Sauce Piquant

June 30, 2007

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Here’s a quick dipping sauce you can serve with anything from Crab Cakes and boiled shrimp to fried catfish and hamburgers. It’s also great with French fries and hash browns. If you like things hot, add a few drops of hot pepper sauce. Make some now, and you’ll have extra for the Fourth. SAM

PS If you use capers packed in salt, which are fabulous, rinse them thoroughly and soak them in three or four changes of water. Of course, if you love salt, rinse less and keep them salty.

1 cup tomato ketchup
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
2 teaspoons capers

Combine the ketchup, lemon juice, oil, horseradish, sugar, and capers, mixing thoroughly.
Makes 1 1/2 cups.

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Crab Cakes

June 29, 2007

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Drive non-stop through the night to the coast, and if you’re lucky you’ll end up with crab cakes carillonning the dawn. I can’t vouch for this—never having been one to wake from a deep sleep and go out and bag breakfast—but Harry says if you wave a chicken neck on the beach, crabs run right up and grab it. ‘Sounds totally weird to me, but if that’s what you have to do to get Crab Cakes, DO IT! SAM

1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 medium center rib celery with leaves, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 (7-ounce) cans crabmeat, drained or 1 pound fresh crabmeat (3 cups)
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs, divided
3 tablespoons half-and-half
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
2 teaspoons fresh dill weed
1 teaspoon dill seed, crushed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 dashes of hot-pepper sauce
Sauce Piquant

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the onion, covered, until tender. Add the celery and cook until soft. Combine the crabmeat, bread crumbs, half-and-half, egg, sherry, parsley, dill weed, dill seed, mustard, salt, pepper, and hot-pepper sauce. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Shape the crab mixture into 3-inch cakes and dust the sides with the remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until hazy. Brown the cakes on both sides, about 2 minutes each. Reduce the heat to low and cook 5 minutes more. Drain on paper towels. Serve with Sauce Piquant.
Makes 10 cakes.


Curried Baked Spinach

June 28, 2007

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This baked spinach is so easy, a child could do it. You’ll need lots of curry and fresh parsley and your own bread crumbs. I’m not saying you can’t make a great baked spinach with store-bought crumbs. But … find a baker who makes really good Italian or French bread, buy extra, run it through your food processor, and you’ll be half-way to paradise. A jar of your own bread crumbs in the fridge marks you as a serious cook. And you never know who might be looking. SAM

PS You can make this with olive oil instead of butter. In fact, it’s great with olive oil.

1 (10-ounce) package frozen leaf spinach, thawed and wrung dry by hand
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons melted butter, divided (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs, divided
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chop the spinach roughly. Add the cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, curry powder, parsley, salt, and pepper. Place in a lightly greased 1-quart casserole, top with the remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Makes 2 servings.


Roasted New Potatoes and Asparagus

June 27, 2007

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I’ve never been a fan of raw vegetables. I know there are people whose lives revolve around juicers and crudités, but—don’t scream at me—to my way of thinking, vegetables aren’t worth eating till you cook the moisture out of them and intensify the sugars. That’s where roasting comes in. With a 450-degree oven and fifteen or twenty minutes, you can perform miracles. SAM

1 pound new potatoes, quartered
1 pound fresh asparagus, cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon grated Romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Arrange the potatoes and asparagus in a lightly greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Combine the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper and pour over the vegetable mixture, tossing to coat. Roast, uncovered, on the upper shelf of the oven, for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender and browned. Sprinkle with parsley and Romano cheese.
Makes 6 servings.


Baby Artichokes with Curried Mayonnaise

June 26, 2007

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Baby artichokes are a labor of love, and the one you serve them to will love you for it. Speed is the key. Air turns cut artichokes brown within seconds, so you must rub all surfaces constantly with a cut lemon and drop them as quickly as possible into lemon water. Sautéed to a tender brown, though, baby artichokes are a delight any way you eat them. You can put them in salads or mix them with pasta. Spread on flatbread with sweated onions and roasted red peppers, they make an unforgettable pissaladière. Or, do what I’m doing tonight for Harry: Pile them sweetly around a bowl of Curried Mayonnaise. SAM

2 lemons, one juiced, one halved
3 cups cold water
8 whole baby artichokes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon marsala wine
Curried Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

Trim away any woody parts of the artichoke stems. Pull off and discard the heavy, outer leaves until a cone of yellow remains. Cut off the green tips. Immediately rub all surfaces with the cut lemon. Halve or quarter the artichokes, again rubbing cut surfaces with lemon. If the choke is prickly, cut it out. As quickly as possible, drop the cut pieces into the bowl of lemon water. In a chef’s pan over medium-high, heat the oil to nearly smoking. Sauté the artichokes lifting constantly with tongs, until browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the marsala and stir vigorously to release the browned fond on the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the artichokes steam for 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with Curried Mayonnaise.
Makes 2 servings.

Curried Mayonnaise

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
1 teaspoon small capers

Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, curry powder, and capers.
Makes 1 1/4 cups.


Shrimp Butter

June 25, 2007

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A fine way to set the tone for romance … The original recipe calls for dill weed, but I’ve gotten very attached to red fennel. The flavor is deeper and more dramatic than dill. ‘Reminds me of those big, sour kosher dills we used to get in individual packets—I loved those pickles! If you’re lucky enough to have a small garden, fennel pretty much grows wild. The fronds are also great snipped into summer salads. I’ll work up some recipes. SAM

1/2 pound small shrimp, cooked, shelled, and minced
4 tablespoons butter
1 small clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon finely snipped dill weed or fennel fronds
English water crackers

With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and add the garlic and dill or fennel, blending well. Beat in the shrimp gradually, until well blended. Cover and chill. Serve on water crackers.
Makes 1 1/3 cups.


Ham-and-Cheese Strata

June 24, 2007

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Ham-and-Swiss sandwiches for breakfast? You bet! Especially when you bake them like this! You can put together the sandwich part the night before, seal it with plastic wrap, and set it in the fridge. When morning comes, all you have to do is pour on the eggs and cream and pop it in the oven. Not exactly like having someone else do breakfast for you—but it’s close. You know, I’ve been thinking … my next boyfriend had better be a cook! SAM

14 (1/2-inch) slices Italian bread
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 pound honey-baked ham, roughly chopped
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
2 green onions with tops, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Spread one side of the bread with mustard. Arrange half the slices, overlapping, mustard side up, in the bottom of a lightly greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Top with ham, tomato, cheese, and onions. Place the remaining bread slices on top, mustard side down. Combine the eggs, half-and-half, paprika, and pepper and pour evenly over the bread. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and puffy. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings.