Tag Archives: bread

Sometimes Simple is Best – Florida Lobster Rolls

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

South Florida sportsmen enjoyed the Lobster mini season this week and I managed to get my hands on a couple of nice plump Florida spiny lobster tails. Having only two, I was at odds as to how to prepare them until I spoke to my wife who without hesitation exclaimed “Lobster Rolls!” Well, who am I to disappoint? Lobster Rolls it was.

This presented something of a challenge considering that she was talking about the highly regarded Maine tradition of a simple “Maine” lobster salad stuffed into a wonderfully fresh, soft hot dog roll.

Florida spiny lobster, quite a different animal from the Maine lobster, is also very different in both flavor and texture. I love them both but I wasn’t about to try to make my Florida lobster taste like the Maine version. Instead I set out to simply turn my lobster tails into the best lobster salad sandwich I could make and where does any good sandwich begin? With the bread of course!

I have enjoyed some great Maine style lobster rolls and for me, the thing that always stood out was the foundation this sandwich was built upon; that sweet, soft, impeccably fresh hot dog roll. Not having access to any impeccably fresh hot dog rolls it occurred to me that I work right around the corner from Direct From Philly, a very good, authentic Philly cheesesteak shop that uses rolls shipped in from the famous Amoroso’s bakery in Philadelphia.

The owner of Direct From Philly obviously appreciates good food and he loved the idea of the lobster rolls and very happily sold me a couple of fresh Amoroso’s rolls. So while they weren’t impeccably fresh hot dog rolls; I had found my foundation!

Next up was getting the lobster ready. In Maine the lobsters are typically boiled or steamed until just cooked. Since these were Florida lobsters I decided to broil them as I like the way broiling intensifies the “lobstery” flavor. I also tried making my own mayo but decided against using it because I used extra virgin olive oil and the olive oil flavor of the mayo came out a little too strong. Next time I will stick to the recipe and use lighter flavored oil. (I did use the homemade mayo in the cole slaw though!)

Once the lobster was cooked I chilled it for a half hour to get it to the right temperature for a salad. Then, following the lead of our friends in the great state of Maine, I kept it simple. Using just the minimal ingredients to compliment, allowing the flavor of that lobster to be the star.

If you try the recipe I recommend using the tender, white celery branches from the inside of the celery so you don’t have to worry about peeling. Also, if you really want to put a Florida spin on this sandwich; try a little key lime juice instead of the lemon. So what was the final verdict from my wife? “Mmmmm” was pretty much all she said…she was just too busy enjoying her fresh “Florida” lobster roll to do much talking!

Florida Lobster Rolls

2 – Sub or hot dog Rolls (Find the freshest softest rolls you can find!)
2 – Florida spiny lobster tails
1 – Celery stick, chopped (about two tablespoons)
2 to 3 Tbsp – Mayonnaise
1 squeeze – Fresh lemon juice
¼ Tsp – Dried tarragon
¼ Tsp – Kosher salt
1 Pinch – White pepper
2 Tbsp – Butter, plus enough to butter the bread

Pre-heat the broiler then split the lobster tails, brush with 2 Tbsp melted butter, and broil until just cooked through, being careful not to overcook. Remove the lobster meat from the tails and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before continuing.

When the lobster is chilled, split your bread and spread it with butter then place in the toaster over or broil to toast. Remove the bread and cool slightly before adding your lobster salad.

While the bread is cooling use your fingers (and a knife) to pull your lobster into bite sized pieces and chunks. Toss the lobster meat in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, using just enough of the mayonnaise to coat the lobster.

Fill each sandwich with a generous portion of the lobster salad, trim the ends of the bread just up to the edges of the filling, and serve.

Serves 2

Enjoy!

