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By Tim O’Dell, Chili Dawg’s Foods of Fire

Ok, it is Lent, and many folks will not eat meat on Fridays (or many other days of the week), forgoing the great flavors of steak, pork, chicken, etc. Now fish dishes become more prevalent and it can be frustrating to prepare meals without them becoming repetitious or boring.

Cod, shrimp, tilapia, halibut, tuna, mahi, red snapper and many more choices will be on the menu. For those who enjoy the wild side, walleye, blue gill, crappie, salmon and trout are some great choices. With just this short list of fish, you can make many variations that will be easy enough to prepare and they can be very succulent if done right.

In today’s world of food, home cooks and restaurant chefs alike are continually searching for ways to create great flavors and offer something different than the old standards. So, they are turning to spices to give their concoctions a distinct and unique flavor.

There is nothing like a little habanero seasoning on your fried crappie or walleye. Green Chile seasoning on tilapia and halibut is fabulous when you bake it.

Not only are spicy seasonings being used to jazz up a fish meal, but spicy pepper spreads are being used as well.

A fish stir fry can be spiced up with some habanero or jalapeno seasoning and plum pepper spread. It makes a phenomenal dish.

If you like smoked fish, try smoking salmon and using a strawberry spread as a glaze just before the salmon is done. I like to cook shrimp on the grill, whether gas or charcoal, and season it with habanero seasoning and glaze it with a lemon based pepper spread. A pineapple based spread is fabulous on cod and halibut and a mango based spread is unbelievable on mahi, tuna or red snapper.

I am positive that these few suggestions have already generated thoughts in your gourmet mind about your next fish meal. The gourmet host has found the perfect place to shop for quality spicy foods, seasonings and spicy pepper spreads.

Specialty food stores are perfect as they often have hundreds of items available from which to select. The sales personnel are very knowledgeable with regard to flavors that work well with the various items mentioned above.

If products you want are not readily available, specialty food stores are nimble and act quickly to secure the products you want in time for you to prepare your meal. I have often said that this is one main reason for the rise in popularity of specialty stores. They cater to the needs of their consumers.

Shopping at specialty food stores is also fun. Why serve something you have never tried? Unlike big box stores or many local grocery stores, many specialty stores will let you sample whatever product you are interested in.

So reduce your stress level during the Lenten season and become a gourmet host for the greatest experience in cooking fish that you will ever have! And your family, friends and guests, the recipients of your thoughtful planning, will never forget it!

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