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Monday, September 14, 2009

Picnic done right: Hot Lobster Rolls

Having lived in Florida for a good part of my life, I have come to appreciate the beach and a great sunset. The other Sunday, BD and I combined three of my favorite things for dinner: a sunset, hot lobster rolls, and champagne.

Hot lobster rolls are one of my all-time favorite dishes. In fact, I would die a happy woman if it’s my last meal. Many people are only familiar with the cold rolls which is usually lobster mixed with mayo and some other ingredients. I am anti-mayo. I’ve never liked it and the few times I’ve eaten plain (by accident, I’ll add) I’ve broken out in hives.

Anyway, a hot lobster roll is lobster, a hotdog-like bun, and butter. Lots of glorious butter! Lobster rolls, both hot and cold, I sort of consider regional fare. Reason why is it’s hard to find as a regular menu item anywhere outside of New England. And apparently, hot lobster rolls are more popular in CT than the rest of New England. Below is the “recipe” on how to prepare your own hot lobster roll. If you like lobster, I really recommend you trying this one day.

Hot Lobster Rolls

(print the recipe)
- Lobster, 1/3 pound of fresh picked lobster per person
- Hotdog rolls
- A good amount of butter, melted

1 -Melt your butter slowly in a sauce pan over med-low heat
2 –Add your lobster to the butter. Allow to slowly warm for about 10 minutes or so, depending on how much lobster you have.
3- Once hot, strain butter and place in bun.
Be sure to have some other melted butter on side for dipping!

In addition to the lobster rolls, we purchased some pasta salad from our local grocery store. We chose tomato and basil pasta salad that also had grated parmesan cheese and onions with an Italian dressing. It was very tasty, and a great side for our picnic.

And of course there was plenty of sunset and champagne!

So pretty!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Never-ending Scallions

I picked up a neat little trick from this past season of The Next Food Network Star. Melissa d’Arabian (who was the winner) spoke about taking scallions and placing the ends, or white part, in a glass of water so they could regenerate. I was intrigued by this because I love any opportunity to save some money. A few weeks later, I had purchased some scallions and took her advice and gave it a try.

Turns out, it works really well. In fact, I’ve had to cut them back a couple times because they grow so quickly. After the first trim I made, I decided to take some pictures to share. These pictures were taken just one week apart. All I did was leave them in a glass cup on my kitchen window sill which gets a decent amount of afternoon sun. I change the water about once a week.

One week later.....

Pretty crazy, huh? I haven't a chance to catch Melissa's show yet, but I'm planning on it to catch any other neat tips she may have.

Summer days gone by

As I mentioned in an earlier post, summers in my childhood felt exactly like what they should be for any kid in America. Nothing beats summer in New England – nothing. Looking back it almost seemed perfect in every kind of way. While I miss my family dearly, one of the things I always look forward to going back home for is the food. Moreover, it seems that when summer rolls around I start to get a craving for certain things that only you can get there. The particular two I’m even thinking of you can only get in summer as well. And now that summer in many parts of the country is coming to a close, I’m starting to regret not taking a trip up there.

My little home town is a summer beach town. In the winter there are only 6-7 thousand people, but it would nearly double in the summer when the families from NY, MA or upstate CT would come to down for summer vacation. My father hated this because it meant more traffic for him. I loved it because it meant more kids my age and lots of fun things to do.

Every time I go home I have a list of things I MUST have. Most of which I can’t get here in Tampa, or I can, but it pales in comparison. The list includes: New Haven Pizza, hot lobster rolls (no mayo – just hot butter), Rhode Island Clam Chowder (yes there is such a thing and it’s heavenly), steamers, the best donuts and Italian ices. There are also a few specific restaurants in the area I always try to get to as well. While a majority of my must have lists are available in winter; Beach Donuts and Vecchitto’s Italian Ices are the two items that are only available in the summer months. In general, you can get them from Memorial to Labor Day, and sometimes not even during the week – only on the weekends. Maybe it’s the fact that over the last few years I’ve only been home in the winter months that is making me yearn for these things even more.

Beach Donuts: Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts have nothing on this little place. Never in my life have I had a donut as perfect as these. Freshly made every morning, I can still smell the hot sugar that would seep out of this little shop. In my childhood, it was only a walk-up store with all the donuts lined up in front of you in a glass case. All kinds too: glazed, jelly, chocolate covered, soft-raised cinnamon, lemon filled, powdered sugar…. I could go on and on and on. Once you got there you had to wait in line, which would be about 3-4 people deep and there was usually several lines. Then you gave your order to the clerk and they would grab the donuts that were right in front of you from under the glass. If you were smart you called the day before and pre-ordered what you wanted because this little shop would sell out fast. Many donuts would be sold out by 9am and the whole shop by 11am or noon. And it always sucked when the very last donut of the kind you wanted was nabbed by a clerk waiting on a different customer. At that point, you just simply have to wait for tomorrow.

My favorites were the soft-raised cinnamon and the lemon filled. But as my dad always says: There really isn’t a bad one. We would get the crullers because they were twice the size of a regular round donut for the same price. The inside would be light, fluffy, and still slightly warm. The outside had a very thin crusty layer… just perfect. I really got spoiled as a kid eating those.
Vecchitto’s Italian Ice: I’ve had other Italian Ices but these are truly in a class all their own. An “Ice” should not be rock hard as you’ll sometime find. No, it should be as soft and as smooth as ice cream.

My father enjoyed these when he was a kid and if I’m lucky I can share them with my kids some day – if I ever have any. My father’s favorite is the almond, but mine is either lemon or lemon-lime as I have a soft spot for sour things. They have other flavors such as chocolate, root beer, cherry, watermelon, and so on. They also have grape which I believe to be my first Ice. If it wasn’t really my first, it’s at least the first I can remember. I recall my father and me down at the beach, and it was a hot summer day with a lot of the summer kids running around. I can clearly remember waiting in line (it’s a walk-up only location) and then my dad asking me what kind I wanted. I was about 4 or 5 and I saw a boy a few years older than me eating a purple ice. So I told my dad I wanted a purple one and the boy said (rather snotty I might add): “its called grape”. Well, excuse me!

It’s so hard to describe how these taste, but they are pretty damn tasty: cold, smooth like ice cream, refreshing, and just sweet enough. They serve them in little paper mini cups that are soft so that as you eat the ice you can squeeze the paper together to push the ice up and suck out every last drop that is left. I would take one of those over any flavor of ice cream any day.

For a really great article on Vecchitto’s and some history of this family owned and operated business here is a great article from the New York Times circa 2002.

Now that I’m done being nostalgic about food, I find that I really miss home. While I have lived in Tampa for 19 years now, CT is still my home.
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