Monthly Archives: May 2011

Time for Book Group

My book group met this week at my house to discuss our latest selection, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This highly readable book is about an African-American woman from 1950’s Baltimore, whose cervical cancer cells turned out to be incredibly virulent and prolific. Her cells, HeLa cells, have been widely used in scientific research for 50 years. The book tells about her personal history and covers a range of bioethical issues . Howard, my molecular biologist husband, gave a brief lecture about some of the science we didn’t understand. The book provided great food for thought for lively discussion.

What would you provide for snacks that have some sort of loose connection to book’s theme? It was a stretch. Initially, I thought I’d serve a variety of twisted food, like cheese straws and some kind of cookie twists. The twists were meant to be reminiscent of the double helix of DNA. OK, I know, it’s a stretch.

In the end, I went in a different direction, drawing on Baltimore as the inspiration.

Baltimore = Maryland = Crabs

When I visited my Maryland sister a couple weeks back, we had an amazing warm crab dip for an appetizer before dinner at Mick’s New American Bistro in Frederick. It was creamy and crabby with a hint of sherry and a cheesy topping like French onion soup. That seemed like something to try to replicate.

It’s hard to find actual Maryland crab, so used Southeast Asian crab. I would have used lump crabmeat, which I can find at Costco, but I shopped at Trader Joe’s. They only had claw crabmeat. It worked fine, though lump would have been even better.

My dip was popular with the book group. I served it with Stacy’s pita chips, but it would be good on any sturdy crackers. It would probably be good on vegetables too. This made more than we needed for half a dozen ladies, so making a half recipe for a smaller group would be a good idea.

Crab Dip

8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sliced scallions
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp sherry
1 tsp Old Bay Spice
½ tsp Tabasco
1 lb crabmeat, drained
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except the grated cheese. Transfer to a 1 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake 30 minutes, until dip is bubbly and cheese is melted and golden brown.

Royal Scones

I don’t really know what’s going on this month. It’s nuts. Work is busy, though that’s normal, and my extra-curricular calendar is out of control. Next weekend, being Memorial Day, will kick off a summer of weekends at the lake, which could either way – forced relaxation or an increase to the mania. Time will tell.

I feel like I’ve barely been cooking or blogging beyond the weekly French Friday challenges, but here’s a quick one. The recent royal wedding left me with a craving for scones. Scones are probably my favorite quick bread. They’re personal-sized, not too sweet, and perfect with a cup of tea for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. I put together these almond-cardamom scones, featuring two of my favorite flavors. The recipe is loosely based on the recipe for Cardamom Shortcakes (as in Strawberry Shortcakes) from In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley.

Almond-Cardamom Scones
Inspired by Regan Daley
Makes 1 dozen

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
½ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup half-and-half (plus a little more for brushing tops of scones)
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top of scones
¼ cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, and salt a few time to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal.

Transfer the flour mixture to a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg and half-and-half. Stir until the dough just comes together. It will be sticky.

Divide the dough in half. On a floured surface with floured hands, pat each half into a circle about ¾-inch thick (about 6 inches in diameter). Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Arrange the scones on the lined baking sheet. Brush the tops of each with half-and-half. Sprinkle with sugar. Top with sliced almonds. Press the almonds lightly to make them stick.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.