Thursday, July 21, 2011


Using a lump crab meat will insure success of this recipe. A more economical recipe will call for imitation crab, or Surimi, which should be chopped quite fine to achieve similar results. It will also require additional mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, dill, and cilantro.

Artichokes filled with Crab Meat
Yield: 4 servings
4 small artichokes
1 ½ cup crab meat
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 drops Worcestershire sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
⅛ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dill
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1. With a sharp, serrated edge knife, slice ⅓ off from the tops of the artichokes. Set them in boiling water to cover. Cover the pot and cook until a leaf can be removed easily with tongs. Do not overcook. Remove the artichokes from the pot and invert on a platter. When they have cooled, remove the inside down to the bottom, being careful not to cut into the bottom.
2. Mix together the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, dill, and parsley. Carefully fold in the crab meat. Spoon the mixture into the artichokes.
3. These may be placed on a baking sheet and set under the broiler to serve hot or set into the refrigerator to become cold. Accompany both with mayonnaise seasoned with Worcestershire, mustard, and dill. Top the artichokes with minced cilantro.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


October 15th marks the beginning of stone crab season in Florida. Natives have enjoyed these succulent cousins of the Blue Crab since the days of the Glades Indians. Every bay-front house set traps for these wonderful creatures to crawl into, and, if the crabs didn’t enter the traps, we could scoop them up in nets. We adhered to the rules to protect the species: Claw lengths had to measure a minimum of 2.75 inches to protect the smaller-clawed female. We carefully broke off only one claw, returning the crab to the bay for the other to grow back. Those who had boats set traps into deeper waters and waited for them to fill up with these wonderful creatures that existed solely for our feast. Occasionally, we would find a lone, fat octopus within their midst and knew the little monster had sucked all the jelly substance from their claws all by himself, leaving them empty and our feast thwarted. History, by the way, seems to reflect that the octopus has been most prevalent during the years the crab also bred in its greatest number. It would seem that nature kept track of its natural predator. When we were rewarded for our trapping efforts, we quickly hauled the crabs back to land where we boiled them immediately. It was important not to place the claws on ice before cooking or the jelly within would stick to the shells, making them difficult to crack and ruining the texture.

The supply so exceeded the demand that, during the 1960’s, twenty-four small claws could be purchased from fishermen for thirty cents and the jumbo claws went for $1.00 each. Then, sadness struck our waters. We began to ship our delicacy outside Florida. As the rest of the world became savvy about our native specialty during the seventies, Florida began its merciless purge for export. As a result, the species dwindled and the price zoomed out of control. By 1985, these claws were selling at retail fish markets for $10 dollars a pound. By 2010, the large claws fetched anywhere between $20-$30 dollars.

Stone crabs (Menippe mercenaria) are usually best and less expensive at the beginning of each season. Although smaller claws can be purchased in some supermarkets, private fish markets sell larger claws and, in this writer’s opinion, handle and store them with better care to insure quality. It is easier to have the fishmonger crack the claws, but, to insure peak quality, they should not be cracked until directly before serving. It takes practice to crack instead of smashing them. Place 3-4 claws flat side up in a plastic bag and whack each with a medium sized hammer at the center of the claw. One hard hit – just enough to crack but not smash it; a second hit on the large joint, and a third at the knobbed joint. The third one is most important because the shell is softer and will smash easily.

True stone crab aficionados would never consider creating a recipe. All they require is lemon and butter or mustard sauce. If you would like a little variety or wish to cut back on the price, try the recipes I have created below. And, don’t forget Key Lime Pie for dessert. Whether you make them into patties and serve with a spicy sauce or invent your own sauces to serve over pasta or rice, or decide to stir-fry with vegetables, don’t forget the coleslaw and the Key Lime Pie.


Yield: 2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup strong mustard (Dijon is best)

1 tablespoon white horseradish

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Optional: Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix together and refrigerate one hour or longer.


Yield: 4 servings

2 ½ cups meat (or more) from crab claws

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon white horseradish

1/2 cup plain bread or cornflake crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

1. Remove meat from the claws and legs.

2. Combine mayonnaise, Worcestershire and horseradish. Carefully fold in crab and spoon into a shallow baking dish or individual ramekins.

3. Melt butter and toss in crumbs. Sprinkle over the crab mixture and bake in a preheated 350° oven approximately 6-8 minutes, or until brown on top.


