California Cioppino

When visiting my Aunt in California, I enjoyed awesome – and I mean awesome – cioppino. In an ironic twist, I was inspired to make a pot of California Cioppino 2,500 miles away on the Gulf Coast. The seafood varies, of course, between the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the main ingredients here – mussels, tilapia, bay scallops, and shrimp – can be found in any supermarket. Don’t worry if you’re nowhere near a coastline; frozen seafood is just fine for this dish. Just pick up the seafood that is available to you in your area, put on some flip flops, and pretend the snowbank you see from your kitchen window is a white sand beach.  😉

Note: The cioppino recipe below is a stew, intended to be served in a bowl, like soup, perhaps with a side of good bread. Some folks prefer cioppino as a pasta topping. If that’s more your style, then reduce the fish broth from 4 cups all the way down to 1 1/2 cups. Other than that single change, the rest of the recipe remains the same. Your resulting cioppino will be less brothy and will hold up when served over a plate of pasta.

Ingredients (Makes a big pot; serves 8+)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

4 cups fish broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

24 ounces frozen mussels in shells

12 ounces tilapia fillets, fresh or thawed if frozen, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

16 ounces frozen bay scallops (keep frozen!)

24 ounces raw shrimp (fresh or thawed if frozen)

1/4 cup fresh diced parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley)

Directions

Step 1) In a large stockpot saute onion in olive oil, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add celery and saute for one minute longer.

Step 2) Add fish broth, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and Old Bay Seasoning to the pot. (Don’t add the wine yet.) Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Step 3) Add frozen mussels and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Step 4) Add tilapia (NOT frozen) and bay scallops (frozen). Simmer, uncovered, for an additional 3 minutes.

Step 5) Finally, add raw shrimp and wine. Simmer for a final 3 minutes. At this point the shrimp should be pink (not opaque), the scallops should be bright white (not opaque), the tilapia should be flaky, and the mussels are definitely ready! Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Orange Butter Shrimp

Orange Butter Shrimp served over noodles

Today’s bargain find at the local Gulf Coast seafood market was unassuming, small Gulf shrimp. These little guys might not be the most exotic item at the market, but wow are they delicious! This simple preparation will have you dining on tasty shrimp in minutes. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup sliced orange segments, sliced

Directions

Step 1) Sautee garlic in butter and olive oil over low-medium heat for one minute.

Step 2) Add shrimp and orange juice. Sautee for three minutes or until shrimp have turned pink (make sure there are no opaque sections on the shrimp remaining).

Step 3) Serve over noodles, spiralized zucchini, or lettuce. Garnish with sliced orange segments.

How easy was that?!

Low-Carb Shrimp Satay Wraps

Creamy, spicy satay sauce is the perfect dressing for fresh Gulf shrimp. Tossed with fresh, spiralized zucchini and wrapped in crispy cabbage leaves, this dish packs a low-carb, high flavor punch. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Makes 8 wraps)

12 ounces cold cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 small zucchini, spiralized (about 1 1/2 cups)

8 raw cabbage leaves, thick center vein removed

For the satay sauce:

1/4 cup all natural peanut butter

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon (or more) sriracha sauce

Directions

Step 1) Whisk together satay sauce ingredients until sauce is smooth and uniform. Chill.

Step 2) Toss together chilled satay sauce, cold shrimp, and spiralized zucchini.

Step 3) Scoop about 1/4 cup of shrimp mixture onto each deveined cabbage leaf (see below). It’s easier to fold or roll the cabbage leaves as you eat them. I recommend serving these open-faced, as shown at the top. Enjoy!

Clams Okaloosa

Little neck clams are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, economical along the Gulf Coast, and delicious. We’re using a simple preparation today, because these delicate clams don’t require a lot of fuss. Also, the beach is calling!

Ingredients (Serves 2 as an appetizer, 1 as a dinner – recipe doubles easily)

1 teaspoon salted butter

2 orange segments, thinly sliced crosswise

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup frozen spinach, thawed*

1 teaspoon soy sauce

12 little neck clams

Directions

Step 1) Melt butter in skillet over low-medium heat. Add garlic, orange, and spinach. Layer clams on top of spinach.

