Farmers Market Splerge – Sea Bass

March 21, 2010

Each week we attempt to stay within a budget at the Farmer’s Market. With some creativity, I can keep the weekly trip under $20.   However, we occasionally splurge on some of the great meats, cheeses, jams, honey and other items with a $10+ price tag. Last week, it was almond flour at the Jack London Square Farmers Market, this week, while I was chasing chickens around Funk Town, Mr. Oakland Garden Kitchen brought home a $15 filet of white sea bass (I’m sure it has another, non-bass name) from the fish vendor under the freeway at Grand Lake Farmers Market.  These guys are based in Santa Cruz and consolidate the catches of many independant fisherman taking their fruit de mer  to a different market each day.   While I have no idea if they follow any seafood watch guidlines, I do know that their fish is never frozen and always within 24 hrs fresh from the Pacific. Catch them at the Monterey market on Tuesdays. 

Another activity at Funk Town Farm this week involved harvesting alot of mint and cilantro, which put me in a Carribean mood all weekend. With a little help from allreicpes.com, I  merged a few recipes to make a cilantro-mint sauce for the fish dinner tonight. Here’s what happened in my kitchen tonight:

Diced:

Cilantro-Mint Sauce simmering on the stove

2 cloves garlic
1/4 red bell pepper
1/4 yellow bell pepper
1/4 red onion
one of the little dried chilis hanging in my kitchen window.  (The recipe called for crushed red pepper).

I sauteed all these lovely local veggies (most of them the end of the sautee-stash from last week’s market) in a few tblspoons of olive oil.  As the onions and peppers softened, I diced up one medium size tomato (organic tomatoes are slowing coming back into season!) and added it to the pan.  Cooked a little more, hunted around my fridge for a dry white wine. 

White Sea Bass, Cilantro-mint sauce, quinoa and black beans

Luck!  Half a bottle of inexpensive sauvignon blanc.  I added 1.5 cups to the skillet.  As the wine warmed up to a sizzle, I added a little salt and pepper to the juicey mixture.

Per an online recipe, I added the fish filet to the pan, spooned a little bit of the sauce over the fish, and covered the pan, letting the fish cooked for 10 minutes.  This was a thick filet, so after 10 minutes, it wasn’t quite flakey enough for me.   I covered it again and let it simmer for 2 more minutes.

Fishy closeup

In the mean time, I washed and chopped up about two cups of mint and cilantro.  I had so much that I washed and spun the green leaves together in a salad spinner.  Then I balled ’em all up, transferred the wad to my cutting board, and chop chop chop with a knife.  I think this is something like what the french call “chiffonade.”  I was just trying not to get overwhelmed by sheer volume of herbs.

Once the fish was cooked, I removed the filet to put it in baking dish with a lid.  I left the dish, covered, on the stove near warm eye so it wouldn’t get to cold.  If I was thinking ahead, I would have had the oven on warm and the dish also warm.  But in the end the fish was warm enough to serve.

Meanwhile, I added 2 tblspoons of butter to the brothy sauce and simmered for about ten minutes, stirring regularly, until it reduced by about half.  I added in the mint and cilantro, stirred just long enough for everything to heat through, and then started fixin’ our plates.

Because Mr. OGK is also training for a marathon, I fixed a side of quinoa and reheated some black beans from an earlier meal.  Quinoa is very easy to prepare, somewhat like couscous, and is high in protein.  It is grown at high altitude in the Andes mountains, so sorry Oakland, it’s not local.  However, I bought it (in bulk) at the little independant grocer on Lakeshore (Lakeshore Produce) and I’m inspired to do some research into how the export of quinoa effects the mountain villages of Peru and Bolivia.

The black beans were also a bulk purchase, dry, from a grocer in Fruitvale.  I have no idea where they get their dried black beans, any leads anyone? 

So, with our exotic grains and our market splerge on fish, we enjoyed a lovely, light, yet filling fish dinner.  I finished off the sauvingon blank and Mr. Marathon-in-training had a tall glass of water with a splash of lemon juice and a sprig of mint.  Spring on the Pacific Coast is pretty fabulous.

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