Monday, 7 May 2007

Sorrel Sea Bass with Cuttlefish Ink Fusilli

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One of the things that I enjoy the most about shopping at farmers' market and the like, and buying foods from the people who grew them, is the opportunity for new discovery. Being able to have conversations with producers about their foods, how they're grown/made, how to cook them, etc, is such a great way to learn. This year I've tasted a number of new fruit and veg I'd never touched before--e.g. purple sprouting broccoli, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, to name a few--and I appreciate being broken out of my habits.

The newest addition to the list of new discoveries is sorrel. I spotted its lovely dark green leafs when buying my produce at the market last week, and asked what it was. I learned that it's a sharp tasting leaf that is often pared with fish. I decided to experiment.

(In the interest of transparency, I should mention that I've since figured out that I've actually had sorrel before. There is a traditional green herby cold summer soup in Poland that my family sometimes makes, and they've never known how to translate what goes into it. Last summer my grandmother and father got frustrated trying to explain it to me, and finally settled with, "just eat it and stop asking questions! It's good!" Having read around a bit, and now understanding the taste of sorrel a bit more, I am pretty sure that that's what the mystery ingredient in the soup was.)

I cooked up my lovely bunch of sorrel this past Friday evening in a "it's been a long damn week, let's have a nice dinner" sort of effort. I got a massive wild sea bass for it, as Graeme had been whining about how much he wanted to have some sea bass for a couple of weeks now. And I paired it with another new food--cuttlefish ink fusilli. Graeme and I tried squid ink risotto once in Croatia, and enjoyed it, so when I spotted the sinister looking pasta at our local Italian deli, I could not resist trying it again. The flavour is quite subtle--rich and just a bit fishy, but not overwhelming in any way. The fish and pasta paired wonderfully, and I was particularly pleased with the ad hoc veg-and-cheese preparation of the pasta--it had a perfect saltiness and creaminess to suit its fishy needs.


The Recipe:

For the fish:
1 enormous wild sea bass, cleaned
1 bunch sorrel
1 bunch kale
1 bunch parsley
3-4 slivers of butter
1 lemon (be generous with the lemon as its a natural cohort of sorrel)

For the pasta:
200g or so of cuttlefish (or squid) ink pasta
bunch of mushrooms, chopped.
bunch of peas (in this case they were frozen, so I thawed them)
3 cloves of garlic
50g creamy goats cheese
Olive oil

Chop up the sorrel, kale, and parsley roughly, and combine them so that you have one big leafy mixture. Slice open the fish, and line with your slivers of butter. Then stuff it to the brim with your greens, and douse it in a stupid amount of lemon juice. Wrap in foil and bake in a hot oven for 30-40 min (until the sea bass is cooked!). Serve with additional slices of lemons for more dousing in lemon juice.

While the fish is cooking, boil up the pasta as one boils up pasta. Heat up a frying pan, and throw in a generous amount of olive oil. Fry up the garlic, and then add the veg. Let that cook until the peas are a lovely bright colour and the mushrooms are suitably dark and soft. When the pasta's done and strained, throw it in with the veg, and let everything sautee for a couple of minutes, while seasoning with salt and pepper. At the last minute, add in your creamy goats cheese, and stir just until it melts enough to make the past a bit creamy.

You final product will look something like this:

And it will be a tasty treat, especially with a nice bottle of white wine to accompany it!

What is healthy about this recipe: I don't think I need to extol the usual virtues of fish here, but yeah: fish is great, fish is tasty, let's all eat lots of fish. A tiny bit of butter is the only sinister culprit here, and the super duper health conscious can always find a more heart-friendly option. If I may continue being a spokesperson for sorrel, our bitter friend is an excellent source of vitamin C.

What is seasonal about this recipe: Everything! Sorrel is something to buy now now now! (Especially as current leaves of sorrel being sold are still young, and so not extremely bitter in taste. As summer advances, they'll get stronger tasting, so the stuff for beginners is the stuff that's available now.)

What I learned from this recipe: That I rule at making stuff up off the cuff, and that I love our farmers.

What I will change next time: I am now keen to figure out how to make this sorrel soup. It's apparently also very good raw in salads. And we're going to be eating that inky pasta for a long time to come, it's just lovely.

35 comments:

Graeme said...

The squid ink risotto was at that 'To Be Or Not To Be' restaurant in Sarajevo. Though I may have also had it in Zagreb. I'm sure about Sarajevo, not sure about Zagreb!

Helen said...

I have just noticed that our local market is selling sorrel at the moment so I will have to try this dish, it looks great!

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