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Low Carb Caribbean Shrimp Bruschetta

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Last year at this time my family and I were just coming back and recovering from an amazing trip to Jamaica where we celebrated my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding!  There was sand, there was surf, there was a beautiful beach chair and tropical drink waiting for me daily, ahhhh.  I’m not gonna lie, it was nice!

Although I won’t be traveling to the Caribbean this year, there is always a vehicle to get me back there if just for a few moments… FOOD  Food glorious food can really take you anywhere in the world and with this dish I am transported right back to those white sand beaches and clear blue waters!

If you are looking for a fancy shmancy appetizer to serve at your next cocktail party or if you are having a fun and festive Caribbean style get together, this dish is easy, delicious and can totally be made ahead and built just before serving!  AND its low carb, gluten-free and super healthy!

Start with a ripened plantain.

Taking the peel off is not quite as easy as with a banana.

Slice thinly on an angle.

Deep fry in veggie oil.

Drain fried plantains on a paper towel.

Immediately salt.

Grab some bacon.

Cut bacon into three segments.

Sprinkle shrimp with some Jamaican Jerk Rub. This one is by Pampered Chef.

Pan fry in either butter or veggie oil.

Now you have three elements ready to go.

Gather these ingredients for your caribbean style pico de gallo.

I am using my Pampered Chef Manual Food Processor today because I want to be able to control just how processed the ingredients get, I want a small dice, but I don’t want to liquefy.

Dice up your tomatoes, red onion and peppers. For this, I am using sweet peppers, but you can totally use jalapeno peppers or even ghost peppers if you want to really go Jamaican!

Place the onion, tomato, peppers and cilantro in the food processor.

Process lightly.

Add the squeeze of half an orange.

Continue to process.  Add in kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

I added in some Portuguese hot ground pepper. (Pimenta Moida)

Cover the fried plantain with the pico de gallo.

Add a piece of fried bacon.

Add a little more pico de gallo.

Add your shrimp right on top and sprinkle with a bit more cilantro.

Low Carb Caribbean Shrimp Bruschetta

Yield 12 Bruschetta

1 ripened plantain, sliced and deep-fried in 2 cups Canola Oil

12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail on

4 pieces of bacon, cut into thirds and fried until just crisp

For Pico de Gallo:

1 plum tomato, roughly chopped

1/2 red onion, roughly chopped

3 sweet peppers, roughly chopped

1/2 small orange, juiced

1 small handful cilantro

1 Tbs. Pimenta Moida (Portuguese ground red pepper)

1 tsp. Pampered Chef Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, plus more for shrimp

kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Deep fry 12 slices of ripened plantains, set aside on paper to drain.  Season shrimp with a sprinkle of Jamaican Jerk seasoning and salt. Pan fry with butter.  Set aside.  Pan fry bacon until just crisp, set aside on paper to drain.

For salsa, add in tomato, peppers, cilantro, onion, Pimenta Moida and Jamaican Jerk Seasoning and a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste into a food processor.  Process until a fine salsa is made.

Build your bruschetta = 1 plantain, 1 tsp pico de gallo, 1 pc. bacon, a little more pico de gallo, top with shrimp. Garnish with more cilantro.

 

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Skillet Salt Cod Casserole (Bacalhau à Brás)

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It is said that there are over 700 different ways to prepare Portuguese style cod fish.  Bacalhau à Brás is one of the more popular and certainly one of the most famous ways to enjoy this versatile ingredient.

One might wonder why salt cod is so important and prevalent to the Portuguese cuisine.  But, one must only think about the historical aspect of the Portuguese culture to understand it.  The Portuguese have long been famous sea-faring people.  From the great Prince Henry the Navigator to Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese ruled the seas and for a short time in history were the most powerful nation in the world because of it.  So what sustained all those great sailors?  Why… salt cod of course.  While I’m sure the Portuguese had other foods among their mighty ships, salt cod was an easy sustainable and very easily stored source of protein for the men who braved the oceans for centuries.  It could be kept in a ship hold for months or even years if need be and if they ran out all they need do is make more right out on the ocean.

This particular dish is not something I would call a “weeknight” meal.  There are several stages to preparing the recipe not least of which includes soaking the cod overnight and changing out the water several times to tame down it’s saltiness.  Then there is the preparing of the potatoes which in my recipe are first par boiled and then fried.  Then making the sautéed onions, garlic and pepper and preparing the eggs.  Do this on a Friday night for lent or on a Sunday for lunch and you are sure to be pleased!

These are bits of salt cod soaking in water. I soaked them over night and changed the water 3 times before I used it in this dish.

This is one bit of cod. Place on a plate to work with it. Or you can place a bunch in a bowl, but be sure it has been drained.

The goal is to break apart the fish into small chunks, but not to shred it.

This should be your end result. This is now ready to add to your recipe.

Crack eggs into a large-ish bowl.

Beat well with a fork.

Fresh flat leaf parsley is very needed in this recipe for it’s freshness and taste. If you have curly leaf, that’s ok… but best is Italian Flat Leaf.

Roughly chop parsley.

Very thinly slice your onions.

Thinly slice and then dice your garlic.

Add cold/room temperature water to new potatoes and parboil for 10 minutes.

Once potatoes have been boiling for 10 minutes, drain water and allow to cool before working with them.

Cut in half to further allow for cooling.

The peels should easily come right off without taking any actual potato with them, in other words, you should be able to just remove the skin without any flesh.

Cut potatoes into a thin match stick type french fry.

Heat oil to the point of forming bubbles on the end of a wooden spoon when inserted. Or you can test oil by placing one piece of potato in and if it bubbles right up, the oil is ready. Once this happens keep heat to med/high.

Once fries come to this color, remove and place on some paper to drain. Lightly salt with kosher salt right away. (Do not over do it with the salt, remember the cod will be salty on its own.)

Sautée onions in olive oil over medium heat.

Once onions start to take on some color, add in garlic.

Add in some Pimenta Moida. (if you don’t have this handy, add in 1 tsp. dried pepper flakes.

Continue sautéing.

Add in prepared chunked cod. Stir to marry the flavors.

Add in reserved french fries.

Add egg and stir quickly so this doesn’t turn into an omelet.

Add in some parsley.

Once egg has almost set, add olives and finish with more parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Bacalhau à Brás

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. salt cod tid bits, soaked, drained and chuncked

7-8 medium new potatoes, par boiled, peeled and cut into matchstick fries

8 lg. eggs, well beaten

4 onions, thinly sliced in rings

4 garlic cloves, sliced and chopped

4 Tbs. pimenta moida (alternatively 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes)

1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more to finish dish

1 cup vegetable oil for frying potatoes only

1 cup olives (optional)

Directions:

Fry dry cut potatoes in either a skillet with 1 cup of veggie oil or in a deep fryer until golden.  Drain on pepper towels and lightly salt.

Sautée onions in a skillet with olive oil over med. heat.  When onions start to take on color, add in garlic, sautée another minute.  Add in Pimenta Moida, sautée another minute. Add in chunked cod, continue to sautée a few minutes.  Add french fries and stir to incorporate.  Add in egg and stir to coat all ingredients in the skillet.  Immediately add parsley and stir.  Cook until egg is almost set.  Garnish with additional parsley, olives and drizzle with fresh olive oil.  Serve hot.

***Gluten-free

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Ratatouille with Shrimp & Buttered Egg Noodles

 

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I truly love to garden. My father and my grandfathers always kept beautiful gardens.  More than the gardening itself though, I love the produce that comes out of the garden… But, I must confess since I have had my two little cherubs, I haven’t really found the time needed to keep up a good garden… I used to produce beautiful tomatoes, hearty cucumber plants, shiny purple egg plants, and squash that would last right through to Thanksgiving! That was pre-kids though…  I have had a couple of half-hearted attempts since then, but there is something about being 7,8 and 9 months pregnant in the summer heat that does not really endorse the sweat that goes into maintaining a good garden.  And so that started it off… I will do little project with my kids, like planting peas or digging up potatoes, clipping fresh mint… but next year I am determined to have my full fledged garden once again!

Luckily, I live in an area where there is no shortage of farm stands or Farmer’s Markets! Yay me!  So, although it’s not quite as satisfying as growing something yourself and turning it into a delicious life-sustaining meal… it’s still pretty great and I get to support the local farming community along the way.  This meal is a prime example of how to turn gorgeous in season produce into something really quite amazing.  If you have never tried Ratatouille, I suggest you do!  Chock full of 5 different veggies that are all in season right now, Ratatouille is great way to either put those home grown goodies to good use or to support your local economy and eat a healthy and nutritious meal at the same time!

