Striped Bass, Russian Kale and Honey-Pistachio Levain Toast

Just me and my big striped bass hangin' out tonight. There's a big Yankee play-off game, so my husband decided to go into the city to watch with friends. I have no interest in spending any more time in midtown, or pretending to socialize after a stressful workweek. Tonight I just want to stay home and play with my food.

I'd like to find a way to spend my days wandering the city and it's awesome greenmarkets, and bringing food home to experiment. Instead, I sit at a desk all day and color shit (oh, I mean creatively design awesome jackets). Which sounds nice, but more specifically, I waste time and money doing completely illogical and counter-productive projects for a bunch of crazies. To put it nicely. Of course, there's more to it than that, but needless to say, it's not that glamorous or creatively fulfilling - and that's where playing with food comes in.

Your own kitchen is one place where you don't have to do what somebody tells you. You don't have to follow a recipe exactly - unless you're baking, but that's obviously not my strong point. This has been my creative outlet lately, and frankly, it keeps me from going crazy. It's a Libra thing - if the idea energy stays inside too long it turns into poison and makes one extremely bitter.

I had just a tiny bit of creative juice left for cooking today. I guess some of it was knowing I'd be eating alone, and that meant I could eat pretty much anything on the planet that my heart desired. Quite the luxury, living in NYC. So today was not a full-on experimentation, since I got the non-recipe for my striped bass from the fish guy.

I have a very hard time sticking to a recipe, but I pay close attention to the methods advised by those selling their own products at the greenmarket. Many of them are standing here in NYC, from a smaller town, working hard to make money from their passion. And just like I can tell you about high-performance fabrics and how to curve an armhole line with utter expertise and certainty, so can the farmers tell you the very best way to eat what they sell.

Today, as I rushed to catch the end of the market, I found a very small fish stand in Union Square with 2 or 3 cases of fish. The striped bass caught my eye, reminding me of rustic landscapes and fish-poles instead of commercial sized fishing boats and vast oceans of anonymity. There were two young guys and the leader's obvious girlfriend or wife or whatever, just passing the time in the cold being super friendly to people and joking around.

I asked the one who appeared to be the leader of sorts what the best way to cook a striped bass is. His girl tugged on his arm and said "tell her about the frying-baking thing, tell her!". How cute, I bet he made it for her when they first dated, and she was "hooked" for good - wink!

Recognizable stripes
"First you score the skin side 2" apart, and season both sides with salt and pepper," he told me. "You must first spear thy fish with a Renaissance sword!" added his girl. They all laughed, obviously some wonderful inside joke they were working with all day.... I miss my friends! Leader-guy continued in the seasoned farmer's market quick-instruction tongue, telling me in a few quick and easy steps how to make a very simple, awesome, dish. And then I was sent off, to go softly into the new moon's light with the fair fish.

A succulent bite of fresh striped bass

Striped Bass with Tomato Topping
As instructed by an expert fish seller.
You will need an oven-safe skillet or cast-iron frying pan.

Fillets of Striped Bass
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Minced Garlic
Diced Tomato (fresh)
Chopped Basil (fresh)

1.  Cut 1/4" deep slits in the skin side of the fish, 2" apart.

2. Season both sides with salt and pepper

3. Get the pan very hot, with olive oil. Place the fish skin side down and cook for 4 minutes.

4. Flip the fish over, and place in a 370F degree oven (I quote) - but 375-400F is OK too, no big deal.

5. Cook for about 8 minutes in the oven. Remove to a plate.

6. In the still hot pan, add the tomatoes, garlic and basil. Cook it up for a couple minutes, add more oil if needed. Serve on top of the fish.

Red Russian Kale

Sautéed Kale

Sautéed Russian Kale
1 head of Red Russian Kale (a more delicate relative of the curly green variety)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 C onion, chopped
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
fresh Nutmeg

1. Pull the leaves of kale off from the lower parts of the stems. Rinse them well, as worms and their little gifts like to stick to the leaves. Roughly chop the leaves.

2. Heat oil in a large pot, and cook onions and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add about half of the kale and stir. Cover for a couple minutes and then stir in the rest of the leaves.

3. Cook until completely wilted, and season with salt, pepper and a little fresh ground nutmeg. Cover and cook over low until ready to serve. I cooked mine about 15 minutes, but it was fine at 10 and still fine later - it's pretty resilient stuff.

Honey-Pistacio Levain Toast
Sliced artisan bread, such as whole wheat levain
Pistachios (raw)

1. Lightly toast the bread slices.

2. In a chopper or food processor, add pistachios and some margarine. Pulse until chopped and mixed together. Drizzle a little honey and pulse some more to make a paste. 

3. Spread on the toast. Eat as-is, or toast (or broil) another minute or two until the nuts are browned.
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