It’s Friday, November 23, 2018

Published 4:09 pm Monday, November 26, 2018

Bay leaves are

    always delicious

Tired of turkey yet?  My brother-in-law Fred, the grocer, says seafood is a big seller on this post-Thanksgiving weekend.  Sounds good to me.  I have shrimp in the freezer and will be making shrimp creole this weekend because we’ll be finished, I hope, with the turkey and dressing.  And I dug out this quick version of red beans and rice last week for DW and me. Both call for bay leaves.

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Real bay leaves come from the bay laurel tree, an evergreen tree with long, pointed green leaves that’s native to the Mediterranean area of the world.  And there’s the red bay laurel that is more of a local species, native to the Gulf Coast area, and if I’m not mistaken, is where were the town of Laurel, Mississippi got its name.

Storied past.  Greek mythology tells an unrequited love between the sun god, Apollo, who fell for the nymph Daphne.  But, she not for him, which evidently upset her father.  He punished her by turning her into a laurel tree.  From then on, Apollo wore a laurel wreath in remembrance of Daphne, and so the custom began.   A crown of laurel leaves became the became the symbol of honor and triumph for Greek athletes and later the Olympics.

Fresh is best.  The flavor of fresh bay leaves is described as “pungent and complex in The Joy of Cooking.  And I love the grassy “fresh flavor” the leaves impart to combination dishes of seafood or meats and vegetables.  It’s hard to describe…almost minty, a little lemony with a hint of eucalyptus, maybe.  And, bay leaves have a way of helping other herbs and spices “meld” into totally delicious and absolutely aromatic flavors.

Caution: Fresh bay leaves are soft and do not harden in cooking.  Dried bay leaves are hard and brittle and do not soften during cooking.  They should be left whole and never crumbled so they can be removed before eating.  Swallowing pieces of dried bay leaves can lead to a trip to the ER.  These indigestible and rather sharp fragments can lodge on the back of your tongue or down your throat and require medical assistance to be removed.  And further down the digestive track they can even nick or perforate the walls of intestines.  So, do not swallow dried bay leaves.  Just remove them and enjoy the wonderful flavor without worry.

Dried whole bay leaves are most often what we find in the local grocery stores.  Kitchen stores, natural food markets, and on-line stores offer fresh bay leaves.  And don’t go overboard with the dried bay leaves, they can bring on a bitter taste if overused.  Keep bay leaves in a cool, dark place for best flavor, up to 6 months.  And in a pinch, thyme can be substituted if necessary.

For the Red Beans and Rice: cook 1-pound smoked link Sausage, sliced, or an andouille smoked sausage in a skillet over low heat for 5 – 8 minutes.  Add 1 medium chopped onion, 1 chopped green bell pepper, and 1 clove minced garlic.  Sauté until tender. Drain if necessary.  Add 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained.  Stir well, adding ½ teaspoon whole dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes, 1 whole bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Simmer uncovered for abut 20 minutes.  Serve over rice.  Remove the bay leaf before serving.  This serves 4 – 6 Add a nice leafy green salad, cornbread muffins, maybe some hot sauce and supper is ready!  And it’s not turkey!  You’ll want to keep these ingredients on hand for quick suppers during the holidays.

Recipe of the Week

Shrimp Creole

My secret to these recipes is cooking the rice with a bay leaf for even more of that refreshing flavor. 

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

1 clove garlic minced

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

16 ounces canned, diced tomatoes

8 ounces tomato sauce

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ to 1 teaspoon chili powder

2 dried bay leaves

2 teaspoons corn starch

1 tablespoon cold water

12 ounces peeled raw shrimp

½ cup chopped green pepper

In skillet cook onion, celery, garlic in oil or butter until tender. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasonings.  Simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes.  Combine cornstarch with water, stir with a small whisk, then stir into sauce.  Cook, stirring until mixture thickens and bubbles.  Add shrimp and green pepper.  Cover, simmer for 5 minutes.  Serve over parslied rice.  Offer hot sauce if desired.  Makes 6 servings.