Eating is a necessity. However, we choose what to eat. The choices we make reveal a great deal about us. The food you eat can tell quite a bit about your heritage, your family, your fears, your sense of adventure, your attitude toward yourself and others, and a myriad of other personal tidbits to anyone paying attention. Everything about eating is a glimpse into your soul.

I hope to reveal a little bit about myself to you through my food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I find pleasure in bringing pleasure to others. I hope that by sharing my recipes I bring you a little bit of joy.

Cook my food. Feed it to the people you love.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pan Seared Caribbean Grouper

My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary by spending a week in St. Martin.  As a surprise he booked a day long catamaran tour aboard the Celine.  We swam in the crystal clear Caribbean Sea.  We snorkeled around Creole Rock where we saw a sea turtle.  At the end of the day we stopped in Happy Bay to take a mud bath.  Along the way Celine’s captain, Neil, made lunch for us.  For most of our trip we stayed in Grand Case, the gourmet capital of the Caribbean, and ate in splendid French restaurants.  However, the lunch Neil prepared rivaled those of the French chefs back on shore.

I asked him about the grouper that he served us and we got to talking.  I found out that in addition to building the Celine and sailing her around the world, he also enjoys cooking.  He collects cook books and recipes from his travels. I was fascinated discussing food with this world traveler. 

This dish is inspired by our lunch that day.  My grouper isn’t anywhere as good as his, but it is still pretty darn tasty.

Servings: 4-6
Time:    Prep: 5 minutes; Cook: 15 Minutes
Hardware:  measuring spoons, paper towels, a large, heavy bottomed skillet that can be used on the stove top & in the oven (I prefer cast iron), a plate, foil, and a metal spatula

  • 1 pound of 1 ¼ inch thick grouper
  • 2 packets/teaspoons  Badia Sazón Tropical (You can probably find this on the ‘ethnic’ aisle of your grocer’s)
  • ¼ (or more) teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • lime wedges
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°.
  2. Cut the fish into serving sizes.  Rinse in clean water and pat dry.
  3. Rub both sides of the fish with the seasonings.  Set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in the skillet on medium high.
  5. Place the fish pieces in the hot pan without crowding them.  The idea is to sear the outside.  If you crowd them, they will not sear, but will steam instead.
  6. Allow the fish to sear for 3 minutes.  Turn them carefully with the spatula and sear them for 2 minutes on the other side.
  7. Put the pan into the pre-heated oven.  Cook for 5 to 7 minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish.  Be careful to not overcook the fish.  It is done as soon as it flakes easily. Or (this is a trick I learned from Captain Neil) poke the fish with a skewer.  If you feel no resistance, the fish is done.
  8. Allow the fish to rest for 3 minutes on a plate loosely tented with foil before serving.
  9. Give each guest a lime wedge to squeeze onto his fish.
Lunch on the shore:
Caribbean Grouper
Yellow Rice
A green salad
Lime-Ginger-Garlic Dressing
Tomato Chutney

I plated this by drizzeling Lime-Ginger-Garlic Dressing onto the plate.  I laid down a spoonful of Tomato Chutney and topped that with The Caribbean Grouper.  I topped the fish with more dressing and a lime wedge.  I placed an ice cream scoop of Yellow Rice on the side.  Almost looks as good as it tastes.  Almost.

Tomato Chutney

This recipe was a very happy accident.  I was making Caribbean Grouper for dinner and needed something sweet to balance the rest of the meal.  I also needed to use up a few ripe tomatoes to keep them from going bad.  I opened the vegetable drawer and found an onion, bell peppers, and a few jalapeños.  I started chopping and cooking.  This chutney was the result.

My husband does not like tomatoes.  However, he asked me to make more chutney.  It is sweet but not cloyingly so.  It is also really spicy, but in a very pleasant way.  I served it with the grouper, but it would be wonderful on chicken or stirred into rice.

Servings: 2 cups
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, cutting board and knives, a large heavy bottomed skillet, and a wooden spoon
Time:  Prep: 15 minutes, Cook: 1 hour

  • 1 ½ pounds tomato (4 cups)
  • 1 large bell pepper  (1 cup-I actually used 3 baby bell peppers.*)
  • 1 medium Spanish onion (1 cup)
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  1. Roughly chop all the vegetables.  You can remove the seeds from the peppers if you want less heat or leave them in if you want more.  Mince the cilantro.
  2. Heat the pan on medium high.  Add the vegetables and allow them to come to a boil.  The tomatoes will release a great deal of liquid.  That is okay.  Boil for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Boil the chutney until it changes from bright red to a dark red.  This should take about 30-40 minutes.  Stir often enough to keep the food from sticking.
  4. Turn the heat down to simmer.  Continue to cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and the consistency becomes jam-like. 
  5. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  You can serve this warm, room temperature, or cold.  It will keep for a week or so in the fridge.

