Thursday afternoons I pick up my Cape Ann Fresh Catch Share, the fisherman’s version of a Community Supported Agriculture.
A Fresh Catch share holder has a choice of being brave or safe: you can choose to receive a whole fish or you can choose – ahem – fillets. Or you can waffle, as I do, alternating weeks of whole fish with fillets. For some reason, every time I sign up for my share, I think fillets are for whusses. But, on a Thursday evening the only words worse than, “whole fish today, Heather!” are “Mom, what’s for dinner – I’m hungry!”
This last Thursday I forgot, as usual, about whole fish week. I had planned a menu of cod fillets on a bed of spinach in an orange zest/ginger dressing, steamed in sealed parchment.
“Whole fish today, Heather!” the nice woman at Turners Fisheries declared.
Sh-t. There’s nothing like the weight of two dead fish in a plastic bag to kill one’s hopes for a quick weeknight meal. I carried my catch home.
I preheated the oven to 450 degrees, trying to imagine a crispy-skinned, roasted something.
I rinsed the fish off, pat it dry and cut off the fish head and tail, believing that was the quickest route to something I recognized as a Thursday night dinner.
I assembled the orange and ginger dressing that been intended for the parchment thing, poured it over the now head and tail-less two bodies, and rolled them around, making sure inside and out met the flavors.
I knew the finished fish, even if it were as fragrant as I’d hoped, needed color, and a fresh high note. I had cilantro, also intended for that historic parchment idea, and put together a salsa of the chopped herb, chopped onion, lime juice, cumin seed, sugar and olive oil.
In the old menu, I had planned to finally serve wheat berries from Alprilla Farm which I’d bought at our Thanksgiving Farmer’s Market. The pound of spinach meant as a bed for that fillet was also still with me. I cooked each, serving them on the plate with a wide chunk of the whole cod, and the salsa on top.
The fish, flesh roasted beside the bone, all that collagen seeping into it, roasted to a moist, tender meal that nothing steamed in parchment, no matter how much ginger, could ever become.
But the remains became a second feast. I flaked the meat – lots of it – from the remaining fish, and tossed it with the leftover wheatberries and spinach, pouring the marinade from the roasting pan over all. Then I tossed in the remaining cilantro salsa. The wheatberries gave a little New England bite to a lime and ginger infused salad of silken cod.
Skin and bones are a cook’s best friend; they never fail to remind me I’m not crazy to sign up for a whole fish. In fact I’m crazy not to. Alternating weeks, whole fish and fillets, extracts two different personalities from the cook: the one with the recipe in her hand, and the one with a big knife and a quick mind. I’m practicing being both.
Roasted Cod with Cilantro Salsa and Cod Salad with Wheatberries, Spinach and Lime
2 small whole cod
1 inch knob of ginger, grated
1 orange – juice and grated peel
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
a pinch red pepper flakes
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted first if possible
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound spinach
1 1/2 cups wheatberries
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil.
Rinse fish well, and remove head and tail, simply chopping off each. Lay fish in the pan. Stir together dressing, and pour over fish. Roll and rub so that all is covered. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when the skin is poked. Raise oven temperature to broil, and broil the skin for a crispy finish. We didn’t eat the skin, but it was more attractive, and guaranteed the flesh was cooked.
To serve, simply divide the fish into pieces, depending on the size. Cut right through the spine, so that each serving is a cross section of the whole fish. The meat falls away easily from the bone. Yes, the plate remains are messy – lots of skin and bones – but the flavor in the meat is worth it.
To make the salsa, simply stir all ingredients together and serve on top of the fish.
To make the salad, prepare the wheatberries according to the directions. Sautee the spinach in 1 tablespoon of butter with salt and pepper added at the end. Gently mix together flaked fish, wheatberries, spinach, salsa, and the marinade left from the roasting pan.