Laura Boyd is a local stylist, interior decorator and caterer. Together with business partner Meg Hale, she owns Strawberry Banke Studio, a full-service lifestyle design firm based in Annapolis.
Prior to opening Strawberry Banke Studios last year, Laura travelled to Ireland to attend a specialized course at Ballymaloe, the country’s most famous school of cookery and hospitality.
She arrived just in time to experience an authentic St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which she says is fundamentally different than it is here.
“St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is less an opportunity to visit the local pub—though that is fun and popular too– than it is an opportunity to explore the natural and culinary delights that best represent the magic and culture of Ireland”. – Laura Boyd, Strawberry Banke Studio
Laura admits that it didn’t take long for her to became obsessed with the best flavors of Ireland, which is of course is a country synonymous with the color green, mostly for the island’s miles upon miles of grassy fields, made verdant by temperature weather and plenty of rain. “I immediately fell in love with tender spring lamb, hand-smoked salmon, authentic salted butter made from Irish dairy cows, fresh rhubarb and tender spring vegetables like wild garlic and unique, heirloom potatoes. “I think I ate smoked salmon with butter on homemade bread every single morning I was in Ireland,” she laughs.
Laura says an authentic St. Patrick’s Day celebration should forego the heavily processed or overcooked dishes so frequently associated with the Americanized holiday and instead include artisanal and traditional foods that better represent the pastoral farms and plentiful waterways of Ireland.
“When I consider St. Patrick’s Day, I think of delicious flavors that fit perfectly into a more sophisticated menu Stateside”, Laura said. “I imagine a light brunch that marries the fresh flavors of spring and soft reminisces of Ireland”.
The Strawberry Banke rendition of St. Patrick’s Day showcases traditional Irish foods presented with a creative twist and a dash of the Southern flair Laura and Meg are known for. “We would go beyond typical mashed potatoes, Shepherd’s Pie or Beef Stew and instead focus on dishes that use simple, farm-fresh ingredients and deliver a lot of flavor. The brunch buffet would be styled with bountiful springtime flowers and on-trend lettuce ware, in all shades of green, of course!” Laura said.
It isn’t difficult to transform your own favorite St. Patrick’s Day flavors into simpler, more authentic and even healthier dishes. For example, The Full Irish is a large platter of heavy, gut-lining flavors and traditionally includes mushrooms, tomatoes, blood sausage and a fried egg. It is the perfect start to a hard day on the fields or at sea, but maybe not the best preamble to a celebratory sampling of St. Patrick’s Day drinks. “I wanted to elevate elements of The Full Irish and also to make it into a single portion that wouldn’t be overwhelming or filling”, Laura said. “This strata includes all of the essential ingredients of an Irish breakfast in every bite”.
Proper Irish Breakfast Stratas
(Recipe from Laura Boyd)
Serves 8 individual portions
6-8 thick slices challah bread
Kerrygold butter (enough to butter each slice of bread)
1 lb savory sausage and/or or bacon
1 1/2 cup shredded Irish Cheddar cheese (Colliers, Kerrygold, etc)
6 farm fresh eggs, beaten
2 cups whole milk (or 1 cup milk with 1 cup cream)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of mushrooms
1 cup grape tomatoes (sliced in half)
- Brown sausage or bacon. Remove from pan and add onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes and salute until tender (remember to season with salt and pepper). Let cool. Chop sausage and//or bacon into bite size pieces.
- Mix eggs and milk (I like to pour some of the mixture into a glass measuring pitcher for easy pouring into the ramekins – remember to season egg mixture with a few pinches of salt and pepper).
- Butter slices of bread and cut slices into 1 inch cubes.
- In individual ramekins, place a layer of bread cubes and top with a bit of the onion, mushrooms, tomatoes and sausage/bacon. Top with a layer of shredded cheddar. Repeat with another layer of bread cubes, vegetables, meat, cheese, etc. until the ramekins are full.
- Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture over the bread until it appears that all the bread has soaked up mixture (like bread pudding, you may need to push down the layers a bit to ensure each layer of bread has soaked up the egg). Add more bread, etc. if needed to fill to the top.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill ramekins on a sheet pan overnight if you want to plan ahead. If not, let the ramekins sit for at least 20-30 min before baking. Bake at 325 until a knife comes out clean and egg mixture is cooked all the way through. Tops should be golden and bubbly.
Hot Potato Cakes with Irish Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche
(Recipe from Darina Allen’s “Ballymaloe Cookery Course” Cookbook)
2 lb unpeeled potatoes
2 oz butter (I use Kerrygold for everything)
2 oz flour
1 Tbsp chopped herbs (chives, parsley or lemon thyme – or a mix of all)
half & half or whole milk
seasoned flour (for breading before frying)
4 oz. smoked salmon
freshly snipped chives
clarified butter for frying
- Cook the potatoes in their skins, pull off the peel and mash right away, adding the butter, flour and herbs. Season with lots of salt and pepper and add a few drops of whole milk or half & half if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning.
- Shape into 1″ thick potato cakes. Dip in seasoned flour (flour with salt and pepper).
- Fry the potato cakes in clarified butter until golden brown on one side, then flip over and cook on the other side, for about 4-5 minutes – they should be crusty and golden.
- Serve on very hot plates.Top with a dollop of creme fraiche and slivers of good quality smoked salmon. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.
No authentic Irish-themed brunch should be without soda or brown bread, grassy imported butter and good quality smoked salmon. Each of these ingredients is ubiquitous and indigenous to Irish food culture. “ We used Irish Kerrygold butter both in the classroom and for guests at Ballymaloe, and I use it in my cooking here as well”, Laura said. Kerrygold can be found Stateside at most groceries. You can make your own bread, but you might have better luck finding it at a local bakery or restaurant. Try Great Harvest or make a special request at Killarney House, Galway Bay or Pirate’s Cove in Shadyside.
Of course, one can’t forego proper tea and scones for any Continental-style buffet. Laura said the scones in Ireland aren’t the heavy, cakey sort found in America: “Irish scones are light and ethereal little fluffy pillows that rely on fresh cream, Irish butter and Irish flour,” Laura said. “You may not be able to exactly replicate an Irish scone with American flour, but this recipe is very close”, she added. The recipe here is the one used at Ballymaloe. She added rhubarb and strawberry butter for seasonality, but says you can substitute other berries and compound butters. The Irish use Barry’s Tea, a blend of Kenya, Rwandan and Indian Assam leaves with a tan color and strong flavor. You can find it at Irish Traditions on Main Street in downtown Annapolis ($7.99/box, 80 bags).
Mummy’s Sweet Strawberry and Rhubarb Scones
(Recipe from Ballymaloe, flavors adapted by Laura Boyd)
Makes 18-20 scones using a 3 inch cutter.
2 lb plain white flour
pinch of salt
2 oz. caster sugar (very fine sugar – can be found in specialty baking sections)
3 heaped teaspoons teaspoons baking powder
6 oz butter
3 organic eggs
15 fl oz milk, to mix
3 Rhubarb stalks (chopped finely)
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, finely chopped
organic egg wash (1 egg with a splash of water, beaten)
granulated sugar, for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
- Sieve all dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl.
- Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter.
- Add the chopped fruit (I like to lightly toss mine in a little flour first to absorb some of the moisture. Separate fruit from excess dusting flour before adding to the bowl).
- Make a well in the center. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix into a soft dough (do not overtax! Just until the dough forms).
- Turn out dough onto a floured board. Shape into a round and roll out (I like to use my hands and gently pat it out) until it is about 1 inches thick (the less you touch or smash it down, the softer and fluffier they will be!). Quickly cut out rounds with a floured cutter and put scones on baking sheet.
- Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake in the over for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on wire rack. Serve split in half with homemade jam, honey butter or a blob of whipped cream.
Finish your brunch with an Irish coffee. A strictly traditional Irish Coffee relies on brown sugar and whiskey stirred into dark coffee. Strawberry Banke’s version tops that rich drink with a dollop of handmade whipped cream infused with whiskey. “The cream adds comfort and a subtle flavor boost to the elegance of the coffee and brings a bit of both elegance and fun to the brunch”, Laura said.
