Does spring fever make you hunger for the taste of foods fresh off the grill? The smell of any number of food items hot off the barbie is guaranteed to wake up winter menu doldrums. Or, if it's too soon (or too wet) to dust off the hibachi or crank up the gas grill, the broiler is always available.
For variety during the Lenten season, try grilling fish and vegetables. Because they are leaner, white fleshed soles, cods and bass have a tendency to dry out during cooking--creating a need for basting. To avoid the extra calories this can add up to, choose instead, from these slightly fattier, rich fleshed fishes: salmon, albacore, swordfish and sablefish.
Because of the dry heat involved in barbecuing fish, basting with lemon and herbs and a dash of butter, or marinating in olive oil, wine and vinegar is suggested to give fish a savory flavor. Marinating is the best way to cut back on the calories that accumulate so quickly when butter-based sauces are used to spruce up the flavor of fish. Another way to avoid extra calories is to use non-stick coating spray on the broiler pan, or brush grill grates with olive oil (which is monounsaturated) to prevent sticking.
Pacific albacore has mild flavor, light colored flesh. A member of the tuna family, its firm, meaty texture makes it perfect for grilling. Albacore has a high level of protein and a moderate share of fat and calories. It is available year-round and should always be cooked medium-rare leaving a pink center to ensure a moist tender texture.
An average 3 1/2-ounce serving of albacore has a hefty 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acid--about the same amount found in salmon--compared to just .2 grams available in the same proportion of swordfish, according to "The Omega-3 Breakthrough" by Julius Fast, (The Body Press: $15.95, hard cover, 228 pp., non-illustrated).
Swordfish has an even milder taste, is usually available as individual steaks and offers about 125 calories per 3 1/2-ounce serving, a smidgen less fat than albacore.
Almost any vegetable is suitable for grilling--tougher varieties like carrots may require pre-cooking while tender ones such as mushrooms and tomatoes should be cooked at the last minute to avoid overbrowning.
SWORDFISH WITH HERBS
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill weed
4 swordfish steaks, cut 1-inch thick
Combine olive oil, wine, vinegar, green onions, parsley, dill and season to taste with pepper. Blend well and set aside.
Place fish in single layer in shallow baking dish. Pour marinade over, cover and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature, or 2 hours in refrigerator. (If marinating in refrigerator, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.)
Remove fish from marinade and reserve marinade. Grill fish 5 minutes per side 3 to 4 inches above hot coals or from heat in pre-heated broiler. Brush once or twice during cooking time with reserved marinade. Makes 4 servings.
GRILLED TUNA AND EGGPLANT
1 (1- to 1 1/2-pound) eggplant, trimmed and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 cup olive oil
1 sweet red pepper
1/2 teaspoon crumbled rosemary leaves
1 pound fresh tuna steak, 1/4-inch thick
2 tomatoes, sliced
Season sliced eggplant to taste with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over moderately high heat. Add eggplant and cook until charred. Turn and char other side. Remove from heat and set aside.
Broil red pepper, turning frequently with tongs, 10 minutes or until all sides of pepper are blistered. Place red pepper in brown paper bag. Close and let stand 10 minutes (pepper will flatten). Under cold running water, gently rub pepper to peel off skin. Remove seeds and slice pepper.
Combine charred eggplant and red pepper with 2 tablespoons olive oil and rosemary. Let stand 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, season tuna to taste with salt and pepper. Grill or broil 1 minute per side or until medium rare. Place tuna on serving plate. Cover with eggplant and pepper mixture and serve with sliced tomato. Makes 4 servings.
GRILLED ALBACORE SANDWICH
WITH RED PEPPERS
1 1/3 pounds skinless albacore, cut into 3/4-inch thick loin cuts
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
Sauteed Red Peppers
2 French rolls, split lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Rinse fish with cold water, pat dry with paper towels and set aside. Make vinaigrette by combining 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons oil, lemon juice,
pepper, salt, oregano and cayenne. Mix well and divide in half.
Marinate albacore in half of vinaigrette 30 minutes, turning once. While fish is marinating, make Sauteed Red Peppers.