September 17, 2017 Salmon with Heirloom Tomato Scampi Sauce

It’s still officially summer for another week or so but it’s easy to see that fall is in the air. We haven’t experienced a ninety degree day in several weeks and the days are sadly growing shorter. The tomatoes are making their last gasp, maybe not quite tomato salad worthy but still so much more flavorful than anything a supermarket might have to offer.

This recipe, courtesy of Top Chef season two semi-finalist, Sam Talbot uses a combination of heirloom tomatoes, garlic, shallots, capers and fresh basil. The original recipe used sea bass but I substituted salmon with excellent results.

Scampi is the Italian word for a hard shell prawn or langoustine. Prized in the Mediterranean, they are pink in color and more closely related to lobsters. The traditional method of scampi preparation in Italy is to saute them with garlic, onion, olive oil and white wine. Italian American chefs adapted the preparation using more readily available shrimp. The dish was called shrimp scampi, as in “shrimp prepared in the style of scampi” and the name stuck.

This is a scampi sauce in the broadest sense of the term, it does have garlic, onion, in this case shallots, olive oil and white wine. It also includes celery, which gives some textural difference, briny capers and fennel seed that adds just a hint of anise.

Heirloom tomatoes aren’t necessarily part of a scampi preparation either but they are a nice addition to this dish. Some of the varieties Joe grew this year included Garden Peach, Marvel Stripe, Cherokee Purple and both Red and Green Zebra, just to name a few. Heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated; pollen is carried by natural mechanisms like bees or wind. Heirlooms are varieties that are capable of producing seed that produce seedlings like the parent plant. In agriculture, the word “heirloom” doesn’t have a precise definition but usually refers to varieties that are at least 50 years old.

As always, we cook our fish according to the Canadian fisheries method. Popularized by legendary chef, James Beard, it is very simple and quite foolproof. Measure your fillet at the thickest part, one inch of thickness equals ten minutes of cooking time at 450°F. If you prefer your fish a bit translucent, deduct a minute or so off the cooking time.

 

An assortment of late season heirloom tomatoes.

Salmon with Heirloom Tomato Scampi Sauce

 Ingredients

  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 T fennel seeds, toasted in a dry skillet
  • 4 celery ribs, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1 T drained, chopped capers
  • ¼ c dry white wine
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 3 lbs mixed heirloom tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • 1 cup tightly packed hand-torn fresh basil leaves
  • 1½ lbs salmon filet, cut into 4 six ounces portions

Directions for the Sauce

  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, shallots, and fennel seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are translucent about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the celery and capers and cook until the celery has softened, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the wine to the pan and cook until it is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar, lemon zest and juice, tomatoes and basil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to incorporate the flavors and heat the tomatoes through.

Directions for the fish

  1. A half hour before cooking bring the fish out to bring it to room temperature. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 450°F.
  2. Measure fish at the thickest part of the fillet with a ruler, one inch of thickness equals about 10 minutes of cooking time. Evenly space fish fillets in a lightly oiled baking pan and transfer pan to the preheated oven. Bake for the designated time.
  3. Serve the salmon fillets topped with tomato scampi.

May 30, 2017 Baked Halibut with Bouillabaisse Sauce and Green Olive Tapenade

Fish is on the menu at our house three nights a week and though the method of cooking is usually the same, I am always looking for new ways to complement it. This recipe, Baked Cod Fillet with Bouillabaisse Sauce with Green Olive Tapenade from the April issue of Food and Wine seemed to fit that bill. It combines the classic flavors of bouillabaisse: fennel, garlic, saffron and tomatoes, to make a delicious sauce along with a quick briny olive tapenade.

The origins of bouillabaisse can be traced as far back as the ancient Greeks and was the humble fare of fishermen in Provence, specifically from the port city of Marseille. The best of the catch would be sold to restaurants while the less desirable bony rockfish and shellfish would become part of the fisherman’s dinner, a stew cooked with sea water and simmered over an open fire. Bouillabaisse has come a long way since then to become one of the most iconic French dishes.

