Tag Archives: lemon

Grilled Fish 101: Two Recipes For The Price Of One!

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Last weekend I had friends coming over for dinner and I wanted fresh fish. Having not had the opportunity to catch my own recently I did the next best thing and headed for the fish market. Pickings were a little slim at Restaurant Depot but I noticed some large Wahoo fillets. I asked the gentleman behind the counter if I could examine one and he gladly handed me a latex glove.

I laughed and told him that I am bit of a stickler about fish being fresh, then I poked the fillet, squeezed it little to make sure it sprung right back, I even gave it a little sniff. I told him that Wahoo was one of the best fish in the ocean but it absolutely must be fresh! Then I asked him to cut a 4 pound chunk of this perfect fish for me to take home. I smiled a little when as I walked away the guy behind me said “Yeah, I think I would like some of that Wahoo too!”

Freshness truly is half the battle when it comes to fish. The other half is cooking it right! The key with firm and lean fish is to never, ever overcook it. I always say to take the fish off the grill just before it’s cooked through and let it finish on the plate. Believe it or not, fish is so delicate that the heat from cooking will carry over and finish the fish on the plate while still leaving the flesh moist and tender.

To be sure about the doneness I don’t mind using a fork or a knife to check the progress but it’s not always necessary. With fish, especially fish steaks, you can watch the edges turn from translucent to opaque as the fish cooks. When grilling simply keep an eye on the side of the fish and turn it just as the doneness reaches the halfway point. Cook the other side for the same amount of time and viola, you are ready for the plate!

My friend Cyndi asked me for a recipe for this delicious fish and I am going to post not one but two because I couldn’t pick a favorite! Both recipes are exceedingly simple, grilled, and both are perfect for firm lean fish such as Wahoo, Swordfish, Mahi Mahi, or Halibut. The first recipe calls for Za’atar seasoning. This savory spice mix is available at most Middle Eastern, kosher, and halal markets as well as some finer grocery stores. It is one of my favorite spice blends!

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Grilled Fish with Za’atar and Lemon

Fish steaks or fillets cut into serving portions
Za’atar Seasonings
Fresh lemon juice
Good Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Preheat a charcoal, gas grill, or grill pan. Sprinkle fish generously on both sides with Za’atar seasonings, drizzle with lemon juice, and olive oil. When the grill is hot soak a paper towel with oil and using tongs, carefully rub to coat the grill with oil. Place the fish on the grill and cook two minutes, turn the fish clockwise 90 degrees and cook two more minutes or until the fish turns white “almost” half way through.

 

Turn the fish over and repeat removing the fish to a plate just before the fish cooks through to the center. (Use a fork to test if necessary and remove the fish from the grill just as the center turns opaque being careful not to overcook). Drizzle each serving with a little more olive oil and serve.

Grilled Fish with Compound Butter

Fish Steaks or Fillets, cut into serving portions
1 Stick (1/2 cup) Unsalted Butter, softened
Zest of ½ a Fresh Lemon
1 Large Clove of Garlic, finely minced
1 Tsp – Fresh Parsley, minced
½ tsp – Fresh Rosemary, minced
½ tsp – Fresh Oregano, minced
½ tsp – Dried Red Pepper, minced
¼ tsp – Fresh Black pepper, ground
¼ tsp – Kosher Salt
Good Olive Oil

 

Blend butter well with the herbs and spices and wrap it in plastic wrap forming the butter roughly back into a stick. Place the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm.

 

Preheat a charcoal, gas grill, or grill pan. Drizzle both sides of the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. When the grill is hot soak a paper towel with oil and using tongs, carefully rub to coat the grill with oil. Place the fish on the grill and cook two minutes, turn the fish clockwise 90 degrees and cook two more minutes or until the fish turns white “almost” half way through. Turn the fish over and repeat removing the fish to a plate just before the fish cooks through to the center. (Use a fork to test if necessary and remove the fish from the grill just as the center turns opaque being careful not to overcook).

 

Immediately top each fish portion with a pat (about a tablespoon) of the compound butter so that the heat of the fish melts the butter creating a sauce.

Enjoy!

By Request: Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

Shrimp (Edit 2)

Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

What? Shrimp again? Well, football season is now in full swing and I prepared these shrimp at our first Miami Dolphins tailgate party. They were such a hit that I had several requests for the recipe the very next day.

