More Grilled Fish and More Good Friends

Dinner on porch

Sunday Dinner on the Porch

Monday:                      Turkey burgers with grilled portabellos and salad

Hilda's herbs

Tuesday:                      Omelet with Hilda’s herbs (see above)

Wednesday:                Philadelphia for business

Herbed Goat cheese

Thursday:                    Omelets with Salad – Herbed Goat Cheese

Red and Green Grilled fish

Friday:                         Contramar’s Red and Green Grilled Snapper, mixed bean salad and tomato vinaigrette

Saturday:                     Dinner Party at the Cestra’s

Grilled artichoke

Sunday:                        (Leftover fish) tacos with Grilled and Smothered Artichokes


On Saturday night we were invited to dinner at their magnificent house by Annie and Dennis.   A few more friends joined the group:  Hoddy and Mary Anne, Tim and Hilda, Julie, Kate, Tom and JoJo, Katie and Dave, and Tom and Barbara .  My clinical opinion is that we ate and drank like thirty-year-olds.  The dish of the evening was Annie’s pasta with peas.  The political commentators of the evening were Tim and Katie (she knows her stuff).  I believe that I drank the most Scotch.

How does this fit into a blog called “whatwecookedlastweek”?  Well, occasionally we get to take a night off, and this was one great night off.  We wish we had pictures.

And now for something entirely different:  After cooking the ‘Red and Green Grilled Snapper,’ I can see why Mexicans are generally less well-off than Americans –  they spend most of the day cooking.  But they eat better.*  I’m pretty sure this is a better way to live than scarfing down take-out after putting in 12 hours at the office.

*We’re not talking about what most Americans picture as Mexican food – gelatinous masses of beans, rice and meat or chicken swimming in a cheesy mastic and surrounded by thick wads of tortilla.  If you’re coming to our house and you bring Taco Bell, it will be fed to the dogs.

What struck me first about Gabriela Càmara’s** cooking was the setting (see bon appétit for June, 2016) – a huge wooden table surrounded by family and friends on a shaded rooftop terrace in Mexico City.  I could hang out with these Càmara’s, I thought.  (They haven’t called yet, but then, this post is the first they will have heard about my appreciation of their food.)  And then I saw the picture of the fish, and it was Friday and Billy was coming out to dinner to tell us about his trip to France, and even though Catholics need not abstain from meat on Friday any longer, many of us still do both as a nod to our youth and because it is fashionable, after a certain age, for dietary reasons, to favor fish over red meat.  (If the Church wanted to propose abstinence for sophisticated Catholics it would have to include arugula, quinoa, fish and probably chia seeds.  Please, if you have the Pope’s ear on this issue, do not mention alcohol.  I would not want to go through the trouble of converting to Taosim.)

Billy had a great trip and we had a great time hearing about it – even the late-night/early morning drinking with the Welsh and the Portuguese – now that we had him safely back on this side of the Atlantic.

I’ve already given away the issue with the keeper for this week – it takes work.  But the result will be good enough to please even a son who was just returned from France and eating escargots in Lyons and mixed seafood grill in the Calanque and Steak-frites in Paris.  And you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you did not want, at least vicariously, to enjoy the pleasure of slow, but good cooking.  And how could you resist this description of the dish:  ‘Càmara and her friends loved eating pescado a la talla on the beach while vacationing on the Pacific coast. “I wanted to bring that feeling of leisure from a beach shack to an unpretentious, fresh, urban setting.”

**Gabriela owns two restaurants – Contramar in Mexico City and Cala in San Francisco.  You can read about her operation and get more of her recipes in the June, 2016 issue of bon appétit


(adapted from the recipe in bon appétit for June, 2016)  –  Serves 8

grilled cobia


We’re going to discuss preparation first, because there is a lot to do and you want to have all of these sauces in place before your start cooking.  You’ve got two salsas to make (one simple, one a bit of work) and two marinades (one simple, one a bit of work).

I would attack this project in the following order:  Red Chile Sauce, Grilled Salsa Roja, Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa Verde, and Parsley Sauce.

Note:  The Red Chile Sauce calls for many different types of peppers – but I’ve listed substitutes you can use for each one)

Red Chile Sauce


2 Dried Pasilla chile (the Giant Eagle carries these in their bulk food section)
1 dried Ancho chile, seeds removed
1 dried guajillo chile, seeds removed
Note:  you can use 0.5 Guajillo in lieu of the ancho, or 1 ancho in lieu of the guajillo
2 dried chiles de arbol (these are the small, dried red chiles you can find packed in plastic anywhere.
4 plum tomatoes, cored
¼ medium white onion (probably 1/8 of the white onions you’ll find in your market)
5 garlic cloves peeled (I used 2 large cloves)
2 whole cloves
½ Cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tsp. achiotte (annatto) seeds  Note:  we used turmeric as a substitute
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt


Put all of the chiles except the chile de arbol in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer.  Cover, remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes to soften.

Drain chiles and puree them along with the chiles de árbol, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cloves, oil, orange juice, lime juice, achiote seeds, cumin and oregano in a blender until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper.  Note:  you can make this ahead, cover and chill.


