Category Archives: Seafood

Easy Sardine Salad – The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen (Giveaway!)

A while back, Skyhorse Publishing contacted me about a book to review. The publicist told me that a great majority of the recipes in the book were naturally gluten-free, but were also approachable to any guest at the dinner table. Her recommendation and the title of the book drew me in. The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen – Glorious Meals Pure and Simple, by Levana Kirschenbaum. The majority of my cooking is 100% whole foods, so this sounded like a perfect addition to my cookbook collection (which currently has outgrown all available bookshelf space, and is now occupying some pantry shelf space, as well as space above my kitchen cabinets, and there are more without a home right now. I may have a problem…). I readily agreed to review the book, and asked for some additional copies to share with you all in a giveaway. Of course, they agreed!  

This book was just as was described to me. There are countless delicious, mouth-watering, healthy recipes made from real, whole food ingredients in this book. Homemade harissa? Curried apple kale soup? Moroccan turkey patties in lemon sauce? Just hearing those recipes makes me hungry. I currently have about a dozen recipes bookmarked in this book to make. But late one evening, when I was on my own for dinner, I decided to whip up a super-easy recipe for sardine salad.

Sardines, you ask? Aren’t those the gross little canned whole fishes? Okay, before you click away, hear me out. To many, sardines are a bit off-putting. I understand that. But they sure pack a nutritional punch. For people like me who can’t consume dairy, there aren’t many calcium-rich foods out there. But sardines are an exception. They pack nearly half of the daily requirement of calcium, thanks to those tiny edible bones. They’re also a great source of protein and omega-3s. For the price (a can of sardines costs about a dollar), they are one of those “must-have” budget foods in your pantry. If you’re skeptical about the taste, this salad is a great way to start. The tahini, lemon, and greens cut the “pungent” flavor of the fish, and when you’re mixing the ingredients together, you won’t see the skin and bones of the sardines. If you try it, you just might find these little fishes to be to your liking. While I’ve long adored sardines (particularly in another salad recipe I found over at City|Life|Eats), this recipe further established my love for them. It definitely was the perfect light meal.

Sardine Salad, from The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen, reprinted with permission

2 cans sardines, skin and bones on, oil and all

1/4 c tahini (sesame paste)

4 scallions, sliced very thin

Juice of 2 lemons, or a little more to taste

Ground pepper to taste

Splash of bottled hot sauce

4 cups very finely chopped romaine, watercress, or sprouts, or a combination (I used spinach)

Mash the sardines with their oil and the tahini with a fork in a bowl. Add the scallions, lemon juice, pepper, and hot sauce and combine thoroughly. Fold in the greens and mix. Makes 8 servings. (of course, I ate more than 1 serving as a main meal…)

And now, the giveaway. I am giving away two copies of The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen by Levana Kirschenbaum, courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing. To enter, leave me a comment.

To gain additional entries, post about this giveaway on Twitter or Facebook, and come back and leave me a comment telling me you did so.

The giveaway will end Sunday, July 31, 2011.

Good luck!

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Filed under Appetizers, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy, Salads, Seafood

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto

Risotto, to me, is an ultimate comfort food. It’s creamy, starchy, and warm – all attributes of comfort food in most people’s minds. And while this version is gluten and dairy-free, and relatively low in undesirables as far as healthfulness is concerned (it’s not comprised of processed foods and has a moderate amount of healthy fat), it’s still on the “special occasion” list for me, as it is a less-healthy grain than say, brown rice. That being said, this is deliciously indulgent without wrecking your waistline. And with the bright flavors of lemon and fresh herbs, it’s also a lovely dish for spring.

I originally found a lemon risotto over at What’s For Lunch Honey, and this recipe is based off of Meeta’s. Of course, I adjusted to my needs and what I had on hand, much to our delight as we sat down for dinner the other night. With a few seared scallops to top our risotto, suddenly, all was right with the world. We slowed to savor each bite – the scallops were so unbelievably sweet, which elevated the sunny notes in the risotto. It was a comfort dish for sure, but a lighter version – one that definitely welcomes spring.

