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Thursday, October 02, 2014, 8:18 a.m.
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Fired up

Start the outdoor-cooking season with healthy grilled seafood

By Wolfgang Puck/Tribune Content Agency

This article was published May 22, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

You can make grilled loup de mer on an outdoor or indoor grill, or even using the broiler.

The three-day Memorial Day weekend begins this Friday evening, and with it comes what most people think of as the official start of summer grilling season — even though summer itself is still a month away. I expect that many people have already begun to think about what they’ll be cooking when they fire up their grills for the first time.

With all that grilled food ahead, though, home cooks and summer fun enthusiasts face a dilemma. Even while looking forward to all those steaks, ribs, burgers, sausages and other sizzling delights they’ll be eating, they’re also wondering what they can do to look their best in shorts, T-shirts and swimsuits.

Well, I’m happy to share with you some good news, and a recipe, from my new cookbook, Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy: You can eat all the grilled food you like and still feel energetic and look slim. It’s all about choosing smart ingredients and cooking in ways that maximize flavor while minimizing fat.

Let’s start with the main ingredient in my recipe: fish. Loup de mer is the French term for European sea bass, though you can substitute any mild, tender, firm-fleshed white fish. Most seafood is an excellent source of lean protein.

Next comes the way I ready the fish for the grill and then cook it. I season the fish primarily with lemon juice and salt and pepper, plus just a little olive oil. To keep seafood from sticking to the grill, many cooks slather on too much oil. But just a little is really necessary, especially if you leave the fish undisturbed long enough for its surface to sear and brown well — a process that, along with the oil, helps “release” the fish from the cooking grid.

The other key to creating delicious, healthy grilled food is to amp up the flavors with other vibrant, low-fat ingredients like those in the pair of uncooked sauces I serve with my fish. One is a simple vinaigrette, itself a good lesson in the fact that these oil-and-vinegar mixtures can do more than just dress salads. (Remember: The French term is sauce vinaigrette.) I make mine here with less oil than you usually find in such mixtures, adding body and richness with roasted tomatillos and a small avocado (which, though high in fat itself, gets more than half of its fat content from the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind). The other sauce is a Mexican-style salsa containing no oil at all.

Not only are these two sauces healthful and vibrant with flavors that deliver big satisfaction, but they also look beautiful on top of the fish. After all, we eat first with our eyes. And the pleasures this dish delivers to all the senses will help you feel like you’re feasting.

GRILLED LOUP DE MER WITH TOMATILLO-AVOCADO VINAIGRETTE AND CHERRY TOMATO SALSA

Serves 4

Tomatillo-Avocado Vinaigrette:

1/4 pound fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon stemmed, seeded, deveined and chopped jalapeno

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small ripe Hass avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cherry Tomato Salsa:

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 red onion, minced

1/2 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, deveined and minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Grilled Loup de Mer:

4 fresh loup de mer fillets, each about 4 ounces and 1 inch thick, or other lean, tender white-fleshed fish

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely julienned fresh basil

Juice of 1 lemon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

For the Tomatillo-Avocado Vinaigrette, first preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the tomatillos, garlic and chopped jalapeno in a small baking dish. Bake until the tomatillos are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Scrape into a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade, and puree. Strain through a medium-fine strainer into a nonreactive bowl. Whisk in the lime juice. Then, whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in the oil. Stir in the avocado and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the Cherry Tomato Salsa, in a nonreactive bowl, stir together the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat an outdoor or indoor grill or the broiler.

For the Grilled Loup de Mer, put the fillets on a plate. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, basil and lemon juice. Season the fish lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Brush all over with the oil-basil-lemon mixture.

Grill or broil the fish just until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Then transfer to a heatproof dish, cover with foil, and leave to rest near the grill or broiler for 10 to 15 minutes, during which the fillets will continue cooking through from their residual heat, while staying moist.

To assemble the dish, spoon some vinaigrette into the centers of 4 dinner plates. Place a fish fillet on top. Spoon the salsa on top of and alongside the fish. Serve immediately.

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