This recipe presents a perfect opportunity to mention “levels of flavor” once again as these shrimp benefit from the flavor boosts of the prosciutto and the rosemary. While they are very good without the prosciutto (and I have made them that way for friends that do not eat pork), the addition of the prosciutto, in all its salty, crispy, goodness, really does add another level of flavor that makes these shrimp a very special treat!

Add to that the fresh rosemary branches used as skewers and while you can certainly use bamboo or metal skewers, taking the extra step and using the rosemary adds a smoky, piney bite as the branches smolder on the grill and again another level of flavor that I think knocks these shrimp right over the top of the flavor scale.

As if those 2 levels of flavor were not enough, along comes the citric acidity of the lime juice and the kick of the horseradish in the Key Lime Cocktail Sauce to again take it to another level and a good dish suddenly becomes the hit of the party. Touchdown!

Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

1 – 12 Oz bottle Prepared Chili Sauce
2 Tbsp – Fresh or bottled Key Lime Juice (I used Nellie & Joe’s from Publix)
1 heaping tablespoon – Prepared horseradish
½ Tbsp – Fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch – Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and stir to mix well, chill thoroughly before serving.

Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto

2 Lbs Fresh Shrimp – Peeled and deveined
½ Lb – Prosciutto, thin sliced and cut into ½ inch wide strips
Zest of 1 large (or 2 medium) fresh lemon, divided in half
2 cloves – Garlic, grated or minced very fine
2 Tbsp – Dry Sherry
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pinch – Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

4 to 8 – Fresh Rosemary branches, leaves removed (with 2-3 inches of leaves remaining at the tip).

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine half of the lemon zest with the next 2 ingredients, add a pinch of kosher salt and several good grinds of black pepper (about ½ tsp) then roughly ¼ cup of olive oil. Whisk until the olive oil begins to emulsify (or thicken). Gently toss the shrimp in this mixture until well coated, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

While the grill is heating up, wrap each shrimp individually with a strip of the prosciutto. Using the rosemary branches as skewers, thread the shrimp evenly on 4 to 8 of the skewers (depending on the length of the branches). Drizzle the skewered shrimp with a little more olive oil, sprinkle them evenly with the remaining lemon zest and a few more grinds of black pepper.

Grilled directly over the flames, turning only once, until the prosciutto is crispy and the shrimp are browned and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side depending on how hot the grill is. Serve with Key Lime Cocktail sauce and…

Enjoy!

Randy

Menu for Two – Seared Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast w/ Rosemary Shallot Pan Sauce and Braised Kale

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

As a home cook, one of the ways I work on improving my “chops” is by challenging myself. Sometimes I’ll pick a “secret” ingredient, a la Iron Chef, and other times I’ll prepare what I call a Pantry Dinner. For these, I simply scan the fridge and the pantry for ingredients, check out what produce we have on hand and try come up with something tasty for dinner. (If anyone remembers Gordon Elliot’s Doorknock Dinners show…that’s where I got the idea.) This recipe was the result of one of those “Pantry Dinner” nights.

On this particular evening I had to come up with something quick because I was a little late getting home…so late in fact, that I had actually thought of just making omelets and toast. But upon scanning the refrigerator I discovered half a bottle of wine, a package of chicken breast, and ½ a bunch of fresh kale left unused from a previous night. With a stash of whole shallots (Albertson’s has had good ones for 2.99 a pound lately) and a fresh head of garlic I was off to the races.

This cooking method is a fairly foolproof way to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts; they always come out nice and moist. Just be very careful pulling that pan out of the oven! I have a potholder glove that I keep on the handle of the pan while making the sauce. The pan sauce is very quick, it should take no longer than two minutes or so to reduce the wine. Remember to remove the pan from the heat before you stir in the butter. For this tiny amount of butter there should be no need to return the pan to heat. (Doing so could cause the sauce to separate causing it to be unpleasantly greasy.)

Start to finish this “Pantry Dinner” was on the table in about half an hour. With a piece of crusty whole grain bread, a salad and the rest of the wine this ended up being a rather nice dinner for two…I hope you’ll try it!

