Tips for Spicing Up Seafood

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The allure of exotic spices launched Columbus on his journey of discovery. Today, home chefs can explore new taste sensations by using spices and other flavorful ingredients to add a new world of flavor to fresh fish and seafood.

“There’s nothing like the fresh flavors of herbs and spices for cutting unhealthy calories without sacrificing taste,” said Red Lobster Executive Chef Michael LaDuke, who offers the following simple tips for enhancing the natural flavor of fresh fish and seafood:

World of Flavors: An easy recipe that turns fresh fish into an exotic dish is topping tilapia with a mixture of soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice, fresh ginger, garlic and cilantro. To produce a richer flavor, make the soy sauce mixture at least 24 hours in advance and refrigerate the sauce overnight. Serve the sauce at room temperature or slightly warmed. With its sweet, mild taste and firm, flaky texture, tilapia will soak up the flavors and take on a deliciously Asian flair.

If you prefer a delicately flavorful fish such as halibut, complement its medium-to-firm texture with bold spice blends such as curry or chili.

Healthy Oils: The key to making flavorful oils for a simply elegant and heart-healthy meal is to add herbs and spices, such as basil, garlic, salt and pepper, to olive oil over a low heat on the stove, similar to making tea. This allows you to adjust the intensity of the flavor. After heating the olive oil, strain the mixture and remove the herbs and spices. For a special touch, place the olive oil on your table surrounded by sprigs of the fresh herbs and spices.

Be adventurous! Add a variety of flavorful herbs and spices to your oil mixture, such as exotic peppers, chives, dill, lemongrass or mint. If you serve olive oil over salmon, you’ll also enjoy the heart-health benefits of essential omega-3 fatty acids found in this delicious fish.

Cooking With Wine: Wine is not only good for drinking, it’s also great for cooking. Pour white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, over a firm white fish like mahi-mahi and season it with chili powder to intensify the flavor. Mahi-mahi is light enough to bring out the crisp citrus taste of this popular wine. But remember, your sauce will be only as good as the wine you choose, so always cook with a wine you enjoy drinking.

Adding Some Zest: Add the tangy flavor of citrus by generously squeezing lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit juices over your favorite fish or seafood and garnishing with freshly grated zest. When using fruit zests as a garnish, it is best to slightly poach them beforehand in sugar water, as raw zests can taste bitter.

For quick, tasty meals, make a citrus butter ahead of time by combining melted butter and citrus juices, cooling the mixture and storing it in the refrigerator until ready to use. Citrus juices mixed with melted butter also make great dipping sauces for succulent lobster and shrimp.

Studies show eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, at least twice a week is good for the heart. Using an array of herbs and spices offers endless opportunities to bring out the best in all varieties of fresh fish and seafood.

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