Grilled Salsa Roja  (This is spectacular stuff)


8 plum tomatoes, cored
½ medium white onion
4 serrano chiles
3 garlic cloves, peeled (we used 1 large clove)
1 packed cup of cilantro leaves – you can use stems if they are tender
Kosher salt


Prepare a grill for high heat and grill the tomatoes, onion and chiles, turning from time to time until lightly charred (about 4 minutes for the chiles and 7 for the tomatoes and onion.

Puree the charred vegetables with the garlic and cilantro in a blender until almost smooth and season with salt.

Note:  You can make this ahead, cover and chill


Parsley Sauce


4 garlic cloves (we used 2)
2 packed cups of parsley leaves
½ cup vegetable oil
Pinch of cumin
Kosher salt


Purée garlic, parsley, oil, and cumin in a blender until smooth.  Season with salt

Note:  You can make ahead, then cover and chill.


Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa Verde


½ medium avocado
1 romaine lettuce leaf, torn into pieces
1 serrano chile, finely chopped
¼ medium white onion
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 lb. tomatillos (I needed about 10), husked, cleaned and quartered
½ pack cup of cilantro leaves with tender stems
Kosher salt


Put avocado, lettuce, chile, onion, garlic, tomatillos and cilantro in blender and blend until smooth.

Season with salt.

Note:  You can make ahead and refrigerate

Marinating, cooking and assembling fish


Either 2 butterflied red snappers (head and spine removed), or 4 skin-on, boneless red snapper filets (about 8 oz. each)  Note:  We could not get Snapper and substituted Cobia, a more dense fish.  We had to adjust cooking time, and the snapper would have been better, but we had a fine meal)

Vegetable oil for grill

Note:  Contramar serves this fish on tacos.  We ate the fish without tacos and fixings, but it would be spectacular with them – so add tacos and fixings (scallions, etc.) to your list if you want


Prepare a grill for medium.  Clean and oil the grates.

Pat the fish dry and score the flesh side with diagonal slashes about ¼” deep and 1” apart.

Season with salt and pepper and then spread one half of each butterflied snapper, or ½ of the fillets with about ½ cup of the Red Chile sauce and the other portion of the fish with the same amount of parsley sauce.  Coat well and work the sauces into the score marks.

Grill the fish, skin down, until charred and almost cooked (about 8 minutes, but your fire may be hotter or cooler).

Flip (you will need a wide spatula – a ‘fish spatula’ to do this easily) and cook for about 2 minutes.  The fish should have char marks and release easily from the grill.

Serve the fish with Grilled Salsa Roja, Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa Verde and lime wedges.  And tacos and fixings, if you’re going that route.  (We had leftovers with tacos and fixings – a different and equally good meal.)
EXTRA                                   Grilled and Smothered Artichokes

 grilled artichokes

I hesitated to add an extra, partly because I’m just tired of typing, but mostly because I figure you’re tired of reading.  But this dish is so perfect for a light side dish or light dinner on a fine summer night, that I couldn’t resist.  It also looks beautiful.

Supplies:                             (For about 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main dish)

3 medium artichokes (stems attached), trimmed, peeled, quartered (and, of course, remove the choke)

Note:  Trimming and prepping artichokes is like shucking oysters, the first time you do it will take forever, but you’ll get the hang of it fairly quickly.  There is an illustrated guide to preparing artichokes in The Vegetable Butcher, but you can find guides in many cookbooks or online.  For $1,000 each, I would be happy to prepare artichokes for you.  THIS IS WORTH LEARNING TO DO.
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large lemons, juiced
1 large lemon, quartered
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 Cup Olive Oil (remember – we only use the good stuff, the extra-virgin stuff – yeah, I know, I’m skeptical too)
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used about ¾ of a large clove)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Coarse or flaky sea salt


You want to steam the trimmed artichokes for about 15 minutes.  Do this by bringing the water to a boil and then covering the pot.  I’m assuming that you know that the vegetables have to be kept above the water – we’re steaming here, not boiling.  They are done when a fork goes through hearts easily and when the leaves pull away effortlessly.  (Note:  I used a Chinese bamboo steamer, but you can use anything that holds the artichokes.  You’ll need a large pot – Dutch oven size at least)

While the artichokes are steaming, in a large bowl whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic, olive oil, garlic, fine sea salt, the pepper and three quarters of the parsley.

Add the steamed artichokes to the lemon and oil marinade and let stand at least 30 minutes (up to 3 hours – or, cover and refrigerate overnight).

Heat a grill to medium-high and place the artichokes, cut side down on the grill.

Cook about five minutes (you should have good grill marks at this point), then turn and cook, along with the lemon quarters for another 5 minutes or so.

Return the artichokes to the marinade and toss to coat, then arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining parsley, the coarse or flaky sea salt and additional pepper.  Serve with crusty bread and plenty of napkins.*

*Do I need to explain how to eat artichokes?  Pull the leaves off and, with your teeth, scrape off the flesh at the base of each leaf.  When you get down to the stem and the heart, you can use a knife and fork, or just pick it up with your fingers.  As I mentioned, you’ll need plenty of napkins.  I would not wear a shirt worth over $4.50.

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