Seared Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast with Rosemary Shallot Pan Sauce and Braised Kale

For the chicken:
Two – Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
¼ Cup – Dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 – Med Shallot, chopped
1 Branch – Fresh rosemary (leaves only) chopped finely
Approx. 1 Tablespoon – Fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon – Unsalted butter, cut in 4 to 6 pieces and kept very cold
1 Tablespoon – Olive oil
Season with an Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

For the braised kale:
4 cups – Fresh kale, stems removed, leaves torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 – Med Shallot, chopped
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
¼ Cup – Dry white wine
Approx. 1 Tablespoon – Fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon – Olive oil
Season with an Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a 10” oven-proof pan over medium-high heat and using the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder, season the chicken fairly liberally on both sides while the pan is getting hot. When the pan is hot, add roughly 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl or shake the pan to cover evenly. (There should be “just” enough oil to coat the pan.)

Carefully place the chicken in the pan, skinned side down and sear until some browning appears around the edges, about 4-5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook 1 minute more, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a large sauté pan over medium heat, when the pan is hot add 1 tablespoon of olive and swirl or shake the pan to cover evenly. Season the oil with a few good grinds from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder then sauté the shallot and garlic just until the aroma of the garlic begins to fill the kitchen, about 1 minute. Add the kale and toss to coat with some of the oil.

Add the wine and a squeeze of lemon juice and cover. Cook covered, 15 minutes or until the kale is tender, stirring every few minutes. Toss again and check for seasoning just before serving. If necessary, add a little salt & pepper to taste.

After 20 minutes, very carefully remove the chicken from the oven holding the handle of the pan with a pot holder or “dry” dish towel. Remove the chicken to a plate (or cutting board) to rest. Place the pan with any remaining juices over medium-high heat. As the pan juices begin to boil, stir in the shallots. Cook about one minute then add the white wine and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Return to the boil and allow this to cook until about three quarters of the liquid has evaporated.

When the liquid in the pan has reached nearly the consistency of syrup, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner, stir in the rosemary and half of the butter. Continue stirring and when that butter has melted, stir in the remaining butter. Stir until all of the butter has melted into the sauce and set the pan aside while you prepare your plates.

To serve, spoon a healthy serving of the kale onto each plate. Carefully slice the chicken in diagonal slices, fan the slices out and serve next to, or right on top of the kale with the sauce spooned evenly over the chicken.

Enjoy!

Randy

Fish 101 – Oven Baked Salmon with Lemon and White Wine

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

Once upon a time I loved salmon; then 5 or 6 years ago my family passed around a particularly bad stomach virus. The night it nailed me, what do you think I had for dinner? Why salmon of course. After that night I swear I could hardly even look at cooked salmon without feeling a little lightheaded, let alone eat the stuff! As the years went by though I slowly regained my taste for cooked salmon; a little at first, sampling small bites here and there, then by preparing my childhood favorite, salmon cakes. Before long I was actually cooking and enjoying salmon again.

My wife came down with that nasty virus that same night and she too refused to touch cooked salmon for even longer than I did! In time, she came around and once again she too enjoys cooked salmon (especially that crispy skin). So what is the point of my story? Well I believe that salmon, more than any other fish, is an acquired taste. Like coffee, caviar, and even beer; salmon is one of those foods that, for many people, seems to be an acquired taste. My wife and I learning to love salmon all over again is a perfect example.

Think about how many people you know that love fish yet claim to hate salmon. Curiously, I also know those that would tell you that salmon is the only fish they will eat! Why? Because for whatever reason salmon is a fish they developed a taste for or for those that hate it; maybe they never ate enough salmon to learn to like it. Which brings me to my final point, that salmon is one of the healthiest and sustainable foods in the ocean…it is well worth giving it another chance!

If until now you’ve avoided salmon I encourage you to give it try. If you’re ready…here are a few ideas on how best to enjoy this wonderful fish.

What to choose…

When it comes to fish, I have been known to preach about freshness and with salmon, freshness is paramount! Why? Simply put, the fresher the salmon is, the sweeter and milder the flavor will be. If you’ve had unpleasant, strong tasting salmon it may be that it wasn’t the freshest. When buying fresh salmon look first for whole fish with bright (not cloudy) eyes, and skin that is so moist that it has a sparkle to it (never dry looking!).

