To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.
~François de La Rochefoucauld

Yes, I have written about tuna more extensively in a post entitled Ahi “Nicoise” dated May 13, 2010 — look at the search box.  But, please abstain in devouring blue fin tuna as it appears low in numbers.

Then again, earlier (February 7, 2009) there existed here a post about ubiquitous steak tartare — although sublime, but with the firm texture of this finfish, tuna tartare is sapid, damn near nympholeptic.  This does not imply that steak tartare is equally divine, as both are toe curlers.  But, it is a cooling, light, dainty often app repast with tuna diced into chunks and fluidly soothed by Asian flavors (as below) in a chilled vessel, a dish which really did not emerge until recently about 3-4 or so decades ago…perhaps in Paris by a Japanese born, yet French trained, chef by the name of Tachibe — who knows?

A chilled dry white (preferably one that is French oriented or sauvignon blanc) or rosé is essential as quaff.

1/4 C canola oil
2 t grated fresh ginger, with some small chunks retained

1 – 1 1/3 lb sashimi (perhaps sushi) grade tuna, diced into 1/4″ pieces

1 t jalapeño, minced with seeds and veins removed
1 1/2 t wasabi powder
1/2 t mirin
1/2 t saké
1 t sesame seeds
1 T scallion, finely chopped
1 1/2 T lime juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Non-pareil capers, rinsed
Caviar

In a bowl, add the ginger and chunks for a few hours to allow to marinate some in the frig.

In a large glass chilled bowl, add tuna to ginger oil as well as small ginger chunks, the cilantro, jalapeño, wasabi, mirin, saké, sesame seeds, scallions, lime juice, then mix well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Using fingers, very slightly strew over the tuna tartare with capers and then caviar.

Serve on chilled shallow glass salad bowl(s) over some flared avocado slices or cilantro or watercress, something like that or those kith and kin.

I know the human being and fish can co-exist peacefully.
~George W. Bush

About time to return to the laptop.

Too often undervalued, even maligned and disparaged in American kitchens, anchovies are another super food, brimming with protein, calcium, vitamins E and D, and a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. For shame to the naysayers, as given their ambrosial and versatile traits (from oh, so subtle to slightly audacious) as well as their nutritional potency, anchovies should approach an obsession. Think Caesar salad, puttanesca, tapenades, piedmont eggs, nước mắm Phú Quốc (fish sauce), salade niçoise, to name just a few.

Omega-3 fatty acids refer to a group of three polyunsturated fatty acids termed α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is rooted in walnuts and some vegetable oils, such as soybean, grapeseed, canola, and flaxseed, as well as in some green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens. EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish. They are essential nutrients for human health, and research has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides, control blood clotting, help build neural cell membranes, combat depression, and reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

From the fish family Engraulidae, small and delectable anchovies are commoners who reside in salt water — oily skinned, foraging creatures with some 144 species scattered throughout the world’s temperate oceans and seas.

They are greenish fish with blue reflections due to a silver longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of the caudal fin, ranging from a tad less than 1″ to about 16″ in adult length. The body shapes vary with more slender fish found in northern climes. The snout is blunt with tiny, sharp teeth in both jaws and contains a unique, bioelectric rostral organ, believed to be sensory in nature, but whose precise function is unknown. This organ does however allow the anchovy to flourish in murky, troubled waters. The mouth is larger than that of herrings and silversides, though anchovies closely resemble them in other respects. Anchovies dine on plankton and recently hatched fish, known as fry.

When shopping, choose anchovies packed in glass where their now reddish-brown bodies are visible, rather than those packed in tins. They should also be packed in olive oil rather than lesser quality cottonseed or soy oil but should be patted dry before use.

The salt packed versions are whole little fish preserved in layers of sea salt which need to be boned before using — a simple finger pull on the skeleton. Then, they should be soaked in water, whole milk or buttermilk for 10 minutes or so to remove some of the salt and afterwards patted dry. They take an extra step or so, but most chefs and avid home cooks prefer sardines of this ilk.

In either event, these deified dainties are a far cry from the low quality, off flavored, unbalanced, pungent anchovies that reek on carry out pizzas in the states.

ANCHOVIES ON TOAST

Thick slices of artisanal bread, such as ciabatta, toasted and cooled
Unsalted butter, room temperature
Anchovy filets (superior quality), prepared as above

Toast sliced bread and allow to cool, so the butter does not melt. Rather thickly slather the room temperature unsalted butter on one side of each slice of toast. Arrange anchovy fillets in a diagonal on the toast with amounts to your tasting. Then, savor.