The first step of the recipe is to chop the fennel, leek, onion and celery. This can be done by hand or a food processor makes quick work of this step. Just be certain that all pieces are relatively the same size to ensure even cooking. Sauté the vegetables over medium heat until softened then add the garlic and saffron. Saffron adds a subtle flavor and aroma and its beautiful golden color. At about forty dollars a bottle, Pernod is an ingredient I could not justify buying since I was only using a few tablespoons. It adds a subtle anise flavor so if you have some on hand, by all means use it. Add dry white wine and vermouth to the pot and reduce the liquid by half. Next into the pot are halved and smashed cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes are an acceptable substitute here.

The next step is to make fish stock. I am fortunate to have an outstanding fish market that supplies me with fish bones and heads needed for stock making. If making fish stock would stop you from making this recipe, substitute clam broth or  fish bouillon.  Always taste products like this first, since they can be salty. After the sauce cooks, cool slightly and carefully discard the fish bones if using. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce then pass it through a food mill into a sauce pan. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

The green olive tapenade is very easy to do and adds a briny contrast to the rich sauce. Cook the fish according to your favorite method, we use the Canadian fisheries method with consistent results. The sauce and the tapenade can be made several days ahead making this an impressive recipe for entertaining.

Baked Halibut with Bouillabaisse Sauce and Green Olive Tapenade

Serves four

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1-1 lb fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 large leek, trimmed and finely chopped, white and light green parts only
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ t saffron threads
  • 2 T Pernod or pastis (optional)
  • ¾ c dry white wine
  • ¾ c dry vermouth
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved and smashed
  • ½ t smoked paprika
  • 2 lbs white fish bones, rinsed and dried
  • 2 t fresh lemon juice (plus more for drizzling)
  • Kosher salt
  • Four 6-oz. white fish fillets like cod, halibut, grouper

Directions for the sauce

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the fennel, leek, onion and celery and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic and the saffron and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes
  3. Add the Pernod (if using) and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and vermouth and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and paprika and simmer over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  4. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the fish bones and cook over medium high heat, turning once, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer the bones to the casserole and add two cups of water. Cover partially and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes. Let the sauce cool slightly then discard the fish bones.
  6. Using an immersion blender puree the sauce, then strain through the fine mesh of a food mill into a medium saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons lemon juice, season with salt and keep warm.

Ingredients for the Green Olive Tapenade

  • ¼ c green pitted olives
  • 2 T rinsed and drained capers
  • 2 T flat leaved parsley
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ T fresh lemon juice
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions for the Green Olive Tapenade

  1.  Place the first five ingredients in the bowl of a mini food processor and pulse until combined and roughly chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cooking the Fish

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Coat a shallow baking dish with non stick spray. Season the fish fillets with salt.
  3. Measure your fish fillets at the thickest point. Bake the fish for 10 minutes for every inch of thickness.

Finishing the Dish

  1. Ladle the sauce into 4 shallow bowls and top each one with a cod fillet Spoon the tapenade over the fish. Drizzle with more olive oil and lemon juice. Serve immediately.

April 1, 2017 Mayan Citrus Salsa (Xec) with Salmon

A vibrant combination of juicy grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime sections, accented with fragrant and spicy habanero pepper, the Yucatan peninsula is home to this colorful and healthy salsa. The Mayan name for this dish is Xec, pronounced, shek which roughly translates, “mixed”. It is an easy to prepare dish, all of the fruit is cut vertically and sectioned, the way you would cut into your morning grapefruit. If you prefer, the citrus could also be cut into supremes or segments.

The salsa gets its heat from habanero chiles. Lantern shaped and bright red, orange or yellow in color, the habanero is the hottest chile available in grocery stores. For perspective, a habanero registers in at 300,000 to 475,000 units on the Scoville scale, the standard for measuring the heat of a chili pepper, the jalapeno only 2,500 to 10,000 units. Treat all hot peppers with a certain amount of caution, wear gloves when working with them and keep your hands away from your face. It is best to add a little bit of chili pepper to see what your heat tolerance is before ruining a dish with too much at once.

I am fortunate to have a supply of NuMex Suave Orange peppers from the garden to add to the salsa. NuMex Suaves have the citrusy flavor that most people miss in the habanero, without the numbing heat. I like this salsa with fish, but it would pair with chicken or pork as well.

