Archives for : General

Cooking Mussels

There are various ways to cook mussels to please different palates. You can stew them, fry them, roast them, broil them, steam them and even pickle them. Some people eat them raw and some people enjoy turning them into pie.  I’ve even heard of people using them in sausage.

I’ll discuss the different ways to prepare a mussel and I’ll begin with how to stew them. Start with a quarter pound of butter. Melt the butter in your stewing pot.  When the butter is melted you will want to add a little salt and pepper and a small piece of your favorite cheese. Slowly pour in one pint of milk and boil the mussels for five minutes.

If you prefer fried foods and want the kids to try them then drain the mussels.  You might even want the kids to help you with this recipe. You’ll need three eggs and make your own bread crumbs or you can buy a bag of bread crumbs. Beat three eggs and mix in some bread crumbs. Salt and pepper your mussels lightly and then dip each one into the egg and bread crumb mixture. Heat up some butter or frying oil and gently place the coated mussels into the frying pan.  Be careful not to splash yourself with the hot butter or oil.

Roasted mussels can be created simply by washing and wiping off the shell and placing them into a heated oven. The trick is to be sure the upper shell is facing downward so you don’t lose the juice. When the shells open serve them with a pepper sauce, horseradish, or your favorite sauce. You could coat them with salt and butter and serve.

If you would like to try to pickle them you’ll need a gallon of mussels, one tablespoon of salt, one tablespoon of black pepper, one tablespoon of allspice, a bit of cayenne pepper, and six blades of mace (which is the outer shell of nutmeg).  Mix all of these ingredients into a stewing pot and add the mussels.

Stew the mussels with the ingredients mentioned and then lay them flat until they cool. Put them in a jar with half of the stew juice and half vinegar. Let them sit for two days and then enjoy!  Who knew there were so many ways to cook a mussel? 

How to Cook and Prepare Pampano

Pampano, or pompano, is a saltwater fish that has a silver-colored body and small scales. It has white, meaty flesh similar to salmon. Although not found in most supermarkets, pampano is usually sold at Asian markets. The price per pound is not as expensive as other fish, such as salmon or halibut, but it has a superb taste that can easily be the star of any seafood dish.

Pampano is prepared like all other fish. First, you must wash it thoroughly. Make a small slit, about three or four inches long, along the stomach. All of the organs are closer to the head than to the tail, so you can easily pull out the guts from this angle. Wash the fish thoroughly again, and rub about half a tablespoon of salt all around the fish.

To pan fry the fish, you will need a frying pan or wok (which is best) filled with about an inch of oil. The fish will release water, and water and hot oil do not mix. So, make sure that you have a splatter screen to protect you from splattering hot oil.

Make salsa to complement the pampano by blending together cilantro, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and hot green peppers (optional). However, you may see some foam because of the tomatoes. Or, you can chop these ingredients very finely so that the ingredients are more fresh.

To make fish soup with pampano, which is more delicious than pan fried pampano, you will need the following ingredients:

– 5-6 slices of fresh ginger

– 2 cloves garlic, crushed

– 1/2 medium yellow onion

– 2 medium tomatoes, cut into quarters

– 2 cups water

– salt and pepper to taste

– 1 pampano fish, cut into thirds

In a pot, heat up about 1 tablespoon of canola oil. When the oil is sufficiently hot, add the ginger, garlic, and onion. Add the water right after adding the onion. Add the tomatoes after a few minutes. Allow all of these ingredients to boil. Add the pampano, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Turn down the heat and allow the pampano and soup to simmer for about ten minutes, or until you know that the fish is quite firm. You can add vegetables to this soup, such as leafy greens like spinach.

Pampano is delicious any way that you cook it. You can take these recipes and change them to your liking, but they are great recipes for meals when you have company over.

Is Eating Fish really Good for the Brain – Yes

The answer parents always give to this question is yes, and they are absolutely right! Science even agrees with this. Over the years studies have been conducted to find a link between eating fish and a healthy brain. Here are just a couple of things they concluded.

