Crab Cakes with Creamy Pepper Sauce

Crabcakes, Roasted Vegetables, and Tomato Salad

These crab cakes are always time-consuming to make but well worth it. I can’t be in a rush. There are so many ingredients and so many vegetables to prep first. With all that prepping, I don’t have time to roast the red peppers, though I’m sure it’s worth it. It’s so much easier to buy the roasted peppers in a jar.

Creamy Pepper Sauce
1 7-ounce jar roasted red pepper, drained well, discard liquid
1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise
ground black pepper

Puree the roasted peppers in a food processor. Add the mayonnaise and black pepper as desired and process briefly to combine. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate.

Crab Cakes
1 pound (2 cups) crab meat, flaked and well drained. (Put in a strainer and press with a fork)
1 cup chopped celery or chopped green beans
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 whole egg (egg white in original recipe)
2 tablespoons ground almonds (walnuts in original recipe)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice/lime juice or 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon celery powder or 1/4 teaspoon crushed celery seeds
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce, e.g. Sriracha Sauce. I used wasabi paste.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. I used whole wheat bread crumbs.

Cook the onion and celery. Heat the oil in medium non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until transparent, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Cool slightly.

Combine the seasonings with the crab meat. In a small bowl, add the egg (white), nuts, parsley, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Old Bay, Worcestershire (or soy) sauce, mustard powder, celery seeds, and paprika. Blend with a fork. Stir in the crab meat and hot sauce. Mix thoroughly with the cooled onion mixture. Put about 2 tablespoons of the crab meat mixture in your hands and squeeze it together into a ball. Form into 8 patties.

Roll the patties in whole wheat flour or breadcrumbs. Place the whole wheat flour or breadcrumbs, if using, in a shallow bowl. Gently roll the patties in the flour or breadcrumbs. They might fall apart so just pat them back together.

Lightly fry the patties. Over a medium flame, heat a large non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray. Working in batches, if necessary, add the crab cakes and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and cook for another minute longer or until browned on the bottom. Coat the tops with cooking spray and turn over. Cook for 2 minutes longer, uncovered, or until golden brown.

Serve with creamy pepper sauce as a condiment. For sides, I recommend a fresh garden salad and roasted vegetables.

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My Sister’s Hummus Recipe

Hummus and Carrots

This doesn’t require any cooking and if you don’t have any tahini sauce peanut butter makes a great substitute! We love the flavor of  the scotch bonnet pepper, a relative of the habañero, so we add it to most everything,  but chilies will do just as well. Hummus is delicious with raw vegetables like carrots, celery, cucumbers, and peppers.

3 garlic cloves (minced)
19 oz can chick peas, drain and reserve the liquid
¼ c tahini (sesame seed paste) or peanut butter
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ c liquid from chick peas
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp salt
2 small scotch bonnet peppers seeded

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. That’s all there is to it! Enjoy!

Shrimp Fauxsotto

I found this recipe in Famous Footwear’s in-house magazine Mind Body Sole. Really! But you know me, I’m willing to try anything if it looks good. We’re now on Cycle 3 of the 17-day diet which allows us to have carbs at dinner. So why not? The author of this recipe calls it a mock risotto or fauxsotto, which I hoped would not taste like shoe leather, just because it’s made with instant brown rice rather than arborio rice. As if rice wasn’t rice. Anyway I am quibbling. It’s the English teacher in me. It was a satisfying meal, tasty, but too soggy for my taste–instant rice just does not hold up well to “stirring often” required for a  risotto, even a fake one. Anyway I like rice al dente. I think I will reduce the liquid by one cup the next time I make this. In order to clean out the fridge and freezer in the Teeny Tiny Apartment I made my own chicken broth out of bones, scraps, and leftover vegetables.

Shrimp Fauxsotto

5 cups low fat reduced sodium chicken broth
¾ cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons butter substitute
1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
¼ to ½ teaspoon dried crushed pepper
¾ pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup finely chopped shallots
1 ½ cups instant brown rice
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cut asparagus
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
¼ cup fat free chive and onion cream cheese
½ cup low fat herbed goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Warm broth and wine. Keep broth warm in a saucepan on the stove top. Warm ¼ cup wine in the microwave.

Cook shrimp. Melt 2 tablespoons butter substitute in a skillet over medium heat. Add half the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté 30 seconds. Add shrimp and sauté until the shrimp just turns pink, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup wine. Simmer until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Do not overcook shrimp. Drain shrimp, reserving cooking liquid.

Make rice. Melt 4 tablespoons butter substitute in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and remaining garlic; sauté until shallots are pale golden in color, about 4 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes. Add 1-2 cups broth. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding broth ½ cup at a time, stirring often and simmering until liquid is absorbed before adding more, about 20 minutes total.

Add cheeses. Make sure there is a little liquid left at the bottom of the skillet and stir in cream cheese and goat cheese. Place peas and asparagus in a layer on top of the rice. Cover and allow remaining liquid to steam vegetables.

Put on the finishing touches. Uncover and cook until rice is just tender and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add a final shot of white wine. Stir in reserved shrimp cooking liquid. Add shrimp. Remove from heat.

Serve. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley into risotto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to plates. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon parsley.

West Meets East: Krapow Gai Shepherd’s Pie

Thai-Style Chicken with Basil Shepherd’s Pie

Can’t eat white rice on this diet and the South Beach Diet Shepherd’s Pie was just daring to be spiced up. We can’t have it all but… maybe we can! I fused together two recipes to come up with this dish. Truly, very aroy!

Topping
4 cups (1 head) cauliflower
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons 0% Greek style plain yogurt
1 large egg yolk
salt and pepper
1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat oven 350˚F.

Make Topping. In a large saucepan, boil cauliflower and garlic cloves 8-10 minutes. Drain. In a food processor, purée cauliflower and garlic. You may need to do this in batches. In a large bowl, whip puréed cauliflower with yogurt and egg yolk. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Since the filling has to be stronger tasting than usual because it will not be served on a bed of rice, I have increased the amounts of ingredients.

Filling
2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
6 green or red Thai chilies, stemmed and roughly chopped, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for serving (I used a sugar substitute)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast , cut into 2-inch pieces
4 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
red pepper flakes, for serving
cilantro and scallion, chopped, for serving

Make Seasoning. In the work bowl of a food processor, put 1 cup basil, garlic, and chilies. Pulse in one-second bursts 6 times. Put a tablespoon of the basil mixture in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar or sugar substitute. Mix together and set aside. Put the remaining seasoning in a large skillet and set that aside. Don’t wash out the work bowl.

Grind the Chicken. In the unwashed work bowl, add the chicken chunks and pulse in one-second bursts 6 times or until the chicken is in  1/4 inch pieces. Blend in remaining tablespoon fish sauce. Put the ground chicken in a medium bowl and refrigerate.

Make the Sauce. To the seasoning in the large skillet, add the shallots and the oil. Cook over medium-low heat until the garlic and shallots turn golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. You may need to open a window! Frying chilies can make your eyes sting. Add the ground chicken and cut up the meat as it cooks with a silicone spatula or a potato masher. When the meat is a light pink, add the reserved seasoning and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of basil. Stir-fry until the basil is wilted.

Assemble and Bake. Scrape the filling into a 9-inch square baking dish. Spread it into the corners. Scrape the mashed cauliflower on top and smooth. Sprinkle with fet mot-fresh mozzarella cheese in Thaiand fresh ground black pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the edges are brown. Remove from the oven and let the pie rest 10 minutes before serving.

Serve. Traditionally, krapow gai or Thai-Style Chicken with Basil is served with  a fried “egg hat.” Contrary to myth, eggs aren’t bad for you, and you can reduce the calorie load by frying it in cooking spray. Have a look at these nutrition myths if you don’t believe me! If you wish to spice it up further at table, provide small bowls of fish sauce, vinegar with chopped chilies, sugar, red pepper flakes, and chopped fresh scallion and cilantro for sprinkling.