Yield: 4 servings

2 ½ cups meat (or more) from crab claws

½ red, yellow, or orange bell pepper (yellow and orange are mild)

1 tablespoon chopped dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 rib celery, chopped

1 tablespoon strong mustard

Juice from 2 lemons

1 cup mayonnaise

Black olives, sliced

Chopped iceberg lettuce

Seedless grapes, melon and fresh pineapple cut into cubes

1. Cut the crab meat into fairly large pieces and set aside.

2. Place the pepper, skin side up, on a piece of foil under the broiler. When it turns black, remove it and close the foil around it. Let stand 10 minutes and peel off the skin. Slice the pepper into thin strips.

3. Combine the dill, tarragon, celery, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. Taste for salt and pepper.

4. Chop the lettuce and toss it with one-quarter cup of the dressing. Set the crab chunks on top with a spoonful of dressing on top. Set strips of broiled red pepper over. Surround with the grapes, melon, and pineapple cubes.

Note: The grapes, melon, and pineapple may be exchanged for grapefruit sections and sliced avocado.


Yield: 4 servings

1½ pounds fresh salad spinach

3 cups coarsely- chopped crab

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove crushed garlic

1/2 pound white mushrooms, cut into small chunks

¼ cup white wine

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

½ cup chopped scallion greens

Tiny tomatoes, cherry or ‘grape’, sliced into halves

1. Slit the top of the bag of spinach. Microwave on high exactly 2 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the leaves to a bowl. Toss with salt. Set into a strainer to drain any excess water.

2. Chop the crab and set aside.

3. Warm the butter, oil and garlic in a pan. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms become soft. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the cilantro and scallions.

4. Add the spinach and toss until all is very hot. Divide onto 4 plates. Top with the crab and surround with tiny tomatoes. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.



When you make a brown stock or gravy, do you roast meaty bones in the oven with seasonings for one hour, remove them to a large pot, add celery, onions, garlic, and parsley, and cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle roll, skim the fat that rises to the top and simmer for three to four hours before cooling, straining, refrigerating overnight and skimming off the fat from the top? Or, do you add water to a packaged mix or stir flour into a condensed can of beef broth? You might be surprised that most chefs of even upscale restaurants do the same with purchased gravies and stock from reliable sources for time and cost effectiveness. And, unless a restaurant has hired an expensive pastry chef or an independent owner has a loving wife or mother whipping up home-made desserts from pride and pleasure, most eateries purchase their cakes and pies from wholesale purveyors.

Speed-Scratch is not a catchy new phrase of modern cooks, but a movement that existed in great-grandma’s generation, who doctored up canned Spam and Franco-American Spaghetti during the rationed years of WW2. The phrase "from scratch" entered the lexicon of English language in the 1950s--the same decade that produced the first electric can opener. How many of us remember the pretty blond named Betty Furness who opened a refrigerator on black and white TV in 1954 and announced, “You can be sure if it’s Westinghouse”. The frozen food revolution had begun. Liberated women across America opened their freezer doors for the perfect answer to feed a hungry, television-addicted family: the TV dinner. Who could resist a metal tray neatly divided into sections containing a main dish (fried chicken or Salisbury steak, for example), mashed potatoes or perhaps cornbread stuffing, and peas—all for under a dollar! And all the modern housewife had to do was to place the dinner in the oven and wait.

It is believed that a man by the name of Gary Thomas was the inventor of the TV dinner that same year with the Swanson turkey dinner. It resulted in ten million sales that year alone. Many of these dinners went directly from supermarket to stove until home freezers became the norm instead of the exception. This was followed by the demise of the family eating together at the dining room table. TV trays on individual collapsible tables were set up in front of chairs and sofas for the family to sit down, peel the foil off the tops, and tune in their favorite show.

We new brides of the ‘60s and ‘70s, who wanted to impress our husbands, added enough water to Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix to spread over fresh chicken before roasting and Cream of Mushroom Soup to canned tuna for a casserole topped with crunched up corn flakes for economical or Lenten dinners. We made cakes from boxes, adding pudding or flavorings to make it our own. We mixed several cans of sauces for our spaghetti, which we had begun to call “pasta”. We did everything except incorporate fresh vegetables and herbs into our creations.

And, then, another revolution began. Perhaps as a reaction to fast food or the preservatives, additives, sugar and salt that flavored most of the instant products, a cry for healthier eating arose. We continued to purchase frozen and canned products, but began reading labels and adding our own meat and poultry and fresh vegetables from the produce section of our markets. Today, the produce area of supermarkets that once featured only iceberg lettuce, Idaho baking potatoes and unimaginative vegetables that were often wilted from warehouse storage, offers a banquet of appealing selections as well as organically grown choices.


Yield: Approximately 6 servings

They’ll never guess it’s not your very own recipe

2 packages Stouffer’s® frozen Spinach Soufflé

4 thick cut slices cooked bacon (microwaveable or pre-cooked), chopped

8 ounces mixed Italian shredded cheese (or mixed Mexican, if preferred)

4 cup soufflé or deep baking dish

1. Preheat conventional oven to 350°F.

2. Defrost the spinach soufflés. Set 1 package into the soufflé dish.

3. Sprinkle with the chopped bacon.

4. Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.

5. Cover with the second soufflé.

6. Set the soufflé on a rack ⅓ from the bottom and bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese and bake another 10 minutes, or until brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Note: Vegetarians omit the bacon. Chopped walnuts or pine nuts or sliced water chestnuts or 6 ounce can of French’s® Fried Onions may be substituted for the center filling in the soufflé.


Yield: 4 servings

2 chicken breasts, skinned and boned

Salt and pepper to sprinkle

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

Optional: 1-2 fresh garlic cloves, minced, or ¼ teaspoon bottled garlic powder

Optional: ½ pound sliced white mushrooms or 8 ounce bottle, sliced

24 ounce bottle Alfredo Sauce (Bertolli®)

½ cup or more grated Parmesan cheese

Pasta of choice (Linguine is good)

1. Sprinkle the chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper.

2. Combine oil, butter, and garlic in a pan. Cook the chicken over medium-low heat on one side until lightly colored. Turn the breasts over. Cover the pan and cook over low heat approximately 10 minutes.

3. Remove the chicken to a cutting board. Place the mushrooms in the chicken pan and cook over low heat for a few minutes. Stir in the Alfredo Sauce.

4. Slice the chicken breasts into strips and add to the pan.

5. Cook the pasta. Drain. Do not rinse. Toss with the hot Alfredo sauce.

6. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.


Yield: 2 servings

The frozen duck comes with its own sauce but it is not nearly as good as the easy recipe below that makes this gourmet delicacy your very own.

14 ounce package Maple Leaf Farms® Fully Cooked Duck (Half a duck)

½ cup orange marmalade

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons Brandy

2 tablespoons Gr. Marnier or Triple Sec or Peach Schnapps (more economical)

Optional: Fresh orange segments

1. Defrost duck and cook in a conventional oven according to package directions.

2. Combine remaining ingredients. Cover the duck the last 15 minutes of cook time for a perfect sauce.

3. Serve with instant wild rice or mixed wild and white rice.


Yield: 4-6 servings

2 packages frozen broccoli spears or fresh broccoli

2-10 ¾ ounce cans Campbell’s® Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 cups water

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Touch of cayenne pepper or white pepper

1. Defrost broccoli. Cut the spears and flowers from 1 package into small pieces and set aside. Place the others into a food processor and pulverize. Or, cut the stems off a bunch of fresh broccoli 4 inches from the flowers. Chop the stems and boil gently in water until tender before pulverizing in the blender.

2. Combine the Cream of Mushroom soup with the water in a pot. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to medium. Add the broccoli pieces and broccoli from the food processor. Add salt, pepper, and a touch of cayenne. Cook, stirring, approximately 5 minutes.

3. Stir in cheese and serve.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


The secret of this labor-intensive recipe is removing the elderberries from their clusters. You must wear latex – or latex free – gloves or your hands will remain purple forever. Remove any white, green or red berries from the cluster. They are toxic, even cooked, and can be poisonous if eaten raw. Never eat raw elderberries, regardless of color. The best jelly is made from the darkest berries. Those that appear black will be attached to stems that have turned from green to a light purple. Be careful because the next stage is overripe where the berries have dried out. Usually the birds have gotten to them first so you will not see many of these. Hold the stem in one hand and, with your thumb and forefinger and middle finger, gently pull away the berries all together into a large colander or strainer.

The next secret is to purchase mesh paint strainers from the hardware store. You can also use cheesecloth but the paint strainers are stronger and will not tear when squeezing the juice from the berries.

Now that you have decided to go ahead and make this jelly, you might as well make 2 recipes. Wash and remove 16 cups elderberries from their stems to cook with 2 cups sweet Marsala wine. After mashing and straining, divide into two 3 cup containers. You cannot double the jelly recipe. You must make it in 2 batches. Follow the directions beginning with the lemon juice.


