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Swimmingly simple seafood Learn to cook these Lenten-season dinners.

  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • Published Tuesday, March 5, 2013, at 10:40 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 5, 2013, at 11:03 p.m.

BAKED FISH STICKS WITH PARMESAN OVEN FRIES

As fun for a kids’ birthday party as for a grown-up dinner party. Double or triple the recipe as needed. These will disappear quickly.

Makes 2 servings.

1 cup breadcrumbs

Sea salt and pepper

10 ounces medium-firm white fish, such as halibut

2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, cut into sticks a la French fries

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

About 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Arugula, for serving (optional)

Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, a smallish one and a larger one for the fries.

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, mix the breadcrumbs with a pinch of sea salt and pepper.

Cut your fish into about 12 sticklike pieces (I like mine about 1/2 inch thick by 1 inch wide), coat in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and dredge each piece in the breadcrumbs. Place fish sticks on your smaller cookie sheet.

Make the Parmesan fries: Place the potato pieces on the large cookie sheet, drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and toss with your hands, making sure to evenly spread out the potatoes. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and bake for about 45 minutes, making sure to check on them frequently and toss them so they brown evenly.

When the potatoes are nearly done, put them on the bottom rack of your oven and place the fish on the middle rack. Let the fish cook for 2 minutes; then carefully turn each stick and cook for 2 more minutes. Then remove everything from the oven.

Sprinkle Parmesan and parsley all over the fries, and serve on a plate with the fish sticks. I like mine garnished with a handful of arugula and a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top.

Per serving: 788 calories, 22 grams fat, 102 grams carbohydrates, 46 grams protein, 53 milligrams cholesterol, 584 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber, 25 percent of calories from fat.

THE WICHITA EAGLE — March 6, 2013

SALMON WITH CREAMY MUSTARD SAUCE

This is one of my newest favorite ways to eat salmon. The creamy mustard-yogurt sauce is super-easy, and its strong flavor stands up well to salmon. I saw something similar in one of my French cooking magazines and adapted the recipe.

Makes 2 servings.

2 (4- to 5-ounce) salmon filets, pin bones removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

5 ounces Greek or plain yogurt

1 tablespoon of your favorite Dijon mustard

2 big handfuls of mesclun

1 lime, cut into wedges

Fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a small cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the olive oil between the two pieces of salmon, and rub it all over them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place on the cookie sheet.

Bake the salmon for 5 minutes (or less), depending on the thickness of the filets.

While the fish is cooking, whisk together the yogurt and the mustard.

Put a handful of mesclun and a wedge of lime on each of two plates. Serve the salmon next to the salad with a spoonful of the mustard sauce on top. Sprinkle with fresh chives.

Per serving: 222 calories, 11 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 57 milligrams cholesterol, 185 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 44 percent of calories from fat.

THE WICHITA EAGLE — March 6, 2013

SALMON WITH CHERRY TOMATO SALSA

Makes 4 servings.

4 (4- to 5-ounce) salmon filets, pin bones removed

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Sea salt and pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

2 green onions, chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 teaspoons capers

Splash of red wine vinegar

2 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to broil and place a rack to the middle. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly coat salmon filets with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place on the cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To start the salsa: Toss the garlic, green onions and red pepper flakes in a medium skillet with another tablespoon of olive oil and turn the heat to medium-low. Let this cook until you can smell the garlic, 3 to 5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and capers and let them cook until tomatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

When the tomatoes are soft, place the salmon in the oven and set the timer for 4 minutes (this should give you a medium-rare filet). While the salmon is cooking, add a splash of red wine vinegar to the skillet and 1/2 of the chopped basil. Remove the salmon and serve with a heaping spoonful of salsa on top; garnish with the rest of the basil.

Per serving: 211 calories, 11 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams protein, 59 milligrams cholesterol, 126 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 47 percent of calories from fat.

THE WICHITA EAGLE — March 6, 2013

— Living in France has meant that my once passing fancy for all things that swim has exploded into a very big love. From picking out the tiniest of bulots (sea snails) with needlelike tools and cracking open the claws of a fresh-caught homard (lobster) to learning that the best way to enjoy raie (skate) is with a simple lemon, butter and caper sauce, I have fallen hard. I find myself visiting the poissonnieres more often than I do the butcher, because I’ve learned that fish — which I once believed was a tricky thing to cook — is one of the easiest and healthiest dinners you can make.

And supersonic fast. Mussels? Just a few minutes, and they’re steamed and ready to serve. Salmon, into the oven at high heat, usually takes less than five, depending on the cut. White fishes like flounder, cod, sole and snapper, ditto.

Fish is simple, elegant food.

If you replace meat with fish during Lent but rely on restaurants to prepare it, try cooking your own this year.

For those of you who are timid about fish, fear not. Fish isn’t finicky; it just requires you to pay attention. Close attention. If you’re one of those people who likes to throw something on the stove and then leave the room (and you know who you are), please don’t do this to fish (or to anything, really). You’ll end up with fish that’s overcooked and dry, and when this happens, there’s not much you can do to save it.

Enough of what not to do. Here are few tips on how to make fantastic fish every time:

• Buy only fish that have clear eyes and the faint scent of the sea. Never buy fish that smells “fishy,” as counterintuitive as that may sound.

• Keep a pair of tweezers in your kitchen drawer to remove pin bones.

• When in doubt, undercook your fish. I know I’ve said this already, but there’s nothing worse than overcooked fish. I like my fish pretty rare and take it out at the first opportunity and I suggest you do the same. If it’s not cooked enough for you, pop it back in for just a minute or two. To avoid a mistake, be sure to use your timer.

Ellise Pierce is the Cowgirl Chef and author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent.”

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