SOFT SHELL CRABS

Having grown up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland nothing screams summer to me more than crabs. My father worked on the water for a living. As a child I spent most of my summers working with him on his boat. He used scrapes that he dragged behind his boat with a net on it. After a few drags, he hand pulled the scrapes up, and emptied the contents into a box attatched to the washboard. It was my job to go through the treasures and pick the legal crabs and sort them. They were sorted by male, female, and size. I used to find all sorts of treasures back then. Seahorses, blow fish, and all sorts of glass and other treasures. It was always a surprise to see what the river sent back to us.

My personal favorite way to eat crabs is frying soft shell crabs. A soft shell is a crab that has molted or shed it’s shell. They are removed from the water as soon as they molt to prevent their shell from hardening. These days, a lot of waterman use floats to manage this process. While these delicate crustaceans are soft, their shell is edible. There is some cleaning involved but a good pair of scissors usually makes quick work of it. If you have never cleaned a crab ask someone to show you or have the seller clean them for you.

Soft Crabs, cleaned and ready to be seasoned.

I use a very simple mixture to coat the crabs in. It’s what I was taught and they are pretty tasty. I have been using my air fryer to cook them but they can also be sauteed in a skillet; cast iron is the best.

Seasoned soft crabs ready to fry.

A simple mixture of flour, Old Bay, grated nutmeg, and salt and pepper are the entire ingredients. I use a Ziploc bag to put the mixture in and coat the crabs. It really is quite easy and also helps with clean up. I have listed the recipe with exact measurements but it really isn’t rocket science.

We like them on a good roll with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. If and when you get the chance, have a soft crab. You may never want crab any other way.

Soft Crabs

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 2 T Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 t fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 t Kosher salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put all of the above ingredients into a Ziploc bag and shake to mix.
  2. Rinse the crab under cool water and add to the bag and gently shake to coat. Try to avoid losing any legs or the claws.
  3. Set on a plate after coating.

In a fry pan: add 1/2 stick butter to the pan and enough vegetable oil to shallow fry. Cook on both sides until nicely browned. Season with additional salt when removed. Place on a plate with paper towels to drain and serve hot.

In an Air fryer. Pre-heat the air fryer to 380 degrees. Use vegetable spray and spray the bottom of your fryer pan. Additionally spray your soft crabs on both sides. I like to cook them top side first. Air fry them at 380 for 6 minutes and flip them over and continue to air fry for another 6 minutes. Remove and place on a plate and serve hot.

NOTE: you can use an egg wash if you prefer instead of water to moisten the crab prior to coating. One egg beaten with a tablespoon of water. Dip the crab and then add to the coating mixture to coat the crab.

Until next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

Trifle

Easy Trifle using store bought Angel Food cake.



It’s a strange time we are living in at the moment. We have been trying to keep things as normal as possible. It’s difficult to do when being asked to wear a mask and socially distance. Still, life goes on as it always does.

We have been at our place in Ocean City, MD. Normally crowds would be swarming the beaches and restaurants. Bars would be full to capacity, with great music and bands. There were still beach goers. There were still people on the boardwalk. There was curbside take out for meals. The quiet was evident and eerie.

We had friends over for a cookout. Grilled chicken and scallops were the main event. Nothing better than food cooked on a charcoal grill. We had some salads as sides. I decided to make a trifle for dessert.

I’ve been making trifles for a while now. They are easy to make. You can make them with any ingredients you like. They feed a lot of people. I attempt to keep mine on the light side but look for good, fresh, ingredients. I use a store bought Angel Food cake to make it even easier. Again, you could use pound cake and you can certainly make your own. But here’s the question. Why would you?

Layers and Toasting Almonds

Layer cake, pudding, fruit, cool whip and top with toasted almonds and a fruit garnish.

My trifle yesterday consisted of ripe, red strawberries that were sliced. I used juicy, plump blueberries and also banana that was sliced. I cubed my store bought Angel Food cake. A box of instant sugar free, fat free vanilla pudding and Lite Cool Whip pulled everything together. Toasted almond slivers crowned the top to add some crunch and texture. It was an awesome, light, and tasty end to a great meal.

Here are the directions. Keep in mind, you can use any flavor pudding, any type of fruit. Use your imagination and make it yours. But definitely make it! I haven’t met anybody yet that doesn’t like it.