Randy

Mission “Learn to like Tilapia” – Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

For some time now I have been wrinkling my nose at tilapia. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sustainability factor of conscientiously farmed raised fish; I do! It’s the taste and the texture of most tilapia that turns me off. In my experience tilapia often has an unpleasant earthy (or muddy) taste and the texture can be mushy even when it’s perfectly fresh and flawlessly prepared. I don’t mean to be a food snob, really I don’t! But compared to all the fresh Atlantic seafood I have the opportunity to catch (well sometimes), or purchase here in South Florida, tilapia just seemed second rate.

Last night however, I decided to give tilapia another chance. Why? Because tilapia has taken over the market in leaps and bounds becoming one the most popular seafood products in the U.S. today. Everywhere I look, from restaurant menus, to grocery stores tilapia has become a recognized value and a very popular request. Hey, what was the old adage…If you can’t beat them, join them? So I picked up a package of fresh tilapia fillets and set out to prove myself wrong.

According to Cooks Illustrated the muddy taste in tilapia is caused by a naturally occurring compound called geosmin which is Greek for “earth smell”. (Go figure!) They said this compound is abundant in the blue-green algae found in the bottom of the man-made ponds that catfish and tilapia are raised in and that the flavor can be diffused by acids. They went on to recommend soaking in buttermilk for an hour before cooking which of course, I didn’t take the time to do.

My thinking in using this recipe was that the yogurt, garlic, and vinegar in the tzatziki would provide enough acid to overcome any unpleasant taste in the fish and indeed it did…somewhat. While the recipe is a keeper that I will definitely use again, I might opt for pre-soaking the tilapia in buttermilk next time (if I don’t use snapper, grouper, or mahi-mahi instead).

Hang on now…don’t fret! I haven’t given up on tilapia yet. After all, I still have 3 big fillets left from that package last night. I think I might try it with an acidic marinade, a Cuban mojo perhaps or some other citrus blend. I’ll keep you posted as mission “Learn to like Tilapia” continues!

Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

2 to 4 – Tilapia fillets (preferably pre-soaked in buttermilk for one hour)
¾ Cup – Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp – Olive Oil
Zest of one whole lemon
½ Tbsp – Large grind, fresh ground black pepper
Kosher Salt
Tzatziki Sauce (Recipe below)

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the fillets dry and place them on a lightly oiled, foil covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle the fillets with kosher salt and set them aside while you mix the crumb topping.

In a medium bowl combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and pepper then drizzle in the olive oil while stirring. Continue stirring and fluffing the crumbs loosely until the oil, lemon, and pepper has been very well distributed, about 5 minutes.

Spread an approximately 1/8 inch thick layer of tzatziki evenly on top of each fish fillet then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the tzatziki to form an evenly thick coat. Bake for 10 minutes then broil for 1 minute to crisp and brown the topping. Carefully remove from the oven and plate the cooked fillets.

Serve with additional tzatziki and a lemon wedge on the side.

Tzatziki Sauce

2 Cups – Greek Yogurt, plain non-fat
1 small (or 1/2 large) – Cucumber, seeded and grated  (about 1/2 cup)
1 Clove – Garlic, grated fine
1 Tbsp – Red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp – Olive oil
1 good pinch – kosher salt

Grate the cucumber and place it on a paper towel or dish towel, sprinkle it with the kosher salt and let it sit while you prep the other ingredients. In a medium bowl stir together the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil then stir in the yogurt. Finally, gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated cucumber and stir into the yogurt mixture until well blended. Taste for seasoning and chill until ready to use.

Enjoy,

Randy

Turkey Croquettes with Pan Gravy

Making the salmon cakes last week brought another old favorite to mind, Turkey Croquettes. The original recipe called for making the gravy with cream of celery soup and although I was tempted I opted for cleaning this one up a little bit and making it fresh. The recipe looks involved but I would honestly consider it intermediate to easy. That reminds me that I have been meaning to mention one of my favorite kitchen tips.

Kitchen Tips: To boost your confidence a little it is always a good idea to read a recipe through start to finish at least once if not twice before you begin preparing it.

