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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Fish/Seafood/Caviar

TIP OF THE DAY: Nut-Crusted Fish

Coating fish with nuts and baking or sautéeing is an easy, foolproof way to prepare an elegant entrée. The nutty flavor of this simple but rich coating pairs beautifully with flaky white fish fillets.

Nuts add even more protein to your dinner, as well as these health benefits.

You can use any nut you like (pistachio is one of our favorites), along with a mild white fish like cod, flounder, halibut, sole or tilapia.

There are more affordable white fish, too: Look for orange roughy, walleye pike or other species recommended by your fish monger. Fillets should be about 1/2 inch thick.
 
TIPS

 

almond-crusted-eatingwell-230

Coat your favorite fish with your favorite nuts. Photo courtesy EatingWell.com.

  • If breadcrumbs are recommended, try panko.
  • Instead of a sauce, place the cooked fish on a bed of steamed spinach or other green, tossed with a light drizzle of garlic olive oil. Good, good for you, a win-win.
  • Trade the conventional lemon wedge for lime.
  • For a starch, try parsley new potatoes–the parsley will complement the fish.
  •  
    RECIPES

  • Almond & Lemon-Crusted White Fish (recipe)
  • Macadamia-Crusted Mahi-Mahi (recipe)
  • Nut Crusted Fried Fish (recipe)
  • Roasted Halibut With Walnut Crust (recipe)
  • Pecan-Crusted Fish Fillets (see recipe below)
  • Walnut & Lemon-Crusted Cod (recipe)
  •  

    pecan-crusted-fish-fillet-bettycrocker-230

    Pecan-crusted fish fillet. Photo courtesy Betty
    Crocker
    .

     

    RECIPE: PECAN-CRUSTED FISH

    Turn the catch of the day into delicious dinner in only 25 minutes, with this recipe from Betty Crocker. Hot pecan-crusted fish fillets are cooked easily on stove top and are served with lemon wedges.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (not ground)
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 pound delicate white fish fillets, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Garnish: lemon or lime wedges
  • Preparation

    1. MIX the pecans, bread crumbs and lemon peel in shallow bowl. Beat the egg and milk with a wire whisk or fork in another shallow bowl.

    2. SPRINKLE both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Coat the fish with the egg mixture, then coat well with the pecan mixture, pressing slightly into the fish.

    3. HEAT the oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat; add the fish. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook 6 to 10 minutes, turning once carefully with 2 pancake turners, until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is brown.

    4. SERVE with lemon or lime wedges.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Summer Salad With Salmon

    We first made this recipe from Maille with leftover poached salmon from the fridge. Subsequently, we made it as specified, with warm poached salmon. Both are equally delicious.

    The recipe serves four as a first course, two as a main course. Prep time is 5 minutes, cooking time is 15 minutes.

    RECIPE: SUMMER SALAD WITH POACHED OR GRILLED
    SALMON

    Ingredients

  • 12 ounces salmon fillets
  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed (substitute sugar snap peas)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice and peel of ½ lemon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup arugula
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  •    

    poached-salmon-salad-maille-230

    Poached salmon salad: a taste of summer. Photo courtesy Maille.

     
    Preparation

    1. POACH salmon in large skillet filled with lightly salted water until salmon turns opaque, about 10 minutes. Remove salmon and keep warm.

    2. COOK the green beans in medium saucepan filled with lightly salted water until tender, about 5 minutes; drain and keep warm.

    3. WHISK together the mustard, lemon juice, lemon peel, olive oil and salt and pepper; set aside.

    4. PEEL the skin from the salmon, then flake the salmon into large pieces. Toss the arugula with the green beans, then add the salmon.

    5. ADD the dressing and toss lightly. Plate, garnish with almonds and serve.

     

    dijon-jar-230

    A fine food staple since 1747. Photo courtesy Maille.