The gills should be bright red or healthy pink (not dull or off-color) and if you poke the fish in the shoulder (I’m snickering at the mental image of poking a salmon in the shoulder but it works!) the flesh should spring back firmly rather than leaving a divot. Finally, there should be no “fishy” smell. A fresh fish should have little smell, perhaps only the pleasant scent of the mist from a breaking wave or an ocean breeze, if any smell at all.

Once you’ve found your perfectly bright, moist, firm, and nice smelling whole salmon, most fishmongers will be happy to fillet it for you. But, you’re not always going to be able to find whole salmon…the next best thing to whole salmon is fresh, skin-on, salmon fillets. Again, look for firm, moist (the skin helps retain some of that moisture) fillets with little or no smell at all. I often buy fresh salmon fillets at Costco and I have no qualms at all about opening one little corner of a sealed package to sniff the fish for freshness. If it smells fishy…don’t buy it!

What about frozen?

Salmon actually freezes quite well and I often buy frozen salmon when fresh fish is not available. Look for a package that states the salmon is ICQ or “Individually Quick Frozen”. (These fillets are usually flash frozen while still very fresh, sometimes even still on the boat.) It’s ok if the fish portions are individually wrapped…I actually prefer it since I’m usually cooking for only two.

Frozen salmon to avoid would be whole fillets that are packed loosely, fillet portions that are not individually wrapped and are all stuck together in one big frozen lump, or any fillets that have frost directly touching the flesh. If the only salmon fillets you can find fit any of the descriptions in this paragraph; now might be a good time to go with the canned salmon!

To thaw frozen fillets, move them from the freezer to the fridge the night before you plan to cook them. In a pinch, if you forget to thaw your fish ahead of time, you can also thaw them quickly by placing them in a cold heavy bottomed steel pan. Cast iron works very well for this but a good heavy stainless pan will work too. The metal of the pan draws the cold out of the frozen fish and will thaw frozen salmon portions completely in about ½ hour or less. (This is also a good trick for quick thawing frozen boneless chicken breast.)

OK, I’ve got my fish…now what?

Now that you have found your salmon, treat it with respect and do not overcook it! For the best flavor, cooking the fish properly is nearly as important as freshness. When overcooked, salmon dries out very quickly which ruins both the texture and the taste. It’s actually amazing to me how often restaurants serve dried out, overcooked salmon. It’s so rampant in fact that I would bet many of the people that do not like salmon have simply never had a piece that was perfectly cooked.

Salmon should be cooked just through to the center leaving just a trace of pink in the very middle. There is really no trick to it, just keep a close eye on the fish while it’s cooking and when you think the fish is almost ready, use a fork to test for doneness. When the fish is done the flesh will flake easily but still hold together towards the center. It’s important to note: If you wait to remove it from the heat, until the fish flakes all the way to the center, then it will likely end up overcooked. This is because residual heat will continue to cook the fish for a little while, even after you take it off the heat.

Again, baked salmon, like most fish, is done perfectly when you can flake it easily with a fork, but the flesh still holds together towards the center. Below is a rough guideline for baking your salmon. Remember, this is strictly a guideline so start checking your fish early…if you let it go too long it will overcook.

If baking at 400 degrees salmon fillets 3/4” to 1” thick should be done in 8 to 10 minutes, 1” to 1-1/2” thick, 10 to 12 minutes, and 1-1/2 to 2” thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

What else?

Quite often salmon fillets will have small pin bones running along part of the center line. These should be removed prior to cooking. To easily remove pin bones, drape the fillet skin side down, over an inverted bowl. This will arch the fillet so that the pin bones stand out making them easy to find and remove using just your fingers or a pair of kitchen tweezers. Needle nose pliers will even work in a pinch.

Are you ready?

This is a super easy recipe, so easy actually, that for just the two of us, I baked it in our toaster oven!

I sprinkled my fish with a little dried dill but you can use any herb you like. Fresh rosemary or parsley would also be good with salmon and even a little lemon zest would be nice…don’t be afraid to use your imagination. On the plate pictured, I served the baked salmon over a bed of fresh spinach sautéed with just a little olive oil and lemon juice. Along side is a white bean puree topped with a few green onion curls, lemon wedges, and a little creamy dill sauce. Dinner was on the table in about ½ hour and was elegant enough to serve to company.

