Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Recipes and menu ideas for fish (red porgy, amberjack, triggerfish, grunt and snapper), shrimp scampi, shrimp broth, succotash, greens, roasted root vegetables (sweet potatoes and butternut squash).

Recipes and menu ideas for fish (red porgy, amberjack, triggerfish, grunt and snapper), shrimp scampi, shrimp broth, succotash, greens, roasted root vegetables (sweet potatoes and butternut squash).

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I’m writing this in the dark. [I wrote this on Thursday.] The tropical storm knocked out our power. At least, it didn’t knock over any trees. I don’t know what’s happening elsewhere in my state right now, but I’ll tell you, thousands of people in eastern and southern North Carolina are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence. If you can help those who have lost their homes and/or livelihoods because of Florence flooding, please consider donating to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Quick and easy fish recipes

Sometimes I love to spend hours in the kitchen and sometimes I just want to get a meal on the table as quickly and easily as possible. I’m sure you can all relate to that. Tonight, I’m not sure what we’ll eat. I was planning to make some fish (mahi mahi with an almond-coconut crust), greens (sweet potato and spinach) and roasted sweet potatoes. Now I need a Plan B. [Plan B ended up being a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich.]

Anyways, one of my reliable stand-by recipes is sweet and spicy citrus fish. I don’t always stick to the amounts specified on the Cooking Light site because that would mean getting out measuring cups and spoons. I eyeball it and it’s just fine. In recent weeks I’ve made it with red porgy (which looks and tastes like snapper) and amberjack. As long as there’s an orange, lime and cilantro in the fridge, it’s go time for this recipe.

Another old stand-by is cornmeal-crusted fish. I’ve mentioned this fish dish before. Dredge fish fillets in seasoned flour, then in buttermilk spiked with hot sauce (or beaten egg and regular milk), then in a spicy cornmeal mixture. Use whatever spices catch your fancy. I gave some triggerfish fillets this treatment and, oh my, it was so good. And good in a sandwich the next day too—with tartar sauce, of course.

Sidenote: If you ever see triggerfish in a seafood market, grab it. Thank me later.

My third quick-and-easy preparation is blackened fish—you can find my recipe at the bottom of this post. I gave grunt the blackened treatment, a wise choice. You can eyeball and modify that recipe too.

And finally, Asian-inspired roasted fish (red snapper) with braised greens. I got some pac choi from the farm so we had that instead of the baby bok choy specified in the recipe. Instead of adding potatoes to the fish, I served it with jasmine rice.

Recipes and menu ideas for fish (red porgy, amberjack, triggerfish, grunt and snapper), shrimp scampi, shrimp broth, succotash, greens, roasted root vegetables (sweet potatoes and butternut squash).

Glorious shrimp broth

Wait, one more favorite: shrimp scampi pasta. It doesn’t take long to peel and devein a pound of shrimp, especially if you have lots of practice. If you save this one for a Friday night, you can have a glass or two of wine while doing the prep.

Don’t throw out those shrimp shells. Instead, throw them in a pot along with a few other ingredients and make delicious shrimp broth. You can add some of the broth to the pan with the pasta or (gasp!) cook your pasta in it—that’s what I did. Or, save the broth for shrimp and grits, or any other seafood/fish dish that calls for liquid.

Here’s how I make it, based on an Emeril recipe:

Shrimp Broth

  • Shells/heads from 1 pound of shrimp
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely sliced
  • 1/2 carrot, coarsely sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped into large pieces
  • 2 smooshed large garlic cloves
  • Dozen peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt

Place shells/heads in pot. Add water until it’s at least 2” above shells, or higher if you want more broth. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve or cheesecloth. Use right away or freeze in doubled freezer bags—chill it down in the refrigerator first.

Shrimp broth can make the difference between a good dish and an oh-my-god-that’s-amazing dish. I would only use shells from fresh shrimp, meaning shrimp that hasn’t been out of the water long—local shrimp. I wouldn’t make it with Asian shrimp—god only knows what those shells have been exposed to.

Recipes and menu ideas for fish (red porgy, amberjack, triggerfish, grunt and snapper), shrimp scampi, shrimp broth, succotash, greens, roasted root vegetables (sweet potatoes and butternut squash).

Farewell summer, hello autumn vegetables

Summer vegetables are still lingering at the farmers market but it won’t be long before they’re gone. I planted my two poblano pepper plants late so the peppers are just starting to get big. I pushed them up against the house under the deck roof so the winds don’t tear them apart. Hopefully they’re doing okay. [They did fine.]

I got in one last succotash with okra, butter beans, corn, tomatoes, poblano and red bell peppers, onion, basil and bacon. Okra isn’t everyone’s favorite because of the slime, but when you have it in a dish like this, the slime disappears.

Greens aren’t going anywhere, thankfully. We enjoyed a mix of turnip greens and collards sautéed with red bell, poblano and jalapeno peppers, red onion, garlic and the last of the bacon jam.

The green beans just started appearing in the market a few weeks ago. I sautéed green beans with bacon, sweet peppers (aji dulce), red onions and garlic—sort of based on this green bean recipe. I used to add chicken broth but I was thinking that might mask flavors. Instead, I added water so the ingredients wouldn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan while the beans got crisp-tender.

Roasted root vegetables are another stand-by, for example, roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary and garlic salt. Or, roasted butternut squash with smoked paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, thyme, and garlic salt.

That’s all for now!


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