Tag Archives: crab

A Happy Autumnal Equinox

23 Sep

Something happened today that brought tears to my eyes: I found a George Winston CD.

I’ll explain.

There are bits of memories of my childhood that stand out – some more than others – but there are a few that pop up quite often, hugging me with familiarity.  One of which is listening to the Dan Fogelberg and Al Stewart CDs my parents would play when they were entertaining.  Another is dancing to Christmas music with my sister during the middle of summer in the “sunroom,” dressed in winter snowsuits.  But the one that I’m often reminded of more than the others was a simple glimpse – one of the few times as a child when I stepped back and took a reflective look at things.

We were living in Bartlesville, Oklahoma at the time (a tiny oil-driven town), and it was the middle of a bible-belt fall.  While the land was very flat, there were parts of the town where tall tress and small roads wound through the countryside.  My parents had just purchased a brand-new Lexus – it was shiny and black with slick, tan leather interior.  And it had one of those pull-down middle armrests in the back seat.  And it was big.  AND it had a tape player.  (This car leaves a specific spot on my heart, as it was the car I ended up taking to college with me.  I was the most stylish RA on campus.)

So after bringing the car home, we all piled in.  I remember not particularly wanting to go – I was probably whining about something and Jenn was always on the move, even at such a young age.  But nonetheless, the four of us piled into the car and just started driving.  We started down that windy, tree-lined road and crossed over that rickety old bridge as my dad put in a tape: George Winston’s “Autumn.”  It’s piano music, an album that my parents would listen to over and over, especially in the car.

As we drove along, my dad, in his effort to make me stop grumbling said, “Jill, just listen to this,” and turned up the volume.  At that moment, I did – I listened to the familiar melody, my elbow giving in to the slippy leather of the armrest and the turns of the car, and looked out the window at the trees going by.  Jenn was unusually still and quiet and my mom was relaxed with her head against the large tan headrest.  I listened to the music, wondering if I would ever be able to play the piano like that.  And I vividly remember looking at my dad, my mom, and my sister and realizing why we all got in the car in the first place: just to take a drive.

I don’t remember falling asleep, but I do remember waking up with my head on that armrest.  The music was over, the drive was over, and that’s where the memory fades.

Today, conveniently being the first day of fall (Rob reminded me that it’s actually the Autumnal Equinox – I love that my husband and I share nerdiness) and a day off from work, I delighted in waking up to the foggy, cool air and enjoyed a late breakfast with a friend.  Then, making the most of the quietly celebrated day, I drove down one of Oregon’s tree-lined windy roads to Bandon, a town about 30 minutes south of where we live.

Bandon has an “Old Town” area which is great for knick-knack shopping and artsy-fartsy stuff.  The first store I entered was new to me – a quaint, privately owned gift shop filled with the cutest, well, gifts I’ve ever seen.  In the mist of getting some good Christmas ideas (as well as picking up yet another cookbook – no, I don’t have enough), I turned the corner and saw a shelf of gardening books and a few eclectic CDs.  Not paying too much attention, I quickly browsed through the CDs, and there it sat: George Winston’s “Autumn.”  Just one copy.  I just looked at it.  I may have even shaken my head in disbelief.  And then, in true Jill fashion, proceeded to tell the owner the whole story behind this CD while she was ringing me up.  Yes, I was that customer.  And that happy.

Practically skipping to the car, I tore off the packaging and turned on the car.  As the first song started playing, the feeling of that familiar music, the drive, and my parents, filled me.  Again, in true Jill fashion, the tears welled up, and I had a small, sobbing moment – on the first day of fall, I was listening to “Autumn,” the most unlikely CD to find in a gift store in a teeny vacation town, remembering one of the most humble memories I have of my family.  This really is the best season.

If this is your first time reading 42potatoes, first, Welcome!, and second, this is actually a food blog.  Though this post obviously had nothing to do with food.  So, in good spirit, I’ll provide a treat: the yummy crab cocktail I had for lunch.  Super simple, super fresh, and a great combined reminder of my parents: my mom loving a good shrimp cocktail, and my dad driving miles to get good crab legs.

Delight in your memories, and delight in fall!  And eat good food!

Crab Cocktail (serves 2)

  • ½ lb. fresh, lump crabmeat (I had Dungeness, our sweet local variety)
  • a small handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 heaping tbsp prepared horseradish (I like a LOT of horseradish in my cocktail sauce – go easy if you don’t like the heat)
  • a few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
  • a few dashes of Tabasco Sauce
  • zest and juice of ½ a lemon
  • zest of a lime
  • cracked pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, to garnish

Mix all the ingredients for the cocktail sauce together (everything but the crab and tomatoes); season to taste. 

In a serving bowl, mix the crab, tomatoes, and cocktail sauce together.  Squirt with a bit more lemon, and a sprinkle of parsley, if desired. 

Listen to George Winston, and ENJOY! 

Are you ready for some football?

5 Oct

Well, Rob was.  And so were our friends.  I was more ready for the food, and the chance to entertain with some of our new wedding gifts!!!

Rob and I had our first party with some people he knew from work, who are becoming my friends, too.  In all honesty, I do enjoy watching football.  It’s a great weekend when you wake up to cool, crisp mornings with tea and toast, and end the day with beer and yelling at the TV.  The Bears lost yesterday (boo), but the company and food was a win-win situation.

