Friday, August 28, 2009

Fresher is better - especially crab

If you can't buy live crabs, fresh picked (as in out of the crab) in a market that sells live crabs is the next best thing. I know, a lot of you who hate to pick out the crab meat would say it's the best thing, but for me, knowing exactly when my seafood meets its demise is important. I made some crab cakes out of the "Tavern on the Green" cookbook and the recipe made more of them than advertised. So I froze the rest, and cooked them up for lunch when we got back from the river cabin. Really, really good... but they still didn't compare to the first night. For the most part, the flavorings came through splendidly, but the crab just wasn't as special.

The sauce, however, took the dish almost all the way home. Avocado tartar sauce! What a superb idea.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Off to the river- mahimahi and all

We're heading to a river cabin for a few days, so I won't be posting for the rest of the week. So I thought I'd leave you with a seafood recipe from Roy's of Hawaii, from a review I did a couple of years ago.

Pan-seared mahimahi with eggplant misoyaki
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 14 minutes Serves 4 as main course

If you don't want to fire up a grill in addition to the broiler and stovetop, just broil the eggplant, flesh side up, first instead of grilling.

Eggplant misoyaki:
1/4 cup red miso (aka miso)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake
4 Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup olive oil

4 (7-ounce) mahimahi fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to 450 degrees. Preheat the broiler.
To prepare the eggplant, combine the miso, sugar, mirin and sake in a bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Score the eggplant halves in a crisscros pattern, about 1/16 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart, and brush with the olive oil. Grill the eggplant, flesh side down, for 3 to 4 minutes, until cooked halfway through. Transfer to a roasting pan and baste the eggplant skin with the miso mixture. Place under the broiler, flesh side up and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer, until the eggplant skin is caramelized. Set aside and keep warm.

To prepare the manhimahi, season it with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a stainless-steel sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is hot and shimmering. Sear the fish for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until opaque throughout.

To serve, place 2 eggplant halves in parallel fashion on each plate and arrange the fish on top.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Okra tips

Believe it or not, the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month had a story on okra. A sure sign that this vegetable is going national. And why not? It's a really pretty plant in the garden, with hibiscus-like flowers and produces well in hot weather.

How to use: To avoid okra's potential gumminess, cook it over a high, dry heat or coat it lightly with cornmeal or tempura batter and flash-fry it. Or you could just embrace okra's gelatinous qualities, which will transform slow-cooked dishes like gumbo and sauces.

On menus: At Picán in Oakland, fried okra graces the top of the Southern Caesar salad. At Mingalaba in Burlingame, okra stars in two dishes: pan-fried with prawns, and center stage in a Burmese-style curry with hard-cooked eggs. In San Francisco, Cav serves okra as a side in a simple tomato sauce with garlic and olive oil; Baby Blues BBQ offers a simple side of sauteed okra.

Read more:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Baking tips

Note to readers: Baking is not my strong suit. If you have any tips you'd like to share, leave a comment below, or e-mail me at

  • Sprinkle pie crust scraps with cinnamon and sugar, and bake like cookies.
  • If your cake recipe calls for nuts, heat them first in the oven, then dust with flour before adding to the batter to keep them from settling to the bottom of the pan.
  • When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey. The honey will slide right out.
  • Sift flour as it is being emptied into the container. As most recipes call for sifted flour, this will save much time.
  • Save butter wrappers in the freezer to use for greasing pans when baking. Keep your butter in the freezer and grate just what you need over toast or in recipes that call for a tablespoon or less.
  • Use unflavored dental floss to cut all kinds of soft foods: soft cheese, rolled dough, layered cake and cheesecake.
  • For a disposable pastry bag: Take a heavy-duty zipper-seal plastic bag and snip off one corner, making a slightly curved cut. Using a standard two-piece plastic coupler (available wherever cake decorating supplies are sold), insert the larger piece into the hole. Choose a tip and secure it with the coupler's ring. Fill the bag and zip the top closed. Decorate away, then remove the coupler/tip assembly and toss the bag. No messy cleanup!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The forgiving salmon

There's a reason salmon is so popular: There is hardly any way to ruin it, except by cooking it too long and/or trying to keep it warm for more than a half hour, or hiding it under a too-heavy sauce. We had it cooked wonderfully tonight, with a light lemon sauce flavored with sauteed onions and dill, accompanied by roasted rosemary baby red potatoes and tender haricots vert.