There is a dirty little secret about building a house in a field on a rural parcel of land. Sure you expect the local wildlife to take some time to adjust to your presence. And for the most part they do–birds, mammals, amphibians, even insects, are fairly accommodating.
But the plants are pissed.
The plant life that lives in that field has been there for a very long time, and it does not give up its space without a fight. I planted our front flower beds last year (here’s the proof) and by August they were nothing short of frightening. Really, really scary. Weeding them was like trying to stop the tide. Apparently I wisely took no photos of them–this corner is the best I could find to show you, taken this spring.
Just looking at them depressed me. My mom estimates it will take 5 years of putting down black fabric or newspapers and heavy mulching before we start to win the battle (and if you’re wondering, that’s also 5 years of actually plowing, not tilling, the garden). And I mean battle–the wild carrots alone were awful, requiring serious, deep digging to get the roots out. The good news is that the few perennials I did plant last year came back pretty healthy, and I have planted a lot more this year (my ultimate goal is an all-perennial flower bed). The bad news is the amount of digging, sweat and newspaper it took to get the beds weeded and re-mulched this year was truly impressive. Next year I might give in and buy the black fabric, but for now we are trying the cheaper (and more Earth friendly, as it recycles) method of layering wet cardboard and/or newspaper around the plants.
Since we don’t actually subscribe to a paper newspaper, my mom and dad brought down a ton of their newspapers for us to use. While they were here, I fed them a seared, panko crusted mahi mahi with mango salsa. The dish did not turn out perfectly, but I know what I did wrong so I am sharing the recipe with you anyway (the flavor was awesome) along with the lesson I learned.
Never try to sear scallops in the same pan as anything else. They just leech way too much water while cooking. I only had 4 fish fillets, so I decided to bulk the dish up with scallops for the kids, and it made the fish a little too soggy. It is a testament to how well the searing works with the panko crust that the fish was really tasty despite it.
This preparation can be adapted to any number of fillets, just keep the proportion of panko crumbs to seasoning roughly the same. I like to make more than I need so that it is easy to get all the crust onto the fillets.
1 cup panko crumbs
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground New Mexico chile powder
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
4 mahi mahi fillets
2 T vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Whisk together the first 5 ingredients. Clean and dry the fillets; then coat one side of each fillet with the panko mixture. Press the panko mixture gently onto the fish to help it adhere.
Heat a large stainless steel pan over medium heat. Add the oil–when it gets shimmery, add the fish, panko side down. Cook for 5 minutes without touching or moving and then move to the preheated oven. Cook another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and remove each fillet from the pan, gently flipping it over as you do so. Serve panko crust side up with mango salsa.
This preparation is very much to taste, so qualities may vary. I like to make extra as it is also fabulous with tortilla chips.
4 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1 sweet bell pepper, preferably red for the color, diced (this is great for the fish, can be omitted if only making salsa for chips)
juice of 1-3 limes, depending on taste and the individual limes
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro
Toss everything together, tasting as you go and adding to get the balance right to your taste. Let sit, covered in the fridge, for 15-30 minutes for flavors to meld.