Although our house is not large, we comfortably fit about 8 people, all with eyeshot of the screen while keeping a good, but not uncomfortably weird, conversation distance.  Only planning this get together a day in advance, I was channeling my two Goddesses of Entertaining: Lulu and Ina.

Lulu Powers is one of those women who writes and you believe she is permanently walking on a cloud of meringue.  Or valium.  Or maybe a blissful combination of both.  But in all seriousness and respect, her stories talk of entertaining at its best – old fashioned cocktails, the unexpected pop-up guests, the late night taco feast – you name it.  The biggest thing I took from her tips was to keep things simple – people love comfortable and familiar things anytime, but especially to make them feel comfortable and at ease in your house.

Ina Garten, oh Ina, what a classy lady.  Her cooking is fabulous, her attitude is always sunny, and I think one of the main reasons I love her is how much watching her reminds me of my Grandpa (not Ina personally… just keep reading).

About a year before he passed, I was visiting him in Long Island, NY, and he and I had a fabulous time wine tasting on the North Fork, going to a show, shopping, and of course, visiting the Hamptons.  Grandpa was an excellent businessman, and in his retired time, he was also a realtor.  So, in our trip to the Hamptons, we drove along the main drag, down the streets with the high and perfectly trimmed bushes keeping beautiful landscaping in, and looky-loos like us, out. We had dressed for the day (unspoken and understood, of course), in casual yet expensive-nice attire (I was SO happy I hadn’t yet changed out my lime green Kate Spade purse!).  We looked like we could fit in perfectly, having a crisp Sauvignon Blanc on the front stoop, listening to the ocean crash in one ear and the bay tide in and out in the other.  And we got our chance.  As we were slowly making our way down to the farthest tip of the town, like the Scarecrow pointing the way to Oz, we saw it: FOR SALE, OPEN HOUSE.  Grandpa literally stopped the car in the middle of the road (no one was behind us – it’s the Hamptons for goodness sakes).  I was wide-eyed.

“Can we go in?”  The longing in my voice was, I’m sure, unmistakable.

“Well, let’s see.”  Calm as a cucumber.  “I think, well, hmm.”  He starts to look in the center console for, what I imagined to be, his realtor cards.  No luck.  The click of the console woke me to reality – I got a glimpse of a Hamptons mansion, but only true Hamptonites would be let inside.

And then, as if he was doing what he was meant to come to the Hamptons for, Grandpa turned the car up the driveway.

“What…. what are you doing?”  My heart was literally pounding.

Grandpa’s voice was normal – his calm self, with a bit of business savvy.  “I’m a realtor, and you are my granddaughter interested in seeing Hamptons property.”

It was true.  He was.  I was.  And I was about to poop my casual yet expensive-looking pants.

We toured the house, and it was an experience I will never forget.  The highest point in the house had a “lookout room” that had a 300 degree view with the bay on one side, ocean on the other.  We could see the pool/jacuzzi combination just below, and the tennis courts off in the distance.

We left the house elated, and treated ourselves to a fabulous lunch at 75 Main (I had linguini with clams, he had chicken, and we shared an earthy local Pinot Noir).  We were Hamptonites that day (Grandpa keeping his New York cool much better than I), and I hope to one day relive a similar experience in memory of him.

So, with my nod to Lulu and Ina (and the memory of my Grandpa), I tried to entertain like the best of them – comfortable yet elegant, casual and fun, all while keeping it classy.

I stuck with the basics for the nibblies: farm carrots sliced in ranch, M&Ms, salty and buttery cashews, and the ever popular BBQ seasoned popcorn – yes, I made it from popping kernels on the stove and concocted a blend of real spices.  I knew our guests, and they aren’t huge wine drinkers, but do drink wine.  So I stuck with easy-to-drink wine, inexpensive, with neat lables – Mad Housewife, and Lucky Duck.  We also got the seasonal Pumpkin Ale and Rob’s fave, Hoptober Ale.

Being a football party, everything qualified as finger foods, and the two winners were the Crab Pizza, and Turkey Burger Sliders.  People were questionable about the Crab Pizza, but one taste of the sweet, buttery crab, with tangy cheese, and a bit of a salty bite, and they were hooked.  I must say, this is a nod to my mom, who taught me how to make the crab pizza when I was a (hardly) starving student in my apartment in college longing for her home-cooked classics.  And the Turkey Burger Sliders with some carmelized onions, bread and butter pickles, and my Sweet Mustard Sauce…. finger licking yum.

It was no linguini with clams, but I know my Grandpa, my mom, Ina, and Lulu would have been proud.  Fun, friends, good food, and good memories – what more can you ask for?  (Well, maybe the Bears to win.)

(sorry, not a lot of pics in this one – we got caught up cooking.  But trust me, it all looked – and tasted – good!)

Crab Pizza

  • 1/4 c good, precooked, crab meat (I used Dungeness, but that’s just what’s left over from season)
  • 1 brick cream cheese (8 oz), room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • about 4 dashes of Worcheshire sauce
  • prepared pizza dough (with cornmeal for dusting pizza stone)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spread pizza dough on pizza stone or sheet tray sprinkled with corn meal.  Prick with a fork many times, evenly, to keep dough thin.

Mix crabmeat, cream cheese, garlic salt, and pepper together in a bowl.  Spread evenly on top of pizza.  Dash the Worcheshire sauce on top (I do a circular pattern), and put in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until dough is golden and firm.

Let sit out of oven for a few minutes.  Then, slice and serve hot!

%d bloggers like this: