¡Go Fish!

Just after the New Year, Mark and I popped down to Baja California Sur (México) to visit our friends Christine and Bill in Todos Santos.

We met Christine just about 14 years ago when we first moved to Tucson. She and I hit it off immediately as she was a restaurant critic and I was — and still am — obsessed with food.

Several years later she married Bill. He and Markipedia love to talk about wide-ranging subjects: history, politics, religion, and growing up as a farm kid southeastern Pennsylvania. Then Chris and Bill retired to Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, México. They have been asking us to visit ever since.

As soon as we arrived, we understood how they fell in love with the beautiful town, the lush subtropical landscape, and the warm and friendly people.

We enjoyed dinner at The Green Room one evening.
Not to mention the abundance of fresh fish and vegetables available on a regular basis.

On that Saturday, we walked a couple houses over to meet Maria who had just arrived in her truck with a fresh load of fish: halibut, parrot fish, shrimp, crab, and scallops.

We opted for parrot fish fillets, and headed to the market for inspiration on how we would finish the dish.

The view from the Green Room, and walking back to our car after dinner.
All along, I had been thinking of this tomatillo salsa, but when we arrived at the green grover and found fresh ears of corn available, a vegetable salsa crept into my thoughts.

With the ingredients we picked up at the market and the beautiful herbs in Christine’s garden, we came up with this Thai-Mex salsa to top the seared fillets.

Why do I say Thai-Mex? It’s the herbs I used. The combination of cilantro, basil, and lemongrass reminded me of some Thai dishes I’ve had in restaurants.

This dish is extremely simple, and can be put together in advance to make final preparation a lot easier. And, if you don’t have all the herbs and vegetables, it doesn’t matter… Anything you have on hand would work beautifully.

We served the fish with a side of roasted carrots, onions, and oranges on a bed of tahini. We finished the evening with small dishes of homemade lime curd. The carrot and lime curd recipes will be forthcoming.

We dined to lively conversation and nature’s soundtrack of distant breakers beyond the palms.

~ David

Seared Fish with Thai-Mex Vegetable Salsa

4 fish fillets - any firm white fish will work
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon paprika, hot if you like
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 poblano chile
1/4 red onion, chopped
2 small ears corn, kernels sliced from the cob
8-10 grape tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 basil leaves, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass
juice of 2 Mexican limes, about 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper to taste.

Wash and dry the fish fillets and set them aside. Mix the flour with the paprika, salt, and pepper on a large dinner plate. Dredge the fish fillets in the flour mixture, making sure that all surfaces are well coated. Place the fillets in a baking dish, or on a platter, cover, and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them. I recommend that this be done several hours in advance. Coating the fish early helps keep the coating on when they are seared.

Meanwhile, prepare the salsa. Start by blistering the poblano chile over a gas flame or under the broiler. When the skin is well blistered and very dark, place the chile in a paper bag and let it steam for 10 minutes or so. Once the chile is softened, remove the blistered outer skin, then slice it open and remove and discard all the seeds and ribs. Dice the remaining flesh and set aside.

Place a skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add the diced red onion and corn kernels, and cook for five minutes, or until the onion is nicely softened and corn is cooked through. Add the sliced tomatoes and diced poblano chile and toss to combine. Stir in the chopped cilantro and basil. To prepare the lemongrass, cut the bottom 2 inches from the stalk and discard the rest. Remove the outer layers until you have reached the tender inner core. You can usually tell you have reached the inner core by the change in color. Finely mince the lemongrass and add it to the skillet. Cook for a minute or two then add the lime juice, season with salt and pepper, stir well, and remove from the heat. Set aside until you are ready to serve.

In a large nonstick skillet over high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil together. (It is important to cook fish at high heat to sear the outside and keep the inside moist.) When butter and oil or melted together, add the fish fillets being careful not to crowd them. Sear for 3-4 minutes per side (timing will depend on the thickness of your fillets) until you have a golden crust. Place cooked fillets on four dinner plates, and top with salsa. Serve immediately, garnishing with a sprig of basil, if desired

Serves 4.

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