Nightmarish triplets no doubt conceived by Food Networkpesto, quiche, then crab cakes.

CRAB CAKES WITH CITRUS BEURRE NANTAIS

2 lbs high quality crabmeat (Maryland, Peekytoe, Dungeness)

2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small to medium red onion, peeled and finely diced
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
1-2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely diced

2 large eggs
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
3 T Dijon mustard
1/4 C crème fraîche or sour cream
2+ T all purpose flour, sifted
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil

Place the crabmeat in a strainer to remove any excess liquid. Allow to drain for several minutes, then transfer the crabmeat to a large bowl. Pick over the crabmeat to remove any bits of shell and cartilage, being careful not to break up the lumps of crab.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high and cook the onion, garlic and jalapeños until the onion is softened and translucent. Transfer to bowl, set aside, and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together first the eggs, then Worcestershire, paprika, cayenne, mustard, and crème fraîche until well combined. Then, stir in the cooled onion mixture. Add the crabmeat, and 2 tablespoons of the flour, gently fold to combine, and season with salt and pepper. If the mixture appears too wet, loose and liquid like, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. Refrigerate, covered for at least 2 hours, even overnight.

Divide the chilled crab mixture into 8 patties about 1/2-inch thick.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy nonstick pan over medium high heat and sauté the cakes until crusty and lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side.

CITRUS BEURRE NANTAIS

1 C dry Riesling, Vouvray, or Sancerre wine
2 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 T ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 C heavy whipping cream

1/2 T sugar
1/4 C fresh grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 C lime juice, freshly squeezed

12 T unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), chilled and cut into small cubes.
Sea salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

In a sauce pan, combine the wine, lemon juice, and ginger. Reduce until about approximately 3 tablespoons of liquid remains. Add the heavy cream and gently reduce by half.

Meanwhile, in a separate sauce pan, reduce the sugar, grapefruit juice, and lime juice together until thick and syrupy. Whisk into the reduced cream mixture.

With a wire whisk or an immersion blender, purée the “sauce” while slowly adding the butter a few cubes at a time until all of the butter is incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle over crab cakes.

Pesto is the quiche of the ’80s.
~Nora Ephron

I have no clue how this marvelous egg and cheese open faced custard pie which was such in the vogue in the 60’s fell so precipitously out of favor—even becoming homophobically contemptible—in just a matter of a couple of decades. It is much too savory to be ill treated.

Although widely considered a classic French dish, quiche actually originated in the German medieval kingdom of Lothringen which the French later occupied and named Lorraine, as in Alsace-Lorraine. (For more on this intriguing region, see Onion Tart (Tarte aux Oignons) 06.02.09.)

The word “quiche” originally derived from the German “Kuchen,” meaning cake. The German dialect spoken in the region altered “Kuchen” to “küche,” not to be confused with cooch, cooche, coochee or coochie. Over time, further linguisitic changes unrounded the ü and shifted the “ch” to “sh,” resulting in “kische,” which in standard French became spelled and pronounced “quiche.”

Authentic Quiche Lorraine is supposed to be cheeseless, but I cannot resist the temptation.

QUICHE LORRAINE

Savory pie dough (pâte brisée*)

2 T shallots, minced
2 T butter
8 strips bacon cut into 1/4″ lardons

1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
3-4 farm fresh large eggs, room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Nutmeg, grated

Optional: 1/4 C Gruyère or Compté, grated
1/4 C Emmental, grated

Preheat oven to 350 F

Prepare pâte brisée dough and after it has chilled, roll out to about 1/8″ thick. Place a 9″ pie or quiche dish on a baking sheet. Roll the pastry up on your rolling pin and then unroll and lay it into the dish. There should be plenty of dough overhanging the edges. Reserve a small piece of dough to fill any cracks that might open in the dough as it bakes.

Line the dough with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Place in oven to bake. After 30 minutes, remove the weights and parchment. Gently patch any cracks that may have formed with the reserved dough, and continue baking until the bottom of the crust is golden and cooked, about 15 more minutes. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Increase the oven temperaturee to 375 F

In a heavy medium skillet, sauté shallots over medium heat in butter until soft and translucent. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Sauté the bacon lardons over medium heat until crisp. Drain well on paper towels and combine with the shallots.

