Monday, May 30, 2011

Crab Cake Craving

I recently got back from a two-week trip to Florida with my husband and family. We spent some time at Disney and then in a house on the ocean in Vero Beach (which was a-ma-zing). We also had the opportunity to eat at Squid Lips in Sebastian, FL--twice. Both times I had their crab cakes and I have to say, upon returning home, I had a craving for more!

Seafood and I haven't always gotten along. I was a ketchup-only burger sort of child, but in my later twenties my palate evolved quite a bit. I discovered the joys of mustard, onion, pickle and tomato, and I developed a love for heat. I find myself asking why you can't just include jalapenos in everything (seriously - why not?). And recently, I've delved into the world of seafood.

So far, I can only tolerate shellfish--lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp. Haven't tried mussels, yet--not that brave. And I still can't get past the fishy taste of fish (go figure). BUT - I have resolved to try my hand at cooking up some seafood dishes on my own as my husband loves them, and I think he's tired of chicken, pork and beef.

Why not start with a crab cake?

Upon googling the "best crab cake recipe" I started to realize how many variations of crab cake recipes are out there--AND how defensive people are of their ingredients and cooking methods. So, I did what I usually do--jotted down what I found to be the "essential" ingredients, then picked a few from others that sounded good. I also researched ideas for a lemon aioli, like the Grillroom Chophouse & Wine Bar in Chicago serves with theirs (my favorite cakes in Chicago so far). This is apparently sacrilege to those who live on the East coast, but I'm a condiments girl, so I really can't help it!

Anyhow, enough babble - here's the recipe, step-by-step pics and a few lessons I learned along the way. Hope you like it!

Crab Cakes with Lemon-Horseradish Aioli

Serves 8 to 10 people, number of cakes depends on size.


2 lbs lump crab (blue or Dungeness)
6 green onions, chopped
1 cup finely chopped red pepper
1 cup light mayonnaise
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups panko
4 tablespoons flat leaft parsley
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon celery salt
Dash of paprika, to taste
About 4 tablespoons butter
Lemon aioli, recipe follows


In  a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except butter and one cup panko.

Form crab cakes on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Use a spatula to press ingredients together well and a drinking glass or biscuit mold to form them into circles. Be careful not to make them too thick. Sprinkle some of the reserved panko over the top of the cakes and press it down with a spatula.

Refrigerate for at least half an hour.

In a large skillet, melt a few tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat until butter becomes frothy. Add crab cakes, panko side down, to pan. Saute for about five minutes, sprinkle panko on the other side of the cakes, flip and saute for about another five minutes until cakes are crisp and golden brown. Serve hot with lemon aioli.

Notes: I made my cakes too thick, and they browned too quickly on the outside, so the center of the cakes weren't as hot as I'd have liked. Upon researching them later, some recommend no thicker than 3/4". Refrigerating before searing is a MUST. It helps them meld together better. Some will inevitably fall apart on the skillet. But they still taste good! 

Lemon-Horseradish Aioli


1 cup mayo
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 lemons, juice and zest
2 tablespoons horseradish
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together.
The best crab I could find was in a can - but it tasted fine. At $12 for 8 ounces, I used half crab meat, and have flaked crab-flavored seafood ($3 for 8 ounces). I chopped the imitation crab to make it the same consistency as the real crab meat. No one could tell the difference.

Clearly, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. These suckers were HUGE!

Oooh la la! So delicious!

Served 'em up with some fresh Michigan asparagus (we're enjoying an extended season thanks to all the rain) and some potatoes tossed in an herb-packed pesto. YUM!
Nothing like a good lemon aioli to complement the crab!
Zingy, citrus-y lemon with a kick of horseradish. Easy peasy!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Feeling Saucy!

Yesterday was a loooong day. Didn't leave work until 7:00 pm, so I was home by 8:00, and I thought I'd just skip dinner and snack on some veggies instead.

How wrong I was.

Brandon: "Hey hun, we have a ton of vegetables in the fridge that we need to use up before vacation. Do you think you could make another pasta salad?"

Me: "Oh yeah! Sure!" Chop, chop, chop, chop.

Brandon: "Babe, I didn't necessarily mean tonight."

Me: "Oh, it's no problem!" Chop, chop, chop, chop.

And so the cooking obsession continues. But the beauty of it is, with the right combination of herbs, spices, etc., cooking can be kind of a spontaneous thing! Last night, I experimented with sauces and, with Brandon's help, grilled up some Heat 'n Honey Grilled Chicken, accompanied by what I'm now calling a "Dill-Dijon Pasta Salad." Made a great, fresh dinner and some yummy leftovers for Brand-o to take to work. I'm finding pasta salad (which really should be called veggies WITH pasta, since it's a two-to-one ratio in this recipe) is a great way to use up leftover raw veggies.

One more day before vacayyyyy. Hope everyone is doing well! Summer can't be too far off.........right? Ah, who cares -- enjoy the day!

