By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
‘Tis the season to be jolly.
No, not Christmas, Silly.
I’m talking about summertime: the season of garden-fresh vegetables, freshly caught fish and the smell of salt air slapping us in our grimy faces, sweat dripping down off our brows as we fight through the humid weather, our foreheads a bit muddy from wiping while we garden or mow the lawn. But I will take this over ice storms any day.
As I was recently in Central America, where they actually know the meaning of the word ‘muggy’, I am not about to complain. If you ever want to know what it is like to literally walk through water, just fly to Costa Rica and you will find out.
The mornings start out cooler, as the mountain air whisps down to meet the ocean, but once the sun comes up, all bets are off. While walking and hiking throughout the day, it will leave you withering head-to-toe. The mornings, though, are delightful on occasion.
Probably my favorite part of Costa is walking the beach on such mornings and seeing someone surf fishing with a roll of line and some bait. No rod, no reel. Just a spool of fishing line. In would come the sharks, and I was told that they would eventually find their way into the fresh ceviche in the roadside stands and open-air restaurants throughout town.
At one restaurant, Fuego in Dominical, the tuna was as fresh as it is here in Ocean City after the Tuna Tournament. I was content, as I can’t stand ordering tuna and then realizing that I am being served a frozen chunk of sub-standard fare. While frozen tuna has its place in the world, when it comes to this kind of dish or a seared steak or Tataki, it needs to be fresh.
While saying this, I must provide a food safety caveat. Legally, if we, as restaurateurs, are to serve raw or undercooked tuna, we need to warn our customers of the dangers of eating such foods.
They can contain parasites, and a little known fun fact is that the USDA has regulations in place requiring restaurants to freeze seafood for a particular length of time at various low temperatures to kill any bugs that might be living in the flesh.
Don’t believe me? Go online and look up “sushi worms” and have a fun afternoon perusing video after video. Just make sure to have a glass of wine and be sitting down. I’m just stating the facts, my good people. And yes, I still enjoy a nice big platter of sushi. The aforementioned worm thing is indeed rare, so I would not worry about it.
I think the diversity of fresh seafood is what I love the most about it. From searing to grilling, sashimi to maki rolls and Poke, you can do a great many things with fresh fish. The scraps can be used in seafood stew, Cioppino and the likes. And this time of year, there is plenty of it at the docks. Yes, this is the best season of all.
Cucumber Tuna Salad
1# FreshTuna, diced
8 oz. Fresh Salmon, diced (optional)
Fresh pickled ginger (recipe follows)
1/2 c. Soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Mirin
2 Tbsp. Rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Raw Sugar
2 tsp. Sesame oil
1 Tbsp. Sesame seeds
2 tsp. Korean pepper flakes
1 Cucumber, sliced on a mandolin
1 Lemon cucumber, same
1 c. Fava-wasabi puree (recipe follows)
Cilantro micro greens (or chopped
cilantro), as needed
1/4 c. Sliced scallions
1. Combine your fresh fish with the next eight ingredients. Do this up to thirty minutes before service, but not much longer if you can manage that.
2. Put some fava puree on the plate.
3. Top with the seafood concoction.
4. Garnish with the cucumbers, rolling if you like. For these, I do like to dress them with something like a simple vinaigrette, but that is optional.
5. Garnish with the cilantro and scallions. This pairs well with a crisp Riesling or an ice cold pilsner. Not a drinker? Try this with fresh limeade.
Fresh Pickled Ginger
makes 1 cup plus the pickling juice
1 c. Fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 c. Rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. Sugar, or to taste
1. Place the ginger in a clean and sterilized Mason jar.
2. Bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a rolling boil.
3. Pour over the ginger and cool.
4. Place the lid on the ginger and place in the icebox for at least one week. If you use a good quality vinegar, you will see that ubiquitous shift to pink hues in the ginger. That is a natural reaction.
This will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely.
Makes 2 cups
1 c. Fava beans, removed from pod
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp. Wasabi paste
2 ea. Roasted garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. EV Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the fava beans.
Cook for 3 minutes, and then drain.
2. Place in a blender with the juice, wasabi, oil and garlic cloves.
3. Blend until smooth, adding a touch of water or oil to make it a silky-smooth puree.
4. Season to taste and set aside until ready to assemble.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor of Culinary Arts
at Wor-Wic Community College and owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com.