Category Archives: Fish

Love Salmon? Don’t Eat it (for now, at least)

Spread over a bagel or roasted on the grill, salmon is one of my favorite fish. Packed with those heart-healthy Omega-3s, salmon is both healthy and flavorful.

But the salmon fishing industry is less than healthy. The fatty orange fish have been heavily overfished and fish farms are suffering from a virus that’s leaking into the wild population. According to this op-ed by Taras Grescoe in the New York Times, farmed salmon is also heavily treated with pesticides, and because the FDA doesn’t test for one particularly toxic one, it could very well be present in most salmon you buy at the supermarket. Farmed salmon also takes enormous amounts of fish protein to sustain.

So what’s a fish lover to do? Eat lower down the food chain. The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a bounty of information on which fish to eat and which to avoid. Rather than serving grilled salmon, for instance, opt for trout, striped bass, tilapia, sardines or Pacific Halibut. Check out their resource guides to find the best fish to eat for your region.

Given how cheap salmon is — check out the jumbo packages at Costco — it’s easy to buy without guilt. But the price we’ll pay if we continue gulping down this aquatic being is that there may not be any in the years to come.

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Posted by on June 10, 2008 in Fish


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Fish Tacos with Homemade Tortillas and Fresh Corn Salsa

Farmers’ Markets have the awesome power to inspire. As you wade through the crowds, the aroma of sun-kissed strawberries brings to mind a fragrant crumble while gleaming avocados cry out to be turned into guacamole.

When Christa and I hit the farmers’ market last Saturday, we picked out fresh corn ears still tucked in their husks and avocados, cilantro and fresh tomatoes. Our mission: fish tacos. Our super-charged team of two whisked together guacamole, fresh corn salsa, homemade tortillas, and pan-fried fish for what turned out to be a perfect summer dinner. Christa became an expert tortilla-maker in no time (check out the picture at right) and we savored those fresh, doughy tortillas.

Last night, I reworked the fish recipe again and coated the dover sole in a mixture of cornmeal, salt and pepper and pan-fried the fillets in their entirety. I put the boyfriend to work on the tortillas (he’s a quick learner!) and recreated the corn salsa.

If you want to make your own homemade tortillas (which are faaar better than any you could buy in a store), I would recommend that you get this tortilla press. You don’t need anything fancy — just a cast iron one which allows you to press the moist balls of masa into tortillas. You can find masa harina at many supermarkets these days in the “ethnic foods” section or you can order online at this website (MexGrocer).

Fish Tacos with Homemade Tortillas



2 cups masa harina

1 1/4 cup water

Fish Tacos

1 pound dover sole fillets (you can also use Red Snapper)

1/2 cup coarse cornmeal

dash of salt and pepper

Vegetable oil


1. To make the tortillas, combine the water and masa harina until you have a moist crumbly mixture that rolls up into your hands into a nice, neat ball.

2. Prepare the tortilla press by folding a sheet of waxer paper in two and placing it between the top and the bottom parts of the press.

3. Roll a golf ball-sized mass of masa harina mix into a neat round ball and place in the wax paper in the press. Close the press and use the lever to squish the ball. Carefully peel the tortilla off from the wax paper and place on a plate. Repeat until your masa harina is finished.

4. Fire up the griddle (or use a large sautee pan) and wait until it is quite hot. Spray with cooking oil (like Pam) and place the tortillas on the griddle. Cook until they turn golden brown and flip.

To make the fish:

1. Mixture together the cornmeal, salt and pepper in a plate or shallow tupperware container. Coat the fish in the cornmeal mixture and cook in about 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil until the fish turns white. Be careful not to overcook! When the fish is done, put on a plate.

Corn Salsa


2 ears of corn

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3-4 small tomatoes, diced

1/2 small onion, diced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

salt, pepper, Tapatio sauce


1. Using a large knife, hold one corn ear over a large plate and carefully slice off the kernels. Repeat with the other ear and place the kernels in a sauce pan with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil. Cook the kernels until they turn a brighter color and are softer.

2. Combine the cilantro, onion, tomatoes in a medium-sized bowl. Add the cooked corn kernels and season with salt, pepper and Tapatio sauce.

To assemble the fish tacos, top half a fillet of cooked fish on top of a tortilla and top with the corn salsa. Yum!

