Thursday, June 29, 2017

Garlic Cocktail Bread with Crab Salad

Crostini, in general, is the most versatile and popular finger food appetizer. Indeed, what can be more convenient and delicious than dollop of salad on a top of toasted bread. Here is one of my favorite crostini appetizers - toasted, garlic rubbed, cocktail bread with a swirl of crab stick salad.

Blog's Category: Appetizer, Effortless, Finger Food, Healthy, Holidays, Hors D'oeuvre, My Own Fast and Easy, My Staple Food, Seafood, Vegetarian

In a Few Words ...

- Of course, you can top those toasted pieces of cocktail bread with one of your favorite salad. Just keep in mind that the most suited salads are those with creamy dressing to prevent bread to become soggy and break in a hands of your guests. Try this crab salad I like to make for this crostini - it's delightful combination of crab sticks with freshness of cucumber and cilantro, dressed in lime infused mayonnaise.

- I use Kani crab sticks, which I buy at my local Asian store. Most likely, you'll find them in refrigerator section. This type of crab sticks separates into long strands easily and has beautiful flavor. If you use regular crab sticks from a grocery around the corner, I would suggest to grate it using coarse side of a grater. 

- By the way, if you can, you can splurge on a real thing - real crab meat. If not, I can assure, you'll be happy with your crab salad as I offering below. By the way, you know that crab imitation sticks are made of real fish, right?

Garlic Cocktail Bread with Crab Salad

  • about 20 pieces of rye (or other) cocktail bread
  • 5-10 garlic cloves (yes, you'll be surprised how much it takes for rubbing)
  • 1 pack of kani crab sticks, thawed, peeled from plastic wrap and separated into strands
  • 1 english cucumber, unpeeled and  julienned (do not use the central seedy part of cucumber)
  • 4-5 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  • zest from 1 small lime
  • 1+1 tbs nice mayonnaise
  • black pepper
- Toast bread.

- Rub bread with a garlic. For a strong garlic flavor, rub both sides. 

- Place garlic toasts on a shallow serving plate and spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto each piece.

- Sprinkle julienned cucumber with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, mix and let it stend for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare crab sticks - peel them from a plastic wrap and separate into strands. Now, rinse cucumber well from a salt and squeeze to remove extra liquid.

- Using two forks, mix salad ingredients together - crab sticks, cucumber, lime zest, mayo, black pepper, cilantro.

- To assemble, spin a little bit of salad onto a fork, like it would be spaghetti, and drop it on a prepared pieces of bread.

- Enjoy!

In Pictures

You need to remove excess of liquid from a cucumber by sprinkling it first with a salt and then rinsing and squeezing it. This way your crab salad won't make bread soggy.

Kani crab sticks are piece of cake to separate into strands. Plus, these crab sticks has strong delightful flavor.

Don't forget to rinse cucumber from salt and squeeze nicely. Then, you can even dab it with a dry paper towel (I didn't do that).

I toast my bread in a regular toaster, dropping two pieces in a one slot, meanwhile working on a salad. As pieces are toasted, I like to make them "stand" on a paper towel to cool down to stay crisp.

Don't worry about salad leftovers, it's never go to waste ;)

Rub toasted bread with garlic. You will need quite a few cloves.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Chicken Breast and Spinach Meatloaf

It's not your regular meatloaf, it's a king of all meatloaves. You will agree with this strong statement after you are going to try this recipe. With just a few ingredients, you can perfect your meatloaf skills and, perhaps, add another recipe to your family favorites.   

Blog's Category: Chicken, Healthy, My Own Fast and Easy

In a Few Words ...

- I was about to make my usual chicken breast patties called "kotleti" but got lazy.. After all scooping mix, forming patties, frying them... Too much work, I thought, and decided to make meatloaf. For an oven baked meatloaf, it is important to add ingredient that will prevent meatloaf from being dry. Spinach, I had at a time in my fridge and couple splashes of cream will definitely make my meatloaf juicy and delicious. It was a great idea - meatloaf turned very good, tender, juicy, flavorful.

- As any meatloaf, this meatloaf is a great choice for potluck, picnic or party at a park. It is great served with any side of your choice. On my pictures, you are seeing meatloaf, still warm, on a piece of multi-grain crisp bread and also with a side of rice, generously drizzled with chili oil.

Chicken Breast and Spinach Meatloaf

  • 1 large bunch of spinach
  • 1 lb chicken breast, ground
  • eggs
  • 1/2 c cream
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground
  • olive oil to grease a baking dish
  • 1/3 c grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- Preheat an oven to 380F.

- Blanch spinach in a boiling water for a few seconds. Drain, then rinse under cold water, squeeze nicely to get rid of extra water and chop. 

- In a large bowl, mix together ground chicken breast, chopped spinach, cream, eggs, salt and pepper.

