Category Archives: sea creatures

the crab chronicles

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it’s softshell crab season again, yehey!
i always watch out for these lovely critters, arriving on our shores, er, grocery shelves, i mean, in the green of springtime. i’ve yet to convince my kids to take a bite–they who usually gobble up fried fish and chips, tempura, and other such battered goodies. i just can’t fathom why not.

maybe it has something to do with how they’re prepped, while still alive. i’ll spare you the gory details, but i will say i apologized profusely to each one, and took a deep breath and got into the zone. you know, the me-human, gotta eat zone.

i decided to do a mad-scientist kind of experiment, dipping the crabs into a different crumb mixture in the third stage of deep-fry-batter.
after the crabs were rinsed and “prepped” dip in seasoned flour (salt and pepper, plus cayenne and paprika if desired), then beaten egg, then the breadcrumbs. i dipped two of the crabs in a mixture of plain bread crumbs and ground almonds,
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one crab in only ground almonds
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and one in only bread crumbs.

then they were all deep fried.
i’ve decided that i liked them all so much, i’ve declared it a draw. although if you bribe coax me enough i’d declare the half almond half bread crumb the winner.

i prepared a little bowl of creamy dip of mayonnaise, finely crushed garlic, lemon, olive oil, and aji amarillo for a bit of a kick. substitutes for aji amarillo (yellow pepper paste from Peru): i’d go for anything that is zesty like sriracha, or tabasco, or even ketchup if that’s all you can bear. or even just a spritz of fresh lemon juice! or calamansi! or lime! whew, just. go. get. some. softshell crabs. right. NOW.

salmon coulibiac

i pounced upon the recipe from Delia Smith’s seafood collection, because it was so intriguing: it looked like a lovely retro party dish…and when i encountered it again in a vintage 1977 cookbook, i quickly ran a check for the ingredients on hand (puff pastry! basmati rice! baby bella mushrooms!) and went for a quick trip to the market for a fresh slab of salmon and a bag of baby spinach.

salmon coulibiac is much like a beef Wellington in that a semi-cooked protein is layered with vegetables and wrapped in a flaky pastry dough before baking.
salmon coulibiac
salmon coulibiac
it has French and Russian pedigrees, so there is very much to love about it–salmon, sauteed spinach, mushrooms and onions, hard-boiled eggs, al dente seasoned basmati rice and dill cloaked in store-bought butter-rich puff pastry. i was so pleased that the kids loved it–you know, sometimes salmon is too strong of an oily fish flavor for some young ‘uns. it sure helped to serve a bright lemony Hollandaise sauce alongside.
i think this would be a grand counterpoint to the Big Bird this Thanksgiving.
from “The Smart Cook Collection, Fish,” Delia Smith. recipe is online too! :thumbsup:
assembling a coulibiac

shrimp adobo with coconut milk

so the evil Irene has left us somewhat unscathed,except for a messy backyard. i feel sorry for the trees but mysteriously even as their tops were sheared off our cars were spared.
it was–err, uhm, miraculous.
the morning after Irene
the downed tree branches (one of them was big enough to be a whole tree–all twenty feet of a top branch, deposited by the wind on a clearing, missing out on our garages, cars, and basketball pole/net thingy). all we had to do was clear away twigs and leaves from the windshield wipers– and then gas up the chain saw to cut away the tangled mess. thank you angels!

we did not even lose power…it is not occasion to gloat though because this hurricane/storm wrought so much havoc and destruction in other places. i prayerfully wish there will be no more.

i had stocked up the freezer and pantry and we were prepared to ride out a long spell of a blackout. one of the items i bought was a big box of frozen white shrimp (suaje) and i made a dish stitched together from two recipes of my new Filipino cookbooks:
shrimp adobo with coconut milk, garnished with sliced kamias (bilimbi fruit).
in my childhood, every home seemed to have their own kamias tree–the fruit so perfect for souring soups, for drying into candy like prunes. i used to eat them fresh out of the tree dipped in rock salt–hehe, i know, i’m weird that way. now i make do with frozen fruit from my Asian or Pinoy grocery.
the result is an interesting mix of complex flavors…this dish is not the one to serve picky, dainty eaters because the shrimp must be cooked shell-on. serve these to your more adventurous friends.
shrimp adobo with coconut milk
before stewing in coconut milk, marinate the shrimp briefly in coconut vinegar and garlic…
marinating shrimp adobo
would you like the recipe? Continue reading

the soft shell girls are back!

soft shell crabs are here!
soft shell crabs, that luscious delicacy, that pricey rare summer find…they’re back! and i wanted to have my mom sample their sweet and delicate flavor while she’s here visiting. did i say pricey? my mom got the goose bumps when i told her they were $3 a piece, but when i further explained that at a restaurant they’d be four or even 5 times more, and after she’d tasted them deep fried with panko bread crumbs…she finally concurred that they were worth buying.

