Tag Archives: fish

Sardine Pasta

imageI’ve been on a mission lately to work my way through some of the recipes I’ve clipped from newspapers and magazines and stashed away, sometimes for years.  I sorted through my collection the other day and couldn’t part with any of them.  Apparently, there was a reason why each recipe was clipped and saved.  Of course, they serve little purpose if I don’t actually make any of the recipes.  That’s why I decide to make one recipe a week – or at least that is my stated goal – and try out some of these cool recipes.

imageLast night, I made a sardine pasta recipe that I clipped from the Chicago Tribune.  Oddly enough, my nine year loves sardines and will happily eat them on crackers for a snack after school.  When I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it.

imageSardines have really gone out of fashion, similar to canned tuna.  Once a staple of all pantries, most people find sardines fishy, oily and all around unappealing.  When I was growing up in Maine, sardine plants packing plants were a part of the working waterfront.  No longer.  The sardines for sale at the grocery store are all packed abroad and imported into the U.S.

imageRegardless, I think people should give sardines another chance.  They are a healthy fish that are affordable and sustainably fished.  I think they are pretty tasty too.  Tough to find many fish with those qualities and I love the idea of having a can on hand to make a quick meal.

imageThis recipe is called Pasta chi sari a mari, or “pasta with sardines that are still in the sea” and was based on a recipe by the late actor Vincent Schiavelli.  Admittedly, I have no idea who this actor is but the recipe was simple and delicious.

The only real change I’ve made is to add course salt to the recipe. Surprisingly, the recipe was lacking in that department, since I thought the sardines would take care of the saltiness.  Dig in!


Pasta chi sari a mari

  • Servings: 4-6
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1/4 C golden raisins
1/2 C fresh breadcrumbs
1 can (120 grams) sardines in olive oil
3 T olive oil
1 whole clove garlic
1 t fennel seeds
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/4 C chopped fennel fronds
2 T chopped parsley
1 pound pasta
course salt
freshly ground pepper

Cover the raisins in boiling water; set aside to soften.  Fill large pot with water, cover and put over high heat.  Heat skillet over medium heat, add breadcrumbs, sprinkle liberally with course salt and drizzle with oil from sardines to moisten.  Toast until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

When the water comes to a rapid boil, add about a teaspoon of salt and cook al dente according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, over medium heat put 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot that will hold the pasta.  Add the garlic clove, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Discard garlic.

Put the sardines and remaining oil into the skillet and break the fish into bite sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  When the pasta is done, drain, reserving a 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.  Add the pasta and reserved liquid to the skillet.  Drain the raisins and add them to the skillet, along with the parsley and fennel fronds.  Increase the heat to medium high, stirring constantly until the water is evaporated.

Serve pasta with the toasted breadcrumbs on top.



Lemon Pepper Mahi-Mahi

I’ll share a little secret with you.  Sometimes when I am feeling less imaginative and am in need of a good recipe, I’ll rely on a recipe on a package.  While it does seem as if I am cheating in the creativity department, here’s my theory:  No business would put a recipe on the packaging for one of its products if the recipe weren’t tried and true, guaranteed to come out the way it should.  So for example, at one point or another, I’ve followed all of the cookie recipes on chocolate-chip packages and the cake recipes on the cocoa and cake-flour boxes.  And all of those recipes turn out good.

In light of the above confession, here is the meal I prepared the other night:  For dinner for my husband and me, I defrosted some mahi-mahi fish fillets from Trader Joe’s.  This type of fish is not a regular on my repertoire so I was in need of some ideas.  Luckily, the package had a couple of great recipes: Lemon Pepper Butter, and Easy Aioli.  I’ve made aioli many times in the past, so I decided to test out the Lemon Pepper Butter, especially since I had most of the ingredients on hand anyway.

First, I took out a half a stick of butter and let it soften while I prepared the other ingredients.  Next, I zested one lemon and chopped up about a quarter cup of fresh, flat-leaf Italian parsley.

