Slimy Superfoods: West African Okra & Fish Stew

I love okra a lot.  I almost constantly crave the seductively silky slime that oozes between the bright bubble-like seeds of the tender pod.  There’s really nothing else like the texture of good, young, fresh, homegrown okra.  So when I saw it for $3.50 a pound at Greensgrow’s Saturday market (try $8 at some other farm standsI was all over it.  Nice combo of pretty green and purple varietals with dainty pods, which is good when you’re talking okra.  The longer the pod, the more likely it has grown woody.  These, though, looked perfect.

If my description of okra’s many fine qualities has you grimacing with disgust, keep in mind that it also happens to be a nutritional powerhouse, especially when it comes to healthy digestion.  The mucilaginous fiber contained in the pods is like compost for your poop.  It bulks, greases, detoxes, feeds your healthy probiotic gut bacteria…intestine heaven.  Look out for a blast of vitamin C, folate (a B vitamin that your red blood cells love), calcium and potassium too.  And with almost no accompanying calories, fat or cholesterol, this superfood is a golden ticket to health, weight loss, happiness, and, at $3.50 a pound, a fatter wallet too.

What better way to enjoy a superfood than with roots.  And those aren’t hard to come by for this little “finger” food.  Okra is a dietary staple from West Africa through the Sahara and across Asia to Japan.  It’s been part of local cultures for centuries…defining textural tastes (neba neba!)…thickening traditional dishes (gumbo’s got roots too)…supposedly even keeping Cleopatra’s skin free and clear of any unsightly acne.  Cool.

When it came time to turn my okra into dinner, I was so exhausted from lugging 40 lb bags of mushroom poop up three flights of stairs to my third story garden that all I could possibly take on was something relatively fast and super simple.  West Africa fit that bill.  Across this largely tropical coast, history and ecology have produced rich and entirely unique cuisines that also happen to rely on very few available resources and ingredients.  Simple food.  And sometimes fast.

Born was this uncomplicated and somehow deeply flavorful stew roughly based on the many varieties of ancestral gumbo cooked throughout West Africa, especially Senegal and Nigeria.  It was claimed that this may have been the best thing I have cooked in the past six months.  And not by me.  A great home for a great fruit.

NOTE: I would seriously encourage you to orchestrate some homemade stock into this dish.  As with all simple cooking, it’s the quality of the ingredients that truly matters.

West African Okra & Fish Stew

so easy, very healthy

serves 2 as a meal, 4 as not really a meal

  • shrimp stock (or any other stock) — homemade
  • pint or so okra, sliced into rounds — Greensgrow
  • kale (or any hearty green), roughly chopped — Fountain Farmers’ Market
  • white or yellow onion. roughly diced — Fountain Farmers’ Market
  • white stock fish (I used tilapia cause it’s what they had, but red snapper or mackerel might be better), rinsed and cubed — Whole Foods
  • peanut butter — Trader Joes
  • bay leaf — Whole Foods
  • cayenne (or red pepper flakes) — homeground
  • lime — El Zarape Grocery Store
  • large yam — Whole Foods
  1. Get started: in large soup/stock pot bring 4 cups stock, onion, bay leaf and okra to boil and let simmer for 10 minutes or until okra is softened but not mushy
  2. Meanwhile: boil yam until soft and then mash, with skin on
  3. Add other stuff: add 2ish tbs of peanut butter, a light dash of cayenne or red pepper and chopped greens
  4. Add fish: once greens are wilted and soft after about 5 minutes add fish cubes and continue to cook until just opaque, about 3 minutes
  5. Serve: squeeze lime over soup, serve with mash yam
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Time & Place: Summer in Acadia with Maple Salmon, Sweet Corn, Pickled Blueberries, Crispy Corn Cake

After an epic trip from Philadelphia to Prince Edward Island earlier this month (which I shall chronicle in brief, perhaps, later on), I found myself inundated with an unabashedly excessive quantity of wild Maine blueberries.  How can one resist those quiet green baskets so reminiscent of a season?  Especially in the throes of ones last moments in a place so blessed with gifts of wild fleshy ovaries?  Every vacation season needs a coattail…

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Facing excess and reminiscing on summertime in Maine and the maritime stretching north, I decided to give these wild blueberries an end fitting of their birth.  They would have a dish in homage to their season and their home.  And as I happened to have a rapidly-freezer-burning Atlantic salmon filet and some freshly arrived sweet corn from here in our own uniquely endowed region on hand, an Acadian theme came together quite naturally.

