Blog - Fish
Hang out with us long enough and you will no doubt taste our whisky-cured gravlax at some point. We make this simple delicacy at least once per week and use it in a number of ways: on bread with avocado puree and a dash of flax seed oil, on mini savory olive oil scones as an apéro item, inside wraps using lavash or tortillas with plenty of avocado and sprouts, on whole wheat Irish soda bread, on buckwheat blinis (pancakes), on salads…or simply sliced and enjoyed naked (not us…just the food).
The juicy texture and fresh aromas coming from the orange and herbs marry with that unmistakable hint of smoky whisky to create a taste sensation which has, quite frankly, replaced our fondness for smoked salmon.
Since changing my diet about three years ago to a whole food, plant-based diet – including fish (I call this a pesca-vegan diet), I have really enjoyed creating dishes which replace some of my old favorites. To my utter surprise, these new creations are often far tastier than the older versions which were usually loaded with butter, cream and probably some kind of meat product. I have come up with ways to cook with less fat, or replace the meat-based fats with excellent quality olive oil.
This dish replaces one of my old standby favorites of green beans, onions and bacon. I wanted to create something similar when I came up with this idea, and the thought of using roasted sweet onions to increase the sweetness lost from the butter was obvious to me. Replacing the smoky flavor and crunchy texture of the bacon was less obvious. Almost by accident one The notion of using hot smoked salmon to provide the smoky flavor just came to me one day as I peered into the refrigerator. It was an excellent choice and worked perfectly in combination with the sweet onions and green beans…except the textural thing of course, which I continue to work on!
1 large Spanish onion
ground fennel flowers
300 gr. fresh green beans
250 gr. hot-smoked salmon
Slice the onion in half, remove the root attachment, then slice the onion into thick slices. Season with salt and coat well with olive oil. Add the ground fennel flowers (you can also use ground fennel seeds or ground cumin if you can’t find the fennel flowers) and mix well. Place on a large baking tray and put into the top part of a pre-heated 230°C oven with top heat. Grill the onions for 15 minutes…remove and toss about a bit, then put back into the oven for another 10 minutes. The onions should be a bit black around the edges and most of the water will have evaporated.
Prepare the green beans by snipping off the ends and washing well. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a good portion of sea salt to the water after it reaches a boil, then plunge the beans into the water. Boil for about 3-5 minutes – the beans should remain slightly crunchy. Remove the beans and place on a plate to cool.
To put everything together, heat 1 dl. of water in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the beans and onions and toss well. Once the water has evaporated, season with a bit of sea salt and about 1-2 Tbl. of olive oil. Break apart the smoked salmon into large chunks and add to the pan. Heat just long enough to take the chill out of the salmon. Serve right away.
I really enjoy eating salmon. It remains one of my favorite foods because it tastes good, it’s healthy and you can prepare it a number of different ways. Salmon, however, is often over-cooked and tastes very dry. This method of slow-roasting salmon produces a succulent and tender fish…perfect for warm summer evenings. It is delicious served at room temperature with a lemon vinaigrette…or simply scented with a few herbs and a drizzle of very good olive oil. The velvety salmon will pair well with crunchy vegetables such as sautéed celery.
One other interesting alternative is to wrap the salmon filet in a fig leaf or banana leaf before slow-roasting…the leaf will impart a coconut-like flavor to the salmon.
fresh herbs (use thyme, wild fennel or tarragon)
500 gr. salmon filet, with skin-on
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Oil a baking dish and cover the bottom with a layer of fresh herbs. Place the seasoned salmon skin side down on the herbs. Oil the top of the salmon, lightly season and bake at 120 degrees C for about 30-40 minutes. The salmon should be just set. If the salmon starts to bleed white fat, it is done…in fact probably a bit too done!
The first dish I made while working for Angelo Cabani in his highly acclaimed Locanda Miranda restaurant was his special Ligurian-style fish soup. What a magical culinary experience – being taught by a great chef who opened his restaurant in the same year I was born…and I’m not so young. It is also a recipe which continues to touch my inner soul in surprising ways.
Angelo’s soup recipe I made that day is actually a variation on the famous Cacciucco alla Livornese, a Tuscan town about an hour south of my Ligurian base. The classic cacciucco is more a stew than a soup. It is filled with various types of seafood and fish and flavored with an intense fish broth, tomato concentrate, onions, garlic and a bay leaf. The traditional presentation also includes a large chunk of garlic bread at the bottom of the soup bowl, which soaks up the tasty juices.
I ate cacciucco during my first visit to Livorno last year in a modern restaurant located in the canal zone of the city. I was excited to finally taste the soup which defines Livornese cooking and reminded me so much of my working days with Angelo. But I was very surprised when the ‘soup’ arrived served on a large plate and piled over a mound of couscous.
Couscous…what was the connection?
Buying fresh fish in Switzerland is not as easy as one may expect. First of all, much of the fresh fish available has been filleted and the skin has been removed, erasing most of identifiable characteristics. So there goes all of those handy tips on buying fresh fish like checking the eyes, gills and skin.
So what is that piece of fish sitting in the ice? Is it a fresh water fish or salt water fish? Is it white and delicate or blue and oily? Is it wild or farm raised? Is it endangered…or perhaps mass-produced and frozen?
Oh the questions…and I haven’t even broached the subject of fish names!
Some of the available fish in Switzerland share the same English name…so that’s easy. Others, though, use the French name, Italian name or – and this is lots of fun – some sort of hard-to-pronounce-tongue-twisting Swiss-German name which doesn’t appear to have any word root whatsoever!
Sure, it may be easy to point-and-order at any fish counter…or maybe even ask the fish monger a question or two about the fish – something I would encourage. Perhaps you may even be tempted to discreetly pull out your iPhone and quickly access Google Translate…hmm!
Or, you could simply use our handy fish translation table for saltwater, fresh water and shellfish varieties in four languages.
Finally…and only because this is fun. Try your hand at this dandy little German tongue-twister…
Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische
Frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritz
Enjoy your fish…