It is time, as the media whizzes say, to get "interactive," to respond to the letters, phone calls, and alley-talk from readers.
Crab cake controversy:
One recent Sunday a neighbor confronted me in an alley, saying a crab cake recipe in my column was awful. The crab cakes the recipe produced were, she said, too hot and too salty. A few hours later another neighbor stopped me to say she and her mother had just made the crab cakes and they were delicious.
Since that day, correspondents have questioned in gentle and not-so-gentle tones my common sense, my taste buds, and whether the ingredients listed in the recipe were correct. I can report the ingredient amounts were correct. I'll dodge the other questions.
I checked the recipe out this week by going to the Turf Valley Hotel and Country Club in Ellicott City and watching chef Sean Sims make the dish. His crab cake was picked as the winner of an informal crab cake contest among area chefs one month ago. I was one of the judges.
The key to the recipe is that you do not fold all its peppery mayonnaise mixture in with the crab meat. As the original recipe said, you only fold in enough to make the cakes hold their shape. Sims used about 3 tablespoons of the peppery mixture. He saved the rest, saying it could be blended with 4 to 5 parts cream cheese and used as a crab dip. Since I want to to prowl the alleys in peace, I am reprinting the recipe with added instructions.
Sean Sims' winning crab cake
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay
1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup minced roasted peppers
1 pound lump crab meat
1 1/2 cups freshly ground bread crumbs
2 tablespoons parsley
For base, combine mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire, Old Bay, cayenne, in a mixing bowl.
Remove any shells from crab meat, reserving the lumps for a nice finished texture. Add bread crumbs (start with 1 cup, add more as needed), parsley and minced peppers until crab meat begins to hold together. Fold base mix into breaded crab, adding just enough to make crab cakes hold their shape. (You will not use all the peppery-mayo mix; 2 to 3 rounded tablespoons for 1 pound crab is usually right. Save the rest of mixture.) Lightly baste cakes with butter or cooking spray, cook in greased pan in middle of 450-degree oven until golden brown, about 8 to 12 minutes.
Lemon ice lover:
From Carter Wilkerson, Plainfield, Ind.
Re: Column on home-made ice cream
Dear Happy Eater: I am originally from Detroit, where I grew up haunting the great Jewish, Polish, Greek and Italian delicatessens. We don't have much along those lines down here, unfortunately. One of the things I missed most was being able, on a super hot day, to go into an Italian deli and come out with a cone or dish of lemon ice. It was incredibly cold and you'd get a headache eating it too fast. . . . I finally found a recipe and make it year around.
Yields 1 quart
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
L 2 tablespoons lemon zest (grated rind, the yellow part only)
Bring water, sugar and zest to soft boil, stirring frequently. Then let boil 5 minutes, untouched. Thoroughly strain zest from syrup and let cool. Add lemon juice -- sometimes adding one capful of lemon extract as well -- and freeze. Also works well with limes.
Eater responds: This sounds like a good "chaser" to fiery crab cakes.
A note from the farm:
From: Arthur and Eileen Smallsreed, Newton Falls, Ohio.
Re: Column on pesticide residues
Dear Happy Eater: We were surprised and pleased to read your column [stating] pesticide residues were not a major worry. We farmers . . . have not been able to get that message across to consumers.
Eater responds: Pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables are, I think, one of life's lower risks.