People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
06/19/2008 Filet of sole, spring vegetable couscous, juice with sweet spices (Filet de sole, couscous léger aux légumes de printemps, jus aux épices douces)
To serve 4 as a first course or a light main course: 1 2-lb. fresh sole or similar mild, firm fish, filets removed and skinned, carcass reserved You should have 4 fillets.
For the "juice": 1 T. olive oil The fish carcass 1 c. dry white wine 1 small onion, diced 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped 1 leafy stalk celery, chopped 8 sprigs coriander (cilantro) 1 t. fresh or dried green peppercorns, or substitute 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns 3-inch piece of cinnamon bark Pinch of ground ginger or couple of slices fresh gingerroot 1-2 T. fresh lime juice or to taste Salt to taste
For the couscous: 1 1/2 c. fine couscous 1/2 ripe red pepper finely diced 3 small carrots finely diced 1 small round zucchini finely diced 1 small handful thin green beans diced 1 handful snow peapods, cut diagonally 1/4" wide 1/3 c. dried currants 1 T butter = 1 T argan oil, or substitute an additional T butter Grated rind of 1 lime 3 T. chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
Prepare the couscous. Dump the grains in a fine sieve and rinse under cold water. Drain and spread out in a wide bowl to swell for half an hour. Meanwhile, heat water to boiling in bottom of a couscous steamer. When the grains are swollen, sift them into the top of the cooker by rubbing them between your hands to eliminate all lumps and separate the grains. Steam for 20 minutes, uncovered. Dump the grains into a wide bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 c. cold water and 1 tsp. salt, and rake and separate with your fingers. Allow to rest 20-30 minutes. Steam the couscous for another 20 minutes. Dump it back into the bowl, separating the grains and tossing in the oil, butter, and more salt to taste if necessary.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables, which should all be finely diced so as to resemble confetti. Reserve them separately from each other. Heat a medium saucepan of water to boiling. Salt it lightly. Cook the vegetables separately until barely cooked. The raw taste should be gone, but they should still offer some resistance to the tooth. Toss the vegetables with the couscous. Mixture can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance to this point.
Make the "juice." Gently heat the olive oil and cook the fish carcass in it for 5 minutes on each side. Deglaze with 1 c. white wine, add the vegetables, spice and herb, and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 40 minutes, partly covered. Strain into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, skim, and reduce slightly. Taste for seasoning. Their should be s subtle but perceptible taste of cinnamon. If there isn't, infuse a fresh piece of bark in the juice over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, remove the cinnamon, and stir in the lime juice.
25 minutes before serving, heat the oven to 400 F. Mix the lime rind and the coriander leaves into the couscous and verify the seasoning. In a baking dish, form the sole filets into circles, securing their overlapping ends with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Gently and carefully fill the fish circles with the couscous mixture. Carefully pour about 1/2 c. or slightly more of the "juice" around the fish rolls. Cover the dish with buttered foil and bake for 15 minutes. Transfer the filled fish carefully to heated plates, using a wide spatula. Pour some of the hot juice around each fish roll. Pass the extra couscous, after warming it in the couscous steamer for 5-10 minutes.
Note: This is a very light yet satisfying dish that is perfect for early summer, especially on the day following a heavy meal. The cinnamon may seem surprising with fish, but in fact it is delicious as long as the fish is mild and not oily.