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Archive for Fish/Seafood/Caviar

TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Serve Fish

Did you give up meat for Lent? Are you looking for different ways to add fish to your diet?

Here are recommendations from Chef Charlie Baggs, of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations in Chicago, to which we’ve added some of our own suggestions.

The original article was written for Flavor & The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs that made these suggestions for their menu during the six weeks of Lent when seafood sales soar.

Chef Baggs offers different techniques for cooking seafood in both traditional and more modern preparations. You can try a different one every day!

  • Baked: clams/oysters/clambake, en papillote; quiche; Salmon Wellington, smoked cod flan, wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce.
  • Boiled/steamed: crab, fish boil, gefilte fish, lobster, mussels, quenelles, shrimp cocktail, whole fish/fillets.
  • Cured/raw: carpaccio, ceviche, clams/oysters on the half shell, gravlax, sashimi/sushi, tartare.
  • Deep-fried: battered (calamari, clams, fish & chips, fish sticks, nuggets, poppers, tempura), breaded, fritters.
  • Dips and spreads: crab dip, smoked trout or whitefish, taramasalata.
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    Make a hearty bouillabaisse. Photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

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    How about shrimp fondue? Photo courtesy The Melting Pot.

     
  • Grilled/broiled: fillets or whole fish—cod, mixed grill, octopus, salmon, sardines, skate, shrimp, snapper, squid, whitefish or other favorite; skewers/kebabs.
  • International: curry, fish tacos, seafood paella, stir-fried, Szechuan Fish, many more.
  • Pan-fried/sautéed: blackened, croquettes, frogs’ legs, trout, soft-shell crab, sablefish (black cod), salmon or trout patties.
  • Pickled: herring or salmon.
  • Poached: Salmon and whitefish; using shallow and deep poaching techniques.
  • Roasted: Whole fish, fillets or steaks
  • Roe/caviar: lumpfish, salmon roe, tobiko and whitefish caviars.
  • Smoked: halibut, kippered haddock (finnan haddie), herring, mackerel, salmon, scallops, smoked fish platter with bagels and cream cheese; sturgeon, trout, turbot, whitefish.
  • Soups: bouillabaisse; fish or seafood bisque or chowder.
  • Stews/casseroles: bouillabaisse, cioppino, etouffee, gumbo, New Orleans barbecued shrimp.
  • Stir-fried: Asian-style stir fry.
  • With starch: blini (buckwheat pancakes), crêpes/pancakes, jambalaya, pasta, pizza with clams, pot pie, risotto, shrimp and grits.
  • Other: Caesar salad with anchovies, escargots, lobster roll, crab/lobster/shrimp salad, seafood mousse, shrimp fondue.
  •  
    We’re sure we’ve left out other favorites. Don’t hesitate to let us know.
     
    Read the full article about Lenten dishes on Flavor & The Menu.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Eggplant Caponata

    Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant relish or eggplant salad, made from capers, eggplant, onion, pine nuts and tomatoes, usually served as a side dish or relish, part of an antipasto. In Sicily it’s called capunata.

    As with any recipe, there are numerous variations, including the addition of carrots, celery, green bell peppers, olives, potatoes, or raisins.

    According to food writer Clifford A. Wright, the famed Italian dish may be of Spanish origin. He quotes the Sicilian food authority Pino Correnti, that the dish is derived from the Catalan word caponada, a similar type of relish

    Th Catalan word means “something tied together like vines.” In Sicily, it first appears in 1709. Another contender is the word capón; capón de galera is a gazpacho or a caponata-like dish.

    A Sicilian cuisine scholar, Giuseppe Coria, suggests that the word derives from the Latin caupo, tavern, which served cauponae, a tavern food for travelers.

