Category Archives: Tips From the Kitchen

Fresh Ingredients

tips from the kitchen

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Fresh ingredients do make a difference. Unlike many other cooks, we always specify such items as freshly ground black pepper. If you ever grind your ownfresh-ingredients black or white pepper, you’ll never buy another box of ground pepper. If you don’t have a good pepper mill, indulge yourself. It’s a must in food preparation.

There is no substitute for fresh garlic. And dehydrated onion does not impart the sweet flavor of fresh onion.

You will find a world of difference in a dish made with fresh lemon, lime or orange juice rather than processed juice.

In addition, we make our own sauces. While you can sometimes substitute a commercial product, you won’t get the same flavor.

You may not believe it, but crumbs made from fresh crackers will be so much tastier than prepared ones. Use unsalted or salted saltines.

In recipes calling for bread, we use Italian bread. It is a simple, basic bread containing only flour, yeast, water and salt. It takes just a second to make fresh bread crumbs in the food processor. For dry bread crumbs, first toast the bread, then process the crumbs.

And cheeses! Once you use freshly grated cheese, you will always grate your own, whether cheddar, Parmesan or any other variety.

Always use real wine, not cooking wine, in your foods. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Buy a bottle of dry white wine such as chenin blanc, not a fruity or sweet one. Most cooking wines contain preservatives and salt. And you have to wonder how long they were aged – maybe 10 minutes?

Does it take more time to use fresh products? Yes, a little more. But try making a few recipes with fresh ingredients. Once you do, you’ll see what we mean. And your family will appreciate the difference. Besides, we’re dealing with seafood and it deserves the best ingredients.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Seafood: Judging Doneness

Tips from the Kitchen

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The two biggest problems in seafood cooking are lack of freshness and overcooking.

Fish and shellfish cook quickly, and it’s easy to overcook them.

Fish is perfectly cooked just at the point when it turns opaque. Insert a fork or the tip of a sharp knife at its thickest point and gently push the flesh aside, or flake it.

Some fish, such as tuna and shark, do not flake. Cut into the center of these to check for doneness.

Recipes give you a cooking time, such as “about 8 to 10 minutes.” You should always check before this suggested time. If it isn’t done, you can cook it further, but if you check it at eight minutes and it’s overcooked you can’t remedy the problem.

Another method of judging doneness is to cook fish for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the thickest point of the fish. Again, you should check before the time is up.

Fish should reach an internal temperature of 145 F. It usually isn’t practical to use a thermometer, but if it is cooked until opaque and flakes easily it is done.

If you’re cooking fish in a sauce or wrapped in foil, add five minutes to the total cooking time. Double the cooking time when cooking frozen fish.

Shrimp, scallops, crabs and lobsters turn opaque when done. Cut into the center to test.

Cook live clams, oysters and mussels until the shells are opened and the flesh is fully cooked. Before you eat them raw or partially cooked, be sure to read up on seafood safety.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Seafood: Amount to Buy and Serve

Tips From the Kitchen

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Our fish recipes generally call for a number of fillets or steaks rather than weight. The reason for this is simple. I’ve watched countless people in the seafood market look at fish and ask for a certain number of pieces. They are deciding the size that will be served to each person.

If I’m going to cook fish for six people, I might buy six small fillets, three medium fillets or two large ones that can be cut into six serving-size pieces. In the 20-plus years that our newsletter reached several thousand people, we found that consumers preferred this. Most people can look at fillets and visualize how many will be needed to feed a certain number of people, but they can’t visualize the size of one-fourth or one-third of a pound.

Recipes usually state the number of servings. One hundred grams (about 3.5 ounces) is considered a serving. But in reality, we know that people usually eat more than this. In these recipes we have allowed one-fourth to one-third pound per person. Make them smaller or larger so that they meet your needs.

The following suggestions are based on approximately 3.5 ounces per serving:

  • Whole or Round Fish – 3/4 pound
  • Dressed Fish – 1/2 pound
  • Fillets and Steaks – 1/3 pound
  • Oysters and Clams, in the shell – 6
  • Oysters and Clams, shucked – 1/6 pint
  • Scallops – 1/4 pound
  • Crab, cooked meat – 1/4 pound
  • Crabs, live – 1 to 2 pounds
  • Shrimp, headed – 1/2 pound
  • Shrimp, cooked and peeled – 1/4 pound

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Enjoying the Blues

tips from the kitchen

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Bluefish is a tender-fleshed fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. As such, its quality declines quickly upon death. The trick is to buy the freshest blues available from a source that you know handles fish the right way — immediately cleaning and icing the fish when it is caught.

