Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking back at the solstice

Well, this week's Dark Days Challenge was a wash. Between visiting friends and rushing around and eating out, I didn't do very much cooking. With my favorite farmers' market closed for the holidays (two Sundays in a row!), I have gone out of my way to visit other markets, but even then, there were less vendors and therefore less variety. So for the fifth installment, I'm looking back at last week, to the meal I made to celebrate Yule, also known as the winter solstice.

There are eight neo-pagan festival days, called sabbats, which happen throughout the year. I especially love celebrating these days because they mark the changing of the seasons, which allows me to truly appreciate what is happening right now (in nature, with the weather, and with local produce) and gets me excited about what's soon to come. When I cook on these days, I typically turn to a cookbook called Cooking by Moonlight (out of print, unfortunately). Because neo-paganism emphasizes seasonality and taking cues from our natural surroundings, this book really speaks to the way that I like to cook, using seasonal, organic ingredients and putting together ingredients in a mindful way. For the solstice, I decided to make Orange-Marinated Rockfish over Warmed Spinach with Walnuts with Thyme Smashed Potatoes.

The original recipe called for salmon, but H&H Fish at the market was selling Monterey Bay-caught (60 mi) rockfish, also known as rock cod, at a reasonable price. I brought the ziptop bag home and marinated the fish in a mixture of juice from oranges from Rojas Family Farms (190 mi, just outside my foodshed — d'oh!), Meyer lemon juice from a friend's tree (11 mi), and a little sage honey from the Golden Comb (110 mi). Then I baked it in the oven and served it on top of some sauteed spinach from Tomatero Farms (40 mi) with walnuts from a vendor whose name I forget (so I can't look them up right now), with a little more of the citrus sauce drizzled on top. On the side, I made smashed Yukon Gold potatoes from Happy Boy Farm (40 mi), seasoned with Strauss (90 mi) milk and butter and thyme from my garden. The original recipe called for dill, but I don't grow that particular herb and didn't have any locally-grown on hand.

The meal was a really nice way to celebrate the return of the sun and to welcome the longer days ahead. The full recipes are after the jump.

 Orange Marinated Rockfish
(adapted from Karri Ann Allrich's Cooking by Moonlight)

2 rockfish fillets (or salmon or other fish of medium thickness)
2-3 oranges
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp mild-tasting honey

Zest an orange until you have 1 tbsp of zest. Peel the orange, and pull out the sections, cleaning away the pith and seeds. Juice the other oranges until you have 3/4 c of juice. Combine the zest, orange and lemon juices, and honey to make a marinade. Pour half of the mixture into a shallow dish. Place the fish fillets into the dish, turning to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and marinate up to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Roast the fish in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness. Meanwhile, pour the remaining marinade into a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer, stirring, until it begins to reduce and thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the orange sections.

To serve, place a fillet on a plate (or bed of spinach, recipe follows) and spoon the reduced sauce over top.

Serves 2.

Warmed Spinach with Walnuts
(adapted from Karri Ann Allrich's Cooking by Moonlight)

1/2 lb. of mature spinach, such as the Bloomsdale variety
1/3 c walnut pieces, lightly toasted

Wash the spinach thoroughly. In a large pan over medium-low heat, place the wet spinach, and allow to wilt. Season with salt and pepper (and, if not restricted by lack of local availability, add a little sesame oil and balsamic vinegar). Toss with walnuts and serve.

Smashed Thyme Potatoes
(adapted from Karri Ann Allrich's Cooking by Moonlight)

1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks
2 tbsp butter
1/4 c whole milk
2 tsp fresh thyme

Place the potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and gently smash them with a masher or fork. Add the butter, milk, thyme, salt, and pepper.

No comments: