Saturday, September 30, 2006

Walking Starbucks

My husband is the sweetest thing! He makes me coffee every morning. I have black coffee most of the time and he's an espresso drinker. On the weekends I usually ask for the house specials. It's when he makes flavored lattes or cappuccinos.

It was raining this morning and the temperature went down to the 50's. My husband made me a nice hot cup of cappuccino the way I like - with cinnamon sprinkled on top - and took care of the baby so I could read the Washington Post and enjoy my cappuccino. Last year we bought a cappuccino-espresso maker, it was money well spent. We never had so much use of any other appliance in the house. The best of all is that I never had to use it, my husband is the "barista" in our household.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fall Foods

Fall is much more mellow than summer, it's all about comforting foods. You stop grilling and start braising. And your house starts smelling good, because you always have something in the oven. Although I love summery foods, fruits, salads, ice-cream and all the goodness of fresh produce, every year I look forward to the fall season. The days are just gorgeous, clear blue skies, sunny days, leaves changing color, and of course comfort foods.
I made a Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce with Garlic and Sage to kick-off the "fall foods cooking" in my house. It was on Wednesday night after a long day at work, so I used store bought four cheese ravioli. Not bad at all for a weeknight dinner.

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce with Garlic and Sage

1 large butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
6 fresh sage leaves, cut in thin strips
1 cup chicken broth (or 1 cup of the pasta water)
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Chopped walnuts, for garnish

Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise to remove the seeds and strings. Peel the skin using a paring knife and cut the squash into small cubes.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degres F. Place the squash and garlic in a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with oil and sage. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until squash is very tender, about 40 minutes.

Puree the the roasted squash and garlic with half-and-half and chicken broth, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with potato gnocchi, cheese ravioli or fresh pasta. Top with grated cheese and chopped walnuts before serving.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Crab Cake

Crab Cake

8 oz lump crab meat
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tblsp water
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tblsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp chopped parsley
1 cup bread crumbs (preferably Japanese panko)

1 egg white, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the mayo, Old Bay, parsley, mustard and water until smooth. Add bread crumbs, egg white, and salt and pepper. Add the mayo mixture to the crab meat, combine carefully not to break up the lumps of crab meat. Form into four patties and pan-fry (using two tablespoons of vegetable oil), or broil the cakes until golden brown.

Labor Day Weekend

It’s Labor Day weekend. I finally had some time to catch up with reading and cooking. There was a piece on the Food section of the Washington Post talking about Crab Feasts. I live near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where the world famous blue crabs come from. I got very excited, thinking about going to the Fish Market on Maine Ave in Washington, DC to buy a bushel of blue crabs and steam them at home. I imagined a table covered with crabs, melted butter, old bay seasoning, cold beer, and friends and family sitting around and enjoying themselves. Well, turns out that everybody was too lazy to eat steamed crabs. First reaction I got from everybody I asked: “Do we have to break the shell of each one of them?” I couldn’t believe them. Then I decided on something easier to eat. I made Asian Salmon and Corn and Crab Chowder on Saturday, Steak and Potatoes on Sunday, and Crab Cakes on Monday.
The Corn and Crab Chowder is a big favorite of mine. It’s lighter than most chowders because it uses whole milk instead of heavy cream. The sautéed vegetables give it a healthier taste without losing the Comfort Food status.
This is a good recipe for a cold day, goes well with a glass of chardonnay.

Corn and Crab Chowder

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil,
2 tablespoons butter
2 all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning blend
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth
1 quart whole milk
3 cups corn kernels
8 ounces cooked lump crab meat

Heat a deep pot over moderate heat. Add oil and butter. Sautee chopped onion until lightly browned. Add potatoes, celery, and bay leaf to the pot. Season vegetables with salt and pepper and Old Bay seasoning. Sautee veggies 5 minutes, then sprinkle in flour. Cook flour 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and combine. Stir in milk and combine. Bring soup up to a bubble. Add corn and crab meat and simmer soup for 5 minutes. Adjust the soup seasonings. Remove bay leaf. Ladle soup into bread bowls or soup bowls and top with sliced scallions.

Asian Grilled Salmon

2 lbs Salmon, fillets or steaks

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit (wrapped in the fridge) for at least 10 minutes. Place the salmon skin side down on baking pan; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Bake for 20 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.