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Oh, fiddle-dee-dee! We can’t possibly go to Joe’s Crab Shack everyday. It feels like that’s the only restaurant we go to these days. We’re completely addicted to their irresistibly tempting seafood balls, dubbed “Great Balls of Fire.”

Wait a minute, is my husband trying to sabotage my diet? He is also known around here as “Sabo,” after all. He’s been coming home from work, and without as much as saying hello, whistle rhythmically at us (his method of getting our attention), and herd us into the car. Off to Joe’s Crab Shack.

But today is going to be different. Today, I will stick to my diet. Doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy my meals. Low-fat version of these great balls of fire is the ticket. I’m baking them instead of deep-frying them.

These are not exactly Joe’s Crab Shack’s Great Balls of Fire, and they’re not exactly balls, either. But they are equally delicious. You have to try them before passing your judgment on them. I’m telling you they are every bit as irresistible.

cheesy crab stuffed kataifi

Cheesy Crab-stuffed Kataifi/Mushrooms/Jalapeños


Great Balls of Fire from Joe’s Crab Shack are of course balls, deep-fried seafood balls. There are copycat recipes online for them, but I tend to do things my own way. I’m making balls of fire, Angie’s style. I wanted the crisp, without the guilt of deep-frying. Baking cheesy balls doesn’t usually render crispy exterior for me. That’s where kataifi comes in. I’ll talk more about it later. Now, the recipe first.

1 pkg (8 oz) low-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
8 oz fresh lump crab meat
3/4 cup shredded cheddar & jack cheese mix
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 seeded jalapeno, minced
1 tbsp olive oil or butter
Salt & pepper (Be careful with the salt. The crab meat and the cheeses were already salty.)
Kataifi strands (shredded phyllo) and/or jalapeños and mushrooms (about 8 oz or half the box)

1. Sauté onion, celery, garlic, jalapeno in olive oil/butter over med-high heat, until vegetables are cooked and soft. Let cool.
2. Mix cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, and all the seasoning until well blended.
3. Add the crab meat, the sautéed vegetables, and the shredded cheese. Mix to combine. Refrigerate for a couple of hours so it can stiffen up before using for filling.
4. Unroll the kataifi strands by pulling and spreading them gently with your fingers. They tend to get a little matted. Cut them into sections about 2 inches wide and 6 inches long. Place a tablespoon of crab filling on one end of kataifi strands and roll into a log (looks like a haystack to me.) Or you can roll the strands to form “bird’s nests” and place in a muffin tin, then put a spoonful of filling in each nest. Dab kataifi with melted butter, and bake in 350° F oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Best served immediately.

I had leftover filling that I used to stuff mushrooms and jalapenos. When I ran out of mushrooms and jalapenos, I added plain low-fat yogurt to the rest of the filling, sprinkle more cheese on top, and bake in the same 350° F oven for 20 minutes, and I had cheesy crab dip! The recipe does make quite a lot of appetizers.

cheesy crab dip

Now about kataifi. If you’ve been to a Greek or Middle Eastern restaurant, you probably are familiar with kataifi as dessert, usually filled with nuts and sugar or honey and drenched in syrup, just like baklava. In fact, I used to call them kataifi baklava, since they taste just like baklava. Except with crunchier texture, and that is precisely why I love kataifi more than baklava. I have since learned, however, that it’s redundant to say kataifi baklava. A Greek friend said to just call them kataifi and that would be sufficient.

What he didn’t tell me was how versatile kataifi strands are. You don’t have to limit yourself to sweets when it comes to using kataifi. Just like phyllo sheets, you can use kataifi for both sweet and savory dishes. The box even comes with a recipe for fried shrimps wrapped in kataifi.

Kataifi strands. Just like phyllo dough (sheets), just a different texture.

Kataifi is sold frozen in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern markets. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator prior to using. One word about kataifi. It dries out quickly. And when it’s dry, it becomes very brittle and difficult to roll or form. So, it’s best to take out just a little portion at a time, or cover the unused portion with a damp towel.

These crunchy cheesy crab stuffed kataifi rolls are simply irresistible.

savory kataifi rolls

Crunchy Cheesy Crab Kataifi

***

Speaking of irresistible, since that’s today’s daily prompt (this was written last Tuesday, more than a week ago, but was put on the back burner, what with Thanksgiving and all), I once met a guy who was totally irresistible. Tall, dark, and handsome, and all that. Killer sense of humor, too. Drove the latest model of BMW. With seat warmers, even. Temptation enough for you?

I was introduced to him by a college girlfriend. They went to the same high school. She and another girl were completely besotted with him. One time, they saw a note taped on my door, bearing his initials. The note stated simply,”Just came to say hello. Someone is thinking of you. Have a great day!”

Oh, how romantic, right? The two girls were highly envious, and mentioned how lucky I was. I thanked them for it but somehow felt it was a bit insulting although I couldn’t exactly say why. Also, they didn’t seem sincere at all.

So, I did go on a couple of dates with him, but decided against pursuing a relationship. He certainly knew how to show a girl a good time, and I did enjoy his company. But a couple of things about him nagged at me. For one, he didn’t have a job, so the car, the trendy clothes he wore, and the money he spent on our dates, were all Daddy’s.

The other thing, and this one was huge, was the fact that he was still in high school! This was a big deal for a college girl, or at least to me. Oh, calm down, he wasn’t underage. Younger than me, yes, but certainly an adult. Just didn’t graduate yet. Which probably meant he wasn’t a good student. His peers were already in college. So, I told the two girls they could fight over him.

My husband, the love of my life and a great student, knows of this story. He wouldn’t mind me reminiscing at all. Although I wish I had never told him about it. He likes to tease me every now and then, about going out with a high school student while already in college.

The daily prompt reminded me of that phase in my life, and prompted me to write this poem, which is also a response to the phrase,”Evil, thy name is woman.” I have always found the saying ridiculous. I had no idea evil was female. (Bruno Mars agrees with me, by the way. Just listen to his song “Runaway Baby.” At least he’s honest.)

Temptation
BY THE NOVICE GARDENER

Temptation, thy name is man
Run, run away, girls, as fast as you can
Sugar-coated words, he has a lot to say
Just so you know, he comes only to play

Eye candy on the outside
What of it if foul filling is inside?

Temptation, thy name is man
I knew that man, once before
A voice told me to show him the door
He wasn’t what I was waiting for

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