Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Seafood Quesadillas: The Tasty Low Fat Alternative

I love Mexican and Tex-Mex food. But after a while all the fat in those fast food burritos and tacos gets old, plus the pounds and cholesterol start adding up.
One of the best solutions for delicious and healthy burritos, tacos, etc., is to make them with my favorite seafood. I’ve found ordering fish and other seafood over the internet is surprisingly fast (with overnight delivery) and surprisingly economical. Most of all, internet seafood orders allow for better selection and quality than I can find in my neighborhood. 
Here are some of the easiest ways I’ve figured out to have a really tasty Mexican style lunch or dinner without much effort, all based on these online seafood orders. You can even buy crab quesadillas online, and all you have to do is fry ‘em up.
Meanwhile, here’s a tested recipe adapted from (so you know it is healthy) for a crab quesadilla that is bound to please your palate. The only cooking involved is frying the tortilla, which keeps your kitchen cool while the ingredients will add all the heat you can stand!
For 2 quesadillas, combine in a medium bowl, in order:
·         1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
·         1 tablespoon reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
·         2 scallions, chopped
·         2 tablespoons red bell pepper, finely chopped
·         1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
·         Jalapenos, chopped finely (1 tablespoon, or as desired)
·         1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
·         1 tablespoon orange juice
·         1 cup cooked crabmeat (stir in gently)
 Spread half the filling in each a flour tortilla. Fold in half, flatten gently. Fry in nonstick pan with light covering of canola oil until golden on each side, about 2 minutes each. Cut into wedges and serve.
The above recipe can be adapted to suit your tastes. Try it with the meat from cooked King Crab Legs, or buy fresh lobster for a quesadilla royale! Other possibilities include sautéing some white fish fillets, shrimp or prawns with herbs and spices of your choosing. 
Substitute pepper jack cheese for the cheeses and jalapeno above. For milder tastes, omit the hot pepper; for wilder tastes, chop up some habaneros, the second hottest chili peppers on the planet! What would tickle your taste buds?
The really great thing when you place a fresh seafood order via the internet is that you literally have a sea of options awaiting you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lobster 101: How To Choose and Store Fresh Lobster

What do the folks order when they want something special? The Simpsons know! I was just watching a rerun of the Simpsons, in which Homer invited Marge for a romantic evening on the two. With the aid of a French-accented waiter, Homer chooses a lively lobster from the tank before being seated.

Everyone loves lobster. Boiled or broiled, whole or tails, the buttery taste of a tender lobster is a treat for the palate. (It’s also a great conversation starter, especially if you’ve read Trevor Corson’s recent bestseller, The Secret Life of Lobsters.)

Fortunately, you don’t need to go to a fancy French restaurant or summer on the coast of Maine to enjoy lobster at great prices. You can fresh lobster from online seafood markets

at great prices, with overnight delivery across the whole U.S. Usually prices are best during spring and summer.

First let’s look at how to choose a lobster. In future blogs we’ll explore how to cook it.


When you visit your seafood market or order online, keep these points in mind:

1. If you in Homer’s position, choose a lively lobster, one whose tail curls under when taken from the tank.

2. If you are ordering from an online seafood market, choose a market that is known for quality products. You may select either whole lobsters or lobster tails. All are delicious and interchangeable in most recipes.

3. Lobsters must be purchase live or frozen or cooked. (Once a lobster dies, its powerful enzymes begin the process of decomposition.)

4. As you consider sizes, lobster sizes begin at one pound (with shell). Some insist that the best lobsters are those that are between one and two pounds.


You’ve probably seen the careful packaging for shipping lobsters. That’s because these luxury shellfish do require cool, damp conditions. Food experts explain the simple rules for making sure that you keep your lobster safe

to eat.

1. LIVE LOBSTER: Buy fresh lobsters live the same day you plan to cook it. While seafood markets and restaurants can keep them in special saltwater tanks, don’t try it at home. Put your lobster in the refrigerator (the vegetable bin is a handy choice!), then cover with a damp cloth. While a lobster can last up to 36 hours this way, it’s generally better to cook it sooner. In no circumstances should a live lobster be left at room temperature for more than 30 minutes. You’ll know your lobster was fine if its tail curls up during cooking.

2. COOKED LOBSTER: Once cooked, lobster meat keeps for two days in the refrigerator. Remove from shell and store in airtight container. (Not that it actually lasts that long in my house!)

3. FREEZING LOBSTER: It keeps longer if frozen. Remove the lobster meat from the shell and put in a freezer bag, removing as much of the air as possible. Even better, add a brine of one tablespoon of salt dissolved in one cup of water, and add that to the freezer bag or container. For best results, use within one month.

It’s as simple as that to have the great taste of lobster right at home. So buy fresh lobster

today and enjoy! Coming soon: basic and new recipes for lobster and other shellfish.

Monday, June 21, 2010

All About: Smoked Seafood

Smoked fish is somewhat of an exotic treat nowadays - which is a 180 degree turnaround from what life was like for our cave-dwelling ancestors! Before we learn to harness the power of moving electrons to circulate chemically-cooled air in a refrigerator, we simply smoked our'seafood order', straight after we caught it from the ocean. Today we check out some basics about smoked fish, and perhaps get your tastebuds tingling a little …
An introduction to smoking methods
No, we aren’t encouraging you to do anything that might increase your risk of lung cancer… only your risk of becoming addicted to a new favorite dinner! Everybody has their own special and preferred smoking method, but most adhere to some common principles:
  • The fish is treated with salt - either a concentrated brine or a surface coating of dry salt. In the salting process (which will take only a few minutes for smaller fish, but many hours for big fish), the salt draws most of the moisture out of the fish and in turns a little salt leaches in.
  • The salt's antibacterial properties, added to the fact that there is less moisture for bacteria to survive in, make the smoked fish safer to eat without refrigeration.
  • A second cure is done, both to draw more moisture out and to add different flavors. Sugar, spices, herbs, rum and whiskey are all popular curing agents
  • The fish is hung to air dry in a cool breezy spot (which is as likely today to be inside as outside).
  • It is taken down after a tacky coating known as a pellicle has formed - the coating helps seal in moisture, prevent fast rising to the surface and spoiling, and also helps the smoke flavor adhere to the fish
  • The fish is either hot smoked (where it is also cooked) or cold-smoked (like lox)
Best fish for smoking
Usually big deepwater fish are the ones that are smoked. The following are all popular:
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Sablefish
  • Sturgeon
  • Bluefish
Should I smoke my own fish or buy pre-smoked fish?
The advantages and disadvantages of buying pre-smoked fish are much the same as buying anything in ready-made form. You'll need to consider that:
  • Readymade is much faster and easier
  • It also means that you don't waste time and fish in 'learning' the smoking process
  • But it is less personalizable
  • And sometimes pre-smoked fish costs a little more

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cooking Guide for Perfect Crab Legs

There's nothing better than in-season crab legs … especially when they're the big, meaty king crab kind! Fresh frozen king crab legs are delicious, and you can do so much more with them than cooked frozen legs which have to be handled delicately so they don't become tough and chewy. If you've snagged some delicious fresh frozen king crab legs, here are some tips for cooking them!
If you’re buying your crab legs (or any other fresh fish in your seafood order), you'll need around 8 ounces for an entrée-sized serving, and up to a pound for full adult-sized servings.
Defrosting tips
Don't defrost your king crab legs in the microwave - microwaves often have 'hot and cold spots' that mean you'll end up with little cooked, chewy bits on your crab legs. Defrost them in the refrigerator for 8 hours. If you take them out of the freezer before you go to work, they'll certainly be ready in time to cook when you get home.
Cooking styles for king crab legs
Cooking seafood can be tricky at the best of times! Here's how to ensure your king crab legs are delicious by whatever cooking method you favour:
  • To steam crab legs: Bring a pan of water to the boil with some salt in it; pop your crab legs in and set a timer. If your crab legs are fresh frozen, allow them to steam for 12-15 minutes, or until they are warmed through and starting to become aromatic.
  • To boil crab legs: Bring your water to a boil first, then drop the crab legs in. Don't leave the water boiling - let them simmer for around 15 minutes, depending on the size of the legs.
  • To bake crab legs: Crack the crab legs and brush them with a mixture of butter, lemon juice and a seasoning of your choice, then bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes.
  • To microwave crab legs: Note - this is only recommended if you have purchased pre-cooked frozen crab legs. Fresh legs can cook unevenly, as we mentioned earlier.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Get To Know Your Lobsters

I remember the beginning of my love affair with lobster. My grandmother took me out to a San Francisco restaurant all by myself and said I could order anything I wanted. So I asked for lobster! When the waiter set the blazing orange crustacean before me, I just gaped. The waiter astutely offered discreet help in cracking it open for me. Simple boiled lobster with clarified butter—I was hooked!

Since then I’ve discovered that in addition to the well-known Maine variety, there are other sweet, succulent lobsters to enjoy, be they boiled broiled, sauced, souped, or in salad. Basically they fall into two main types, the clawed lobsters (like those from Maine and thereabouts) and the spiny lobsters.

Two different species of clawed lobsters can be found, the American and the European. While overall size is similar, the European lobsters are usually darker and with smaller claws. Their American cousins are found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic Coast from Newfoundland and allegedly as far south as North Carolina. They head for deeper waters in fall and shallower in spring. Their camouflage greenish black shells turn a characteristic bright orange when boiled.

While they may be called “Maine lobsters” in sea food markets and restaurants, I’ve eaten many caught right of the coast of New Hampshire, where I vacationed for several summers, and Cape Cod folks do the same! You get more meat with the clawed lobsters, which is a plus. You can buy the lobster whole, one-clawed (you’ll have to guess what happened to the second claw), just tail, or just claws.

Scientifically speaking, these are not “true” lobsters, nor even closely related to them, and are called “crayfish” in some countries. These denizens of warmer waters can be identified by their very large antenna, lack of claws, and a harder shell.