Mayan Citrus Salsa (Xec)

Makes four servings

Ingredients

  • 1 large orange
  • 1 medium grapefruit
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 lime
  • Finely chopped habanero pepper (according to your heat tolerance)
  • 1 NuMex suave pepper
  • ½ c finely chopped cilantro
  • Salt to taste
A combination of sweet, tart and sour citrus, habanero and cilantro are the ingredients for xec.
Section all the citrus the way you would a grapefruit.

Directions

  1. Cut orange in half horizontally and section it as you would a grapefruit. Do this over a bowl to capture all the juice. Remove the seeds and combine flesh and juice in a bowl. Repeat with the grapefruit, lemon and  lime. Stir in habanero, NuMex suave and cilantro. Season with salt.

December 31, 2016 Seven Fishes Christmas Eve

We have adopted the Italian/Italian American tradition of seven fishes and it has been our Christmas eve feast we share with friends for the past six years. I explained the tradition of the seven fishes in a post from 2012.

This year our seafood included oysters straight from the Chesapeake Bay courtesy of Nik.  The extra large succulent oysters are enjoyed both raw with lemon and a splash of cranberry pear vinegar and baked a la Oysters Kenwood. We had a traditional (for us) shrimp scampi pizza as well as a newly inspired creation of a clam and bacon pizza. Both were delicious. We had a refreshing calamari salad, seafood stew, the best stuffed clams ever, just hope Joe remembers the recipe. Homemade pasta was served in two forms, mussels diavola with fettuccine and delicious crab ravioli served with a delicate lemon butter sauce. Golden brown seared scallops were served on a bed of microgreens with mixed sautéed mushrooms. The last course was swordfish skewers and pearl onions with a balsamic sweet and sour sauce. Some years Joe has cooked these in the fireplace grill but due to exceptionally warm weather this year they were cooked outdoors on the grill.

We start the party a little earlier each year, so that we aren’t finishing the last course at midnight. That actually happened the first few years. To finish things off, we left just enough room to finish off the meal with delicious Italian cookies and pastries from Chambersburg, an Italian neighborhood in Trenton, courtesy of Rich.

Nik power washes the oysters before they come inside for shucking..
Joe and his wonderful stuffed clams.
Stuffed clams had bacon in them too.
Oysters Kenwood, oysters baked with tomato sauce, bacon and cheddar cheese. Delicious!!
Shrimp scampi pizza.
Clam and bacon pizza, this year’s new creation.
Delicate crab ravioli with lemon butter sauce.
Homemade fettuccine with mussels diavola.
Seared scallops on a bed of microgreens and sautéed mushrooms.

 

August 5, 2016 Swordfish Steaks with Orange, Fennel and Kalamata Olive Salad

DSC_7633aWhen I am looking for a quick and easy fish entree that comes together in about 15 minutes, swordfish is one of my first choices. I love it’s rich, meaty texture and like to balance it with something that is tart, a bit sweet and a little salty. This palate pleasing salad of oranges, fennel and olives takes it’s inspiration from Sicily.

The orange supremes take some careful knife work but are worth the effort. Using your sharpest pairing knife, trim off the top and bottom of the orange. Rest the orange on one of the cut ends and trim off the peel and pith in large strips, carefully following the contours of the fruit. Cut the segments free from the membrane. Be sure to do this over a bowl to catch all the juices. Squeeze the remaining membrane to capture every last drop of juice. I reduced the juice in a small saucepan to intensify the flavor in the vinaigrette.

I think fennel is a greatly under used vegetable. Related to carrots, parsley, dill and coriander, it has a crunchy texture and refreshing licoricey flavor popular in Mediterranean cooking. To cut, trim the feathery foliage and stalks off where they meet the top of the bulb. The stalks and foliage can be used as a bed for cooking the fish. Cut the bulb in quarters lengthwise and cut out the core. Slice the sections thinly using a mandoline or a very sharp knife. I used fennel thinnings from the garden. They didn’t have a hard solid core so I used the entire fennel bulb.

Kalamata olives are almond shaped and dark purple in color. They are cured in a red wine vinegar brine that gives them a rich, fruity flavor. They are often found on the Mediterranean bar in many supermarkets. To pit olives, place them on a flat surface and lightly crush with the side of a broad flat chef’s knife. Remove the pit and cut the olives in half lengthwise.