    Wright notes: “The earliest recipe I am familiar with of … a kind of caponata is the cappone di galera alla siciliana in Francesco Leonardi’s L’Apicio Moderno (The Modern Apicius), published in 1790. Here is his recipe:

       

    salmon-on-caponata-olionyc-230

    Caponata moves from appetizer dip or spread to a sauce for fish or poultry. You can place the caponata on top of the protein or use it as a bed, as shown in this photo. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | New York City.

     

    “Dip a few fresh new beans [freselle maiorchine, an esteemed bean from Majorca] in Malaga wine, then arrange them on a serving platter, and put over them a garnish of anchovy fillets and thin slices of tuna salami, rinsed of its salt, capers, pieces of citron zest, stoned olives, fried shrimp and squid, oysters poached slightly in their own liquid and several fillets of fried linguattola [Citharus linguatula, a kind of flatfish] until the platter is well garnished and full. At the moment of serving pour over it a sauce made as follows: in a mortar pound two ounces of peeled green pistachios soaked in olive oil, vinegar, and tarragon or vinegar, salt, and ground pepper.”

    Whatever the origin and ingredients, today’s caponata easily moves from antipasto relish (our grandmother favored it with crackers or toasted baguette slices) to the main plate.

    This delicious and healthful garnish adds bright color to pale proteins. It works well on grilled, poached or sautéed fish, poultry or tofu.
     
    RECIPE: EGGPLANT CAPONATA

    Use fresh tomatoes in season. In the off season, use diced, canned tomatoes.

    Caponata tastes best the day after it is made, once the flavors have had a chance to blend and mellow. The recipe can be made two days in advance and refrigerated, covered. It can also be frozen.

    You can serve caponata warm, chilled or at room temperature, or cold.

     

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    Grilled bass with eggplant caponata. Photo courtesy David Burke Fromagerie.

     

    Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 eggplant (about 1-1/2-pounds), unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, cubed
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 can (14-1/2-ounces) diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings, including the juice
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Pine nuts, toasted
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil in heavy pot over medium heat. Add the eggplant, onion and garlic. Sauté until the eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes.

     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil in heavy pot over medium heat. Add the eggplant, onion and garlic. Sauté until the eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes.

    2. ADD the diced tomatoes, vinegar and drained capers. Cover and simmer until the eggplant and onion are very tender, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    3. SEASON the caponata to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in the basil. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

    This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com.

     
    MORE WAYS TO USE CAPONATA

  • On bruschetta or crostini (the difference).
  • On omelets (or as a filling), or other egg preparations.
  • In a grilled cheese sandwich or panini.
  • Atop pasta, rice or other grain.
  • In a baked potato.
  • In crêpes.
  • In tartlets or phyllo pockets.
  • In lettuce cups.
  •   

    Comments

    ISSUE: Seafood Fraud

    There’s a reason you may not want to buy grouper or snapper, unless the establishment has purchased the whole fish and done its own filleting.

    Something similar goes for anything touted as wild shrimp or Gulf shrimp: There’s a 30% chance or more that it’s plain old farmed shrimp.

    It’s easy to fall victim to seafood fraud, a costly problem that won’t go away because of unscrupulous suppliers. Restaurants and retailers are victims, and unwittingly sell cheaper, mislabled varieties to consumers.

    The fraud exists when fish distributors deliberately mislable cheaper varieties for more expensive, popular ones. Imported basa and swai (whitefish species you’ve probably never heard of) are substituted for the much-in-demand grouper and snapper.

    Why the bait-and-switch? Because there isn’t enough domestic supply of the desirable varieties. Imported “fakes” are substituted, and the difference only becomes clear only after the fish is cooked. The flavor and texture is simply not as good.

    It’s easy to tell these varieties apart when they come out of the water. But once the fish is filleted, or the shrimp is cleaned, there is no head, scale, or other visual identifier to prove its variety.

    It’s not that you won’t get an edible piece of fish. It has no deleterious effect. But it won’t taste as good as the original, and you’ll the price of the better species.
     
