Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Patty Pan Squash with Prosciutto

I like the shift of seasons. I just wish it would take a little longer than half an hour to complete. Two days ago it was shorts and polo shirts, this morning it was a sweatshirt plus a jacket, all so I could take the dog out.

Believe me, he didn't want to be out there anymore than I did. I had to make him stay out to do all his business since I didn't want to go back out later. It got really bad when he got to the mailbox. It was dark, drizzly and gusty. Poor little guy lifted his leg and nearly went airborne. He looked like a kite ready for take off.

With Fall here it's time to start thinking about seasonal cooking. The Farmers' Market is full of squashes. I hate squashes. But of course everyone else in the house loves the stuff. So in an effort to promote familial harmony, I have learned to choke down patty pan squash.

Patty pan squash are little discs of squash that have a higher crunchy skin to mushy flesh ratio. That's about the only thing that makes them tolerable. Patty Pan Squash with Prosciutto is my own invention, primarily driven by the idea that anything is tolerable if you prep it with bacon. Please enjoy...

Patty Pan Squash with Prosciutto
by Crabby

Assorted Patty Pan Squash, approximately 1/2 pound
4 ounces diced prosciutto
1 pound diced tomatoes, (or substitute (1) 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes)
Herb de Provence to taste

Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot add the diced prosciutto and cook for 3 minutes to render the fat from the prosciutto.

Add the patty pan squash and partially cover the pan. Fry the squash for 5 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan to turn the squash.

After 5 minutes, add the diced tomatoes and any collected juices. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Remove from heat and season with Herb de Provence to taste, or substitute your favorite herbs. Serve.

Very easy and low maintenance compared to many recipes. Better still it's something you can do while the main course is cooking.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sole with Orange Brown Butter

This little piggy went to market...

Nothing makes people fearful like fear.

This little piggy stayed home...

Because he wasn't feeling too well

This little piggy had roast beef...

I went to CC2's parent welcome back to school event last night and the consistent topic of conversation was H1N1, aka Swine Flu. Everyone, from teachers to administrators talked about Swine Flu. They've established new protocols to deal with kids missing classes for up to a week. There's a new online system to keep everyone up to date on assignments and workload. At every turn parents were asked to keep their students home at the first sign of illness.

And this little piggy went "cough, cough, cough" all the way home.

Let's remember one thing folks: So far, swine flu has been much, much tamer than the regular flu. You're much more likely to have a "terminal" case of regular flu than you are of Swine Flu. So please, let's all just relax a bit. Just do what your mother and grandma always told you, wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and have a healthy diet.

See, it all comes back to eating well. You wouldn't put crappy gas into your car, so don't do the same to yourself. So today let's eat well. Let's have some fish, after all it's brain food and if you're sick missing work or school you'll need all the brain help you can get. Sole with Orange Brown Butter is a little messy but very tasty. Don't worry about the butter, just spoon some onto the fish. Enjoy...

Sole with Orange Brown Butter
adapted by Crabby from epicurious.com

1 pound sole filets (catfish and tilapia are great substitutes)
Salt & Pepper
1 cup flour for dusting
3 TBSP cooking oil
8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium shallot minced
1/4 cup orange juice
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.

Place flour onto a large dinner plate.

Season the filets with salt and pepper.

Heat half of the oil over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating dredge the fish in the flour. Shake off any excess flour. Gently place the fish into the hot oil and saute on the first side for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Gently flip the fish and saute for 1 to 2 minutes or until just done.

Transfer the fish to an oven safe platter and place in the warm oven.

Add the remaining oil and butter and cook over high heat until the butter starts to foam. Add the shallot and cook until golden brown and the butter has taken on a pale brown color, about 1 minute. Add the orange juice and cook an additional minute. Add the lemon juice, when the butter foams again remove the sauce from the heat. Adjust the seasoning.

Place a piece of fish on each plate and drizzle with the butter sauce. Serve immediately.

The messy part of this meal is the flour dredging. The tough part of the cooking is standing there and watching the butter brown. Fight the urge to turn down the heat, you want this to get perilously close to burning. You want that nutty buttery flavor on the fish.

