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Bluefish-Stuffed Grape Leaves

This recipe was inspired by our friends Mary and Joe Najmy’s Lebanese family recipe. Jeff and I are always trying to use the resources around us in different ways, and somehow the idea came to me to try adding bluefish to the mix. These have become a family favorite. They are full of flavor.

Recipe for the fish stock is on page 113.

What you need:

2 dozen freshly picked grape leaves

1 cup cooked white rice

Handful of pine nuts

Dash of allspice

½ cup chopped sweet onion

1 minced garlic clove, plus two or three more whole cloves

Chopped fresh basil

Juice from one lemon, plus two or three others for squeezing

1 teaspoon sea salt

Shredded bluefish

Using young, light green grape leaves, remove the stems and soak the leaves in a pan of warm water for half an hour.

While the grape leaves are soaking, cook white rice per instructions and let cool.

In a large bowl combine pine nuts, allspice, onion, sea salt, rice, and a cup or so of uncooked, shredded bluefish. Add the minced garlic clove, chopped fresh basil to taste, and the prepared lemon juice.

Take each grape leaf out of the water and pat dry.

On your work space, arrange the leaves pale side up. Spoon tablespoons of the rice and fish mixture onto the center of the leaf. Take the right and left sides of the leaf and fold them in over the rice mixture. Take the bottom side of the leaf and roll it over the rice, holding the sides as you go and keeping it as tight as you can. (This takes a little practice. Think of it like wrapping a present.)

Place as many leaves as you can fit into a Le Creuset–type pot. Squeeze lemons over the whole thing. Add enough fish stock to go to just the top of the leaves, laying a plate gently over the leaves to hold them in place. Toss in two or three whole garlic cloves and cover.

Steam on the stovetop for ½ hour. Occasionally check the water level to make sure that the leaves stay partially covered.

Remove grape leaves with a slotted spoon and enjoy either warm or chilled.

Victoria's Chappaquiddick Gumbo

How's your mamma? How's her roux? is what they say in Louisiana where our daughter-in-law was raised. The roux is the essential ingredient in a good gumbo. With a good roux as the base, you'll be pleased with the taste and texture of your gumbo. Victoria learned this recipe from her Grandma Rosie. She usually makes this with chicken, but we adapted it to call for fresh bass and bluefish.

What you need:

2 packages of Andouille sausage, 14- or 16-ounce sizes

3 sweet onions, chopped

3 bell peppers, chopped

5-6 celery, chopped

3 bay leaves

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pinch of thyme and oregano

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup flour

6-7 cups fish stock (see page 113)

4 cups chunk fresh striper

1 cup bluefish chunks

Tabasco sauce

Brown rice, cooked according to package

Slice and brown the sausage in a deep cast-iron pan in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Drain sausage on a paper towel.

Combine bay leaves, sea salt, ground pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, and oregano in a bowl and set aside.

To make the roux, use the leftover oil from the sausage, add 3/4 cup vegetable oil, and heat on high until smoking hot.

Carefully stir in 1 cup flour gradually, about 1/3 cup at a time, stirring or whisking constantly.

Stir flour mixture constantly on medium-high heat 15-20 minutes, until it reaches a rich brown color.

Turn heat to medium, and add half of the chopped vegetables to the roux. Stir until they are well mixed.

Add the remaining vegetables and cook a few minutes more. Stir in the seasoning mix and remove from heat.

Heat fish stock in a double boiler. Bring to a boil.

Place roux back on medium heat, and gradually pour boiling broth over the roux while stirring constantly.

Add the chunks of fish, the shrimp, the sautéed sausage, and a few shakes of Tabasco (depending on how hot you like the taste).

Boil gumbo for 10—15 minutes, then turn the heat down and cook for an hour at medium heat, stirring occasionally and skimming
oil from the top.

Meanwhile, cook brown rice. Serve gumbo over rice.