Phil's International Flair

Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair! July is a special month along the coast in Northern and Central California because the salmon in the ocean are getting ripe for their annual fall migration into the Sacramento River system to spawn. Ocean salmon at this time of the year are generally fat, feisty and feeding heavily on anchovies, sardines and krill. Fish taken at this time of year are of the finest quality, rich in flavor and deep in color.

Besides salmon, the summer months also offer other species of fish along the California coast. Striped Bass is one species that are voracious in their eating habits and clever in their pursuit of baitfish. Stripers will corral the baitfish into harbors, jetties or the beach and forage on them in tremendous quantities. Feeding activity like this is most often spotted by watching the birds who also feed on the baitfish that are frantically trying to avoid being eaten by the large stripers. Summer stripers can easily reach 50 to 60 pounds in weight and are excellent table fare. Most are caught from the shoreline by adventurous surf fishermen who often venture out onto rocky points where the stripers can corral baitfish. Successful fishermen can easily take 30 to 60 pounds of fish in a matter of hours if they happen to be in the right place at the right time.

When the weather is favorable and not too windy, party boats will take 20 to 30 anglers out into the ocean in pursuit of summer fish. Ling cod, halibut, rockfish, shark and many other species are fair game at this time of year. In my opinion, there is no better food than fresh fish. This month, I am presenting a few recipes that should enhance your repertoire of fish recipes. Enjoy!

The recipes presented this month are from my yet to be published cookbook, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook. Feel free to email me at with your comments and requests. Be well, and good eating!

Now, on to the recipes!

It's Fishing Season!

Whole Ling Cod on the Grill

An old Portuguese friend of mine gave me this recipe for cooking whole ling cod. If you don't catch your own, select a fish of about 8 to 10 pounds from your local fish market for this dish. When selecting the fish, make sure that the eyes are not cloudy and that the fish is firm and not smelly.
  • 1 whole Ling Cod (8 to 10 lbs)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 4 to 5 pats butter
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 medium yellow onion or 5 scallions, sliced

Take a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and place the cod in the center. Stuff the cavity of the cod with slices of lemon, slices of onion, and pats of butter, reserving a few slices of lemon and onion for the outside of the fish. Also sprinkle the inside and outside of the fish with the herbs. Finally, top the fish with the remaining slices of lemon and onions.

Wrap the foil around the fish, folding the seams to seal tightly. Place the fish on a grill over hot coals and cover the grill. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes before removing from the grill. Allow the fish to set for about 5 minutes before unwrapping and serving. The fish will be easy to remove from the bones. Serve with grilled garlic toast and the vegetables of your choice.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Grilled Salmon Steaks

Salmon lends itself well to a variety of cooking methods. Grilling is one of the simplest and most flavorful, in my opinion.
  • 4 salmon steaks, 1 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, crushed and chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 pats butter
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Prepare the olive oil ahead of time by soaking the garlic in the oil for about 2 hours. Brush the olive oil on the salmon steaks to thoroughly coat the fish. Season the coals with oak bark, alder wood chips or dried corn cobs immediately prior to cooking. Do not allow the fire to flame (sprinkle with water if necessary). When the smoke has started to rise from the grill, place the steaks on the grill cover. Turn the salmon steaks after 5 minutes and cover again. Cook an additional 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the salmon from the grill and top each steak with a pat of butter and chopped parsley. Serve immediately and enjoy!

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Rockfish and Chips

Rockfish is a light and delicate fish that lends itself well to frying. This version of fish and chips is easy to prepare and very flavorful.
  • 2 lbs. rockfish fillets
  • 2 lbs. potatoes cut into French fry shape
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Tempura batter mix
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt

Prepare a batter by mixing the tempura batter mix per package directions and add the Lemon Pepper and seasoned salt. Hint: Use ice cold water for the best results.

Heat the oil for deep frying (peanut oil preferred, and it can be reused). Cook the French Fries first. When the fries are done, dip each fillet into the batter and carefully place into the hot oil. Cook no more than 4 or 5 fillets at one time. Cook the fillets for about 3 minutes and drain on paper towels before serving. The fish is best served with malt vinegar as a table seasoning (fresh lemon wedges also work well), or you can use catsup or cocktail sauce for dipping.

Second hint: Salmon, halibut or cod can also be prepared in this manner.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Broiled Halibut

Halibut is a wonderful fish to prepare and eat. If fresh halibut is not available, try using the quick frozen and vacuum packed halibut steaks that are found in most supermarkets. I find these to be of very good quality, and they are very convenient to prepare. Simply thaw them in a sink of cold water for 20 minutes before cooking.
  • 4 halibut steaks
  • Lemon pepper to taste
  • 4 pats butter

Place the halibut steaks in a baking pan and top with the lemon pepper. Place in the broiler for about 5 minutes and then top each steak with a pat of butter. Continue broiling for another 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave the steaks in the broiler for another 2 to 3 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if desired and serve with lemon wedges.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Baked Striped Bass

Striped bass has a very delicate flavor and should not be seasoned too heavily. Fish from salt water will differ in flavor and richness from those that have been harvested from fresh water. I prefer the ocean fish.
  • 1 striped bass roast (or whole fish), about 3 to 4 lbs, scaled and head removed
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 pats butter or garlic flavored olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. tarragon
  • 1/4 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp. summer savory

Place the roast on a sheet of foil and cover all surfaces of the fish with herbs. Top with lemon slices and butter. Wrap and seal the fish in the foil and place in a baking pan. Place in the oven, preheated to 375 degrees, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes before opening the foil. Lift the center spine with a fork leaving the flesh from one side of the roast on the foil. Lay the other half of the fish, skin down, and lift the remaining bones out of the fish with the fork. Serve equal portions on individual plates and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 35 minutes