If there is a drink that is synonymous with our beaches here in the summertime, it’s Orange Crushes. Harborside Bar & Grill in West Ocean City claims they are the “home” of the original. But, with these simple ingredients – it’s hard to imagine someone didn’t think of it first! You’ll find them on the menu in pretty much any place you go to around here. But, if there’s not a big bowl of oranges on the bar counter – beware!

The fresh juice is the key component here. Well, besides the vodka obviously! While I keep a box of OJ in the fridge, this isn’t the place for it. They are traditionally made with an orange press – which does add a certain something, squeezing out more of the essential oils from the peel I suppose. Never the less, a regular old citrus reamer or juicer is just dandy if you don’t have a citrus press on the ready.

Once you make one, you’ll be hooked. They’re deliciously light and refreshing on a hot summer evening!

Had originally planned another recipe to share with you today, but after enjoying this meal on Friday night – I had to share it with you guys ASAP. I’d had it on my list since I saw it in the Lee Brothers cookbook, and couldn’t wait to make it. We have a couple of fig trees (bushes?) in our yard, which produce two crops of giant, juicy figs a year. Once in the early summer, once again in the fall. They aren’t the traditional dark-skinned Mission fig that you usually find in the store, either. They have a very pithy white skin, that usually proves a bit complicated when going to make something like preserves with them, and I end up having to give them a peeling first. Didn’t matter for this dish, they just cooked right down into a delicious gravy.

And the Madiera. My God. I’m sold on this stuff as a marinating liquid! The pork has a relatively quick 1 hour soak in the Madiera, then is seared off in a cast-iron pan and finished off in the oven. Madiera is a sweet, fortified wine that I always have hanging out in my liquor cabinet. Great for a quick deglaze, and after-dinner drink, or a marinade. The sugars in the wine helped to give the most gorgeous caramelized crusts I’ve ever seen on a hunk of meat. No joke. Then, you add the marinade to the pan, along with the figs – and put it all in the oven for about 20 minutes. What comes out is sheer perfection. I served with some steamed broccoli and garlic rice pilaf. If you have figs available to you – whether in your back yard, or at the grocery store – add this to your menu plan. I can’t wait to make it again!

In the summertime here on the Eastern Shore, it’s rare to go a week without enjoying blue crabs in some way, shape, or form. Crab cakes, crab soup, or crab dip are all shining examples. But, nothing beats a good old-fashioned crab feast in my book! A big tray of freshly steamed crabs, some corn-on-the-cob, and plenty of ice cold beer. It’s just not summer without it!

Now, I know that many of you folks don’t have access to live blue crabs. But, many folks who do buy them already steamed and seasoned. And, that’s just no good! You don’t know how long ago they were cooked, and you usually end up paying more money to have them do it for you.

The steaming instructions listed below apply to any amount of live crabs – whether it be 1 dozen, or one bushel. Quantity does not matter. Bear in mind if you are steaming a whole bushel, you’ll need a very large cooking device. We have an old keg that we’ve converted to a steam-pot, and it’s great! I also recommend cooking outside if possible. A turkey frying rig is wonderful for this purpose. A side burner on a grill can usually do the job as well. I find that when I do steam them inside, it creates a funk smell in the house that lingers for a day or so. Kind of like when you fry something!

Line a table with multiple layers of newspaper, and dump the crabs right into the center of the table. Have wooden mallets and picking knives at the ready. We like to serve melted butter, and cider vinegar that’s been seasoned with plenty of Old Bay.

Strangely enough, I don’t care for cream-based soups. Keep all your chowders, and cream of mushrooms – I’m a tomato in my soup kinda gal. Jon, my husband, however – LOVES all creamy soups. And, cream of crab is right at the top of his list! The sweet cream and the crab are just perfect together, the flavors mingling and playing off each other.

It’s a quick and easy dinner to make too, which is why I love it – a light roux, a quick saute of some celery and onions, then adding the liquids and thickening. I like to add the crab in the last few minutes of cooking time. You want the meat to remain in chunks, and not disintegrate. Don’t sweat it if it does though,  it will still be delicious!

I usually do not tend to think of soups as elegant dining – but cream of crab definitely is. It’s heavier and filling, so it would be great for dinner served with a green salad. But, served in a cup and saucer it makes an impressive first course. The sherry on top is optional, but I really like the sharp bite it lends to the creamy soup. Enjoy!