Friday, October 23, 2009

Scrod with Tomatoes, Capers and Fennel

I love fish, but I hate that the ocean is pretty much fished clean. So, I generally don't have fish at all. It's so sad. I grew up close to the water, and we always had amazing, fresh, local fish. And we didn't call it local, it just was. One of my fondest memories is of walking the beach where we spent most of our summer, as the sun went down, picking mussels to make for dinner. This is the North Shore of Long Island back in the seventies. The water was probably horrible then, but what did we know? 

It was West Neck Beach on the Long Island Sound. I remember exploring every nook and cranny of that beach as a child. Passing leathery brown women in little bikinis doused in baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic, the smell of baby powder or coconut overwhelming in the heat, with those silver reflectors so they could really burn to a crisp. The lifeguard chairs, the beach house, the rocks that separated the swimming lesson section and all the way to the end of the spit where no one would go. You could be alone there, or mostly so, and pretend the little streams were rivers and that a feather was a boat and that you could sail to the end of the world and still be home at six for dinner. We weren't a fishing family, so we got our fish from Jeff's by the harbor. We had a lot of flounder sauteed in butter. It was all very simple. In the summer, for a treat, my mother would buy lobsters, or my brother would bring home lobsters that he helped catch. It was a big, lovely production: a bag of wriggling lobsters, big steaming pot of water, melted butter, big huge plates, nut crackers for the claws. Divine and exciting. 

Yesterday, I bought some wild-caught scrod. I just looked it up on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program website and found out I bought something I shouldn't have. Oh, well. I guess I should practice what I preach. It was 7.99 a pound, a great deal and looked beautiful. I love cod and it's brethren. I should have gotten Icelandic scrod, but then that's not local, right? That's why I avoid fish entirely. It's complex enough to need an up to date report on it! Anyway, this is how I cooked it. It was incredibly delicious, entirely easy and quick.

Oven on at 350. Olive oil in baking dish. Fillets in pan. Drizzle more olive oil, salt, pepper. Chopped super ripe, fresh tomatoes on top--big chunks. A few teaspoons of capers and their juice. Some fennel seeds. Heavy splash of white wine. Bake for twenty minutes. Finish with chopped parsley and serve over whole wheat cous cous. 

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