    Studies & Solutions

       

    Fennel-Crusted-Grouper.ashx-230

    Grouper is a very popular fish, but unscrupulous dealers sell cheaper fish and claim it’s grouper. Photo of fennel-crusted grouper courtesy McCormick. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Food Hospitality, a restaurant industry website, reports on new studies conducted separately by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Oceana, the international ocean conservation organization. Both studies found extensive mislabeling problems at the wholesale level, largely focused on the easy-to-substitute species grouper and snapper.

    Last year, Oceana looked at 1,200 fish samples from across the U.S. and found that roughly one-third were mislabeled according to FDA standards. A separate study of shrimp, America’s most-consumed fish or seafood, showed that 31% of restaurants sold misrepresented products, while 41% of retail markets sold misrepresented products.

    Whatever species is being mislabled, retailers and restaurants get duped off as well as the consumer. Everyone overpays for lesser-quality fish and shellfish. Consumers, finding their dish less palatable than they had hoped, can bash the establishment online. Everyone loses.

    The FDA says that slow progress is being made on the mislabeling front. A presidential task force is looking at the problem.

     

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    Basa, a type of catfish, is a cheaper fish often sold as grouper. Unfortunately, it lacks grouper’s particular flavor. Photo courtesy TimesColonist.com.

     

    But there is hope around the corner for fans of grouper.

    Checking The RNA Of The Fillet

    Researchers at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science have come up with a solution to the grouper problem. Their new product, GrouperChek, is a handheld sensor capable of sniffing out fish fraud on the fly.

    Wholesalers and others can assay seafood samples using real-time nucleic acid sequence-based amplification. The instrument identifies whether the RNA is a match.

    The researchers say the device is so sensitive, it can detect fake grouper even after the fish has been cooked, breaded and sauced.

    Hopefully, now, the seafood supplier will do this testing before agreeing to buy the fish.

    And hopefully, devices will be developed to test shrimp and other often-misrepresented species. Finally, there may be a cessation of the passing off of inferior species, which causes restaurants and retailers to unwittingly mislead and overcharge customers.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegetable “Raft”

    Build a vegetable “raft” to make a serving of plain grilled or sautéed protein look like fancy restaurant fare.

    This chef’s trick makes it easy to add glamor to a piece of cooked protein—beef, fish, lamb, pork, poultry, tofu. Not to mention, it gets people to eat more veggies!

    Here, branzino in padella (branzino cooked in a skillet/frying pan) from Olio e Piú in Greenwich Village, New York City gets the raft treatment.

    MAKE IT AT HOME

  • Choose three “long” vegetables of contrasting colors. For your consideration: asparagus, carrots, celery, green beans, fennel, hatch or shishito chiles or other mild chiles, leeks, long radish, okra, parsnips, pea pods, spring onions.
  • You can also cut long rectangles of other favorites: bell pepper (red or yellow bell pepper), eggplant, yellow squash, Yukon Gold potatoes or zucchini.
  • All the vegetables should be 3-1/2 to 4 inches in length. They don’t have to be even; and they’re more visually arresting if they aren’t.
  •  

    branzino-vegetable-layer-olioNY-230

    Branzino on a vegetable raft with a grilled lemon. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | NYC.

  • The number of pieces you need per serving depends on the length of the protein. The long piece of fish in the photo rests atop a dozen individual veggies.
  • Decide how you want to cook them. Our own technique is to steam them lightly in the microwave, then coat them quickly in a sauté pan with butter (you can substitute good olive oil).
  •  

    If you want to include a grain or potato, there’s plenty of room on the plate (just move the lemon).

    In his television show “Kitchen Nightmares,” Chef Gordon Ramsay has said that he gets worried when he is presented with a plate scattered with chopped parsley. While we love Chef Ramsay, perhaps he’d agree that this plain plate would look better with a dusting of minced parsley or chives around the rim. Or perhaps, a sprinkling of pink or smoked sea salt!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Cook Fish

    Lent began yesterday, the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (this year on April 2nd). During Lent, observers recognize Christ’s sacrifice by giving up something pleasurable. Around the world, the most common Lenten practice is to give up meat. In the U.S., seafood sales soar during the six weeks of Lent.

