange in a flat tray or bowl.

Whisk the garlic, 1/4 cup of the potato cooking liquid, vinegar, mustard, oil and pepper together to make the dressing.

Drizzle the dressing evenly over the warm potatoes and allow the potatoes to sit for 10 minutes.

Toss the herbs and shallots together in a small bowl. Add to the potatoes and toss gently to distribute.

Serve immediately.

OK not a bad compromise and no mayonnaise in sight.

Until next time crablings, remember you can do it, you can cook. Oh reservoirs! (that's French for see ya later).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Panko-Pesto Crusted Chicken Thighs

CrabCake1 has returned for a short visit before the start of his final semester of college. This is cause for great joy around the house as well as some consternation.

You see, it's tough enough keeping an adequate supply of food in the house what with Crabcake2 being a teenager. Adding a fit, 6'2", 175 pound male to the dinner table pretty much insures that the weekly food bill is going to approach the gross national product of a small island nation. I don't so much forage for food as I forklift it into the SUV.

Nearly every night I pop awake around 2AM because of the beeping of the microwave. Taco Bell may have a "fourth meal", but that's for amateurs, at Crab Central we think in terms of constant free feeding. Ahhh to be young again with the metabolism of an Indy Race car during Memorial Sunday.

The easiest, tastiest meal I can have lying around for CCs 1 & 2 is chicken. Since they are both into speed consumption, I tend toward the boneless cuts, (because the stuff cooks up fast). Panko-Pesto Crusted Chicken Thighs relies on a few simple i.e., store bought ingredients. Store bought basil pesto adds the flavor and Panko bread crumbs add a little crunch. Panko is an Asian style breadcrumb. They are a little larger that the standard milled-sawdust you usually see. Of course if you can't find Panko, sawdust will work just fine; enjoy...

Panko-Pesto Chicken Thighs
by Crabby

8 boneless-skinless chicken thighs (boneless, skinless breasts can be used instead)

1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine the Panko-style bread crumbs and the pesto to form a thick paste.

Add the chicken thighs to the bowl and aggressively press the paste into the meat, covering as much of the chicken flesh as possible.

Drizzle the olive oil over the thighs and gently toss to cover. Re-apply any paste that may have fallen off.

Cover and refrigerate the chicken thighs for at least an hour and preferably overnight.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to grilling. Lightly salt and pepper the thighs.

Preheat your grill to medium.

When hot, place a sheet of aluminum foil atop the grill.

Transfer the chicken to the aluminum foil and grill, turning once, until done, approximately 10 minutes total cooking time.

Really this is so easy. It cooks fast and using the aluminum foil sheet, keeps the crust from sticking to the grate and burning.

I'm outta here crablings, got to find a side a beef to prepare for CCs 1 & 2. Until next time remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Banana Ice Cream

When in doubt, add machinery.

I have three different gizmos to mow the lawn. The trimmer mower for everything that's hard to get to. The weed whipper/edger for all the weeds that need whipping and for the edging. I also have a riding mower, a leftover from the days when we lived in Minnesota.

All these things are supposed to make the process of lawn care easier and faster. For the most part they do, unless I include all the time it takes to fill, clean and generally maintain the various moving parts. If you throw in the time it takes to clean and repair myself from the various bits of sticks, leaves and weed whipper strings that come flying off, well I'm not so sure I've made any real time gains.

That's a lesson I should have remembered before I actually bought the ice cream maker attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. OK, in truth I was buying the pasta roller-cutter attachment and they threw in the ice cream stuff for something like $10. Never pass up machinery when it's on sale.

I'm suspecting the main reason the attachment was on special is because the dang thing doesn't actually stay attached to anything. Sure, the bowl cools down to something approaching absolute zero - it's so cold I swear you could entomb a herd of wooly mammoth for a few centuries in this thing.

