Lentil Fritters

We ate the Lentil Soup down to less than a bowl each.

Lentil FrittersSo, I whipped up two eggs and tossed them in. To this I added a couple of cups of commercial croutons I had beaten to crumbs. The consistency was still just a bit fluid so I added AP flour until the mixture, when picked up with an ice cream scoop (with a flick handle) would hold its shape when deposited on a plate.

Then I fired up the saute pan and heated light vegetable oil to 325 deg F (used my laser thermometer to keep track of the oil temp). Into the oil I deposited ice cream scoops full of the mixture and fried them ala salmon cakes. These I allowed to drain on a rack over a cookie sheet in a 250 deg F oven.

Janet made up an Aoli from mayo, ketchup, blackening spice, sriracha and Worcestershire sauce. Ingredients to taste and color.

YUM

Chorizo Lentil Soup

We’ve had a couple of lentil soups lately and decided we could do better. Here’s the recipe.

Lentil Spices4 oz Chorizo, casing removed

1# bag of dried Lentils

Mirepoix = one cup of chopped onion + 1/4 cup of thin sliced Ready to Eatcelery + 1/4 cup of thin sliced carrot.

1/4 cup bacon chunks (lardons are fine, but really trim away the fat, really)

1 tbsp of roasted garlic, minced

White Pepper + Curry Powder + Ginger Powder + Coriander + Cumin in equal parts, total amount to taste (I used a tsp each to start).

1/2 -1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 four inch sweet pepper (yellow or red diced small)

Beef stock 1 to 3 cups + Water 3 to 1 cup + 1 tbsp of low sodium soy sauce per cup of water used

1. Brown chorizo in smaller than teaspoon size chunks. Do not cook completely. Remove sausage from pan and half soften the mirepoix with garlic and sweet pepper using the fat from the chorizo.

2. Wash the lentils and hand inspect for foreign material.

3. Place mirepoix+ in 4 qt slow cooker and wipe saute pan clean.

4. Return saute pan to the burner (no hotter than 400 deg F) and put dry seasonings in pan and toast until they begin to adhere to one another (from releasing oils). Immediately scrape these into the mirepoix+

5. Add the crushed red pepper, bacon bits and the lentils to the slow cooker.

6. Add the mixture of water and beef stock and soy that adds roughly to four cups. If this does not fully cover the other ingredients, add more water.

7. Cook on high for 2 hours. Then cook on low until lentils are at desired tenderness. Add water to cover as necessary.

8. An hour before serving check spices and adjust according to taste.
Serve with Naan or Pita or Injera firm enough to wipe the bowl.

Coming next a Lamb Curry based on a Jamaican shrimp pepper pot recipe (sans shrimp).

To! Fu!

Ingredients:
For the Fried Tofu – also called Agedashi Tofu
1 block (~12.3oz)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup panko flakes
Vegetable oil
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For the Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce –
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp agave nectar
2 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic – minced
Crushed red chili flakes to taste
Paprika to taste
Fish Sauce to taste
1 spring onion – chopped
sesame seeds

Process:
1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside.
2. Mix cornstarch and white pepper in one small bowl. Then whisk egg in another small bowl. And finally, add in panko flakes into a third small bowl.
3. Carefully remove the tofu block from its package, since it can break easily. Slice into pieces the thickness of a “fish stick” and then cut crosswise if desired. Blot dry!
4. Coat each tofu cube first in the cornstarch bowl, then egg, then panko flakes.
5. Add vegetable oil into skillet until it pools to only about 1/4 inch deep. Heat on medium-high fire to 350-375°F [Safety note: Never heat oil unattended]
6. Place all the tofu cubes into the skillet. When one side browns, flip it over to another side. Repeat until nicely browned. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towel. Serve hot with sesame-soy dipping sauce.

FROM: http://blog.seasonwithspice.com/2012/09/crunchy-golden-fried-tofu-recipe.html

Consider buying some of their spices. Plus this dipping sauce has a myriad of uses. It makes an excellent salad dressing, and a wonderful noodle soup.

Florida Key-sine

We came, we saw, we ate. We can attest to Best Key Lime Pie, Best Conch Fritters, Best Fish, Best Breakfast. Best in these cases is from among the restaurants we sampled.

MrsMacsThe Best Key Lime Pie (as in since my grandmother passed away) was to be had at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen — the small one on the north side of US 1 heading west in Key Largo. The welcome was vocal, as in every staff member in sight, and real. We decided to make our late lunch an early dinner, and Janet had fish and shrimp done fish and chips style with excellent sweet potato fries (just the right ratio of soft and crunchy.) My fish was smothered in relleno sauce and graced with just enough cheese — not swimming in it. The black beans and rice were tasty. We both had mahi/dolphin/dorado, and for me it was a bit over-cooked, but then I am super-picky about fish. The food police have pretty much driven restaurant cooks to ruin it, and when I ask for it something less that DONE, I expect government types and lawyers to descend (ala Alton Brown’s dilemma).

KLPie

Sign is not broken, camera lens captured the natural pulsation of Neon.

And then came the PIE. Light yellow, check. Custard base, check, Dense and smooth, check, Perfectly sour-sweet, check. No whip cream, OK I had to ask for that part. Otherwise a perfect piece of KLP! All comments about fish cookery aside, we would consider Mrs. Mac’s a must return.