Once the butter had softened, I combined the lemon zest and parsley with the butter using a fork.


The recipe called for Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper, which I didn’t happen to have, so I substituted Maine sea salt and freshly ground pepper (it just so happens that my father makes his own sea salt).


imageNow this handy-dandy recipe also included advice on various ways to cook the fish, depending on whether it had been defrosted or was still frozen.  As my mahi-mahi was defrosted, I had these options: on the grill, pan seared, or oven roasted.  I decided to sear the fish in a pan since I like crispy fish, and it’s too cold and snow around here to do any outside grilling.

I heated a heavy cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it was sizzling hot, added a little olive oil, and seared the filets about three minutes on each side until cooked through.


I topped the cooked fillets with the Lemon Pepper Butter and served it with quinoa (more on that another day) and a tossed salad.  The mahi-mahi came out crisp on the outside and flaky on the inside.  The Lemon Pepper Butter melted over the fish and created a delicious topping and added flavor to the quinoa.



Lemon Pepper Butter Mahi-Mahi

2 mahi-mahi fillets

1/2 stick of unsalted butter, softened

zest of one lemon

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Using a fork, mash together the butter, lemon zest, and parsley until mixed completely.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Heat a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with olive oil.  Sear fish fillets on each side about 3 minutes until cooked through.  Serve with lemon butter on top.

Serves 2

Crab Cakes

Most people think of lobster when they think of the coast of Maine.  After all, it is the signature seafood of the state.  However, people are missing out if they don’t try Maine crab.  It has a much more delicate flavor than lobster, and like lobster it is delicious when eaten plain, without added ingredients.

As a kid growing up in Camden, on Penobscot Bay, I’d walk downtown with a friend to the fish market and buy a half pint of crabmeat for lunch.  The crabmeat you find in Maine fish markets has been removed from the shell; some has already been cooked.  We usually just ate cooked crabmeat directly from the container, but sometimes we would take it home, add a dab of mayonnaise, and eat it in a hot-dog bun. As an adult, the hot-dog method is my preference.

I love New England hot-dog buns. For some odd reason you can’t get them anywhere else in the country.  They are split on top and connected to each other on the sides.  When separated, there is a flat surface on each side that can be buttered, then grilled.  Add a little crab meat with just a dab of mayo – soft in the middle, crispy on the outside — delicious.

The other day I had a hankering for crab.  Since we now live on the Third Coast, I knew there was no chance of getting my hands on fresh Maine crabmeat, so I decided to try the canned variety you see in the refrigerated section of some grocery stores.

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I am guessing that the crab I bought is most likely from somewhere in Asia.  It is fully cooked in the can but is kept in the fridge.  Who knows why?  Anyway, after opening the can I quickly came to the conclusion that I would be highly disappointed if I ate this crabmeat with mayo only, in a bun.  It definitely needed some extra flavor, so I decided to use it to make crab cakes.

First I mixed together one egg, a dash of salt and pepper, a tablespoon of mayonnaise, juice and zest from one lemon, and a couple of squirts of both hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  I finely chopped two scallions and some fresh dill, and added them to the mixture.  (If I’d had fresh parsley, I would have used a little of that, too.)


I also added some Bell Seasoning, another New England specialty.  Made in Massachusetts and seldom seen farther afield, it is a mixture of herbs.  According to the description on the box, it is “a blend of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme and pepper.”  Typically used with roast chicken, it is also great in tuna salad; in that case, I thought, it should work as an ingredient in crab cakes.  If you don’t have Bell Seasoning then you can use a blend of those herbs and spices listed above.


I added the crabmeat to the egg mixture and about 3/4 of a cup of bread crumbs.


I gently mixed the ingredients together and formed them into small cakes.