     

    MUSTARD TRIVIA

  • Mustard is a cruciferous vegetable. Mustard greens are the leaves of the mustard plant). It is part of the genus Brassica, which also includes bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, radish, rapeseed, turnips and other vegetables.
  • Whole mustard seeds have no heat. Mustard seeds, from the flower of the mustard plant, don’t have heat and pungency until they are cracked and mixed with a liquid. This causes a reaction between two components of the seed (the enzyme myrosinase and the mustard oil glycosides), which produces a sugar and several chemical irritants.
  •  
    MORE MUSTARD

  • The history of mustard
  • The different types of mustard
  • More Mustard Trivia
  •  

      

    Comments

    DELICACY: Maatjes Herring From The North Sea

    If you like the herring that comes in jars, in wine or cream sauce, we’ve got something so much better for you: nieuwe maatjes herring.

    Through Friday, July 3rd, New York City’s Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant is celebrating the Holland Herring Festival.

    For 35 years, this has been the first American tasting of the season of nieuwe maatjes haring, the wonderful Dutch herring.

    Herring lovers wait all year for the delivery of the cream of the catch to the Oyster Bar. The herring arrives air-expressed from Scheveningen, The Netherlands, a town on the North Sea where the herring fleet makes its home.

    This year, fans had to wait an extra week for the catch, due to stormy North Sea waters that made fishing difficult, and herring with very low fat content. An absence of adequate sunlight meant that there was not enough plankton for the herring feed on, so fishermen waited for conditions to change.

       

    nieuwe-maatjes-herring-brined-takeaway-wiki-230

    A dish of nieuwe maatjes herring fillets. Photo courtesy Takeaway | Wikipedia.

     

    But arrive they finally did; the Oyster Bar began serving them yesterday. We were invited to taste them, and we’ll be going back this weekend for more! The catch is limited: Even in The Netherlands, the fish are only available for a month.

     

    brined-herring-fudder.de-230

    Herring soaking in brine. Photo courtesy Fudder.de.

     

    Succulent and toothsome delicacy known as nieuwe maatjes herring. At the Oyster Bar, Chef Sandy Ingber serves the herring filets with hard-boiled egg, chopped sweet onion and chives.

    The herring filets are priced at $7.00; the herring with garnishes is $7.95 per order. You can walk in and enjoy yours in the bar area, or reserve a table at 212.490.6650.
     
    WHAT IS MAATJES HERRING?

    Nieuwe, pronounced NEE-wuh, means new in Dutch. Maatje, MAH-tyeh, means fermented or brined. The Dutch word for herring is haring.

    After the herring is caught, it is brined* for up to two days, typically in oak barrels. Then, for delivery to the Oyster Bar, it is gutted and the head is removed, The result is a fillet, about five inches long, consisting of both sides of the fish, attached on the non-slit side.

     
    *It is brined in salt water. Raw herring pickled in vinegar is called a rollmop.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Roll Your Own Sushi

    June 18th is International Sushi Day, and that gives us an idea for a Father’s Day gift (as well as for lunch).

    If Dad likes sushi, how about a set of sushi knives for Father’s Day…and a copy of Sushi: The Beginner’s Guide?

    Sushi chefs use different knives, and some are quite specialized:

  • Deba bocho, a kitchen cleaver specifically for fish
  • Maguro bocho, a very long knife to fillet tuna (a very large fish)
  • Nakiri bocho, a vegetable knife that looks like a cleaver
  • Sashimi bocho, a sashimi slicer
  • Unagisaki hocho, an eel knife
  •  
    There are also specialty knives for soba (soba kiri), udon (udon kiri), vegetables (nakiri bocho and usuba bocho) and perhaps the best-known to Westerners, the all-purpose Western-style knife, the santoku, used for fish, meat and vegetables (santoko means “three virtues”).

       

    good-cooking-sushi-knives-230

    Sushi knives. Photo courtesy Good Cooking.

     
    You can purchase individual knives, or this three-knife set from Good Cooking that includes nakiri, santoku and sashimi knives (photo at right).
     