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Lazy DaysThe Best Conch Fritters were at Lazy Days in Islamorada. Before we reached Lazy Days on day two, we had gotten them that were too browned, conch too tough, diced pickles in the fritter batter*, almost no conch, and raw in the middle. At Lazy Days they were golden, soft, fully cooked with tender conch and just the right bite of spice. Lazy Days also provided us with excellent fish that was closer to properly cooked. My grouper came with a bit of bacon and cheddar on top as a sandwich. I don’t care for grilled fish sandwiches. The bread soaks away the juices. Janets’ mahi/dolphin/dorado was very lightly tempura-ed and gently fried. In both cases, our sweet potato and regular fries were deemed worth saving for breakfast hash. The SPF were particularly good.

FishTalesThe award for Best Fish in an entree role goes to Fish Tales in Marathon. This is a fish market with tables. My blackened grouper was beautifully seasoned and over-cooked — not just by my standards,  but I’m sure the food police would be handing out an “A.” My black beans and rice were tasty but came out as the last glob from the pot — probably because we ate late. Janet’s fried grouper was what snagged the best award. It was melt in your mouth moist and obviously fresh.. Not only that she liked the slaw, ordered it double and had some of mine. The award for best performance of fish in a spread also goes to Fish Tales. Made of salmon mahi/dolphin/dorado, mackerel, and (I forget) and seasoned with a variation on the blackening spice and with only enough binder to bind, this stuff was GRRReaaaat (I miss Thurl Ravenscroft).

HarriettesWe like diners, especially those in touch with what diners used to be, pre-franchising. Harriette’s is one of those. The menu was comprehensive. Pretty much everything is cooked to order. The ingredients are obviously fresh. The service is honest, helpful and friendly. The place is tiny and often has lines at the door. My spicy beef omelet was not spicy by my terms, but I am sure others would have found it so, but it was hot, fresh and delicious and served with a quarter-acre biscuit.and local honey. Janet’s fry up was an old standby for diners and executed perfectly. With beverages, our Best Breakfast (we ate at noon) was under $20 for two.

lsAnd then, drum roll, there were Harriette’s Key Lime Muffins, 5+ inches in diameter, with a bank of confectioner’s sugar drifted across the top, they are delicate and limey until one reaches the core which is almost a key lime curd. We don’t believe we have ever had a dessert muffin quite this good ever before. We split one while there and brought one home for breakfast the next day. We are thinking of suggesting a monthly subscription service.

There are plenty of places to eat in the Keys, they run from shacks to jackets required. Neither aspect will tell you much about the food. but this is where the Internet shines if you can spot the trolls and sock-puppets among the reviewers — too good or too bad is usually a tip-off. Lots of vehicles parked out front, in back and barely off the road isn’t much of a tip-off. DUI may be illegal, but restaurants without bars, or at least plenty of beer, pretty much don’t exist. If you see a lot of vehicles, check an online rating service — is it the food. or is it the happy hour?

* A UN Violation.

Happy, Clubby Birthday

poloIn 4+ decades as adults, we have dined in many places under many circumstances. Our standard criteria have become “would we serve this to guests, could we have done this better, and were we comfortable?” For us to be pleased it has to be a Yes and a No and a Yes. Polo Grill wins on all counts.

No hunting for the reservation on arrival. Best booth in the place. Service with a club-like pace and grace. Generous pours on the drinks and a better than average selection of wines by the glass. Menu well varied and well complimented by specials.

My included Caesar was available with anchovies, hand cut and culled romaine and at just the right size. My wife’s included iceberg wedge was right sized and she says it had the best blue cheese she could remember.

She had the trout almondine and I the pompano special. The asparagus was crispy, the rice was tender, well seasoned and didn’t overwhelm the plate. The carrots… well I don’t like them so I can’t say. My wife said they were “well flavored.”

Dessert was a complimentary serving of mango sorbet (from a selection). It was delicious, nicely sized and accompanied with a peppermint patty.

Without drinks and appetizers, dinner was under $100 before tip. We enjoyed the place for about 2 hours and never felt pushed to give up the table. All told, after years of dining at Morton’s north-to-south, coast-to-coast, we would give Polo Grill the edge.

The Key’s to It All

Nervous Iguana at Boca Chica

Nervous Iguana at Boca Chica

I’ve been working on the manuscript of another novel pretty much since the last post here. Only have so many keystrokes in me per day, so the blog has been riding in the dinghy on a long painter.

This week we took a break (never turned the laptop on) in the Florida Keys checking out anchorages, and marinas prior to deciding whether to take Brilliant Star down there. It was great weather (actually, the same as at home in Vero). Friendly people. Great Food. Decent hotel with (gasp) tolerable prices. More about the food in coming posts. The issue in the Keys is depth, depth, depth. We draw just enough that sheltered anchorages are few in prevailing winds on the Hawk Channel side (south). Since marinas are full, this puts us traveling in worsening weather (more thunder, more heat) later this spring. Still think we’ll go, just haven’t thought out the details yet.

NoAnc

200 foot setbacks to destroy limited available anchorages

This trip came as the hateful and greedy along Florida’s waterways have introduced a Bill to destroy anchoring out in Eastern Florida pretty much as predicted here and in many other blogs. There is no reason to believe they won’t succeed this time since they have a whole session to correct the blundering blunderbuss approach they took last session; still, the demonization of cruisers continues.

Since marinas and mooring field owners have a vested interest in killing off anchoring,  and having attended the public FWC sessions regarding this in the past months, we don’t have a lot of hope this situation will end up in respectful compromise.

Coming Up, Mrs. Mac’s, Fish Tales, Lazy Days, and Harriettes.