A traditional dish developed in the French country side, Ratatouille is meant to use up whatever vegetables a farmer might have on hand.  I prefer to limit that to these 5… eggplant, zucchini, pepper (bell), onions and tomatoes (EZ-POT).   It is great as a side dish or a main dish if you are a vegetarian, but my most favorite way to enjoy this dish is over a bed of buttered egg noodles and topped with some beautifully grilled shrimp.  Let me show you how I do it…

Start off by preparing your vegetables. I am chopping these onions pretty large, about the size of a half dollar... so you will either need one large onion as I have here or two medium.

Start off by preparing your vegetables. I am chopping these onions pretty large, about the size of a half-dollar… so you will either need one large onion as I have here or two medium.

One sweet bell pepper will do it and be sure to keep the size relatively the same as you did the onions.

Keeping the veggies all around the same size, chop your zucchini.

Aren’t these mini egg plants just beautiful? I found these at a local Farmer’s Market and I knew I needed to figure out some way to use them!

They are so small that most of them, I simply cut in half, but the larger ones, I quarter.

Grabbed these beautiful Roma tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market too.

That’s it for prepping your veggies, now let’s move on to the cooking… You will need one medium heavy bottom pot, I am using a enamel coated cast iron pot. You will also need a bowl used to keep the sautéed veggies as you go through each step.

Start with some olive oil in a nice heavy bottomed pot… You will continue to add in just a tablespoon or so of olive oil before each sauteing each vegetable.

Saute vegetables one at a time and remove from pot when through with each one, reserving them for the end. I start with my onions.

Next I move on to my zucchini. I have removed the perfectly cooked onions so they don’t get over cooked.

After removing my zucchini, I add in a bit more olive oil and saute my mini egg plants. I continue this process next with the peppers and the tomatoes.

Once the tomatoes have been sautéed, add in all the reserved veggies… Then add in the fresh herbs and taste for salt and pepper… add if needed. Simmer for 10 minutes and serve hot. (at this point you could also add 1 clove of garlic, minced)

Add in a couple sprigs of thyme. Mine is young thyme from a little plant I have in my kitchen, so no need to remove the leaves, if you have a heartier plant, just remove the leaves and chop a bit.

My Rosemary is also from a plant in my kitchen, but is a bit more hearty, so I removed the leaves from about half a sprig and chopped them before adding into my pot.

After simmering for 10 minutes, this should be your end result.

Now to get some quick shrimp going…

Simply sprinkle some Hungarian Paprika (if you don’t have the Hungarian variety, just add about a 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper to 1 Tbs. of plain paprika). Add on a sprinkle of kosher salt and your prep is done. These are easy peel, deveined shrimp.

Lay them out on a hot grill pan that has been drizzled with a bit of olive oil.

When they start to get pink, after about a minute, flip each one and cook another minute or so.

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Recipe for Ratatouille with Shrimp & Buttered Egg Noodles:

(serves 6-8)

For the Ratatouille:

1 large onion, large diced

1 medium zucchini, sliced and halved

1 small eggplant (or 8 mini eggplants), large diced

2-3 Roma tomatoes, sliced and halved

1 sweet bell pepper, large diced

2 sprigs fresh Thyme, chopped

1/2 sprig Rosemary, chopped

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

10 Tbs. olive oil

For the Shrimp:

1 dozen large shrimp, deveined and easy peel

2 tsp. Hungarian paprika

kosher salt to taste

1 Tbs. olive oil

For the Egg Noodles:

1/2 package broad egg noodles

6 cups salted water

1/4 stick butter

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Directions:

In a medium heavy bottomed pot set over medium heat, saute each vegetable in 2 Tbs. of olive oil separately keeping the tomatoes for last.  After each vegetable is sautéed, set aside and reserve.  After the last vegetable is sautéed, the tomatoes, add in all the reserved vegetables.  Add in herbs and salt and pepper and simmer for ten minutes.

Add Hungarian Paprika and salt to shrimp in a small bowl.  Then, in a hot grill pan drizzled with 1 Tbs. olive oil, grill shrimp on both sides until pink throughout.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add in noodles.  Cook to package specifications.  Drain… Add in butter salt and pepper.

On a platter… Lay out egg noodles first, then layer on the Ratatouille and then top with shrimp.  Serve, enjoy!

*Note: Ratatouille itself along with the shrimp are gluten-free… use rice noodles in keeping with the set up of the dish or serve without noodles.

