I had no sablefish for lunch or dinner when I was growing up – but I did have sunshine, and summers, and fishing trips like nothing else I’d ever experienced. As a child, I would go fishing on the lake near my aunt and uncle’s countryside retreat almost every day all summer long. Fishing was super exciting to me and my niece, and my uncle was all too happy to support our nail-biting fishing competitions. Who had caught more? Who’d been the fastest? It was all up for grabs, in the middle of summer. 🙂
The fishing expedition would start late in the afternoon, since mid-day sunshine was deemed unsafe for our young skins. Our uncle would get his small boat ready for the trip, his moves followed closely by the swarming dragonflies looking for shelter from the heat. Once we got into the water and boat paddles started making waves in short rhythmic fashion, we would enter a special world, populated by flora and fauna which were as mysterious and they were spellbinding. Our uncle would stop the boat in the middle of the lake, and he would give us our fishing rods with hooked live worms. All three of us would then go silent, waiting for the fish to bait. Inevitably, after a while, my niece and I would grow tired and restless, and then our uncle would surprise us with a healthy sweet treat: a cantaloupe! He would slice it right there in the boat, and he would give each one of us a slice, and then another, and another. Can you imagine the sense of freedom and excitement we were experiencing while eating fresh cantaloupe in the middle of the lake at sunset, with sweet juice trickling down our chins? Can you see the beauty and magic of the moment, as we saw it as children, back in the day? Those times were truly something to behold…
These beautiful memories came back to me recently, upon receiving the latest subscription box from Sitka Salmon Shares (SSS). As you know by now, I am a big fan of this company and of its unparalleled commitment to sustainability, mindfulness, and overall human and environmental wellbeing (you can check out my previous SSS reviews here and here).
The subscription I received for the month of June included wild Alaskan sablefish (aka black cod). The fish was inside a sturdy box labeled with the name of the fisherman who had caught it, in line with Sitka Salmon Shares’ commitment to transparency from catch to table.
For reasons which escape me, the sight of the beautiful fish packaged inside the Sitka box reminded me of my childhood fishing adventures with my niece and uncle. I was reminded of the luxurious green lake vegetation, of the mild wind making our boat tremble, of the cantaloupe juice running down my chin, of things I hold near and dear to me. The next step became clear: I wanted to honor these memories.
I decided to make a salad, and to use the fresh herbs in my harden extensively to recreate the appearance of lush lake vegetation. I had also read on Sitka Salmon Shares’ website that sablefish/black cod had a higher fat content than king salmon, and I was hoping the intense herbaceous flavors would be the perfect elements to counterbalance the richness of the fish.
The fresh rosemary in particular seemed very promising. Such a vibrant aroma and a delicious taste!
I left the sablefish to marinate in the fridge overnight in a mix of vegetable oil and chopped rosemary, parsley, and thyme.
The next morning I started working on my vinaigrette. I decided to make a rather assertive lime-based vinaigrette (1 part freshly squeezed lime juice to 2 parts vegetable oil).
I also decided to add crushed pink peppercorns – I just love their sophisticated floral flavor!
My vinaigrette was brimming with a mix of fresh herbs similar to the one I had used to marinate the fish.
No ordinary greens seemed to me to be able to fully capture the look and spirit of my fishing trip adventures. My original pick was pilewort (a favorite plant to eat while growing up) – unfortunately, however, finding it at the local grocery store was “mission impossible.” I ended up choosing the rather more accessible watercress – with its peppery bold flavor and delightful crunch, it seemed to be the perfect pairing for the rich, luxurious sablefish.
I also used tiny tomatoes, sweet jicama for texture, and at the last minute a few cremini mushrooms to add a symbolism of peaceful coexistence of earth and water on the plate.
I felt I took a gamble adding cantaloupe to this dish. I had never tried sablefish with cantaloupe, and I was afraid the latter would be way too sweet, and might even render the dish inedible. I just couldn’t help it, though: in order for my childhood memories to be fully brought to life, cantaloupe had to be present.
And here it was, basking in the sunshine: the fish “hiding” behind luscious vegetation, bathing in a lime vinaigrette, with cantaloupe added – the childhood experience rendered complete.
No other dish I created recently has made me so happy 🙂
The luxurious, buttery fish benefited from the inclusion of herbal elements, with rosemary adding a distinctive layer of aromatic enchantment. Furthermore, the delightfully crunchy and peppery watercress cut through the richness of the fish, providing an oasis of freshness in tandem with the lime-based vinaigrette. Just when you thought you’d seen it all, the superb fruity sweetness of the cantaloupe came out of nowhere to establish itself as one of the most persuasive and important elements of the dish. Indeed, the fish and cantaloupe worked together perfectly!
This sablefish and watercress salad was immensely satisfying. It was a triumph of flavors and presentation, an example of cheerful summer ingredients talking to each other in one single cohesive dish. It was a beautiful example of unity in multiplicity.
You can join Sitka Salmon Shares to recreate this dish, to eat healthier, to feel better, and to be a part of a greater goal. The high quality of the fish you get in return for your membership has to be experienced to be believed. Join SSS now and get $25 off any share – just use code CLP at checkout! This code expires September 19, 2020.
I had an amazing time cooking with Sitka Salmon Shares sablefish and creating this dish for myself and my family. Upon receiving my SSS subscription I developed a desire to reenact my childhood fishing experience on a plate, and my wish became reality. Moreover, thanks to Sitka Salmon Shares’ incredible quality seafood, my days gained a new meaning. The past started talking to me in new and exciting ways, and I let myself get carried away by it, rendering it complete, and doing justice to my uncle, to his love for us, to his fisherman’s charm. This has been a marvelous experience for my heart and mind. One piece of fish, one dash of herbs, one ball of cantaloupe at a time – this is happiness, pure and simple 🙂
Sablefish and watercress summer salad
- 1 10-12oz sablefish/black cod
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tsp crushed pink peppercorns
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil + extra, if needed
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 bunch watercress, stems removed and cut into medium size pieces
- 2 tbsp small balls of cantaloupe
- 2 tbsp mini/cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp jicama, cut into small cubes
- 3 small cremini mushrooms, halved
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Make a marinade in a medium size bowl with 1 tbsp oil and half of the parsley, thyme and rosemary. Leave the fish to marinade in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Make a vinaigrette in a small cup with the remaining chopped herbs, pink peppercorns, 4 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp lime juice. Add salt to taste and mix until well combined. Set aside.
- Take the fish out of the marinade and pan-fry in about 1 tbsp oil over medium heat for 3 minutes on each side, turning once during cooking. Take out of pan and set aside. Place the mushrooms in the same pan, add salt and pepper to taste, and gently pan-fry for about 1 minute, adding oil if necessary. Take out of pan and set aside.
- Arrange the watercress on the serving plate. Place the fish on top. Place the tomatoes, jicama, mushrooms and cantaloupe over the fish and watercress. Pour the vinaigrette evenly on top of the salad. Serve warm.
*Disclaimer: While I received a complimentary tasting to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.