What do you do when you have one of those no news is good news kind of weeks? I consider them akin to birthdays: the alternative is worse. So how do I navigate my way through a ho-hum week? Besides putting on my walking shoes each morning, and showing up at the office, I cook. Well, we have to eat.
I’ve declared several times this is not a foodie blog but it’s hard to keep food out of it, as I’m a devoted, if amateur in execution, fan of food.
One the regular blogs I follow is the Bartolini kitchens. I love ChgoJohn’s approach to food, talented cooking and witty writing via which he generously shares recipes, impressive knowledge, and great photos of beautiful food, roses & Max, sometimes. Our correspondence from his recent post Mediterranean Sea Bass in Parchment – Branzino al Cartoccio went like this:
EllaDee: “Good timing, the weather is warming up here and I have found a new fishmonger. I love fish, and happily come from a fish catching, cooking, eating family so my nose knows exactly when it’s cooked… so uncannily accurate I amaze myself. ” [Modest, huh?]
ChgoJohn: “With your background, EllaDee, you must have some wonderful recipes for cooking fish. Do you think you’ll be sharing any? I certainly would be interested in learning a few new ones. Remember, though, that I haven’t got your nose. If you make this one, I hope you enjoy it.”
EllaDee: “My cooking is very plain. We tossed fish in flour in and cooked in butter in a frypan, over the fire when camping mmmm, or baked in foil. Now, mostly I just put fish naked with maybe a splash of olive oil or a sprinkle of ginger powder, sugar, sea salt or white pepper in a hot oven or on the bbq… Next time, I’ll try to take a photo and post about it trying to keep a track of measurements, cooking times, etc, why not… I love yours “
ChgoJohn:“I, too, like to flour fillets and pan fry them in butter — and there’s not a campfire within miles. You may feel your methods are simple, EllaDee, but I’ve never seen ginger powder or sugar used when grilling or baking fish. I hope you do share the recipe one day with us. I’m very interested. Besides, I love to bring new recipes, especially for fish, to Zia when I visit. She’ll get a kick learning it came from a fellow bogger and talented writer living Down Under. And then, of course, I’ll show her your blog and you two can get better acquainted.”
So, yes, my Dad is a fisherman, or at least he was when I was a kid. Enigmatically, now retired with more opportunity, the attraction has waned… I’m still coming to grips with the snippet of information conveyed to me earlier this week that Dad’s taken up strumming a guitar.
But once upon a time, at every chance, Dad fished: at the beach, lakes and rivers. He is a authentic fisherman, has all the gear, casts his own lead sinkers, and sources bait from local nature. Fishing meant camping because it was only in my teens we acquired a caravan, which was old and small, so even still it meant camping. We went on holidays when and where Dad wanted to fish: Hawks Nest, Sawtell, Lake Keepit, Lake Glenbawn, Manilla Weir. He also established and became President of the Murrurundi branch of the district fishing club, so we regularly made trips to Ebor Trout Hatchery to obtain fingerlings for restocking of the Pages River.
The corollary of this is we ate quite a bit of fish. There wasn’t (& still isn’t) a fishmonger in our small country town. Fish was self-caught unless battered by the café. As a family we continue to be partial to fish, and Dad & I select similarly from a piscatorial menu. At a family gathering, he’ll get Tailor (Bluefish) especially for the two of us, to the customary abhorrence of the others, who for reasons unfathomable consider it unpalatable.
Fish and Dad will always be linked, and I’m thankful for this legacy because it means I’m an enthusiastic and unfussy fish eater. Bones, no problem, I deal with them as instinctively as my nose knows when the fish is cooked just so.
Yesterday when considering quick mid week dinner options, I’d run low on food and ideas so I made a dash in my lunch break to my regular De Costi’s where the fishmonger resembles Jerry Orbach from the TV series Law & Order, in search of dinner. Score = Blue Eye Cod fillets.
Sydney’s warm spring weather lent itself to my habitual combination of baked fish and mango salsa. In the fridge were leftover baked potatoes and the makings of salsa, so I grabbed a bag of rocket from the greengrocer to complete the deal.
And yes, I did go with a light sprinkle of ginger powder, sea salt, raw sugar & white pepper onto the fillets lightly sprayed with rice bran oil. The 2 fillets (510 grams) went on to a preheated tray into a very hot (250 degrees Celsius, approx. 480 F) fan forced oven for 10 minutes, along with the pre-baked potatoes for 5 minutes. The salsa is chopped mango, red capsicum, Lebanese cucumber, shallots, tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of sea salt.
*Herbert Hoover, “…men are equal before fish”