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The 15-Minute Fish Supper Plan

August 29, 1996|IRENE SAX

I have the world's best recipe for fish. Once I learned it, there wasn't a fish in the world that could scare me.

There was a time when my fish would always turn flabby and smell funny, no matter how I cooked them. No more; not since I learned this oven-broiling technique.

Why give a recipe for oven-broiled fish now, in high grilling season? Because grilling, although immensely appealing, takes up so much time. As one who believes that "First, start your fire" is the modern cook's equivalent of "First, catch your rabbit," I just don't want to bother with coals on a workday evening.

But with this method, I can get supper on the table in 15 minutes. Here's what I do.

Turn the broiler on full blast and set the rack as high in the oven as it will go. Cover the broiling pan with aluminum foil (might as well make cleaning up easy) and lay fish fillets on it. If they have skin, put them skin-side down.

Season the fish with quite a lot of salt and pepper and whatever other spices you like. (I use red pepper or cumin if I'm making the quick hot sauce, and oregano if I'm doing the Italian green sauce.)

Next, rub the fillets on top with olive oil. (I could use butter, but olive oil seems healthier and doesn't need to be melted.) Then put some flour in a small strainer--I use a tea strainer--and, sift the flour over the fish so the flour delicately covers the surface. It seems to disappear as it soaks into the oil, but it's there.

Finally, slide the fish under the broiler and cook it like crazy until the fish flakes easily. The oil and flour combine to form a crust that protects the inside of the fillet, so it can cook through without drying out. Well, let's be honest: It does dry out a little. But to disguise that fact, I've developed an array of sauces that take no cooking at all.

Some, like the cucumber and the hot pepper honey sauces, work best with rich, flavorful salmon. Others, like the corn relish and the Italian green sauce, do best with bland, white-fleshed fish like halibut and swordfish.

Some are chunky; others quite liquid; all should be served under or alongside the fish so as not to disturb the lovely crust, and most can be put together in less time than it takes the fish to cook.

EASIEST HOT SAUCE

1/2 cup salsa

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

Mix salsa and sour cream.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

15 calories; 180 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0 fiber.

TARTAR SAUCE

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sweet-pickle relish

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons capers

1 green onion, white part only, minced

Combine mayonnaise, relish, lemon juice, capers and green onion.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

182 calories; 444 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 17 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.17 gram fiber.

CUCUMBER SAUCE

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced fine

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons vinegar

2 cups plain yogurt or reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 to 1/3 cup minced fresh dill or fresh mint

2 cloves garlic, minced

Freshly ground black or white pepper

Toss cucumber in bowl with salt, sugar and vinegar. Let stand 10 minutes. Fold in sour cream, dill, garlic and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

79 calories; 170 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.32 gram fiber.

CORN RELISH

1 cup corn kernels, canned, frozen or fresh

2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 green onions, white parts only, sliced

1/2 cup sweet pickles, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

Salt, pepper

Combine corn, tomatoes, green onions, pickles, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at least 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

84 calories; 138 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.39 gram fiber.

ITALIAN GREEN SAUCE

2 cups Italian parsley leaves

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons capers

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Salt

1/2 cup olive oil

Roughly chop parsley and garlic. Put in blender with capers, lemon juice and salt. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and blend at low speed 10 seconds. Add remaining oil and finish blending. Taste and correct seasoning.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

167 calories; 117 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.25 gram fiber.

HOT PEPPER HONEY

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon mild hot pepper sauce

1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

The quantities in this recipe are approximations, since hot sauces vary so much in their strength and diners vary so much in their tolerance levels. But it's awfully good, so try it, tasting as you go. It's adapted from "Cooking With 3 Ingredients" by Andrew Schloss (HarperCollins, 1996).

Mix honey, hot pepper sauce and lemon juice together until smooth.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

57 calories; 18 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0 fiber.

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