Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hot Dogs with Grilled Coleslaw – a Food & Wine staff favorite

Hot dogs with grilled coleslaw are staff favorite at Food & Wine magazine. With the first taste they became a favorite of ours also. They are perfect to serve after a morning of tennis or golf and are sure to please the men as well as the ladies.

The hot dogs and slaw can be grilled outside or prepared on a stove top grill pan. It takes only seconds to cut a head of green cabbage into eight wedges, brush with a little oil, and grill for about three minutes per side until slightly charred. Meanwhile mix equal parts good mayonnaise and cider vinegar in a large bowl, add a few chopped jarred jalapenos peppers with a bit of their juice, and stir to make a dressing. As soon as the grilled cabbage cools a bit, shred and toss with the dressing, season to taste with salt and pepper, and your slaw is ready.

Throw some hot dogs on the grill and cook until lightly charred. Toast the hot dog buns, top with hot dogs and slaw, open a beer, and lunch is ready in about twenty five minutes of minimal effort. It can’t get any easier than this. This easy recipe can be found on line at the Food & Wine site. Click here for the recipe.

Three special friends have passed awards my way. Your kindness and generosity is most sincerely appreciated. Sometimes I can’t get over how special our blogging community is and how much it means to me.

I would like to thank Bella of Beauty Does Matter for the Stiletto Award, Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks for the Happy 101 Award, and Catherine of Living the Gourmet for the I Love Your Blog Award

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jumbo Lump Joe’s 'best crab cakes in the universe' and a sauce throw-down

My husband Meakin and I were driving along Pine Island Road in North Fort Myers, Florida the other day when suddenly I said, “Can we turn around and go back? I just saw a sleek, bright blue cart parked on the side of the road with ‘Jumbo Lump Joe’s’ written on the side. I think we should investigate.”

We found a vendor selling what he called ‘the best crab cakes in the universe.’ The man inside the cart told us, “I’ve won three state fair contests for the best crab cakes in the universe competition. I’m from Maryland and I know crab cakes.”

At the window another customer assured us that these were the best crab cakes in the universe. He had driven all the way from New Jersey he said. “Really?” I asked. “Well,” he replied as gave me a big reassuring smile, “I didn’t drive from New Jersey today, but I live there and so far these are the best crab cakes I’ve ever tasted.” We were sold.

Having won a couple of food contests myself, I know that the competition is fierce, so I was anxious to try Jumbo Lump Joe’s Maryland crab cakes that had been called ‘the best in the universe.’ Instead of the crab sandwich, we ordered individual crab cakes, a sample of Jumbo Lump Joe’s special sauce, and took everything home for a test drive.

When I got home I quickly whipped up my own version of a simple remoulade sauce that I thought wouldn’t overpower the cakes and decided to have a throw-down of sorts with Joe’s sauce vs. my remoulade. Since I represent the opposing team, I must tell you that my remoulade sauce is pretty darn good. I don’t follow an exact recipe, but I taste as I go. I start with some good mayonnaise (preferably Hellmans or homemade), add a dash of Dijon mustard, a smidgen of anchovy paste, a few drained tiny capers, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, and a little bit of dried tarragon. I had some fresh dill in the frig, so I chopped a little to add a little more freshness, but not overpower it.

Meakin and I passed Jumbo Lump Joe’s special sauce between the two of us for a taste with the crab cakes. The throw-down was over in a matter of minutes. I lost zero to two and I was one of the judges. We’re still analyzing his sauce, but it was a mildly spicy mayonnaise based sauce. We concluded the pink color came from either paprika or cayenne pepper (or maybe both) and we detected a hint of citrus. As you can see from the picture, we saved only enough to do a taste test for ingredients later and gobbled up the rest.

