Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Saving your Sole in a Fish Bowl

        "I might have been a goldfish in a glass bowl for all the privacy I got." 
                                                                                            -- Saki (Hector Hugh Munro)

I don't know what I was thinking.
I guess I thought I knew better. (I didn't.)
Maybe I was confused by both interstates being shut down at once.
Go Colorado.
Or I was over the top because a student had transposed a small, but two-handed piece of music into six or seven different keys, including B major.
Or, I knew, and just had to see for myself.  Like a child.  Hmm.  More likely.

Anyway, I did one of those unthinkable culinary things.   Or, I went outside the fish pond.  I took some sweet, thin sole and poached it in a chunky, bit of heat tomato sauce.   Yes, I did it.  Well,  I tried to make it a, we might say, gentle tomato sauce.  I could barely manage it.  Capital "T"-  Tiny piece of garlic, not toooo much onion.  Sweetened with an adorable, small carrot complete with top, and a bit of Colorado honey (something we do well out here.)  I cooked some risi (tiny pasta like rice) and sat the whole shebang along side it.  Was it good?  Yes.  Was it a home run?   Not the best of them. Did I eat it?  Decidedly.  And I'm blogging it because?  Because maybe we should blog the things that aren't perfect.  That aren't what the rest of the world thinks of as the best ideas.  Maybe we should keep on keeping on...and change our soul--I mean sole.

(*Note two days later:  I tried this again so Dave could eat some for lunch and adored it on second take.  I used no fresh basil in the sauce and put, instead, the 1/2 t Herbes de Provence.  I have revised the recipe.)

Did I mention the sole was $6.99 a pound and fresh?  (As fresh as fresh is in CO.)  Or that I had zucchini that had to be used?  Husband gone; quick fish meal in order.

Now I love sole in the regular ways.  A little flour, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, into the butter bath...out again,  squeeze the lemon into the butter, pour it over the fish, and serve it topped with parsley.  I do, I do, I do love it.  The mildness of it is its beauty.    I also like it just barely kind of grilled in a skillet with only a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  I know very well that I need something hearty like snapper to stand up to the treatment I desired.  I can't claim I did the dumb thing because I live in a land-locked state.  I've lived all over.  In other words, sole is delicate and must be treated like it.  Falling apart easily, it won't make it through any rough handling or bull-in-a- china-shop flipping tactics like tuna or salmon.  Cook quickly, slide a large thin fish spatula underneath and slide it onto a warmed plate.  That's how you deal with sole.  There are some some people who must be treated similarly...  Another blog.

But I keep having this dream of fish poached in vegetables and I've been successful with it a few times...albeit with other fish.  I mean, what more could you want than fish poached in vegetables when you're trying to be healthy, eat well, and still want to cook and eat gorgeously?  The grilled salmon and salad  or asparagus is nice, but it gets old.  It does.   I think you have more options on either coast; our available fresh fish is limited unless you can afford Whole Foods fish prices a few times a week.  I make a grilled tuna topped with marinara and served with orzo with spinach and raisins.  I hit up Whole Foods for that one and make it for my sister's birthday or for my wine group.  Every day?  No, I'm like the rest of the world; I'm looking for bargains.

So what was this like?  It was a little like a shallow bowl of very thick, yummy soup with some fish and baby pasta in it.  Yet, it was hearty.  Filling, even.  I drank a Seghesio zin with it.  Here's another instance of pairing the wine the preparation, not with the protein.  You could eat ALOT OF THIS and do no harm at all- if you limited the risi.  And, by gosh, the fish cooks in two minutes.  And they call drive-through hamburgers "fast food?"

My other idea was to roast a bunch of root vegetables, dissolve them a tish in some broth and poach the sole in that.  Maybe with sage.  In other words, just take sole out of its cubby and out for a run in the park.  That'll be another day.  Ooo:  les poissons.

Well, you think about it.  I'll write the recipe down.  Make it; I liked it.  I'd eat it again.  But it is different.  It's odd stuff up against each other.  Gently.  Like spring in Colorado.

Saving your Sole in a Fish Bowl 
                                             serves 2 generously

1T olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 med. onion,          "
1 sm carrot,                "
2 stalks celery,          "
1 small zucchini,       "
4T fresh basil, sliced thinly, divided or 1/2 t Herbes de Provence
1/2 t kosher salt; 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper, rubbed finely between your fingers
1/2 of a 28oz can of crushed Cento tomatoes
1 lemon, cut into two pieces.  Chop one piece into 1/2" dice; slice the other half.
1/4 c red wine
1/2 c water  plus more as needed
1 t honey
1/2 # fresh sole

Cooked risi (tiny pasta) or rice  (I put salt, pepper and fresh basil in the boiling water.)  mixed with:
          2T freshly grated parmesan and 2T chopped fresh parsley

A Little Side Salad*

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and add the vegetables, half of the basil, salt and peppers.  Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes at altitude.  Stir often.  Add the tomatoes, half of the lemon slices, the wine, water and honey.  Lower heat and simmer 10-12 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more water.  Stir often.  Add sole in an even, single layer, and cover for 2-3 minutes, cooking until fish is firm.  Gently remove fish from sauce and serve in a shallow bowl topped with some sauce (leave small pieces of lemon in the sauce and eat them:) and the side of rice or risi (tiny, rice-like pasta).  Add a slice or two of  rest of the lemon for punch and garnish with the rest of the sliced basil.  Leave room for a little crunchy side salad to one side or serve it in a tiny bowl.

*My side salad is like this:  2-3 c chopped romaine, 1/2 red pepper, diced, 3 T torn fresh parsley or basil--whatever fresh herb will do a trick for you, a shake of kosher salt and a pinch of fresh ground pepper.  Squeeze a little lemon over the salad before you dress it.   Dressing:  1T fresh lemon juice, 1 small clove of garlic, crushed, 1-2T fresh basil, minced, 1/2 t Dijon-style mustard...Whisk all that together well and drizzle in, still whisking, 2T best-quality extra-virgin olive oil. 

The dogs, of course, had to go out at just the critical point...when I sat down with hot fish.  I remember similar lives with nursing babies.  Once, after months of cold food, I spent the day arranging life so that I would have a hot piece of meat for dinner.  I bathed the baby in the morning. I fed him all day long.  I kept him up.  I had the meal ready to cook and nursed him.  Put him to bed, where he fell promptly asleep.  I proceeded to cook my little steak and, you guessed it.  Before I got the first piece in my mouth, he was screaming.  I was convinced young mothers never got to eat.  I sure appreciated the first hot meal I got when he turned, oh, 20 or so.

Sing a new song; eat your fish in a bowl,  try it hot............but put the dogs to bed first,


  1. Thanks for sharing!! I'm new to cooking fish..it has always intimidated me, but I'm finding out there is nothing to fear & it is quite easy. Thanks to this post though...I've learned a few more techniques. Thanks for stopping by my blog ;)

  2. Just have everything else ready to go before you cook the fish-done in a flash. Glad you're visiting(**)


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