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Archive for the ‘Seafood Recipes’ Category

Next beach walk: A dish hunt?

2-Sunray Venus Clam Shell

Sunray Venus Clam Shell

You’ve all heard the old adage “You eat with your eyes first”. As a Chef, I’m always looking for ideas for making a plate appealing. If it looks attractive, I can be sure it will be gobbled up by my guests and besides the quest is fun! I look for pretty dishes everywhere I go – even on my recent trip to Marco Island, a place known for its beautiful shells washing up on the beach. As well as shells for table decoration, I was looking for dishes. Yes, I said dishes!

When you find your shells, first sanitize them by dissolving one “San Tab” (available at Gordon Foods) in a gallon of water. Then add the shells for at least 20 seconds and that takes care of it. Be sure to also rinse them well to remove the chemicals and you’ve got an interesting and attractive dish. (You can also paint them with Mod Podge on the outside to make them a little shinier if you like, but don’t paint the surface where you will place food.)

I looked for large white clam shells, Sunray Venus clam shells and the largest scallop bowls I could find. Most of these were out on Tiger Tail Point Beach. What’s really interesting about the ocean is that different things wash up each day. One day it will be full of Fighting Conch shells and the next day you might not be able to find any at all. Different shells can be found in various parts of the beach. Make sure not to take one that’s alive or inhabited, which is actually illegal. If you really want to help protect the eco system, you take those that are alive out beyond the waves and throw them out into the ocean so they will have another chance.

3-Table decoration

Variety of small shells for decoration

But let’s get back to the table. Small shells went into decorative bowls. (You can leave them simply as they are or fill the bowls with water and float candles or flowers above them. You could also partially fill a vase and add flowers.) Fighting conchs, starfish and a sand dollar became appetizer tray decorations. Larger shells became containers for little specialties I like to make. The larger shells could simply be handed to people with appetizers in them. I took it one step further and added them to a Bento Box (a Japanese lunch box divided into four sections. Plastic boxes can be found in Japanese grocery stores. Or, if you want beautiful lacquered ones like these, you can find them online). I found the little dishes that fit in them in all kinds of different stores on my travels as well as at Crate and Barrel.

What you see in the box below is grilled shrimp marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and perched on purchased Quinoa-Vegetable Salad, marinated chicken skewers, lump crab and a crab cake topped with a little fresh thyme. The sauces are Sweet Chili Sauce and Thai Peanut Sauce – both simply purchased. On the clam shells on the appetizer tray are seared scallops topped with shredded ribs, Sushi and sashimi. You don’t have to use these exact things. Just use little things that you like to make and don’t forget about your leftovers for toppings or other little creations. Simply have fun with it!

1-Scallop Shells

Large Scallop Shells

4-Bento Box Presentation

Bento Box

 

To make the ribs: Cut four pounds of bone-in ribs into four pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear in hot oil in a Dutch oven. Then spread a small can of tomato paste on the meaty side. Turn them over so the tomato side is down. (Heating the tomato sauce sweetens it.) Add 1 cup of beef stock. (If you don’t make your own, I like the Kitchen Basics brand the best.) Cover and bake for 2-1/2 hours at 350 F – or until the meat pulls away when you rake a fork over it. Remove the meat and chop it. Freeze any extra for another meal.

The marinade for the chicken is ½ cup Sesame Seed oil, ½ cup Soy Sauce, 1 Clove minced Garlic, 1 minced Green Onion, 2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce. Pinch of Cayenne Pepper, 1 Tablespoon Curry Powder and 1 Tablespoon ground ginger. Marinate for at least 45 minutes and then cook them in a pan. Remember to soak your skewers ahead of time so they won’t burn.

To make the crab cake: Mix 1 pound of crab with 1/4 cup chopped pepper, 1/4 chopped shallot, ¾ cup Pepperidge Farm Herb dressing (first mixed with 2 Tablespoons Dijon or Mucky Duck mustard and 1 egg and then added to the mix) and salt and pepper to taste. Press into cakes and dip in Panko. Fry in butter.  Enjoy!

