Archived entries for fish

Ol’ Smokey: Sugar and spice crusted salmon.

Disclaimer: we here at Pithy and Cleaver do not condone unplugging your smoke detector. However, if you ever decide you really WANT to live on the edge and shut it down, this is probably the recipe to cook while it’s offline. Because I’m not gonna lie: this dish is smoky. Like, really smoky. But it is so good, so quick, and so unexpected, that I can tell you with absolute certainty that it is worth it.


The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, and it’s so simple that it doesn’t even get a real recipe–just a few descriptive sentences at the bottom of a page near the end of the book. Basically, make a spice rub. Dredge your salmon in it. Sear it in turboheated oil for two minutes on each side, and enjoy. Enjoy the melting, rare flesh inside, and the smoky, sweet, spicy crust that builds up on the outside. Enjoy it with a nice salad and your best friend. Enjoy it on those nights when you are desperate for delicious food but have no more than ten minutes to devote to creating it.

And for the love of all things holy, enjoy it with the windows open.

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Orange-Scented Arctic Char: Balcony Grilling Continues

When I resolved to eat lighter in the days leading up to our wedding, I worried a little about the blog. “Who is going to want to read about salad for a month?” I asked my future mother-in law as we discussed my slim-down plan. I wasn’t sure anyone would have any interest in a meal made of zucchini, let alone two.

But the truth is, many of our dinners lately have been delightful surprises. We’ve been enjoying our little balcony, grilling piles of eggplant, tangles of garlic scapes, and leg-of-lamb steaks, trying out a few new recipes and focusing on the simply prepared (and the naturally healthy) bounty of the season. To be honest, it’s been one of the least labor-intensive summers of cooking I’ve had. Nothing wrong with that!

After a long walk the other day, I found myself at Chelsea Market, home of The Lobster Place. Manhattan fishmarkets are mostly disappointing (or maybe I was spoiled growing up in the Northwest) but this one is a gem. I picked up a fresh fillet of Arctic char to throw on the grill. Luckily, since my walk home was about a half an hour, they packed it on ice.

I often prepare my favorite salmon recipe substituting char, but I wasn’t in the mood for a thick soy glaze or pungent wasabi that night. While Matt got started charring some fava beans on the grill, I marinated the fish in a mild blend of freshly squeezed orange juice and zest, a bit of sake I always keep in the fridge, and a dab of yellow miso from the asian market down the block.

After devouring the grilled fava beans—you pop them out of the pods, kind of like edamame—we grilled some leeks brushed with a little teriyaki sauce to serve alongside the fish. I’ve always felt that we should treat leeks as standalone vegetables more often. They were sweet, with crispy edges and soft green-oniony flavor. They were so tasty we ate almost all of them before the fish came off the grill. (And before I could snap a picture.)

But the fish was tender and delicious on its own, fragrant and floral from the orange zest and juice, the marinade boosting the sweet taste of the char. The miso paste added a delicate richness behind the scenes—essential, but barely detectable. It was a terrific summery meal, one I wouldn’t hesitate to bring out at a dinner party, if your grill is big enough to double or triple the recipe.

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So Fresh: Easy Tomato Salsa and Grilled Monkfish

At the beach a few weekends ago, we lounged around reading novels, attempted to even out our tan lines, and witnessed a terrific storm unfurl over the ocean. We trash-talked our way through some scrabble games and gobbled (and drank) our way through several decadent meals. In short, it was a pretty perfect vacation.

After a long morning walk down the shore, the worries of work and stresses of the city erased by the splashing of waves on my ankles, it felt so amazing to stretch out and relax in the salty air with some seltzer, a pile of tortilla chips, and a bowl of salsa. As we devoured it, I made a mental note. It was tasty—but couldn’t it be fresher? How hard could it be to throw together a homemade salsa with ripe summer tomatoes, cilantro from our balcony, some real corn and lime juice, without preservatives or even refrigeration to dull the flavors?

Not hard at all, it turns out. And, as you might suspect, delicious. File this one for when CSA tomatoes are piled on every horizontal surface of your kitchen, when you’ve eaten your fill of August’s corn, for when you just don’t know what to bring to a barbecue. You could throw in whatever you’ve got—sweet onions instead of shallots, yellow peppers for color, a can of black beans, or even a little mango or pineapple. Use it for dipping chips or veggies, for fish tacos or over carnitas, or throw it on some eggs for breakfast. (I used the leftovers to top a single-girl dinner of Whole Foods fat free refried beans—the kind that come with roasted chiles and lime—and placed a fried egg on top, and I gotta say, it was a great meal.)