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto, inspired by What’s For Lunch, Honey

1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock

2 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped finely

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 carrots, diced

1 t fresh thyme leaves, minced

1 c Arborio rice

1/2 c light white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

2 lemons, zest and juice

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T chopped fresh parsley

1 T chopped fresh tarragon

1 lb sea scallops

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil

2 T hulled pumpkin seeds (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring stock to a simmer. In a large skillet or low-sided saucepan, heat oil to medium heat and add onion, garlic, carrots, and thyme. Saute until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. If vegetables start to color, lower heat – you want them soft, but not brown. Add rice and continue to saute for another minute or so, stirring, to make sure each kernel is coated with oil. Add wine and deglaze pan, stirring to ensure any bits are scraped up. Cook, continuing to stir, until wine is nearly evaporated. Add a ladle-full or two of the stoc into the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is nearly absorbed, and add another ladle. Continue with this process until the rice becomes plump and gives up a lot of starch, making the rice appear creamy. This should take about 20 minutes. Once your rice is nearing done, bite into a piece to check the doneness. In the center of the rice grain, there shouldn’t be more than a pinhead-sized white dot. This is al dente.

Meanwhile, while you are stirring your rice and it’s nearing done, pat the scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat another skillet to medium-high heat and add oil. Once hot, add scallops and allow to cook undisturbed for a minute, or until scallop releases easily from the skillet and has a golden brown crust. Turn over and sear the other side. Be careful not to overcook the scallops – you want them to be slightly firm and not mushy, but you definitely don’t want rubbery. This should only take a few minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Once your risotto is al dente, add lemon zest, juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add herbs and stir in. Serve immediately in low, shallow bowls, and top with a few scallops. Sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds over as garnish, if desired.

Serves 4.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

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Filed under Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Rice, Seafood

Kids In The Kitchen: Blue Crab Boil

 

Another seafood adventure for Kids In the Kitchen – this time, with blue crabs! Brandan wanted to try a crab boil, as he’d never encountered live crabs before. Sure, we did the lobster thing a few weeks ago, and we’ve had crawfish boils, but never crab. As an avid lover of all things crab, I figured we were overdue for this adventure. I contacted my local fishmonger and we were set. We brought home about 8-9 pounds of blue crab.

Brandan was ecstatic. Of course, as any young boy, he wanted to play with them. So we picked up one, and in response, it angrily latched onto others. You were hard-pressed to only pull one from the bunch – many times, you’d pick up one only to lift a chain of three or four, clasping each other with their claws.

Ready, set, now fight!

After the play ceased and our water was boiling (we simply seasoned with Old Bay, lemons, and a bit of vinegar, which makes for easier picking), we dropped crabs into the water. They were relatively small, so they were cooked through in about 8 minutes. Boiling crustaceans actually is a relatively quick and easy job, compared to a lot of other cooking that goes on in our kitchen! After a brief cool-down, they were ready to pick and eat!

Want to know how to eat a blue crab? Check out this step-by-step tutorial over at Coconut & Lime. (Hint: you might not want to wear your Sunday best for this, and you might want to cover the table in newspaper. Also, plenty of paper towels is a plus.) It does take some time to thoroughly pick the meat from a crab, but it makes for a great social gathering opportunity – just gather around a table filled with crabs and chat and eat! (Also, a not-so-kids-in-the-kitchen-friendly tip – crabs go great with a gluten-free beer.)

The verdict in our household? Brandan and I enjoyed the crab most of all, and put quite a dent in our bounty. (I particularly savored the claw meat – so sweet and delicious.) Brittany and Matthew weren’t fans, although I wasn’t too surprised after the lobster incident last time. John wasn’t as excited about it as he was the lobster. Regardless, it was certainly a delicious adventure.

Boiled Blue Crabs

8-9 lbs live blue crabs

large, deep stockpots, filled with filtered water

1/2 c Old Bay Seasoning

2 T vinegar

2 lemons, cut in half

Add seasoning, vinegar, and lemons to water. Bring water to a boil. Add 1/3 to 1/2 of the crabs to the water and return to a boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until crabs are a bright red and are completely cooked through. Remove from water and allow to cool for a minute, and then enjoy! (Repeat with remaining crab)

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Kids In The Kitchen: Boiled Lobster

Last weekend was Brittany’s turn in the kitchen. Weeks ago, she had expressed interest in something chocolate (again). When the time came for her to decide, however, she threw a curveball. Lobster, she said. Just like a whole lobster, in the shell? I asked. Yup. I explained that we would be purchasing the lobsters live and cooking them, and while she hesitated, she agreed and we went forward with the plan. Everyone was excited – because hey, it’s not every day there is a lobster dinner at the Mantsch house!