6-Finished Appetizers

Finished Appetizers

7-Finished Bento Box

Finished Bento Box

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Sous Vide: What’s it all about?

Sous Vide Cooking…Now so easy to do at home!

Sous Vide Tuna with Carrots

Sous Vide Tuna                                                       With Carrots and Cauliflower Puree

What is Sous Vide?  Sous Vide is French for without air. It’s is worth knowing about because it’s a way to cook meats and fish with absolutely no fat – reducing in calorie reduction. But most important, it’s a way to get your food the perfect temperature with no fear of over cooking. It can supply a big window of time within which you can serve your food, all the while keeping it warm and perfectly cooked. The sous vide method was popularized by high end restaurants for just these reasons – and now, even the home cook has an opportunity to take advantage of this unique method of cooking without a huge expenditure.

To use this method, you place a circulator/heater in a tank with enough water to cover the food. You heat the water to the desired temperature and then you drop sealed bags containing your food into the water for a specified period of time. (Charts come with the equipment.) You can slow cook thick fish for several hours and meats for many more. Once you reach your minimum cooking time, you can leave it in there to keep it warm for quite a while, taking it out when everything else is ready – a cook’s dream!

Sous Vide Tank with Circulator

Sous Vide Tank with Circulator

Does food taste the same? Your food will be moist and the texture will be extremely tender. However, it might look a little different. You won’t see any caramelization, so you might want to use a blow torch, broiler or blow torch with a diffuser on it to brown up your meat. I don’t think this is so important for fish and with fish – because it’s more tender and thinner – you risk over cooking when you have just gone to the trouble of preparing it perfectly. You can compensate for the lack of caramelization with tasty and colorful spices. In general, you will want to use more spices anyway to compensate for losing the taste of the fat you would normally use in cooking.

Blow Torch With Diffuser

Blow Torch With Diffuser

There are some important precautions! Watch out for safe temperature ranges. Bacteria proliferate exponentially between the temperatures of 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Some bacteria grow without the presence of air, so vacuum packing it in this sense doesn’t make any difference. When your food is in this range for four hours, you should throw it out. This includes cooking, cooling and eating time – and it’s cumulative. So if you save leftovers, even though your refrigerate them, when you bring them back into that temperature zone, you have to count the time it was out before. (You can extend this by two hours by re-heating to specified temperatures.)

All this means is that if you plan to cook a roast, for example, that has six hours of cooking time, make sure your water temperature is above the zone. A product like fish, for example, that might, also for example, take an hour or two to cook, would be fine cooked at a lower temperature – even within the zone.

What equipment is required and where do I get it? All you need is a large, plastic tank and a heater/circulator, as well as a way to vacuum pack your food. It’s important to circulate the water in the tank so that all the liquid is a constant temperature. Basically, you are poaching without your food touching the water, which would leech out the flavor.

Take a look at the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circular for $199 and the ARY tank, for $39 (found online at the time of this printing). A vacuum pack machine can be found at places like Bed, Bath & Beyond. Although there are more expensive ones available, I got a Food Saver brand machine there for $69 and it has worked fine for years. A nice aside to these machines is that you can freeze food without air in the packages, eliminating or highly reducing freezer frost. For sous vide, you can even use Ziploc bags, as long as you press out the air and make sure they are sealed tightly.

This method of cooking is easy and fun. Especially for those of you who are afraid to cook fish, just can’t get it right or don’t like the smell of fish in your kitchen, here’s your answer!

Fish Baked in Salt

Finished Dish

Finished Dish

If you want to make a dish that’s a little exotic and impressive yet very easy, fish baked in salt might be your answer! This absolutely delicious preparation has a very lightly seasoned taste. Contrary to popular belief, the meat is not extremely salty. The salt bakes into a crust that is easily removed and outside the skin. The meat itself is delicate and moist because it basically steams inside the salt crust.