In one study that was conducted a number of elderly people were asked to track their fish intake over five years. When they went over the data the study found that people who were eating broiled or baked fish that were high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are called DHA and EPA three or more times per week had a nearly twenty six percent of having the silent brain lesions that can cause such things as dementia and stroke compared to people who did not eat fish regularly. In fact they also found that eating only one serving of this type led to a thirteen percent lower risk. They also found that people who regularly ate these types of fish had fewer changes in the white matter in their brains.

There are previous finding in the arena of fish effects on the brain. Such findings have shown that fish and fish oil can help prevent stroke. It can also help prevent memory loss. Not only does it prevent memory loss but it also slows cognitive decline by the tune of ten percent per year. This is because, again, of the omega-three content of the fish. In this study it was found that persons that consumed one or more servings had a rate of decline in cognitive function by the tune of ten percent to thirteen percent per year as compared with those with less than weekly consumption. In fact so pronounced is this decline that is like being three to four years younger in age then your actual calendar age. Pretty powerful stuff ay?

Omega three seems to be an important factor here. The reason why its so important is because it has been shown that it’s an essential component for neurocognitive development and normal brain function. Without it our brains just wouldn’t develop properly. The authors of these studies concluded that the data strongly suggest that eating one or more fish meals per week may protect may protect against cognitive decline associated with older age. They will be doing different more precise studies that they believe will help them understand the nature of the association.

Types of Salmon

Salmon are a diverse fish species which includes at least one fish type not normally called salmon, the rainbow trout. Salmon live in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as in fresh water in America and elsewhere. Many eat smaller ocean fish, but at least one type feeds on plankton. Salmon typically leave the ocean to swim up freshwater rivers to spawn, some surviving the spawning, but many dying during the process. There are, however, types of salmon that live year-round in fresh water.

Atlantic Salmon are essentially one species, and they are found throughout the northern Atlantic Ocean. Because more than 50% of them may survive spawning in rivers, they live longest and attain the biggest size of any salmon species. They are the type of salmon found most often in fish farms.

Sockeye Salmon are not meat-eaters; they feed on plankton. They live all over the northern Pacific Ocean, as far south as California and as far abroad as Japan and Siberia. They are a popular canning choice and are also known as Blueback Salmon.

Pink Salmon are the shortest-lived of the salmon varieties because they spawn in their second year of life and die upon spawning. They are also called humpback salmon because of how they look. Pink Salmon also live in the northern Pacific. They are the most populous of the salmon varieties.

Coho Salmon are most common along the northern North American pacific coast but live all over the north Pacific. In the ocean they are silver, so they are sometimes called Silver Salmon. In rivers while spawning they develop pink spots and become hard for fishers to catch.

Two other Pacific Ocean salmon are the Chum, which can be found in warmer waters farther south, and the Cherry Salmon, which live only in the Pacific off Siberia, Japan, and Korea.

Some salmon are also found only in fresh water, but can easily be mistaken for other salmon. Cutthroat Salmon live in fresh water used by some Pacific salmon for spawning. The Steelhead Salmon is more commonly known as the Rainbow Trout, but is actually a freshwater salmon subspecies.

Nearly every type of salmon is used in cooking, but the main varieties used are Atlantic, Coho, Pink, Sockeye, and Chum. Most Atlantic Salmon available at the retail level is fish-farmed, while some Pacific Salmon is fish-farmed as well as available from wild fisheries. Wild salmon has a reputation as better quality and better tasting.

What is Samphire

Samphire is a wild food that was once recognized as a ‘free food’ for the people who lived in coastal areas and salt marshes where it grows in abundance.  However, lately it has become very much a ‘designer’ food favored by many top chefs and the price of this free wild food has shot up in the shops where it is sold. Gone are the days when fishmongers used it as a garnish the wet fish, now shops and delicatessens get a high price for this fresh or pickled vegetable.

Just what is samphire?

You may know samphire by one of its many other names – these are sea asparagus, sea pickle, poor man’s asparagus, glasswort, sea fennel and crest marine. It was originally called “sampiere”, (from the French “Saint Pierre” (Saint Peter) the patron saint of fishermen). It is actually a tender, smooth herb with a woody base and it grows on sea shores, mainly on large rocks, where it has the proximity of the salty sea water. As well as on the European sea shore, this plant is found in many tidal areas, on muddy, sandy flats and very often around river estuaries and tidal creeks, but it is NOT a form of seaweed it is actually a plant of the salicornia species.