Thai-Style Chicken with Basil Shepherd’s Pie with Fet Mot

Padma’s Bali Baked Fish with Coconut Green Beans

Padma's Bali Baked Fish with Coconut Green Beans

Want something spicy and flavorful? I never would have thought to add coconut to these green beans but it does counter the heat from the chilies and adds a flaky texture that’s quite a surprise outside a dessert. The Bali fish recipe itself is easy to make and cooks up in less than 30 minutes. In fact, I added a garlic-spinach sauté to the combination and it was delicious. These two recipes, Bali Baked Fish and Coconut Green Beans, both come from Padma Lakshmi via Glamour magazine.

Bali Baked Fish
2 pounds red snapper fillets (I used tilapia)
salt and pepper
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon ginger root, sliced into rounds
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 tablespoons water
fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (I used chopped fresh cilantro and scallions)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray cooking spray in a 9×13 inch glass baking dish.
Arrange the fillets in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the work bowl of a food processor, add the onion, garlic, ginger root, tamarind paste, sesame oil, cumin, and 1 tablespoon water. Process. If the mixture is too thick, add another tablespoon water. Process until the mixture is puréed.

Pour mixture over the fish fillets. Turn to coat. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Squeeze on fresh lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle mint on top or cilantro and scallion if using. Serve with Coconut Green Beans and Garlic-Spinach Sauté.

Coconut Green Beans
2 tablespoons canola oil (I used cooking spray)
1 teaspoon mustard seed
2 tablespoons cashews
4 dried red chilies
1 1/2 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
Salt

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the mustard seeds. When the seeds start to crackle, add cashews and chilies. Once the cashews are toasted, add green beans and stir. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add coconut and salt. Cook another 8 to 10 minutes while stirring. When green beans are cooked through but crisp-tender, remove from heat.

[My variation: Instead of sautéing the green beans, I blanched them for 3 minutes in boiling water then rinsed them in cold water to stop the cooking process. This makes the beans tender as well as sets a deep green color. I returned them to the skillet to re-heat with the cashew mixture then added the coconut and salt. I cooked the green bean mixture for another 2-3 minutes and it was done.]

Garlic-Spinach Sauté
3-6 oz. fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Chicken stock
Salt and pepper

To make this low calorie, I used chicken stock instead of oil. Heat about 3 tablespoons chicken stock in a large skillet on high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and toss to cook. Add more stock, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ginger-Steamed Fish with Troy’s Hana Style Sauce

I’m not sure who Troy is.

I tried this recipe from Eating Well because it only has 310 calories per 5-oz. serving of fish fillet. Anyway, I left my steamer in Bangkok and I was too lazy to improvise one so I baked the fish with a quarter cup of water in the pan. I think that could be increased to half cup because the edges of the fillets were a bit dry. The sauce itself turned out to be slightly bitter tasting which AJ didn’t mind but it bothered me. If it bothers you add a pinch of sugar to the sauce. Or sugar substitute if you’re watching calories like I am.

Fish
6 5-oz white fish fillets
6 1/4 inch slices peeled fresh ginger

Sauce
1/4 cup minced fresh peeled ginger
1/4 cup minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2-3 minced scallion for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (recommended)

Place the ginger slices on top of the fish and steam. About 7 minutes per inch thickness of the fillet. I baked the fillets in a baking dish filled with 1/4 cup water (recommend 1/2 cup) in a 350˚F oven for half an hour.

Meanwhile, in a food processor work bowl, put the ginger and garlic and process until fine. Remove to a small bowl and add the sesame seeds. In a large skillet, heat the canola or grape seed oil and fry the ginger mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sesame oil and heat, stirring. Add the soy sauce. Taste the sauce. If it’s bitter, add a pinch of sugar.

Discard the ginger slices on the fish fillets. Spread the sauce on top of the fish fillets. Sprinkle tops with scallion and cilantro, if using.