    The knives are:

  • Razor sharp for perfect slicing
  • Professionally balanced
  • Rust- and stain-proof
  •  

    chirashi-deluxe-haru-230

    Chirashi sushi: fish and other ingredients atop a large bed of rice. Photo courtesy
    Haru Sushi.

     

    HOW TO START MAKING SUSHI AT HOME

    The easiest sushi to make at home is chirashi sushi. Simply arrange the sliced ingredients on top of a bed of sushi rice.

    The next step up the ladder to making sushi is to make rolls. The hardest is nigiri sushi, strips of fish on pads of rice. It takes a practice to form the pads of rice.

    If you want to roll your own, here are tips from Chef Steven Ferdinand, Executive Chef of Culinary Operations at Haru Sushi Tips for perfectly rolling your own sushi include:

  • Quality Ingredients are everything. Buy the freshest sushi grade fish available. This is essential for taste as well as for safety.
  • Sharp Knives are a must, but splurging isn’t necessary. While specialty sushi knives are great tools, they are not always necessary for cutting maki at home. A sharp knife kept barely wet will do the job just fine, allowing for a clean cut without crushing the roll.
  •  
    Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors! At Haru, trendy spins on classic dishes are created by working them into a roll. Examples from Haru’s menu:

  • The Oscar Roll, combining snow crab, asparagus, beef tataki and lemon dressing for a Surf and Turf inspired maki.
  • Strawberry Finn Roll, a sweet and spicy roll made with crunchy spicy yellowtail, jalapeños and mango, topped with scallops, wasabi tobiko and fresh strawberries.
  • Gramercy Park Roll, made with crunchy spicy albacore tuna and jalapeños; wrapped with tuna, yellowtail, and salmon; and topped with lemon, cilantro, tobiko and yuzu miso sauce.
  •  
    10 NON-TRADITIONAL INGREDIENTS TO COMBINE WITH RAW FISH

    Sushi means “vinegar rice,” not “raw fish.” So as long as you use sushi rice, you can combine any ingredients, cooked or raw. The classic salmon skin roll is grilled, for example.

    You can combine raw fish with cooked items like beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork or tofu. Consider adding:

  • Apple
  • Berry: blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry
  • Grapefruit or mandarin
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, mint, shiso (beefsteak plant)
  • Mango
  • Just about anything else
  •  
    Last night we went fusion. For a first course we created a melon, prosciutto and salmon roll. Not conventional, but delicious. And fun!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Rare Baked Salmon With Peperonata

    rare-Baked_Salmon_Peperonata-cobramestate-230

    Rare baked salmon topped with peperonata, a bell pepper mix. Photo courtesy Cobram Estate.

     

    In 1986, our palate was awakened when Le Bernardin restaurant opened in New York City. Its acclaimed French chef Guy Le Coze brought new insights to how seafood could be prepared.

    Everything was exciting, but among our favorites was Chef Le Coze’s rare-baked salmon topped with mint. From then on, we never baked or grilled salmon beyond rare (the inside actually is raw). Heavenly!

    And who would have thought to top salmon with mint? The lesson learned: Never scoff at trying anything!

    This recipe uses peperonata instead of mint. Peperonata is a dish of stewed bell peppers, onions and tomatoes, sometimes referred to as “bell pepper stew.” It can be used as a side or a garnish on fish, meat and poultry, rice or other grains.

    The recipe is courtesy Cobram Estate, which used its Light and Delicate Olive Oil to sauté the vegetables. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time 135 minutes.

     
    RECIPE: BAKED SALMON WITH PEPERONATA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ onion, diced
  • 2 sprigs of lemon thyme (substitute regular fresh thyme)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, then cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds removed, then cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 tomato, peeled and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 8 black olives (preferably Kalamata or Picholine), pitted
  • ½ clove garlic, chopped
  • 4 pieces of salmon fillet, each about 6 ounces
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT THE oven to 212°F.