    Whether you’re a lent observer, or simply want to eat more healthfully, here’s inspiration from GetFlavor.com, a magazine and website for professional chefs.

  • Baked fish: salmon wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce; quiche; en papillote; Salmon Wellington
  • Cured/pickled/smoked: ceviche, gravlax, pickled herring; smoked bluefish, cod, salmon, trout, tuna fillets; smoked fish pâté
  • Deep-fried fish: battered, tempura or breaded; calamari, fish and chips, fritters, nuggets, shrimp
  • Dips and spreads: pâté, taramasalata, whitefish
  • Grilled fish: whole fish or fillets; kebabs or skewers; cod, sardines, shrimp, snapper, whitefish
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    It couldn’t be easier: Pan-sautéed fish topped with a light salad. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

  • Pan-fried or sautéed fish: Trout, soft-shell crab, salmon or trout patties
  • Poached fish: crab legs, salmon, shrimp cocktail, whitefish
  • Raw fish: carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, tartare, tataki
  • Roasted fish: fillets, steaks, whole fish
  • Steamed fish: fillets, steaks or whole fish; mussels, gefilte fish
  • Stews and casseroles: bisque, bouillabaisse, chowder, cioppino, curry, gumbo
  • Stir-fried and sautéed fish: Asian-style stir fry, blackened, with pasta
  • Specialty: caviar, crêpes, flan, mousse, pancakes, poke, risotto
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    black-bass-porcini-brodetto-scottconant-230

    You can make this nicely-plated restaurant dish. Just place grilled bass or other fish atop a bed of grains or vegetables and surround with broth or sauce. In a pinch, you can make a sauce from a can of creamed soup. Photo courtesy Chef Scott Conant.

     

    BOILING, POACHING OR STEAMING: THE DIFFERENCE

    These three related cooking techniques are both healthful and easy. Here are the nuances:

    Poaching

    Poaching is a gentle cooking method used to simmer foods in a hot, but not boiling, liquid. Water is often used as the poaching liquid but its flavor is often enhanced with broth or stock, juice, vinegar or wine.

    Typically, vegetables (carrot, celery, onion), citrus (lemon, lime, orange), herbs and/or spices are added to the liquid for additional depth of flavor. Chicken breasts, eggs, fish/seafood and fruit are good candidates for poaching.
     
    Boiling

    Boiling is more intense than poaching. Foods are cooked in rapidly bubbling liquid, most often water. Poaching is best suited to foods such as starches and vegetables that can withstand the high heat and the agitation of rapidly moving water.

    Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower hearty greens (collards, kale, turnip greens), pasta, potatoes and rice are some of the most frequently-boiled foods.

     
    Steaming

    With this technique, foods are cooked by steam generated from boiling liquid. Water is most often used because little to no flavor is transferred to the food from the steam. Since there’s no direct contact with water, steaming retains the shape, texture and bright color (e.g., of asparagus or other vegetables and fruits) without becoming water-logged or soggy.

    Steaming also prevents vitamins and minerals from dissolving into the cooking liquid. Fruits, proteins, vegetables and even desserts—cakes, custards and puddings) can be steamed.

    For instructions on each of these techniques, visit CampbellsKitchen.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Oscar Party Sushi

    If your Oscar party will include sushi, how about a platter that looks like a director’s slate?

    This fun idea comes from SushiShop, which isn’t selling the “director’s slate” platters but developed this as part of an advertising campaign.

    You can make it yourself with:

  • 10 pieces of salmon nigiri (fish atop rice pads)
  • 10 pieces of tamago nigiri (egg custard)
  • 24 pieces of pieces of black caviar roll in green soy wrappers (or a cucumber wrap), topped with a dab of green mayonnaise (or a piece of edamame)
  •  
    Your local sushi restaurant can create this for you, or work with you to create a different design with different sushi varieties (check them out in our beautiful Sushi Glossary).

