Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Venturing into New Seafood Waters

Seafood is one of those foods that is best cooked precisely.  Unfortunately, I am not the precise kind of cook.  I tend to modify recipes and throw in this and that as I cook.  So, I generally steer clear of Seafood.

But, my love of seafood periodically draws me back.  My anniversary is this week so I wanted to fix something special for my husband out of the blue.  On a whim, I bought some mussels while at Costco.  I knew just where to go look for a recipe when I got home.  Recently, I got a new Seafood cookbook titled Fresh Fish: A fearless guide to grilling, shucking, searing, poaching, and roasting seafood by Jennifer Trainer Thompson.  I opened up the cookbook to the index, found a recipe for steaming mussels, and set to work!

Cookbooks vary a lot.  Some have many pictures, some have none.  Some have horrible formatting that make them difficult to read because the color of the font is too light to read, the font itself is hard to focus on, or even because there are too many words on a page!  As for the actual content, some recipes are written well, making them easy to follow--while other cookbooks miss steps or even ingredients!

I do have another standby fish cookbook that I love--James Peterson's Fish & Shellfish.  This has been my go to fish cookbook for years.  But, it's not a simple, easy to use cookbook.  I also have another one that I use for the simplest recipes, Seafood: A Collection of Heart-Healthy Recipes by Janis Harsila and Evie Hansen.  I've used both of these for years.  Peterson's for shellfish and more complex fish recipes, Harsila's for the simplest nights when I pan fry or bake fish.  But, neither have pictures.  Neither are particularly appealing cookbooks visually,  Peterson's does have a section of pictures in the middle, though they aren't right by the recipes.  Harsila's cookbook has a lot of older recipes that no one would cook today since it is thirty years old.  So, it made a lot of sense for me to go to Fresh Fish when I wanted to cook Mussels.

The recipe I found in this cookbook was easy to follow, simple to understand, and was spot on.  My husband and I both loved the mussels I cooked Friday night.  We let my kids try one or two and they loved them as well, which was quite surprising to me.  I did make one simple substitution of minced red onion for the shallots (because I didn't have any), but it still tasted great.  There was a separate

Jennifer Trainer Thompson put together a great cookbook.  The pictures make the food appealing.  The directions are easy to follow and formatted well.  Colored font was used for the recipe titles, headings, and step numbers, but thankfully not for the ingredient names and step directions so they can be easily read.  One issue I take with many cookbooks is using too many odd ingredients, but this cookbook doesn't do that.  I was pleased that there was only the occasional ingredient that would need a trip to a specialty foods store.

There were a few cases where I think there should have been pictures of the recipe steps rather than extraneous (but interesting) pictures of other things.  One example is the Seaweed Sushi Roll Recipe.  I make sushi regularly for my kids, but I wouldn't recommend following this recipe.  First, she said to chop the avocado and vegetables.  Instead, when making sushi the cook should julienne the vegetables (including the avocado).  If you did want to chop them, it would need to be a fine mince of the vegetables.  Also, wrapping the bamboo in plastic wrap is not so simple.  You have to wrap both sides of the map so that the plastic wrap will stay on it.  One last note, when spreading the rice on the seaweed paper, getting your hands wet periodically will help you spread it--which she does note.  I'm glad she mentioned that.  

This fish cookbook is going to likely have a place on my shelf for a long time!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Books.

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