food recipes

Crab Cakes, Marvelous Crab Cakes

So, a couple of months ago I bought a can of crabmeat at Trader Joe’s. I thought, “Hey, I’ll make crab cakes this week.”

Then I put the can in the meat drawer of my refrigerator and forgot it existed.

Thank heaven for modern methods of food processing.

So, I found the can, and I thought, “Hey, I’ll make crab cakes this week.” But this time I really did.

I love crab cakes. When I eat out, if there are crab cakes on the menu, I order them. So I’ve had great crab cakes and not-so-great crab cakes. Sometimes they’re too spicy for me. (Yes, I hear you, Alex.) Sometimes they’re mushy and unappetizing. Sometimes they contain so little crab that they could be fish cakes.

So when I decided to make them at home, I knew I had to find a good recipe. Through the magic of the Internet, I found these, from a lovely blog called the Wednesday Chef that is new to me, but I’ve added it to my Google Reader. Great writing.

Anyway, the intro to the recipe talks about how these crab cakes don’t almost no filler and are great for people who don’t like mayonnaise. Perfect.

So I cracked open the two-month-old can of crab, which was in perfect condition, and added some onion and panko and Old Bay and mayo and an egg, then shaped the cakes and refrigerated them for a couple of hours.

And then I fried them, in butter and oil. And they were magnificent. I really think these are the best crab cakes I’ve ever had. I must make more, very soon. (The recipe makes eight, which was perfect for the three of us. When Alex is home, we’ll all have to survive with only two each. Tragedy.)

And the same recipe would work with canned salmon, and probably even tuna. Versatile!

So seriously, if you like crab cakes, try these. You won’t be sorry.

Dorie food

French Fridays With Dorie: Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Or something like that.

I had a plan. The plan went something like this: I would take a day away from the freelance editing that has consumed the past week of my life and get something accomplished around the house. I would run errands — including grocery shopping, hunting and gathering what I needed to make the latest Dorie recipe and the next couple — and then cap off the day with yummy soup. What could go wrong?

Well, when I went to get into the car, I discovered that the battery was dead, so dead that I couldn’t even use the power door locks. That’s dead.

So, regroup. I found chicken breasts and stock in the freezer, and Tim helpfully stopped on his way home from work and picked up cilantro and limes and alfalfa sprouts (because he couldn’t find any bean sprouts) and egg spaghetti, which generously filled in for the Chinese egg noodles the recipe called for. I left out the ginger and chilies, but I’d have done that anyway.

We managed to eat by 7, which is pretty impressive any evening, let alone one so jury-rigged.

boys food recipes

Snow Day!

Here in the mid-Atlantic we got our first real snow of the season today. On March 1st. And what’s really sad is that #2 Son, who is almost 12, was overjoyed when he woke up this morning; he thought this was a huge amount of snow.



#1 Son remembers — just barely — the Great Snow of 1996, when we got 30 inches and it lasted for days. He was not quite 4 then, and our exchange student from Austria built him a snow cave to play in. That was a huge amount of snow. But poor #2 Son hasn’t seen much snow in recent years, and he really, really, really likes snow.

Where is the food-related content in this post? you may be wondering. Never fear: It’s coming.

This afternoon #2 Son scooped up a bowl of snow and prepared to mix it with maple syrup, as we’ve done with our pitiful little snowfalls in the past. But I remembered seeing a technique for pouring hot syrup over snow to make candy, so we tried that. (I Googled and found a recipe here.)

It took a while to get the syrup to the right temperature; as with every other kind of sugar syrup I’ve ever dealt with, it’s a long process that progresses almost instantly at the end to disaster. But I managed to get it just about right this time, and we dribbled it over the snow.


The syrup hardens almost instantly to candy: chewy or brittle depending on the exact temperature at the moment of pouring. Either way, it’s yummy.


And it’s very pretty, too!


More snow!!!

boys food

Dinner, Made by Someone Else

#2 Son wanted to make dinner the other night. I wasn’t going to stop him. He puttered around our almost-empty kitchen for a while (it had been a while since I’d been shopping) and came up with Trader Joe’s ravioli with pesto (made in September with my bounty of basil). That would have been a tasty if staid dinner; I often do the same thing with TJ’s tortellini.

But #2 Son took it further. He sliced up an onion, caramelized it, and added some toasted pine nuts.

He’s more creative in the kitchen than I am, that’s for sure. The kid has a future (of cooking for us, at the very least).

Dorie food

Tuesdays With Dorie: Real Butterscotch Pudding

Well, to be precise, Real Butter Rum Pudding. We didn’t have any scotch.

This recipe has a lot of steps. It seems like a lot of work, and you get a lot of things dirty, and if you’re like me, you spill stuff. As a rule, I avoid recipes with these characteristics.

This pudding is totally worth it. It would have been worth twice as much work.

The pudding is exquisitely smooth and creamy, and the taste is like nothing I’ve ever had: deep and complex and layered. The rum flavor actually intensified near the bottom of the cup.

I made this on a night when we had a guest: #1 Son’s girlfriend, hereafter referred to as #1SG. Everyone was in favor of the pudding, although to varying degrees:

#1 Son: It was good. It had a lot of depth of flavor. It was my ideal image of butter rum — it had the sweetness and richness of the butter with the heat and complexity of the alcohol. It was really, really good.
#1SG: I really liked the texture. It had more complexity than other puddings I’ve had. I’m not such a fan of alcohol in my desserts, though.
#2 Son: I liked it. It had a good texture, it was puddingy, but near the end it got overly alcoholy and started not tasting good anymore. But at the beginning, really tasty.
Husband: I could easily have downed another three or four cups of that. I actually loved how it got more alcoholic as it got lower.
#1 Son Again: Yeah, that.

And we were all so impatient to eat the stuff that I neglected to take photographs before it was completely, cups-licked-clean gone. #1 Son says that means I should make it again, but I think I’m going to have to refer you to other blogs to see the beauty that is this pudding. It didn’t look like much, in any case, but it went down easy.

The other TWD bloggers will have photos. And Donna at Spatulas, Corkscrews, and Suitcases will have the recipe. Go there. Get it. Make the pudding. You won’t be sorry.

baking Dorie food

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rugelach


I was really looking forward to this week’s recipe. Over the years I’ve had my share of bakery-made (or, horrors, store-bought) rugelach, and I was looking forward to seeing what they taste like fresh from the oven.

Dorie recommends raspberry or apricot preserves; I doubled the batch to have enough for a potluck lunch on Sunday, and I planned to make half apple and half raspberry. As it turned out, the apple jelly I liquefied for the first half was enough for both, so they’re all apple. But while I was melting the jelly, it hit me: cherry. That was the way to go. Cherry jelly would have been insanely good.

Anyway, apple it was. Needless to say, I left out the currants.

The dough was easy to make and easy to work with. I hate rolling out dough almost as much as I hate fruit in my desserts, so I was worried about that part. But I used the plastic wrap the dough was refrigerated in as a shield between the rolling pin and the dough, and everything worked perfectly. I couldn’t get the dough into a perfect circle, of course, because I never can, but because the circle wound up being cut into 16 wedges, it didn’t matter.

Assembly was easy. Cutting was easy. Rolling up the cute little rugelach (rugelachen?) was easy. Even knowing when they were done was easy; I often have trouble with that part.

Really, the worst part of the whole endeavor was the waiting time; the dough has to be refrigerated for at least two hours before it’s rolled out, and the cookies have to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes before you bake them. But even that wouldn’t matter if I’d spread the process out over a few days, as Dorie says works just fine.

And so?


The pastry was light and crackly, probably among the best two or three pastries I’ve ever made (or had!). The filling — apple jelly, cinnamon-sugar, and mini chocolate chips — was warm and absolutely delicious. (Oh, but if it had been cherry …)

Sadly, I made them on Friday night, intending them as our dessert. But Friday was also Halloween, and everyone had eaten so much candy by dinnertime that no one wanted dessert. (Well, #2 Son would have happily had some, but he was in another town trick-or-treating with a friend.)

I took them to a potluck Sunday afternoon, and they went like hotcakes, as they say. Everyone raved about them, and they still were light-years better than the bakery ones — extremely moist and flavorful. But they’d lost that lovely crackliness, which was my favorite thing about them.

If you want to try them yourself, head on over to Piggy’s Cooking Journal, where the recipe will be posted (and where you can check out her amazing food photographs). And if you want to see what the other TWD bloggers did with the recipe (and I’m sure there will be some great variations), work your way through the recently expanded blogroll at Tuesdays With Dorie.


bread food Friday dinner meat recipes

Bicultural Friday Dinner

I had some lamb cubes in the freezer — grass-fed, organic, local lamb, straight from the farmers market. What to do with lamb cubes? Around here, there’s really only one answer. Irish stew:


I started with the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated‘s The New Best Recipe, #1 Son’s bible. We gave it to him after his bar mitzvah in 1995, and almost four years later it’s still his go-to cookbook for just about everything. (He made a cheesecake yesterday to take to a gathering of teenage homeschoolers today; he used it for a class on the science of cooking.) But the CI recipe called for shoulder chops, and I, of course, had the aforementioned cubes. So I played around with the proportions, but the technique is basically theirs.