Salmon is a versatile, healthy, and delicious fish that can be very easy to prepare. If it’s been a while since you’ve tried it…I hope you will give it another try! 

Oven Baked Salmon with Lemon and White Wine

2 to 4 – Salmon fillets, 3/4″ to 1 inch thick, in 4 – 6 oz portions
Olive oil
Lemon juice
White wine
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Dried dill (or your herb of choice)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and thoroughly dry your salmon portions by patting them with a paper towel. Cover a ½ or ¼ size baking sheet with aluminum foil and place your fish on the sheet with plenty of space in between. Drizzle the salmon evenly with roughly ½ tablespoon of the olive oil, turning it over a time or two just to coat. With the salmon skin side down, drizzle with roughly ½ tablespoon each of the lemon juice, then the wine.

Sprinkle the fish with a pinch of kosher salt and approx. ¼ tsp each of fresh ground black pepper, and dried dill. Place the fish in the pre-heated oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes, checking for doneness after 8 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven when the flesh flakes easily with a fork but still holds together slightly towards the center.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Randy

Sometimes Simple is Best – Florida Lobster Rolls

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

South Florida sportsmen enjoyed the Lobster mini season this week and I managed to get my hands on a couple of nice plump Florida spiny lobster tails. Having only two, I was at odds as to how to prepare them until I spoke to my wife who without hesitation exclaimed “Lobster Rolls!” Well, who am I to disappoint? Lobster Rolls it was.

This presented something of a challenge considering that she was talking about the highly regarded Maine tradition of a simple “Maine” lobster salad stuffed into a wonderfully fresh, soft hot dog roll.

Florida spiny lobster, quite a different animal from the Maine lobster, is also very different in both flavor and texture. I love them both but I wasn’t about to try to make my Florida lobster taste like the Maine version. Instead I set out to simply turn my lobster tails into the best lobster salad sandwich I could make and where does any good sandwich begin? With the bread of course!

I have enjoyed some great Maine style lobster rolls and for me, the thing that always stood out was the foundation this sandwich was built upon; that sweet, soft, impeccably fresh hot dog roll. Not having access to any impeccably fresh hot dog rolls it occurred to me that I work right around the corner from Direct From Philly, a very good, authentic Philly cheesesteak shop that uses rolls shipped in from the famous Amoroso’s bakery in Philadelphia.

The owner of Direct From Philly obviously appreciates good food and he loved the idea of the lobster rolls and very happily sold me a couple of fresh Amoroso’s rolls. So while they weren’t impeccably fresh hot dog rolls; I had found my foundation!

Next up was getting the lobster ready. In Maine the lobsters are typically boiled or steamed until just cooked. Since these were Florida lobsters I decided to broil them as I like the way broiling intensifies the “lobstery” flavor. I also tried making my own mayo but decided against using it because I used extra virgin olive oil and the olive oil flavor of the mayo came out a little too strong. Next time I will stick to the recipe and use lighter flavored oil. (I did use the homemade mayo in the cole slaw though!)

Once the lobster was cooked I chilled it for a half hour to get it to the right temperature for a salad. Then, following the lead of our friends in the great state of Maine, I kept it simple. Using just the minimal ingredients to compliment, allowing the flavor of that lobster to be the star.

If you try the recipe I recommend using the tender, white celery branches from the inside of the celery so you don’t have to worry about peeling. Also, if you really want to put a Florida spin on this sandwich; try a little key lime juice instead of the lemon. So what was the final verdict from my wife? “Mmmmm” was pretty much all she said…she was just too busy enjoying her fresh “Florida” lobster roll to do much talking!

Florida Lobster Rolls

2 – Sub or hot dog Rolls (Find the freshest softest rolls you can find!)
2 – Florida spiny lobster tails
1 – Celery stick, chopped (about two tablespoons)
2 to 3 Tbsp – Mayonnaise
1 squeeze – Fresh lemon juice
¼ Tsp – Dried tarragon
¼ Tsp – Kosher salt
1 Pinch – White pepper
2 Tbsp – Butter, plus enough to butter the bread

Pre-heat the broiler then split the lobster tails, brush with 2 Tbsp melted butter, and broil until just cooked through, being careful not to overcook. Remove the lobster meat from the tails and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before continuing.

