Pike Place Market in summer reminds me of when I first moved to Seattle back in 1996. Can that possibly be 13 years ago? I’d never lived on the west coast, or in a place with mountains or even one with a major public market. Although I loved to cooked, I’d rarely cooked salmon or mussels, never laid eyes on a geoduck.
My formative years were in Michigan. I didn’t know that you could buy fish at a store. This was back before supermarkets felt compelled to offer everything, and the local Kroger in Davison didn’t have a fish counter.
But my dad was a fisherman. He used to say that they deducted time in heaven that you’d spent fishing on earth. Seasons were no obstacle. No matter the weather, we dragged our boat from Flint to some lake in search of fish. In spring, we huddled together under umbrellas in cold, pouring rain. In the summer, we fished until everyone was thoroughly sunburned. Winter brought ice fishing, with the family shivering together, staring at their lines dropped below the hole cut in the ice. For all of that, we had great reward – fresh fish.
As my brothers got older and had jobs, they fished less often. By her late teens, my sister chose never to fish, but instead lay across the stern of the boat in her bikini, trying to get tan. Eventually, we moved to Florida and that left just me and my dad and our two poles at the Rod n’ Reel pier together, chatting and fishing, staring at the warm, green water. We didn’t always catch fish then, but it wasn’t the point.
So when I go to the market now and I see the parade of all the fish, once exotic and new, I think of those days with my dad, and how I used to look into the water, wondering how all the fish breathed down there.
Yesterday, I picked out a nice hunk of fresh Alaskan halibut, and paired it with lemon risotto and simple sautéed fiddlehead greens. For the risotto, start with this recipe. Add about 2 teaspoons lemon zest and 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice plus a tablespoons of butter toward the end cooking. A couple tablespoons chopped parsley is a nice finish.
Spicy, garlicky planked halibut
If you’ve never cooked fish on a plank, give it a try. A friend here in Seattle introduced me to this method about a decade ago. You can read all about planking fish here, but here’s the short version. Most grocery stores carry planks now, or you can order online. Soak the plank or planks in water for at least an hour before grilling. Lightly brush the plank, put the fish on top, sprinkle on the seasonings. Plank grilling takes a bit longer than other cooking methods; allow for about 50% more time for the fish to cook. I used fresh halibut here, but any reasonably firm sweet fish as grouper, black cod or snapper would work. This is also a good recipe for salmon.
About 2 lbs. halibut or any dense white fish
½ cup of olive oil
2 teaspoons mixed Cajun spices
2 teaspoons mixed Italian herbs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, black pepper
Soak the planks for at least one hour. Prepare the coals. When ready, lightly dry the plank. Brush one side with a generous coat of vegetable or olive oil. Place the fish on top, skin side down. Sprinkle the Cajun spices, mixed Italian herbs, paprika and garlic over the top of the fish. Evenly sprinkle the fish with oil and lemon juice. Finish off with a generous dose of coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Put the plank on the metal rack over hot coals for about six to eight minutes per pound, or until the fish is hot in the center (about 160 degrees on a thermometer), or it flakes easily with a fork at its thickest point. Take care not to overcook the fish.