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FOOD FUN (For The Affluent): Lobster-Topped Guacamole

RA Sushi, a small restaurant group in the southern U.S., has imagination and class.

With locations in Atlanta, Arizona (5 locations), Baltimore, Chicago, Florida (3), Leawood, Kansas, Las Vegas, Southern California (5) and Texas (6), sushi lovers can experience creations that the sushi bars we frequent can only aspire to.

While neither sushi nor sashmi, we picked this tasty dish as the one we’d most like to have for Cinco de Mayo:

A lettuce cup of guacamole, topped with a king’s ransom of lobster.

We’d also like to have it for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and, oh…any day.

You don’t even need to cook: Just assemble.

We’re making ours with a garnish of salmon caviar (ikura in Japanese—photo #2). Tobiko or any whitefish caviar (they’re available in several flavors) will do just fine. We’re also making a chunky guacamole, a better texture contrast with the lobster.

If you’re a really affluent foodie, sturgeon caviar is not discouraged.

You may notice the plate garnish in the photo includes herbs, spices and a drizzle of flavored olive oil. Plate garnishes add not only color and texture, but extra bits of flavor.

RECIPE: GUACAMOLE-LOBSTER LETTUCE CUP

  • A lettuce cup, created from pliant butter lettuce (Bibb, Boston)
  • Guacamole: your favorite recipe
  • Lobster meat
  • Lime wedges
  • Plate garnish: black or toasted sesame seeds, citrus zest, minced chives or other green herb (cilantro, parsley), red chili flakes, etc.
  • Optional garnish: caviar of choice*
  •  

    Lobster Guacamole Salad

    Salmon Caviar

    [1] What better topping for guacamole than this creation, from RA Sushi? [2] Salmon caviar, ikura in Japanese (photo courtesy Petrossian).

     
    DRESSINGS

    With flavorful guacamole, you don’t need much more than lime juice as a dressing. But for those who want more:

  • Basil-Jalapeño Dressing
  • Creamy Citrus Dressing
  • Mimosa Dressing (olive oil, champagne, orange juice)
  • Spicy Lemon Dressing
  •  
    A simple drizzle of basil olive oil with fresh lime juice is also delicious.
    ________________

    *Affordable caviar types include capelin (masago in Japanese), flying fish (tobiko in Japanese), lumpfish, salmon, trout or whitefish roe. The latter two are often available flavored, with everything from mango to truffle to wasabi. They are delicious!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: More Modern Surf & Turf Ideas … Plus Spring Peas

    National Surf & Turf Day falls on February 29th. Why would anyone choose to celebrate this tasty holiday only once every four years?

    That honor should go to, say, National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, which happens to be today’s holiday (April 21st). Or how Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (June 13th), or Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day (July 29th)?

    So today, we’re featuring some novel approaches to surf and turf.

    On THE NIBBLE alone, we have obvious and not-so-obvious recipes:

  • Beef Carpaccio & Anchovies
  • Broiled Seafood With Beef Jerky Garnish
  • Clam Chowder With Bacon
  • Filet Mignon With Lobster Topping
  • Ham & Biscuits With Seafood Gravy
  • Modern Surf & Turf (18 recipe ideas)
  • National Surf & Turf Day (5+ recipe ideas)
  • Raw Scallops With Steak Tartare Or Bacon
  • Salmon BUrger With Bacon
  • Seafood Cobb Salad
  • Sea Urchin & Roast Beef Rolls
  • Surf & Turf Burgers
  • Surf & Turf Sushi & More (18 recipe ideas)
  • Surf & Turf Bloody Mary
  • Surf & Turf Eggs Benedict
  • Veal Osso Bucco On Tuna Sashimi
  • Vietnamese Pancakes With Shrimp & Pork
  • Wiener Schnitzel Surf & Turf
  •  
    Not to mention, Surf & Turf Pizza (clams or shrimp with pepperoni) or skewers (any meat, any shellfish).

    Our latest dish in the collection:

    RECIPE: SQUID & SPRING PEAS

    Who’d have thought of combining squid and bacon with fresh spring peas and fresh mint? Catalan chefs, with bounties of fresh squid pulled from the Mediterranean.

    This recipe is from Executive Chef Jaime Chavez of Sirena Cucina Latina in San Diego (which alas, closed in February).

