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Fish Veracruz Style

In Fish & Shellfish On March 13, 2015 0 Comments

Prior to Easter, during a 40-day period of fasting known as Lent, believers prepare for Easter by praying, giving alms, atoning for their sins and self-denial. Lent lasts forty days, in commemoration of the forty days that Jesus fasted in the desert, right before beginning his ministry (this is according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke).

Lent is observed by Christians in the Anglican, Calvinist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Roman Catholic traditions. During this time, Roman Catholics avoid rich foods such as meat and dairy. Fish, vegetables and grains become the norm. BTW, the fasting ends on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015.

This year, Lent began on Ash Wednesday, February 18th. Many people have asked me to post a delicious fish recipe – something more than grilled or baked. Here’s a traditional fish recipe from Veracruz, Mexico. It’s called “pescado a la Veracruzana” or “Fish Veracruz Style”. I think you’ll love it!

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and julienned (cut into thin wedges)
1 red or green bell pepper, seeds & stem discarded and flesh cut into long strips
1 large zucchini, tips cut & discarded and flesh cut into 1/2-inch thick circles
1 medium brown or white onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces and seeds discarded
1/2 cup pitted green olives, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Four 8-ounce fish filets (fresh Red Snapper, cod, rockfish or haddock), rinsed under cold water & pat dry with paper towels

Directions:

1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil.

2. When oil is hot, add the carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, onion and celery.

3. Stir-fry the vegetables on medium-high setting for about 3 minutes.

4. After 3 minutes, stir in the tomato pieces, green olives and the broth or water.

5. Cook the vegetable-broth mixture for 2 to 3 minutes.

6. After 2 to 3 minutes, stir in the salt and pepper.

7. Carefully add the fish filets, one at a time by gently pushing each one down, underneath the vegetables and into the cooking liquid.

8. Cover the skillet and cook on medium heat for about 5 to 6 minutes or until the fish filets are done.

9. To check doneness of fish, using a fork, cut into the center of one filet and taste.

10. If needed, cook the fish filets for an additional 2 to 4 minutes.

11. Serve the Fish Veracruz Style with white rice as a side.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Chilled Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio (both are white wine varietals).
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Zucchini-Tuna Boats

In Fish & Shellfish, Vegetables On January 19, 2015 0 Comments

Although most of us are dieting this month, just remember that you don’t have to eat soup for the next 30 days. And, diets don’t have to be boring either. By now, you all know that my vegetables are loaded with good ingredients and great flavors.

This recipe requires fresh zucchini, onions, tomatoes and oregano. When combined with tuna, you’ve created Zucchini-Tuna Boats which taste heavenly! You can make these ahead and keep them refrigerated up to four days.

Prep time: 30 minutes (for stuffing) & 30 minutes (for baking)
Makes: 6 servings (2 pieces each)

Ingredients:
6 light green variety zucchini, tips removed and discarded
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons (for coating baking dish)
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (white or brown)
5 cups chopped vine-ripened tomatoes (chopped into 1/4-inch pieces)
Two 5-ounce cans light tuna* in oil, drained and oil discarded
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried oregano can be substituted)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the Stuffing:

1. Using a long knife and working on a cutting board, cut each zucchini in half, lengthwise; set aside.

2. With the tip of the knife, cut all around the inside of the zucchini-half (1/8-inch inside rim) and gently scoop out the flesh; set flesh aside in a bowl.

3. Continue scooping out the zucchini flesh with remaining zucchini halves; set aside.

4. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high setting.

5. When oil is hot, add the chopped onion and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until onion is translucent.

6. When onion is translucent, add 2 cups of the chopped tomatoes and stir-fry on medium-high setting for about 3 to 4 minutes or just until the tomato begins drying out (do not let it dry out completely).

7. After 3 to 4 minutes, stir in the drained tuna.

8. Stir-fry the tuna-tomato mixture for about 3 to 4 minutes or until it looks amalgamated and not so runny.

9. Add the oregano, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

10. Set the tuna-tomato mixture aside to cool for about 5 minutes.

Fill the Zucchini Boats:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Lightly coat a 12 X 16-inch rectangular baking dish with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.

3. Spread 2 cups chopped tomatoes over the olive oil in baking dish; lightly sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper, to taste. Set aside.

4. Divide the tuna-tomato mixture evenly among the 12 zucchini boats.

5. As you fill the boats, place them, side-by-side in baking dish.

6. When all zucchini boats have been stuffed, spread the remaining 1 cup chopped tomatoes over stuffed zucchini boats.

7. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake the Zucchini-Tuna Boats for about 25 to 30 minutes.

