Saturday, February 13, 2016

Zesty Seafood Parcels

Up the flavor meter a notch by baking seafood meals in banana leaves.  The leaves of the banana plant, found in Asian stores, impart a tea like flavor to the contents.  Fresh herbs, onion, garlic and lemon also impart flavor and replace some or all of the sodium in a recipe.

Rather than a specific recipe, choose ingredients by checking the home refrigerator or pantry and using those on hand.

  • Fresh herbs, onions and garlic.  I chose shallots (a mild onion), garlic, fresh ginger and fennel bulb.  Fennel adds a sweet anise flavor to foods.
  • Lemon.   Slices and juice impart their flavor magic.
  • Vegetables.  I sliced carrots, celery and yellow squash in julienne strips though the choices are endless.  Broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, green beans, edamame all come to mind.
  • Whole Grain.  Quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, farro, kashi-here's your chance to use that little bit left in a bag or a large jar that's been sitting on the shelf.  My choice was millet.  Simply cook the grain in water prior to assembly-or use leftover cooked grain.
  • Seafood.  Salmon, tuna steak, scallops, shrimp or any variety of raw fillet works.  It's alright to make one packet with one variety and another packet with a different fish if one of this and one of that is what's on hand.  My choice is flounder.
  • Banana Leaf.  I purchased a package of these in the frozen food section of a local Asian market.  I cut pieces the size of a parchment sheet (no thawing necessary), wrap the package tightly and freeze the rest for up to 6 months.  Wash the leaf pieces, and cut out any spine. 

To assemble, layer ingredients on top of banana leaf:

  • Grain.  For carbohydrate counters, measure the amount desired.  I used 1/2 cup cooked grain.
  • Fresh grated ginger, shallots, garlic and fennel.
  • Vegetables.
  • Fish portion.
  • Lemon slices and juice. 
Fold ends over to enclose contents.  Place face down on baking sheet.  Bake at 375 F. for approximately 20 minutes until internal temperature of parcel reaches 145 F.

Do not eat the banana leaf.  Sometimes they make a nice platter presentation.  These were starting to brown, so I slid the contents of each packet onto our individual plates to serve.

Another great flavor technique is to poach the seafood in liquid with steeping green tea bags!

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