- Transfer meat mixture into oiled baking dish, top with a parmesan and cook in an oven for about 40 minutes or until it is completely cooked through and top is golden-brown.

- Remove from oven, let it rest for about 15 minutes and enjoy!

In Pictures

Here you see one of my favorite tools - dough mixer, sturdy wired heavy-duty hand mixer  I use it to mix thick mixes, when spoon or whisk are just not good enough to do a job.

It's a good thing I made a double batch... meatloaf disappeared in no time :)

Meatloaf on a top of rice, drizzled with my Szechuan chili oil..

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Best Banana Bread

It is not just the best recipe for banana bread. It is an easy one and very reliable recipe. Every time I make this banana bread, it comes out really, really good.

Blog's Category: Dessert, Kid's Favorite, Vegetarian

In a Few Words ...

- I tried numerous recipes of banana bread, including pretty healthy versions with whole wheat flour, olive oil, honey, maple syrup, some of them with raisin, some with nuts, some with or without both. The only recipe a 100% approved by all my folks was this one, simple, traditional one with butter, all-purpose flour and walnuts, with a nice sugary and crunchy top.

The Best Traditional Banana Bread

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 bananas
  • 1.5 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of walnuts, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • some butter and flour for greasing and dusting of baking pans
  • 2 -3 tbs Demerara sugar (or brown sugar) for topping
- Preheat an oven to 330F.

- Prepare baking pan by greasing it thoroughly with butter and then dusting with flour. If you use silicon pan, you don't have to do this. 

- In a large bowl, cream together soft butter and sugar - using processor will make it easier and faster. Add eggs, mix nicely. Add vanilla, stir.

- Using potato masher, mash bananas and mix them into the mix above.

- In a separate bowl mix flour with salt, baking soda, baking powder and walnuts. Combine your banana/butter mix with flour mix just until combined together, do not over-mix.

- Transfer to a pan, sprinkle Demerara (or brown) sugar on top and bake for about 40 minutes or until wooden stick will come out dry when tested for doneness.

- Remove from oven, let it cool down a little bit, for about 5-10 minutes, then carefully remove from a pan and let it cool down completely on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

In Pictures

I usually make 1.5 batch.. so here are 6 bananas...

For a 1.5 batch I use two loaf pans and fill them in half.


Omit walnuts if you don't like them, or replace with dry fruits, such as raisin or cranberry, or other kind of nuts.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Beef Brisket with Matzo Balls

On a wave of Jewish cooking, let's cook beef brisket! And what can be better side to our brisket than matzo balls, tenderly comforting, in a flavorful, rich brisket sauce. Here is "hit, no miss" recipe for all these goodness.

Blog's Category: Holidays, International, Jewish

In a Few Words ...

- Beef Brisket is a Jewish cuisine staple. The must at many holiday celebrations, especially on Passover. Don't be intimidated by the size and seriousness of this dish - it's actually simple and easy to make a good brisket, it just takes time, about 6 hours, to sweat and get great in your oven, so start in a morning ;)

- The perfect side to our brisket, matzo balls, can be prepared and cooked in advance. Then, they can be kept in a shallow container, in a little or even no broth, covered, in a fridge for up to two days. Don't worry they won't stick together. Before serving, warm them up in a microwave and serve on a same plate as your beef brisket, drizzled with a brisket sauce from a pan. Recipe for a best matzo balls (IMHO) is here: Matzo Balls recipe

Beef Brisket

  • about 3-pound beef brisket
  • 1 tbs olive oil (or other oil) for frying
  • 2 large onions
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of water
- Preheat an oven to 280F.

- Cut off any access of fat from brisket, but make sure to leave layer of about 1/3" of fat on.

- Heat large skillet, add oil and sear your beef brisket on both sides until golden brown.

- Place brisket in an oven-proof pan, fatty side up. Don't cover, set aside.

- Add sliced onion to the same skillet and cook until soft. Add garlic, cook on a medium heat for about one minute, then add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, on a low heat, for about 5 minutes.

- Pour sauce over brisket, cover pot with a lid (or cover tightly with a foil) and cook at 280F for about 5 hours.

- Turn heat to 370F, remove the lid, and cook for about 30 minutes until caramelized on top. Watch carefully not to burn, in your oven it may take faster :)

- When done, remove from the oven, cover with a lid and let it stand for about 20 minutes before slicing and serving. Don't forget to pour plenty of that sauce over sliced beef and matzo balls. Enjoy!

In Pictures

It looks small.. In fact it was a large-ish piece on brisket inside of a 12" skillet :)

This is brisket right after 5-hour cooking, uncovered, before final 30-minute caramelizing.

..and after caramelizing.. Done.

Turn on your computer's "smell" function.. It smells awesome. Also color of sauce is great too.