A Fishy tale

S and R were are in town this weekend, R being here for work and S making the drive to visit!

So, upon confirmation that they would be up to a dinner party, I sent out a small invite – I can only seat 8 so I have to be very choosy! S+H, C, and L were able to join us and bring some fabulous food with them to complement the basic meal I had prepared.

I love to cook.  I always have.  I don’t do it very often, due to a myriad of excuses, so when I have the opportunity to feed a few people, I embrace the challenge wholeheartedly!

We were gifted with some rainbow trout this September, and I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to cook it, as there were three headless “dressed” fishies in my freezer.  I had some recommendations on how to bake the fish, more than one suggesting the use of coarse salt.  So online I went, and found this one !  I printed it off and went shopping for the coarse salt – the main extra ingredient required to make this very simple yet amazingly tasty dish.

But I am jumping ahead!

When the first doorbell ringing started, R+S arrived with some beer and wine in hand and a fruit salad tray. Mmm dessert will be healthy and simple – the way we are trying to eat these days!

Next S+H arrived with a bag of Tostitos and some homemade salsa – DILL SALSA!  It was explained as mislabeling  on the package of “coriander” that was bought as the main spice for the salsa batch, and only discovered after it was measured out and mixed in.  It was actually very nice!  S+H are able to grow their own veggies in their back yard and get creative with both their canning and their wine making – a wonderful Black currant Rose accompanied them, and I was immediately pouring!  Yum!

I had also picked up a basket of baby carrots from our Byward Market – so cute and obviously rejected by many, but I merely picked through, washed them and chopped off the ends for “real baby carrots”.

Conversations bubbled and the Roasted Pumpkin and Red Pepper soup simmered gently while the potatoes cooked in the oven.

I love my kitchen timer!  It helped me keep track of so much while i was preparing the meal!

Earlier in the day, I began by oven roasting a lovely pumpkin, also from the Byward Market.  Cutting it in half, cleaning out the seeds and stingy bits, I placed each half, open side down in its own roasting pan.  I guess it was actually more steamed than roasted, but I placed the pans on the oven shelf, filled each with water to a depth of 1 inch/2.5 cm and closed the door.  Setting the timer for 45 minutes, the oven was at 425 F and off I went to prepare the seeds for toasting.

 Washing and separating the stingy bits is fun, I swear, and then I lightly sprayed a cookie sheet with canola oil spray.  I spread the still damp seeds on the cookie sheet and sprinkled them with curry powder.

Pop them into the oven on the next rack down from the roasting pumpkin and let them go  for about 15 minutes.  I think I stirred them once, and then brought them out, and sprinkled a bit of sea salt on them.  I let them cool and moved them to a pretty little glass bowl as these were the “croutons’ for the soup later.

Roasting the red peppers was pretty easy too.  Once the pumpkin was done – more like an hour, I removed the pans from the oven and let them sit on the stove top to cool.  The previous cookie sheet was cleaned and re-sprayed lightly.  The peppers I cut in half and seeded them, placing them again cut side down on the sheet. Into the oven they went, with broiler setting on high.

After 5 minutes or so, they were charred and buckling.  I quickly tossed them into a paper bag. Other theories exist about this process – mainly the idea seems to be, put them into a closed container of some sort so that the steam can continue cooking them and loosening the skin.  After 15 minutes in the fridge as the recipe I was following suggested, I took them out and still had to use a sharp knife to peel parts of the skin off.

By now, the pumpkin has cooled enough and I scraped all of the flesh into my soup pot.  I also kept the water left over from one of the roasting pans and dumped it in as well.  Using my immersion blender, the pumpkin was a pleasure to puree.  You can use a blender too of course.  I placed the red peppers into a smaller container and pureed them separately to make sure they were a fairly smooth paste.  Then I mixed both together in the soup pot.  

The next decision was the spice direction I wanted to take.  I knew that I had used a medium low curry spice on the pumpkin seeds that would accompany the soup, so I did not want to compete, just complement.  I went with ginger powder, only about 1/2 teaspoon for a fairly large pot.  I should have used more, but next time I’ll know.

Once the soup was all mixed and simmering on the stove, I was ready to get the potatoes ready.  Tom helped chop them up as he was home by this time from his badminton tournament.  Sore, but home. And with a broken racket…

At any rate, the potatoes were washed and quartered and spread on the reliable cookie sheet.  I had forgotten to spray the sheet, but decided that at 4 calories for a split second spray, this might be a good way to coat the potatoes lightly with the tiniest bit of oil.  So, I did.  And then sprinkled the lot with italian seasoning as I did not have rosemary on its own.  Into the oven at 350F for 60 minutes.  But I had to cook the fish for 25 minutes at 425F. Hmm.  I started the potatoes on the lower at 350 and let them cook for 30 minutes, then upped the temperature and put the casserole dish of fish in on the higher rack.  I checked every 15 minutes after that to make sure that they were not burning, and they turned out perfectly!

Soup was served up first, to great reactions [ thanks folks] then we started on L’s salad while the fish was finishing.  We were able to have the potatoes and fish shortly thereafter.  I decided to de-bone the fish in the kitchen to the best of my ability, and only a few bones were found on the plates after we were done.  the recipe indicated that it would not be too salty, but just have a lovely flavour.  Perhaps for those who cook and use salt all of the time, it may have been a less noticeable saltiness.  For Tom and I, who really only get salt on things out in restaurants, it was great, but definitely salty.

So thanks to my good buddies who were the guinea pigs for my new culinary fun!  It was a really enjoyable evening!

First published Oct 26, 2008