Samphire looks rather like a tiny, spineless cactus with long, bright-green shining leaves and very small yellowish-green blossoms. The very bright green stalks look very much like baby asparagus but have a very salty taste. It does have a fairly short season – lasting from around the middle of June until late August, although it actually begins growing in the autumn but hibernates during the winter until the first warm spring weather arrives. 

This is an easy plant to pick; you simply cut of the tender tops of the plant leaving the more woody stems in the ground. The early samphire (picked in May and June) can then be eaten raw in a salad; it has a real salty taste of the sea and is delicious with a good vinaigrette on it., to eat it raw just make sure that you wash nit well in cold running water. As the season progresses and the plant becomes bigger it needs to be blanched for a few minutes to tenderize it and get rid of the excess salt – it is then lovely as a vegetable either boiled or fired in butter, it is a really unusual and tasty vegetable, certainly a taste that is unique and a perfect vegetable to serve with fish.

Samphire doesn’t have a very long shelf life so it does need using as quickly as possible after picking, it will keep in the refrigerator for around one week.

Samphire also makes a very tasty soup, and is lovely pickled – this is what we do with the samphire that we pick, it looks very much like small gherkins when pickled and is very unusual and tasty. You use it as you would a pickled gherkin and it can be used in recipes that ask for capers as a tasty alternative.

Health wise, many people use samphire as an aid to digestion and as it is also a diuretic it is claimed to be an aid to weight loss.It is also very good for you as it contains minerals, iodine and is rich in Vitamins A,C and D – in fact pickled samphire was often taken on board ship for sailors during long journeys to help stop scurvy.

So, next time you are by the coast in early summer, keep your eyes peeled – you may just be able to find some of this wonderful vegetable that is available free for the taking.

Guide to Cleaning Trout

After you have caught your trout, the next thing for you to do, is to clean it thoroughly before you can turn it into a tasty meal. You have the option of either cooking it right away, or freezing it until you are ready to eat it. The following guide will show you how to clean trout.

Set up a cleaning area

Fresh fish has a strong smell and cleaning the trout outside the house will keep the fish smell out of your house. You can dedicate an old bench for this purpose, you will also need a hose, a knife, an old cooler box and a bucket to clean the trout.

If you don’t have enough space outside to use as a cleaning area, then you can clean the trout in your kitchen sink. Place the trout in an old cooler box and fill it with cold water while you prepare to start the cleaning process.

Remove the scales

Hold the trout it firmly with one hand. Use a scaling knife  scrape off all the scales on the trout on both sides. While removing the scales, you may have to rinse the scales off so that you can see the remaining scales on the trout.

Use your hose to clean off the scales and look for any remaining scales on the trout and remove them. After you have completed the process of removing scales, it is now time to rinse the trout well with plenty of water.

Remove the entrails

The next step, is to remove the entrails from the trout. Hold the trout firmly in the palm of your hand with the trout’s belly facing upwards towards you and the head away from you. Place the sharp tip of your knife in the vent hole and start cutting towards the head, continue cutting the trout until you are nearly reaching the jaws.

Place the trout on a clean cutting board on one side and cut off the head. Make sure that you cut through all the way and remove the head. Using your hands, pull out all the entrails from the inside of the trout and throw them into the waste bucket.

Use water to rinse clean the inside of the trout, if there are any remaining tissues along the spine area with blood underneath, you can use your thumb to pull it out. Rinse the trout again to remove any remaining tissue inside the trout.

Freeze the trout

After thoroughly rinsing the trout, place it in a plastic freezer bag for storage. If you want to, you can add a pinch of salt, seal the freezer bag tightly and put the trout in the freezer until you are ready to eat it.

Clean up the area where you were cleaning the trout. Dispose off  the head and guts of the trout in a plastic bag and seal it tightly, to keep away flies and reduce the smell of fish.

