Sunday, August 30, 2009

Crab salad with avocado toast

OK, this is experiment II.
Actually, III, because over the weekend I returned to my roots and realized there is a reason people often put mayonnaise -- or in my case, Miracle Whip -- with crab, in potato salad, in chicken salad, in ham salad. It's good. Just don't overdo it, especially with crab, or you might as well be eating chicken salad.

In fact, I like this so much with Miracle Whip that I felt fine leaving out the bacon. Sort of. I also left out the Old Bay seasoning to go with a fresher approach.

So for this dish, which will also supply enough crab salad for my lunch tomorrow as long as it is in the fridge:

  • 4 slices of rustic whole wheat bread, or whatever you have. These would be the equivalent of 2 slices from a big loaf. Don't toast it until the last minute unless you like cold toast. Right.
  • 8 ounces of crab meat. I used pasteurized claw meat because it was less expensive and tastes great. Rinse in a sieve and pick through to make sure there are no shell pieces -- or live dangerously.
  • 1 large, ripe avocado or 2 little ones.
  • juice of 1/2 lemon or lime. Please don't use the stuff from the bottle.
  • about 1/5th of a red bell pepper, minced. Well, maybe that's just me. I don't want to get a bite that's mostly bell pepper. You could use green bell pepper, but I won't.
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 T Miracle Whip, approx.
  • salt, a few dashes
  • freshly ground black pepper, about four grinds, or whatever
  • dill weed
  • Smoked Spanish paprika (to replace the bacon; contributes a nice smoky flavor that isn't overpowering)
  • two dashes of cayenne pepper
  • a splash of soy sauce, maybe
  • lettuce or other greens, tomatoes for garnish
Chop the bell pepper and paprika and add salt and pepper. Rinse and check the crab meat and stir in. Add 1 T of the Miracle Whip (or mayo) and the other spices and herbs and TASTE it. Adjust seasonings, including MW, to taste. The crab meat is pasteurized and there's no raw egg in this, so tasting is the way to go. No double dipping, though, at least not if you are sharing.

Refrigerate the crab mixture. You could actually refrigerate it for a few hours, but here it's just while doing other things.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl. Cut the avocado in half. If it isn't completely ripe, the pit might be a little stubborn, but I still say it is safer to pry it out with a tablespoon, or even scoop out all the meat and scrape it off the pit. Dunk the avocado flesh into the lemon juice and smash it up with a fork until it is spreadable. You might want to add a teensy bit of salt.

Toast the bread. Spread the mashed avocado on the toast and top with the crab mixture. To me, the avocado means I don't need to butter the toast or put olive oil on it, but that's your call. The lettuce and tomato on the plate are mostly for garnish, but yeah, edible garnish.

Note: instead of the red bell pepper, you could add a little finely chopped radish, which would punch it up. Just remember to let the crab be the star!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Avocado Crab Salad

  • 1 avocado, ripe
  • 1/2 lemon to 1 whole lemon, depending on how tart you like things; if you have a lime sitting around, use it instead! You could probably use orange or tangerine juice -- anything acidic.
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive or other happy oil
  • 3 strips bacon, cooked (optional -- to you, maybe)
  • 1-2 handfuls of greens -- I had green leaf lettuce and spinach
  • one shallot or a couple of tablespoons of chopped red onion
  • Old Bay seasoning or a collection of spices of your choice, probably including salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder. I could also imagine going in a completely different direction with this and using various Asian spices. Or really simple with a little salt, pepper and dill.

Cook the bacon any way you like. Easiest is on two sheets of paper towel on a microwave-safe plate for 1 minute per slice. So, 3 minutes. Take it out right away and remove the bacon or it will stick to the paper towel. Trust me.

Rinse the crab and pick out any shell pieces, unless you really like your dentist.

Wash the lemon and roll it on the counter. Grate some of the rind (zest) or take some with a parer, or both, in either case making sure not to get the white pith, just the yellow part. Set aside.

Cut the lemon in half. If seeds are visible, poke them out with the tip of your knife, just because it saves trouble later. Squeeze at least half the lemon into a bowl. For this recipe, a cereal bowl will be the right size.

Cut the avocado in half and pull it open. You can probably just pull the pit out. If not, take an ordinary flatware tablespoon and pry it out. I've seen chefs on TV whack into the pit with a chef's knife to pull it out. Unnecessary, potentially dangerous, and probably does the knife no favors. Use the spoon to scoop all the flesh out of the avocado onto a cutting board and use any old knife to cut into one-inch cubes. Immediately dunk into the lemon juice to prevent browning.

Arrange greens on a plate. Place the avocado chunks on the greens, reserving the lemon juice.

Chop the shallot/onion if you haven't already. Add the Old Bay or whatever seasonings you've chosen. Add those, some grated lemon peel and some olive oil to the lemon juice and stir. Taste. If it is too acidic for you, add more oil or add some honey. I won't tell.

You can either crumble the bacon and add to this dressing, or just mix it with the crab, which is what I did. Or wait until last and use it as a garnish.

Drizzle some of the dressing over the avocado and mix the rest into the crab mixture and add to plate. Garnish with a little more lemon zest.

That's it. Especially with a piece or two of whole-wheat toast, this is a meal.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Braised Chicken with green beans and cous-cous

I love starting with whatever protein is on sale and whatever veggies look good, then coming up with something that tastes good.

This week, chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks, still attached) were on sale at my store for 49 cents a pound. That's a 1978 price. Had to buy the "family pack," so most are in the freezer. Here's what I did with one leg. The green beans looked good, and I could buy only as many as I wanted. Yay!