Cumin is one of my favorite spices and toasting cumin seeds really intensifies their flavor. Use a small dry skillet over medium to medium high heat. Keep the pan in constant motion, the seeds will darken and your kitchen will be filled with a warm toasty aroma. Immediately remove them from the pan and transfer to a bowl or a mortar and pestle. Crushing the toasted seeds brings out their flavor even more. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, put the seeds in a plastic bag and crush them with the bottom of a heavy pan or a rolling pin.

Combine the reduced orange juice, toasted fennel and olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and lightly toss. Serve salad with the fish and garnish the plates with fennel fronds.

DSC_7602aOrange, Fennel and Kalamata Olive Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 small to medium fennel bulb
  • 2-3 medium oranges
  • 1//3 c kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half lengthwise
  • ½ t cumin seed
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

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Directions

  1. Cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise, removing the core. Thinly slice the fennel, preferably with a mandoline. You will need 1 cup.
  2. Remove peel and pith from the oranges using a sharp paring knife. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, carefully cut between membranes, to remove segments. Squeeze remaining membrane to extract juice. In a small saucepan reduce the orange juice to two tablespoons. Set aside.
  3. Toast the cumin seed in a small non stick saute pan until fragrant and toasted. Grind toasted cumin seed in a mortar and pestle. In a small bowl combine reduced orange juice, cumin and olive oil, stir together.
  4. In a medium bowl combine the sliced fennel, orange segments, and olives. Pour the dressing over and lightly toss.  Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.
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Baby fennel from the garden.

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Ingredients

  •  2- 6 oz swordfish steaks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Wondra flour
  • 1 T each olive oil and unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Measure steaks using the Canadian method to calculate total cooking time.
  3. Season swordfish steaks with salt and pepper. Dust with Wondra flour.
  4. Heat an oven-proof saute pan over medium high heat.
  5. Melt butter and oil in a saute pan large enough to hold the fish without crowding and small enough to fit in your oven.
  6. Brown swordfish for two minutes on each side.
  7. Move saute pan to oven. Finish in oven, subtracting four minutes from your total cooking time. For example 1″ fish=10 minutes cooking time minus four minutes equals six minutes in the oven.
  8. Using oven mitts, remove from pan from oven, transfer fish to serving plate with spatula. Serve with the orange, fennel and kalamata salad.

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May 14, 2016 Wood Planked Halibut with Herb Salad

DSC_6927aThe creamy pinkish-white halibut I purchased at my favorite seafood store, Heller’s was the perfect match for a recipe on Friday’s episode of The Chew. The episode, tied in for Mother’s Day was titled, “Kitchen wisdom, things you learn from your mother about cooking”. This recipe shared by Michael Symon was not so much about things you learn from your mother, but treating your mom with a dinner she would be more likely to order out at a restaurant but probably wouldn’t want to cook at home

The recipe for wood planked halibut with herb salad sounded interesting and a bit different than how I usually prepare halibut. Michael chose halibut because it is in season and reasonably priced. Cod would be a good substitute.  We have been using the cedar plank method of cooking for several years now but have only used it with salmon. I thought the delicate flavor of the halibut would be complemented nicely by the cedar.

The first step in the recipe is to soak the wood planks, he was using three for three pounds of fish. Wood planks are becoming more readily available in grocery stores, many times they are set up with the barbecue displays. Most of the ones I have seen are cedar. Chef Symon said he was using an oak plank. Be sure to soak your plank for several hours, even overnight. You will need something to weight it down so it doesn’t float to the top, I use a heavy marble mortar. While you are soaking one plank for dinner that night, soak a second along with it, wrap it in foil and store it in the freezer for the next time. Michael said to soak it in salt water to season the underside of the fish,

The first discrepancy in the recipe came with the proportions for the glaze. The online recipe called for quarter cup of soy sauce a tablespoon of hot Chinese mustard and 2 tablespoons of honey. On the television program, chef Symon said to use equal parts of each. That’s straight from the chef’s mouth so that’s how I followed the recipe.

