Sweet and Sour Chicken

We’ve been on a little bit of a seafood binge lately. Between all the crab related dishes, and that bag of clams – I feel like we haven’t had a chance to have any landlubber favorites. So, when I came across this dish on Pinterest last week, I knew I couldn’t wait a whole week to make it – and rearranged my menu plans a bit to accommodate having this for dinner one evening.

I have so many take-out favorites that I make here at home, but sweet & sour chicken was one that’d I’d not gotten around to trying out in my own kitchen. Which is surprising, because it’s one of our favorites to order. But so often it’s disappointing. The dreaded tub of orange sauce and some frozen breaded chicken pieces – and I just paid $8 for this? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

The chicken pieces are lightly breaded in cornstarch (which is great for maintaining crispiness) and quickly fried. They are then layered with red and green peppers and fresh pineapple on a baking sheet, and doused with an awesome sweet and sour sauce that’s made from ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. The whole thing goes into the oven for a bit to finish up cooking and merry all those delicious flavors together. Served over a bed of rice, with a green vegetable – like snow peas or steamed broccoli, it’s a delicious dinner that you can feel good about serving to your family. And chances are, it also kicks the pants off of any sweet & sour chicken you’ve had in the past!

Spring Rolls

I’ve mentioned before how I have a can have a hard time finding specialty ingredients here on the Eastern Shore. Like – exotic mushrooms for instance. Whenever I take a trip to Annapolis or Virginia Beach, I always make sure to get some funky fungus that I can’t find here at home – chantarelles, oyster, trumpet. I love them all!

Thankfully a local friend has started growing her own varieties of mushrooms. I visited her last week to pick up some gorgeous oyster mushrooms (her latest harvest), and was also kind enough to show me her garden, with all kinds of delicious goodies growing. She loaded me down with peas, lettuce, onions, herbs, and broccoli greens! We enjoyed them all week long in various dishes. There’s nothing like fresh picked produce – and growing on Chincoteague Island, right on the water – you can taste the salt from the air and the soil in the veggies. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for showing us your little piece of paradise, Donna!

We enjoyed some of the mushrooms and onions sauteed, served over some thinly sliced roast beef and chevre on a baguette. But, the favorite thing that I made last week by far were these delicious spring rolls. I’ve always loved spring rolls from Chinese restaurants – but often the filling is bland and boring. My filling used the gorgeous oyster mushrooms, fresh bean sprouts, garlic scapes, shredded cabbage and carrots, as well as softened rice noodles. They turned out so delicious – rivaling my famous chicken egg rolls. Already can’t wait to make them again!

Eli's Asian Salmon

I’ve made mention of the wonderful restaurant distributor that I have here in my small town right? Sysco? I’m sure you’ve probably heard of them. They have a “cash and carry” shop, where they sell produce, fresh meats, deli items, frozen foods, etc. More often than not they have an order that’s cancelled, overstocked, expiring, slightly damaged, etc – that they’ll then sell for lock, stock, and barrel just to clear up room up in the warehouse. So, to have a friend or neighbor knock on the door with 5 lbs of feta cheese, or say…a gorgeous side of salmon, is pretty much the norm.

So when Stephanie dropped this slab of sustainable protein on me, there was one recipe that immediately popped into my mind…Eli’s Asian Salmon. I remember seeing Ina prepare this ages ago on “Barefoot Contessa”, and had always wanted to give it a go. But, a side of salmon is expensive. And, with all the other fabulous seafood options available to us…I’d just never gotten around to it, until last week.

I’m pleased to report that it’s a winner. Easy to put together and cook, and it the flavor is just wonderful. And, it came out prettier than I’d expected too! This would be perfect on a Sunday brunch buffet, or paired with something like grilled baby bok choy – it would make a lovely, light summer meal.

Crab Rangoons

On the rare occasion that we visit a Chinese buffet, these little guys are probably my favorite item on the menu. They’re savory, while being slightly sweet – and dunked in a sweet chili sauce? Definitely an appetizer worth throwing the calorie count out the window for!

Then Karole, a friend in our book club, bought these to our monthly meeting. She assembled the wontons in advance, then fried them at the meeting. It was so much fun for all of us girls to be chatting, laughing, and munching in the kitchen together! The book for that month had been “The Joy Luck Club“, and we always have a great time planning our menus around the theme of the book. This one was no exception.

Now, let me broach the subject of the imitation crab (or “krab” as I like to call it). You guys know me…I’m fortunate enough to have some form of fresh, locally-caught seafood available to me at all times. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t touch krab with a 10-foot pole. However, I’ve tried this recipe with hand-picked blue crab before…as I’d assumed it would be better. But sadly, it wasn’t. The fresh crab was just too delicate – absorbed too much grease and fell apart. The krab holds together much better, and it’s what the Chinese restaurants  use – so I’ll go with it. I would like to try it with Opelios (snow crab) or Dungies, though. I think they’d be a happy medium between the two.