Combine and vigorously whisk together eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper until frothy. Strew the shallots and bacon evenly over the bottom of the shell. If you opt for cheese, sprinkle over the shallots and bacon, reserving 1-2 tablespoons. Pour the custard to within 1/4″ of the rim of the dish and top evenly with the reserved cheese.

Bake until puffy and brown, about 30-35 minutes.

Allow the quiche to cool to room temperature before serving.

*Pâte Brisée

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
6 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 T lard or shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 T ice water

Place all the ingredients except the water, in a large bowl. Add the water mash and work with your hands and fingers so that is assembled into a solid, smooth ball. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Mint-Basil Pesto

August 25, 2009

As for the garden of mint, the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits, as the taste stirs up our appetite for meat.
~Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD)

This is a little follow up from an earlier pesto post…a variation on a theme.

A perennial flowering herb, mint (genus Mentha) belongs to the family Lamiaceae. Decidedly aromatic, with bright zest on the front end and a cool finish, mint is a culinary one man band—used fresh, but also in sauces, teas, beverages, cocktails, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams.

In Greek mythology, Minthe was a beautiful naiad (river nymph) who was obsessively charmed by Hades, the stern ruler of the Underworld and husband of the goddess Persephone. Minthe and Hades succumbed to their carnal urges and engaged in an illicit—but far from discreet—affair. The spurned wife took revenge on her husband’s mistress by savagely kicking Minthe repeatedly, transforming her into a pungently sweet mint plant. With each blow from Persephone’s foot, the plant countered by releasing her delightful aroma.

A garden caveat: the root growth of mint is aggressive, vigorous and expansive. Left to its own devices, mint will spread quickly and become a Medusa-like nuisance, so consider planting the starters in a can or bucket first before introducing it to your garden.

A beloved summer aside, mint-basil pesto mates especially well with grilled lamb, chicken and fish.

MINT-BASIL PESTO

2 C fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 C fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
4 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 C pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted
Pinch of sea salt

1/4 C parmigiano-reggiano, grated
1/4 C pecorino-romano, grated

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the mint, basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process in pulses into a paste. Add the olive oil and process further until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the cheeses and add more oil if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Flatfish & Mussel Ceviche

August 24, 2009

A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
~William Shakespeare, (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 3)

A friend just returned from Peru where she visited the mystical pre-Columbian Inca site of Machu Picchu. Our mummy bag accompanied and warmed her at night on her life journey. Machu Picchu by osmosis. Her homecoming was a shameful reminder that, to date, only one ceviche recipe appears on the site (see Ceviche: Debated Ancestry 03.27.09). Time to remedy that oversight.

FLATFISH & MUSSEL CEVICHE

1 lb white skinless fish fillets, such as flounder or sole
1 lb fresh shelled mussels, cleaned and rinsed
1 C fresh lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 t salt
1 plump fresh garlic clove, peeled and finely diced
2 fresh serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

1 T chopped parsley
1 T chopped cilantro
1/4 C yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1/4 C red onion, peeled and finely diced

2 C corn kernels
1 lb sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled, and cut into 1/2″ slices, then half disks
1-2 avocadoes, halved, peeled and sliced

Chill bowls in the freezer.

Cut the fish fillets horizontally into 2″ x 1/4″ slices. Soak the fish and mussels in lime juice for at least 2 hours. Add the salt, garlic, and chili and refrigerate for another hour before serving.

Roast the sweet potatoes in the skin until a fork pierces the meat easily, about 45 minutes in a 375 F oven. Cool, then peel, and cut into 1/4″ slices, then half disks

Just before serving, fold in the parsley, cilantro, and onion and slice the avocadoes.

Divide and mound the ceviche in the center of each bowl. Surround with fanned sweet potato and avocadoes slices topped by corn. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta or Crostini?