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Posted by on May 30, 2008 in Fish


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Ceviche: Fresh Fish and Lime, what could be more refreshing?

After a foray in wine tasting in downtown Santa Barbara for a pre-Mother’s Day celebration, my mother and I ended up at the counter of the Bay Cafe and Fish Market. We opted for the local catch and selected 1 lb of fresh red snapper. Ceviche!, we instantly thought, and packed the fish in ice to take home.

Ceviche, fresh fish “cooked” in lime juice, is the ideal summer lunch. Because the fish is never cooked in heat, it must be as fresh as possible (buy only from a reputable fishmonger) and the dish should be prepared the day you buy the fish. Avoid fish with a fishy odor or an off-color.

The beautiful thing about ceviche is that it cooks while you’re lounging around in the sun or making margaritas. Prepare the dish several hours before you’re ready to eat so the acidity in the lime juice has a chance to “cook” the fish and add the cilantro at the last minute for the best flavor. For a touch of panache, serve the cocktail in martini glasses with a lime wedge.

Ceviche de Huachinango

1 lb Fresh Red Snapper, chopped into small chunks

6 limes

1 small red onion, chopped into small cubes

3 small tomatoes, chopped into small cubes

1 avocado (optional), chopped into small cubes

hot sauce (such as Tapatio)

salt and pepper

1 handful of cilantro, chopped


1. Mix the snapper, tomatoes and chopped onion in a medium bowl (preferably ceramic). Squeeze the juice from the six limes into the bowl and mix until the fish is thoroughly covered. If you want, add the avocado at this time.

2. Put the fish/tomatoes/onion mix into the fridge for 4-5 hours.

3. Remove from the fridge and season with salt, pepper and hot sauce, to taste.

4. Just before serving, add the chopped cilantro. Serve into individual bowls.


Other great fish markets in Santa Barbara include Kanaloa Seafood, which is tucked away on Gutierrez street near Milpas and has tons of fresh fish offerings (although sadly not that many are local) and Lazy Acres, which has excellent fish (try their mango salsa!).

Photo is of the Kanaloa Seafood counter.


Posted by on May 12, 2008 in Fish


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Cooking with the Naked Chef (aka Jamie Oliver)

Sure, Jamie Oliver is a cutie, but I’d never taken his cooking seriously. My experience with this bloke was seeing him on TV riding around in his motorcycle making food for his mates. I was skeptical about his ability to cook and viewed him as more of a TV personality than a chef.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that his cookbook, The Naked Chef Takes Off, offers some excellent recipes, most of which are easy to make (except the fresh pasta section. Fresh pasta is fun to make once or twice; after that, it becomes tedious). The cookbook is written in an informal style; rather than finding carefully detailed instruction, Jamie will tell you to “rip over your basil,” or “throw in your herbs and veg.” The photos are gorgeous — just looking at them will make your mouth water.

I made the Baked Cod with French Beans, Pancetta and Pine Nuts the other night and fell in love with this delicious and quick recipe. The pancetta — salted, cured, spiced pork — drips over the cod and green beans while the dish cooks, creating a warm, cozy and perfectly savory sauce. When making fish dishes, always try to use fresh fish that you buy from a good fishmonger. Frozen is never the same and you don’t want to buy supermarket fish that looks old and haggard. Splurge on the good stuff.

Baked Cod with French Beans, Pancetta and Pine Nuts (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef Takes Off)


1 and 1/2 lb French beans, trimmed and sliced at an angle

1 clove of garlic, finely sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

olive oil

four 8-oz cod steaks

12 strips pancetta

1 good handful of pine nuts

2 lemons, quartered


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place your French beans in a roasting pan. I used a Dutch oven by Le Creuset, which worked perfectly.

2. Throw in your garlic and a little salt and pepper and drizzle the olive oil until the beans are lightly coated.

3. Nestle the cod steaks among the beans, drape the pancetta slices over the cod and sprinkle everything with pine nuts. Place the lemon slices in the pan. Season everything with fresh ground pepper.

4. Cover the pan with aluminum and cook for five minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 12 minutes or so, until the fish turns an opaque, shiny white.

Serves four.


Posted by on April 1, 2008 in Fish, Food Reads


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