Grilled Halibut and Vegetable Skewers

Maximize char-grilled flavor by skewering your fish:

Grilled Fish and Vegetable Skewers

Weekends are made for grilling, and this weekend was no different. California halibut is in season, and while halibut’s firm flesh is ideal for roasting thick filets on the grill, I prefer to cut the fish into chunks, quickly marinate them, and thread on skewers. By doing this, more of the fish flesh is exposed to the flavors of the marinade, and there are more edges and corners exposed to the flames of the grill to crisp and char (which are the best bits). I like to thread the fish with vegetables, such as colorful bell peppers and onion. The vegetables add flavor to the fish and bright color and freshness to the skewers – plus they are a great way to stretch pricey fish to feed a crowd.

The key to these skewers is the marinade, which has an unlikely ingredient: coarsely grated yellow onion. The onion pulp and juice add natural sweetness and bite to the marinade and nicely balance its salt and acidity. Any thick firm-flesh fish, such as halibut, tuna, swordfish, can handle a longer marinating time, upwards of 2 hours, but 30 minutes to 1 hour is sufficient to infuse flavor.

When assembling the skewers, make sure all of the ingredients are cut in uniform size, 1 to 1 ¼ inches, including any vegetables that may be threaded along with the fish, to ensure even cooking. Bamboo skewers should be soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes before assembling. This will help to prevent them from burning while grilling.

Grilled Halibut and Vegetable Skewers

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour for marinating plus 20 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

Marinade:
1/4 cup coarsely grated yellow onion with juices, about 1/2 small onion
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds halibut, cut in 1-inch chunks
2 red, yellow, and/or green bell peppers, seeded, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 large red onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
Parsley sprigs for garnish (optional)
Lemon wedges for serving

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the halibut chunks and gently turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

2. While the halibut is marinating, soak 8 (8-inch) bamboo skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes.

3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. Thread the fish on the skewers, beginning and ending with the halibut and alternating with onions and peppers. Lightly brush the vegetables some of the marinade.

4. Grill the skewers over direct medium heat, until the fish is charred in places and just cooked through, about 8 minutes, turning as needed. Arrange the skewers on a serving platter, garnish with parsley sprigs and serve warm with lemon wedges.

Salmon and Spinach Chowder

Salmon and Spinach Chowder

It’s the time of year for bowl-food. When the weather is grey, wintry and cold, there’s nothing more satisfying then a big bowl of dinner. Steaming hot and full of hearty healthy flavors and ingredients, it’s meant to be eaten with big spoons and napkins to catch the dribbles.

I love to eat chowders year round, especially in the winter when creamy dishes hit the spot. I often add a number of ingredients to my chowder in addition to the requisite fish. While most firm fleshed fish work in chowders, my favorite is salmon. Its buttery oil-rich flesh shines in a creamy stock and is a perfect accompaniment to earthy vegetables, crucifers and greens.

We don’t usually have left-over salmon in our house, since it’s often gobbled up the moment it hits our dinner plates. In the rare occurrence when there is some filets left, I’ll often add them to the next day’s chowder. While this recipe starts with the premise of using raw fish, pre-cooked leftovers work just as well. Considering how expensive salmon can be, this is a great way to get two fabulous meals from one purchase. You just need to be lucky enough to have the leftovers.

Salmon and Spinach Chowder

Feel free to improvise with your greens. Kale or chard may be substituted for the spinach. If you are cauliflower-averse, you can omit it and add extra spinach.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups water
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, about 3/4 pound, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups bite-sized cauliflower florets
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 cup heavy cream
1 to 1 1/4 pounds salmon filet, skin and pin-bones removed, cut in 3/4-inch chunks
1 bunch fresh spinach leaves, stems removed, torn into large pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chopped dill

Heat the oil and melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water and whisk to blend the flour. Add the potatoes and cauliflower. There should be enough water to cover the vegetables. If not, add more water to cover. Simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the paprika, Tabasco, and cream. Bring to a simmer. Add the salmon and simmer until cooked (or heated) through. Stir in the spinach and briefly cook until bright green in color and wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with fresh dill and serve immediately.

Grilled Fish and Vegetable Skewers with Barramundi

Grilled Fish Skewers TasteFood

~ Grilled Fish and Vegetable Skewers with Barramundi ~

Weekends are made for grilling, and this weekend was no different. On the menu were these fish skewers with chunks of barramundi, sweet peppers and red onion. I’ve been having some fun with barramundi lately, generously provided by the folks at Australis who are raising barramundi in some of the world’s most innovative fish farms located in Massachusetts and Vietnam. Australis is considered to be a pioneer in the use of close-containment farming (systems that are considered the “gold standard” for sustainable aquaculture). Their greener way of farming has been recognized by leading environmental organizations, including Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, Environmental Defense, and Blue Institute, while their Smart Aquaculture practices have earned Australis the prestigious “Seafood Champion Award” by Seafood Choices Alliance. It’s no wonder they refer to their product as The Better Fish.