The online recipe called for 3 pounds of fish, by my estimates, that could serve 6 to 8 people depending on portion size. The online recipe stated it served four, those are pretty healthy portion sizes. I had a little less than a pound to serve two people, so I cut back on the glaze accordingly. Chinese mustard is the condiment in little packets you might have stuffed in the butter keeper in your refrigerator. Unfortunately I didn’t have any and couldn’t find any in my local supermarket. So I added about a quarter teaspoon of wasabi to some Dijon mustard. You can adjust the heat to your own liking, or skip the wasabi completely. Whisk the ingredients together, put half in a bowl to glaze the fish before cooking and the other half in a bowl as a finishing glaze.

Season the halibut with salt-and-pepper on both sides, if you don’t like to see black specks on your white fish, use white pepper instead. Place the fish, skin side down on the plank. Michael puts his fish on a foil lined baking tray for easy clean up. Joe, who is the resident fish cooker, put our well soaked board directly on the oven rack. . Brush the first half of the glaze on the fish. This is where discrepancy number three comes in. The online written recipe states to cook the fish for 30 minutes. On the TV program, Chef Symon says it cooks in about 8 minutes or 5 under the broiler! Where is the truth here? We rely on the Canadian fisheries method of cooking fish which estimates the total cooking time of any fish to be 10 minutes (maybe even a little less ) for every inch of thickness, measuring at the thickest part at 450°F.

While the fish is cooking, you will have time to make the herb salad. It’s a combination of thinly sliced radishes, cilantro, and scallions tossed with lime juice and extra-virgin olive oil. We just finished our first crop of radishes and there’s lots of cilantro coming up “wild” in the circle garden. Don’t despair cilantro haters, Michael said any soft herb (as opposed to one that is woody,  like rosemary) could be used. That would include parsley, dill and chervil. The amount of herb salad for the online recipe feeding four people/three pounds of fish was a reasonable portion for two so scale up the recipe if you are cooking a larger quantity of fish.

I would definitely make this recipe again, the wood smoke lightly permeates the fish and the kitchen, an added bonus. The glaze is easy, using mostly pantry ingredients. Michael Symon also pointed out that this method for cooking fish could be easily done on the grill, an added bonus for the summer months to come.

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Soak the wood plank for several hours or overnight. Just be sure it doesn’t float to the top!
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Fresh halibut from Alaska.
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Ingredients for the marinade.

 

 

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Half of the marinade is brushed on before it goes in the oven.
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While the fish is cooking, make the herb salad. I sliced the radishes as thinly as possible on a mandolin.
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Cilantro comes up in our garden on it’s own. If you don’t like cilantro, use parsley.
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Brush the remaining glaze over the fish after cooking.

Wood Planked Halibut with Herb Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 T tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 T dijon style mustard
  • ¼t wasabi from a tube, more or less to taste
  • 2 T honey
  • 12-16 oz halibut
  • 1 c  thinly shaved radish
  • ½ c cilantro leaves
  • ½ c scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 3 T olive oil
  • ½ lime juiced
  • 1 cedar plank submerged in cold water for 2 hours and up to overnight
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 450°F Line a baking sheet with foil and place the plank on it.
  2.  In a medium sized bowl add the soy, mustard, wasabi and honey. Mix until smooth.  Divide the glaze evenly into two bowls.
  3. Season the halibut on both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place on the plank. Brush the contents of the first bowl evenly over the fish. Measure the fish at it’s thickest point to calculate the amount of time it needs to cook. The Canadian fisheries method of cooking fish is ten minutes per inch, measuring at the thickest part of the fillet, start checking at eight minutes, halibut is a fish that “puffs up” when cooked so a little additional time may be needed. Don’t overcook,  fish still continues to cook after you take it off the heat. Remove fish from oven and brush with additional glaze.
  4. While the fish is cooking add radishes, scallions and cilantro to a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil and lime juice, toss to combine.
  5. Serve halibut with herb salad.

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March 3, 2016 Lemon-Ginger Poached Grouper with Leeks and Spinach

DSC_5982aFish is on the menu three to four nights a week at our house and I am always looking for new and healthy ways to prepare it. This Asian influenced light main course from Fine Cooking is both easy to prepare and delicious enough for company.

