Friday, February 28, 2014

Roasted Peppers

I ran to Aldi on Tuesday after picking up my daughter from school. I just had to quick run in and pick up one thing - cream to be used with our dessert crepes that we were having that evening. I didn't even grab a cart, because I was sure that's all I was buying was the cream. WELL, I should have known better! I ran to the refrigerated section, grabbed the cream, and started down the produce aisle towards the checkout, when what did I see?  Multi-colored pepper 3 packs for $1.49 each . . . AND . . . Roma tomatoes for $0.89 for a 20 oz. pack.  SAY WHAT???

I was going to need a cart! So I left my cream with the checkout lady as I proceeded to run outside while scrounging through my purse to find a quarter for the much needed cart. My daughter was waiting for me in the car, and she sees me getting the cart and she's mouthing to me "what is taking you so long?" (Teens - ugh!)

These are two items that I can't pass up when I find a good deal. These treasures were going to become what are usually two staples in many Italian homes - homemade marinara sauce and roasted peppers in oil.

Today, I'm going to show you how I do my roasted peppers in oil. The homemade marinara sauce will be coming soon.

Preheat grill to high heat. Grill peppers, turning occasionally, until all sides have a nice char on them.

  Remove the peppers from the grill and place them into a plastic bag and tie the bag shut. I like to place the bag inside of a glass bowl, in case there is any leakage of the liquid. Let sit until cool (I actually left mine overnight). This is what they will look like when you open up the bag.

Working with your hands, remove the outside skins of the peppers. They should peel off easily.  Then remove the stem portion. Just give it a pull, and try to get as much of the seed ball from the inside with it. Pull the pepper apart, and remove any remaining seeds and membranes with your hands. Place the peppers on a cutting board. I just leave all of the skins, stems and seeds right in the bag., so you can just throw the entire bag away when you're done cleaning them.

You can do so much with roasted peppers, and 6 peppers goes a long way.  Here's what I do:

I'm going to freeze a little bit of each colored pepper without any oil or anything.

Put them in a zip top freezer bag and freeze.  You can use these in any recipes that call for roasted peppers. One of my favorites is this roasted red pepper tapenade recipe. I've made this several times, using my own roasted peppers, and always get rave reviews. So much better than jarred roasted peppers.

Now for the rest of the peppers. Slice them into strips and place them into a glass bowl.

Just like that.

Add chopped garlic, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. I don't even measure, I just eyeball it. If you like a lot of garlic, add some more. If not, put in less.

 Do you remember that basil I told you about in my very first blog post, "Basil, Basil -  Everywhere"? Perfect for this recipe. I pulled that bag out of the freezer, grabbed a handful . . . .

and literally crumbled it directly on top of the peppers! Give it a good stir and they are ready to eat or freeze. They smell so good!

 I decided to freeze about half of them, and the other half I put into a little bowl, for us to eat within the next couple of days.

There are so many things you can do with these peppers.  Here are some of the ways that we enjoy them:

  • On top of white pizza, along with a bit of arugula
  • Pureed and served over pasta (you can even add a little cream if you like)
  • On sandwiches - such as muffaletta's
  • On top of crostini (toasted or grilled bread)
  • Just as they are!

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Enzo's Crab Cakes

My husband and I rarely go out to dinner without the kids. We feel bad leaving them at home while we are out, so they have always gone with us since they were babies. We also rarely let them eat off of the kids menu, even when they were little. We would usually order a couple of entrees and appetizers, and then we'd all share.

That worked great when they were younger, but now that they are teens, they want to order their own meals and appetizers, and of course, they always want the most expensive thing on the menu. We usually steer them towards ordering something a little more economical, and then create those splurge items at home as a special treat.  This week it was crab cakes! They are so easy to make at home. Let's see how it's done:

Finely chop the peppers and scallions.

Saute the peppers and scallions in a 2 Tblsp of olive oil for about 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Place the crab meat in a large glass bowl. Add the sauteed vegetables.

In a separate bowl, combined 3/4 cup of the panko, milk, egg, worcestershire sauce, and dijon mustard.  Mix well.

To the crab mixture, add the zest of 1 lemon, hot sauce, Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper.

Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and then stir in the panko mixture.

At this point, if you have more mouths to feed than you originally planned (which we did), you can add an 8 oz. package of flake style imitation crab meat, an additional egg and a 1/2 cup of  panko. Form into 12 cakes, and coat both sides in additional panko.

Place the crab cakes onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment paper, and chill until ready to fry.

Heat 2 Tbls of olive oil and 2 Tbls of butter in a large fry pan over medium heat. Fry in batches, 6 crab cakes at a time, 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and heated through. Add 2 more Tbls of olive oil and 2 Tbls of butter to the pan before frying the second batch of 6.

<<Printable Recipe>>
Enzo's Crab Cakes
Serves 6

6 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbls butter
5 scallions, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/3 cup sweet bell pepper, finely chopped (I used a combo of red, orange & yellow peppers)
2 to 2-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
3 Tbls milk
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
4-5 dashes of hot sauces
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pound lump crab
8 oz package of flake-style imitation crab

  1. Heat 2 Tbls olive oil in a pan over medium to medium high heat. Add peppers and scallions and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Place lump crab in a large glass bowl. Add the sauteed vegetables and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, place 3/4 cup of the panko. Add 1 egg, milk, Worcestershire sauce and dijon mustard and mix well.
  4. To the crab mixture, add the lemon zest, hot sauce, Old Bay seasoning, salt, pepper, lemon juice and the panko mixture. Mix well.
  5. Break apart the flake-style imitation crab with your hands and add it to the crab mixture. Add the other egg and 1/2 cup of panko. Mix well.
  6. Place the remaining panko on a plate. With your hands, form the mixture into 12 cakes, and coat both sides of the cakes in the panko.
  7. Place the crab cakes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to fry.
  8. Heat 2 Tbls of olive oil and 2 Tbls of butter in a pan over medium heat until hot. Fry crab cakes  in batches, for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown and heated through. You will need to add 2 Tbls of olive oil and 2 Tbls of butter to the pan when frying subsequent batches. I usually fry 6 at a time. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Food Network

We served ours with a side of "pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino" (pasta with garlic, olive oil and crushed red pepper). They were delicious!

Buon Appetito!