Do you know Donna Hay? Sort of the Ina Garten cum Martha Stewart of Australia? Longtime doyenne of beautiful and luscious down under recipes, best-selling author of 26 cookbooks, editor-in-chief of donna hay magazine with nearly 600,000 subscribers; she’s a cook and writer worthy of your attention.
A few days ago, a lovely Donna recipe, Super Green Stir Fry, flew across my fb feed. My eye was caught; my mouth nearly watered. It was SO green. It did have rice noodles, though….but no meat! Probably Meatless Monday, hm? I was going to make it. Just like that. Except I’d been dreaming about a fish stir fry for Friday Fish. But I hadn’t yet figured it out. Dave, the best sous husband said, “Don’t you mean shrimp??” “Nope,” I said. “I mean fish.” Why couldn’t a famous woman like Donna help a home cook out?
Living in land-locked Colorado, we might not expect Front Range cooks to spend a whole lot of kitchen time on fish. Sure we can bring home a few trout now and again — under 16 inches and no more than four at a time — and there are, of course, some other fish in our state. Sometimes we even order online or great fishing friends gift us a few fillets after a lucky trip. Overall, though, we’re mostly limited to buying our dinner fish at the nearest grocery, warehouse, or specialty-food store. It turns out, the warehouse buy is not such a bad deal. The prices aren’t too awfully difficult and you might as well buy frozen fish from the frozen department. It’s less expensive, often flash-frozen at sea, and most likely the fish behind the counter in the grocery seafood department was once frozen, too. For real savings and ease, I buy a bag of frozen, individually cryovaced fillets now and again, most recently mahi mahi –in Hawaiian, it means strong-strong — that came in under $30 for three pounds.
If you’re a regular reader, you might have read about the fish fajitas I made last week and yes, you guessed it, they’re mahi-mahi. Ready for FRIDAY FISH soup this week, I popped out two more 8-ounce fillets to make an herby and creamy chowder with a nice hint of tomato and an itty-bitty kick. Filling and healthy with chickpeas instead of the typical chowder potatoes, this vegetable-laden, high fiber, high protein stew comes together quickly and might take the place of clam chowder in your foreseeable future. Crusty bread? Butter? Cold oaky Chardonnay? Yes, please do!
You know how when you eat with that same someone in various restaurants over the years, you can nearly look at the menu and figure out what they’ll order? “I knew you’d get that.” Hm. Right again. Such smugness. It’s not totally always, but my husband will regularly choose the fish tacos should they have, like magic (not), appeared on the list. And if he has a choice of beans (pintos or black), he’ll choose black even though at home he swears by my pinto beans. So if I’m one smart cookie, I’ll keep nearly-always-the-choice fish tacos on permanent rotation at our house. And I do. But they need a little tweaking or updating from year to year, especially during FRIDAY FISH weeks. This time, not only did they morph into “Fish Fajitas,” but they’re made in the air fryer. Because I could. But could you bake them in the oven? (See recipe) Of course. Might you fry them in oil? Sure. But I hope you’ll choose the air fryer method. It’s fast; it’s healthy; it’s fun.
Sheet pan dinners have been having a moment– for a quite a while. Even established cooks are hooked on quickly oiling and seasoning meat and vegetables so they can have the thrill of sliding what is actually a half sheet pan (more on that in a minute) into the oven for an ultra easy dinner. Instead of watching and stirring pots on the stovetop, they can text a friend, read a novel, order from amazon, chat up the cat, read Alyce’s blog, sip a glass of wine, or even set the table. Today’s recipe, however, is made on a quarter sheet pan. Just perfect for cooking for one or two or for heating up a very few things. Especially at holiday time when, well, time is of the essence. (Roll eyes upward thinking of the to-do list. Is your tree up? What cookies are you baking? Gifts ordered? Clothes at cleaners? ) And I adore quarter sheet pans, which I first heard about from the fine food writer David Lebovitz. Once David said to get one, I got two. And do they fit in the dishwasher perfectly? Yes. Love that. If it doesn’t go in the dishwasher, I’m thinking twice about keeping it.
If you happened to be in my house and heard me slurring together a long stream of loud and nasty words from the attached garage, you could correctly guess the freezer door had been left ajar and certain preciously-stored food stuffs had begun to defrost. (Or that a mouse had chewed a hole in something like my best bag of coffee.) Now I’m not dumb and my memory is intact; I always lock the freezer door after grabbing a pack of burgers or a quart of soup. I learned the hard way during Covid’s scarcity months that’s the only foolproof method to insure everything remains at 0 degrees F, which is where you need long-stored food. Somehow in the previous day or two, I had turned the key but perhaps didn’t push the door closed tightly. Luckily (phew and phew again) most things were still hard as a rock, but there were a couple of packages of –sigh– thawing meat and fish out toward the front of the middle shelf. 3 boneless heritage pork chops were tossed into the fridge for another night, but 2 good-sized tuna steaks needed nearly immediate cooking. Had I planned on fish? Did I have anything to go with it? Well, I’d better because there was going to be tuna for dinner.
