I can’t tell you how many times I made crab cakes while working at different restaurants. I am pretty sure even I don’t want to know. What I do know is many times they had lots of flavors sans one, crab and I often thought the cakes were more bread crumb than crab. So here is a quick, easy, and very crab tasting recipe that can be made any night of the week. This recipe makes a lot of cakes but realize you can make the cakes and freeze them in sets of 4 cakes or whatever works for you. Continue reading
Category Archives: Appetizers/Starters
No Recipe Greek Nachos
You don’t need a recipe. You can make these from scratch and it will take you less then 10 minutes. Of course that doesn’t include grocery time, I am making the assumption you did a little pre-planning. Although when I made this the other day it came out of leftovers, no planning required. (Don’t want to make the tzatziki, sub in ranch dressing and go for it.)
Pile good quality corn chips onto a plate. If you are making the ranch/tzatziki sauce scoop about 1/2 cup of mayonnaise into a bowl, just eyeball it don’t dirty a measuring cup. Add a splash of buttermilk, milk, or kefir and whisk it to make a smooth dressing. To thick, thin it out with another splash of liquid. Add a half a tablespoon of chopped dill. No dill, use dried oregano just make sure to let it sit and hydrate in the dressing for a few minutes. Again just put it into the palm of your hand, does it look like half a tablespoon? Toss it in, add salt, pepper and a little lemon juice if you want. Stir it again then set it aside until you get the rest of the ingredients together.
Slice some grape tomatoes in half, cut some olives, pit them if you have the fancy kind but pitted California black olives work fine. Chop some cucumbers, I like the baby kind but big ones work too. Any kind of cooked chopped-up ground meat works here. Don’t have any animal protein around, drain a can of chickpeas and rinse them.
Drizzle the chips with the tzatziki, top with everything else, add a bit of crumbled feta, a sprinkle of minced parsley and green onion, if your heart is in it, and serve.
Memphis Style Barbecue Nachos
Great barbecue is about the cut of meat, the smoke, the rub, and the sauce. But just because sauce is only one part of the equation, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be excellent. In fact, barbecue sauce should be so delicious that you can use it for much more than simply dipping or brushing. Continue reading
Three Bean Salad, Redux
Now that picnic season is upon us, I get nostalgic over classic summertime fare. There is nothing quite like a family reunion over fried chicken and a potluck dinner, tables threatening to buckle under the weight of all the CorningWare and Pyrex.
Of course, there are the old favorites: green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes, pea salad with bacon and mayonnaise, three bean salad, and most certainly a mustardy potato salad — and, if luck is with me, an old-fashioned custard pie sprinkled with a little nutmeg. I love all these foods — but this year, I want something new. Continue reading
The Best, 5-Minute Smoked Salmon Appetizer
Last summer, my mother asked me to make cupcakes for the June birthdays. We have several in June and, in order to make it easy, we celebrate them all at once. Nevertheless, I forgot to make the cupcakes and I was on my way to the party when I remembered. “Oops,” or as Vivian, my daughter who never misses an opportunity to repeat a cuss word, noted from the back seat, “Oops” was more like a cuss word or three. Continue reading
Taco Night on the Grill
I can’t get enough of taco night. Neither can my wife Amy or my daughters. We love it, and especially me, because I can do everything — with the exception of chopping with a knife or the food processor — on the grill. It makes for easy clean-up, and who isn’t for easy clean-up?
I cut my teeth on Tex-Mex in Austin, Texas circa 1984 (does Instagram have a filter for that?). At this point in my life I hadn’t eaten that much Mexican food. For the most part it didn’t exist in Indiana outside of Chi Chi’s and my inner punk rocker wouldn’t allow me to set foot inside any place that colorful or where the waitstaff could happily sing Happy Birthday table side.
Nevertheless, when I would slide into a booth at one of the many hole-in-the-wall eateries (many of them were Spanish-speaking only), I would order as many kinds of salsa as I could point to on the menu. I didn’t know this many kinds of salsa existed, or for that matter soft shell tacos, or the food love of my life, tamales.
As I ate my way around both sides of Highway 35, little did I realize I was becoming an addict, to Texas country music, chili, and to Austin itself. It was hard to come home, and once I was back in Indiana it didn’t take long before I began jonesing for Texas Hill Country, salsa included.
All About Grilled Salsa
The grill is a great way to make an old salsa recipe feel new.
I couldn’t even guess how many varieties of salsa there are in the world, but I do know I haven’t found one yet that can’t be made on the grill. I like a fresh raw salsa as much as the next person, but sometimes I like to shift the flavor and it is an easy thing to do on the grill.
Chile oils on your hands are not your friend.
Be careful with hot chile peppers. I used to go at them in the manly man way and just tough it out, but the night I rubbed my eyes after working with Thai birds I thought a different approach might be appropriate. If you choose to go with bare naked hands in handling them, just realize you will quickly find out just how many places on your body you actually touch and how many places are very sensitive to capsaicin oils.
