Crab Cakes with Bacon Sautéed Corn and Red Pepper Aioli.

February 27th, 2021

It has been a quiet Winter in our Florida rental home. In the past we have enjoyed so many activities available in New Smyrna Beach. There are weekly weekend events along the main thoroughfares of Flagler Avenue and Canal Street. We have attended antique car shows, art exhibits, wine tastings and Fat Tuesday parades. But this year we have avoided the crowds. But, when Valentine’s Day came around, we traveled back to NC for our Grandson’s birthday and then stopped in Charleston on the way back to Florida. We had a glorious warm and sunny day to explore this quaint town. One of the perennial favorite restaurants is called 82 Queen. They are repudiated to have the best crab cakes in Charleston. We had lunch in the courtyard.

I ordered the appetizer of Crab Cake with Bacon Sautéed Corn and Red Pepper Aioli.

It was delicious and it was fun trying to duplicate this at home. I think I came up with a good recipe combination using recipes found on line and adapting them to our tastes. The below recipe makes a lot. For the two of us I cut it in less than half. It is easy to adjust it to your needs.

Crab Cakes with Bacon Sautéed Corn and Red Pepper Aioli

Crab Cakes:


2 pounds fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage

1 1/2 cups panko

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup chopped chives

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Juice and zest of 1 lemon, plus more lemon wedges for serving

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. For the crab cakes: Gently fold together the crabmeat, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, chives, Dijon mustard, seafood seasoning, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and the juice and zest of one lemon in a large bowl. Refrigerate the crab mixture for 15 minutes to firm up; this allows the breadcrumbs to absorb some of the liquid, helping the crab cakes bind together.
  3. Meanwhile, make the tartar sauce: Combine the mayonnaise, dill pickles, capers, chives, zest and juice of 1 lemon in a medium bowl and mix until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Scoop heaping half cups of the crab mixture and pat into 2 1/2-inch wide patties. Lightly press them together so they do not fall apart while cooking. You should have 8 patties.
  5. Heat 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crab cakes to the pan and cook until golden, about 2 minutes, then flip using a flat metal spatula. Continue to cook until lightly golden, about 1 1/2 minutes then transfer the pan to the oven. Cook until the crab cakes are completely heated through, about 10 minutes.

Bacon Sautéed Corn:

  • 5 slices of bacon , diced
  • 1 16 oz. bag of frozen white shoe peg corn, thawed

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Sauté corn in bacon dripping until soft, about 10 minutes.

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

  • 2 whole roasted red peppers ( I used Jarred roasted red peppers)
  • ⅔ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved, or more to taste
  • 1 ½ cups light mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s® Light) 
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

Place roasted red peppers and basil in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped and combined. Add lemon juice; pulse 3 times. Scatter garlic halves over mixture; pulse to chop, 4 to 5 times. Add mayonnaise and sugar; pulse until smooth, 5 to 7 times. Season with salt and pepper.

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Provençal Zucchini Gratin

February 4th, 2021

Any dish with Provençal in the title stirs memories for me of sunny hill towns with French blue shuttered homes, lavender fields, and beach towns on the Mediterranean Sea. Vegetable gratins are a speciality of Provençal cookery. One of the first American ex-pats to embrace living and cooking in Provence was Richard Olney. In his 1974 book Simple French Food, he included many zucchini recipes and several gratins.

The recipe I am including today came from Ina Garten but it was inspired by Richard Olney. According to Ina, “Richard Olney was a curmudgeonly but extraordinary cook who wrote about Provençal cooking at the same time Julia Child was teaching Americans how to make classic French dishes.”

I would love to be at a table in Provence enjoying this special gratin, but since I can’t be there, I will enjoy it here at home.

I didn’t expect how complex the flavors would be in this dish. I consider zucchini to be quite bland, but Ina has a way of bringing out flavor that is amazing. This Provençal Zucchini Gratin was delicious.

