Sunday, August 05, 2012

Amberjack and Peach Salsa...With a Little Help From My Friends!

                Today’s recipe comes with a little help from my friends.  We had guests coming who didn’t eat meat. I wanted to cook on the grill, so I took myself to the Paradise Seafood Truck at the Agricenter to pick up something fresh.  I had planned on using grouper but Ted, the fish man, suggested amberjack. I’d never cooked it before but he assured me that it would be perfect on the grill. And he suggested that I marinate in in half Italian dressing, half pineapple juice.
                I’m not much on bottled dressing but I figured the fish man knows what he’s talking about and tried it. It was perfect with the peach chutney I planned on using.  And there is where the second friend comes in. My next-door neighbor, Denise Anderson, had made a big batch of her fresh peach chutney and gave me a generous share. It was absolutely delicious and I knew it would go well with the fish.
                Amberjack is a fish that can be found in Florida waters around reefs, rock outcrops or even wrecked boats. It is not on the “bad” list of endangered species, which makes it a good choice besides the mild flavor and nicely firm texture.
                The salsa can be tweaked according to your taste. You might want more or less cilantro, ginger or hot sauce. It would also be delicious on grilled pork or chicken, and leftovers work just fine with corn chips for dipping.
                I served it with rice pilaf and black beans baked with a can of Rotel and a bit of brown sugar. It made for a delicious summer dinner.

Ted’s Grilled Amberjack with Denise’s Fresh Peach Salsa

4 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into small dice
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into small dice
5 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, leaves only, chopped
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. cider or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
Salt & pepper
3/4 cup Italian dressing
3/4 cup pineapple juice
2 lbs. amberjack filet, cut into six servings

Make the salsa: In a glass bowl, combine the peaches, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and ginger.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey and hot sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss with the peach mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
                Mix together the Italian dressing and pineapple juice. Reserve about ½ cup for basting. Put the rest in a plastic bag with the fish.  Give it a shake to make sure all the fish is covered with the marinade and refrigerate for about an hour, turning the bag occasionally.
                The fish can be cooked on a hot grill, about 8 minutes on the first side and 5 minutes on the second, or until done through. It can also be cooked under your oven broiler for about the same amount of time, or even on a stove-top grill.  Baste with the reserved marinade several times while cooking.
                When done, top with the salsa and serve immediately. Serves six, with plenty of leftover salsa. Refrigerate leftover salsa up to several days.

NOTE: Don’t marinate for more than an hour or so. The acid in the marinade will start to “cook” the fish, like ceviche. Good for ceviche. Not good for grilled fish.
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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Okra you can actually like! (Really, I promise!)

          Hardly anyone I know is really crazy about okra. Yet you find it in huge piles in the farmers' markets, so I know a lot of people cook it. Growing up in my Louisville home, okra was cooked with a sort of stewed tomato mixture and I avoided it at all costs. Later I discovered the cornmeal crusted fried okra of the deeper south and although it was edible, still I couldn't see any appeal to it.
            Not,at least, until I had okra a couple of weeks ago at The Elegant Farmer. Mac has a way with vegetables, and the okra on one plate from his last Monday wine tasting was no exception. He had seasoned and roasted them. He counseled me to use very small okra pods for this, and to cook at a high hear.
             Last week my friend June Williamson brought me a bag of okra from their garden and I thought I'd give it a try. Since I'm going to be going to a function at my son's in Massachusetts later this month that requires me to have a dish made with bacon, I thought I'd try to incorporate bacon into my okra. But I couldn't decide how to do it without making it very bacon-fatty, so instead I used pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika) for the seasoning. That gave it the smoky flavor I had in mind. I tossed the smallest okra pods with limonolio (olive oil that has been crushed with fresh lemon), salt and smoked paprika, and a few halved cloves of garlic, and spread it all out on a baking sheet.

     I roasted them in an oven pre-heated to 450-degrees for about 15 minutes.  I thought they were delicious. The smokiness of the pimentón, the light lemon flavor and the roasted garlic combined to make a dish that to me was not merely edible, but really tasty. 

       Oven temperatures vary, so if you make this, you want to make sure that the okra pods are roasted enough to get a little toasty looking, but not roasted so long that they get limp. And when you buy your okra (unless you're lucky enough to have a friend with a garden) pick out the very smallest pods. 
      You can find the limonolio at Whole Foods or Fresh Market in Memphis.  If you'd rather, you can substitute regular olive oil and the zest of a lemon or two, depending on how much okra you're roasting.
      I served this with a chorizo-fresh fig dish that was also very tasty...but that's for another post!
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