Spicy Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

Spicy Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

You know what makes me happy every year in early November? A mountain of Dungeness crab meat. When the crabbing season opens and those first boats leave the harbor with their crab traps, us West-coasters know we’re in for a treat.

In my town I think the best place to eat Dungeness crab is little place out on the wharf called Stagnaro’s. Downstairs there is a fish market with a walk-up counter where you can order a crab or shrimp cocktail, a burger, or a whole fish or fresh live crab to take home with you. Inside is a casual sit-down seafood restaurant. But the real treat (and where we love to take out of town visitors) is the upstairs bar, which has an outdoor deck, a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay, and a mean Dungeness crab cocktail. For some reason, the deck is usually vacant, but we have no idea why. It may be a little breezy out there and the seagulls can be loud, but it’s hard to beat the view of the ocean. Look one direction and you see our lighthouse proudly perched on the end of the cliffs with Cowell’s and Steamers (popular surf spots) down below. Look the other direction and you take in a view of the Boardwalk, the sandy beaches dotted with tourists, locals, and beach volleyball enthusiasts alike, and the Santa Cruz mountains standing tall in the background. If you’re lucky, you’ll look down at the water just below you and watch a sea otter eat a sea urchin, or a pack of sea lions splashing and bellowing. All of this while digging into a fresh Dungeness crab cocktail, biting into a warm buttered sourdough roll, and sipping a local pale ale. Sound enticing?

These open-faced sandwiches are piled high with  fresh crab meat that’s been mixed with chopped marinated artichokes, green onions, just enough mayonnaise to hold it together, some lemon zest, and a little minced jalapeño for heat. You top them with sharp cheddar, stick them under the broiler, and you have a satisfying meal that celebrates both the crustacean it highlights and the season.

The recipe comes from a cookbook that I received as a gift from my Grandma who lives in Alaska. It is a collection of stories and recipes from female commercial fisherwomen. The only changes we made to the original recipe were adding a little lemon zest to the crab mixture (because I think lemon and crab are a match made in heaven), using sourdough bread instead of french bread (just a personal preference), and buttering the bread before broiling (why not?). Our changes are noted below. Not in the mood for a spicy sandwich? Simply add less jalapeño or leave it out completely.

We went the economical and labor-intensive route by purchasing a whole Dungeness crab and taking the meat out ourselves (just ask your butcher to crack and clean it for you and it will make the process easier). You can buy Dungeness crab meat, but the price per pound will be slightly more because of the labor involved. It’s up to you! If you can’t find Dungeness crab, substitute whatever crab meat is available to you.

Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

Spicy Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

Spicy Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

(Slightly adapted from The Fishes & Dishes Cookbook; Makes 4 Servings)

1 1/2 cups shelled crab meat, shredded
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 TBS. minced fresh jalapeño
1 tsp. minced garlic
a couple pinches of fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 green onion, white and light green parts, sliced
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 large slices of sourdough bread from a round sourdough loaf
butter
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

  • Preheat the broiler and set the rack on the middle level.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the crab meat, artichoke hearts, jalapeño, garlic, lemon zest, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, green onion, salt and pepper.
  • Lightly butter the sourdough bread slices on both sides and place under the broiler until lightly golden. Turn them over and broil until other side is lightly golden. Remove from oven and spread each toasted slice of bread with the crab-artichoke mixture. Top with cheddar cheese. Place the open-faced sandwiches back under the broiler and cook until topping is hot and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.
Dungeness Crabs (photo from Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Dungeness Crabs (photo from Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Caprese Grilled Cheese


Pardon our absence! It’s been a whirlwind of a summer, but I know that our blog readers are awesome and will forgive us.

It started with the passing of my dear Grandma, and that’s all I can say about that right now, because I’d prefer to write this blog post with clear eyes.

And then our whole family had the privilege of being involved in the wedding of two wonderful friends. Levi made his first ring bearer debut, I had my first bridesmaid experience (and first ever manicure – thanks, Miriam!), and Dustin was a groomsman. It was a truly joyful event!

Throw several bridal showers into the mix (from Modesto to Mill Valley, all the way down to San Diego), a toddler who has officially entered the terrible twos (though I’m still incredibly blessed to be his mommy – I love seeing how his personality is blooming), and the fact that the whole family is gearing up for Discretion Brewing‘s opening this fall, and you have a summer that basically  flew by in the blink of an eye. You also have what might have been the world’s longest run on sentence. So I’m a little rusty, folks, but it’s okay, because I really just want to share this grilled cheese recipe with you. We ate it voraciously this evening.