For Hot Cross Buns and Easter brunch ideas, scroll down to bottom under LIFE GOES ON.
No matter what kind of fish or seafood you’re cooking, there are two basic secrets to its success. #1 Don’t overcook it. #2 You need a great sauce. I mean, think about it. Even everyday sorts of fish or seafood like fried shrimp or fish and chips come with a sauce you just have to have: cocktail sauce for the shrimp and tartar sauce for the fish. Right? This is also true of fish cooked by chefs in upscale restaurants, though the sauces may (or may not) be a tish more sophisticated. Sometimes butter and/or lemon are all that’s called for, as in Sole Meunière, which is not much more than thin and floured sole fillets cooked in–yes– butter and lemon, then sprinkled with, what else? Parsley. Simple is as simple does. And the dish has been top drawer famous forever! No matter the fish, it is often the sauce that counts.
That’s especially true in my quick Friday Fish for this week, Pan-Seared Halibut with Tomato-Sweet Pepper Salsa. Everyone knows pico de gallo and other sorts of Mexican salsas often made with cilantro and jalapeños, but a fresh tomato salsa (salsa only means “sauce”) without those two ingredients and with sweet peppers, tiny ripe tomatoes, parsley, green onions, and lemon, orange, or lime is something different. That difference is smile-worthy because instead of being overwhelmed by large-scale flavors, this mild fillet is enhanced and freshly seasoned by what is almost a baby salad garnish — which takes the dish over the top to my tastebuds.
You adore clam chowderbut your cupboard is full of tuna. It’s ok; I’ve got it covered. You can still have chowder–with tuna!! Does it work? Yes, yes; it totally does. And is it yummy? It definitely is. I thought about making chowder with canned tuna for a long time before I did it, but now that I have, it’s in my playbook for good. Tuna Chowder is easy, inexpensive, and even qualifies for what we’d call, “Cheap Eats.” This version adds some tiny ditalini pasta for fun and texture, but if you don’t like it, just add extra potatoes and you’ll be fine. Last time I cooked shrimp, I saved the shells in my freezer and was able to make a fast shrimp stock to bolster the flavor of the chowder. (Buying fish stock is above my pay grade at $3 a 15-ounce can. You can make it, though.) Vegetable broth is ok, too, and is better when spiked with a little clam juice, which is sold right near tuna at the store. Even chicken broth works in a pinch.
It’s easy to avoid cooking fish or to cook it as simply as we can possibly figure because we’re unsure of our fish-cooking abilities. Or maybe fresh fish isn’t so available and feels expensive — especially in a land-locked state. Perhaps there’s a fear factor involved or we wonder, “Is fish really good for us?” How fast does it go bad? When is it done? How do I not overcook it? So we go with grilled wild salmon once a month in good weather. Salt, pepper, lemon. Air Fried fish and chips might be a step up. A pound of shrimp for Christmas Eve. Truth to tell, fish is good for us, is readily available nationwide (even if frozen), and is the original fast –and easy — food. Lots of people order fish from restaurant menus, but hesitate to cook much at home. Want to change that at your house?
If you’re a longtime More Time reader, you’ll have seen more than your share of caprese salads on the blog. While I’m not as addicted as it might appear, I’ll admit I make several during the warm months and…they are definitely photogenic. I mean. Red. Green. White. The colors are made to go together and not just in the garden or at the table. For instance, how many countries boast flags in those colors? Ok, I checked. Here they are (scroll down a while!). You have to admit, though, that this is actually a salmon salad; it just happens to be nestled into asparagus, greens, and yes, ok … caprese around the edges.
While it always sounds like a joke, it definitely isn’t. There really are entire series of cooking classes devoted to BOILING WATER. As in, “He can’t boil water.” Well, kinda-sorta, but yes:
Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures — Boiling Water 101 was a class I taught for 10 years at a local school in Minnesota. This recipe was one I designed to teach a basic skill but also deliver complex flavors and serve as a touchstone for family meals or entertaining. You really need to practice braising/poaching/blanching as often as you can because wet-heat cooking is much more subtle than dry-heat cooking but so much easier. Recipes like this will change your outlook on cooking for sure. Get wet! —