8. Serve the Zucchini-Tuna Boats immediately or at room temperature.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

*NOTE: If using albacore white tuna, the filling will become dry.

Seafood Paella

In Fish & Shellfish, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On October 3, 2014 0 Comments

Paella, a rice dish, was born in Valencia, on the Eastern coast of Spain. The original regional dish, known as Paella Valenciana is made with rice, green vegetables, beans, chicken and/or rabbit, snails and saffron. Seafood paella is a variation that replaces land animals and vegetables with seafood. Paella is made in a paellera or paella skillet with an attached gas heating element or, alternatively, over a barbecue grill. I’ve tried making paella on a grill, but the heating was uneven. This resulted in patches of crunchy or raw rice.

Here I am trying not to look frazzled over my first attempt at making Paella Valenciana:
Image.PaellaNRoutside

You can cook paella in a paellera (just like the one you see in the above photograph); in a 14-inch, nonstick skillet on a stovetop; or in a nonstick, 16-inch electric skillet. After attempting all three cooking methods, I opted for the latter.

Cooking paella in an electric skillet is hassle-free because every time you add ingredients, you set a timer and walk away. Since the paella cooks itself, you can sit, have a glass of wine and converse with your guests. Look at how successful my paella turned out (BTW, this was my third attempt):
Image.SeafoodPaellaNR

Finally, I can relax while making dinner for friends! Here’s the Seafood Paella recipe that I brought back from Spain!

Prep time: 50 to 60 minutes (preparing all ingredients)
Cook time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients* [TO MINIMIZE WORK ON THE DAY OF MAKING PAELLA, READ NOTES ON PREPPING INGREDIENTS AT BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE]:

4 to 4-1/2 cups homemade chicken broth
.37 grams ground saffron (to turn the rice bright yellow, use 3 envelopes saffron, each weighing 0.125 grams)
1 cup dry white wine
1 large red onion, finely chopped
12 live mussels, in-shell
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped Spanish chorizo (this resembles Italian pepperoni sausage)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2-1/2 cups Dacsa® rice (this rice brand is from Valencia, Spain and is a key ingredient)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Dash ground black pepper
4 ounces Spanish pimientos, rinsed and cut into 1-inch strips
1/3 cup frozen peas
15 to 18 fresh, medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed (wild shrimp is preferable, since it has more flavor than the farm-raised variety)
1/2 pound fresh sea scallops, rinsed
4 calamari bodies, cut into 1/4-inch thick circles and then rinsed
8 to 10 calamari tentacles, rinsed
3/4 pound wild salmon, skin discarded and fillet cut into 4-inch pieces (this is an optional ingredient)

Prepare the Broth & Mussels:
1. In a 2-quart sauce pot, heat the chicken broth to just boiling.

2. Stir the saffron into the hot broth; set aside, covered.

3. In a 1-quart sauce pot, bring the wine and half of the chopped red onion to a boil. Reserve the remaining onion for the paella later.

4. Rinse the mussels under cold, running water and then transfer them to the boiling wine mixture.

5. Cook the mussels in the wine mixture, on medium heat, for 5 minutes.

6. After 5 minutes, remove the mussels from the wine mixture and set them aside in a glass or metal bowl, covered with aluminum foil.

7. Strain the wine mixture, discard the onion and reserve the liquid. Set aside.

Start the Paella:
1. In a nonstick skillet (stovetop or electric), heat the olive oil.

2. When the olive oil is hot and shimmering, stir in the remaining chopped red onion, crushed garlic and chopped bell pepper.

3. Stir-fry the mixture over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, about 2 to 4 minutes.

4. After 2 to 4 minutes, stir in the chopped tomato and Spanish chorizo.

5. Stir-fry the mixture over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes (do not let the chorizo burn).

6. After 2 minutes, add the reserved wine liquid, the cayenne pepper and the rice.

7. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir once.

8. After stirring, carefully pour 4 cups of chicken broth into skillet.

9. Season the rice mixture with salt and black pepper.

10. Cover the rice mixture and cook on medium-low heat (325°F for electric skillet) for 15 minutes – DO NOT STIR THE RICE.

Add Pimientos, Peas & Seafood to the Paella:
1. After 15 minutes, check the rice by inserting a spoon in center of skillet.