August 23, 2009

If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.
~Robert Browning

These crusty morsels often lead to one of those nagging kitchen queries: what is the difference between bruschetta and crostini? And does it really matter? From what I can tell, it all comes down to loaf size—although some would argue even that is a distinction without a difference. Either way, both are grilled, toasted or sautéed bread slathered with olive oil and garlic and then clothed in savory toppings.

Brushcetta, from the Italian bruscare, which means “to roast over coals,” actually refers to the bread, not the condiments. They are relatively large, somewhat thick slices of bread (such as ciabatta or bâtard) which are grilled, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. Bruschetta are traditionally dressed with tomatoes and basil, though other toppings from meats, herbs, dried fruits, vegetables, and cheeses have been known to adorn them.

On the other hand, Crostini, meaning “little toasts” in Italian, tend to be thinner, smaller slices of bread (usually baguette size) that are toasted then graced with vegetables, meats, spreads, and cheeses.

Whatever the similarities or contrasts, much like pizzas and panini they both allow for free creative license with ingredients and assembly. All that hampers is your level of ingenuity. Above all, find a great bakery for your “fond.” The recipes below work equally well in bruschetta or crostini form.

BRUSCHETTA WITH TOMATOES AND GOAT CHEESE

3 or 4 ripe heirloom tomatoes, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 t balsamic vinegar
8 fresh basil leaves, cut in ribbons (chiffonade)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ciabatta loaf or bâtard
4 oz goat cheese

First choose your cooking method—barbeque grill, oven or sautéed on stovetop. Prepare grill to medium high heat or preheat oven to 450 or heat heavy skillet to medium high.

Combine chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and wine vinegar in a bowl and mix. Add the chopped basil, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir again.

Slice bread on a diagonal into 1″ thick slices. Brush each slice with olive oil. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down. Toast on top rack until the bread just begins to turn golden brown, about 4-5 minutes depending on your broiler. If using a charcoal grill, simply place oil bread slices directly on the grate and cook until golden brown as well. When finished, rub toasted or grilled bread with a sliced garlic clove.

Alternatively, heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high. Peel and crush 3 garlic cloves and place in pan; with a wooden spatula, rub the bottom of the pan thoroughly with the crushed garlic. Sauté the bread on both sides until golden brown. Because there is already garlic in the olive oil, do not add the minced garlic to the tomato mixture as is done with grilling or oven roasting.

Once cooked, spread each slice with a thin layer of goat cheese.

Align the bread on a serving platter, goat cheese side up. Either place the tomato topping in a bowl separately with a spoon for self serve, or place some topping on each slice of bread and serve immediately.

BRUSCHETTA WITH GOAT CHEESE, FIGS, PINE NUTS AND HONEY

1 ciabatta loaf or bâtard

4 oz goat cheese
1 C dried figs, chopped
1/2 C pine nuts, toasted
Honey to drizzle

Grill, bake or sauté bread as in prior recipe.

Spread with goat cheese, arrange figs and pine nuts on top and then drizzle with honey. Serve immediately.

A wide array of possibilities and combinations exist for both bruschetta and crostini besides those offered in the recipes above. Far from an exhaustive list, some more ideas follow.

Cheeses
Parmigiano-reggiano
Mozzarella
Gruyère
Fontina
Manchego
Gorgonzola
Feta

Vegetables/Greens/Fruit
Cappellini
Garbanzos
Olives
Capers
Avocado
Dried apricots
Figs
Currants
Roasted garlic
Roasted peppers, chilies
Tomatoes
Arugula

Herbs
Basil
Parsley
Cilantro
Tarragon
Oregano
Rosemary
Sage

Meats
Proscuitto
Serrano

Chicken livers

Spreads
Tapenade
Caponata
Hummus

Tomato relish

Nuts
Pistachios
Hazelnuts
Walnuts

When we lose twenty pounds… we may be losing the twenty best pounds we have. We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty.
~Woody Allen

For those who may have embarked on a fad diet recently, here are two sweet and sound incentives why not to. But, if you do remain tried and true, if you do carry through…once you are ready to regain your senses, avoid buying processed, jarred butterscotch or chocolate sauces. The real deals only take a few minutes and are well worth the brief wait. Over ice cream, fruit, bread pudding, pound cake, together or apart. It’s all good.

BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE

4 T unsalted butter
1 C packed dark brown sugar

3/4 C heavy whipping cream

1 T vanilla extract
1 t sea salt

Have ingredients mis en place and already measured.

In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, melt butter over low to medium heat. Just before butter is melted, add all dark brown sugar at once and stir well with wooden spoon until sugar is uniformly wet.

Stir infrequently until mixture transforms from sandy to smooth, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the cream, lower heat and whisk vigorously with a wire whisk. When mixture is uniform, turn heat back to medium and whisk every few minutes for about 10 minutes. Turn heat off and let rest for a minute or so and then before transferring into an ovenproof glass bowl. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk in half the salt and vanilla. Taste and, if necessary, add more salt and vanilla to taste.

CHOCOLATE SAUCE

3.5 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate (70%-85% cocoa), chopped
1 T light brown sugar

3/4 C heavy cream

In a bain marie over simmering water, combine the chopped chocolate and the brown sugar, allow the mixture to melt and dissolve, whisking occasionally. Slowly add the cream, whisking more until a velvety texture is created.

Thsufferin Thuccotath! You didn’t have to overdo it!
~Sylvester the Cat (Sandy Claws, 1954)

Lima beans were named for the capital of Peru, where this legume has been grown for some 7,500 years. Cultivation spread northward through the migration of indigenous tribes— probably through Central America and Mexico into the American Southwest, then eastward. Spanish explorers likely introduced dried beans to Europe, and the Portuguese took them to Africa.

These little beans are nutritional darlings, packing protein, fiber, iron, manganese, folate, thiamin, potassium coupled with a modest calorie count, little fat and no cholesterol.

A basic dish of corn and lima beans, Succotash is a word derived from the Narragansett word msíckquatash, roughly meaning “stew with corn” or “boiled corn kernels.” The Narragansett are a centuries old Native American tribe of the Algonquian language group who controlled the area west of Narragansett Bay in present day Rhode Island, and also portions of Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts.

In the Great Swamp Massacre (1675) during King Philip’s War, a band of marauding Puritans from Plymouth and Connecticut massacred a group of Narragansett (mostly women, children, and elderly men) living at an Indian winter camp. Following the massacre, many of the remaining Narragansett retreated deep into the forest and swamp lands in the area of what is now southern Rhode Island. Those who refused to be subjected to white colonial authority fled elsewhere or were hunted down and summarily executed. Some Narragansett were even auctioned into slavery to the Caribbean, while others escaped to upstate New York and Wisconsin.

Another proud native peoples absorbed, decimated, and nearly eradicated by white war, disease and expansion. Years later, these practices were termed Manifest Destiny. What a lofty notion— to the contrary, it was a rapacious marketing scheme of the darkest origins with euphemistic icing. Seems more synonymous with those ever divinely ordained concepts called genocide, ethnic cleansing or holy war.

SUCCOTASH WITH BACON AND TOMATOES

5 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 C fresh corn kernels
3 C fresh or frozen baby lima beans
3/4 C chicken broth
2 t fresh tarragon, chopped
2 C fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For fresh beans: place limas in just enough salted water to prevent sticking and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until almost tender. Check occasionally and add more water as needed.

For frozen: simply thaw.

Cook bacon in large heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons fat from skillet. Return skillet to medium heat. Add shallots and sauté 3 minutes. Stir in corn, lima beans, stock and fresh tarragon. Cook uncovered until lima beans are tender and most of stock evaporates, stirring often, about 5-6 minutes for fresh and 12-14 minutes for frozen.

Add bacon and tomatoes. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

SUCCOTASH WITH POBLANO AND CREAM

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 C fresh or frozen (thawed) baby lima beans
2 T unsalted butter
Grating of nutmeg
1/4 C heavy whipping cream

2 C fresh corn kernels

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high and sauté the onion, garlic and pepper until tender, about 5 minutes. Add lima beans, butter, nutmeg and cream, reduce heat and simmer and stir occasionally until tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the corn kernels to the pan and cook another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.