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These days, there seems to be an emphasis on "hot stuff," blackened this 'n that and all sorts of devices that do nothing but disguise or at least cover up the real flavor of food. In parts of the world where refgrigeration's scarce, it's understandable that they'd use lots of spices and high heat to deal with the effects of spoilage, but to take a beautiful piece of fresh fish and nearly cremate it is nigh unto criminal.

After wading through the terribly precious recipes in some of the food magazines, I get the impression that the writers are more concerned with impressing us with their vast knowledge of obscure ingredients than they are in helping to broaden our culinary horizons in a meaningful way.

Here in coastal New England, we're fortunate to have a good supply of very fresh fish and the best cooks are those that can celebrate that abundance with simple preparations that enhance, rather than disguise the inherent flavors. I had a chat this morning with a good friend who's also a commercial fisherman: he described a chowder he recently made with some extra striped bass that involved nothing more than the fish, potatoes and onions cooked in water flavored with the cooking water from their first-course steamed clams. Mmmmmm!

Cooking like that's an additive, rather than subtractive process, but wouldn't make the grade in the ever-so-sophisticated and expensive new restaurants that seem forever challenged to see how many disparate ingredients they can combine and how how they can pile it on a tiny plate. Grrrrr!

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