Splashes of citrus bring out the fresh and best in every kind of seafood

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fish and citrus fruit. It's a perfect marriage of flavors.

And the time is ripe.

I long to match citrus with fish, a symbiotic pairing that makes fish taste fabulous. Even "fishy" fish becomes mild-mannered when complemented with citrus.

Fried calamari become a delicacy with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Sauteed scallops can make your palate snap to attention when a splash of orange juice is lightly drizzled on top.

Better yet, poach salmon fillets in a mixture of orange juice, shallots and a little fish stock (or clam juice); once the fish is cooked, use the liquid to make an orangy butter sauce. Or substitute firm-fleshed white fish fillets, such as sea bass or halibut.

Garnish with slivers or slices of candied kumquats.

Grapefruit also pairs delightfully with fish. To intensify the flavors, reduce grapefruit juice by vigorously boiling it with white wine, minced shallots and pink peppercorns. Strain and use the grapefruit mixture as a base for a butter sauce. This delicious sauce is great with all shellfish as well as mild, firm-fleshed fish (such as orange roughy, sea bass or halibut). It is especially delicious with crispy crab cakes.

If you prefer to eliminate butter, you can boil grapefruit juice to make grapefruit essence (1 cup reduced to about 1/4 cup) and combine it with reduced-fat mayonnaise and capers. Serve it as an accompaniment to any mild, white fish and garnish with 3 or 4 sections of grapefruit (preferably the ruby-red variety) fanned on the plate adjacent to the fish.

Sections of lemon, grapefruit and orange can be combined with olive oil, minced garlic, fresh thyme and minced onion to make a citrus-style, vinegar-free "vinaigrette."

Here are several recipes that team citrus (grapefruit, lemons, oranges and kumquats) with fish and shellfish. In all cases, you can substitute several kinds of fish.

Salmon Poached in Orange Juice

Makes 4 servings

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter

2 large shallots, peeled and minced

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet

3/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup clam juice

1/2 cup whipping cream or half-and-half

salt and white pepper to taste

candied kumquat slices (recipe follows) or orange segments or slices (optional garnish)

minced fresh parsley (optional garnish)

In a small skillet cook shallots on medium heat in 1 tablespoon butter until softened. Set aside.

Using the thin, sharp knife, cut salmon on the diagonal into 1 1/2 -inch thick slices. When the knife reaches the skin, turn it to remove the salmon slice from the skin.

In a large skillet, combine juices and shallots. Add salmon in a single layer. Bring liquid to just below a simmer and poach salmon for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, remove salmon from liquid and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven about 3 more minutes, or until just cooked.

Meanwhile, boil poaching liquid on high until reduced by half. Add cream and reduce again by half. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon sauce onto individual serving plates. Top with salmon and garnish with candied kumquat slices or orange slices. If desired, sprinkle on a little minced parsley. Serve immediately.

Fish substitutions: Firm-fleshed white fish fillets, such as sea bass or halibut instead of salmon.

Candied kumquat slices: In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar; bring to a boil. Boil until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced kumquats (seeds, if any, removed). Boil on high 8 minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl. Allow to cool. Lift kumquats from syrup and use as a garnish for Salmon Poached in Orange Juice or in yogurt or on ice cream topped with a little orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier.

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This is a variation of a recipe from Cafe del Rey in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Crab Cakes With Pink Grapefruit Sauce

Makes 8 crab cakes

SAUCE:

1 1/2 cups pink grapefruit juice

3/4 cup dry white wine (or 1/2 cup dry white wine and 1/4 cup dry red wine)

6 shallots, peeled and minced

15 whole pink peppercorns, see note

CRAB CAKES:

3/4 pound crab meat, see note

1/4 cup minced celery

1/4 cup minced red onion

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons diced mild green chilies (canned)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs, divided use, see note

4 tablespoons butter for sauteing

2 sticks chilled butter, cut into 16 pieces

sprigs of fresh basil and/or chives (optional garnish)

Combine all sauce ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and boil on high heat until reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Strain and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine crab meat, celery, onion, mayonnaise, egg, chili and Worcestershire sauce. Add 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and stir to blend. Form mixture into 8 patties, about 3/4 -inch thick. Coat both sides of patties with remaining bread crumbs.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large, non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Saute crab cakes until golden brown and crisp on both sides (about 4 minutes per side). Transfer to baking sheet and place in a 300-degree oven to keep warm while you finish the sauce.

Bring grapefruit mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of butter a piece at a time, incorporating each piece before adding the next, whisking constantly. Return to heat from time to time to keep sauce hot, but do not simmer or boil.

(The crab cake mixture can be prepared 8 hours in advance and stored airtight in the refrigerator. Form crab cakes and cover with bread crumbs no more than 20 minutes in advance of sauteing. The reduction and straining of grapefruit mixture can be done 2 days in advance and stored airtight in the refrigerator. Heat and add butter as directed, just before serving.)

Place sauce on 4 dinner plates. Top with 2 crab cakes. Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil and chives, if desired. If serving as a main course, accompany with wild rice.

Fish substitutions: Use sauce with sauteed or grilled scallops, cooked shrimp, or sauteed or broiled orange roughy, sea bass or halibut.

Note: Whole pink peppercorns are available at many gourmet specialty shops as well as some supermarkets.

I generally use frozen crab meat (defrosted). I squeeze the excess water out of the crab meat before mixing with the other ingredients.

I prefer a rustic bread with a firm texture. Il Fornaio makes a rosemary bread (panmarino) or firm white bread (filone). Or use sourdough bread. Process bread in food processor fitted with the metal blade until large bread crumbs are formed.

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For fewer fat grams, try this low-fat sauce made with a grapefruit juice reduction (as in the previous recipe), but this one is a cold sauce using reduced-fat mayonnaise and capers rather than butter. It pairs well with broiled salmon, halibut or sea bass.

Garnish plate with 3 or 4 sections of grapefruit, preferably pink (ruby) grapefruit for the prettiest presentation.

Low-fat Grapefruit Sauce

Makes generous 1 cup of sauce

1 cup ruby grapefruit juice

3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

3 tablespoons drained capers

Place grapefruit juice in a small saucepan and boil on high heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Cool.

Combine all ingredients. Place sauce on plate adjacent to broiled fish. Garnish plate with sections of grapefruit fanned out on the plate.

This sauce can be made 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Sauteed Scallops With Citrus Sauce

Makes 4 main-course servings

SAUCE:

1/2 lemon

1/2 orange

1/2 grapefruit

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 small onion, minced

salt and pepper to taste

SCALLOPS:

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops

salt and pepper to taste

sprigs of fresh thyme (optional garnish)

Remove zest from lemon half and mince. Peel and section lemon, orange and grapefruit. Place olive oil, thyme, garlic, onion, citrus sections and zest in a small skillet. Simmer 1 minute on medium heat (do not boil). Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a large, non-stick skillet. Heat on high until butter is melted and oil-butter mixture is hot. Pat scallops dry with a paper towel and add to skillet. Brown on one side and toss scallops to brown on other side. Approximate cooking time is 2 to 3 minutes a side, but this may vary according to heat and size of scallops. You want them to just be turning opaque in the center when they are removed from the skillet. Do not overcook. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Return sauce to heat and warm slightly. (The sauce can be prepared 8 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Gently reheat before serving.)

Place scallops on 4 plates. Top with Citrus Sauce. Garnish with small sprigs of fresh thyme, if desired. Serve immediately.

Fish substitutions: Serve sauce with broiled, baked or grilled fish; shrimp and mussels.

HTC

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