CHILE AIOLI

2 t chile powder
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
1 C mayonnaise, homemade (see below)
2 anchovy filets
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced

Combine the spices, mayonnaise, anchovy and garlic in the bowl of a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Blend in bursts on high speed until smooth.

Mayonnaise

4 large organic egg yolks, room temperature
2 T Dijon mustard
2 t white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 t sea salt
Tiny pinch of cayenne pepper

1 1/3 C canola or grapeseed oil

Separate egg whites from yolks. Egg yolks contain a natural emulsifier, lecithin, which helps thicken sauces and bind ingredients.

With a balloon whisk, whip together the egg yolks, mustard, wine vinegar or lemon juice, salt, cayenne pepper in a medium glass or metal bowl. Do not use a plastic vessel.

Add a few drops of oil while whisking; then pour in the oil slowly, in a very thin stream, while whisking vigorously with the bowl tilted at an angle on a folded towel. The emulsion should become thick enough to hold its shape and appear voluptuously creamy. Be patient because if you add the oil too rapidly the mayonnaise will break and turn soupy.

November 3, 1948, while dining with Paul at La Couronne in Rouen:

“It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. The waiter carefully placed the platter in front of us, stepped back, and said: Bon appètit!

I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.”

A life altering meal for Julia Child …”an opening of the soul and spirit for me.” A transforming event for us too.

The vitals to classic sole meunière are fine fresh fish, a heedful sauté and a gently caressed beurre noisette. More a dash than long distance, this dish demands your undivided attention. What follows is crispy-sugary fish, nutty butter, grassy parsley, all gently cut by lemon. Sole meunière may not be trendy, but if done right, you will fall hard.

SOLE MEUNIERE

2 C all purpose flour
4 sole fillets (4 ozs each)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T unsalted butter

4 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 T chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 T fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 200 F

Pat fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, heavy sauté pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Then add butter and swirl until melted, then foamy. Meanwhile, dredge the fillets in flour, shake off the excess and place them immediately in the pan with the hot oil. Do not flour the fish beforehand and allow to sit, or you will wound these sweet morsels.

When foam subsides, add the sole and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes. (As always, crowding is frowned upon, so cook in batches.) With a slotted spatula, carefully turn fish over and cook until opaque in center and golden, another 1-2 minutes.

Remove the fish from the pan and reserve on a racked sheet tray in the oven. Repeat the process with the remaining fish fillets. Keep warm while making the sauce.

With a paper towel, remove only the excess oil and butter from the pan. Add the additional butter over medium high heat shaking the pan frequently to prevent scorching. When the butter is quite bubbly, add the lemon juice and whisk to combine. As the butter begins to turn nutty brown, season with salt and whisk in the chopped parsley. Remove from heat.

Plate and spoon the sole with sauce.

Pourboire: consider doing the same with boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Oath (ōth) n., 1. a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says. 2. a solemn attestation of the truth or inviolability of one’s words.

I am slightly breaking my silence about the reckless Republican debt ceiling crusaders performing their Barnum & Bailey act in DC’s big tent recently. Unlike a circus though, it is not really amusing to see a party wantonly intent on bureaucratic paralysis and fiscal carnage for some warped “cause” urged by rogue ideologues.

So, the mantic vows these people offered to different daddies seemed worthy of a look-see.

All members of Congress took a solemn oath to the people of this country:

I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

But, many of the very same members of Congress also signed an oath to a select few:

I pledge to the taxpayers of the district or state and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or business; and TWO, oppose any reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Those members of Congress that inked this other oath pledged that under no circumstance—not war, nor government debt default, nor infrastructure failure nor any national calamity—will they tolerate any increase in government tax revenues. Regardless of what happens, these members swore to resolutely oppose any tax increase, even for the wealthy, and that tax loopholes and business subsidies must remain immutably fixed without a tax rate reduction of similar size.

“So help me God,” huh? Seems more mephistophelean. Almost every House Republican and most Republican Senators made a pledge to another master that actually nullifies part of their oaths of office. Despite their solemn oath to the citizenry, their blind allegiance lies with some private concern most voters did not even realize existed. When these same politicians officially swore to their country to “bear true faith and allegiance” to their country and the Constitution “freely” and “without any mental reservation,” they were prevaricating.