*Unless you know that you are going to use an entire bell pepper, baby bells are the way to go.  Using baby bells allows you to cut up only the amount of pepper you need.  If you cut a large bell pepper in half, the other half gets slimy fast.  Using baby bells also allows you to easily add a lot of color to your dish.  Instead of just one large green pepper, I used a baby green pepper, a baby yellow pepper, and an orange baby.  Finally, baby bells are not as strong as full grown bells-they taste better and make you less burby. They can be found in bags near large bell peppers in the produce section of your grocer’s.

Yellow Rice

Yellow Rice is common in the cuisine of Spain, Latin America, and South East Asia.  It  is probably most familiar to you as the rice in chicken and yellow rice.  However, you can use it instead of white rice with any chicken or fish dish.

Saffron and turmeric give the rice its bright yellow color.  They also impart a very subtle nutty taste.  I add a little cumin to mine give it more depth.   You can add ½ cup defrosted, frozen sweet peas with or instead of the green onion.  You can buy packages of yellow rice, but once you make your own you won’t want that stuff anymore.

Servings: 4-6
Hardware:  A cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a pot with a lid, a wooden spoon
Time:  prep:  5 minutes, cook: 30 minutes, rest: 3

  • 1 ½ cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • ¾ cup of rice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 baby bell pepper, less than ¼ cup (I used a red bell pepper to give the dish some color)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon saffron
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 green onion
  1. Roughly chop the pepper.  Set aside
  2. Heat the olive oil on medium.  Stir in the turmeric, cumin, and saffron.  Allow the spices to cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the bell pepper.  Cook for another minute, stirring frequently.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the vegetable stock and the rice.  Wait for it to return to a boil.
  4. Cover with the lid and turn the rice down to low.  Simmer, without opening the lid, for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. While the rice is cooking chop the green onion.
  6. Remove the rice from heat, with the lid still on, and allow it to rest for 3 minutes. 
  7. Stir in the green onion and butter. Fluff with a fork and serve warm.  Offer your guests hot sauce.

Lime-Ginger-Garlic Dressing

We recently returned from a week in St. Martin.  While there, we sailed  one day from sunrise to sunset on the catamaran, the Celine.  The water was beautiful blue-green and clear as glass.  We spent the day swimming, snorkeling, and even took a mud bath.  Celine's captain, Neil, prepared lunch for us in the catamaran’s galley.  The food was insanely wonderful.  This is inspired by that lunch.

I prefer to make my own dressing.  I have even made my own mayonnaise at times, but I won’t go there in the interest of making this simple.  You can tweak this by omitting the cayenne or amping it up a bit.  If the dressing doesn’t have enough ginger flavor for you, add some powdered ginger.  The flavor of powdered spices is much more concentrated than fresh. Same goes for the garlic.  You could even substitute other citrus fruit for the lime. 

 Servings:  1 ¼  cups
Time: 10 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring cups and spoons, a zester, a whisk, a plastic spatula, an airtight container

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • zest and juice from 1 large lime (You’ll need 3 tablespoons juice)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper

Tart, tangy, sweet, with a little bite
Great as a salad dressing

  1. Zest and juice the lime. 
  2. Mash the garlic.
  3. Whisk everything together. 
  4. Store the Lime-Ginger-Garlic Dressing in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Allow the dressing to rest for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to meld.  The dressing will keep for 3-4 days if you store it in the refrigerator.

I served this on a mixed green salad with strawberries, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese.  I think it would be wonderful as a dip for fried shrimp or as a condiment on crab cakes or with Fish Tacos.
I also used this as a sauce for Caribbean Grouper.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Shrimp Po' Boy

New Orleans is a magical place.  One of the many contributing factors to her magic is the fact that she is port city.  Port cities by their nature become brews of the various peoples who pass through.  People come to port cities and when they come they bring with them their culture.  This always includes food.   The influences of French, Arcadian, Italian, African, and Native American travelers can be felt on her streets and tasted on her plates.  From the finest fare to the lowly sandwich, New Orleans is a place like no other.  

Po’ Boys and Muffulettas are the two sandwiches most associated with New Orleans.  Muffuletta, Italian in origin, is a type of bread and the name of a sandwich served on that bread.

Po’ Boys are exactly what they sound like, food for the working class.  The source of the name is disputed.  It could come from the French term ‘pourboire’ which is a tip given to a waiter.  Or it could come from a streetcar strike which took place in 1929.  Bennie and Clovis Martin were streetcar conductors until they opened their own restaurant, the Martin Brothers' Coffee Stand.   When their former Union brothers went on strike they promised to serve them for free. These sandwiches were what they served.  Word of their generosity spread.  The depression soon followed, but even a Po’ Boy could afford this sandwich.

