Saturday, April 8, 2017

My wife hates fish but she loved tonight's dinner

Before launching into my post, let me give credit where credit is due. The following was inspired by the New York Times recipes Roasted Hake With Sweet Peppers and Asparagus with Anchovies and Capers. Now, to my post:

Saturday evening dinner was fun to make and fun to eat. I've been playing in the kitchen with cod for the past month or more. I'm getting feel for cooking this fish. I feel comfortable putting cod on my dinner menu.

From recent past experience, I know I like sweet red peppers  and Kalamata olives served with hot, flaky cod. And I know my wife likes this, as well.

What I didn't know was whether or not my wife and I would like asparagus with capers and anchovies. But the description had a nice ring and I knew the green of the veggie would look great on the plate next to the bright red of the pepper.

I made my rice first. This is quick and easy. Boil 7.5 ounces of water, add 4 ounces of brown rice and let sit over very low heat for fifteen minutes. When all water is gone and the rice is nice and fluffy, leave the pot covered and simply set aside. The hot pot will help the rice retain heat.

  • 7.5 ounces of water
  • 4 ounces of brown rice (I used a mix composed of a number of varieties of brown rice.)

Next, I made the achovy/caper mix. It should sit for 15 or 30 minutes or even longer before being served. The wait time mellows the flavours.

I finely chopped:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 small anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon of capers, rinsed

. . . and blended all together into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Finely chopping the three ingredients made the blending go faster.

Next, over medium heat, I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil. This might have been a little generous but I like olive oil. You can use a little less, if you like. Then, I added about a tablespoon of finely chopped red onion and cooked it until tender. It should be translucent but not browned. I combined the cooked onion with the anchovy/caper paste and blended in two teaspoons of fresh squeeze lemon juice. A sprinkle of salt and a grind or two of pepper and I set the paste aside to mellow. Here is a list of the ingredients just mentioned:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped red onion
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice

It is now time to turn our attention to the cod. I had two, inch-thick-plus pieces of cod weighing about 165 grams. Enough for two servings. I patted the cod dry. Then I finely chopped 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves and sprinkled this over both sides of the cod. I also lightly salted and peppered the fish at this time. With the seasoning of the fish complete, I set the cod aside.

I had half a sweet, red pepper in the fridge. I chopped this into long strips and placed these in a medium sized pan to fry with a little olive oil. I thought I my dinner could use more red pepper and so I opened a jar of grilled, red peppers, removed two large pieces, chopped these into long strips and dropped them into the skillet with the fresh, red peppers. Next, I added about an eighth of a cup of diced red onion to the frying mixture.

With the onion translucent and the red peppers softening, I cleared a circular spot in the middle of the fry pan and added a little olive oil -- maybe a tablespoon. I placed the fish in the opening, pushed the red peppers up against the fish and covered all to cook over medium heat for four minutes.

While the fish cooked, I combined 1 teaspoon of sherry vinegar, a finely diced clove of garlic and a pinch of salt. I whisked in two teaspoons of olive oil and about four ounces of chopped Italian parsley.

At this point, it was time to flip the fish. To prevent the cod from sticking, I splashed a little olive oil onto the pan before returning the fish to the skillet. I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of chopped Kalamata olives onto both pieces of fish. Just to be clear, that's one generous tablespoon for each piece. I covered the skillet again and in four minutes this would be ready to serve.

I microwaved my eight stalks of asparagus for a minute and then tossed the vegetable into a fry pan to finish cooking. As  the asparagus cooked, I tossed it with the caper/anchovy paste.

Time to serve:
  • Divide the warm, cooked rice in half and place half on each plate. 
  • Place four stalks of asparagus on the side of each plate. If necessary roll the stalks in the paste as serving.
  • Now, place a piece of olive-topped cod in the centre of each plate, right on top of the bed of rice.
  • Surround the cod with the red pepper/onion mix.
  • Lastly, sprinkle some of the Italian parsley mix onto the fish. Taste first to judge how generous you want to be with this. I was very generous.

Beautiful. My wife hates fish. Clearly, our cod had been well handled. It had no off flavours. The red pepper and the black olives went beautifully with the white, flaky fish. We were both surprised at how good the anchovy and caper paste was with the asparagus. Again, there was no off-putting fishy flavour. My wife tells me that when the anchovies are good, they add a pleasant depth to the flavour of the dish. Our anchovies were good.

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