Culinary stuff I learned on my summer vacation

Here are some interesting tidbits I collected this summer, although you can use them for all seasons to become an informed foodie, staying safe and healthy.

Fish and Tips: When picking wild caught jumbo scallops from your fishmonger go for the blushing bivalves. Pass over the lily white ones for the crustaceans with the peachy-pink tinge. This hue is caused by an abundance of pigment called zeaxanthin from the ripening of the female gonads. Some pescavores claim these warm-tinted ones are more juicy, tender and tastier than their male counterparts.

Wild-caught also trumps farm-raised for most fish varieties, although they both contain comparable amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Farm-raised contain more fat and calories (along with antibiotics and commercial food colorings) as they are confined to cramped quarters, which makes them more susceptible to diseases with less opportunity to nosh on the ocean’s abundant buffet of wild (and color enhancing) offerings.

Even the most die-hard oysterphiles should not slurp these bivalves raw (especially in summer months) as they feed through filters gobbling up wastes, toxins and viruses. (Not much of an aphrodisiac now!) Since more than 75 percent of E. coli and other outbreaks occur in warm water months, either cook oysters in the summer or wait to eat them raw in winter months.

Mosquito Management: Studies have shown that eating a potent clove of antiviral and blood-thinning garlic daily might ward off more than just Vlad (the Impaler) Dracula. This stinky rose has been found to repel mosquitoes by its odiferous aroma on the breath and sulphuric compounds excreted through the skin. According to the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, those who guzzle beer, become a mosquito magnet, although there is no scientific explanation for the pest’s attraction to malted barley, hops and yeast. Iced tea, anyone?

Salad Safety: Particularly in the summer, it’s best to eat raw salads at home where you can vigilantly wash raw vegetables — a rich breeding ground for bacteria. Salads at questionable (or even reputable) establishments might be washed with unsanitary hands or contaminated water sources, so to avoid food-borne illness choose cooked veggies when dining out.

In fact, most foods (especially egg and oil-based ones) when left at room temperature for more than an hour can grow pathogenic bacteria that causes food borne illnesses. So keep perishables on ice or refrigerate soon after opening.

Migraine Mitigation: While assorted triggers cause debilitating migraine monsters, summer is rife with them, including dehydration, bright sunrays, humidity and heat. Standing advice – drink plenty of hydrating fluids. There are also many natural sources of migraine relief, so make food your Motrin. Certain spices like turmeric and cayenne might give some solace, as the former is an anti-inflammatory blockbuster, while the latter in general, regulates circulation and blood pressure. Cayenne dials up marinara sauces, roasted vegetables, mangos and melons, hummus, dips and salsas, while turmeric enhances the color and flavor of everything from risottos, soups and stews to roast chicken, scrambles and Asian noodle dishes.

Also, do a liver detox by making organic lemon your main squeeze, squirting into everything from teas and salad dressings to chilled soups and fruit salads.

Get on the Stick: When preparing shish kebobs (whether chicken, fish or beef), soak wooden sticks overnight to prevent burning on the grill. To impart foods with added oomph, prepare flavored waters, like tangerine tarragon infused water for chicken, smoky hickory for beef and Meyer lemon and thyme for fish.

Kebobs A-Go-Go

Serves 4

You’ll need:

1 pound organic skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in cubes

1 pound wild caught salmon fillets (cubed), jumbo shrimp or scallops

1 large red onion, cut in wedges

1 large sweet red pepper, cut in wedges

1 large sweet yellow or orange pepper, cut in wedges

8 ounces whole mushrooms (crimini or button)

8 bamboo sticks (soaked overnight)

For the marinade:

Juice and zest from 2 Meyer lemons

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup fresh assorted herbs, coarsely chopped (your choice–rosemary, tarragon, cilantro, Italian parsley, basil)

Sea salt, cayenne pepper and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions: Combine marinade ingredients in a glass bowl, and whisk until well blended. Divide into three bowls. Marinate chicken, fish and veggies in separate bowls in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, assemble kebob ingredients, half for chicken, half for fish. Alternate chicken and veggies, and fish and veggies on skewers, ending with mushroom, cap down on top. Grill on medium heat, turning frequently until chicken and fish are cooked through, brushing liberally with extra marinade. Serve with turmeric seasoned couscous or basmati rice.

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