Brittany and I went to the store to buy our lobsters and a few other items. Once the lobsters were in our cart, however, she was no longer interested in getting near the cart. Poor girl – she was worried the lobsters would somehow crawl out of their bag and pinch her. Explaining that their pinchers were secured by rubber bands was not enough to change her mind. I pushed the cart to the checkout, and I placed the lobsters in the car for the ride home, and I was the one that placed them in the refrigerator until it was time to cook.

Unfortunately for Brittany, the whole “mind over matter” thing didn’t work for her when it came to the lobsters. She couldn’t bring herself to place them into the boiling water. (I had to help, and we let Brandan drop one, as he was begging to do it) She was afraid of them. And when it came time to eat, and Brandan had devoured every minute piece of lobster, John and I had our fair share, and Matt had his obligatory “bite” (he said he didn’t like it – but he doesn’t like seafood too much), Brittany was still working through hers. She finally gave up – while she said she enjoyed the taste, she couldn’t get over that the claw meat looked like a claw. Honestly, I’m not a squeamish person when it comes to food, so it’s hard for me to totally empathize, but I felt for her. She was so excited about this meal, but her fears got the best of her. She did try throughout the process, though, and I commended her for that. (We also thanked her for a lobster dinner, because it was delicious!)

If you can handle cooking live lobsters, then this is a very easy, straightforward process. The ingredient list is short (lobster, water, maybe some clarified butter), so the hardest part will be getting to the meat! It’s well worth it though – especially with the claw meat, which is so sweet. Yum!

How to Boil a Lobster

First, make sure you choose live lobsters, and choose those that look lively and healthy in the tank. (You don’t want sluggish or sickly lobsters – so make sure they’re moving around a bit, and their eyes look good.) Buy them as close to when you expect to cook them as possible. They can stay for a while in the refrigerator (they’ll go to sleep, more or less), but it shouldn’t be for more than a few hours. When you’re ready to cook, boil a large pot of water. You can put some salt in the water if you choose.

Once the water comes to a boil, remove the rubber bands from the lobster claws and grasp them by their abdomen (they won’t be able to reach around and pinch you this way). Place them head-down into the water and bring the water back up to a boil. (I had a pot large enough to cook all of our lobsters at once this way) Boil until the lobsters are completely done – their shell should be bright red all over. The meat will no longer be translucent at all. Here are the times for various sizes of lobsters:

1 lb lobsters – 5-7 minutes

1 1/4 lb lobsters – 8-10 minutes

1 1/2 lb lobsters – 10-12 minutes

2 lb lobsters  – 12-14 minutes

3 lb lobsters – 15-18 minutes

I cooked ours for about 10 minutes (each was about 1 1/4 lbs) and they were perfect.

Need help eating the lobster? Here’s a tutorial. I have found that a pair of kitchen shears makes getting through the shell quite easy as well. Enjoy lobster meat unadorned, dipped in clarified butter or ghee, or incorporate the meat into delicious recipes like lobster risotto, lobster bisque, or a salad.

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Daring Cooks: Cold Soba Salad and Tempura

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.

While I am a fan of Japanese cuisine, truthfully, it’s something that has rarely made an appearance in my kitchen. I’ve made sushi before, but that’s about the extent of my experience. However, I was excited about this challenge – tempura is a tricky beast, and I thought this would be a wonderful chance to tackle it. As for cold soba salad – I was game for that! I’ve made soba a few times before, most successfully in a dish called ostu. It’s been a while though, and this was a new recipe, so it was also exciting.

How did I make the tempura gluten-free? This was perhaps one of the easiest adjustments so far with my Daring Cooks’ challenges. The original recipe called for a 1/2 cup of regular flour and 1/2 cup of cornstarch – so I substituted 1/2 cup of sweet white rice flour and 1/2 cup of tapioca starch. It came out beautifully – airy and crisp. We enjoyed sweet potatoes, green beans, and shrimp, dipped in the spicy dipping sauce (made gluten-free easily by substituting gluten-free soy sauce), and there wasn’t a bit left. While I loved this Japanese-style, I can easily imagine taking the tempura batter “process” over to other cuisines (onion rings, anyone?).

The soba salad was also delicious, so much so, I think I enjoyed it even more than the tempura. I served ours with a dashi sauce, green onions, eggs, grated daikon radish, pickled ginger, and some toasted nori. I am having leftovers for lunch today, and am pretty darn excited about it, if I do say so. While finding 100% buckwheat soba isn’t easy (I had to visit Whole Foods – most soba in the American groceries is a blend of wheat and buckwheat flour), I am definitely going to pick up some more when I find it again. I love the nutty, earthy flavor of the noodles.

