Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lobster Lettuce Rolls

This lobster salad is traditional but uses the roll as a crouton so that you get the right mouth feel without a lot of bread.  Use 1/2 a lightly toasted and torn roll for a cup of lobster salad.

It makes sense to lighten up the recipe by serving it in lettuce cups but without the New England style hot dog bun with the slit at the top, toasted with a dab of butter, it never feels like home to me.  This summer my inland supermarket stocked the New England rolls and I snapped up packages for the freezer anticipating both lobster rolls and hot dogs on the grill. 

Lobster Lettuce Rolls
Serves 2, easily doubled

2 cups cooked lobster meat (claw, joint and tail from about two 1 1/3 lobsters)
1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 stalk celery, chopped
salt, black pepper, paprika
1 hot dog roll, New England style if available
1/3 head iceburg lettuce (or other old school lettuce of your choice)

  1. Place torn roll on a baking sheet and lightly toast for 5-7 minutes in a 300˚F oven.  Do not brown the bread.  
  2. Meanwhile cut lobster meat into bite sized chunks, leaving pieces large enough to recognize as real lobster.  
  3. Place lobster in a medium mixing bowl and add mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery and seasonings.  Finally, toss in hot dog roll croutons.  
  4. Serve in lettuce cups.

How to Cook a Lobster
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add 1/4 cup salt.  Lower heat to simmer and add lobsters, head first.  Simmer 5 minutes for 1st pound and an additional 3 minutes for each pound more. (2 lobsters would take about 10-11 minutes.) Remove lobsters with tongs and allow to cool in a shallow dish or roasting pan,  When cool enough to handle use kitchen sheers, lobster (nut) crackers and seafood forks to remove meat.  Be patient. Play nice music. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Catalina Pasta Salad

Remember Catalina Dressing?  This is the original.  Not sickly sweet, not full of preservatives, not suffering from tired old herbs.  This Catalina Dressing is zesty with bright tomato, onion and lemony flavors with just a hint of honey for balance.  Tasters loved this and happy to learn there is only 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the entire jar of dressing. 

It is perfect over pasta salads with chick peas, chunks of black olive, red bell pepper, chopped celery, cucumber and carrot strips.   Toss up a batch for pasta salad and save a little dressing for your next green salad.  It is a great match for the cucumbers coming out of gardens now. 

The key to Catalina Dressing is grated onion.  Grating onion is a cool technique that garners a distinctive sweet onion flavor and adds creamy texture to the dressing.  Simply cut a sweet onion, like Vidalia, in quarters and draw it over a cheese grater's large holes.  Very fast and effective way to get both juice and pulp.

Catalina Dressing
Makes about 10 ounces

1 8-oz can plain tomato sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 Vidalia onion, grated
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and toss with your favorite pasta salad ingredients.  Allow pasta salad to cool completely before serving.

Catalina Dressing will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.

This recipe was inspired by the recipe provided by My Vegan Cookbook blog but cuts the sweet ingredients back and replaces sugar with honey. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fontina Asparagus Pizza

My friend Lee knows I make my own pizza dough. He gave me a ball of frozen dough that he assured me would be just as light and all natural-- the same pure ingredients I use.  His came from a business associate who supplies dough to pizzerias wholesale.  Lucky pizzerias.  Prep space is limited in many restaurants and finding a quality supplier that can save the owner time and money (and space) is a good for all sides of business. 

I also saved time with the high quality frozen dough.  It defrosted leisurely in its package in the refrigerator and over 3 days went from a solid softball to a foamy square pushing into the sides of its bag.

We've had hot, hot days so turning on the oven to heat a pizza stone was out of the question.  Even taking the time to really stretch out the dough seemed too much effort in the steamy heat.  A free form pizza baked over a bed of farina (instead of cornmeal) on an extra thin cookie sheet was all that could be managed and thanks to the relaxed rise of the pizza dough, it came out perfectly. It had a crispy light crust yet was still moist and deliciously yeasty inside.  The dough was a perfect foil to the cheese and asparagus.  Omitting the sauce made for a lighter meal and let us taste and appreciate each ingredient. 

We topped our pizza with quickly steamed, then butter & olive oil-sauteed asparagus over fontina cheese.  X's formed with anchovies provided a salty balance.  If you don't love anchovies, accent this sophisticated pizza with crisped bacon, it's cousin pancetta or top with good quality prosciutto.  (If using prosciutto, wait until the pizza is out of the oven.) For an all vegetable pizza, slice a few oil cured olives and scatter over randomly.

Bake the pizza in a preheated 400˚F oven for 12-14 minutes until the dough is puffed up a bit and the bottom is light brown and sturdy.  Let the pizza rest a moment before slicing.

NOTE: High quality pizza dough has few ingredients, just like what you would put together with flour, water, salt and olive oil.  The trick is giving your dough time to rise. Be patient and go for a slow rise under refrigerated conditions in a loosely secured plastic bag to allow for expansion.  A freshly made dough will rise in about 8-12 hours and can hold for a day.  Let a frozen dough come to the ready over three days.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seafood Stew

Seafood Stew is within your grasp this summer even if you are far from the shore.  This recipe has easy to put together, flavorful ingredients, hardly any “stewing” time and uses either freshly caught or frozen seafood.  Don't wait for vacation to enjoy. 

My recipe combines something from all the coasts I love—a little fennel and tarragon from the south of France, some saffron notes from Spain’s peninsula and our Atlantic coast's bounty of cod, clams and scallops.  Seafood Stew is a world wide thing so once you know the basics of this tomato-based soup you can swap in your local fish, garden favorites and the herbs that make you happiest.  

Seafood Stew
Serves 3, doubles well

1/4 sweet onion
1/2 fennel bulb
1/4 cup celery leaves
2-3 garlic cloves (plus extra for garlic bread to dunk)
Olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup tomato based vegetable juice
1 cup clam broth
1/2 cup water
6-8 threads saffron
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 6-oz fillet of cod, haddock or other firm white fish
1 cup bay scallops
1 cup fresh clams or shrimp (out of shell)
Salt and pepper
Fresh herb garnish: dill, tarragon, parsley

  1. In a large wide heavy-bottomed pot, sauté vegetables in olive oil over medium heat.   
  2. When vegetables have softened, add garlic and cook stirring another minute. 
  3. Add wine and stir to scrape up any caramelized pieces sticking to the bottom of the pot.  
  4. Lower heat to medium-low and add tomato juice, clam broth and water.  Sprinkle in saffron and red pepper flakes. Simmer 5 minutes.  
  5. Add fish and simmer 5 minutes more.  Add remaining seafood and simmer until cooked through, 2-3 minutes.  
  6. Serve immediately garnished with chopped fresh herbs.  
Pass around toasts rubbed with olive oil, garlic and a smear of anchovy paste.