My food philosophy is a blend of time-honoured cooking techniques and the latest nutritional findings. My presentation of simple cooking procedures includes principles by which basic recipes can be endlessly varied. Cooks are encouraged to go beyond my formulas to create their own specialities once the basics are learned fully.
Health conscious cooks will appreciate the nutritional density I’ve woven into each exceptional recipe. Also variations and substitutions can modify each formula to particular preferences.
Please take a few moments to read about the basics of fast and fresh cooking and how you can use them every day in your own kitchen. And then armed with my cooking methods and philosophy, transform what might have been a humdrum meal into a special creation of edible art of your very own.
The Thrill of the Grill Fast & Fresh Menu Tale
The aroma of a true charcoal grill or wood fired oven enhances both the flavours and experience.
A proper Weber is my answer with charcoal or heat beads as I learned the new terminology. Adding oak or grape vine cuttings for further aromatic essences didn’t seem to be done either. As a 1/16 Lummi Lummi Indian, we use to have potlatches in the great Northwest (Seattle) with salmon being barbecued or planked right on the alder wood. It was served on it as well for a rustic tasty finish.
Wood is one of the four key ingredients to a successful barbeque. If mesquite or grape vine cuttings don’t abound near you grab some mulberry branches and hack to chips. Any fruit or nut tree sticks work. Little Creatures a great pizza and more microbrewery in Fremantle, WA uses white gum or jar rah planks in their wood fired oven, which holds the heat and in a lengthy manner.
The marinade should use an acid component, such as lemon, lime, vinegar and/or soy to break down the connective and collagenous tissues. The main fillet should marinate no less than an hour or no more than a day. Especially if you are marinating fish you may end up with ceviche if it goes for too long! You all know – what that is, right?
Glazes on fish or meats caramelise and finish the barbeque with both colour and flavour. A few of each of these options are listed below. Further not all of these need be used on meats alone. Grilled pineapple with a tequila glaze and other fruits may be barbequed. Tofu and seitan may indeed benefit by a sauce or glaze for the vegetarians.
FAST & FRESH BASICS
For all quick cooking techniques ~ Professional chefs work efficiently because they understand and follow the principles of organised cooking. Every ingredient and utensil that will be needed is conveniently placed so that the work (creative process) will flow smoothly. Hunting for mislaid small wares and missing ingredients is not only time consuming but frustrating. So take some time to be certain that everything is mis en place – in its place – before you proceed with any recipe.
Another professional technique that prevents work stoppages is that of pre-prepared or pre-prepped ingredients. You can make good use of this same strategy during week-ends preparing for the week ahead.
Pre-preparation refers to long- term planning of menus, purchases and storage. It especially involves measuring, chopping and mixing ingredients as far advance of cooking as possible whist still retaining quality. With strategic preparation, the cook can enter the kitchen and produce an excellent meal quickly and with little effort and more fun!
BBQ or BROIL
The grill itself should be four inches from the heat (at least 550F) and fish cooked in any manner should take ten minutes an inch, of thickness. So that would be five minutes per side or ten in total. You’ll have to be the one, this time, to change to centimetres. A dry fleshed fish should be brushed with lemon juice or quality oil before grilling or broiling to prevent drying out.
SAUTE or PAN FRY
Sautéing is a valuable cooking technique that enables a cook to complete ‘mains’ in just four to ten minutes. Lightly floured, spiced or just plain fish (or thin tender pieces of meats or vegetables) only needs a direct brush of any quality oil or just a few drops of both butter and quality oil spread in a non-stick pan. Place fillets, nice side down and skin side up, in the pan over medium high heat to sealing both flavour and juices without crowding. This is the nicest and what I learned at the Cordon Bleu the best presentation. When edges are opaque and curl slightly (about 1 ½ minutes for a thin sole fillet), flip the fillets over with spatula, tongs or flipping in the air! Sauté until edges are again opaque, golden and fish flakes easily when tested in the thickest portion with a fork. Serve with lemon or lime wedges and a sprinkling of parsley. Purist plain like is the most natural and simply delicious way for any good fresh fish fillet. This is the healthiest way to fry or stir-fry.
FAST OVEN BAKE
Baking is suitable for whole fish, thick fillets or cutlets and to cut cooking time begin at 500˚F. until golden. Then reduce heat to 350˚F.
Add flavourings such as herbs, chopped onion, diced ripe tomatoes and even black olives for a Mediterranean edge.
Cover with foil or wrap in packets and bake in a preheated oven (180˚) for 15 to 20 minutes, depending upon thickness.
Use 1K or 2lbs for any fish fillets that are fairly thin. Fold skin side in, so that only the most attractive side is visible; place in a baking dish. If the fillets are thick, arrange unfolded and overlapping, in the baking dish. Top with onion slices, if you like and lemon. Pour on heated dry white wine and water to cover. Add a bouquet garni (bay or lemon myrtle leaf, thyme sprigs, parsley sprig, carrot and celery stick and 6-8 peppercorns) if desired. Bake at 400˚F. for 15-20 minutes or until fillets flake easily when tested with the tines of a fork. Fillets should be opaque, white and still moist. This gentle simmering works well for poultry and vegetables in a seasoned liquid.
STIR-FRY never DEEP-FRY
Here’s where organization, planning and pre-prepping are a must.
Prep vegetables to expose maximum surface area for cooking. Vegetables with thick stalks, such as broccoli and celery, should be cut in thin diagonal slices. Cut mushrooms or cauliflowerettes in similar thin but straight slices. Coloured capsicum or onions can be cut into strips (julienne) or squares. Fish is also usually cut to strips or 1-inch chunks.
To stir-fry heat oil over high heat until it flows in small rivulets when the pan is tilted. Add onion first then garlic and other root vegetables. Add 1 tablespoon water or broth as needed to cook vegetables to tender crisp. Add fish in last few moments, then desired cooking sauce. Stir constantly until thickened and clear with arrow root or agar rather than corn starch.
RADAR LOVE or MICROWAVE
Microwaving is suitable for whole fish, thick fillets and cutlets.
Fish cooks well in a microwave but the cooking time depends on the quantity being cooked and the power level of the oven. Place fish in a microwave proof dish in single layers, thicker parts on the outside, and cover.
It will take only a few minutes to cook so frequently check to make sure it is not overcooking. Flesh should still be slightly translucent in the centre when taken away from heat. Remember it keeps on cooking!
When you don’t want to cook at all, have sashimi or make sushi. Google it. There! I always wanted to write that. This is one thing I prefer to enjoy not make.
Sashimi is the speciality of Japanese Cuisine, fresh chilled fish served raw.
Seafood Secrets (MY favourite fish monger in Perth) stocks a range of fresh sashimi grade fish cut into a block, ready for thin slicing into 1/2 cm thick strips.
Sashimi may be dipped into Tamari, Shoyu or light soy sauce (or best Dr Braggs amino acids) and eaten with wasabi and ginger. Sashimi is generally eaten at the beginning of a meal.