Key Lime & Coconut

My adventures in the world of food & wine

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Florida, Sweet Florida

I'm at home in the sunshine state for the holidays. I've been spending my days studying for finals, which unfortunately fall in January, forcing us poor, wretched Harvard Law students to spend our Hanukwanzistmas break with our noses buried in exciting books like Gilbert's guide to Property Law. Today I went so far as to take my laptop, books and notes to the Odessa public library. I live in the middle of nowhere, so the library consists of one room with some bookshelves (not entirely full) and a couple of tables that have been arranged to look vaguely like desks/study areas. But at least it was an excuse to get out of the house and drive 5 minutes each way with the car windows down singing out loud to Rascal Flatts. Oh yeah, and it's 75 degrees here.

But I digress. After rotting my brain with studying all day, I like to cook. And I'm familiar with my mom's kitchen, so at least I can do it with some ease, despite the
crap she's got lying around everywhere. I made dinner for my parents last night, which they always appreciate after a long day at work. I decided that while I'm home, I'm going to try to make as many things as possible with key limes and/or coconut. Reason? Key Lime & Coconut is the title of my blog (surprise!), and these two flavors are central to what Floridian/Floribbean cuisine is all about.

Bahian Seafood Stew with Coconut and Tomato incorporated both of these delicious ingredients. Bahia is a region in Brazil, so this stew draws lots of Latin American influences. If you can get super-fresh ingredients (particularly the tomatoes and seafood), I think you'll find that this dish will transport you to somewhere warm, sunny, and tropical... maybe like Florida.

Bahian Seafood Stew with Coconut and Tomato
(serves 4-6, depending on appetite)
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced (1+ inch pieces)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (1+ inch pieces)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and stalk smashed, or 1 Tbsp. dried lemongrass
  • 3 tomatoes, halved, seeded, and diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/2 pound lump crab meat, picked over
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 12 cilantro leaves, plus 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 pound grouper (or similar) filet, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh key lime (or regular lime) juice
  • White rice
  • Lime wedges
Heat the oil in a medium enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the shallots, garlic, onion, bell pepper, ginger, and lemongrass, and cook over moderate heat until the vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Season the shrimp and crab with salt and pepper and add them to the casserole along with the coconut milk and cilantro leaves. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Season the grouper with salt and pepper, add to the casserole, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Discard the lemongrass stalk, if using. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve over white rice with lime wedges.

Suggested wine pairing: a Latin American white, such as a Chardonnay from Argentina's Mendoza region. A chardonnay is a sturdy enough white to stand up to this rich dish, and additionally, food and wine from the same general region tend to complement one another.

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