Last Friday, I found myself with a bell pepper, an eggplant and no ideas for dinner. Using my ingredients as a starting point, I came across recipes for ratatouille, which I could make with ingredients we had on hand plus the addition of a small zucchini and some diced tomatoes. The one time I tried ratatouille, I was not that impressed; but the emotions and drama in the Disney movie were so convincing, I decided that there must be something wintery and comforting about such a dish.
I followed this Epicurious recipe, almost to a T, except that I used diced tomatoes from a can and dried basil instead of fresh. Oh, and I added some garbanzo beans for protein. I served this ratatouille over a bed of couscous.
I’ve been reading the book Four Fish (subtitled “The Future of the Last Wild Food”) by Paul Greenberg, which gives a history of salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna and of course details the environmental aspect of eating, fishing and farming all of them. As someone who loves fish and the ocean, I actually find it riveting. It really makes me wish I stayed an extra quarter to get that minor in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Perhaps that teeny credential would have come in handy now as I contemplate switching careers in the veeery long term future. I just finished reading the section on sea bass, and the author describes the delicate, white, tender flaky meat of sea bass to explain why it’s so popular. Did you know sea bass has many names, which if you live in New York City, you most likely have seen: branzino, loup de mer, bar, spigola. My mouth immediately began to water, and I continued reading as he details the highly complicated human engineering that goes on in the farming of sea bass, as well as the accompanying pollution and disease. He achieved his intent of making me feel guilty for wanting sea bass. But, then in the last few pages of the chapter, he mentioned a new kind of sea bass whose natural biology is conducive to being farmed, and therefore it’s sustainable and not detrimental to the environment — that sea bass is called Barramundi! Naturally, this would be my next meal.
I headed over to the Lobster Place, where I knew for sure they must have this Barramundi. Sure enough, they even had Barramundi from the same “farm” in Turner Falls, MA where the author had done his research. I had intended to buy a filet or two, but the whole fish was 1/2 the price (per pound), so I got that instead. The entire fish wouldn’t fit in the pan, so I tried and then Noah succeeded in chopping off the fish heads (sorry to you sensitive readers out there, but this is just how your food gets to the plate).
I proceeded then to adapt this recipe for Barramundi. The recipe has you make a sweet potato puree and brussel sprout chips (from each leaf), but I opted for the easier task of simply chopping and roasting them together. I also made the vinaigrette called for in the recipe, but I think the fish tastes great simply just pan fried with salt and pepper. So, I saved the vinaigrette for a future salad. Also, during this adventure, I learned how to beautifully pan fry a whole fish – so easy and so delicious! The skin is so yummy and crisp.
Pan Fried Barramundi
2 barramundi fish, cleaned (or 4 5-6 oz filets)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 lbs brussel sprouts
salt + pepper
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes. Cut brussel sprouts in halves. Quarter and slice sweet potato into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine vegetables in baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vingegar, salt, pepper, dried rosemary and thyme. Mix to combine. Arrange brussel sprouts with cut side down. Bake in oven for 30-35 mins.
What a delightful meal! I’ve been getting bored of our usual baked or fried fish recipes, so I tried something new today, and was pleasantly surprised! I found a baked honey mustard salmon breaded with chopped pecans recipe and now have something new to add to our stock of meals. I used 2 tbsp of yellow mustard and 1 of dijon mustard. Also, I think you could substitute other nuts (almonds or walnuts) for the pecans.
I also made some roasted potatoes (mix the potatoes with olive oil, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and a little balsamic vinegar and bake at 450 for 30 mins, and finally broil for another 5). We also found that the potatoes are really good with a bit of green onion sprinkled on top. And, to finish off the rest of our vegetables, another Mad Hatter Salad. This time, I chopped the cabbage bigger, which made for prettier colors, but created a good salad of unproportional vegetable sizes. The carrots were too finely shredded, the cabbage chunks too big, and the sunflower seeds somehow got lost in the mix.
For spring break, Noah and I are in Paris (and in a few days will be cycling through Provence)! I made sure that we spent our first morning at le marché de la Bastille (the best and biggest Farmers market in Paris). Paris markets are so much fun – each vendor enthusiastically sells his or her produce, cheese, seafood, meat, wine, etc., shouting at passersby with the utmost cheerfulness. We brought “home” to our teeny Parisian apartment our Farmers market bounty.
And that evening prepared a meal of lemon-thyme lamb chops (to which Noah added a bit of red wine and butter), sauteed eggplant and white squash, and a salad with mushrooms and tomatoes topped with a lemon vinaigrette.
The lamb and its accompanying sauce was most excellent. We even used bread to soak it up. Both of us found the tomatoes a bit mushy, and Noah agrees that eggplant in France is better than the states. For some reason, here it’s just so much more flavorful! The best part of our meal was a thirty-year old bottle of Bordeaux red wine which we found in the 3 euro bin at the farmers market. We were wary of drinking such a cheap 30 yr old bottle, but in the end, found it was a rich, earthy and excellent wine.