Monday, September 28, 2009

The Bahamas - Lobster

Even though I am a world traveler, and have been to some pretty exotic far away places, I have never been to the Bahamas. Honestly, it never really interested me that much, but perhaps I should give it a chance. The history is certainly interesting.

We all know that Christopher Columbus first discovered the new world in the Bahamas. At the time, the people living there were known as the Lucayans – who originally came from South America. Columbus made contact with them and exchanged goods. Then the Spaniards came in and carried the people off to slavery, and the rest of the natives , were wiped out by diseases that the Europeans brought with them. Later, the Bahamas became a place pirates liked to hang out, including the infamous Blackbeard.

English Settlers from Bermuda, looking for religious freedom, formed the first British colony on the Island of Eleuthera and became quite prosperous through agriculture. After the American Revolution, southern loyalist and their slaves moved to the Bahamas so they could be under the protection of the crown. The population became mostly African from that point on.

When Cuba was closed to U.S. tourists in the 1950s, the Bahamas became one of the world’s most popular tourists destinations.

By 1973, the Bahamas was fully independent.

The Bahamas is an English speaking country consisting of 29 islands. It’s located in the Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of 330,000. The Bahamas cuisine – that is influenced by the American South - has fresh seafood, spice and coconut. Yes, coconut! Coconut trees are in abundance and are common in dishes, especially desserts.

For our meal, we had Nassau Lobster Thermidor, okra salad and fresh coconut cake. I know I said I never wanted to have anything to do with fresh coconut, and so Kevin was kind enough to spilt and cut the coconut for me. After using a screwdriver and a hammer he got the coconut open. That was only half the battle. He now needed to scrap out the flesh. I suggested he look up how to get out that stubborn flesh on the internet. He did, and came back in the kitchen to announce that one must first let it dry out for a few days and then scrape it out when it’s dry. Well, we didn’t have a few days. Oops.

Kevin worked very had scraping out the coconut flesh, and the cake turned out just so-so. We haven’t had much luck with the desserts since the baklava. But anyway, back to the main course.

In the grocery store I picked out two live lobsters in the tank. I told the meat counter guy which lobsters I wanted. I don’t like picking out the ones that are going to die. I can’t help but feel sorry for the little guys. It’s like dead man walking. But then I figure that the lobsters at the store are already doomed, their fate has been sealed. Maybe I’m doing them a favor. I mean, what kind of life is it for them in a cold tank with nothing to look at except other lobsters with their claws tied with rubber bands. It’s about quality of life, right? And then I try not to think of them going into the boiling water. But the truth be known, I love lobster and so I shamelessly look the other way.

At home, I made the Nassau lobster Thermidor – delish! You take the meat out and mix it with cheese, flour and butter and then put the mixture back in the shell to be broiled. We also had an okra salad with lime juice, garlic and hot pepper sauce. It was fabulous. The only problem was there wasn’t much food. I had only gotten two lobsters because I honestly didn’t know how it was going to turn out, and so we had to just savor what we had, appreciate every bite. Which is a good lesson to learn if you think about it. I mean, how many times do we just inhale our food and don’t even taste it?

So don’t feel too sorry for the lobsters. They are genuinely appreciated. They make our quality of life so much better. It’s about the finer things in life after all. It’s not enough to just be alive, waiting to die.

Nassau Lobster Thermidor

1 med. Lobster (I did two)
2 TBSP flour
1 cup of milk
pinch of salt
2 TBSP sherry
1 package of shredded cheese (I used a three cheese blend)
2 oz. Butter
1 small onion, finely chopped.
Pepper to taste

Cook lobster in boiling salted water until red, remove from water and cool (or have the fish counter person steam it for you). Cut lobster in half and remove meat from the shell but save the shell for stiffing. Heat milk in a saucepan and set aside. Melt butter in small saucepan on low flame. Add onion and simmer until tender. Add chopped cheese and flour and stir continuously. Pour in hot milk and stiff until mixture is smooth and thick. Add salt and pepper and sherry. Remove from fire. Cut lobster meat into small pieces. Add lobster to sauce and stuff in shell. Garnish with parmesan cheese, paprika and melted butter. Place under grill (or broiler) until golden brown. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Okra Salad

2 TBSP oil
1 lb Okra, rinsed and caps snipped
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup water
2 TBSP lime juice
2 finely minced garlic cloves
few drops of hot pepper sauce.

In a frying pan, heat 1 TBSP oil. Add okra and saute for 3 min. Add salt and pepper. Add water, cover and simmer on low heat for 5 min or until okra is tender. If needed, add more water. Pour onto serving plate. Mix remaining 1 TBSP oil, lime juice, garlic, and hot pepper sauce. Pour this mixture over okra.

Fresh Coconut Cake
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 to 1 1/2 cup, fresh, finely chopped coconut
3/4 cup coconut milk

Stir dry ingredients together. Cream shortening; add sugar gradually; cream together until light and fluffy. Add un beaten eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and coconut. Add dry ingredients alternately with coconut milk, stirring only to blend. Bake in 2 8” cake pans at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes

Frost layers with confectioner’s powdered sugar creamed with margarine or butter, dash of salt and vanilla, thinned with more coconut milk and generously toss in chopped or grated coconut. Also, sprinkle coconut on top and sides of cake.

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