Archive for January, 2009

This recipe comes from my college pal, Wendy, in Michigan.  Here’s her take on this now famous crab, er, krab dip.

This recipe is from my friend Ellen. She got it from an ex- boyfriend. She lives by the rule that you should try to take at least one good thing from every relationship.

I’ve only tried it with Krab (yes, fellow foodies, that’s Krab with a “K”), but clearly lump crab meat can be used. However, the texture may actually be better because Krab is so firm/rubbery. Don’t think too much about it, just move on.

I’m having fun at the expense of poor Krab. In all honesty, this dip is so good that it was the first recipe I thought of when Amy emailed me about submitting a recipe. Serve it with tortilla chips or crackers.

Need further endorsement? OK, even my mom likes this dip, and she is the most sophisticated and adventurous cook I know (grows Meyer lemons to make her own marmalade, makes duck confit, etc). True, she may not have known she was eating Krab…

Hot Jalapeno Crab Dip

Made famous by Wendy’s friend’s ex-boyfriend

1 pound lump crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage (or use fake Krab legs, chopped up)
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped pickled jalapenos
1/4 Monterey jack cheese with jalapenos (grated)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Crackers or Tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together crab meat, garlic, jalapenos, Monterey Jack, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt and mayonnaise in a bowl.  Spread into a medium-sized shallow oven-safe baking dish.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly on the top of the crab meat mixture.  Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving with crackers or chips.

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I love chocolate.  Ok, it’s more than that.  I’m addicted to chocolate.  I have some kind of chocolate almost every night after dinner: chocolate chip cookies, chocolate-chocolate chip cookies, brownies, chocolate pudding.  You get the idea.

And I like gingerbread.  It’s a sweet little dessert…. or breakfast.  But the combination of chocolate and sweet spice has never been a favorite of mine.  It’s not that I’m a total purist about chocolate.  I’ll mix chocolate with coffee, cherries, almonds, coconut.  But that’s about it for me.

So I wondered and worried about this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe for chocolate gingerbread.  But you know?  It’s really quite good.  My first bite was all self-fulfilling prophecy.  Yeah, I thought so, the spice detracts from what I really want, pure and simple.  But then I took another bite, and another, and, well, you know how it goes.  The empty plate told the story.  ‘She likes it.  Hey, Mikey!’

I left mine in the oven for a full 40 minutes, in a dark pan, and I wish I’d pulled it out just a tiny bit earlier.  It wasn’t as moist as I would have liked.  Maybe next time I’ll take Dorie’s suggestion of adding rum-soaked raisins.  More moisture and alcohol.  What could be bad?

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This recipe originally appeared in a 1966 New York Times article by Craig Claiborne, and it’s just as good nearly a half-century later.  Not your typical pancake — it was originally meant for dessert — but I’ve had it for breakfast on many a Sunday morning.  It’s a cross between a pancake, a crepe, and a popover, and the batter of eggs, flour, milk and a pinch of nutmeg takes five minutes.  It comes together so quickly, I often have to wait for the oven to reach 425 degrees.  Bake for 15 minutes, and you’ll find this gorgeous pancake, dramatically puffed and golden at the edges.  Squirt some lemon or orange or whatever citrus-y thing you have on hand, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, slather with your favorite jam or marmalade, and devour with one lucky partner.  Technically this could serve four, but that’s not how it goes at our house.

David Eyre’s Pancake

2 eggs

½ cup flour

½ cup milk

Pinch of ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Fig or blackberry jam, pear butter or any kind of marmalade

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the flour, milk and nutmeg and lightly beat until blended but still slightly lumpy.

2. Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet with a heatproof handle over medium-high heat. When very hot but not brown, pour in the batter. Bake in the oven until the pancake is billowing on the edges and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

3. Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and, using a fine-meshed sieve, sprinkle with the sugar. Return to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve with jam, pear butter or marmalade. Serves 2 to 4.

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This week in Tuesdays with Dorie we were supposed to make Berry Surprise Cake.  For a couple of reasons, I hesitated on this one.  First, it calls for a pint and a half of fresh raspberries: a heavy investment this time of year with a high likelihood of bitter and shriveled berries.  Second, preliminary results from the baking front looked rough.  For most bakers, the genoise cake either rose like crazy then took a nosedive at the center, or never rose at all and hardened into a flat round.  I wanted to rise to the challenge, but, alas, it snowed last night — for the first time this year in North Carolina — and all the schools were closed.  So I had two little snow-crazed children running around the house all morning.  Time to improvise.

Inspired by Dorie’s “Playing Around” commentary alongside the recipe, I decided to poach a combination of dried fruits and top it with her cake’s cream cheese filling.  It was absolutely perfect for a cold, blustery snow day.  A sweet and spicy treat for me and the kids loved it, too.

Next week, chocolate gingerbread cake!