The spiny lobsters are found in Caribbean waters and off the coast of California as far north as Santa Barbara, as well as in New Zealand and South Africa. They have gained particular fame as the famous “Australian lobster.” They are the most important food export of the Bahamas. Whole, they weigh about two pounds, and the meat is found just in the tail. Gastronomically speaking, they are delicious and tender!

If you want to buy a whole live lobster in the US, you are likely to find the Maine and California lobsters the most easily available when placing a seafood order. You can buy frozen and fresh lobster tails, often called “Australian,” all year long.
The great thing is that they all work just fine in most any of your favorite lobster recipes, from chowder to lobster Newburg. Bon appétit!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Get Cheeky for the Halibut!

Everyone loves halibut -- that firm, white, mild fish that gives the chef great option as it can be grilled or baked, smothered in tasty sauces. But did you know that the most  succulent part of the Pacific halibut is the CHEEK?

That’s right, the cheek. Have you ever seen the head of a halibut? If you have, was it probably an adult, whose developmental pattern is rather incredible. At birth they have one eye one each side of the head and swim rather like a salmon. But when they reach six months, one of those eyes migrates to the other side, and they take on a flounder appearance.

Among flat fish, halibut is truly king, averaging some 24 to 30 pounds (and one monster halibut was recorded at a whopping 734 pounds). You can appreciate why these are favorites of sport fishing!

But I digress. Each halibut also has two cheeks, and this explains why halibut cheeks might at times seem a bit pricey compared to halibut fillets (which are just a wee bit less succulent). Sometimes you may have difficulty finding any, after all, cheeks are only two to a face! If you’ve ever seen these medallions from an Alaska halibut, you might think they were giant scallops. And indeed you can use them like scallops. Popular ways to fix them include sautéing, grilling or baking.

I love to buy fish and seafood, and the season for fresh halibut cheeks is now upon us (March – November). My own philosophy for these tender, savory morsels is that “less is more.” I just toss them in some seasoned flour and sauté them in a 2:1 mix of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and unsalted butter until lightly golden (just takes a few minutes). I squeeze a bit of fresh lemon over it, and sprinkle some capers and fresh ground pepper. With a leafy salad, or perhaps tender asparagus sprigs, and some orzo or rice, I’ve got a five-star meal in my own kitchen with a minimum of time investment and one simple seafood order.

halibut fillets and cheeks, I guess you could say that I am hooked!

When it comes to Pacific
seafood market, real or virtual, keep in mind that the respected environmental organization Seafood Watch has the Atlantic halibut on its “Avoid list,” and the wild-caught Pacific or Alaskan salmon on its “best choice list.” California halibut from hook-and-line and bottom trawl are on their “good” list. So make your choice—and bon appétit!

Note: When you are at the

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Savory Smoked Salmon Entree Recipes

Everyone loves salmon these days for its taste and health benefits. It’s amazing how many folks who love fresh salmon have yet to try smoked salmon or think it is just for special occasions or for adding those valuable Omega-3s to the diet. This tasty fish from the Pacific Northwest can add pizzazz to your dinner any night of the week!

If you are as busy as I am, you’ll appreciate these easy ways to use that smoked salmon and dine like royalty while spending less than 20 minutes in preparing these three great entrees.

  • SMOKED SALMON PIZZA WITH DILL CREAM SAUCE. (with thanks to Wolfgang Puck!) Brush a quality pre-pizza round with olive oil. Scatter sliced onion over top. Bake 6 – 8 minutes at 500°F until golden brown. While pizza cooks, make Dill Cream by mixing 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, 1 tablespoon chopped red onion, and 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. Cool pizza for 5 minutes and spread it over the surface to within an inch of the edge. Cover the entire top with 6 ounces of thinly sliced salmon. Makes 6 servings.
  • ANGEL HAIR PASTA WITH SMOKED SALMON AND CAPERS. Cook angel hair pasta as per package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent. Add ¼ pound of chopped, smoked salmon; continue cooking until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add one cup of heavy cream and 3 tablespoons of capers. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and toss to coat, adding one or two spoonfuls of pasta cooking water to thin if needed. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.
  • BAKED POTATO WITH SMOKED SALMON AND SOUR CREAM. Bake your potato in the oven or microwave it. Place on your dinner plate; slice it in half the usual long way. Top it with sour cream and mounds of chopped smoked salmon. Add a dash of fresh lemon juice. Garnish with a touch of finely chopped fennel bulb and a dill sprig. Each person can make it their very own! One potato & one ounce of salmon per serving.
Tip: When you purchase your smoked seafood from a small family-owned seafood market, you are more likely to get that artisan smoked quality. In addition to filets, we usually have some canned smoked salmon on hand at home. We have discovered endless ways to add its distinctive flavor to appetizers, bagels, pizza, pasta, and so on. I bet I can put salmon into every course from breakfast through dinner! Okay, I have not tried making my own smoked salmon ice cream yet, but hey, why not? I bet it would be the prettiest ice cream you ever saw!