October 30, 2007

Joe's Stone Crabs!!

Joe's Stone Crabs is a Miami Beach institution. Our trip there was a belated Father's Day gift, and according to my father, was worth the wait. We started with a key-lime martini!

A trip to Joe's usually requires a wait of at least an hour, but we planned for that, and arrived on a Sunday at 3:30 (which is when they start taking names for the 4:00 opening). At 4:00, a long list of names is called over a microphone, and each party begins streaming in to the dining room. A basket of assorted breads is immediately placed on each table.

A drink order is taken (we opted for the recommended white wine which was a Pinot Grigio, and very good). The waiter will tell you that the standard meal ordered at Joe's is large stone crab claws, hash browns and key lime pie for dessert. We stuck to that recommendation, but added a few extras. The baby field greens with Bleu Cheese dressing...

and the wedge salad with a spicy mustard dressing. Fabulous. The dressing was so spicy, it was on the edge of being too hot- but it was fantastic just like that.

Dad ordered an appetizer of Stuffy's which are baked Quahog clams. Fabulous also, I would order it myself next time. Fortunately, we are sharers, and got to try a bit of everything.

We also ordered fried asparagus, just for fun!

Onto the main event, we ordered the waiter-recommended orders of large stone crab claws, which come with a mustardy dipping sauce (melted butter upon request). Those are fried green tomatoes in the background, another must-have side dish!

Based on Joe's reputation for Peter Luger-like aged ribeye steaks, we also ordered one of those- rare! It was flawless, and came with a zippy accompanying sauce.

We took our time, savoring every bite of this meal. Each taste was better than the last. We shared claws, steak and side dishes. The claws were tender and sweet and very easy to pick out of the already-cracked shell. We ate...and ate...and ate. The atomosphere isn't bad here, considering how many tables are in each dining area. Our waiter was very attentive, even noticing one of us having difficulty cracking part of a claw! He stepped in and came to the rescue. Finally, our tables cleared of crumbs and shell debris, came a couple of slices of sheer heaven.

Joe's Original Homemade Key Lime Pie lived up to its reputation, and our second choice, chocolate pecan pie a la mode was a very close second.

A trip to Joe's Stone Crabs should be saved for a special occasion- as long as the occasion falls between Mid-October and Mother's Day. Joe's opens at the beginning of stone crab season and closes when the season ends. I highly recommend it - in fact, all sorts of special occasions are popping up into my head in a fury! Halloween, National Deviled Egg Day (Nov. 2nd), National Lemon Cupcake Day (Dec. 15th), I think I'd like to try to make it Joe's on all of them...and the eggs.

Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach

October 28, 2007

Ceviche with Shrimp, Tomatillos and Avocado Cream

This ceviche was my first attempt, so I wisely tried it when my kitty-mom was here visiting, as she knows about all things food! This was a fantastic first try. I tested it for you, and will tell you what I learned and what was good, and what I would change.

Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 4 limes
Juice of 1 orange (my recipe called for bitter orange but use regular!)
3 tomatillos (husk tomatoes) cut into very small cubes
1 pound frozen shrimp peeled (note: I threw them into boiling water for 2 minutes and then into ice just to get them going a LITTLE)

1 avocado
chili oil
extra virgin olive oil

Squeeze lemons, limes and oranges and mix their juice together in a bowl. Chop the shrimp into 1/2 inch pieces, and place in bowl. Cover with juice mixure. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours. Remove and add tomatillos, and put back in refrigerator for 2 more hours.

To make the avocado cream, we used large florida avocados, and needed to use only 1/2. If you are using regular sized avocados, you will need one whole fruit. Scoop out meat and place in a blender or food processor.

Blend well for a minute and then add a pinch or two of salt and add 1/4 cup cream. Squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice. Blend again, and taste. The consistency should be very creamy and light, so blend as long as you have to until that happens. Add more cream if you need to. I used a mini food processor and blended for probably 2 minutes all together. Taste- it will taste like avocado ambrosia!

In the bottom of a small chilled cups or glasses (I used martini glasses which sit in ice), put a few drops of olive oil and a few drops of chili oil, depending on how hot you want it. Drain ceviche and spoon on top, and spoon 2 teaspoons of avocado cream on top of that. It tasted best all mixed up together. I have tried other people's first ceviche attempts and none of them were anywhere near as good, so I was pretty proud of this! If you try it, good luck. The ingredients are simple, and just be sure to let it sit long enough in the refrigerator. The citrus will cook the shrimp the rest of the way, and all the other ingredients will blend. I'll be waiting to hear how you do...and the eggs.

