Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lobster: A Cape Cod Delicacy

Living on Cape Cod and having access to lobster year round is a treat, and I could certainly eat it more often than I do, but that would spoil the experience for me. Lobster is a delicacy and should be treated as such in my book. Whether we are serving it to friends who visit, or I'm preparing it for my family,  it's a special event.

My preference is steamed and served with drawn butter, or a homemade mayonnaise for dipping. Mayo was the choice this time around as we had artichokes that needed to be dipped, too.

Baby Artichokes
Wash and trim the tops and cut off a bit of the bottom. Slice them in half, place in a shallow pan with an inch of water and a tbsp of olive oil. When the water boils add a pinch of salt. I steamed mine on the grill where I also cooked the lobster. This avoids having your house smell like a fish market for the next three days. Lots of folks here on the Cape have them steamed at the fish market, and this is a great option especially if you're visiting and don't have the required cooking tools, but I prefer to be in control of the cooking time, so the grill works well for me.

Cook the artichokes for about 25 minutes, or until the the leaves and center are tender. With the baby artichokes you can eat the entire heart as they don't have the prickly center, or choke, like the larger ones. You'll also be able eat almost the entire leaf once you get past the outside layers as they're very tender.

When you have about 15 minutes left on the cooking time for the artichokes place a large pot, filled with about 2 inches of water, on the grill. You can use a vegetable steamer to keep the lobsters out of the water. When the water starts to boil add the lobsters (1.5 lbs each) and allow to steam for about 12 minutes. Rule of thumb is 10 minutes for the first pound and 3 minutes for each additional pound.  Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes before eating. Some say you should kill the lobster before cooking, while others just throw them in the pot. Here's a link on how to kill a lobster. Personally, I think killing them first results in more tender meat, but I understand that for some this is hard to do, so the link above offers a few techniques that might make the process a bit more palatable for those who choose to cook at home.

Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Mayonnaise:
2 Egg yolks (organic)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (add a little more if you like a more intense lemon flavor)
1/3 cup olive oil
4-5 fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, basil leaves and tomato paste in a food processor, or blender. Mix well, then with the motor running slowly add the oil until it forms a nice smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

That first bite reminds me of all the special meals we've shared over the years with family and friends. Surely the pure joy we experience, as we enjoy this gastronomical delight, is what earns lobster it's place of honor at our table.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mum's Pork Chops

Growing up in a large family, who sat down together for dinner every night, served me well. Taking meals together is important for our physical and emotional well-being. We need that time to talk with each other, to catch up on our daily activities, and it's equally important to me that we serve fresh, home-cooked food. My mother managed to feed six children and two adults just about every night of the week. Our plate consisted of a portion of meat, a vegetable, and a starch. Portions were well-balanced and nutritious. Most meals were accompanied with a tossed salad of lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and cukes. She dressed it with olive oil, red wine vinegar, onion and garlic salt, and pepper. Simple, yet delicious. She knew the perfect balance of oil to vinegar, so it wasn't too tangy, nor dripping in dressing. The flavors of the vegetables were enhanced, not overpowered. She has said she isn't a great cook, perhaps adequate, but I disagree. She made basic, simple, straightforward meals prepared with fresh ingredients, and they were delicious.

My mother has a knack for coming up with some tasty combinations and her pork chops continue to be one of my favorites. I love preparing simple, delicious home-cooked food for my family. It's the power of example at work, for sure.

Mum's Pork Chops
4 Pork Chops (preferably with the bone-in, much tastier that way)
2 cloves of sliced garlic
1 tbsp of Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 tsp sugar or 1 tbsp of Mirin
2 scallions, sliced

Marinate the pork chops for about 2-3 hours, turning occasionally. Grill over medium heat until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. I cooked 1 inch chops for about 12 minutes on each side.

Green Beans with Shallots and Lemon
1 lb of green beans
4 Shallots sliced thinly
Zest from one small lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Tsp of Mirin
Tbsp olive oil
Tbsp butter (optional, if you choose to omit add a little more olive oil)

Snip the ends of the beans and steam until just tender. Drain and set aside. Melt the olive oil and butter in a saute pan. Saute the shallots until they just start to brown, add the lemon zest and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beans to the pan and combine with the shallots and lemon. Squeeze the 1/2 lemon over the beans. Heat until the beans are warm.

Thanks, Mum xo