How to Cook Carp

The very idea of eating carp is something which will be extremely off putting to many people familiar with the fish. Carp are often considered to be ornamental fish, contained in the ponds and pools of exotic gardens, growing to impressive sizes in the course of a lifetime which can span decades. Their thick, scaly skins and the number of bones contained in the meat are further negatives for sport fishermen even more in tune with the nature of the fish and carp are usually therefore returned unharmed to the water from which they are caught.

Cooking and eating carp is popular from Eastern Europe, across Asia, as far as China. Generations of people have learned how to scale carp, skin them and prepare them for cooking in simple ways that allow them to be enjoyed in a manner similar to many other types of fish. For this reason, it is important for anyone considering cooking fresh carp to know the techniques required in this respect, or arrange for them to be carried out on their behalf.

Carp is delicious deep fried in either breadcrumbs or batter. The fillets should firstly be patted in flour. If frying them in breadcrumbs, they should then be drawn through beaten egg before being patted on both sides in breadcrumbs. If frying them in batter, pat them in flour before dipping them in the batter and allowing the excess batter to drip back in to the bowl. Deep fry the carp fillets in moderately hot oil, for four to five minutes, until the batter or breadcrumbs turns beautifully golden. Serve with a green leaf salad and wedges of fresh lemon.

Carp fillets are delicious baked in the oven in many ways but a problem can be encountered with them drying out during cooking. For this reason, try laying the fillets on a large sheet of foil, seasoning them with salt and black pepper and pouring over a little fresh chicken stock. Wrap the foil to form a sealed but loose tent, which keeps the steam created by the stock in the package and the fish moist. Bake at 350F/180C for twenty-five to thirty minutes, depending upon the thickness and size of the fillets. To test whether the fillets are cooked, very carefully unwrap the foil and use a skewer to test for resistance. When the fillets are cooked, the skewers should pass through without any difficulty. Where resistance is encountered, further cooking time will be required.

What you need to know when Buying Eggs

When buying eggs there are a number of confusing and misleading terms used to describe the product and the conditions under which they are produced – but with a bit of research, you can cut through the marketing hype. Here are a few facts that will help you to make informed decisions when buying eggs.

~ White, green or brown?

Eggs naturally come in a variety of colors, depending on the breed of the chicken. Although it’s tempting to think a brown or green egg is a better egg, it’s important to note that shell color is not a good indicator of the quality of the egg.

~ Medium, large, extra large?

Eggs come in a variety of sizes depending on the breed, but also depending on the age of the hen. Size is important if you’re following a recipe where the ratio of moisture to dry ingredients are critical, such as cakes or soufflés. If you’re baking a cake, consider weighing the eggs   rather than relying on the “large” eggs you’ve purchased being the same as the “large” eggs used when testing the recipe.

~ Price?

Eggs labeled “organic” or “free-range” are typically more expensive in the grocery story than conventional eggs, but unfortunately, they aren’t always as “organic” or “free-range” as one might expect. However, eggs grown locally by hobby farmers are usually cheaper than supermarket eggs labeled as organic/free-range, and may actually be closer to the “ideal” egg than those labeled

~ Commercial feed versus “free-feeding”?

When considering the quality of the eggs you buy, you first need to know what the laying hens are fed. Factory-farm hens are fed cheap commercial feed   which consists of corn, soy, cottonseed and a wide variety of additives. Commercial feed may also contain animal by-products, including ground bones, feathers, other animal “parts” and manure, as well as commercially raised grains.

Commercial feed, especially in a large-scale factory farm, is laced with antibiotics, which are passed on to the eggs and to the consumer. And of course, those commercially raised grains contain pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

The natural diet for a “free-feeding” chicken consists of insects, plant material, seeds and “left-overs” – chickens are efficient scavengers. While chickens may work over a manure pile, they’re looking for seeds, not looking to dine on manure.

~ Caged, cage-free, free-range or pastured?

After the quality of the feed, the hen’s living conditions are the next thing to consider when buying eggs. Caged hens live their lives in cramped dirty cages, often pecked by their roommates or injured by the cages themselves. They may also be force-molted (starved for five to 14 days) to increase production – hens don’t produce eggs during their natural molts which can last weeks or even months.

