let me share a little of my fish history with you -- i grew up eating canned salmon croquettes, canned salmon and eggs, fried fish with tabasco and lemon juice (which, quite frankly, is yummy) and, when my mom was on weight watchers, turbot. oh, and salmon steaks and filet of sole... sometimes. but, for the most part, our fish was canned, fried or fried canned fish that was breaded. i also ate tuna salad sandwiches made with miracle whip and sweet pickle relish.
i don't eat that anymore.
i LOVE fish. i mean, i adore it. i remember the first time i had sushi and it changed my life. it was with my brother's then girlfriend, patty, for whom i will always have a soft spot for a MYRIAD of reasons, not the least of which is introducing me to sushi, and besides the spanish mackeral, which SO didn't work for me (too oily raw), and the California Roll (too much taking away from the crab -- i love crab, so, yeah), i was all about it. i had learned before then the way i liked my tuna sandwiches -- if american, then just a smattering of real mayo, some diced celery, salt, pepper and, sometimes, garlic powder; if greek or italian, some excellent tuna packed in good olive oil, tossed with lemon, fresh parsley, salt, fresh ground pepper and on a crusty roll or the end of a great loaf of italian bread (this i learned when i was 11, but that's SO another story) and the way i liked my fish in general -- i hated salmon for a REALLY long time because of the ick canned aspect, but now revere it and bow to it daily -- i like my fish grilled, broiled, steamed whatever as long as it's treated with love and affection so the flavor of the fish rings through, not the flavor of the shtuff that goes on it. i'm also a MAJOR seafood/shellfish afficianado -- give me some good mussels, an excellently fragrant white wine, cream and herb infusion in which to steam it and i'm WAY in heaven -- and, as a consequence, my older son has a deep love of seafood/shellfish (except for live lobster, cuz he's a little skeeved out by the MONSTERS, as he calls them) because he's a rich food lover, which seafood/shellfish is. my younger son is all about any fish that is grilled, steamed -- just fin fish, as it were. seafood, not so much. and yet, he created this AWESOME seafood stew that is unbelievable, as i mentioned before. we'll go there someday.
anway, fish. here's why i'm mentioning. our meal on monday night came from a cookbook that JUST came my way called THE YOUNG MAN & THE SEA by David Pasternack and Ed Levine. When i got it, i was so excited, because of, obviously, fish. i haven't had a chance to hang with it much, so i picked a recipe that would allow me to incorporate the crab i had leftover from my sunday night pie success -- major successs. i had to promise the chilly-bees they would get it again this weekend (my children... yes, i use bizarre words... what of it?) what i ended up with is NOWHERE NEAR what would have happened if i had bought the one ingredient in the recipe i chose i did not have, but i was pressed for time and what can i say? the recipe we picked was:
SPAGHETTI ALA CHITARRA WITH SEA URCHINS & CRABMEAT
yes, sea urchins. just listen.
1 lb dried spaghetti or chitarri
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 oz sea urchins (2 trays of cleaned sea urchins)
8 oz jumpo lump crabmeat
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to finish
freshly ground pepper
what to do:
1. bring large pot of salted water to boil. cook pasta for 2 minutes LESS than package says. reserve 2 cups cooking water, and drain the pasta in a colander. Toss with 3 tbs of olive oil. set aside.
2. transfer pasta water to a large, straight-sided saute pan. add butter and bring o a boil over high flame. reduce the liquite by one quarter, about 3 minutes.
3. add the pasta and toss to coat. use wooden spoon to push the pasta to one side of the pan, add sea urchins to the other side. use the spoon to break up the flesh. add the crabmeat, the remaining tablespoon olive oil, the 1/2 tsp sea salt and several grindings of the pepper. gently toss to combine.
4. divide the pasta among four bowls and season each serving with the sea salt and fresh ground pepper. serve immediately.
here's what we did:
i did not have sea urchin. i didn't know where to get it and didn't have the time. i used our leftover tilapia, poached it in some white wine, a little water, basil leaves, parsley, sea salt and red pepper flakes. poached it for about 10 minutes, flaked it and set it aside. i then finished the rest of it off as the recipe says, but added the tilapia instead of the sea urchin and tossed it with some parmegiano reggiano.
our report card was success. both kids loved it, i served it with a light salad and all was well. i'd like to try it with the sea urchin and i'll tell you why -- i've never had sea urchin. oh, i've had raw jellyfish and some other BIZARRE stuff, but i never had sea urchin at sushi places or anywhere. the look completely makes me go "eeyoo", but i still want to try it, because i want to be open to any food adventure. i don't remember if patty ever ordered it that first sushi night, but my sister has on occasion -- i don't know if she still does -- and it's always made me go "hmm..." and also look at her with a kind of awe that little sister's owe big sisters, i think. my current sushi partner is my sister-in-law whenever i'm in l.a., who is the BEST sushi partner ever. really. but, then again, i adore her regardless, so there. lots of love in the air. ahhh...
okay, so here is how the young man & the sea describes sea urchin, in case you were creeped about trying it, too: "sea urchin... can be scary to the uninitiated. they have a lovely creamy flavor... the sea urcihns intensely flavorful, salty creaminess make it a perfect foil for pasta in this recipe..." so, i will try this again with the sea urchins. just gotta.
creamy saltiness? i dunno.
it's calling my name :o)
amazing to have this love of fish and seafood considering my humble beginnings.
there is hope for all.