08 January 2008
So Much To Say
I have so many things to say today. About the new and last season of The Wire, about the awful piece by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the Times recently, about Michael Pollan's new book. Unfortunately, I have nothing to say about this fish dish I want to tell you about, other than that it was delicious. Nothing, nada.
This blog is supposed to share recipes with you all and reflect on life both inside and outside the kitchen, but sometimes it seems like that's not enough.It's the same reason I decided a dancing career wasn't for me: I love, love dancing, but I just had so many other things to say, and I couldn't say them with tendus. As Claudia LaRocco wrote in a line that struck a special chord with me: "modern dance can easily and intensely capture fleeting emotions and atmospheres, but it runs into difficulties when addressing complex social realities; its delicacy and precision don’t lend themselves to topics like women’s lives in fundamentalist Islamic societies."
Sometimes I feel the same way when writing about food: how many ways can I tell you that something is delicious or that I really liked it without being trite or (worse) preachy. Twice now I have sat down to write about this fish recipe: first writing about the great sweet-sour flavors of Iranian cuisine. The second time I set out to tell you about verjus, the sour juice of unripe grapes, a traditional by-product of any grape-growing region from France to Iran. Haaa-shhooo.... Oh, sorry, I'm even putting myself to sleep, blah-blah-boring, besides I couldn't even find verjus in stores.
So here you have it: a completely delicious dish of fish baked in a sweet-sour sauce flavored with pomegranate, orange, and lime. Sometimes food just needs to be eaten, not analyzed. Instead, if you want to talk about political primaries, sustainable development, a great new novel, or the best movie you saw recently, then I've got a lot to say.
Fish in Persian Sweet-and-Sour Sauce
This was inspired by a recipe by Najmieh Batmanglij which called for verjus (the sour juice of unripe grapes, not the alcoholic beverage) and Seville orange juice. Not having access to those ingredients, I came up with this version which has become a favorite in our kitchen. Serves 4.
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup pomegranate juice or 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses with 3/4 cup water
juice from 1 large orange plus 1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
4 thick fish fillets (about 2 lb) like orange roughy, trout, or sea bass
1/4 cup flour
1. Combine pomegranate juice, tomato juice, orange juice and zest, lime juice, salt, spices, and honey in a bowl.
2. In a saucepan heat a few tablepoons of olive oil. Add the scallions and garlic and saute over medium heat until softened, a few minutes. Add the juice mixture and bring to a boil. Taste the sauce: it should be both sweet and sour, add more honey if necessary. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, then set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 450 F. Get out a large casserole or baking dish.
4. Pat the fish dillets dry and sprinkle with salt, then rub a thin sprinkling of flour on the fillets to coat on both sides. Heat a few spoonfuls of olive oil in a wide pan. Fry the fillets for 2 minutes on each side. You want the outside of the fillet to be "sealed" but the inside will not be done.
5. Place fillets in the baking dish. Pour the sauce over the fish and place in the oven. Bake 7-12 minutes, until the fish is just done. Serve immediately, with rice or bread.