Summer Solstice (Part Deux)

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See the first part of Summer Solstice here.

Sunday Lunch – Fish Provencal

It was a sunny Sunday again. After breakfast, mahal and I decided to go out for our usual hiking. Both weary and hungry after over an hour of walk at midday passing by wheat fields, forest and Swiss cows, how lucky I was this recipe I had to make is another easy one.

I couldn’t find halibut fillets in the French supermarket, so I relied to my stock knowledge presuming that halibut is closely related to cod fish. Since the latter is available, I bought it. But do correct me if I’m wrong.

Ingredients:

  • 4 halibut fillets, each 6 to 8 oz.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbs. dry white wine
  • 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, cut into slices 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 to 3 tbs. fine dried bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the fillets snugly in a single layer.
  2. Place the fillets in the prepared baking dish, season lightly with salt and pepper, and drizzle with the wine. Arrange the tomato slices on top of the fish, overlapping them slightly if necessary.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, the garlic, tarragon, parsley and thyme. Spoon the herb mixture evenly over the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil.
  4. Bake until the bread crumbs are browned on top and the fish is opaque throughout, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately, directly from the baking dish. Serves 4.

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Provencal dishes closely resemble the delectable cuisines of Italy and in this simple dish you can find fresh tomatoes, garlic and herbs that are the iconic ingredients of southern France. Personally I love Italian cuisines and same goes definitely with southern French cuisines. Particularly this Fish Provencal recipe is very easy and quick to make and yet you can leave your guests impressed with your cooking prowess. I guess I heard my mahal telling me, “Keep it up!” But then, I must have been too busy savoring this fishy dish!

Sunday Dinner – Fried Calamari (with Romesco, supposedly)

My palate seemingly had been somewhat leading me to the taste of a coastline recently that we ended up having our Sunday as seafood day, with fish Provencal for lunch and fried calamari with Romesco for dinner. A day like this makes me feel like a day in the Philippines as well, where fish and seafood go abounty. Back home, I can enjoy different kinds of fishes and seafood to sawa. It’s really one of the things so Pinoy that I miss the most.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh or thawed frozen calamari, cut into 1/2 -inch rings, tentacles left intact
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For the romesco sauce:
    • 1 oz. French bread chunks (about 2 slices), crusts removed
    • 3 tbs. red wine vinegar
    • 1/3 cup toasted almonds
    • 1/4 cup drained diced tomatoes
    • 1 roasted red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1 tsp. paprika
    • Pinch of cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • Vegetable or canola oil for deep-frying
    • 1 cup rice flour or all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
    • 1 tbs. paprika
    • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
    • Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine the calamari, milk, and a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, make the romesco sauce: In a bowl, combine the bread and vinegar. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until grainy. Add the bread-vinegar mixture, the tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, paprika and cayenne and puree until smooth. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream and puree until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper. Transfer the sauce to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Place an ovenproof platter in an oven and preheat to 150°F. In a heavy, deep fry pan or wide saucepan, pour in vegetable oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer.
  4. Drain the calamari. In a large bowl, combine the rice flour, cornmeal, paprika, cayenne, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Add half of the calamari and toss to coat evenly, then transfer the coated calamari to a colander and shake gently to remove excess flour.
  5. Add the coated calamari to the hot oil and deep-fry, using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon to push it gently into the oil occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, about 1 minute. Using the skimmer or spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then place on the platter in the oven. Coat the remaining calamari and fry in the same way.
  6. Garnish the calamari with the parsley and place a small bowl or ramekin holding the romesco in the center of the platter. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

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It must have been the hot weather that day when I caught myself falling asleep. I took a siesta longer than usual. By the time I decided to prepare for dinner, I forgot about marinating the calamari with milk and it was too late already to do it so. “Wait, I really do have to marinate the calamari with milk?!” I exclaimed. Never have I done this one before. As far as I know, I just need to coat the calamari with a flour mix. So I just did, sans the milk marinade.

Also, sans the romesco sauce, I intended to forget the French bread (there’s always a reason behind a decision, my friend). I opted to use the sweet-and-sour sauce as condiment for the calamari instead. It would have been really nice actually if I made it. Romesco sauce originated in Tarragona, in the Catalan region of Spain. It is typically served with grilled or deep-fried fish.

All the while I had felt I wasn’t giving this recipe enough justice. Surprisingly though, mahal enjoyed it a lot. Later on I confessed to him that once upon a time, fried calamari is used to be my food-refuge. Then the craving has returned. So the next time I tell him it’s “calamari night,” I meant bingeing on it like junk food. I didn’t hear him disagreeing with the idea so far.

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P.S. Many thanks to Williams-Sonoma for these beautiful recipes and Pepperplate for coming up with a very useful meal planning tool. You’ve helped busy women like me in so many ways. This bottle of champagne and big scoops of ice cream are for you!

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