As a seafood and nature lover,the Gulf coast Oil spill's dire consequences immensely concerns me.When Foodbuzz announced the 24x24 Gulf Ambassador event dedicated towards raising money for those affected by the Gulf oil spill.I could not possibly miss the opportunity to support the rebuilding efforts and promptly proposed a Gulf inspired meal titled "Save the Coast - A Louisiana Seafood Celebration".Apparently Mr.Healthnut and I were in planning of a get together.It has been a year since we moved to Columbus and was about time we socialized with our new acquaintances.With my proposal accepted and my amiable pals available to join in the seafood feast,here is how I proceeded to prepare and execute the memorable dinner.
Normally I would start the preparation for a party(like this one) at least 3 days ahead.But it was different with seafood which tastes best the same day as cooked.The only prep work the day before was to have all the ingredients in hand.
Since my friends share the same love for spicy seafood ,the main ingredients were exclusively seafood.I choose affordable simple kind - crab,shrimp and fish,since we wanted this to be a budget friendly meal.Inspired by traditional Louisiana cuisine,each of the courses had to be flavorful but not overwhelmingly spicy as the weather was already turning up the heat.
All the seafood was bought from the local markets of Columbus that sell the best quality seafood.Some of the fresh herbs(thyme and cilantro)and vegetables(tomatoes and okra)were from my home garden(yes,harvested from my first ever home garden).
Herbed Mini Crab Cakes
To get the festivity rolling,these bite-size crab cakes were an appetizing start.The sauteed vegetables are mixed with crab meat,fresh and dried herbs ,spices and cooked to a slight crunch.These were gone in no time,so the first course of the meal had to be served promptly.
Makes 25 mini crab cakes
1/2 pound crab meat
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 tablespoon cilantro or parsley,finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup bread crumbs + 2 tablespoon
1 Organic egg
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ginger,finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoon canola oil
Heat about 2 teaspoon of oil in large pan,cook the onions, bell pepper, and celery ,until softened, about 8 minutes.Cool.
Whisk together the egg ,worcestershire sauce ,ginger,cayenne and salt in a large bowl, mix in the crab meat,cooked onion mixed and 1/2 cup bread crumbs.Shape into bite size patties.Dredge the patties in remaining bread crumbs.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick or cast iron pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, carefully place crab cakes, in batches, and fry until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.Serve warm with tartar sauce.
Starter - Entrée : Okra Shrimp Roux Gumbo with Jalapeno Butter milk Corn bread
Gumbo is a luscious flavorsome soups savored in the Louisiana cooking.The stew is thickened with the roux sauce(made with equal portion of fat and flour),the mellow okra,spices and finally a variety of seafood are cooked slowly until the seasons marry.Usually enjoyed over bowl of white rice,I served with a more exciting jalapeno corn bread instead.I seeded the jalapenos again to avoid the excess heat.The buttermilk not just balances the heat but also makes the bread really moist.
Usually a soup and bread like such would make my meal complete,but as this was feast on grand scale,I was glad the guest were waiting for more.
1 pound large shrimp(25-30 count), peeled and deveined
1 pound okra, sliced
2 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion,finely chopped
1/2 cup celery ,finely chopped
1/2 cup bell peppers,finely chopped
2 ripe Tomatoes steamed,peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (10 1/2 ounces ) tomatoes
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
3 cups water
Salt and pepper
In a large cast iron Dutch oven or pot add the oil and flour.Cook over medium-low heat ,stirring constantly until the roux is lightly brown and aromatic,about 30 minutes.Add onions, peppers, celery and garlic. Saute for 4-5 minutes,add the tomatoes ,cayenne and bay leaves,cook for 2-3 minutes before stirring in the water.Cover and bring to a slow boil.Add the okra and simmer for 10-15 minutes until softened.Now add the shrimp and simmer another 15 minutes.Serve warm with the corn bread.
