September 4, 2012

Top chef says the best cooking is personal

Marcus Samuellson's party-ready recipe for fish tacos leaves room for custom touches.

Rants, raves, reviews and resources for Dallas-Fort Worth parents

After working in restaurants around the world and opening his own, chef Marcus Samuelsson has mastered the art of cooking for others. His memoir, Yes, Chef (Random House, $27), was released this summer. Here, he makes pleasing a crowd easy.

Cooking lessons from Marcus

1. Make it personal. "Growing up, my grandmother was the best cook I knew. She inspired me and brought out a passion that became my career. Learning to cook also involves a lot of learning about yourself -- a recipe is a good guideline, but taste is so personal. You should never be afraid to customize the food you make and put your own stamp on it -- that's how you take a dish from something predictable to something special."

2. Experiment wisely. "I'm all about trying new ingredients or techniques, but my No. 1 rule for home cooks looking to mix things up is to avoid trying a new ingredient and a new technique at the same time. For example, if you're using a pluot for the first time, use it in place of a peach or plum in a dish you're already familiar with. This way, you'll learn more about the ingredient and still stay close to your comfort zone."

3. Perfect a party dish. "Tacos are great for guests. You can easily double or triple any recipe, then let people build their own. The star of this taco is the fish, so use the freshest you can find. Sometimes that means using whatever is available -- maybe you get great salmon in your area, or, if you live by a lake, try trout. Be sure to start the fish on a really hot grill. That makes the best grill marks, which not only look nice but also add flavor."

Everyday Food magazine offers quick, healthy solutions for everyday meals -- from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. For more recipes and additional tips, visit

Fish tacos with spicy slaw

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grill

1 pound skinless firm, white fish fillets, such as cod or striped bass, cut into 3-inch pieces

1 small bunch cilantro, stems and leaves separated, roughly chopped

3 jalapeños

Salt and pepper

2 tomatoes, seeded and diced small

3 napa cabbage leaves, shredded

1 small red onion, finely chopped

Smoky seasoning salt (recipe below)

Lime juice, plus wedges for serving

8 corn tortillas, toasted

Sliced avocado, for serving

1. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high. Clean and lightly oil hot grill. Combine fish, cilantro stems and jalapeños. Coat with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill fish and jalapeños until fish is opaque throughout and jalapeños are charred and tender, about 5 minutes per side.

2. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, cabbage and onion. Seed and finely chop 2 grilled jalapeños and add to bowl. Season with seasoning salt and lime juice. Flake fish and divide among tortillas. Top with slaw. Serve with cilantro leaves; remaining grilled jalapeño, thinly sliced; more seasoning salt; lime wedges; and avocado.

Nutritional information per serving (without avocado): 321 calories, 11 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 25 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 31 percent of calories from fat.

Smoky seasoning salt

Combine 1/4 cup coarse sea salt, 2 tablespoons grated lime zest, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

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