For a bunch of traditional Irish recipes like colcannon and such, you can visit this post from last year.Feel free to share...
Woman of the Week Paula McLoud’s
Shrimp and Lobster Curry
Perfect for a New Year’s Eve bash or any stylish, elegant weeknight occasion.
Makes about 6 servings
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 tart Apple, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3-cup flour
- 2 tsp. Curry powder
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Dry mustard
- 3 cups chicken stalk
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream or milk (optional)
- 3/4 lb. cooked peeled shrimp
- 1/2 lb. cooked lobster meat
- Heat butter.
- Sauté onions, garlic, celery, Apple and bay leaf until cooked, but not brown.
- Sprinkle with flour, curry powder, salt and dry mustard. Gradually add stock. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cream, if desired.
- Simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add seafood and cook just until it is heated through, but no more so you don’t overcook it.
- Serve with rice. When cooking rice, cook with chicken or vegetable stock instead of water (gives a better taste).
Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I haven’t yet made up a firm menu. Partly because I rarely get to go home for the holiday, which makes me want to boycott it; partly because damn–I’m tired, I don’t feel like shopping!!; and partly because I know I can scoot over to Whole Foods Market first thing tomorrow morning where I will find freshly stocked shelves and no crowds.
I know our meal will include some nice halibut, probably some salmon–although out here they sell third rate sockeye for $17.99/lb, which KILLS me–, definitely some crab, also some mussels and clams, and probably a chowder as a starter. Yes, it will include a lot of seafood. Yes, we are Catholic. No, we are not Italian.
Not even close. My father, a Van Atta, is thoroughly Dutch. My mother, a Thorpe, is Native American and Welsh. Sadly, none of my motley ethnicities are renown for the gustatory color, flavor, festivity and pomp of the Italians. My godmother is Italian though, and I lived with her in Jersey for a few years, so in my mind I consider that a close enough association to make actually becoming I-talian a near possibility.
Italians, and Catholics all over the world, celebrate Christmas Eve by abstaining from red meat, poultry and dairy, in observation of the la Vigilia di Natale, the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. The vigil is commemorated via The Feast of the Seven (or 10 or 12 or 13) Fishes.
Some people call this abstaining a “fast”. After surviving a week of juicing and detox just after Thanksgiving, I can tell you, this is my kind-a fast!
Interestingly, this piscine meal is not nationally observed in Italy. It is popular there mostly in Southern cities, which makes sense, since they are close to the sea and since seafood is so tightly wound into their cultural and culinary heritage.
Also, not every Feast features seven fish courses specifically, although there is some religious reference in that number. Food historians conjecture that the seven courses represent biblical completion, as in the seven days of Creation, while others say it refers to the seven Roman Catholic sacraments or to the seven hills that surround Rome. I’ve been to Feasts with 13 dishes, representing the 12 apostles plus Jesus, and even 11 dishes, representing the apostles minus Judas.
My godmother didn’t make her dishes based on theology, but rather on what was fresh at the market and what sounded delicious to her at the time. She often repeated some version of the meal for New Year’s Eve, which has no religious connotations at all.
Arturo Ottaviano, Owner of Osteria 177 in Annapolis, recently invited me for an unforgettable luncheon of perfectly prepared scallops, sole meuniere deboned properly by Arturo himself–tableside, tuna carpaccio, grilled octopus, a heartbreakingly tender and flaky sea bass atop a bed of sautéed escarole and a savory risotto made perfect by the grilled shrimp and jumbo lump crab hidden in its rich, cheesy depths.
It’s rare to find seafood prepared as finely as Ottaviano’s, which is why Osteria 177 has a strong reputation for elegant Italian dishes in a refined, yet relaxed atmosphere. It’s also why available reservations for his Christmas Eve menu are long gone.
Many people are intimidated at the prospect of successfully preparing a Fishy Feast. It’s not rocket science though. The key to cooking any type of fish, says Arturo, who attended culinary school in Italy and staged at Tiberius in Washington, DC, is to not overcook it and to keep it simple.
“I use basic ingredients and only a handful of basic sauces to create magic out of these simple things. I buy the best ingredients that I can get my hands on and I try to stay organic whenever possible. My seafood is always fresh, never frozen. When you combine simple, classic sauces with high quality ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, garlic, basil, parsley, tomatoes, lemon, olives and other herbs, you can create something wonderful whether you are making shrimp or scallops or salmon or whatever you can find fresh at the market”.
Here are several Fish recipes you can consider using for your own Feast. Keep in mind that these recipes are very versatile: you can substitute just about any type of fish. You can also search seafood, crab, or whatever on this site to find other favorite recipes.
Rockfish al Cartoccio (Rockfish prepared En Papillote) by Arturo Ottaviano
- 5 oz. Fresh Rockfish fillet (skin off)
- 3 baby clams
- 1 shrimp
- 3 slices of blanched potato
- Table spoon of grape tomatoes
- 1 garlic clove
- Salt, pepper, fresh basil
- A spoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 8 inch sheet parchment paper or foil
- Display the parchment paper on a table top and brush all over with a little melted butter.
- Put the sliced potato on the center of it and the Rock fish fillet on top of the potatoes. Put clams and shrimp on top the Rockfish. Complete the topping with the grape tomatoes sliced in a half, the garlic (smashed), salt and pepper, the basil, the olive oil and a splash of white wine.
- Properly close the Parchment paper and bake in a 425 pre heated Oven for about 14 minutes.
- When ready, open the foil on the top and served with any side you wish to have—vegetables or even pasta.
- You can add anything you want in the cartoccio from roasted peppers to sautéed mushrooms and more.
Risotto con Zucchini, Cappesante e Polpa di Granchio
(Serving for 4)
- 24 oz Arborio or Carnaroli Italian rice
- 1 medium size Zucchini, sliced
- 8 large dry sea Scallops, sliced into fours
- Jumbo lump Crabmeat
- 1 chopped onion
- Half tea cup of white wine
- In one medium to large casserole pan, sautée the chopped onion and the zucchini with a spoon of olive oil and touch of butter until golden in color.
- Add rice and a couple of minutes later add the wine and evaporate it, add to this some fish broth or clam juice to cover the rice.
- Keep stirring the rice with a wooded spoon until it reduces. You may need to add some more broth.
- Repeat this until the risotto is close to doneness.Halfway through the cooking, add the sea scallops and a portion of the crab meat.
- Finally without over-cooking the rice, remove it from the heat and add a little Parmesan cheese, chopped Italian Parsley and half cup of extra virgin olive oil. Stir briskly to release the starch and serve it
- Always check and adjust with salt and pepper if necessary.
Fish En Papillote with Roasted Carrots and Cipollini Onions.
By Executive Chef Keith Long, Factor’s Row, Annapolis
- 2 Lbs. Firm fish, such as Blue Catfish (Cut into 7 oz portions)
- 8 Cipollini Onions
- 1 Lb. Baby Heirloom Carrots
- 4 oz. butter
- 2 cups Dry White Wine
- 4 sheets Parchment paper, about
- 4 fresh Thyme sprigs
Wash carrots and onions. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Place on baking sheet and roast at 400° until just soft, around 20 minutes, depending on size. Allow to cool.
- Fold a 14X12 sheet of parchment paper in half.
- Cut a half-heart shape that is the height and width of the paper.
- Lay out each full heart. Place one portion of fish in the middle of one side of each heart. Divide carrots, onions, butter and thyme into four equal portions and place next to fish. Season with salt and pepper.
- Fold the top half of the heart over, like a taco, and starting at the top, leaving an inch or so nearest the top unfolded, fold the edge of the paper over, all the way down to the bottom tip, to create a pouch.
- Place the four pouches on a baking sheet and set oven to 450°. Pour ½ cup of wine into each pouch then finish folding the edge over to seal the pouch.
- Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes until fish is cooked through. Be careful opening each pouch they will be filled with steaming wine. Serve.
Pan Roasted Monkfish with Mashed Acorn Squash and Tarragon-Walnut Vinaigrette
Executive Chef Jeff Buber, Vidalia, Washington, DC
For the Fish
- 4 each, 6 oz. fish filets
- ½ cup dried cepes, pulverized very fine
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil to cook
For the Mashed Acorn Squash
- 3 each, acorn squash, roasted and pulp removed
- 8 ts butter
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 ts grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
For the vinaigrette
- ¼ cup fresh tarragon
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 ts lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Remove pulp from squash and place in medium saucepot. Add butter, cream and seasoning. Mash with paddle until well incorporated. Do not over mix.
- Dredge the fish in the cepe flour and season to taste. Roast the filets over medium high heat until desired doneness. Remove.
- Puree all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a food processor at high speed until well blended. Season to taste.
- Place one scoop of squash on each plate. Arrange fish on top of squash. Spoon vinaigrette around puree. Chef Buder garnishes this plate with fried squash. Fresh herbs or roasted winter vegetables would be good as well.
Catfish, Fried Southern Style
Executive Chef Josh Brown, Level, A Small Plates Lounge, Annapolis
- Catfish Fillets
- Enough buttermilk to cover
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs or cornmeal
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of cayenne, or to taste
- pinch paprika, or to taste
- 1 quart peanut oil or canola oil for frying
- Season fillets with salt and pepper
- Soak the fillets in buttermilk for several minutes. Remove from the buttermilk and let any excess drip off.
- In a separate bowl, mix the cayenne pepper and any other preferred spices with the panko and flour.
- Heat the oil to 350°: use a counter top fryer, Dutch oven or a cast iron pan filled about half-way with the oil. You can add a little bacon grease for added flavor.
- Dredge fish in the panko mixture then fry until golden on all sides.
Halibut, Swordfish or Salmon Piccata
By Whole Foods Market Annapolis Prepared Foods Team Leader Robert Vouse
- 4 Fish filets
- 2 TB Shallots, diced
- 1 TB Garlic, minced
- 1 Sprig Thyme, fresh
- ¼ ts Oregano, dried
- 2 TB Capers
- 1 can Artichoke quarters, drained
- ½ cup Tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup Chicken Stock
- ¼ cup White wine
- ¼ cup lemon juice, fresh
- 1 ts Lemon zest
- 1 TB Fresh parsley, minced
- 1 TB Butter
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- Season the filets with salt and pepper and sear both sides in a hot pan with olive oil.
- Remove the filets from the pan, turn the heat down to medium, and sauté the shallots, garlic, thyme, capers and artichokes until soft, about four minutes.
- Add the white wine, oregano, chicken stock and lemon zest (season the sauce with salt and pepper to desired taste) and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Return the filets to the sauce and simmer until cooked through.
- Plate the fish and stir the lemon juice, parsley and butter into the sauce.
Halibut a la Grecque
By Andre Bienvenu, Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach, FL
In the absence of good-tasting tomatoes, I have used 8 ounces or so marinated roasted red and yellow tomatoes, which can be found at Whole Foods Market.
- 2 Pacific Halibut fillets, 6 to 8 oz each, skin removed
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 large vine ripened tomato, seeded and chopped
- 10 imported black olives
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 TB fresh oregano
- 1 TB basil leaves, chiffonade
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
- 12 cilantro leaves, chopped
- 8 TB olive oil
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Lemon wedges for garnish
- Season the fillets with salt and pepper. In a bowl combine the cheese, tomato, olives, garlic, oregano, basil, scallions and cilantro.
- Add 6 tablespoons of the olive oil.
- Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper; set aside (this mixture will serve as a topping for the fish)
- Preheat a grill or heat the remaining tablespoons of olive oil in a pan.
- Grill or sauté the fish for about 2 minutes on each side. Preheat the broiler.
- Place the cheese-herb mixture on top of the fish and broil for a few minutes until light golden brown.
Bacon-Wrapped Prawns or Sea Scallops in a Balsamic Reduction
by Foraging for Flavor
- Prawns or scallops- as many as you need
- Bacon- enough for 1/2 strip per piece of fish
- Wrap prawns or scallops with very good quality applewood-smoked or Black Forest bacon, using a toothpick to hold the bacon in place.
- Broil until bacon is caramelized and seafood is cooked through.
- Drizzle the serving platter or salt block with a balsamic reduction.
- Place seafood on the platter.
Bring 1 cup balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoon soy sauce to a simmer, reducing to about ½ cup or until sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. This should take about an hour. Soy sauce can be omitted. Reduction will keep and is wonderful with roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, on baked chicken or especially over slow roasted salmon.
- Use center cut filets, about 1 inch thick, or thick steaks of uniform size, one filet per person.
- Heat the grill to medium high heat.
- Salt and pepper the fish, marinate or use a dry rub. If you marinate in an oil base, beware of flare ups while grilling.
- Place filets skin side down on grill grate; grill until skin shrinks and separates from flesh and turns black, 2 to 3 minutes. Alternatively, place the steaks directly on the grill for 3-4 minutes.
- Flip fillets gently when meat is opaque throughout, yet translucent and red at the very center when checked with the point of a paring knife, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Transfer to a platter.
- Serve with any of the fondue sauces already posted on this site, the balsamic reduction or these other sauces.
Oysters with Mignonette Sauce
from Two for Tonight: Pure Romance from L’Auberge Chez Francois, Jacques Haeringer (Bartleby Press, 2001).
3-6 fresh oysters per person, any species is fine
For the Mignonette Sauce
- ½ c red wine vinegar
- 2 ts cracked black peppercorns
- 1 ts shallots, minced
- ½ ts sea salt, or to taste
- ½ ts finely minced chives
- Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small mixing bowl, whisk thoroughly, taste and adjust seasonings.
- Wash the oysters, open and lift off the shallow shell. Be sure to wipe off the knife after opening each oyster. Leave the oysters attached to the bottom or deeper shell.
- Place the oysters on the half shell on a special oyster platter or on a bed of crushed ice to keep them level
- Serve the oyster with the sauce, rye bread and butter
Lump Crab and Shrimp Ceviche
From “Seafood Lover’s Chesapeake Bay”, a lovely book by Mary Lou Baker with more than 50 restaurant profiles and 75 recipes from the best restaurants along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. You can find the book at Barnes Noble, Amazon, the Baltimore Museum of Art bookstore, The News Center in Easton and Arnold Pharmacy at the Four Corners Plaza in Arnold as well as other local outlets.
For the ceviche
- 1/4 lb jumbo lump crab
- 1/4 lump crabmeat
- 6 large shrimp
- 1/2 red pepper, diced small
- 1/2 yellow pepper, diced small
- 1 jalapeño pepper, diced small
- 1 small red onion, diced small
- 2 TB chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1/4 TB cumin
- 3 limes
- 1 orange
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 avocados
For the avocado cream
- 1 avocado, halved and scooped out
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 ts lime juice
- cilantro leaves, for garnish
- tortilla chips, for serving
- Mix crabmeat in a large bowl. Steam shrimp and shock in an ice bath. Drain, dice and add to the crab.
- Add peppers, onions and cilantro to the mix. Stir well.
- Toss with oil and cumin.
- Heat limes and ginger for 90 seconds in the microwave . Cut in half and squeeze into mix after removing seeds (or squeeze through a strainer).
- Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Cut avocados in half and remove seeds. Set aside.
- Prepare the avocado cream by mashing 1 avocado with the sour cream and lime juice. Mix well.
- To serve: Fill center of remaining avocado halves with the seafood mixture and garnish with cilantro leaves and avocado cream. Serve with tortilla chips.
Feel free to share...
Here are Chef’s favorite recipes from his new menu line up. Bon Appetit!
This rich and elegant dish comes together in just minutes. Chef McKnew serves it alongside pasta or rice to make a full, comforting meal– perfect for the cold weather that marks the end of Chesapeake crab season.
