Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Best Ever Crab Cakes

There's something about crab cakes that makes them seem decadent. Maybe it's because crab is expensive and like lobster, when you cook with it, you don't want to mess it up. Or maybe because it's something you don't have very often, so it seems special. Or maybe crab cakes are one of those dishes that seem to be difficult to make, but really they aren't.


All I know is they are delicious, versatile, and can go from casual to classy in a hot minute:
  • Cajun crab cake omelette for breakfast? Sure thing.
  • Crab cakes for lunch with a side-salad dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and a glass of Chardonnay? You bet!
  • Mini crab cake appetizers with a lemon aioli and a glass of Champagne? Yes please!
See what I mean? As a Florida girl who grew up eating great seafood, crab cakes are one of those things I could eat at any given time, and happily will.

I've had this recipe for years, yet I've never made it until this past week. Lump crab meat was on sale at my grocery store a while ago and I bought some (the refrigerated kind in a can) with this recipe in mind.


The truth is, my husband "proclaims" that crab cakes give him gas, so you can understand why I've never indulged. If I wanted crab cakes, I'd have to order them at a restaurant on my own. So, this past week I thought, "Farts be damned. I'm making these crab cakes!"

And you know what?  Not only were these THE BEST CRAB CAKES, hubby was sans farts afterwards. Game on!

Best Ever Crab Cakes
Recipe Source: The Cooking Forum...I don't remember from who.
Makes 6-8 cakes depending on size

1 lb crab meat (either fresh or canned. I used refrigerated, canned claw meat)
1/2 cup crushed crackers, Ritz is best
3 green onions chopped
1 small green bell pepper chopped fine (orig recipe called for 1/2 pepper, but I used a whole)
1/4 cup mayo
1 egg
1 tsp.  Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp salt
flour for dusting
vegetable oil for frying

Over medium heat, pour enough oil in a frying pan to the depth of about 1/8 inch. Really, it should just be enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients except the flour. Shape mixture into patties, slightly compressing them to squeeze out extra moisture. Dust with flour and place patties, 2-3 at a time, in the oil and fry 2-4 minutes. Carefully flip them over and fry the other side another 2-4 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on a plate with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining patties.

Really, these crab cakes don't need anything to go with them. No cocktail or tartar sauce, but they are yummy with a little lemon or mustard aioli.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

This is perhaps one of my most favorite pics of Chaz. Look at that adorable snaggle-tooth smooshface!




Monday, August 08, 2016

The Sandwich That Took 5 Months To Make

Do you want what's funny? I didn't even LIKE fresh tomatoes until I was almost 30 years old. I avoided them at all costs, and now I can't get enough of them.

This past weekend, I made the holy grail of all fresh tomato meals (with the exception of tomato caprese salad) and used only the best-of-the-best of my homegrown heirlooms.

There she is... my first Sudduth's Strain Brandywine tomato of the season (next to that yellow "Kellogg's Breakfast"):


IMO, Brandywine's are the sublime epitome of what a tomato should taste like: Nice firm fleshy texture, rich tomato flavor, with just a touch of sweetness and the perfect acidity. They are my ultimate favorites.

I grew these tomatoes from seed, starting in March. They ripen later in the season, after my hybrids that I use for canning, and we eat every last one of them as the star attraction.

A BLT made with homegrown, heirloom tomatoes, to me, is a gourmet meal.


All this needed was a little salt and pepper, and this sandwich was certainly worth waiting 5 months for to make and eat! In fact, I'm going to have another tonight. :-)

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Mr. Stripey and Yellow Pear Tomatoes

This year (as usual), I have a couple of new tomato varieties growing in the garden. I'm happy to say that despite the late, cold spring, my tomato plants are keeping me busy:



I've been picking harvests like this every 2 days or so. The house is regularly filled with the smell of roasting tomatoes and my canner pot has become a permanent fixture on top of the stove.

"Mr. Stripey" is an heirloom that I decided to give a try. I bought a few plants during the late spring, as I anticipated that my other heirlooms-from-seed wouldn't make it for the season. I always seem to do that and end up with WAY too many tomatoes.

