During my last visit, which was just over one week ago, I had lunch at the Carnegie Deli for the first time. This restaurant is a New York establishment, with its 10 inch tall sandwiches and 2 pound per serving cheese cake. I had been told that no one ever finishes an entire sandwich, and I have to agree. I ordered the pastrami on wheat. Let me say, it was one of the most delicious sandwiches I have ever had. Very meaty (obviously) but also flavorful. More than the taste, however, was simply eating at an historic New York restaurant, where pictures of celebrities adorn the walls, where even the sandwiches have celebrity names. Don't get me wrong. I am indifferent towards the lives of celebrities, but the atmosphere forces you to acknowledge that IT is a celebrity.
In the Brooklyn borough, on Sutphin Boulevard, is the babel that is the Corner Fish Market. Here, you can find numerous varieties of fish, clams, crabs, and shrimp, all sea water varieties. On the Friday morning that we were there, the snow storm of the previous night forgotten despite the 10 inches that was melting to an inconvenient slush, our mission was oysters. My fiance and his relatives believe that oysters are best during the winter season. Consequently, all of our trips to NY during the winter months involves an intense home-made oyster bar featuring his father's highly-guarded, secret, spicy oyster sauce. The oysters aside, having been hand-selected by the professional - my fiance- my attention shifted to the beautiful red snapper, sea bass, butter fish, salmon, and king fish. Whenever I can, I buy whole fish to take back home ( they are cleaned and frozen in zip top bags.)
There was an impulse to purchase at least one of each variety, the same impulse a six year old in an ice-cream shop has to taste all of the flavors. Eventually, I decided on three types: the red snapper, the sea bass, and one that I have not tried before, butter fish - a small variety of a bright red color and similar in shape to the red snapper. If its name is any indication of its texture, I made a good choice.
Fresh fish reminds me of my childhood in the Caribbean. The smell of the ocean brings back such happy memories with my father and sister, building lopsided sand castles on the beach. Strangely, or maybe due to these early childhood experiences and the fact that the closest I have ever been to truly fresh seafood in Minneapolis was at the seafood counter of Whole Foods, those frozen zip top bags transport me to moments back in time when life was carefree and idyllic, and when all I looked forward to was the weekend at the beach. And if that were the only thing I can take back with me from New York, then I would still be happy. For what else do we truly own, if not our memories.
I bring back a lot more from New York though: an appreciation for my new life, for the arts, for good entertainment, good food, and for that I will always return.
Seared Red Snapper with Vegetables Julienne
4 fillets of fresh red snapper ( tilapia or other white fish)
2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less for spicy or mild)
salt and ground pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
2 whole onions
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 medium carrots
1 large twig fresh rosemary
1 twig fresh thyme
2 tsp fresh lemon/lime juice
1. Set saute pan on medium high heat.
2. Peel onions and slice thinly.
3. Seed and julienne peppers.
4. Wash, peel and julienne carrots. Place vegetables together in bowl.
5. Strip rosemary leaves from twig and mince finely. Add rosemary and thyme to vegetables. Thyme can go in whole; remember to remove the twig before serving.
6. Add 3 tbsp olive oil to saute pan and cook vegetables for 15 to 20 minutes until soft; stirring frequently to prevent burning.
7. Meanwhile, season fish with salt, ground pepper and pepper flakes. Sear in skillet over medium heat with remaining 3 tbsp olive oil. Cook on either side for 5 to 6 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Place cooked fillets on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
8. Once vegetables have cooked, toss with lemon/lime juice.
9. To serve, arrange a single fillet on serving dish and pile vegetables on or next to it. Pair with a white wine of your choice.