Get in touch with your inner caveman or woman.
I used to put my peppers and tomatoes on the grill grate and then one day I just decided to plop them right on the coals. It sears them very quickly while leaving the interior raw — the best of both worlds. You can roast whole heads of garlic too, but they need to be left to the side of the coals so they cook and soften slowly or you will burn the cloves which makes them bitter.
Liquidy or dry, it all depends on your tomato variety.
A lot of fresh tomatoes have a high liquid content. If you use too many tomatoes, your salsa will be watery, which isn’t always a bad thing. If you want a thicker salsa, it is a good idea to use plum or San Marzano tomatoes.
The finishing touches matter.
To the finished salsa I always like to add a drizzle of olive oil for mouthfeel and a splash of acid, be it lime, red wine vinegar, or whatever. Make sure you season your salsa with salt and black pepper.
Corn tortillas or flour both can be warmed on the grill, and should be.
I prefer corn tortillas over flour and my preference for cooking corn tortillas is right on the grill. They puff up and blacken in spots and become yummo-licous. Just make sure after searing them to wrap them in foil so they stay soft and don’t dry out.
Choose your toppings accordingly.
Almost every person I have ever met who hails from Central America prefers green cabbage, sliced razor thin, to lettuce for their tacos. It gets even better when you dress the cabbage with a touch of red wine vinegar and olive oil. You probably won’t find a lot of sour cream or cheese on the table either. I tend to go for authentic Mexican but I like Tex-Mex too. If you want to go for healthy, grill up a bunch of vegetables to use for toppings and forgo the dairy altogether.
Makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups
Depending on the kind and size of tomatoes you use, this salsa can be liquidy or firm. You will have to judge. Roma tomatoes have little liquid and work well for a chunkier salsa.
- 1small head of garlic
- 3 or 4roma tomatoes
- 1 or 2heirloom variety tomatoes (Box Car Willies or Wisconsin 55 are good)
- 1poblano pepper or 3 jalapeños or your choice
- 3 to 4half-inch-thick slices of red onion, left intact
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Handful of cilantro
- Splash of red wine vinegar
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Fire up your charcoal grill. Let the coals get blazing hot.
- Wash the vegetables.
- Place the garlic off to the side of the coals where it will brown the paper skins but not burn the cloves. The garlic will take the longest to cook of everything. Let it get good and brown on all sides.
- Now place the tomatoes and peppers right on the coals. Let them blister and blacken. Remove them to a tray. Let the juices collect in the tray.
- Place the grill grate on the grill and grill the onions until they are caramelized and soft.
- If you plan to grill more stuff, like a nice skirt steak, you will probably need to add a few more coals to the fire. You be the judge.
- Peel the pepper, being carful not to spill or lose any pepper juices. I remove the seeds and, obviously, the stems. Put peeled peppers, tomatoes, onion, and peeled roasted garlic cloves into the bowl of a food processor. Add the tomato and pepper juices that collected in the bottom of the tray.
- Add a two-finger pinch of salt, some pepper, half the cilantro, the red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Pulse the processor until the salsa reaches your desired consistency. I like this particular salsa smoother than most but still chunky. Taste the salsa and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
- Pour into a serving bowl, garnish with cilantro, and serve
Thai Shrimp and Collard Wraps
This is possibly the simplest dish to make and yet it packs in all the sweet, salty, and sour flavors you want it too. It would be great kicked up with some minced red Thai chili but in this case I didn’t because I was making it kid friendly.
The dish itself is based on an appetizer from one of our local Thai restaurants. I don’t know if it is something commonly served in Thailand or not. At the same time I can’t say I have seen it at any other Thai places around here. I am going to guess it is a regional Thai dish and I am also going to guess it uses shredded kaffir lime leaves and lime.
What I will say is you won’t regret making this you will only regret not making enough.
Serves 2 as a meal and 4 as the starter to a larger meal
1 pound of shell-on shrimp, thawed
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted till golden
2 limes, filleted into supremes, membranes squeezed for juice
1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
sweet chile sauce, homemade or store bought
8 small collard leaves, washed and dried, rib removed if need be
1. Fill a 3 or 4 quart pot 2/3 full with water. Add 1/4 cup of kosher salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook them till done, about 1 or 2 minutes.
2. Drain the shrimp and get them into an ice bath to cool. Peel and devein the shrimp. Then chop the shrimp.
3. Combine the shrimp with the coconut, peanuts, lime supremes, lime juice and fish sauce. Toss to combine the flavors. Taste and add more fish sauce or salt to your liking.
4. Place the collard leaves on a tray, pile the filling next to them and fill a small ramekin with the chile sauce. Garnish with cilantro.