May 19, 2011

Meatless Meals: Seafood Cookbooks

I was so excited when I heard that Barton Seaver was publishing a seafood cookbook.  His Georgetown restaurant Hook is high on my place-to-go wish list.  Meanwhile, anytime I have a spare $9, and a hankering for wicked good grilled fish I head over to its sister restaurant, Tackle Box.  They have the best seafood in the district--no-frills, grilled over wood, delicious, seasonal, and sustainable fish at an incredible price.  The initial reviews of For Cod and Country have been good, and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

On a similar vein, I have had on my wishlist Paul Greenberg's Four Fish and the Future of the World's Last Wild Food.  It's easy to pick good meat and good chicken, but the world of the sea is so unknown.  While I love all of its fruits, I am at a complete loss as to which are the best in a whole world sense: that taste good, are not grossly over harvested, are good farmed, etc. etc. In Four Fish, Greenberg traces the history of four of the most popular fish: salmon, cod, bluefin tuna, and sea bass, and what effect we have had on them and their populations.  I am sure it will be eye opening, and I hope it won't turn me off those four varieties forever (I love them all!), but it will be good to know all the same.  Read more about it here.

Mark Bittman is, of course, a master.  His 1999 cookbook Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking probably needs to be updated on the buying side (both for the reasons addressed in Four Fish, and because Bittman is now a conscious food crusader, for better or worse).  But it is still my number one pick for seafood reference and cooking.  And it is still in print (or back in print...not sure...)

Did I ever tell you about the 14 day trip to England that my family took when I was in high school?  It was awesome for many many reasons (I firmly belief in giving high schoolers the chance to see the world--it gives them some perspective) but one of the very top reasons was that I got to order salmon every single day. Guys: it was cheaper than chicken. And it was so so so delicious.  (Actually, I don't remember any of it, except that I did order it at least once a day.)   So clearly, I love this fantastic book dedicated to, you guessed, it, Salmon by Dianne Morgan.  Each recipe has been delicious, and she clearly explains a number of techniques that can be easily adapted to other fish, too.

And here, friends, is a marvelous light spring dinner for you all, adapted from Ms. Morgan's cookbook (she suggests grilling the salmon and asparagus which would be awesome if I had a grill).

Composed Salad of Asparagus and Salmon with Lemon Vinaigrette:

4 salmon fillets, skin on and scaled
28 thick spears of asparagus tough ends removed
olive oil
1/4 cup fresh chives
1/2 cup pine nuts lightly toasted, and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

For the Dressing:
1/4 cup very fine extra virgin olive oil
the zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp of salt
freshly ground pepper

First prep the dressing: put all ingredients into a mason jar and shake vigorously.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a roasting pan or cookie sheet with tin foil, and brush olive oil on it. Lay out the asparagus on the cookie sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (And, if you like, you can add a couple of un-peeled cloves of garlic to the sheet.) Roast for 20-25 minutes, until crispy on the edge and tender inside.

Heat a skillet on medium (preferably an iron skillet, or a grill pan if you have one), and drop in some oil to lubricate the pan. Season the skin of the salmon with salt and pepper. Cook the salmon skin side up for 3-4 minutes, and then skin side down for another 3-4 minutes until it is opaque.

To arrange the salad, fan out 7 spears of asparagus on each plate.  Top with the Salmon, and pour over the lemon vinaigrette.  Scatter the toasted pine nuts on top and serve.

PS. Because it is asparagus season, I cannot resist sharing this amazing recipe. I am going to find white asparagus NOW.

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