Prosciutto-wrapped tilapia

Cured pork + flaky fish = a tempting culinary equation

Originally appeared in the October 18, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

This is one of those recipes that might appear or even sound complicated; but please, dear reader, if this happens to be the case, perish the thought.   Just take a look at the ingredient list: 2 simple items along with a bit of seasoning—that’s it.

On the other hand, if I had to place emphasis, or at least a culinary caveat, with this dish it’d be in the execution.  You want to prep your roll in leisurely yet fastidious fashion, and make sure you tighten this device when rolling it in plastic (you can use your work counter to create traction which helps a great deal).  And take your time on searing the exterior.  You’ll want to be very aware of the heat of the pan; add a bit of vegetable oil to the hot sauté pan as a bit of insurance, because you want this delicious device to be crispy, not stick to the pan.

And when it comes time to slide it in the oven, don’t go overboard—in other words: fish cooks quickly, and it only takes a few minutes exposed to high heat to create a product that’s ready-to-eat.  Good luck, have fun, and see you next week.


Prosciutto-wrapped tilapia

Serves 3 – 4

  • 1 pound of tilapia fillets
  • 5 – 6 thin slices of prosciutto
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 375° F.  Slice fish lengthwise and place one piece on top of the other, anticipating a more rounded roll later.  On a clean work surface, unroll a sheet of plastic wrap.  Place four slices of prosciutto in a shingle pattern (staggered slightly to overlap) on plastic wrap, then place fish on top of prosciutto; wrap the prosciutto around the fish.  Use the sheet of plastic to wrap and tighten the stuffed breast.  Repeat steps for the second breast, and allow them to rest for a couple hours (this will firm them up a bit).

2.  In a large, oven-safe sauté pan, heat oil to medium-high.  Unwrap plastic from prosciutto-wrapped fish and place in pan, searing the wrapped fish on all sides until prosciutto is crispy before transferring the sauté pan to a 375° F oven for fifteen minutes (or until fish feels firm when pressed).  After removing from oven, allow fish roll to rest for about ten minutes before slicing and serving.

Tasty treasures in the clearance aisle

Originally appeared in the August 30, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Impulse buys.  When it comes to consumer compulsion—whether it be conversion to a “smart” phone, or giving in to that gotta-have-it gadget expertly positioned in the check-out lane—I typically have the wherewithal to stave off such temptation.  But when it comes to the gotta-have-it compunction of gastronomy, I must admit that I am a rather impressionable culinary consumer.

Take the centerpiece of this week’s dish: Swordfish.  I picked up this hearty specimen in the clearance section of my local market; and while I’m not ignorant to the likelihood that this product had at one time been frozen before being thawed and packaged, I still believe a cut of this stature has some redeeming qualities, particularly for those home-cooks with their eyes on their checking account, and their hearts (to mix metaphors) on the nourishment of their family.

There’s nothing wrong with snagging a clearance cut of meat or discount fillet of fish, but I implore you make haste (read, don’t procrastinate and let it linger in your fridge).  Enjoy your swordfish with a simply-dressed salad of thinly peeled asparagus and radicchio.

So don’t be self-conscious about surveying the clearance section at your local market.  Who knows what tasty treasures you’re apt to find.


Pan-seared swordfish with asparagus and radicchio

Serves 2

  • 1 large swordfish steak
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • A few pinches of sugar
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 4 – 6 ounces fresh asparagus, peeled lengthwise
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.  Bring one quart of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, and using a vegetable peeler, thinly cut asparagus lengthwise.  Thinly slice radicchio and combine with fresh herbs.  When water is ready, add asparagus; blanch briefly (no more than 15 seconds) before thoroughly draining and plunging into ice water to stop the cooking process.  Drain again and combine with radicchio mixture.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, vinegar, red pepper, sugar, salt and pepper until mixture emulsifies.  Set aside.

2.  In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a bit of olive oil.  Season swordfish with kosher salt and pepper before gently adding to pan.  Sear fish on both sides, allowing to cook as you do so, until exterior is golden.  After removing fish from pan, allow to rest for several minutes.

3.  Pour dressing over asparagus mixture and gently toss to coat.  Serve swordfish on top of the asparagus salad.


Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pan-seared cod with arugula vinaigrette

Skip the “sticks” with fresh fish

Originally appeared in the July 26, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

If you’ve noticed the trend that I gravitate more toward fish dishes during the summer months, then good for you.  But to be honest, this compulsion often goes uncalculated.  Most people are aware about the benefits of fish as a good-oil, good-fat protein; but—all gastronomic pedagogy aside—sometimes fresh fish just feels right.