- 1 oz butter
- 2 oz diced blanched applewood smoked bacon
- 2 oz diced ham
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 oz sliced mushrooms
- 2 oz diced onion
- ½ oz white wine (Chardonnay)
- Dash Old Bay
- Pinch chopped fresh parsley
- 8 oz jumbo lump backfin crabmeat
- Sauté butter, bacon, ham, onion, garlic and mushrooms for about 3 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine.
- Add crabmeat and Old Bay.
- Toss carefully to not break up the lump crabmeat.
- Serve over pasta or rice.
- Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Remoulade Crab Salad
- 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
- 3 ½ oz remoulade sauce
Gently mix the sauce (recipe below) with the crabmeat.
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 TB chopped pickles
- 2 cups chopped capers
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp anchovies
- ½ tsp dry tarragon
- 1 tsp chopped parsley
Mix all ingredients together in the blender for one minute.
Crab, Mango and Avocado Stack
To make the stack, use a 3 inch circle mold. This can be a plastic sleeve, or any round item like a styrofoam or paper cup, that can hold the shape.
- Crab Remoulade
- Fresh Avocado, sliced, seasoned with a little fresh lime juice and sea salt.
- Wasabi Sauce (purchased)
- Chipotle Sauce (purchased)
- Sweet Yellow or Red Pepper Sauce (purchased)
- Mango Salsa
- Place the mold on a solid surface.
- Inside the mound, layer first the avocado, then the mango salsa, then the remoulade.
- Serve the sauces and bread or crackers as a garnish.
- 2 cups fresh ripe and sweet, but firm mango, diced
- 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup red and green peppers, diced
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 2 oz green onion, sliced thin
- 1 TB cilantro, minced
- 1 TB parsley, minced
- Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Alternatively, you could season the salsa to your preference with 1 tsp fresh lime juice, 1/2 tsp jalapeño pepper or red pepper flakes, minced, and 1 TB grass olive oil.
Alternative Cream of Crab Soup
A nice twist on the traditional though ubiquitous and sometimes tiresome Cream of Crab soup.
- 8 ears Silver Queen corn, lightly grilled, removed from cob
- 1 lb Premium cooked Applewood smoked bacon, cooked, drained and diced
- 1 bunch scallions, cut on the bias
- 3-4 dashes Tabasco, Sriracha or favorite hot sauce
- Follow the steps in the Cream of Crab recipe, reserving crabmeat, sherry and chives. Strain.
- In a double boiler, add corn, bacon, scallions and hot sauce to soup.
- Simmer until hot and thick, but do not scorch or burn.
- Add lump crabmeat, drizzle with sherry and chopped chives.
Ports of Call Crab Cakes
- 8 oz mayonnaise, such as Duke’s or Hellman’s
- 1 egg
- 1 TB fresh chopped parsley
- 1 TB Old Bay
- 2 tsp. Worcester Sauce
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 TB prepared mustard such as French’s Yellow Mustard
- 2 lbs Jumbo Lump Crab Meat
- 1 cup live bread crumbs*
- Combine mayonnaise, eggs, parsley, Old Bay, Worchester sauce, lemon juice and mustard in a mixing bowl. Stir thoroughly.
- In separate bowl, add crabmeat, slowly add batter and fold carefully as to not break up the crab meat.
- Add bread crumbs in three parts until crab/batter mixture becomes firm (test by forming a small crab ball, which should hold together). Portion into balls or 4 oz. cakes.
- The crab cakes can be sautéed, broiled or fried.
*Live bread crumbs are made from fresh white bread with crusts removed, chopped very fine.Feel free to share...
There are three– no four or more– reasons crabs are on my mind today:
#1 I went to the most FABULOUS dinner party last weekend and the passed hors de’hoevre was my friend Ken Upton’s unbelievable crab cake, served so simply on a cracker, with an exquisite champagne.
#2 We visited the Outer Banks, North Carolina (OBX) where the crabs were prolific and #2 was obsessed with pulling them in one by one, then watching them die a hot, boiling death on the stovetop. Little boys, man…..gotta love ’em.
#3 I was invited to visit Executive Chef Charles McKnew at Ports of Call in Annapolis, where I was reminded that Crab Season in Maryland is almost over, but you can still get good pasteurized fresh crab for amazing dishes, many of which happen to be perfect as holiday fare.
#4 #1 is learning about water conservation in the Chesapeake with Girl Scouts. We recently talked about the local crab scene. The season for catching Maryland crabs ends in early December, which makes me feel a little pressure about sourcing good crab and using it in all my favorite dishes….stat!
Crab cakes, crab soup, crab balls, cream of crab, Maryland crab, crab Imperial, crab, crab, crab. It is a regional staple. Maryland crabs are the of stuff love, memories and parties around here. They can make or break your next relationship, soiree or even midnight crab cake and a beer snack. (I don’t have crab cakes as a midnight snack, but I know people who do….)
Chef Charles McKnew is a native Marylander and grew up around the water outside Annapolis. You would think he would be tired of making, much less eating crab, but claims that he still loves an old fashioned weekend crab feast and that he isn’t sick of using crab in his restaurant. He goes through no less than 50 pounds every week!
I recently visited McKnew in his kitchen, where the dining area is notably decorated with numerous plaques recognizing his many first place wins at The Capital’s annual Crab Soup Cook Off, a popular event at the Maryland Seafood Festival. This year McKnew won third place from the judges, but first place from the People’s Choice for his traditional cream of crab soup. He’s won this award several years in a row, and says he hasn’t tired of the elation and sense of accomplishment that goes along with the plaque. You can read about the contest and how incredibly hard he works just to get his soup to it here.
I would think that if you are so used to winning, it would be quite the plummeting fall to lose. Especially when your friends and family are watching and your employees who’ve cheered and helped you along and really want that win are biting nails over your performance. McKnew admits that the anxiety can be tiring. Even so, he says he won’t quit until the day he does lose, so I think we will be seeing him around for some years to come.
When I was at Ports of Call I was fortunate enough to meet two very interesting customers. One was an old retired Catholic Priest. Barely able to walk, he still visits the restaurant with his friend, an equally elderly Jewish businessman, every. single. week. They are devoted fans. Especially of the crab cakes. They waxed poetic about McKnew’s crab dishes and say they bring in all their friends from the old folks home to try them.
Actually, Chef says he is way over the soup. I don’t blame him. With that in mind, he’s been working on some new menu items that launched this fall. He let me taste each one, and I have to say, one was better than the next. I couldn’t possibly choose one to pick as a favorite. They were all homey, rich, comforting and delicious. And not difficult to make!!!
Below are McKnew’s tips for working with crab.
Here is a link to several of his latest crab recipes. Seriously, these are perfect for the holiday table, not only because they are delicious, but also because they are special, impressive, seasonal, local and achievable. Like I always say: Bonus, Bonus and BONUS!
- If you are buying crab to use in preparations like salad, Imperial or sauté, it is paramount to use high quality meat. “It’s like steak—you could spend three-quarters of the money and get an old piece of leather or you can spend the whole amount and get something good”.
- Buying local is the only way to ensure quality product. He recommends Annapolis Seafood. I like Wild Country Seafood in Eastport, but they have very limited hours this time of year. McKnew says some area grocers are bringing in good product…I’m not too sure about that. I’ve seen some sketchy looking stuff around town. Try Whole Foods Market, Graul’s or Costco, and make sure its actual Maryland crab. Some products are actuallyAsian crab, literally dipped in chemicals then shipped to Maryland for canning. Because the product is finished in Maryland it can use the Made in Maryland label. Not the same thing at all. And a huge slap to the hard working Maryland crabbers and pickers who are trying to earn an honest living.
- Use fresh, unfrozen crab. Frozen crab is no bueno at Ports of Call, though McKnew says that with no small measure of reticence, since he knows some folks do freeze their crab and don’t seem to mind. “Frozen meat might work in casseroles or some soups, but it really isn’t best for dishes where the large bites of crab need to stand out”.
