It’s the 4th. of July weekend, and I do mean weekend this year! This means baseball (such as it is during this pandemic), picnics (socially distanced of course), and backyard barbecues!
I know things are different this year and “normal” is anything but business as usual. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the birth of our nation in a grand way, just maybe not in the same way we’ve always done.
For many this weekend means firing up the grill for that all important barbecue. Sure grilled burgers, dogs, and steaks and smoked meats are 4th. of July favorites, but if you’re looking for something different read on!
I remember spending one 4th. of July in Bar Harbor, Maine. We stayed at the Wonder View Inn which was built on the site where Mary Roberts Rinehart’s estate once stood. The hotel had wonderful views overlooking Acadia National Park; and the site it was built on had an interesting history.
During the 4th. of July holiday Bar Harbor was decorated in full regalia, it has after all been voted #1 in America by the Today Show for it’s 4th. of July celebrations which includes parades and fireworks. The fireworks were spectacular, we viewed it from our room’s balcony. But the best thing I remembered from our 4th. of July vacation in Bar Harbor was the lobster! I seemed that every restaurant in town had a lobster special, and why not, Maine is definitely lobster country! They had everything from lobster rolls to lobster bakes going on.
So this year I decided that a Lobster Bake was how we’d celebrate our July 4th. holiday. Since going to Bar Harbor is not an option this year I thought bringing a Bar Harbor tradition home would be a great idea.
A traditional Maine lobster bake are pots of lobsters, mussels, clams, shrimp, corn, and potatoes all covered in seaweed and steamed. It’s usually steamed at the beach on hot rocks piled with seaweed and the other ingredients and covered with a large tarp, the seaweed steams the seafood to perfection. Of course you can dig a hole in the sand at a beach and do it the traditional way, but there’s a much easier option. I make my Lobster Bake on a sheet pan and bake it in the oven, easy peasy!
Here’s how I do it!
Easy Lobster Bake
6 – 10 Lobster Tails about 4 oz. each (I usually make 2 tails per person)
1 Lb. Extra Large Shrimp (peeled and de-veined but leave the tail on)
1 Lb. Clams
1 Lb. Hot and Spicy Sausage or any type of Sausage you prefer – cut in 1-2″ chunks
6 Red Potatoes – Cut into quarters
3 Cobs of Corn cut into thirds or 6 – 8 frozen mini corn cobs
2 Lemons cut in to wedges
4 Sticks Butter
2 Tbs. Garlic minced
1 Tbs. Old Bay Seasoning
1 Bunch parsley for garnish
Boil potatoes and corn in water for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are half cooked.
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
Line very large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt 2 sticks of butter and add 1 Tbs. garlic and Old Bay. Still until well combined. Cook until butter turns golden brown, be careful not to burn this mixture. Remove from heat and set in a warm spot.
Drain potatoes and corn in a large bowl.
Cut each tail down the back but not all the way thru, this will make taking the meat out of the shell easier.
Place lobster tails, shrimp, clams, and sausage in bowl with the potatoes and corn.
Pour melted butter mixture over all and gently mix until everything is coated in butter.
Arrange everything on to the sheet in a single layer.
Place wedges of 1 lemon on the sheet.
Bake for about 18 minutes or until clams open, shrimp is pink, and lobster meat is white.
Meanwhile melt remaining 2 sticks of butter and add remaining garlic. Cook until butter is golden brown. Transfer to dipping bowls for serving.
Place remaining lemon wedges on a plate for serving.
Remove pan from oven, garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
Serve with bowls of corn slaw and biscuits or crusty bread.
Give each person a bowl of butter of dipping and allow them them to serve themselves from the baking sheet.
Since COVID-19 has put a temporary halt to this year’s travel plans I’ve been bringing our favorite travel destinations to our home by making the foods we’ve always enjoyed during our travels.
I know that travel restrictions have been eased and many countries are avidly awaiting the return of tourists. But right now our family isn’t quite yet ready to resume our regular travel routines which in the summer usually includes several weeks visiting our daughter in Italy and a cruise around the Med. So until we are ready to resume our normal traveling lifestyle we’ll just have to make do with enjoying homemade dishes from the countries we love to visit.
Recently I’ve had a hankering for Spanish cuisine, it reminds me of fun filled days spent wandering Barcelona or exploring sunny Ibiza and the Canary Islands. So I’ve been putting together some of my favorite Tapas and other Spanish dishes to enjoy with my pitcher of Cava Sangria.
One of our favorites is Spanish Chicken and Rice. It’s pretty easy to make, you use just 1 skillet! I love the taste and smell of the spices used to create this simple dish. I make a seasoning mix to use in this dish, I usually make a jar and keep it on hand to use on other dishes we love. I hope you’ll love it too!
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Spanish Chicken & Rice
6 Chicken thighs – remove the skin
3 Tbs. Olive OIl
1 Cup long grain white rice
2 1/4 cup chicken broth
Spanish Seasoning Mix (recipe below)
Make 1 recipe of Spanish Seasoning Mix
2 Tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tbs. Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tsp. Chili Powder
1 Tsp. Ground Coriander
1/2 Tsp. Italian Seasoning
Place chicken thighs in a bowl and toss in 2 Tbs. Olive Oil until well coated.
Rub 1/2 of the Spanish Seasoning Mix on the chicken. Be sure you rub it on all sides of the chicken thighs.
Heat remaining Olive Oil in a skillet. Cook chicken about 3 minutes on each side until browned. Remove from heat and set aside. Chicken will not be cooked at this point.