first off you have to find some. i get mine from a grocery nearby, and the fishmonger usually offers to clean them for me but i demur and do it myself. it’s just a matter of cutting off the the triangular piece of the underbelly, and the rubbery pieces underneath. give them a good rinse then pat dry with paper towels, then dip them in salt-&-pepper seasoned all purpose flour, then straight into a bowl of beaten eggs, then into a shallow bowl of panko bread crumbs.
for this version i then put the breaded crabs in to a rack set over a plate and into the refrigerator to set and get cold, for about 3 hours.
then into a preheated deep fryer they went for a quick dip in very hot oil.
they turned out really scrumptious, crunchy and really fun to eat. we didn’t need any dipping sauce, just a squeeze of lemon, but if you insist you could serve them with a garlic aioli type of sauce.

dear readers, if you have an alternative way of cooking and eating soft shell crabs, i’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a soft shell crab today…..(hehehe just quoting Wimpy from Popeye)

tom yum goong, shrimp in sour broth

through some strange, twisted logic, we crave hot, hot-as-in-super spicy, and hot-as-in-boiling -just-out-of-the-pot-hot, soup.

Thai-style shrimp in sour broth (tom yum goong, or as husband says it, “yum tom”).
start out with an excellent chicken broth base and layer on the ingredients that make this dish sing:
galanga root, lemon grass, wild lime leaves, bird chilies; and then adding the fish sauce, lime juice, shrimp, straw mushrooms, and cilantro leaves, just before serving.
makes you sweat, promise. (oh, and we made sure the kids had an alternative dish, that night!)
(from “Authentic Recipes from Thailand,” Periplus Publishing, 2004.)
:drive: off for some R&R in a “foreign land” :wave:

a voice from the past

i interrupt my regular (ok “somewhat” irregular) programming….well i had such a huge scare today, when i found out my blog was g.o.n.e….as in kaput, pfffftttt! it went on all day, the panicky emails, attempted phone calls and such. bottom line, i got it back. but underline…i do not ever want to go through that again! especially when i felt truly compelled to publish something important, something tugging at me all this time, as if someone from the past were pushing me to publicize something very important.

i watched a bit of the inauguration of the new Philippine president, Benigno Aquino III, or “P-Noy” as he’d like to be called, allegedly. i listened to the lyrics of one folk singer, Noel Cabangon, and as i always do i went back to my grandfather’s Credo, which was published anonymously in the Manila Chronicle many decades ago, and then in his published work, “Fragments, Thoughts and Short Essays,” and which i saw first hand, painted on to the walls of the Courthouse of Gumaca,Quezon, where he was a judge from 1962 until 1967. he worked at the Bureau (later Commission) of the Civil Service from 1915 to 1962….i always read it as a sort of prayer for the Philippines whenever Filipinos pin their hopes on a new regime.

“Credo of the Public Servant

1. I believe that a position in the government is a public trust to be administered for the good of the people and not for the personal profit or benefit of the office, holder, his family, or his friends.

2. I believe that public service calls for sacrifice, humility, and renunciation; that although public office is an honor and gives opportunity for leadership, those wielding it and exercising its powers are servants of the people and not rulers or masters.

3. I believe that the government employee should be imbued with a high sense of honor, a steadfast devotion to duty, and unswerving loyalty to the Republic, and its cherished institutions.

4. I believe that the government employee should be physically, mentally and morally fit for service, should be strict and exacting with himself, and should expect and require of himself more than he expects and requires of others.

5. I believe in “the importance of little things,” in neatness and accuracy in beauty and art, in simple duties faithfully performed, little temptations earnestly resisted, little courtesies extended, and “myriad self denials.”

6. I believe that the employee should lead a simple temperate life, free from pretense, from excesses, or suspicion or appearance of evil.

7. I believe that moral leadership contributes to good morale and esprit de corps and that the law is but the ethical minimum.

8. I believe that job satisfaction is not all a question of pay or hours of work.

9. I believe in strict adherence to the principles of the merit system and just democratic management.

10. Lastly, I believe in human dignity, in a regime of justice, liberty and democracy, in the rights of minorities and the little man, in a government of laws under the protection and guiding hand of an all-wise, merciful, and just God.” –Amado del Rosario, 1957

fish tales

you know that sensation when you can’t think of what to eat, and the kids only want something from that limited repertoire of spaghetti, sinigang, steak and potatoes?
mussels, "enselada"
this is one of my cures.
mussels in vinegar dressing (enseladang tahong, inspired by sybaritic diversions by Midge, blogging about a bonding bbq with delectable salads)….
then i got this craving for monkfish. click if you’re brave enough to peer into this frightful fish. Continue reading

taking the “m” word out of marriage

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of 20th Century Fox. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m talking mundane: “characterized by the practical, transitory, and ordinary : commonplace .”
I’m sure you’ve seen the trailer by now. The Hollywood Machine ensures that you can’t go anywhere without seeing the billboard, or watch anything on TV without seeing the stars give interviews on one talk show after another.
But Date Night Movie up for release on April 9, 2010, that’s this Friday!, is one movie I wouldn’t mind catching on its first day of release, since it stars Tina Fey, formerly of Saturday Night Live, and currently multi-awarded creator and writer of the hit TV show 30 Rock.
At first I thought it would be just another formulaic romantic comedy, until I saw snippets of the film and they divulged in an interview that most of the scenes draw from both Steve Carell and Tina Fey’s improvisational background from their days at Second City.