Unfortunately, the Hoosier state is far from being a seafood “hub,” it would be equally unfortunate if the culinarily inclined chose to shrug their shoulders and settle for freezer-burned fish sticks.  (I don’t care how sagely the Gorton’s Fisherman carries himself.)

Decent cod is not only widely available in most chain markets and grocery stores, but it’s relatively accessible for a cook who’s unsure of their fish skills.  You’ll notice that this portion of cod is quite hearty, coming in at eight ounces—that’s half of a pound.  But for me, I’ll opt for a few extra ounces of fresh, flavorful, and keenly-cooked fish in lieu of starch any day.  I think asparagus goes well with this dish, but I think asparagus goes well with just about all fish.

So march up to the fish monger’s glass counter at your grocery store—ask incisive questions.  Don’t settle for something “fishy,” and I don’t mean the “sticks.”

Pan-seared cod with arugula vinaigrette

Serves 2

  • 2, 8-ounce cod fillets
  • As needed, all-purpose flour
  • 1 ounce fresh arugula
  • 1 tablespoon white or sherry vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch sugar, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper
  • 4 ounces tomato sauce (prepared or canned)

1.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a sauté pan over moderate to high heat.  Season cod with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, and lightly dust with flour.  Gently settled the cod into the sauté pan; allow fish to sear on all sides before placing it in a 425° F. oven to finish cooking through.

2.  Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, add arugula, vinegar, sugar, salt, and cracked black pepper, and puree, slowly drizzling in the oil as you blend ingredients together.  When vinaigrette has emulsified, reserve in a bowl.  Once fish is cooked through, allow to rest for a few minutes before serving with arugula vinaigrette, tomato sauce, and vegetable of choice.

Published in: on July 26, 2012 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wasabi soy-glazed salmon with bok choy and pear slaw

Light, cool, simple: a trinity of simplicity

Originally appeared in the June 28, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

The prime imperatives behind this week’s dish: keep it light, keep it cool.  And it doesn’t hurt to keep things simple, while you’re at it.  This recipe succeeds on all three levels.

The salmon should rest with the sweet-and-savory marinade long enough for the tender fish to absorb the Asian-inspired concoction.  There’s a bit of spice here—what with the wasabi, crushed red pepper, and ginger—but it’s a nice counterbalance to the cool-crisp characteristics of the bok choy slaw.  Like most vinegar-based slaws, you don’t want to make this too far ahead of time before actual service, as the weight and absorption of the dressing compromises the volume and texture of the vegetables.  In other words: you can make your dressing in advance, but please wait until the last minute to execute this step.

As for as cooking procedure, I would suggest firing up the grill outside, but due to the Mohave Desert-like state of most of our arid lawns, it’d probably best to hang out within the ambient coolness of air conditioning.  Best bet: a sturdy grill pan.

After assembling and serving this dish at the kitchen table, my wife, Jess, called this one of her favorites.  Guess what I plan on cooking tonight?

Wasabi soy-glazed salmon with bok choy and pear slaw

Serves 2

For salmon and marinade:

  • 1 pound salmon fillet, skin and pin-bones removed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground wasabi
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 fluid ounce lite soy sauce
  • 3 fluid ounces vegetable oil

For dressing and slaw:

  • ½ fluid ounce sesame oil
  • 1 ½ ounces olive oil
  • 1 fluid ounce apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 heads of bok choy, halved and sliced very thin
  • ½ of an Anjou pear, cut into small batons
  • 2 radishes, cut into matchsticks

1.  In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk all ingredients from wasabi through vegetable oil, and pour into a plastic, zip-tight freezer bag.  Add salmon and marinate for at least four hours.  Afterwards, place a grill pan to medium-high heat, and brush with vegetable oil or spray with cooking spray; preheat oven to 400° F.  Remove salmon from marinade (but don’t throw away), and gently place on grill.  Sear and create grillmarks before flipping to opposite side; place salmon on oven-safe dish and finish cooking until desired doneness is reached, intermittently brushing reserved marinade over salmon.  Remove from oven and allow to rest.

2.  In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk oil along with following six ingredients (dressing can be made ahead of time).  Toss bok choy, pear, and radish in a bowl, and drizzle on dressing; gently toss to coat.  Serve salmon on top of bok choy slaw.