All in all, another delicious Daring Cooks’ challenge completed! What’s even better – this has inspired me to dig further into Japanese cuisine. I’m overdue for an adventure!

Gluten-Free Tempura

1 egg yolk

1 c iced water

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/2 c tapioca starch

1/2 t baking powder

Oil for deep frying

Ice water bath, for the tempura batter

Very cold vegetables and seafood – you can choose from: blanched and cooled sweet potato slices, green beans, mushrooms, carrots, pumpkin, onions, shrimp, etc.

Place the iced water in a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor. Serve immediately for best flavor.

Gluten-Free Spicy Dipping Sauce

¾ c spring onions/green onions/scallions, finely chopped
3 T gluten-free soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
½ t agave nectar
¼ t English mustard powder
1 T grape-seed oil
1 T sesame oil
1/2 t ground  black pepper 

Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.

Gluten-Free Soba Salad

2 quarts + 1 c cold water, divided

12 oz 100% buckwheat noodles

Cooking the noodles:

  1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
  2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
  3. 

Mentsuyu – Traditional dipping sauce

2 c Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.

1/3 c gluten-free soy sauce

1/3 c mirin (sweet rice wine)

Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

I served the soba noodles by placing some cold noodles in a bowl, and ladling some of the sauce over. I topped with crumbled nori, egg omelet strips, grated raw daikon radish, pickled ginger, and some green onions. You can top with any of the following: thin omelet strips, boiled chicken breasts, ham, cucumber, boiled bean sprouts, tomatoes, toasted nori, green onions, wasabi powder, grated daikon, pickled ginger, etc. Everything should be finely grated, diced, or julienned.

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Kids In The Kitchen: Grilled Shark Steak and Dairy-Free “Creamed” Corn

Brandan’s turn in the kitchen always brings an adventure. This one not nearly as “out there” as some of the others (sea cucumber, anyone?), but still new and different. Brandan wanted to cook shark steak. When I asked what he wanted to serve with it, creamed corn was at the top of the list. Creamed corn is something I remember fondly from childhood – silky, creamy and sweet. And that was the stuff that came from a can! Making a dairy-free, non-canned version didn’t seem all that difficult. I’ll be happy to report – it wasn’t.

The shark was also very straightforward. A quick marinade, and a short time on the grill, this could easily become an adventurous meal for a weeknight. (Provided your grill isn’t covered in snow, that is. We’re in Texas, and tomorrow is our first hint at real winter weather so far this season. We grill year-round.) No grill? This could just as easily be prepared by searing in a cast-iron skillet and finished in a hot oven, much like my favorite way to prepare lamb chops.

As for the creamed corn, a simple swap of non-dairy butter and non-dairy milk for the butter and cream, and we were ready to go! I dialed back the sweetness quite a bit, relying on the natural sweetness of the corn. It was well-appreciated. I don’t often eat corn, (I don’t tolerate it well) so this was a treat for me.

A side note: One of the fun (and sometimes trying!) parts about cooking with Brandan is that he wants to taste everything. What does the Worcestershire taste like? How about the butter? Tapioca flour? How about the marinade? Can he lick the spoon? The bowl? “No, wait – don’t throw that in the sink yet – I was going to lick it!” I love that he wants to explore everything. Especially when it comes to food. This is how I was when I was a child, so it reminds me a bit of myself. But the growing mountain of “tasting spoons” in the sink, the fact that we have to sometimes prepare extra ingredients just to account for the “eaten during preparation” factor, and the way progress is slowed to a crawl, can be trying to one’s patience. (This is why I tend to lean towards simple recipes with Brandan – intricately timed recipes are difficult with any kid, and he’s no exception!) Overall, the experiences we share – not just with Brandan, but with all the kids – are immeasurable. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And now, back to the food. The verdict on the steak? The family was split. My husband and Brandan both loved it. My husband described it as “meaty like a steak, with a nice grill, smoke flavor, but then light with the flavor of the sea at the end.” (Had to document that, because it’s not often you get such a description of flavors from him!) Matt said it was “kinda good, kinda bad.” Brittany ate it with ketchup, something I wouldn’t recommend. (She eats every protein on her plate with ketchup lately. I just wrinkle my nose at her. Yuck.) I wasn’t fond of it, truthfully. I found the marinade a bit salty, and the texture less than super-tender. I think if shark steak appears in our kitchen again, I’ll consider preparing it like we did swordfish – that recipe was very tender and flavorful. Or create a simple oil-and-citrus marinade with herbs, and cook it more gently, and top it with either a mediterreanean-style salsa (something involving tomatoes and capers), or in the summer, a fresh fruit salsa. (Okay, this is making my mouth water. Maybe this shark thing wouldn’t be so bad after all!)

