Nearly four years ago I posted a recipe for quick and easy shrimp Creole. Actually, the real deal doesn’t take that much effort, so I thought another recipe might be in order. The stimulus was my discovery of a bag of shrimp in the freezer. In our de-cluttering effort we are trying to clean out a small chest freezer we keep in the garage. Some decisions of what to get rid of were easy. Down at the bottom of the chest I found dates that went back years (No “Best to use by” labels here.) The shrimp were near the top and represented a fairly recent purchase, so they were moved to the freezer in the house to be used soon. Shrimp creole seemed like the easiest solution. Of course, the star of the dish is shrimp, but it couldn’t be Creole without the so-called Cajun Trinity – onions, celery, and green bell pepper. Those three vegetables are the base for so many Louisiana dishes including gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffée. In South Louisiana, many recipes call for Creole tomatoes, which are big, flavorful, and juicy. Large fresh tomatoes of other varieties are a good substitute, but in winter, canned tomatoes will have to do. If you’re using canned tomatoes, use a large can (28 ounces) of whole tomatoes, well drained and crushed in your hands before you add them to the sauce. As to spiciness, some in our household are extremely sensitive to hot chiles, so the seasoning in this version is fairly mild, but you should feel free to spice up your batch as much as you like. Most importantly, enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The Cajun “Holy Trinity”: onions, celery, and bell peppers
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
- 1 rib celery, chopped coarsely
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped coarsely
- 3 large, ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups fish stock
- 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust according to taste)
- dash Tabasco sauce (adjust according to taste)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 pounds extra large (16-20/pound) shrimp, deveined, peeled, and tails removed
- ½ cup chopped Italian parsley (more or less)
- cooked rice
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over a medium flame. Add the onions,, stir, and cover to sweat the onions – about 5 minutes – until the onions are translucent. Do not let them brown. Add the celery and bell pepper. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are wilted.
- Add the garlic, fish stock, tomato sauce, thyme, bay leaf and basil. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne, and Tabasco. Add sugar and lemon juice. Add more salt if needed.
- At this point, you may cool the sauce and refrigerate for later use. The flavor improves overnight, but you probably shouldn’t try to hold it much longer.
- When you are ready to serve, prepare a batch of cooked rice according to your usual method. Return the sauce to a heavy pot and bring to a low boil. Add the raw shrimp and return to the boil for about 5 minutes until the shrimp have turned pink and they have lost their translucence.
- Ladle into large soup bowls over a mound of hot, cooked rice, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately. Have more Tabasco available for those who like their shrimp Creole spicier. Should serve 4 to 6.
The bounty of summer is beginning to pour in. Our neighbor has more peaches than he knows what to do with. Now we have more peaches than we know what to do with. And he has invited us back for more. Unfortunately his apricot and cherry trees had no fruit this year, probably because of late frost.
Good friends gave us some delicious plums from their back yard. We will probably get some more when we visit them today. So far, no one has given us any zucchini, but they will come. The tomatoes are in abundance.
This week we went to the market at the Community Farm instead of our usual visit to the farmers’ market at the Rail Yard. The Community Farm is a group of fields and orchards owned by a 90+ year-old man who has contributed their use to the city. Volunteers do all of the work, and so the vegetables are not the perfect specimens that you find at the farmers’ market much less the supermarket. But the produce is put to good use. Most of it goes to the local food bank and a program of meals for house-bound clients. The farm has a public market every Sunday afternoon. We pulled into the driveway and were greeted by a group of volunteers clearly proud of their efforts: piles of fresh vegetables. We bought baskets of fragrant and colorful vegetables, and now we have to make some good stuff from the bounty.
There were lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and a red onion in our basket. What could be better to make than a summer soup of gazpacho? Actually, I am not a big fan of most gazpacho. It is often puréed into oblivion and resembles baby food. I much prefer to have identifiable vegetables and crusty garlic croutons. That’s what this recipe is.
Peaches from our neighbors
Plums from our friends
Bounty from Community Farm
Rustic gazpacho with chives snipped chives and sour cream
Rustic gazpacho – don’t forget the garlic croutons
- 6 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 bell pepper, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
- 1 small red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- ½ cup minced parsley
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- juice of 1 lemon
- juice of ½ lime
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups chicken stock
- salt and pepper
- garlic croutons
- snipped chives (optional)
- sour cream (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, parsley, and garlic.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, and olive oil until well combined. Stir the mixture into the vegetables.
