Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fish Sticks and Pinapple Chutney

Today, I happened to catch the last minute of Rachel Ray's daily TV show on ABC. At the point I tuned in, the camera was on a sandwich which she had concocted, and Rachel was saying to the applause of her audience, "That's what's for dinner tonight." It made me think of the impact shows like that and blogs too have on the eating habits of  their followers. Do people in fact look to television or the internet to decide what to have for dinner? I hope my readers know that this is not the style of choosing what and how to cook I call the Your Italian Grandma method. I'm hoping that even the casual reader of my blog understands that my approach is to first, establish a pantry, then to shop looking for the freshest and cheapest ingredients you can find. Generally, that means you will be buying local since the least expensive food is usually that which is in season (therefore abundant) and nearby so you aren't paying for shipping from Australia. Now, it matters little whether you like Italian, Asian, Southwestern, or Ethiopian cuisine for that matter. The pantry you establish should have the necessary dairy products, spices, dried ingredients and sauces necessary to cook those cuisines. I find it necessary to mention this because recently I read about the tons of food Americans throw away every year. I believe that cookbooks, television and the internet contribute to this waste if cooks are consulting these sources for daily inspiration. No, I say learn the basics of cooking first. That's why my posts are often very detailed. I don't want you to learn to cook my recipes. I want you instead, to understand the method, be it boiling, baking, braising or whatever that I employ . Once you develop the knowledge of how to treat fish or chicken or swisschard or potatoes, you no longer have to slavishly follow recipes. You should be able to take what you have bought, combine it with the pantry items you keep in stock and produce good tasting and different meals every week. Don't get me wrong. I read other blogs. I watch certain TV shows all the time. I even like to aimlessly page through cookbooks. But, I rarely write things down or follow a recipe that requires me to go out and buy an ingredient I will use only once. When I watch someone like Mario Batali as an example of someone who I really admire, it's to see how he employs different methods to achieve the results he desires. It's to see which ingredients he uses to flavor his dishes. I rarely copy recipes. I look always to improve my methods of cooking. I hope my readers do the same.

So today, I would like to show you how to fry a piece of fish. I bought some wild Atlantic salmon which I thought would be nice to go along with the pineapple chutney I had on hand . I had it on hand, because the pineapple looked very nice and was also a good price. I originally purchased it because I thought it would pair well with the strawberries I bought which also were cheap (due to a bumper crop in Florida). Anyhow, there was left over pineapple. I didn't take pictures, but I made the chutney by frying some onion, then adding garlic, ginger paste (discovered this in an Asian supermarket- it's almost as good as fresh ginger), and red bell pepper. For heat, I used one of the fiery hot peppers from Guyana we have frozen. After all  that softened, I added raisins and the pineapple and some white wine vinegar and sugar. I then cooked it down till it looked like chutney. 

The first thing I did was start my rice. I had some left over canned peas which I wanted to serve with the rice by stirring them in at the end. I always use frozen or fresh peas with this one exception, that is to cook an old Ambrosino family favorite, spaghetti and peas which I will share with you some day. Anyway, I had some left over peas from that recipe.

One of the things you learn by doing this a lot is to set up a breading and a frying station. So here's my breading set up. The salmon has been sliced into "sticks" The paper towel I used to dry off the fish before I dipped it in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs to which I added salt and pepper. As I breaded each stick, I laid it on a paper lined baking sheet (not in the picture)

I fry in extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. You know the oil is hot enough when a few breadcrumbs placed in it begin to bubble immediately. Place the breaded sticks in the pan -don't overcrowd it! Turn them as they brown and have another paper lined plate ready to receive them. That's it. A simple delicious meal. That chutney was really good, by the way.


  1. I couldn't agree more Joe. When I first started cooking I would follow a recipe to the letter. As I got more confident, I made changes to recipes. We signed up for a CSA this year, we get our first box next week. It should be interesting to see what we come up with.

  2. That's great Rachel. I think the CSA program is very important.By the way, have you read Michael Pollan's book, The Eater's Manifesto? I recommend it to everyone I know who is interested in good healthy food.

  3. This looks delicious Claudia...I'm saving this recipe for when I can have my carbs again!

  4. Thanks for the recommendation Joe, I will check it out.

  5. We cook from our pantry as well. We have two extra freezers and buy when prices are low and keep stocked that way. We too only use fresh or flash frozen veggies and have very few canned items in the house.

    Your chutney sound wonderful. I have never made chutney nor have I used it. However I am going to give it a shot. I also have never used salmon for fish sticks (only white flesh fish). Sounds interesting enough to give that a try as well.

    I do have to use recipes 99% of the time as I'm just not as inventive as others.

  6. I think my inventiveness is more of a reckless streak.

  7. What a great stuff you are sharing here. My youngest son has Asperger's and is in Culinary school. At college is cooks to the 'letter', but at home he 'experiments' & loves both worlds. He will love your site too. So glad I found you! :-) ~ Coreen

  8. Thank you Coreen, I'm glad you found me. I am now following your site and I see you call yourself a storyteller. I hope you will enjoy my stories too!