Poached fruit with Dorie’s topping

For the poached fruit:

8 ounces dried fruit of all kinds (I used apricots, cherries, cranberries, golden raisins, and prunes)
4 cups water
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. vanilla

For the topping

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar [I doubled the sugar, since her recipe isn’t particularly sweet.  Feel free to cut this in half.]
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. Bring to boil and stir until the brown sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until fruit softens, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Transfer fruit only to a bowl, using slotted spoon. Boil remaining liquid until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft, smooth and fluffy.  While beating, gradually add 1/4 cup of the cream, the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream is absorbed and the cheese is smooth.  Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.

Pour the remaining 1/3 cup cream into the bowl you beat the cream cheese in (there’s no need to wash it) and, using the whisk attachment or the hand mixer, whip the cream until it holds firm peaks.  Stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, then fold in the rest.

This can be served warm, room temperature or chilled.

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Mighty Mojito


This recipe comes from the greatest mojito-mixer alive.  Luckily for me, I get to drink these whenever I like, because the recipe is from my husband, Dave.

When summertime comes, there’s absolutely nothing that tastes better on a hot day than a cold Mojito.   Especially if consumed while tending a hot grill.

Our family likes them sweet and sparkling, and loaded with fresh mint.  (The great thing about mint — once you plant it, anywhere, it will take over.  No need to water!)  Such a perfect combination of flavors, the sour lime juice, fizzy club soda, and the mint.  Be careful, though — they’re delicious, but they’re also very strong!  This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. Makes 4-6 tall drinks.

Mighty Mojito

Made famous by Dave in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

For the “Mojito Nectar”
8 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice
8 ounces simple syrup*
8 ounces white rum

about 30 mint leaves
12 ounces club soda

Mix the lime juice, simple syrup, and white rum in a large bowl or pitcher.  Use a wooden spoon to lightly crush the mint leaves together, so they release as much flavor as possible.  This is your mojito nectar.

Divide the nectar equally into 4-6 tall glasses.  This is only half of the final beverage, so don’t overfill.

Add to each glass an equal amount of club soda, and stir gently to combine.  Then add ice cubes and serve.

Slice an extra mint leaf along its stem, or a lime round, and slide vertically onto the rim of the glass.

* To make simple syrup, bring 1 cup water to a boil, then slowly stir in 1 cup of sugar.  Gently stir until the liquid becomes clear and all the sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat and allow to cool.  Best to make the simple syrup ahead of time so you’re working with cold ingredients.  You may refrigerate the syrup for up to two weeks, so do as we do at home and double this part of the recipe.  That way you can have them again later in the week!

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I’ve reached the moment of truth.  For the last few days, I’ve been eating the savory corn and pepper muffins, and now they’re gone.  They were spicy, and I love spicy.  They had great corn flavor, and plenty of peppery goodness.  It was like having a little, pint-sized southwestern visitor in my kitchen, always ready to complement a bowl of soup or creamy macaroni and cheese.

It’s time for a confession.  I was cheating on the savory corn muffins, emotionally elsewhere in my thoughts.  What I really wanted?  My sticky sweet corn bread.  It’s time to do the right thing.  So here it is, my favorite corn bread recipe.  And boy is it ever sweet.  It’s like dessert.  For those of you who love the bacon grease and the screaming hot cast iron skillet, stay away.  This is not for you.  But if you love a tender, cake-like, moist corn bread, start baking this now.

I defy you to find one tastier than this.  And if you do, send me the recipe!

Honey-Glazed Corn Bread

This recipe is adapted from Sherry Yard’s recipe in Desserts by the Yard

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk

For the glaze:*
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon water

1.  Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil with pan spray.

2.  Sift together the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt 2 times.  Set aside.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs.  Melt the butter and immediately whisk into the eggs in a slow stream.  Whisk in the oil, milk, buttermilk.  Whisk in the dry ingredients just until combined.

4.  Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes.  Rotate pan from front to back and continue to bake for 10 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

5.  Make the glaze: While the corn bread is baking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the honey and water and whisk until blended.

6.  When the corn bread is done, brush with the glaze and allow to cool.

*This particular version is the one I’ve been making lately.  It’s identical to Sherry Yard’s recipe except for the glaze, which I’ve toned down considerably.  If you’re in the mood for a truly over-the-top, delicious corn bread worthy of a dessert plate, try her original glaze recipe.  It calls for 3 ounces unsalted butter (3/4 stick), 1/4 cup honey, and 1/3 cup water.  When the corn bread is done, remove from the oven and poke holes all over the bread, about 1/2 inch apart, with a toothpick.  Brush with glaze and allow to cool.  Try it both ways!

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I like this week’s challenge, chosen by Ezra Pound Cake, because I found my all-time favorite corn bread recipe just last month.  But the thing is, I love sweet, delicate, almost dessert-like corn bread.  Skillet corn bread cooked in bacon fat has many devotees, I know, but I haven’t found a recipe that’s a keeper.  The worst offenders taste dry and stale even at the very moment they emerge from the oven, and I don’t think corn bread should need to be slathered with tablespoons of butter just to keep it from gumming up on the roof of your mouth.  Not a great image, there.  But it makes the point.  And by the way, I’m all for slathering things with butter, lots and lots of butter, but as a way of adding more flavor, not masking dryness.

