This week is the start of my once-a-year FRIDAY FISH series. Since 2015, I’ve each spring been posting six fish or seafood recipes, one for each Friday in Lent, the season of thoughtful observance leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus on Easter. Whether or not you follow any sort of faithful journey, you can still get some new ideas for cooking fish–who doesn’t need those? For grins and giggles — I think some of these meals qualify as fun— and to see what’s happened in other years, click on FRIDAY FISH in the topics cloud or type “Friday Fish” into the search box. To give you a few ideas, I’ve included in this post photos and links for some favorite FRIDAY FISH posts from the last couple of years.Jump to Recipe
For whatever reason you’re reading, I hope you’ll follow along closely over the next month and a half and cook my FRIDAY FISH–even if you don’t do it on Friday. I try to always include a recipe using canned fish of some kind as it’s easily accessible, shelf-stable, and inexpensive.
Salmon and shrimp usually show up because they’re easily found in all the stores and are popular; I’m continually looking for new ways to serve both. If I can come up with a new sandwich, that’s in the lineup, too, as fish sandwiches are eaten by folks who eat fish no other way. Thank you, McDonald’s. Ditto fish tacos. Thank you, Ensenada, Mexico. (I’ll be there next month; it can’t come too soon.) I try to encourage everyone to consider frozen fish because it’s sometimes fresher (frozen on the boat or soon after its caught) and many times is less expensive. If it’s in the freezer, there are no worries about it spoiling, right? Those of us in landlocked states depend on the trusty frozen aisle more often than not. Those of you on the coast; buy fresh when you can!
So first up for FRIDAY FISH, 2022, is SALMON AND VEGETABLES ON TWO-CHEESE TABASCO GRITS. In October of 2020, I posted “Salmon on Two-Cheese Tabasco Grits” and had lovely responses all around — this meal deserves each and every one if I did dream it up myself. I’ve made the dish a few times since then, but have added a slew of vegetables to the pot and am all the happier for it. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the updated healthier version. We begin by cooking a pot of grits that are seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, tabasco, and later topped with both extra-sharp Cheddar and blue cheese. (Go on; try it. You’ve heard of shrimp and grits, I know. Old fashioned grits count as whole grains and a cup even has 4 grams of protein.) After covering the grits to stay warm or even while they’re cooking (don’t forget to stir them often), a big slew of well-seasoned onions, peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini are sautéed in a large skillet. At the last minute, we toss in cherry tomatoes and garlic and then all of the vegetables are tipped into a bowl, covered, and set aside. The pan is wiped out, oiled again and the salmon fillets are cooked up quick like a bunny. (Does rabbit cook quickly? Not sure I remember for sure though I’ve cooked it a time or two.)
I give you a good tip in the recipe directions about how to know when they’re done as my students complain about overdone fish and who doesn’t? A warm plate comes from the oven, the grits are spread on it (in the shape of the fillets but a little larger) and is then topped with those two robust cheeses I mentioned earlier. The salmon snuggles down into that warm bed; veggies are soon cuddled up, over, and around. Et voila! Dinner is served. I’ve written the recipe for two people, but after reading it, you’ll see there’ll be little problem in doubling or tripling it — or more. You could even roast or grill a couple of sides of salmon, cook up big pots of grits and vegetables, and serve this to a group. After the recipe, check out TIPS and I’ll throw out some ideas for changing up the meal. You’ll have a few of your own, I know, when you try this:
SALMON AND VEGETABLES ON TWO-CHEESE TABASCO GRITS
- 2 cups cooked stone ground grits, cooked according to package directions plus seasonings—see instructions below
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 big shakes of Tabasco sauce — about ¼ teaspoon– or to taste
- Olive oil
- 2 (4-6 ounce) salmon fillets, skin on and patted dry with paper towels (Take the salmon out of the fridge 10 minutes to warm up a bit before you start cooking.)
- Small red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced thinly
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced (can use summer squash or half and half)
- 4 ounces (about 1 ⅓ cups) button mushrooms, cut in half
- Crushed red pepper
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese. I like Tillamook.
- 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (Buy a small block of cheese and crumble it yourself.)
- WARM BOWLS: Place shallow bowls or dinner plates on rack at center of oven @150 degrees F.
- MAKE GRITS/COVER TO KEEP WARM: Make the grits as per package directions (including salted butter), adding an extra ¼ teaspoon extra salt, a ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, and the two big shakes of Tabasco sauce – or more to taste. When done, cover tightly and leave on the burner you cooked them on to keep warm while you make the salmon. If they are too thick when you begin plating, stir in a little extra milk, water, or butter and gently heat again if necessary. They should be creamy. See post for link to cooking directions if needed. Extra grits can be reheated gently with a little more milk for the next morning’s fried eggs. Grits directions usually indicate cooking in all water, but I sub milk for a quarter of that.