OK crablings, cover your mouths while eating. Wash your hands and remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Braised Broccoli Rabe

Out with the bad air, in with the good.

Out with the bad air, in with the good.

Apparently some of you in Crab Nation feel I'm a little too bitter about these food contests. You think I take them too seriously and that I need to relax.

"It's just a cake", you write.

"It's only barbecue sauce, after all", says another.


Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser!

I'm not complaining about losing a fair fight. I'm complaining about the fix. I'm complaining about losing a BBQ Sauce contest where the winner had more votes than attendees. I'm complaining about SSSal and ConnecticutJane losing a cake baking contest to some pieces of PAPER!!!!

Beat me fair and square and I'm fine. Sock me in the chops, I'm OK with that, so long as I get to give you a shot in return. But set the rules and then pick a winner who doesn't play by them? That just really cracks my claws. Well, I've learned my lesson. No more contests for me. From now on it's cook, photograph, eat and write. You aren't going to have this crustacean to kick around anymore.

So in celebration of ridding myself of a potential source of bitterness, today I'm presenting one of the more bitter vegetables out there, Broccoli Rabe (aka Rapini). I've tried prepping this stuff many times and have never understood the attraction. I've read all these articles and cookbooks waxing poetic about Tuscan sunsets and the sweet bite of rapini, but I've never produced anything that left me desperate to go to Italy to try the original. This recipe is better than most, it uses pancetta or bacon as a flavoring agent and the braising liquid ends up quite tasty. So please enjoy...

Braised Broccoli Rabe
mostly from Emeril Lagasse

1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini)
2 TBSP olive oil
3 ounces chopped pancetta (substitute bacon if pancetta is unavailable)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken stock
Salt for the boiling water

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the broccoli rabe and blanch for 5 minutes. After boiling, drain and set aside the rabe.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the pancetta, saute for 4 - 5 minutes until lightly crispy.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for 2 minutes or until the garlic becomes fragrant. NOTE: Do not allow the garlic to burn, it will become bitter.

Add the rabe and the chicken stock to the pan. Mix to combine then partially cover the pan. Simmer the rabe for 5 - 7 minutes until it becomes tender.

Adjust seasoning. Serve with a spoonful of the cooking liquid.

OK, that's a very easy recipe. It's also perfect to make while your roast or grilled beast is resting.

Alrighty crablings, I'm leaving now, see you in a few days. Until then remember you can do it, you can cook.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What is A Cake?

Let's face it, I'm a bomb thrower. I like to rile things up. I like to poke the bear just to see how long it takes before he swats me. If you need rabble roused I'm your Crab.

Last weekend there was an edible book contest at a local stationary/kitchen store. It was part of an annual book festival and the rules said that entries should consist of cakes depicting the baker's favorite book. Well, after the Crabby-Q-Sauce debacle, Crabby doesn't roll with contests. But of course SSSal wanted to give it a try.

So early in the week SSSal and ConnecticutJane got together to brainstorm ideas. CTJane wanted to go for a classic approach while SSSal wanted to think of something a bit more contemporary. It was decided that they would have two entries. The first was a stack of three cookbooks topped by the Joy of Cooking in white cake and white icing.

Now this is a great idea until you suddenly realize that you have to recreate an 1100 page book using nothing but eggs, sugar, butter and flour. Enter technology. There is a local baking shop that has the ability to spray paint food coloring onto fondant. For those of you who don't bake or don't watch Cake Boss, fondant is a rollable, pliable icing that can be colored, molded and draped over cakes. It's that sickly layer of pure sugar that bakers use to form animals, leaves, brides and grooms and just about anything else they can think of.

So with the drawing of the cover solved it became an easy task to bake the cake and then drape the fondant cover over it. The contemporary cake however, was proving to be more of a challenge. SSSal struggled to come up with a creative idea. She knew she couldn't compete with the artistic bakers, so she needed a cake that caught the eye and the mind. She needed something "edgy". Enter CrabCake2.

