Along the Grapevine


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Escabeche de Walleye

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I don’t fish myself, but luckily I do have a source of locally caught walleye or pickerel. As I have been craving an escabeche for some time, my most recent ‘catch’ was used to make this dish of Spanish origin but also very popular in Latin America since the days of the ‘conquista’.

Originally escabeche was a way to preserve fish. Marinated in a mixture of wine and vinegar along with vegetables and spices which were removed after cooking, the fish could be kept for several weeks. Nowadays the ingredients are much the same, but it is not used so much as a method of preserving. However, the wine and vinegar keep working their magic and the dish improves after resting a couple of days. It can be served hot or cold, so is an ideal dish for the hot summer months.

Some recipes call for frying the fish first. I broiled it after coating with a fine spray of oil. This was not so much to save on calories as it was to avoid the hassle of frying and the fish losing its integrity.

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Many vegetables would go well with this dish, but I limited it to carrots and red onions for their colour. I used one habanero, although when I took the photo I intended to use two. One was nicely spicy but if you like it hot …

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This dish has an acidic flavour from the vinegar, and is also spicy, although feel free to up or down the heat according to your preference. I added mustard, cumin and sumac which are not traditionally used but worked very well with the fish.

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Escabeche


Ingredients

olive oil for frying

1 kg walleye fillet or other white fish

2 red onions, sliced

4 carrots, cut in thick strips

1 or 2 hot peppers, seeded and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp sumac (optional)

1 tsp chili pepper

1 Tbsp Dijon style mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine

salt and pepper to taste

hard boiled eggs and black olives to garnish

Method

Place the fillets on a broiling tray, spray lightly with oil and broil about 8 inches from the broiler until cooked through. Set aside.

Fry the onions in oil until soft. Add the garlic and chopped chilis and fry another two minutes. Add the dry spices and fry another minute. Add the mustard, vinegar and wine and blend completely. Add the salt, pepper and olives, cover, turn the heat to low and continue to cook until the carrots are tender.

Pour the vegetables over the fish in a casserole. You may put it in the oven and reheat for about twenty minutes if serving hot, or let it cool and serve at room temperature. Place a few halves of boiled eggs on top.

Leftovers can be refrigerated and served cold the next day or three.

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I am bringing this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday # 70, co-hosted by Dina @ Giramuk’s Kitchen and Molly @ Frugal Hausfrau. Hope everyone enjoys it!


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Spruce Tip Gravlax

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Last year at about this time I collected spruce tips, the new growth found on the end of the tree’s branches. I ground and dried some with coarse salt and some with sugar as described in this post. I have since used these ingredients in marinades, baking and even a salty caramel ice cream.

The problem with foraging is that some things are only available for a few days, and by the time I collect them, make a recipe and post it, it can be too late for anyone to use until the following year. So before the tips make their appearance, I decided to show another way to use this fleeting but worthwhile flavouring.

Having recently been treated to some gravlax (cured salmon) made with juniper berries a friend made, I thought of trying it with my preserved tips from last year. I followed my friend’s method for curing the salmon, substituting spruce for the juniper.

Spruce Tip Gravlax


Ingredients

1.5 lbs (approx.) salmon fillet with skin on

3 Tbsp spruce tip salt

3 Tbsp spruce tip sugar

1 tsp black pepper

Method

Mix together the salt, sugar and pepper. Cover the bottom of a dish with half the mixture. Place the salmon fillets on top skin side down and sprinkle the rest on top. Give it a little rub. Cover with plastic wrap and place a weight on top to press it down. A plate with something heavy on it works fine. I used a large stone. Place it in the refrigerator, and each day for five days turn the salmon. On the fifth day, uncover it and either wipe off the excess salt mixture or run it under cold water and pat dry.

Slice it very thin with a sharp knife. It will keep in the fridge for about a week and can be frozen.

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I served them on crackers with cucumbers to bring to Angie’s Fiesta Friday 66 this week, co-hosted this week by Anna @ Anna International. 

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Fish Pate with Toasted Almonds

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The only local fish I have been able to acquire has been walleye, sometimes called pickerel, which is why all my fish recipes so far have been on this one particular species. It is a freshwater fish, very versatile, with a mild flavour. That is why whenever a kind fisherman offers me some of his catch, I gladly accept it and try and create a new recipe to do it justice. Since I have been making pates and potted meats lately, I decided to try a fish pate – something I could use for quick meals and for serving guests on short notice. It is also a perfect party recipe to bring to the fiftieth Fiesta Friday event. DSC01615

Most fish pates call for smoked fish. I have yet to take up smoking, although a smoker is on my wish list. For the time being, I did add a few drops of liquid smoke, but the recipe does not require it – just an afterthought for those of us who like the flavour. I did find a recipe which resembled what I had in mind to start with, except with toasted almond slivers added which seemed a good idea in terms both of flavour and augmenting the quantity of the final product. Here is the recipe I referred to for fresh trout and almond pate. DSC01616

And here is my own recipe I used combining my own idea and the toasted almonds.

