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.
Ready, sweet tomatoes and a garlicky slammed aubergine purée make this an incredible summer’s night dish
Mackerel must be my preferred fish for cooking outside over an open fire. Its skin crisps flawlessly while underneath the slick substance remains sodden and delicate. The fresher the mackerel, the more sensitive and heavenly its flavor will be, so select fish with decent brilliant eyes and energetic, bright skin.
4 good-sized, super-fresh mackerel, gutted and cleaned 2 tbsp olive oil 4 sprigs of rosemary 250g large, ripe tomatoes, halved 2 medium aubergines 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated 1 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste) A pinch of dried chilli flakes A handful of basil leaves, chopped 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare your fire; you want to be cooking over glowing embers. When the fire is hot, set a grill over it, making sure it’s clean so your fish is less likely to stick to the bars. You’ll know the temperature is right when you can hover your hand above the grill for a maximum of 3 seconds.
Lay the fish on a board and, using a sharp knife, cut several shallow slash marks on both sides. Trickle 1 tbsp olive oil over the fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub in, getting right into the slash marks. Place a couple of rosemary sprigs in each fish cavity. Set the fish on the grill. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and place, cut side up, next to the fish. Place the aubergines (uncut) on the grill too.
Turn the aubergines every few minutes, to ensure they cook evenly. The fish will take 6–8 minutes on each side, depending on size. Don’t worry if the skin tears; the fish will still taste amazing. Once the mackerel are cooked, remove them from the grill and keep warm. Turn the tomatoes after 10–15 minutes and keep cooking them until they are soft and caramelised, then remove them to a plate.
When the aubergines are soft (this will take about 20 minutes), slit open and scoop the soft flesh out into a bowl. Add the garlic, tahini, chilli flakes, basil, extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix and mash the aubergine with the seasonings.
Divide the aubergine purée between 4 plates. Add the tomatoes and fish and serve.
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.
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.
Filipino cuisine is a melting pot of several different types of cuisine, but it is said that 80% of Filipino dishes have been influenced by Spanish cuisine. The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898. Almost 400 years of Spanish rule certainly left its mark, many Filipino specialties are local adaptations of Spanish dishes.
One of our family favorites is Escabeche, or a Sweet & Sour Fish dish. Escabeche is a common Spanish dish that is popular in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine. Typically it refers to a dish of poached or fried fish that has been marinated in an acidic sauce before serving. It can also composed of other meats including chicken and pork, or vegetables. The Filipino version of Fish Escabeche is fried fish in a Sweet & Sour sauce. It is a favorite Filipino party food, specially when it’s made with a whole fish that’s artfully arranged on a platter and topped with colorful veggies and sauce.
I’ve made it the traditional way using whole fish, but my grandsons have difficulty with the small fish bones. To make it easier for them to eat I have started making Escabeche using fish fillets than have no bones. Any kind of white fish will work. We have used Tilapia, Flounder, Orange Roughy, and other white fish we find in the market.
Like many Filipino dishes Escabeche isn’t difficult to make, but it is “fussy” meaning its preparation requires several steps; in this case dredging, frying, chopping, and making the sauce. It takes about an hour or so tho cook so it’s not something I make very often, but when I do my family loves it!
6 – 8 Fish Fillets (any white fish: Tilapia, Flounder, Halibut, etc.)
1 Large egg – slightly beaten
1 Cup Flour
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Sea Salt
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup White Vinegar
1 1/2 + 1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Ketchup
2 Tbls. Corn Starch
1 Large Onion Sliced into strips
2 Medium Green Peppers Sliced into large chunks
4 Cloves Garlic roughly chopped
Mix flour and spices in a shallow bowl
Place egg in another shallow bowl
Pat fish fillets dry with a paper towel
Heat oil in frying pan
Dip fish fillet in egg, then dip in flour mixture, shake off excess flour
Fry in hot oil until both sides are cooked
Remove from pan and place on paper towel to drain oil
Repeat with the rest of the fish
Keep fried fish warm by placing it in the oven at about 200 degrees
Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup water and set aside
Place sugar, vinegar, water, and ketchup in a medium pot and bring to boil
Stir in garlic, peppers, and onions
Make sure cornstarch solution is still dissolved, if not stir until it is
Slowly stir in cornstarch solution until you get desired thickness. Sauce should be the consistency of gravy.
