Those of you who have been reading my blog since its inception might be tired of creek photos. Every spring and summer, the girls and I go out and marvel again at the fact that we own a creek. A safe creek, right here on our property requiring no effort whatsoever beyond bug spray and/or a hat and waterproof shoes. It’s just a constant source of excitement for the 3 of us. What about John, you ask? Well… he joins us sometimes, but he’s a city boy.
Anyway, this past weekend was that moment, when we finally had a day warm enough for me to allow the girls to truly walk in the creek. And this time of year, that can mean serious water depending on the weather. I won’t even allow them anywhere near it if we’ve had flooding rains–it just moves too fast. Now that we’ve been here a few years, one of the most interesting things to me is watching how the creek is changing and evolving. Nothing earth shattering, just Mother Nature moving and shifting. For example, this mini waterfall:
Last year I do not remember this mini waterfall (rapids really, but steep enough that I will not let my young kids walk down it–the viewpoint of the photo is the top, looking down it). And to the right of these rapids, a second branch actually forms, and lasts a good 40 feet or so before reconnecting, thereby actually creating a tiny (long and skinny) island in our creek. Just beyond this waterfall (I should have taken a picture), a very mature, quite large evergreen came down into the stream, presumably from one of this past year’s storms. It is actually quite awe inspiring, the sheer size of it and knowing that at some point when we weren’t listening this giant tree fell on or near our property (this was close to our property line).
This year (so far) we have found baby pre-crawdads (whatever they are called when they look like bugs) and loads of frogs. We found sycamore trees, a buckeye tree (and a buckeye) and probably a walnut tree (ever since observing both my mom and the school naturalist at Alex’s school I have been trying to remember to identify plants, not just animals). The wild roses are just starting to get into full spring growth mode–meaning they are not too bad yet (trying to avoid their thorns). The water was–not surprisingly–frigid, but it actually felt good, being 86 F and sunny. It’s a good thing we went because it is–predictably for April in Ohio–raining and cooler already.
This is not the dish I served yesterday, but it could just as well have been. It is simple, easy and absolutely delicious. If, like me, you like caramelized onions, you absolutely must give it a try. I found it in Paula Wolfert’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook, which is rapidly becoming a favorite cookbook. Don’t be scared off by the slow in this case–slow for fish is still pretty quick. Do notice–unlike myself-that the dish will need to remain in the oven for an additional 20 minutes after the heat is turned off. Also, although Wolfert calls for only serving the lemon with the dish, I found that most people do not expect to squeeze quite that much lemon juice over the dish, so I squeezed one lemon over the dish and then served the rest in wedges.
- approx. 2 lbs or 4 thick steaks cod (or tilefish, what the original recipe called for, or any other thick white fish)
- sea salt to taste
- 2 lbs onion, thickly sliced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, cooking quality
- 1¾ t cinnamon (I used cassia)
- ¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅛ t allspice (could also use cloves)
- hefty pinch saffron threads
- ½ t freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup yellow or dark raisins
- ¼ cup sugar
- small handful (approx. 12 sprigs) fresh flat leaf parsley
- 2 juicy lemons (use more if not so juicy)
- Rinse and pat the fish dry. Sprinkle each side with salt and then place in the fridge. Prepare everything else.
- Prepare the onions. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat and add 3 tablespoons of the oil. When it is hot, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Toss and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, ½ teaspoon of salt and the spices (including the saffron). Cover and cook until soft and golden, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- In the meantime, cover the raisins with hot water and soak them for 10 minutes. Drain them after they soak.
- When the 30 minutes is up on the onions, add the raisins and sugar to the onions. Continue cooking the onions for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have a glazed appearance. When the 20 minutes is up, set the pan aside, uncovered and off heat.
- Prepare a small 9X13 baking dish (choose whatever size will fit your steak best in one layer) by drizzling the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the bottom of the dish. Place the parsley sprigs in one layer across the bottom as well. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of water, and then layer the fish in a single layer over the parsley sprigs. Smother the fish in the onion jam by spreading it out over the fish.
- Bake the smothered fish for 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat and open the oven door. Let the fish continue to cook in this manner for 20 minutes.
- Before serving sprinkle with the juice of one lemon. Serve the other lemon in wedges on the individual servings.
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