Barbara Stanfield is a born cook, a native of Maryland's Eastern Shore, where her husband is a Chesapeake Bay oysterman. Fresh seafood is taken for granted by the family and she makes a variety of soups, of which her vegetable clam chowder is an unusual example -- and a delicious appetizer for this Eastern Shore luncheon for eight.
Vegetables give color and depth of flavor to a Boston-style mixture based on milk and seasoned with bacon. Stanfield's touch is a teaspoon of worcestershire sauce -- one of her trademarks.
To save time with chowder, you could buy shucked raw clams, though it does not take long to steam them open and extract the meat. Any type of hard or softshell clam will do, as they are chopped and then simmered for at least an hour until really tender. Canned cooked clams can also be used and they should be added to the chowder at the same time as the peas and green beans.
The best fresh crab meat (long summer hours are spent picking crabs in the Stanfield household) should have nothing added to mask its sweetness. Likewise, the best crab cakes should emphasize the crab meat. And, like a hamburger, one key to a good crab cake is to handle it as little as possible, so press the cakes gently to shape without squashing them. Some cooks make big cakes, an inch or more thick, but Stanfield prefers them flatter and fries them in shortening for a crisp crust.
Fresh corn is a cause for rejoicing and, other than eaten straight from the ear, this pudding is one of the best ways to enjoy it. The corn kernels are cut fresh from the cob, then mixed with milk, eggs, a little flour and seasoning before baking. What could be simpler?
Hard on the heels of corn come the first vineripe tomatoes, and the season cries out for a salad. It's a matter of taste, but I like tomatoes in salad to be sweet and squashy, almost overripe. In any case, the tomatoes should marinate in dressing at least an hour or two to draw out the juice and develop flavor before serving.
End to the perfect summer lunch could be the freshest of seasonal fruit, or you may like to try this apple dapple cake, another Stanfield family dessert. The name is obscure but perhaps comes from the dappled texture given by apple slices in the batter. The cake is baked in a bundt ring-shaped pan for the maximum amount of crisp crust. Serve it hot or at room temperature, with scoops of vanilla ice cream. Timetable
Up to 3 days ahead: Bake apple dapple cake and store in airtight container.
Up to 1 day ahead: Make clam chowder and refrigerate.
Up to 4 hours ahead: Prepare crab cake mixture and refrigerate. Prepare corn pudding mixture and refrigerate. Make and dress salad and keep, loosely covered, in refrigerator.
50 minutes before serving: Heat oven to 350 degrees for corn pudding.
35 minutes before serving: Bake corn pudding. Transfer apple cake to platter for serving. Chill the wine or beer; make and chill tea. Set the table.
15 minutes before serving: Reheat chowder. Shape and fry crab cakes. Turn oven to low and keep crab cakes warm. Boil corn if serving plain. VEGETABLE CLAM CHOWDER (8 servings)
Tomatoes and squash are optional extras in this chowder.
4-ounce piece fatback or salt pork, diced
1 1/2 quarts water
3 cups shucked clams, about 4 quarts in the shell (see below)
4-ounce piece bacon, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 cup shelled fresh or frozen peas
1 cup string beans, cut in 1/2-inch lengths
2 medium potatoes, diced
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Oyster crackers for garnish
3 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
To blanch fatback, put fatback in a small pan with water to cover. Bring to the boil and cook 5 minutes. Drain. Put fatback and 1 1/2 quarts water in a kettle, cover and simmer 1/2 hour. Add clams (with reserved liquid), bacon and onion, cover and simmer a further 1/2 hour. Add carrots and simmer 1/2 hour more. Add peas, green beans, potatoes and butter. Season to taste with worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
To thicken chowder: In a bowl whisk milk into flour, to make a smooth pourable paste. Whisk this paste into the chowder, on the heat, and continue whisking until it thickens. Simmer 2 minutes and taste for seasoning.
