Sunday, December 11, 2011

Russian food. Pelmeni

These pot-stickers probably came to Siberia from China. Then they spread all over Russia, and became a favorite winter food. If the temperatures stay consistently below freezing for 3-4 month, you can invest into making a few hundreds pot-stickers, freeze them outside, put them in a bag, and hang it outside of the window, to be cooked as needed. They cook from frozen in about ten minutes. They are economical, easy to cook, and oh, so tasty! Shaping them is labor-intensive, but if you live in a region with freezing winters, or in a house with a large freezer, you only need to make them once a year.

In Siberia, they make pelmeni with all types of filling: mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, grains, fish, meat, poultry, or any combinations. In Moscow, where I grew up, pelmeni are always filled with mixed meats, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and minced onion. The usual filling is half ground beef (not too lean) and half pork. Whenever we had venison, we would always mix ground venison into pelmeni filling (1/3 beef, 1/3 pork, 1/3 venison)

In my family, we would spend the afternoon before the New Years Eve making pelmeni. Mom made the filling, dad rolled out the dough, and we all shaped. The first hundred or so would go on our holiday table, the rest froze on all available surfaces out on the balcony, for winter dinners to come. We would put a whole peppercorn into one of the pot-stickers. The lucky recipient could make a wish that will come true in the new year.

In California, I like to make pelmeni for our Tahoe ski trips. After a day of skiing, they cook fast, and they taste great! Rolling out the dough is physically demanding. My dad (who is very good at it) being 9000 miles away and my boyfriend not being part of the culture, I replace them both with my pasta machine, on it's thinnest, ravioli setting. I then cut out dough circles with a 3-inch round cutter. A glass with a thin edge, or a cut tin can can do fine. Pelmeni should be a little larger than ravioli, but smaller than most Chinese potstickers, about 2 inches across.

Serve pelmeni in beef stock with a little white wine vinegar, straight with butter and
a lot of fresh ground black pepper, with sour cream with minced garlic and scallion, or even with mayonnaise!

Makes about 200, serves 10-12

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2cup water

for the filling:
1.5 pound mixed ground meats (3/4 pound beef and 3/4 pound pork; or 1/2 pound beef, 1/2 pound pork, 1/2 pound venison)
1 large onion, minced
1 tsp salt
1 (generous) tsp fresh ground black pepper

Make the dough: sift flour into a large bowl. Mix in salt. Make a well in the center. Pour egg and water in. Mix, gradually incorporating the flour from the sides, to make very stiff dough, knead. At first it will look like it's too dry and not coming together. Do not despair, keep kneading. If after five minutes of kneading it's still not coming together, add a few drops of water, repeat (you can skip the gym that day). Cover with plastic, let rest 30 minutes.

Make the filling: combine ground meats, onion, season with salt and pepper, mix well.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough as thin as possible, using a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease, of a pasta machine. Cut out 3-inch circles. Put together the leftovers, and roll out again.

Place about 1/2 tsp of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch the edges together tight. Connect the corners to make a neat ring. Place on a floured plate or cutting board. Repeat 199 times, or so. Freeze. Put in ziplock bags, keep in the freezer for up to 6 month.

To cook: in a large pan bring water to boil over high heat. Add frozen pelmeni, bring back to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cook until pelmeni float to the surface, 5-10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Serve with:
- sour cream and black pepper
- sour cream + minced garlic + minced parsley or scallion
- white wine vinegar and fresh ground black pepper
- beef stock + dash of white wine vinegar
- melted butter + a lot of fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup sour cream blended with 1 cooked carrot and 2 minced garlic cloves
- (I didn't say this) mayonnaise

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Russian food. Assorted meat selyanka

I guess it's the season: I've been cooking a lot of Russian food recently. From Russian Californians with a food nostalgia to families who never tried Russian food and want something different for their special occasion dinner, everyone is requesting traditional Russian dishes. I've even been working with a fine restaurant that decided to offer zakuski spread as a part of their appetizer menu.