I enjoy the mild and buttery flavor of barramundi, and now I can attest to how well it holds up on the grill.  I used my favorite go-to marinade to coat the chunks of fish. Its secret ingredient is grated onion which adds a sweet and tangy depth of flavor that enhances the barramundi without overpowering its mild flavor.

Grilled Fish Skewers TasteFood

Grilled Fish and Veggie Skewers with Barramundi
This marinade works well with most firm-fleshed fish, including swordfish, halibut or salmon. Serves 4 to 5.

Marinade:
1/4 cup grated yellow onion, grated, with juices
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds barramundi, cut in 1 1/2″ chunks
1 red onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 large sweet red or yellow bell pepper, cut in 1-inch chunks

8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes or metal skewers.

Whisk the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add fish and gently turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (or preheat oven broiler.) Thread fish on skewers, alternating onion and peppers. Grill over direct medium-high heat, turning, until fish is charred and just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Arrange on a platter and garnish with parsley sprigs.

Australis’ barramundi is currently available in Northern California Costco stores. If you live elsewhere, check out the Australis Facebook page for your nearest retailer, updates and news on Australis Barramundi.

australis barramundi

Disclaimer: Australis provided me with a free sample of Barramundi for review purposes, and I am being compensated for this post via the NoshOnIt Partner Publisher Program. My opinions are entirely my own.

Roasted Barramundi and Baby Leeks with Mustard and Dill

barramundi tastefood

~ Oven Roasted Barramundi and Baby Leeks with Mustard  and Dill ~

We eat a lot of fish here at TasteFood. It’s a healthy and delicious source of protein, and with so many types of fish available, there is always one that will please even the pickiest of eaters. The challenge is balancing our appetite for seafood with the knowledge of how the fish is sourced and whether it’s sustainable, as many species are overfished and face precipitous declines. So, when I was contacted by Australis Aquaculture and NoshOnIt to sample and review a sustainably raised fish called Barramundi that is currently available in select Northern California Costco stores, I was very interested.

Australis Aquaculture is an award-winning provider of healthy, sustainable seafood. It’s sustainable practices have been recognized by all of the major NGOs and earned the company the coveted “Seafood Champion Award”. (You might understand why I am happy to get behind that.) Australis has spearheaded the introduction of barramundi as a growing culinary trend in North America. Barramundi’s mild, buttery flavor and moist meaty texture (think snapper crossed with striped bass or halibut) is earning high marks for its health benefits and eco-friendly profile. The fish is sold fresh to a growing number of chefs and well known restaurants across the country, including Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. While I haven’t had the opportunity to experience barramundi at these restaurants (darn it), I have enjoyed it elsewhere in San Francisco restaurants.

I was more than pleased to have the opportunity to prepare barramundi for a family dinner this week. Baby leeks were in the market, and I combined the fish and leeks in a simple lemony dijon-dill marinade spiked with a splash of sriracha. The fish was indeed light yet meaty with a slightly sweet and buttery flavor which stood up well to the onions and fragrant marinade. Best of all, our picky eater gave it a thumbs up. The good news is that you too can experience this flavorful and sustainable fish. To find your nearest retailer check out the Australis Facebook page for updates and news on when and where you can find Australis Barramundi. I think you’ll like it.

australis barramundi

Oven Roasted Barramundi and Baby Leeks with Mustard and Dill
Serves 4

Marinade:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra sprigs for garnish
1 to 2 teaspoons Sriracha or hot sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds barramundi filets
1/2 pound baby leeks or thick green onions

Whisk sauce ingredients in a wide shallow bowl. Add the barramundi filets and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Remove the filets from the marinade and place  in one layer in a large baking dish. Add leeks to the marinade and turn to coat. Arrange the leeks around the filets. Bake until fish is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve garnished with dill sprigs.

Disclaimer: Australis provided me with a free sample of Barramundi for review purposes, and I am being compensated for this post via the NoshOnIt Partner Publisher Program. My opinions are entirely my own.

Shrimp Puttanesca

shrimp puttanesca x
~ Shrimp Puttanesca ~
It took me a long while to make puttanesca – that feisty Italian tomato sauce packed with briny, sharp, spicy, fishy flavors. I confess it was the anchovies. While I don’t mind anchovies, I don’t liberally cook with them either, harboring a childhood timidity toward their pungent fishiness. I should know better: Anchovies are a magical ingredient, a bright star in the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Asia (think fish sauce). When used with restraint, anchovies melt into a dish, amplifying flavor and producing an elusive umami quality that keeps us digging in for more. So in the spirit of the New Year and a kick in the derriere, I made this puttanesca-inspired sauce, and now I am smitten. Goodness knows why I waited so long.