Irish Stew (adapted from The New Best Recipe)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound lamb cubes, cut into whatever size you like
2 medium onions, chopped into whatever size you like
a little less than 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
2 cups of water, divided
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
3 medium potatoes (the book recommends Yukon Golds, but you can also use reds)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle the lamb cubes with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and brown half the lamb on all sides. Remove to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil and brown the other half of the lamb on all sides. Remove to the bowl. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the last tablespoon of oil, and cook the onions till they’re softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir till the onions are coated evenly. Add one cup of water and stir, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme and the salt. Gradually add the other cup of water and continue to stir until the stew begins to simmer. Put the meat back in and bring the stew back to a simmer. Put the stew in a Dutch oven or covered baking dish and bake for one hour. Remove from the oven, add the potatoes to the top of the stew, re-cover, and bake for another hour or so, until the meat is tender. Stir the potatoes into the stew, let it stand for a few minutes (it’s really, really hot), and enjoy.

And if you’re having Irish stew, you must also have Irish soda bread. Again I turned to The New Best Recipe, and again it didn’t let me down.


Irish Soda Bread (adapted from The New Best Recipe)

3 cups (15 ounces) lower-protein (read, not King Arthur) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) plain cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for the crust
1½ cups buttermilk

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the over to 400 degrees. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Work the butter into the dry ingredients (with a fork or your fingers) till the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk and stir with a fork just till the dough begins to come together. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead just till the dough is cohesive enough that you can form it into a loaf. The less you mess with it, the better. Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches across and 2 inches high; place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. I used a round stoneware pan. Use a serrated knife to cut a cross shape in the top of the dough; each cut should be 5 inches long and ¾ of an inch deep. Bake till the loaf is golden brown and skewer inserted into the center comes out clean (or the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees), about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Cool to room temperature before cutting.

I’m not really a big fan of soda bread, but Husband loves it, so I make it several times a year. This is the best recipe I’ve tried — I actually liked the bread. If you like soda bread, you’ll love it.

And for a change, dessert wasn’t a Dorie recipe. (This week it’s pumpkin muffins, and we’re having them for breakfast tomorrow!) #2 Son goes to a secular Jewish Sunday school (and #1 Son works there), where they learn all about the history and culture and traditions of Judaism. And apparently one of those traditions is celebrating the harvest festival of Sukkot by building model sukkahs out of graham crackers, pretzels, and frosting. When they did this at Sunday school they used that nasty frosting in a tub. But I don’t roll that way. So …

This afternoon I bought graham crackers, spice wafers, three different pretzel shapes, a couple of different kinds of candy corn, mini M&Ms, big marhsmallows, mini-marshmallows, and probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten. Then I made vanilla buttercream icing, chocolate buttercream icing, and royal icing (for architectural purposes). After dinner, the boys went at it.

#1 Son went with a traditional sukkah, complete with autumn leaves scattered on the ground:


#2 Son, the someday architect, went for something a bit more modern (and a bit less stable):


bread food Friday dinner

Fishy Friday

This week’s Dorie recipe was a killer nutritionally, and so I went light on dinner. And since I also kept it simple, I can give you recipes!

First, I bought some frozen salmon fillets at Trader Joe’s. We don’t eat nearly enough fish, and I keep trying to slip some into the recipe rotation. And with preparation this simple, there’s no reason not to. It takes almost no time or effort (or skill!), and the fish comes out moist and flavorful.

Baked Salmon

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 pound salmon fillets
  • dried dill
  • kosher flake salt

Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Melt the butter (or heat the olive oil) in a baking dish just large enough for your fish. When it’s hot, add the fish, skin side up, and bake for 5 minutes. Flip it over (it will fall apart!) and bake for another four minutes or so, till done. Sprinkle with dill and salt to taste.


For the side, I used one of those rice mixes with brown rice and wild rice and all sorts of other rice. Lundberg makes several varieties, and Trader Joe’s has its own version. While the rice was cooking in chicken broth, I sautéed a couple of stalks of celery, three scallions (including some of the green part), two cloves of garlic, and a shallot I found at the bottom of my onion basket. When it was all soft and yummy, I added a thawed and drained (and squeezed dry) bag of frozen chopped spinach. When the rice was done, I mixed in the vegetables, and voilà. The rice was excellent with the salmon.