    2. HEAT 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and stir for a few minutes. Add the thyme and the bell pepper strips and cook on low heat until the peppers are soft. Halfway through the cooking…

    3. ADD the diced tomato and a little salt and pepper. When the vegetables are cooked, add the chopped anchovy fillets, olives and garlic.

    4. BRUSH the salmon on both sides with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the salmon on a tray lined with baking paper and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

    5. PLACE the salmon on plates and drizzle with a little lemon juice. Spoon the bell pepper mixture on top and serve.
     
    For sides, we chose asparagus (while they’re still in season), and placed the salmon on a bed of spinach fettuccine, tossed in a peppery Tuscan olive oil with fresh cracked pepper.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Salmon Sashimi Hors d’Oeuvre

    salmon-sashimi-tuille-maille-230

    Delicious bites. Photo courtesy Maille.

     

    Maille, the venerable French producer of fine mustards, added a European spin to this, placing Japanese-style raw fish on a Parmesan tuile. It also combines substitutes the traditional wasabi for Maille Dijon Mustard With Honey.

    If you don’t eat cheese, or want to shave time from making the recipe, instead of making tuiles you can substitute KA-ME Rice Crunch Crackers in Original, Seaweed or Sesame.

    You can serve these bites anytime, from brunch to cocktails to a first course. Prep time is 25 minutes, including making the tuiles.

    Serve with beer, Martinis, saké or wine.

    RECIPE: SALMON SASHIMI HORS D’OEUVRE

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • ½ cup Maille Dijon Mustard with Honey (or other honey mustard)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 8 ounces salmon fillet, skin removed and salmon cut into 24 thin slices
  • 4 ounces coarsely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped basil leaves
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

    2. COMBINE the mustard with soy sauce in medium bowl; gently stir in the salmon. Let stand 10 minutes.

    3. MAKE the tuiles: Drop the cheese by teaspoonfuls into 24 mounds onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and looks lacy. Remove the baking pan to a wire rack and let cool.

    4. COMBINE the basil, mint, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper; set aside. To serve:

    5. ARRANGE the tuiles on serving platter, then top each with piece of salmon. Garnish with the herb salad and a piece of cherry tomato.
     
    Find more delicious recipes at Maille.com.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Roasted Fish

    Have you ever roasted (or baked—here’s the difference*) a whole fish? It’s easy and a lot less expensive than fillets.

    Here are the simple steps to serving succulent, low-caloric, healthful roast fish (or grilled, if you prefer). Our tip was inspired by these photos from Eataly Chicago.

    1. CHOOSE A FISH

    Start with one of these varieties, which should cost around $11-12/pound. Plan on one pound per two people.

  • Branzino, flaky and slightly firm with a mild, buttery flavor.
  • Dorade (a.k.a. orata and sea bream), a flaky white flesh with a rich, succulent, meaty flavor, similar to pompano or red snapper.
  • Rainbow trout, delicate and tender flesh with a mild flavor.
  •  
    Have your fishmonger remove the guts and scales. See the next section, on how to pick the freshest fish.

    Then, choose your aromatics.

    But first, some tips on how to select the freshest fish.

       

    branzino-whole-for-roasting-eataly-chicago-230

    Branzino with aromatics, ready to roast. Photo courtesy Eataly | Chicago.

     
    *ROASTING VS. BAKING: Roasting and baking are both dry heat cooking methods that employ hot air, typically at 300°F or higher. Today the terms are synonymous, but before modern ovens and broilers, roasting referred to food food cooked over an open flame. Today, both roasting and baking are done in an oven, where the heat browns and crisps the exterior of the food. While used interchangeably, each term sounds better for certain types of foods. Would you rather have baked vegetables or roasted vegetables?
     
    How To Pick Fresh Fish

    Here’s the scoop, straight from our grandmother:

    1. LOOK at the eyes. They should be clear and plumped out, not cloudy and sinking down.

    2. CHECK the gills. They should look wet fresh-looking (like pulled from the water), the color red, orange or brown, depending on the fish. If they look dark brown and/or dried out, pick something else.