- Use jumbo lump for most dishes. Fall crabs are the best crabs because they’ve been putting on meat and fat in advance of hibernation. “The meat is just perfect this time of year. The fresh jumbo lump meat you can find now holds together well and offers full bites of flavor”, McKnew told me. You can use other grades of crab for applications like soup, but that jumbo lump is best when the crab is the highlight of the dish. Learn about how to buy whole crabs and how to select grades of meat.
- Work gently and delicately with the crab meat. Unless you are lucky enough to be catching your own crabs, and in that case unless you are willing to pick the crabs to make a recipe, most folks buy cans of local pasteurized crab. It’s expensive. And delicate. “You really have to be careful with handling the pieces of crab”, McKnew advises. “You don’t want to break up the pieces while stirring or mixing. This would affect the flavor and the texture of the dish, and you could end up with small, mealy shreds instead of full bites”.
- Always add the crab at the end of a recipe. “Pasteurized crab is already cooked, so you really only need to bring it up to temperature”, he says.
Do you have a favorite local crab recipe? If so, please email me or send me a message on Facebook.
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Where I am from, it’s already chili weather, and it has been for some time. Here in Chesapeake Country, things get off to a much slower, gentler start–unless we have a rowdy hurricane season, which we didn’t, which means we’ve had a long and beautiful fall. But the weather this week–notably cooler and grayer–and that means cozy meals are on the menu.
What’s cozier than chili? Not much. It is the perfect meal. It can potentially be stringently healthy or indulgently comforting. It can suit a vegetarian or satisfy a carnivore. It can use any sort of produce, or none at all. Mastering a good chili, therefore, is an essential culinary skill, and Halloween is the perfect time to master it.
I guess I think it’s important to send the kiddos (and us adults too!) out with a belly reasonably stuffed with soulful warmth. We make chili for Halloween every year, and now the kids expect it and look forward to it. Since Halloween is in just 3 days, its time to start cooking!
I asked several local chefs and foodies for their favorite chili recipes, in hopes that they will inspire you to gather ingredients and make a pot in advance of the big day. They are so good, so tasty looking, that I can’t wait to try them. Here they are. Five of them. Enough to get you through tailgate season at least–and beyond, if you freeze it.
Mike Archibald’s Vegetarian Chili,
Executive Chef, Herrington on the Bay, Rosehaven, MD
I first had this chili just last week at Honey’s Harvest Farm in Lothian. It is so delicious, so soulfully comforting and filling, that I asked Mike for the recipe right away when I got back to the office. I am so grateful he generously offered it to us. His recipe makes enough to feed an army (2 gallons) but I recommend you make it as he wrote it and freeze leftovers for later in the season.
- 6 TB Olive oil
- 2 TB Garlic, Minced
- 2 cup Carrot, diced
- 2 cup Onions, diced
- .5 TB Cumin
- 2 TB Chili powder
- 2 cup Zucchini
- 2 cup Corn
- 6.5 cup Tomatoes, Whole Peeled
- 2 cup Water
- 1 cup, 6 tbl Tomato Paste
- 3.25 cups Kidney Beans
- 3.25 cups Great Northern Beans
- 3.25 cups Garbanzo Beans
- 2 TB DijonMustard
- 2.25 tsp Basil, dried
- 2.25 tsp Oregano, dried
- 2.25 tsp Black pepper
- 1.5 tsp Tabasco
- Heat the olive oil, minced garlic, carrots, onions, cumin and chili powder over medium heat in heavy bottomed pot. Cook until the carrots are just done.
- Add the zucchini and corn and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, water, tomato paste, and mix thoroughly. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the kidney beans, northern beans, garbanzo beans, dijon mustard, basil, oregano, black pepper, and tabasco. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring often.
Zach Pope’s Sweet Heat Chili Pepper Puree
Executive Chef, Blackwall Hitch, Annapolis, MD
Zach (folks call him Chef) offered up this recipe, which he says is a flavor base you can use for any chili. “No matter what your chili preference is (beans, no beans, etc.)…this recipe is a fantastic juxtaposition of the sweetness of apples and dried apricots with the heat of chili peppers, creating a fresh, fiery medley,” he said. The fine balance of sweet and heat in this recipe is easily adjusted. If you like spicy, use fewer apples or apricots. If you like mild, use fewer chili peppers and more liquid or fruit.
The puree should be added to the chili after your vegetables or meat are cooked so it can simmer with all of the ingredients. Use as much puree as you need to achieve the texture, consistency and heat you are looking for.
- 1 ½ lb hot chili peppers (Chef uses habañeros)
- 2 apples (any variety)
- ½ lb dried apricots
- 3 each medium sized onions (red or white)
- 1 large carrot
- ½ gallon apple juice or other sweet fruit juice such as pear, mango, pineapple, apricot nectar)
- Dice all ingredients into small pieces. PLEASE protect your skin by using gloves when dicing chili peppers.
- Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover with juice.
- Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until the carrots are tender.
- Carefully transfer contents of the pot into a blender. Remember, it is temperature hot AND spicy hot. Goggles optional…serious splash factor!
- Taste after blending. Add salt if needed.
- If you find it is too hot for your liking, you may add honey, but remember that this puree is an additive to spice up your favorite recipes.
This will yield 2 quarts of hot, flavorful chili puree.
Chef Notes: Even the most avid hot sauce fan would be challenged to use all 2 quarts at once. The beauty of this mix: it freezes easily in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop the cubes into sealed freezer bags for use up to 6 months.
Amy Daniel’s Black Bean- Roasted Butternut Squash Chili
Co-owner and Executive Chef, Palate Pleasers, Annapolis, MD
- 4c dried black beans (soaked overnight)
- 2c. canned crushed tomatoes
- 1c. or 4 fresh charred tomatillos (put in oven at 450 on sheet pan, about 5-10 minutes)
- 2 chopped yellow onions
- 2c. (total) chopped red, yellow and green peppers
- 3c. chopped butternut squash, peeled and seeded
- 1/2c. olive oil
- 2 tb toasted cumin seeds
- 2tb oregano
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1.5 tb smoked paprika
- 2 tb soy sauce (or tamari)
- 1-2 finely chopped fresh jalapeño pepper
- 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
- 1/2c. fresh chopped cilantro (including stems)
- Kosher salt to taste
- Soak beans overnight. Drain. Put black beans in pot and cover with fresh water and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, sauté the onions, peppers, jalapeño and garlic in the olive oil until soft and fragrant. Add to the pot.
- Toast cumin seeds and oregano in a dry sauté pan (or on a sheet pan in the oven) until you can smell the cumin. Add to pot.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and simmer until the beans are soft.
- You may need to add water throughout the simmering process.
- After beans are soft, season chili with salt (and extra spice, if you’d like!)
- Shredded Cheese (cojita is my favorite on this
- Chopped Green Onions
- Latino Crema (or sour cream)
- Cholula Sauce
- Fresh Lime Wedges
- Fresh Cilantro Sprigs
Serve on top of brown rice, simple polenta or crumbled cornbread.
Chef Notes: I like to spice this chili up with jalapeño peppers and cholula sauce…and then cool it down with Crema. It’s fairly inexpensive to make, lasts several days and is healthy, to boot!
Ken Upton’s Beef and Pork Chili
Owner, Ken’s Creative Kitchen, Annapolis, MD
“When fall is in the air, one does start to think about dishes like this”, Ken told me in an email. “This recipe is pretty much universal, there is so much flexibility, you could use Ancho Ground Pepper, Spice it up or not, leave out the pork, change the beans etc”.
- 2 # Ground Beef
- 1# Ground Pork
- 1 Cup Chopped Yellow Onion
- 4 Garlic Cloves, Smashed, Minced
- 2 TB Chili Powder
- 2 TB Ground Cumin
- 2 TB Chipotle Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 28oz Crushed or Chopped Tomatoes
- Beef Broth
- 4-5 TB Tomato Paste
- 1 Small Can of Red Kidney Beans, Drained
- Sriracha to Taste
On the Side
- Chopped Onion
- Sour Cream
- Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Sauté the Beef and Pork in a heavy duty pot with a small amount of Olive Oil.