About once a week my husband and I eat dinner together after we have put the girls to bed, and this was one of those nights.  For us it is a date night at home, and usually when I try new recipes.  My husband enjoys being a guinea pig, and I am able to make an adventuresome meal without worrying whether the girls will like it or not.

The crab I bought was enough for eight crab cakes, so I kept out four for our meal and individually wrapped the other four in plastic wrap, put them in a sealed bag, and froze them for a future date night.


I heated the griddle on my stove to a medium temperature.  If you don’t have a griddle like mine, use a cast-iron frying pan or other heavy frying pan.  Once the griddle was hot, I drizzled in a little olive oil and fried the crab cakes on each side for about 3 or 4 minutes until they were nice and crisp on the outside and warm all the way through.


As you can see, they looked beautiful.  I served them with a little lemon juice and a nice salad.  Certainly not Maine crab but quite delicious anyway!


Crab Cakes

1 pound cooked crab meat

1 egg

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

zest and juice from 1 medium lemon

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Bell Seasoning

2 scallions, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped

3/4 cup fine, dry bread crumbs

salt and pepper

olive oil

Mix together the egg, mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.  Add a dash of salt and pepper, and the scallions and fresh dill.  Add the crabmeat to the egg mixture and gently mix in the bread crumbs.  Form into cakes.  Heat a cast-iron pan on medium heat.  Add a little olive oil when the pan is heated.  Cook the cakes until they are warm through the middle and golden brown on the outside.  Serve with lemon juice and tartar sauce.  Serves 4.

Panko Salmon

One of the best things about being the cook in the family is that we eat what I feel like eating on any given night.  As I pour myself a cup of coffee in the morning, I think about what we will be having for dinner that night.  If I am feeling ambitious, we’ll have an elaborate meal with many ingredients; if not, I might pull leftovers from the freezer.

Yesterday morning I felt the need for a really healthy meal that night.  The night before I had been to a cocktail party, where I had “passed food” for dinner.  It was to time for some real nourishment, so I pulled some flash-frozen wild Pacific Coast salmon from the freezer.


I decided to prepare this meal based on a pretty standard formula:  herbs, lemon zest, and panko crumbs.  Variations of this recipe have appeared in a number of cookbooks.  I chopped up some fresh dill and parsley, and added them to about a half cup of Panko crumbs. If you are unfamiliar with Panko, these are Japanese style dry bread crumbs that can be found in almost any grocery store.  I always keep them in my pantry because they tend to add a little more crunch than typical bread crumbs.  Next I added some lemon zest and olive oil for flavor.


I seasoned the salmon with salt and pepper.  I spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on top of each piece of salmon and then pressed the crumb mixture on top of that.


Now here’s the best part:  I heated a cast-iron pan on medium high, added some olive oil, and then pan fried the bottom of the salmon for about 3 to 4 minutes.  This sears the skin of the salmon and makes it nice and crispy.


Then I popped the pan into the oven at 400º for about 10 minutes.  I was careful not to overcook the salmon; if I did, it would be dry instead of nice and flaky.


I served the salmon with artichokes that I cooked for about 30 minutes in a large pot of boiling water with whole garlic and some lemon juice.  I had trimmed the stems and the tops off the artichokes with a heavy knife.


Artichokes are one of those rare vegetables that are better overcooked than undercooked.


The meal was truly delicious.  The salmon was so good, I still have a fond memory of it as I write this today.  The combination of the lemon zest, fresh herbs, and crispy crust qualifies this recipe for a go-to meal.

Panko Crusted Salmon

 3 to 4 four pieces of salmon

1/2 cup panko crumbs

1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

zest of one lemon

olive oil

 Preheat oven to 400º.  Mix chopped herbs and lemon zest with panko crumbs and drizzle a little olive oil.  Season salmon with salt and pepper, then spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on each piece.  Press the crumb mixture on the salmon.  Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add a little olive oil, sear the salmon for about 3 to 4 minutes, then put the pan in the oven.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through.  Serves 4.