Fall is approaching, and we must embrace tomatoes while we still can! This grilled cheese sandwich consists of two kinds of tomatoes – a yellow heirloom  and a red dry farmed variety, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil from our garden, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. What makes it extra special? The bread. I spread sliced sweet french bread with butter, and seasoned it with garlic powder and oregano. So, basically you have two pieces of garlic bread sandwiching your Caprese salad – a cool center and a warm outside. Now that’s going out (of summer) with a bang.

As we bid farewell to summer (wait, I blinked – what happened to it?) and say hello to fall, a season near and dear to my heart, I may not be posting quite as frequently, as we are all working hard towards our brewery’s opening (stay on top of our progress and find out our opening date on our Facebook page!) But when I’m not crazy-busy, I will continue to share with you what’s coming out of our kitchen.

Bon Appetite and Cheers, dear readers!


Caprese Grilled Cheese

4 Slices French bread
Butter (salted is preferred), at room temperature
Garlic powder
Dried oregano
Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
Heirloom and/or dry farmed tomatoes, sliced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh, whole basil leaves

  • Preheat your broiler.
  • Spread your bread slices on both sides (gasp!) with butter. Season with garlic powder and oregano.
  • Place buttered/seasoned slices on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler and broil until nice and golden. Flip, and broil until the other side is golden. Remove baking sheet from oven. Turn off broiler and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • On two of the bread slices, pile on sliced mozzarella and sliced tomatoes. Season the tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add the fresh basil leaves. Top with the remaining two slices of bread. Return to oven for just a few minutes. The middle of the sandwich will still be cool (like a caprese salad) but you want to warm up the bread just a little before serving. Enjoy! Makes 2 caprese grilled cheese sandwiches.

Argentine Hot Dogs (with Chimichurri, Pickled Red Onions, Marinated Queso Fresco & Chorizo)


It’s nearing the end of summer, and you’ve probably had your share of hot dogs, but these Argentine dogs are as far from yellow mustard and ketchup as you can get.  Grilled all-beef hot dogs get an array of colorful and flavorful toppings: a verdant chimichurri with the addition of finely chopped sweet red and yellow peppers and grated carrot, sweet and tangy pickled red onions, queso fresco marinated in olive oil and yellow flecks of lemon zest, and spicy ground chorizo. Yes, chorizo on a hot dog. It’s a hot dog elevated to a new level.

I came across this recipe when I was reading the food section in our local newspaper. I made only a few changes. I thought these dogs deserved something better than your typical white hot dog bun, so we bought some soft steak rolls, cut them in half lengthwise and made a slit in each half, creating hot dog buns with some substance. I also went in a different direction with the pickled onions. The original recipe calls for pouring a simple syrup and grenadine over them, but since I didn’t have any grenadine and didn’t have a need for buying a whole bottle, I decided to just use my method for quick cucumber pickles (adding a little vinegar, agave nectar, and salt), but adding more agave nectar to make the onions sweeter, in order to counter-balance the acidity in the chimichurri. The chorizo adds the perfect amount of spice, and the marinated queso fresco adds a cooling, creamy counterpoint. See why this hot dog is in a different dimension?


Levi especially enjoyed these hot dogs. I wish we had taken a picture, but his plate contained a de-constructed version of an Argentine hot dog. The pieces of hot dog and queso fresco disappeared first, but he seemed to enjoy all the components of this meal!

The pickled onions and the marinated queso fresco are made the night before, and the chimichurri can be made the morning of, so everything comes together quickly at dinner time. All you have to do is cook the chorizo, grill the hot dogs, and assemble! Make these Argentine hot dogs while the grill is still out. Quick! Summer is fleeting.


Argentine Hot Dogs

(Slightly adapted from the San Jose Mercury News, original recipe by Carole Wendling; Serves 2)

For the Chimichurri:

1/2 a bunch of parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 TBS. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. crushed garlic
1/4 cup finely diced red and yellow peppers
2 tablespoons grated carrot

For the Pickled Red Onions:

1/2 red onion, sliced
2 TBS. white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
agave nectar to taste
Kosher salt to taste

For the Marinated Queso Fresco:

4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Salt, pepper to taste

To Assemble:

2 grilled beef hot dogs
1 sweet or sour steak roll – cut in half lengthwise, with a slit cut into each half to form 2 hot dog “buns”
4 ounces ground chorizo, cooked


Wow – that’s a long list of ingredients, I know! But everything is so easy to make. Here we go …

  • To make the pickled onions, place the sliced onions in a bowl and add the vinegar. Add a good drizzle of agave nectar (or you can use honey or sugar) and season with a little salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more sweetener if needed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Combine the marinated queso fresco ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Make the chimichurri. Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor; pulse to pesto-like consistency. Season to taste with salt. Fold in peppers and carrot. Set aside. Can be made several hours ahead. Cover and chill. Take out of refrigerator 1 hour before serving.
  • Lightly toast the buns on the grill, grill the hot dogs, and top with cooked, crumbled chorizo, chimichurri, pickled red onions, and marinated queso fresco.