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Shrimp Mozambique (Camarão Moçambique)

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Although this meal can feed a number of people, I decided to make this dish for my husband as a surprise dinner at home after the kids were tucked into bed.  It was our Engage-aversary, 9 years since he popped the question, what better time for an elegant meal?  But, it was a Tuesday night, he was working and I had charge of two toddlers all day and evening… so needless to say my energy was not at its peek.  I needed a quick meal that was just fancy enough for my little candle lit affair… I had some shrimp in the freezer and everything else in the pantry… so, I thought why not?  The dish was delish as always and we got to celebrate and have an adult date night right in our own dining room.

I grew up eating Shrimp Mozambique.  And to eat Shrimp Mozambique is to love Shrimp Mozambique. In my family and in my little area of New England, Shrimp Mozambique is a mainstay.  We serve it every Christmas and several times throughout the year for different gatherings and parties.  Elegant in its presentation, exotic in its flavor and almost magical in its ability to transform a dinner into a party!  All this and you might think this is going to be a long drawn out and expensive recipe that is hard to understand and even harder to follow… but you would be all wrong on all counts.  In fact, Shrimp Mozambique is not only quick and easy, but pretty reasonable to make at home especially if you can pick up this size shrimp on sale for $6.99 for a 2 lb. bag like I did in the freezer section!

With under 10 ingredients, most of which you will be able to find in your pantry… onions, garlic, salt etc. it’s super easy to throw together. And from start to finish you can have this meal on the table in under 30 minutes. The two ingredients that are key in this dish are the Azafran (but this can be easily subbed out with saffron) and the crushed red pepper.  Crushed red pepper is a wet jarred pepper that is usually ground and cured with salt.  You should be able to find it in your Portuguese or Spanish section of your market.

Melt one stick of butter into a pot.

Finely dice 1/2 a large onion or one whole medium onion.

Add onions into your melted butter… you will want to get these started before you add in the garlic as they have a longer cook time than garlic and the last thing you want is burnt garlic!

You will need about 6 cloves of garlic.

Smash your garlic before mincing, it helps to release lots of the flavors on everyone.

Mince garlic.

Once the onions have started to soften, add in your garlic.

You will want to be sure to stir frequently.

Azafran seasoning is similar to saffron, but only about 1/5 the price.4

You will need one packet per pound and so in this case we are making two pounds, so we will need to add two packets.

Add in two packets of the Azafran seasoning.

Add in one heaping Tbs. crushed red pepper. (I think this photo is so cool… my pepper was in the fridge and the pot is really hot causing that white smoke you see around the pepper)

I’ve always been partial to this size shrimp for this recipe. If you like bigger shrimp, go ahead and use it, but this works well for parties, family dinner or anytime.

You can put them in the pot straight from the freezer, no need to pre-soak. I should mention that I leave the peel on, I feel like half the flavor of this dish comes from that peel… I know it can be a bit of a pain to peel while you eat, but it is sooo worth it… and hey, it will slow you down too! Take some time to enjoy your meal!

Stir to coat the shrimp with all the spices and color.

Add in one bottle of beer any run of the mill domestic will do. (If you are allergic to gluten, you could substitute about 1 1/2 cups of dry white wine or just a gluten-free beer)

Be sure the shrimp are coated. Add in a pinch of kosher salt.

Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, when it comes to a boil lower heat to a simmer and cook for 8-12 minutes and then immediately remove from heat.

The last thing you want is overcooked, mushy and mealy shrimp. Do not over cook this. Shrimp cook really quickly, the smaller the shrimp the faster the cook… I am allowing 8-12 minutes for larger shrimp and to cook off the alcohol in the beer.

There… perfectly cooked shrimp! Now, don’t forget to taste for salt, add another pinch if needed.

For a party, I like to keep white rice separate, but for a dinner party or meal at home, I like to plate my shrimp right onto a bed of cooked white rice.

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Recipe for Shrimp Mozambique (Camarão Moçambique):

(serves 4-6, dinner —- serves 10-15 party)

2 lbs frozen, deveined, easy peel shrimp (do not remove peel)

1 stick butter

1/2 lg. onion, finely diced

6 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

1 Tbs. crushed red pepper, heaping

1 beer (12 oz)

2 packets Goya Azafran Seasoning

kosher salt to taste

Directions:

In a medium pot, melt one stick of butter.  Add in onions, saute for about 5 minutes.  Add in garlic, saute an additional 5 minutes.  Add in a pinch of salt.  Add in Azafran, stir.  Add in crushed red pepper, stir.  Add in frozen shrimp, stir to coat shrimp in sauce.  Add in beer, stir, cover and bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for 8-12 minutes. Taste for salt, add if needed.  Serve over a bed of white rice.