Oaths are not subject to venial side deals, and swearing to uphold both covenants is both duplicit and complicit. Pledging away an oath is forked tongue stuff. Almost like taking an oath “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; so help me God” with a parenthetical ending that whispers “well, just sometimes, when it suits me.”

Meanwhile, on to more eternal, and less childish, thoughts. My youngest is drifting about Santa Barbara this week…lucky soul. Today, he revelled in the awe inspiring marine mammal life in the Channel, replete with big blues, breaching humpbacks, cavorting dolphins and sea lions. Others lurked unseen below the surface, including halibut which reigns with local fishermen. It seemed an apt vicarious pick.

The California halibut is a species native to the Pacific coast, from Washington to the Baja, and is much smaller than its more northern cousin. They have small scales that are embedded in their skin, with both eyes located on one side of the head. They start life with an eye on each side, but very soon the left eye migrates to the right. The darker top side is olive green to dark brown, while the underside is white which is an adaptation to conceal the fish from predators.

Quenelles have become associated more with a shape, not so much an ingredient. These delicate dumplings are formed into ovals similar to eggs with spoons using ice creams, sorbets, rice, potatoes, cheeses, vegetables, poultry, fish and meats.

HALIBUT QUENELLES WITH SAFFRON AND FENNEL BEURRE BLANC

Pâte à choux
1/2 C water
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of sea salt
3/4 C all purpose flour
3 large eggs, room temperature

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the water, butter and salt and heat over medium high heat. Whisk occasionally, then once the mixture boils immediately remove from heat. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms and the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan; return to low heat and continue beating until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 1-2 minutes.

Scrape the dough into a bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a flat paddle. Beat the eggs into the dough, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each one. It is important to make sure that each egg is incorporated into the batter before adding the next. The dough should be well aerated and ultimately have the consistency of very thick mayonnaise. Make sure the pâte à choux is well chilled before you combine with the fish.

Quenelles
1 1/4 lb skinless, boneless halibut filets, cut into 1″ pieces and chilled
3/4-1 C heavy whipping cream
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Grating of fresh nutmeg

Put the fish, pâte à choux, salt, pepper, nutmeg and some of the cream into a chilled food processor bowl fitted with a cold steel blade and blend until smooth. Process by pulses, scraping the sides with a spatula. If the mixture seems stiff, add more cream in small doses until the mixture holds it shape well like a mousse. It should be able to shape well in a large spoon.

Bring salted water in a deep heavy skillet to a slow simmer. Never allow the water to move beyond a bare simmer as you cook.

With a large (2 T) wet spoon, dip out a rounded mass of the cold quenelle paste. Smooth the top of the paste with the bowl of an inverted second large wet spoon. Then slip the second spoon under the quenelle to loosen it and drop it into the simmering liquid. Repeat with the rest of the paste. The idea is to shape the mousse into ovoids and gently place in the simmering water. Dip the tablespoons into cold water after shaping each quenelle. Poach them uncovered for 15-20 minutes. When done, they should have almost doubled in size and should be able to roll over easily in the water. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on towels.

Beurre Blanc
2 C dry white wine
1 C champagne vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
1/2 C fennel bulb, finely minced
Pinch saffron
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

Boil wine, champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, fennel and saffron in small saucepan over medium heat until liquid is reduced to 4 tablespoons, about 15 minutes. Whisk in half the butter, piece by piece, until it forms a creamy paste. Set saucepan over low heat and continue vigorously whisking in a piece of butter at a time just as the previous piece is almost fully incorporated. The sauce should have the consistency of a lighter hollandaise. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm, so it does not separate.

Spoon a layer of sauce in shallow soup bowls. Arrange a couple of quenelles on top and spoon some more sauce over them. Serve.

You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.
~Phineas T. Barnum

Dear Groupon,

I felt compelled to write about your troubling Superbowl XLV ad which used the plight of Tibetans to convince consumers to buy Groupon certificates. In case you missed the airing, actor Timothy Hutton ended his somber monologue about how Tibet’s “very culture is in jeopardy.” He then suddenly chirped in that Tibetans “still whip up an amazing fish curry,” touting how his friends and he thankfully saved money at a Chicago Himalayan restaurant via Groupon. As you may know, Tibet has been threatened with societal extinction at the hands of an oppressive Chinese government. So, peddling your product at the expense of tyrranized victims of a revered culture seemed, at best, perversely odd.

