Wheatless Wednesday – Fried Catfish over Napa Corn Slaw

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Do you ever just crave some crispy fried deliciousness?  Good news!  Now that fat is no longer the enemy, It’s okay to eat fried foods as long as you use a good oil and serve with a healthy side dish. My regular readers all know that I have been on a Southern kick for the past couple of weeks following my trip to Charleston.  I was greatly inspired by the old, tried and true classics that have lived on in the South for generations (for good reason).  Well, no list of Southern favorites would be complete without Fried Catfish.  This Fried Catfish is the last recipe that was a direct derivative from my SC trip.  I’m all fried out for the time being, except maybe for trying Fried Pickles (Yes, that’s a thing!)  I’ll let you know…

In the South, Fried Catfish is usually served with hushpuppies, a yummy fried cornbread-type appetizer.  I personally can only do one fried food at a time and decided to balance the fried fish with a light and flavorful slaw made with napa cabbage, fresh sweet corn, red onion, bell pepper and jalapenos drizzled in an oil and vinegar dressing. My corn was sweet enough to eat raw, just cut off the cob.  Older corn may need to be steamed or boiled for a few minutes to soften.  I love the combination of steamy hot crispy fried fish with the cool and spicy slaw.  Add a good tartar sauce or aoli and you’re done!

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So what is a good oil too cook with anyway? Recommendations keep changing, who can keep up?  Butter is now a ‘good’ fat for cooking but not for high heat cooking as it contains small amounts of sugars and proteins which makes it burn when overheated.  When it comes to high heat cooking, coconut oil is a great choice. Over 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated, which makes it very resistant to heat. Avocado and olive oil are good choices too.  Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided for cooking, as are fats (even good fats) that go through extreme processing measures. We have an amazing number of choices at the market, no wonder we are confused.  Click HERE for a breakdown on fats and oils, including a list of oils to avoid.

TIPS:  Prepare the slaw first, if serving, as the taste only improves if it is allowed to sit while you prepare the fish. This recipe calls for catfish, which is so prevalent in the South, but any mild white fish will work as well, like cod or haddock.  Just make sure it’s from a Sustainable Seafood Source  Use a good quality oil like avocado, coconut or olive oil and you will have a good result.  Drain cooked fish on a rack lined with paper towels or newspaper to keep the fish crispy and  for easy clean up.

I wanted a true Southern fried fish so went to the Food Network and adapted the recipe for Southern Fried Catfish by Alton Brown to make it wheat/gluten free.  For more Southern inspired recipes check out Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk Lime Sauce Grilled Shrimp and Cheesy Grits or  Charred Okra with Tomatoes.

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FRIED CATFISH

2 cups high heat oil (avocado, coconut or olive oil)
1/2 cup stone-ground fine cornmeal
1/2 cup coconut flour (or all purpose)
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
6 (7 to 9-ounce) Wild Caught or US farm-raised catfish fillets, rinsed and thoroughly patted dry
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup  buttermilk)

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  • Heat the oil in a heavy large saucepan or dutch oven over high heat until it almost reaches the smoking point.  If you are using a fryer the temperature should be 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature. While the oil is heating, whisk the cornmeal and flour together in a shallow dish.

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  • Combine the seafood seasoning, kosher salt, paprika, and pepper in a small bowl.

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  • Season the catfish fillets evenly on both sides with the spice mixture.

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  • Pour the buttermilk into another shallow dish. Dip each fillet into the egg/buttermilk, flip once to coat both sides, hold over the pan and allow the excess to drip off. Coat both sides of the fillets in the cornmeal mixture. Set the coated fillets on a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

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  • Gently add the fillets, 2-4 at a time, to the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the fried fillets to a cooling rack set over a newspapers or paper towels.. Repeat method with remaining fillets.

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  • Arrange the catfish on a serving platter and serve immediately with slaw and tartar sauce.

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NAPA CORN SLAW

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6 cups Napa cabbage (Savoy, green, and/or purple), cored and shredded
2-3 ears sweet corn
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion
1-2 Tbsn fresh jalapeño(or other hot pepper),minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsn red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and set aside.