Enjoy!

*note – Gluten-free adjustment, use gluten-free beer or white wine in place of beer.

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Lobster Risotto

done2This summer we had the pleasure of attending my sister’s wedding in Negril, Jamaica!  During our time there lobster was not in season and banned from being caught.  So, when we went to a specialty restaurant at the resort we stayed at, I ordered the shrimp risotto.  And I have to say it was absolutely delicious!  Even though I was the one to order this wonderful dish, my husband fell in love with it! So, when we returned, I had the inclination to make my own risotto using our very own Northeast caught cold water lobster.

A disclaimer before I start is that risotto is a simple dish, but it is food of love as it takes a good amount of time and it can not be rushed.

First thing to do is prepare some stock. I had some frozen homemade chicken stock, so I used that (about 6 cups). If you have seafood stock, great, use that... But, I do love the flavor a homemade chicken stock brings to this dish.

First thing to do is prepare some stock. I had some frozen homemade chicken stock, so I used that (about 6 cups). If you have seafood stock, great, use that… But, I do love the flavor a homemade chicken stock brings to this dish. You want to keep this stock warm without boiling as boiling will evaporate the stock before you can use it.

Use one large shallot or two smaller ones... If you don't have shallots available you can use one medium onion. Shallots are just a bit milder in flavor.

Use one large shallot or two smaller ones… If you don’t have shallots available you can use one medium onion. Shallots are just a bit milder in flavor.

Cut the shallot in half to stabilize your cutting surface.

You'll want a small to medium dice.

You’ll want a small to medium dice.

Warm a non-stick (if you have one) pot over medium heat. Add in a few tablespoons of olive oil.

Next add in a couple tablespoons of butter to the olive oil for flavor.

Add your diced shallots to the fat in the pot.

Saute over medium heat until golden brown.

Chop up a couple cloves of garlic and add in to your already golden shallots.

Chop up a couple cloves of garlic and add in to your already golden shallots.

This is aborio rice... It is widely known as one of the best rices to use for making a good risotto. This particular one is just my store brand, but it is a long grain Italian rice imported from Italy.

This is aborio rice… It is widely known as one of the best rices to use for making a good risotto. This particular one is just my store brand, but it is a long grain Italian rice imported from Italy.

Each grain is fatter than your run of the mill rice.

Add your raw unwashed rice to your pot with your shallots and onions. You want to toast your rice grains before you start adding in liquid.

The trick to a good risotto is to add in your liquid slowly.

The trick to a good risotto is to add in your liquid slowly.

Add your warmed stock to your pot one ladle full at a time.

You want to make sure each ladle gets completely soaked in before you add the next ladle. Stir continuously.

I have a left over lobster from this past weekend. So this baby is getting cut up and put in my pot.

I have a left over lobster from this past weekend. So this baby is getting cut up and put in my pot.

I start off by removing the legs and popping them in my pot. This helps me achieve two things. Since I am using chicken stock, the legs help to introduce a seafood stock flavor… They are also pretty yummy to add to each individual dish.

Remove the meat.

Remove the meat.

Chop it up into medium sized chuncks.

Chop it up into medium sized chunks.

Add your meat into your pot when you only have a couple ladles of stock left to go. As the lobster is already cooked, your goal here is just to heat the meat through, not to over cook your meat. This is a good time to add in 1/2 cup of dry white wine as well.

At this point I like to finish with a few more tablespoons of butter and top with some reserved lobster meat. Then I top with some chopped up scallions or parsley. You also want to taste for salt and pepper now as well.

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Lobster Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

6 cups chicken or seafood stock

2 cups aborio rice

1 large shallot, diced medium

3 Tbs. olive oil

6 Tbs. butter, divided

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 scallion, chopped

1 lobster, shelled and chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Warm 6 cups stock in a medium sauce pan. In a large non-stick pot saute shallot over medium heat in olive oil and 3 Tbs. butter until golden brown. Add garlic and saute for a minute.  Add in raw rice and toast for a few minutes, stirring constantly.  One ladle at a time add in stock, making sure  each ladle has been absorbed before adding in the next. Add in lobster legs.  When there are only a couple of ladles of stock to go, add in white wine and lobster meat. Finish ladling in stock.  Check for salt and pepper and add if needed.  Also check for rice tenderness.  (If more liquid is needed either add more warmed stock or warmed water.  Add in a remaining butter.

Top with reserved lobster if desired and scallions or parsley.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

*note – This is a gluten-free recipe.