Fish finds its way to 'Victory Garden,' and goes 'Italian'

March 09, 1994|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Universal Press Syndicate

Probably the last place anyone would think to look for fish is in the garden -- until now.

"The Victory Garden Fish and Vegetable Cookbook," by Marian Morash (Knopf, $35), is a real find among the cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and zucchini.

Ms. Morash is no stranger to those who have watched the "Victory Garden" series on public television; she has been cooking on the show since 1977. She also is the author of "The Victory Garden Cookbook" (Knopf, 1982) A few basic recipes from that widely acclaimed book are included in the fish book "because they go so well with fish," she says.

"This book attempts to take the fear out of fish cooking," says Ms. Morash. "The more you use fish, the more you will realize how adaptable it is."

Ms. Morash sticks to fish that she can find in New England markets, but with many recipes she offers a number of substitutes. Alternatives to bluefish, for example, might be amberjack, mackerel and salmon.

The diversity of the recipes is quite marvelous: onion and anchovy tart, scallop and bok choy soup, grilled salmon and asparagus with pasta, roast swordfish and clams with cherry tomatoes and olives, lobster and chicken stew, and a shrimp and shallot curry.

The veggies definitely take a back seat, although the book's title gives them co-billing. Among the recipes Ms. Morash believes go well with fish are braised carrots and celery, corn pudding, macadamia nut parsnips, big baked onions, warm radishes with black beans, and hash brown new potatoes with garlic, parsley and lemon.

"Cucina del Mare: Fish and Seafood Italian Style," by Evan Kleiman (Morrow, $23), is another fish cookbook that may at first appear to be out of water. After all, who ever heard of fish being served at a pizza joint? But think about it for a moment: Italy is all but surrounded by water, and many of its major population centers are on a coast.

The recipes are, in the main, straightforward: spaghetti with crabmeat and herbs, warm shrimp salad with white beans, golden halibut with garlic puree, baked lobster in spicy tomato sauce, tuna with rosemary and white wine, and swordfish with an oregano crust. The latter has but five ingredients.

*

The following recipe is from "The Victory Garden Fish and Vegetable Cookbook." If cooking for more than one, cook fish and bananas in separate pans and increase oil and butter as necessary. Ms. Morash prefers sole fillets, but flounder or thin slices of salmon, swordfish or striped bass also work.

Pan-fried fillet of Dover sole with banana

Makes 1 serving

1 6-ounce Dover sole fillet

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small banana

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

Remove any bones from the fish and pat it dry. Make very shallow diagonal cuts about 1 inch apart on the skinned side of the fillet. Season with salt and pepper.

Peel the banana and slice it in half lengthwise. Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a saute pan large enough to hold the fish and banana in one layer. Add the fish and saute on one side until lightly browned. Turn the fish and add the banana to the pan.

Cook banana on both sides while the second side of the fish cooks to a light brown. Remove fish to a warm plate and place banana slices across fish. Wipe out pan, add 1 tablespoon of the butter, and brown. Pour butter over fish. Garnish, if you like, with 4 ounces each of cooked broccoli, carrots and boiled potatoes.

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This is from "Cucina del Mare: Fish and Seafood Italian Style."

Swordfish baked with pine nuts and currants

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

3 tender inner celery stalks with leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/4 cup currants, plumped in hot water

2 tablespoons pine nuts

10 green olives, pitted and torn in half

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 to 2 pounds swordfish steaks

2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Plump currants in hot water 20 minutes and drain. In a saute pan, cook the onion and celery in oil over moderate heat until very soft and they begin to take on a bit of color. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Add currants, pine nuts and olives to the cooled onions, and season with salt and pepper. Lay the swordfish steaks side by side in an oiled baking dish. Overlap tomato slices over the swordfish. Season with salt and pepper. Spread onion mixture over tomato-topped swordfish. Drizzle olive oil on top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the top layer of onions is a deep golden brown. Serve immediately.

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