This Fish Dip is Smokin'
Every now and then you need to feed the soul.  This is a recipe/story that explains what I mean.  

I'd never been a huge fan of smoked fish dip before, but in 2010, a trip to Astoria, OR changed all that.  We were filming a sturgeon episode of Addictive Fishing.  We had been on a loooonnnng shoot that day, we were starving, tired, and running on fumes.  We called it a wrap, but we had one more stop to make.  While dropping off some gear at our camera boat driver's house, we were saying goodbye when he handed us a couple cans of home-smoked sturgeon. 

Famished and with quite a bit of a drive ahead of us, we stopped at the corner gas station, bought a can opener, some crackers and hit the road.  I cracked open the can of smoked sturgeon, tore into the sleeve of crackers and we dug in.  It was smoked sweetness that saved us!!  So good, we pulled off the main road, drove onto the beach of Astoria, and watched the sun set over the Pacific.  Truly a Zen moment.   

To this day I still believe that may be the BEST meal I've ever had!  I can't help but think of the comedic genius, but oh so true words of Eddie Murphy:  "If you're starving and somebody throw you a cracker, you gonna be like this: Goddamn, that's the best cracker I ever ate in my life! That ain't no regular cracker, was it? What was that, a Saltine? Goddamn, that was delicious. That wasn't no Saltine. That was... That was a Ritz. That wasn't a Ritz? God, that was the best cracker I ever ate in my life."

Okay, so back to the recipe . . .  it was happy hour here on the Dirty Dog Ranch one night about a month later, we were reminiscing and going through photos of our Oregon trip when my husband says, "did we bring any of those cans of smoked sturgeon back with us?"  So I start rummaging through the fridge and find the silver can of smoked sweetness!  I start thinking of what I can do with it and that's when I came up with one of my favorite go-to recipes ever.  It takes us back every time so, here's what you'll need:

1 12 oz tub of 1/3 Fat Cream Cheese (at room temperature)
4 - 6 oz of smoked fish (any kind you have on hand - if packed in oil or water, drain but reserve liquid)
2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion (I use sweet Spanish or Vidalia, but you can use whatever you prefer)
2 - 3 stalks of finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons of finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire 
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay

Mix all the ingredients together and chill.  If the mixture is too thick, add a little of the reserved liquid from the smoked fish.  If fish wasn't packed in liquid at all, add about a tablespoon of white wine.  

I make my own crostini to go with this dip, but you can put it on your favorite cracker of choice. Just don't get something that will compete with the flavor of the dip.  You can also serve this with celery sticks, carrots or even endive leaves.  It's a hit every time I make it . . . it's the first thing gone when I serve an appetizer spread to guests.  

How to make your own crostini
Baguette of bread (French, Cuban, Italian, whole grain, sesame, whatever you like)
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Slice baguette into 1/4 rounds and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer
Drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle with salt & pepper
Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden and crispy
Cool before serving

Easy and Smokin'!  


Baked Flounder with Asian Orange Soy Glaze

My advice - whenever you can get fresh fish - GET IT!  It's a low fat, high protein source of good eating and has a lot of nutritional benefits too.  We were just given some fresh Florida Flounder from a fisherman friend of ours so I cooked it up the other night and boy was it good and good for us.  

Flounder is low in Saturated Fat and it is also a good source of Vitamin D, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Phosphorus and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin B12 and Selenium (Selenium is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, which are important antioxidant enzymes - selenoproteins help regulate thyroid function and play a role in the immune system).

Baked Flounder Ingredients
Flounder – 4 nice sized fillets
Breadcrumbs – 1 cup fine Italian breadcrumbs
Panko – ½ cup Japanese Panko
Parmesan Cheese – 3 tablespoons grated cheese
Old Bay seasoning – 1 teaspoon
Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest
Veganaise – 3 tablespoons
Salt & Pepper to taste

Glaze Ingredients
Onion – 2 tablespoon finely chopped
Fresh Rosemary – 1 tablespoon finely chopped
Maple Syrup – 2 tablespoons
Soy Sauce – ¼ cup
Orange Marmalade – ¼ cup

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix Italian breadcrumbs, Panko, parmesan, lemon zest and Old Bay seasoning in shallow dish.
  • Dry Flounder fillets with paper towel.
  • Spread a thin coat of Veganaise on one side of each fillet.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then dip each fillet Veganaise side down into breadcrumb mixture.
  • Arrange fillets in baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray.
  • Bake for 10 – 12 minutes

To make the glaze:

  • Heat small saucepan when pan is hot, drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and add chopped onion.  Sauté until onion is caramelized, add rosemary and sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds). 
  • Stir in soy sauce, orange marmalade and maple syrup.
  • Cook until bubbles slightly and marmalade has melted into sauce. 

