Category Archives: Fish dishes

relishing cucumbers

i’ve recently noticed a phenomenon that occurs on summer evenings. as six o’clock rolls around and the sun is still bright and warm, no one wants to leave what they are doing, whether it’s gardening, playing outside, or reading by the pool, to prepare dinner. then at seven o’clock, everyone’s ravenous from a full day outside, and you have to scramble to get dinner ready!

however, last weekend i was experimenting with the food network’s summerfest ingredient, cucumbers, and i discovered a great solution to this problem. the answer is a quick cucumber relish that captures the crisp juiciness of summer cucumbers, adds a hint of spiciness to cut the summer heat, and packs lots of flavor into an easy-to-assemble condiment that can be used on a number of great summer dishes. you can make this relish in the morning, or when you pause for lunch, or even during a late-afternoon break, and it will be ready and waiting by the time dinner rolls around.

quick cucumber relish

makes 3 cups

2 medium cucumbers, cut into medium dice

2 fresh red chili peppers, finely chopped (more seeds = spicier relish)

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp whole peppercorns (any color)

4 tbsp basil, cut into chiffonade

1. place all ingredients except the basil in a medium saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. remove from the stove and allow to cool for 1o minutes.

2. once cool, add the basil and pour the mixture into a glass jar. seal the jar tightly and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. relish is ready to use once fully chilled and will keep for one week.

ready to serve!

i also had some fresh sardines on hand this weekend, and i felt they would be an excellent base for the relish, so i decided to give them a quick dip in some cornmeal and sear them in a frying pan. then i plated them up with the relish on top. it was a delicious contrast, the cool and crunchy cucumbers providing a perfect foil for the rich and oily fish under their crispy coating. but the relish would also be a great accompaniment to your standard grill items — burgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken. i could also see it as a flavor accent on top of asian dishes such as fried rice or peanut-sesame noodles. however you choose to enjoy it, i’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

crisp cornmeal sardines

serves 4

12 fresh sardines, cleaned and left whole

1/4 cup olive oil

2 eggs

1 cup cornmeal

3 tsp garlic powder

3 tsp salt

3 tsp ground pepper

1. remove the heads of the sardines with a chef’s knife, then rinse and place them on a paper towel to dry.

2. beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and set aside. in another bowl, mix together the cornmeal, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

4. heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until it begins to ripple. one by one, dip the sardines into the eggs, then into the cornmeal until evenly coated, and place in the frying pan.

6. cook the sardines for about 6 minutes per side, or until golden brown. remove from the pan and place on a plate to strain (do not place on a paper towel or they will loose their crispness). then serve, 3 to a plate, with a healthy spoonful of relish on top.

note: many people find sardines difficult to eat because of the small bones, but the crispy cornmeal coating disguises these bones easily and you can simply swallow them up. however, don’t forget that you should remove the vertebrae; these bones are larger and will not be pleasant to eat. the best way to eat a cooked sardine is to lay it on its side and then, with your fork and knife, gently pull away pieces of the filet facing up. This will leave the vertebrae exposed, and the whole spine can be lifted off the remaining filet with a fork and knife and put aside. then you are free to enjoy the second filet.

if you crave more cucumbers, check out these great blogs:

Pinch My Salt: Chilled Cucumber, Kefir and Avocado Soup

What’s Gaby Cooking: Cucumber-Basil Gimlet

In Jennie’s Kitchen: Radish-Cucumber Crostini

Big Girl Small Kitchen: Spicy Cucumber Salad with Shallot, Ginger and Mint

Grecian Kitchen: Summer Cucumber Salad

And Love It Too: Cucumber, Mint and Watermelon Salad

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Cucumbers Coolers with Agave Simple Syrup

Cooking With My Kid: Cucumber Limeade

FN Dish: Summer Fest: Cucumber Recipes

Healthy Eats: Cool Cucumber Soup

Food for 7 Stages of Life: Cucumber Cherry Salsa

Cooking With Elise: Green Tea Cucumber Pops

Glory Foods: Cucumber and Shrimp Boat

Virtually Vegan Mama: Fire-Roasted Tomato and Cucumber Gazpacho

Food2: When Life Gives You Cucumbers, Make a Cucumber Cocktail

Cooking Channel: Cucumbers Stuffed with Crab-Mango Salad

Recipe Girl: Bread and Butter Pickles

Taste With the Eyes: Spicy Pickled Cucumbers with Wakame and Garlic Blossoms

Virtually Homemade: Cold Thai Cucumber-Mint Soup

Add a Pinch: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

The Cultural Dish: Ahi Tuna with Cucumber Sauce and Salad

Daily*Dishin: Cool n’ Zesty Cukes: 7 Minute Summer in a Jar

Daydreamer Desserts: Cubanita Margarita

Purple Cook: Cucumber Gazpacho with Indian Flavored Shrimp Relish

Indian Simmer: Cucumber at its Best with Chaat Masala

Big Apple Nosh: Quick and Easy Homemade Pickles

Sweet Life Bake: Agua de Pepino

The Sensitive Epicure: Tzatziki with Grilled Gluten-Free Pitas and Fresh Cucumbers and Peppers

Zaika Zabardast: Cucumber Gazpacho

A Way to Garden: Cucumber-Growing Q&A and the Best Pickles

Cooking with Books: Summer Fest: Cucumbers

savoring vermont

after a long absence, my husband and i finally made it up to visit my family’s house in vermont this weekend. what i look forward to most on the drive up is the first breath of fresh air when i arrive and get out of the car. the air is so full of heady scents – flowers, earth, sun – that it just has to be healthy. i highly recommend visiting vermont. if you need any pointers you can find information at http://www.vermontvacation.com.

after a few deep breaths, next on my list is always a quick stroll around the property to check on all the fun things we have growing. this time around i was most looking forward to seeing my watermelon plants – pretty vines, but no melons yet – and the peach tree that we planted in 2010. much to our surprise it already has fruit! i don’t think they’ll grow into fully edible peaches, since it’s not due to bear fruit for another 3 years, but they are cute and fuzzy nonetheless.

after a good night’s rest, we woke up bright and early saturday to head to the brattleboro farmers’ market, where i have to try very hard not to buy everything in sight. i have been going to this farmers’ market every summer for at least 15 years and it continues to get better and better. in addition to the many beautiful fruit and vegetable stands, there are now many vendors offering thai, indian, tex-mex, and even malian cuisine to go. this is very convenient, since after an hour of looking at, tasting, and buying produce i can get quite hungry!

so, what was on the shopping list this weekend? we stocked up on tomatoes, eggplants, and summer squash from old athens farm since we plan on making a ratatouille later this week. crisp salad greens, deep green kale, perpetual spinach,  and some fabulous-looking purple kohlrabi came from walnut ridge farm. and we bought some amazing fresh garlic and asian cucumbers from akogi farm (stock up: fresh garlic has a short season, and the old garlic with papery skin gets you through the winter but it’s not nearly as tasty). we also made sure to buy as many pints of blueberries as we could carry for pie!

to accompany our blueberry-peach crumble (see below), my amazing husband also took a small road trip to hanover, nh to procure some gelato from morano gelato, a small artisanal shop started last year by a friend of his. there is no doubt that the 2 hour round trip was well worth it. we had sweet milk, dark chocolate, biscotto, and coconut gelatos as well as strawberry sorbet, and they were all excellent with the crumble!

there are obviously many excellent farmers’ markets in new york city and popping up all over the country. you should check out one near you because the taste and quality of local produce is always miles above what you find in the supermarket. and in addition you will be supporting your local farmers and artists! your reward will be the chance to whip up a few of the following dishes:

blueberry-peach crisp

filling

4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen, though fresh is far preferable. if using frozen, thaw and strain out excess liquid thoroughly before cooking.)