Cage-free may sound better, but in truth, the hens are keep en masse on concrete floors with no access to daylight or natural feed or feeding. Cage-free hens are also fed commercial feed rather than getting a more natural healthy diet.

Free-range may sound like the best choice, but this can also mean the hens are confined to a pen and they may still be fed cheap commercial feed. The USDA definition of free-range is that the chickens “have access to the outside” – but doesn’t specify that “outside” is an area for natural foraging.

The designation “pastured” is ideal. Pastured means the hens have access to a more natural feed – grasses, bugs, seeds – in a more natural feeding environment – spending most of their day scratching and foraging for food.

~ Organic?

While it’s tempting to believe that eggs labeled organic are healthier and the hens are producing eggs in a more natural environment, this may not be the case. “Organic” only means the hens are fed organic commercial feed – they don’t necessarily have access to a more natural diet of insects and plants, nor can they feed naturally by foraging.

~ Good for you?

Eggs – the right eggs – are not only a great source of protein, but of Omega-3 fatty acids, various B vitamins, vitamins A, D and E, antioxidants, and traces of iron, phosphorus and magnesium. Truly free-range eggs   may also be lower in cholesterol by 33%, lower in saturated fat by 25%, and have more vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and carotene than factory eggs. There is also evidence that free-range eggs from free-feeding hens are less likely to harbor salmonella.

How many eggs you should eat depends on a variety of factors, including who you ask. Exercise habits, age, cholesterol levels, general health need to be considered as well. Talk to your health care provider to determine how many eggs you should eat per day.

~ Good for the environment?

When deciding between cheap factory eggs and more expensive humanely raised free-range eggs you might want to consider the environmental impact of factory farming   in general. Also, consider that locally purchased eggs have less of a processing trail, and are transported shorter distances – lower fuel consumption.

~ Good for the chicken?

Finally, when buying eggs you may want to consider the hens. Animals aren’t meant to live their lives in cages, and while there is no scientific evidence that a content animal produces better quality food, might it be good for one’s karma to eat humanely produced food?

~ How do you know?

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know if an egg is “good” until you crack the shell. The first indication is the yolk. A bright yellow or orange yolk is an indication the hen had access to live plants. If an unbroken yolk doesn’t spread across the pan, if it holds a ball shape within the white, it’s probably a fresh egg. If you’re making hard-boiled eggs, fresh eggs are difficult to peel – older eggs, while still good, will peel easily with a minimum of effort.

So how do you find a good egg? Find a reliable supplier and ask about their chicken’s diet, living conditions, whether the hens are fed commercial feed and if so, how much and whether the hens are ever force-molted. If possible check out the hens yourself. Ask if you can bring them a few treats like melon rinds, vegetables, left-over fruit or even egg shells. Watching a flock of hens enjoying a natural diet may change your mind forever on where you buy your eggs.

Fish Veloute

Fish Veloute, a great base for a variety of sauces should be a standard in your culinary arsenal.  Veloute is, in its simplest translation, a thickened stock using a roux and is commonly associated with fish, chicken, and veal stocks.  Making a veloute is very easy as the following recipe will illustrate.  But before we get started, let’s talk about our stock.

A good stock is the cornerstone of a good veloute; it is, after all, one of the three ingredients needed to make veloute.  While there are a great many pre-made stocks available at the supermarket, canned, carton and boullion, the best stock is made at home.  You just need a few ingredients, a big pot, some heat, and a little patience.

So, for a great stock, you’ll need the following:

*2 lbs Fish Bones (you can generally get these from the supermarket, just ask the person at the fish counter)

*1 medium onion, diced

*3 stalks celery, diced

*1 leek, green parts, chopped

*1 cup white wine (optional)

 *4L cold water

*3 bay leaves

*10 peppercorns

*2 whole coves

*1 bunch parsley stems

 *2 tbsp olive oil

 *salt and pepper to taste

If you want a clear, white stock, use only white fish bones.  Salmon and many shellfish will colour the stock, making it slightly cloudy.  Once you have your ingredients ready, get a large pot and get ready to cook.