I usually serve this Flounder dish with either brown rice or Farro**.  I cook the Farro just like you would rice, but instead of boiling it in water, I use chicken stock to add more flavor.  Toss when done with some coconut flakes for more texture and flavor.  Served also with a green veggie like asparagus or broccoli to add a lot of color to your plate and get some more goodness into your body . . . enjoy!  

**Farro is a whole grain that is an excellent source for complex carbohydrates. Farro has twice the fiber and protein than modern wheat. Different than some other whole grains, a carbohydrate in farro called cyanogenic glucosides has been found to stimulate the immune system, lower cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. While farro does contain gluten, the gluten molecules are weaker than modern wheat, making it more easily digested.

Shrimp Balls with Pineapple Serrano Chutney

We love enjoying "happy hour" every day here on the Dirty Dog Ranch.  Actually, it's a great way to get in some healthy snacks, unwind and share the day with each other.  I usually put out nuts, cheese, raw veggies and of course a glass of nice red wine.  
Instead of calling our snacks "appetizers," recently a friend of mine reminded me of the fun word, "amuse-bouche."  An amuse-bouche" is a single, bite-sized hors d'oeuve.  The term is French, literally translated to "mouth amuser".  Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu but rather served according to the chef's selection alone. They are served as a little tingler for the taste buds.  
This past weekend, I decided to change it up a bit and chose to create a new "amuse-bouche" for our happy hour.  They came out great.  Hope you give 'em a try and enjoy!

Pound of raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) – please buy local or U.S. shrimp
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
¼ cup chopped fresh Fennel
½ Red bell pepper (finely diced)
¼ cup chopped Onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
2 cups frozen sweet corn (thawed)
2 eggs

1 15 oz can crushed pineapple (drained, but reserve juice)
Serrano chile (seeded and diced finely)
¼ cup Apricot jam
1 tablespoon Agave Nectar
½ lime juiced
Red pepper flakes (to taste – however spicy you like it)
½ Onion diced finely
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse shrimp (careful to not pulse too much and turn shrimp into glue - you want some chunks).  Place into large bowl.  Pulse corn, pepper, onion, fennel, dill and old bay season.  Remove and add to bowl with shrimp.  Add 1 cup of panko bread crumbs and 2 eggs.  Stir well together.  Roll into balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball).  Place in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to firm up. 

In shallow dish, add the remaining cup of panko and cup of Italian bread crumbs; season with salt and pepper.  Roll shrimp balls in the bread crumb mixture.  Coat the bottom of a large heated skillet with olive oil and add balls to pan in batches.  Brown on all sides, remove and place in 250 degree oven (in an even layer) until all shrimp balls are browned.  Serve with bamboo skewers and dip in chutney.

Sauté chopped onion and chopped Serrano chile in olive oil until caramelized.  Add drained crushed pineapple, agave nectar, apricot jam, red pepper flake, salt and pepper.  Stir until combined and heat until starts to bubble.  Add juice drained from pineapple as needed to loosen chutney.  When reached desired consistency (however thick you like the chutney), remove from heat and squeeze in lime juice.  Serve alongside Shrimp Balls.


Caribbean Crab, Pumpkin and Corn Chowder Bisque

Most chowder and bisque recipes are made with heavy cream, half & half, whole milk, butter and lots of fat.  That's what makes them so decadent and that's why they taste so good!  I love bisque and I love chowders, so I came up with a way to have that creamy and satisfying taste without adding all that fat.  I use pureed pumpkin as a way to add that creamy texture and use fresh herbs, strong spices, sweet corn and sherry to wake up those taste buds.  Although this recipe has an identity crisis (is it a bisque?  is it a chowder?) you certainly won't miss the fat!  

Pumpkin is chock full of goodness!  You can tell by its bright color that it's going to be good for you.  Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids like alpha & beta carotenes, it's a good source of vitamins C, K and E, along with lots of minerals like magnesium, potassium and iron.  

½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped fennel
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
3 Tbsp. butter 
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. Old Bay season
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of curry powder
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch (or two) of Cayenne Pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)

1 ½ cup of milk (I use skim milk)
2 ½ cups of chicken stock 
15 oz can of pumpkin puree
3 tbsp. of sugar
1/2 lb. fresh crabmeat (can substitute canned, but fresh is always tastier)
½ cup of fresh sweet corn
Salt & Black pepper to taste (may have to adjust throughout process)

Chopped chives
Sliced & toasted almonds
Dry Sherry

In a large heavy saucepan melt the butter until bubbly; sauté the chopped onions, fennel and spices until vegetables are just tender. Stir in the flour and stir constantly to mix into a smooth roux. Stir in fresh herbs.  Gradually stir in the milk and then stock, and continue to heat while stirring until you have a smooth thickened sauce.  Stir in the pumpkin puree.  Use immersion hand blender to puree and make smooth (if don’t have hand blender, work carefully with standing blender to puree soup until smooth).  After mixing well, add sugar, stir, and reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the crabmeat and corn.  Garnish with chopped chives, toasted almonds and a drizzle of dry sherry.