There is very little information available on traditional Russian cuisine. A friend (of Russian background!) asked me a few days ago: "What do you mean by Russian cuisine? Isn't it all just French food made with available local ingredients?" The answer is "No". The French cuisine became a huge influence in Russian cooking in the 19th century, when French chefs immigrated to Russia to escape the revolution, and were hired by aristocratic families and fancy restaurants; but there are distinctive tastes and cooking techniques that make Russian cuisine stand on it's own, and reflect the character of the people and the land, even after absorbing multiple influences from the neighbor countries. I am going to put together a series of posts about russian cuisine, with recipes, techniques, and serving ideas, for easy reference. I hope I can paint a complete picture.

Contrary to what most restaurant menus would make you think, Russian cuisine is much more than borscht, beef Stroganoff, blini with caviar, and cold vodka.

The short growing season and long winter in most regions forced the cooks to make creative use of vegetables with long storage potential (cabbages, potatoes, turnips, beets, onions) and grains (wheat, rye, buckwheat, rice, barley, to name a few), to develop an assortment of pickled, marinated, and fermented vegetable recipes and smoked and dried meats for storage. During the short spring and summer growing season, fresh young vegetables and herbs are praised and presented in salads, cold and hot soups, or prepared simply to accompany the main course.

Wild mushroom hunting is a favorite national pastime and a competitive sport, and boiled, sautéed, pickled, marinated, dried mushrooms add their charm to many dishes. In modern times, when wild mushrooms are unavailable, cultivated varieties take their place in recipes, but they are never as good as the real thing!

Fish, both salt- and freshwater, was always popular. Two specifically Russian ways to prepare fish are whole de-boned fish or slices of fillet baked in pastry, and cooked fish, covered with jelly, served cold as an appetizer. There is a number of fish soups and salads, using both fresh and smoked fish. Pickled herring, a Scandinavian influence, is enormously popular, as it goes so well with vodka.

The most used meats are beef and pork, both served hot, or cold as an appetizer. Organ meats, such as tongues, harts, livers and kidneys, are cooked in soups, pates, baked in pastry, or made into sausages. Lamb and mutton are a recent fashion brought from the South. As part of Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Uzbek dishes they are very popular now.

Poultry and game - chickens, duck, goose, rabbit, pheasant, quail, grouse - are reserved for festive holiday roasts and stews. They are presented nicely, and grace the holiday table. Organ meats are also used. Chicken liver mousse is everyone's favorite.

What really sets Russian cuisine apart from the rest of the world is it's extensive use of yeast dough to make all kinds of bread, filled bread, pastries, pies, rolls, etc, baked, fried, boiled. Vatrushki (cheese pies) for breakfast. Small piroshki with meat and vegetable fillings as a part of the appetizer spread. The soup is usually accompanied with piroshki with a filling that compliments the soup. A meat or a fish pie can be a main entree at a family gathering, or one of the dishes served at a formal dinner. To finish, hot tea with sweet pastries and fruit preserves.

Assorted meat selyanka

There is no recipe for this soup. It can be made with anything.

In the old times, selyanka (means "village girl") was a soup made with a hearty beef stock, the meat used to make the stock, and any pickled vegetables on hand. 19th century restauranteurs dresses the girl up with tomatoes, olives, capers, and fancy smoked meats, and they called it "assorted meat selyanka". Still, she didn't lose her rustic character. Anything goes. If you serve a cold meat plate at a dinner party, make a selyanka the next day. It will show the meat leftover to their best advantage, and it will cure the hangover, if any.

After you invested time and effort into making beef stock, this soup comes together in minutes. At home, I usually make a lot of beef stock once in a while in my 8-quart stock pot, then freeze whatever I don't use immediately in 1-quart ziplock bags for soups, and in ice cube trays for sauces. This way, I have my "bouillon cubes" at all times.

Serves 6

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 cup roasted tomato sauce (substitute tomato paste)
2 quarts beef stock
3 medium kosher pickles, cut into small cubes
1 pound assorted smoked or cooked meats and sausages (smoked pork shoulder, smoked ham, dry salami, summer sausage, frankfurters, boiled beef tongue, cooked kidney, Canadian bacon, smoked chicken, smoked duck), the more the merrier. If making stock from scratch, include the boiled beef from stock. Cut into small cubes.
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed
1 cup olives, rinsed
1 lemon, cut into thin slices, to garnish
Flat parsley leaves, to garnish
6 Tbsp sour cream, to serve

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onions, sauté until golden, 10 minutes. Add tomato sauce or tomato paste, sauté 10 minutes more.

