The morning after I set-up my last post on Ash Wednesday-Valentine’s Day fish dinners, (2/11/18), I heard a talk show guest describe her issues with the traditional ‘fish-on-Friday’ Lenten fasting schedule. She hated having to stop to buy fresh seafood after work and needed some easy, quick child-friendly recipes to avoid a battle over dinner.
I realized there must be many people with the same problems and want to offer help. I’ve chosen two globally known fish from the top 5 commercial favorites, salmon and tilapia. They’re very different in taste and texture, which gives variety, but they’re also 1) Available, all year, fresh and frozen, 2) Accessible, from individual frozen fillets in Dollar Stores, to frozen multi-packs and fresh in supermarkets to freshly cut in fish markets 3) Affordable, with such a range of outlets there is something to fit every wallet and 4) Sustainable, both are still plentiful in the wild and very successfully farmed.
I’m starting with salmon which is a bit more complicated to understand than tilapia, simply because they are often sold listing species. Salmon is native to the northern regions of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but there are some non-migratory species living in lakes in Europe, North America and Siberia. Unfortunately, the Western Atlantic Coast has been over-fished and the only commercial hauls from that region are in Nova Scotia, where most of the catch is smoked before sale.
Native to the Eastern Pacific coast are 1) the Chinook, also called King or Blackmouth salmon, the largest Pacific species reaching 30 lb. 2)The Coho, or silver salmon which ranges as far as Southern California, 3)The Sockeye, a lake-rearing species and plankton eater, often used for canning; 4)The Chum, also called the dog or calico which has the widest range of the Pacific salmon covering both coasts; 5) The Pink also has a wide, but more northern range and is the smallest species, 6) The Masu is exclusive to the western Pacific coast. There are other salmonoid species in several countries but marketing is strictly local.
Salmon is prepared in many ways, though I don’t recall ever seeing it deep fried or in batter. I know kids love fried food and there will be some suggestions next week but the recipes I’m giving in these two posts are for simple, fast presentations and will not include anything so complicated or potentially messy as deep frying.
As for the actual cooking I quote The Canadian Department of Fisheries, recommended by top chefs from James Beard to Steven Raichlen and Bobby Flay. “Regardless of method, the cooking time should be 10 min. per inch of thickness of the fish at its thickest point”. If you have a whole fish 4 inches thick, you will cook it 40 min.; a steak 1 ½ inches would take 15 min. or 7 ½ min. per side and a thin fillet ½ inch thick would be 5 min. or 2 ½ per side.” (I tend to be more cautious here and allow 3 min. per side.) Tongs are great to turn fish steaks but if I’m doing thin fillets on an outdoor grill, I use a ‘fish holder’; a grill accessory with a long handle, which holds the fish between two rectangular pieces of metal mesh, making flipping them during cooking without breaking them easy.
Salmon, especially fresh, may have skin. Personally, I don’t like the skin on a fish fillet nor do I like messing the presentation, by having to flip the fish to remove it, or enjoy having to scrape the meat off the skin as I eat. I empathize with parents who are trying to teach their children healthy eating. Fish is a hard sell to begin with and serving it with that ‘ickey’ skin is no help.
Actually, removing the skin is an easy, if a bit delicate, task. Lay the fillet, flesh down, on a flat surface, thick end front. A cutting board or waxed paper covered counter top is ideal. Place the fish at a slight diagonal to you, and gently lift one corner by the skin. It should start to separate from the meat, allowing you to slip a sharp knife between the two and carefully slice them apart. I usually use a 5 inch knife for this job, but knife size depends on the fillet and whatever you’re comfortable with. The important thing is that the knife is sharp.
Leaving the skin on may cause fish to curl when cooking because the skin contracts. The best way to prevent this is to slit the skin across several times and start the cooking skin side down. Even with the skin removed, some types of fish, like Monkfish, may still have a tendency to curl. I have found that the only way to prevent this is by snipping the darker line of flesh that can be seen when the skin is removed. It runs lengthwise down the center of the fillet and several shallow cuts crosswise with a scissors seems to relax it enough to stay flatter during cooking.
RECIPES: Baked, broiled or poached salmon recipes can be prepared with frozen fillets. I’ve marked them with *.Just add 5-7 min. more to the total cooking time, according to size of piece.
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Poached Salmon with Sauce*: Serves 4
1 ½ lbs. of salmon fillets or steaks
1 Tbs. lemon juice
Bring water to cover and lemon juice to a boil and reduce to an even simmer. Slide fish in gently and cook about 8-10 min. per pound until the flesh turns pale pink and flakes easily. Remove from heat, run fish under cold water to stop cooking and remove skin, and spine bone, if still there in steaks. Serve warm or chill on a covered plate at least 1 hour.