More philosophy. I love all those "30-minute" cooks, especially Rachel Ray, but when I come home from work, the last thing I want to do is spend another 30 minutes multitasking and rushing around the kitchen like a mad woman. So this is a recipe that takes 3 minutes upfront, rests for an hour, takes 5 more minutes, then goes in the oven for 45 minutes, then takes 5 minutes at the end. In between, I can do whatever I want, which is my kind of end-of-day multitasking. I'm really only working for 13 minutes.

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag. I only use them for cooking; otherwise I use re-usable containers. And you could. But a zip-top bag is good for this. One leg/thigh combo fits in a quart-size bag.
In a 2-cup measuring cup (because it has a pour spout), put 1 cup of apple juice, a couple of splashes (Tablespoons) of soy sauce, a couple of splashes of balsamic vinegar, a couple of splashes of sesame oil, a splash of canola or other oil, 2 tablespoons of garlic jam and a few drops of chili oil. (Or whatever marinade you come up with that has salt, sweet and flavor.)

Pour it into the bag. If you need more liquid, add water to which you have added salt, or add chicken stock. Mostly, just make sure there is liquid surrounding all the chicken.

Let sit in the fridge for an hour. Wisely, you will put the bag in a bowl or other container in case there is a spill. Watch your favorite TV show.

Hour's up.

Get out your cast-iron skillet or any oven-proof skillet, put in 2 Tablespoons of canola oil or other high-temp-tolerating oil and get it hot. Turn the oven on to 350.

Take the chicken out of the bag and dry it off. This is one of the few things I will use paper towels for. SAVE the marinade. (Good thing it is in a bowl, huh?)

Sear/brown the chicken on both sides. It will only take a couple of minutes on each side if the pan and oil are hot.

Once the chicken is nice and brown on both sides, pour the marinade into the skillet and add one chopped shallot, or some minced garlic. When it comes to a boil, cover and stick it all in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, take it out. Take the chicken out of the liquid. Put the skillet on a burner to return the liquid to a boil

Put water on to boil for the couscous, following the recipe on the box; it's usually about 1 cup of water to 3/4 cup of couscous.

While things are coming to a boil, wash and de-stem the green beans. Put them in the boiling broth from the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes.

When the water boils, add the couscous, put the lid on, turn the burner off and wait a minute. Fluff it with a fork and put some on a plate.

Add the chicken, cutting it off the bone if you wish.

Fish out the green beans using a slotted spoon.

Spoon some of the sauce over top.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pork tenderloin stir-fry

This time, with cabbage, onion, carrot, mushrooms and black sesame seeds (optional, but I happened to have them!)

Pork tenderloin is really great to stir fry. It comes out tasty and moist and, well, tender. Stir-fry can use just about any vegetables you have. I happened to have these. I posted a pork tenderloin stir fry with bok choy a while back, so check that out, too.

Ingredients -- approximate amounts, don't be too fussy -- to serve two really hungry people or even four people if you make rice, noodles or couscous. I skipped the extra carbs. What's on the plate is about one-third of the batch:

  • 1/2 pound pork tenderloin, cut into large bite size pieces (1-inch to 1-1/2 inch)
1/2 cup or so each:
  • shredded cabbage (I just took narrow slices with my chef's knife)
  • onion, cut in half, peeled and sliced
  • sliced mushrooms (I used creminis, aka baby portobellos)
  • carrot, "shaved" into ribbons using vegetable peeler
  • fresh ginger, peeled and chopped very fine, about 2 teaspoons. More if you really like the zing. (You might be able to use candied ginger, although that would add a sweetness that you might need to counter with something sour, like vinegar, but do not try to use the ground ginger in your spice cupboard. Different taste.) Be sure to mince this very fine, because fresh ginger is very potent, and you probably don't want to get a bite of food that has a whole slab of the stuff.
  • canola or other high-temp oil (peanut would work)
  • soy sauce
  • a couple of dashes of hot chili oil, if you have it. If you don't, pepper or cayenne pepper or pepper flakes. Of course, if you happen to have fresh hot peppers around and like them, sure
  • garlic, two cloves or as much or as little as you want, peeled and minced
  • sesame seeds, optional
  • any other Asian type seasonings you might like, from five-spice to curry. Probably not both!
Heat about 2T oil in your wok or large skillet, on high heat. Carefully add the pork and allow to brown a couple of minutes, stir/turn, let brown, repeat, until all sides are nice and brown and the pork has cooked for about 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan. The pork will keep cooking itself as you cook the veggies, never fear.

If needed, add a little more oil to the pan and put in the onions and mushrooms. Stir occasionally. In a few minutes, when they've softened a little bit and gotten some "golden" brown spots, either remove from the pan or scoot them to the side to make room for the cabbage, garlic, ginger and carrots. Let those soften/fry a couple of minute, stirring frequently. Add the sesame seeds, soy sauce and other flavorings. Stir the pork back in.

Dish it up. Grab a fork or a pair of sticks.

If I had been making rice, at this point I also would have added a little chicken or vegetable stock and some cornstarch to make a little sauce, so there would be something to give the rice some flavor and a reason to exist. But in this case, I didn't want extra sauce, just the little bit of naturally occurring sauce from the ingredients themselves.

You know, if I chopped up a bunch of different veggies on the weekend and had them ready to go in bags or bowls in the fridge, I could do a different stir-fry for dinner every night with no prep and little cleanup. Hmmm.


About Me

My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.