Add stock and pickles, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low. Add meats. Heat through. Add capers and olives.

Pour soup into hot soup bowls or small crocks, add capers and olives. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley. Serve hot. Pass sour cream at the table.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

All my favorite fall fruits

Now is the magical time when all three of my favorite fruits come together at the market at the same time:

Figs are going out, the few still available are overripe, beginning to dry out, but still delicious. At this point, don't use them for cooking - enjoy them fresh while they last, or, if you are lucky to have a large tree, dry some for the winter.

Grapes are at the peak now. Super-sweet, juicy and wonderful as an accompaniment to wines and cheeses, in salads, or just eat them straight.

Persimmons are just coming in. My favorite Fuyu variety, that is not tannic and can be eaten still firm and crunchy, is good and sweet already. It's great sliced as a part of cheese and fruits board (think soft, sharp cheeses), sliced into salads, chopped into salsas, baked in a pie, or just eaten out of hand.

I don't even mention apples as my favorite fruit, they are too common, and everyone's favorites. But I eat a lot of apples now, when most varieties are at the peak: bake pies and tarts with Granny Smiths, Pippins, Honeycrisps, and tiny tart crab apples; slice Fujis, Honeycrisps, Rome Beauties, Empire, and McIntosh to serve with wine and cheese (lots of pairing options here), sauté Pippins and Granny Smiths to serve with savory meat dishes - poultry and pork work very well with apples; store some, wrapped in paper, in a box in a cool place, for the winter.

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Friday, November 4, 2011

Old cast iron pots restoration project

I got these old, dirty and rusty cast iron pots in a second-hand store for a few dollars each. From a brief inspection and an Internet research, it appears that the small one used to be a Cape Cod fire starter (they would fill it with lamp oil, soak a lava rock with an iron handle in it overnight, then light it and put it in the fireplace to ignite the firewood), and the large one was a cooking pot used over an open fire (the outside was covered with sooth), both about 100 years old.

I loved the shapes of the pots, and I wanted to use them in my kitchen. How do I clean them?
A wire sponge and Barkeeper's Friend didn't achieve anything.
Medium-grade steel wool showed me that there may be some metal underneath the dirt and rust, and if I keep rubbing, in the next 500 hours or so I will see more of it.
A drill with a wire brush attachment blew a lot of rust iron dust in my face and cleaned some parts of the pots almost OK, but it couldn't reach inside the pots.

Finally, I took my pots to the local Porsche repair shop to be sandblasted. It took them a week, and they charged me as for Porsche repair, but the result was perfect, clean cast iron, stripped bare, beautiful dull-grey gun-metal color, and ready to start rusting again any moment now.

Now, I had to act fast. I took my pots home and started the seasoning process righ away.

A layer of rendered bacon fat, brush inside and out, wipe, into 400 degree oven. Lots of smoke. Let cool.

A layer of olive oil, brush inside and out, wipe, into 400 degree oven. Lots of smoke. Let cool.

Repeat three times.

The pots are gradually developing a shiny non-stick coat of polymerized fat, turning from dull grey to reddish-brown to black.

Now the 100 years old pots are ready to cook again. I already used the small one to cook white beans with bacon and chorizo on my gas grill, and made a mutton stew with onions, carrots, and rice, and a borsch, in the larger one, on the stove. Waiting for the weather to put them on the open fire. Or should I give up on the weather and use them in the fireplace?

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Monday, October 17, 2011

Terrine of grilled eggplant and fire-roasted peppers with tomato confit

Good bye, summer!

They are probably the last ones of the season, and I'll miss them terribly. But at this weeks farmers market an almost six-pound bag of slightly overripe organic heirloom tomatoes was $5, and they were of absolutely beautiful, sunny orange and red varieties. I had to take them home, and now everything I eat has tomato sauce on it. I also put away a couple of bags of tomato confit in the freezer for later.