Fish Pate with Toasted Almonds

Ingredients

1 lb walleye

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

juice of one lemon

1/2 cup sour cream

1 Tbsp each of fresh dill and parsley

salt and pepper to taste

a few drops of liquid smoke to taste (optional)

Method

Poach the fish in a little water in a 350 degree oven until the fish is cooked right through. While this is cooking, brown the almond slices in a skillet with 2 Tbsp of the butter. Set aside. Once the fish is cooked, remove from the oven, pour off any liquid (and keep for some other use), cool and remove any skin and bones. Put the fish in a food processor along with the remaining Tbsp of butter, the toasted almonds in butter and all the other ingredients. Process until it everything is evenly blended. Pour into a serving dish and/or in jars to be frozen for later use. Serve at room temperature on crusty bread, crackers or with salad.

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Related articles:  https://alongthegrapevine.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/pickerel-in-grape-leaves-with-mushroom-zaatar-sauce/


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Pickerel in Grape Leaves with Mushroom Za’atar Sauce

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Pickerel, or walleye as it is often called here, is a fresh water fish common in North American lakes. It is the fish I might have caught had it been warm enough to go ice fishing, but given the small number of fishing huts in the area, I am not the only timid one. I did manage to find a good source of fresh, local fish which I’m sure is as good as any I would have caught. Besides, it came all cleaned and filleted. So this is my contribution to The Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday – seasonal, easy and wild.

This fish is a close relative of the pikeperch, so that could be substituted in this recipe, as well as any white freshwater fish. The other main ingredients are grape leaves and za’atar, and those are available in most areas. If you don’t have a stock of wild grape leaves in your freezer from last year, regular leaves are sold in jars in some supermarkets. Just be sure to rinse the brine off before using. If you don’t have za’atar, or the ingredients to make it, use any recipe for za’atar and replace the sumac with grated lemon zest.

Pickerel in Grape Leaves

1 1/2 lbs fish fillets

3 Tbsp finely chopped sweet onion

2 Tbsp za’atar

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp olive oil

30 grape leaves, approximately

Remove the skin from the fillets if there is any. I used the skin to make stock which I used later in the sauce. Just cover with some water and allow to simmer until you are ready for it.

Cut the fillets into pieces – some will already be small from the skinning process, but others can be about 2 inches long. Place them in a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients, except for the leaves.

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Lay two or three leaves on a flat service overlapping slightly. If the leaves are very small, you might need four – two if they are very large. Place a large spoonful (1/4 cup) of the fish mixture at the base of your leaf arrangement. Fold upwards once, tuck in the sides and continue to roll up. If grilling, it might be wise to secure them with toothpicks which have been soaked in water.

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If using an oven, place them in a casserole dish, brush with a little olive oil and garnish with lemon slices. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for about 1/2 hour.

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These can be eaten hot or cold. I’m thinking of making some next time I pack a picnic. Meanwhile, I served these warm with saffron rice and a mushroom sauce. No need for a sauce really, or you can make whatever kind you like. This is how the sauce was made.

Mushroom Za’atar Sauce

Fry about a cup of sliced mushrooms in butter until lightly brown. Make a roux with 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp flour (I used chestnut flour to  make it gluten-free), and 1/2 cup of fish stock. When the sauce has thickened, add the cooked mushrooms, 1 tsp of za’atar and salt and pepper to taste. Heat through and it is ready. This is a small quantity for two people, so just multiply it to get the amount you need.

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The grape leaves keep the fish from drying out or getting scorched if being grilled. They also add flavour to the delicate fish, and provide good packaging for any leftovers to be eaten cold the next day. There doesn’t seem to be any difference in flavour that I can detect between wild and other grape leaves, so just use whichever is convenient.


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Ice Fishing Hut on Sheffield Lake

I am thinking of taking up ice fishing. Especially when I am out on a frozen lake and the sun is shining, I think it is the quintessential Canadian winter pass-time and one I might actually be able to do. I think about bringing a lawn chair, a thermos of hot drink, bundling myself up, and then just taking in all the beautiful scenery around. I know there is more to it than that, but these the most important aspects.

This is the kind of set-up I have in mind, with chair, and sun.

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With the idea of doing a little research on the art of ice fishing, this past weekend I dropped by Beaver Lake where The Lakeview Tavern was hosting  their annual fishing derby. Beaver Lake is a popular spot for fishing, with several huts planted there for the season every year. Pike and pickerel are the fish most often caught here. I would be interested in foraging for these – from my lawn chair.

Before I start, I will need to acquire the following:

a fishing rod

some kind of saw for cutting a hole in the ice

bait

I interviewed two very kind men who were willing to break the silence by answering my questions. They had several holes and rods, and a lot of patience –  for fishing, I mean. I can understand the need for a hut on cold days like the ones we have been experiencing. This one looked very cozy.

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If the season just holds out long enough for me to get my gear together, I will join the fishing ranks this season.

Here is one of the successful participants in the derby with his catch.

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Fisherman Pat Lyman holding his catch of pickerel

Meanwhile, I do buy local fish when I can, and will post a recipe on cooking pickerel as soon as I get my next lot, by hook or by other method.