Provençal Zucchini Gratin

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus extra for the dish
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced crosswise
  • 2½ pounds small zucchini, sliced ½ inch thick crosswise
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ cup ground fresh bread crumbs from a boule, crusts removed – I used a good sourdough bread to make the crumbs.
  • ¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese (2 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter an 8 × 10-inch oval gratin dish.

In a medium (10 to 11-inch) pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the zucchini and 2 teaspoons salt, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes, until the zucchini is tender but not falling apart.

Sprinkle the zucchini mixture with the flour and stir gently. Raise the heat to medium-high and slowly add the half-and-half, allowing each addition to come to a boil while you’re adding it. Off the heat, stir in the thyme, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and lightly flatten the top. Combine the bread crumbs and Gruyère in a small bowl and sprinkle on top. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in small dice and sprinkle on top. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is browned and the gratin is bubbly.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes and serve hot or warm.

Printable Recipe

Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa

January 26th, 2021

I received Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, for Christmas. This is an updated, perhaps you could call it modern, version of split pea soup. What makes it different is the crispy kielbasa sausage that is added to it.

With leeks, onions, carrots and a ham hock it rocks with flavor. Ina has a way of bringing out the maximum flavor in her recipes.

We are in Florida. It has been cool so far. Therefore this split pea soup is a welcome meal and makes us feel warm and healthy. We also were able to get our Covid vaccines. Looking forward to a better year.

Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa

  • 6 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and green parts (2)
  • 2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (3 large)
  • 1½ cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 lb dried green split peas
  • 8 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine
  • 2 large fresh bay leaves
  • 12 oz smoked kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally into ¼-inch-thick pieces
  • Minced fresh parsley, for garnish

Heat 1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil in a large (11 to 12-inch/28 to 30-cm) pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion and carrots and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to brown.

Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the peas to coat with oil and cook for one minute. Add 8 cups (2 L) of the chicken stock, 2 cups (500 mL) water, the ham hock, thyme bundle, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons (10 mL) salt and 1 teaspoon (5 mL) pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very tender and falling apart. After 45 minutes, stir more frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the soup doesn’t burn.

Discard the thyme bundle, bay leaves and ham hock. Transfer 2 cups (500 mL) of the soup to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and purée. Return the purée to the pot, adding more chicken stock or water if the soup is too thick.

To serve, heat 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil in a medium (10-inch/25-cm) sauté pan over medium heat. Add the kielbasa and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the kielbasa is browned. Serve the soup hot with the kielbasa and parsley sprinkled on top.

Serves: 6

Make ahead: Reheat the soup over low heat, adding chicken stock or water to thin.

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Wild Rice, Cranberry, and Cornmeal Sourdough Bread

January 12th, 2021

Baking Bread. It is a wonderful thing to do when the world seems out of control. We are living in fraught times. Kneading bread and smelling the baking loaves does much to quiet the troubled soul.

One of the things I was gifted with during Christmas was sourdough starter from my cooking-enthused Daughter-in-Law, Kristen. She has been baking bread for several months now and developed the starter from one of the best French bakeries in Cary, La Farm Bakery. I receive catalogs from King Arthur Flour and saw this recipe in their Christmas publication. It sounded unusual and a good recipe for my sourdough starter. They also featured a Bread Baking Bowl that is the perfect vessel in which to bake it.

It makes a hearty loaf studded with sweet cranberries.

I have since made a simple Honey Wheat Bread. I have a feeling there will be lots of bread baking in my immediate future. Stay safe, healthy and sane during these perilous times.