Step 2) Turn heat to medium-high and cover skillet. Cook, covered, which steams the clams, for 6 minutes or until all (or almost all) of the clam shells have popped wide open. Remove from heat.

Step 3) Discard any unopened clams. Serve immediately in shallow bowls, alone or with French bread for dipping. Note: the broth which forms when the clams open and release their juices is absolutely delicious!

*Yes, we’re really using frozen spinach! Why? First, because it contains a lot of liquid and we actually want that liquid in this dish. Second, because the leaves are already packed down, which is convenient for this recipe.

Baked Snapper Wings

Baked Snapper Wing with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Both whole red snapper and red snapper filets are pretty common in Gulf Coast seafood markets. They are also pretty darn expensive. Today, however, I stumbled across a curious find tucked in the ice right between those plump whole fish and jumbo filets… an unassuming Post-It note declared “Red Snapper Wings, $3/lb.” Now, I’ve never heard of a fish wing, but for $3 a pound I’m not above asking for details! The fishmonger explained that “wings” are the cut above the filet and below the head on any large fish. This cut, she explained, contains bone and fins, but also a surprising amount of tender meat. Alrightie, let’s try fish wings!

As it happens, fish wings are just about the easiest thing you can make for a quick snack or simple dinner on the Gulf Coast. Simply arrange your wings skin side up on a greased baking pan, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. That’s it. The end. Just pick them up, or use a fork if you are feeling fancy, and eat them as you would a chicken wing. A simple spicy mayo sauce may be served alongside: mix together 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 teaspoon sriracha sauce. Enjoy!

Simple Fish Head Stew

At a local Gulf Coast seafood market, I was able to procure the head of a red snapper for $1. It was big – around 1 1/2 pounds, and sizeable enough to almost fill the bottom of a stockpot – quite a deal for $1! To put that in perspective, if you would like a fresh red snapper head with the rest of the red snapper attached, well, that will set you back upward of $30. Red snapper is not an economical fish, so we’re getting creative to capture red snapper flavor without the red snapper cost!

To make fish head broth, just get yourself a fish head and drop it in the bottom of a stockpot. Ask your butcher or fishmonger for a fish head if you don’t see them… if a market sells fresh fish fillets, they must have had heads at some point, yes? Cover the fish head with 10 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Strain the liquid into a separate pot, and Voila! Now you have mild and delicious red snapper broth as a base for your fish head stew.

If you’d like to pick the meat off of the cooked fish head, go for it. I pulled a bit of meat off of each of the sides or “cheeks,” but that’s about it. Fully dissecting a large fish head is not for the faint of heart; if you’re a little squeamish, just strain your broth and discard the head entirely. No worries.

NOTE: This version of simple fish head stew is low-carb and keto friendly. If carbs are not an issue, consider adding 1 or 2 peeled, cubed raw potatoes and 1 cup of corn kernels along with your seafood in step 1. Either or both would make delicious additions to your stew!

Moving on, here’s what you’ll need to turn your fish head broth into a delicious fish head stew:

Ingredients (Makes a big pot)

10 cups fish head broth (see above)

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 pound of seafood (I used tilapia fillets because they’re inexpensive; other ideas include raw peeled shrimp, canned minced clams, or small bay scallops – use about 1 pound total, in any combination.)

2 slices bacon, diced

1 cloves garlic, minced

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1, 16oz bag “California blend” frozen vegetables, chopped small

1 cup firmly packed chopped spinach

1/2 cup half and half cream

Directions

Step 1) Bring strained fish head broth (see above) to a boil. Add seafood and bouillon cubes. Immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer over low heat, uncovered.

Step 2) While seafood is simmering in broth, fry diced bacon in a small skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside; do not drain or clean the skillet!

