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February 5, 2010


What’s this blog for, anyway? Sometimes I just want to remember something that happened — in great detail! So this will be boring to everyone but me, someday, when I read it:
Tonight we had Judy, Ed and Dani over for a casual family dinner. I think word has gotten out that Chiara and Jemma are really cute and everyone wants to see how they grow!

I decided to make Mark Bittman’s Minimalist “A Lighter Gumbo” recipe and a vegan cornbread instead of rice. Last night I made the roux, stirring olive oil and flour for 10 minutes straight until the scent turned nutty and the color turned a nice hazelnut brown. Chopped green peppers, onions, celery — “the holy trinity” — went in next, until the onions looked translucent. Next went garlic, and once I could smell it cooking I poured a can of diced tomatoes and a half quart of vegetable broth. I stirred in two herbs that were about to go bad in my fridge: cilantro (so inauthentic, but I couldn’t bear to throw it out) and parsley, and two dried bay leaves. When the pot came to a boil. I turned it off, put the lid on, and left it overnight.

On my way home from work, I asked my colleagues Karin and David what I should serve with the gumbo and cornbread. I wondered whether I should have a green vegetable, garlic kale or collards maybe? roasted broccoli? Karin suggested asparagus, or roasted brussel sprouts. David wondered whether I could get away with just a salad. That made me think about the salad I saw Giada de Laurentiis make on tv once: bitter greens like arugula, radicchio, endive, with granny smith apple, cubes of provolone, cubes of avocado, toasted pine nuts and a lemon vinaigrette. I think she had cubes of pancetta in hers, but I omitted and adjusted (had cheddar in the fridge so I used that instead of provolone, for instance. And the avocados I bought were so hard they weren’t worth cutting into prematurely.) That seemed the perfect accompaniment.

I stopped by Citarella on my way home from work. I love the fishmonger there. He has never steered me wrong, even telling me recipes for the fish he is selecting for me. He once told me, when I showed up and said I want whatever’s fresh, to saute onions, and when they are translucent, splash good balsamic vinegar in it, add a teaspoon or two of capers, and then place a swordfish steak on top and cover the pan. Wait 5 minutes and turn the fish over and cover the pan again. That was heavenly — really really sweet, salty, sour and oily/meaty which I guess is the same thing as saying “umami” but I can’t say that because it sounds too trendy/snooty! I have to wait until someone says it on The Simpsons before it’s OK for me to use it in conversation!

Anyway, the fishmonger today suggested the sea scallops. I had heard once that bay scallops have more flavor, so I was choosing between them and he asked what I was preparing. When I said gumbo he didn’t hesitate to recommend the sea scallops. I got a half pound, and had about a half pound of deveined and peeled shrimp, tail-on, in my freezer.

Of course, just as I was walking into the apt. I remembered the okra! It is not part of Bittman’s gumbo recipe but I just thought the gumbo might need okra. I had never bought it nor cooked it before but I just felt it would be missed. So luckily, Luke was able to pick it up on his way home from work (helps to work in Chelsea Market!).

Dinner was delicious. If I didn’t have small kids, I would have pumped up the cayenne factor, but Chiara really won’t eat spicy food at all, so I left it mild and put a bottle of pepper sauce on the table. I added corn to the cornbread recipe, and it was mildly sweet, browned and crusty outside, moist inside. A winning recipe! I had been nervous because it called for mixing soy milk with apple cider vinegar, then adding oil and maple syrup, stirring with a whisk “until it got foamy and bubbly.” That sounded like a chemistry experiment gone wrong. But it really worked.

Vegan Cornbread from The Post-Punk Kitchen
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups soymilk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350, line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper or spray the bottom lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, wisk together the soymilk and the vinegar and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt).
Add the oil and maple syrup to the soymilk mixture. Wisk with a wire wisk or a fork until it is foamy and bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Pour the wet ingredient into the dry and mix together using a large wooden spoon or a firm spatula. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Slice into squares and serve warm or store in an airtight container.

The Minimalist: No Oxymoron: A Lighter Gumbo (February 3, 2010)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Salt and black pepper
2 to 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
2 cups chopped tomatoes with their juice (canned are fine)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves
Cayenne to taste
1 pound scallops
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish.
1. Put oil and butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. When butter is melted, add flour and cook, stirring almost constantly, until roux darkens and becomes fragrant, about 15 to 20 minutes; as it cooks, adjust heat as necessary to keep mixture from burning. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and raise heat to medium. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened, about 10 more minutes.
2. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, bay leaves and cayenne. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat so soup bubbles steadily. Cook for about 20 minutes or until flavors meld. Add scallops and cook until they are no longer translucent, about 2 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve, garnished with parsley.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

For the salad, I chopped arugula, some red-leaf lettuce, endive, radicchio, granny smith apple, cheddar cheese and added toasted pine nuts. The vinaigrette was juice of 1 large lemon, olive oil, pinch of salt, squeeze of agave nectar, dash of sherry vinegar because I like my vinaigrettes really sour, stirred vigorously until it emulsified.

Buon appetito! Laissez les bons temps roullez!

jeanhee @ 12:35 am