Acadia was a seventeenth century French colony that stretched from Prince Edward Island down through the maritime provinces of Canada and into Maine.  Nowadays, we’re talking culture.  Acadia isn’t so much a region as a way of life that was borne of a place and a time.  Unfortunate victims of European political conflict grappling with the combination of French blood and illiteracy while they struggled to learn as much as possible from the local native populations, Acadians were a pridefully self-sufficient people living simply from their land and no one else’s.  Begrudgingly happy, I’d like to believe.

So I had some fun thinking about what might have made it to the table on a balmy mid-summer night in coastal Acadia.  I already had the blueberries.  And salmon.  And summer sweet corn (a secondary crop for most Acadian farmers).  Why not add a little maple?  And for some French flair, why not pickle those blueberries (side note: I don’t actually think pickling blueberries is French, it’s just always something I’ve wanted to do)?

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Out of nowhere, a delicious and almost wholly locally purchased meal emerged.  From the “French” tang of the pickled blueberry to the “three sisters” grit of a good corn meal cake to the richly traditional sweetness of the maple and the historical significance of the salmon, this hearty meal was reminiscent of a time and place I’d like to know better.

A note: I’ve decided that I want to feature WHERE all this tasty looking food comes from – because that’s just as if not more important than where it ends up.  I’ll be as honest as I can, integrity as a local food enthusiast to the wind.  So check out the ingredient list, and I’ll think you’ll find that it’s easier than it seems to live at least mostly off of your own land…or at least land that’s being respected elsewhere.

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Maple Salmon, Sweet Corn, Pickled Blueberries, Crispy Corn Cake

Can be gluten free.

Serves 2

  • salmon filet (skin-on) — Whole Foods
  • real dark maple syrup — purchased in Vermont
  • balsamic vinegar — my mother’s pantry…
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced — Savoie Organic Farm at Headhouse Farmers’ Market
  • an orange — Acme
  • mayonnaise (or vegan sub) — Whole Foods
  • 2 ears of corn — Fountain Farmers’ Market
  • 1 egg, separated — Fair Food Farmstand
  • milk (of any variety) — Whole Foods
  • yellow corn meal (can be gluten free) — Whole Foods
  • a few chives, finely chopped — my roof!
  • pickled blueberries *see below — purchased in Maine
  • baby arugula — Whole Foods (but soon will come from my roof!)
  • fresh goat cheese — Di Bruno Bros.
  1. Preheat oven: 400 degrees
  2. Whisk glaze: 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/2 the minced garlic, and zest from 1/2 an orange or so
  3. Prep salmon: place skin-side down in baking-safe dish, coat with layer of glaze, squeeze juice from 1/2 orange over
  4. Reduce glaze: begin heating the remaining glaze over low heat until thickened slightly and caramelized (you can pull from here to baste salmon while baking)
  5. Strip corn: standing the ears on end in bowls, scrape the goodness off the sides with a sharp knife, retaining the juices/pulp (set aside 1/2 cup pretty kernels)
  6. Bake salmon: place in oven and cook 10-15 minutes, basting two or three times
  7. Assemble batter: place 1/2 cup corn kernels in large mixing bowl (for texture), chop remaining kernels either by hand or in food processor until well macerated then add to bowl as well. add remaining garlic, 3 tbs corn meal, a few pinches good salt, 1 tbs milk and egg yolk. mix. beat egg white until fluffy (a stiff foam will form and your hand will hurt), then fold into mixture
  8. Cook cakes: in greased skillet (using non-stick spray or a small amount of vegetable/canola oil) form “pancakes” about 3-4 inches in diameter and cook until crisp on the outside but still soft on the inside and drain on towel
  9. Pull salmon: when salmon is cooked through, but not dry, and rested for a moment or two, use a fork to flake the filet. add mayonnaise and more glaze as needed to keep quite juicy and moist.
  10. Plate: lay corn cakes on or next to arugula, top with pulled salmon, sprinkle reserved corn kernels, pickled blueberries* and goat cheese (crumbled), top with snipped chives and drizzled reduced glaze.

