B. Smith’s Swamp Thang with Deep Fried Julienne Vegetables

The Late Barbara Smith (1949-2020), was a famed fashion model and was the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine. She went on to build an empire that included television shows, restaurants, her own furniture line (another first for an African American woman), and other lifestyle products from rugs to kitchenware. Called “one of the most formidable rivals of Martha Stewart” by The Wall Street Journal, Barbara Smith not only shattered glass ceilings, she also brought America a casual, elegant, easy style that is all her own. This recipe is from “B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style”, published in 2009. This cookbook focuses solely on the food – no table settings, no party plans – and gives readers more than 200 recipes and colourful tales from her incomparable career. Readers and home cooks alike will find a number of mouthwatering dishes based on Southern cuisine. One of her most popular dishes, The Swamp Thang ,was created at her Union Station restaurant in Washington D.C. The list of ingredients include shrimp, scallops, crawfish that are combined in a creamy light Dijon mustard sauce and napped over collard greens. The dish is finally dressed with deep fried julienne vegetables.
I would order this signature dish every time I visited her establishments in both D.C. and New York. And even though it always tasted slightly different every time I had it, I was never disappointed. The dish is Southern comfort food that has been elevated. The food always reflects the soul of the person who cooks it. And as a cook, I get the feeling that the dish was spontaneously created by whatever items were left in the pantry. It has a feel of a kitchen sink kind of recipe, which in my opinion are the best kind, because it leaves so much room for interpretation and the imagination of the cook. So as one who like to experiment, I added my own spin to the dish, by searing the scallops rather than adding them to the mustard sauce. It makes the dish all the more visually appealing.
Adapted from
“B. Smith Cooks Southern Style”
2009
Serves 6 to 8 Ingredients: For the Seafood Mustard Sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided               
1 cup white onion, finely
1 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper                  
1/2 cup finely diced celery          
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound medium scallops 
1 cup white wine                      
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves        
1 bay leaf                                  
2 cups fish stock                        
1 tablespoon lemon juice              
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce           
1 cup heavy cream                     
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound crawfish tails, peeled
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Cooked Collard Greens,for serving
Deep-Fried Julienne Vegetables, for garnish (Recipe Follows)
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Directions: In a medium Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft and the onion is transparent. Add the wine, thyme and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and return to a boil. Stir in the heavy cream, mustard and the Old Bay Seasoning. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the shrimp and crawfish tails. Cook for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and discard. For the Scallops: Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season generously all over with salt and pepper. In a separate skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Place the scallops in the skillet in a single layer, spaced about an inch apart. The first scallop should sizzle on contact. If it doesn’t, wait a few seconds to let the pan heat before adding the rest. Do not crowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Cook the scallops undisturbed for 2 minutes. If the scallop doesn’t release easily from the pan, let it cook for another few seconds until it does. Flip the scallops over. Cook the scallops on the second side undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes more. Both sides of the scallop should be seared golden-brown and the sides should look opaque all the way through. The scallops should feel firm to the touch, but still slightly soft, like well-set Jell-O; do not overcook or the scallops become tough and chewy. To serve, place a helping of collard greens to the center of a plate. Nap the seafood mustard sauce over the collard greens. Garnish with the deep-fried julienne vegetables. To finish the dish, add the seared scallops and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy this classic signature dish from B. Smith. For the Deep-Fried Julienne Vegetables: Ingredients:
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne zucchini            
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne yellow squash       
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne carrot              
1 cup 1/5-inch julienne sweet potato        
1 small julienne shallot
1 cup whole milk    
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Directions: Add the vegetables an milk to a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag. Place the bag in a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 200 o F. In a deep Dutch oven or caste iron skillet, add enough oil to reach a depth of 1 inch. Heat the oil over medium high heat to 350 o F. In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt and pepper. Using a colander, drain the vegetables and toss them into the seasoned flour. Transfer the vegetables to a large sieve and shake off the excess flour. Working batch, deep fry large handfuls of the vegetables in the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a wire spyder or skimmer, or slotted spoon, remove the vegetable from the oil and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
Photo Credit: Tangie Holifield, 2020
Photo Credit: Tangie Holifield, 2020
Cook’s Notes: Shrimp or even chicken broth will  work well in this recipe. If you cannot find fresh crawfish, you can substitute frozen crawfish tail, just make sure that you defrost them before using. Remove the side muscles from the scallops if needed. The side muscle is a little tag of muscle tissue on the side of the scallop that secures it to the shell and may still be on the scallops. It will feel a bit tough and its fibers run opposite the rest of the scallop. Just pinch it with your thumb and first finger and pull it away. If you miss one, don’t worry; they’re a little tough to chew, but are safe to eat. Cook the scallops as the last thing you do before serving dinner. Prepare everything else so that the scallops can be served immediately after cooking, while they are at their best.

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Grilled Salmon Steaks and Cucumber Salad

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Salmon steaks, cut crosswise through the backbone, instead of fillets makes got the prefect grilled fish. The steaks are thicker, making them easier to flip while grilling. A yogurt-based cucumber salad packed with fresh herbs acts both as a sauce and a side dish for salmon in this low-carb seafood dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 seedless English cucumber,thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
4 salmon steaks
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint, finely chopped

Directions:
Set grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, season the cucumber and red onion with the salt, tossing to combine. Let stand at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, with paper towels, blot the salmon until dry. Brush on both sides with 2 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place salmon on grill and cook 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Meanwhile, drain cucumber and onion well.

In the same large bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, vinegar, dill, mint, and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in drained cucumber and onion. Serve with salmon.

Grilling Notes:
To prevent sticking, be sure your grill is very clean and very hot before placing the salmon on it. When flipping, if the salmon does not lift from the grate easily, wait 15–30 seconds, then try again.

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Miso Glazed Cod with Baby Bok Choy

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Cod is glazed in sweet miso before being broiled in the oven. The bok choy is flavored with orange zest and pepper flakes for a spicy, flavorful side.

Serves 2 

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon raw honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, divided
1 1/4 pound  skinless cod fillets
6-7 baby bok choy, halved
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions:
In a medium bowl, whisk miso,  soy sauce, vinegar, honey and ½ teaspoon sesame oil until smooth. Add fish to bowl and spoon marinade on top to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to broil on high. Place a rack over a sheet pan and place fish on rack. Broil for 4 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 8 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove the cod from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high, heat remaining ½ teaspoon of sesame oil. Add bok choy, cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk together orange zest and juice, cornstarch and pepper flakes. Add to skillet with bok choy and stir to coat; cook for 30 seconds, until sauce thickens.

To serve, transfer the bok choy and fish to the serving plates and garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

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