MY — June 2012
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Healthy Cooking 101
Dawn Bause


Last month I talked to you about “Turning Veggies into Happy Meals” this month, I want to share with you my love for fish and seafood, and how simple it is to cook.

Fish is truly one of the super foods that is at the top of my list for “Simple, Nutritious and Delicious”. My philosophy when it comes to fish: prepare it simply, and serve it with simple sauces that complement the dish and enhance the flavor.

There are a couple secrets to cooking fish successfully that I want to share with you. The first one is please, do not overcook it! Fish will toughen and lose its flavor and moisture when cooked too long. It becomes dry and tasteless.

The second is to buy fish from a reputable fish market or counter at a supermarket, and make friends with the “fishmonger.” Freshness and quality influences the taste and cooking time. Fresh fish should smell like clean water. Under no circumstances should you buy a nasty smelling fish. Trust me, cooking won’t improve it?? The flesh should be vibrant. If there is liquid on the flesh it should be clear, not milky. Milky liquid on a filet is the first stage of rot.

Fish can be easily prepared using a variety of techniques. Grilled, poached, oven-baked, broiled or sautéed. Let’s talk about those now.

What’s so nice about grilling fish is the prep time is minimal and the clean-up is even faster. I’m pretty consistent with how I prepare my fish for grilling. First of all I make sure the fish is rinsed and patted dry. For thinner filets like tilapia, white fish orsole, I always drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper. If I am going to use lemon or balsamic vinegar, I put that on after the cooking is finished. I will also drizzle the grilled fish with a little more extra virgin olive oil just before serving for more flavor.

When I am grilling thicker filets like salmon, sea bass, halibut or swordfish, I like to marinate them prior to grilling. Email me for some great fish marinades.

I like to grill directly on a grate. If the fish is thinner or more delicate I will cover the grate with heavy duty aluminum foil, and spray it with high temperature PAM.

Grill fish only until the flesh is no longer translucent but opaque all the way through and separates easily with the touch of a fork. Thickness, not weight, determines cooking time. The basic rule is to calculate 6 to 8 minutes per inch of thickness in the meatiest part, for fresh or defrosted fish. If you are cooking in parchment, you should calculate 5 minutes more. You’ll only want to turn the fish once.

Poached fish is a simple and delicious dish that can be prepared quickly and easily. When fish is poached it is cooked in a court bouillon (pronounced “coor boo-YONE”) a flavorful, aromatic liquid used for poaching fish and shellfish. The simplest court bouillon consists of nothing but salted water, and seasoned with ingredients like dill, peppercorns, bay leaf and some white wine. A lemon wedge may also be added. Poaching is a good technique for cooking lean fish like tilapia, cod, sole, haddock, snapper or halibut, as well as fatty fish like salmon or trout. Poaching preserves moisture and adds flavor without adding fat.

Use a stainless steel pan, if you have a good quality pan and heat it high enough the fish should not stick with a bit of olive oil. Always rinse and dry the fish before adding salt and pepper. Add oil to pan and start heating pan to medium heat. Add fish even before the pan is heated up. It will brown but will take a little bit longer at medium heat verses high. Depending on the thickness you’re looking at about 4 minutes per side, and remember to only turn the fish once.

Fish contains natural fish oils so you do not need to add too much oil before baking. You can add seasoned panko breadcrumbs on top of the fish, to keep it juicy throughout cooking. The general rule with fish baking is to bake the fish for 10 minutes for every inch of its thickness. 450F is a suitable temperature for most baked fish recipes. Unless the fish is an inch or less thick, you should turn it half way through the cooking time. Cooking times also vary depending on the density of the fish. While cooking fish, tuck any thin ends underneath so it cooks evenly. The fish is done when it is opaque all the way through, when it is 145F in the center, or when you can easily flake the flesh at its thickest point with a fork. To stop fish sticking to the baking dish, you can place it on a bed of onions, celery, or both. This makes the fish stay in one piece when removing it from the baking dish and gives it some extra flavor.

That’s it for this month and remember…. there’s nothing fishy about fresh fish!!

Contact Dawn about private cooking parties, team building events, and foodie trips to Italy