*Pickled Blueberries

  • white vinegar — Acme
  • brown sugar — Whole Foods
  • honey — Green Aisle
  • kosher salt — Acme
  • blueberries — purchased in Maine
  • red onion — Culton Organics at Headhouse Farmers’ Market
  1. Whisk 2 tbs vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp brown sugar, few swizzles of honey…pour over 1 cup blueberries and how ever much thinly sliced red onion you’d like…let refrigerate overnight.

Okinawa-nt! I love Bitter Melon and Goya Chanpuru

As I head off for a long weekend of uber-indulgence in Colorado (think Freshcraft to Strange Brewing to Great Divide to Falling Rock to Oskar Blues to Lefthand to New Belgium to Odell’s to Funkwerks to…liver failure and a broken home?) I wanted to leave you with the recipe for my last supper before the storm.

In an attempt to set my body so straight that it can only get so out of whack, I “traveled” to Okinawa, Japan’s island prefecture famous for its inhabitants’ long lives and excellent health. I figured taking some cues from their kitchens might just lend me some of their resilience.

And this means I get to use one of my favorite funny looking produce items: bitter melon!  This bumpy fruit is prized among Okinawans and is often credited with, well, just about everything. Seriously this thing had been used by populations all over the world for centuries to treat ailments ranging from stomach pains to nema toads to measles to diabetes to dysentery to scabies to cancer to malaria to — get this — HIV. And there’s actually science behind it. Like whoa.

The one catch is, well, it’s bitter. Certainly an acquired taste. There are things you can do to reduce the astringency, but its got a bite no matter what. Me? I love it. My boyfriend? Not so much. But considering that its basically a miracle in a melon, don’t you think you should like it no matter what?

To really get at the heart of this amazing community of folks, I sprung for a foundational Okinawan dish: Goya Chanpuru. It’s basically the Okinawan version of bi bim bap or donburi — a meal in a bowl — but features traditional Okinawan ingredients. To go the extra mile, I served mine with boiled satsuma-imo, the purple-skinned Japanese sweet potato cultivar. It is often said that Okinawans love this yammy bugger so much that it is often eaten boiled and cubed in the place of rice — perhaps contributing to their overall health and well being. Doesn’t much matter though, because they’re delicious anyway!

To sum up how I feel about this dish, I was absolutely unable to follow the traditional Okinawan rule hara hachi bu. Putting down the chop sticks at 80% full? There was no way. I stuffed my face. Addictive.

Goya Chanpuru with Boiled Satsuma-Imo

Serves 2-3 (can be vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten free)

  • 1 small bitter melon (select firm, yellow-green melons, about 5-6″ long)
  • 1/2 small yellow or white onion
  • 1/2 block of extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 can of tuna (for vegans use 1/2 cup cubed ham substitute or seitan)
  • 1 egg (for vegans use your favorite vegan egg scrambler substitute)
  • 1 large or 2 small Japanese sweet potatoes
Condiment Sauce
  • 2 tbs white miso (rice, buckwheat, or millet based if gluten free)
  • 2 tbs sake
  • 1/2 tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp tamari

Boil scrubbed potatoes in water until easily pierce-able with a fork (and then once cooled slightly have someone else cut them into cubes while you cook the chanpuru 🙂).

Meanwhile, whisk condiment ingredients together and set aside.

Also, crack the egg into a bowl, beat well and set aside.

Then, slice the bitter melon down the middle. Scoop out the seeds and most of the white innards. Slice into half moons about 1/8-1/4″ thick. Place the slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes (this will remove some of the bitterness).

Meanwhile, wrap tofu in a paper towel and press the water out. Wrap in a new sheet and place in microwave for 20-30 seconds. Press more water out. Wrap in new sheet and press one more time. Then cube!  About 1/2″ square.

Cut the onion into half moons.

Once 10 minutes has passed, pat the bitter melon dry with a paper towel.

Then start cookin’!

Coat the bottom of your saute pan or wok with non-stick spray, heat over medium and add egg. Let spread and cook until just firm, but still runny, and then set remove from pan and set aside – like a loose-y goose-y omelet.