Your multimillion dollar half minute was undeniably directed at furthering Groupon’s brand and generating Groupon profits and not aimed at altruism. An attempt to garner marketing attention and revenue from a beleaguered people’s struggle seems exploitative—a disrespectful quip demeaning the gravity of Tibetan misery.

I embrace humour noir, but this was over the line. Genocide is no joke.

While it appears that empathy rarely emanates from your Chicago Ave boardroom, it has seemed reasonable to expect some remorse. But, no genuine apologies are in the offing. The only words uttered were a feckless, fork-tongued defense (a/k/a publicity statement). And nowhere to be found is a solitary “I’m sorry” from corporate. Just self-justifying tripe focused on quelling Groupon losses.

No matter how and when spun, making light of cultural, religious and ethnic persecution for gain is both chilling and disgraceful. Equally deplorable were Groupon’s lame, hastily organized post airing efforts to contort this crass “show me the money” profiteering into donating to a mission-driven cause. You padded a hasty retreat driven solely by the palpable fear of losing customers. Nice try, Andrew.

On to the culinary content of the Tibetan fish curry ad which was likewise thoughtless. FYI, Tibetans do not eat fish for the most part. To many locals, eating fish is as abhorrent as pork is to Muslims and beef is to Hindus. Besides the obvious fact that Tibet is a mountainous, landlocked country, the absence of fish on tables there exists for several reasons. Some Tibetans practice water burial in lakes, and so eating fish is considered synonymous with dining on the dead. Fish are also regarded as the incarnation of the revered god of water and thus remain sacred. Tibetans detest gossip, and as fish do not have noticeable tongues, they cannot gossip. So, fish are rewarded for their silence by not becoming part of the Tibetan diet.

The disdain for Groupon’s brand name that resulted from your ads seems predictable. The negative online aftermath urging a mass “unsubscription” also comes as no surprise. Who knows how conscientious shop owners may respond.

Sincerely,

A Lay Cook

P.S. Groupon’s after the fact public ploy to show social conscience through savethemoney.org has already ceased. That non-profit “humanistic” site has already closed and now simply redirects to Groupon’s profit making center. A vital effort to save Groupon’s most precious natural resource: money.

CALAMARI WITH RED CURRY & COCONUT MILK

3 T peanut oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 T peeled and grated fresh ginger
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 1/2 T red curry paste
2 t ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper

1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 T light brown sugar
1 T fresh lime juice
Pinch of sea salt

2 lbs calamari, (bodies and tentacles), cleaned, bodies cut into 1″ slices

Freshly grated lime zest
Fresh mint leaves, chopped
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeño pepper, ginger, garlic, curry paste, coriander and pepper and cook over medium heat another 3-4 minutes. Then, add coconut milk, broth, brown sugar, lime juice, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

Add calamari to curry sauce, and cook over medium high heat until calamari is opaque, about 2 minutes. Plate and garnish with lime zest, mint and cilantro.

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
~ Mark Twain

It is brutally hot here…again. At noon, the car’s thermometer registered a paltry 103 and tomorrow will be even warmer with a hefty dose of humidity. A scorcher. Seems a good time for a chilled cup of ceviche and a crisp glass of cold white. These heat spells are also a sad reminder of climate change. So, before we move on to blithe culinary noise, please allow me a brief harangue about our precious oceans.

Over recent decades, numerous studies have documented the deterioration of ocean systems and predicted not a gradual, but a potentially catastrophic, decline in significant fish species. Simply put, we are facing fish population collapses. The vanishing of sea life. As one scientist voiced, “our children will see a world without seafood if we don’t change things.” One of the culprits is global warming, now more accurately, yet euphemistically referred to as climate change.

Please be patient with my digressive diatribe, but this subject is as serious as psychotic depression or a newly discovered melanoma. To some, a food site is no place to discuss climate change. To me, it seems ever so apposite to deliberate here about global warming’s effects on oceans.

Climate change results from an increase in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and surfaces, especially a sustained increase causing significant variations in global climate conditions. Despite misconceptions, climate is not weather. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time.

An overwhelming consensus of the scientific community has firmly concluded that climate change is a clear and present danger that, if left unchecked, will likely produce dire consequences for Mother Earth for this and generations to follow. Global warming poses extraordinary challenges—the kind that are difficult to put our heads around. Leading atmospheric experts have warned that a gradual heating of our climate is underway and will continue apace. This warming trend poses even greater risks to poorer regions that are far less able to cope with a changing climate…communities that largely rely upon fish for food or are already strained from water shortages.

