Friday, June 20, 2008
My husband not only brings home the bacon, he brings home FISH! Most people, even my family members, don’t quite get my enthusiasm for fresh caught fish, but it is a combination of nostalgia from my past and my newfound passion for local food. Add the fact that striped bass is my absolute favorite fish, and it is only in season for a matter of weeks in fish markets and restaurants, and you might have some idea of how much of a hero my husband is to me.
When Steve left for the fishing outing with his friends Brian and Bob, I was hopeful. I’d heard the fish were biting like crazy in Cape Cod Bay; they were going out in Brian’s boat and it was near high tide – all good.
I was pretty sure Steve would send a cell phone photo if he caught one, but as the hours passed with no fishy messages, I figured the outing was a bust, fish-wise. That is until 11:30 p.m. when I got an email from Brian with five glorious photos of my hubby holding a fish half as tall as he is. Score!
By the time he got home, it was 12:30, but I had the cutting board and filet knife ready and waiting. All people have hidden skills and one of mine is that I know how to filet a fish.
I learned how as a child at Bob’s Lake in Ontario, Canada. Every Memorial Day and Labor Day my family would go to Howard’s Cottages and stay in a little rustic cabin because my Dad loved to fish and Bob’s Lake had some good fishing.
My grandparents, Aunt Barb, Uncle Dann and their kids Dann and Debbie always came too, and most of the time other people in our peripheral circle of friends and family joined us.
Every night the Dads would go out fishing, and very occasionally they would take the boys with them. I loved to fish, but as the only girl in my family I never got a turn in the boat until the year I went to Canada alone with my grandparents. They took me out trolling and we caught a stringer full of fish, but the thing I remember the most is the amazing sunset of my life – it kept evolving in awe-inspiring colors ranging from bright pink to deep purple that were reflected on the lake. I don't think I've ever seen anything more beautiful.
That trip was an exception. Most of the time, I was left to my own devices on the dock, where I fished for hours and kept every single fish I caught. I begged my father to clean my fish so I could eat them (I had this idea that I wanted fish for breakfast), but he refused to filet my puny catch.
On one trip, my Uncle Dann’s mother, “Grandma Ellsworth,” caught wind of my dilemma and since she was an avid fisherwoman, she sat me down and taught me how to clean and filet a fish. My Grandma Palmer cooked up the whole batch of my fish for me - for breakfast, no less. She just dipped them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and fried them in butter. It was a most memorable meal.
For Steve’s striped bass, I wanted something a little more fancy. I kept the preparation of the fish simple – I simply seared the filets on both sides in olive oil in a hot cast iron skillet and then put the skillet in the oven to finish cooking. Then I made a fresh blueberry/corn salsa, a recipe from my favorite fisherwoman Linda Greenlaw and her mother Martha's excellent cookbook,Recipes From a Very Small Island, to ladle over the top. You could also substitute mango or nectarines for the blueberries. (This salsa is so good my daughter Jess ate the leftovers for lunch the next day as a salad and has already made this recipe for a friend.) We served the bass with some sautéed Swiss chard and red bliss potatoes tossed with sour cream and chives. Absolutely delish!
Here’s hoping for a long and productive fishing season!
Striped Bass with Fresh Blueberry and Corn Salsa
Striped bass filets, cut into four servings
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ears corn, cook and cut kernels off
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup blueberries
Combine corn, tomatoes, avocado, bell pepper, cilantro, lime, olive oil and vinegar in a bowl and stir to combine.
Sprinkle the bass with cumin, salt and pepper. Put one tablespoon olive oil in cast iron skillet and heat over medium high heat until a drop of water sizzles in pan. Place fish top side down in pan and fry until brown. Turn fish over and put pan in 400 degree oven for ten minutes or until done.
Add blueberries to salsa and stir gently. Serve on top of striped bass or any other firm fish like halibut or salmon.