- Stir in the chicken stock. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Adjust seasoning with more lemon juice if desired, salt and pepper. Serve, topped with croutons. Garnish with snipped chives and sour cream if desired.
It is the custom in the US South to eat black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year’s Day, one for good luck and one for wealth. Some believe that not to eat these dishes will result in the opposite effect, bad luck and poverty.
Our family lived in Louisiana to get into the custom, even though we didn’t really believe the superstition. The habit has persisted even though we have lived outside the South for many years. There must be lots of other former Southern citizens in our Southwest community, because canned and frozen black-eyed peas are always sold out days before New Year’s Eve.
There are many versions of cooked black-eyed peas which qualify as good luck charms the New Year: Hoppin’ John, Texas caviar, black-eyed pea vinaigrette, and plain ol’ Southern black-eyes. The following recipe borrows from all of those classics. Likewise, the cabbage dish is an update of plain old boiled cabbage.
It may be too late for you to get your protection for 2013, but hold onto the recipes for next year. In the meantime, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Uncooked dried black-eyed peas
Fresh tomatoes and other vegetables added to the beans for the final simmer
Serving of New Year’s Day black-eyed peas
Napa cabbage, red onions and mushrooms ready for the braise
Dill fronds for the dilled yogurt sauce
Dilled yogurt sauce
Serving of napa cabbage, red onions, and mushrooms topped with dilled yogurt sauce
Good-Luck Black-Eyed Peas
- 3 strips bacon
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
- water for cooking peas
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
- 3 ounces Canadian bacon, large dice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 or more dashes Tabasco sauce
- Fry the bacon in a small pan over medium heat until crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and transfer the bacon drippings to a heavy-bottomed soup pot.
- Over medium heat, put the chopped onion in the soup pot, cover, and sweat for 5 minutes until translucent and softened
- Add the peas and enough water to completely cover the peas. Bring to the boil and then reduce to the simmer, covered, for 1½ to 2 hours or until the peas are tender.
- Add the bell pepper, celery, tomatoes, and green chiles. Stir in the Canadian bacon. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes more or until the tomatoes are cooked down.
- Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and Tabasco
- Serve in wide-brimmed soup bowls.
Braised Napa Cabbage, Red Onions and Mushrooms with Dilled Greek Yogurt
- 1 small napa cabbage cut in half lengthwise
- 1 medium red onion sliced in thin crosswise rounds
- 6 cremeni mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup dry white wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup minced dill fronds
- Combine the cabbage, onion, mushrooms, chicken stock, wine, salt, and pepper in an oven-proof covered pan
- Over medium-high flame, bring the pan to a boil, cover, and then transfer to the middle of an oven pre-heated to 250°F
- Braise the vegetables for 60 minutes or until they are tender. Check frequently, and add water if needed
- In the meantime, combine the yogurt and dill in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator while the vegetables are braising to bring out the dill flavor.
- Drain the cooked vegetables and serve with yogurt SAUCE.
If you wish, serve the black-eyed peas with cooked rice, along with cornbread on the side for dipping.
Whenever our children visit us with their families, as they did this Christmas season, we try to make old favorites from their childhood. Often the food is drawn from the Southwest, but all three of them grew up in Louisiana, so Cajun and Creole dishes are high on the list of favorites. Gumbo is popular, and boiled crawfish in the spring is almost required. Bread pudding and shrimp creole are also on the list, along with red beans and rice.
For as long as anyone can remember, Monday has been laundry day in New Orleans. For as long as anyone can remember, red beans and rice has been the standard Monday supper in New Orleans because it can be started when the wash is started, stirred from time to time during the day, and finished when everyone is ready to gather around the table in the evening. We didn’t live in New Orleans, but the custom is common throughout the entire state of Louisiana.
An essential part of the dish is the meat that is used in the red beans. Traditionally a ham hock is tossed in – mostly for flavor – but also for the morsels of ham that are closest to the bone. Andouille sausage is popular as is Tasso ham. Sometimes you will see whole pork chops swimming in the stew. For this version, I chose boneless pork loin which gives good flavor and tenderness without bones. The chunks of pork fit perfectly on the fork and make a single melt-in-your-mouth bite.