The mechanisms of climate change follow some from the phenomenon known as the “greenhouse effect.” First proposed in 1824 by Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, a French mathematician and physicist, the greenhouse effect is a process by which the atmosphere warms the planet’s surface. Inside an artificial greenhouse filled with plants, the surrounding glass traps the sun’s energy, making it warm inside, even while outside it may be frigid. This modus operandi allows the plants to flourish. The same effect occurs every day on the earth when gases within the atmosphere act like that glass, trapping the sun’s heat. Solar radiation passes through the earth’s atmosphere, most of which is absorbed by the earth’s surface and some of which reflects off the surface back towards space.

The atmosphere is partly composed of several greenhouse gases (including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) which regulate the planet’s climate by absorbing and trapping some of the sun’s outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse. Without this natural “greenhouse effect,” temperatures would be much lower; indeed, the earth’s average temperature is 60 F higher than it would be without the greenhouse effect.

Particularly in the recent past, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have been steadily and remarkably elevating. Notably, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations all have increased dramatically. These additional accumulations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing marked warming of land and water surfaces resulting in climatic changes across the world. A group of leading climate researchers, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saw a greater than 90% likelihood that most warming over the last 50 years has occurred due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This study synthesized the life’s work of hundreds of climatologists from around the world, and called evidence for global warming “unequivocal.” High scientific agreement exists that global greenhouse gases will continue to grow over the next few decades through this century. This continued warming has and will transform how societies currently function, as coastal cities, water, agricultural and food supplies are threatened.

Projections of future warming suggest a global surface temperature increase of by 2100 of 3.2—7.2 F, with warming in certain regions of the United States expected to be even higher. Global mean surface temperatures have increased 0.5-1.0°F since the late 19th century. Our last century’s final two decades were the hottest in 400 years and perhaps the warmest in several millennia. In a recent report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), scientists concluded that global warming is “undeniable.” Climate change indicators pointing to global warming included:

–Declining Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover
–Rising air temperatures over land and sea
–Increased ocean surface temperatures, sea levels, ocean heat, humidity and troposphere temperatures
–Reduced numbers of record low nighttime temperatures

According to the report, each of the past three decades has been hotter than the decade before. At one time the 80’s was the hottest decade on record, but in the 90’s temperatures increased every year and the pattern continued into 2000. The NOAA found that temperatures were the hottest between 2000 and 2009, and the first six months of 2010 were the warmest on record.

This warming has grave implications for the environment: increased sea levels and temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, more frequent floods and droughts, water shortages and more frequent heat extremes. Ecosystem disruption, human migration, species reduction and loss are givens.

A word to the less than wise…Mme. Palin and your fellow global warming deniers, who decry climate change as a hoax and are proudly bigoted non-believers (as if it were some evangelical sect), please read and heed the word of true scientists. You know, those erudite ones that gather global data from satellites, weather balloons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys. But why listen to experts in the field? You do have your own self-annointed PhD in Palin political theater…aka a buffoon’s conspicuous bullshit. If only your absurd, cerebrally bankrupt face-tweets were benign. But, our children and children’s children cannot abide by your drearily predictable and unreasoned hubris, Sarah. Your prattle harms humanity. Refugnant.

SHRIMP CEVICHE

2 lbs. small (41-50 count/lb.) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
3 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 C fresh lime juice
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1/3 C fresh orange juice
1/2 T fresh oregano, stemmed and chopped
Zest from 2 fresh limes

2 ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped

1 avocado, peeled and diced
Sea salt
Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Parboil the shrimp—In a heavy, deep pot, bring cold water to a vigorous boil. Scoop the shrimp in, allow to cook for a moment or two and then promptly dump into a colander to strain. Immediately plunge the seafood into a large bowl filled with ice water to cease the cooking process, and then spread them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Allow to cool completely.

In a medium large glass dish, toss the cooled shrimp, shallot, lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, oregano and zest together. Cover well and refrigerate for at least four hours. Mix well from time to time.

During the last hour of chilling before serving, add the chopped tomatoes and toss. Remove from refrigerator and pour into a large bowl. Then, just before serving, add in the avocado, toss and season to taste with sea salt. Serve in chilled glasses or cups/bowls, garnished with cilantro.