And then there was the bread. There’s always bread on Friday. This week, in keeping with the light theme, I went with focaccia. It also had the added benefit of being incredibly easy, and for bread, fairly quick.

Rosemary Focaccia

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon yeast (active dry or instant, not rapid rise)
  • sprig of fresh rosemary, as large as you like
  • ½ tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2½ to 3 cups bread flour
  • coarse salt

Strip the rosemary leaves off the stem and set aside. Put the water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface and let sit for a minute or so, then stir to dissolve. Add the rosemary, the salt, the oil, and 2½ cups of flour and mix well. I used my Kitchenaid mixer and the bread hook. Once all the flour is incorporated, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Then knead for 10 minutes or so, by hand or machine, till the dough is elastic but still sticky. Add more flour a little at a time as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to oil the top. Cover and let rest for about 45 minutes. Gently deflate and re-cover, then let rest about another 45 minutes, till doubled. Somewhere in the middle there, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, putting an old baking pan or cast iron frying pan on the oven floor.

Shape into a ball and let rest on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes. Then stretch into a random flat shape, about half an inch thick (although it’s not crucial that it be exactly the same thickness overall), and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Let rest for 20 to 30 minutes, then make dimples all over the top with your fingers. Brush with olive oil, letting some pool in the dimples, then sprinkle with coarse salt.

Pour a cup of hot water into the pan on the oven floor (BE CAREFUL — the steam is wickedly painful) and bake the focaccia for about 25 minutes, till it’s nicely browned.

Let cool on a wire rack for a little while, but eat while it’s still warm. This is fabulous bread, better than anything you’ll get from a bakery.


And then there was dessert, but for that, you’ll have to wait till Tuesday!

food recipes

I Made One Up!

I finally have a recipe to offer here, one that’s all my own. This is so exciting.

Farmers Market Pasta

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 pound green beans (or however they sell them at farmers markets; I forgot to weigh them before I cooked them)
  • 8 ounces ground meat of some sort (I used the leftover burger mix from yesterday, which was equal parts beef, pork, and lamb)
  • 8 ounces pasta of some sort (I used whole-wheat penne)
  • kosher flake salt to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • fresh basil to taste, chopped
  • parmesan (if desired)

Chop the tomatoes and green beans however you like them; keep them in separate bowls. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat and add the tomatoes, stirring occasionally. They’ll get really watery, and then the water will cook off, leaving you with a lovely sauce. At some point while they’re still watery, add the wine; when they’re closer to done, add the garlic powder and salt. The whole process took me about 10 minutes, but it will vary depending on how high your flame is and how watery your tomatoes are.

Meanwhile, brown the ground meat in a large frying pan or wok; I used a wok because I tend to slop food over the side when I try to stir-fry in a frying pan. When it’s done, remove it (leaving the fat behind) and set aside. Add the green beans to the fat in the pan or wok and stir-fry till they’re as tender as you like. It helps near the end to turn the flame down and cover the pan to let them steam a bit. When they’re done, throw the meat back in to warm up.

Meanwhile (yes, there are a lot of steps, but it’s worth it!), cook the pasta in boiling salted water till done. Drain.

Mix everything in a big bowl, then mix in the basil. Serve immediately, with parmesan if desired.


This was really good. Son #1, who tends to disdain anything with tomatoes and/or most green vegetables, took seconds. Son #2, who in fairness likes almost everything (he’s a very happy child), said it was very good. Husband liked it quite a bit; he said the proportions of everything were excellent, and the snappiness of the green beans were a nice contrast to the pasta and tomatoes. I will definitely do this again — I got two different kinds of vegetables in there!

baking food

Happy Birthday to Me

Days ago I promised photos of the cupcake #1 Son made me, and I failed to provide them. Herewith I remedy that situation.

He made pecan pie cupcakes from a recipe he found here. As it turned out, nonstick cooking spray is not enough for these babies — they need the little paper cups. Only one made it out of the tin alive:


Luckily, the child is clever. He sent Husband out for vanilla ice cream and made lovely sundaes topped with the crumbled cupcakes:

cupcake sundae

Whole or in bits, the cupcakes were absolutely delicious. #1 Son also made dinner, chicken and risotto. (You can tell where my priorities lie, can’t you?) I missed #2 Son, but it was a very nice birthday anyway.