Originally the recipe called for halibut, but since it can be quite expensive (over thirty dollars a pound) any mild tasting firm fleshed fish will work. Our choice was grouper but sea bass or cod would also be a good substitute. The recipe begins with a simple but flavorful rub of ginger, garlic, and lemon. A microplane makes it easy to grate all three. Lightly pat this mixture on one side of the fish. The fish is added to a simmering broth that is enhanced with sauteed leeks and lemon juice. Add any additional stock needed to almost cover the fillets. Poaching ensures a moist flavorful fish. Transfer the cooked fish to shallow bowls and keep warm. The spinach, mint and scallions are quickly wilted in the broth. I confess I didn’t use the mint, Joe is not a big fan and I would only use some of the milder mint that we grow.

While the fish is cooking, you will have time to cook the soba noodles. Soba is both the Japanese word for buckwheat and the noodle made with buckwheat flour. They have a delicate texture and a nutty flavor. Soba can also be flavored with everything from green tea to wild yam. Years ago when I was first experimenting with Japanese recipes it took a special trip to the Asian market to find soba, now they are available in most grocery stores.  Soba noodles are usually eaten cold, but in this recipe they are great warm for sopping up the broth.
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Lemon-Ginger Poached Halibut with Leeks and Spinach

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 2 t finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 t finely grated garlic
  • Finely grated zest and the juice of one lemon
  • 2 T plus 1 t extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Four 1-inch thick skinless fillets of a firm fleshed white fish (halibut, grouper, sea bass etc.)
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed well and thinly sliced
  • 3 c lower salt chicken broth or vegetable broth; more as needed
  • Water- to cook the soba noodles
  • Soba noodles, a handful or a wrapped portion per per person
  • 4 c lightly packed spinach leaves, rinsed
  • ¼ c roughly chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ c thinly sliced scallions

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix the ginger, garlic, lemon zest, 1 tsp of the olive oil, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Pat the mixture evenly over one side of the fish. Put a large pot of water on to cook the noodles, do not add salt to the water. Bring water to a boil.
  2. In a 10-inch straight sided saute pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute, stirring constantly, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the broth and 1 Tbs. of the lemon juice. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat.
  4. Arrange the fish lemon-ginger side up in a single layer on top of the leeks. If necessary add more broth until the fillets are almost but not completely submerged. Cover and turn the heat to low. Gently simmer until the fish is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. While the fish is  cooking, add the soba noodles to the boiling water and give them a quick stir so they all go underwater. Cook the noodles uncovered for 6-8 minutes, they should be slightly al dente. Drain the noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water to remove excess starch.
  6. With a slotted spatula, transfer the fish to shallow bowls and keep warm.
  7. Add the spinach, mint and scallions to the broth and stir until slightly wilted, about 1 minute.
  8. Season to taste with more lemon juice, salt and pepper. Ladle the vegetables and broth around the fish, add the noodles to the bowl and serve.
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A rub of ginger, garlic, lemon and olive oil is patted on one side of the fish.
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Poaching the fish in a chicken broth that is enhanced with leeks and lemon juice.

March 19, 2015 Beer Battered Fish Tacos

DSC_1911aFresh white fish encased in a crispy batter wrapped in a warm corn tortilla slathered with creamy and spicy tartar sauce and a sprinkling of cabbage and a spritz of lime, what’s not to love?

After all the fish tacos we consumed on our trip to Florida, you might think we would be tired of them about now. But we can’t get our fill of this delicious south of this border treat, so it was time for us to try our hand at them in our own kitchen.

Fish tacos are native to the Baja peninsula of northwestern Mexico, most likely originating in the town of Ensenada. An hour and a half south of the San Diego-Tijuana  border, Ensenada is surrounded by the beautiful Sierra de San Pedro Martir mountains and sits on an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. Fishing is one of the major industries of Ensenada and fishing boats pull up to the dock to unload their abundant fresh catch at the local seafood markets. More than ninety species are commercially fished or farmed in the area. A large portion of the catch is shipped to Asia, but some of it is sold by local vendors.