TRIFLE

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 store bought Angle Food cake
  • 1 pint of blueberries, washed and dried
  • 2 bananas, sliced into rounds
  • 1 quart of strawberries, washed and sliced
  • 1 large box of instant pudding, make according to directions and allow it to sit to thicken (I use sugar free, fat free) vanilla or lemon work very well
  • 1 large tub of Cool Whip (I use lite)
  • 1 small package of sliced almonds, toasted (about 1/4 cup)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the pudding and let stand to firm up.
  2. Clean and slice the bananas and strawberries.
  3. Wash the blueberries and dry them.
  4. Slice the Angel Food cake into cubes, approx 1.5 inches
  5. Toast the almonds by placing them into a dry skillet over medium heat. Toss them frequently to prevent burning. When you can smell them and they are slightly browned and golden they are done.
  6. The Cool Whip, should be refrigerated the night before to thaw.
  7. Assemble all of your ingredients in front of you.
  8. Use a large glass bowl or a footed trifle bowl.
  9. Beggining with Angel food cake, put one third in the bottom of the bowl, next add 1/3 of the pudding, add 1/3 of the fruit and then 1/3 of the Cool Whip.
  10. Repeat this step two more times. Top with a few pieces of fruit and all of the toasted almonds. Chill for at least 1 hour, can be made 4-5 hours ahead.

Until next time,

Ciao, xoxo

Viki D

Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Hi folks! I hope everyone is doing okay! Honestly, I am missing my family and friends. I miss human contact…..who knew? I never realized just how much I thrived on human interaction. Guess I wouldn’t be very good on an island alone. I don’t think “Wilson” would be enough to sustain me.

I love to cook but I miss going out to dine. Nothing like sharing a good bottle of wine, or two, with family and friends. We go to certain restaurants because we like certain dishes. Some dishes I like so well that I will come home and re-create them.

One of our favorite places serves this particular salad. Actually, my daughter tried it first. All she had to say was, “it’s so light, lemony, and fresh”. I was sold and ordered it on our next visit. Her description was perfect. When we go there, this is usually what I order.

Crisp, slightly bitter arugula, with shards of thinly sliced fennel. Also with sweet, grape tomatoes that have been halved. Topped with creamy, fresh goat cheese. The salad is lightly dressed and tossed in the vinaigrette. The restaurant always serves a paillard of chicken breast on the side. Basically a flattened chicken breast that is seasoned with salt and pepper. It is then shallow fried in oil on both sides. It’s fantastic and there is nothing more to say!

The vinaigrette, I have discovered, goes well on a variety of salads. So when life gives you lemons, make this vinaigrette. You might want to grab a bottle of buttery Chardonnay to go with it. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 Tbsp white or champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp creamy Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, grated
  • 1 Tbsp of honey, add more or less to your taste
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Add the first 5 ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  2. With a wire whisk, slowly drizzle the olive oil continuously whisking and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes creamy in appearance.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in a jar.

Note: I love grey sea salt and fresh ground pepper here. Kosher salt also works well.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

 

RICOTTA GNOCCHI

I recently saw a post and recipe for ricotta gnocchi. They are creamy and light little pillows that melt in your mouth. The key is not to add too much flour. I honestly prefer them over the potato gnocchi. In fact, I never really liked gnocchi until I had them made with ricotta. I just never understood what the big deal was.

There is an Italian restaurant in Ocean City that we frequent. I am sure I have mentioned it before. Ristorante Antipasti, on Coastal highway. Trust me, if you are ever in the area, make a reservation and go. Some of the best eats in Ocean City and the owner and his wife make you feel like family. His gnocchi changed my mind forever.

http://www.ristoranteantipasti.com/

I liked them so much; I wanted to be able to share them with everyone. I knew I had to learn how to make them. So make them I did. This is my recipe. Again, you do not want to add too much flour, it will make them heavy and doughy. Other than that, it’s pretty straight forward and easy to do. There’s no special equipment required and it goes quickly.

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We like ours in tomato sauce and a nice grating of fresh parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil. A brown butter sage sauce also works well here. Just add some crusty bread, an olive oil dip, and a green salad. A good bottle of wine completes this taste sensation. Be prepared to be transported. This meal is amazing!

