Blackberry Cream Soda

The Cream Soda has long been one of my favorite cocktails. Such basic ingredients, and it tastes so darn good. I remember being shocked by how much the simple combination of Capt. Morgan’s, ginger ale, and fresh lime tasted exactly like a cream soda. You remember, those sodas from your childhood that no one else would drink? They were always the last thing floating in the cooler of ice, long after all the Cokes had been picked out. But, this one definitely isn’t for the kids…

I recently tried a bottle of Captain Morgan’s newest release, their Black Spiced Rum. It’s darker and bolder than the “OG” – but everything you love about the traditional spiced rum is still there. Notes of molasses, vanilla, and cinnamon. And smooth! An absolutely wonderful rum.

I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had a few nights “sailing away with the Captain”, and this is definitely a drink that makes it easy to do. Since I was using the Black rum, I thought it would be fun to add another “black” twist – in the form of blackberries. They added a gorgeous hue and a little pucker that I loved! But still completely tasted like a cream soda.

It’s only Monday, but I’m already looking forward to the weekend. Memorial Day is the official start of summer here at the beach, and we are all ready for it to begin!

crabimperial

Summer is just around the corner for us here on the Chesapeake, and for my family – that means bushels of crabs steamed on the regular. My dad and Jon run the trotline early on Sunday mornings, and are usually home by 10 AM with a full bushel of #1 Jimmies (or males). This year, our oldest son Andrew – who just turned five, will be old enough to go out and help man the line and net. I know everyone is excited for that!

They haven’t had a chance to go out yet this year, as the water is just starting to warm up. But, I managed to get my hands on a few to steam, and then pick to make a delicious dinner out of to share with you guys. Crab Imperial is on just about every local restaurant menu here on the Eastern Shore. It’s usually used to stuff into fish or shrimp, which of course is delicious. But a GOOD crab imperial – well, I think it’s bright enough to shine on it’s own. Lump crab, tossed with a luscious cream sauce, then baked to perfection – it’s divine. I found the cute little vintage crab dishes at a yard sale, but a ramekin or shallow au gratin dish would be just fine to bake in as well.

I’m so thankful to live in an area where my boys can experience this – learning to crab from their grandfather, who learned it from his father before him – right here on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Time to stock up on Old Bay and Boh, Maryland kiddos – summer is coming!

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.

Shrimp and Grits

Sometimes I feel like Bubba Blue from “Forrest Gump” about shrimp. Fried shrimp, steamed shrimp, shrimp tacos, shrimp salad, shrimp scampi, shrimp enchiladas, shrimp alfredo, spicy shrimp – it’s so versatile, and yet sometimes I’m left feeling like I’ve tried it all. And, that’s just crazy talk!

But frankly, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d not made the southern classic shrimp and grits in my kitchen. I hadn’t even had it until I had the opportunity to visit Charleston a few months ago for the Wine + Food Festival. I mentioned something to the young woman who was managing the prep tents for tastings – just that I hoped to get a taste of some REAL grits while there in Charleston. 5 minutes later she returned to me with the perfect little portion of shrimp & grits that they were preparing for a tasting somewhere on the Festival grounds – and it was divine. She even brought me a tub of grits milled locally on nearby Edisto Island to take home. How sweet was that? I swear, it’s the most hospitable city in the world!

Matt & Ted Lee also released their new cookbook during the festival. I had the opportunity to attend a book signing that they did, and I completely embarrassed myself proclaiming my love for their Pork Tenderloin with Madiera Fig Gravy (it’s life changing). They were all that they seemed, completely down to Earth – and just plain cool.

The Lee Bros

And of course the cookbook is fabulous. Their recipes never let me down, and this one is no exception. I loved the addition of fresh pureed tomatoes in the sauce. It adds such a bright note to a dish that’s teeming with porky savoryness and shrimpy goodness. I did add a little bit of finely diced green pepper – just because I had a half of one in the fridge. And many other recipes I’d seen incorporated it as an ingredient. And the grits – the grits! In the name of all things Holy, they were delicious. While I always associated grits with the gruel like substance on breakfast buffets, these were a world away. Perfectly thick and creamy, and just the right bed for these delicious saucy shrimp.

So, needless to say – I’m completely sold on the shrimp and grits thing. This dish will definitely be on our menu rotation relatively often. Big thanks to the good people of Charleston for introducing me to this new favorite! Now to go mail-order some more Geechie Boy Mills grits – we’ll be out before we know it!