In the space of a few seconds CC2 had the idea to end all bookstore-sponsored-edible-book-based-cake-contest ideas.

"Why not make a cake that looks like an Amazon Kindle?"

Huh? That's brilliant! It's futuristic. It's technologically savvy. It's controversial. It's edgy with a capital "E"!

OK, the Kindle it is, but what book on the screen? We turned to CC2 in unison, he paused, why Fahrenheit 451 of course. A book about burning books on a piece of technology that's eliminating the need for books. God, sometimes your kids make you so proud!

Batter, icing, food coloring sprayed fondant, black and gray candy tombstone buttons, a few hours work and SSSal was ready. The creation was entered with the title "What is A Book?".

Ann Arbor is a very liberal town; it's sometimes referred to as The People's Republic of Ann Arbor, but even liberals have their limits. Apparently taking a cake fashioned after an e-reader that threatens to put bookstores out of business is a bit of a faux pas. Well, if you ask me art is supposed to make people feel a little uncomfortable.

As we sat there in the background, we overheard a variety of comments. Mostly people fell into two categories, those that didn't know what a Kindle was and those who really liked the concept. SSSal didn't win any awards but as we were carrying her entry away a number of people came up and congratulated her on the idea.

The winner? Oddly enough the winner wasn't even a cake. It was a booklet with pages stained using fruit and vegetable juices on hand made paper produced by an employee of the store. Yeah, that's right, hand made paper from a store employee. Who would have guessed?

It doesn't matter. SSSal and CC2 made their cultural statement and we're just now finishing up the cake. As far as I'm concerned that's a win-win situation.

Back to cooking on the next post, until then remember, you can do it, you can cook.

P.S. Those of you interested in buying an Amazon Kindle please type Kindle into the Amazon search box on the left hand side of this page and hit Go. Crabby will receive a meager commission on your purchase and you'll be getting the latest and greatest in reading technology.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'm in full deluge mode: hip-waders, mask, snorkel, forklift. The garden is in its final run. Things are ripening at a frightening rate. I can actually hear the deck groaning under the weight of all the vegetables.

This time of year is a reminder that no good deed goes unpunished. I have so many bits of self-produced produce I'm running out of places to store it. I don't "do" canning. Canning is just putting off the inevitable. If I'm not going to eat the stuff now, I'm certainly not going to eat it in February. No, there will be no exploding jars in the Crabby household. We grow now, we eat now.

This time of year that leads me down a path perilously close to vegetarianism. I'm constantly on the look out for recipes that consume huge amounts of vegetables. The family is getting sick of fresh pasta sauce and after 8 loaves, no one in their right minds wants to look at another zucchini bread.

The one consolation is that I know that it's not too long before the oven's going to be cranking out all sorts of roast beasties. So fatten up my ovine, bovine, porcine and avian friends, Crabby's going carnivorous very, very soon. But not today.

Today's recipe is Gazpacho. Gazpacho is one of those recipes that seems to have a million variations. I interpret that to mean, no matter what you do, you can't screw up. I prefer a smoother texture, so I run most of the tomatoes through a food mill but I leave the other vegetables bite size. It's a nice combination of textures and it plows through a heck of a lot of produce, so please enjoy...

adapted and adjusted by Crabby from a number of different recipes

Necessary Equipment: A Food Mill

3 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and minced
1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped to small dice
1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped to small dice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Optional Garnish/Serving Ingredients

5 large basil leaves in chiffonade
Sour Cream
Ripe Avocado slices

Choose 1 pound of the largest tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water boils, immerse the 1 pound of tomatoes and return to a boil. As soon as the skin on the tomatoes splits, remove them from the water and allow to cool on a small plate. Optionally, if you don't own a food mill, you can prep all the tomatoes this way, though it is much more time consuming and messy.

After they have cooled for five minutes and working over a large bowl, carefully pick up the tomatoes and remove the skins by hand. Transfer the tomatoes to a cutting board and roughly chop the flesh, removing any seeds.

Transfer the chopped tomatoes and any collected juices to the large glass bowl.

