Sunday, August 24, 2008

St. Michaels & Crabs '08

Remember last year when I talked about the St. Michael's summer weekend getaway? I decided to revisit that concept, this time with Mr. Roganista and instead of a luxe farm cum water front estate, we decided to see St. Michaels as the tourist do. It was actually pretty fun...until I dropped my camera in a bowl of clam juice at the famous Crab Claw restaurant while snapping pictures of my food. Yeah, that's right, I'm grace incarnate.

According to Mr. Roganista, who used to swing by St. Michaels on sailing jaunts as a boy, it used to be a sleepy little fishing town with chain linked fences and true bucolic charm. Nowadays it's more stylized rustic with swooshy little bistros (Bistro St. Michael's) and updated gourmet ice cream shops (Justine's). But what still remains the same is the Crab Claw restaurant, where you can pick at crabs and other local delights in your flip flops and t-shirt. It's classy, in the CASH ONLY and tour bus kind of way, but it's fun. Reserve a seat outside on the deck/dock, and you can see all the recreational boats coming in.

So "crab pickin" is an art, apparently. You are bound to get messy and sticky. However, Mr. Roganista has his own technique for staying relatively tidy while dismembering the little creatures. He diligently picks all the meat out of crabs and puts it on a plate like a sort of salad to be eaten with a fork(!), after being sprinkled with a little Old Bay and malt vinegar. Most people (e.g. me and everyone else) just hammer at the claws (as you can hear in the background of the video below), break the shell and suck at the meat. Lest you do it like Mr. R, be prepared for a mess (and a broken camera).

Sittin on the dock of a bay...waiting for crabs...

Classic crab acoutrements: Old Bay, malt vinegar, and butter

Mr. Roganista demonstrates the art of crab picking (forgive the poor videography):

We also got a bucket of little neck clams...

 can use butter or clam juice (this is the last picture I got before my camera went in the bowl (and stopped working altogether))

St. Michaels is a great getaway, just 2 hours from DC... a little touristy in the summertime, but fun if you want to experience Maryland's bounty.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden and Ben (Part Deux): Still Clean and Articulate

This should be a Wednesdays' post, but the news is hot off the presses. Gawd, really? Joe Biden is Obama's running mate choice? That thinly veiled racist "clean and articulate" comment has clearly been forgiven. This gives me more heartburn than Ben's at 2 am. Related, Obama's favorite food to make is chili (according to the crack journalism at USAToday). Speaking of which, it's Ben's Chili Bowl 50th anniversary of navigating soft bigotry, racism, and urban decline! There's a loose Ben and Biden connection here vis a vis Obama. I wrote about it two years ago here. I guess it's somehow poetic that both Ben and Biden have survived this long and are both in the news this week...

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Little Southwest with Night Grilling

There are basic taste notes with each culture's cuisine. Italian cuisine includes garlic and basil, Vietnamese typically includes fish sauce and cilantro, and similarly Southwest cooking includes cumin and grilling. Tonight, we made another very simple pantry meal with nothing more than frozen tuna, canned black beans, tomato, and garlic (and some fresh herbs).

I think I'm developing an acute case of laziness. The dishes I've created lately (with the exception of the mussels) have been pantry meals. Here's yet another. It includes:

1 Can of black beans

1/3 cup of olive oil for dressing

fistfull of fresh herbs (whatever you or your neighbor have on hand)--in this case it's parsely and peppery Greek basil

2 Tbs vinegar--in this case Champagne vinegar (you can use lemon juice or any other type of acid)

1/2 cup diced tomatoes (isn't this lovely? we picked it from Hollin Farm the other weekend)

mix all together with 1 Tbs cumin and season with salt and pepper

We thawed out two frozen tuna steaks (conveniently individually cryopacked, found at our local Costco!) in a bowl of cold water. This only takes about 45 minutes and is much better than using the microwave...

Made a quick marinade of 2 Tbs coarse ground mustard, 1/3 cup Worcestishire, 1 tsp cumin, chopped garlic, and 3 Tbs olive oil--marinate for about 20 minutes (it doesn't take long)

Then grill the fish for about 1.5 minutes aside (check out Mr. Roganista's skillz, kids...all done by flash light! Notice the final tap tap--so fancy)

Voila, quick Southwest tuna on blackbean salad by candle light on the deck...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Don't Hate on Costco--Their Clams Ain't Bad

Okay, it's only the two of us in the house, and we don't eat mayo or peanut butter in any large quantity (or really at all for that matter). So why do we go to Costco? For the wine, meat, and occasional cheese. That's right, you heard me, we buy wine there. If there are any wine lovers out there, if you know your stuff, you can find really good prices at this food warehouse. After all, Costco was the upmarket answer to Sam's Club. However proletareate the idea of bulk food is, they somehow have knowledgeable buyers that seek out premium products.

Anyhoo, as for cheese, it's not bad. They have a large variety, some artesenal (not as good as the stuff you'd find at boutiques) but much more everyday table cheese. They work if you eat them very regularly, as we do most nights before dinner. We've purchased good Compte, Parmegianno, and herbed goat varieties there. (By the way, we did buy a great Coolea and Garanzia from Cowgirl Creamery--more on that in another post.)
And then there's the proteins. We almost always try to pick up a few racks of lamb, pork tenderloin, or even tuna. We generally seperate and freeze them for later use. Like I've mentioned in previous posts, if you keep your pantry (and freezer) stocked full of goodies, you don't have to go grocery shopping very often (and won't be stuck having to eat chicken and cream cheese casseroles).

Well, when we went this past weekend to pick up some other odds and ends (like whole grain cereal--which Mr. Roganista goes through like there's no tomorrow), we spotted some fresh clams.

Clams, like crabs, remind me of summer time. I scrubbed them, sauteed them in some olive oil with garlic and onion. Added some chicken stock and Sauv Blanc, simmered them for about 15 minutes. Then tossed in some fresh diced tomatoes (picked from Hollin farm the other weekend) and whatever herbs I had on hand (Greek basil and parsely from the potted garden). Served over linguini, it was a quick and delicious dish!

These were good quality clams. They all opened up...meaning none were dead. They tasted sweet and not too fishy. Surprisingly fresh and tender.

We ate them on the deck and watched the sunset. Summer is slipping away....
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