Growing up in the midwest, I knew from local community fried fish and chicken dinners — which were some of the most fun occasions of the year when kids mostly stayed home if they weren’t in school. No video games, but lots of tag and Monkey in the Middle until the sun went down. Local churches and fire stations seemed to have been built from the ground up complete with huge vats perfect for filling with hot oil and satisfying the neighborhood’s penchant for golden-crispy protein. (My own childhood church, First Presbyterian of Homewood, was more likely to ask the men’s group to serve up spaghetti dinners, so we had to go elsewhere for our fried fixes. When it’s not Covid-Tide, they’re lately feeding folks every Monday night so maybe they even sneak in some fish these days; who knows? Stop by and see.) During Lent, the corner bars and local restaurants jumped on the fishy bandwagon and often offered “all you can eat” fish and fries — sometimes until the food ran out. The custom goes on today in the midwest and elsewhere, including Colorado. In fact, even non-believers look forward to spring when there is a fish sandwich if not an “all you can eat” nearly any place you stop for a beer.
With as much fish as we’re supposed to eat for health and six weeks of Friday Fish for Lent every year on this blog (this is now our second Covid Lent), salmon comes up pretty often on our menu. Our friend Chris likes to say, “Puh-leeze give me something else to do with salmon!” Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy serving salmon with at least two vegetables — so you’ve seen a few variations on this theme — hoping to eat less carbs or save them for some bread. I also simply want to increase our vegetable intake. Serving a smaller portion of fatty fish or red meat on a bed of vegetables or just to the side is not only a healthier way to eat (more vegetables), it makes the protein appear larger, more attractive, and puts it front and center for its closeup — an old tried and true restaurant ploy. So if it’s not really something new to do with salmon, it might just look and taste better!
“Rutabaga” comes from rotabagge, the plant’s Swedish name, meaning “baggy root.” This is, perhaps, the reason that it’s sometimes called a Swedish turnip or simply a swede. Dense and sweetly earthy, a spheroid that can grow to the size of a human head, with a mottled, brown-and-white surface and a buttery, yellow interior, the rutabaga looks like an overgrown turnip—which it is, sort of, at least on its mother’s side. A reproductive quirk of the Brassica genus allows for uncommonly easy hybridization (see the evidence in your local grocery store: kalettes, the frilly little greens that were 2014’s sexy new vegetable, are a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts). Somewhere, in the misty meadows of Central Europe, a turnip got frisky with a cabbage, and the rutabaga was born. This genetic history was confirmed only recently, in 1935, by the Korean-Japanese agricultural scientist Woo Jang-choon. But, three hundred years before, Bauhin, with his eye for botanical detail, saw to name the plant napobrassica, the turnip-cabbage.
At lunch today, Dave (husband and sous chef) says, “So what are you going to call this?” Usually, by the time we’re eating, I have a name for my new dish. The thing is, a recipe title must say exactly what it is without being cutesy, obtuse, or overly long. My final choice isn’t cutesy–which would be something like “Aunt Alyce’s Fish Surprise.” It’s not obtuse–as in “Fish Supreme.” It is, however, overly long. I just can’t go over it one more time and I’m still not sure it states its case perfectly. I will say that while I thought about it for a week before I made it, it surpassed my dreams at the table. I wanted an oven fish meal and I got it. Simple and healthy? Check. No big shop or prep? Definitely. Contrasting in tastes and textures? Sure. Done quickly? Oh yeah. Scrumptious and satisfying? You’ll have to try it and see! We loved it.
I wasn’t taught to fast as a child; it wasn’t part of our tradition, but was something those interesting Catholics down the street did. I was happy as a clam about that because it meant I got cheese pizza on Friday nights at my Catholic girlfriends’ houses. This was so cool because, 1) to “give up meat” seemed a neat thing (foreign) to me and 2) There was no pizza, aka “junk food,” at my house.
Despite the fact that my dad was born near New Orleans and also had a Choctaw grandmother (both are critical elements in a gumbo story), I didn’t think I’d made gumbo before. In fact, I had to do a little research and memory jogging…
Chili has to be among the most favorite and iconic American meals. Yet when I check that out, I find regular old, B-flat chili — the kind many of our mothers made and we still make year-round — doesn’t come up on the list. Green chile is there and so are flat enchiladas and fajitas. But I truly don’t know anyone, from nearly non-cooks to chefs–who doesn’t have some sort of a pot of chili in their regular repertoire. There are simply now many, many sorts of chili because it soothes the soul and makes us feel rich, full, and as if there’s just plenty eat around here. A good way to feel.
As easy as it looks. Slice the tomatoes and peel the Parmesan. Then, in one pan: sauté shallots, greens, garlic, and carrot. Add wine and fish. Season. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes. 279 calorie dinner coming right up!
Truth in blogging. I somehow made this last spring, photographed it, and never blogged it–perhaps saving it for this year’s Friday Fish? Never-the-less, I had no recipe in the files and nothing doing but I would have to make it again guessing how I’d done it and hoping it all came out right. It did look fairly simple, hmmm ….So while I do that, let’s talk a little about fish. And you.
There always seems to be time for certain meals in your cooking rotation. Perhaps yours are something like chicken tacos, lentils with roasted vegetables, veggie chili, pork tenderloin and potatoes, grilled salmon on salad, eggs and bacon, vegetable soup, burgers, or some such round up of goodies. Is it because these are the things you know best how to make off the top of your head? No recipe needed, eh? Are they the meals it’s easiest to shop for? The ones all five of you will eat or dishes providing the needed leftovers? Easiest on the budget? The ones you have time for?