Pourboire: If you are confident that your shrimp are decidedly fresh, you can skip the parboiling step.

Basic Fish Stock

April 29, 2010

Also called fish fumet, this delicate, aromatic stock is a foundation for fine fish cookery.

Use only fresh lean, mild, white fish and avoid oily species such as salmon, tuna or mackerel. You generally want the “racks,” meaning the spine and bones. Heads are also more than welcome to the pot, but guts are verboten. With some advance warning, your fishmonger should be willing to cheaply sell you what is needed from his day’s sustainable seafood bones (emphasis supplied). Preferably use the stock that day, but if not, pour into quart jars and freeze. Allow enough space at the top to account for expansion, and it will store well for a month or so.

BASIC FISH STOCK

1 carrot, peeled and sliced coarsely
1 leek, washed, sliced coarsely
1/2 fennel bulb, well washed and sliced coarsely
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced coarsely
1 stalk celery, sliced coarsley
1/2 parsnip root, sliced coarsely
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
3 T extra virgin olive oil

4-5 lbs fresh fish bones, trimmings and heads, well rinsed
3 qts cold water

3 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 C dry white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium high. Add and sauté the carrot, leek, fennel, celery, parsnip, and garlic until just before browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rinse the fish thoroughly in cold water. Put the fish parts, sautéed carrot, leek, fennel, celery, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf in a large, heavy pot. Cover with water and slowly bring to a gentle simmer. Immediately reduce the heat to low, skimming away the foam on the surface. Add the wine, salt and pepper and slowly simmer for 30 minutes.

With a skimmer, remove the bones and vegetables from the stock and discard. Pour the stock through a chinois or cheesecloth lined colander. Discard the solids.

Flatfish & Mussel Ceviche

August 24, 2009

A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
~William Shakespeare, (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 3)

A friend just returned from Peru where she visited the mystical pre-Columbian Inca site of Machu Picchu. Our mummy bag accompanied and warmed her at night on her life journey. Machu Picchu by osmosis. Her homecoming was a shameful reminder that, to date, only one ceviche recipe appears on the site (see Ceviche: Debated Ancestry 03.27.09). Time to remedy that oversight.

FLATFISH & MUSSEL CEVICHE

1 lb white skinless fish fillets, such as flounder or sole
1 lb fresh shelled mussels, cleaned and rinsed
1 C fresh lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 t salt
1 plump fresh garlic clove, peeled and finely diced
2 fresh serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

1 T chopped parsley
1 T chopped cilantro
1/4 C yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1/4 C red onion, peeled and finely diced

2 C corn kernels
1 lb sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled, and cut into 1/2″ slices, then half disks
1-2 avocadoes, halved, peeled and sliced

Chill bowls in the freezer.

Cut the fish fillets horizontally into 2″ x 1/4″ slices. Soak the fish and mussels in lime juice for at least 2 hours. Add the salt, garlic, and chili and refrigerate for another hour before serving.

Roast the sweet potatoes in the skin until a fork pierces the meat easily, about 45 minutes in a 375 F oven. Cool, then peel, and cut into 1/4″ slices, then half disks

Just before serving, fold in the parsley, cilantro, and onion and slice the avocadoes.

Divide and mound the ceviche in the center of each bowl. Surround with fanned sweet potato and avocadoes slices topped by corn. Serve immediately.

Finger licking good bottom dwellers. These two recipes display rather classic, yet embracingly simple, French culinary approaches. Pourquoi? Because our gallic friends across that watery expanse—long not crossed but which later became a migratory route for immigrants—have long had the fundamentals down on these denizens of the ocean floor.

Flatfish are an order (Pleuronectiformes) of ray finned fish, sometimes classified as a suborder of Perciformes. The scientific name means “side-swimmers” in Greek, so in many species both eyes lie on one side of the head, one or the other migrating through and around the head during development to create their characteristic assymetry. Evolution forever awes me.

Numerous species of flatfish are regularly caught in the Pacific with common market names such as sole (from gray to lemon to Dover), sanddab, turbot, plaice, fluke, flounder, and halibut. The name “sole” comes from its resemblance to a sandal, which in Latin is solea. A caveat emptor: in many markets, some species of flounder, especially the Atlantic species, are incorrectly labelled as lemon or gray sole. The true soles, Soleidae, include the common or Dover sole (Solea solea), so a trusted fishmonger is crucial…and there should be no fear in kindly asking about species identification or freshness.