    3. PRESS the flesh gently. If it springs back, the fish is fresh. If it leaves a permanent dent, pick something else.

    4. AROMA. A fresh fish aroma is fine; a “fishy” aroma or whiff of ammonia is not.
     
    What Are Aromatics?

    Aromatics are herbs and vegetables that release delicious aromas and impart deep flavors into the dish.

    They provide the flavor foundation in many dishes. Braises, sauces, sautés, soups, stews, stir-fries and stocks are some of the dishes that rely on aromatics.

    For roasting fish, you don’t have to use one selection from every category below. We do use them all; but if you want to simplify your purchases, choose just one citrus and one herb.
     
    2. PICK SOMETHING FROM THE CITRUS FAMILY

    Slice it and insert it into the cavity (slice the grapefruit to fit). Buy an extra to cut into wedges for garnish.

  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  •  

    branzino-finished-roasting-eataly-chicago-230

    One of the branzinos above, roasted and ready to eat. Photo courtesy Eataly | Chicago.

     

    3. PICK SOMETHING FROM THE CELERY FAMILY†

  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Fennel
  •  
    4. PICK A FRESH HERB

  • Basil
  • Ginger
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  •  
    Save some extra sprigs for garnish.
     
    †The Apiaceae family of plants is commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family—mostly aromatic plants. Others of the more than 3,700 species are anise, caraway, chervil, coriander/cilantro, culantro, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage and parsnip.

     
    5. PICK SOMETHING FROM THE ONION FAMILY

  • Chive
  • Garlic cloves
  • Green onion
  • Red onion
  •  
    6. OPTIONAL: USE WHITE WINE

    If you have an open bottle with two cups of white wine you want to use up, use a baking dish instead of the baking sheet indicated below. Add the wine before the fish.

     
    7. ROAST THE FISH

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Soak the entire fish in salted water for 10 minutes. Pat it dry. If the fish is particularly thick, cut three half-inch slashes on each side, no more than a half inch deep, to help the heat penetrate. Rub olive oil over the surface. Sprinkle the surface and the cavity with salt and pepper.

    2. STUFF the aromatics into the cavity of the fish and transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. You can cover the sheet with foil or parchment for easier cleanup. If you have leftover aromatics (other than the pieces for garnish), you can place them in the center of the tray and lay the fish on top.

    3. ROAST the fish until the fish is just cooked through (we actually prefer ours rare), and a cooking thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish reads about 135°F. The skin should be crispy. Cooking time will vary based on the weight and thickness of the fish, but it will be ready to test at 30 minutes.

    4. GARNISH with citrus wedges and herb sprigs and serve. While this article may be long, once you’ve done it the first time, roasting whole fish is a snap!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Oysters & Pearls

    The great chef Thomas Keller, inventor of “Oysters and Pearls,” created a splendid first course with fresh-shucked oysters in a pearl tapioca sabayon, garnished with osetra caviar (today it’s domestic white sturgeon caviar, due to import restrictions).

    Here’s a video, here’s the recipe).

    Keller’s inspiration was a box on tapioca pearls he noticed on a shelf. He turned the tapioca into something savory instead of the conventional sweet pudding, thinking “Where do pearls come from? Oysters.”

    The iconic dish came together just like that.

    While we can’t get enough of Oysters and Pearls, here’s an easier take on the dish that you can make for Mother’s Day or other special occasion.

     

    pearls-in-oysters-chalkpointkitchen-230sq

    An easy version of “Oysters and Pearls.” Photo courtesy Chalk Point Kitchen | NYC.

     
    You can serve as many oysters on a plate as you like: a minimum three, up to a dozen oysters on the half shell if your guests are like Diamond Jim Brady.

    Serve this course with a dry white wine or saké.
     