Quarter the remaining tomatoes. Working in batches over the glass bowl, pass the quartered tomatoes through a food mill, capturing the meat and juices. Discard the residual skins and seeds caught by the food mill.

After processing the tomatoes add the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate the soup and allow it to sit for at least 2 hours. The flavors will mesh over time. Adjust seasoning just prior to serving.

How about that! Now I'm not going to lie; I have a hand crank food mill and this soup can be a messy workout, but the results are worth it.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Grilled Ginger-Garlic Pork

It's that time of year. You get up in the morning and you're freezing. You put on jeans, a polo and a sweatshirt.

Then the problems start.

By 10:30 the skies are clear, there's no breeze, it's 80 degrees and you're schvitzing like an Airedale. It's shoulder season crablings. It's not summer, it's not autumn. It's both!

You can tell all the other people who keep roughly your schedule just by hanging out at a Starbucks around 1 PM. The early risers are wearing long everything - shirts, pants, socks. The late rising lay-abouts stroll in wearing shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. You don't need to ask who has a job and who doesn't: If you see knees, they're unemployed.

Well it's no different when it comes to cooking. This time of year I just can't decide what I want to make. I get up in the morning and that little bit of a chill has me thinking about cranking up the oven. Then the temp rises 30 degrees and I'm wondering how I'm gonna grill a pot roast? Today's recipe is one of those scrambling plays. Grilled Ginger-Garlic Pork has that vaguely Asian taste that I love so much. Augment it with Mustard Dipping Sauce and you have a nice little dinner, so drop the sweatshirt and enjoy...

Grilled Ginger-Garlic Pork
adapted from www.theotherwhitemeat.com (no, seriously)

4 boneless pork loin chops or pork cutlets


1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 TBSP chopped parsley
1 TBSP grated ginger
1/4 cup red wine
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Dipping Sauce

1 TBSP dry mustard
5 TBSP soy sauce
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 cup minced green onions for garnish (optional)

Place all the marinade ingredients into a large re-sealable bag. Zip closed and shake well to mix. Add the pork, reseal and refrigerate at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

Remove the pork from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Preheat your grill to medium-high.

When hot, grill the pork to desired doneness. Assuming a 1 inch thick chop, grill for 3 - 4 minutes per side. Set aside and loosely cover with a sheet of aluminum foil.

While the chops are resting, whisk together the dipping sauce ingredients in a medium bowl.

Slice the chops and drizzle with the dipping sauce and scatter with the minced green onions (optional).

There you go crablings. The first sorta, kinda fall-ish recipe in a while. Stay tuned, there'll be more coming.

Alrighty then, I'm outta here, until next time, remember you can do it you can cook.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cauliflower Salad with Roasted Red Pepper

The Farmer's Market in Ann Arbor is an embarrassment of riches. Other places we've lived you'd be lucky to have 3 or 4 lonely pick-up trucks selling the same tired vegetables to the same grumbling customers every week. But here in AA we have more producers-farmers-vendors than we know what to do with.

I've never been able to come up with an official count, but I'm guessing there are between 40 and 50 vendors selling their self-produced wares. We've got mom and pop types selling homemade jams and jellies. We've got family farms that have been producing and selling for decades. We've got Amish selling everything from pies and breads to vegetables and pork. We may even have a few Druids floating around selling mead, but I never visit the back reaches of the market, so I can't swear to that.

The other thing I notice is the changing colors. In June it's all green as the asparagus sweeps through. Blue and yellow take over as all the berries ripen and the corn grown sufficiently high. In August, from a distance the place looks like a giant collection of nuclear raspberries. Then you get up close and realize it's a sea of tomatoes.

Of course, to me the tomatoes are the first sign of fall. Like Robins in spring, tomatoes are Mother Nature's warning buzzer screaming "Enjoy it while you can; the harvest is just about over".

But today I'm not making anything tomato; today we're making another vegetable that's also a sure sign of impending winter. So what is today's harbinger of weather death? Cauliflower!!!