- SAUTÉ VEGETABLES/COOK SALMON: Heat a heavy, deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high flame for 2 minutes. Pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil, swirl to cover pan, and heat briefly. Add the onion, pepper, squash, and mushrooms. Season generously with ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and a good pinch of crushed red pepper. Sauté 4-5 minutes, stirring, until nearly tender. Toss in the cherry tomatoes and garlic; cook for another minute or two. Remove vegetables to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Wipe out skillet, adding water and scraping out if needed. Pour in another two tablespoons of olive oil into the pan an inch or two apart, let heat once again and carefully lay the salmon fillets skin side down. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper. Cook 4-6 minutes or so until salmon skin is crisp and you can see the salmon is cooked about half-way up the sides. I like my salmon medium, so cook it until it’s just firm, barely flakey, but still juicy at center – about 125 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. FDA says 145 degrees F for fish.
- SERVING: Remove warm bowls from oven. Spoon a cup of cooked grits into the center of each shallow bowl or dinner plate and spread them out to provide a bed for the fish. Sprinkle evenly with a tablespoon each of grated cheddar and crumbled blue cheese. Place a salmon fillet on the cheesy grits and spoon in the reserved vegetables. Serve hot or warm. Pass the bottle of Tabasco at the table. If I could avoid it, I wouldn’t make extra portions for the next day. That said, leftover grits are perfect for breakfast; extra veggies might go in salad or omelet; a cold salmon fillet could be used to make my Salmon Cheese spread or for salmon salad.
TIPS to change it up: *Skip the grits for low-carb. *Use quinoa, rice, or mashed potatoes in place of grits. *Increase heat by adding a minced jalapeño or more crushed red pepper to the vegetable sauté. Or add more hot sauce to grits. *Vegan/Vegetarian: Make more vegetables and increase amount and types of mushrooms. Nix cheese and salmon. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs over the vegetables. *Swap in broccoli and cauliflower florets for the peppers and zucchini. *Skip the onions in the sautéed vegetables and add caramelized onions to the grits. *Sub in another fish fillet for the salmon or sauté a mess of shrimp. Boneless chicken breasts would work, too, though I’m not too fond of them. I’d roast bone-in breasts in the oven instead. What about boneless pork chops or sliced pork tenderloin? *Leave out the cherry tomatoes and add kalamata olives to the vegetables when serving. *Add minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, sage, etc) to the vegetables with the tomatoes and garlic. *Other ideas?
TIPS to reduce waste or costs: *Buy frozen salmon fillets on sale. *Save ends of vegetables in a gallon storage bag in the freezer for stock. * Toss the rest of the cherry tomatoes in salad or pop them in your mouth for a healthy snack. You can stuff them with lots of different fillings for an appetizer; google it. Don’t put them in the fridge unless they’re about to go bad and you can’t use them. Tomatoes belong at room temperature. They’re easy to cook into a fresh tomato sauce, too. *Make grits fries with leftover grits.
If you liked this, you might also like my Oven-Roasted Rosemary Halibut with Fresh Tomato-Zucchini Sauce (shown on white beans).
LIFE GOES ON:
I’m in prayer for peace in the Ukraine and have all positive hopes for a fast denouement to the fighting. If you follow social media or watch tv, one moment there’s something horrifically depressing and the next there’s a scene or words terrifically uplifting. Perhaps as in all war.
As a cook and lover of my own home, I think about all the people who fled their homes leaving their kitchens, larders, and hearths for cold places unknown. I picture the empty kitchens and dining room tables strewn with the detritus of fast packing instead of being set for the next meal. People searching for nuts or trail mix to stuff in their backpacks. Moms and Dads hoping they can get formula for babies when supplies runs slim. Grandmas grabbing for family photos.
At the same time, there’s the grateful feeling about the Covid threat going down, if not disappearing totally. Yes. I shopped yesterday sans mask. Went to brunch after church on Sunday. Things are changing. The fear of this plague is dumbed down and some of it is a distant memory. When I brought groceries home, I was reminded of 2020 shopping — everything picked up or delivered and all food and purchased items cleaned, sanitized, or even bleached before being put away. I bleached the counters and door handles afterward. Hopefully never again.
Closing my eyes tightly and visualizing peace (some call this prayer), I’m glad you’re here in the kitchen with me this week. It means a lot. We’re not meant to be alone. Stay well and cook on,
World Central Kitchen donations