- Remove meat from the pot with a slotted Spoon, put aside.
- Sauté the Onion and Garlic (add more Oil if necessary) then stir in the spices, add in the meat, Tomato, Tomato Paste and Kidney Beans.
- Add in maybe a cup or two of beef broth (depending the thickness of the chili you desire) simmer for 2 hours.
- Add the Sriracha to taste (or not), I like it spicy.
- Garnish with the Sour Cream, Sharp Cheddar and Onion
Lisa Consiglio-Ryan’s Spicy Bean Chili
Owner, Coach Whole Health Designs, Author Go Clean, Sexy You, Arnold, MD
“I LOVE this chili on Sundays”, Lisa told me. “I’m a big football fan and love the ritual of having something warm to eat while watching the games. I came up with this chili recipe after I became a plant-based eater so I experimented with beans and other proteins to make the perfect meal. The key to chili, in my opinion, is spicy. Always add cumin to give it a kick. AND I can’t forget my favorite thing to add… avocado. Need I say more? (Avocado is the perfect good fat to jazz up your chili recipe)”.
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- ½ onion, chopped (1/4 cup)
- ½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (1/4 cup)
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- ½ tsp. cumin
- 1, 15 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1, 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ ripe avocado, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. cilantro
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, bring oil and broth to a simmer over medium-heat.
- Add onions, bell pepper and garlic and cook for 10 minutes.
- Stir in cumin and beans and bring soup to boil. Then lower to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Top with avocado cubes and cilantro.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
Diana Love’s Cinncinnati Chili
Crazy-assed writer and reluctant blogger, Annapolis, MD
One of my family’s favorites, this chili has hits of cinnamon and chocolate. In Cincinnati, this sort of chili can be served up four different ways. In our house we just go for broke and load it up. It is served over spaghetti or rice with cilantro and sour cream.
- 2 TB vegetable or olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
- 2 lb. ground beef
- 2 TB. chili powder
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 TB cocoa powder
- 1 dried bay leaf
- ¼ ts cayenne chili powder (optional)
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 TB brown sugar or molasses
- 2(15-oz.) cans red kidney beans, rinsed under hot water and drained
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.
- Add the meat, stirring hard to break up the pieces. As soon as the meat starts to foam, drain the meat over a strainer in the sink. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, translucent and lightly browned, 5–6 minutes.
- Add garlic, cook until fragrant.
- Add the beans.
- Add in the spices, stirring to coat the onion mixture.
- Add in the chicken broth, water, sugar and tomato sauce. Scrape the fond from the bottom of the pan.
- Add beef.
- Turn heat to high until boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the flavors meld, about an hour.
- Serve over starch, such as pasta or rice. Load that baby up and dig in!
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It’s difficult to say just how much fun I had in Budapest, nor how far in love with it I have fallen. It’s pretty deep, I can tell you.
Here are my top ten reasons–not necessarily in order– you should visit.
PS: RECIPES are linked!
1) The Food: It is amazing. We aren’t talking the schnitzel and wurst you’ve heard bad rumors about. We aren’t talking meals heavy on overcooked meats and bland vegetables. We’re talking rich deep flavor, plenty of fond, amazing cheeses and casseroles with layers of deliciousness.
Let’s talk for a moment about street food. Budapest is obsessed with it. They even have a Street Food festival. I want to be happy for them that they celebrate food. Instead I am jealous. Very jealous. And sad. Because I should still be there.
So think a lovely red pepper or tomato sauce topped with hot melted cheese, or sausages and roasted veg. OR think Nutella with bananas and whipped cream and tried cherries. Or slivered almonds and dripping farmstead honey. Or walnuts with roasted apples and caramel sauce. I’m salivating…seriously. And thinking about going out to buy a fryer.
Burgers are everywhere. They are big and they are juicy and they make a vegetarian want to go raise, butcher and eat their own herd. FYI: The best burgers are from the food trucks. These guys seem to be working harder at making a better burger and it shows all over your face when you are dripping grease and smiling from ear to ear. Also wicked cheap. About $4 for a huge burger and $1 for fries. Ketchup extra!! (??).
A little inside scoop on eating in Budapest: there are many, many, MANY wonderful restaurants, cafes and casual restaurants of every sort. Try the Italian and Turkish spots off the beaten path, which are especially and surprisingly good, given that you are in neither Italy nor Turkey, but that there are a lot of Italians here and that Budapest was occupied by the Turks for 150 years.
OF COURSE you should make lots of belly room for Hungarian specialties. There are Michelin starred restaurants in Budapest, but I wasn’t super thrilled with any of them compared to less publicized places. Budapest has so much to offer, so I wouldn’t advise staying in just one neighborhood or relying only on your guidebook (which you should toss out the window anyway).
Two of my favorite spots are in the Buda Castle district. Favorites because A1 made me go to them 4 times and I didn’t order a dish I didn’t like. And because we were so happy and romantic and relaxed there…. Pest Buda Bistro is owned by the same family that owns 21, Pierrot and Balthazar. It’s true they are dangerously close to the Hilton and so make my Too Touristy designation, but they make up for it with great food. Balthazar has a slight edge for romance since it is a couple of blocks off the main drag.
….On the other hand….
…is this place: hidden, sort of barely post-Communist feeling and full of locals. That’s why I love it. Across from the Hilton, in the large yellow building (look for the Fortuna Etterem sign), there is an arch. Pass halfway through it, en route to a quiet, hidden courtyard (which happens to have several hidden souvenir shops housed in a glass church). On the left is a door. Pass through it, go up the stairs (check out your skinny self in the mirrors, cuz that won’t be the view on the way down), and enter the vacuous, old-school, self-serve cantina whose name I really don’t know. .
Go all the way to the opposite end of the room, grab a tray and proceed through the cafeteria line where old school dishes with bulgur and cabbage and filets and sauces and mushrooms and paprika and everything you ever loved about your grandma’s kitchen is waiting for you. It’s awesome.
2) The Baths: they are incredible and they are a wonderful way to meet the locals and checkout the international scene.
Hungary is a land-locked nation. The Danube River runs through Budapest, but it also flows through nine other countries and is more or less a nautical highway so of course you wouldn’t dip a toe in it.
Budapest’s beach is its 123 natural springs and several thermal baths. We went to the Szechényi baths, located near the zoo, circus, Hero’s Square and City Park (none of which we visited, which tells you quite a lot about us).
This is where Bono comes in.
Imagine that I am lying, naked as a jaybird, on the massage table, soft breezes and the murmur of the crowd below floating through the open window, the scent of aromatherapy oil and cheap candles pervading the room, my face settled into that little hole where all you can do is stare at the floor and focus on relaxing.
A1 is also in the room, opposite me (but he has his trunks on). The masseuse, probably thinking she is creating a nice mood for us, puts an actual TAPE into an actual TAPE PLAYER of U2 dubbed by a deep, rich, operatic, Eastern European accented baritone. The first song is With or Without You, sung as slow and as longingly as possible so that it actually makes you want to weep with the sadness of it. Followed by Where The Streets Have No Name, equally longingly. I was trying hard to recall all the movies with the prototype Russian bar singer wailing covers of old love songs, but all I could come up with was Tina Fey and Kermit from The Muppets.
The voice of the tragic baritone was transformative. And awesome. And the exact reason why I love to travel: you can’t get this anywhere else but in that place, in that moment! Check out what a relaxed noodle I was. Entry to the baths and a one hour massage for $45 US.
After your exhilarating swim or therapeutic dip, you can eat in the restaurant. Its not bad- Hungarian specialties like fried pork cutlet, plus fresh fruit, beer, sodas and a couple of desserts and grab-and-go candy bars. My suggestion is either the roasted chicken or the awesome spicy sausage, served with a side of potato croquettes.