Add 1-2 tsp of sesame oil to the same pan, let heat up and then add the bitter melon. Saute for a minute or two, then add onion. Saute for another minute or two, until just lightly softened and starting to brown. Add tofu cubes, continuing to move the whole mixture around your pan. Let saute for a few minutes, then add tuna (or vegan meat), incorporating well. Mix the egg back in, not being afraid to jostle tofu cubes. You don’t have to be gentle with this!

Lastly, slowly pour the condiment sauce around the rim of the pan and mix in.

Serve with the steamed satsuma-imo cubes your friend so nicely cut up for you.

Then, LIVE LONG AND PROSPER.

In Colorado.

The Scandinavian Cobb

This fun, made-up salad pretty quickly established itself as one of my favorite weeknight go-tos.  Super easy.  Super quick.  Super adaptable.  Delicious.  Refreshing.  Perfect for spring.

While I usually like to use slivered raw chard or beet greens and endive as the base for this lighthearted salad, this time around it features the first crop of mesclun from my rooftop garden.

Yay May!

Scandinavian Cobb Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette

Serves 2

  • Greens of choice (slivered chard or beet greens, or a baby lettuce mix with a backbone)
  • Smoked salmon (I use TJs smoked salmon pieces, which are super cheap and do the job)
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • 1/4 of a grapefruit (could also be orange or any other citrus fruit)
  • An avocado
  • One egg per salad
  • Dill springs
  • Horseradish vinaigrette (see below)

Prepare your toppings: chop the salmon into bite size pieces, very thinly slice the red onion, segment the grapefruit (please watch this amazing video on how if you don’t know), and cube or slice the avocado.

Poach the eggs (I’m still not very good at this, but the general idea is that you break your room temperature eggs into separate small bowls, gently boil 1-2 inches of water in a nonstick skillet, add 1 tbs vinegar, drop each egg into the water very gently, use a spoon to fold the white in on itself if necessary, turn off the heat, cover, let sit for 4-5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon) and while you wait for the eggs to be finished dress the lettuce with your vinaigrette.

Plate your dressed lettuce, add prepared toppings and finish with a poached egg, dill sprig and nice crusty bread.

Horseradish Vinaigrette

  • 1-2 tbs minced shallot
  • 1 tsp honey
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1-2 tbs white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1-3 tbs horseradish
  • 1-3 tbs plain yogurt or mayo
  • 1 tsp truffle oil (and optionally another 2-3 tsp of walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil)
  • salt & pepper

Combine the ingredients, blend or whisk well together, taste, adjust, use 🙂

Go Cephalo with Squid Adobo

I love squid.  If you think you don’t like squid, I hope you’ll try it again.  I love cooking squid.  If you’re afraid to cook (or eat) squid, I hope you’ll do it anyway.

Because it is super easy.  And super delicious.  And (high cholesterol aside) super healthy.  Think low calorie; high protein; and copper, riboflavin (which can ease migraine headaches) and selenium (a powerful anti-inflammatory mineral that provides immune support and may reduce the risk of cancer) rich.

My favorite quick and easy squid preparation comes from the Philippines, a place where squid is abundant and home cooks rule.  It’s a style known as Adobong (or Adobo), which involves cooking your protein in a wonderfully tangy mix of vinegar and soy sauce, seasoned with peppercorn and bay leaves.  While it’s often used for preparing pork or chicken, I prefer to use Pusit (or squid).  Hence: Adobong Pusit, or Squid Adobo.

Boasting 30 minutes max from start to table, there’s no reason not to go-cephalo tonight!

Adobong Pusit (Squid Adobo)

Serves 2

  • About 1/2 lb. baby squid (buying pre-cleaned is easier, but if you want an adventure and something much cheaper, go for the whole baby squid — there’s a wonderful video on how to clean and break them down here)
  • 1 mid-size tomato
  • 1 small yellow or sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 dried hot pepper and/or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Prep your squid — IF PRE-CLEANED: rinse the squid well under cold water and cut the bodies into rings about 1/4-1/2 inch wide — IF WHOLE: watch the video, clean your squid, and cut your bodies into rings.
  2. Chop your tomato and onion into half-moons about 1/4 inch thick, and dice your garlic.
  3. Heat a dutch oven or wide pot at least a few inches deep and coat with non-stick spray.
  4. Add onion and saute until soft and brown (5-10 minutes).
  5. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  6. Add tomato and saute until tomato is broken down (5-10 minutes).
  7. Add vinegar, soy sauce, water, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaf and pepper (if using).
  8. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened (as you like it).
  9. Incorporate squid and cook for 3-5 minutes ONLY until just cooked through (feel free to pick one up and poke it — it’s done when opaque and just firm).
  10. CLICK THE PHOTO TO SEE ADOBO IN ACTION:
  11. Serve on brown rice!

