Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Ginger Stir-Fried Sugarsnap Peas & Fish

This is just one of those really simple yet satisfying weeknight meals. It took all of three minutes to cook, though that's not counting the rice you might want to ...


This is just one of those really simple yet satisfying weeknight meals. It took all of three minutes to cook, though that’s not counting the rice you might want to serve it with. It was light and tasty as anything could be. And it’s currently my favorite way to enjoy sugarsnap peas. That’s saying a lot, since snap peas are so good prepared so many different ways.

Sugarsnap peas are also only in season such a short time each year. Though they’re such a beloved spring vegetable, they were only introduced fairly recently, a hybrid between the snow pea and English shelled peas. Like the former, its crisp pod could be eaten; and like the latter parent, its peas were more developed, and sweet. It seems they were specifically engineered to be enjoyed raw, and it’s hard to resist going through a whole bag of them like that. But, like with snow peas, I like these best once they’ve had a quick toss in a hot pan coated with oil. It renders out just a little bit of their moisture, making the pods somewhat thinner and greener. Their texture turns from brittle to crisp-tender. And if you added sliced bits of ginger to that oil, their delicate sweetness will take on a delicious spin.

sugarsnap peas, chopped to halves

Ginger stir-fried sugarsnap peas is a great side on its own. But a third ingredient helped make it a great meal. Stopping by the Pura Vida fisheries Union Square Greenmarket tent, I eyed the offerings and settled on one fish I hadn’t tried before. “It’s sand shark,” the fisherman replied when I pointed to a tray of fillets. They were extra long, and painted with streaks of bright, tuna red along its mostly pale pink length. What a crazy fish, I thought. It was also pretty cheap, at $6.99/lb for the fully cleaned fillets. As I stood there deliberated on that and my other choices, the folks around me were gulping down clams on the halfshell. Beautiful little clams and oysters were in, fresh and ready to steam, sautee, or shuck-and-slurp. What a fortunate time of year for the home cook.

For some reason, I stood my ground and ordered the offering that first caught my fascination, the sand shark. After bringing it home, I could find no recipes nor culinary advise whatsoever on cooking this type of fish (it probably has several other names). So I went with the simplest solution: lightly marinate it and pan-fry. The fillet was so thick and meaty that I chopped off big chunks from the fillet before seasoning them with salt and pepper and letting it sit in the fridge while prepping the rest of the ingredients.

sand shark fillet

chopped to thick chunks

Lightly browned in a hot pan with oil, for less than a minute on each side, the sand shark pieces were promptly taken out. A quick touch with my finger told me they were mostly cooked through, and had visibly turned opaque from transparent pink. I tasted a bit of one piece that had fallen apart in transit. Next, the sugarsnap peas were tossed in the same pan, along with a generous clump of slivered fresh ginger. About a minute later, the fish were added back in and given a final stir, and a little splash of soy sauce.

This is my type of cooking, which draws its strength from really great ingredients, and not too many of them. You can thoroughly enjoy those snap peas, and you can thoroughly enjoy some really fresh fish. As for the sand shark, it was truly a revelation — it tasted a lot like tuna, or mahi mahi. If you like swordfish, you’re also in for a treat. And it was cooked lightly enough that the center was still a touch raw and pink. Yum.

I’m sure not everyone has access to fresh sand shark wherever they live, so I left the recipe open-ended and encourage you to scout out your favorite local fishmongers for anything that strikes you, or anything that’s recommended and extra-fresh.

Also, I highly encourage you to scope out some cherries right now. These are from Mignorelli Farm, and they’re fabulous.

Ginger Stir-Fried Sugarsnap Peas and Fish
(makes 2-3 servings)

1/2 lb sand shark fillet (or substitute with another firm, meaty fish fillet), chopped to 2-inch pieces
1/2 lb sugarsnap peas, stems trimmed and chopped to halves on a diagonal
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped to matchsticks
1-2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
salt and pepper

Place fish in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of oil and mix with hands. Cover and chill while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet with about a tablespoon of oil. Once hot, place down fish pieces and don’t touch for about 30 seconds. Flip gently and cook on other sides for another 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from pan and transfer to a bowl. Add another drizzle of oil and the ginger to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add the sugarsnap peas and pinches of salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Return the fish to the pan, and splash the soy sauce evenly around. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with rice optional.

