My sister-in-law told me to call this column, "The Donut Dance." But it could just as easily be Potato Chip Polka, Caramel Corn Can-can or Frozen Custard Fandango.
After three nearly consecutive weeks at beach resorts, my diet has gone to hell. First I went to North Carolina with one side of the family, then to the Delaware shore with the other. Weeks one and two featured breakfast pastries every day. During the third week, we went to the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk and ate junk food.
It's just vacation, you tell yourself. You're allowed to eat whatever you want. Fresh, hot donuts at breakfast time, sure! A cheesesteak sub fresh from a boardwalk food vendor's griddle, why not? Oceanside cocktail hour with chips and guacamole and a few margaritas, of course! Ice cream after dinner? Not to be missed.
Long walks along the sparsely populated beach early every morning are meant to refresh the soul, open the mind, and work off the extra calories. I don't look in any full-length mirrors while clad in a bathing suit. My bikini days are so far behind me that the width of my behind is now well-covered in stretchy cloth. The lifeguards call me ma'am.
So, what the heck? Pass the butter.
But the fresh harvest of summertime really provides ingredients most adaptable to light fare. Corn fresh from the cob hardly needs cooking. Fruits can be eaten right out of hand. Seafood takes light seasoning and a fast pan.
The upcoming holidays in fall and winter are the times for dishes long-cooked and thickly sauced. Warm-weather cooking is light and fresh.
I came up with a wonderful, summery dish while at the beach, that prompted my family to take second helpings. It's not too caloric, really, and it makes use of the bounty of both sea and shore. The morning after we spread the dinner table with newspaper and heaped it with steamed crabs, I sat alone with the leftovers -- the odd leg and claw and several whole crabs, and picked the meat. The house was quiet as I completed my task, which resulted in a good couple of cups of meat and hands stained orange and made fragrant with Old Bay seasoning.
I also cut up four or five very large, very ripe tomatoes. The census of our beach house was numerous and included teenage boys, so this dish had to feed a crowd. It could be easily halved for a family meal, using two or three ripe tomatoes and a can of backfin crabmeat from the supermarket.
At mealtime, I diced a shallot and started it a deep saute pan, in hot olive oil. Then I dumped in the tomatoes and all their juice and let it simmer softly a good while, adding garlic, a bit of salt, fennel seed and a pinch of hot pepper flakes. I let the tomatoes reduce by about a quarter of their volume. Then I pulled them off the heat, and on top, gently put the crabmeat and about a cup (or more) of crumbled feta. The idea was for the crab merely to become warm and the feta to slightly soften from the steamy heat of the sauce.
I timed a pot of fettucini to finish just after I put the crab and feta on the cooked tomatoes. I finished with a gentle toss of the hot pasta with the warm sauce. A crisp white wine and green salad were good accompaniments.