Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Southern Crab Cakes with Spicy Dipping Sauce

While spending a glorious week on Tybee Island, near Savannah, I had the opportunity to go crabbing with some friends who had a very well-equipped fishing boat and the skill to navigate the little creeks around Savannah. Catching crabs in creeks and from a boat doesn't require sophisticated fishing skills, just simple equipment, such as a weighted line, a long handle net, some bait and a low tide. Crabs are in the creeks at low tide, but when the tide begins to turn, they migrate back to the marshes.

The waterways on the East coast of the United States are teeming with the Atlantic Blue Crab and once you taste the sweet and succulent meat of the Blue Crab, you'll be hooked. The blue crab's Latin name is Calinectes sapidus, which means "beautiful swimmer," and indeed, they are a beautiful blue-green as you can see in the photo above.

To cook the crab, you need a large pot filled to about halfway with water. Add some crab seasoning and lemon juice or vinegar and bring to a rolling boil. Crabs, like lobsters have to be alive when you put them in the boiling water, so discard any dead ones. Boil about 10 minutes or until the crabs turn red. Turn off the heat and let them sit for another 10 minutes. Drain, cool to touch and begin picking! It' s a messy and time-consuming job, so get the whole family involved. For more info on picking crab, read this article. For more crab cake recipes, visit the CrabCakeGuy..

Now for the Crab Cakes

Recipe From: The Gift of Southern Cooking by the late Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

1 pound jumbo-lump crab meat
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
4 scallions or green onions, thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Carefully pick over the crab meat and remove any bits of cartilage and shell. Put the crab meat in a mixing bowl, and add the onions, scallion, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. Toss lightly but thoroughly to blend. Pour the eggs and melted butter into the crab meat, and mix until well-blended.

Use a 1/3 cup measure to divide the crab into 8 portions. If there is any leftover, divide it evenly among the 8 portions. Shape crab portions into round cakes 1/2 inch thick and approximately 2 inches in diameter. Dredge each cake lightly in the flour and pat lightly on each side to remove excess flour.

Heat the 8 tablespoons butter in a large skillet until hot and foaming. Put the crab cakes into the pan, leaving 1/2 inch between them. You may need to cook the cakes in batches. Cook over moderate heat for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown all over. Remove the crab cakes from the pan and drain on paper towels. Serve crab cakes hot. Makes 8.

Spicy Dipping Sauce

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup very thinly sliced green onions or scallions, including tender green
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Put the vinegar and salt in a nonreactive mixing bowl and stir until the salt is dissolved. Add the green onions, shallots, garlic, and cracked black peppercorns. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Serve immediately.

Note-If you don't add the parsley, the dipping sauce will keep 5 days refrigerated. Add the parsley shortly before serving so that it doesn't turn brown in the vinegar.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hay, Hay It's Donna Day Voting Time

Don't forget to cast your vote for your favorite gnocchi recipe! Voting will end on September 1 and the winner will be announced the same day.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hay Hay It's Donna Day#14-The Roundup!

An incredible array of gnocchi dishes have been streaming in over the last few weeks and all are scrumptious looking with top notch photography. A host of talented cooks from all over the world took the gnocchi challenge and came up with some exciting salads, sides, main dishes and desserts. Some, like myself, had never made gnocchi before and some were seasoned professionals. As a few mentioned in their posts, gnocchi isn't particularly photogenic; nevertheless, everyone came up with beautiful ways to garnish their dishes to add color and eye-appeal. Thanks to everyone who submitted their creation. Well Done!

Now to the fun part-VOTING!! Send an e-mail with your vote to staranise.ld [at] gmail [dot] com by September 1, 2007. The lucky winner will have the opportunity of hosting the next Hay Hay It's Donna Day created by Barbara of winoandfoodies. I've had a blast reading all the posts.

The Roundup

Up first from Trinidad is Sarina Nicole of trinigourmet whose foray into fresh pasta is just beginning with this lovely ethereal gnocchi pomodoro.