Usually red beans and rice have the spiciness that is famous in Cajun and Creole cooking, but because one of our family members has severe reactions to hot spices, we make it without red pepper or chiles. Not to worry, because it is easy to add your preferred level of hotness at the table with Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce.
Cooked red beans waiting to go back in the pot
Celery and green bell pepper
Sautêing the vegetables (onion, celery, green bell pepper)
Browning pork loin
Scallions to add to the mix and for the top
Ready to eat
Red Beans and Rice
- 1 pound dry small red beans
- water to cover the beans for cooking
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 large bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ¾ inch cubes
- 1 bunch green scallions including green stems, chopped
- 2 bay leaves or ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- Louisiana hot sauce to taste
- 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed in a fine sieve with cold water
- 1½ cups water
- Pour the beans into a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a ver slow boil. Cover and cook the beans for 1½ to 2 hours or until they are tender. Stir the bottom occasionally and add more water if needed.
- When the beans are tender, transfer them and the cooking liquid to a large bowl Rinse and dry the pot. Then return the pot to a medium flame and add the olive oil.
- When the olive oil is just shimmering, add the chopped onions, lower the heat and cover so that the onions “sweat” (become soft and translucent and give up some of their moisture). Do not let them brown.
- Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium and stir in the celery, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are throughly wilted. Then transfer them and their juices to a plate.
- Return the pot to the stove. Add the cubes of pork and brown them. Use more oil if needed.
- When the meat is evenly browned, return the beans and their liquid, along with the vegetables, and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the scallions, bay leaves, and thyme.
- Simmer the mixture, covered, for an additional hour. Adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper and, if desired, hot sauce. Remove the bay leaves
- While the red beans are cooking, prepare the rice by combining the rice and water in a small covered pot. Bring to the boil. Stir. Cover and reduce the flame to very low. Do not remove the cover, but cook for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. The water should be completely absorbed, and the rice should be fluffy with individual grains.
- Serve by placing a scoop of rice in the middle of a wide-mouthed bowl. Top with the red bean mixture, and serve with additional hot sauce.
Should serve 6 to 8
A few of my recent posts have dealt with pasta and casseroles, especially those I remember from my childhood. Here is yet another: my mother’s famous (or infamous as you will see) goulash, which was decidedly not the Hungarian variety. It was one of her most prized recipes, and a dish that family visitors often requested. She would bring it to the table with great pride, always in an oven casserole. When we had visitors, it would disappear before the meal was over, no matter how much she made.
Sometime around my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, the topic of Mom’s famous goulash came up at the dinner table, and my father – for whatever reason – made the offhanded comment that, actually, he never much cared for my mother’s goulash. A pall fell over the gathering, everyone ate quickly, and plates were rushed to the sink without much more comment. My mother never made her goulash again. Too bad, because it is really a quick, easy, and tasty one-dish meal for a family dinner.
When I was compiling a family cookbook years ago, I asked my mother for the recipe. She didn’t send it even with a lot of cajoling. She even claimed that she had lost it. Finally, I received a copy just before she died. Actually, you don’t need a recipe, just a little imagination.
- 2 cups uncooked dry macaroni
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed or minced
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ pound mushrooms, washed and sliced
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon ground thyme (more if you like)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
- 4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons butter to dot the top of the casserole
- Cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted, boiling water until just al dente (about 12 minutes at sea level, longer at higher altitudes). Drain and set aside.
- In a large oven-proof container (a large, heavy cast iron skillet works best), heat the oil on the stove over medium heat.
- Add the onions and sweat them until they are translucent and soft. Then add the celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and well cooked.
- Add the ground beef. Stir frequently to break apart any lumps of uncooked meat. Continue to cook until the meat is well-browned. Then stir in the paprika, bay leaf, and thyme. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Add the sliced mushrooms and stir until they are lightly cooked.
- Stir in the cooked macaroni.
- Stir in the canned tomatoes until well combined. Then stir in half the grated cheese
- Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the remaining cheese, dot with butter, and bake in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350°F for about 40 minutes or until the cheese topping is melted and bubbling a bit.
- Serve immediately at the table with a salad and crispy bread.