Tomato confit

Makes a lot

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, peeled
5 sprigs oregano
5 sprigs thyme
5 pounds ripe (or slightly overripe, undamaged) tomatoes, or as many as you can fit in your roasting pan, cored
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil, spread onion, garlic, and herbs in the pan. Place tomatoes on top of onion mixture, stem side down, fitting them close together. Season with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Bake about one hour, or until tomatoes char on top and blister. Let cool a little. Remove oregano and thyme. Puree vegetables in blender, working in batches, adding liquid from the bottom of the pan as needed. Store in a refrigerator, or freeze in locking bags or in ice cube trays. Use on pastas, eggs, beans, thin with stock to make tomato soup, braise fish fillets in it, or make my simple version of a vegetable terrine, while eggplants and bell peppers are still in season, and the weather is grill-friendly.

Terrine of grilled eggplant and fire-roasted peppers with tomato confit

Makes 1 4-cup container

2 bell peppers
3 small Italian eggplants
Olive oil for grilling
Salt, pepper
2 cups tomato confit
2 bags unflavored gelatin

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Place peppers on the hottest part of the grill, char on all sides, turning occasionally, until almost all the skin blackens. Place in a covered container and leave until cool enough to handle.

Slice eggplants lengthwise 1/4 inch thick. Brush with olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper. Remember that the vegetables will be served cold, so stronger seasoning will help them shine. Grill, turning once or twice, until soft and nice grill marks are created.

When peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skins - they should slide off easily - and cores and seeds. Work over a bowl to catch the juices. Slice peppers lengthwise.

Line 4-cup Pyrex container, loaf pan, or terrine with plastic wrap. Put a layer of eggplant slices on the bottom, with the best grill marks facing down - this will be the top of the finished terrine. Top with a layer of peppers. Repeat, finishing with a layer of eggplant, with the best grill marks facing up, in case you decide to serve the terrine in the mold.

Divide tomato confit into two roughly equal portions. Bring one to almost boil, add any pepper juices to it. Sprinkle gelatin on cool confit, let sit two minutes. Add hot confit, mix well. Pour tomato-gelatin mixture over the vegetables in the mold. Pierce in a few places with a bamboo skewer, to let the tomato flow under and around the vegetables. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Turn the terrine over to a cold plate, remove the mold and plastic, slice to show the colorful layers, and serve with more tomato confit, if desired.

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Slow burger

This Marin Sun Farms grass fed burger sits on top of a pile of wild arugula, and a thick slice of heirloom tomato. It is garnished with sautéed crimini mushrooms, sharp cheddar, grilled bacon, marinated red onions, and fried sage. I skipped the bun and fries - why bother? - and ate it with knife and fork. Tastes like meat.

For the burger:
1/2 lb ground grass fed beef
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt, fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil for the grill

Season beef with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Shape into a ball, then flatten on a cutting board to about 1 inch thick burger. Make a shallow depression in the center to allow for expansion while cooking. Preheat gas grill. Oil the grill, cook burger over direct heat, covered, 3-4 minutes per side. Add toppings and cheese for the last minute of cooking.

For marinated onion (makes about 1/2 cup, keep unused portion refrigerated for up to a week): Slice 1 small red onion into very thin rings. Rinse under cold running water, drain. Season with a pinch of sea salt. Toss with 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar and 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar. Let sit 30 minutes at room temperature.

For fried sage: Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 6-8 large sage leaves. Cook until crisp, 3-4 minutes, turning carefully with tongs. Dry on paper towels. Use to garnish grilled meats, soups and salads. Cool and reserve the aromatic oil for use in salads.

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Friday, September 16, 2011

September fruit, cheese and wine pairing

Fruit: Black Mission figs
Cheese: Chevre rolled in fine herbs
Wine: Beringer Knights Valley Alluvium Blanc 2008

Summer, I'll miss you! Long sunny days. The pool. Grilling in the park. Sitting outside on a warm evening, with the stars above me and a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc in front of me. Heirloom tomatoes. Bell peppers. Spot prawns with mango salsa. Peaches, nectarines, pears, melons. I'll even miss the zucchinis, no matter how tired of them I feel now. But most of all I'll miss the figs.

You just cannot get figs out of season: they have to be picked very ripe, they don't keep, and they don't travel. The season is short, and it is now.

Like all fruits, the only food created by the nature that was designed to be eaten, figs are great when you just eat them out of the basket. However, they really shine paired with cheese and wine.

