When Baroness Tapuzina and I cooked dinner for a group of Israeli food bloggers last week, we didn’t know what we were getting into. It would be a nice change from meeting at a restaurant, we felt. A home-cooked treat. So we planned an elegant, not-difficult menu, and confidently met in my kitchen about 5 hours before the bloggers were expected to arrive.
Come hungry, we’d told them.
We tied our aprons around our waists and began. Chop and stir, measure and grate. Solemn discussions in my narrow little kitchen as we consulted recipes, bumped into each other, searched for ingredients hiding in weird corners, snatched reductions off the fire before they simmered away to nothing. Anyone snooping in the work area could have heard things like,
“Dammit, where’d I put the walnuts?”
“Oh God, the fish is still frozen!”
“I need to sit down.”
Actually, we worked well together. Although time sped towards dinner, we had everything in hand and kept our sense of humor over the inevitable last-minute mess-ups. It was good to depend on a good friend. We had a helper in the Little One, who washed dishes and set the table. Later, she helped waitress, too. We’re firm believers in child labor here.
Our reward for the planning, shopping, and kitchen work was that the bloggers just about licked their fingers. And we were extremely lucky in having Irene Sharon Hodes, who is a professional wine steward, look the menu over in advance and match the each course with an appropriate wine. She lead discussions throughout the meal, comparing each wine to the previous tastings and explaining why it paired with the current course.
The main dish was grilled, marinated fillet of sea bass. There were some changes to the original recipe. It calls for limes and lime juice – not available here, so we used lemon. We substituted a little cayenne for the original 2 tsp. jalapeños, as not everyone tolerates lots of chili. And since we needed twelve portions, we tripled the recipe. It all worked out deliciously.
Irene’s choice of wine for this fish was an oaky, Israeli, Galil Pinot Noir.
Grilled Fish in a Spicy Lemon Marinade
4 firm, mild white fish fillets such as grouper, sea bass, flounder, cod or halibut, each about 6 oz.
Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper flakes
2 tsp. grated lemon or lime zest
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon or lime, quartered (optional)
1. Place the fish fillets in a nonaluminum container and season lightly with salt.
3. Rub the paste evenly over both sides of each fish fillet. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or for up to 4 hours. (We marinated 2 hours and it was great.)
Cooking Method: We lined a shallow baking pan with baking paper and placed the fish, with its marinade, in it. Popped the whole thing in the fridge for 2 hours. About 15 minutes before we needed to serve, we heated the oven grill and grilled the fish in there, without turning it over, for 10 minutes. Grilled this way, a certain amount of sauce formed in the baking pan, which we spooned over the fish as we served it. Very delicious! Make sure to have plenty of fresh bread on hand to mop it up.
The original instructions are as follows: Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Season the fish fillets with salt again. Lightly oil the grill or grill pan. Grill the fish, turning once, until opaque throughout when pierced with a knife, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Transfer to warmed individual plates. Serve immediately with lemon or lime wedges, if desired.