Life is a Beach
Full disclosure: I am still on vacation! I got home from Europe, did a few loads of laundry, and hopped in my dad’s car the next day to meet my mom and sister at our favorite beach. We are camping in Cape May, NJ for the week to celebrate my Mom’s 50th birthday. This again has left me away from the blogging world and the kitchen, but normal posts will return soon enough! Until then, another story from my trip!
Life in a beach town has a much different rhythm. You wake up with no alarm, check the heat and humidity on the front porch before deciding to go running, and lazily stroll to the market to get your food for the day. You stop at the bakery for fresh bread, a street-side stand for produce, a butcher for meat, and another stand for fish. Most places are open all morning, but the fish stand is only open from 7am-10am, which we found out the hard way on our first attempt. They have buckets on ice filled with the catch of the day, and they sell out each morning. I couldn’t tell you what any of the fish at the market were that day because their names were all in Croatian, but you basically could not make a poor choice. All of the fish looked very similar – some just a little longer or shorter, thinner or fatter. We chose 3 medium-sized fish, figuring it would be the perfect ratio for individual portions without the tiny, dangerous bones.
After a day on the beach, we made a pit stop at an Internet cafe to get a little background in fish filleting and cleaning. Seriously, what did one do before Google? I read about how to take off the scales, which fins to remove, and how to gut and wash the fish. With a basic plan of action in mind, we headed home to start on our feast.
I sat out under the outdoor shower, fish and a few
sharp knives in hand. Realizing I didn’t quite have the proper equipment, I began to improvise slightly. I used a dull knife to take off the scales, a slightly sharper knife to get the fins, and a spoon for the insides. I decided against taking the bones out, figuring I would end up with lump fish meat instead of fillets. I was more than a little grossed out and will admit to a few girly freak out moments, especially when I was under attack from a swarm of bees (who knew they liked meat?!) But I got the job done! I finished rinsing them off and carried them inside.
I cut up some lemon wheels and stuffed those with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs inside of the fish. I then created a bit of a steaming device – I put a larger frying pan on the bottom and covered it with a slightly smaller pan on top. I let the fish cook for a few minutes on each side, watching what was left of the skin melt away in my improvisational set up. Once the fish was flaky and white, I took it away from the heat. I cut off the head and tails, and served what looked like beautiful fillets of fresh fish!
Alongside, I mixed some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers together with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper for my take on a traditional Eastern European salad. I also steamed up some cauliflower, and Azra made her version of her mom’s potato salad (some raw white onions, cooked potato slices, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper). The dinner was fantastic! The fish was tender and flaky, and it was easy enough to avoid the bones. The lemon and herbs perfectly enhanced the flavor without overpowering anything. And our volumes of veggies on the side were a nice fresh addition, and were especially appreciated after a severe lack of veg in Bosnian cuisine (more to come on that!) We fully enjoyed our 4th of July fish feast, but it might be a long time before I am running to fillet fresh fish again. I am willing to try almost anything once when on vacation, though!