The bowl is not the problem. The problem is the worthless paddle attachment that connects the mixer motor to the paddle and therefore mixes the ice cream. Everything was fine, at first, however, once the batter started to thicken it was popping off every 30 seconds. The instructions said to churn the batter for 10 - 15 minutes; I gave up after 5 minutes and 6 detachments. No wonder they threw it in for $10.

Well if you have an ice cream maker that works, either electric or hand crank, here's a quick and tasty recipe. I'll warn you though, don't let the bananas thaw too much or they completely liquify and become impossible to work with. Otherwise, please enjoy...

Banana Ice Cream
adapted from Alton Brown

1 Ice Cream Maker

6 - 8 ripe bananas (about 2 - 2 1/2 pounds)
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup heavy cream

Place the bananas in the freezer overnight.

Thaw the bananas for no more than 45 minutes.

Peel the bananas and put the flesh into a food processor. Add the lemon juice and process for 15 - 30 seconds.

Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract. Process until well combined.

With the processor running, slowly add the heavy cream. Process until smooth.

Chill the batter in the refrigerator until it drops to about 40 degrees, 30 - 45 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions, with my mixer attachment this took about 7 - 10 minutes.

Place the mixture in an air tight re-sealable container. I cover the mixture with a sheet of plastic wrap and then seal the container, squeezing out as much air as possible.

Freeze for 3 to 6 hours prior to serving.

Serving suggestions: toasted almonds, caramel sauce, whipped cream, any of the usual stuff you put on ice cream.

OK crablings, I'm done with the ice cream experiment at least until I forget how aggravated I was by this one. The sad thing is that the ice cream came out great, ah well, maybe next time...

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lazy Fish

Lazy hazy days of summer.

Floatin' along the lazy river.

The lazy brown frog got squished by the big fast express train.

I may have gotten that last one wrong.

But it's August, the temps are finally rising and Crabby's brain is rapidly slowing. I always seem to go through this massive cranial slow-down in August. I stare at the TV and it's not even on. I stare at the tomatoes, watching to see if they are getting redder. I open the door and stare into the pantry, waiting to get sucked into the abyss along with the orzo, ramen and peanut butter.

It's tough to be creative this time of year. It's the "shoulder season" of cooking. You're bored of grilling and it's too hot to cook indoors. It's a good time to go on a diet; not because you want to lose weight, but because you just can't think of anything you really want to eat.

Well, never fear crablings, I'll give you a recipe anyway. Lazy Fish is my own concoction. It requires little, if any, mental work and it's still quite tasty. The toughest part of the meal is finding the right cut of fish. I've used walleye, whitefish, sole, salmon, haddock (pictured) and trout. You want a long, thin, flat fillet; my suggestion is to wait for a really hot day. Go to the fish monger and hug the refrigerated case. Just before they ask you to leave, pick out a nice piece of fish and enjoy...

Lazy Fish
by Crabby

1 1/2 pounds fish filets (you want a long, thin fillet)
2 - 3 TBSP butter
1 TBSP Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 lemon sliced
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat your grill over high heat.

Fold a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil in half to form a double thick cooking tray.

Slice thin pieces of the butter lengthwise and place on the foil tray. You will be using half the butter as a base for the fillets.

Place the fish atop the butter. Dust the fillets with the Old Bay Seasoning or a spice mix of your choice.

Put the other half of the butter on top of the fish. Again, slice the butter lengthwise from the stick. This gives you more coverage than normal "pats".

Place 2 or 3 lemon slices on each fillet.

Place on the hot grill, close the lid and grill for 8 minutes, assuming a fillet thickness of roughly 1 inch.

Remove the fish from the grill and transfer to serving plates. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.

Pretty easy, eh? Look, it's not haute cuisine, but if you're using fresh fish it tastes great. Serve it with some fresh corn or tomatoes. Throw in a glass or three of white wine and you've got a great meal on your hands.

OK, until next time, no matter how slow your brain is working, remember, you can do it you can cook.