Speaking of cleaning it up a friend mentioned possibly converting this recipe into an Atkins Diet version and I think it would be fairly easy to do. For a lower carb gravy you could 1) use almond flour instead of whole wheat flour or 2) eliminate the flour altogether and simply thicken the gravy by boiling it a little longer and allowing the broth time to reduce.

For the croquettes my first thought was simply to eliminate the bread crumbs but that might result in too dense of a croquette. One of the things I really like about this recipe is the lightness of the final product so I think I would prefer to use a cup pork rind crumbs instead of completely doing away with the filler. I know that may sound like an odd substitution but I have tried it in other (low carb) recipes and it works quite well for this type of diet.

Notes: The easiest way that I have found to form these croquettes is to use the lid from a Ball mason jar as a ring mold. To do this, simply set the removable “top” of the mason jar lid aside and lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the ring shaped threaded part of the lid. Now, with the lid sitting top-down on a flat surface use a wooden spoon to press in just enough of the turkey mixture to fill the lid completely, flatten and level off the top, then turn the lid over to gently pop out your formed patty.

Turkey Croquettes with Pan Gravy

For the patties…

1.25 Lbs – Lean ground Turkey
1 Cup – Soft Whole Wheat bread crumbs
1 – Small onion, diced small
1 – Large branch of celery, diced small
1 – Small carrot, grated
1 – Small clove of garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp – Tomato paste
1 Splash – Worcestershire sauce
1 Cup – Chicken stock, divided into ½ cups
1 – Egg, lightly beaten
½ Tsp – Dried tarragon
½ Tsp – Rubbed sage
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

For the gravy…

2 Tbsp – Whole Wheat flour
2 Cups – Chicken stock
1 Tbsp – Plain yogurt

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrot for two minutes then add the tarragon, sage, and 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Continue cooking stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent then stir in the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in ½ cup of chicken stock and allow the mixture to cook until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the second ½ cup of chicken stock and the minced garlic, allow the mixture to come back to a boil then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl gently break apart the ground turkey then fold in the bread crumbs, egg, and the onion mixture. Gently fold the mixture until all the ingredients are incorporated but not over-mixed. Form the mixture into 10 to 12 equally sized patties and placing them on a foil or wax paper lined cookie sheet as you go. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 10 – 15 minutes to firm up the patties before browning.

In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm over medium heat until the oil is shimmering hot. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the oil then gently place half of the patties (do not crowd) in the pan. Shake the pan a little to prevent sticking and brown 3 to 4 minutes on each side. When the patties are browned remove them from the pan and place on a cooling rack or paper towel to hold. Wipe the pan and repeat this process until all of the patties are browned. Do not wipe the pan after the last batch saving the oil and browned bits for the gravy.

After the last batch of patties are browned and removed from the pan add two tablespoons of whole wheat flour to the pan and stir to create a roux. There should be just enough oil and flour to create a smooth, almost liquid, paste; add a little more olive oil if the roux seems too dry. Cook, stirring until the flour begins to take on some color, about 5 minutes, then whisk in 1 cup of the broth. When the first cup of broth is incorporated, whisk in the second cup of broth and continue whisking slowly until the gravy begins to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and check the gravy for seasoning. Add kosher salt & fresh ground pepper if needed.

Return the croquettes to the pan coating each one with the gravy, then simmer 10 minutes more. Serve croquettes over rice, egg noodles, or toast points as desired.

Enjoy!

Randy

Italian Sausage Turkey Meatloaf

This recipe is an adaptation of Ina Garten’s Turkey Meatloaf recipe, which you will find at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/turkey-meatloaf-recipe/index.html. Her recipe is one of my favorite turkey meatloaf recipes and makes enough for a crowd! The version below cuts down on the size by half and boosts the flavor by adding an Italian flair. Believe it or not I originally came up with this version because the turkey italian sausages at Publix were nearly $2.00 a pound cheaper than the packaged ground turkey.

In this recipe I can’t stress enough to “Coat the Meat Loaf very generously all over with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and Italian spices”! This really does boost the flavor and forms such a great crust that I am tempted to nibble all the way around the outside of my leftover meatloaf sandwiches just like when I was a kid.

Italian Sausage Turkey Meatloaf

1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
6 Tbsp. low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 package ground turkey (About 1.25 Lbs.)
1 package sweet Italian turkey sausage (About 1.25 Lbs.)
¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 large egg and 2 large egg whites, beaten
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Italian spices

½ cup ketchup
½ tsp. ground coriander
1 splash Louisiana hot pepper sauce
1 splash apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a sauté pan, over medium low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf until the onions are translucent (but not brown) approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire, broth, and tomato paste and stir until mixed well. Simmer until just heated through then remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Line a sheet pan with foil then set a foil wrapped cooling rack on the cookie sheet. Using a toothpick or a skewer poke drain holes in the foil on the cooling rack. These should be spaced roughly one drain hole every inch or so.

When the onion mixture has cooled somewhat, combine the ground turkey, Italian sausage (removed from casings), bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Gently fold the mixture until well mixed and shape into a loaf on the prepared cooling rack. Coat the Meat Loaf very generously all over with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and Italian spices (I used a store bought grinder with a mixture of Italian Spices including garlic, red pepper, and rosemary.)

Place the meat loaf in the oven and bake for one hour. (Note: If you place a pan of hot water on the shelf below the meat loaf this will keep your loaf from splitting.) Meanwhile, combine the ketchup, coriander, hot pepper sauce, and vinegar in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir until well mixed and heated through. When meat loaf has cooked one hour, carefully remove it from the oven and coat evenly with the ketchup glaze. Return the meat loaf to the oven and bake 30 minutes more.

Allow the meat loaf to rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Mmmm…Bruschetta!

After seeing the photo in my blog header, my friend Jackie really wanted my bruschetta recipe. I told her this was only one of about a million ways that bruschetta is made and explained how I prepared it on this particular day.  She still insisted that I share the recipe so Jackie…this one is for you!

The word bruschetta actually refers to the bread that is usually grilled or toasted, drizzled with good olive oil, then rubbed with a fresh cut clove of garlic. The “bruschetta” is then often topped with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. A quick search of bruschetta on Google actually returns over 7,150,000 results, many of which are delicious recipes and the common denominator in nearly every one is the bread, the most important ingredient.

Traditionally bruschetta was a use for old bread that was or about to become stale. This was the good, crusty stuff that mom baked in her kitchen or picked up from the local bakery. So in keeping with tradition, when I make bruschetta, I always look to start with a good loaf of Italian bread or a French baguette. And, for the best taste and texture, I always try to serve my bruschetta while it is still warm.

To make bruschetta place a whole loaf of good crusty bread on your cutting board so that the right end is pointing towards the lower right corner of the cutting board, and the left end is pointing towards the upper left corner or roughly a 45 degree angle. Now cut ½ inch thick slices with your knife blade parallel to the sides of the cutting board. This should give you nice oval shaped slices of bread. Now lightly toast the slices on a grill or under a broiler until they are crisp but not overly browned. (I toasted mine on a dry cookie sheet placed 6 inches under the broiler just until they were golden.) Once toasted, lightly brush each slice of bread with a little extra virgin olive oil then rub gently with the cut side of a freshly cut in half garlic clove.  Now you are ready to make bruschetta magic!

On the day the photo was taken, I wanted to make my bruschetta in the style of an Insalada Caprese. So after toasting and following the steps above, I drizzled each piece with a little balsamic vinegar; probably no more than ¼ teaspoon on each. Then I topped each bruschetta with a slice of soft fresh mozzarella, a slice of super ripe fresh tomato, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and a few ribbons of fresh basil chiffonade.

I hope you enjoy this bruschetta and be sure read through a few million of the other recipes on Google <wink!> or use your imagination to come up with your own yummy topping combination!

Randy