October 25, 2007

Sydney Meers' Neo-Southern Pimento Cheese!

Sydney Meers is a friend of the family, and is the head chef and owner of Stove, located in Portsmouth, Virginia. When my dad and kitty-mom came to visit this week, they brought a recipe that was published in a Hampton Roads publication called Solutions Home. There was a great short article about Sydney and two recipes- Rockfish with Pan-Reduced Fresh Tomatoes and a Compound Shallot Herb Butter and the Pimento Cheese recipe.

Pimento Cheese:

2 cups grated white cheddar, aged for at least 10 months
2 cups grated yellow cheddar, aged 12-15 months
1 1/2 cups Hellman's Mayonnaise (Syd's favorite brand)
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup minced leeks, white only
2 each of yellow, red and green bell peppers, roasted and chopped, with juice
salt and pepper to taste

How to roast bell peppers in oven:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Core and seed the bell pepper and brush with olive oil, and place on a large-rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the skins are blistered and the peppers are soft. Peel off the skins (will be easy after they're roasted).

Mix all ingredients for the pimento cheese together and cover in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to let the cheese and flavors set. Meers is adamant it be served with homemade crackers, but it can also be spread over steak or fish. (We used Stacy's Plain Pita Chips, but plan on using it on steaks later this evening).

The pimento cheese was really different- after it sits, the taste of the roasted peppers and leeks really infuses the whole dish. The aged cheese makes this dish, it would never have the same savory taste if you used regular cheddar. My parents said that it tasted exactly like the one Syd makes himself, but the consistency was a little different, and suggested using 1 cup mayo instead of 1 1/2, which I will. I thought it was perfect, never having tasted Syd's. The only thing that was missing was the company of Sydney himself, but he was with us in spirit. My partner and I can't wait until February when we go to Portsmouth for a visit, and spend an evening eating at Stove...and the eggs.

October 21, 2007

Pasta, Garlic, Oil, Asparagus and Red Pepper

Saturday night was one of those nights - we looked through the pantry to see what caught our eye, and defrosted some thick pork loin chops. We decided on pasta, but without the red sauce. A quick search of the internet yielded hundreds of simple recipes, so I got an idea of the amount of oil and garlic to use, and went to work on my own version.
Blanch a handful of thin asparagus for 2 minutes by placing them in boiling water, and then draining and covering in ice water to prevent further cooking. Dry on paper towels. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil (for the pasta). I add a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil to the pasta water. In a saute pan, place 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and over medium or medium low, depending on your stove, add 5 minced garlic cloves. You don't want the garlic to brown too quickly, instead, you want it to infuse the oil with flavor.
When the garlic is just starting to turn brown, add a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes to taste. When your pasta water boils, add a box of thin spaghetti, and cook as directed. This recipe is better with dry pasta as opposed to fresh, because of the way the oil will coat the dry pasta. When the pasta is al dente, drain and return to pot. Add oil, garlic and pepper and stir. Add asparagus, and it's ready to eat.
Grilling the pork chops was a quick and easy way to get a fantastic result. Salt and pepper generously, and then put on a hot grill for 2 minutes per side, and turn the flame to low for 8 minutes. Easy! They looked and smelled so good, I thought I would slice them just for fun. The flavor of the grilled pork, along with the garlic and oil was so good, it was as though I had planned that all along. Take a peek in the pantry and the freezer and see what you can create. Sometimes those meals you throw together will be so good they'll surprise you...and the eggs.

October 19, 2007

Pastrama-nini! Jewish Soul Food with an Italian Twist.

Thanks to a pastrami-loving Romanian neighbor, we found a great deli! I stopped in to pick up some pastrami and ended up with 2 full bags of deliciousness: pastrami, corned beef, potato knishes, whitefish salad, sable, muenster cheese, rye bread and bagels. I could have kept ordering, but it was a zoo at the deli counter, and I wasn't quite up to competing with the throngs of other hungry people. That was the nice way of saying it- actually I think I would have been humiliated, ridiculed and possibly trampled if I had added anything else to my order. I was not only happy to escape with my bags full of food, but also happy that I made it to the car fully intact with no bloodshed or broken bones. It was a close call. Next time, I'll just call ahead.

