17 July 2009

Recipe: Lighter Simple Summer Seafood Gumbo

Photo from 2theAdvocate.com

From Denny: This summer version of beach vacation gumbo was featured in our local newspaper in this week's food section. The family dilemma was there were a lot of people to feed for each meal, fifteen to be exact. The cooks did not have a lot of time to cook and also wanted to take advantage of the fresh seafood as they were vacationing in Florida. It would have been a culinary sin not to enjoy the local freshest seafood! :)

So, they came up with some shortcuts for cooking gumbo using some convenience foods. They also thinned the roux (nothing like the traditional excessively thick New Orleans roux you will get in every tourist restaurant in New Orleans) to lighten the feel of it for the heat of the summer. Sometimes, when you have been at the beach all day the last thing you want to eat is food that is too heavy on spices, heat or texture.

The cooks saved time and heat in the kitchen by using a prepackaged powdered roux and gravy mix. As per their advice, "As with any thickening agent, always stir it with cool liquid before adding it to a skillet or gumbo pot to prevent clumps from forming."

They also saved time again by using pre-chopped bag of Creole seasoning mix of onions, bell peppers and celery. Make sure you check the date for optimum freshness of this kind of convenience food.

OK, this is where I'd draw the line and chop my own. Why? Because vegetables lose their energy quickly and start leaching water, breaking down within an hour or so of chopping them. So, yeah, I'd take the time here to chop my own; the flavor will be a lot more intense and wonderful if you do!

Use low-sodium chicken broth as seafood has enough natural salt on its own.

Lighter Simple Summer Seafood Gumbo

From: Tracey Koch

Yield: Serves 6


4 Tablespoons canola oil

3 cups chopped Creole seasoning blend of onions, bell peppers and celery

1/2 cup instant roux and gravy mix (I use Zatarain’s or Tony Chachere’s)

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon gumbo filé, if desired

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 pound fresh claw crabmeat or half claw and half lump

1 pound raw, shucked oysters (optional)

Cooked rice


1. In a large stock pot, heat the oil and sauté the vegetables over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until translucent.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the roux and gravy mix with the chicken broth until all of the mix is dissolved.

3. Pour the broth into the stock pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add filé, if desired.

4. Add shrimp, stir and cook for 5 minutes, then fold in crabmeat, stirring occasionally. Stir in optional oysters, at this point. When shrimp are uniformly pink, the seafood is cooked, and the gumbo is ready to serve.

5. Ladle over hot, cooked rice.

Kitchen Helpers: Kids can help out in several ways with this dish. They can measure the ingredients, whisk together the gravy mix, pick through the crabmeat for shells and even help peel the shrimp. Just make sure they wash their hands well before and after handling raw seafood.

From Denny: They suggested a simple Greek salad to round out the meal. Besides, all those raw veggies like tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers are cooling to your liver which, in turn, will cool down your body from a hot day in the beach sun. Win-win!

Summer Greek Salad

From: Tracey Koch

Serves: 6


1 head butter lettuce or mixed greens

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 small cucumber, diced

1/2 cup kalamata olives

Greek dressing:

1 clove minced garlic

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried mint


1. Toss lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives in a large salad bowl.

2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together garlic, lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, oregano and mint until all ingredients are uniformly incorporated.

3. Add dressing to salad according to taste and toss.

4. Serve immediately.

Kitchen helpers: Younger children can help measure the dressing ingredients and toss the salad, and older ones can make it by themselves.

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