Lamb & Sweet Onion Pitas with Orange-Cucumber Salad

It’s no surprise that we’ve been busy lately! Levi’s been crawling for about a month now, so dinners have had to be quick and easy to throw together while he zooms around the kitchen. These pitas are great for a weeknight because they are as quick to prepare as tacos but more exotic-tasting. Cinnamon-spiced ground lamb is topped with sweet caramelized onions, a refreshingly bright orange and cucumber salad with mint, and a dollop of cool Greek yogurt. A warm, chewy pita holds everything together for ease of eating! (And keeps one hand free for feeding bites to a baby).


Levi is quite the eater! We’ve moved away from purees at dinnertime (he was getting bored with them and much more interested in what was on our plates – do you blame him?) and now he pretty much eats whatever we eat for dinner. He loved each little bite that I made for him of pita, ground lamb, and a little greek yogurt (which somehow ended up on his forehead :))


Lamb & Sweet Onion Pitas with Orange-Cucumber Salad

(From the Feb/Mar 2011 issue of Fine Cooking)

2-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. ground lamb
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large oranges
1 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh mint
2 pitas, halved and very lightly toasted
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • Heat 1-1/2 TBS. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add about three-quarters of the onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onion to a small bowl; set aside.
  • Cook the lamb, cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in the skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes; drain well.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining raw onion and transfer to a large bowl. Cut the peels and pith from the oranges. Working over a bowl to collect the juice, cut the orange segments free from the membranes. Cut the segments into chunks. Add the oranges, orange juice, cucumber, vinegar, mint, and the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the chopped raw onion; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Fill the pitas with the lamb and cooked onions. Add some of the orange-cucumber salad and a dollop of yogurt. Serve the remaining salad on the side.

Turkey Parmesan Burgers


Personally, I think eating something between two slices of toasted french bread makes it much more delicious and comforting. For example, meatloaf. I love it on its own, but it’s even better the next day in a sandwich! Same goes for meatballs, fried eggs or even calamari. And now I can add Chicken Parmesan to that list.

Both Dustin and I saw the picture of Chicken Parmesan Burgers in the March issue of Bon Appetit and agreed we had to make them this week. When we went to the store, the butcher was out of ground chicken, but turkey worked just fine! Patties flavored with a little marinara sauce, minced basil, and grated onion are rolled in a mixture of breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan and pan fried, which gives them a nice crispy texture and that distinctive Chicken Parmesan taste. Add your favorite jarred marinara sauce (we opted for Newman’s Own Organic) and some mozzerella cheese and you have your favorite Italian entrée in sandwich form. Some fresh basil leaves add a nice finishing touch, and I’m glad I gave the radicchio a chance (I’m not usually a huge radicchio fan like Dustin is) because its slight bitterness was actually good with the sweetness of the marinara. This recipe serves 4. Try it tonight!

Turkey (or Chicken) Parmesan Burgers

(From the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit)

10 1/2-inch-thick slices French bread (4 inches in diameter); 8 slices toasted, 2 slices (crust removed) diced
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons minced fresh basil, divided, plus 12 large basil leaves
3/4 cup purchased marinara sauce
3/4 lb. ground chicken (white meat) or ground turkey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
4 large radicchio leaves
  • In a food process, blend diced bread and Parmesan to form fine crumbs. Transfer to pie dish; mix in 2 tablespoons minced basil.
  • Mix marinara and 2 tablespoons basil in small saucepan. Transfer 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce to large bowl. Add chicken, 1/2 tablespoon oil, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle with pepper; blend. Shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties; coat with crumbs. Heat sauce over low heat.
  • Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook patties until bottoms are crusty, 4 minutes. Turn patties over; top with cheese. Cook 3 minutes. Cover; cook until cooked through and cheese is melted, about 1 minute.
  • Assemble burgers with bread, radicchio, basil leaves, and warm marinara.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi


I recently learned about banh mi from reading various food magazines in the past year. It’s basically a Vietnamese-French sub sandwich. A crusty baguette holds flavorful fillings (such as pork meatballs, barbecued or shredded pork), mayo, pickled daikon and carrots for a little crunch and tang, and sliced jalapeños to add the perfect heat. Bon Appetit’s recipe features a kick-ass Sriracha mayo that will surely please your palate, especially if you’re as obsessed with the spicy condiment as we are. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can make the mayo and the meatballs the day before, and throw everything together very quickly the day of. Then sit back and enjoy the familiar chewiness and crunchiness of a French baguette with sweet, sour and spicy Vietnamese flavors. These cultural hybrid sandwiches are definitely going to be made again around here! The recipe below makes 4 sandwiches.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

(From the  January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit)

For the Sriracha Mayo:

2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)

For the Meatballs:

1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

For the Sandwiches:

2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)*
Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

* 10 inches sounded a little excessive to us. If I go to Subway, I’m a 6-inch sub kind of gal. So cut the bread according to your appetite! Also, the recipe doesn’t say to, but we toasted our rolls in the oven before assembling the sandwiches.

  • Stir all ingredients for the Sriracha mayo in a small bowl. Season with salt. This can be done 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Next, prepare the meatballs. Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. Meatballs can also be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Toss the grated carrot and daikon with the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.
  • Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes.
  • Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell (we skipped this step and were still able to assemble our sandwiches just fine — it depends on the density of your baguette).
  • Spread Sriracha mayo over each bread shell. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro on top of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place on top of the sandwiches, pressing down on baguette tops. Enjoy!

Turkey-Pesto Burgers with Grilled Onions

Do you ever go to the store with no idea of what you want to make for dinner? Last Monday was one of those days. I went to the Butcher counter and started to panic because it was almost my turn and I couldn’t focus: Hmm…that fish looks nice and fresh…So do those steaks…Dustin would like steak…But I feel like chicken…hmm…boneless and skinless chicken thighs…Would those be good on the BBQ?…no…oh, ground meats…what about … ?? “Can I help you?” The butcher asked, startling my train of thought. So I asked for the thing that was right in front of me – ground turkey thighs. Whew. Now that the protein was taken care of, things started to fall into place in my brain. I remembered that we had fresh basil at home, as well as tons of mizuna so I immediately thought of pesto and went straight to the bulk aisle for walnuts to add to it.

So that was my boring thought process of how I ended up mixing pesto into our turkey burgers. The result was a really moist, flavorful burger. I called Nikita (if you haven’t noticed, we love to cook and eat dinner together) to inform her of the menu, and soon she came over to enjoy them with us, bringing with her some summery micro brews and a bag of Kettle Chips (our favorite flavor “Buffalo Bleu”). We ate our burgers on sesame-wheat buns (brushed with olive oil and lightly grilled), with sliced tomato, grilled white onions, and mayo. They were sort of messy (think Carls’ Jr. ads) but delicious. I can’t wait to see what happens next time I’m under pressure at the meat counter!

Turkey-Pesto Burgers with Grilled Onions

2-3 cups of basil leaves, washed and dried*
a big handful of walnut pieces, lightly toasted in a skillet
1 clove of garlic
a handful of Parmesan cheese
juice of 1/2 a lime
about 1/4 cup of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. ground turkey
hamburger buns of your choice
1 sweet white onion, sliced into thick rings
tomato slices
mayo

*I didn’t have quite enough basil, so I added some mizuna leaves. It gave the pesto a wonderful bite to it. You could also add arugula for the same effect.

  • First, make the pesto: Combine the basil, mizuna (if using), walnuts, garlic, Parmesan, and lime juice in a food processor. Process until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil, until it reaches a good consistency. Season with salt & pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Pour pesto into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until use (Makes about 1 cup – more than needed for the burgers, but you can freeze it if you want).
  • Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Season the top with salt & pepper. Add 3 or 4 heaping spoonfuls of pesto to the bowl. Mix with your hands until pesto is incorporated into the meat. Divide meat into 4-5 portions (depending on how thick you like your burgers), form patties, and place on a plate. Cover and chill while you prepare the grill.
  • Brush the tops and bottoms of the buns with olive oil and set aside. Brush onion slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill onions until nice and charred, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  • Grill burgers about 4-5 minutes on each side. When the burgers are almost done, grill the tops and bottoms of the buns until golden and toasty.
  • Assemble burgers how you like – we used this order: mayo, patty, grilled onions, tomato. Dig in!