But it just as easily could have been the balsamic-blood orange reduction sauce, into which we dipped grilled figs, cantaloupe and garden grown cucumbers, or the fantastic mango, tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil salad drizzled with a blood orange vinaigrette.
As they have for the past few years, my sister and brother-in-law came over from Chico this last weekend, to attend the Blues by the Bay Festival in Eureka and spend long leisurely hours with us so we could catch up with one another. This is a real treat for all of us; Cynthia and Mark get out of the Sacramento Valley heat and we all get to enjoy great blues at our small-but-mighty festival. The Festival runs both Saturday and Sunday. One evening we'll dine out and for the other we'll cook at home. Our culinary preparations of last night are the subject of this post. We ate ever so well and it was such fun cooking with my sister!
The steelhead (see note below) came to us courtesy of our dear friend Norm, who goes fishing on the Klamath River each fall with a group of very fun "fisher-guys", to quote my son Jeffrey's childhood vernacular. Norm and his buddies stop at our house for breakfast on their way back down to the Bay Area and he leaves us with a gift of steelhead, just out of the water. I've been holding it in the freezer for a special occasion, such as the one this weekend provided.
The fish plate is made by a friend and local potter, Marty Schwartz. It's a high-fired piece that can withstand oven roasting temperatures, then goes to the table for a visual treat.
Steelhead with herbes de Provence and fresh basil
2 boned steelhead fillets (if you're lucky enough to have a handy fisher-guy around)
1 1/2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
A few pinches kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
8 large fresh basil leaves, stemmed and left whole
Olive oil for the baking plate or roasting pan
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Rub a thin film of olive oil on the plate or roasting pan, large enough to hold both fillets.
Wipe fillets clean and place in pan, skin sides down.
Sprinkle the Herbes de Provence over both fillets on the skinless side only, pat lightly to adhere.
Lightly sprinkle each fillet with kosher salt and a few grinds of good black pepper (my favorite is Tellicherry).
Sprinkle the cubed butter over the fillets and lay the basil leaves over the top, pressing down lightly.
Bake in oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until flakey but moist when stuck with a fork.
(If you can't get your hands on steelhead, rainbow trout would be a good substitution. It would be best to have your fish monger remove the bones for you to make eating it more pleasurable and less work.)
Blood Orange Vinaigrette
juice from 2 blood oranges, about 1/3 cup
champagne vinegar to bring the liquids to 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon sugar
Very small pinch kosher salt
A few grinds good black pepper
2 teaspoons red raspberry vinegar, such as Kozlowski Farms , my favorite (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pour the blood orange juice into a glass measuring cup. It should measure 1/3 cup. Pour enough champagne vinegar into the measuring cup to make 1/2 cup total liquid. Add the sugar, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. At this point I added the raspberry vinegar to soften the taste just a bit. (You may or may not need to do this, but having red raspberry vinegar in your pantry is not a bad thing at all.)
Whisk in the olive oil but do not try to emulsify. This should remain in a "broken" state, in that the vinegars and oil will separate. Whisk again just before drizzling over the salad.
Mango, Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Fresh Basil
2 ripe mangos (organically grown if you can get them)
1 basket organic cherry tomatoes
1 carton small, fresh mozzarella balls (about 16 balls)
4 large leaves fresh, organic basil
Peel and slice mangos from pit.
Cut cherry tomatoes in half from stem to bottom.
Arrange on a platter with the mozzarella down the middle.
This can be refrigerated for about 1/2 hour at this point.
Just before serving, stack the basil leaves one atop the other then roll up together, beginning along the length of the leaves, cigar-style. With a sharp knife, slice the rolled up basil cross-wise into thin strips, starting at the leaf-tip ends. Sprinkle the basil strips over the salad ingredients and drizzle with the blood orange vinaigrette.
As I was prepping the blood orange vinaigrette, my sister sliced some of the left over orange rinds into thin strips, then covered them with about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar. I think we were both having the same thought when one of us suggested making a reduction sauce out of it. We weren't sure if it would be a better accompaniment to the fish or the figs, but the idea sounded wonderful and it turned out beautifully. Delicious as it was, per Cynthia's suggestion, the next time I make it I'll include a small amount of blood orange juice with the balsamic.
Balsamic Vinegar and Blood Orange Reduction SauceCut thin strips from one of the juiced blood orange rinds and place in a small, heavy saucepan. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar over the top, stir to blend and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Simmer gently until the sauce is reduced by 1/2. Be careful to not let this burn as it will turn bitter. Remove from heat and allow to cool before serving.
Here's the most artfully composed pile of compost scraps I've ever seen, courtesy of sister Cynthia.
A note about steelhead: While closely related to salmon, they are actually ocean-going rainbow trout. To read about them, click here and here.
Lastly, but in no way least (ly), with the use of both herbes de Provence and the fresh basil, I submit both the roasted steelhead and the mango, tomato, mozzarella recipes to Weekend Herb Blogging over at Kalyn's Kitchen, one of my favorite food bloggers.
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