Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Dinner at Erika's: Pan Fried Catfish with Onions, Ginger, and Cilantro

This past weekend while in the Sacramento Valley, not only was I able to take many, many photos of my friend Erika's garden, which are being featured right now at Raven Ridge Gardens , but my husband and I were treated to one of her delicious dinners. Standing in her kitchen, wine glasses in hand, the four of us chatting as she made her preparations, the heady aromas that wafted through the air had me salivating in eager anticipation.

Catfish with onions, fresh cilantro and grated ginger, accompanied by nutmeg-coated steamed carrots and asparagus, created a visual delight on our plates. The juicy, perfectly cooked catfish was superb. A salad of cucumber, tomato and scallions that had been marinating in a divine dressing was at the side.

Erika is my dearest friend and a wonderfully creative cook. And when I asked if I could share her recipes on my blog, she readily agreed. Our meal was not only made from fresh, organically produced ingredients, it was soooo very good and simple to prepare. A whimsical bonus for me was that it was all low carb. Well, except for the deep, dark Valhrona chocolate we had for dessert and the delicious white wine we consumed. Sigh.

Measurements in the recipes below are approximate, as the lady cooks by intuition!

For the fish:
4 catfish fillets
1 onion, sliced
1/3 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
olive oil (Erika and I both use a Portuguese Saloio, available at Tuco's Wine Market and Cafe in Davis)
water or white wine
ground pepper
wedges of Meyer lemon at the table to squeeze over the fillets

Place olive oil in skillet (large enough to hold the catfish all at one time) over medium-low heat. Add onions and a bit of salt and saute slowly until onions are tender and caramelized. A small amount of water may be added to keep them from sticking to the pan. Meanwhile, grind pepper generously over one side of each fillet. (Erika likes McCormack Peppercorn Medley in a jar with its own grinder.)

When the onions are done, move them to one side of the skillet and lay the fish fillets on the bottom of the pan. Cover the fish with the onions, sprinkle with the chopped cilantro, the grated ginger, a bit of salt and place over medium to low heat. Add a small amount of water or white wine to the pan and cover with a lid, cooking the fish slowly until done. Remove from heat.
For the veggies:

1 pound young carrots, peeled and left whole
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
freshly grated nutmeg
salt to taste

Grate the nutmeg generously over the carrots, adding a bit of salt. Place carrots in a steamer pot and steam for about 10 minutes, add the asparagus on top of the carrots and continue steaming until both veggies are just tender.

Vinaigrette for the salad:
In a jar with lid, combine Meyer lemon juice and brown rice vinegar in a ratio of 2/3 lemon juice to 1/3 vinegar. Add at least 3 cloves pressed garlic, salt and pepper to taste and about 1 cup olive oil. Shake ingredients well to blend.
Pour dressing over cucumber and tomato slices and top with finely sliced scallions. Marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

An evening with my dear friend and her sweetie Bill is special enough. Pair it with fine food and it is richness beyond compare. What could be better than that?

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