Cod Steamed in Parchment with Asian Flavors

I’ve rediscovered the simplicity of steaming seafood in a package – somehow I’d forgotten how easy, low-calorie and delicious this method is for quick, healthful meals.

In my late teens, I spent a few summers on a beautiful rocky island off the coast of New England, waiting tables at night and lounging on the beach by day. I was part of a crew of young restaurant rats – waiters, maids, dishwashers and cooks who migrated to the island every season. Each one of us was seduced by the promise of a summer spent hiking, biking, and swimming in the ice-cold Atlantic, subsidized by the summer people for whom we worked our tushies off in exchange for cash tips.

You were considered lucky if you landed a job in one of the old hotels because that meant you had an inexpensive place to live for the season. The large Victorian houses would often offer the whole top floor – former servants’ quarters – for employees to room dormitory-style.

It sounds quaint, but in reality it was more John Belushi than E.M. Forster – think post-adolescent boys, keg parties and shared bathrooms.

The real perk of the job turned out to be the surfeit of pristinely fresh seafood: mussels, clams, swordfish and bluefish just pulled from the surrounding sea. On our nights off, since we didn’t have kitchens, we’d fire up a little hibachi grill and get dinner ready. We’d wrap whatever fresh fish was available in foil, throw in a little seasoning and place the packet on the grill. Minutes later, we’d have a meal we could eat straight out of the foil, maybe with some grilled island corn on the side.

The beauty of this method lies not only in how easy and quick it is put dinner on the table, but that you use little or no fat. The fish cooks in its own juices and is enhanced by whatever herbs, aromatics and thinly sliced vegetables you include.

I used Asian flavors like sesame, chili and scallions in this recipe, but you could use sliced cherry tomatoes, basil and minced garlic to go Mediterranean-style, or use carrot, leeks and parsley for a more simple French flavor. Just remember to cut the vegetables into small, thin pieces – the cooking time is quick.

Cod Steamed in Parchment with Asian Flavors

Serves 2

1 skinless fish fillet, such as cod, salmon or halibut (about 1 pound)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons gomasio *
Pinch of dried chili flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Lay an 11 x 14-inch piece of parchment over a large sheet of aluminum foil. (The foil helps keep any juices from leaking out of the package)

Arrange fish in the middle of the parchment; sprinkle with onions, ginger, sesame oil, gomasio, chili flakes, salt and pepper.

Gather the two long edges of the foil together and fold down over the fish to make a neat package, tucking the short ends together over the top.

Place the packet on a large baking sheet and bake 15 – 20 minutes. The fish will be opaque and flaky when done.

* a blend of sesame seeds, salt and seaweed available in the natural or international section of well-stocked grocery or natural foods stores; substitute plain toasted sesame seeds if you can’t find it.

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Copyright (c) 2008 FamilyStyle Food

Peanut Shrimp Salad – It’s a Winner!

My peanut-crusted shrimp salad with basil-lime dressing (photo:

Wow! I’m back after a great trip to Birmingham, where I was lucky to be chosen as a $10,000 category winner in the Southern Living Cook-Off.

All I can say is that the folks at Southern Progress, who also publish Cooking Light, Cottage Living, Sunset and numerous other lifestyle magazines, not only know how to throw a cook-off, but are an amazingly talented, passionate and hospitable group. You get the feeling that they love going to work every day.

I made some new friends, caught up with some old ones and even got that relaxing massage.

The grand prize winning recipe, Roasted Banana Ice Cream with Warm Peanut Butter Sauce, looks wonderfully decadent with lots of Southern style. My only problem with it is that I have an allergy to bananas and I won’t be able to try it!

Peanut Crunch Shrimp Salad with Basil-Lime Dressing
Makes 4 servings

Basil-Lime Dressing:
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Crisco Pure Peanut Oil
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon Domino Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Asian chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced

Shrimp Salad:
1 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup USA-Grown Dry Roasted Salted Peanuts
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Collection Red Curry Powder
20 jumbo Certified Wild American Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Crisco Pure Peanut Oil
3 cups mixed baby salad greens
1 cup diced English cucumber
1 cup peeled diced mango
1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3 green onions, trimmed; white and light green parts sliced into matchsticks
1/4 cup USA-Grown Dry Roasted Salted Peanuts, chopped

1. To prepare Basil-Lime Dressing, puree all ingredients in a food processor. Set aside.

2. Pulse panko, peanuts, cornstarch and curry powder in food processor until fine crumbs form; transfer to a pie plate.

3. Toss shrimp with the egg in a large bowl. Dredge shrimp in peanut mixture to coat.

4. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Place shrimp in skillet; cook shrimp 3 minutes per side, or until golden.

5. Gently toss greens, cucumber, mango, bean sprouts, mint and onions in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons Basil-Lime Dressing. Arrange salad on individual serving plates; top each with 5 shrimp; sprinkle with peanuts and drizzle with remaining dressing.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayonnaise

Bring on the Burgers!

Okay, so this weekend officially marks the beginning of Burger Season. I’m embarking on a burger bash that will probably go on all summer, or at least until I run out of charcoal.

And, for those of you who are interested, check me out on TV! The Build a Better Burger III Challenge is on Food Network this Monday, May 28th. I’m cringing in anticipation. At least I can tell you that I wasn’t one of the winners, and that the Iron Chef-style judging was a little grueling. My finalist recipe for Coconut Basil Chicken burgers is on the Food Network site.

Back to reality, these tuna burgers are at the top of my favorites list. Admittedly, the price of tuna has risen alarmingly since I last made these – I’m talking twenty bucks a pound – and I hesitated a moment before buying it. But after eating them, I can say it’s worth the splurge. And possibly, the price of tuna will vary if you happen to live next to an ocean.

The recipe is from Sara Foster and appeared in Cottage Living magazine. I didn’t change much; just switched panko for the bread crumbs and tweaked the seasoning a little.

I have to add that the wasabi mayonnaise is extra-tasty made with Kewpie mayonnaise (have a look at their interesting website) from Japan. It’s my new favorite condiment. Did you know that the Japanese are crazy about mayonnaise? Kewpie is smoother and eggier than my Hellmann’s and made with rice vinegar. I love the star tip on the container, which produces decorative mayonnaise swirls when you squeeze the container.

For more creative food-blogger burgers, have a look at Writing at the Kitchen Table. Freya and Paul are hosting Big Burger Ballyhoo. I can’t wait to see the results.

Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayonnaise

Makes 6 burgers

2 pounds very cold, skinless yellowfin tuna, cut into chunks (I chill the tuna in the freezer for 10 minutes before starting – it’s a lot easier to chop and handle)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup panko crumbs
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
A few handfuls mixed salad greens
6 hamburger buns, split and toasted
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
Fresh chives

Wasabi Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 minced green onions
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse briefly, just until the mixture is roughly chopped. Add the panko, onions, ginger, soy sauce and pepper; pulse again to combine. Form into 6 patties and place on a baking sheet or shallow baking dish. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

2. Mix together all ingredients for the Wasabi Mayonnaise, cover and chill until serving time.

3. Grill the burgers over medium-high heat about 3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook; these are best removed from the grill rare and left loosely covered for a few minutes to finish cooking to medium-rare. Overcooked tuna will be dry.

4. Serve the burgers on lettuce lined buns and topped with the wasabi mayonnaise, avocado slices and chives.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food