     

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    Cut! Eat! Photo courtesy SushiShop.com.

     

    Unless you’re a mogul, you can buy affordable black lumpfish caviar or black capelin caviar. We found 12 ounces for $29.99 and $14.95, respectively, on Amazon.

    Check out the different types of caviar.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Poke

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    Classic tuna poke. You can buy it ready-to-serve from Pete’s Seafood Club.

     

    Hannah Kaminsky is on a food safari in Hawaii, the land of abundant produce and poke.

    Poke is a raw fish and vegetable dish served as an appetizer or salad course in Hawaiian cuisine. A relative of ceviche, crudo, tartare and tataki, it’s a combination of raw fish and vegetables that becomes a salad appetizer.

    Actually pronounced poe-KEH, it is mis-pronounced poe-KEY by enough people that the latter pronunciation is becoming an accepted alternative.

    Poke is Hawaiian for “to section” or “to slice or cut.” The most popular recipe, ahi poke, is made with yellowfin tuna marinated in sea salt, soy sauce, roasted crushed candlenut (inamona), sesame oil, limu seaweed and chopped chili pepper. Alternatively, it is served sashimi-style with wasabi and soy sauce.

    Other types of tuna can be substituted for the ahi, or you can use a different seafood entirely: Raw salmon and octopus are popular. Vegetarians can substitute tofu.

     
    In less civilized times, some Hawaiians would suck the flesh off the bones and spit out the skin and bones. During the 19th century, mainland vegetables such as tomatoes and onions (now Maui onions) were included were introduced, and are now common ingredients.

    Other accompanying condiments include furikake seasoning*, garlic, hot sauce (such as sambal olek), ogonori (ogo) or other seaweed, sesame seeds and tobiko (flying fish roe).

     
    *Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning meant to be sprinkled on top of rice. It typically consists of a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt and MSG. There are different blends, including Ebi Fumi Furikake, Katsuo Fumi Furikake, Nori Fumi Furikake, Noritamago Furikake, Salmon Furikake, Seto Fumi Furikake, Shiso Fumi Furikake and Wasabi Fumi Furikake. You can find them at Asian food stores or online.

     

    RECIPE: POKE TOFU

    How about a variation for vegetarians? This recipe was “ever so slightly adapted from Aloha Tofu,” by Hannah Kaminsky. “Like some of the best dishes,” says Hannah, “this one couldn’t be simpler to prepare.”

    The is a classic dish made by the tofu masters themselves. Their rendition adheres very closely to the traditional fish-based formula, substituting fried tofu cubes for the raw fish—a move that should appease those who can appreciate tofu well enough, but not so much that they care to eat it raw.

    The finished dish is sold in their brand new eatery, but since I didn’t have a chance to scope out that scene as well, I’m grateful that the full recipe is published on their website as well. No strings attached, no gimmicks or marketing ploys; just the desire to share their tofu and new ways to enjoy it. Now that’s the Aloha Spirit in action.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Side Appetizer Servings

  • 1 package (12 ounces) deep fried tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped ogo limu seaweed (substitute hijijki)
  • 1-2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • Pinch crushed red repper flakes, to taste
  •  

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    Tofu poke. Photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.

     
    Preparation

    1. TOSS the tofu, all of the chopped vegetables, and seasonings together in a large bowl. Thoroughly combine all of the ingredients and coat them with the marinade.

    2. COVER and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to a day. Serve cold.
     
    Variations like this have inspired other recipes. Ko Olina’s Pizza Corner restaurant in Kapolei, Hawaii serves an Original Hawaiian Poke Pizza.

    We look forward to trying it!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sashimi Salad

    Love sashimi? Looking for a light lunch or first course? Make sashimi salad.

    Pick up some of your favorite raw fish from your fishmonger—salmon, tuna and yellowtail, for example. You can also add cooked varieties, such as shrimp and squid.