When the lobster is chilled, split your bread and spread it with butter then place in the toaster over or broil to toast. Remove the bread and cool slightly before adding your lobster salad.

While the bread is cooling use your fingers (and a knife) to pull your lobster into bite sized pieces and chunks. Toss the lobster meat in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, using just enough of the mayonnaise to coat the lobster.

Fill each sandwich with a generous portion of the lobster salad, trim the ends of the bread just up to the edges of the filling, and serve.

Serves 2

Enjoy!

Randy

Butter vs Olive Oil – Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There was a time when most any meal I set out to cook began with a big glob of butter melting in a hot pan. Whether it was sautéing onions for a casserole, browning chicken for a braise, or scrambling an egg; it all started with butter. Then as I began reading about nutrition and becoming more conscious of my health, slowly but surely I transitioned to olive oil. Quietly and gradually, somewhere over the last few years, olive oil became my butter.

Through most of my years of cooking, it was not unusual for me to use a pound of butter per week, or at least every couple of weeks. Nowadays it is a rare purchase indeed and though I still keep (un-salted) butter around for a special treat in a pan-sauce or on my Sunday morning toast…I can honestly say the transition is complete. And why not?

Butter is a saturated fat too much of which can contribute to the build-up of blood cholesterol – Olive oil actually contains anti-oxidants and monounsaturated fats that have been proven to help lower cholesterol. Olive oil also contains vitamins E, K, and A, powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a host of other health benefits.

So why eat butter at all? Well, aside from that wonderful flavor there are a few good things about butter. For one, it does not contain any trans-fat, it also contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, can be high in Omega 3, and can even help your body fight off cancer cells. There is a great article at getmybodyback.com that discusses the details.

To my thinking these days, a little butter goes a long way…It’s a good fit in my “everything in moderation” theory that I mention so often. Butter is not inherently evil but it can easily be too much of a good thing. If you balance it out with a good bit of olive oil though, I think you can find a happy medium that will help you live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Recipe notes: This recipe uses olive oil as the base for the “sauce”. It is surprising in that it is not dripping in fat or greasy tasting. The idea is to coat the pasta rather than drenching it in a heavy sauce. The recipe comes together very quickly so I recommend having all of your ingredients ready to go by the time the pasta is almost ready to drain.

Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

1 Lb – Med fresh shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/3 Cup – Extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp – Fresh garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh thyme
½ Tsp – Dried red pepper flakes
8 Oz – Dried 100% whole wheat penne
Juice of ½ Lemon
1 to 2 Tbsp – Fresh basil chiffonade
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Add a tablespoon of kosher salt to a large pot of water over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil gently stir in the pasta. Continue stirring occasionally and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta has softened to your desired doneness.

When the pasta is roughly two minutes from being done, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes and about ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds then add the shrimp in a single layer. Shake the pan to “nestle” the ingredients.

Meanwhile, test the pasta for doneness, and drain into a colander reserving a little of the pasta water on the side.

After about 2 minutes, shake the pan again to loosen any shrimp that may be sticking and turn the shrimp over. Cook 2 minutes more on the second side then add the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Cook another minute and remove the pan from the heat. To finish, stir in the pasta and the basil, gently tossing to combine.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan sprinkled over the pasta.

Enjoy!

Randy

Menu – Crispy Salmon with Crash Hot Potatoes and Braised Kale

(Another installment in How To Stretch Those Dinner Dollars…)

I am usually wary of grocery store fish counters but I found the nicest, very fresh, fillets of Farm Raised Steelhead on sale at Albertson’s yesterday. As an avid fisherman I have learned to appreciate fresh fish and when or if I do purchase fresh fish it must first pass a few very important tests. First, the fish must never be frozen. I often see “previously frozen” fish at the fish counter, thawed and displayed on ice. If it was frozen why did they thaw it? How long ago was it thawed? I’m not saying I won’t purchase frozen fish. I just prefer to examine the packaging myself (for me it should be flash frozen or vacuum sealed) and I prefer to thaw it myself…thank you very much.

My second test is visual. Does the fish look fresh? If it is a whole fish the eyes should look clear, not clouded. The skin should be firm and glistening and should not look dry or wrinkled and scales should not be loose or falling off. Fillets too should glisten with moisture and should never look dried out. All fresh fish, whole or filleted, should be kept on ice and unwrapped. If the fish is just lying on a rack or shelf, or if it is packaged and wrapped, I’ll usually keep looking.

