Cornmeal Crusted Soft Shell Crab with Buttermilk Apple and Chive Coleslaw

This remarkably quick meal is a colorful and crunchy way to use the insanely good soft shell crabs that are coming into season right now.  I made this for my husband and I a few nights ago, and was so pleased with the speed to wow ratio.  But in addition it was so so so good that we craved the exact same thing for dinner the following night with the extra crabs I bought to photograph for the blog.

Though the crabs need to be served immediately after pan-frying, they take just minutes, and so still could be a great alternative for a small group BBQ, turning out crabs as you would burgers off the grill.  You can also skip the rolls and just serve them atop a salad of greens and slaw.

I also highly recommend trying the same recipe using thick green tomato slices in place of the crabs later in the summer.  Oh, how I love cooking during these months...



Cornmeal and Chive Crackers

In my ongoing quest to eliminate store-bought processed foods from our kitchen and life, this week I tackled crackers.  There is a long and growing list food items that I no longer even think of not making myself, and yet almost weekly I think nothing of tossing (overpriced) box after box of these crisp vices in my shopping basket.

Growing up in shoreline Connecticut in the 80's "cheeseandcrackers" were a very big deal.  Practically their own extracurricular activity.  I vividly remember going to our immpeccable cheese shop on Main Street with my grandmother and picking out an appropriate assortment of contrasting cheeses and suitable cracker sidekicks for that weekend's cheese tray.  I was always most intrigued by the layer cake-esque Huntsman cheese, consisting of stripes of Double Gloucester and Stilton cheeses.  Carrying on in that early-ingrained tradition, we always have a nice piece or two of cheese on hand and a cupboard stocked with cracker choices for insta-entertaining.

So with my long history with cheeseandcrackers, I am even more surprised that making my own crackers hadn't come up before (particularly with now making my own cheese from time to time).  A remarkably easy project, offering a gazillion flavor possibilities, from as hearty and rustic to delicate and subtle as you want to make them.  When picking out a special piece of carefully crafted cheese, you can decide exactly what vehicle will deliver this creamy treasure to your gullet.  Doesn't your own cheeseandcrackers ritual deserve at least as much?


by Catie Schwalb

These are a rustic,  full-flavored cracker taking advantage of gorgeous spring chives.  I found they also make a great chip-like snack cracker which would be great with dips or  just as a snack on their own.

Makes approximately four dozen 2” x 3.5” crackers.

1 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
1 ¼ cup flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/8 cup chives, finely chopped

Heat oven to 350 ° F.

In a medium saucepan, heat one cup of water with the cubes of butter and salt. Allow the water to come to a gentle boil (the butter should be melted around the same time). Whisk in the cornmeal and cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. The mixture will be quite thick.

In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal mixture with flour and chives. Mix until just combined. Try to avoid over-mixing as it will make the crackers tougher.

Wrap dough in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for a half hour.

Lightly dust with flour a silpat or piece of parchment paper that is the same size as your baking sheet. Roll out a portion of the dough right on the paper or silpat. Try to get it as thin and even as you are able, without creating holes, ideally around 1/16th of an inch. Lightly sprinkle with more flour if the rolling pin starts to stick.

Using cookie cutters, a rolling pastry cutter, pizza cutter or carefully with a knife, cut crackers in desired shape. Remove excess dough and sprinkle crackers liberally with additional kosher salt.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the sheet once in the oven about half way through. Crackers are ready when they are beginning to turn light brown around the edges and are no longer pliable. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Will keep in an airtight container for a week.


Flavored Salt

In honor of last week's National Popcorn Day, I've done some tinkering in the kitchen with flavorings.  My favorite project was coming up with different flavored salts.  It is outrageous that I haven't done this sooner, and even more outrageous the number of super costly little precious jars of flavored finishing salts that I have sitting in my spice cabinet.

The technique is nothing more than combining good quality salt, either kosher or sea salt, and good quality spices, herbs, citrus, or a combination.  It is up to you as far as the ratio of salt to flavors, depending on how concentrated you want the flavor and the color, and how strong the ingredient is you are using.  On average I used about 1 part flavor to 1 1/2 parts salt.  Simply put all ingredients in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, food processor, or mortar and pestle and pulse or grind until well incorporated.

Hint:  For spices, toast them lightly first to release more of their flavor.  Place them in a dry pan over medium heat, swirling frequently for a few minutes until they start to become fragrant.

This powdery little flavor bomb is amazing sprinkled over hot fresh popcorn, and as a finish for so many of your dishes.  It also looks gorgeous as a pop of color sprinkled around a plate.  They'll keep for about a year in an airtight container, making them fantastic gifts.  I mean, have you seen what these things cost lately?

Here are a few ideas below, but the combinations are endless.  Keep a little jar or two on your counter, and you'll find yourself using them on everything.  Put a few small dishes on your dinner party table, and let guests play with their food.

I used a brilliant french version of an indian masala, called Vadouvan, from the exquisite Spice House in Chicago.  Amazing on popcorn, but also chicken, fish, roasted vegetables (especially cauliflower), or a cold chicken salad.

Smokey, sweet, brilliantly colored spanish paprika. It rocked on popcorn. Would also be stunning on fried eggs, roasted potatoes, grilled shrimp, and roasted meats.

I used some high quality freeze dried shallots and chives (again, thank you Spice House), resulting in a savory blend that exploded with the most amazing aroma as it hit the hot popcorn. It was also absurdly good on my poached eggs this morning, and the small batch is almost gone. Mashed potatoes? Yes. Roast Chicken? Yes. Just about anything you want to spruce up with a little savory brightness? Most definitely. Bonus points for drying your own homegrown chives.

Zest the peel of a lemon, lime, orange, meyer lemon or tangerine. Allow to dry on paper towel, and then combine with salt.
Poultry and seafood would be particularly good, as well as roasted peppers.

Split and scrape a vanilla bean, and combine seeds with salt. Could have interesting results with some delicate fish and lobster, but I'm dreaming more of a stunning salty finish to a dessert, on a scoop of dense gelato, or a crunch on dark chocolate covered caramels.

Get the best five spice you can, and then bring me the popcorn! ...And the roasted chicken wings, roasted pork, roasted brussels sprouts, and noodles.

Pulse dried porcini mushrooms in grinder to a fine powder, and then pulse with salt. This earthy, chocolaty, elegant finisher adds a new element to a side of rice, a creamy pasta, eggs, a crostini with oozy cheese, or topping a puree of potato soup.

Dry both slightly, and grind with salt to make a bright, southeast Asian inspired topping. Beautiful in a ramen soup, on grilled fish or chicken, and even as an unexpected finisher to desserts.



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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