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  • Cut the kernels off the corn with a sharp knife.  If they are sweet enough to eat raw, just add to salad.  If they are tough, steam them for a few minutes to soften, then let cool.

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  • Combine the cabbage, bell pepper, and onion.and toss with the dressing. refrigerate until ready to serve. (Slaw tastes best when it’s allowed to rest for an hour or so to allow the flavors to blend.) Just before serving, toss with the parsley.

Fried Catfish with Napa and Corn Slaw

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cups high heat oil (avocado, coconut or peanut)
1/2 cup stone-ground fine cornmeal
1/2 cup coconut flour (or all purpose)
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
6 (7 to 9-ounce) Wild Caught or US farm-raised catfish fillets, rinsed and thoroughly patted dry
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup  buttermilk)

  • Heat the oil in a heavy large saucepan or dutch oven over high heat until it almost reaches the smoking point.  If you are using a fryer the temperature should be 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature.
  • Whisk the cornmeal and flour together in a shallow dish. Combine the seafood seasoning, kosher salt, paprika, and pepper in a small bowl. Season the catfish fillets evenly on both sides with the spice mixture.
  • Pour the buttermilk into another shallow dish. Dip each fillet into the buttermilk, flip once to coat both sides, hold over the pan and allow the excess to drip off. Coat both sides of the fillets in the cornmeal mixture. Set the coated fillets on a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Gently add the fillets, 2-4 at a time, to the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the fried fillets to a cooling rack set over a newspapers or paper towels.. Repeat method with remaining fillets.
  • Arrange the catfish on a serving platter and serve immediately with slaw and tartar sauce.

NAPA CORN SLAW

6 cups Napa cabbage (Savoy, green, and/or purple), cored and shredded
2-3 ears sweet corn
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion
1-2 Tbsn fresh jalapeño(or other hot pepper),minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsn red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Combine the cabbage, bell pepper, and onion.and toss with the dressing. refrigerate until ready to serve. (Slaw tastes best when it’s allowed to rest for an hour or so to allow the flavors to blend.) Just before serving, toss with the parsley.

Meatless Monday – Leek, Potato & Cabbage Soup with Turmeric

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Do you love rich and creamy soups but wish they didn’t have all the heavy cream (read extra calories)?  I am not usually a calorie counter but in general, this is one area where ‘more is not better’.  Fear not, there are simple ways to eat deliciously and nutritiously without adding unwanted calories which seem to go directly to the hips without passing GO!  This recipe employs a cooking technique that tricks your tastebuds into thinking that the delicible flavors crossing the tongue include creamy deliciousness while in reality it’s vegan, just veggies and broth.  Leeks and cabbage are sauteed until soft and then simmered with potatoes in broth and herbs until potatoes are almost falling apart.  Then half the soup is blended into a fine puree in a food processor or blender and added back into the soup, which yields a surprisingly creamy consistency without adding any cream, flour or other thickeners. Brilliant!  I have used this technique in the past with equal success, particularly in the yummy White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup which is from Gwyneth Paltrow’s book, “It’s All Good”.

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My Dad is always asking me where I get the ideas for my recipes.  All I can say is that if you are truly interested in a topic, say food, the ideas naturally just come to you.  I get cooking inspiration everywhere I go.  It helps that I love to read cooking magazines and I own dozens of great cookbooks.  I even peruse the local newspapers for recipes.  Often, I don’t use the recipe that has caught my eye.  Rather it might remind me I better make something with the squash or eggplant sitting on my counter or that I have roasted beets in the refrigerator and I am off onto the next idea. If I use a recipe created by someone else, I give them full credit and a link back to them, if possible.  Otherwise, it’s trial and error, and trust me, I have plenty of kitchen fails…  This particular recipe was prompted by this week’s  Farm Fresh To You CSA box, which, even a month or so later, every Tuesday still feels like a gift from a secret admirer even though I ordered and paid for it. (I know, I’m easily pleased fooled).  I opened the box, and pulled out a head of green cabbage, large leek and four bintje potatoes.  Hmmm, just what could I do with these?  Well, spoiler alert, I already ruined the surprise by posting the photo of this tasty soup.