For starters, you will need a very large roasting pan and a lot of salt. It’s difficult to say how much because it depends on the size of your pan and the size of your fish. Generally, for one large fish you will need two boxes of kosher salt and 4 egg whites. (You can get kosher salt at Kroger or any grocery store for a few dollars a box.)

The fish should be completely whole with the skin on – and yes, also with the head on. Snapper, salmon and other larger fish work best, but you can also use trout or other smaller fish like mackerel. Smaller fish can be cooked together in the same crust – as many as will fit in your pan. You can cut off the heads and peel the skin away before you serve it. Just as an aside, when you are shopping for your fish, make sure it will fit in your pan and that your pan will fit in your oven. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Fish in salt

If you want to get really fancy, you can crack the crust and serve the fish at the table. I don’t recommend that though because salt tends to fly around and it – well – it makes a mess. But anyway, back to the basics.

To bake fish in salt, first clean your fish (no guts), wash it and pat it dry. Measure the thickest part of the fish. Then mix the salt with the egg whites. Use enough egg whites so the salt is slightly moist. Put 1/2” salt in the bottom of your pan. Put the fish on top of that. Cover the fish with ½” of the salt/egg white mixture. Make sure that the fish is completely buried. Bake in a preheated 425 F oven, 10 minutes per inch of fish.

Fish covered in salt

Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Then crack the crust and serve the deliciously tender and moist fish meat that you find inside. (I often do this in or near the sink to catch flying salt.) Enjoy!

Steak or Lobster? That is the question!

Our meat supply is shrinking. Why? The Department of Agriculture forecasted in May that “Beef output in the U.S., the world’s top producer, will fall 5.3% this year to 24.35 billion pounds, the lowest since 1994.

Photo Credit: Food and Fire

Photo Credit: Food and Fire

According to The Wall Street Sector Selector, “At the start of this year (2014), the cattle herd fell to 87.7 million head, the lowest since 1951, following drought and high feed costs.” In addition… “Porcine epidemic virus has killed more than 4 million pigs, according to an industry group.”

According to Bloomberg News, “This is very unusual to see this kind of price increase this early in the season,” Donnie King, the President of prepared foods at Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson, the largest U.S. processor of beef and chicken, said in a March 13 presentation to analysts. Cattle futures reached an all-time high… up 25 percent from last year’s low in May. Hog futures surged … and are up 47 percent this year. Domestic wholesale pork has advanced even more, gaining 56 percent this year.”

What does that mean to you?  Increased costs to restaurants and retail stores get passed on to the consumer, so it’s going to cost you quite a bit more to eat beef and pork.

What to watch out for? Look not only at the price of the package of meat you want to buy. Check the weights on the packages too. Although retailers will cut what they can to keep their margins intact, he first thing you can expect to happen is that an attempt will be made to fool you by changing packaging. In other words, the price you normally see will be the same or very slightly more, but there will be less in the package, so you don’t notice the increase in price. Do notice it, though, because it’s definitely there.

What to do? Take a look at other products whose supply has increased, causing their prices to drop. An example is lobster – once brought into households only as a luxurious indulgence.

Supplies of lobster have dramatically increased. Why? According to The Columbus Dispatch, “last year’s record haul of 126 million pounds is double that of just a decade ago.” That made prices very cheap. They go on to say, “No one knows exactly why lobster populations have increased so quickly. The answer, says marine biologist Robert Steneck, is likely a combination of warming water temperatures, the overfishing of inshore predators like cod and a long history of forward-thinking conservation measures.” That means that lobster is suddenly really affordable. It’s also very simple to prepare this delicious meat!

Photo Credit: LeOeuf

Photo Credit: LeOeuf

What to look for in buying lobster: Buy them live, as fresh as possible and as close to preparation time as possible. Retailers keep live lobsters in tanks. Make sure your lobster is lively when taken out of the tank. If it has a lot of energy, it will probably try to curl up. If lobsters are in the tank too long, they get lethargic and lose muscle mass because they are not fed there. You can ask the retailer when they arrived so you know exactly how fresh they are. Once you choose your lobster, keep them in the refrigerator until cooking time.