Fish Friday

I love a good fish.  What can I say, I grew up on the Coast of Maine with a Catholic mother who served us fish every Friday and a Jewish father who made us eat everything on our plates.

I’ve passed on this love of fish to my own children, who will eat virtually any seafood put before them.  When we first moved to the Midwest, I struggled to find fresh fish that didn’t cost over $30 a pound or wasn’t farm raised (don’t even get me started on how unpleasant farm-raised fish can be). Nevertheless, I feel that it is important for our family to eat fish 1 to 2 times per week, so I’ve had to make some compromises.

I recently discovered reasonably priced wild fish in my local grocery store’s frozen food aisle. It was flash frozen at sea and stored in vacuum packs.  Essentially, flash freezing  fish immediately after it has been caught preserves it at the peak of freshness. Thawed and cooked, it has the great flavor that you would get from a truly fresh, never frozen fish.

After my husband and I sampled some frozen swordfish steaks, I decided that the whole family would enjoy this recipe since it is so delicious.  The fresh flavor of parsley and lemon zest (one of my favorite ingredients), combined with butter and wine, make a fabulous sauce.

Preheat the oven to 400º.  With a fork, I mashed 1/4 cup of butter, some chopped flat leaf parsley, and lemon zest from one lemon.   Then, I generously added ground pepper and seasoned to taste with salt.


Using a heavy, cast-iron skillet I heated it over medium-high heat and added about a tablespoon of olive oil.  While the pan was heating, I rubbed the swordfish with a little olive oil and seasoned it with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Then I put the swordfish in the skillet and seared it on each side about 2 to 3 minutes.


As you can see, I used a cast-iron frying pan with raised grill marks, which works like a charm for searing fish and steaks.  It creates beautiful grill marks on the meat for a really nice presentation.  I also have a regular cast-iron frying pan without grill marks that I use when I want to de-glaze the pan and it would have worked well in this instance too – unfortunately, I didn’t realize until after I seared the fish that I might want to de-glaze the pan.

What is de-glaze you ask?  Simply put:  It’s when you add a liquid to a hot pan that has had meat or fish browning in it.  Essentially, all the flavor is stuck to the bottom of the pan and by adding a liquid that flavor is released.  In this case, I chose not to de-glaze because it just doesn’t work that well with the grilling marks on the pan.

After searing the fish, I transferred the frying pan to the oven and baked the fish for about 8 to 10 minutes.  While the fish was cooking, I heated the butter mixture over low heat in a small pan.  I added a little bit of white wine and chopped garlic and continued to heat the mixture until the garlic released an aroma.  I am always careful not to overheat garlic since it turns bitter when it has been over cooked.


Finally, I poured the sauce over the swordfish.


To round out this meal I made baked sweet potatoes and roasted asparagus spears, which I thought would pair nicely with the swordfish.  I love to add a little bit of color to my meals; furthermore, both of these vegetables can be cooked in a 400º oven, making them easy to prepare with the swordfish.

I washed the sweet potatoes, pierced them with a fork, and popped them in the oven about a half hour before I started to cook the swordfish.  Then I washed and trimmed the asparagus spears, placed them on a baking sheet, and coated them with olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and ground pepper.  I put the asparagus in the oven just before I started searing the swordfish.

With just a little planning, this meal comes together very simply and all is ready for the table at the same time. Delish!

To Recapitulate…

Swordfish Steaks with Parsley and Lemon Butter Sauce

4 swordfish steaks (about one-inch thick)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

4 teaspoons chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley

1 garlic clove, chopped

zest of one medium-size lemon

1/2 cup white wine

olive oil

salt and pepper

Heat a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat with a little bit of olive oil.  When the pan is hot, put the sword fish in the pan.  Sear the fish, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Meanwhile, heat the butter and garlic in a pan on medium-low heat until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the white wine, herbs, and lemon zest.  Pour sauce of over fish to serve.  Serves 4.