Fish scares me. There I've said it. Well, that's not entirely true. I love seafood. Give me some cajun grilled calamari, a platter of sashimi (spicy tuna = mama mia!) or good old fish and chips, glistening with vinegar and I'm as happy as can be. But prepping fish myself? At home? Hmm. It's a bit scary.
I blame this on my mom (sorry mom!) who isn't the world's biggest fan of fish and hence didn't feel the burning need to prepare it often at home. In the past few years she's ventured out to cook fresh rainbow trout that she buys at the local farmer's market in their little seaside town, but that's about as adventurous as it gets. Don't even talk to her about calamari. It will get you an instant shun.
But I couldn't let my (mostly unfounded) fear get the better of me. So. I flipped through some cookbooks, not really looking for anything specific, when not one, not two, but three fantastic looking seafood recipes caught my eye. The first, sea bass flambéed with raki. Sounds pretty swanky right? Plus, wouldn't you know it, we have a bottle of Yeni Raki at home that was given to TheHusband by his granddad.* It seemed like fate. But I had no clue where to procure sea bass. Fail.
On to recipe numero duo: Prawn Curry. Now prawns was something I'd conquered my fear of before, so this felt a bit like cheating. Nevertheless, I added prawns to my shopping list. And then I saw this recipe. Intriguing looking skate infused with the flavours of the Middle-East. With my Middle-Eastern obsession, this was a no-brainer. And wouldn't you know it, our local grocery store had beautifully big, fresh skate wings on hand.
I'm not gonna lie. They looked somewhat intimating, commanding, nay demanding respect from their icy bed by virtue of their sheer size. But I forged ahead. Calmly asked the lady behind the fishcounter for "two large skate wings please". Trying to hide my nervousness from her who clearly had zero fear of seafood.
The rest, as you can see, is history. Back home, I heated up some olive oil, slapped the giant wings into my frying pan and fried briefly on both sides. Chop-chop-chop and in with the olives and preserved lemon peel (have I mentioned that I'm a preserved lemon slut? True story). A quick sprinkling of cilantro and my skate wings were looking pretty good! I blinked. This was way too easy. A trick perhaps? I will have to investigate and report back to you, my dear readers. In the meantime, why not whip a fear of yours into submission? After all, I've paved the way now.
*Cool granddad right? He was fascinated by all things Turkish, learning the language, visiting the country and writing to a Turkish penpal for years.
Skate with Preserved Lemon & Green Olives
(Hout Bil Laymoun M'Rakade Wal Zeytown)
Slightly adapted from Arabesque
Serve with garlic-y roasted asparagus or steamed baby potatoes, tossed with olive oil.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large or 4 small skate wings (approx 800g)
pinch of salt
juice of 1 lemon
peel of half a preserved lemon, chopped
12 green olives, stoned & chopped
a handful chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
For a spicier version, add garlic and a sprinkling of ground cumin and coriander to the pan, along with the lemon. Your tastebuds will be delighted.