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Fabulous fish.


If your kit for flavoring fish includes only lemon and pepper and perhaps a bit of dill, you should consider spicing it up. Ann Clark, the founder of La Bonne Cuisine Cooking School in Austin, Texas, advocates more daring flavoring as the key to exciting seafood cooking.

Her innovative recipes for fish and shellfish begin where more timid cooks' recipes leave off. After raiding the cabinet for all the usual spices, she proceeds to add unusual seasonings of her own. Fennel, saffron, cumin, red peppers, chilies, raspberry-wine vinegar, sesame oil, rice-wine vinegar, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds--all can be "marvelous' with fish, she says.

The trick is to match the flavor of the fish with the proper combination of seasonings. Fatty fish (mackerel, sturgeon, bluefish, and less strongly flavored tuna and salmon), for example, stand up well to strong seasonings, and fresh ginger. Lean fish capers, and fresh ginger. Lean fish (red snapper, halibut, and sole) marry well with herbs, onion, and garlic. It's all clearly spelled out in her recent book, Ann Clark's Fabulous Fish: Easy and Exciting Ways to Cook and Serve Seafood, along with helpful hints for finding the freshest fish.

Don't be shy, she admonishes: sniff, touch, and ask questions. Because seafood deteriorates quickly, feel the display case to check the refrigeration; have purchases packed with ice, and don't forget to stop by the spice counter before heading home to the kitchen.

Baked Whole Fish a la Provencale (Markes 4-6 servings)

This is one of the easiest and most delicious ways of cooking a whole fish. In Provence in the summer the air is filled with warm aromas of wild thyme, rosemary, summer savory, fennel, oregano, and sage, all mingled with exquisite lavender, so the traditional Provencal seasoning mixture for fish always includes dried lavender. The herbal mixture here can be made up in large quantities and kept on hand or given to friends with instructions for making the marinade (simply add 3 1/2 tablespoons of the mixed herbs and seasonings to the lemon juice and olive oil).

3- to 3 1/2-pound whole sea bass, cleaned and scaled with the head and tail left on (see note)

Provencal Marinade

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried summer savory

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Pinch of dried sage

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, or parsley, for garnish

Rinse fish in cold water and wipe with damp cloth. With sharp knife, score fish on both sides, cutting two or three large overlapping X's about 1/2 deep. Place fish in glass or metal baking dish--oval is best.

Crush fennel, herbs, salt, and pepper together in mortar. Add lemon juice and stir to dissolve salt. Mix in olive oil. Pour this marinade over scored fish and turn to coat well. Refrigerate, turning once, 1-2 hours.

Bake fish uncovered at 425| F., allowing 10 minutes per inch of thickness (measure at thickest part), about 30-40 minutes. Baste fish several times with marinade while baking. Test for doneness by inserting small knife under flesh at backbone; if fish is done, flesh flakes easily and looks milky white rather than gray and translucent.

To serve, place on heated oval platter and, with sharp knife and serving spatula, make two or three vertical cuts across fish. Slip knife in at backbone horizontally and slide knife across top of bones from gills to tail to detach flesh from bones. Remove two or three neatly cut portions with spatula. Detach spine at base of head with one sharp cut and remove to another plate. Make two or three more vertical cuts through flesh and skin, and serve, garnished with sprigs of fresh herbs.

Note: You can also use whole redfish, red snapper, pompano, porgy, drum, rockfish, or sheepshead. This dish is also good made with large fillet of bluefish, or thick tuna or swordfish steak.

Fish Soup with Corn and Zucchini (Makes 8-12 servings)

Keep bottled clam juice and canned tomatoes on hand to make this delicious and healthful soup often. It's a perfect dish to serve easily to a large group. You use only one big pot for cooking. Ladle the soup from the pot, soup-kitchen style, placing soup bowls and piles of crusty sourdough bread in the kitchen and letting guests serve themselves. If not all the fresh herbs in the recipe are available, use as many fresh as you possibly can. Poblano peppers, if available, can be added; their smoky chili flavor will give this fresh, clean-tasting soup a Mexican touch.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, mashed to a paste with a fork

2 cups yellow onion, finely minced in a food processor

3/4 cup dry white wine

2 cups bottled clam juice

6 cups canned, peeled Italian plum tomatoes, pureed with juices, or ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and pureed

2-3 zucchini or yellow squash, sliced 1/2 thick

1 or 2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped (optional)

2-3 ears of sweet carn, cut into 2 pieces

1 10-ounce package frozen corn Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled with tails left on (see note)

1 pound sea scallops, well cleaned of sand, cut in half, or bay scallops, left whole (see note)

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat olive oil in 6-quart or larger heavy-bottomed casserole. Add garlic and onions and gently cook about 8-10 minutes or until soft. Add wine, turn heat up, and cook briskly 5 minutes. Add claim juice and tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes.

The recipe can be prepared ahead at this point, cooled, and refrigerated overnight. Gently reheat and proceed.

Add zucchini, peppers, corn, salt, pepper, chives, and herbs and cook 5-7 minutes.

Stir in shrimp and scallops, and cook only 3-5 minutes or until shellfish is done. Taste for seasoning.

Stir in parsley just before serving.

Note: This soup is excellent hot or cold, or left over as sauce for pasta. Fresh lean fish fillets cut in pieces or other fresh shellfish such as mussels, oysters, or crab may be used in addition to or in place of shrimp and scallops.

Fish with Walnuts, Red Onions, and Pomegranate Seeds (Markes 2-4 servings)

You will find variations on this combination of flavors with fish throughout the Middle East and in southern Russia. Pomegranates give a fresh, clean, tart taste, and the fish looks as if it is stuffed with rubies! Use citrus juices to replace the pomegranate seeds if they are unavailable.

1 3-pound whole fish, cleaned and scaled with head and tail left on (see note)

2 teaspoons salt


1 cup chopped red onions

2 cloves garlic, mashed

2-3 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh white bread crumbs, soaked in 1/4 cup milk and then squeezed dry

1 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup finely chopped parsely

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds or, if pomegranate is unavailable, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice

Wipe fish and sprinkle inside and out with salt. Leave at room temperature while you prepare stuffing.

To make stuffing: cook onions and garlic gently in olive oil until soft. Add crumbs, walnuts, parsley, seasonings, and 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds. Taste for seasoning.

Spoon stuffing into cavity of fish and pat any excess on top of fish. Place fish in oiled baking dish and bake 45-50 minutes at 400| F. or 10 minutes per inch of thickness including stuffing. Garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds.

Note: Use red snapper, redfish, flounder, striped bass, porgy, rockfish, or sea trout. Or try this dish with thick fillets instead of whole fish. Put stuffing on top of fillets and adjust baking time (allowing 10 minutes per inch of thickness including stuffing).

Photo: For an extra-flavorful seafood feast, serve healthful Fish Soup with Corn and Zucchini (left) or easy-to-make Baked Whole Fish a la Provencale.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Author:Irwin, Christopher
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1988
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