Category Archives: Seafood

Salt of the Sea

In recent months, my brother has stopped eating much iodized salt and opts for kosher salt instead.  Given all the talk about the evils of salt, and the USDA’s new nutritional guidelines for salt intake, you’d think that was a good idea, but iodized salt is important.

We’ve teased him about getting a goiter, which is swelling of the thyroid.  Most cases are caused by iodine deficiency and it causes a large swelling in the neck.  There was even a Seinfeld episode that made fun of a woman with a goiter.

Jerry: C’mon Elaine, it’s just a goiter…Elaine: I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t look the woman in the face. I mean I keep thinkin’ that that goiter’s gonna start talkin’ to me… You’d think they’d mention that before they send you over there: “Oh, by the way, this woman *almost* has a second head”. But no, no, I didn’t get any goiter information.Jerry: They really should mention that in the breakdown: height, weight, goiter.(via The Old Man)

But, the reason iodized salt is so common is, in fact, no laughing matter.

In areas of the world where there is little iodine in the diet – tyically inland or mountain areas where marine foodstuffs are not consumed – the population suffers from more than just thyroid swelling.  The lack of iodine is great preventable cause of mental retardation or cretinism and is an important public-health problem.

The industrialized world has nearly eliminated this condition by lacing table salt with small amounts of iodine, and many Western cultures receive adequate iodine through drinking milk.  Recent campaigns by the United Nations and the World Health Organization have helped the developing world, too, even adding iodine to fish sauce that is preferred to white salt to give food a salty taste.

My brother and his girlfriend helped me make a salt-crusted fish for dinner this weekend, and we all felt very lucky to have been provided with enough iodine in our lives.  It is seems like a minor issue, but this element is very important to our mental and physical health.

This recipe uses kosher salt, which is not iodized, but seafood is typically rich in iodine, so you can rest easy that you won’t develop that goiter anytime soon.

Salt Crusted Fish
Serves 4

3 lb red snapper (or other round-fish, a fish with eyes on both sides of head), gutted and scaled (whole or headless is okay)
6 cups of kosher salt (entire box of Morton’s kosher salt)
4 egg whites
1/2 cup water
1/2 lemon, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

I recommend that you have the fish gutted and scaled at the market, if possible.  It can be pretty messy otherwise.  My brother generously agreed to scale our fish, but it took a while to clean up all the fish scales that flew about the kitchen and back porch.  Yes, he ambitiously started cleaning the fish in the kitchen, but then realized that it was impossible to fully contain the scales as they flew about so he moved outside.  The right thing to do, absolutely, but it did create one more surface to clean.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack positioned in the center.

In a large bowl, mix together salt, egg whites, and water.

Spread this salt mixture on the bottom of a large rimmed baking sheet.  You want to make a bed for your fish, about 1/4-inch thick and about the size of the fish.

Put the fish on top of this bed of salt.

Insert lemon slices and minced garlic in cavity of fish.

Then coat the top of the fish with the remaining salt mixture.  It is okay not to cover the head or tail of the fish with salt.

Roast the fish in your preheated oven for about half and hour, or until a thermometer reads between 135 and 140 degrees F.  I let the fish rest for about 10 minutes before I tried to remove the crust.

Tap the crust with the back of a large metal spoon to crack it.

Then, use the spoon and a large fork to remove the chunks of salt.  I used the spoon and my clean hands to brush any remaining salt.

Next, use the spoon or your hands to start removing the skin and push it to the side.

Start removing the top layer of flesh with the fork and/or spoon and move it directly to serving plates.

Once you’ve removed the entire top filet, you can remove the bones and expose the bottom filet.

Push aside the lemon slices and then use the spoon and/or fork to remove the bottom layer of flesh and move it to serving plates.


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Filling Up on Texas

As our time in Fort Worth came to a close, we spent a lot of time filling up on our favorite Texas foods.  This included plenty of Gulf Coast shrimp…

Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Salsa
Serves 2 to 4

For tacos:
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp, peeled and tails removed
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
corn tortillas
shredded cabbage, optional
coarsely chopped cilantro, optional

Put peeled shrimp into a gallon-sized zip-top plastic bag.  Sprinkle with spices.  Add minced garlic.  Pour olive oil into bag.  Using hands distribute spice mixture over shrimp until well-covered.  Let marinate for about 30 minutes.

Grill over medium high heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until shrimp are translucent.

You can grill the tortillas, too, until lightly charred but still pliable.  Or, you can heat them on a skillet on the stovetop or in the microwave.

For salsa:
1 small onion
1 jalapeno
1 clove garlic
4 small to medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 small avocados, peeled and seeded
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp lime zest
juice of 1 lime

Finely dice onion, jalapeno, and garlic.

You can use a food processor, if you have one.  Pour into a bowl.

Coarsely chop tomatillos.

Sprinkle with salt and lime zest.  Add lime juice and stir.