I have selected Beringer Alluvium Blanc for it's fruitiness and chewy texture, not unlike my figs. The wine is deep golden color, it smells of exotic flowers and sweet citrus, and the taste is lush and tropical. And it has a hint of fig! Composed mostly of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion grapes and aged in oak, it has a creamy start and a long, spicy and herbal aftertaste.

A soft goat cheese is a natural partner for the figs. Usually, I don't like any flavorings on my cheese, but for this pairing I picked a Chevre rolled in fine herbs, to honor the herbal character of the Sauvignon Blanc in the wine. And the wine supports it perfectly!

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Market find: candy stripe figs

These pretty "candies" come from the farmers market and are actually a variety of figs, properly named Candy Stripe. Lighter in flavor than popular Black Mission figs and with a hint of citrus, they go well into sweet-savory dishes.

Quarter them for arugula salad with almonds, figs, and sherry vinaigrette; or cut a cross on top and insert a dab of goat cheese, season with a drop of honey and fresh ground black pepper; or wrap them in prosciutto slices; and enjoy the flavor of the early fall.

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Location:San Rafael,United States

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shooting vegetables: Garden photography class

On a beautiful August day, when summer vegetables look their best and the vineyards are heavy with grapes getting ready for the harvest, Kendall-Jackson winery  invited a local nature photographer Leagh Wachter to teach a photography class in their extensive vegetable garden and on the demo vineyard. The garden photography class was designed for those who are not content with just sipping wine and sampling fruits and vegetables, but who also want to capture their beauty. Of course, I am one of them! Having found out about the class at the last moment, I managed to get in.

I said it was a beautiful August day. Well, it was a good day for photography: the morning fog lifted a little by 9 am, but the sun never came out; it remained overcast (and cold!) all morning, giving us perfect diffused light for the duration of the class.

I arrived partially frozen in my convertible, and was greeted, together with other students, by Leagh, winery's estate manager Robin, and Jack the cat, who, despite his impressive size, moves very fast, and is difficult to convince to pose for a picture. It wasn't a wildlife photography class after all.

Behind the tasting room, on the outdoor patio, the kitchen staff had just started fire in their pizza oven. Later on I watched the chef taking temperature of the oven - it was 880 degrees then. In the morning it was just hot enough to help thaw my frozen fingers in front of the wood fire.

The day started with a sip of Kendall-Jackson new partially un-oaked Chardonnay, Avant, which they pare with fried green tomatoes topped with goat cheese, to highlight the tart and creamy aspects of the wine.

Then Leagh gave us a short lecture on specifics of outdoor lighting, sharing tips on when to shoot (early morning and early evening light are the best), how to select the light angle, use a diffuser (a cardboard frame filled with semi-transparent parchment paper) to tame harsh afternoon light, and a sheet of white paper held in front of the subject to fill in. He handled us printouts illustrating the same subjects photographed in different lighting, with different depth of field, and different composition.

After that all 25 of us, with our iPhones, point-and-shoot cameras and SLRs, were released to roam the garden and the vineyard. Leagh would go from one student to another, giving advise and ideas what to try.

Two hours later, we gathered for another wine and food pairing. The winery's culinary staff pair their Monterey county Pinot Noir with brick oven pizzas with roasted tomatoes, either vegetarian Margherita, or topped with sausages, artichokes, and mushrooms.

Kendall-Jackson people are obsessed with heirloom tomatoes. Half of the vegetable garden is taken by 175 varieties of them, arranged by color, and the next weekend they have their annual heirloom tomato festival. Sadly, this cold year was not the best for tomatoes. Most of them, except the cherry varieties, are just beginning to turn colors. The rest of the garden is organized by flavor profile, grouping together vegetables, fruits, and herbs that would compliment the same wine.

After the class some of us went for a complimentary wine tasting that the winery threw in with the class, others continued experimenting with picturing vegetables and grapes.

It felt like a very relaxing experience, and i was delighted by the opportunity to see and picture my favorite foodstuffs in their natural setting, but I was nearly exhausted after all the hours of hauling my heavy zoom camera around, kneeling, crawling, bending and twisting, trying to get close-up and the best angle.

