Note: I have been unable to access photos for 3 weeks, unable to access the blog for one week and, in general been up a tree when it comes to maintaining my four-year record of weekly posts. This is the post that was written, and should have been published three weeks ago. I’ll publish another post on Thursday and should be able to catch up soon.
March 18 – March 24, 2019
Monday: Speedy Fish Chowder
Tuesday: Crab Cakes
Wednesday: Fish Stew
Thursday: Cocktails and Sundown at Mere’s / Dinner at Campiello’s
Friday: Shrimp-Fried Rice
Saturday: Bayside for cocktails and Lobster Bites / Roast Turbot with Soy, Ginger and Scallion Sauce
Sunday: Crispy Salmon
The pleasure of dining has everything to do with the company you keep, much to do with your surroundings, a good bit to do with your own mental and physical condition and, of course, something to do with the food. Current foodie culture, particularly cooking competitions on television tend to obscure this fact. Original uses for, say, the filling of a moon pie, mean everything to food competition judges and less than nothing to normal human beings. But even the finest Ragu a Cinghale served over hand-made and perfectly cooked pasta would lose its appeal if you your dinner companion were, say, Harvey Weinstein.
I am rather regularly reminded that dining is about much more than the food. If you try to hustle SWMBO* from the cocktails in the living room to the dining room because you’d like her to taste the seared scallops over carrot and parsnip puree while they’re still at least luke-warm, she will look at you as if you were a stray dog who had wandered into the Royal wedding. In other words, she will help you to get your priorities and your mind straight.
*’She Who Must Be Obeyed’ my affectionate and realistic nickname for Beez, my wife. I’ve lifted SWMBO from John Mortimer whose character “Rumpole of the Bailey,” referred to his wife in the same manner. And he lifted it from Ridder Haggard’s novel, Ayesha, or, She Who Must Be Obeyed. But we’re getting pretty far afield here, so please stop asking questions and allow me to proceed with the post.
All of which comes to mind because by far the best dinner we have had during our month in Naples – indeed, some of the finest food I’ve ever eaten – at Campiello’s Restaurant was marred by a stand-offish hostess and one too many preening, strutting or bloviating customers at the bar. For great Ragu a Cinghale, go to Campiello’s. But if you want to have a good dining experience you could, for instance, visit with our friends Bill and Rosanna, who were kind enough to invite us over for dinner on the Monday following the Sunday on this posting. You could also try our take on traditional crab cakes (recipe below).
(Almost Entirely) Crab Cakes
When I was a kid, I actually liked the gummy paste held together with breadcrumbs and mayonnaise and featuring as much green pepper and pimento as crab that Howard Johnson’s restaurants served with little paper cups of tartar sauce. Perhaps I’d still like them in the right company. But time marches on and one learns a thing or two about grades of crab and ways to cook. And these days, Beez and I go for the almost-entirely-crab-barely-held-together-cake. Tartar sauce is still a fine accompaniment, but these babies are best with a good squeeze of lemon and a dash of hot sauce.
To serve 4 people (2 crab cakes each): Buy a one pound can of Jumbo Lump crab. For a few extra dollars you can get the pasteurized variety which has already been ‘picked’ – i.e., had the little pieces of cartilage and shell removed.
Mix this, gently – you don’t want to break up the crab – with some finely ground crackers (about twenty saltines) or a couple handfuls of fine bread crumbs. Now fold in a mixture of about 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 large egg, beaten, a tablespoon each of Dijon mustard and Worscestershire sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce that you have whisked to smoothness.
Scoop the crab mixture into 8 mounds and pack gently into patties. They should be about 1 1/2″ thick. Cover and chill for an hour or longer.
When you’re ready to cook, heat 1/4 cup of canola oil over Medium to Medium-High. (Medium if you have high btu-burners). When the oil is hot, cook the crab cakes for about 3 minutes per side. They should be a nice golden-brown. If your skillet won’t hold all 8 crab cakes, cook them in batches and keep the first batch warm in a low oven.
Serve with lemon wedges and more hot sauce.
Note: You’ll find that making the crab cakes takes, at most, ten minutes. But since they have to set up in the refrigerator, allow at least an hour and 10 minutes for the whole process.
A perfect day at the beach