Friday, July 17, 2015

The Seafood Shack - A Pleasant Meal

Recently, my wife and I enjoyed a late lunch at the Seafood Shack ( in Cortez (, a historic fishing village at the north end of Sarasota Bay at the eastern foot of the bridge by which Cortez Rd. crosses over to Anna Maria Island.

Our meal was tasty, but not exceptional. Our entree servings were so large that we had enough left over for dinner.

We had an inside table with a nice view of the water. There are also outside tables.

We both had the same main dish - shrimp and grits, for $18 each. The ingredients were smoked gulf shrimp, white cheddar stone-ground grits, bacon, andouille sausage, peppers, onions, celery, thyme, and butter, topped with shaved parmesan. It was satisfying, but nothing to rave about.

I also had a cup of New England Clam Chowder for $5. It had clams, potatoes, carrots, onion, bacon, and thyme. Like the shrimp and grits, it was nice, but not terrific.

We both ordered the same specialty cocktail - the Hurricane, with light rum, Sugar Island Spiced Rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, with a splash of grenadine, and a dark rum floater for $6. It was delicious, and the serving size was generous.

Our server, Denice, was terrific, and had a great sense of humor.

We were amused as we watched a couple of crows aggressively grabbing packets of sugar off a couple of the outside tables.

The bottom line is that we were happy with our meal, but would probably try another place the next time we're in the area.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Database About Recipes Used

I find it very useful to maintain a database about the recipes I've used. It helps me to quickly identify recipes for a specific purpose and to keep track of which dishes I've served to guests at our house. I can sort the list of recipes in many ways. 

An example of how I use the database would be to create a menu for a Tuscan dinner for guests. I can quickly identify Tuscan dishes for each course and determine if I have served those dishes to the guests who are coming. 

The database has the following fields in the order listed below:
- English name of the dish - I normally write the name so the main ingredient is first; e.g., "salmon, grilled" instead of "grilled salmon." With that approach, like dishes are together when sorted.
- Foreign name of the dish, if it's a foreign dish
- Type of dish - appetizer, entree, side, soup, dessert
- Taste rating, abbreviated - Ex(excellent), VG (very good), OK, bad. I usually only remake excellent dishes
- Difficulty - very easy, easy, moderate, difficult
- Country (of Origin)
- Comment - For example, Lots of cutting; requires pan scrubbing. Most of the time there is no comment.
- Source (of recipe) -  For example, Beautiful Tuscany, Silver Spoon
- Served to - names of people to whom I've served. If it's just my wife and me, I enter "us"

An example of a typical entry is:
Pan-Fried Sausage & Mushrooms, Tegamata di Salsiccia, Entree Ex, Easy, Italy , Beautiful Tuscany, Us

I normally keep the database sorted first by the type of dish, then by the English name of the dish. 

Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes - The easy sides continue

This evening, I searched for a recipe that combined tomatoes and asparagus. I found this simple, tasty one at ( 

I made a couple of adjustments to accommodate our needs. I used a whole tomato diced instead of cherry tomatoes, and I reduced the servings to two by adjusting the amount of asparagus. I also reduced the cooking time because the asparagus were thin. I prepared it in our toaster oven.


1/2 lb of asparagus, trimmed
1 tomato, diced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400

2. Put asparagus and garlic in a bowl, and drizzle olive oil over them. Toss to make sure they're coated, then sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

3. Place asparagus on a baking sheet in a single layer, with the garlic.

4. Place tomato on top of asparagus.

5. Roast for 17  to 25 minutes until asparagus is tender but firm. The thinner the asparagus, the less roasting time. Our thin spears were ready in 17 minutes.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Roasted Carrots, Zucchini, and Bell Peppers - Another Easy Side

This delicious side is easy to make and easy to modify by changing the spices and/or the vegetable mixture. The spice mixture is my selection, but I found the method for cooking the vegetables at This version serves two.


1 medium zucchini cut in half, then cut into strips about 1/2" wide
1/2 lb baby carrots (If you use regular carrots, cut them into strips like the zucchini strips)
1 bell pepper cut into strips
1/2 tsp of each of the following:
- allspice
- basil
- lemon pepper
- onion powder
- rosemary
- salt
- thyme
2+ tablespoons olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 425

2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with a thin layer of olive oil

3. Mix the spices in a small bowl

4. Put vegetables into a bowl and drizzle the olive oil over them. Toss the vegetables a bit to make sure they're coated with olive oil.

5. Sprinkle the spices over the vegetables and toss them again. Alternatively, you could sprinkle the spices on the vegetables after placing them onto the baking sheet.

6. Put the vegetables on the baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until they are browned at the edges. Turn the vegetables over about halfway through.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Really Tasty & Easy Blackened Salmon Fillets

I never tire of trying different salmon recipes. I found this fast, easy, and delicious blackened salmon recipe on All ( The recipe is very highly rated, with nearly 600 mostly positive reviews.

 Most cooks likely already have all the ingredients except the salmon.

The version below is for 2 servings. I've changed the directions a bit because I found the original instructions slightly confusing with respect to the buttering and spicing. I've also added some instructions. You might want to check the original recipe and reviews.


1 tablespoon ground paprika
1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
1 & 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
2 salmon fillets with skin & bones removed. (If the skin is left on, the spices will not stick and their tastes and that of the butter will not be infused into the salmon. Also, let the salmon sit out for at least 15 minutes before basting with butter.)
1/4 cup salted butter, melted


1. In a small bowl, mix all of the spices.

2. Brush one side of the salmon with 1/2 the melted butter, and sprinkle on the spices.

3. In a heavy skillet, over high heat, place the salmon with butter and spiced side down. Coat the side facing up with the remaining butter and spices. Cook for 2 to 5 minutes until the bottom side is blackened.

4. Turn the salmon and cook until the bottom is blackened and easily flaked with a fork. (I cooked each side for 4 minutes. The salmon I used was of medium thickness. Thicker fillets might require up to 7 minutes.)