Grilled Scallops with Cilantro

Another invention of mine, totally NOT Chinese but using some ingredients common to Chinese cuisine and very appropriate for that ever-popular summer activity: grilling! Fish sauce, a very salty concoction made from anchovies,  is a predominantly Vietnamese ingredient but is widely available in both Asian markets and many well-stocked conventional grocery stores (in the Asian food section).

Serves 6 as a main course, 8-10 as an appetizer.

ingredients:

  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 T finely minced onion – red, yellow, or white
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 T oil – preferably high-heat sunflower or safflower oil
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar, preferably brown or “raw”
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • chili sauce (such as Sriracha) or chopped salted chilies to taste – start with a modest amount! (optional)
  • 2.5 lb sea or bay scallops

method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the scallops in a bowl and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 1-2 h.
  2. Rinse and pat the scallops dry, removing the small muscle that sometimes remains attached to the side – this can be very tough but makes wonderful seafood broth or stock when combined w/ fish bones, shrimp shells, etc.
  3. Mix the scallops gently with 1/2 the sauce until thoroughly coated.
  4. Refrigerate 1-3 h, turning gently 1/2 way through.
  5. Thread the scallops on skewers and grill over a medium flame, approximately 2 m for sea scallops, 1 m for bay.
  6. Brush with the reserved sauce, turn, and grill approximately another 2 m for sea scallops, 1 m for bay. Do not overcook, or the scallops will be tough and the sauce will burn.

variation:

  • Grill the scallops ahead of time and serve them warm or at room temperature as an hors d’oeuvre.
  • The scallops are also excellent served cold in a salad.

do ahead:

You can make the marinade up to 2 days ahead – best to leave the vinegar and chili sauce out until the time you plan to marinate the scallops.

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Baked Cod

Like a few other recipes on this site, this one qualifies as Chinese only because of the ingredients used – it’s really a fusion dish, a tweak of a recipe I found on the website of Lummi Island Wild. I am lucky enough to co-manage a buying club that purchases sustainably caught fish directly from this Washington state fishery – seafood is not exactly local to Michigan, but by buying in quantity directly from the fishermen gives us fantastic fish at a reasonable price and gives the fishermen a larger profit margin.

Serves 4

ingredients:

  • 4 black cod steaks, approximately 5 oz each
  • 1 T kosher or sea salt
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 T Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T pineapple juice
  • 1 T brown sugar

method:

  1. Rinse the fish steaks and pat dry.
  2. Combine the salt and 1 T brown sugar, then rub the fish well with this mixture and refrigerate in a covered dish for 2 h.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the wine, soy sauce, pineapple juice, and 1 T brown sugar, stir to dissolve sugar completely.
  4. Brush the salt/sugar mixture off the fish, sprinkle with the wine mixture, then cover the dish.
  5. Bake 15 m, turn the steaks, bake 15 more m or until fish flakes easily – do not overbake, or it will be very tough!
  6. Set the fish on a serving plate, then bring the liquid to a gentle boil in a heavy saucepan or sauté pan and let it boil gently until it is the consistency of thin syrup. Pour over the fish and serve.

Five-Spice Brined Ribs and….

I’ve become a big fan of brining (soaking an animal protein in a mixture of salt, sugar, and water before cooking), and this recipe is the result of an experiment in that arena. (You can find an excellent in-depth discussion of the basics of brining in Cook’s Illustrated.)

I have made this recipe with beef short ribs as well as pork ribs – cooking time will vary greatly, so plan on testing at regular intervals; otherwise, this is a great recipe that involves almost no prep time whatsoever. The brine will also work for other proteins – chicken, duck, rabbit, fish…and even tofu! (Count on 1/2 lb of bone-in poultry or 1/4 lb of fish or tofu per person).

Five spice powder is a spice mix found in Chinese cooking that it includes all 5 flavors found in Chinese cuisine: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. You can make your own by combining equal parts whole Sichuan (or other) peppercorn, cinnamon sticks, cloves, fennel seed, and star anise. After toasting the spices lightly, grind in a mortar or with a coffee or spice grinder. If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to mess with that, five-spice is also available pre-mixed in Asian markets and in some conventional groceries – try the Asian section first, then the baking/spice aisle.

brine – count on 1 pt (2 c) per lb of ribs

  • 1 c water
  • 1 c peach nectar
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 T sugar, preferably brown or raw cane
  • 2 T kosher salt

ingredients:

  • beef shortribs or pork ribs (spareribs, back ribs, or country style) – count on about 1 lb per person

method:

  1. Combine the brine ingredients in a glass baking dish large enough to hold the ribs in one layer, stirring until the crystals are completely dissolved.
  2. Add the ribs to the brine – the liquid should just cover the meat.
  3. Refrigerate for 3-8 h, then remove the ribs from the brine and pat dry.
  4. Preheat the oven to 275F.
  5. Place the ribs on a roasting rack in a pan, and roast until very tender. For pork ribs, this can take as little as 1.5 h; for beef ribs, count on at least 2.5-3 h. Test for doneness: the meat should be sliding off the bones and easily pierced with a knife or skewer. If the meat begins to brown too much, cover with foil and reduce the temperature to 250F.