Here are the best two ways to prepare lobster:

  1. Bring a large pot of water (infused with 1 Tablespoon of salt) to a boil. You can usually cook several lobsters at a time, but it depends on the size of your pot. Plunge the live lobsters head first into the hot water and cook them until they turn pink, about 15-20 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well. If you want to spoil your guests, crack the back and claws in two with a large, sharp knife and serve immediately with fresh lemon quarters (to squeeze on the meat) and clarified butter. (What is clarified butter? When you melt butter, the white solids rise to the top. If you skim them off, that’s clarified butter.)
  2. If you buy frozen lobster tails, take them out of the freezer the day before you want to serve them and thaw them in the fridge. Sprinkle the meat side with salt and pepper. Squeeze on fresh lemon juice. Then get your grill hot and grill for 12-15 minutes. Again, serve them with a little dish of clarified butter for dipping and some fresh lemon.

Googling lobster will find many more recipes, but these are the simplest and in my mind, the most delicious. If you use too may spices, you will easily overpower the taste of the meat.

What wine to serve?  Loren Sonkin ofInToWine” suggests – and this is in order of price, with the first being the highest – a Montrachet (from Burgundy in France), a California Grand Cru Chardonnay, or a Gewurztraminer. He says, “In my opinion, boiled lobster with drawn butter begs for a medium bodied white wine with perhaps subtle nuances of oak ageing.”

So choose your wine price point and go enjoy that lobster while the prices are still lower than hamburger! 🙂

 

HUMP MONTH is just around the corner!

Winter is hanging on… and if Wednesday is HUMP DAY, then March is the same – a month with still a lot of winter left and just a month we have to get through to find the warmer weather. Some people head south, but for those of us who stay here, the challenge is to make it fun so that it goes by quickly!

Luckily we live in a global economy, so getting fresh food is still relatively easy.  However, to pair with those vegetables and starches, Michigan still offers wonderful smoked fish – a delicious respite during this cold, winter month. Here are two of my favorites – an entrée and an appetizer. I know you will love them both and both are as easy as can be.

IMG_8767

APPETIZER: SMOKED WHITE FISH (OR SMOKED SALMON) MOUSSE

(Enough for a large party)

¼ Cup Shallots, Cut into rough pieces

1 Pound Smoked Whitefish (OR Smoked Salmon), Boned and Flaked

½ Cup Sour Cream

½ Cup Unsalted Butter, Softened

½ cup Cream Cheese

3 Tablespoons lemon Juice

2 Tablespoons Vodka

½ Cup Whipping Cream, Whipped to Soft Peaks

White Pepper and Salt, to taste

Cayenne Pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Place the shallots in a food processor and chop them finely, scraping down the side of the bowl and running it a little bit more. Then add the fish and pulse a few times to blend it. Add the next 5 ingredients and process until smooth.  Remove to a bowl.
  2. Whip the cream and fold it in by hand. Season to taste with white pepper, salt and cayenne pepper.
  3. Pack into one large mold or smaller molds.  Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
  4. Serve with toast points or sliced baguette. Or serve with rice crackers and it’s gluten free!


MAIN COURSE: FISH PARMESAN
(Serves four)

4 Fish Filets (4 to 6 ounces each)
2 eggs, beaten
1 to 2 cups Parmesan Cheese, grated
Baking Spray

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400⁰F.
  2. Put the egg in one bowl and the Parmesan in another. Spray an oven proof casserole dish with baking spray or lightly rub it with olive oil.
  3. Dip the fish in the egg (on both sides). Then press it onto the Parmesan (both sides again) and place it in the casserole Press more Parmesan into the fish to cover it well.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the fish just flakes.

 NOTE: You can prepare the fish ahead and then just pop it into the oven when you are ready. If it’s cold, allow a few more minutes cooking time.