Jerry from Austin is glad to have an excuse to make this tasty Gnocchi alla Romano. She uses Heidi Swanson's recipe from Super Natural Cooking.

From Sidney, Steph bakes her potatoes in a salt crust for her colorful Potato Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables. She no longer has to be tortured by gnocchi-it looks great!

Brilynn, a Canadian gives us her great looking version of a recipe for Pan-fried Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi she used from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen.

Melinda, who hails from Melbourne, submits a very creamy and delicious Green Olive gnocchi with Green Olive Sauce.

From sweetteaandsushi in San Francisco, Ashley not only uses goat cheese for her elegant Gnocchi and a Goat, but goat butter also.

Jadan, in Sarasota submits her original SteamyKitchen's Pan-fried Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi,submitted also by Brilynn and Pam , so it must be a great dish.

In Switzerland, Eva's favorite color at the moment is fuchsia so added pureed beetroot to give her potato gnocchi a lovely pink hue and afterwards enjoyed a Crémant d'Alsace as a reward for her efforts.

Michael in Seattle, presents us with playdough gnocchi. A perfect way to teach Mini-me and other budding young cooks culinary skills.

Gnocchi is comfort food for Annemarie, a Londoner, whose Potato Gnocchi with Pesto looks divine to me.

Another Londoner, Caroline whips up another beautiful Potato Dumpling with Pesto served with green beans and potatoes.

Bacon definitely goes with this beautiful dish from Joey of 80Breakfasts in Manila. Joey uses rocket(arugula)for her pesto.

Country Victoria,Australia has Pam from backyardpizzeria gnock-gnock-gnockin' on heavens door" with her Pan-fried Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi recipe based again on Jadan's.

Franz from Dusseldorf displays a gnocchi with a melange of gorgeous colors in his Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi with Chili Pepper and Sage Butter

From New Zealand, Arfi in her HomeMadeS post makes a very yummy looking version of my Herb Gnocchi with Basil Oil.

DJM's Isolatedfoodie's "cooking trials from nowhere" puts together a Smoked Salmon Gnocchi with panache.

Our first dessert, Cinnamon Roll Gnocchi comes from kellytheculinarian in Tucson, Arizona who sweetens up her potato gnocchi with lovely cinnamon roll flavors.

Another decadent dessert is Chocolate Gnocchi filled with raspberry and then dipped in raspberry sauce from Dennis in the Netherlands. Yum!!

A Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter is beautifully photographed in a trio of spoons from kazari
in Canberra, Australia.

Lovely Barbara of winosandfoodies, the creator of the very popular Hay, Hay, It's Donna Day event begins with a Donna Hay gnocchi recipe and ends up with a tantalizing Gnudi Gnocchi.

Tami of runningwithtweezers, a two time winner of Hay, Hay, It's Donna Day and another Georgian, like myself, definitely knows gnocchi with her Warm Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Tomato Carpaccio and Heirloom Tomato Salad.

A luscious White Chocolate Gnocchi with Strawberry Sauce from Linda is beautifully presented.

Another kid friendly culinary site is Biggie's lunchinabox whose bento lunches appeal not only to children, but adults. Biggie uses Marcella Hazan's potato gnocchi from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

In a two year old Delicious magazine, Ali-K of melbournefood tales located a great recipe for Gnocchetti with Tomatoes and Sweet Pecorino Cheese.

Close to me near Atlanta, Chris from mele cotte dishes up the second delectable recipe in this event- Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Brown Butter Sauce. Looks marvelouse, too.

CookingNinja's, Pamela from France uses gorgonzola or roquefort cheese and creme fraiche as a sauce for her silky gnocchi and suggests using older potatoes.

