Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tea for Two

What could possibly make fish healthier? Try fish seasoned with green tea salt.

I'd been reading "Bitten" again, Mark Bittman's NYT blog of all things foody. I had a discount coupon for seafood at a local store and he had an intriguing recipe featured for Broiled Fish with Green Tea Salt, so I decided to go buy some pricey fresh halibut and give that a whirl for dinner tonight.

Bittman states green tea powder is available in Japanese specialty shops, but admitted the difference between that and the result of grinding your own plain green tea was imperceptible. Hey - if Mark Bittman can't tell the difference, seeing as my husband and I have never tried it from a Japanese specialty store or otherwise - that was all the permission I needed to "grind our own".For our sides, I planned on scalloping turnips and roasting baby carrots from our CSA baskets. If you've read previous posts you know those are becoming standbys here, but they are delicious, we aren't tired of them yet, and since I was going in a new direction with the fish, I wanted familiar prep and timing for my other dishes. I supplemented our basket's baby lettuce salad mix with the addition of (ahem!, cough!) our own newly harvested Mizuna lettuce and baby onions from the garden.TaDAAAAAA!

Ok, ok, it's just lettuce and onions but it is lettuce and onions that we managed not to ki..., er, grew in our own back yard. You don't get much more local than that. And it is a Japanese mustard, which feeds into my Japanese green tea salt theme a little. So allow me my small smug moment. I haven't cooked the fish yet and I need to smirk while the smirking is good.

So far I have the carrots and turnips taking first turn in the oven. I have the salad made, the table set, and the fish is a lickety-split production of oil, broil, salt, and serve. This should take about 5 minutes of broiling, 2-3 minutes for plating and adulation/photography, and then dinner, she is served, people!

I'll report back on any interesting screw ups or developments later this evening, but in the meantime, I'll share my notes about the green tea powder.First of all, I was tickled to have another chance to use the extra grinder I bought for 4 dollars at my local resale shop. It took 4 green tea bags to produce a tablespoon of powder. I processed the tea leaves for two bursts of several seconds each, until the sound changed, indicating the grinding was complete.

A note of caution...if you are striving to make your own weaponized green tea powder, it floats like crazy, so exercise a little care when opening the grinder so you don't get a snootful. I am not saying this powder will hurt you or not. For all I know, inhaling green tea will let you live to be 100. But hypothetically, once you get a goodly amount of green tea powder up your nose, you might not be tasting anything else for an hour or so. Hypothetically.

After you have emptied the tea bags, be sure to carefully remove the seams and iron the papers flat.They can be reused as delightful little bouquet garni wrappers...naaaaaah. I'm just yanking your chain there. Sure, Martha Stewart probably paints hers and sends them out as sweet little thank you notes or something but I tossed mine into that drawer where I put everything I "might need" eventually. This served me pretty well when my kids were little. We had the greatest stockpile of artsy-fartsy supplies in the free world. Now that my kids are grown I can't seem to break the habit. Maybe someday I will be the coolest grandmother ever, art supply wise. But, back to our fish tale....

I am not sure if this will qualify as an interesting screw up to anybody who didn't share our evening meal last night, but I did in fact screw a couple of things up.

First off, I planned WAY too ambitious a meal for a Wednesday night. Wednesday night is choir practice for all you pagans and heathens out there who don't already know that every Wednesday night thousands of determined church lady types such as my own self head to their respective church to practice an anthem to sing in services the following Sunday. Little known fact outside church circles, "thou shalt have a choir and it shall practice on Wednesday" is the 12th commandment, coming right after "thou shall only change the order of service once every 150 years" and just before "thou shall only sing music written by white men who have been dead for 150 years".So I was pressed for time and this is my excuse for simply not throwing that fish back up under the broiler for another 3-4 minutes because, ladies and gents, my beautiful halibut came out after the specified time looking done but proving otherwise. In that scary midsection, the thickest portion of my filet? (cue scary music and off stage shriek) It was not cooked all the way through.

This is what shoves me away from fish, folks. If I undercooked a beautiful piece of beef a little I'm simply "gourmet". If I undercook fish however, I'm a goofball (unless it is tuna, which I inexplicably tend to overcook. Go figure).

I will say this. The parts of the filet that were cooked, tasted FABULOUS. The green tea salt was one of those complementary flavor combinations that elevated (the cooked portions of) the dish to a whole new level of yumminess. Why can you trust this assessment? Because if you look at this plated, you can't TELL it is underdone. I didn't have to 'fess up to my foul up. ..I may not be experienced with fish (yet!) - but I'm honest...

I will most definitely try this again when I am not heading out the door soon after dinner time and am not distracted by a time constraint. I probably should have paid better attention to Bittman's comment on Step 2 under "Method" where he wrote, "Total cooking time in a good broiler will be about 5 minutes.". Two operative terms there that should have caused a bell to go off in my head. First? A "good" broiler.

Our oven is old enough to order drinks in a bar. It is not awful at all, but it is no longer exactly in it's prime. I should have allowed for more time, which brings me to bell number two, "about" 5 minutes. I am beginning to learn that when a recipe states "about" followed by some time period, that means I need to watch the food and use my own best judgement about conditions on the ground here in terms of when something is ready to serve.

I got in a hurry last night and the price I paid was a less than ideal outcome. Again, what I am focusing on taking away from this is to keep working with fish so I learn enough and begin to trust my instincts rather than getting too literal with a recipe. The flavors were all there as promised, it was my confidence and common sense that were lacking. I have some of the flavored salt left and I'll keep you posted as to how I decide to use it up. More fish? Maybe this time, two's the charm.

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