3) The drivers: We all know that driving in most American cities is a risky proposition. In Budapest, the transit system of trolleys, busses, subway and trains is really easy to use, so a lot of folks don’t drive. The folks who do have a healthy respect for pedestrians, and vice versa. Here’s what they means for the traveler: crosswalks are sacred territory. Inside the lines is like being accepted into a sanctuary. Outside the lines, you are free game. I like that kind of clarity and clear expectations.
Beware that many busy intersections have stoplights for pedestrians as well as cars. I didn’t see a single case of jaywalking. I did see surveillance cameras on every block. That should tell you something!
4) History– you are literally steeped in it. Every step is a lesson in Western Civ. In order to appreciate Budapest, you need to appreciate the story of how and why it came to be. History touches EVERYTHING about the city, from how it was laid out, to how it looks today. Don’t just get off your cruise and stumble around town, not really knowing what you are looking at. Even if you have to walk with the tourist guidebook, take a second to appreciate the centuries of settlement, destruction and rebuilding these people have endured.
5) The “muzeums”: You could get to know the best parts of Budapest simply by staking out the museums, which are all over town. Even if you don’t like museums, you should go to them here. Some have a modest entry fee ($5-8) and some are free. Most have excellent English descriptions of what you are looking at. Otherwise, just get the audio guide.
Our favorites are below. If I get any extra energy or time I give more details on each later, or you can email me:
- Budapest History Museum
- Faust Wine Cellar
- Hospital in the Rock (super cool!)
- Hungarian National Museum
- Terror Museum (sad, but moving. You won’t stop thinking about what you see there)
- Memento Park
- Ethnographic Museum
- Military Museum
6) The people: I had never met a Hungarian in my life before I went to Budapest. I LOVE HUNGARIANS!
Since we stayed at the Hilton, we had to endure busloads of tourists coming in from the Viking Tours. I heard several ignoramuses say the Hungarians are rude. WHAT??
OK, if you compare Hungarian rapport to some other nations, their naturally curt, slightly suspicious nature may seem rude. But since you are traveling, you should have an open mind and do as the locals do. For example, when you walk the street in the morning, don’t feel compelled to look everyone you meet in the eye, say good morning and ask if their mother is well. Just walk. Do your thing. Mind your own business.
When you need help, don’t try to be best friends. Don’t feel compelled to draw the person into your loveliness as if your circle of sunshine will make their world bright.
Their world is what it is, and its fine without you, so ask your question, get the answer and move along.
If the answer is no, don’t look for excuses as to why or expect a list of alternatives. Just take what you get, and move along. When the supermarket check out lady throws the receipt at you, don’t take it personally. Watch: she does this to everyone. I LOVE this black and white, low maintenance, no need to brush your teeth or put on a bra because you won’t be talking much and no one is looking at you anyway approach.
7) The Danube: Have you ever seen light like that? Have you ever gaze at a concrete-lined river and actually wished you could travel it? Did you ever look at the Potomac and really think it could take you to places you’ve only read about or dreamed of? PS: its not Blue. It is shades of green and brown depending on the weather and season.
8) The life: these people LOVE to party! Seriously, the entire town is lit up at night and there is always something going on in Budapest. If folks aren’t at a festival or a cafe, they are having parties on private rooftops or in gated courtyard gardens.
9) The Wine: it is truly fabulous, and the Hungarians are understandably proud of it. I really don’t know why its not more popular in the US, and anticipated importers making it the next best thing here soon.
There are several wine regions in Hungary. Don’t get tied to the popular Tokaj whites or Bulls Blood reds from Eger. Just try as many as you can.
The best way to do this is at a wine festival. Imagine your town’s main street turned into a wine tasting room and that is Budapest’s idea of a weekend activity.
You pay 900HUF ($3) for a Spiegelau wine glass, plus however much you want for tickets. You use the tickets to pay for wine by the glass. Most of the glasses are about 400HUF ($1.75), with really special cuvees up to 2400HUF (about $8). You could reasonably spend $10 US on a night out. A lantern lit, romantic night, no less.
Or you could pony up for a wine tasting, a day in a wine school, or a visit to a specific wine region.
10). The Churches: Yes, Budapest was formerly a Communist nation. But before, during, and after that time, it was primarily Roman Catholic, with the requisite appreciation for medieval church history and macabre artifacts like St. Stephen’s right hand and St. John’s foot.
St. Matthias Church on Castle Hill is a perfect example of what I mean.
The flags that line the interior of the church are from actual battles against the Turks in the 16th century. The balconies were built to accommodate women when the church was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman occupation. This church is where King Stephan and countless kings after him were married and crowned.
You should also visit St. Stephan’s Basilica, the Great Jewish Synagogue on Dohany Street (one of the largest in the world, with fabulous architecture and art and a Jewish Museum), or any of the smaller cathedrals in between these.
11) The architecture and monuments. Oops-there are more than ten reasons I *heart* Budapest. Monuments, statues, bullet holes in buildings, royal entries, parapets, domes, paintings…it’s literally Disney land for adults.
12) Did I mention the food? If not, imagine for a moment what these would taste like. Don’t lick your screen.
If you’ve made it to the end of this post, congratulations! I hope you are inspired to go to Hungary. You can of course, comment or email me and I will get back to you ASAP.
Here are some recipes I am going to try this fall, as I seek to recapture the sense of relaxation and wonder I had in Budapest.
- Gingerbread Linzertorte by Martha Stewart
- Nokedli Dumplings (aka spaetzle) also by Martha Stewart
- Poppy Seed Bread Pudding by The Spicy Goulash
- korozott cheese dip by The Hungary Dish
- Layered Potato casserole (a la Pommes Anna) by Hungarian Titbits (no that, is not a spelling error!)
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In my Flavor article this past week in The Capital newspapers, I offered several recipes from area chefs that are perfect for Mother’s Day. They were only able to print two; here are the others.
I am sorry to say I don’t have any good photos—my entire iPhoto library was sadly lost to the bottom of the sea this week. I am floundering. I need my photos the way I need a good shot of whisky after a #2 outbreak, which is to say, I desperately need it, but will live without it.
From Teddy Folkman, Executive Chef/Co-Owner, BAROAK
A quiche should have a soft, dense custard and a bit of filling in every bite. It should not be scrambled eggs on a crust. The eggs and cream are required, so don’t stint on them.
- 6 Large Eggs
- 2 Cups Heavy Cream
- 1 ½ Cup Shredded Cheese
- 1 9” Refrigerated Pie Crust
- Whisk Heavy Cream and Eggs together.
- Layer the bottom of the piecrust with ¼ of the shredded cheese.
- Mix the remaining cheese with the eggs and cream.
- Slowly pour mixture into piecrust.
- If adding additional ingredients, add them to the egg mixture before pouring.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until egg mixture is set.
Additional Ingredient Ideas
- 1- 8 Ounce Package Chopped Frozen Spinach, Defrosted and Drained
- 1- Pound Bacon, Diced and Cooked
- 1½ Cup Swiss Cheese, Shredded
- 1 Cup Sautéed Mushrooms
- 1 Cup Caramelized Onions
- 1½ Cups Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
- 1 Cup Shredded Pork BBQ
- 3 Jalapenos, Diced
- 1½ Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Have fun mixing and matching ingredients. The quiche can take it. This is a great way to re-use leftovers too! Chef Teddy
Basic Fruit Muffin
From Chef/Manager William Payne III, Eggcellence
Disclosure: I’ve made these muffins three times in the past week, once in comparison against the Cooks Illustrated basic muffin. They are SOOO much better. Light, airy, perfect crust on the top of the muffin but tenderness within. Really good. Note: They are sweet–they have a full cup of sugar. But this is a breakfast treat, so just enjoy it…I made mine with mixed berries, frozen berries and just that much too old fresh strawberries. This is a versatile recipe!
