Monday, February 14, 2011

Recipe: Fish cutlets in vine ripened tomato sauce

2011 has been about practicing mindfulness thus far for me. To date it has kept me in the moment when dealing with a new landlord (oh don’t get me started on that, it could waste a perfectly delightful moment as I sit at my desk on a sunny day writing) and stopped me from feeling too sorry for myself while succumbing to an annoying bug.

This being in the moment lark is not always easy. I remember Stephanie Dowrick writing years ago in the Saturday Age about the mindfulness of washing dishes but to be honest I’d prefer to be anywhere else than in the moment when undertaking that menial chore.

I see shopping for seasonal food as a central tenet of my practice. Going to the market with no fixed ideas of what to cook means some surprises in my basket. I recently ate a lot of daikon – stretching my cooking repertoire to using the green leaves in soup, the root raw in salads as a replacement for radish and a foray into stir fries for the crunch texture. Last week it was a wander through the fish hall for the freshest looking produce at the most reasonable price.

I returned home with modestly sized but thick, snapper cutlets with not a clue about how I’d cook them. I’ve ranted before about the Australasian phobia for fish on the bone but like most flesh, this makes it taste sweeter. The snapper is blessed with a medium sized spine with thickish ribs, making them an ideal fish to eat whole. The cutlets are also encased in omega rich skin so the whole piece is like a tidy package that stays together well when cooking. This is the ideal cut for those who can’t get through an entire fish or are working their way up to dealing emotionally with the beast. Being headless there are no eyes to distract the squeamish fish lover.

Fish cutlets are great to poach and stew as they keep their shape. With the garden bearing a host of love apples, tomatoes feature in much of what I'm cooking at the moment. I’m not sure the genesis of this recipe, finding none that fitted the bill, it came together from fragments of memory and imagination. Flying by the seat of my pants, in the moment, it turned out perfectly.

Fish in tomato and olive sauce
(serves 2)

2 tabs olive oil
2 large fish cutlets (or 4 small)
1 cup fish stock (vegetable or chicken stock would do)
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
A pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 2 tabs hot water
1 onion, chopped
A touch of chili, for subtle warmth (optional)
2-4 cloves of garlic (the more the better)
3-4 large, ripe tomatoes (or a cup or two of canned crushed tomatoes)
A decent handful, green beans, top and tailed
10 black olives (I like Kalamata)
Salt and pepper to season

Soak your saffron threads in a little hot water or stock.

Heat a heavy bottomed fry pan to medium to high, add half the olive oil and fry the fish for a minute or two both sides. This is to seal and colour the fish rather than to cook through. Put aside once seared.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and sauté chopped onion. Because I was going to blitz the fresh tomatoes in the food processor I did the onions and garlic in it first, a great shortcut for a tired cook. Stir frequently ‘til translucent, then add the garlic and chili. After a minute or two pour in the crushed/blitzed tomatoes (mine were grand lisse still warm from the garden and perfectly ripe) wine and stock. If using warm stock, add the saffron to it for 10 minutes first, otherwise soak the saffron in warm water and add with the stock. This recipe works fine with just stock and no wine, though the alcohol adds depth of flavour. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer. After 5 minutes or so add the olives, green beans and fish. Depending on the thickness of the cutlets poach in the tomato sauce for 4-5 minutes each side ‘til cooked through.

Taste and season as required. Serve on rice or with crusty bread.

In the moment, my thoughts were on eating not photography. But feast your eyes on part of this morning's Tommy Toe haul.

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Blogger Tammois said...

That looks delicious, Gill, and I loved the mindful story woven around it. :-) These daily tasks offer such excellent opportunities, and result in such delicious moments! :-)

3:03 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Nice haul!

Also, did you love the daikon?

7:51 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Tammi - the only problem is, writing this took me back to the delicious moment of eating the fish and totally out of the present. I want more!

Lucy - loved the daikon in stir fry ala Bittman's recent post. Cooked daikon and tempeh with soba noodles twice last weeks.

10:13 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Remember that tahini and lemon dressing you adapted - years ago - from Heidi? I make something very similar and toss (my lazy version of) a julienne 'o daikon. Good, too.

3:40 pm  
Blogger tori said...

Am such a fan of snapper with tomato. This sounds like a perfect combination...

4:03 am  

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