    It’s a traditional Catalan starter from the chef’s mother, and is one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

    “[Mother] taught me that the best dishes are made from simple flavors, and when we respect the products, they give us back the very best of them,” notes Chavez.

    While Chef Jaime didn’t intend to create “surf and turf,” we’re always seeking new ways to extend the original concept of filet mignon and lobster tail, christened Surf & Turf (here’s the history of Surf & Turf).

    This is an easy recipe; the most demanding parts are slicing the squid and cooking the bacon.

    The season for fresh spring peas is short, so don’t bookmark this for “later.”

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 each squid tubes and tentacles
  • 1½ cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ½ cup sliced fennel
  • 3 tablespoons crisp bacon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Champagne vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: edible flowers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ the squid and garlic in olive oil in a hot pan. Cut the squid into rings.

       

    Squid Salad With Spring Peas

    Shelled Peas

    Raw Squid

    Grilled Bacon

    Fennel Bulb

    [1] Squid, bacon and spring peas unite in a vinaigrette (photo courtesy Chef Jaime Chavez). [2] Just-shelled spring peas (photo courtesy The Chef’s Kitchen). [3] Raw squid (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [4] Fennel (photo courtesy Burpee).

     
    2. ADD the peas and season with salt and pepper. Then add the vinegar and mint.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and add the celery, fennel and bacon. Garnish as desired and serve (the edible flowers add another touch of springtime).
     
     
    Here are more ways to use spring peas.

     

    Spring Peas

    Snow Peas

    Sugar Snap Peas

    The three types of green peas. [5] Spring peas (photo Hannah Kaminsky). [6] Snow peas (photo AllWomensTalk.com). [7] Sugar snap peas (photo Good Eggs).

     

    SPRING PEAS, ENGLISH PEAS OR GARDEN PEAS?

    Spring peas, English peas and garden peas are three are names for the same thing. All can be eaten raw or cooked.

    Three types of green peas:

  • Spring peas (Pisum sativum var. sativum, photo #5), also called English peas and garden peas, which must be shelled to be edible (although some people do cook the stringless varieties).
  • Snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum, photo #6), called “Chinese pea pods” by some consumers, which are edible flat pods with tiny peas inside.
  • Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon, photo #7), also called sugar snap peas, plump edible pods with smaller peas inside.
  •  
    Peas (Pisum sativum) are native to the Mediterranean basin. They grew wild and were one of the earlier vegetables cultivated at the dawn of agriculture in the Neolithic Era, beginning about 12,500 years ago.

    Having said that, pea pods are botanically a fruit, since they are pods that contain seeds, and the pods developed from the ovary of a flower.

    Peas, beans and lentils are all legumes with seeds that grow in pods. It’s easy to distinguish them by their shape:

  • Dry beans are oval or kidney shaped.
  • Lentils are flat disks.
  • Peas are round.
  •  
    Legumes are members of the botanical family Fabaceae, which also includes alfalfa, carob, licorice, peanuts and the sweet pea garden plant.
     
    Peas are sweet but can get starchy soon after harvesting. The fresher, the better.

     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE FRESH PEAS

    For the best flavor, choose small peas. They’re younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. Look for medium-size pods that are firm and green, with no yellowing. Break open a pod and check the peas. They should be small, bright green and firm. Taste the peas in the pod: They should be tender and sweet.

    Freshness counts. As with corn, once picked the peas’ high sugar content begins to convert to starch. Don’t pay for mature peas. You might as well use frozen peas.

    Don’t pay extra for shelled peas. You don’t know how fresh they are; and since you aren’t shelling peas day in, day out, it’s a fun activity.

    Storing Fresh Peas

  • Store the pods in the crisper drawer of the fridge in a plastic storage bag. Use them within two days.
  • Once the peas are shelled, the best way to store them is to freeze them. First, blanch the peas for a minute in boiling salted water. Then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking and maintain their bright color. Drain and freeze them in freezer storage bags for up to six months.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sheet Pan Dinners

    For its Fish Friday Favorites series, McCormick enlists food bloggers to develop easy recipes.

    This week’s theme is “baked in sheet pans,” using McCormick’s packets of seasoning mixes.

    McCormick makes 18 different seasoning packets: two each for Bag & Season (for meats), Chili, Gluten Free, Gravy, Home Style Classics, Italian, Mexican, Slow Cooker and Snacks & Dips. Here’s more about them (scroll down the page).

