Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Recipes and menu ideas for flounder, shrimp, okra, macaroni and cheese, bluefish, mahi mahi, butter beans, green tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli stems, tomato paste, greens, gingerbread coffee syrup and cider cocktail.

Recipes and menu ideas for flounder, shrimp, okra, macaroni and cheese, bluefish, mahi mahi, butter beans, green tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli stems, tomato paste, greens, gingerbread coffee syrup and cider cocktail.

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Fish and Shrimp

Here’s a recipe that takes some time—save this for a weekend night when you want to spoil yourself.

One of the most delicious—and rich—dishes I’ve made lately is shrimp and okra macaroni and cheese. I was thinking of a way to combine shrimp and okra, but I didn’t want to do a gumbo. I was really in the mood for pasta so I started looking around and found this recipe. But I’ll warn you, she doesn’t list the ingredients in order, so frustrating. If you want my cleaned up (and tweaked) version of the recipe, email me and I’ll send you my Word doc.

I added bacon and okra to her recipe. I went lighter on the black pepper and heavier on the onion and bell pepper, and added some green bell pepper to the mix. She rinses the pasta, I don’t know why because the starch on the pasta helps thicken the sauce—not that this sauce needed thickening, but there’s no point to rinsing pasta.

Don’t care for okra? Change it out with any green vegetable you like.

This is a fantastic dish, but really rich. Next time I’m going to reduce the cheese, maybe cut the Gruyere and Gouda in half. I might also use all milk instead of heavy cream—that would probably be a better move.

Recipes and menu ideas for flounder, shrimp, okra, macaroni and cheese, bluefish, mahi mahi, butter beans, green tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli stems, tomato paste, greens, gingerbread coffee syrup and cider cocktail.

Now for a quick and easy fish recipe.

Baked Lemon Parmesan Flounder

  • 1 pound flounder fillets
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, dill, chives and/or basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425. Lightly grease the bottom of a large baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil. Place the fillets in the dish and season with salt and pepper.

Combine the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon zest and garlic powder. Mix together the melted butter and olive oil, add to the dry ingredients, and stir together.

Pat the breadcrumb mixture onto the top of the fillets. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and the topping is golden.

We got some bluefish in one of our weekly CSF shares. I love boldly flavored fish like bluefish, but I know it’s not everyone’s thing. I found this deviled bluefish recipe from Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham (NC) on the Saveur site. I only made the fish since I already had other sides planned.

Another night I just decided to wing it with some mahi mahi fillets. I sprinkled them with Tajin seasoning—a Mexican blend of chile peppers, dehydrated lime juice and salt—and made a “sauce” of sautéed aji dulce peppers, scallions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro and Thai basil. We loved it—score one for me.

Recipes and menu ideas for flounder, shrimp, okra, macaroni and cheese, bluefish, mahi mahi, butter beans, green tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli stems, tomato paste, greens, gingerbread coffee syrup and cider cocktail.

Sides

I found a great way to prepare butter beans—or lima beans—in Vivian Howard’s cookbook, Deep Run Roots. You may know her from her PBS show, A Chef’s Life. I started with her stewed fresh butter beans recipe—simmering them in water with bay leaves, salt and pepper. Then I made her baked peas recipe. The beans are baked with onion, garlic, grape tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, brown sugar, sherry vinegar, oregano, rosemary and chili flakes. Wow. Really tasty.

One of our CSA shares included green tomatoes so I made my fried green tomatoes recipe. I see no reason to make them any other way—this recipe is so good.

I’ve been buying up eggplant lately at the farmers market because I know it won’t be around for long. One night I sautéed it with broccoli stems, zucchini, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, red onion and garlic. At the end, I stirred in some flat-leaf parsley and balsamic vinegar.

Let’s talk about broccoli stems. I never throw them away because, well, I hate waste, so I add them to vegetable dishes or frittatas. I slice off the ugly tough end of the stem and trim off any dried nubby things on the stem. I usually slice them in half lengthwise first, then half again and then crosswise. You end up with different size pieces because the stems leading to the florets are smaller than the main stem.

I also made a summery dish of sautéed eggplant, zucchini, peppers (red bell, poblano and aji dulce), grape tomatoes, onion and garlic. I added some tomato paste to the pan to give it some richness. Then I stirred in some basil pesto.

Have you noticed when a recipe calls for tomato paste, you usually only need one tablespoon or something like that? Don’t throw out the rest. Spoon it out of the can into a small freezer bag. Now that I think about it, I think I use a regular sandwich bag. Smoosh it down so it’s a solid cylinder down at the bottom of the bag and stick it in the freezer—somewhere handy where it won’t get lost, like a shelf on the door. The next time you need tomato paste, just slice off the one tablespoon you need and put the bag back in the freezer.

Of course, we’ve had all kinds of greens, mixed together and sautéed with bacon (sometimes), onion, peppers of all types, grape tomatoes (sometimes) and garlic. Whenever I get turnips or radishes, I take the greens off right away and store them in a bag in the fridge. I’ll give them the sauté treatment along with collards, kale, and/or spinach, or whatever other greens we get from the farm or farmers market.

Gingerbread Coffee Syrup & Cider Cocktail

I like chilled coffee in the morning, not just in the summer but throughout the year. Sometimes if it’s a really chilly morning, I might mix it up with tea or regular coffee, but I usually have a container of cold coffee in the fridge. I don’t like to sweeten hot coffee but I like just a hint of sweetness and flavor in my chilled coffee. My go-to sweetener is this homemade gingerbread coffee syrup.

But, before we get to the recipe, I’ve got to tell you about a drink I made this weekend. I bought a half-gallon of cider at the farmers market for the first time this season. I had the urge for some type of cocktail Saturday in the late afternoon (happy hour) and decided to mix cider and reposado tequila. Thinking it might just be meh, I added a dash of gingerbread coffee syrup. Oh my. Talk about fabulous. I just found my new fall drink.

Gingerbread Coffee Syrup

  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the water, maple syrup, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in a small saucepot and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Simmer it a while so it reduces a bit and the spices dissipate.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

You can strain the mixture through a cheesecloth if you wish, but I just pour it through a funnel into a jar or bottle. I keep mine in an old Torani gingerbread syrup bottle. Store it in the refrigerator.

Makes about 2 cups syrup.

That’s all for now!


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