Ricotta Gnocchi

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small containter of full fat ricotta cheese (do not use skim or low fat), drained of all liquid
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 C fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 t French grey sea salt (Kosher can also be used)
  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour (plus more or less as needed)
  • fresh chopped basil, for garnish
  • Kosher salt,  to add to boiling water

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl add 1 C flour, make a well in the center and add the eggs, ricotta, parmesan, and salt.
  2. Mix until combined and turn out onto a floured board and begin kneading gently. Add flour as needed, dough should be slightly wet, but hold together. The less flour added, the lighter it will be. More flour results in doughy gnocchi.
  3. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. One rope at a time roll into a 1/2″ circumference and cut into one inch pieces. Place pieces onto a lightly floured wooden board or a sheet pan that has been floured.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a good amount of Kosher salt. Have your sauce hot and ready on another burner.
  5. In small batches add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into your heated sauce of choice.
  6. Top with a good grating of parmesan cheese and chopped basil.
  7. Serve immediately

I like to make my own sauce but in a pinch, Rao’s marinara sauce is excellent. I keep it on hand when I am in a hurry.

Marinara Sauce

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

SNOWBALL COOKIES and FLAMINGOES

I thought it would be fun to share my recent artwork with you. I love to draw and use chalk pastels. They are so fun and forgiving with just a few tools. It’s also an inexpensive hobby.

This one was done for my dear friend Rhonda. She loves Flamingos! When we were in Aruba together she was on a mission. The Renaissance has a private island appropriately named, “Flamingo Island”. It’s a little island that you can see when coming into Aruba by plane. They escort you there by boat, if you are staying at the hotel. She was able to go with a mutual friend, mission accomplished. She loved it!!!

I try to make my gifts by hand for my friends and family. At this stage in my life I just think it’s more personal and memorable. The fact that I like to do it is an even bigger perk. I couldn’t wait to give it to her! I actually started writing this post before I was able to gift it to her. Anyway, it was a hit and she has another piece of artwork to hang in her home to remind her of our time.

I invited her to the house for lunch. At her request we had Chicken Caesar salads. I do have a killer recipe for Caesar dressing. Sadly, it remains a secret and will for a while. I am looking into bottling, and selling it. I will share her favorite cookie. She requests these at Christmas. I figured since we needed dessert, why not for her birthday?

We call them snowballs. They are also known as Russian Tea Cakes and Mexican Wedding Cookies. I think there are probably more names than there are recipes. I have had this one for years. I have no idea where it came from so I won’t take total credit for it. It’s a great tea cookie. It’s covered in snowy, powdered sugar and melts in your mouth. If you make them…..just don’t tell Rhonda! I hope you enjoy!

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Snowball Cookies

  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C,  unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 T sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t fine grey sea salt (you can also use Kosher)
  • 2 C, all purpose flour (King Arthur is my choice)
  • 2 C finely chopped, pecans or walnuts
  • Confectioners / Powdered sugar for dusting

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
  3. Gradually and slowly add the flour until all is combined.
  4. By hand, stir in the nuts and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and let it chill for at least one hour in the fridge.
  6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or a silpats.
  7. Using a 1 inch dough scoop, scoop dough making sure it is a level amount. Roll between the palms of your hand to form a ball.
  8. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet about 1 1/4 inch apart.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees, for 10-12 minutes (stove temps vary). The underside of the cookie should be lightly brown and not cracked.
  10. Cool on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks but first roll gently into the powdered sugar while warm.
  11. Let them cool completely on the racks and before storing roll them again in powdered sugar.
  12. Store them in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy in these uncertain times. May God Bless and Keep you all. I pray we get through this soon.

Until next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

 

 

 

 

 

 

BE THE ONE……..

We are living in a turbulent and trying time. COVID – 19 has descended upon all of us. It’s hard to know what to do or how to respond. We seem to be dividing ourselves according to our political beliefs. The hoarding is jeopardizing our young and elderly. Greed has reared it’s ugly head and is as big a threat as the virus.

We have been asked to quarantine ourselves as much as humanly possible. We have been asked to social distance and wash our hands. We weren’t asked to hoard toilet paper, or take all the food stores! We certainly weren’t asked to turn on our fellow man!

If we are all to survive this we have got to help each other. Check on your neighbors. Offer kindness and help to anyone that needs it. Be kind and show the same benevolence to everyone that you would like shown to you. It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is.  ALL of us are entitled to our opinions. Our biggest threat is not this virus. Our biggest threat is the hatred we are showing for our fellow man.

One act of kindness can go a long way. Please, I beg you, be that one person. Just like laughter, kindness can be contagious. Let it start with you. Let’s all stop this madness and help each other through this trying time. Be an example to our children. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It all starts with you and me!

As for me, I choose to be kind. I will help in any way that I can. I may not always agree with you but that’s okay. We have the ability to think for ourselves. We have the freedom as Americans to express ourselves. Lets not lose the fact that we have choices in this country, each and “everyone” of us.

God Bless America and God Bless each and everyone of you! I pray this will come to an end soon and find you all safe and well.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D