Heat 'n Honey Grilled Chicken

Makes eight servings, 1/2 chicken breast per serving.

2/3 cup hoisin
1/2 cup Sriracha sauce (or other chili sauce)--this was enough to leave my tongue tingly. Use less if you aren't into heat, more if you want to challenge your taste buds!
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons orange zest
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Place chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag. Pour enough marinade in to coat chicken. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight for best results. Reserve remaining marinade. Brush over chicken while grilling.

Dill-Dijon Pasta Salad

Makes 12 servings (great for parties!).

1 cup light canola oil mayo
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/2 a red onion, diced (any kind of onion will do)
Juice of one lemon
2 cups feta cheese, crumbled (or any other cheese you like--I used reduced fat sharp cheddar because it was on hand)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped (I like a lot of dill)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 box whole grain pasta (rotini, penne or shells work best--avoid linguine and spaghetti)
Veggies, around one cup each (I typically use broccoli, cucumber, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes and peas--but whatever you have fresh and on hand will work)
  1. Cook pasta according to directions. Strain under cold water. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread pasta across it. Place in refrigerator to cool and dry.
  2. Mix all dressing ingredients together. Refrigerate in an airtight container for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.
  3. Chop veggies into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Combine dressing, veggies and cooled pasta and refrigerate two hours before serving.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Roasted Jalapeño Hummus -- My New Obsession

If you've been around me lately, you know that I'm obsessed with making my own hummus. What could have spurred such a craze? In a word, Costco. One fine spring day (that's a lie, it was probably rainy and cold given the spring we've had), Costco had a sample table set up with Fountain of Health brand "Humm!" hummus. They had four or five flavors to sample including carmelized onion, Greek olive and--my fave--roasted jalapeño hummus.And they're all natural! So you can freeze them!

I'm telling you, this hummus changed my life.

I immediately bought the two-pack, and continued to enjoy it throughout the week on whole grain crackers, toasted whole grain pita and cucumbers. I couldn't get enough of it! So you can imagine my disappointment when I returned to Costco and they carried only ONE of the flavors--Greek olive--and I hate olives! Grrrrr.

Desperately, I turned to the Interwebs, fervently googling "Fountain of Health." I mean, this day in age, can't you get pretty much EVERYTHING you want at least mailed to you? The answer is no. No, you can't. Fountain of Health is "Fontaine Santé" and is headquartered in Canada. CANADA. That's a long drive, my friends. Some stores in California reportedly carry it, but there is no way, no how to get it shipped to me. Believe me, I tried. And yes, I did email the company directly--and surprise, they didn't respond. Sigh. I've always wanted to visit Montreal, mostly for the shopping. I never thought it'd be on a hunt for hummus!

I had no choice but to start making my own hummus and found it to be surprisingly simple! I also discovered that the chopping attachment for my immersion blender is big enough to make the perfect amount of hummus for the week. So I started experimenting with various recipes, trying to find those with ingredients that match those in the "Humm!" hummus (I kept the container--of course). And finally--FINALLY--I've achieved the taste I was looking for.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the other obsession inspired by Costco's Humm! sample day: "Food Should Taste Good" brand Multigrain chips:

They are amazing. They are the best tortilla chip I've ever had. And they're made with whole grains. Go. Buy them. You can even order online!

Anyhow, on to the recipe. Enjoy!

Roasted Jalapeño Hummus

1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans
3 jalapeño peppers (de-seeded if you don't like it hot)
Sliced jalapeño peppers for garnish (optional)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Cayenne pepper

  1. Remove stem from jalapeños, slice horizontally into quarters and place in a small, oven-safe dish. Drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil. If you don't want as much heat, remove the pith and seeds. Place dish in broiler or toaster oven set on "broil" and bake until skin is blistered and softened, rotating peppers once. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Reserve olive oil from dish to drizzle over hummus later for more heat, if desired.
  2. Combine lemon juice and water together in a small bowl.
  3. Process chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin and cayenne in a food processor until well ground (I use the chopper attachment on my immersion blender). Add lemon and water mixture, a bit at a time, periodically scraping down the sides of the processor. Repeat with remaining olive oil.
  4. Chop cooled jalapeños into small chunks and add to mix, processing for about 30-40 seconds.
  5. Transfer to bowl, sprinkle with cayenne and top with sliced jalapeños and reserved oil, if desired. Store airtight for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend.

Enjoy with toasted whole grain pita, cucumbers, whole grain chips--or in a wrap as a replacement for mayo. Makes a tasty addition to sandwiches, too! Here are my lame attempts at capturing this process--I promise to get better at taking pictures!

Although many other recipes use it, I chose to omit tahini. In trial runs it didn't really add any flavor--but it did add fat (tahini is a sesame seed/olive oil paste).

Best kitchen gadget. Ever. Thanks, Aunt Lulu!

Errr...the family got to the hummus before I got to my camera. Whoops! And yes, I confess, I couldn't resist making some stuffed jalapenos on the side :). Double yum!