The basic Po’ Boys hasn’t changed much in eighty something years.  They are always served on a French baguette.  Usually consisting of roast beef, fried shrimp, or fried oysters, the sandwich is ordered ‘dressed’ or ‘undressed’.  A ‘dressed’ Po’ Boy comes with tomato and lettuce, although some places also offer pickles and slices of onion.  When you order, ask for ‘hot’ or ‘regular’, which refers to the type of mustard you will be getting.  Don’t ask for mayonnaise, that isn’t how you make a Po’ Boy.  Some places serve them with rèmoulade sauce.  I like mine dressed and hot.

Serves: 2-4
Time:    Prep: 20 minutes;   Cook: 5-15 minutes
Hardware:  A cutting board and knives, an airtight container, a heavy skillet (for frying), a slotted metal spoon (or a spider/skimmer), an oil thermometer, a gallon plastic bag, a paper towel covered plate

  • 1 pound large shrimp (21-25 count)
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon of corn starch
  • 1 tomato
  • ½ head iceberg lettuce
  • 1 cup rèmoulade sauce
  • 1 French baguette
  • oil for frying
I like my Po' Boy with Dirty Rice 

  1. Clean the shrimp. Place the clean shrimp, 2 tablespoons of the Cajun seasoning, and the cayenne into the airtight container.  Toss to make sure the shrimp are thoroughly seasoned.  Put the shrimp in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.
  2. Slice the tomato and shred the lettuce.  Set aside.
  3. Add enough oil to fill the heavy skillet up half way.  Heat it on medium high.  When the temperature reaches 375°, the pan is ready.
  4. Place the flour and corn starch in the Ziploc with the remaining seasoning. Shake the bag. Add the shrimp to the Ziploc bag and shake like crazy.
  5. Shake as much flour as you can from the shrimp.  Fry them for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through.  Don’t crowd the shrimp.  You may need to cook them in batches.  Use the thermometer to keep the temperature between 370° and 375°. Using the slotted spoon, move them from the oil to the paper towel covered plate.  You can keep them warm by placing the plate in the oven on the lowest setting.
  6. To prepare the Po’ Boys, slice he baguette, but not all the way through.  Spread a little rèmoulade sauce on the bread.  Fill the baguette with shrimp then drizzle on more sauce.  Top the shrimp with tomatoes and lettuce. 

A perfect meal is a Shrimp Po' Boy,  Dirty Rice, and Sangria

Rèmoulade Sauce

Rèmoulade sauce was invented in France but has become very popular in Louisiana cuisine. The sauce I make leans Louisiana.  It is mayonnaise based and can be used instead of  tartar sauce.   I always make some whenever we are having fried shrimp, battered fish, or crab cakes.  We have even dipped French fries in it.  Rèmoulade is an excellent condiment on Shrimp Po’ Boys, which is why I made this batch. 

You can tweak this recipe by adding capers or horseradish.  You can also substitute spicy mustard for some or all of the Dijon. Depending on your tolerance for heat, you can increase or omit the hot sauce.  The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days and should in fact be allowed to rest overnight before serving.  So good.

Servings:  Makes 1 cup
Time:  prep: 5-10 minutes;  rest: 2 hours-overnight
Hardware:  Measuring cups and spoons, a cutting board and knives, a whisk or fork, a mixing bowl, a rubber spatula, an airtight container

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh (or dried) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Louisiana style hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 green onion
  1. Slice the green onion as thinly as possible.  Dice the garlic and parsley, the smaller the better. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the remaining ingredients together until everything is thoroughly combined.  Stir in the onion, garlic, and parsley.
  3. Place the sauce into the airtight container and put it in the fridge.  Allow the sauce to rest for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
  4. Use the Rèmoulade sauce to spice up your seafood dishes.
Rèmoulade Sauce is perfect with
Shrimp Po' Boys

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dirty Rice

I like to make Dirty Rice as a side dish to go with po’ boys.  Authentic Dirty Rice is made with chicken livers, which my husband doesn’t like.  I myself am a fan of chicken livers but a great deal of happiness is knowing when to compromise. 

Servings: 4-6
Hardware:  A cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a pot with a lid, a wooden spoon,
Time:  prep:  10 minutes, cook: 30 minutes, rest: 3 minutes

  • 1 pound bulk sausage
  • ½ a small bell pepper (¼ cup)
  • 1 small onion (¼ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 pinch Cayenne pepper
  • 2 ¼ cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of rice
  1. Dice the pepper and onion, the smaller the better.  Set aside
  2. Cook and crumble the sausage in the pot over medium heat until it is no longer pink.  This will take about 6-7 minutes.  Stir often.  Add the onion and pepper and cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring often.
  3. Stir in the chicken stock and allow the mixture to come to a boil.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and wait for it to return to a boil.
  4. Cover with the lid and turn the rice down to simmer.  Simmer, without opening the lid, for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Remove from the heat, with the lid still on, and allow it to rest for 3 minutes. 
  6. Fluff with a fork and serve warm.  Offer your guests hot sauce.