Posted by: seasin | July 20, 2009

Simple seabass (lavrak) with sweet corn and asparagus-a summer Sunday dinner

If you manage to get your hands on fresh sea fish in Sofia, it means you’ve been to Piccadily for your weekly shopping ūüôā If you haven’t and you claim you have fresh fish, then you’re wrong and you should throw it away before you poison your family. No, seriously!

Anyway, yours truly decided we miss fish, so I laid my pretty hands on a couple of lavraks (aka. European Seabass) and I proceeded to bestow upon DB a lovely, light summer Sunday dinner.

Whole fish is really easy to cook-don’t be scared to try. Now, this fish is delicate and tasty in its own way and doesn’t need much to be yummy, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t dress it up a bit, would I? Here’s what you need:

Fish dressing up party!

Fish dressing up party!

Seashore rub-it’s a dry marinade that I picked up somewhere in England-it’s basically seasalt and a few dried herbs (lemongrass, dill and fennel seeds) and a few sunflower seeds (don’t ask me why, that’s how it is). You can make it yourself (which I’m definitely planning to do once I’ve finished this gigantic package), and if you don’t have it, just mix a couple of dried herbs together with some coarse salt (obviously, dill and fennel work best, but you can try with rosemary and oregano, tarragon and fennel, thyme and lemongrass and so on). Pink Himalaya salt from Jamie Oliver’s collection of yummy things (ok, just normal salt that you can grind fresh will do just fine, I’m just using this one because it’s pretty). Extra virgin olive oil. One lemon, cut in half and each half sliced thinly. A handful of fresh sage leaves (I find fresh thyme, or even better fresh lemon thyme, work best, but I just happened to have some sage in the fridge and gave it a try-it wasn’t half bad :). Three cloves of garlic, roughly cut into long slivers and divided in two heaps. Half a small red onion, divided in half again (isn’t that quartered?…) and each quarter roughly cut in slices. Once you’ve assembled the wardrobe, turn on your oven at 180 degrees celsius.

Take the fishes (ours were about 300 g each) that the supermarket man has mercifully cleaned (gutted and de-scaled) and WASH¬†them thoroughly inside and out, then pad¬†them dry. Look¬†them in the eye, to make sure they understand they’ll be treated right. Line a large baking tray with foil (no matter how well you grease the tin AND the fish, there’s going to be some sticking. Do yourself and your precious hands a favor and use the tinfoil-much easier to clean up afterwards), brush said tinfoil with olive oil and grind a couple of twists of salt all over.

Now do this for each fish: brush inside with oil; sprinkle the dry rub inside; stuff in half the garlic, half the onion, three or four lemon slices (of the one half) and half the sage leaves. press gently so that the stuffing stays inside. Brush on the outside with oil (including on the head and tail) and sprinkle with the dry rub. Then gently take the fish (mind the stuffing) and place it in the tin FLIPPING IT OVER so that the side that was underneath and has no oil or rub on can be on top. When it’s in the tin, tuck back in any stray bits of stuffing, then proceed to oil the upper side, sprinkle dry rub on it and then arrange on top the remaining slices of lemon. Repeat with the other fish. They will look like this:

Pretty, huh?

Pretty, huh?

Now, if you’re ready to start on the side-dish, you can place them in the oven. If not, leave them to rest for a few minutes. They will take about 30 minutes (you can tell they’re ready when the tail and the edges of the cheeks are slightly charred, and if you put a knife into the flesh it goes in easily and the flesh sort of flakes).

My side dish was real easy: boil a few ears of sweet-corn in salty water for 10 minutes or so, until the kernels no longer look milky pale, but turn yellow and opaque. Take out of the water and make sure there’s no excess moisture on them (just leave them in a colander for a couple of minutes to drain); sprinkle with the pretty pink salt, then slather them with butter.

Take a bunch of asparagus spears, trim the¬†woody¬†bits, steam for two minutes until they start to get a bit limp (sorry¬†guys, limp is good in this case!!). Then¬†heat up¬†two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan, until it starts foaming, chuck in 4 cloves of garlic (minced) and let it mingle while you take the asparagus out of the steaming pot and give it a good shake to make sure there’s not much water on it. Gently place the asparagus in the pan, sprinkle again with the pretty pink salt, a¬†good grinding of black pepper¬†and¬† half a teaspoon of hot pepper flakes (you can leave this step out if you’re a woos). Give the lot about 4 minutes in the pan, stirring gently so that you don’t break the delicate asparagus spears.

By now, the fish should be ready so plate up. You need to use a large fish slice (or a spatula that isn’t floppy), slide it under the tail and in case you feel it’s stuck,¬†hold the fish up with the spatula while you gently tug down on the foil; this way, you have more chances of the foil coming off without taking half of the fish flesh with it. Place on a large plate next to the corn, then arrange the asparagus in an orderly fashion (no, really, I insist!) and pour the butter-garlic mixture from the pan on top of it. This is how it looks when it’s done:

Lovely summer dinner

Lovely summer dinner

I don’t think you need a recap of the ingredients, but if you do, just ask. Serve this with a small mixed tomatoes salad (pink tomatoes, red cherry tomatoes, mini yellow plum tomatoes, thin slices of red onion, basil chifonnade, and a raspberry vinaigrette) and a glass of well chilled rose, and you’re in summer heaven.

And Rossi, sorry I didn’t post the pancakes recipe as I promised-I really want to take a picture of the finished product and had no time (or permission from my figure-watching sweetie ūüôā ) to make them this week-end. I promise I’ll make some this week and I’ll post.

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