Step 3) Add zucchini and garlic to the skillet with the bacon fat. Sautee for about 3 minutes, until you can smell the garlic and the zucchini peel turns bright green. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 4) Check your seafood. If you are using tilapia fillets or bay scallops, they should be turning from an opaque color to white. If you are using shrimp, they should be turning pink. When the seafood appears almost cooked through (i.e., mostly white or mostly pink), add all of the vegetables to the pot. Continue simmering over low heat until the seafood is completely cooked, and any fish in your stew flakes easily.

Step 5) When the seafood is completely cooked, remove stew from heat and allow to cool for one minute. Then, add half and half cream.

Step 6) Ladle your fish head stew into bowls. If desired, ladle into bowls over a scoop of cooked white rice (optional). Garnish with crispy fried bacon and serve immediately!


Easy Tuna Rendang

Easy Tuna Rendang over rice with a side of shrimp and greens

Rendang, a traditional Indonesian dish, involves simmering meat in a rich, fragrant sauce of coconut milk, chilies, and myriad spices. Beef rendang is most common, but rendang can also be made from other meats (such as pork, chicken, or goat) and hearty fish. Here on the Gulf Coast, we’re taking advantage of the availability of right-off-the-boat seafood and are making rendang using a fresh tuna steak.

One pound of fresh Yellowfin Tuna steak

Full disclosure: While the freezer in our Midwest home is stocked with small quantities of goodies such as lime leaves, lemongrass stalks, Thai chilies, and galangal, our traveling kitchen here on the Gulf Coast is not. Consequently, we’ve taken liberties – a lot of liberties – with the traditional rendang base. That’s why we’re calling it “Easy.” The results were quite tasty (or we wouldn’t share them with you!). So, if you’re looking for an EASY way to capture the general flavor of rendang without investing in a list of niche ingredients, give this a whirl!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound Yellowfin tuna steak, cut into 2 inch cubes

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 can coconut milk

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 onion, minced

2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce (more or less to taste)

Directions

Step 1) Melt coconut oil in large skillet over high heat. Sear tuna over high heat for about 30 seconds. Flip tuna over and sear an additional 30 seconds.

Step 2) Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients to skillet. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Serve over rice.

Life is short. Try something new!

100 Calorie Keto Coconut Pops

Coconut milk sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in fat and calories; it is indeed fat- and calorie-dense. But here’s the thing. Coconut milk is only “bad for you” if you consume it by the gallon, or if you are using coconut milk to make a massive quantity of carbohydrates taste good. In moderation, coconut milk is a healthy addition to a low-carb diet, and adds much needed variety to keto meals.

Today at Crowded Earth Kitchen we are sharing an idea rather than a recipe, because really friends, these popsicles only contain two ingredients. Simply pop open a can of coconut milk, pour about 1/4 of the can in a small bowl, and whisk 1 generous teaspoon of pure cocoa powder into that small bowl. Then, fill your popsicle molds 1/3 full with coconut milk right from the can. Drizzle a bit of cocoa-enhanced coconut milk into each mold, and repeat until the molds are full. One can of coconut milk will fill 6 to 8 popsicle molds, depending upon the size of your molds (mine hold 1/4 cup each). Place filled popsicle molds in freezer, and enjoy when firm.

Note: If you like your popsicles a little sweeter, feel free to blend a tablespoon or two of Stevia or your preferred sweetener into the can of coconut milk first. I think the cocoa powder adds enough flavor that I don’t use any sweetener at all.

Life is short. Play with your food!

Shrimp Alfredo Two Ways

Shrimp Alfredo is a really simple dish that tastes like you cooked all day. Rich alfredo sauce packs a caloric punch, but served over zucchini noodles it is low-carb and keto friendly. If you prefer an old school helping of pasta under your shrimp alfredo, well, that’s great too. We’re all friends here at Crowded Earth Kitchen.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound small fresh shrimp (41/50 per pound), peeled and tails removed

2/3 cup salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

2/3 cup half and half

2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound cooked pasta OR 4 small zucchini, spiralized

Directions

1) Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and shrimp. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side, until shrimp are no longer pink.

2) Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside. DO NOT DRAIN THE SKILLET. There will be some liquid in the skillet, and that’s OK!

3) Add remaining butter and the half and half to the skillet. Once the butter is melted, add parmesan cheese. Whisk lightly but constantly over low-medium heat until the parmesan is fully melted and the sauce thickens. Please note: right before the sauce is done, it’s normal for the parmesan to look sort of clumpy and weird. You haven’t done anything wrong – just keep whisking.

4) Once the alfredo sauce is smooth, add the shrimp back to the skillet. Heat everything for 30 seconds or so, just to warm up the shrimp.

5) Serve shrimp alfredo over pasta or zucchini spirals. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Life is short. Eat good food!

Naked Strawberry Jam

If you are following a low sugar or no sugar diet (diabetics, keto and paleo folks, talkin’ to you here!), satisfying a sweet tooth can be a bit of a challenge. Artificial sweeteners are OK sometimes, but I think they give homemade jam a strange aftertaste. Luckily, strawberries are already sweet. After years of adding sugar to make traditional strawberry jam, I tried making a “naked” batch – no sugar, no artificial sweeteners at all.

Why should you believe me that Naked Strawberry Jam is delicious? Because my little Half-Pint has a sweet tooth that could fill the mouth of a saber-toothed tiger. The child would put honey on top of the maple syrup on his pancakes if I allowed it. I gave him a spoonful of Naked Strawberry Jam and Half-Pint declared it “Delicious!” So there you have it.

Ingredients and Directions: Cut the green tops off of two quarts of strawberries. Cut strawberries in quarters, and add to a large pot. Stir 3 tablespoons of powdered low-sugar pectin into the strawberries and cook over low-medium heat for five minutes, stirring frequently. If you want a smooth jam, use a potato masher to crush the quartered strawberries. Add a dash of cinnamon (optional) if you’re feeling fancy. After five minutes, turn the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and remains boiling for one minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Done!

Refrigerate when cool, or store in freezer.

Keto Chocolate Pudding

Whether you are keto, paleo, vegan, gluten free, or just plain looking for a more nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, this chocolate pudding recipe is worth a try. It’s also delicious frozen into popsicles – in fact, popsicles are my favorite way to enjoy this treat. Have fun!

No, the finished chocolate pudding doesn’t taste like avocados. Trust me!

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

2 ripe avocados

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk (real coconut milk – not coconut water, and not “light” coconut milk)

1/4 cup stevia powder (or use real sugar if desired)

1/3 cup cocoa powder (100% cocoa)

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

A few dark chocolate chips to garnish (optional)

Directions

In a blender, combine all ingredients in the order listed. Blend until completely smooth. Refrigerate before serving, or freeze in popsicle molds. This really couldn’t be any simpler!

One serving contains approximately 4 net carbs.

Deconstructed Pumpkin Stew

IMG_2306Rich, earthy stews with layers of warm and savory flavors are ubiquitous with autumn. This pumpkin stew makes good use of one of the most wonderful offerings of late season gardens… pie pumpkins. It’s so flavorful that omnivores won’t even notice how the dish is entirely vegan.

Deconstructing the stew, i.e. layering the stew over slices of roasted pumpkin instead of mixing the pumpkin into the pot of stew itself, is an awesome way to preserve the satisfying texture of freshly roasted pumpkin. Try this for your next Meatless Monday. Three cheers for autumn!

IMG_2303Ingredients (Serves 4 with leftovers)

1 pie pumpkin, 7 or 8 inches in diameter Continue reading

Fresh Tomato Soup

IMG_2231Few foods are more satisfying on an autumn afternoon than a bowl of fresh tomato soup with the last of the garden tomatoes. This recipe is simple to prepare, and doubles easily for freezing or canning. Yes, it’s safe for water bath canning, to enjoy throughout the winter! Enjoy.

Ingredients (Makes one large pot; recipe can be easily doubled OR cut in half) Continue reading