Putting food on the table shouldn't be a complicated decision. But I just happened to learn that buying the right fish to put on the table can be. Fishing worldwide has become increasingly industrialized. There was no red snappers at the farmers market, they never have, as I was told by the local fishermen, because they don't have the commercial license to catch red snappers. Mindlessly, I shopped around. I was able to purchase a piece of red snapper fillet at the local supermarket for this Curtis Stone's recipe. I must admit it was not my finest moment -- for making less informed choices. And on the wrong side of cooking and eating what's local and sustainable.
After some checking, this is what I've found. Red snappers have been fished too heavily, in the Gulf of Mexico, since the 1980s. They are currently below the level scientists have determined to be sustainable. There are quotas restricting commercial fishing activities in order to rebuild the stock of red snapper. I should have checked the consumer's guide to sustainable seafood choices published in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Or stick with the striped bass as a safe choice for a pan-fried white fish.
Well I managed to make this dish for dinner. The fish was OK. I was more excited about the heaps of vegetables and salsa verde. This is an Italian version of salsa verde made with herbs, capers, shallots, olive oil and lemon. All the herbs are from my garden: basil, parsley, rosemary. I added some chives in the mix. I can't resist cutting some; they are in full bloom.
I have adapted the Italian salsa verde to one with an Asian vibe; it has been very well received by friends and family. I add store-bought black bean chili sauce and some soy sauce with whatever herbs I have on hand. Ginger is optional. Substitute a small portion of olive oil with sesame oil. The rest of the ingredients (capers, shallots and lemon zest) stays unchanged. Voila! I serve this "Asian" salsa verde with whole steamed fish all the time.
If you feel like having a Mexican version of salsa verde. Use fresh tomatillos, white onion, garlic, serrano chilies and fresh cilantro. This dish would take on a whole different vibe! I have to think about the appropriate substitute for fennel, any suggestions!
The best thing I love about this Curtis Stone's recipe is the grilled lemon. Funny I said that. Curtis Stone describes in his cookbook What's for Dinner that French chefs often use trucs, or tricks, to heighten flavors without much effort. Grilling lemon halves caramelizes the sugars in the lemon juice and the heat noticeably intensifies the lemon flavor. The grill marks on the lemon halves created the visual interest on an otherwise all-beige plate of food. This is a trick I'd use over and over again to enhance and embellish simple protein dishes.
Imagine having a lemon tree for picking year round. I have to contend with my herb patch and what's it has given me -- liveliness and freshness on every dish, in addition to environmentally responsible local and seasonal eats, theme of the week at IHCC.