    We thoroughly endorse these easy dinner ideas: fresh, nutritious home cooking in a half hour or less, with big flavors and minimal clean-up.

    RECIPE #1: SHEET PAN SHRIMP-LIME FAJITAS

    Who doesn’t like fajitas?

    “Sheet pan chili lime shrimp fajitas make an easy, healthy, and delicious one-pan 20-minute meal—with tons of flavor the whole family will love,” says Tiffany of La Creme De La Crumb.

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

     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound large white shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 bell peppers, thinly sliced (go for a combination of red, yellow, and green)
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 packet McCormick Fajita Seasoning Mix
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus additional lime wedges for serving
  • 8-10 six-inch flour tortillas*
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Garnish: chopped cilantro
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Combine the first 7 ingredients (shrimp through lime juice) in a large bowl. Stir to combine and coat the shrimp and peppers well in the seasonings.

    2. SPREAD everything out on a large baking sheet pan in a single layer (note: line the pan with foil or parchment for easy clean-up). Items can overlap; just not heaped in a pile. Bake for 10-15 minutes until shrimp is pink, the tails begin to char slightly and the peppers are tender.

    3. DISTRIBUTE the shrimp and peppers on top of the tortillas along with avocado slices. Top with freshly shopped cilantro and serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

    ________________

    *Traditionally, a fajita uses the smallest tortilla, 6 inches in diameter; a soft taco 8 inches; and a burrito 10 inches.
    ________________
     
    RECIPE #2: SHEET PAN SHRIMP SCAMPI WITH ASPARAGUS

    “Those of you who are observing Lent: Don’t let Lent have you fishing for flavor! This sheet pan meal is big on flavor—and you don’t have to sacrifice on taste,” says Alyssa, The Recipe Critic.

    “I love using McCormick’s seasoning mix packets in recipes. They make it so easy to put together flavors and bust out a complete meal that will your family will love.”

    Who doesn’t love Shrimp Scampi†? Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 8 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into two inch pieces
  • ¼ butter, melted
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 packet McCormick Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi Seasoning Mix
  • Garnish: 1 lemon, sliced
  •    

    Sheet Pan Fajitas

    Shrimp Scampi Recipe

    Sheet Pan Shrimp & Asparagus

    [1] Shrimp and lime fajitas (photo courtesy Le Creme De La Crumb | McCormick). [2] Seasoning the ingredients and [3] the final dish, emerging from the oven (photos The Recipe Critic | McCormick).

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Lightly grease a sheet pan and set aside (note: first line the pan with foil or parchment for easy clean-up).

    2. PLACE the shrimp and asparagus in a large mixing bowl. Pour the melted butter, olive oil and lemon juice on top, sprinkle on the seasoning packet and mix until combined.

    3. SPREAD the shrimp and asparagus on the sheet pan in an even layer (note: line the pan with foil or parchment for easy clean-up). Scatter the lemon slices on top. Bake for 8 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and cooked through. Serve immediately.
    ________________

    †FOOD TRIVIA: Scampi is the Italian word for a prawn. In the U.S., it became the name of an Italian-American dish, Shrimp Scampi: broiled butterflied shrimp that been brushed with garlic butter or oil (and sometimes a splash of white wine). It’s amusing among the cognoscenti that Americans request a dish that translates to Shrimp Shrimp. But that’s not all of today’s trivia:

    SHRIMPS VS. PRAWNS: THE DIFFERENCE. Prawns and shrimps are both crustaceans with 10 legs. They can be found in salt water and fresh water all over the world, and have similar flavors. While the terms are often used interchangeably, with prawns, the first three of the five pairs of legs on the body have small pincers; with shrimps only, two pairs are claw-like. In the U.K. and Australia, prawn is the name consumers and restaurants use for what is called shrimp in the U.S. Both crustaceans are found in a variety of sizes. More information.

     

    Sheet Pan Baked Salmon

    [4] After 5 minutes of prep time, baked salmon in orange-butter sauce is ready in another 20 minutes (photo courtesy Avery Cooks | McCormick).