Though some fish taco recipes call for grilled or blackened fish, the classic fish taco recipe uses fish that is cooked in a tempura like batter. Many believe this is a result of the influence of Japanese immigrants who began settling  in Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century. A firm fleshed white fish will hold up best for frying. Bass or cod are good choices, but at the suggestion of my fishmonger, I chose triggerfish.  Triggerfish is a delicious fish that takes well to any cooking method. The name refers to  an unusual interlocking dorsal fin that has to be “unlocked” by releasing a trigger shaped spine. They are usually about a foot long and weigh about 2 pounds with strong scales and tough skin.

In addition to the usual pico de gallo or tomato salsa, these tacos are accompanied by a spicy tartar sauce. It is a simple sauce of mayonnaise combined with pickle relish, yellow mustard, lime and pickled jalapenos. I am fortunate enough to have my own stash of pickled jalapenos that I canned several years ago. They are nice and briny with quite a potent kick. A little shredded cabbage and a squeeze of lime are the finishing touches to these tacos.

Corn tortillas are the wrappers of choice here. There are several methods to keep them warm. Put five or less on a microwave plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave in 30 seconds intervals and heat until warm. Wrap a small stack in aluminum foil and warm them in a 300 F oven for 15-20 minutes. You can also heat them one at a time in an ungreased skillet.

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

Serves 4-6

Yields 12-16 tacos

Spicy Tartar Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1c mayonnaise
  • 1/4c minced fresh cilantro
  • 3T minced pickled jalapeno
  • 2T dill pickle relish
  • 1T fresh lime juice
  • 1t yellow American mustard
  • 1/4t kosher salt

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl, can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Pico de Gallo

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c chopped white onion
  • 1/4c coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 3 fresh serrano or jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Put the onion, cilantro and peppers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Fish for the tacos

Ingredients

  • About 2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
  • 1c all purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • 1c beer
  • 2 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
  • 1lb firm fillets of mild white fish, I used triggerfish but bass, cod or haddock can also be used, cut into strips about 41/2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide

Directions for the fish

  1. Fill a large, deep heavy pot with vegetable oil to about 1 1/4 inches deep. Heat the oil to about 350°F. Check the oil temperature with a deep fry thermometer or add a cube of bread to the oil, it should bubble immediately.
  2. Mix the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and stir in the beer until smooth. Gently fold in the egg whites.
  3. Season the fish with salt. To cook the fish, work in batches of about three or four pieces at a time. Using kitchen tongs, dip each piece in the batter, let any excess drip off, carefully submerge the fish in the hot oil, and fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels

To assemble the tacos

  • 12-16 corn tortillas (5-6 inches wide), warmed
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded green or purple cabbage
  • 2 limes quartered
  • Pico de Gallo

To serve: Just after the fish comes out of the fryer, arrange on a heated dish on the table. Set out the tartar sauce, hot tortillas, shredded cabbage, lime quarters and pico de gallo for each person to assemble their own tacos.

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November 20, 2014 Mahi Mahi with Pomegranate Salsa

DSC_0009aFish is always my go-to selection for a quick and healthy dinner.  This weekend my fish market had quite a few excellent varieties and some beautiful mahi mahi fillets caught my eye.

Also known as dolphin fish, the Hawaiian name, mahi mahi, was used first by restaurants to distinguish it from the mammal. Despite the Hawaiian name, mahi mahi is mostly fished on the Atlantic coast. Wild caught in the United States from Massachusetts to Texas, it is considered a “best choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Mahi mahi are fished by longline methods or troll and pole. These methods limit the accidental catch of sea turtles and other threatened species.

Mahi mahi is a lean fish with a delicate, mildly pronounced flavor and medium texture. The flesh usually has strips of brown running down the center of the fillet. This is a harmless discoloration, some (not us) think this makes the fish less attractive so they trim it off. Be sure to remove the skin before cooking, it is tough and tasteless. Halibut would be a good substitution if mahi mahi is not available.

We cook our fish very simply and compliment it with a bright sauce. I wanted to take advantage of seasonal fall ingredients and I noticed a display of pomegranates at the front of the supermarket. Whether it was inspiration or the power of suggestion, I’m not certain, I planned to make a pomegranate salsa. I combined jewel toned pomegranate arils with juicy pineapple, crispy cucumber and red onion. A little jalapeno from the garden provided enough heat to contrast with the sweet and I finished the salsa with a little cilantro. Served with rice and avocado slices and a salad, this made a quick and delicious dinner. This salsa would be good with tortilla or pita chips or even as a bruschetta with a creamy goat cheese.