2. If the rice is dry and there is no liquid, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth.

3. If the rice is simmering with liquid, do not add the broth.

4. Scatter the pimientos and the rice over top of paella.

5. Next, scatter the shrimp over paella and press it gently into the rice.

6. Repeat this method with the scallops, calamari bodies and tentacles and the salmon pieces.

7. Cover and cook the paella on medium-low heat (325°F for electric skillet) for 10 minutes.

8. After 10 minutes, taste the rice to check doneness – it should be crunchy-tender.

9. If rice is done, cover the paella and remove the skillet from heat. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

10. After 5 minutes, serve the paella in individual dinner plates with a green salad. Alternatively, serve the paella and salad as a buffet and ask guests to help themselves.

*NOTE: One day ahead, prepare the following ingredients:

1. Prepare the chicken broth: in a 3-quart sauce pot, cover 2 chicken thighs, 2 chicken legs and 1 white or brown onion with cold water and bring it to a boil. Cook chicken broth for 40 minutes & add salt, to taste. Transfer chicken to a plate and use for another purpose. Strain the broth and store it in a glass or porcelain bowl, covered & refrigerated.

2. Buy the seafood a day ahead: rinse all raw seafood. Peel and devein the shrimp; cut the calamari bodies into rings. Cut the salmon into 4-inch pieces.

3. Store each seafood variety in separate glass jars or disposable plastic containers, covered & refrigerated, until ready to use.

*NOTE: On the day of making the paella, prepare the following ingredients:

1. Chop the onion; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
2. Crush the garlic; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
3. Chop the red bell pepper; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
4. Chop the tomato; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
5. Chop the chorizo; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
6. Rinse and cut the Spanish pimientos; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.

Wine Pairing: Chilled white wine from the Rioja region of Spain; Chardonnay; or Pinot Grigio.
Text and All Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Tuna Empanadas (Empanadas de Atun)

In Appetizers / Starters, Fish & Shellfish, Fun Foods On September 3, 2014 0 Comments

For those of you who are following my posts on a regular basis, you must have figured out that I’m maintaining that “Spanish” state of mind. Last April and May, as we explored the culture of Spain on a daily basis, we’d walk far distances. Since this made us very hungry, our noses always followed the exquisite aromas of warm breads baking.

As we walked into a panaderia or bakery, we could immediately spot the freshly-made empanadas de atun or tuna empanadas. Each one cost only one Euro -that’s USD $1.40. Of course, I ate at least three at every sitting. (BTW, I ate anything I wanted in Spain and lost 4 pounds at the end of that trip!)

Here’s my delicious recipe for tuna empanadas. They can be made ahead of time, cooled and frozen in double freezer bags for up to two weeks. Serve these tuna empanadas as a starter for a dinner or a party – they’ll steal the show!

Prep time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Bake time: 12 to 15 minutes (per baking sheet)
Makes: 24 to 30 (3-inch) empanadas

Ingredients for the Pastry:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten with 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water in a bowl
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water

Prepare the Pastry:
1. In an 4 to 6-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and black pepper.

2. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add the beaten egg-and-water mixture to the center of the well.

3. Using a fork, gradually (a little at a time) mix in the flour from sides of well until a soft dough forms.

4. With one hand holding the bowl, use the other hand to pick up the mound of dough.

5. Gently knead it inside the bowl, grabbing a little flour at a time.

6. When dough has amalgamated and it is smooth, set it aside on a smooth, floured surface.

7. NOTE: The flour surface should be either a clean granite counter or a wood board used exclusively for doughs (due to contamination, a previously-used chopping board is NOT advisable).

8. Cover the dough with an overturned bowl and set it aside while you prepare the tuna filling.

Ingredients for the Tuna Filling:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (pulp and seeds discarded)
1/3 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, finely chopped (the jarred variety can be used)
One 7-ounce can tuna in oil, drained and oil discarded
3 tablespoons minced, fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the Tuna Filling:
1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.

2. When the oil is hot, stir in the chopped onion and bell pepper.

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the onion mixture until it is translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. When onion mixture is translucent, add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and roasted bell peppers.

5. Stir-fry the onion-tomato mixture for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened.

6. When the mixture has thickened, add the drained tuna and, with a wooden spoon, break it up.

7. Cook the tuna mixture for about 2 to 3 more minutes, or until it has heated through.

8. After 2 to 3 minutes, stir in the minced parsley, salt and pepper, to taste.

9. Transfer the tuna mixture to a glass or porcelain bowl; cover it and set aside to cool while you roll out the pastry.

The tuna mixture should look like this:

Image.TunaFilling.Empanadas

Roll Out the Pastry:
1. Lightly and evenly flour the granite counter or wood board.