     

    RECIPE #3: SHEET PAN ORANGE CHILI SALMON

    “This salmon is healthy, so easy, ready in 30 minutes, and has restaurant-quality flavor,” says Averie of Avery Cooks. “It’s so moist and juicy. I seasoned the salmon with McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix (Original) for a pop of heat, which is perfectly balanced by the honey and orange juice. The seasoning adds flavor without being spicy and it doesn’t overpower the fish.”

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 20 to 25 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 2 to 3 Servings

  • 1 to 1.25 pounds skin-on salmon fillet
  • 1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons honey
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons orange juice from about half an orange (substitute packaged orange juice)
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix Original Flavor
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • Garnish: 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F and place a piece of foil on the baking sheet to cover it completely. Place the salmon on the foil, skin-side down, with the longer side of the fish parallel to the longer side of the sheet pan. Pull the edges of the foil up 2 inches over the pan rim, or enough so that when you pour the butter sauce over the top, it will be contained in the foil.

    2. NESTLE the orange slices underneath the salmon, spaced evenly around the fillet. Set aside.

    3. PLACE the butter in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup or bowl and heat on high power to melt, about 1 minute. Stir in the honey and orange juice. Pour or spoon about two-thirds of the mixture over the salmon; reserve the remainder. Evenly season with the seasoning mix, and add salt and pepper, to taste.

    4. ADD another sheet of foil on top and crimp or pinch both pieces together to get the seal as tight as possible. If you have time, set the pan aside to allow the fish marinate for about 10 to 15 minutes; you’ll get enhanced flavor. Bake for 15 minutes.

    5. REMOVE the pan from the oven and cut open up the top of the packet so the salmon is exposed (but the edges are still raised to contain the sauce). Set the broiler to to high. Spoon the reserved sauce over the salmon, if desired. Use your judgment: If there’s already lots of juice, you don’t need to add more (you don’t want it to start leaking). If you have extra sauce, pour it over the finished dish or bring it to the table in a pitcher.

    6. BROIL the salmon for 5 to 10 minutes, or until as golden as desired. The exact broiling time will depend on the size and thickness of the salmon, oven variances and personal preference. Keep a close eye on the salmon because all broilers are different and you don’t want to burn the fish.

    7. GARNISH with parsley and serve immediately. This recipe is best warm and fresh, but will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 3 days.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fried Oysters On Greens, A First Course

    Fried Oysters

    Fried Oysters

    Shucked Oysters Quart

    [1] We enjoyed these at a rooftop restaurant in Manhattan (photo courtesy McKittrick Hotel | NYC). [2] Just a taste, from Tsunami Sushi in Lafayette, Louisiana. [3] A quart of oysters from our favorite oyster grower, Willapa Oysters. They’re grown in the cleanest waters in the USA (photo courtesy Willapa Oysters).

     

    Every so often we pass a quart of shucked oysters in our fish store, and think: Do we have time to fry oysters tonight?

    We like to serve fried oysters as a first course, on a bed of greens with remoulade sauce, which also dresses the salad.

    There are different approaches to fried oysters. Some people dredge them in flour, then an egg wash, then bread crumbs.

    If the oysters are good, they should release their flavor as close to your palate as possible. No extra layer of breading is required…or desired.

    That’s also why we won’t turn the oysters into a po’ boy: The bread gets in the way of tasting the gems of the sea.

    The remoulade recipe is a spicier variation of the French classic: a version you’d find served with fried oysters in New Orleans.

    RECIPE: FRIED OYSTERS

    Ingredients Per Quart Of Oysters (32 Meats*)

    For The Oysters

  • 1 quart shucked medium-large oysters
  • 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal (or use 2 cups all purpose flour)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Fresh parsley
  • Lemon wedges
  •  
    For The Louisiana Remoulade Sauce

    You can make the remoulade 1 to 2 days in advance to let the flavors meld.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tablespoons Dijon or Creole mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1-2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning†
  • 1 teaspoon pickle juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    For Serving

  • Mesclun or other salad mix
  •  
    Preparation

    You can use a pot or a deep skillet to fry.

    1. MAKE the remoulade sauce: Combine the ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    2. DRAIN the shucked oysters. Season the milk with garlic powder, paprika and hot sauce, and soak the oysters for 30 minutes before frying.

    3. PREHEAT the canola oil to 350°F. While the oil is heating…

    4. WHISK together the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together in a separate casserole dish. When ready to fry, drain the oysters and dredge through the flour mixture, coating completely. Tap off the excess flour.