Add rice, chicken broth, and other half of seasoning mix to the skillet. Squeeze 1/2 of the lemon over all and combine well. Place chicken thighs on top of the rice and cover.
Cook for 25 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and chicken is fully cooked.
Garnish with slices of the remaining lemon half and chopped cilantro. Serve hot.
- Instead of long grain rice I sometimes use frozen cauliflower rice. When I do this I reduce the chicken broth to 1 1/4 cups and cook until the chicken is fully done. If it is too watery I remove the lid and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
In recent years we’ve been constant visitors to Italy. We’ve always loved the country and have been vacationing there at least once a year, but since my daughter and her family have taken up residence in Vicenza, a small town in Northern Italy, we’ve been going more often. And when we do go we spend lots of time sampling the local cuisine in and around town, it’s a different experience when you dine where the locals dine and by pass the touristy restaurants that serve substandard fare at very high prices.
One of our favorite local restaurants in town is called Regina’s. Its a tiny place with seating for less than 20 people. But the service if friendly and the food delicious! My favorite dish is Spaghetti ai Frutti de Mare or Seafood Spaghetti. I know when you think spaghetti you think red sauce and meatballs. That’s good too, but if you’re hungry for Seafood or just want something a bit more sophisticated then this dish is just what you need.
Spaghetti ai Frutti de Mare is a pasta dish made with all types of seafood including clams, squid, shrimp, and muscles. It can have a tomato based sauce like Arrabiata or a white sauce like a pesto or Alfredo.
I personally love a lighter sauce made with white wine, lemon juice, and butter. That’s the recipe I’ll share today. I normally make it with shrimp, clams, mussels, and lobster if I can find some. You can use whatever seafood you prefer. It’s good with pretty much any type of seafood.
Here’s the recipe!
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1 Lb. Clams
1 Lb. Mussels
1 Lb. Shrimp – peeled and deveined but leave tail on
2-3 Small Lobster Tails – cut into 1 1/5″ pieces with shell on
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Butter
2-3 Cloves Garlic thinly sliced
1 Tsp. Italian Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Cup White Wine
2 Cups Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Sundried Tomatoes
1 Lb. Cooked Spaghetti
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
In a large pan melt butter in olive oil.
Saute garlic in butter mixture until it starts to cook, be careful not to burn.
Add seasoning, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
Add wine and chicken stock.
Add clams and mussels. Cook until shells open.
Add lobster pieces and cook until shell starts to turn red and meat starts to turn white.
Add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turns pink and lobster is fully cooked.
Lower heat and stir in lemon juice and sundried tomatoes.
Remove from heat and serve over cooked pasta. Garnish with shredded cheese.
Spaghetti ai Frutti de Mare - Seafood Spaghetti
Spaghetti ai Frutti de Mare - Seafood Spaghetti
Lobster tails are my favorite! I love lobsters specially grilled lobster tails.
Recently it seems that frozen lobster tails are showing up in many supermarkets, I’ve even seen them at Walmart! And they’ve become very inexpensive; my local supermarket recently had them on sale for $5.99 per tail weighing between 4-5 oz. I purchased slightly larger tails from Whole Foods for less than $10 each; very reasonable!
The availability of affordable frozen lobster tails has made brought them to our dinner table instead of being a restaurant treat on special occasions. It’s even gained a spot on our Sunday barbecues with or without company!
Lobsters or lobster tails can be steamed, boiled, baked, broiled, or grilled. I prefer tails that are grilled; whole lobsters I like boiled. Lobsters when cooked properly are incredible. The key word being properly! It’s so easy to over cook lobsters making the meat dry, rubbery, and tasteless.
In my opinion the best way to bake, broil, or grill lobster tails is to parboil them first. This partially cooks the tails so that they will bake, broil, or grill nicely and not over cooked. So here are some tips on how to grill the perfect lobster tails!
- If your tails are frozen thaw them out in the fridge until the tails can be wiggled back and forth.
- Make sure the thawed lobster tails are not spoiled. If they have a strong ammonia smell they are SPOILED and should not be consumed. (You may not be able to smell the ammonia until the tails are thawed so it’s important to check them before cooking). If you’re using fresh lobster tails you should still make sure they don’t smell like ammonia just to be safe.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Then reduce heat and place the thawed or fresh tails into the hot water. Let is simmer in the pot for 2-3 minutes for 4-5 oz. tails. The shell should start turning red and the meat should start to turn white on the surface.
- Have a bowl of ice water ready. Remove the partially cooked tails from the hot water and immediately place them in the bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking process.
5. Place tails on a cutting board, red shell up, and cut the tail lengthwise from the top to the beginning of the fan end. If you want the tail in one piece do not cut thru to the opposite side. If you want the halves separated cut tail all the way thru and you will have 2 halves.
6. If you are grilling tails whole with just the slit in the middle you may want to thread the tail from the fan end to the top on a metal skewer, this will keep the tail from curling when you grill them. You can do this to halves as well, but I find that halves don’t curly as much while grilling.
If you are grilling tails right away then proceed to the next step, otherwise you can drain the water from the bowl, cover the bowl and place it in the fridge to grill later. Follow the next step when you’re ready to grill.
7. Melt a stick of butter. Stir in juice from 1/2 a lemon and some garlic powder. Brush the lobster meat with the mixture. Carefully run your finger between the shell and the meat so you can brush the mixture on the meat.
8. Place the tails on the grill and cook each side about 2-3 minutes. You’ll know it’s fully cooked then the lobster meat is white not opaque or gray, and the shell is bright red.
9. Serve lobster with a lemon wedge and a small bowl of melted garlic butter for dipping.