Beware, I’m about to make an indie rock reference (or is it too oldschool to be indie?): Anyone remember the song, “Swordfish” by the Dead Milkmen? Its lyrics essentially consist of the chorus, “I believe in swordfish/He believes in swordfish,” and it tells you nothing of swordfish except for the fact that everyone believes in something, and he believes in swordfish. Understandably so, as it would now seem.
Because I believe in swordfish, too — in that it’s delicious and meaty and ridiculously easy to prepare. A few days ago I happened to see swordfish steaks on sale and figured it must be a good time for a test-drive. When I got home, I trimmed off the rim of grey, rubbery skin and slathered each side of the steak with coarse salt and black pepper. I heated a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and let it sit there for a few minutes each side. The “steak” that came away from this process had the most juicy, tender, succulent meat that splintered so elegantly on its grain that I couldn’t believe I never believed in it before. I didn’t even want to squeeze the wedge of lemon I had prepared for it. It tasted that good on its own. Well, topped off with buttery slices of avocado, it tasted pretty good, too.
Expecting a less flavorful main course than what I ended up with, I tossed some freshly husked peas in lemony basil-almond pesto, and whipped up a cold couscous salad with grape tomatoes, red onion, and remnants of said pesto.
Even if I had all the free time in the world to play in the kitchen, there are some things I often miss about eating out. It’s the little touches of flair that a chef creates when you don’t expect it, even if the dish had a paragraph-long description on the menu. I’ve been dining with friends quite a bit lately, and that’s always surprising and rewarding, since you can talk about what one another made and be all the better educated for it. But when I’m just cooking on my own, I feel like I’ve got to knock myself over the head with something new every now and then.
can I have some, pretty peas?
pretty peas with lemon and basil and garlic and almonds?
Since I pretty much described the cooking method for the swordfish steak with avocado above, and the couscous salad was no more than a matter of tossing around couscous with tomatoes and onions and a bit of pesto, I thought I’d give a recipe for the pesto peas. Ben liked it the best out of all the three things on the plate, which, in my opinion, is saying a lot.
Lemony Pesto Fresh Peas
(makes 3-4 side-dish servings)
1 lb fresh peas in the pod, husked
about 2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1-2 tsp lemon zest
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup almonds
about 1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Blanch peas in boiling hot water for 1 minute. Drain and shock peas in ice water.
Combine basil, garlic, almonds, lemon zest and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until almonds are finely ground. Drizzle in olive oil while blending mixture and process to a smooth paste. Taste for salt and pepper and add as necessary.
Toss peas in pesto and serve immediately at room temperature, or chill in a refrigerator if desired.
(for 3-4 side-dish servings)
1 lb peas in the pod: $2.99
1/2 cup olive oil: $1.50
1/4 cup almonds: $0.75
2 cups fresh basil (from my plant and my friend’s plant): $1.00?
2 garlic cloves: $0.05
1/2 lemon (for 1 tsp zest and 2 Tb juice): $0.17
Three brownie points: Fresh peas are so sweet and delicate on their own that they hardly need the accoutrement of a tangy pesto. But when that pesto is rich with vitamin C, healthy nut protein, and iron and calcium from the basil, a little touch can’t really hurt.