And with it comes all that is bright, fresh and yummy. Walking through the aisles of Montclair’s weekend farmer’s market, it was very exciting to see the spring in full bloom with vibrant vegetables and fruits. I was like a kid in a candy store – grabbed a huge bunch of things – fresh snow peas, bundles of asparagus, strawberries and much more!
With a creative spirit and my seasonal discoveries at the market, a beautiful menu came together. Check out my inspirations from Spring!
At the culinary school, I got my hands into anything and everything – be it filleting a fish, boning chicken or meat, shucking oysters or cleaning a squid. To my surprise, I really enjoyed doing all those dirty jobs, except cleaning of the squid (I did one for the learning experience but thankfully, I can get cleaned ones from the market if I want to make them at home!). In fact, I had so much fun filleting a whole fish that I was the only one in my class who brought one home for practice
So, my Spring-inspired menu was designed around this beautiful fish.
I pan fried the fish fillets with just salt-pepper seasoning and served it with a hot & sweet relish (a family recipe handed down to me by my mom) made with green mango and red onions over a bed of cumin-scented basmati rice cooked with cilantro and green peas. On the side was one of my favorite vegetables – asparagus, sautéed with lemon and thyme.
Pan-fried Black Bass
For two fillets
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
freshly ground black pepper
2 (6 to 8-ounce) fillets black bass or any other firm white fish, (skin on or removed according to your preference)
Green Mango and Onion Relish
Makes about a cup of relish
½ green mango, roughly chopped (about ½ cup)
1 small red onion, roughly chopped (about ½ cup)
1-2 dry red chillies or ½ -1 tsp red pepper flakes (you can vary the amount of heat to suit your taste)
1 tbsp jaggery (see Concoctions 101 for more info), crushed or powdered (you can substitute it by using about 2 tbsp raw/brown sugar)
3-4 sprigs of cilantro (including stems)
Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor or blender and process till everything is mixed well and the mixture is of coarse consistency.
Cumin-scented Basmati Rice with Green Peas
I usually make this cumin-scented basmati rice rather than serving plain steamed rice. To enhance its flavor and give it my signature twist, I often add different herbs, like the last time when I added dill or like this time, I cooked it along with the fresh English peas that I got from the farmer’s market.
Follow the same recipe for Cumin-scented Basmati Rice with Dill. Stir in about ½ cup of fresh or frozen peas along with the rice and follow the steps.
Also, skip the dill in the last step.
Sautéed Asparagus with Lemon and Thyme
12-15 fresh asparagus stalks, bottoms trimmed and stems cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1-2 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
½ lemon, juiced
freshly ground black pepper
In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt butter or heat the oil. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 secs and then stir in the asparagus. Continue to sauté for 3-4 minutes or until it’s bright green and tender but firm to the bite.