Heat the pot on medium heat.  Add the olive oil and heat until shiny. Add the onions, celery, and leeks.  Cook for 5-8 minutes, just to sweat them. Add the fish bones and the white wine.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the bones start to turn translucent and give off some of their juices. Add the cold water and the bay leaves, peppercorns and cloves.  Bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Place a large colander lined with cheesecloth over a large container.  Strain out the stock through the colander.  No need to try to squeeze extra out of the bones, they’ve given all they can give. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool using an ice bath (use the sink and fill half way around with ice cubes) or in a wide but shallow container in the fridge.  Stirring occasionally will help cool the stock down quickly.

Now you have a great stock.  By the way, the same stock can be done with chicken or veal bones to make chicken and veal stock, but in that case, add a cup of carrots to the vegetable mix.  Once cool, the stock will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days or you can freeze it and keep it for up to a year.  I recommend freezing whatever stock you don’t use in ice cube trays, and then transfer the frozen cubes into zip-top bags for easy storage.  Then you’ll always have quality, home made stock at your disposal, for soups, sauces, whatever you need it for.

Ok, back to the veloute.  Veloutes are thickened with a roux, which is equal parts fat and flour, typically butter, although oil will work, as will shortening or drippings, depending on the application.  For our fish veloute, we’ll be using butter and flour.

Here’s what you’ll need to make 1L of fish veloute:

*1/4 lb butter

*1/4 lb all purpose flour

* 1L fish stock

*salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon.  Cook the roux, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes to cook out the flour taste. Slowly, 1 cup at a time, add your stock.  A whisk may be the better choice here over a spoon, it helps eliminate lumps. Bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.  Just dip your spoon into the sauce and run your finger across the spoon.  If the sauce doesn’t run through the channel you made on the spoon, it’s ready. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary

Congratulations!  You’ve made a veloute!  With this basic sauce, there are plenty of applications and recipes that you can create.  Try adding a bit of cream, lemon juice and zest, and chopped dill for a delightful sauce to top your broiled salmon.  Now that you have a primary staple in your culinary arsenal, you’re ready to tackle a menagerie of fabulous food!  So until next time, in cooking and in life, always stay flavourful!

No Fridge no Problem

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, very versatile and used in the diet in many ways. Another interesting fact about eggs is that they can be safely stored without refrigeration.

The egg shell is made up almost entirely of calcium carbonate. It is bumpy and has about 17,000 tiny pores. It is a semipermeable membrane which means that moisture and air can pass through its pores. The keys to the eggs staying fresh may be the membranes that are between the eggshell and the egg white and the thin coating on the shell called the bloom or cuticle.

The layers between the egg shell and egg white are very strong. They are made partially of keratin, a protein that is found in human hair.  An airspace forms when the contents of the egg cools and contracts after the egg is laid. The air cell is typically in between the two membranes at the egg’s larger end. The air cells grows larger as the egg ages.

It is important if you are going to store the eggs without refrigeration that the cuticle or bloom stays intact. You will gently wipe of any debris, while making certain not to disturb the bloom.

Many people who choose to store eggs without refrigeration do take the time to turn the eggs once a week. It is not clear if this really helps or if it is one of those things people choose to do because that is the way their mom did it. It does take a great deal of time.

Eggs should be stored in a cool, dark place, A basement or a root cellar are both excellent choices. It is best to get eggs straight from the farm. This way you can be certain they have not been scrubbed and have the bloom removed.

When retrieving the eggs for use place them in a pan of water. Good eggs will stay at the bottom and bad eggs will float. Many people check eggs this way even when they are stored in the fridge.

Eggs were a staple on submarines and there were no chemical preservatives. They simply kept them in a cool dark place and checked them before using them.

With that being said, some people are more comfortable using a preservative. For those the best choice would be liquid sodium silicate.  This can be ordered by any pharmacy. One part sodium silicate to ten parts sterilized water is the suggested mixture. Clean eggs are placed in a stone crock and then covered with the mixture. It is suggested that there be a 2 inch cover. Put the lid on and store in a cool dark place.

It is clear that if there is an issue with space or refrigeration there are still ways to keep eggs available. It may be worth the money to make a trip to the farm and stock up.