Shrimp Puttanesca

Serve as is or tossed with spaghetti. This recipe may be prepared with other shellfish and fish such as clams, mussels, squid or firm fleshed fish filets.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy filets, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, divided
2 cups grape or small cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup oil-cured or kalamata olives, pitted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt
Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, anchovies and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, white wine and capers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down and sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add a spoonful of sugar if needed. Keep warm.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in another skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes. Arrange the shrimp in one layer in the skillet and season with salt. Cook until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes, turning once. Arrange the shrimp on  a serving plate. Spoon the puttanesca sauce over and around the shrimp. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Shellfish Stew with Red Wine and Fennel

cioppino fish stew tastefood

~ Shellfish Stew with Red Wine and Fennel ~

Enough with the meat already. It’s time to lighten things up. January is the month of bowl-food in our home. Fancy holiday meals, featuring ribs and roasts, sauces and reductions, have taken a New Year’s time out, replaced by vessels brimming with steaming soups and stews, risottos and and noodle concoctions. And while meat is welcome, right now I am craving the lightness of fresh seafood. Served in a bowl, of course.

Shellfish Stew with Red Wine and Fennel

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups medium-bodied red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, or to taste
18 littleneck clams (or mussels)
18 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
6 to 8 large sea scallops
2 cooked crabs, legs cracked, flesh removed from bodies

Fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Heat oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and fennel. Cook, stirring until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, wine, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If necessary add a spoonful of sugar. Add clams. Cover pot and cook until clam shells open, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp and sea scallops. Cook, partially covered until just cooked through. Add the crab legs and meat. Continue to cook until thoroughly heated. Discard any unopened clams. Serve in warm bowls garnished with parsley. Accompany with crusty baguette or garlic bread.

Farmer’s Market Provençal Salmon Couscous

Farmer’s Market Provençal Salmon Couscous

~ Salmon, Cherry Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Leek, Couscous ~

It’s Provençal vegetable season. Peppers, eggplants, squash and tomatoes are impossible to miss (and resist) at the farmer’s market. Tables stacked with teetering piles of gypsy, poblano, Hungarian and myriad chile peppers vie for attention, showing off their glorious colors and funky, gnarly shapes. I pass a table of eggplant where shiny black beauties, the sturdy workhorse of the eggplant family, sit proudly with their brethren: skinny, lilac Chinese no thicker than a fat finger, purple and white zebra-striped Sicilian, baby ball-shaped Thai.  It’s impossible not to pick up too many, simply because they look so pretty. At home, I fill my refrigerator with as much as I can fit and save the prettiest to display in baskets and bowls on our tables.  The challenge is to remember to eat them.

Provençal Salmon Couscous

Any vegetable that you like to roast will work with this recipe, but it’s especially delicious with late summer veggies. Feel free to mix and match to your taste. I roast the vegetables separately from the salmon (except the leek) so that they won’t absorb too much fish flavor while cooking.

Serves 4.

4 thin, small Chinese eggplant, sliced diagonally, 1/2-inch thick (or one medium dark beauty eggplant, cut in 3/4-inch chunks
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, halved, thinly sliced
1 sweet red bell pepper (or other peppers you might like), stemmed and seeded, halved, thinly sliced
1 cup small cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 large leek, white and pale green parts sliced 1/2-inch thick
4 salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each
2 tablespoons, plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/4 cups hot water
4 scallions, white parts removed (save for another use), green parts thinly sliced

Prepare:
Heat oven to 375 F (190 C). Toss eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and garlic in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Transfer to a baking dish. Bake in oven until vegetables are tender and slightly colored, 45 minutes.

Place leeks in a rectangular baking dish. Nestle the salmon filets between the leeks. Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, Sriracha, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over fish and leeks. Using your hands, gently turn the fish and leeks to coat. Place in same oven with the vegetables. Bake until salmon is just cooked through and beginning to color on top, about 30 minutes.

While the salmon is baking, prepare the couscous. Place couscous in a large bowl. Pour hot water over. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir once or twice. Cover and set aside until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. Stir in scallions.

To serve, spoon the couscous onto a large platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle the roasted vegetables over the couscous. Place the salmon filets in the center and scatter the leeks around the salmon. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Ratatouille Gratin from TasteFood
Sambal Eggplant from Rasa Malaysia
Oven Roasted Fish with Provençal Vegetables and Basil from TasteFood
Eggplant and Red Pepper Terrine from Simply Recipes
Pasta Provençal with Basil, Tomatoes and Olives from TasteFood