Now on to the crab cakes. I normally reserve eating crab cakes for white table cloth restaurants, although I have made them at home on occasion and always follow Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything. I have three things that I look for in a really exceptional crab cake:

1 – They must be made of the highest quality jumbo lump crab meat
2 – They don’t contain a lot of fillers
3 – They must be cooked all the way through

If you’ve ever had a crab cake that wasn’t done in the center (and I have), it will turn you off of crab cakes forever. Jumbo Lump Joe’s cakes met all of my criteria and more. You could actually see the large pieces of jumbo crab meat in the photo below, the cakes held together beautifully, they weren’t greasy (even though they were fried), and their taste was outstanding. As the customer told me when I was ordering them, “So far Jumbo Lump Joe’s crab cakes are the best I’ve ever tasted.” We totally agree and his sauce reigns supreme in our throw-down.

This story is as much about buying from a street vendor as it is about crab cakes and sauce. I admit that sometimes I am a food snob. Actually sometimes isn’t accurate; I’m always a food snob. At first I was reluctant to try a vendor on the side of the road until I remembered when we lived in a tiny town in southern Louisiana we bought the best shrimp we’ve ever eaten from a man whose truck was parked in front of a strip mall. They were heads-on large pink shrimp caught only hours earlier in the Gulf of Mexico.

So be bold and venture forth. Don’t be turned off by the fact that they’re selling food on the side of the road. Maybe next week we’ll give the taco stand beside the 7-11 a try. However, I doubt we’ll ever buy a used car from a guy named Honest Ziggy.

Jumbo Lump Joe’s sleek blue cart is located on the south side of Pine Island Road between Del Prado and Santa Barbara in a small parking lot in front of a Dollar General Store in North Fort Myers, Florida. He’s open every day except Sunday. The crab cakes are $10, a real bargain in my book. Don’t miss them if you’re anywhere near the area.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shrimp Cocktail “Latino Style” – prepared in less than 15 minutes

Last week was my husband Meakin’s birthday and shrimp cocktail is always one of his requests. As a very young boy Meakin had grown-up taste. When he was about six or seven for his birthday his parents treated him to dinner at one of their favorite restaurants, Snuffy’s Steakhouse in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where he ordered shrimp cocktail as an appetizer followed by swordfish steak and French fries as a main course and cherries jubilee for dessert. Apples don’t fall far from the tree. His grandson at about the same age was handed a children’s menu one evening when we were dining in a nice restaurant. He promptly gave it back to the waitress and said, “I don’t eat from the children’s menu.”

I fixed a jazzed up version of shrimp cocktail we call “Latino Style” from a recipe adapted from a very old issue of The David Rosengarten Report. I hadn’t planned to take a picture, but Meakin was anxious to use his new birthday present, a Nikon D90, so he snapped a few. I protested, “I haven’t styled the plate for a photo,” but that didn’t stop him. I hadn’t planned on posting the recipe, but he insisted that this is too good not to share with you, so here it is. The best part is that is can be prepared in under 15 minutes. Feel free to change the green olives, cilantro and hot pepper to your taste; just don't leave out the freshly squeezed orange juice in the sauce. You could even add some chopped celery for crunch. There are no hard and fast rules in this recipe.

One note - please take the time to buy the best shrimp you can find. Wild is the best. The imported tiger shrimp that have that iodine taste almost ruined my love for shrimp forever.

Shrimp Cocktail “Latino Style”
Adapted from The David Rosengarten Report – serves 2

½ pound large cooked peeled & deveined shrimp – preferably wild
1 tomato, chopped
3 tablespoons minced cilantro
2 – 3 tablespoons green olives, cut in half
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped
½ cup ketchup – we like Heinz’s Low Sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 – 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Tabasco

In a large bowl, mix together the cooked shrimp, tomato, cilantro, green olives and jalapeno. In another bowl, prepare the sauce by mixing together the ketchup, orange juice, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Add most of the sauce to the shrimp. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate for several hours. Serve on baby greens.

To cook shrimp perfectly I follow Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything. It is important to stay by the stove with the shrimp and keep a close eye on them; otherwise they will overcook before you know it. Overcooked shrimp are tough and rubbery. Place unpeeled shrimp in salted water to cover in a saucepan and turn the heat to high. When the water boils, reduce the heat and cook just until the shrimp turn pink. Large shrimp could take 3 to 5 minutes; medium shrimp may be done the minute the water boils. To be sure, cut one open and see. Immediately remove from the heat, drain and rinse under cold water. Peel and devein. Sometimes I cook the shrimp in Old Bay seasonings, other times I use flat beer and a few bay leaves, but most often I just cook in very salty water.

The sauce is based on ketchup, which is mostly sugar. Recently we have come to love Heinz Reduced Sugar Tomato Ketchup. We’ve done the blind taste test and couldn’t tell a difference. However, if you take a look at the label, you can definitely tell a difference. Per tablespoon there is 1 gram of sugar compared to regular ketchup’s 4 grams - a 75% difference. Regular Heinz ketchup also contains high fructose corn syrup, the reduced sugar one doesn’t. Where’s the sugar - the reduced sugar one has sucralose (Splenda). If you’re watching your calories, compare 15 calories to 5 in the reduced sugar version.

What is your favorite meal for your birthday dinner?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A tour of Thomas Edison’s Winter Home in Ft. Myers, Florida on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River

“Seminole Lodge” is Thomas Edison’s winter estate, located on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River in Ft. Myers, Florida. The home, grounds, gardens and his laboratory, along with his good friend automobile magnate Henry Ford’s home, “Mangos,” are open for the public to tour daily 9:00 am – 5:30 pm. If you’re in the area, it is a “must see” for all ages.

Thomas Edison was considered one of the most prolific inventors in history. Many of his inventions we enjoy today, including the electric light bulb, the phonograph and the motion picture camera.

Spacious verandas and 14’ wide porches provide cooling ventilation for the Edison home, built in 1885. The spacious guest house is connected to the main house by covered walkways. The Edison’s guest list included great inventors of the time, including Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford. Henry Ford eventually bought “Mangos,” the home next door, in 1916 to spend his winters with his good friend and neighbor, Thomas Edison. After Edison’s death, Ford sold his home and never returned.

Living room of the Edison home, furnished in comfortable wicker.

Dining room of Seminole Lodge

One of 13 individually styled brass electroliers throughout the home, patented and manufactured exclusively for the Edison Company. The original bulbs still burn.

This is a glimpse into the Edison’s Florida kitchen, where you can imagine servants preparing platters of mangos and glasses of freshly hand-squeezed orange juice for breakfast for their guests escaping the cold from the north. Look at the old fashioned "ice box" in the background of the butlers pantry.

One of the servants rooms

Mina Edison's bedroom

The Edison’s master suite is separate from the main house, connected by a spacious porch. It is comprised of a two bedroom suites, one for Thomas and one for Mina.

Thomas Edison's desk

Thomas Edison had a pool constructed of Edison Portland Cement built for his family and guests in 1910. At the time it was among the first modern swimming pools. Interestingly, Edison never used the pool himself as he did not believe in exercise.

One of the old cars on exhibit

Thomas Edison spent many long hours in his laboratory, often taking cat naps on a near-by cot. Only four people worked in the lab itself with Edison: a clerk, chemist, machinist and a glassblower. Each was able to multi-task on all aspects of the project. The laboratory looks just as it did the last day in June of 1931, when Thomas Edison left to return to his home in New Jersey and died that October at age 84.

During World War I, Edison and his friends, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, became aware that the supply of rubber in the US would be cut off and there would be major costs to their respective industries. Together in 1927 they set up and funded the Edison Botanical Research Company.

Edison tried several thousand plants and decided to concentrate on goldenrod, a common weed that causes thousands of us to sneeze from allergies, which grows up to 3-4 feet with a 5% yield. He developed a strain that grew to a height of 12 feet and had a yield of 12% latex. Rubber research and experimentation continued after Edison’s death under the leadership of his brother-in-law.

I couldn’t help but think, as we walked to our car parked near the huge old banyan tree near his laboratory, of the three old friends, all geniuses of their time, sitting under the ancient tree, chit chatting and bouncing ideas off of each other that would affect generations to come.

Much of the information provided here today came from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates literature provided during the tour.

This will be linked to Oh The Places I've Been at The Tablescaper.