Next, how does it feel? If you press your finger on a fresh whole fish it should feel firm. The flesh should spring back quickly when you take your finger away. A fillet may not be as firm but if you press your finger into a fillet and remove it, the flesh should immediately spring back. If an indention remains when you take your finger away, or if the fish feels mushy, then the fish is probably not the freshest. Lastly and simply, how does it smell? You may feel a little funny asking but really, I’ve never even had a person behind a fish counter look surprised. I always ask to smell the fish which should smell fresh and clean, perhaps a little like the mist of a breaking wave…and never, ever should it smell fishy or strong.

The Albertson’s Farm Raised Steelhead fillets passed every test with flying colors. Not only that, at $5.99 per pound it was a great deal! The 1-1/2 pound fillet was big enough for two dinners for 2 for Kathy and I which works out to about $2.25 a plate. Not bad for fresh fish! I still had half a bunch of kale from the other night and I wanted to use that up so this Saturday night dinner really was quite the value meal.

Speaking of feeling funny…I feel a little funny posting other people’s recipes on my blog. If this is going to be “Recipes Randy Cooks” though, then it should most definitely include recipes created by others. Kat loves the crispy salmon skin the sushi chefs make so I was looking for a way to crisp the skin when I found this video by Gordon Ramsay. I was getting a little tired of rice so I chose an old favorite potato recipe, Crash Hot Potatoes. Like I told my friends on Facebook, if you have not tried this potato recipe…do it…do it now! You will not be disappointed.

Menu – Crispy Salmon with Crash Hot Potatoes and Braised Kale

For the Kale

About 2 Cups – Fresh Kale, stemmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 Med – Shallots, Halved, then sliced lengthwise
2 Cloves – Garlic, minced
A couple of Lemon Peels (Left over from making the lemon vinaigrette and lemon zest used in the other 2 recipes)
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
¼ Cup – Chicken Stock
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat and cook the shallots and garlic until just beginning to brown. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Add another Tbsp. olive oil to the pan and sauté the kale for two minutes before adding the lemon peels, rosemary, chicken stock, and salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Remove the cover, add the shallots & garlic back into the pan and continue simmering uncovered a few minutes more allowing most of the broth to evaporate. Remove the lemon peels and rosemary and serve with a drizzle of the lemon vinaigrette from the fish recipe.

For the Potatoes

4 Med – Red Bliss or Yukon Gold Potatoes, whole, two inches or less in diameter
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary, stem removed & chopped fine
Lemon Zest (from the fish recipe)
Olive Oil

While pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees, boil the potatoes until they are just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drizzle olive oil on a foil-lined sheet pan and place the potatoes on the pan. Using the bottom of a jar or drinking glass, gently but firmly press the potatoes until they burst, then flatten them to about ½ inch thick while trying not to break them apart. Drizzle each potato with olive oil, season with kosher salt & fresh ground pepper, and sprinkle with the rosemary. Bake until the potatoes are browned and crispy, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with a little of the lemon zest and serve.

For the Fish…

2 Portions – Salmon or Steelhead, 4-6 oz each, skin on
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary, stem removed & chopped fine
Zest of 1 Lemon
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Lemon Vinaigrette (I used 1 recipe of Good Seasons Italian Dressing made with lemon juice instead of vinegar.)

Rinse and pat dry the fish so that it is very dry. Using a very sharp knife, make a series of deep slices into the skin, crossways along the center, about every three eighths of an inch. (The slices should not reach the edges of the fillet.) Season the skin side with kosher salt, lemon zest, and chopped rosemary making sure to get plenty of the seasonings down into the slices. Drizzle with olive oil and set aside until your sides have been cooked and are ready to serve.

When you are ready to cook the fish, Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Carefully place the fish into the pan, skin side down, and do not move it until the fish appears to be cooked about three quarters of the way through. While it is cooking add salt and fresh pepper to the exposed side.

When the fish appears to be cooked about three quarters of the way through, gently turn it over. Cook 2-3 minutes, turn again, and cook one minute more on the skin side. Remove the fish from the pan and plate skin side up. Drizzle lightly with the lemon vinaigrette and serve.

Enjoy,

Randy