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 Cook's Guide - Seafood With Herbs
by Annette Lucido

 

CURRENT MOON
lunar phases


Herbs raise fish to new heights. A bit of tarragon, fresh from the garden or some basil or cilantro added to a butter sauce vastly improve fish dishes. So it is encouraging to see more and better fresh herbs in today's market. Of course it is not hard to grow your own. Herb gardens have been traditional for centuries. You don't need much space either. In my salad days, I managed to raise basil in pots on a 15th floor window ledge in New York City.
 
Now Annette and I grow seven different types of basil, elephant and regular garlic, chives and a couple of dozen other herbs in a special raised bed in our garden. We eat green herbs all summer. Any excess is chopped and frozen in refrigerator ice trays in either water or olive oil. Cubes are popped free and stashed in Zip-Lock bags in our garage freezer. It's worth noting that we boil down fish, fowl and meat stock to be trayed and frozen. As a result we add a cube of herbs and a cup -- three cubes in our fridge trays -- of stock. This reduces preparation time for lovely dishes from hours to minutes and just about eliminates clean up of stock pots and such.

EASY HERB GRILLED AHI AKA YELLOWFIN

When we stay in Hawaii we dote on AHI, or yellowfin tuna that, in the mainland is often caught from Gulf Waters. Good steaks cut a couple of inches thick and grilled over medium hot coals -- if you can hold your hand about six inches from the coals for 15 to 20 seconds without charing you've the right heat. To reduce the heat space coals a bit further apart or raise the grill height.

4 10 ounce Ahi or Yellowtail tuna steaks
1/2 cup olive oil
4 to 6 tablespoons fresh dill weed -- use 2 tablespoons dried if you must
1/2 cup lime or lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon pepper

Start coals or heat propane grill; carefully grease grill. Mix all of the above ingredients in a pie plate. Add fish steaks and turn to coat both sides. Place steaks on grill. Cook 8 to 10 minutes on each side, brushing with marinade. Serve immediately onto hot plates.

We like this dish with parsley, new potatoes and crisp green beans. Add some nice white wine and hot French bread. A calorie killer desert like burned cream ends the meal on a happy note.

*Depending on our mood we use fresh basil, tarragon, rosemary or cilantro. A mix of these, and other herbs isn't bad either. If you have lots of home-grown herbs you can layer green herbs onto the grill before you add the fish.

REDFISH HERB BATTER

Southern battered and deep fried fish offer superb results if the fish is fresh, the oil the right temperature and you don't try to cook too many pieces at the same time. If you do crowd fish, or shrimp or whatever, you drop the oil temperature and the results get that awful diner oily taste. Since many readers won't have deep fat fryers, we'll offer directions for electric skillet. Note: This batter goes nicely on sliced zucchini, carrots sliced the long way and small whole mushrooms that Italians would call "Miso Frito.;

1 pound fish fillets, shrimp. squid, etc. Even thickness ensures even cooking.
Cooking oil
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 can beer
1/2 cup green herbs chopped -- tarragon, basil or whatever.
1 egg

Heat electric skillet to 375 degrees and add canola or peanut or other cooking oil about one inch deep. Beat everything together and let set for about ten minutes to allow flour to agglutinate. Pat fish or vegetables dry with paper towels. Then test by dipping a piece of dry fish or dry vegetable. You want an even, not too thick coating. Try a single piece of fish first. You want a golden outer coating and a moist center. Adjust the heat and add a single separated layer of fish. Cook until golden on one side, turn, cook, drain and serve at once.

This goes nicely with beans and rice, slaw, cold bean salads and the like. Some add a tartar sauce. We like ours plain.

*As always, the type of paprika you use makes a big difference. We like Hungarian hot and sweet. Different types of beer change the taste too. Dark beers suit fish with stronger flavors; lighter beers work with delicate fish like pompano.

ORIENTAL HERB OMELET

We like this on s!ow Sunday morning breakfasts on the deck. However, arguments rage about the fish to use. I go for shucked crab meat and cooked redfish. My wife likes the combination of shrimp and trout. We both agree that a topping of pan-roasted sesame seeds is worth the effort, and that you need about a half a pound of seafood.

2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 sweet onion sliced paper thin
8 ounces crab, shrimp, fish, etc.
5 eggs, use a substitute if you must
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cup green herbs, your choice
Pepper or lemon pepper and salt to taste

Heat oil in a medium size skillet over medium heat and saute onions until they turn translucent. Add seafood and heat through. Beat eggs with parsley, herbs and pepper. Spread seafood and onions evenly over skillet bottom and pour on eggs. Cook for about three minutes, turn eggs and cook for two minutes. Serve at once.

Note: If you use a cast iron skillet you can eliminate the turning that sometimes messes up the end product, that still, of course, tastes great. To do this simply turn, on the broiler and, when the eggs are just about cooked on bottom, pop the pan in the oven until the top bubbles.

ITALIAN HERB FISH STEW

Cioppino, our favorite Italian herb fish stew, has as many recipes as their are small villages on the Italian coast. I've been told that, as is the case with bouillabaisse, the French version of herb-fish-tomato stew, the real recipe depends on whatever fish the women who ran the fish stalls couldn't sell. So you've considerable leeway here.

However, there are some general rules to note. First, the more kinds of tomatoes you can add the better the result. We will use fresh Roma, beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, canned chopped tomatoes and even, for a nice bite, our home-made oil packed dried tomatoes. Second, you need to layer fish into the mix. Thicker, tougher fish go in first. Panfish and such go in along with shrimp. If you add minced cooked clams and the like put them in last so they barely heat. Finally, this dish improves when cooked in huge quantities. We've quadrupled recipes. We also like to add a batch of varied seafood such as cubed stingray wing. Skinned, and with the gristle center cut out, these taste like scallops. Crayfish, blue crabs, diced shark and an assortment of other seafood improve the results.

Casual serving is a must. We slice up hard-crust French bread, then we broil the bread on one side turn it over and rub it with olive oil and a couple of garlic cloves -- cloves stored in olive oil in the fridge are perfect as they're soft and the oil absorbs the garlic taste. Put a slice of bread in the bottom of a big soup bowl. Ladle out the stock and if you can get away with it divide the fish so you get all your favorite parts.

Top with some fresh-grated parmesan cheese and consider a nice green salad as a side dish. Since this is so filling we serve it with a light desert of fresh fruit and nuts that we peel and crack at the table as we discuss the day's happenings.

1 pound fish fillets
1 large red pepper sliced green if you must
1/2 sweet onion finely minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pound fresh red and or yellow tomatoes, diced
8 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 bottle or can of good beer
1/2 cup assorted green herbs
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 to 1 pound shrimp
1/2 to 1 pound clams
1/2 to 1 pound crab

Cut fillets into inch chunks. Cook your pepper, onion and garlic in hot oil. Add tomatoes, beer, herbs and beer. Bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Add tougher fish. Wait two minutes and add tender fish, shrimp and clams. Cook about five minutes more and serve.

Note: Authentic Cioppino uses shrimp, clams and crabs in the shell and lets hungry eaters "skin their own." This improves the taste and seems kind to the cook. So just serve a towel each instead of a paper napkin and eat on the deck or patio. Even better, serve Cioppino on a boat or out of a big "cannibal pot" on the beach and you need not worry about spills and such.

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