Flying Home with Flying Fish

Swordfish - trimmed and ready to be frozen
We always try to bring home fish when we come back from Barbados.  I thought I would share with you our process in getting fish home.

We like to visit the Bridgetown fish market because they tend to have more variety.  (However, I will say that the fishmongers in Oistins do a better job of cleaning and filleting the fish).  We checked out a few stalls to see what was on offer.  When you are there, ask if the fish is fresh - give it a once over. Are the eyes clear?  Does the fish look intact?  Are the gills bright pink?  If you can't see the whole fish, ask if it's been frozen.

This time we decided on the following:  shark, marlin, swordfish, flying fish, a whole kingfish and a whole Mahi-Mahi.

I asked for the whole fishes to be cleaned and filleted only.  I prefer to portion them myself before freezing.  I asked for two pounds each of the others and one package of flying fish.

We used to have access to a Food Saver, however, it died a slow death and had to be put down.  We discovered the Ziploc freezer bags which come with a pump to remove the air.  You can buy these at Massey grocery stores.  These bags work great and we have had frozen fish in them in the freezer for up to one year without any loss of seal.  I've not yet been able to find them here in Ontario.

Ziploc Vacuum bags with Pump.
I portion off the fish (for two servings at a time) and put them into the freezer bags, suck out the air (the instructions are on the bags), then it's ready for the freezer.  Don't forget to label each type of fish - trust me when I say that you will not remember which piece is which after three months in the freezer - they all start to look the same.  I also label some bags as 'trim' to be used in a stew later.

One boned side of Kingfish.

Kingfish portioned

It takes about two days to freeze the fish solid, so give yourself enough time.  The day of departure, we put the fish into a thermal bag, then nestle the bag amongst clothing (sometimes wrapped in a towel) for the journey home.

Before sealing

After sealing.  Air is removed by placing the pump on the 'circle' and pumping it out.
It takes about two days for the fish to freeze solid.  About thirty minutes before we're ready to leave, I pack the fish into a cooler bag we bring from home, then pack it in our suitcase.

Freshly sealed packaged ready for freezing.

Two days later frozen and packed in the cooler bag

Ready for the suitcase

Ready to be zipped up and put in the car. Layer some laundry on top for more insulation
On the plane, when filling out your Canada Customs declaration form, be sure to declare your fish.  You are allowed to bring fish back, but you have to declare it.  There is a section to declare meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese etc.  When it was our turn to speak to the Customs Officer, he asked what I had, I said frozen fish fillets and then we were on our way.  No secondary inspection required this time.

14 hours later (still frozen) and the fish has arrived safely to its new home - our freezer in the basement.

3:00 am and in our freezer at home
The shark, mahi-mahi, marlin, swordfish and kingfish were $7/lb BBD (~$3.50 USD).  The flying fish were a little steeper this time at $25 BBD per pack - usually $15 per pack.  This batch of fish cost us about $112 BBD for 16 pounds of fish plus $25 BBD per package of 10 flying fish fillets for a total of $137 BBD (~$ 70 US).  This would cost me considerably more at home and I find it difficult to find kingfish where I live.  So, for us, it is definitely worth the process.

Small fishing boat with fish cleaning facilities in the background - Martin's Bay, St. John

Oistins Fish Fry at Home

Grilled dolphin (mahi mahi), pigeon peas, rice and gravy, salad, Delish and rum punch
I can never get enough of the fish fries in Barbados.  From Oistins, Christchurch to Half Moon Fort in St. Lucy to Martin's Bay in St. John.  Love it.  Sadly, when we return from holidays in Barbados we always crave a repeat as soon as possible.

Last weekend seemed like the perfect afternoon for a repeat of our favourite evenings there.  I even surrendered a lazy afternoon on the couch to clean the gazebo for us to enjoy our dinner in.

You'll need some mahi mahi which is easily available (frozen) at a reasonable price (about $10).  I recently discovered these individually frozen ones at Loblaws and Independent's and they have become a staple in the freezer.

The weight of each piece is pretty equal, despite my poor picture.

For the grilled fish (serves 2)
2 pieces of mahi mahi (dolphin)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of Chopped Seasoning (see below)
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Thaw the fish, pat it dry with a paper towel and coat with a teaspoon of oil (this helps the seasoning to penetrate and stick better to the fish).  Season with the salt and pepper and the chopped seasoning. Marinate covered in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours (overnight would be best).

