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From Barbara's Kitchen When to buy fish, how to cook it and what’s better — fresh or frozen?

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Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 7:34 am

Dear Barbara: We love fish at our house. The problem is that each type of fish has filets of different sizes, and I never know how long to cook them. I’m also torn between buying frozen fish or fresh fish. Everyone says fresh fish are better. Does that mean frozen fish are of lesser quality? — Tonya from Galt

Dear Tonya: Let’s start with the first question. Out there in “fish land,” there has always been what they call, the “ten minute rule.” This is a good rule of thumb when cooking fish. Take a ruler and measure the thickness of the fish at its thickest point. You want to cook it approximately 10 minutes per inch. So, if the fish were only half an inch thick, you would want to cook it for 5 minutes, or 21⁄2 minutes per side, if it is on the stove rather than in the oven. That doesn’t seem very long, but remember, when you take it off the heat, you always have some residual cooking. If your fish is wrapped and sealed in foil, you would want to add maybe five minutes so the foil can heat up.  This would be for fresh or thawed fish. For frozen fish, add five more minutes.

Now, for the frozen fish issue. Frozen fish are usually frozen at sea. They clean, filet and freeze them right on the boat. If they are brought in “fresh,” they could be up to 10 days old before they ever get into port. I personally have no problem buying frozen fish. If I buy fresh, I like it locally caught and no more than one day old.

Dear Barbara: This time of year I am over-run with tomatoes. I don’t know why I plant so many because I never know what to do with them. My freezer is full of sauce and I am out of ideas. There are just so many salads and you get tired of them. Do you have any fresh ideas to use them up? — Kate from Lodi

Dear Kate: We tend to make the dishes we know best. Try going to www.epicurious.com. They have tons of ideas to choose from for tomatoes; from Gazpacho to a tomato tart. Read the reviews to see how others have tweaked the recipe. 100 percent of the viewers said they loved the tart and would make it again!

Dear Barbara: A friend of mine was talking about this great watermelon salad she had at a Stockton restaurant. Have you ever heard of it? — Kali from Lodi

Dear Kali: I don’t know many restaurants that serve watermelon salad. Fortunately, the casual restaurant that we go to has the salad on the menu. Watermelon salad has very little lettuce in it just a couple of pieces of Arugula. Then you have nice big squares of watermelon topped with Feta cheese squares and a splash of citrus salad dressing. It is delicious and very simple to make.

Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Send questions to Barbara Spitzer at bdspitzer

@comcast.net. Include your first name and city.

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