If you venture to try shark steak, or if you’ve prepared it in the past, tell me: How did you prepare it? What did you think?

Grilled Shark Steak

1/2 c gluten-free soy sauce or tamari (I use San-J)

1/2 c gluten-free Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is gluten-free)

4 T onion powder

4 T garlic powder

1/2 t ground sage

1/4 t dry mustard

1 t ground black pepper

6 6-oz shark steaks

Whisk soy sauce, Worcestershire, and spices together in a small bowl. Place shark steaks in a large glass baking dish, and pour marinade over. Turn steaks to coat. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Heat grill to medium heat. Grill steaks about 5 minutes each side or until the center is just cooked through.

Serves 6.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free “Creamed” Corn

2 T non-dairy butter (I used Earth Balance buttery sticks)

2 T tapioca flour

1 1/2 c non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious unsweetened coconut beverage)

1 T evaporated cane sugar

3 c frozen corn kernels

Pinch or two of salt, or as needed

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add non-dairy butter. Swirl and melt the butter, then add the tapioca flour, whisking constantly until blended well. Add the non-dairy milk and sugar and continue to whisk until the mixture is steaming and becomes thick, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the corn and whisk in. Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the corn kernels are hot. Season to taste with salt.

Serves 6.

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Kids in the Kitchen: Escargot and Turtle Soup

If you’ve been following along with Kids in the Kitchen for any length of time, I’m sure you can guess who was in the kitchen this time around by the title of the post. Most kids wouldn’t choose escargot and turtle to prepare. Brandan, however, thrives on trying new things. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how readily the dishes were received by some other members of the family. Brittany actually expressed how excited she was to try escargot. (Matt, not so much, but he did try it, at least.) The turtle soup was also well-received, considering it was so foreign to the kids.

My husband and I are quite familiar with escargot. It’s one of our favorite indulgences, albeit something we rarely have an opportunity to enjoy. (And now, I hesitate to try to enjoy it with non-dairy butter, because I’m afraid it just won’t be the same. If any of my dairy-free friends have tried it and have advice, please share!) The kids, however, never tried it before and were eager. Brandan was surprised (and perhaps disappointed?) when he didn’t get to start with live snails. He was greeted instead by canned escargot and empty, clean snail shells. As for me, I would much rather skip the “nasty” part and would much prefer the easy route!

The turtle meat was difficult to source. I knew I saw it at one of our local Asian groceries at one point in time, but I visited a few days ago, and no luck. So I contacted a local seafood shop (Capt’n Dave’s Seafood Market) and was able to order the meat in time for this weekend. However, it certainly wasn’t cheap. The next “adventure” will certainly have to be a more budget-friendly meal, which, with Brandan’s tastes, will certainly require some negotiation.

The turtle soup required some time and prep work, but the easy and simplicity of the escargot offset that. But it was well worth it – the soup was a bit spicy, full of flavor, and the turtle meat emerged tender and delicious. (FYI, turtle meat is actually quite nice. The texture is similar to pork, in my mind, and the flavor just as mild.) The kids enjoyed it with french bread. But in their minds, the escargot stole the show. Buttery and garlicky, it was fun and delicious. I borrowed Jaden’s recipe at Steamy Kitchen, omitted the cognac, and it was perfect. If you eat dairy, this would be a great classic appetizer to impress.

For the escargot recipe, visit Steamy Kitchen here.

Gluten-Free Turtle Soup, adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 lbs boneless turtle meat

2 3/4 t salt

3/4 t cayenne

6 c water

1/2 c grapeseed oil

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1 1/2 c chopped onions

1/4 c chopped bell peppers

1/4 c chopped celery

3 bay leaves

1/2 t dried rubbed sage

2 T minced garlic

1/2 c crushed tomatoes

1/2 c Worcestershire sauce

3 T fresh lemon juice

1/2 c dry sherry

1/4 c fresh chopped parsley

1/2 c chopped green onions

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

For garnish:

2 T chopped green onions

2 T chopped hard boiled eggs

Put the turtle meat in a large saucepan with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 t cayenne, and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and skim off the foam that rises to the top. Simmer for 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a platter, reserving liquid. Chop the meat to 1/2 inch dice. In another large saucepan, heat oil and rice flour over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, for 6 minutes. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and saute another 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, sage, and garlic, and saute, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and turtle meat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the remaining salt and cayenne, the reserved turtle stock, lemon juice, and sherry. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add the parsley, green onions, and eggs and simmer for 45 minutes. Garnish with green onions and eggs.

Serves 6-8.

Don’t Forget! There’s still time to enter into the giveaway for Gluten-Free Holiday! Visit here and enter for your chance to win a copy of Kelly and Peter Bronski’s Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking or Jules E Dowler Shephard’s Free For All Cooking!

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Kids in the Kitchen: Braised Sea Cucumber

Yep, you read that right. Braised sea cucumber. As in, the big worm-looking echinoderm. We have a house full of picky eaters, for sure, except Brandan. Brandan is always ready to try a strange food. Specifically, a strange protein. (While he will try new vegetables, his focus is generally on meat, seafood, and the like.) He’s talked about sea cucumber multiple times in the past, and my response has always been “Honey, I have no idea where to buy such a thing.” So each time it was Brandan’s turn to cook, we turned to other options.

Until now.

A few weeks ago, the new 99 Ranch Market opened near our home. I visited during the grand opening. We already have many other Asian markets in the area that are exceptional, and I love that each is unique. 99 Ranch Market was no exception. They sold things I’d only read about – durians, jackfruit…and sea cucumber.

I was giddy when I found it. They sold it several ways – frozen, frozen and pre-sliced, and fresh. When I next saw Brandan, I told him about it. Needless to say, he was excited. I cautioned him that I’d never eaten it, and while I researched a bit on how to cook it (I explained the recipe, and what I read about the general flavor and texture), there was no guarantee we’d get it right, because I was unfamiliar. He was up for the challenge, and so we made plans to make it this weekend.

Once we got down to it, it wasn’t hard to make. The big “hassle” was that it needed to be cleaned and blanched prior to cooking. No biggie. It only took us about 45 minutes from start to finish. (That’s probably about 30 minutes in regular cooking time)

The verdict? Not bad. Sea cucumber really has no flavor on its own, so it adopts the flavor of the sauce. The texture is what is most interesting. It’s gelatinous. Which in my mind isn’t a bad thing – I love texture. Slippery, slimy, crunchy, chewy – all good for me. Brandan ate it and thought it was interesting. As for everyone else? Well, as I said before, we have a house of picky eaters. And Brandan and I had as much sea cucumber as we liked.

Braised Sea Cucumber, adapted from healthy-chinese-recipes.com

1 lb fresh or reconstituted sea cucumbers

5 T grapeseed oil

2 carrots, sliced thin

1 medium onion, sliced thin

5 T grapeseed oil

1/2 t ginger, grated

1/2 t garlic, grated

1 t rice wine

1 T gluten-free soy sauce

4 fl oz chicken stock

1 t agave nectar

1 T arrowroot powder

1/4 t sesame oil

Slice the sea cucumbers at the stomach and rinse clean. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch sea cucumbers for 1 minute. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and drain. Set aside.

Heat grapeseed oil in a large wok or skillet to medium-high heat. Add the carrots and onion and stir-fry until tender, 2 minutes or so. Add the sea cucumber and stir-fry for another minute.

In a medium bowl, combine the ginger, garlic, rice wine, gluten-free soy sauce, chicken stock, agave nectar, and arrowroot and whisk together. Pour sauce into wok and stir. When sauce comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until thickened. Drizzle sesame oil over and serve over steamed jasmine rice.

Serves 4.

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Filed under Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Seafood

Kids In The Kitchen: Fried Soft-Shell Crabs and Fried Rice

Yesterday morning was Brandan’s turn to visit the farmer’s market and pick out his “ingredient” for his turn in the kitchen. This time of year, the markets overflow with fresh vegetables and fruits – you can turn your head left and right and see onions, garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, peaches, zucchini, peppers, watermelon, berries – just about anything you could want. As we walk in, I ask Brandan if any of these things sound good to him. He mutters “not yet”, and then asks “Can we buy a raw onion so I can just eat it?” Struggling with my own “blech” factor (I’m okay with raw onion in small amounts, but to eat one whole, like an apple, seems bizarre to me), I tell him he can get one if he’d like. Then he spots the stand – an older gentleman is selling Gulf seafood.

