Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Soft Shell Crabs and Rutabega Hash

The month of August has been busy (to say the least). The return of "Doug" has caused a lot of excitement:

 But I have been able to cook a few things including soft shell crabs:
The ones I bought came individually wrapped in cellophane.
The eyes were clipped off and they were mostly gutted. I took the think top shell off and made sure most of the guts were removed.
Prior to frying, I coated them in pancake mix (Bisquick). While they fry, you have to be careful for popping since the claws have a lot of water in them.
Frying away!
Gratuitous Close-up!

Ready-to eat!

I ate them on top of a ciabatta roll with a little bit of ketchup and a side of rutabaga hash. To make the hash, I shredded the rutabaga using my Kitchenaid mixer attachment, and cooked it in a little oil with lots of Old Bay seasoning. I think it might be my new favorite type of hash.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mini Cheesecakes

I photocopied this recipe from a magazine advertisement for Philadelphia cream cheese probably 7 years ago. I somehow forgot about how delicious these little cheesecakes are. This recipe is super easy and open for modifications.

12 Vanilla Wafers OR Mini-Gingersnaps OR Oreo Cookies
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

• Line a muffin tin with foil liners
• Place one cookie of your choice in each liner
• Mix cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar on medium speed until blended
• Add eggs, and mix well
• Pour batter over each cookie, filling ¾ full
• Bake for 25 minutes in a 325-degree oven
• Remove from pan when cool, and chill
• Top with fruit, chocolate sauce, caramel or anything sinful

There is an Oreo cookie at the bottom of each of these...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Greek Quinoa Salad

I looked around online for a Greek quinoa salad recipe that would be good, and I didn't find just one that I liked. My version is a combination of multiple recipes, and I can't remember exactly which ones I looked at.

To make my version, I combined a cup of cooked quinoa, a tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, olives, half of a scallion, and a small green pepper in a bowl. I then made a dressing using around 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, a chiffonade of mint leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil to combine. I realized after, the dressing needed oregano. This turned out to be a delightful and refreshing salad.

Ready to be mixed!
Ready to eat!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tomato Tart

Since I have lots of tomatoes coming from the garden, I have been on the hunt for new and interesting tomato recipes. I decided I wanted to make a tomato pie, but many of the recipes would have been too much for me to eat without help. Some of the recipes seemed too rich--Paula Dean's recipe called for 1 cup of mayo, which didn't really sound appealing. I have nothing against mayo, but right now in the midst of summer with my air conditioner broken--not so much. So I came up with this recipe, which still required me to turn on my oven, but it didn't require the mayo.

Tomato Tart
Recipe for 1 9-inch pie crust (Cut this recipe in half.)
Recipe for Pesto (Cut this recipe in half unless you really like pesto or want leftovers)
3-4 medium tomatoes
1 cup shredded mozzarella or a combination of Italian cheeses
1 medium onion

Begin by slicing and caramelizing the onion. If you have never caramelized onions before, take a look at this tutorial. As the onions are caramelizing, slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Place them on a cooling rack that is placed over a baking sheet. Lightly salt the tomatoes. This will get out some of the excess moisture. Next prepare the pesto according to the recipe linked above. Next, prepare the pie crust according to the directions linked above. Do not prick the crust with a fork. Roll out the crust and center it on a baking sheet. Spread the desired amount of pesto on the uncooked crust leaving 1 1/2-2 inches from the edge of the crust. Next, evenly sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the pesto. Then evenly spread the caramelized onions on top of the cheese. Top with the tomatoes, and do not overlap. Fold over the edges of the crust on top of the tomatoes. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until crust is golden, cheese is melted and bubbly, and tomatoes have cooked through.
The tomatoes draining, and the prepared crust with the pesto spread.

Ready to go in the oven!
Baked and ready to be devoured!
The money shot--these tomatoes were sinful once baked.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Instant Grill Food Adventure

Last weekend, the motor and blower wheel to the air conditioner died, and I am still waiting for the parts to come in to be replaced. I have since had friends help me put in a window air conditioner to keep me cooled in the mean time. Since I didn't want to cook inside, and heat up the house, I decided to use an instant grill that my parents gave me for Christmas six years ago. They won it at a church auction. To get it going, I lit a match and caught the paper that surrounded the charcoal on fire:
Once the paper had burned away, the directions said to let the coals get hot for 15 minutes. Then I put a skillet steak I marinated briefly in A1 along with some foil wrapped potatoes on it to cook:
Super fancy set-up--I didn't have a table I thought would be fire proof to set it on, so on the cement slab it went.

Close-up. I don't know how this could be useful if you had to feed more than one person. I guess everyone would have to eat in shifts or one course at a time.
The grill did a fine job cooking my skillet steak which then became a hamburger. It needed more char, and it seemed like it steamed the meat more than anything, but I also didn't want to eat a charred hockey puck:

I underestimated the heat of the grill and left my potatoes on a bit too long:
The directions said the instant grill would stay hot for 90 minutes, and I definitely underestimated its potential. Now, I really want to experiment with a real grill...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Garden Update: August

The summer garden is still going--there have been a few casualites, but the tomatoes are still going crazy. I gave up trying to control the downey/powdery mildew on the cucumber plants, and one plant is pretty much done in:
RIP cucumber plant!
I also started a fall garden. I ordered seed from Burpee online:

These are the beginning of purple carrots (I will admit to giving into the novelty of purple carrots):

These are the beginnings of golden and red beets:

These are the beginnings of French green beans:

The tomato plants are still out of control:

And there are some strangely shaped tomatoes growing:

I had almost given up on the eggplant, but seeing a few flowers and after spraying for bugs (don't judge!), there is still hope for eggplant:

The bugs ate the leaves on the pepper plants too, but there are more flowers on the plants and lots of small green peppers coming along:

And then there was this bug carcass on the tree that was too interesting not to photograph:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


When I was describing to my fiance what gazpacho is, his response was, "Well isn't that just V8?" I couldn't come up with a good response, but well, I guess Gazpacho is like V8, but I don't think they put Sherry in V8. Here is how I make my gazpacho:

All measurements are approximate. Definitely taste as you blend:
2-3 medium tomoatoes
1 medium cucumber, seeds removed and peeled, or 1/2 of a seedless cucumber, peeled
1/4 of a large onion or one small shallot
1/2 medium green bell pepper
1 very small clove of garlic
1/4 cup Sherry Cooking Wine
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

To make, coarsely chop tomatoes, cucumber, and onion and add vegetables and sherry to blender. Turn blender on and add olive oil from the top. You may need more than 1/4 cup. Add salt and pepper at the end to taste. If you have a mesh strainer, strain the blended mixture to remove large chunks and skin.
Get ready to rumble!
My strainer is a bit too fine, and I gave up after taking this photo pushing the mixture through to make it smooth.

You can chill it before drinking it, but it tastes just fine if it isn't chilled.