Fish is not plentiful in the desert. Perhaps that alone is one reason why it is such a welcome meal. It is what we receive from relatives who come to visit from waterways across the country. Fruit however, and especially citrus fruit, is common place here. It is what we take to relatives when we go visit across the country.
The juxtaposition of desert and fish or citrus on the shore somehow call to us. It is a special opportunity to enjoy what is not in our regular cycle of food or at least that is the way it used to be. Today, I can easily wander through the fish aisle of a national grocery chain and scoop up varieties of flounder, tilapia and farm raised shrimp from Vietnam. Similarly, I can eat a persimmon from Israel in any month that I choose. This is, in fact, what Pollan refers to as the Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Modern transportation and technology has created methodologies where foods that were once enjoyed only seasonally or regionally are now available 24×7 on any given month. I’m not going to dive into the environmental debates of the food movement. Yes, it costs a great deal to transport Arizona navel oranges to Taipei but what I’d like to consider is the specialness of a unique food that we enjoy on rare occasions or the holidays.
Most of the food writers here have uncovered heritage dishes prepared by the aunt of their great grandmother with recipes scratched out in the margins of an old Betty Crocker. We value that lineage of recipe as a way of telling our stories. But if we take a step back, and really consider our food environment, aren’t we able to create even more family culture and heritage by going with what is available locally and introducing other food products at special times? Digging for clams at grandmas? Picking plums in July? Overload of turnips in the fall? Foraging for chanterelles when we visit the great Northwest? Baking cranberries at the holidays?
Our perceptions about these foods and how they taste to us are in part physiology and in part, cognitive process. In his Smithsonian article “Why You Like What You Like”, Tom Vanderbilt coined the phrase the “mere exposure effect,” defining the cognitive reaction that causes us to enjoy things more the more we experience them. Said a different way, the more often we appreciate a food item, the greater our preference for it grows. Vanderbilt’s research goes on to deliver the consequences of repeatedly eating single flavors – just salt or sweet or bitter or umami or sour. This, it turns out, bores us. However, a combination of favors such as sweet and salt, draw us in repeatedly.
For this 1CommonPlate post, we’ve been asked to combine fish and fruit. I used local herbs and our seasonal fruit to do so. This gives my dish a local yet special occasion flavor while combining a salty or umami flavor with sweetness.
Citrus Herb Crusted Fish
Adapted from Yummly
- 2/3 cup minced fresh herbs (I used sage)
- 10 small fish fillets (check here to verify the sustainability of your fish)
- Salt and pepper
- Zest of one lemon
- Zest of one orange
- 3 Tbs olive oil
Preheat your grill to medium heat. Mince your herbs. Mix with the zests and add olive oil.
Coat both sides of the fish with the herb mixture and allow it to marinate for 10 minutes. Place the fish on the grill, cover and cook for 4 minutes. Flip the fish, cover and cook for 4 minutes more, or until the fish flakes easily. If you like, you can squeeze a bit of orange juice on top just before serving.
What special dish will you enjoy this holiday season? Can you combine a local ingredient with something special?
This post is part of 1commonplate at Slurppy.