Prepare your BBQ grill (oil the grill before lighting - safety first!) and grill the fish for about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden and you can see it flaking.  Serve with your choice of accompaniments and enjoy.  I even made a couple of rum punches to make it a true fish fry experience (recipe below).

Bajan Chopped Seasoning
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch of chives
1 bunch of parsley
1 white onion
1/2 bunch of fresh thyme or 2 tb broad leaf thyme
3 springs of sweet marjoram
5 cloves of garlic
1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper - seeds removed
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lime juice

Chop the ingredients by hand or in a food processor.  Do not puree!   You want to see the pieces of seasoning.  Add the salt, pepper and vinegar or lime juice and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.  Use it on poultry, pork and seafood.  Stir it into your sauces and stews.  Add some Bajan to the dish.

Rice and peas (serves 4 generously)
1 c of parboiled white rice
1 can of pigeon peas
2 cups of chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a medium sized pot until it shimmer, add the rice, thyme, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and stir to coat.  Saute the dry mixture for a couple of minutes, then bring the heat to high and add the liquid and the bay leaves.  Bring to a rolling boil, put the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to minimum and cook for 20 minutes at a very low simmer.  Check at the 20 minute mark to ensure all the water has evaporated.  If not, close the lid and let it cook another couple of minutes.  When it's finished, turn off the heat, leave the lid on the pot and leave the pot to rest off of the burner to steam for a few minutes.

For rice and peas - 1 cup of rice to one can of pigeon peas

Broad Leaf Thyme - nurtured in my kitchen for 15 years

'Delish' on every dish!
Rum Punch - 1 serving
1 part sour - 1/2 ounce of lime juice
2 parts sweet - 1 ounce of simple syrup
3 parts strong - 1-1/2 ounces of Mount Gay Rum
4 parts weak - 2 ounces of water

Garnish with a bit of Grenadine syrup, a few dashes of Angostura Bitters and a few grindings of fresh nutmeg.


Coriander and Fennel Baked Salmon

Hidden Freezer Treasure
My freezer, while being useful, is a place where a food hoarder like myself (but it was on sale!) can stow away many treats for a rainy day.  I went downstairs the other day to find a small pool of water on the ground in front of the freezer.  Slight wave a panic and nausea as I imagined my treasures thawing and dying a slow painful death.  This cannot be.  We quickly sprung into action.  My husband went to buy bags of ice and I did some triage of the freezer contents.   Several garbage bags later (no judgements please), we had whittled down the contents of the freezer to three coolers packed with ice.  During the adventure I found a side of salmon that was the result of our fishing trip to BC a couple of years ago.  I decided to make it for supper today after a great camping weekend - some clean eating after a weekend of mild debauchery.

Pin boned and trimmed

The preparation for this dish is simple.

Coriander and Fennel Salmon - serves 6

1 side of pacific salmon, skin on (see note below)
1 tb olive oil

Coriander & Fennel Rub:
1 tb coriander seed
1 tb fennel seed
1 tb coarse salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Fennel and coriander seeds

Liberally season the fish - select how coarse you want the mixture

To prepare the salmon, I removed it from the shrink wrap,  then removed the pin bones, trimmed some of the belly fat off (chef's treat for later), rinsed it off (to remove any errant scales) and patted it dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Next, in a mortar and pestle (or electric spice grinder), grind all the rub ingredients together to a coarse texture and set aside.  Rub the olive oil onto the salmon then sprinkle all the rub onto the fish and lightly press to make sure it adheres to the surface of the fish.  Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Then, take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking (but up to one hour) to let it come closer to room temperature - this helps to ensure more even cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425F and cook the fish for about 4 minutes per inch.  You can use a thermometer to check - the temperature should be about 145F.  This side of salmon took 8 minutes.

Note:  Yes, you can use Atlantic salmon, and it can be skinless.  I decided to leave the skin on as it provides a little extra moisture during cooking.

