October 21, 2009 10:02:00 AM
We love seafood and could eat it every day if we had access. Access is the obstacle in a land-locked town, especially a small town. Even a moderate-sized town such as Athens, Ga., with 150,000, doesn''t have a seafood shop. There, we depended on our local organic grocery store, Earthfare, which at least had several deliveries a week of some of the basic fish, like wild-caught salmon or tuna. Plus, they also sold only dry-pack shrimp and scallops.
Shrimp are certainly the most available seafood for us here in Columbus. (Please note, I''m talking about seafood here, not catfish.) If you''re lucky, you can have a friend or relative bring some back for you from the Gulf, and that''s as fresh as you can get.
Generally, anything in the grocery store that is labeled "fresh" has been previously frozen and thawed. I would follow the suggestion of Beth Rogers, chef at J. Broussard''s, who advises if you buy shrimp at the grocery store, buy it frozen and thaw it yourself right before you need it, ideally overnight in the fridge.
And, please, please, please buy only American shrimp. There is no telling what goes into the ponds for shrimp from overseas as there are different regulations or, in some cases, no regulations. And, why in the world would you want your money going out of the country?
Kroger has their private label on wild-caught U.S. shrimp, which are very good. I keep a bag in the freezer and pull out a few as I need them.
Royal Reds are Beth''s shrimp of choice, and they are available at the shore. Terry and I always take a cooler when traveling near the ocean and bring back whatever we can get.
Freezing, seasoning tips
Reading online I see most sites advise to freeze shrimp unpeeled in a heavyweight ziplock bag, filling the bag with water to cover the shrimp (remember, it will expand). Be sure to write the date on the bag; I like to write the weight as well. Then, pull a bag out when you are planning a meal, place it on a plate or in a bowl and let it thaw slowly in the refrigerator.
For nice-sized shrimp, grilling with salt and pepper is simple and delicious. I use them sautéed in olive oil for salad, quesadillas or in pasta. Boiled shrimp are perfect for salad as well, or for a classic shrimp cocktail. Just remember, you have to season the water and season it well. The shrimp are only in there for a few minutes. I use Old Bay, salt, peppercorns and lemon.
I never buy frozen scallops and so can''t comment on them. However, I buy fresh, dry-pack scallops whenever I see them -- usually at Whole Foods or Sexton''s in Birmingham, Ala.
What is dry-pack? Have you ever noticed the liquid in the pan when you sauté scallops? That is from sodium tripolyphosphate, which is not harmful, but in large quantities (used by unscrupulous seafood houses) it can affect the taste and weight of the scallops (and shrimp as well). The STP causes the scallop to absorb water and thus plumps them unnaturally. The preferred method is referred to as dry-pack.
Scallops are a quick cook and need only lemon juice or white wine and a little butter to finish them once they have been seared.
I asked Beth about fish, as she seems to have such variety at the restaurant. Her fish comes from Hawaii and is overnighted by Norpac. They provide only sustainable, humanely-caught fish, and Beth thinks it is fresher than even Gulf fish because she knows it isn''t sitting on the dock for two days before being shipped.
She has served mahi, halibut, swordfish and some I''ve never had. Locally, I have bought fresh fish at Brian Michael''s Meat Market in Starkville. He gets his fish in on Thursday or Friday; it has been very fresh when I''ve bought it. Beth suggests the best way to buy fish is whole, and you can cut it at home. (Well, maybe you can cut it at home; I don''t think I can.)
Salmon is the most accessible fish in this area. The Meat Market has Scottish salmon, which is farmed. I prefer wild-caught American, but can''t seem to find it fresh around here. Salmon is so delicious seared with simply salt and pepper or my new favorite purchased spice, Cavender''s All Purpose Greek Seasoning -- "An Ancient Greek Formula" (whatever ... ) -- I''ve used on everything from eggs to potatoes to salmon.
Beth''s favorite home preparation is seared salmon with a glaze made from equal parts rice wine vinegar, mushroom soy sauce (at Joy Asian Foods) and soy sauce thickened with a little cornstarch. Serve the glazed salmon over wilted spinach.
I find salmon is exceptionally versatile. We had some the other night and I then used the cold leftovers in a salad with a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing. I also like it with a fruit salsa on top, or something Mediterranean, like chopped, sun-dried tomatoes with feta cheese and black olives.
Fish is easy, nutritious and low-calorie. Just keep a few things in mind:
TARRAGON SHRIMP SPAGHETTI
One quarter clove garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
1 cup uncooked shrimp
2 teaspoons butter
Cooked spaghetti noodles
(Source: "Apalachicola Cookbook")
GRILLED PINEAPPLE SALSA
One-half ripe pineapple, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
One small red onion, diced
Two jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and minced
One-half red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Juice of one-half orange
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste
(Source: "Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster''s Market")