    5. FRY in batches of 4 or 5 (the oysters need space between them), using tongs to place the oysters in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes (“rare” is better for juicy, succulent oysters).

    6. DRAIN for a minute on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve hot atop the greens with a lemon wedge and ramekin of remoulade sauce.
    ________________

    *There are approximately 32 medium-large shucked oysters per quart (4″ across in the shell before shucking).

    †Creole seasoning is a mix of paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, dried sweet basil and other spices, depending on the producer. Cajun seasoning is a mix of garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes. If you don’t want a spicy remoulade you can leave it out; or mix some of the ingredients you have to get the 1-2 teaspoons for the recipe.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Green Tobiko For St. Patrick’s Day

    Green Tobiko Gunkan

    Oyster With Caviar

    Caviar Potato Bites

    Grilled Salmon With Caviar

    Substitute green tobiko for roe of other colors. [1] Green tobiko, the eggs of flying fish roe, in sushi (a gunkan maki—photo courtesy Toria Sushi.[2] Oyster with caviar (photo courtesy Rebelle NYC). [3] Caviar potato bites; the same concept works with potato chips and cucumber slices (photo Fotolia). [4] Top grilled fish (photo courtesy FishStar). [5] In a simple butter sauce (photo KN Studios | Fotolia).

     

    Ready for some culinary adventure on St. Patrick’s Day?

    We look forward to our annual green bagel and corned beef and cabbage, but needed to find something green for hors d’oeuvre and a first course (not guacamole, not spinach dip, not green bean salad, but something special).

    Browsing through the market, we came across a large jar of green tobiko caviar and began to play with it.

    Tobiko (flying fish roe) is a popular sushi ingredient, as both a garnish and in a gunkan-maki or “battleship roll” (photo #1).

    The roe, or caviar*, if you will, comes from the flying fish of Iceland and the Pacific Ocean. Naturally orange in color with a delicate nutty taste (no fish flavor), it has eye appeal and a crunchy texture.

    Over the past 20 years, the roe has been colored black, gold, green or red—for colorful garnishes beyond the sushi bar.

    It can also be flavored; for example, spicy orange tobiko, green wasabi-flavored tobiko, yellow citrus- ginger-and yuzu-flavored tobiko and pale red ume (plum) tobiko.

    We’ve even had brown truffle tobiko!

    So garnish we will! Here’s what we came up with for green tobiko with everyday dishes, nothing haute cuisine.
     
    BREAKFAST

  • On eggs any style.
  • On plain yogur.
  • On a bagel and cream cheese, with or without the smoked salmon.
  •  
    APPETIZERS

  • On potato chips, a dab of sour cream or crème fraîche; or on cucumber slices.
  • Baby potatoes (cut in half, top with sour cream and garnish with tobiko—photo #3).
  • On eggs and deviled eggs.
  • On fish and seafood, from a plain grilled filet to ceviche and shrimp cocktail.
  •  
    FIRST COURSE

  • Caviar Martini (small Martini glass layered with guacamole, sour cream, and tobiko on top).
  • Ceviche or crudo.
  • Oysters on the half shell (photo #2).
  • Savory crêpes.
  •  
    DINNER

  • On scallops or fish fillets (photo #4).
  • In sauces (photo #5).
  • On mashed potatoes (you can garnish or mix it in).
  • Baked potatoes and sour cream, even chives.
  •  

    TOBKO VS. MASAGO: THE DIFFERENCE

    Even if you’re a sushi bar habitué, you may not know that there’s a difference between masago and tobiko.

    Both are small beads of roe, both are naturally orange in color.

    However, the do differ:

  • They are the roe of different fish: capelin for the masago, and flying fish for tobiko.
  • Tobiko has larger eggs. We find them to be ore flavorful and crunchy, and the eggs are larger.
  • If you tasted them side-by-side, you’d taste a difference; but since their roes are used mostly for color and crunch…
  • Tobiko is the roe that is most often colored (green, red, yellow, etc.) and flavored.
  •  
    ________________

    *For centuries, “caviar” referred only to sturgeon eggs; all other fish were “roe.” However, the barriers have broken down, and no one should look askance at you if you call tobiko, ikura, and any other fish eggs “caviar.”

     

     
      

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