    Then, create a salad of choice:

  • Western-style salad of mixed greens
  • Japanese-style salad of seaweed, mizuna or microgreens, grated daikon and carrot
  • Either style embellished with avocado, cucumber, an Asian-style vinaigrette and a sprinkle of sesame seeds
  •  
    Some Asian markets, fish markets and even supermarkets carry wakame salad. Wakame, pronounced wah-kah-MAY, is a type of seaweed; for wakame salad, it is marinated in vinegar and seasonings. If you can’t find it, you can substitute a fresh herb like cilantro.

       

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    Easy sashimi salad: There’s nothing to cook! Photo courtesy SalmonFromNorway.com.

     
    This recipe is courtesy of Salmon From Norway and focuses on raw salmon and salmon roe. The dressing is a stripped-down variation of ponzu sauce.

    The toughest part of making sashimi salad is slicing the fish. There’s no cooking required for this delicious, lower-calorie, healthful dish.

    RECIPE: SASHIMI SALAD

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound salmon top loin, skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons wakame salad
  • 2 tablespoons Norwegian Salmon roe
  • Optional garnish: shredded nori sheets, wonton chips, minced red bell pepper
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons yuzu juice (or equal parts lemon and lime juice)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons dashi (Japanese fish stock or any fish stock)
  •  

    sashimi-salad-tsunamisushilafayette-230

    This variation uses cubed tuna, garnished with raw green beans, green onion and avocado. Photo courtesy Tsunami Sushi.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing: Combine the ingredients and whisk thoroughly.

    2. CUT the top loin in half crosswise With a sharp knife. Place the knife at a 45° angle and slice into ¼- to-½ inch strips.

    3. ARRANGE the fish on plates along with wakame salad and salmon roe. Drizzle the dressing over the fish.

     
    RECIPE: HAWAIIAN POKE DRESSING

    Another dressing that works with sashimi salad is poke dressing, used in Hawaii’s version of sashimi salad, called poke (POE-kuh).

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Option: crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BLEND all ingredients thoroughly.

      

    Comments

    SUPER BOWL: The “Bivalve Bowl”

    From January 26th through January 31st, the New England Patriots-Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl match-up will be preceded by a competition between bodaceous bivalves.

    The storied Grand Central Oyster Bar in the heart of Manhattan is hosting “Super Bowl XLIX Oyster Platter,” pitting two New England oysters (Katama and Wellfleet) against two Washington challengers (Discovery Bay and Skookum—note that oysters are typically named for the bodies of water where they are harvested).

    Chef Sandy Ingber has selected beverage pairings to complement the oysters: for Patriots fans, Cisco “Whales Tale” Pale Ale from Nantucket; for Seahawks fans, Washington State’s Chateau St. Michelle 2013 Dry Riesling 2013.

    If you have a supplier of fresh oysters and a talent for shucking, you can serve this gourmet fare during the game.

    If not, call the Grand Central Oyster Bar for lunch or dinner reservations: 1.212.490.6650. The eight-oyster combination is $22.35 with beverages extra.

     

    Wellfleet-Mass-230r

    Game on: Will these Wellfleet oysters from Massachusetts best the Skookums from Washington? Photo courtesy J.P.’s Shellfish.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Fish Or Chicken With Salsa

    Salsa has been America’s favorite condiment since 2000, when it supplanted ketchup in sales. But it actually has been a favorite condiment for thousands of years.

    The wild chile was domesticated about 5200 B.C.E. and tomatoes by 3000 B.C.E., both in Central America. The two ingredients were combined into a condiment, incorporating other ingredients like squash seeds and even beans (the predecessor of one of our favorites, tomato, corn and bean salsa). The Spanish conquistadors, taking over in 1529, called it “salsa,” the Spanish word for sauce.