 It doesn’t get any easier than this! Enjoy!

Beautify Your Easter Buffet!

If I said EASTER followed by a blank and you had to fill it in, I bet you would say EGGS! It’s the quintessential symbol associated with the holiday since ancient times, when eggs were a symbol of re-birth. During the Spring Equinox (Wednesday, March 20 in 2013) they were even colored just like we still do today – except they used natural dyes from plant leaves and flowers.

Deviled Eggs Fit For a Queen!

Deviled Eggs Fit For a Queen!

Intrigued by that idea, I decided to go natural this year to keep my eggs healthier and chemical free, plus make a more interesting Easter brunch item besides. I discovered that there were a ton of things at my fingertips to use to accomplish this. Some could be cooked right along with the eggs and other added after the eggs were cooked. Here are some examples of how to make some fun colors:

Yellow and earth tones: Onion skins: Cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes. Cook, then refrigerate with the skins left in the water to darken to the color you want. Drain and let the cooked, peeled eggs sit in the colored water for at least 3 hours or overnight. You can also use red onion skins with the same method and the color will be a reddish brown.

(more…)

Go Fish!!

When I’m cooking for one or want a really quick, low calorie but delicious and filling meal, one of my “go to” recipes is BEER FISH. You have to try this because I know you will love it and it will be at the top of your list for diet food! Plus, it’s easy. What more can you ask for in a recipe?

Beer Fish!

Beer Fish!

This recipe is called Pijiu Yu in Chinese and it comes from the southern region where rivers are abundant and fish are plentiful. I often make it with salmon because it’s inexpensive and easy to obtain where I live, but to be more true to its origin, you should make it with a firm and fairly thick white fish.

This is also a one pot dish – so there’s not much clean up. That pot is a Chinese WOK (with a cover), but you can also make it with a chef’s pan that has a cover. Stir frying in general is a quick and healthy way to cook, so if you don’t have a wok and want to get one, here’s a good, inexpensive source: The Wok Shop in San Francisco. I recommend that you get one made of carbon steel. Your choice if you want a single or double handle. With the double handle, you have to have oven mits handy because they get hot, but that’s the only real difference.  http://www.wokshop.com/store/search.php?list=subcat&subcat=1 You can get a great wok at this link for $20. Make sure you also get a wok spatula. They are wide and flat and great for stir frying. So now to the recipe!

When using a wok, the cooking process is very quick, so it’s important to first assemble your ingredients. You will need:

Delicious and healthy ingredients

Delicious and healthy ingredients

4 to 6 ounces of fish (skin can be on or not)
2 Tablespoons corn or peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon each, salt, pepper and ground ginger (or 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced thinly)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tomato, chopped
1/2 green pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 red pepper, sliced thinly
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup beer
1 Tablespoon spring onion, sliced thinly, on a diagonal, for diagonal

METHOD:
1. Mix together the salt, pepper (and ground ginger if you are using it). Sprinkle part of this mixture on the fish. If you are using fresh ginger, just sprinkle the fish with some of the salt and pepper.

2. Heat your wok on high heat. Then add the oil. Sear the fish on the meat side (if your fish has a skin). When it’s lightly browned and cooked half way through, flip it over. (Watch the side to see the color change as it cooks, so you can see when it’s cooked half way through.) By the way, this wok is not dirty! Woks develop a patina from the oil and you want it do so because the coating is “non-stick”.

Salmon

Sear the Salmon

3. Place the tomato, peppers, fresh ginger slices (if you are using fresh) and garlic on top of the fish, plus any leftover salt and pepper. (If you are using ground ginger, so the same but sprinkle in the rest of your mixture you made in step one.) Add the soy sauce and beer.

Add all other ingredients!

Add all other ingredients!