- 1 1/2 c. Berries Or Fresh Fruit
- 1 c. Sugar
- 8 T. Butter, room temp
- 3 Egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 t. Vanilla
- 3 T. Milk
- 2 1/4 c. AP Flour
- 2 t. Baking Powder
- 1 t. Salt
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar on high speed until light, about two minutes
- By hand, mix eggs and vanilla with the creamed butter and sugar
- Add milk and half the flour, salt, and baking powder, barely incorporate
- Fold in fruit
- Add remaining flour, salt, and baking powder
- Do Not Over Mix! There will be some loose flour left around the sides of the bowl
- Bake until golden, about 20 minutes
Ginger Honey Butter French Toast with Blackberry Syrup
From Steven Grant, Executive Chef Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge
- 6 slices challah or other thick bread
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/4 ts cinnamon
- 1/4 ts nutmeg
- 1 ts vanilla extract
- Beat together eggs, milk, spices, and vanilla.
- Heat a lightly oiled skillet on medium high.
- Dunk the bread and coat both sides then cook in skillet until golden brown.
- Add Ginger Honey Butter and Syrup.
Ginger Honey Butter
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 TB honey
- 2 TB fresh ginger (about 1 1/2 inch chunk) peeled, grated/finely minced
- 1 TB cinnamon
- Set out the butter to soften.
- Peel the ginger by scraping the skin. With a microplane or a standing grater, grate/mince the ginger.
- Fit a standing mixer with the flat beater and mixing bowl (if you don’t have a standing mixer, use a hand mixer or food processor instead).
- Add butter, honey, cinnamon, and ginger to the bowl and mix on low speed until the butter begins to soften. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
- 1-pint blackberries
- 1 1/2 cup maple syrup
- Heat blackberries in a skillet until soft then add maple syrup. Stir.
- After cooking French Toast, spread Ginger Butter on the bread.
- Top with Blackberry Syrup and powdered sugar and take to Mom to enjoy!
Fried Egg Grits with Roasted Vegetables
From Jeremy Hoffman, Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Preserve
- 1C Grits, instant
- 1/2 C Water
- Pinch Salt
- Bring water to a boil and rain in grits and salt.
- Stir occasionally until cooked through 3-4 minutes.
- Rest off the heat.
Vegetables: (you could use any vegetables that you have on hand)
- 1ea Red pepper, julienne
- 1/2ea Onion, julienne
- 1ea Carrot, sliced
- 1ea Small yellow squash, sliced
- 3T Olive Oil
- Pinch Chili flake
- a/n Salt and pepper
- Place a large sauté pan on a hot burner. Add olive oil and wait until the first sight of smoke.
- Gently add vegetables in an even layer. Do not stir!! Allow the vegetables to brown.
- Sprinkle chili flake, salt and pepper. Toss a few times and turn burner to low.
- Pour vegetables into a bowl, rinse the pan and return to heat.
- 3ea Eggs, whole
- a/n Pan spray
- a/n Salt and pepper
- Spray sauté pan, set over medium-high heat and crack in the eggs.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook to desired doneness (medium/over-easy is delicious with the grits and veggies). If you have a lid that fits over the sauté pan, you can cover to speed up the cooking process.
Scoop a portion of grits into 3 bowls. Spoon roasted vegetables on top of grits making a nest for the egg.
When the egg white is cooked through, remove from the pan and place it on top of the vegetables. I like to serve this dish with hot sauce. -Chef Jeremy Hoffman
From Jeremy Hoffman, Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Preserve
- 1ea Small onion, diced
- 6ea Garlic cloves, sliced
- 6T Olive oil
- 1t Smoked paprika
- 1t Garlic powder
- 1/2t Black pepper
- 1/4t Chili flake
- 1/4t Cumin
- 1ea Yellow squash, diced
- 1ea Eggplant, diced
- 1ea Red pepper, diced
- 1ea Green pepper, diced
- 6oz Tomato paste
- 2C Diced tomatoes
- 1/2t Rosemary, chopped
- 1t Thyme, chopped
- t. Salt
- Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil. Once translucent, add the spices and cook for a few minutes.
- Add the vegetables and coat them with spices.
- Add tomato products and herbs and occasionally stir until thickened and the vegetables are cooked through.
- Season with salt to taste.
So last weekend I went to the Key School Book Fair, where Mary Lou Baker was giving a brief talk about her book A Seafood Lover’s Chesapeake Bay. Mary Lou is a very friendly, incredibly genuine and generous person, and in the spirit of finding someone wonderfully decent in this crazy, indecent world, I thought of how nice it would be to hear her story. You can read about our rendezvous here.
She allowed me to include a couple of recipes from the book in the paper and on the blog. You can have 3. But I encourage you to buy the book, which not only has a ton of information on the many little towns that dot Maryland’s Chesapeake region, but also tidbits about cool people, festivals, events and places to go in the region. Plus 100+ Maryland seafood recipes!
First: a drink. File this under “A Marylander’s Must Have Conversation-Starter”
Harrison’s Famous Oyster Shooter
Recipe Courtesy of Harrison’s Harbor Watch, Ocean City, MD
- 1 Chesapeake Bay oyster, shucked, natural likker reserved
- 2 oz chili-infused Finlandia vodka
- 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
- 1 1/2 oz cocktail sauce
- 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
- 2 dashes black pepper
- 1/4 lemon wedge
- Place shucked oyster, including likker, in a small rocks glass.
- Pour chilled vodka over ice in a cocktail shaker
- Combine vodka and all other ingredients except the lemon wedge in the glass with the oyster. Stir well and garnish with lemon wedge.
NOTE: to make the chili-infused vodka, add 7 hot dried chili peppers (chile de arbor are recommended) to 1 liter of Finlandia vodka. Let infuse for 2 weeks. Vodka will naturally take on a golden amber color when ready.
Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes (a sacred recipe in my humble opinion)
Recipe courtesy of Ken Upton, Ken’s Creative Kitchen, Annapolis, MD
- 1 lb jumbo lump Maryland crabmeat
- 1 egg
- 1 TB Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade with lemon would be great)
- 1/2 ts salt
- 1/4 ts pepper
- 1/4 -1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
- Carefully pick over crabmeat to remove cartilage and bits of shell. Set aside.
- Combine egg, mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well.
- Add the crabmeat to the mayonnaise mixture and stir until combined. Add enough bread crumbs to form a sticky mixture.
- Shape the mixture into 4 crab cakes and sauté in a buttered skillet over medium heat until golden brown.
Carolyn’s Crab-Shrimp Dip
recipe courtesy of Blue Crab Cafe, Crisfield, MD
- 3 heaping TB backfin crabmeat
- 4 large shrimp, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup Pimiento-spread cheese
- 3 shakes Worcestershire Sauce
- 3 shakes Old Bay Seasoning
- 5-6 shakes Montreal Steak Seasoning
- Mix all the ingredients together in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 3 minutes.
- Carefully remove bowl from the microwave and scrape dip into a microwave-safe glass casserole dish. Microwave for 2 minutes more, or until bubbly and heated through. Serve with pita crisps or chips.
Drunken Dancing Prawns
Recipe Courtesy of Blue Point Provision Company, Cambridge, MD
- 1 TB canola oil
- 16-20 prawns
- 1 ounce sake
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 TB rough-chopped cilantro
- 2. oz shredded red onion
- 2 oz julienned carrot
- 1 green onion, cut on the bias in 1 inch pieces
- 1 oz cognac
- 1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
- 1/4 cup canned coconut milk, stirred well
- 6 oz steamed jasmine rice
- toasted sesame seeds
- Heat oil in heavy skillet over high heat
- While the oil is heating, marinate the prawns in the sake with half the garlic and cilantro.
- Sear the prawns briefly in the hot oil.
- Add the red onions, carrots, green onions, and remaining garlic, and simmer to soften the vegetables
- Add the cognac, stirring to deglaze the pan.
- Add the chili sauce and coconut milk. Adjust to taste, adding more chili sauce for a spicier flavor and more coconut milk for a milder taste.
- Place a generous scoop of steamed rice in the center of an Asian bowl and pour the prawns and sauce over the top. To serve, sprinkle with sesame seeds and the remaining cilantro.
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