Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Simple Pleasures : Fish

If you are blessed to live by the sea here in Nice, it pays to take advantage of the best outdoor markets  and fetch in some fresh ingredients and prepare a fish meal and "eat in". 

 I never learned to appreciate fish while  growing up.  My mother, who did the cooking hailed from Oklahoma and didn't know how to prepare them!    Even in San Francisco ,  some of the few fresh fish stalls were in the tourist area of Fisherman's Wharf, a place no self respecting resident wanted to go.   ( Now I hear that they have a great outdoor market in S. F.)

So when friends came visiting last weekend we decided to get up early and go to Liberation market up at Place Charles DeGaulle.  ( see an earlier post). 

  Once there, we headed for our favorite fish stand ( the one with the most customers) which is manned by a poet from Algeria.  This poet/fisherman has given monsieur two volumes of his poetry and according to him the fishmonger/poet is inspired. 

 But I digress. 

The best fish stall at Liberation has a variety:  farmed fish or fish caught daily either with nets or lines.  A fresh fish caught the same morning in the great majestic sea ....which spreads itself not five minutes from our doorstep.... is expensive (as is all protein these days).   But when you consider how much more expensive it may be next year, it may persuade you to splurge now.   And if you were to enjoy this quality of fish in a restaurant , the tab would be three times more costly or wouldn't be available at all. 

Our choice was soon settled on an exquisite specimen of sea bass (loup).  My friend, who is a seasoned and excellent cook,  had suggested that roasting the fish in its own juices and serving it simply with a salad and crusty French bread was what was needed.   I was eager to comply and learn.

Here is our beautiful boy weighing in at 2.7 kilos.

 We roasted the sea bass in a glass baking dish ...with the head severed but included in the dish (for maximum juices and to fit it all in).  We used fresh parsley and dried dill stems in the cavity and good olive oil drizzled over the "poisson"  and covered the top of the pan with foil.  The oven had been preheated when we put our "loup" in at #5 (275 C, 350 F.)

  It took about half an hour at this low temperature before the flesh came away from the spine.

 Here is the platter with three-fourths of the fish...  enough for four of us to enjoy second helpings.  We saved the rest to eat cold the next day.  And we saved Mozzi his piece, of course.

 Here is our accompaniment of fresh cherry tomatoes in olive oil with chopped parsley.  The secret to this salad was the quality of the olive oil and enough of it in the tomatoes for soaking up with bread. 

 A salad of fresh lettuces, a baguette and bottle of crisp white wine were all that was needed to complete our picnic on the terrace.  

I have to say it was a perfect meal.  Everyone was pleased.    The preparation was so basic that there was no hiding the quality of the fish .  Delicately roasted in its own juices, the sea bass was actually the best I had ever tasted.  

 So yes, we will be back to the Algerian poet quite soon.  I will read his "cahiers de Poesies" and sing his praises for both of his creative pursuits.....but  it will be his "gifts of the sea" that will be foremost on my mind.  


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