2 cups peaches (same as blueberries)

1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

topping (from my “grown-up cherry crumble”)

3/4 cup whole spelt flour (or flour of your choice)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into about 24 pieces

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup ground almonds

1/4 cup rolled oats

1. preheat the oven to 350°f.

2. in a large bowl, mix the blueberries, peaches, tapioca starch, and sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes.

3. pour the mixture evenly into a 9″ pie plate and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture begins to bubble. be sure to place a sheet pan or tin foil under the pie plate in the oven to catch any overflowing bubbles of fruit!

4. while the fruit is baking, prepare the crumble topping. combine the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. mix the butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. add the walnuts, almonds, and oats and toss lightly to combine.

4. when ready, remove the pie from the oven and place on a heat proof surface. spoon the topping mixture evenly over the fruit mixture and return the pie to the oven. bake for another 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. again, be sure to place a sheet pan or tin foil under the pie plate while baking.

Cucumber mango salad 

serves 4

1 large mango

1 large asian cucumber

4 cups arugula

16 mint leaves

1/2 cup hazelnuts, crushed

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup yogurt (i used sheep’s milk yogurt from vermont shepherd)

salt and pepper to taste

1. slice the mango in half vertically, cutting to each side of the pit to make two halves. peel the skin off each half with a paring knife. then slice each half the short way into half moon slices about 1/4″ thick. set aside.

2. using a vegetable peeler, first peel the cucumber. then shave into long slices, going the entire length of the cucumber if possible. set aside.

3. to prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and yogurt. add a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground pepper.

4. to assemble the salad, place the arugula in the bottom of a bowl or plate. curl the cucumber slices into loops and place on top of the arugula, interspersed with the mango pieces. sprinkle with hazelnuts and a few mint leaves. then spoon the dressing on top and serve!

perpetual spinach: another name for swiss chard.

kohlrabi: a member of the cabbage family.

asian cucumbers: usually about 18″ long, slender, and slightly ridged. they are denser and have fewer seeds than a regular cucumber.

farmers’ market feast

deprived of my favorite farmers’ market in brattleboro, vt, for weeks, i was very happy to have time to visit the dupont circle freshfarm market while in d.c. this weekend. since they are a few weeks ahead of our growing season up north they had beautiful peaches, sweet & sour cherries, string beans, and even corn. i was limited to what i could carry home with me on the train (in addition to my luggage), but i still managed to get away with enough tantalizingly fresh veggies for an excellent meal. my haul included string beans, scapes, green garlic (milder and more tender than the older garlic usually found in stores), new potatoes, and a serious batch of mushrooms–common and yellow oyster, shitake, and button. i put it all to use last night, and the result was a great example of why i love farmers’ markets so much. the colors and smells of all the fresh vegetables make my head swim with ideas for meals, and the results are always delicious no matter how simple your preparation. for the following recipes, feel free to use as much of each ingredient as you wish or are able to find.

roasted new potatoes, scapes, and green garlic

new potatoes, cut in 1″ chunks

scapes

green garlic, peeled whole cloves

olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

1. put ingredients into a metal bowl, coat lightly with olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

2. spread in an even layer on a metal sheet pan and roast at 375° until lightly brown and potatoes are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

savory and crispy

seared mushrooms

1. clean any combination of mushrooms you have on hand, and make sure they are well dried.

2. heat a very small amount of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.

3. cook mushrooms, stirring or flipping infrequently, until golden brown. if excess water is released, turn up heat to evaporate or simply pour off into the sink and return the pan to the stove top.

4. remove from pan and season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.

woodsy goodness

blanched string beans

1. blanch string beans in boiling water for 30 seconds.

2. remove to an ice bath for 1 minute, then strain.

3. toss lightly with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper.

and to accompany these vibrant, flavorful sides, i chose a filet of wild sockeye salmon, simply roasted with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper at 425° for about 10 minutes (medium-rare).

summer satisfaction!

so what are you waiting for!? go out and find your nearest farmers’ market asap. i wait 8 months a year for food like this!