Reading John Birdsall’s hefty biography of James Beard, The Man Who Ate Too Much, motivated me to go through some of Beard’s cookbooks. He was prolific author and definitely earned his place among those cooks who influenced American cuisine by emphasizing seasonality, using local ingredients, and eschewing the mid-century elitism epitomized in Gourmet Magazine and its Francophile editors.
Sometimes a dish comes out so good that I regret not taking pictures for the blog of my preparing it. Then, all too often, dishes like these get lost in my files and are never written up here. Well, last night, I prepared such a dish and decided to blog about it even though the only photos I have were taken after it was cooked.
Perhaps the pandemic’s blurring of time, Passover seemed to creep up on us unexpectedly on Saturday afternoon. As a result, I hadn’t planned anything for our first Seder. Almost all of our meat was in the freezer and wouldn’t defrost in time for dinner. That’s when my calmer better half suggested fish as an alternative. We had plenty of salmon on hand, and although that too was in the freezer, it only required a couple of hours to defrost.
Once again, the recipe highlighted in today’s post was suggested by my better half, who informed me that we had a haul of salmon in our overcrowded freezer that needed to be pared down. The recipe, “Orecchiette with Salmon, Arugula and Artichokes” is by cookbook author Grace Parisi and comes from the December 2012 issue of Food and Wine.
When one hears “comfort food,” I’d bet most people wouldn’t think immediately of fish. But when I read Ina Garten’s recipe for pan-seared salmon in her latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, the photograph illustrating this “pretty-in-pink” dish prompted me to make it.
After a rather heavy rib dinner on Friday night, we both thought dining “light” was a must for Saturday’s supper. For us, lighter fare typically means fish, and one of the lightest I know how to prepare is sole. So after a day of watching classic films on TCM, I headed off to the fish market, where I found some sparkling white, wild lemon sole.
Although I am trying to expand my limited seafood repertoire, sole for me usually equates with sole oreganata, one of the mainstays of Friday night meals and Lenten suppers from my Italian-American boyhood. Boyhood dining memories also include my father’s taking us to one of the most famous Italian-American restaurants in New York City, Patsy’s. In fact, my dad was the attorney to Patsy Scognamillo, the restaurant’s founder. This is one of the reasons I was gifted not long ago with a copy of Patsy’s Cookbook: Classic Italian Recipes from a New York City Landmark Restaurant written by the founder’s grandson, Sal.
As I thought, the book had, along with many celebrity tales, an appealing recipe for fillet of sole arreganata and I opted to pretty much follow that for cooking the fish. However, out of deference to my Sicilian mother and Neapolitan aunt, I chose to make their breadcrumb topping.
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs Italian parsley, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
In a bowl, stir all the dry ingredients and then add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, stirring with a fork until the breadcrumbs are moistened. You may use a little more or less olive oil depending on the breadcrumbs. The mixture should have just enough oil to clump together lightly when pinched with your fingers and to allow the breadcrumbs to brown and not burn when under the broiler.
1 1/2 pounds lemon sole (2 large fillets)
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Bread crumb topping
Lemon wedges for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Place the fish fillets in a baking dish large enough to hold the fish in a single layer and dot with the butter.
3. Combine the lemon juice and wine in a small bowl and spoon over the fish. The juice should be just enough to come up to the sides of the fish but not cover it. Season with the paprika.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork.
5. Remove the fish and set the oven to broil.
6. Sprinkle the topping on the fillets and broil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Serve with white rice sauced with the juices from the fish and with lemon wedges as garnish. Serves 2 as a main course.
Wine Pairing: Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Sauvignon Blanc
When I saw this recipe in last month’s Bon Appetit magazine, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I’d make it. What most attracted me to it were the golden raisins and pine nuts, ingredients that, when paired with swordfish, whispered my mother’s native Sicily.
Finding a great piece of swordfish and some beautiful hot-house cherry tomatoes at the market yesterday reminded me of the recipe and so here it is. I followed all of the instructions but toasted the pine nuts ahead of time. I also decided to add some of the raisins and pine nuts to the sauce rather than sprinkling all of them on at the end. My only cautionary note would be to hold off on adding the 1/2 cup of pasta water at the end. Wait until you’ve almost finished tossing the pasta with the sauce. A tablespoon or two might be enough.
Pasta with Swordfish and Cherry Tomato Sauce from Bon Appetit August 2015
Ingredients (Serves 4)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided (2 for the sauce; 1 for the swordfish)
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets
4 garlic cloves, sliced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound 1-inch-thick swordfish steaks
2 tablespoons pine nuts
12 ounces casarecce or other short pasta (I used strozzapreti)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
2 tablespoons golden raisins
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook anchovies, garlic, and red
pepper flakes, stirring occasionally, until anchovies disintegrate, about 3 minutes.
Add half of tomatoes; season with salt and pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 12–15 minutes. Add remaining tomatoes; remove from heat.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Season fish
with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown and just cooked through, about 4
minutes per side. Let cool slightly. Coarsely flake flesh; discard skin. (You may also want to remove the dark blood lines.)
Toast nuts in a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden
brown, about 4 minutes. Let cool.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta and ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to tomato sauce and cook over low heat,
tossing often and adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce is thickened
and coats pasta. Add fish to pasta along with half of parsley and toss once to
Serve pasta topped with raisins, pine nuts, and remaining parsley.
Here’s a link to the recipe on Bon Appetit.
Wine Pairing: Grillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontes
My New Year’s resolution is to cook more fish. And when my local supermarket had a $6 off sale on fresh cod, it made keeping that resolution a lot easier. I originally intended to bake the fish with a bread-crumb topping, but not finding any breadcrumbs in the pantry changed that plan and made me turn to a recipe from Mark Bittman’s Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking: Cod in Green Sauce.
The recipe calls for cod steaks, but as my fillets were cut on the thick side, I thought it would work. And although I only had half the fish called for, I thought it best not to halve the other ingredients as the sauce is actually a poaching medium.
I highly recommend this simplest of recipes. It calls for just a few ingredients, but yields a delicate and tasty cod. I highly recommend using your best olive oil for this dish as it is the source for most of its flavor.
Cod in Green Sauce Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Fish
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 thick cod fillets, about 1/2 pound each
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.
Over low heat, heat the olive oil and garlic in a 10- to 12-inch non-stick skillet. When the garlic floats to the top and begins to take on just a slight color, slide the fish into the oil using a spatula. Move the fish from time to time.
After about 5 minutes, turn the fish and add the parsley to the pan. Baste the fillets with the oil and parsley. Continue to cook the fish for 5 to 7 minutes more or until done to your liking.
Serve immediately with just a pinch of fleur du sel.
Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc
I know that this is my second posting on grilled tuna in one month’s time. However, the other night I decided to abandon the soy-based marinade from Mark Bittman, which I’ve used for years, for one made with Marsala. While the former marinade yields a meaty-tasting tuna steak, the latter wine-based one is happy to play a supporting role and allow the lush flavor of the tuna to take precedence.
I used equal amounts of extra-virgin olive oil and dry Marsala to make the marinade and allowed the fish to marinate for about 30 minutes before putting it on a hot grill pan. I cooked the 3/4-pound yellowfin-tuna steaks, a little more than an inch thick, grill on the first side for 5 minutes seasoning them lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. I then turned them and allowed them to cook for about another two minutes, leaving a pink, almost sushi-style middle. While cooking, I basted the steaks with the marinade.
I enjoying experimenting with my favorite recipes; sometimes, I fail and other times, I succeed. This time, I undoubtedly succeeded.
I served the fish with fresh spinach sautéed in olive oil and garlic and accompanied by a spectacular 2013 Domaine de Robert Morgon. This young fruit-forward cru Beaujolais was the perfect pairing for the rich tuna.
Wine Pairing: Morgon, Pinot Noir, Cotes du Rhone
When it comes to pure flavor, I’d have to say that tuna, raw or cooked, is my favorite fish. As a true beef lover, I find tuna the perfect substitute when trying to eat healthy. Because I truly enjoy the flavor of this fish, I like to prepare it with a minimum of ingredients and cook it as simply as possible.
My go-to recipe for this “king of the sea” is “Basic Grilled Tuna” in Mark Bittman’s Fish: Fish: Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking.
The recipe calls for marinating a thick tuna steak (1.5 to 2 pounds) in a high-quality soy sauce and olive oil marinade for an hour or less and then grilling it on a hot grill or under a broiler, and basting occasionally with the marinade. After five minutes, the steak is turned and you start checking for doneness by cutting into the steak with a thin-bladed knife.
He warns that tuna should not be cooked to the well-done stage as it will continue to cook after its removed from the heat.
The first time I prepared this recipe, I overcooked my tuna. Now I turn my fish after about 3 minutes on a hot grill pan and then cook it for about 2 minutes on the other side. Rather than using a knife, I keep my eye on the sides of the steak and remove them before the rare middle is cooked. You can see the band of “rare” tuna in the photo above.
Although Bittman provides a recipe for an optional ginger-soy dipping sauce, I prefer to serve the tuna plain with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a lemon wedge.
Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc