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Eating Well: 'Simply Shellfish' recipes are simply outstanding

Lifestyle

Eating Well: 'Simply Shellfish' recipes are simply outstanding

Pretend we're at a party and I offer you a hot crab and artichoke filo tartlet or a roasted mushroom cap holding an oyster drizzled with warm garlic butter, or a chilled scallop marinated in basil and lemon. You'd love those hors d'oeuvres and you you'd wonder where I got the recipes.

They're from Leslie Glover Pendleton's "Simply Shellfish: Quick and Easy Recipes for Shrimp, Crab, Scallops, Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Lobster, Squid and Sides," published by William Morrow in 2006. It's a book I didn't notice until last week when I saw it at the library. I've started cooking my way through it and have bought a copy to keep in the kitchen.

Pendleton, of Hartford, Conn., was a food editor at Gourmet magazine and a recipe developer for six of the Gourmet cookbooks. Her other books are "Simply Shrimp, Salmon, and (Fish) Steaks," and "One Dough, Fifty Cookies." She is an excellent cook.

The next recipe I'm trying is called Chesapeake Chowder with Smoked Sausage. Pendleton's instructions are to saute some diced kielbasa and onions, add diced potatoes, hard-shelled clams, bottled clam juice, and thyme. Remove the clams as soon as they open. Add fresh corn kernels. When the potatoes are cooked, thicken the soup with a mixture of cream and flour. Then add shucked oysters and cook until their edges curl. Finally, add fresh crabmeat and the cooked clams. Bring the dish to a simmer and serve immediately. (As if anyone could wait another minute before tasting this chowder.)

Gingered Butternut Squash and Crab Soup

This is one of Pendleton's favorite soups. It is smooth and comforting with a bite of ginger and chunks of crabmeat. Use it as a first course or serve it as a supper with a loaf of crusty bread. For a larger meal, serve it with Pendleton's spinach salad with blue cheese and plum dressing.

She suggests trying calabaza squash, a bright orange-fleshed pumpkin common to Latin American and West Indian cuisine. It is usually sold in halves or chunks.

2 pounds butternut squash or calabaza squash
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
2 cups bottled clam juice or shell stock (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons coarsely grated peeled fresh ginger (about a 3-inch piece)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 pound fine-quality crabmeat, checked for pieces of cartilage
Chopped basil, cilantro and croutons for garnish (optional)

Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds, and peel with a vegetable peeler. Cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes; there should be about 5 cups.

Cook the onion in the butter in a heavy pot or deep skillet over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the squash is aromatic and beginning to soften. Add the clam juice, ginger, salt, and pepper, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until the squash is easily mashed with a fork.

Puree the soup in a blender or food processor in batches and return to the pot. Stir in the lime juice and crabmeat.

The soup can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated, or frozen for 3 months. (Let cool, uncovered, before freezing.)

Serve the soup hot with suggested garnishes, if desired.

Makes about 6 cups. Serves 4 to 6.

Lobster, Shrimp, or Crab Shell Stock

Shells from 2 to 4 pounds of lobster, shrimp or crab (cooked or raw)
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 onion, quartered

Chop or break the shells into small pieces. In a large pot, cook the shells in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Strain the stock through a fine sieve, discard the solids, and return the stock to the pot. Simmer until it is reduced to 3 cups and let cool.

The stock can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours, or frozen for up to 6 months.

LBLT: Lobster, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches

Pendleton suggests serving these sandwiches when you want to impress someone, influence someone, or make a friend. She describes them as "close-your-eyes-and-moan yummy!" They really are. We're planning to replace our traditional Saturday night dinner of baked beans, corn bread and coleslaw with this lobster feast, accompanied by a crisp, cold Chardonnay.

If you can't find croissants, use whatever bread or rolls you prefer. The second time we made this, we used sourdough bread from Borealis, warmed it slightly in the toaster, and slathered it with homemade garlic mayonnaise before adding the lobster, bacon, lettuce and tomato. We mixed garlic mayonnaise into the lobster meat, too. Pendleton mixes fresh lemon juice into her mayonnaise. We did that and added a clove of garlic. If you have an important business or social event to attend, you might skip the garlic, because it will leave you reeking for hours.

To make garlic mayonnaise, put about a cup of your favorite store-bought mayonnaise into blender or small bowl. Mince a clove of garlic and stir it in. Add the juice of half a lemon. Stir. Put the garlic mayonnaise in a covered jar and refrigerate for a few hours so the flavors can develop.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large croissants or 4 small croissants
About 1 1/4 cups (8 to 10 ounces) chopped cooked lobster meat
4 slices tomato
4 large pieces romaine or Bibb lettuce, washed and spun dry
4 slices crisp cooked bacon

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, minced garlic, lemon juice and pepper.

Halve the croissants and spread the cut sides with the mayonnaise mixture. Divide the lobster, tomato, lettuce, and bacon among the croissants, press the sandwiches closed, and cut them in half.

Makes 2 large or 4 small sandwiches.