Sunday, August 30, 2015

Taking Summer Out In Style...With Seafood!

Just doesn't get any better!
Even though the calendar claims that there are still three weeks left of summer, we all know that once the school bells start to's over. So, with that in mind, on this last "unofficial" week of lazy, hazy days, let's go BIG! Ending with a Labor Day Spectacular using the treasures of the ocean and bays of our coastal waterways.

I'm spending a long Labor Day weekend with my family at the Jersey shore. I also have several friends doing the same within blocks of us! A conversation at a recent "Wine & Art" party (more about that another time) came the realization that, at some point, we are all planning a night of seafood! One night celebrating the best that summer has to offer..fresh lobster, clams, crabs and mussels!

When I was looking at the amenities of our rental, I noticed that among the listing was a "lobster pot", and that set my mind racing. Now, our plan is to use sweet Jersey blue claws in place of its larger counterpart, but the remainder of the recipe will be used from a version I found while visiting Maine a few years back. And trust me when I say, there in no better place than Maine for lobster recipes!

Summer Seafood Feast!

Herb Butter
2 sticks (1/2 lb of butter)
1-1/2 cups of freshly chopped herbs. (Use your favorites, but I'm going with parsley and chives)
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Seafood Boil
The original recipe calls for:
(I offer this for those wanting a true New England flavor)
1/3 cup of sea salt
3 tbls coriander seeds
2 tbls fennel seeds
1 tbls black peppercorn
4 bay leaves
2 tsps of red pepper flakes

Our family recipe for a good seafood boil: 
(I offer this for those who want both flavor and ease!)
3/4 cup of Old Bay
1 can of beer
2 tbls of red pepper flakes

Now, toss your preferred seasoning boil into a large pot (about 6 qts) of salted boiling water.
Then add:
6 sprigs of thyme
3 chopped tomatoes
2 onions, cut in half
4 stalks of celery cut into large sections
2 lemons, halved
4 heads of unpeeled garlic
2 cups of white wine. (I always feel bad putting living creatures into boiling water...but drowning in wine and beer can't be the worst way to go!)
Let this simmer about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend, then take a slotted spoon to remove some of the larger ingredients, lemons, onions, celery.

Then add:
3 lbs of small, red-skin or Yukon Gold potatoes
6 ears of corn, husked and halved
1 lb of smoked sausage (kielbasa works great)
(Put the potatoes in first and allow them to cook for about 15 minutes. Next add the corn and smoked sausage for another 5 minutes. Remove the items from the broth, place in a large bowl and cover with foil)

Then add:
3 live lobsters (or, as we are doing, a dozen or so Jersey blue claw crabs)
2 lbs of mussels scrubbed
2 lbs of little neck clams,
1 lb of scallops or shrimp (your preference)

First cook the lobsters or crabs for about 5 minutes before adding the remaining treasures-which just need a few minutes in the flavor-filled broth. It is truly the broth that makes this seafood feast memorable!

Again, using a slotted spoon, remove all of the seafood and place over the potatoes and corn. Then "wet" the mixture with the broth, but remember-it is not a soup! The final step is to pour the melted herb butter over the steaming bowl. There are few words to describe the flavor that will follow!

I will admit, this is not a cheap meal. In fact, it can be expensive unless everyone eating is chipping in as well! BUT, this is simply the best way to end the summer. Family and friends, sitting around a table in the back yard on a warm summer evening, eating seafood and drinking a few cold brews!

Yeah...let's take this summer out in style!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Jersey Fresh...What's Left on the Vine!

Late August means Jersey Fresh at its best!!!
There are just a couple weeks left of summer. About a month till the first day of fall, but once Labor Day hits, our mindset here in the northeast's over. Which is why I made it a point to get to a local farm market this weekend. It's harvest time! Unlike June, fields are full of lush vegetables! Full ripe tomatoes are bending the vines and the corn is high.

Farmer's markets now have tables stacked high with their hauls and there is no better way to spend a Saturday morning then with a bunch of friends, walking around, sampling the goods and stuffing their bags! What I love about county farm markets is that there is virtually anything you need there. I bought rye bread (so good toasted with my egg white omelet this morning), fabulous oatmeal cookies made with Splenda (this probably excited me more than it would you...), tomatoes, corn, eggplants, and a beautiful arrangement of fresh flowers. And, my surprise purchase of the day was the first of the season Jersey apples!

A must for dipping in juice of a tomato!!
As usual, we were all chatting at once about what we were going to make with our state grown treasures as we strolled among the vendors. Now, my sister Betty and I can make a meal out of fried eggplant and a tomato salad. (The Italian comes out in us when we dip the eggplant slices into the tomato salad)! And nothing can be easier to make with just dipping sliced eggplant in an egg/milk mixture, then dredging through Italian seasoned bread crumbs and frying to golden brown. When I made these on summer evenings years ago, my youngest son Kyle would run in the kitchen and take a few (like they were cookies) and run back outside. I can't smell them frying without thinking about that.

Late summer tomatoes are the sweetest!
The scents and tastes of food can trigger such amazing memories. There are too many years now separating me from the time
we got to spend with our Mom who died way to young when we were still children, but I can't cut up a plump  Jersey tomato without thinking of the times she would gather us in the garden with a loaf of fresh white bread, a jar of mayonnaise and a salt shaker, for summer tomato sandwiches!

I love to entertain using fresh farm products! Their rich,full flavors really requires very little else in terms of spices and enhancements. In fact, I make what I call a "chunk" salad which always goes quickly with requests for the dressing. And I don't do anything but "simple", so here it is!

Cut up (2) peeled cucumbers, (3) tomatoes,  (1) green or red pepper, and a couple stalks of celery. Place in a bowl and set aside. Then mix together:  1/4 cup of vegetable or canola oil (olive oil, my usual preference, is a little strong for this dressing) 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt (don't skip this step, it is the salt that draws the juices from the tomatoes that blends in with the dressing.) and 3/4 teaspoon of sugar. Add pepper to taste. Whisk it all together and pour over vegetables. Serve at room temperature for full flavor. That's it! Couldn't be easier or taste better!

So, please take the time to enjoy what is left of summer and take advantage of all our local farmers have to offer! What we purchase now, gets them through winter and, more importantly, brings them back in the spring! And it's just so healthy and delicious!

And, those who have followed Kitchen Clatter over the last couple of years (and I'm grateful for all 100,000 plus readers) know that I amp up the recipes and food blogs as autumn approaches. After a summer of working long hours and then relaxing on my down time, I am heading back to the kitchen! Stay tuned! We are just getting started...again!