To deal with the strong flavor of blues, some ethnic groups have prepared the fish using equally flavorful spices and herbs. Basil, oregano, garlic, onion or all of these together applied with a heavy hand is a common practice.

Also, one can use cooking methods that render out as much of the fat as possible, i.e., broiling on a rack or grilling.

Another approach has been to use lots of lemon (an acetic factor) to cut the oiliness of the flesh, cut through the strong flavor and, some say, to fool the taste buds.

Guest contributor Michael Voiland, executive director of North Carolina Sea Grant.

Herbs – Savory


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Many herbs and spices are compatible with fish and shellfish, including basil, bay leaves, celery seed, chives, fennel, mustard, parsley, rosemary and savory –  just to name a few. 

Savory is, for one thing, a category applied to foods that are not sweet. It suggests either a spicy or tart flavor. There are a number of foods that have both a sweet and a savory preparation. For example, sweet potatoes, pie crust and soup can all be served sweet or prepared as a savory dish.

Savory is also an herb so bold and peppery in its flavor that since the time of the Saxons it has become synonymous with tasty and flavorful foods, hence savory as a category applied to foods.

Summer savory (Satureja hortensis) is the most delicate of the familiar varieties, both in taste and in character. It is an annual that requires light, rich soil and full sun, conditions that make it ideal for growing indoors. Because the leaves are so tender, they can be added fresh to salads or used as a garnish.

Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a coarser variety. The leaves are bright green, narrow, and tough. They are best used for dishes that require long cooking, such as stews, or added to the water when cooking dried beans so that there is enough heat and moisture to break them down.

This not only releases the flavorful oils, but also softens the leaves so that they are palatable. Winter savory is often used in stuffing, with vegetables, as a seasoning for fowl and in making sausages. In fact, it is used today in the commercial preparation of salami.

Both of these varieties of savory have a peppery bite to them, although the summer savory is milder. This herb may be used as a seasoning for salt-free diets since the strong flavor makes food more appealing.

Contributed by David Green

Garnishes – Endive


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It’s time to enjoy an elegant member of the lettuce family — endive. Often called the queen of vegetables, American grown Belgian-style endive is a delicious part of healthy eating.

Endives are great in salads and delightful cooked — braised, broiled, baked, grilled or sautéed. In this case, we are using it as a base or garnish for our shrimp Christmas tree.

Endive is grown like lettuce. Seed is sown in early spring in the garden. Plants can be started in the greenhouse and transplanted to the garden for growing an extra early crop.

Endive has two forms, narrow-leaved endive called curly endive and the broad-leaved endive which is often called escarole. The outside leaves of an endive head are green and bitter. The inner leaves of the endive head are light green to creamy-white and milder flavored. Both types of endive are used in salad mixtures with blander- flavored lettuce to prepare a salad with a “little bite” to the flavor.

When selecting endive, heads should be clean, free of browning, crisp and bright green. Endive greens placed in plastic bags will store in refrigeration for about ten days.

Contributed by David Green

Seasonings – Spices and Root Vegetables


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Spices are the bark, root, fruit, berrry or seeds of plants. Like herbs, spices such as pepper and ginger are very compatible with seafood.

Both black and white peppercorns are quite compatible with fish and shellfish. They need to be ground just before using. You’re going to love these two fresh spices. Don’t forget to use your pepper mill to prepare these spices.

Some root vegetables, such as garlic and onions, make great seasonings for seafood. Both belong to the lily family, along with leeks, shallots and chives, which are also compatible with seafood.

Garlic is inexpensive and available year-round. Before you peel garlic, first cut the stem off the end of the cloves. Some cooks use a small paring knife and their fingers to peel it. Others tap the cloves with the side of a chef’s knife or the weight of one hand.

You can also buy a garlic peeler at kitchen supply stores. It is an inexpensive tubular piece of plastic about five inches long and a little more than an inch in diameter. You simply place the garlic clove in it and roll it with your hand on the counter top until you hear the paper skin crackle. It takes just a few seconds and the clove is perfectly peeled. To us, this is the easiest way to peel garlic.

If a recipe calls for minced garlic or chopped garlic, you can almost always press it instead. The exception is if you need large chopped pieces or slices. Buy yourself a good garlic press. You’ll soon find it indespensable.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by David Green