PS – I served my Adobo with a variation on Ginisang Ampalaya, or sauteed bitter melon, another quick and easy traditional Filipino dish made with onion, bitter melon and scrambled egg!  And just because my boyfriend accidentally bought them instead of normal chives I also added garlic chives (aka chinese chives or nira grass), which ended up serving as a delicious — and green — addition to the dish!  Recipe forthcoming.

Sunshine (Kabocha) on a Cloudy Day: Ginataang Kalabasa at Hipon

The one nice thing I can recollect from my dark, dank and horrible October (besides it becoming November) is this Headhouse purchase-promted dish: warm, creamy, comforting Ginataang Kalabasa.

I came home from the market one week with an irresistible sunshine kabocha.  Kabocha — also known as Japanese pumpkin — is a fantastic squash variety from, you guessed it, Japan (though originally Cambodia). It has a wonderful sweet chestnut flavor that is certainly one of my favorites.  The sunshine varietal doesn’t have a distinct taste profile, but it sure does look pretty, don’t you think?

On one of those cold blustery days it beckoned — “Stew me…..steeeewwww me.”  So I did.

In an effort to bring the kabocha back to it’s roots, I went for a Filipino-style preparation called ginataang, which basically means “stewed in coconut milk.”  The only protein I had on hand were some lovely large shrimp from Whole Foods stashed in the freezer, so the dish became Ginataang Kalabasa at Hiponkalabasa referring to the “pumpkin” and hipon to the “shrimp.”

Aside from the initial effort needed to cleaver the kabocha in two, this is a super easy dish to throw together — under 30 minutes from squash to table.  And like that’s not enough, it’s basically the culinary embodiment of the large, generous and warm Filipino mother you likely never had – well, the one I never had, at least.  On a cold, blustery day, nothing could be more comforting.

Ginataang Kalabasa at Hipon

(Kabocha Squash and Shrimp Simmered in Coconut Milk)

gluten free, can be vegetarian/vegan

Serves 2-3

-1 kabocha squash,* peeled, seeded and cut into 1-1.5 inch cubes
-1 small white/yellow onion, diced
-4 garlic cloves, crushed
-1 cup broth or stock
-2 chili peppers, tops removed
-1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined (can use cubed tofu to make vegan/vegetarian)
-2 cups coconut milk**
-1/2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
-Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat a wide pan coated with nonstick spray. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken broth, whole chili peppers (although you can split open and remove the seeds if you’d like less heat) and squash pieces – along with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender but still holds shape.
  3. Add the shrimp, coconut milk and fish sauce. Simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring, until shrimp is opaque.
  4. Serve over nice fresh rice 🙂

*Feel free to use any winter squash you have on hand!

**I, of course, use reduced-fat coconut milk.

Exploring Oxymorons: Oil-Free Gumbo

Be wary if your friends start offering you shots of unbelievably buttery espresso pulled from super cool prototype, pressure-profiling La Marzocco Strada EPs at Ultimo Coffee.

You may just decide to do something crazy.  Like make gumbo.  Without oil.  Or flour.  Like I did.

Why?  Because I’m crazy.

I rarely cook with oil.  Heating oil reduces the quantity and quality of good fats in it.  So when I use oil, it is usually raw and in extreme moderation.

I also rarely cook with carbohydrates (especially refined).  When I do use a carbohydrate, it is usually a legume; whole grain such as barley, quinoa, brown rice, or oat; or fruit.

I ALSO rarely cook with meat (aside from fish and other seafood).  When I do, it is typically richer meats in smaller quantities.

So.  How the hell am I supposed make a gumbo without a roux?  If you aren’t familiar with gumbo, its heart lies in the foundation of a good Creole roux.  This dark brown thickening agent is made by slow-toasting flour in oil (as opposed to a traditional French roux, which uses butter).  It is this creamy sludge that gives a gumbo its celebrated richness.  So I guess trying to make one without flour – or oil – is a joke – right?

