Fresh, flavorful and quick: Pan-grilled Citrus Yellowtail and Soba Noodle Salad. Recipes below.
Last week, I posted two recipes for cooking fish that ranged from simple to simpler. I kept them simple because I didn’t want anything masking the taste of the Hawaiian yellowtail I’d been asked to try by Kona Blue Water Farms. This week, two more recipes. First, Marion shows just how well this fish plays with other flavors. Then she streamlines a complex side dish into something quick, simple and simply delicious.
Terry and I both love to cook, but our tastes in cookbooks and food authors don’t particularly overlap. He avidly reads Anthony Bourdain; I go for obsessive re-readings of M.F.K. Fisher. His cookbook tastes run to the school of It’s Better If It’s French. My favorite cookbook is an obscure, grubby, out-of-print one about Szechwan food.
So we think it’s pretty interesting that, when Terry received that lovely shipment of Hawaiian yellowtail, we each, independently, turned to the same author. Ming Tsai—chef, restaurateur, star of two televised cooking shows and author of some very nice cookbooks—really has been our guide in understanding this amazing fish. When it was my turn in the kitchen, I found a pair of recipes in Ming’s Blue Ginger: East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai that became the foundation for a meal.
By the way, this morning a friend called and asked me what this fish tastes like. It tastes like standing on the edge of a high bluff looking straight out over the open Pacific, with the surface of the water like light beaten silver, and a faint cold morning wind washing over your face, and the wind has come four thousand uninterrupted miles straight to find you. It’s that clean and beautiful and pure.
The original and very delightful version of this recipe calls for ponzu sauce and snapper, and the fish, once cooked, goes on to become part of a salad with pea sprouts and a Dijon vinaigrette. Here is my foreshortened, non-salad take, abbreviated into a simple grilled dish. This recipe goes quickly once you begin it. Make sure your side dishes are in progress before you start on this.
Pan-grilled Citrus Yellowtail
2 4-ounce Hawaiian yellowtail fillets [or other fish—see Kitchen Notes]
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
Mix together the marinade ingredients. Choose a bowl with a bottom just large enough to hold the fillets closely side by side and set the fish in it. Pour the marinade over all. Let everything sit for ten minutes [see Kitchen Notes]. Immediately pour off and discard the marinade. Pat the fillets gently dry.
Heat a grill pan over high heat, then brush it generously with canola or walnut oil. When the pan is nice and hot (a drop of water should skitter around and then vanish), lay the fillets on the pan—position the fish to make handsome grill marks. Cook on the first side about 3 minutes; then gently turn and cook on the other side 2 or 3 minutes. Serve, along with the soba noodle salad.
The original recipe, for snapper, emphasizes that more than 10 minutes of marinating will make the fish mushy and fragile. Ten minutes left the yellowtail, which is far denser than snapper, delicately infused with citrus and ginger taste—the soy barely made an impression—and the outcome was wonderful. If you are in the mood for a more assertive flavor and are using a fish as dense as yellowtail (as compared to softer fish like snapper or haddock), I would consider extending the marinating time a little.
I am planning to try this marinade with white-fleshed fish, and of course it sounds like a natural for salmon. But I don’t think it would work out well with the more intensely flavored fish, like tuna, mackerel, or mahi mahi.
And now the noodles. Ming Tsai’s Soba Noodle Sushi recipe is the inspiration for my soba noodle salad, which makes an excellent companion to this way of cooking fish. His original recipe, also in Blue Ginger, includes a host of additional ingredients, such as wakame seaweed, pickled ginger and cucumber; once the noodle portion of the dish is prepared, the whole thing is neatly rolled up in nori, allowed to rest and sliced into sushi pieces.
This salad is a greatly foreshortened version of that dish—something to throw together quickly and happily. Despite the assertive ingredients—wasabi, cilantro, buckwheat noodles—it is wonderfully light and refreshing, a partner not a competitor to the rest of the meal. It also stands alone very nicely—the leftovers became my lunch the next day.
Soba Noodle Salad
Generously serves 2
1/2 pound dried soba noodles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro [reserve a few whole leaves for garnishing the top]
1/4 cup finely chopped green part of scallions
1 red bell pepper, finely slivered [reserve a few slivers for garnish]
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon wasabi powder
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sushi vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the soba noodles until they are just beyond al dente. Immediately drain them and transfer them to a large bowl of iced water. Swirl the noodles in the iced water until the noodles are cold; then toss out any remaining ice cubes and drain the noodles well.
While the noodles are cooking, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.
Transfer noodles to a serving bowl. Pour over the dressing and gently toss. Add the vegetables, grind a little black pepper over everything and gently fold it all together. Garnish with the reserved cilantro leaves and bell pepper slivers, and serve.
As is, this salad can stand on its own as a simple lunch, and of course it is totally vegan friendly. I intend to try this again adding finely minced lemon grass to the dressing and gently folding in extra-firm, sautéed tofu in the mixing stage. The next time, I think I’ll also add a bit more wasabi powder to the dressing—just a little bit more.
Also this week in Blue Kitchen, 1/30/2008
How the wild things sound. When the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are becomes a movie, wild child Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O sounds like a natural choice to write the soundtrack, at WTF? Random food for thought.
Mouth noises as art. Beatbox, New York’s New Museum and a dancing parrot? This sounds more like WTF than What’s on the kitchen boombox?