Monday, June 30, 2008

Booze 'n Berries over Lemon Poppyseed Muffin

Booze 'n Berries, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

I'm a berry freak. It's genetically coded into my DNA, but it skipped a generation. Let me explain: Growing up, my grandfather had a u-pick strawberry patch. He loved it; my father, who (to hear him tell it) spent his entire childhood toiling in the berry patch under the hot Midwestern sun, most emphatically did not! Since I never had to work in a berry patch, I have only vivid and fond memories of my cousin Holly and I walking the rows and eating handfuls of sweet, warm, juicy strawberries right off the runner. To me, strawberry = summer.

I call this "Booze 'n Berries" because I kick up the flavors by adding in Cointreau and Creme de Cassis, two of my favorite liquors to use in desserts. This is a great topping for pound cake or ice cream, or in this case over a store-bought Lemon Poppyseed Muffin (if you can make your own, go for it; if not, don't sweat it and just by from the bakery!). You can make it with just strawberries, but I like to add in blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries (sometimes all 3!) depending on what looks good at the market. I love to make this because it's an easy, no fuss dessert that your guests will wipe clean off the plate!

1 qt strawberries, sliced thick & chunky
1 pint blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar, depending on ripeness (use less if the berries are already sweet)
1/2 lemon, zest & juice
1T balsamic vinegar
2 T Cointreau or Triple Sec
2 T Creme de Cassis
1 T mint, chiffonade
4 Lemon Poppyseed Muffins, sliced in half down the middle

Slice strawberries into a large bowl. Add in other berries, sugar, lemon, vinegar, liquors, and mint. Stir gently, so as not to mash the berries. Let the berries macerate (juice) and the flavors develop in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes and up to 1 day. Serve on top of pound cake, ice cream, muffins, or heck just eat it plain with a spoon.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Grilled Shrimp Po' Boy

Grilled Shrimp Po' Boy, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

Day 5 at the beach. Made another trip to Joe Patti and picked up a pound of 26/30 count shrimp. Peeled and deveined them, grilled them brushed with melted butter, and served them on a hoagie with lettuce, tomato, and some Creole Mayo for a simple and delicious lighter take on a classic - a Grilled Shrimp Po' Boy.

4 hoagie buns
24-30 shrimp, peeled & deveined, heads and tails off
2 T butter, melted
1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Creole Mayo

Heat grill to high. Peel and devein shrimp, removing tails. Thread onto skewers and grill, covered, for 2 minutes, brushing with melted butter. Turn and brush other side with butter. Grill for 1-2 minutes more until shrimp are firm, pink, and opaque. Remove from grill. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over shrimp and serve immediately, 6 or so to a hoagie dressed with lettuce, tomato, and Creole Mayo.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Duo of Crabby Patties

Duo of Crabby Patties, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

Chris and I are in the midst of our annual vacation at Pensacola Beach, a low-key, relaxed beach community along the Gulf Coast in Florida's panhandle. It's heaven - beautiful white beaches and incredibly fresh seafood.

I was inspired to make crab cakes after watching Spongebob Squarepants. For those of you who aren't famliar with the cartoon (shame on you), Spongebob is a frycook at the Krusty Krab making crabby patties. I had crab cakes on the brain, so I made a trip to Joe Patti, Pensacola's famous fish market, to pick up jumbo lump crab meat.

I also watch reality cooking shows like Bravo's Top Chef. I've learned a bit about presentation from those shows, and have always liked how they do duos or trios or flights of things. I thought it would be fun to throw all of these ideas together into a Duo of Crabby Patties - two appetizer-portioned crab cakes on water rolls, one topped with a cucumber mango salsa, one with Creole mayo.

These turned out great, if I do say so myself, and are actually really easy to prepare. You'll get raves and won't ever break a sweat!

2 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 T course ground mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 scallions, chopped
2 T parsley, chopped
2 T dill, chopped
1 lb. jumbo lump crab meat, picked through for shells
1/2 cup Panko (substitute with breadcrumbs), plus extra for coating
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter & oil
8 water rolls or other small roll

Lightly beat eggs with whisk. Whisk in mayo, mustard, and lemon juice. Using a wooden spoon, stir in scallions, parsley, and dill. Add crab, Panko, and salt and pepper and gently fold with spoon, being careful not to break the crab into smaller pieces. Gather crab mixture into small palm-sized balls and gently pat into a small rounded patty. Dredge in additional Panko and place on wax-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat butter and oil in large skillet. Cook 4-6 crab cakes at a time, depending on the size of your pan. You want to have room between each cake for even cooking. Cook 4 minutes each side, then drain on paper towels.

Serve immediately with lettuce, tomato, and buns and top one each with Cucumber Mango Salsa and Creole Mayo.

Serves 8.

Cucumber Mango Salsa

Cucumber Mango Salsa, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

1/2 English cucumber, seeded & cubed
1 mango, peeled & cubed
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 lemon, zest & juice
2 T cilantro, chopped
2 T parsley, chopped
1 T dill, chopped
2 T white wine or 1 T champagne vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix ingredients in bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes for flavors to develop. Keeps refrigerated up to 2 days.

Creole Mayo

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 T Creole seasoning
1/2 lemon, juiced

Mix ingredients & store refrigerated up to 2 days.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lemongrass-infused Vodka

We've planted lemongrass in our herb garden for the past couple of years and I honestly don't know why. It's a great plant, with its grass-like stalks and lemony essence, but I've struggled with what to actually do with it.

St. Louis has numerous authentic, delicious, and inexpensive (my holy trinity) Vietnamese & Thai restaurants, which is where many people get their first exposure to lemongrass. But because our local restaurants are so good & affordable there's little reason for me to make sub-par home versions spring rolls or Tom Yum soup, the dishes lemongrass usually turns up in.

Instead I decided to try infusing vodka with lemongrass. The young, tender sprigs are perfectly sized for a 750mL bottle of vodka. I've read different recipes that use the more woody stalk, but because this is early in the herb season I've only got the young shoots in my garden. I'll try using the stalks later and compare, but until then:

1 750mL bottle of good vodka (I like Ketel One or Grey Goose)
3 young stalks lemongrass

Wash & dry the lemongrass. Place in vodka. Store in a cool, dark place for 3 days and up to 1 week. Strain the vodka & return to its bottle.

Once this has steeped I'm going to try it in a variety of Thai- and Vietnamese-inspired 'tinis and 'tails - check back!