Place fish fillets on serving dish and pour sauce over it
Serve right away. It goes great with steamed white rice.
Escabeche - Filipino Sweet & Sour Fish
Popular Filipino dish featuring fried white fish in sweet & sour sauce.
Combine flour, garlic powder, salt & pepper and place in a shallow dish.
Heat oil over medium - medium high stove.
Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with paper towel.
Dredge fillets in flour mixture and place in heated oil.
Fry fish until cooked and turns golden brown - about 4 - 5 minutes per side depending on the thickness
Remove from pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb some of the oil. Set aside.
Combine sugar, vinegar, ketchup, and 1 1/2 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. About 10 minutes.
Mix 1/4 cup water with corn starch until smooth.
Slowly stir corn starch liquid into the boiling vinegar mixture to thicken. Reduce heat to low and let sauce gently simmer. Keep an eye on it, you don't want it to get too thick. If it gets too thick add a bit of water to thin.
Saute onions in the oil you fried the fish in until it starts to turn a bit soft.
Add garlic, saute until cooked.
Add green peppers and cook until peppers turn slightly soft.
Return fried fish fillets to pan with veggies.
Gently stir fish mixture for about 3 - 4 minutes.
Arrange fish and veggies in a platter.
Pour sauce over all.
The most efficient way to make this dish is to start making the sauce while the fish is frying. Keep the sauce simmering over low heat while you finish sauteing the veggies. Stir the sauce periodically to keep a skin from forming on the top.
When you drain the fried fish and set it aside keep it warm by placing it in a warmer or on the stove top. Don't cover the fried fish, it will get soggy.
When you replace the fish in the pan gently stir it so that the fillets warm up a bit. Transfer fish and veggies on to your serving dish (or you can keep it in the frying pan) and pour the hot sauce over all.
This dish is perfect served with steamed white rice.
Since many of us are still in the pandemic lockdown, self-imposed or mandated, deciding what to cook has become a chore. Many of us are probably planning out weekly menus to cut down on grocery runs, which many of you know can be a daunting experience with masks, lines, and empty shelves; and I won’t even get into disinfecting all the groceries we bring home! Such is our new “normal” at least until this scourge passes.
Another main concern for many of us is a disrupted food chain caused by virus outbreaks at many of the meat packing plants nationwide. Not only is this virus causing meat shortages, but it puts plant employees considered essential workers, and their families at risk. I know we all want to do our part to stop the spread and also hopefully keep folks from hoarding meat. (Remember the Toilet Paper back in March? I don’t think the factories have caught up yet!) Anyway to show our support for meat packing plant employees and hopefully lessen the demand for meats workers’ advocates are calling for Meatless Mondays. So you might want to plan your weekly menus to include at least one meatless day, it’s good for your health as well as one small step in stopping the spread. So I thought this month I’d share some meatless recipes with you.
One of my favorite seafood dishes is Salt & Pepper Shrimp, we used to order it every time we dined at a Chinese restaurant. Since I found a recipe for it we can enjoy it at home. I modified it to fit our tastes and I think made it a bit simpler to make. Served over steamed white rice it’s yummy!
1 lb. Medium to Large shrimp – peeled and deveined
1 tbls. sea salt
1/2 cup corn starch
2 tbls. ground white pepper
2 tbls. ground black pepper
1 tbls. garlic powder
3 tbls. chopped green onions
2 tbls. minced garlic
1/4 + cup peanut oil
Place shrimp in a small bowl and cover with warm water
Add sea salt and let soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour
In a shallow bowl mix together corn starch, 1 tbls. each of white and black peppers, and garlic powder
Drain shrimp and lightly pat dry with a paper towel
Heat peanut oil in wok or large frying pan on medium heat until hot
Coat each shrimp in cornstarch mixture and place in wok
Cook until shrimp turns pink – turn halfway for even cooking – you may need to add more peanut oil if it gets too dry
Place cooked shrimp on paper towel to drain – Do not turn stove off
If pan is dry add a tbls. more peanut oil – add mince garlic and stir until it starts turning golden
Add fried shrimp back into pan
Add chopped green onions and stir til green onions turn bright green and starts to soften