Tell that to a girl who’s had five shots of espresso.

I thought to myself: “HEY – there’s no reason you can’t toast flour in the oven.  And there’s no reason you can’t toast chickpea flour instead of white flour.  And there’s no reason you can’t brown your holy trinity (the mirepoix of Creole cooking – onion, celery and pepper) with nonstick spray.”

So I went to Ippolito’s (as all Philadelphians should for their seafood), and did.

This is what I learned:

BUT – you can make a really tasty, oil- and gluten-free, “gumbo-inspired” seafood stew.  While there is no way in hell I can call it a gumbo without being struck down by some voodoo god, I discovered a guilt-free and downright delicious seafood stew.  It was flavorful and herbaceous (not to mention the seafood was melt-in-your-mouth tender) but it lacked that rich, dark, fatty intensity that makes a gumbo a gumbo.

So if you’ve got a Creole-craving but can’t muster the gumbo-gumption, try this on for size:

“Gumbo-Inspired” Seafood Stew

Serves 2-3

  • 1/2 pound unpeeled raw shrimp
  • 2 or 3 blue crabs (cleaned)
  • 3-6 inches dried andouille*
  • 1/3 to 1 cup chickpea flour**
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5-20 okra pods
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • dried thyme
  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • garlic powder
  • onion power
  • paprika
  • cayenne
  • bay leaves
  • peppercorns (whole)
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • Green onions
  • Fresh parsley

Toast your Flour

  1. Spread flour over baking sheet in thin layer and bake at 400 degrees for 30-60 minutes until browned (can freeze any that you don’t use for later).

Prep your Ingredients

  1. Dice your onion (all if medium, half if very large), celery (2 stalks), and green pepper (half), retaining all food waste.
  2. Finely chop garlic.
  3. Chop okra.
  4. Measure out 2 1/2 tsp thyme, 1 1/2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp paprika, 1-3 tsp cayenne, and 1 bay leaf.
  5. Measure out 1/3 cup of your toasted flour and 3/4 cup of crushed tomatoes.
  6. Chop andouille into pieces.
  7. Chop about 1/2 cup green onions and 1/4 cup parsley (retain half green onions for garnish).
  8. Peel your shrimp, retaining all peels (and heads, if you have em).
  9. Clean blue crabs (if you didn’t have your fishmonger do it for you).

Prepare the Shrimp Stock

  1. Throw the scraps from your onion and celery (plus an extra stalk and any remaining onion you have on hand), the peels (and heads, if you have em) from your shrimp, 1 bay leaf, several peppercorns, a tsp or two of dried thyme, and several sprigs of parsley into a large pot.
  2. Add 9 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for 10-20 minutes.
  3. Line a strainer with cheesecloth, and strain your stock through.
  4. Squeeze the solids through the cheesecloth to get any liquid goodness out and into your stock, and set aside (any that you do not use can be refrigerated or frozen for another time).

Make your Gumbo

  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat.  When hot, coat with nonstick spray.  Add your “holy trinity” of Creole cooking: the diced onion, celery and green pepper and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. *IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE RICE TO SERVE WITH YOUR STEW START IT NOW :)*
  2. Add garlic, and saute a minute more until fragrant.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add crushed tomato and combine.
  5. Slowly add toasted flour, stirring to combine.
  6. Slowly add 4 cups shrimp stock, stirring constantly to combine.
  7. Add okra, spice mix, andouille, and your cleaned blue crabs whole.
  8. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over your gumbo, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Uncover, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  10. Add 1/4 cup green onions, 1/4 cup parsley and your shrimp.
  11. Cook for 3-6 minutes more until shrimp are opaque.
  12. Squeeze some good southern hot sauce over your “gumbo” and serve with chopped green onions (optionally over a scoop of buttery rice).

*Due to an ill-timed trip to the Italian Market (99% of butchers there are closed on Mondays), I was forced to use hot dried sausage in place of andouille.  Try to acquire dried andouille (not the fresh ground that you need to brown) if possible.  And while I know there’s fat involved here, I think a small quantity is necessary for flavor.  A small amount does wonders.

**I used chickpea flour, as it is a high fiber, high protein substitute for white flour.  I don’t think it was entirely successful (aka white would have been better), but it was by no means bad.  Make your call.