Vegetable Harvest: Fish and Shellfish
September 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells
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Mussels with Chorizo and Cilantro, page 81.
Had wanted to try this since MMRuth first posted the link and I finally got around to it. With all the reports of less than standout flavors, I doubled the chorizo (a mistake; thought the chorizo was just too strong for the balance of the dish) and cooked the onions in half olive oil/half home-rendered lard. It sure was pretty, but flavor was no better than just okay; certainly nothing special. If I wanted something like it again I would just add milder-than-chorizo sausage to one of my preferred Moules Mariniere recipes. That said, we did mop up every last bit of sauce. But we were mopping with a Sullivan Street Pain Pugliese. It was probably about the bread as much as it was about the sauce.
I made the sardines en papillotte (sp?) last night. I'd had the fishmonger gut and scale the sardines for me, but deboning them per her instructions was quite complicated and time consuming. Lopped off the heads, cut open the rest of the belly side of the fish, then used a paring knife to separate the flesh from the bone, pulled it out and cut it off at the tail end. Other than that, the preparation was very easy. It wasn't a "wow" dish by any means though - very mild flavors - I spooned some v. nice French E.V. olive oil on the flesh of the fish to give it some more flavor.
Salmon Wrapped in Spinach Leaves with Caper, Lemon and Olive Sauce, p. 86
We had this for lunch on Labor Day. I'd been unable to find large spinach leaves, so I used Swiss chard instead, which worked very well. It was easy to wrap the spinach in the leaves after blanching them and I did use a toothpick to fasten the leaves. I steamed them in a large sautee pan using one of those collapsible metal vegetable steamers. I added some sliced fingerling potatoes to the steamer while the water was coming to the boil, then added the salmon packages. The sauce is quick and easy to make, aside from the time it takes to pit the olive - I used all Picholine olives. The salmon was moist and tender, I liked the contrast of flavor with the chard and the sauce. This was the first dish from this book that my husband declared a winner - I think because it had stronger flavors than the other dishes I'd made so far.
Celeriac Salad with Fresh Crabmeat, p. 78
Made this as a light lunch over Labor Day weekend. I grated the celeric in the food processor as I don't have a mandoline. The Creamy Lemon-Chive Dressing, p. 299, was a snap to make and delicious - I'm going to start keeping some on hand. I couldn't find light cream and had done some research on combining half and half and heavy cream to come up with the correct fat percentage, but then when I read the recipe, she suggests using half and half in the notes, so I did. The recipe calls for 6 oz of crabmeat for 6 people, but since this was for lunch and I knew my husband would protest loudly at one ounce of crabmeat, we each got about 3 oz. I added quite a bit of fleur de sel to both the celeriac and the crab, as well as some lemon juice - just felt it needed that extra kick. I also snipped some chives and garnished the dish with them - it was so pale otherwise. Even so, it was a very delicate flavored dish, but quite tasty.
I made the Tuna Confit with Tomatoes, Capers, and White Wine tonight. I bought some beautiful yellowfin tuna at the greenmarket this morning, and I think a preparation other than grilling or broiling appealed to me. In this recipe, tuna is baked in the oven over very low heat (225 degrees) in a water bath.
I halved the recipe (using just 1 pound of tuna rather than the 2 pounds that the recipe called for). My husband and I both thought that the dish was absolutely delicious. The recipe is extremely simple to prepare with very few ingredients, and there is a purity of flavors -- tomatoes, capers, onion, wine, olive oil, and, of course, the tuna -- that really comes through.
The only modification that I would make in preparing this dish in the future is not to cook it for so long. The recipe calls for cooking the tuna for a solid hour. I only cooked it for 50 minutes, and the tuna was thoroughly cooked at that point. It was not rare as Patricia Wells had said it would be. However, I blame it all on my oven. The gas oven in my NYC apartment can get quite hot. Nevetheless, although the tuna was cooked more than I prefer (I really like rare-medium/rare tuna), it was incredibly juicy, especially with the tomato/caper/olive oil/white wine sauce served over it. I would definitely make this recipe again, but next time I will probably check on the tuna after about 35-40 minutes in the oven.