These lovely, peach/yellow beefsteaks have a GREAT flavor profile. They are definitely not the mild "Kellogg's Breakfast" I grew last year, but not quite a Brandywine. They are somewhere in between.


However, "Mr. Stripey" is a tender fellow, like most heirlooms, and has to be picked at the exact, right moment. Otherwise, he gets soft like this...

Still, I can cut out those not-so-pretty areas and be perfectly happy.


The other heirloom I gave a try this season are the "Yellow Pear" salad tomatoes. I always seem to buy these at the farmer's markets, so I thought, "Why not?"

But I have to say, I'm not impressed. The "Yellow Pear" plants are HUGE and only seem to put out about 8-10 of these things at a time. I guess it's not worth the space and hassle, IMO. As far as taste, they are okay.


I did manage to get some "Brandywines," "Black From Tula," and some other heirlooms-from-seed going, but they got a late start and I probably won't see any harvest from them for a few weeks. Right now, I don't even know what I have until they ripen!

My "Early Girls" are my heavy-hitter-stand-by tomatoes that give me the bulk of my toms for canning. I've also had great luck with "Roma" this year. Even though I only have one plant; it's been a real trooper and has put out at least 30 tomatoes!

Every season it's a real thrill to see what works and what doesn't.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Gratuitious Kitteh Monday

Happy August 1st! Even though the temps are still dipping in-and-out of the 90's, summer is almost over and the Poplar trees in our backyard are starting to shed their leaves.

Until then, enjoy every last beautiful day!


Friday, July 29, 2016

Figwatch

Welcome to Figwatch, 2016...


I've been SO excited this gardening season that I might actually get some figs off my two, little fig trees. I've had these trees for 3 years and have nurtured them from their original 6-inches in height when I first brought them home. One is a "Negronne" and the other is "Olympian".

I almost gave up on these things, but I was ecstatic to see little figlets form earlier in the season.

Right now, the figs are about the size of walnuts in the shell. They sure are taking their sweet, delicious time.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Homemade Ketchup with a Kick

There aren't many things that I can or preserve that I feel can never get enough of...except this ketchup.


I discovered it last year from my recipe file, made a few tweaks, and BOY-OH-BOY is it good! It originally was designed to be a tomato jam, and can very well be cooked down into a jam, but I like it better as a ketchup. It uses A LOT of tomatoes, and they are cooked down into almost nothing, but it's worth it.


This ketchup has a wonderful umami depth and complexity to it that you won't get from traditional, store-bought ketchup. This is what makes it so friggin' good! Once you taste it, you will know exactly what I'm talking about.

It also has a spicy kick to it from the chili pepper flakes, so it's definitely not a ketchup for the kiddies. Besides, after all the work you put into it and taste how amazing it is, you'll want it all for yourself!


Kathy's Ketchup with a Kick
Recipe source modified from: I don't remember...
Makes 3 - 4 pints (depending on how far this is cooked down)

*5 pounds tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
3 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tsps freshly grated ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 T salt
*1 T red chili pepper flakes
1/4 - 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Note: If you don't want tomato seeds in your ketchup, strain the peeled tomatoes through a sieve or food mill. I don't mind them in mine. 

Also Note: If you do not want your ketchup to be spicy/hot, omit chili pepper flakes. 

Here's a link for instructions on how to quickly peel tomatoes.

Combine all ingredients except apple cider vinegar and puree using a food processor, blender, or blender stick. Pour pureed ingredients in a large saucepan or pot and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to a simmer and cook the ketchup for approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours, stirring regularly. Depending on the water content of your tomatoes, this may take longer. The mixture should cook down to the consistency of traditional ketchup and slightly mound on a spoon.


When mixture is at the desired consistency, add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and stir in. Taste to see if you would like the ketchup to be a little more tart, and if so, add a little more vinegar. Cook a few more minutes, then pour mixture into prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. 

Process in a BWB for 20 minutes. Alternately, you can simply let this cool and store it in your refrigerator. 

Depending on the water content from the tomatoes and how far I cook this down, sometimes I get as little as 2 - 3 pints, and sometimes I get 3 - 4 pints out of one batch.

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