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What, might you ask, are Bintje Potatoes? I had never heard of them before this so had to look them up.  They are a large oval-shaped tuber with pale yellow skin and yellow flesh. They are good for  boiling, baking, and are particularly good for making french fries and potato chips, although I haven’t tried those yet.  Since they are yellower in color than a russet potato, they will make soup that is not as white, especially when adding turmeric and cumin.  Any kind of potato will work in this recipe though, so use whatever you have available.

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Cabbage may seem like a strange ingredient to put in soup but in reality cabbage becomes sweet when cooked and adds a nice texture in combination with the potatoes.  Cabbage is also loaded with fiber and vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, K and vitamin B6 and beneficial phytonutrients. Throw in superstar turmeric and you have a really-good-for-you-soup.  Since this recipe only calls for a half head of cabbage, if you are looking for something to do with the other half, or if you are just a cabbage lover, check out the recipe for Roasted Cabbage ‘Steaks’

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TIPS:  If you like your soup extra smooth and creamy, just puree it all in 2 or 3 batches, clean out the pot and return the puree to the clean pot to reheat.  This soup can be eaten plain or topped with various garnishes.  My favorites are toasted pepitos (shelled pumpkin seeds), shredded or flaked parmesan and sprigs of fresh thyme.  Plain yogurt is also a good topping, especially if you sprinkle it with a bit of cumin.  If you have raw shelled pumpkin seeds, you can toast them in a dry pan for several minutes until they are golden and aromatic.

I really liked this soup but don’t take my word for it!  I brought a preview of the Leek, Potato and Cabbage Soup, along with a few other goodies, to my amazing friend, Lis, a breast cancer survivor who just finished her first week as Patient #1 in a clinical trial at UCSF.  Below is a photo Lis sent to me along with her lovely comment:  “Thank you for the absolutely delicious and hearty soup!  It fed all of us lunch today.  The toasty pumpkin seeds added a nice crunch and the shredded Parmesan gave it a little decadent cheesiness!” – Lis

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LEEK, POTATO & CABBAGE SOUP WITH TURMERIC

6 Tbsn coconut oil, olive oil or butter
2 medium or 1 large leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 head green cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Optional toppings:  parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt, fresh sprigs of thyme

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  • Trim ends of leeks, saving only white and light green part.  Slice in half lengthwise and run under water to clean each layer by fanning like a deck of cards.  Slice each half horizontally into thin strips.

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  • Saute the leeks in the oil/butter and cook until soft and golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.

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  • Thinly slice or shred cabbage

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  • Add the cabbage and garlic to the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

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  • Peel and dice potatoes and add them to the vegetable mixture along with broth, 4 cups water and spices except for salt. Bring soup to a simmer and cook, partly covered, until potatoes are very soft, 45 to 50 minutes. Add more water, as needed.

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  • Check for seasoning and add salt and more spices to taste.  You can serve chunky like this or process half the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth for a creamier consistency (highly recommended)

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  • Serve plain or  topped with parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt and fresh thyme.

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Leek, Potato & Cabbage Soup with Turmeric

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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6 Tbsn coconut oil, olive oil or butter
2 medium or 1 large leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 head green cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Optional toppings:  parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt, fresh sprigs of thyme

  • Trim ends of leeks, saving only white and light green part.  Slice in half lengthwise and run under water to clean each layer by fanning like a deck of cards.  Slice each half horizontally into thin strips.
  • Saute the leeks in the oil/butter and cook until soft and golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Thinly slice or shred cabbage
  • Add the cabbage and garlic to the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  • Peel and dice potatoes and add them to the vegetable mixture along with broth, 4 cups water and spices except for salt. Bring soup to a simmer and cook, partly covered, until potatoes are very soft, 45 to 50 minutes. Add more water, as needed.
  • Check for seasoning and add salt and more spices to taste.  You can serve chunky like this or process half the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth for a creamier consistency (highly recommended)
  • Serve plain or  topped with parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt and fresh thyme.