The L Word: Lobster-Andouille Stuffies

Lobster Stuffy-62-16194

A “stuffy,” just in case you don’t know, is the Rhode Island term of art for a baked stuffed clam, although I can vouch for its use as far north as southern Massachusetts.  Typically, buttered and seasoned breadcrumbs do-si-do with chopped clam, usually but not always) atop a quahog on the half-shell and baked.  It’s a filling, poor man’s seafood treat, which is not to denigrate it, just to note that it may not be the place to go if you’re looking to sate your bivalve love.  Jody’s stuffy climbs up a notch on the menu, subbing lobster for clams, and adding andouille sausage and green pepper for a Cajun twist.  Lobster-Andouille Stuffy – the stuffy for our times.

Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayo

Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayo-1

One charmed fall weekend Jody and I were asked to judge the oyster shucking competition at the annual Wellfleet OysterFest.  A free weekend in Wellfleet.  Close proximity to more straight-from-the-ocean bivalves than I could ever reasonably consider eating.  Bring it on.  Watching pros shuck oysters inspires equal parts terror and admiration.  The goal is to shuck a couple dozen oysters as fast as possible.  Winning times are usually around two minutes – that is, an oyster every five seconds.  Chipped shells, mangled oysters, debris and, oh yes, the occasional splash of blood, are all penalized.  Everyone who competes professionally has a story about watching an inattentive shucker putting the the blade of an oyster knife through a palm or the base of a thumb.   And that’s the rub, isn’t it?  As someone who has shucked a fair number of oysters in his life, I still take a deep breath before I do it and I make damn sure I’m paying attention.  Here’s a tasty alternative: Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayonnaise.

As a recent presidential candidate might have said, had he been a cook, which seems doubtful: Grilled oysters self-open.  

Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-1

This is a recipe for the 5th, 6th or 9th of July, but not the 4th, when the grilling train pulls into town with its freight cars of steaks, lobsters, salmon filets, pork shoulders, eggplant, roasted peppers, whatever.  Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto is easy–you could do it–but it will get lost amid the fanfare over Aunt Sophie’s famous deviled eggs, and the potato salad made with diced fermented sour pickles from Brooklyn, and the story about your brother Bob who almost blew his thumb off with an m-80 when he was a kid.

Save it for a quiet day this weekend, when a meal with just one main course and only one or two sides or a salad sounds great, when there’s a bit of culinary light left to shine on a rare seasonal treat.

Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips with Dried Shrimp, Chiles, Garlic and Lime

Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips-8

 

 

If the word ‘turnips” doesn’t make your heart go pitter-patter there’s a good chance you’re suffering from the after-effects of  Araac Syndrome (Ate  Rutabagas As A Child).  Let’s face it, rutabagas are to gastronomic pleasure what Miss Hannigan is to social work.  Not to worry. We have the cure for what ails you: Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips with Dried Shrimp, Chiles, Garlic and Lime.

Where the wild things are – Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami

Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami-15

In the last couple of years I’ve eaten things I would have included on a culinary bucket list, if I one–nettles and bottarga, for example, and now ramps.  Of course I’d heard of ramps, and when I recently found a bunch (while foraging in the produce section at Whole Foods) I rejoiced.  I could finally that make ramp butter recipe I’d been saving for years.  When when the Hakurei turnips we palnned to write about failed to make an appearance, Jody invoked imminent domain and requisitioned my ramps for this week’s recipe – Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami.  Forager emptor.  

Littlenecks with Fava Pod Pesto

LIttlenecks with Fava Pod Pesto-1

Like any worthwhile relationship, Littlenecks with Fava Pod Pesto has its easy bits and its tricky parts.  The easy bits are the littlenecks. Lord knows, they seem to shoulder their way onto our blog with yet another clam recipe–Pick me! Pick me!–every three months or so.  There’s a reason we eat them so often – no prep to speak of, and they share.  Coax them open with a little heat and they leak their ambrosial juices into whatever else is in the pan.

Braised Artichokes, Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Mint

Braised Artichokes TGF - 1

So what’s up this week?  Braised Artichokes with Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Mint.  Spring has arrived, and with it truckloads of fat green globe artichokes.  No groaning (Oh, god, not artichokes, they’re such a pain…).   No, they’re not, and if we learned anything at all from recent  events it’s that the small gestures we take for granted are more precious than ever.  You only know what you’ve got when it’s gone, so start snapping those leaves off.  

A patio of one’s own – Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-1

Here’s the scene: working-class neighborhood, first house, first back yard, first patio.  Radical move against the local pave-the-yard-build-a-grape-arbor esthetic.  We christened the patio’s finish by inviting neighbors Pam and Chris to join us for Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco.  At the time, almost two decades ago, I’d heard of Romesco, the thick Catalan sauce based on roasted red peppers and nuts, but not grilled spring onions, which my wife assured me was a big deal in Barcelona.  She was right.  The Calçotada is a month-long Barcelonan lovefest to calçots, spring onions, which are then grilled and slathered with Romesco.  Imagine a sloppy Falstaffian bender lasting most of April, involving untold quantities of red wine and masses of fragrant grilled onions wrapped in newspapers or served in inverted clay roofing tiles and eaten with your hands.  Uh-huh, who isn’t down for that?

Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce

Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce-1

Well, it had to end some day, our last taste of the Bue Zones: Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce.  Contrary to all of the clichés about Californians, in reading Dan Buettner’s description of Seventh Day Adventists in our final Blue Zone, in Loma Linda California, I was put in mind of the genial self-effacing mainstream Mormons of Jonathan Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.  They’re enthusiastic, they volunteer, they care about each other, always willing to pitch in and lend a hand.  In short you’d be happy to have them living on your block.  Except that they’d live way longer than you; actually, they live longer than just about anybody.     

Slow-Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Herb Salt

Give me one good reason why anyone would choose to cook tomatoes at the very apex of their season, especially for for four hours?  

Okay, here’s one: Slow-Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Herb Salt.

Plum tomatoes are the different tomatoes of the pomodoro world.  Not inferior, just different.  Consumed raw, their virtues remain hidden, but when roasted slowly they soften to the consistency of butter.  Spread them on good bread, give them a quick chop to help them morph into a quick sauce.  As a contribution to a picnic where everyone is assembling a plate of goodies, or as a high class sumpin’-sumpin’ with olives and shaved Pecorino Romano before dinner, they will provoke applause.

Unfortunately, they’re also addictive.