4. Put the cover on the wok and set a timer for five minutes. (You are still cooking on high heat.)

5. Remove the lid and transfer the fish and vegetables to a large bowl. In most cases, there should be a thick gravy underneath. If it’s a little thin, just cook it by itself for a minute or two to thicken it. Watch it because it will thicken very quickly! Spoon this “gravy” over the top of the fish and garnish with the sliced garden onions. Serve immediately.

If you want to watch a video about how to make this dish for more than one person, come see me at this YouTube link on the MexAmerica Foods channel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT33TYUY4nI

ENJOY!

Spring into Spring!

VIETNAMESE SPRING ROLLS

A good friend reminded me yesterday about a wonderful, fresh appetizer that I used to make a lot. I dug out the recipe for you because it’s very versatile and an absolute diet WINNER. You can fill up on these for a delicious vegetarian meal, use them as an appetizer or as a side with a protein like chicken. I have even successfully made them a day ahead. You just have to be sure not to pile them up or let them touch each other because the skins are sticky and can pull apart when you try to separate them.

The spring roll skins are the wonderful part because you can see your lovely ingredients through them, but they are also the tricky part. Find them in the Asian section dry food section of almost any grocery store these days, but for sure in Asian supermarkets. They look white and are round – and you will see SPRING ROLL SKINS in English on them. When you are ready to use them, the trick is not to let them sit too long in the water. So moisten one and moisten the next as you are rolling the first. Don’t plop a bunch in the water and expect them not to glom together and destroy themselves! One at a time is magical. Also, make your own fillings Use your favorite salad or seafood recipes and fold them into a lovely delicacy!

Ingredients:

1 leek, washed, trimmed and cut into thin rings
1 large carrot, washed, peeled and cut into thin julienne
1 cup Savoy cabbage, cut into fine strips
4 ounces Shiitake or Straw mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons peanut (or vegetable) oil
2 ounces soy bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon curry
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
4 pieces of rice paper
4 salad leaves
Approximately 1/4 cup Olive oil
Soy sauce or Sweet chili sauce for dipping

Method:

1. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a wok and stir fry the leek, carrot, cabbage and mushrooms (in that order) until cooked but still firm.

2. Stir in the sprouts, peanuts, salt, pepper, soy sauce and curry. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Soften the rice paper for a minute or two in water. Lay on a thin, dry kitchen towel and carefully dry off with a second towel. Fill and roll, wrapping the ends in as you go.

4. Serve with soy sauce (for dipping) and/or sweet chili sauce. ENJOY! I love these! Add seafood, especially shrimp, if you like.

Think like a chef.

You’re sitting in a restaurant and your dinner entrée has just been delivered. Your plate is simple but beautiful. Why? Because back in the kitchen, the chef has bins of many different items to choose from for your plate. A little bit of this and a little bit of that are what provide color and taste and make that plate special – not to mention economical and the fact that if you eat several different little things, it’s more interesting than if you eat a lot of one thing (even if it’s good). With more variety, your plate looks full, but if you think about it, in restaurants, often there is not that much on it. It just looks like it. So never forget that you eat with your eyes first. Especially when you are in diet mode, you want to present a plate that looks loaded so you feel like you are eating a lot and filling up. Making a plate that looks inviting and has interest is also really simple at home. Just learn to use your leftovers wisely. 

Here’s a perfect example. Yesterday, I picked up a fresh trout filet for dinner. At the moment, my husband doesn’t want any starch, so I headed for the vegetable bin. I found one ripe tomato, one baby cucumber, four baked cipollini onions, one scallion, and one cooked corn on the cob. These are all things I could easily have thrown out, but didn’t. And that’s what you see in the photo – all sliced thinly and set on two plates in a matter of ten minutes. The fish? Split in two, dipped in a whisked egg, sprinkled with a couple of Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and baked at 425º F just until it flaked – about 10 minutes in this case. Verdict? Easy. Colorful. Delicious. Filling. What more could anyone ask for? Ahhhh… One more thing. Something like 1/3 the price of the same meal in a restaurant and without any butter. Now that’s a winner.

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