Sunday, September 11, 2011

Opal Thai Basil

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in cooking is seeking out specialty stores in the area where I can purchase quality ingredients. Just recently I discovered an Asian World Market near my home that has the best selection of produce, fish and all kinds of things from Asia that I have never seen before. The first time I went in this place I was floored by how wonderful their fish market was compared to our terrible local Albertsons, Tom Thumbs and Kroger grocery stores. I just love fresh fish and find it so difficult to enjoy it in Dallas due to poor selection. When I would purchase fish it would be from Whole Foods, Central Market or Market Street and they still had fish that had been frozen and wasn’t like fish I would have when close to the coast.

This fish market is packed with so many types of fish, many I hadn’t even seen before. I was just in awe with trying to make my selection. On Saturday’s they had big bins filled with ice and a wonderful selection of fresh whole trout was out on display. I couldn’t resist it. Just the thought of grilling a whole trout with herb oil a fresh squeeze of lemon made me so excited!

I ventured to the produce department and purchased a 4oz bag of Opal Thai Basil for $1.59! Not only do they have the best selections of items, their prices were outstanding. Fresh fish, fresh produce and an enormous selection of anything you can image Asian. It is my new favorite place.

This grilled trout is so easy to prepare, healthy and packed with flavors you will want to make this for a quick dinner, for guests or on a late Sunday evening enjoying a nice glass of wine.

Make sure to purchase your fresh fish by checking the eyes for clarity. Fish with cloudy looking eyes is a sign of fish that isn’t fresh and always ask to smell it. If it’s fishy, throw it back! Fish shouldn’t smell fishy it should smell very fresh. You will know the difference immediately.

Herb Oil - To prepare your herb oil, in a food processor, add your fresh herbs, a clove of garlic, sea salt and pepper. Give it a whirl, just enough to break of the herbs and garlic. You don’t want to emulsify the oil. Pour in a dish and set aside.

Whole Grilled Fish - To prepare your whole grilled fish, have your fishmonger remove the gills, guts and scales, ask them to pack it on ice so you can keep it fresh until ready to prepare. It’s very important to prepare the fish the same day so it will be in peak flavor. Slash the fish on each side about three times which will help the fish cook evenly. Otherwise your fish will be raw in the center.

Grilling fish is tricky so you want to make sure your grill is clean and oiled by using a paper towel and rubbing it on the grill grates. Season your fish inside and out very well with a mixture of sea salt and pepper. Do not add any additional seasonings at this point. To maximize the flavor of seasoning you will do this when it comes off the grill.

Prepare your grill to a MEDIUM heat and if you want a hint of smoky flavor, soak some hickory chips in water and add the grill to impart some added favor. Grill the fish on each side for approximately 10-12 minutes and then carefully turn over using a couple of spatulas or if you have a fish basket, even better. Only flip the fish one time. You will know when it’s done by looking through the slits and seeing the back bone and the flesh is cooked through. Transfer the fish to a serving dish and drizzle with the herb oil and serve with fresh lemon.

I made herb oil using an incredibly fragrant Thai Basil. Deep purple stems and a hint of licorice, Opal Thai Basil is sweet and spicy. Basil is from the mint family, is used to aid in digestion and has a history of healing anxiety, headaches and is nutritionally rich in anti-aging antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Medicinal Properties include antidepressant, antiseptic, stimulant, antibacterial and expectorant.

Basil has been used to attract love, wealth, protection, fertility and purify the soul in exorcisms.

There are a variety of culinary uses in teas, soups, sauces, salad, pastas, oils and vinegars.

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