Fish Friday: Use summer’s best

We’re in the thick of summer now. Fresh corn, peppers and beautiful North Carolina shrimp. I combine them all whenever I have a chance – and sometimes throw in some okra, too.

Shrimp makes a great substitute for the smoked trout that I used in the original recipe in “Carolina Catch: Cooking North Carolina Fish and Shellfish from Mountains to Coast.”  In fact, most of the recipes in the book offer alternative seafood suggestions so that you can use whatever’s available at different times of year.

To learn more, and find more recipes, take a look at the book. And the Moose is on the loose! Visit Events at to find a signing or cooking class I’m doing near you.

Fresh Corn and Shrimp Fritters

From “Carolina Catch: Cooking North Carolina Fish and Shellfish from Mountains to Coast” by Debbie Moose

Makes 8-10 servings

2 cups fresh corn kernels

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped green onion

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and cut into small pieces

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Vegetable oil for frying

Place the corn, bell peppers, green onions, flour, chili powder, paprika, salt and shrimp in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Stir in the eggs.

Put enough oil in a frying pan to come about 1 inch up the sides. Heat over medium until the oil shimmers. (See frying tips in “Best Basics” in “Carolina Catch”) Use 2 large spoons to scoop out the batter into patties and place them in the hot oil. Lightly press each patty to flatten it. Cook the patties, turning once, until they are brown on both sides. Drain them on paper towels or on a cooling rack placed over a plate. Keep the cooked patties warm in an oven on low heat until all the patties are cooked.

Wokking again

I’ve noticed a couple of things in the course of Wok Wednesdays. One, that I need to sharpen my knives. Before I can stir fry, I have to chop – a lot. If you aspire to wokking, get those kitchen knives good and sharp. It will make life easier and get dinner on the table faster. Mine will be on the way to the sharpener tomorrow.

The other thing is just how little oil good stir frying requires, when you have a well-seasoned wok – and mine apparently is on the way to being so. Tonight’s recipe, Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum, called for just two tablespoons of vegetable oil. And it was plenty. Nothing stuck.

I have to say, this week’s recipe wasn’t my favorite so far. The ketchup-based sauce reminded me of restaurant Chinese food – a much better version of it, but reminiscent of conventional flavors. I like a little more…oomph.

I decided to peel the shrimp despite instructions to leave the shells on to make them more moist. I dislike dealing with shells in a completed dish. I did squeeze half a lime over the peeled and deveined shrimp and left it for a couple of minutes before cooking. The rest of the lime went into my iced tea and a strawberry cider-soda concoction I’ve been enjoying recently. More on that later.

This is my first time participating in a “group-cook” like this. It’s a great way to explore a technique and piece of equipment that I’d been frustrated by in the past. Read more about the group experience here.

Love thy neighbor

My neighbor has been raving about a cookbook for some time. However, it’s not one of mine. It’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook” by Chapel Hill’s Sheri Castle (UNC Press, 2011). My neighbor has other fine qualities, so I have chosen to overlook his lack of tact.

It’s difficult to blame him, and we are into the time of year that this book is really useful, because it offers many ways with Southern vegetables. For example, I had a load of chard from my CSA box. Sauteed greens with some garlic is great, but I wanted something different. The Greens section of the book offered many tempting options. I went with Greek Shrimp with Spinach, Feta and Orzo – with some modifications, starting with the chard for the spinach. I omitted the Parmesan cheese and used only half of the feta called for, a nod to The Hub’s dairy allergy. I could not find orzo in my usual supermarket, but I did find a box of the cutest miniature bow-tie pasta, called farfarlline.

So, this is an adaptable recipe, obviously. It even tastes pretty good reheated the next day (do it gently, so as not to rubberize the shrimp). And it’s hard to argue with my neighbor.

Greek Shrimp with Spinach, Feta and Orzo

From “The New Southern Garden Cookbook” by Sheri Castle

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

12 ounces uncooked orzo

4 cups lightly packed baby spinach or stemmed and shredded chard

1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese, divided

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 pounds extra-large (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons oregano

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a glass or ceramic 9×13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil. cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain well in a colander and return to the same pot. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the oil, the spinach, 1/2 cup of the feta and the Parmesan. Spread the orzo mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish an dcover with foil to keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook only until they start to turn opaque, about 1 minute. The shrimp will finish cooking in the oven. Arrange the shrimp over the orzo.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Add the garlic and cook until you can smell the aroma, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, oregano and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to the consistency of pasta sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and orzo.

Bake until the shrimp are opaque, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of feta cheese and serve hot.

Makes 6-8 servings.


Let the good times roux

I’ve cranked up Beausoleil and the Wild Magnolias while I’m working instead of my usual cool jazz – it’s Mardi Gras! (Working on a Cajun fiddle tune…someday…) You can hit a Mardi Gras party, sure. But if you make your own party, no worries about getting home with purple glitter all over yourself and people asking questions.

Most people think of jambalaya and gumbo for New Orleans food – spicy, like the holiday. And there’s not a thing wrong with that. But here’s something a little different that will please the anti-heat wimps but still have lots of flavor. Yes, it involves a roux, but don’t freak out. Natives of Louisiana are as born to make roux as Tar Heels are to smoke pork, but we each can learn.

If you’re inexperienced at roux-making, keep the heat on medium to medium-high (no higher), and go slow. Do. Not. Stop. Stirring. Not even if Justin Bieber shows up at your door and wants you to give him a haircut. That flour and oil can burn before you can say “Oh, look, the lottery numbers are being announced.” Focus, people.

This recipe is from”New Orleans Home Cooking” by Louisiana native Dale Curry. I modified it to make it easier to prepare. You could use a bottled Creole seasoning instead of the herbs, but most of them are very high in salt. I prefer to do my own seasoning.

Shrimp Creole

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (16-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

A few dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt to taste

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

Cooked rice

In a large pot over medium heat the flour and oil to make the roux. Cook and stir until the roux is peanut butter-colored. Immediately add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Stir and cook until soft.

Add the lemon juice, tomato sauce, tomatoes, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, cayenne, hot pepper sauce, oregano, basil, thyme and sugar. Stir, then taste and add salt as needed. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook about 10 more minutes, until the shrimp is done. The consistency of the sauce should be thick. Serve over cooked rice.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Waders and Pearls

This is certainly a formal occasion, by Hatteras Island standards. Guests are encouraged to wear wader books and pearls to this oyster feast on Saturday, Feb. 26 in Hatteras Village on the Outer Banks. Proceeds from ticket sales (a bargain at $10 each) will benefit the annual Day at the Docks annual celebration of watermen, which is held in September. Guests are also asked to bring non-perishable food donations for the Hatteras Island Food Pantry.

To reserve tickets, call Lynne Foster at (252) 619-0136. Besides the oysters, I’m told there will be two different kinds of shrimp stew. I never knew there was even one kind. Stay tuned; I’m trying to track down the story on that.