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Mahi Mahi with Pomegranate Salsa

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4 mahi mahi fillets, 6 oz each
  • Cooked jasmine or other long grain rice
  • Sliced avocado
  1. Preheat  oven to 450°F.
  2. Measure the fillets at their thickest point. Season fish with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake fish for 10 minutes for every inch of thickness. If you check internal temperatures, it should be about 130°F. Remember fish will continue to cook even off the heat.
  4. Mound the rice on plates and top with fish and salsa. Arrange avocado slices on the side. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Pomegranate Salsa

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1c pomegranate arils
  • 3/4c peeled and diced cucumber
  • 3/4c diced pineapple
  • 1/4c diced red onion
  • 1-3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1/3c diced sweet red pepper
  • 2T fresh lime juice
  • 1/3c finely chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste for heat preference and additional jalapeno if desired.

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January 4, 2014 Swordfish with Tomato, Cucumber and Radish Relish

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A new year and a time for new beginnings. No more lobster bisque with heavy cream, filet wrapped in bacon with blue cheese. Time to put those tempting chocolate caramels topped with sea salt and every imaginable variation of chocolate truffles away for awhile. It’s time to eat healthy again and lose those few extra holiday pounds. As of January 2nd we have embarked on a healthy eating plan. What it doesn’t mean is deprivation.

We both love fish and swordfish steaks are one of my favorites. Swordfish can weigh as much as 1000 pounds but usually average between 50 and 100 pounds. The “sword” accounts for one third of their length. Due to mismanagement and overfishing the swordfish population was dwindling at the end of the twentieth century. After more than a decade of responsible management, the United States swordfish population is thriving. Now the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Watch rates North Atlantic swordfish (harpoon and hand line caught) a “best choice”. They are fished all along the North Atlantic coast, from Newfoundland to coastal Florida, wherever and whenever the water is warm.

There is a consumption advisory for swordfish, due to elevated levels of mercury. From what I have read in the most recent literature the health benefits of swordfish outweigh the detriments for most people. Large ocean fish, like swordfish have higher concentrations of selenium, a trace mineral necessary to all functions of the body. Selenium bonds to the mercury in swordfish and prevents the body from absorbing mercury.

Fish markets buy sections of swordfish called wheels, the thickness of which are measured in knuckles. Each knuckle corresponds to one of the fish’s vertabrae. A wheel is either sliced into steaks or quartered into loins. Swordfish flesh is firm, lean and sweet.

As the title of the book says this recipe is fast, easy and fresh. I call this a relish and not a salsa, I know that salsa means sauce but the secondary connotation is that a salsa will have some heat. This recipe is not hot, though that is an option open to the cook. You could add some avocado, red onion, a little celery, a small fresh chili, the options and combinations are many. When I need raw tomatoes out of season I prefer Campari tomatoes. They are small but have the best flavor of any tomato I have tried. Remember never refrigerate any tomato. They lose flavor and quickly become mealy.

Our swordfish piece was on the thin side so all the cooking it needed was a few minutes on each side in a hot grill pan, you want the center of the steak to remain moist. If you can make it through the snow, grilling would be another cooking option. Refer to my previous swordfish post for cooking a thicker piece of swordfish using the Canadian Fisheries method.

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Swordfish with Tomato, Fennel, Cucumber, and Radish Relish

Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh

Serves 2

  • 2 6-to-7 ounce swordfish steaks
  • 3T olive oil
  • 2 t fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tomatoes or 5 Campari tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2c diced pickling cucumber or English hothouse cucumber
  • 1/2c finely diced fennel
  • 4 medium radishes, diced
  • 3 T chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Spray grill pan with Pam and preheat grill pan to medium-high heat.
  2. Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, radishes and cilantro, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Timing is always a function of the thickness of your fish. One inch thickness of fish equals 10 minutes cooking time. Measure first!
  4. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and grill over a medium-high heat, our fish took  about 4 minutes per side, rotate fish half way through each cooking time to create a crosshatch pattern.
  5. Serve fish with relish.

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