    Salsa was not used as a dip for tortilla chips, which weren’t invented until the late 1940s in Los Angeles. It was a general sauce for meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. (Here are the history of salsa and the history of tortilla chips.)

    So today’s tip is: Take salsa back to its origins and use it as a sauce for fish and poultry. Here’s the easiest way, from Jillipepper, a New Mexico-based salsa maker.

  • Fish steaks or fillets, 4-6 ounces each
  • 1 salsa, jar or homemade
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRUSH the fish liberally with the salsa.

       

    montreal-salsa-chicken-mccormick-230

    Salsa-coated chicken. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    2. COOK on a grill over medium heat or under the broiler. Turn and brush with salsa every 5 minutes until fish is done.
     

    When you use salsa with chicken or fish, it can be traditionally savory, or sweetened with fruit. (See the different types of salsa.)
     

    SWEET SALSA

    If you like things sweet—and easy—McCormick has a popular Salsa Chicken recipe that combines canned tomatoes with apricot preserves, and a Montreal Salsa Chicken that combines mild salsa with peach preserves.

    Both of those combine tomatoes with fruit, but you can also make a pure fruit salsa with no tomatoes.

    Peach salsa is the best-selling fruit salsa flavor in the U.S., beating mango and pineapple. While most bottled peach salsa is tomato-based salsa roja, you can make fresh peach salsa without tomatoes. Wait for peach season, though; then combine 2 cups peeled, finely diced peaches, 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion, 2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 de-seeded and finely chopped jalapeño, juice of 1 lime, 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or basil leaves and 1 clove minced garlic. Add salt to taste.

    Mango pineapple salsa is also easy to whip up. Combine 1 diced mango and 2 cups of diced pineapple with ½ medium onion, diced; ½ cup cilantro, diced; the juice of one lime, and salt and pepper to taste. You can also add minced jalapeño for heat.

    Cherry salsa goes nicely with chicken or fish. You can use fresh cherries in season, but frozen cherries work fine. Here’s a salmon recipe with cherry mango salsa.

    And when watermelon season returns, how about a watermelon, corn and black bean salsa?

     

    Grilled fish with a savory salsa. Photo from the cookbook, South American Grill, courtesy Rizzoli USA.

     

    SAVORY SALSA

    We prefer a largely savory salsa with grilled fish, sometimes with diced fruit—mango, peach or pineapple tossed in for balance, but never, ever with added sugar.

    While you can use salsa from a jar, making your own is easy and you can customize it with your favorite ingredients. You can also create your preferred texture, from chunky hand-diced to puréed in the blender.

    The possible combinations are [almost] endless”

    POSSIBLE SALSA INGREDIENTS

  • Tomatoes: in the off season, use cherry tomatoes
  • Fruit: grape, mango, melon, peach, pineapple or other fruit
  • Onions: green onion, red onion, sweet onion
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley
  • Acid: wine vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice
  • Heat: jalapeño or other fresh chile
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic
  • Enhancements: black beans, capers, corn kernels, gherkins, olives
  •  

    HOMEMADE SALSA RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 3 pounds tomatoes, diced and seeded
  • Optional: 1/2 pound diced fruit
  • 1/2 small red onion (more to taste), small dice
  • 2 or 3 small jalapeño chiles
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 of a lemon or lime, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup or more cilantro (if you don’t like cilantro, substitute parsley)
  • 2 splashes of red wine vinegar (about a 1/2 teaspoon)
     
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the stems from the cilantro. Remove the white membrane and seeds from the jalapeños and mince the flesh.

    2. COMBINE the tomatoes, fruit, onions, jalapeño and garlic. Add the seasonings (vinegar, citrus juice, salt, pepper, cilantro) and toss to thoroughly combine. Allow flavors to blend for a half hour or more (overnight is fine); then taste and adjust seasonings. You may want more vinegar, more jalapeño, etc.

    3. Pulse until desired consistency.
     
    This is making us hungry. Guess what we’re having for lunch!

      

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