Served over spaghettini sautéed with spinach, tomato, onion, garlic and anchovies.
The salmon was cooked as I like it - moist and delicious.  Each bite provided a little pop of fennel or coriander, delectable notes of lemon and liquorice.  I don't like the taste of liquorice, but it works so well with the salmon and the coriander.   A keeper.  As an aside, the salmon showed no signs of degradation.  It was as fresh as the day we caught it.

P.S.:  Everything that was packed in ice survived (for three days) and so did our freezer.  We've just given it some room to breath.  Now, to resist a good sale...

Making Paprika

Banana peppers at various stages of ripeness.  The runty one was picked to save it from the frost.
Don't you love it when someone has a great idea - that really means work for you?  I actually didn't mind...this time.  My husband has become somewhat of a green thumb when it comes to pepper plants.  This year he grew Serrano, jalapeño, sweet green peppers, Trinidadian seasoning peppers and banana peppers.  The idea was for us (me) to make paprika.  Why not?  Most of the hard work is preparing the peppers for dehydrating.  I accepted the challenge.

My husband left the banana peppers on the vine until they were red and these are what we used for the paprika.  I used a total of seven peppers in all.

First step, wash the peppers and dry with a towel.  Split the peppers in half and remove the ribs and seeds.

Next, I rigged up an indoor smoker (a pot with a colander inside so the smoke could envelope the peppers) and smoked the peppers for about an hour.  I recently acquired a Smoking Gun and it came in very handy.

After the peppers were smoked, I put them into a 200F oven for 12 hours (I am getting a dehydrator for the next time).  The peppers went from a bright red to a deep blood red colour.  Beautiful.

I put them in the Vitamix and after a few seconds in the blender we observed a paprika tornado inside.  Experiment = success.

Ground to a fine powder.  The resulting powder was a deep reddish brown and delicious.

The yield on this was about two tablespoons of paprika with a slightly smoky scent and intense pepper flavour.  I Will definitely make more next season.  Now I need to do some research on the perfect recipe to showcase the paprika.  Good call Dale :-)

Maui - The Return

After a long haul (YOW->YWG->YYC->OGG), we arrived a little weary, but generally in good spirits.  Thanks to Air Canada's (points redemption ticket) routing, we were able to spend some time visiting with my brother in Calgary.  We made a pit stop for some delicious roti and curry goat at his favourite local spot, then back to the airport for the last leg.

The Canadian Rockies from the plane
I was able to capture a couple of really stellar shots of the Rockies as we flew over.  It was pure luck really.  I had the blinds closed (glare was interfering with me catching up on Scandal on my tablet), and just decided to open them to see where we were.  The sight that lay below us was truly amazing.  I quickly grabbed my phone (yes, you can still take pictures when your phone is in airplane mode) and snapped a couple of quick pics.

The seven hour flight from Calgary to Maui went pretty fast.  I was able to get about three hours sleep, which helped with the groggy factor - seeing that we had about a 45 minute drive ahead of us, to our hotel.  This time we are staying at the Westin Ka'anapali just north of Lahaina.  Studio villa with kitchenette and laundry facilities (which enabled us to fly with only carry on luggage).

Our first day was a full one.  We stayed up late (6 hr time difference between Maui and Ottawa) to enable us acclimating to the time change more quickly.  We got up at 6:30 and went for a walk along the beach.  There is a beautiful boardwalk which follows along the beach.  We made it as far as the Castaway Cafe, for a delicious breakfast.  I enjoyed the Huevos Rancheros with a generous serving of pinto beans delightfully peppered with crumbled chorizo sausage.  (Bonus - saw a whale breaching in the distance during breakfast)

Later that morning, we decided to check out Napili Bay - just north of where we are staying.  An acquaintance on Twitter suggested we go to The Sea House.  After a couple of turns, we found it and walked over to investigate.  We took a server's advice and decided to return for Happy Hour later that afternoon.  The eats that were on offer for Happy Hour did not disappoint.  (I will include those details in a separate post).

We went the Fish Market afterwards to get something to prepare for dinner.  Once again the fish on offer were so beautiful.  And once again, I was tempted to snatch something right out of the case for a nibble.  We decided on the Opah (Moonfish) this time.  I also bought some garlic infused oil to grill it with.  A quick trip to the Times Supermarket completed our afternoon errands.

The sun put on a spectacular display at closing time.  A truly remarkable sunset on this day.  I almost missed it, as I was feeling lazy and didn't feel like leaving the couch.  However, the call of the conch shell roused me from my lethargy and I was rewarded with quite a show (close to sunset at this hotel, the conch shell is sounded and tiki torches around the property are lit by handsome young men in Polynesian garb).

Our grilled opah was accompanied with a sauté of snow peas, Maui onion and oyster mushrooms.  The texture of the opah was very good.  We enjoyed the fish grilled medium (thanks to the use of several community gas grills on the property) which was seasoned with the garlic infused oil, salt and pepper.  I also grilled a couple pieces of garlic oil brushed ciabatta bread as well.

Enjoying Mai Tai's at the Sea House Bar - great view
Napili Bay
 Day 1 - A+

Double D's Bar-B-Q Truck - Stittsville, ON

1016 Carp Road, Stittsville, ON

I answered the call of the smoke which lured me.  While driving through Stittsville on our way to our favourite Italian for lunch, wafts of hickory smoke caught my attention.  I glanced out the window and saw the 'Open' sign.  Yes.  Time for hubby to try the Double D's truck.  We found an ATM, turned around and parked.  The smell of the smoking meat was intoxicating (I really need to get back to Memphis sometime).

We placed our orders and patiently waited for the goodness to appear in the window.  We enjoyed a nice chat with Dean (owner) while we waited.  I ordered the brisket, pit beans and s'mac and cheese and Dale ordered the pulled pork sandwich and beans (in hindsight I should have had him order some s'mac and cheese which I could scarf down eat later.)  We drove to a nearby parking lot and let the feasting begin.  We were not disappointed.  The brisket was meltingly tender and delicious.  Perfect blend of seasonings, not drowned in sauce - just the good stuff.  Nice bark on the outside, smoke ring of truth and flavour, flavour, flavour.  (My mouth is watering as I type this actually).  The s'mac and cheese was also quite delectable (how can four different kinds of cheese be wrong?).  The beans were also just divine.  Good texture, nice addition of the pulled pork and other aromatics.  I love beans and these did not disappoint.

This truck has been open since last September and my friend LB and I stopped by there soon after they opened (a few weeks after that she brought me some beans and mac as a hostess gift - awesome!).  I had not been back since and now wonder why I waited so long?  Summer is coming (finally!) and Ottawa can shed it's heavy coat and start enjoying some good, authentic, Southern-style BBQ.

You can find Double D's menu on Facebook  and follow them on Twitter for updates on when they are open.  Thanks for keeping it real guys!

Double D's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Tomato Lentil Soup

Tomato Lentil Soup

It's January, which means it's usually time when I officially get back on track after the holiday season (which starts usually December 1st and involves a month of various fetes, food and fun.  Time to pay the piper.

I am trying to create some recipes that are under 250 calories for the days of the week we are doing a light fast (600 calories for the day).  I have based the calorie counts on details on the packages of items themselves, and when that is not possible, I have an app that counts calories.  (I use LoseIt)

Here is a soup I made yesterday, for lunch this week.  I punched up the flavour by using fresh ground whole spices and used beef broth instead of chicken.  If you're not adding fat to the recipe, you need to compensate somehow or it is going to be bland.  And let's face it, I am already on calorie restriction, and am prone to get hangry, so why would I want to torture myself with bland food?  This recipe will make 24 oz of soup.  I divided this recipe into three 8oz portions.  

Calories per 8oz serving 150 calories
Yield 24 oz of soup (450 calories for entire recipe)

1 large tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 c red lentils
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups of beef broth
Vegetable cooking spray (2 second spray)

-Heat a medium sized pot over medium high heat.
-When pot is hot, spray with vegetable cooking spray.
-Saute the onions for about 1 minute.
-Add tomatoes, fennel and cumin then lower heat to medium and cook them for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring (note 1)
-Stir in lentils then add the broth (you can substitute vegetable or chicken stock or water then adjust the calories accordingly).
-Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on (note 2)
-Add salt and pepper and adjust seasonings

Note 1:  cooking the tomatoes this long will develop flavour, don't rush it. If you find it sticking, add a splash of water.
Note 2:  lid on so as not to evaporate too much of the liquid.  If your simmer is faster than mine was, add a bit of water to get the consistency you want.

Bon appetit!