Monday, February 21, 2011

Poor Man's Fish

It's been so long since I've been to the Grand Army Plaza Farmer's Market, things have just been too busy. But yesterday, despite the violent wind, I took a walk through the neighborhood to the farmer's market with a short shopping list in mind: fresh fish, butternut squash, and kale. It's hit or miss at the fish market, and if you don't get there early, some of the fish is sold out and the line is always long. But this Saturday, I was lucky. The wind was so bitter and strong that there weren't that many people out, and instead of the regular fish stand, there was a new one with only two or three people on line. The poor woman who was staffing the table was rosy red with cold and her hands looked like they were on the verge of frostbite. I watched her "fish" out a big slab of cod and a squirmy-looking handful of calamari for the woman in front of me, and so I got the same. The cod looked beautiful--it was a thick, white, meaty 2 1/4 lbs coming in at a whopping $29, but it was Long Island line-fished, never frozen, and we hadn't eaten fish for so so long.

When I brought it home, D was shocked at the price. He told me that codfish used to be known as the "poor man's fish," they used to make fish sticks out of cod. But to me, it's political. We spend too little on food in this country, and we get what we pay for. Fishing off the Long Island coast is probably no easy matter in this weather, and fishermen have to make a living (not to mention the freezing cold fish monger!) I'd rather splurge on a nice piece of cod once a month, than pick up some cheap fish every friday night from Chinatown like we used to do. God knows where that fish comes from, and you can totally tell it'd been frozen. Unfortunately, I violated the complicated fish rules in terms of sustainability. The sustainability issue, as well as the health-related issues surrounding fish, are one of the reasons we hardly eat fish anymore. I still can't quite figure out the rules, but when I consulted one of my food experts, Mark Bittman, while writing this entry, I learned that cod is overfished. : (

We found this spice mix that must have been part of a gift basket at one point, and decided we'd use it on the fish. It is amazing, just check out the ingredients: ginger, roasted garlic, sea salt, caraway seeds, sugar, roasted sesame seeds, cumin, paprika, cassia, chillies, coriander, blackpepper, turmeric, mint, nutmeg, grains of paradise, rose petals, and saffron. D loves roasted cauliflower, so we decided to use that with some sauteed spinach to accompany the fish. D's the king of fish, so he's the one who pulled this meal together. He just asked me to make a tahini sauce like the kind we get at Tanoreen. I can't compare my cooking to that of the chef at Tanoreen, but I think the sauce came out pretty well. We suspect that Tanoreen fries their cauliflower, and nothing beats the taste of fried cauliflower, no matter what the sauce.

This is the recipe I used:

Tahini Lemon Sauce with Pomegranate Molasses

2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lebne
2 tbsp plain yogurt (low-fat, for texture)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
2 tsp minced and mashed garlic
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses

Combine all and stir vigorously with a fork until it's really smooth. This sauce should be poured over the cauliflower and just thick enough to stick on the vegetables; it shouldn't be the consistency of a dip or a liquid.

We sauteed small pieces of cauliflower with some salt and pepper and when it was nicely browned, it was done. We served it alongside the fish with the sauce drizzled over the cauliflower with a drizzling of additional pomegranate molasses--both for taste and for decoration.

For the cod, D marinated the fish with olive and lemon with salt and pepper, and let it sit for three hours in the fridge. When we took it out to prepare dinner, he coated it generously with the spice rub and patted it into the fish with his hands. He sauteed it on one side for three minutes, flipped it, put a handful of spinach on top, splashed it with some white wine, and some butter and covered it to let it steam for about 7 or 8 minutes at a simmer.

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