Now I am looking forward to the next class in fall, when the vines will turn colors. Please, don't let it rain then!

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Gazpacho, because it's summer

This simple cold soup is the symbol of summer. Its taste depends entirely on the quality of the vegetables. Only at the peak of the summer you can get the super-ripe, sweet, aromatic tomatoes, delicate Persian cucumbers that do not require peeling or seeding - the entire cucumber is delicious, - and juicy, tasty bell peppers.

When I don't have all the ingredients in my garden, I go to the favorite growers at the farmers market, and try to get a taste before I buy. If each vegetable tastes perfect, they will blend into a delicious refreshing bowl of soup.

Serves 4

1 large or 2 small bell peppers, seeded
2 medium ripe tomatoes
3 Persian cucumbers, unpeeled
1 Maui onion
3-4 clove garlic
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt, pepper, sherry vinegar - to taste
Basil, parsley, or other herbs, to garnish

Chop all vegetables. Combine with tomato juice. Puree in blender, working in batches; I like to leave some chunks for more interesting texture. Season with olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Refrigerate 2-3 hours. Garnish with herbs and serve.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Grill everything: Fish

Nothing makes as quick, easy, tasty, and healthy summer meal as fish on the grill. You can create any marinade, seasoning, glaze, or sauce to add more character to your fish. I like to use lemon, garlic, and herbs with olive oil to marinate the fish for a Mediterranean flavor, soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar glaze for an Asian accent, lime-mango salsa for a tropical twist.

However, if the fish is good and fresh, it needs no enhancement beyond some sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to bring out it's natural flavor.

The three problems that hold people from grilling more fish are:

1. It's expensive. I know it is, and it's getting more expensive very day, with all the rules and regulations, overfishing, supermarket profit margins, etc. We have to be flexible to still afford the fish. My solutions:
- buy from the fishermen. The local Pacific king salmon in season is $9/pound from the boat in the marina, $10/pound in the fish market in the marina, $11/pound in the fish market 100 yards from the marina, $25/pound at Whole Foods. Buying a whole fish to split with your friends is a good excuse for a party.

- watch out for sales; my local Safeway got an overstock of Copper River salmon, and they were selling the fillets at $10/pound today, instead of their regular $24/pound. Of course I got one!
- buy what's in season; at peak season for Alaskan sockeye salmon, a whole fresh fish (3-6 pounds, totally manageable for a larger family or an individual with some room in the freezer) was $4.99/pound at Costco.

2. It's easy to overcook and make it dry and unpalatable - just watch your fish, as soon as it flakes and is opaque throughout, it's ready to go. Don't waste a second. Most salt-water fishes are safe to eat raw anyway, so it's better to err on the undercooked side.

3. Turning over and taking off the grill a tender cooked flaky fish can be tricky. It tends to stick to the grill, fall apart, or both.
- Make sure the fish and the grill are well oiled to prevent sticking, and the grill is very hot.
- Don't move the fish until cooked on one side and ready to flip. Flip only once.
- When grilling fillets, place them on a very hot grill flesh side first. After it's seared, slide a wide spatula under the fillet, parallel to the grill ridges, and quickly flip it to the skin side to finish cooking.
- Tie fish steaks into compact round shapes, and use a wide spatula, parallel to the ridges, to turn and remove the steak from grill.

- For a whole fish, leave the scales on - the scales won't stick. Remove the skin with the scales before serving.
Or wrap the fish in grape, banana, or lettuce leaves. The leaves will char and add to the flavor, preventing sticking at the same time.
Or place thin lemon slices, kaffir lime leaves, or rosemary and thyme sprigs between the fish and the grill - same as above.
Or use a fish basket. I found out that even well oiled non-stick baskets stick badly, but it's much easier to free a fish stuck to a basket than one stuck to the hot grill.

My favorite fishes for the grill are:
Whole: all trouts, sardines, mackerel, red snapper, Thai snapper, pompano, stripped bass, sole, turbot.
Steaks: salmon, sturgeon, Chilean sea bass, halibut, dorado (mahi-mahi), tuna, monkfish, marlin.
Fillets: salmon, halibut.

Fishes that don't work for me: tilapia, all kinds of sole fillets, catfish, cod.

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