The salsa was a vivid and flavorful topping for some quickly grilled monkfish I bought at the farmer’s market. I am pretty sure monkfish is NOT sustainable, but it was all that was left at the fish stand by the time I got there, and it worked well on the grill, rubbed with a little bit of smoked paprika. Halibut or cod would probably be just as tasty.

While you’re preheating the grill, I highly recommend you throw some garlic scapes on. They crisp up deliciously and taste like a cross between roasted garlic and green beans. We snacked on them (just picking the whole scape up with our fingers) while the fish cooked, and we could have eaten handfuls more.

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My One and Only: Salmon with Soy-Honey and Wasabi Sauces

There are plenty of foods I’ll experiment with. I’ll tinker with tomato sauce, I’ll riff on risotto. But for me, no salmon recipe can unseat this one as my favorite. (I’ll admit, I haven’t yet tried Shiv’s Seduction Salmon with Honey Mustard.)

Before we moved to Oregon and became flannel-wearing Northwesterners, I don’t remember eating much salmon. As soon as we got settled, though, my mother was grilling it up (in the rain) with the best of them.

This recipe, for me, is the taste of home. It reminds me of my parents’ dinner parties, during which our little dachshund would attempt to steal a napkin from some unsuspecting guest’s lap and shred it to bits. (And then eat it, which was a pretty bad idea.) The salmon was served with a big salad and crusty loaves of bread, sometimes a dish of couscous with raisins alongside. Giant, thick filets of fish were consumed—even those who didn’t plan to take seconds always did. It’s hard to keep from licking up any remaining sweet soy-honey sauce from the plate. Whenever Matt and I travel west to see my folks, this is the dinner we request.

My mom has actually moved on to a new recipe, and that’s fine, but this is the one for me. If you have a grill, you can cook the fish quickly outside, but if you only have a broiler, that works just as well. It isn’t too smelly, I promise. Just be sure to leave it quite rare, like true Northwesterners do.

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The department of mycological affairs: Seared tuna with multi-mushroom ragout


The other weekend, we were lucky enough to wrangle a brunch invite from the Lovely A and her man B (huevos con migos cooked up by real live Texans? HELL YES!), and Bench and I were tasked with bringing along some fruit. So, we popped into one of my favorite stores ever, Union Market, to peruse their produce section. En route to picking out the fruit, my eye was caught by the mushroom bar.


Oh man, oh mercy.

They had mushrooms i’d never even SEEN before! Black trumpets! Hedgehog mushrooms! Mini chanterelles! They also had some of the most beautiful oyster mushrooms I’d ever encountered. Needless to say, I stopped in front of that display like I’d walked into a wall of glass. Bench, recognizing the symptoms, just handed me a bag, and with the acquisition of a gorgeous (if GIGANTOR) piece of yellowfin tuna, the evening meal was planned: Seared tuna with multi-mushroom-miso ragout.

I decided that miso was going to be a central flavor in this meal, and so I marinated the tuna in a slurry of red miso, rice vinegar, and sesame oil; the mushrooms were sauteed slow and low with miso, sake, garlic, and honey (low and slow is pretty much my watchword for mushrooms these days), resulting in a tangy, complex, meaty ragout. The tuna was cooked fast and high in my cast iron skillet, its simple seasoning an excellent match for the robust mushroom sauce.


Basically, this was a nice, quick weeknight meal elevated to gourmet ridiculousness with the application of a few specialty mushrooms; it will taste just as lovely with whatever mushrooms you happen to find at your local. This dish is not elitist! This dish does not judge!

Seared tuna with mushroom sauce

1lb nice tuna steak, cut into four portions

1lb mushrooms, sliced (any combination your heart desires! I used black trumpet, hedgehog, shiitake and oyster, but crimini, portobello, button white, or any other combination will work)
2 tsp red miso, divided
1/3c sake
1/4c seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil, divided
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, sliced

  1. Make your marinade: combine 1/2 tsp sesame oil, the rice vinegar, and 1 tsp miso in a zip top bag. Mix it thoroughly, add the fish and then refrigerate for up to one hour.
  2. Meanwhile, make your sauce: over medium-low heat, saute the garlic until it’s just aromatic. Add the mushrooms; stir until they’ve released their liquid.
  3. Add the miso and the honey. Continue to saute until the mushrooms have re-absorbed their liquid.
  4. Add the sake and stir until the sauce starts to thicken slightly. Reduce heat to low.
  5. In a well-seasoned skillet, heat the remaining sesame oil with the olive oil over high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade and pat dry.
  6. When the oil just starts to smoke, plop your fish down in it and cook for 3-5 minutes a side (turning once) until it reaches your favorite level of doneness. I like mine still flopping around, so I tend to find myself closer to the three-minute end of the spectrum.

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