Scrambled Eggs & Fish

Quick and healthy – lots of lean protein! Use the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site to find information on how to purchase the most sustainably caught or raised small-flake mild white fish available (bass, snapper, tilapia, etc. – avoid the large-flake, oily fish such as cod).

I posted this recipe earlier (see Stirfried Fish with Eggs), but have been working on it since and have tweaked it a bit for better results.

ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
  • 2 tsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, grated and juiced
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (rice, potato, tapioca flour will also work)
  • 4 oz white fish fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 T oil
  • 4 scallions, chopped

method:

  1.  Separate the eggs, yolks into 1 bowl, 3 whites into another, 1 white into a third.
  2. Whisk 1/2 of the wine and 1/2 of the salt into the egg yolks.
  3. Whisk 1/2 of the wine and 1/2 of the salt into the 3 egg whites.
  4. Whisk the ginger juice and cornstarch into the 1 egg white, then add the fish pieces and marinate 10-15 m. When ready to cook, drain off as much of the marinade as possible.
  5. Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add 1 T oil and heat just until it shimmers.
  6. Stirfry the fish just until cooked through 1-3 m, then remove to a plate.
  7. Heat 1 T oil, stirfry the egg whites quickly, then remove to the same plate.
  8. Heat 1 T oil, stirfry the egg yolks, then remove to the same plate.
  9. Return everything to the wok for a quick stir, add the scallion, adjust the seasoning and serve.

variation:

To make this dish even more quickly, simply separate out 1 egg white for the fish marinade. Scramble the remaining yolk and eggs together with the entire amount of salt and wine. Stirfry the fish as in steps 5-6, then stirfry the eggs together before returning the fish to the wok.

Stirfried Broccoli with Crab

We were lucky enough to be given the gift of some delicious crab legs – thanks, Oran! – something we rarely buy but greatly enjoy. I often hesitate to buy crab for reasons of sustainability, but if you visit Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch, you will find that there are some good alternatives.

Because we started with uncooked legs, I give instructions for cooking them, but you can start with any cooked crab meat – better if it’s leg or lump, not all stringy, though.

ingredients:

  • 1 lb king crab legs
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets, stems reserved for another dish
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt, to taste (you may not need any)

method:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch and shock the broccoli just until crisp tender, gently squeezing out any excess moisture.
  2. Rinse the crab well, then steam for 15 m. Crack open the shells and remove the meat, cutting it into 2″ segments.
  3. Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add the oil, just until it shimmers.
  4. Explode the garlic just until fragrant, then add the broccoli and crabmeat, stirfrying until heated through.
  5. Season to taste (the crab may be salty enough that you don’t need to add any salt), and serve.

do ahead:

The crab and broccoli can both be prepared up to a day ahead of time, making this a super-quick stirfry to serve company – keep refrigerated until about an hour before you are ready to stirfry.

On the road again…

Wish I could claim it’s a voluntary chef’s vacation, but this week begins our family’s relocation from CA to MI, almost 2 weeks of enforced eating out, something I dread heartily. Hoping to find some healthy surprises along the way…. I’ll be posting occasionally, but new recipes are unlikely until after July 4th weekend.

Thanks to all who have been visiting regularly, and welcome to those who are new to the blog! The first week of July will mark the 1 year anniversary of its creation, and I’m pleased to have exceeded my hoped for page views (12,000) by over 1,200, and we’re still more than a week out.

And finally, a few links to round out the post:

“New Facts about Fish” doesn’t delve too deeply into the topic but gives a quick summary in list form and does consider environmental impact as well as health issues – would be interesting to compare the list to that of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

“Nutrition: Parents’ Healthy Diet Has Little Influence”: An odd little blip with a useful link to a study in Social Science and Medicine. Not really sure how to pair that with the piece I linked to last week about how children are making healthier choices?

3 Cups Scallops

The “3 cups” style of cooking originally refers to a recips for cooking an entire chicken using 1 cup each of soy sauce, sesame oil, and wine. Obviously for lesser amounts of food, the amount of ingredients has also been reduced, but for most recipes of this style, the proportion remains the same 1:1:1. Often these dishes are served in a very hot cast iron pot or bowl.

For the basil, you can use thai basil, the more common Italian variety, or play with the kinds you can find fresh at the market, or you can substitute cilantro. Scallops seem to be one of the few seafood types for which the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program recommends buying the farmed variety. They are best fresh, but frozen will work as well – just be sure to thaw them slowly in the refrigerator, not in water.

ingredients:

  • 1 lb bay scallops
  • 3 T sesame oil
  • 2 small red chilies (optional), cut diagonally into elongated rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 slice ginger, cut into thin strips
  • 3 T light soy sauce
  • 3 T Shaoxing cooking wine or dry sherry
  • 2 scallions, roll cut into 1″ lengths
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 sprigs basil

method:

  1. Gently remove the small muscle that is sometimes found attached to the side of the scallop – these can get extremely tough when cooked, but they make a great ingredient for fish stock or broth.
  2. Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add the sesame oil just until it shimmers.
  3. Explode the chilies, garlic and ginger just until fragrant, then add the soy sauce, cooking wine, and scallions. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.
  4. Add the scallops, cooking just until they become opaque all the way through – this may take as little as a minute.
  5. Adjust the seasoning, garnish with the basil, and serve.

variation:

You can substitute just about any type of seafood for the scallops – squid, shrimp, and fish slices all work well.