Wild Rice, Cranberry, and Cornmeal Sourdough Bread

  1. In a large bowl, combine the starter, water, yeast, cornmeal, and flours. Mix and knead for 5 minutes. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Knead in the cooked wild rice, salt, and dried cranberries. Knead by hand for 6 minutes, or for about 3 minutes using a stand mixer. Or place in a bread machine programmed to the dough cycle. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes (or let the bread machine finish its cycle).
  3. Turn the dough out and fold it in thirds. Return it to its container, cover, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Shape the dough into a round or oval and place, seam side up, in a basket or bowl lined with a damp tea towel heavily sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; or cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. One hour before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven (with a baking stone on the middle rack, if you have a stone) to 475°F. If the dough was chilled overnight, take it out of the refrigerator before turning the oven on. Set up a shallow, stovetop-to-oven pan or skillet with 1″ of water in it.
  6. When the dough looks puffy (it won’t necessarily double in size), bring the pan of water to a simmer on the stove and place it in the oven below the baking stone. Turn the loaf out of the towel onto a piece of parchment on a peel (or onto a baking sheet, if you’re not using a stone). Slash the top from end to end, 1/2″ deep, with a sharp knife. Slide the dough and parchment onto the stone. If you have a spray bottle, spritz the inside of the oven 5 or 6 times before closing the door.
  7. Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until deep golden brown all over, and the center measures 195°F or higher when tested with a digital thermometer. The bottom will sound hollow when thumped.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack before slicing.
  9. Store the bread, tightly wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Printable Recipe

Caramelized Onion Galette

December 12th, 2020

Serendipity; the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. My husband loves to cook. He has lots of time on his hands since we are staying pretty close to home. He recently set aside a few hours to make caramelized onions. He used a recipe from Vivian Howard in her new cookbook, This Will Make it Taste Good. Caramelized onions take time because they need to cook low and slow. The original use was to top a steak. But there were so many of them that I ended up with a stash in the refrigerator.

Thanksgiving included pie making. I made several rounds of pastry and ended up with extra. A light bulb moment happened and I put the two leftover ingredients together with delicious results.

This caramelized onion galette would make a perfect appetizer for the holidays. I added some Gruyere cheese to the onion mixture and was pleased with the results. The taste is reminiscent of French onion soup. It would also be great as a light supper with a salad. Serendipitous indeed.

Caramelized Onions

  • 4–5 large or 6–8 medium yellow or white onions
  • 1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  1. Peel your onions and cut them in half through their stem ends—longways, if you will. Slice them thinly with the grain, following the line from root to stem rather than cutting the onion across its belly. This is actually important because slicing it the other way makes the path to silky onions a longer one.
  2. Once your onions are sliced, heat your skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil, then the onions and the salt. Let the onions sizzle for a couple minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon or a heatproof spatula and watch as they wilt for about 3 more minutes. At this point, reduce the heat to medium low. Put a lid on and step away for a few minutes. Give the onions a stir every now and then. You don’t have to stand over it like risotto, but don’t go for a walk around the block either. Caramelized bits will accumulate at the bottom and sides of the pan, and that’s good. Just scrape them up and stir them in. A little color building as you go is okay, but don’t rush to brown them. The point is to cook the onions gently, coaxing them through stages of raw, wilted, sweaty, soft, light brown, and finally deeply caramelized
  3. About 45 minutes in, remove the lid for the last time. They should be a light caramel color. Now, with the lid off, you will need to watch more closely and stir more frequently. At some point you may find that despite your best efforts some of the caramelized bits, verging on burnt, cling to the pan and threaten over all onion ruin. Do not fret! Just add a ½ cup or so of water and use its energy to help scrape up the stubborn but tasty film. Let the water cook out of course. When you’re smiling over a soft, creamy, fragrant pile of mahogany onions, you’re done. Makes 2 cups.
  4. Note:  Onions will keep in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for 3 months.

Assemble Galette

Mix 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooled onions with 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll pastry dough of your choice (Could use a store-bought pastry round) into a 10-inch circle on a sheet of parchment. Spread the cooled caramelized onions on the dough, leaving a 1- to 2-inch border. Fold the edges in, over the onions, transfer to a baking sheet and bake until the dough is golden brown and some of the onions have browned on the edges, 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the galette halfway into the baking process.

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.