Lent sneaked upon me!. Although time sure got away, here I am, back in time for Ash Wednesday anyway. I hope that you learn a bit about cooking fish and try some of the recipes in the upcoming weeks, especially if you have had bad experiences with seafood. [Please check into the July and August Archives for meatless protein combinations to add to your repertoire of Lenten meals.]
If you have read the “About ” of this blog, you’ll know it started out as an answer to a
plea for help with Lenten dishes, and more meatless recipes throughout the year.
Where I now live was once considered “The Holy Land of the South”, where it was highly Catholic, but even the Baptists here do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday.
For those of you who do not understand, going meatless on Ash Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent,(and in past times, on all Fridays and certain other days), were considered ‘penitential’ or done as a sacrifice. That is why instead of the year-long Friday ‘abstinence’,(abstaining from meat),the faithful in many parts of the world have been given the option of doing something different, perhaps giving up something more in tune with sacrifice for them or ,( even better), for them to take on something…do good works, help someone, give of themselves. I am in favor of that, because, frankly, many meatless meals are far from penitential.
For example, a great couple I knew happened to be one of Old New York Presbyterian money who married Irish Catholic Boston/Philadelphia money. When their nest was empty one Lent, she bemoaned the fact that she did not want to cook fish just for herself. He gallantly stated that he had felt like a good steak anyway, so he took her off to a fine restaurant. They were seated and she left for the ladies’ room. When she returned, they were at the table for some time when she asked, “Where is the waiter with the menus?” He replied, “Oh, he came right away before you came back; I ordered for you?”
“What did you order for me?” she asked.
He replied, “Lobster”.
“JACK!”, she cried.
“What?” he answered, “It’s not meat”.
“That’s not the idea!” ,she practically wailed. Believe me, it would have been far more penitential for her to have gotten a cheeseburger at McDonald’s.
However, we’re going with the flow and going meatless when proscribed and any other time we wish, even if they end up being better meals than quick, meat-laden ones.
Before we start, let me say that I happen to be living in an landlocked area in the United States, and have been for many years. I miss my fresh seafood. Unless you are in another part of the world where you know your seafood is safe, or if you live in the U.S. on a coast and can get truly fresh seafood, your best choice for fish is fresh frozen filets , (alliteration unintended), or shrimp and the like. Most of the fish are caught and processed onboard ship, so they are ‘fresher’ than the ‘fresh’ fish you may be buying from your grocer’s seafood case. Check labels, fine print and ask the counter people. You may find that what they are selling had been previously frozen anyway. They have thawed it, and it’s been sitting around. You better cook that seafood immediately and don’t even think about freezing it again at home.
My next statement may be controversial, but let me tell you why I do it: I buy mostly wild-caught fish. I am concerned about over-fishing; I would like to see food and the fish be sustainable, but most fish and shrimp that are farm-raised are done so in countries where there is little to no inspection or standards, indeed; some are literally raised in sewerage. They are then treated in the muck with anti-fungals and insecticides that are illegal to use in the United States, Canada and a few other countries, but, despite the fact that they then contain levels of the poisons, they are allowed to be sold in your local markets. Until standards are raised and safety standards are consistent, I will continue to buy wild caught seafood, or farm-raised only in in the U.S. and Canada.
Are you worried about your fish being ‘fishy’? Lemon juice is a fish cook’s best friend.
Thaw your fillets in tepid water with a generous squirt of lemon juice. I prefer cod to any other fish for most dishes; it is the least fishy, but whiting and perch can be used, even flounder and you can do it for the halibut.(If you are allergic to lemon, vinegar can be used; apple cider is the best choice, wine or balsamic is you like the taste …and can afford it.)
And I will leave you today with the easiest and most versatile recipe I have.
Thaw the fish filets in lemony water and drain. Press dry with paper towels,(or I have a big Little Mermaid beach towel that I use for the fish alone and wash with my kitchen towels.)
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper, if you wish, but with them or plain, brush it with olive, peanut or vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt,(preferably sea salt, but any will do.) Place the filets flat on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and herbs or spices, [combination suggestions listed below]. Sprinkle with more oil,(and more lemon juice if you’d like), and bake at 375F until well done,(may brown at edges), but not until the fish is rubbery. Serve with rice , pasta or potatoes, with salad or side vegetables.
Some spice or herbs good on fish can be as complex or simple as you’d like. It depends on your taste and if you’d like to serve the fish with seafood sauce or tartar sauce,(then use less herbs and spices). I find it doesn’t need either. There is no right or wrong, just your own personal taste.
Some toppings I use are :
Parsley,(which I usually add with most of the others listed below)
Italian spices (parsley, basil, marjoram, rosemary, all or mix&match)
Dehydrated sweet pepper and tomato flakes
Celery salt/celery seed
(mix or match any of the above)
Garam Masala (it is a bit sweet if you are unfamiliar with it, but it is interesting)
I hope you give these a try.
I will be back; I have more easy fish tricks up my sleeve which include Mahi-Mahi, Salmon, (canned and filets,;BBQ, Salad-Stuffed Tomatoes, Salmon Patties), Stuffed whole fish, Fish Tempura, Smelt, Codfish cakes, Seafood Pasta Salad, Tuna Salads, Creamed Tuna, non-dreadful Tuna Casserole, Twice-baked Potatoes with Shrimp , Oyster Stew, Adriatic Fish, Cajun Fried Fish, Lemon–Pepper Fish…I’ll think of more.
Anything sound interesting? Any requests or questions? Leave a message…(don’t wait for a tone…just Tonette!)