Sunday, July 14, 2013

A New Twist On A Family Classic Crab Cake

My favorite recipe for crab cakes
Crab cakes remind me of  New Orleans (one of my favorite places to visit and dine) probably because that is where I had them for the first time at Emeril Lagasse's restaurant. Since then I have been making crab cakes for about 20 years.  The recipe that I fell in love with was one that I had cut out from
Bon Appetite magazine years ago and rubber cemented it onto a 3 by 5 index card.  That is actually how I did it back then. Before that I used to type the recipe out on the card. Yes, I actually did this. I had a whole recipe box filled with index cards, some typed and some with the recipes glued on to them. Through the years some of the recipes fell off the cards, some I weeded out and others remained treasured, like my recipe for crab cakes. I never gave it a thought to ever change this recipe. The recipe is so good that my husband always comments on how mine are better than ones we have had in restaurants. He will testify that there isn't enough crab, or they are mushy, or the dipping sauce isn't as good as the basil mayonnaise that accompanies mine. But last night it occurred to me to maybe make a change.  I think my little garden may have influenced the thought.  The crab cakes I have eaten in restaurants have always been traditional in flavor and served with a remoulade sauce.  Since I've been growing jalapenos, and was thinking of what to with them, it occurred to me that I have never had a crab cake with Mexican flavors. So here is my take on my family famous classic crab cake.

For the avocado mayonnaise:
1 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1 medium size ripe avocado, cut in cubes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Lime juice to taste
12 basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

For the crab cakes:  (Makes 6 large crab cakes or 12 appetizer size)
4 cans lump crab
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley
1/3 cup panko crumbs to be mixed in with the crab cakes
1/3 to 1/2 cup avocado mayonnaise
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
Panko crumbs for coating outside of crab cakes
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

Make the avocado mayonnaise first.  Combine all the ingredients in a small food processor and mix well. Adjust seasonings to your liking. Set aside and refrigerate.

For the crab cakes, saute shallot and jalapeno pepper in olive oil over medium high heat until onion is translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Let cool before combining with crab meat.  Add 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, combine well. Add avocado mayonnaise. Add cilantro or parsley.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.  In three separate shallow dishes, place flour in one, mixed eggs in another, and flour in the third dish.  Season each with a little salt and pepper. Form crab cakes one at a time, dredge in flour tapping excess off, dip both sides in egg, then coat with panko crumbs. Set on parchment or wax paper.  At this point you can refrigerate them for a few hours before cooking them.

Heat skillet over medium high heat and working in batches, cook crab cakes on both side until golden brown.  Serve with avocado mayonnaise on the side.

*After Thought Note - You could also saute finely chopped red pepper with the shallot and jalapeno pepper for added color.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bake This Now!

When I saw this recipe in Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark, I had no intentions of changing the recipe. When I check a cookbook out from the library I go through all recipes and I put a small slip of paper in between the pages to mark the recipes that interest me. Sometimes I make the recipes right away and other times I just make a copy of it and file it away for when I'm ready to try it. Kind of "old school", huh? Sometimes I mark so many pages that I might as well just buy the book, and sometimes I do. When I came upon this recipe for Coconut Fudge Brownies I knew had to try it right away. We were going to my parents house for a party and I wanted to bring something. Since most of my family loves coconut this was the perfect time to try the recipe out. I needed a couple of the ingredients, so I went to the store to get what I needed, which was coconut oil and chocolate chips. Coconut oil isn't cheap! I didn't want to buy a jar at $6.00 for one recipe. I haven't cooked with coconut oil before and I wasn't sure when the next time I would need it. As for the chocolate chips, the recipe called for bittersweet chocolate, but I accidentally bought semi-sweet. Oops. Oh well, I'll make this work. I ended up reducing the sugar to compensate for the sweeter chips and I used canola oil instead of the coconut oil. The results were so good my little great nephew, who is 4, asked if he could take home an extra piece for later.  I managed to save a couple of squares for myself to take home too.

Coconut Fudge Brownies (Adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark

1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking pan.  Whisk cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth.  Add unsweetened chocolate and mix well until chocolate has melted.  Stir in melted butter and canola oil.  The mixture will looked curdled, but this is OK.  Add eggs, egg yolks and vanilla and combine together well.  Mix in sugar, then flour, salt and stir in the semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Add half the batter to the prepared pan, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut.  Add remaining batter on top, smooth out, and add the other half of coconut to the top.  Original instructions said to bake for 35 minutes.  I baked mine at 32 minutes. If coconut gets too toasty for your liking, while it is cooking, just put a piece of tin foil over the top. You don't want to over cook these brownies.  They may seem wet in the center if you test with a toothpick, but the brownie will become dense as they cool down.  Cut brownies after they are completely cool.  Enjoy! M :)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When Your Garden Gives You Zucchini, You Make Zucchini Bread!

Back in the 80's I remember zucchini bread being really popular at our house. I think my mother's friend, Phyllis Mazur, turned her on to making it back in those days. My mother always made it in the summer because we would have a plethora of zucchinis from the vegetable garden my father and I had. It was amazing that we were able to keep any of our bounty with all the deer from the forest preserve that our backyard backed up to. But I remember my father reading somewhere that if you placed human hair in cheese cloth and tie it to the posts of the garden fence that this would keep the deer away. There was another tip that he read about and that was to place Coast or Irish Spring soap in cheese cloth and this would keep the deer away as well. So, we did both for good measure and I guess it worked. The small garden churned out so many zucchinis and the only thing my mom knew what to do with them was to make bread. It was either that, or give them to friends and neighbors.  By the end of summer you were so sick of zucchini bread that you needed the full year for your taste buds to regain the taste for it by the next summer.
So, I picked my first zucchini of the year and it was huge!  I had missed it while it was growing, since my garden is jammed packed with plants, that I just didn't see it. Naturally my first reaction was, "I'm making zucchini bread with this beauty!" My version of zucchini bread uses less sugar and oil and there are a couple of surprise ingredients. The addition of honey and some lemon zest gives this a fresh take on an old recipe. I hope you will try it. M :)

Zucchini Bread with Honey and Lemon (makes two loaves)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups peeled, grates zucchini
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 cups flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two loaf pans.
  2. Beat eggs in large bowl. Add oil, zucchini sugar and honey. Combine well.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients first, then add to bowl, mixing well. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and orange juice. Combine well.
  4. Divide batter among two loaf pans. Bake side by side for 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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