Yesterday I drove to NYC and back in one evening- showing the apartment, and having a nice dinner at the Good Fork with friends who are planning their own restaurant- it’s nice to drive on empty highways, but arriving back home at 2 AM to find that I didn’t have my house keys and thus was forced to “sleep” in the Pilates studio so as not to wake my lovely wife was not the ideal finale to a tiring day. On the plus side, I had put a comforter in the car in case I wanted to sleep in Brooklyn and there is a nice mat on the floor which doesn’t make the world’s worst bed. On the minus side, there’s no no running water in the studio and I had left my toothbrush and paste in the apartment. In the morning, my breath peeled much of the paint before I made it outside.
While I was gone, though, my family went to the farmers’ market and picked up our fish order, which included a couple of gorgeous Branzino fresh from the Aeolian sea. Local, no- but sustainably caught and very tasty. We conveniently had a bunch of egg whites left over from making Milo’s birthday mousse, so I whipped them into stiff peaks and folded in a bunch of sea salt and herbs to make a good crust for baking. Thusly slathered, they went in the oven while I made a super-simple Ragout de Jardin™ of carrot, onion, garlic, celery, shallot, fennel, chard (and stems), and two kinds of kale sautéed in a bit of olive oil. I also steamed a celery root and some fresh-dug potatoes until soft, then puréed them with a bit of cream and yogurt until they got all silky and smooth.
The fish emerged from oven and crust with a delightful aroma and fleshy firmness; the salty skin lifted off like a lid to expose the perfect white meat beneath. I gingerly lifted it onto dollops of purée and garnished it with our home-grown bounty.
A little lemon-butter sauce might have been nice, but deglazing the vegetables with some wine gave them enough moisture to function adequately as a sauce of sorts- or at least an elegant foil to the fish. And the cream and yogurt in the purée added a nice heft to the sweet starch. There’s another whole cooked fish left over, so tomorrow I might make it into a salad of some kind- either for sandwiches, or as a topping for crostini to embellish plate of greens. We had another bottle of the 2005 Longval Tavel- it’s quickly becoming my wine of the moment, especially for these season-spanning meals; it’s nimble and elegant- served cool, but not cold, it has enough skin and age to cavort expertly with heartier fare- or with food like this, which screams (shaking a metaphorical, impotent fist at the mute heavens) “IT’S STILL SUMMER, DAMMIT!” despite all the evidence to the contrary.