The director Shawn Levy allowed the stars to shoot their scenes straight from the script then let them rip out improvised versions. How many movies about bored suburban married couples, looking for sparks and spice and romance, can you take? Well this is one which stands out from the usual: they get involved in much more than they bargained for, with a shoot out, a car chase scene that becomes a metaphor for marriage, a pole-dance at a strip club?
I think I’ll have some of that.
Visit my sponsor: Date Night

fish cakes, Thai-style

shrimp and fish cakes
i must confess, i made these fish cakes specifically so i could enjoy them with this dip.
spicy cucumber and onion dip
it’s very easy and quick to make, especially if you use a food processor to chop up the seafood. otherwise if you’re handy with a knife or mezzaluna, you’ll just end up with a chunkier mix.
my kids don’t like wild lime leaves (from “kaffir” limes) so i just used, sparingly now, but maybe more and more as time goes by to get their tastebuds acculturated, Maesri red curry paste (a mix of garlic, shallots, lemongrass, lime leaves, dried red chili peppers, cumin, coriander, cardamom bay leaves, and sugar and salt).

just mix up ground fish (haddock, scrod, cod or other firm, white-fleshed fish), ground shrimp, 1 beaten egg, chopped scallions, a few drops of fish sauce, freshly ground black pepper, and a teaspoon or so of red curry paste. you can add bread crumbs (i used panko) or not (or a dusting of all-purpose flour instead), and you can add finely sliced dark long beans or green beans for a bit of color and texture (not to mention vegetable goodness!).

heat vegetable oil to a depth of about an inch then gently drop in spoonfuls of fish and shrimp mixture coated with bread crumbs or flour and fry for about 2 minutes per side (depending on the thickness and size).

enjoy with a cucumber and red onion mix steeped in a vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper dip–with a bit of red chili if you like!
i dissolved 1/2 cup of sugar in 1 cup of white vinegar (or rice vinegar) in a small saucepan, brought up the mixture to a gentle simmer while stirring, then added salt and pepper to taste, before pouring into finely diced cucumber and red onions.
delicious! and gone in a flash…

cravings: Jasper White’s lobsters and chocolate cake

sometimes the path from “A” to “B” takes some convoluted twists and turns. the craving was for lobsters…as in $2.99 per pound medium size lobsters–i kid you not! the price was too low as to be worrisome…we haven’t seen prices like these since we were teenagers, and we’re talking Maine, straight-from-the-dock prices! good-luck-to-the-lobstermen kind of prices…–
but to get to that, first i had to have chocolate cake.
of the three-layer-punch-in-the-face variety.
i take my job really seriously you know, the job of checking out chocolate cake or brownie recipes that tout themselves to be the best.
now, i’ve proclaimed that i won’t buy any more new cookbooks or food magazines at all. but i forgot that i did subscribe to two family oriented magazines last year, to support my kid’s public school.
when the first issue arrived, the first thing i noticed was the purported “best chocolate cake recipe ever!” which i dutifully decided had to be put to the test.
hand mixer + chocolate frosting
tempting chocolate cake
i was tempted to stop icing the cake right then, and eat the rest of the frosting straight up with a soup spoon….
3 layer chocolate cake
but i had good self-control. for a change.

then i had to hie off to the newly opened fish mongers at the 4th edition of summer shack. it is a New England institution by now, Jasper White’s humble down home chain of restaurants that evoke hearty New England chowders and lobster bakes. we went to the original location in Cambridge years ago for a mothers’ day dinner–it is so memorable to me because it was the weekend before i’d have to find out if a lump on my leg was something to worry about or not (NOT, as it turned out)…so i was determined to have a great good time.
the food was divine, and i remember sharing a broiled lobster platter with my then 2-year old youngest child, and the fish lumpia (spring rolls) that were so terrific we had to order more.
this 4th franchise has a fish store, and our first peek last weekend the fish monger whispered that there’d be a sale on lobsters, this weekend.
there i was, buying, incredulously at $2.99 a pound…”give me FOUR!” wheee….i was almost in a diabetic shock state from hunger, having just swum 30 lengths at the pool, having just popped a cracker dipped in fish pate from the sample counter, having just walked out to try and get a nice takeaway lunch from the supermarket round the corner…when i literally walked into the towering gent, the what, 6 foot 4 inch tall– the one and only Jasper White himself, seeing some dining customers out the door.
“murrrmpphffaffff!”
i tried to swallow the mouthful of cracker.
“how nice to see you! i’m a fan!” i know, so lame….
he graciously, gallantly shook my hand, laughing,” happy new year!”
Jasper White was right there

i swear, he was right there!

ask me about the chocolate cake recipe, which was fabulous! i’m still too stunned right now….