Wait, wait, don't run away. I know what you're thinking, "No way Crabs, I hate cauliflower". Well I hate it too, but of course SSSal loves it. So we've spent many years trying to come up with good recipes. This recipe is one we just discovered and while it won't turn you into a cauliflower advocate, at least you'll be able to choke it down without too much complaining. So, start thinking winter clothing while you enjoy...

Cauliflower Salad with Roasted Red Pepper
inspired by The Silver Spoon

1 large white cauliflower, cut into flowerets
juice of 1 lemon, strained
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
6 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar is acceptable), drained and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Pinch of Chili powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Oregano + more for garnish
Salt & Pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place the cauliflower florets into the boiling water and parboil for 6 - minutes, until just tender.

Drain well and set aside.

While the cauliflower is draining, mix together the lemon juice, lemon rind, olive oil, chopped red pepper, chopped garlic, chili powder and oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the cauliflower in a large serving bowl. Add the dressing and stir gently to coat. Allow the cauliflower to rest for 1 hour before serving. NOTE: Every 15 minutes or so, gently stir the cauliflower to redistribute the dressing.

This is a very easy recipe and will appeal to the cauliflower hater in most families, (read: Crabby). Prepare it for your next football tailgate.

I'm out crablings, until next time remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Caramelized Onions

"Ahhh, can everyone hear me? Can you understand me? Am I talking good?"

Ooh, ah well, no, you're not exactly "talking good". Speaking well perhaps, but not talking good.

For much of the past two weeks, CrabCake2 and I have been visiting colleges, attending information sessions and taking tours. He's still a year away from actually applying, but with so many choices out there we thought it would be a good idea to visit a few places and see if there was any particular type of school that caught his eye.

"Today's presentation will go over some of the perkquisits that are necessary for admission to MSMoo. If you pay attention to these perkquisits, your application to MSMoo won't go bad."

Ouch. Actually it's prerequisites and I'm sure if we pay attention to those prerequisites things won't go badly.

This is my second go-round on the magical mystery college campus tour. I was hoping that five years would have improved the process. I was misinformed.

"My name is Mary Loo Hoo and I work in the Admissions Office here at MSMoo. I graduated from here two years ago and I'm working in Admissions while I'm studying here to get my Masters Degree in Education."

Oh, God. It was at this point that I elbowed CrabCake2 in order to get him to stop giggling. Doesn't anyone form the Admissions Office come in and watch these presentations? Do they have any idea about the message and image they're sending?

OK, I understand I'm a bit of an English snob. I'm not anal-retentive about it; I don't get worked up if someone does or doesn't use a semi-colon properly. I'm more than happy to dangle the occasional participle. But come on, good versus well, adverbs ending in -ly, is that so much to ask? Especially of a Masters in Education candidate?

Sigh. At least CrabCake2 noticed the mistakes.

I'm getting old.

Well, let's try and spruce things up a bit. Sometimes my creativity disappears and I resort to sleight of hand. Today's recipe is one of those tricks. Caramelized Onions is one of those condiments that everyone oohs and aahs over. It gives just about any meal a certain sophistication that goes far beyond the work involved. So please enjoy...

Caramelized Onions
by Crabby

2 pounds sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBSP dark brown sugar
Salt & Pepper
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional)

Add the butter and olive oil to a large saute pan. Melt the butter over medium heat. As the foam begins to subside add the sliced onions. Season with salt and pepper, (about a 1/2 teaspoon of each). Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the brown sugar and stir to distribute. Continue cooking for 20 to 30 minutes, until the onions soften and turn a brown color.

For a little added zing add some balsamic vinegar during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Serve either warm or at room temperature.

OK, this recipe is something that can happen while you're doing other things in the kitchen. The result works with most any grilled meat, not to mention a nice spread for sandwiches.

OK crablings, I'm gone for today; more stories from the higher education front lines later. As always, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm Alive

Hi Crablings!

No, I haven't been abducted by aliens. I've been traveling a bit these last few days (week), but I'll be back tomorrow, September 3rd, with a recipe and a story. See you then!