2. Divide the pastry dough in half. Set one-half of the pastry dough aside, underneath an overturned bowl.

3. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the pastry dough to 1/8-inch thickness. From time to time, as you roll out the dough, you will need to lift it and flour the underside as well as the top.

4. When dough has been rolled out to a 1/8-inch thickness, using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut circles into dough.

5. After cutting circles into dough, preheat oven to 375°F.

6. Line two 12X18-inch baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

7. Fill a 1-cup bowl with cold water; set aside.

Assemble the Empanadas:
1. Carefully lift one dough circle off surface and hold it in the palm of your hand.

2. Place scant 1 teaspoon tuna filling in center of dough.

3. Dip index finger in cold water and run it along edges of dough. You may need to repeat this so that entire perimeter of dough is moistened.

4. Fold the dough in half, creating a half-moon. Slightly press the edges closed.

5. Place the raw empanada on a lightly-floured surface.

6. Beginning at one end of the empanada, curl up the dough edges to create a scalloped pattern all the way to the opposite end of the empanada.

7. Place the empanada on parchment-lined baking sheet; set aside.

8. Repeat assembling the empanadas, lining them up on the baking sheet as you go along (each baking sheet will hold 12 to 15 empanadas).

9. When the first dough has finished, roll out the remaining dough as instructed above.

10. After you have assembled ALL the empanadas and placed them on baking sheet, they will look like this:

Image.EmpanadasonSheet

Make the Egg-Wash & Bake the Empanadas:

1. Separate the egg yolk from egg white. Discard the egg white.

2. In a 1-cup bowl, combine the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon cold water.

3. Beat together with a fork until mixture has amalgamated – this is the egg wash.

4. Using a basting brush, baste each empanada with egg wash.

5. Place baking sheet with empanadas on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

6. Bake the empanadas for 12 to 15 minutes.

7. After 12 minutes, using a spatula, lift the underside of one empanada.

8. If the underside is light golden brown, the empanadas are done. If it is still white, bake the empanadas for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

9. When empanadas are done, set them aside on a counter to cool slightly (in baking sheet).

10. Serve the empanadas hot.

NOTE: Tuna Empanadas can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and frozen in double freezer bags. To freeze the empanadas, make sure they have cooled completely after baking. When empanadas have cooled completely, carefully place them in double freezer bags, seal and freeze.

TO THAW AND REHEAT: Three hours prior to serving, remove the empanadas from freezer bags and place them on a platter set on a counter to thaw. At serving time, preheat oven to 350°F. Place empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet, set on a rack positioned in center of oven. Heat the empanadas for 10 to 12 minutes. After 10 to 12 minutes, cut an empanada in half and taste it to make sure it is heated through.

Text & Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Spinach-Stuffed Calamari

In Fish & Shellfish On July 26, 2013 0 Comments

For seafood lovers, here is a classic Mediterranean calamari dish. And no, they’re not fried. Inspired from recipes of Ancient Greece, the calamari are stuffed with spinach and cooked in wine. I’d say, it can’t get any better than this!

Prep time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 pound clean squid (calamari), about 8 whole bodies and 6 tentacles
2 cups cooked, drained and finely minced spinach (2 fresh bunches or 1 pound, frozen)
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
¼ cup raisins
1 large egg, slightly beaten with a fork
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
¾ cup white wine
½ cup chicken broth
Chopped, flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for garnish

1.Finely chop the squid tentacles, but leave the bodies whole.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped tentacles, spinach, walnuts, breadcrumbs, raisins, the egg, ½ teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper.

3. Using a teaspoon, fill the squid bodies about three-quarters full with the spinach mixture. Close the ends with a toothpick. DO NOT OVERSTUFF, AS THE SQUID MAY BREAK OPEN DURING COOKING.

4. In a 6 to 8-quart saucepot, heat the oil. Add the squid and garlic.

5. Season the squid with salt and pepper. Turn the squid with thongs and cook until they are light golden, about 3 minutes.

6. Pour the wine over the squid and cook about 2 minutes.

7. Stir in the broth, cover skillet and simmer on low heat for about 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the squid once or twice during cooking.

8. If broth dries out too much, add ½ cup more – there should always be one-inch high liquid in saucepot.

9. After about 30 minutes, transfer the squid to a platter. Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.

10. If desired, cut each squid in half.

Serve with a side dish of rice and/or garden salad.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real