Cut avocados into chunks.  Add to bowl.
Serve with shrimp on tacos…

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A Dash of Texas with Chesapeake Bay Crab

A few weeks ago my husband came home from the grocery store with a surprise for me.  He had seen a sign for a crab recipe contest and knew we could come up with something good.  So, he handed me a couple of pints of back fin Chesapeake Bay crab meat, and we got to brainstorming.

Well, with the home renovations and the temporary move to Texas, the timing wasn’t right for the contest, but I’m still rather happy with our creation.  I think it is nice combination of Chesapeake Bay and Texan cuisines.  There is always another time for competition…

Crab Tostadas
Serves 6 to 8

1 tsp lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 cup red onion
1/3 cup tomatoes
1 jalapeno (optional)
8 oz crab meat ( I used backfin, but other varieties will work)
12 to 18 corn tortillas
vegetable oil for frying
sliced avocado (optional)
shredded cabbage (optional)
chopped cilantro (optional)

Whisk together lime zest, lime juice, and olive oil.

Whisk in salt and cumin.  Add chopped vegetables and mix.

Gently stir in crab meat.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes to let flavors blend.  If you prepare further ahead in advance, keep in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Heat vegetable oil in a small frying pan.

Fry tortillas until lightly browned and crisp.  Drain well and blot oil with paper towels to ensure they stay crisp.

Place sliced avocados on tortillas.  Top with a generous amount of crab mixture.  Can top with cabbage and/or cilantro, if desired.

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Angry Clams

We like things spicy around here.  By that I mostly mean, we like to eat spicy foods.  In fact, we add peppers and other spicy elements to just about everything we eat.

I was craving pasta and figured I would make us a quick arrabiata sauce.  Arrabiata means angry in Italian, and describes a simple tomato sauce liberally doused with red pepper.  I changed tack after seeing some cans of clams in my pantry.  Perfect – linguine and clam sauce with some crushed red pepper to make it angry.

Linguine with Spicy Clam Sauce
Makes 4 servings

12 oz linguine pasta
3 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 10-oz cans chopped clams, drained, all juices reserved
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley

Cook pasta according directions on package.

Meanwhile, melt butter with oil in heavy large skillet over low heat.  Add garlic until fragrant, probably about a minute.

Add reserved juices from clams, wine, carrot, oregano, and red pepper.  Increase heat to high and boil until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, between 10 and 15 minutes.  Stir in the clams and the parsley.  Turn down the heat and simmer for about another minute.

Drain linguine well; add to skillet of hot clam sauce and gently toss to blend.  Serve immediately.

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We Find Ourselves in a Pickle

Husband and I are back in Texas for a few days visiting my parents.  When asked what we want to do while we are here, we both replied “Eat.” We share the goal of eating as much Gulf shrimp, Texas barbeque, and Mexican food as possible.

It is a real dilemma trying to facilitate so many meals of all the South Texas goodness while still fitting into our clothes and conversing with family.  I mean, we were raised to not talk with our mouth full, but we keep filling our mouths, so it is tricky.

Upon hearing our request, Mom wisely chose a light, refreshing meal for our first homemade dinner.  She knows how to help us pace ourselves through a weekend of gluttony, and she knows I only like shrimp fresh from the Gulf of Mexico.

Mom made pickled shrimp, or Camarones Estilo Barbachano Ponce.  She modified a recipe from the New York Times Menu Cookbook by Craig Claiborne.  It was fairly easy to put together and she was able to prepare it for us the night before so she could focus on visiting with us.

Camarones Estilo Barbachano Ponce (Pickled Shrimp)
6 to 8 servings

2 lbs raw shrimp
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 celery rib with leaves
1 bay leaf
1 small dried hot pepper
6 peppercorns
1 tsp salt, or more
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion (slices should be almost transparent)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley
1 ripe avocado,  peeled, seeded, and cubed

Remove the shells and tails and discard.   Rinse the shrimp under water and set aside.

Put enough water to eventually cover the shrimp in a saucepan and add the carrot, celery, bay leaf, hot pepper, peppercorns, and salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

While simmering, combine the onion slices, oils, vinegar, garlic, tomatoes, and salt to taste in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook for no more five minutes after the liquid returns to a boil.  It took Mom about 4 minutes this time.  (You can’t rely on color because some shrimp is already pink, but it should no longer be translucent.)   Drain the shrimp and while still warm add them to the mixing bowl with the oil and vinegar mixture.  Gently mix together.  Cover and chill for about 12 hours.

Before putting it on the table, sprinkle the shrimp mixture with black pepper and parsley.  You could mix in the cubed avocado, but our fruit was really ripe and we feared it would get mushy in the mixture.  So instead, we put the cubed avocado directly on our plates and spooned the shrimp mixture on top, or you could do the reverse.  We served it with French bread with garlic butter and fresh melon.  If you have any leftover shrimp, you can serve the next day on plates of lettuce for a nice starter salad.

On to our next meal…stay tuned.

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