Cost Calculator
(for 2-3 servings)

1/2 lb sand shark fillet (at $6.99/lb): $3.50
1/2 lb sugarsnap peas (at $4.50/lb): $2.25
1-inch piece of ginger: $0.10
2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, salt and pepper: $0.25

Total: $6.10

Health Factor

Three brownie points: I think this has to be one of the lightest ways to prepare anything — by quickly stir-frying it in a minimal amount of vegetable oil. When you consider eating the sugarsnap peas and other vegetables fresh in a salad, they can accumulate more oil from dressing than what they do on a pan like this. Sugarsnap peas are fortunately full of Vitamin C and many other vitamins and minerals, like iron and potassium. And while I’m having a hard time tracking down any information as to eating “sand shark,” I’ll simply state that it, like all fish, provides valuable omega-3 fatty acids that are not so often found in foods we commonly eat.

Green Factor

Eight maple leaves: With the exception of the ginger, salt, pepper and oil, this was a local and seasonal meal — or way of preparing two ingredients from the Greenmarket. I actually considered throwing in some heirloom zucchini and summer squash that I’d picked up that day as well. It was exciting to see that some farms had them already for it being so early in the season. But when it came down to it, less just seemed more. The sugarsnap pea and fish combo was just right on its own.

11 Responses to “Ginger Stir-Fried Sugarsnap Peas & Fish”

  1. Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks says:

    Wow, that looks wonderful. Here in California, I’d use a piece of halibut or rock cod, as both are abundant in Monterey Bay. I just ate a bag of snap peas raw yesterday, but hopefully my CSA box will include some more this week and I can try your recipe!

  2. Rice Palette says:

    Wow, great recipe! And it only took under 3 min to cook? I’ve never bought a shark fillet before, and I thought it’d be more expensive than only $3.50! :)

  3. Reindeer Flotilla says:

    FYI, the sand shark is possibly endangered, and once the government gets better numbers on them, they might go on the endangered species list. So perhaps you might want to tone down your brownie points.

  4. Ryan says:

    Sand shark is currently a “species of concern”, apparently they congregate in big groups which some fisheries exploit.

  5. freerangegirl says:

    This recipe sounds great. I’m going to try with some Pollock. Cod would be great but its diminishing off our shores in the UK. Love the blog by the way – very inspirational.

  6. cathy says:

    Ryan and Reindeer Flotilla: Thanks for finding. I checked around at Seafood Watch and other sites but couldn’t find any info on the sustainability of sand shark. I know the fishery I got them from doesn’t use bottom trawls but I found some info on their vulnerability as you mention: http://www.aqua.org/animals_sandtigershark.html

  7. Jesse says:

    Cathy, sand shark around here is used as another term for Dogfish. I’m pretty sure they’re not actually endangered around the Mid-Atlantic area, but are in the northern Atlantic as it’s the main fish used for British fish and chips. Until recently, it’s mainly be a throwback fish considered more of a nuisance that steals your bait than a keeper, similar to Sea Robins (which also have tasty meat, albeit just in the belly area surrounded by a ton of bones). Don’t feel for eating local caught, there are plenty in these parts!

  8. Jen says:

    Tried this tonight as we had sugarsnap peas leftover from our CSA two weeks ago (tsk tsk). I used tilapia – $1.87 for two fillets, score! – and a long garlic scape, cut into small pieces on the diagonal. Other than ODing on soya sauce at the end – delicious! Thank you! And now I have three lunches ready to go.

  9. Simply Life says:

    Oh this looks delicious!

  10. gowns says:

    When I was young we surf fished brom the beach in Southern California and caught these sand sharks all the time. Never thought to cook them as we were fihing for other species. It looks like you have prepared them simply and I like the snap pea accompaniment. I would like to try this with white rice and soy.

  11. Kerry says:

    This was delicious – I made it with Alaskan cod and served with short-grain rice.

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