Satan’s Computer and Poached Perch

Due to various extenuating circumstances, such as the Satan-possessed technology in our house that was miraculously recovered through the noble efforts of Linksys Wireless and BellSouth Tech Support, staffed by Marvin I-sound-like-the-Paranoid-Android and a very nice man I know only as Charlie, the following post has been delayed until just now. In the interim all hope of calabasa soup was abandoned in favor of dinner out, which consisted of a martini, wine, and some food. Fred’s art show was also put up and looks great. Now he just needs to sell everything in it to make less than a convenience store manager. But we are not bitter.

Moving along . . . .

Fred and I went to the Farmer’s Market yesterday to lay in our supply of vittles for the week. In passing I should add that the Farmer’s Market is not what you think. There are no overall-clad, wizened men in baseball caps sitting outdoors on the backs of their pickup trucks, or farmers of varied national origin sitting in booths behind piles of carrots, corn, and tomatoes. I have yet to see a single farmerly person there. It’s basically a warehouse with vegetables, meat, bread, dairy, wine, and beer, but no household products (toilet paper, dishwashing liquid, hair spray, etc.). The Market’s motto is “Bringing the World of People and Food Together,” and certainly it has brought me in contact with many foods I had never met before.

Friday’s new acquaintance was calabasa, which is a pumpkin-like squash with a green rind from the Caribbean/Mexico. I’m going to make a soup with it with some hot Italian sausage—we’ll see how it goes.

When we got home I scooped the seeds and flesh out of the calabasa (it was already halved), put some olive oil in it, and stuck it in the oven at 350 (which in my oddly slow oven means 400) for what probably should have been about 30 minutes to an hour but which ended up being closer to 3 after Fred and I started watching a Bob Newhart DVD and lost track of time and I started to notice a smell from the kitchen.

Luckily calabasa appears to be quite a hardy or perhaps hard to cook food, so I still don’t know how long you should really allow to prepare it. But after 3 hours in the oven it was soft, with only a little burned juice that had leaked out around the edges, and it tasted pretty good—like pumpkin—so I scooped out the cooked flesh and put it in the fridge for later.

I also washed the flesh off the seeds and roasted them this morning, but that experiment did not end so happily. I have a yummy recipe for spiced nuts and thought it might be good to use the spice mix for the calabasa seeds—oil, cumin, cayenne, sugar, and salt. It seems, though, that to get the oven hot enough to roast the seeds you end up with blackened sugar. Next time I’ll just use salt and olive oil to roast and add the spice mix afterward.

As for last night, we had Poached Perch. The idea came from a very briefly viewed Internet recipe for poaching mackerel. My only memory was that it had garlic and lime juice and that it was vaguely foreign. When I started cooking it last night the garlic and lime juice made me think, “Mexican,” which then led to thoughts of adding chipotle peppers that were mercifully ended by the sudden recollection that GINGER was the big thing involved in the Internet version. So I went Asian with the whole thing. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Saute 1 medium chopped onion in about 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-iron skillet with a cover
  2. Mince 4 cloves garlic.
  3. Salt and pepper fish in casserole dish. (We had 4 perch filets, but any white fish would do.
  4. Mix in a bowl (oh, lessons learned—do not just start dumping things on the fish but mix first) about ¼ cup fresh lime juice, garlic, red pepper flakes to taste, grated ginger (2 tbsp??—I use the “fresh” grated ginger you get in a jar, not the dried stuff, as if there is some real food snobbery in that), and a few dashes of soy sauce. Make a little more than you think you’ll need and save a teaspoon or so for the salad dressing below.
  5. Put a little water to cover the bottom of the pan (maybe about ¼ inch) and bring to boil. Nestle fish in the bottom, turn to simmer, cover and cook until a knife placed on the fish goes down into the fish without much pressure—maybe 5 – 10 minutes. (I do remember the knife tip from the Internet recipe.)

I served this with a light salad consisting of Boston red lettuce and a dressing consisting of about 2-3 tbsp sesame oil and about a tsp of the above mix. I salted the lettuce after dressing it.

Fred and I were quite happy with this and ate two filets each while watching Bob Newhart.

I’m rightfully disturbed that I am now over 40 and spending Friday nights watching 1970s TV.

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