    RECIPE: OYSTERS & PEARLS

    Ingredients

  • Oysters on the half shell
  • Seaweed or microgreens
  • Salmon caviar (vegan option finger lime pearls)
  • Yuzu or rice wine vinaigrette
  • Optional: halved cherry or grape tomatoes, lime wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. DRESS the seaweed with some yuzu or rice wine vinaigrette so it can be eaten as a salad.

    2. CREATE a seaweed bed on each serving plate, topped with the oysters.

    3. TOP each oyster with pearls of caviar. Decorate the plate with the cherry tomatoes and lime wedge.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Potato Crusted Fish

    After we jad this delicious potato-crusted cod at Blaue Gans restaurant in New York City, we created our own version at home.

    You can use cod, halibut or other thick, flaky white fish. Blaue Gans set the fish atop a cucumber, yogurt and tarragon salad. You can use any vegetables or grain.

    There are variations of potato crust that use potato flakes or mashed potatoes. But to look as pretty (and get as crunchy) as this, you need to grate long slices of fresh potato. You also must use a nonstick pan so the potato crust doesn’t stick.

    You need to coat the fish with a flavored paste so the potato crust will adhere. This recipe uses pesto. You can also make a garlic or wasabi paste*.

    And, you can “go gourmet” by making parsley and/or carrot oil, a few drops of flavored olive oil, or a bit of carrot or red bell pepper purée.

       

    potato-crusted-cod-blauegansNYC-230

    A beauty: potato-crusted cod. Photo courtesy Blaue Gans | NYC.

     

    RECIPE: POTATO-CRUSTED COD

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 cod fillets, 6 ounces each
  • 4 tablespoons pesto
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled into strips and squeezed dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  
    For The Parsley Vinaigrette†

  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    *Mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste with 4 tablespoons mayonnaiseor full-fat plain yogurt.

    †Recipe adapted from Chef Michael Schlow.

     

    box-grater-230

    Use a box grater to cut thick strips. Photo courtesy Cuisipro.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the vinaigrette: Blanch the parsley in a saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain, rinse, squeeze dry and pat with paper towels to remove remaining moisture. Transfer to a blender, add the ice cubes and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the remaining olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.

    3. GRATE the potatoes and squeeze out all the excess water. If the potatoes are wet, they will not get crisp.

    4. SPREAD one side of each fillet with 1 tablespoon of pesto. Press the grated potato onto the pesto.

    5. HEAT the olive oil in a nonstick pan. The oil is hot when it flows smoothly over the bottom of the pan and glistens. It you’re not certain that it’s hot enough, add a small piece of garlic or onion. It will sizzle immediately when the oil is hot enough.

     
    6. PLACE the fish potato side down in the pan. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes.

    7. MOVE the fish to a baking pan, potato side up. Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Steamed Mussels (Moules Marinière)

    mussels-fried-moules-frites-duplexonthird-230

    A classic bowl of mussels. Photo courtesy
    Duplex On Third | Los Angeles.

     

    Recently we joined a group for dinner at a French bistro.

    Others dug into rilletes and onion soup hidden under a heavy layer of Gruyère, cassoulet and steak frites. We, still feeling guilty about all the Easter candy consumed pre- and post-holiday, opted for the steak tartare and moules marinière, steamed mussels.

    As we devoured mussel after plump mussel, we pondered:

    This is such an easy to make, better-for-you, delicious dish. Why do we no longer make it at home?

    It turns out that our chief obstacle, sand, no longer exists.

    Wild mussels can be quite sandy, requiring soaking after soaking. We lacked the patience for it, especially when after all the soaking we still bit into grains of sand.

    But these days, most mussels don’t grow on the ocean floor; they’re farm raised, in bags that hang vertically on ropes above the ocean floor. They’re pretty sand-free. (Yay!)

    All you need is a good fish store; and you can even find quality frozen mussels that do the trick (check out VitalChoice.com—no thawing required, just pop them in the pot).

     
    The two most popular recipes hail from France and Italy:

  • Classic Mussels (Moules Marinière), made with garlic, onions/shallots, parsley, tarragon, white wine.
  • Mussels Fra Diavolo, made with fresh basil, crushed chili flakes, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.
  •  
    Many Recipe Variations

    After you’re comfortable with the basic recipe, you can go all out with seasonings.

    Flex Mussels in New York City serves 21 different recipes, from the classics to cuisine-specific riffs from Indian (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Thai (coconut broth, coriander, curry, kaffir lime, lemongrass, lime, ginger, garlic).

    If you’re old enough to remember Alice’s Restaurant—the hit song, which begat the feature film and cookbook—Alice liked to vary her recipes. On steamed mussels, she commented:

    “Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”

    Now, let’s get ready to make mussels!

    HOW TO BUY & CLEAN MUSSELS

    For dinner, figure two-thirds of a pound of mussels in the shell per person—more for hearty eaters. Leftover mussels are delicious the next day, either warmed or chilled with a green salad and vinaigrette.

    Mussels and other some other bivavles (clams, cockles, oysters) are sold live, kept cold on ice. Unlike other seafood, once a bivalve is no longer alive, the flesh decomposes quickly.

    Buy mussels with moist shells (not dry-looking) that are tightly closed, with no external blemishes. Western mussels have black shells. You may find New Zealand mussels, which have green shells and tend to be meatier.

    Even if you buy farm-raised mussels, you may want still want to go through the classic rinsing process.

  • Set them in a pot filled with cold water with a tablespoon of dry mustard. After 20 minutes, drain and move them to a colander.
  • Srub them under running water to eliminate any debris.
  • Check for beards, straw-like filaments that can get protrude from the two halves of the shell. Pull them off and discard. (Most farm-raised mussels won’t have beards.)

  • What about partially opened mussels?

    Most people who cook bivalves know to discard these: They may be dead. But here’s a trick:

    Tap them firmly a few times with a spoon or other implement. If they’re alive, they will slowly close their shells. If there’s no motion, consider them dead and toss them in the trash.

    And definitely toss any mussels with cracked shells prior to cooking. Bacteria may have entered through the crack.

    What if you’re not going to cook the mussels immediately?

    You can keep the mussels for a few days if you place them in a bowl or other container in the coldest part of the refrigerator (generally the rear of the bottom shelf). First line the bowl with a plastic storage bag filled with ice resting on top. Cover with a damp paper towel.

     

    RECIPE: MOULES MARINIÈRE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot (about 6 shallots)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley and/or tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Optional: garlic cloves, sliced celery and/or carrot
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 4 dozen mussels
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley
  • Optional garnish: halved cherry tomatoes or strips/dice of red bell pepper for color
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the first six ingredients (through the cayenne) in a large pot, and simmer until reduced to a half cup. Strain into a large pot and add the mussels.

     

    spicy-mussels-barnjooNYC-230

    Spicy mussels. If you like heat, add sliced jalapeno or crushed red pepper flakes—or make Mussels Fra Diavolo. Photo courtesy Barnjoon | NYC.

     

    2. COOK 5 to 10 minutes or until the shells open, shaking the pot from time to time. With a slotted spoon, remove the mussels to individual soup bowls (ideally, large and shallow), retaining the liquid in the pot.

    3. MAKE the sauce: Add the butter and optional salt to the liquid in the mussels pot.

    MUSSELS FRA DIAVOLO

    Fra diavolo means “brother devil” in Italian, a nickname given to a Neapolitan guerrilla leader in his feisty childhood. The spicy-hot recipe was named in his honor. (The Italian word for mussels is cozza, plural cozze, pronounced CUT-sah and CUT-say).)

    The recipe features marinara sauce (you can use tomato paste and tomato purée) and heat from crushed red pepper.

    Here’s a recipe from Chef Jasper White.

    In Italy, it is often served atop a dish of linguine.

      

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