It’s strawberry season! And what could be better than locally grown strawberries from the farmers’ markets around town?
I must say this about strawberries this year: ask to taste one of the type you want to buy. I don’t know if it was the weather, the cool spring, or the variety of strawberries, but the first basket I bought wasn’t nearly as sweet as I expected. I intended to eat the strawberries with brown sugar, or a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar, or a little honey with lemon, or just rinsed and plain, if they had been sweet enough.
But although the first ones I bought were not sweet, I wasn’t about to just throw them away. I was having guests that evening and had planned on serving scallops. I dusted them with a little flour mixed with Penzeys Salsa Seasoning and sautéed them. I made a salsa out of the strawberries and the dish was a big hit.
Subsequently, I’ve gotten only good strawberries—by tasting them first. There have still been some less than sweet ones around.
Last weekend was the monthly meeting of our wine dinner group. My assignment was a seated appetizer. This time I rubbed fresh cod filets with olive oil and sprinkled them with the same seasoning, and cooked them on the outside grill. Oh yum. As good as the salsa was with the slightly under-sweet berries and sautéed scallops, this second effort was much better. The sweetness of the berries really went well with the smoky grilled flavor of the fish.
Brush some asparagus with olive oil and some of the same seasoning you use on the fish and grill for a few minutes alongside the fish. With a nice rice pilaf you have the best early summer dinner I can imagine!
Grilled Fish with Strawberry-mint Salsa
6 – 6-oz servings of firm mild white fish (see note)
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup Penzeys Salsa Seasoning (or packaged taco seasoning)
1 quart strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
½ cup diced red onion
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
½ jalapeño pepper, seeds and inner veins removed (or more to taste)
Juice and finely grated zest of two limes
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
¼ cup (loosely packed) julienned fresh mint leaves
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish
Pat the fish dry and rub with the olive oil. Sprinkle the seasonings evenly on both sides of the fish. You can do this earlier in the day and refrigerate, covered. Remove from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before cooking.
In a bowl, mix the berries, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, lime juice and zest and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to four hours.
About an hour before serving, mix the julienned mint leaves into the salsa. When ready to serve, grill the fish filets over a medium-hot fire or broil about 4” below a preheated oven broiler. Fish should be just barely opaque in the center and flake easily. Place the fish on heated dinner plates, divide the salsa among them and garnish with the mint sprigs.
NOTE: There are other fish that would work: amberjack, grouper, haddock or halibut. But I like fresh cod for this dish. It is readily available in specialty markets and in many supermarkets. It has a mild flavor, and is very affordable.