Chowder can be made up to 24 hours ahead and kept in refrigerator. Reheat it on top of the stove and stir in parsley at the last moment. Serve oyster crackers separately. To Cook and Shell Clams --
Scrub clams under cold running water, discarding any that do not close when tapped. Put clams in a large kettle with 1/2 inch water, cover and cook over high heat until shells open, stirring once or twice, about 5 minutes. Discard any unopened shells. Let cool, then shell the clams, coarsely chop them and reserve. Strain liquid through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and reserve also. MARYLAND CRAB CAKES (Makes 16 cakes)
Traditionally made with the meat from the East Coast blue crabs, crab cakes are good with any crab meat.
4 slices white bread
1 cup milk
2 pounds crab meat
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons seafood seasoning (see below)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons shortening (for frying)
Put bread in a bowl, pour milk over it and leave to soak 15 minutes. Squeeze bread fairly dry in your fist, transfer it to a large bowl and break it into crumbs with two forks.
Add crab meat, mayonnaise, mustard, seafood seasoning, baking powder and parsley and stir until well mixed. Sprinkle with worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and stir and taste for seasoning. Stir in beaten eggs. Crab cake mixture can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead and refrigerated.
To finish, divide mixture into 16 parts and shape into cakes about 1/2-inch thick. (Work gently so cakes are light.) In a large frying pan heat half the shortening and fry half the cakes over brisk heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Fry remaining cakes in remaining shortening and serve as soon as possible. MARYLAND SEAFOOD SEASONING (Makes about 3 tablespoons)
Each crab house on the Eastern Shore has its own formula for seafood seasoning, varying from salty to hot, and I've made up a version here. Use it not just for seasoning crab cakes, but follow the local example and add it when boiling shrimps, steaming crabs, seasoning fish soups, fried chicken and even for sprinkling on salads.
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground hot red pepper or more to taste
In a bowl combine ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use as needed. CORN PUDDING (8 servings)
A one-pound can of cream-style corn can be substituted for fresh corn.
8 ears fresh white or yellow corn
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup melted butter
Salt and pepper
With a sharp knife, cut corn kernels from the ear, pressing out milk. Measure kernels and liquid -- there should be 1 quart. In a bowl, stir flour into corn kernels, followed by milk, egg yolks, butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Corn mixture can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead and kept in refrigerator. Stiffly whip egg whites and fold into corn mixture. Spoon mixture into a shallow 3 quart baking dish and bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes until firm and golden brown. Serve as soon as possible. TOMATO, ONION AND ROMAINE LETTUCE SALAD (8 servings)
Lettuce is simply a frill around the edge of this seasonal salad.
Small head romaine lettuce
8 very ripe beefsteak tomatoes
1 large mild onion, cut in rings
FOR THE DRESSING:
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon very finely chopped hot chili pepper
Wash lettuce, divide it in leaves and arrange them around a deep platter. Discard core from tomatoes and cut them crosswise in thick slices. Arrange slices, overlapping, on platter and scatter onion rings on top.
For the dressing: in a small bowl whisk mustard with salt, pepper and vinegar. Gradually whisk in oil so dressing emulsifies and thickens slightly. Whisk in chili pepper and taste dressing for seasoning. Spoon dressing over salad, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Tomato salad can be made up to 4 hours before serving and the flavor improves if the tomatoes macerate in dressing an hour or two. APPLE DAPPLE CAKE (8 to 10 servings)
The longer this cake is kept, the moister it becomes.
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups oil plus extra for pan
2 cups sugar
3 medium tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla
FOR THE TOPPING:
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift flour with baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream oil with sugar until light and smooth. Beat in eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Fold in flour mixture in three batches. As lightly as possible, stir in apples with vanilla.
Spoon mixture into a greased 10-inch bundt pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
Five minutes before cake is done, prepare topping by combining sugar, milk, butter and vanilla in a pan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir and boil about 3 minutes until topping coats a spoon. Turn cake out onto a rack while it is still warm and pour over topping. Leave to cool. Cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days, or it can be frozen.