We decided we wanted a grilled sandwich and then came the brainstorm of making a hot pastrami and corned beef on the panini press.

First we put some of each meat in pan and heated it on low until it was warmed through.

Next, we piled the warmed meat onto a slice of rye.

Covered with two nice slices of muenster cheese!

Spread on a little pad of softened butter on each side, and placed it on the hot panini press.
Three or four minutes later, it was toasted to perfection. The rye bread was crisped and the filling was warm and melt-in-your-mouth wonderful. I could eat this every day, but I think it's better to save for special occassions. My father and Kitty-Mom are going to be visiting next week, and since I know how much they'll love the food (they have tongue, dad!), we'll make this one of our stops. Don't worry, we should be okay as long as we call in our order ahead...and the eggs.

October 18, 2007

Spicy Peanut Chicken Kabobs

Our good old Weber kettle charcoal grill finally gave up on us. It just broke due to being outside in the South Florida elements. We did some research and decided on a new grill. It's different from any other grill we've had because it doesn't use charcoal or lava rocks or anything. It's marketed as a restaurant type grill, and you are supposed to cook on it by searing for 2 minutes a side and then turning the temp down to low to finish the food off. So far, it has worked like a charm.

For a quick meal popping with flavor, slice boneless, skinless chicken breasts into small-ish pieces and marinate in OTS (off-the-shelf) peanut sauce. If you have a good recipe for peanut sauce, make your own! It would probably be even better. Add your own heat- I added some chili oil, hot pepper flakes and some peanuts, too. I let it marinate for at least 1 hour. I also had zucchini and onion to use up, so I sliced that up and marinated it another container with the same sauce. Soak some wooden skewers, and in an hour, you're ready to fire up the grill.

I followed the instructions and seared on two sides for two minutes each. I then turned the heat down to low and let it cook for 8-10 minutes. After coming off the grill, and sitting for 5 minutes (lightly covered in foil), everything was done to perfection. The chicken was most yet cooked through, and the vegetables were just like we love 'em.

We had some brown rice with this- if you mixed everything together, it made a great rice bowl. You could use any side dish you like. If you don't have a grill, you could also do these in the oven, but you won't get that pyro instant gratification, or that extra yummy taste that the grill provides. Try it, you'll like it...and the eggs.

October 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jack Reed!

This young dapper gentleman turned 74 years young today! Jack Reed Moon is the smartest man he knows. He truly is one in a million, and we are sending him extra love and good wishes today. We wish that he and Marilyn were here so that we could all celebrate together. Instead, he spent the day in the hospital where Marilyn, his wife of nearly 50 years, is hospitalized. He ate taco pizza from the hospital cafeteria while she enjoyed a hot roast beef sandwich (or so they say). We'll make sure he gets an appropriate birthday feast as soon as we see him. We love you and love to Marilyn. Happy Birthday.

October 11, 2007

Cabbage Rolls and Mashed Potatoes!

Making cabbage rolls is a simple process, yet takes a certain measure of patience. It takes a little time, but the result is worthwhile. Since they are even better after they're frozen, you'll have cabbage rolls for the next time you crave them.

1 large head of cabbage (or two small)
1 cup of cooked rice (I used white)
3 pounds of ground beef (not too lean)
2 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
salt and pepper
2 large cans of tomato sauce, plus an extra can in case you need it
A few slices of bacon

Core the cabbage and put it in a few inches of rapidly boiling water (covered) until the outer leaves begin to become loose enough to peel off with tongs. I peel and remove the leaves as they loosen and recover the pot to keep it boiling, and repeat as additional leaves loosen. Finally I had a stack of cabbage leaves like this:

Put ground beef in a bowl and mix in butter, eggs, cooked rice, salt and pepper.

When you have a stack of cabbage leaves, you are ready to roll (pun intended). With scissors, clip off harder white part of cabbage leaf where the stem was. Place a spoonfull of the meat mixture in the center of the leaf.

Roll top down bottom up and then sides in, so that the cabbage leaf envelopes the meat inside. Repeat until you are out of meat or cabbage. Put what you have in a casserole dish (or two). If you have extra meat mixture, you can save it for meatballs! :)

Cover generously with tomato sauce and then a few strips of bacon. Use a spatula to ensure tomato sauce seeps between and under cabbage rolls. Place in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 1/2 an hour, and then turn oven down to 250 degrees for 1 1/2 or 2 additional hours.

They're done when they are all warm and bubbly, and the bacon is cooked. They will have absorbed some of the sauce- but they shouldn't be scorched on top.

Now they're ready for either eating or freezing for later. If you can wait to eat them, my advice is to freeze them because it really does enhance the flavors. We like mashed potatoes with this dinner, so I thought I would give a quick mashed potato refresher course! (With the advice of Jack, the mashed potato guru).

Peel baking potatoes (I used 6 large) and cut into chunks. Put in pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.

Test after 25 minutes or so. They're done when a fork will easily pierce them, meeting no resistance. Drain and put back in pot. Mash them for a few minutes with a hand masher, until there are no large chunks. Add a few tablespoons of butter and mash again. Add milk- only a little to start, and keep mashing. Add milk until you reach your desired consistency.

There you have it- mashed potatoes.

By dinnertime, we were more than ready to eat, after having spent a few hours cooking! It was very good, if you read THIS post, you might be wondering how my cabbage rolls compared. While they really were good, they just weren't the same, something was a little off. It's easy to copy a recipe, but it's not possible to recreate a scene and a mood, there's no subsititute for sitting around a dinner table with family. I froze a large batch, and look forward to Jack and Marilyn's visit so we can enjoy them together...and the eggs.

October 9, 2007

Pork, Sauerkraut and Dumplings: TLMM's Guest Blog!

Introducing my partner! I'll call her "The Lovely Miss Moon" (thanks for the nic, Sparki). She enters the world of blogging with this guest entry!

I love to cook, but haven't had the chance lately since Jennifer has become quite the chef. Besides, it gives me more time to work in the yard - Jenn's "people were not farmers". On Sunday, I returned to the kitchen for one of my family's favorites .... PORK, SAUERKRAUT and DUMPLINGS (it's not just for New Years anymore.)

Pork and Sauerkraut:

I start with a 3 lb pork loin (or roast, thick chops etc...) - plug it with some chopped garlic. In a large roasting pan, add 3 packages of sauerkraut (or 3 large cans), 1 chopped onion, 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of plain apple sauce, salt, pepper and stir so that salt, pepper, onions and apple sauce are evenly distributed.

Add the pork loin so that it's sitting on top of the kraut mixture - make sure to spoon some of the mixture over the pork. Depending on the type of kraut you use - you may need to add some water to help with the moisture content. Top off the pork and sauerkraut with strips of bacon and the roaster lid.

Put in oven at 350 for 1 1/2 hours. Reduce heat to 275 for 2 1/2 more hours. Add bratwurst and knockwurst to roaster with 1 1/2 hours remaining. You will want to check every half hour to make sure you have enough liquid. You may need to add water along the way so that it is not too dry. Once complete - scoop out the reserve juices for the dumplings.


The dumplings are as simple as it gets. Bisquick and water-but they are the best. I usually make 1 1/2 times the recipe - yields about 17-20 dumplings. (3 cups Bisquick and 1 cup milk).

Put the reserve kraut juices in stock pan (6.5 qt.) - add additional water so that there are 4-5 inches of water/kraut juices. Bring to rapid boil - drop tablespoons of mixture into boiling water/juices until the dumplings cover the the liquid. This photo is after they have been boiling for almost 10 minutes- see how they expand.

Do not overcrowd as this will result in "SAD" dumplings. Not sure where the term ''sad" originated in connection with dumplings - but I do know that my grandmother and mother used it quite a bit during our PORK, SAUERKRAUT AND DUMPLING Sundays. Basically a "sad" dumpling looks okay on the outside - but has a tendency to be hard and doughy on the inside - not light and fluffy as they should be. Once the dumplings are added, reduce heat to a simmer (medium low) for 10 minutes uncovered; then cover stock pot with lid for an additional 10 minutes. Dumplings should be light and fluffy - not SAD. You should have additional dumpling mixture so repeat the process using the same liquid starting with a rapid boil.

So that's my guest blog entry … it's easy, oh so good and not just for New Year's Day. Now ... back to the yard.