Under the Sea - this year's Carnival theme - brings to mind submarine sandwiches, mermaids, starfish, octopus, coral reefs, all types of seafood and fish.
All sorts of creatures live in and under the sea. Oysters, snapper, swordfish, cod, scallops, jellyfish, salmon, tilapia, crab, shrimp. mussels, lobster, clams, starfish, squid, octopus, flounder, sardines, monkfish, ceviche, pollock. And on the vegetarian side there's many types of plants in the sea - seaweed.
If your idea of seaweed is that stinky tangled mess of slimy greens washed up on a beach, think again. Crunchy, gelatinous seaweed is common in Oriental cuisines from Japan to Korea. In Japanese restaurants, green-black sheets of nori are wrapped around sushi. In Korean restaurants, seaweed salad of bright, neon green, angel-hair threads tossed in a sesame dressing is a common treat. Seaweed ranges in color from ruby-red dulce to dark green wakame, kombu and green-black nori. Less common are kuki-wakame, hijiki, mozuku, arame, Ogonori and sea moss.
All are nutritious, rich sources of minerals like iodine and iron. They also supply many essential vitamins and other phytonutrients like lignans, plant compounds with cancer-protective properties.. Asian markets will usually have a large selection of dried seaweeds. You can also find it packed in salt and refrigerated. Both need to be soaked before using, the dried ones to rehydrate and the salted ones to remove the brine. Crumble some seaweed into soup, on top of chili, or into a tossed salad.
Thinking of seafood and sea creatures brings numerous recipes mind: Clam chowder, fish stew, shrimp scampi, baked fish, fish fry., crab fondue, lobster mac 'n' cheese, crab dip, Chinese jellyfish salad, seafood cocktail, crab fondue, southern fried catfish, paella, shrimp tacos, fish enchiladas, pasta allo scoglio, fishcakes, crab dip, goldfish crackers -?with cheese, of course. There are also classic "submarine" sandwiches and an "under the sea" salad of lime-green jello with white marshmallow waves.
To warm up after chilly carnival activities, a hot fish stew or soup is just the thing. On other days, bake up some fresh fish and chips.
Fish has been used as a base for soup for millennia. There are many variations on fish or seafood stew. In France, Bouillabaisse is an ancient, legendary fish stew with a rich history and ingredients. In New Orleans, gumbo is often made from a fish base thickened with okra pods. Paella is a Caribbean style fish stew. Fish chowders, like clam chowder, are a traditional New England dish. Bisques are heavy cream soups traditionally prepared with shellfish. Dashi is a Japanese fish stock soup. In Scotland, Cullen Skink is a traditional soup made with smoked haddock, cream, potatoes and onions.
In Norway, Bergen Soup is thick and creamy, made with a base of white fish (haddock, halibut, cod) and vegetables. Aljotta is a Maltese fish soup made with lots of garlic, fresh herbs, and tomatoes. Lan Sikik is a Thai fish and noodle soup. In Finland, Lohikeitto is a soup made with salmon and root vegetables. Almost every country and region has some type of fish stew or soup.
If you buy a whole fish rather than fillets, you can easily make your own fish stock. Fish stock uses parts of the fish you would ordinarily throw away, so it cuts down on waste. It requires little preparation and only about thirty minutes of cooking.
To make stock, place fish bones and fish heads in a pot. Cover with water. Add a teaspoon of salt, some allspice berries, peppercorns, and a couple bay leaves. You can also add some dried herbs in a bouquet garni (1/2 tsp. dried basil, 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, 1 sprig fresh rosemary).
Bring to a boil. Add soup veggies a carrot, a parsnip, a piece of turnip, and an onion or leek. Reduce heat cook it at a simmer all together for about 30 minutes or longer. Strain the stock through a cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Use this liquid for soup, or cool and freeze for later use in 2-cup portions.
Easy fish stew
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion
1 stalk celery
1 small carrot
2 large garlic cloves
2/3 cup fresh parsley
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 to 2 cups fish stock or clam juice
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 lb fish fillets (halibut, cod, sole, red snapper, sea bass you can also use mussels, clams, or other seafood).
Seasonings: salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, Tabasco if you like it hotter
Heat oil in bottom of heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Peel and dice the onion, sprinkle with a little salt and add. Slice carrot and celery, and add. Cook about five to 10 minutes. Peel and mince garlic and parsley, and cook about two more minutes. Add tomato and cook 2 minutes.
Season fish and cut into 2 inch chunks. Add clam juice, wine, and fish to the pot and cook about 10 minutes. Taste, add herbs and seasonings, and serve.
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups fish stock
2 stalks celery
1 large onion
1 small turnip
1 small parsnip
1 teaspoon basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat the olive oil in the stockpot. Peel and dice the onion, and cook about five minutes, till translucent. Wash and slice carrots, celery parsnip and turnip, and add. Add the reserved stock, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer. Peel the potatoes, dice, and add. Add the spices. Simmer about twenty minutes, till vegetables and potatoes are soft. Add the parsley and milk; check for seasonings, heat through and serve.
Oven baked fish 'n' chips
1 lbs. potatoes use a starchy type, like baking potatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
cup fresh breadcrumbs
cup minced fresh parsley
1 pound fish fillets, whitefish, tilapia or other mild fish
Scrub potatoes well (or peel them). Slice in half lengthwise, then crosswise into chips.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Pat potatoes dry with a clean kitchen towel. Spread on a nonstick baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, checking and stirring halfway through and testing for doneness.
While potatoes bake, zest the lemon. Combine breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and parsley. Place fish on baking sheet, top with breadcrumb mixture and drizzle with remaining Tablespoon of oil. Bake in the oven about 10 minutes, or until fish flakes with a fork when tested. Serve fish with chips and a tossed salad.
Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com.