All of this is to say I was happy to try Dorie’s recipe for savory corn muffins because they looked like they could be light and tender, but not at all sweet.  They’re studded with bell pepper and jalapenos and there’s a hearty dose of chili powder to boot.  So perhaps they would allow me to cross off sweetness as a prerequisite for great corn bread and just stick with light and tender.  Well….?

Oh, yes.  These muffins knock the socks off all other savory corn bread recipes I’ve tried.  They’re delicate, the cornmeal gives them a lovely bite, and they’re just loaded with spicy flavor.  The zing was a bit much for my 3-year-old — after all, there’s an entire minced jalapeno in there — but they’re just right with a cold beer.

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Sunday gravy

My friend Michaela sends in this recipe that’s perfect for a big family gathering or any night you have Tony and Carmela over for dinner.

This is an adaptation of a recipe from The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite Buonopane. When I lived in Boston in 1997-98, we developed the habit of eating in the north end as often as we could – and definitely every time my parents visited. On one of those visits, my dad picked up this cookbook from a stand in Faneuil Hall, and it has turned out to be a winner.

Made famous by Michaela in southern Maine

Sunday Gravy

1 lb Italian sausage – mix of hot and sweet
2 lbs meatballs
2 or 3 lean spareribs [we sometimes use bone-in pork chops when the grocery store is out of spareribs]
1/4 c. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
7-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
pinch each of dried basil, red pepper flakes, mint
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 28-oz can tomato sauce
1 28-oz can water
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the meats of your choice in the oil in a large heavy saucepan. [Do this in batches if you have a lot.] When the meat is browned, transfer it to a platter. Add a bit of oil to the pan juices; when hot, saute the onion, garlic and seasonings until the onion is transparent.
Stir in the tomato paste and blend well. Add the tomatoes and sauce, and stir until blended with the tomato paste and oil mixture. Stir in an extra pinch of the seasonings. Add water, using the 28-oz can from the tomatoes. Keep adding water until the sauce remains the thickness you desire; we usually use the whole can.
Let the sauce come to a full boil; add salt and pepper to taste, along with an additional pinch of the herbs. Return the meat to the pan. Then simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for at least an hour, or until all the meat is fully cooked. [We save the meatballs until the end; otherwise they’ll fall apart in the sauce.] Stir gently every 15 minutes or so, using a large wooden spoon.
Serve with pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. The sauce also freezes well, which is good, because this recipe makes a ton.

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I’ve decided to join forces with the folks who are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours. The first recipe in 2009 was chosen by none other than Dorie Greenspan herself.  It’s a French Pear Tart.  Not only does this recipe look delicious, but it should be a beautiful thing to behold (if I can do it justice…. if my 3-year-old doesn’t poke her finger into it…. if I can remember to take pictures before devouring it….).

Sadly, I have a mild cold, and while it didn’t stop me from making the tart, it has impaired my ability to taste it.  I can say it’s very delicate, subtle, and my husband loved it.  The pear flavor was a bit faint, but this really must be the virus talking.  The almond cream is delicious, crackly on the outside and velvety smooth on the inside.  You can click on the images below for a better view of how it turned out.  Pretty, no?

This was my first Tuesdays with Dorie event and I’m definitely looking forward to more cooking adventures with this group.  And, of course, here’s the recipe!

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Here’s Vicky’s second recipe.

Mushroom spaghetti

When I want comfort food, this recipe is often the choice.  The key to this Northern Italianesque dish is to cook the onions ‘til they’re thoroughly done and sweet, but not brown.  I never knew onions could be so sweet.  In fact, sometimes I’ve made this without the mushrooms altogether.  Feel free to go light on the nutmeg to savor the onion flavor even more.

Made famous by Lorraine Shaiman, Seattle, Washington.
Serves 6

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 pounds mushrooms
Salt & pepper
Freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound spaghetti or linguine

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy skillet. Sauté onions, stirring frequently, over medium heat, 5 minutes or until golden. Lower the heat to lowest possible. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. The onions must be very soft, but not browned.

While the onions are cooking, wash and drain the mushrooms. Cut off the tip of the stem and slice the mushrooms thinly lengthwise, including the stem. Heat the remaining butter in another skillet. Sauté the mushrooms in it, stirring frequently over medium heat until soft. Add the mushrooms to the onions. Season with salt & pepper to taste and stir in the nutmeg. Mix well. Keep the sauce hot over lowest possible heat, while the spaghetti is cooking.

Five minutes before serving, add the cream to the sauce. Stir well and heat through. Do not boil or the sauce will curdle. Drain the spaghetti and place in a serving dish. Pour the sauce over the spaghetti; toss thoroughly. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.

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