We talk with the gentleman for a few minutes. Brandan has already gazed at his menu and has set his heart on soft shell crabs, although he’s never eaten one. I ask about the safety of the seafood from the Gulf (because isn’t this everyone’s question, lately?), and he assures me that he receives seafood from unaffected areas. However, the future of this is somewhat uncertain. I ask him how many crabs he has available. He has six. They’re frozen – not my first choice, but there was zero chance of talking Brandan out of this one. I purchase them all.

In an effort to then remind Brandan that we need a rounded meal, we head towards another booth, where a farmer has a staggering array of fruits and vegetables. He has both fresh white and fresh bi-color corn available, so we buy a few ears. We also pick up a huge orange-fleshed watermelon. Arms loaded (I also had my CSA share bag, plus a pork shoulder roast and about 12 pounds of beef short ribs – they were on special at Truth Hill Farms for $1.99/lb – I only did not take all that they had because a couple standing next to me wanted some), we stagger to the car and head home.

The gentleman selling the crabs told us that his favorite way to prepare them is to batter them and fry them for sandwiches. I ask Brandan if he would prefer to fry them or grill them – the only two ways I knew off the top of my head to prepare soft shell crabs. Brandan wishes to fry them. So then comes the question – how? Do we want to make them all gluten-free, or not gluten-free? My husband suggests that we fry one gluten-free first, and we prepare the rest using regular flour. This will be the first time I’ve allowed regular flour in my house since going gluten-free. Brandan thinks this is fine, and I agree.

I understand that there are a lot of different ways those with gluten intolerance handle their kitchens. Some are totally gluten-free. Some aren’t. For those that are not, there are even varying degrees of gluten-free, and most will say that there are some practices that occur in their kitchens to limit cross-contamination issues. My kitchen until yesterday only allowed packaged gluten-containing foods – breads, granola bars, cereals, an occasional frozen pizza, etc. If anything was to be cooked that contained gluten, there are a few pots, pans, and utensils in a designated drawer – the “gluten” cooking items. If someone was cooking with gluten and made a crumb-y mess, the area was always thoroughly cleaned before I’d go anywhere near it with food I was consuming. With the reintroduction of a small amount of flour into our kitchen, I knew the cleaning and cross-contamination potential would have to be addressed.

Brandan and I talked about the importance of thoroughly washing his hands, not flinging the flour around in the air and everywhere on the counters, and why we had to be sure that we followed the cooking in a certain order – the gluten-free crab had to be cooked first. With a few reminders along the way, we managed through it. I ensured that my freshly fried crab went covered, in the microwave, just so it could stay safely away from any potential airborne flour. And afterwards, the kitchen was cleaned top to bottom – the cabinets wiped, counters cleaned, and every appliance wiped down thoroughly. Even knobs were cleaned.

 Sounds like a lot of work just to fry a bit of crab? Perhaps, on a normal day. But after some long conversations with myself (and my husband), I want to be sure the “Kids in the Kitchen” times are about the kids. They’re not about my issues – and while I will always explain, if needed, that whatever they dream up might either a) not be enjoyed by me, because I can’t eat the gluten or dairy (and I explain where that ingredient lurks, so they gain understanding), so they can be prepared, and not disappointed, when I can’t share in the enjoyment of their food, or b) opt to make a modified version for everyone, or a modified version for me. I don’t wish to encourage or discourage either way – because these special times with the kids in the kitchen are about teaching them that cooking can be fun, and showing them how to prepare food for themselves. My goal here is to arm them with some knowledge and confidence to cook, so that when they are on their own, they realize that there is a better, cheaper, and healthier way than the drive-thru or frozen, packaged, prepared meals. As they don’t live at our house 24/7, and they don’t suffer from the same issues I do, I don’t focus on gluten-free living with them. (They get their healthy, mostly gluten-free meals when it’s Mom’s turn in the kitchen!)

Anyway, on to the meal. We served the crabs with the fresh corn (none for me, as I’m realizing that corn gives me issues as well. Sigh.) and fried rice. Yes, a bit of an awkward combination perhaps, but it tasted good, and it was Brandan’s choice, after all! He happily gobbled up the crab, and laid claim on all of the leftovers of the fried rice, insisting he was going to take it to his grandfather to show how good it was – “better than Papa’s,” he exclaimed. He had plans to tell Papa how he made it. I might have been beaming, just a little.

 

Fried Soft-Shell Crabs

1-2 quarts canola oil

6 soft shell crabs, cleaned

2 c gluten-free flour blend (I used a high-protein flour blend from a Living Without recipe, but you could use any gluten-free flour mix)

1/4 t cayenne powder

3/4 t fine sea salt

Lemons, for serving

Preheat the oil to 375 degrees in a large, heavy dutch oven. Meanwhile, mix together the flours, cayenne and the salt. Dredge each crab, one at a time, in the flour, and drop in the hot oil. Fry for 3 minutes or until golden brown and the crab is cooked through. Remove and allow to drain on paper towels. Season with additional salt if needed, and serve with lemons. Serves 4-6.

 

Meatless Fried Rice

3 T olive oil or peanut oil

4 eggs, scrambled

2 T chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 c cooked, cooled leftover rice (freshly steamed rice will not work – it will only turn into a sticky, gluey mess)

1 c peas (if frozen, thaw first)

2-3 T gluten-free soy sauce (I use San-J wheat-free tamari)

2 t sesame oil

Sriracha, for serving (I use Huy Fong)

Heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or a large skillet until shimmering. Add the eggs and scramble quickly, until almost set. Remove and wipe pan clean. Add additional oil to pan and saute onion for 1 minute. Add garlic and saute for an additional 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir, and spread out into a single layer. Turn heat to high and allow rice to fry, undisturbed, for a minute or until you really hear the grains sizzle. Stir and spread out again, and allow to fry undisturbed for a minute. Add peas and stir, and add soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir and allow to fry, undisturbed, one more time. Add eggs and stir, and then taste to see if additional soy sauce is needed. Serve, drizzled with Sriracha if desired. Serves 6.

Note: This is not a hard-and-fast recipe. I rarely measure, and I often add additional vegetables to my fried rice, such as carrots, green onions, ginger, or even asparagus, bell peppers, or zucchini. The possibilities are endless – it’s a great way to eat up leftover bits!

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Quick and Easy, Rice, Seafood

Crawfish Etouffee

Last year, we held a crawfish boil for our neighborhood, partially funded by Foodbuzz as a 24,24,24 event. This year, while we didn’t get out with our neighbors (although our next-door-neighbor did come visit and chow down), we invited a bunch of friends and family to join in the fun. My husband boiled crawfish all afternoon while all of us enjoyed the heat (okay, well, enjoy is a bit of exaggeration – it was toasty!) and ate mudbugs until we popped. Even my dear friend Cindy from Jacob’s Reward Farm visited with her family. I took extra care to be sure that the crawfish were gluten-free by contacting Zatarain’s to ensure that the spice mixes we would use were safe. (They were – hooray!) Also available to munch on were burgers and hot dogs (not so gluten-free), chips and guacamole, cookies and homemade rice krispie treats, both brought by generous guests, and even some healthy gluten-free sweet treats – carrot cake bites. In our house, if we’re hosting an event, it’s guaranteed there will be LOTS of food!

Of course, many of our friends are still not big crawfish eaters, and so we had to send a few lucky guests home with a bag of crawfish or two. And I spent some time peeling all I could handle, just so I’d have the tails for a delicious meal – etouffee. Even before our party was over, I already was envisioning the next meal.

Etouffee is a relatively straightforward Cajun dish typically served with rice. It’s similar to gumbo, but it comes together much more quickly. The dish is greater than the sum of its parts – it tastes as though it had been simmering for hours. After a busy weekend and a long day of cleanup, this was exactly the meal we needed.

Crawfish Etouffee, adapted from Emeril LaGasse’s Louisiana Real and Rustic

1 stick (1/4 lb butter)

2 c diced onions

1 c diced celery

1/2 c diced green bell pepper

1 lb crawfish tails, peeled

2 bay leaves

1/2 T potato starch

1 c water

1 t kosher salt

1/4 t cayenne

2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley

Melt butter in a large saute pan on medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and bell pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until soft and slightly golden. Reduce heat to medium and add the bay leaves and crawfish and saute for another 7-8 minutes or until crawfish start to give off liquid.

Mix the potato starch together with the water and pour into saute pan. Add salt and cayenne and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. Stir in parsley and cook for another minute or two. Serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4.

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy, Seafood