Saturday, August 21, 2010

Louie, Louie, crab Louis

If you order crab Louis and the waitress asks what kind of dressing you want on your salad, just walk out the door. Crab Louis has its dressing built into the dish. It is crabmeat. It is lettuce. But it's the dressing that makes it crab Louis.

Crab Louis
adapted from "Creole Gumbo and All That Jazz" by Howard Mitcham (Addison-Wesley, 1978, 180 pages)
Serves 4

1 large head (or 2 small) romaine lettuce
1 cup homemade mayonnaise
1/4 cup tomato sauce, or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 pound fresh crabmeat, picked clean and squeezed dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Wash the lettuce, remove the coarse ribs and shred. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, tomato sauce or paste, lemon juice, capers and cayenne together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Blend in the lettuce and the crab, gently as not to break it up, until both are well coated. Serve in individual salad bowls.

Homemade mayonnaise

2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
White pepper to taste
16 ounces olive or canola oil

Beat together the yolks and the seasoning ingredients. Add the oil, a drop at a time at first, then in a slow, steady stream. Keep beating until all the oil is absorbed. If it curdles, you have added the oil too quickly. Start over with a new bowl and an egg yolk. Beat the yolk, and add the curdled mixture to it slowly. The final mixture should be velvety, creamy and smooth, and it should have a full-bodied zest.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jerry Brown takes the cake

In case you're not on Facebook, or not in the habit of looking at former (and future candidate for) California Gov. Jerry Brown's page, here's the recipe he posted for his mom's banana cake.

Bernice Brown’s Banana Cake
by Jerry Brown on Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 5:22pm

½ cup butter
2 eggs
1 and ½ cups sugar
½ cup sour milk (1 teaspoon lemon or vinegar to make sour milk)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed (the riper, the better)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks. Add milk with baking soda. Mix.
Put baking powder in flour, mix in gently. Add vanilla, banana and nuts.
Fold in beaten egg whites last. Mix barely, don’t over beat.
Bake in 3 greased layer cake tins at 325-350 degrees for 30 minutes.


2 tablespoons butter
2 and ½ cups powdered sugar
1 egg (may be eliminated if concerned about using raw egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla
A little cream
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and mix. Add vanilla. Add cream until frosting is the right consistency to spread.
Make the cake the day before serving.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In praise of hostels

I'm out here on a lovely deck overlooking trees and a small meadow, enjoying my morning coffee as the sun slowly rises, twinkling through dew-kissed leaves. Bees lazily check out the rose-of-Sharon next to the deck, and move on, not finding any blossoms open yet. The chirps of insects and birds intertwine and the air is still cool.

As pleasant as the morning is, my thoughts return to last night's dinner: spinach-and-ricotta-stuffed ravioli and a large salad of heirloom tomatoes, fresh oregano and marjoram, avocado, and butter lettuce, dressed with red wine vinegar and sunflower oil seasoned with paprika, salt and pepper.

I wish I could recommend the restaurant where we dined so simply yet well, but it was no restaurant. We ate in.

And for me, that is the beauty of a hostel: So many options, for a reasonable price. That is why I became a life member of  HI-USA (formerly AYH) many years ago, although sometimes years pass between visits.

Some offer great chances to meet people from all over the world; some are in beautiful spots; some require you to spend early mornings doing chores.

The Harpers Ferry hostel is one of the better ones, with two "family" rooms (for $40 per night for members) with coded locks, a well-appointed kitchen that only lacks sharp knives, an herb garden and selection of dried herbs in the kitchen, and large bathroom/showers segregated by sex. They have lockers available for those in the dorm rooms. The hostel is on a flat area on a hillside, with plenty of parking and room for campers ($10 for adults, less for groups and youth) as well. It has picnic tables, grills and a fire ring for cooler evenings. A nice big supermarket (where we bought the frozen raviolis, lettuce and avocado) is a few miles away in the town of Brunswick. The hostel store keeps a supply of organic canned soups, top ramen, frozen pizzas and ice cream bars for sale; and there's a fridge with free food as well. This hostel also comes with another perk: Free make-your-own pancakes from 7-10 a.m., with raisins and chocolate chips to sprinkle in the batter, and plenty of syrup and soft margarine on the table.

During the summer, it stays open all day, a real convenience for Appalachian Trail hikers who can't time their arrival to precisely 4 p.m. The only chores required are to wash and put away your dishes, and to strip your bed and put the linens and towels in a hamper on your way out.

The guests were about evenly split between youth and older guests; only two, young women from Germany, were backpackers who stopped for a comfortable night with showers.

On the map above (click on it to see it at its full size), the hostel is just south of the junction of Keep Tryst and Sandy Hook Road; you can either drive to the Visitor Center and take a shuttle to the old town of Harpers Ferry (1 on the map) and other sites, or you can walk to the town via the C&O canal path, which has a pedestrian crossing into the town over the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.

For more information on the hostel, click HERE. For more information on Harpers Ferry, click HERE.