Sauce: Can be made the night before-keep covered and chilled
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sour cream
1 ½ tsp. dill weed or to taste
Mix all ingredients well and allow flavors to meld several hours in the refrigerator. Add more dill to taste if needed. Serve dolloped over chilled fish.
Grilled Balsamic Salmon*: Serves 4 (*Not valid if using a double-contact grill)
4 salmon fillets
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat grill or broiler, place rack about 4 inches from heat and lightly oil or place fish on a lightly oiled pan or piece of foil. Cook fish about 5-8 min. until lightly browned and it flakes easily. Brush liberally on both sides with vinegar; add salt and pepper to taste, plate and sprinkle with dill. Serve hot or room temperature.
Salmon Teriyaki*: Serves 4- From Eat Up and Slim Down by Jane Kirby and David Joachim
(4) 5 oz. salmon steaks or fillets
½ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
3 garlic cloves or ½ tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. chopped fresh ginger OR 1tsp. powdered ginger
1 ½ cups (12 oz.) thawed frozen apple juice concentrate
½ cup finely chopped scallions or onions
Puree everything but scallions and salmon. Refrigerate the fish and onion in the marinade at least 8 hr. or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 deg. and bake the fish in the marinade 8-10 min. until opaque and flakes.
* A good commercial Teriyaki sauce may be used instead. Use only enough to cover the fish and look for those labeled Marinade and Sauce preferably.
Salmon Yakitori: Serves 4-FromPtactical Low-Fat Cookery by Parragon Publishing
4 salmon filets-skinned
8 baby leeks*-trimmed -cut in 2 inch pieces
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup vegetable stock
1/3 cup white wine
2 Tbs. sugar
3 Tbs. cream sherry
¼ tsp. Garlic powder
Cut the salmon into 2 inch chunks. If very thin cut in strips and double over. Thread the salmon and leeks alternately on 8 skewers and chill. Bring the sauce ingredients to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 min. Pour about ½ the sauce in a dish and reserve for dipping at table. Place the skewers on an oiled grill rack or oiled baking sheet, brush liberally with the remaining sauce and cook about 10 min. turning once, basting frequently with the sauce. Serve with reserved sauce.
*Other vegetables than leeks can be served for children-lightly cooked carrot coins or sweet potato chunks, for example.
Salmon in Mustard-Orange Coating*; Per portion
1 salmon fillet
1 Tbs. Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1/8 tsp. sugar-preferably brown
½ tsp. finely diced orange peel
Place the fish on a lightly oiled baking sheet or piece of foil. Spread the mustard evenly on top and sprinkle first with the sugar and then the orange peel. Bake in a 350 deg. oven about 15-20 min. until a light crust forms. Serve hot.
Maple Marinated Salmon*: Per portion
(1) 5-6oz salmon filet – skinned
1 Tbs. oil
2 Tbs. maple syrup
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. bourbon
Whisk the oil, syrup and vinegar and bourbon to combine well. Pour the marinade over the fish in the baking pan, and turn the filet over a few times to coat both sides. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hr. and up to 4 hrs. Bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven for 15-17 min. basting occasionally with pan juices. Serve at once, with any pan juices that remain and garnished with a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper
Salmon with Leafy Greens and Tomatoes*: Serves 2
2 thick center slices of salmon
(1) 5 oz. bag spinach leaves or equal amount of Kale leaves, thick stems removed*
(1) 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbs. oil –optional
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Skin the salmon and bake on a non-stick surface at 350 deg. for 5 min, per inch of thickness or until flakes. When fish is done, put greens in a flat-bottom dish, top with oil if using, tomatoes with juice and garlic. Microwave for 1-2 min. until greens are slightly wilted and tomatoes are warm. Plate greens topped with tomatoes and place a piece of fish diagonally across each plate. Serve at once.
*Depending on the sturdiness of the kale, it may need pre-boiling or a bit longer in the microwave than the spinach, until it is crisp tender.
This is a general delicious fish recipe for all types. I’ll repeat it again next week because it’s also good with tilapia.Top of Form
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Southwest/Italian Seafood Packets*: Serves 4 Almost any fish is recommended for this- From Eat Up and Slim Down by Jane Kirby and David Joachim
(4) 1 lb. fish fillets
½ cup thick salsa OR ¼ cup crushed tomatoes seasoned to taste with dried basil, dried oregano and garlic powder
8 large shelled shrimp
8 Cilantro, parsley or oregano sprigs or basil leaves
1 Lemon or Lime in wedges
Preheat oven to 400 deg. Cut foil or parchment paper into 8 pieces 1 inch longer than fish. Shapes, triangles or hearts make a nice presentation. Place a fillet on each of 4 pieces, top with 2 Tbs. sauce, 2 shrimp and 2 sprigs or leaves of herb. Cover with another piece of foil or paper and crimp edges to seal. Bake 10-12 min. Plate packets immediately and serve hot with fruit wedges. Cut an ‘X’ in the top of each packet to eat.
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