On the other side of the world, Atlantic flatfish have not fared so well. Populations have experienced heavy fishing pressure by both domestic and international fleets over the last half century, and many species have been depleted to very low levels, particularly Atlantic halibut and some populations of yellowtail flounder. Efforts have been undertaken to revive the declining Atlantic flatfish populations, but until they have been reestablished, it may be prudent to avoid these species.

In this first recipe, fillets of sole are rolled to form what are termed paupiettes. Rolled beginning at the thickest end, the paupiettes will not unfurl as they cook. Sweet as candy.

SOLE PAUPIETTES WITH MUSHROOMS & WINE

2 lbs skinless and boneless sole fillets
2 C mushrooms, sliced
1/3 C scallions, sliced
1/3 C shallots, sliced
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 C dry white wine, such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc

1/2 C unsalted butter
1 T fresh chives, chopped, for garnish

Cut each fillet in half lengthwise, removing and discarding the small strip of sinew from the center of the fillets. With the white side that touched the bones on the outside of the paupiettes, roll up the fillets, starting at the thick end.

Gently place the paupiettes on end with the scallions, shallots, salt and pepper, in a medium heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover, reduce the heat, and boil gently for about 3 minutes.

Holding the lid so the paupiettes remain in the pan, pour the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and place it over high heat. Boil for a few minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Slowly add the butter and vigorously whisk mix until well blended. Bring to a gentle boil for a few seconds more.

Divide the paupiettes and mushrooms among plates, spoon sauce over the top, and sprinkle with chives.

In this next recipe, the fillets are poached gently in the oven.

SOLE POACHED IN WHITE WINE

2 lbs skinless and boneless sole fillets
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T shallots, finely minced
3/4 C dry white wine
1/3 C fish stock or chicken broth

Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh tarragon, minced

Preheat oven to 350 F

Dry the fish with paper towels, then remove any existing bones. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Butter a 9 x 12 baking dish. Strew half of the shallots in the baking dish, and then lay in the fish, skin side down. Sprinkle the remaining shallots over the fillets, and pour in enough wine and broth to come up just under the top of the fillets. Cover with waxed paper.

Place the dish in the lower one third of the preheated oven. The liquid should begin to bubble, and the fish will be done when it has turned to milky white, around 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully drain the cooking juices into a heavy small saucepan over medium high to high heat on the stove.

Tent the fish as you make the sauce. Reduce the juices until thick, syrupy. Vigorously whisk in lemon juice, little by little, than add parsley while stirring. Spoon the juices over the fish and sprinkle with fresh tarragon.

Ceviche: Debated Ancestry

March 27, 2009

Ceviche, seviche or cebiche is a technique of marinating raw seafood in citrus, traditionally fresh lime juice. As with all great food…exalted simplicity. The fish is slightly “cooked” by the citric acid, which does not involve heat, but does impart subtle flavor. The citric acid denatures the proteins in the fish, unraveling the molecules and altering their chemical and physical properties. Bathing the fish in citrus juices turns the flesh firm and opaque.

As with sashimi, ceviche should be reserved for the absolutely freshest your fishmonger has to offer…and sustainable, less toxin-risky species should always be the goal (see Sustainable Seafood).

While many espouse that ceviche originated in Peru, there seem to be so many varied claims and theories on which country or historical era gave birth to this dish that landing on a solid postulate seems nearly impossible. Suffice it to say, ceviche appears to be native to Central and South America (but, stories persist about ceviche being the fancied, imported stepchild of Moorish women who immigrated to the Viceroyalty of Peru beginning in the 16th century). Such are the culinary conundrums created when civilizations merge, expand, disperse and vanish over time.

GINGER CEVICHE

1/2 lb fresh white fish, such as red snapper, sea bass, sole, flounder, grouper
1/2 lb scallops
Sea salt
3/4 C fresh lime juice
2 T fresh grapefruit juice
1-2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and finely diced
2 T fresh ginger, grated
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Chill several small serving plates in the freezer.

Carefully cut the fish horizontally into 1/8″ thick slices with a well sharpened and newly honed knife. Salt fish on both sides and place in a large flat bowl. Spoon the lime and grapefruit juice over the fish and toss with the chili, ginger and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably more. With a slotted spoon, transfer the fish to the chilled plates and serve.