Yield: 7 half-pints

8 cups elderberries (will make 3 cups cooked and strained juice)

1 cup sweet Marsala wine or cream sherry

¼ cup bottled lemon juice, from concentrate

¼ cup cream sherry

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 package SureJell® or other pectin

4 ½ cups granulated sugar

Supplies: paper toweling, jelly jars, soup pot, measuring cups, deep bowl, latex gloves, potato masher, cheesecloth or paint strainer

Non-reactive pot**

1. Put on gloves. Wash the clusters of ripe elderberries. Remove 8 cups whole berries from their stems into a colander. (A few stems are okay to leave because you will be straining the juice later) Remove to a large non-reactive pot.

2. Add 1 cup sweet cream sherry.

3. Bring to a boil, stirring Reduce heat to low or simmer, depending on your burner. Cover and cook very gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a potato masher, mash to open the berries for their juice to escape. Cover again and cook 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

4. Sterilize the jars. This can be done by putting them in the dishwasher on hot cycle without detergent. Put the tops of the jars in a pot of water to bring to a boil to sterilize.

5. Put your gloves on again. Set a deep bowl into the sink. Stretch the sides of the paint strainer fit around the bowl. Pour the elderberries and their juice into the paint strainer, letting the juice drip into the bowl. Squeeze as much of the juice as possible through the mesh. This is tedious and takes strength in the hands. Just when you think you have squeezed out all the juice, it continues to drip. Do not lose one precious drop.

6. Pour the elderberry juice into a measuring cup to measure 3 cups. Rinse out the pot to remove any berries left inside and pour in the elderberry juice. Add the sherry.

7. Add the lemon juice and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring. Add the SureJell®. Bring to a boil again, stirring constantly. Add the sugar all at once. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook at a rolling boil exactly 1 minute. Remove from stove and immediately fill the sterilized jars.

8. Wipe the tops with a wet paper towel before sealing. Seal tightly and invert jars (turn upside down) for 10 minutes.

If you do not have cheesecloth or a mesh paint strainer, you may push the juice through a regular strainer with a spoon. It is necessary, however, to strain the juice again because fragments of the berries will fall through a regular strainer.

** Non reactive pot or pan: A non reactive pot or pan is one that does not produce a chemical reaction with it comes into contact with acidic foods because is not porous. Aluminum pots and pans are reactive. Stainless steel, glass and enamel are not. However, glass and enamel do not heat properly to make certain recipes, so it is best to use stainless steel for fruit jellies and jams.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


There is much confusion about the difference between the Kumquat and Loquat fruit. Although Kumquats are not related botanically to Loquats, the two names share an origin in their old Chinese names. The Nagami or oval kumquat is the most common variety in the United States. Although it originated in China, it was introduced into Florida from Japan in 1885 and has been grown commercially in the "Kumquat Capitol," Saint Joseph, Florida since 1895. The Nagami kumquat is oval in shape, 3/4" to 1" in diameter and between 1" to 2" long. The tartness of the fruit makes them perfect for use in sauces for fish, pork, poultry, and duck as well as for marmalades and jellies.

The Meiwa, or round kumquat, is the Beluga caviar of Florida kumquats. It is still quite rare in America and sweeter than the oval. The skins that can be eaten directly from the tree are thicker and absolutely succulent when preserved with golden rum and Gr. Marnier.

Loquats grow in clusters. They are oval, rounded or pear-shaped, 3-5 cm long, with a smooth or downy, yellow or orange, sometimes red-blushed skin. The succulent, tangy flesh is white, yellow or orange and sweet to sub-acid or acid. Each fruit contains five ovules, of which three to five mature into large brown seeds. The skin, though thin, can be peeled off manually if the fruit is ripe.


Yield: Approximately 10 half-pint jars

6 pounds whole kumquats (Nagami oval or Meiwa round)

1 cup triple sec liqueur

2 cups golden rum

3 cups granulated sugar

2 sticks cinnamon, broken into large pieces

4 cups bottled spring water

1 pound crystallized ginger, sliced into thin strips

1. Cut a V shape into the top of each quat. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately and drain. Rinse under cold water. This will remove the acidic taste and keep the fruit from shriveling.

2. Combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the quats. Allow them to stand in the marinade several hours.

3. Sterilize jars and tops.

4. Bring quats in their marinade to a full boil again, stirring.

5. Fill jars, making sure each has some cinnamon and ginger.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.