About this Blog

As I go into my second year blogging about cooking and eating locally, I am thinking more and more about my own heritage. Why is cooking and eating locally sourced food important to me? What values am I honoring by doing this and how were these values instilled in me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fresh Fish

Yesterday evening we had friends over for an impromptu dinner. I was making haddock which I had picked up a day earlier as our weekly share from Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC). CAFC is a community supported fishery (CFS) organization along the same idea as a CSA (community supported agriculture). Through CAFC, we receive one whole fish per week delivered at a specific time and location. Members can also opt to receive only fish fillets, or alternating fillets and whole fish. We tried the alternating option during our first run since cooking fish, particularly whole fish, is new to me. I grew up in the Midwest, in a different type of food culture, so I've had to come up a learning curve. Despite this, I've really learned to love and appreciate the rewards of whole fish.

I was fortunate to have an hour to myself in the kitchen to begin dinner preparation before the other five people arrived to enjoy it. As I stood in the solitude of my kitchen rinsing the fish under cold water, I stopped to admire the beauty of the fish in my hands. The skin glistened underneath the water. The body felt smooth and firm and as I turned it over and around running my hands across the smooth skin, I could find no sign of blemish. The gills were bright red and the eyes were clear and black. This fish looked as if I had just picked it up out of the water.

As I admired the fish, I was reminded of one of the most important principles in Ayurveda, India's system for health and healing, which is to eat fresh food which is freshly prepared. Behind this principle is the belief that we get Parana, or life force, from our food. So it stands to reason that eating a fresh, healthy animal would provide more health and vitality than eating an animal that had been sitting on ice for several days. The only way I could have done better by this fish was to have cooked and eaten it yesterday right after I picked it up.

After I was done rinsing off and admiring the fish, I stuffed it with fennel fronds, lemon wedges, parsley and leeks and then rubbed the outer flesh with olive oil and put it in the oven at 375 degrees.

Over a glass of wine, I prepared the sauce I would use for the fish. This recipe comes from another blogger, Heather Atwood, who writes The Food for Thought Blog for the Gloucester Times. In her post on October 10th, she wrote about Pollock, another round fish like Haddock, and provided the following sauce recipe:

Fresh Red Chili and Parsley Sauce:

6 fresh chilies, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup chopped parsley

1 garlic clove peeled and finely chopped

course sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of two lemons

Combine the chili, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover with olive oil, and then lemon juice. Let sit for ten minutes, stir and serve over fish.

The parsley in this recipe combined with the lemon juice gives this sauce a fresh, bright flavor. The chili pepper and garlic give it a spicy kick which is tempered by the olive oil. As a whole the sauce is crisp and lively, which I think brightens the subtle flavor of the haddock. My neighbor's and family really enjoyed it.

The first time I served the sauce with pollack, I combined with extra sauce to the fish cakes I generally make using the leftover fish.

Like cooking a whole chicken, you can get several other meals out of a whole fish. While I am cleaning up after our fish meal, I toss the bones, head and tail from the fish into a stock pot with white wine and fresh herbs. I use the stock for Asian noodle soups. In our house, one whole round fish generally provides an entree for our family of four (I include my Mom), a leftover meal of fish cakes and stock for at least two to three soups.

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