My Way With The Thrill Grill Cult.

IMG_3071

For any earnest cook, intent on cooking what the sea has to offer, Al-Garvean fish markets are a sight to behold. Every time I go, I am stunned by what is on offer. I have had to re-invent my perception of the classification of fish and seafood. I have also had to learn the Portuguese translations for all these various fishes. The upper class of fish available includes (not all) the likes of the European seabass, mullets, drumfish, John Dory and monkfish. Another class involves all the various sea bream including gilthead or dourada, porgy, white sea bream, sharpsnout sea bream, two-banded sea bream and blackspot sea bream. Then there are the sardines, various mackerel and anchovies. The list continues with swordfish, needlefish and scabbardfish. Let’s not forget all kinds of tuna either. Then there are the cartilagenous fishes like dogfish, various rays and skates. Various eels and various flatfish. The classification continues with octopus, cuttlefish and squid. Then there are all the assorted and sundry crustaceans like shrimps and crabs. Last but not least are shellfish like clams and oysters. I really hope that you, dear reader, get the idea of what the expression “bewildering display’ means. (painting by Pedro Fernandes)

 

IMG_1092

This hibachi grill will have to suffice for a bit longer. It is not going to last and I need something far more sturdy and durable for my actions with fire and a grill.

IMG_3110

Now….this is a grill.

IMG_1099

This is a steak cut from a species of fish known as Corvina. The other corvina that I know of is a grape varietal cultivated in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It is used in the production of Valpolicella and Bardolino wines. But corvina, the fish, is a member of the drumfish family. Some people might refer to it as sea-sheep, or shade-fish . It is usually sold “a posta”, in other words, cut into steaks.

IMG_3125

Al-Garve cooks take the idea of simple to another level. I marinated this corvina in extra virgin olive oil. Before it went on the grill, I seasoned the fish steak with local sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

IMG_3127

Fish is served as is. There is never any sauce. People think that there must be something wrong with the fish if there is a sauce. For me personally, once the grilled fish is plated I like extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. The Al-Garve is awash in some of the best olive oil around and there are no shortage of lemon trees.

IMG_1089

Quinta Shanti is an organic vegetable farm located in Conceicao de Tavira. This is where I buy my vegetables. This composition included wheat berries, golden beets, mustard greens, mizuna and red leaf lettuce. Eat like a peasant. Thanks for reading.

Trattoria Venezia by the sea

IMG_1734

Venice is the regional capital of Veneto. It lies at the head of the Adriatic Sea and the entire coastal area is famous for it’s abundance of fresh seafood and market gardening. The fishing village of Chioggia lent its name to the candy striped beets of the same name.

IMG_2165

This is Maine shrimp stock simmering for the foundation of a simple shrimp sauce. I used the shrimp shells, a smashed clove of garlic, carrot, black peppercorns, parsley stems and a thyme sprig. For the amount of shells that I have, I can yield about one cup or less of stock. This will be reduced further afterwards to about one quarter of a cup for my purposes. Shrimp are expensive and I think it is an easy way to maximise flavour for the shrimp as well as re-enforce the shrimp flavour in the sauce. The shrimp shells are delicate so this is a quick stock needing no more than twenty minutes.

IMG_2153

Characteristic to coastal Venetian cooking is the partnering of polenta with seafood. Polenta is derived from the Latin word “polmentum” and refers to a husked or crushed grain. Here it is coarse cornmeal. It is boiled like porridge and eaten directly or fried, baked and grilled. I make mine with water only though some cooks add dairy for a richer texture. I used white cornmeal from Rhode Island and added freshly shucked corn during the last minutes of cooking to complement the corn experience.

IMG_2155

My little kitchen garden was able to supply the Swiss chard for the occasion.

IMG_2166

I got the shrimp at RedsBest Seafood at Government Centre farmers market in Boston. Each of the shrimp are about an inch and a half long. They will cook quickly in my sauce of garlic, white wine, thyme,shrimp stock, tomato juice and chopped tomato. The trick here is not over-cooking. That’s when they become dried out, tough and rubbery.

IMG_2168

They’re done! And I have concentrated all the shrimp essence into that little amount of sauce. Looks are deceiving. This punches way above its weight category for flavor. A trick of the trattoria.

IMG_2169

Long story short……..fried polenta, garlicky sauteed garden Swiss chard and Maine titty shrimp in tomato sauce.

IMG_1802

Thank you for reading. Eat like a peasant.

IMG_2158

A Fish Cook

IMG_0176

Have some potato soup on this freezing night to warm you up. Taste a potato again for the first time and let me tell you what it is you need to know about fish. For the next time you go shopping.

IMG_0112

Cookbooks will generally classify fish in three ways. First, is the fish from salt-water or fresh water, the ocean or a river or lake, say. Is it a mako shark or a pike?
Second, is the fish oily or non-oily. Oily fish include the likes of anchovies, salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and herrings. Examples of non-oily fish are hake, pollock and monkfish.

IMG_0119

And thirdly, is the fish flat or round. Flatfish species include sole, flounder, dab, turbot and halibut. Species of round fish are cod, bass and grouper. And let’s not at all forget shellfish.

IMG_0137

Dinner thus far: Coarsely pureed potato soup with little chunks. Because it is frigid outside, I added some Allepo pepper for some warmth. The pepper is named after a town in Syria. Next up were some skillet seared sea scallops seasoned with rosemary, chili flakes and chunks of sea salt. Once roasted, all they need is some lemon juice and olive oil.

IMG_0165

There is another method of classification that the books do not really get into and that is economics.

IMG_0166

Economics. Fish is expensive. Personally, I do not want to buy fish that has been flown in no matter how good it is. No New Zealand green lip mussels, no Chilean sea-bass, no squid from China. No jet-fresh sardines from Europe.

IMG_0177

If it is true to say that are costly fish which might even be called “luxury fish”, there are plenty of others that will give the simple home cook brilliant opportunities for first-class dishes.

IMG_0164

Another way to classify fish…….do you really need it or can you get by. Sometimes, I get in the mood for fish, go to buy and it looks like, well………I walk on by. And do without.

IMG_0178

My attitude and philosophy is buy the absolute freshest fish you can. And treat it simply. Simple cooking is perhaps the highest form of sophistication and will never go out of style or vogue.

IMG_0174

Simple cooking is that moment when you are being served at a restaurant, the calmness that envelopes the table. Actually, that serenity is brought on by the fore knowledge of the impending cliff of your dinner tab.

IMG_0179

Tonight’s supper was all New England seafood. For the sole fillets I made the breadcrumbs from scratch and seasoned them with salt, black pepper, chili pepper flakes, oregano, parsley, garlic and lemon zest. The lemon probably has a high carbon foot-print. No Scurvy here. My vegetable sides were sauteed kale and Macomber turnips. Macomber turnips are a big local favorite here in Massachussets. They are originally  from the town of Westport, Mass and named after the Macomber brothers.Thank you for looking at my cooking efforts.