And last, but not least,Edward over at winosapiens serves us another delicate pale pink Beetroot Gnocchi beautifully garnished with a combination of olive oil, pesto and crumbled goats cheese.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mocha Brownies With Sour Cream Frosting

Lately, I haven't been inspired to cook and photograph, but while perusing "Is My Blog Burning", I saw that onceuponatart was hosting Browniebabe of the Month and had a really cool apron as the prize. My malaise suddenly disappeared! Time isn't on my side since the deadline is today, August 17, but I managed to get them made and photographed.

I don't make chocolate desserts very often, but these Mocha Brownies with Sour Cream Frosting looked luscious and had two of my very favorite ingredients, coffee and sour cream.

Mocha Brownies with Sour Cream Frosting


2 oz. butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons strong coffee, cooled
1/2 cup flour, generous
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped


4 oz. semisweet chocolate
2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square pan with butter and line with parchment paper. Place chocolate and butter in a double boiler with simmering water in the bottom pan until melted. Remove from heat and let cool.

Beat eggs and sugar until light and thick. Fold in the chocolate mixture and coffee. Mix well. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the cake batter and fold in. Fold in the walnuts. Pour cake batter into the pan and bake 20-25 minutes, or until set. Let cool in pan.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate by the same method as for the brownie batter. Stir in the sour cream and beat until evenly blended. Spoon the topping over the brownies and make a swirling pattern with a spatula. Let set in a cool place. Cut into squares, the remove from the pan and serve.

If you like, you can omit the frosting and serve the brownies warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Makes 9 large brownies.

Recipe from: The Best Ever Chocolate from Paragon Publishing, United Kingdom.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Pear and Walnut Chutney

Although our temperatures soared over the 100 degree mark this second week in August, I see orange, red and browns, the colors of Fall and think of the crisp days when I can make comfort foods like soups and stews. Every year, I make different chutneys and savory jellies to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. Last Fall, I tried my hand at brandied figs which I served with a good Greek yogurt for a light dessert. Since then I have made brandied cherries, jalapeno jelly and lemongrass ginger jelly. Much of my inspiration comes from a book I bought on the bargain shelf at one of the many bookstores I frequent. "The Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles, Jam, Jellies, Chutneys and Relishes" by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew not only has very detailed recipes, but also touches on the history of preserving, plus basic equipment needed for preserving and lovely photographs. Amazon UK as well as Amazon.com has this book in stock. I highly recommend it for those of you who enjoy preserving your fresh fruits and vegetables.

Chunky Pear and Walnut Chutney


1.2kg/2 1/2lb firm pears
225gm/8oz tart cooking apples
225gm/8oz onions
450ml/1 3/4 pint/scant 2 cups cider vinegar
175gm/6oz generous 1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
finely grated rind and juice of one orange
400gm/14oz/2 cups granulated sugar
115gm/4oz/1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2.5ml/1/2 tsp cinnamon


Peel and core the fruit, then chop into 2.5cm/1in. chunks. Peel and quarter onions, then chop into pieces the same size. Place in a preserving pan with the vinegar.
Slowly bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, until the apples, pears and onions are tender, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile put the sultanas in a small bowl, pour over the orange juice and leave to soak. Add the sugar, sultanas, and orange rind and juice to the pan. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the chutney is thick and no excess liquid remains. Stir frequently towards the end of cooking to prevent the chutney from sticking to the pan.

Toast the walnuts in a 350 degree F. oven until lightly colored,about 5 minutes. Stir the nuts into the chutney with the cinnamon.

Spoon the chutney into warmed sterilized jars, cover and seal. Store in a cool dark place and leave to mature for at least 1 month. Use within a year.

For more information on canning chutneys, look here.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Hay, Hay, It's Donna Day #14 Prize

Just a few words to update you on the prize for the winner of HHDD#14 will be Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong. Kylie is fourth generation Chinese in Australia and the brilliant head chef at her restaurant, Billy Kwong.

BTW, recipes for the gnocchi can come from any source, not necessarily Donna Hay. Read original post here.