Fresh Fish

After spending the better part of the last month on or near the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the streams of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Ample Bites has an even greater appreciation for the value of quality, fresh fish. All three venues yielded fish that was caught the same day I prepared them or when they were prepared by a local restaurant.

If you are not catching your own fresh fish avoid the big grocery stores and find a local fish house. In Pass-A-Grille, Florida friends introduced us to Schaner’s Land & Sea Market where, as the store name implies, they have a huge selection of fish as well as meats and poultry. Schaner’s did not disappoint the shrimp we purchased from this local store were the star of a gumbo I prepared. In Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina we purchased fresh and prepared shrimp, fresh grouper, crab spread, shrimp spread, and shucked raw oysters from a couple of local fish stores including Seven Seas on very north end of Business 17.

Making Shrimp Gumbo with large, sweet, fresh shrimp was a particular favorite of Ample Bites. See my previous post for the recipe. If you can’t get fresh shrimp where you are you can have them shipped from Cajun Grocer where they are flash frozen and shipped on dry ice.

Here in the Midwest, there is nothing quite like catching, filleting and cooking fish caught from the chilly waters of the Northwoods. Our bounty included mostly Northern Pike.

If you only have access to frozen white fish, like tilapia, halibut or catfish, try the following recipe which will summon a few of the aromas of a seaside barbecue.

Baja Fish Tacos with Grilled Napa Cabbage Slaw
(Courtesy of “The Gardener & The Grill”, Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, 2012)

Serves 4

Slaw
1 large head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
Canola oil, for brushing
1 cup assorted baby greens, such as spinach or Boston lettuce
8 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
¼ cup tarragon vinegar
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt

Fish
1 ½ pounds mahi mahi, catfish, halibut, tilapia, or other mild white fish
¼ cup Red Hot Blackened Seasoning (see recipe below)
8 flour tortillas, for serving
8 lemon wedges, for serving
1 ½ cups salsa of your choice, for serving

Preheat grill to high heat. Reduce to medium high before grilling.

Brush the cut sides of the Napa cabbage with oil. Coat the fish fillets with Blackened Seasoning.

Grill the cabbage, cut side down, directly over the heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage has grill marks. Remove from the grill.

Grill the fish directly over the heat, flesh side down first, for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or 10 minutes per in of thickness, Turn only once to grill the skin side, halfway through grilling.

Slice the grilled cabbage and place in a large bowl. Stir in the greens and green onions. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sour cream, lemon juice, and salt to make a dressing. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to blend.

Place some of the grilled fish on each tortilla. Top with about 1/3 cup of the slaw and roll up, soft taco style. Serve with a lemon wedge and a small ramekin of salsa.

Red Hot Blackened Seasoning:

In a glass jar, combine ¼ cup paprika, 1 ½ tablespoons garlic salt, 1 tablespoon granulated onion, 1 ½ teaspoons each dried oregano, dried basil and cayenne pepper, ¾ teaspoon dried thyme, 2 ¼ teaspoons each of black and white pepper. Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to blend.

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Summer Farmer’s Markets

Using fresh, local food products will enhance your spring, summer and fall meals. In the Fox Valley of Illinois there are a number of different farmer’s market options available to you. The fruits and vegetables from these markets will taste like nothing you could possibly buy at even the best grocer. The meats and cheeses are typically produced organically and humanely which also has a noticeable influence on the flavors of these items.

Follow the Ample Bites link Fox Valley Farmer's Markets to Local Summer Food Markets the Kane County Chronicle Farmer’s Market Guide and explore the many options available in the Fox Valley

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Field Trip to The Olive Mill in Geneva, IL

Yesterday I visited a favorite local food store called The Olive Mill. It is located less than two miles from home, just off of 3rd Street in downtown Geneva, Illinois, so my field trip was quite short. If you don’t live as close as I do you can order at their website The Olive Mill.

The Olive Mill stocks a large and diverse selection of olive oils and vinegars. Sandy and I have been buying better oils and vinegars from this store since shortly after they opened a few years ago. The store sells these cooking liquids in their own labeled bottles which can be cleaned and reused when you return to purchase more product. A frequent buyer program offers a free bottle of oil or vinegar after purchasing ten bottles. All of their oils and vinegars can be tasted before purchasing and the store offers numerous recipes using The Olive Mill products. Many of these recipes have been provide by customers of the store.

During my visit I bought a bottle of their Persian Lime olive oil and a bottle of Blackberry Ginger Balsamic vinegar.

A simple recipe using the Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar uses it in a vinaigrette.

Spring Mix Salad with Blackberry Ginger Vinaigrette

8 cups of mixed lettuces (romaine, endive, frisee, spinach, etc.) rinsed and spun dry
1/2 lb feta cheese crumbled
1/3 cup walnuts (optional)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 mandarin orange or tangerine peeled and separated into sections
3 Tbsp OLIVE MILL Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp dried mustard
1/4 cup OLIVE MILL extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare greens, cheese, nuts, onion and fruit by arranging on a serving plate or bowl. Thoroughly whisk vinegar, pepper and mustard together in a small bowl. Add the oil while whisking. Pour the dressing over the salad or serve on the side.

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