Jalapeno Butter milk Corn bread
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 big Jalapeno pepper,seeded and chopped
2 large Organic eggs
1 1/2 cup reduced fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs ,and add the buttermilk and baking soda, and whisk to combine. Add the flour, cornmeal, peppers, and salt. Using a spatula stir until just blended. Do not over mix.
Pour batter into a greased 8 inch cast iron pan or a square baking pan or a baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool few minutes before slicing.Serve warm with the Okra shrimp gumbo.
Cajun Seafood Jambalaya
Jambalaya is another one of the most celebrated food in the Southern cuisine,prepared with variety of meat,spices and rice.I kept mine strictly seafood,the Cajun style has no tomatoes,the spice rubbed seafood is browned for the extra smoky aroma then cooked with rice and vegetables.
Last and fulfilling end of the savory course,the only craving now was for the dessert.
2 pound Tilapia or other firm white fish fillets
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups long grain rice,washed and drained
1 large onion,chopped
2 cup bell peppers(red,yellow and green),chopped
1 cup celery,chopped
2 cloves garlic,finely chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoon canola oil
fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish.
For Cajun Seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl,mix together all of the ingredients under the seasoning list.Rub about a tablespoon of the seasoning over the fish fillet and shrimp.Let marinate in fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile heat oil in a dutch oven or skillet on medium-high heat,add the onion,pepper and celery,saute to 3-4 minutes until soft,add the garlic and a tablespoon of the cajun seasoning and cook 2-3 minutes,get the vegetables out of the pan.
Add the fish fillets ,one at a time in to the pan and cook 5-6 minutes on each side until spice on the crust is nicely browned,take the fish out and cook the shrimp for 4-5 minutes until spices is brown and aromatic.Set the shrimp aside along with the fish.Now add the rice in to the pan ,stir frequently,cook 3-4 minutes until rice is pearly white,then pour in the stock and drop the bay leaf;bring to a boil.Cover,reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.Then mix in the vegetable mixture,fish fillet(torn in smaller chunks) and shrimp,cook another 10 minutes until rice is fully cooked.Discard the bay leaves.Serve warm.Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro.
Berry Lemon Spritzer
A refreshing blend of berries and lemons,the chilled drink was a perfect thirst quencher.
1 cup assorted frozen berries
2 tablespoon sugar
10 ounce bottle of lime flavored soda water
Puree the frozen berries in a blender with the sugar until smooth.Filter the puree to remove the pulp.Pour about 2 tablespoon of the berry juice in each glass.Add the ice cubes,soda water,a lemon wedge in each and serve immediately.
Peach Chocolate Banana Foster with thyme infused caramel sauce
For a sweet finish to the enticing feast,nothing could have been more cooling than an ice cream dessert.Quick to put together with simple ingredients, caramelized fruit and ice cream,this is the kind of dessert one can prepare right in front of the guests of the party.My version is non-alcoholic,for added flavor I infused the caramel sauce with fresh thyme.
1 tablespoon unsalted Organic butter or virgin pressed coconut oil
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 medium ripe bananas, sliced
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 ripe peaches ,chopped
6 scoops of reduced fat Ice cream(I made my own Chocolate Almond ice cream)
Melt the butter or coconut oil in a pan on low heat. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the orange juice,thyme and bring sauce to simmer. Add peaches ,bananas and cook for about a minute ,sprinkle the zest and turn the heat off. Discard the thyme sprigs,place the fruit in the serving plates,pour some sauce over each,and serve with the ice cream.
As much as we loved the succulent seafood meal ,we were also very anxious about the extent of damage the spill has caused to the marine and wild life in the Gulf not to mention the fishermen whose livelihood depend on the business,and how it would affect some of our seafood choices in years to come until natural purity of coastal waters is restored.
Foodbuzz has pledged to donate $250 on behalf of every featured 24x24 publisher of the month, to Greater New Orleans foundation,which has been playing a key role in relief efforts in the wake of the tragic oil spill.I am truly pleased to have been selected as the Foodbuzz 24x24 Gulf Ambassador.
Be sure to check back with other 24X24 posts of this month here.