Fish for Dinner—Mermaid's Garden Makes It Happen

FRIDAY WAS FISH DAY IN MY FAMILY, for as long as I can remember growing up. Initially a religious observance, it eventually just became the custom and what we all enjoyed eating. It helped that we lived in a town on the shores of Lake Huron. Depending on where we were or what was convenient, dinner might be English-style fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, bass or perch caught in Georgian Bay (and the occasional pike!), shrimp fried rice or pickerel from the fishing boat at the dock down by the bridge.
In my own household, I’ve always cooked fish, although I drifted from the Friday fish idea—and it didn’t always happen weekly. Ever since I became smitten with all things Mediterranean, though, I’ve been enjoying fish and seafood more again—and exploring new ways to serve it.
This Catalan white bean soup with shrimp, from Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, makes a meal “handsome enough for a dinner party,” as she puts it. She’s right.
These ocean perch are baked with lemon slices, a little wine, capers and olive oil in the pan. Talk about fast food.
Oven-baked fish fillets with cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, garlic, capers and olive oil are always a hit. These are red snapper.
And here’s red snapper again, a couple of big ones from a Portuguese fish store in Toronto, ready to pop in the oven. (It was Christmas Eve and we were cooking for a crowd.) This is another Spanish recipe from Jenkins—the fish is roasted on a bed of sautéed onions and small potatoes, and then topped off with red pepper slices and tomatoes. A one-dish dinner—lazy Mediterraneanista loves it.
This summer, I’ve found a new and wonderful way to get a regular fish fix—I’ve joined Mermaid’s Garden Community Supported Fishery. It was started by Bianca Piccillo, a marine biologist who left academia to work in the food business, and Mark Usewicz, the French-trained executive chef at Palo Santo in Brooklyn. As consultants, Bianca and Mark work with restaurant professionals helping them “knowledgeably and confidently chose delicious, sustainable fish.” Now, as a CSF member, I get that benefit too. Which is nice because shopping for fish that’s good for you and the ocean can be confusing.

The CSF works like a CSA does—you buy a 4-week share (fish for two in my case) and pay $66 up front. On Thursday morning we get an e-mail from Bianca, telling us what fish we’ll be getting, how it’s caught, even who caught it—and ideas from Mark for cooking it. Later that afternoon, I head to Brooklyn to pick up my share of fish. So far, we’ve eaten tuna, hake, black bass, striped bass (probably my favorite), pollock. The fish has been fresher than fresh, and although I don’t collect if off the boat myself, there’s something nice about knowing something about where it came from. I’ve been enjoying learning a bit more about fishing practices—and different types of ocean fish. And there’s something very comfortable—and comforting—for me about reviving that weekly rhythm of fish for dinner that was implanted at a young age. Thank you Bianca and Mark!

Lunetta Chef Rides for Cancer—and You Get to Eat and Drink

Only 11 hours left to register for this deal over at Bloomspot. Lunetta, in Boerum Hill, with its great Italian-Mediterranean menu, will offer a Chef’s Selection: Formaggi and Salumi plate + 2 glasses of wine, for $21, instead of $41. All proceeds from the special offer will go to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a bike-a-thon that Lunetta chef and owner Adam Shepard will ride in August to raise money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Mediterraneanista Goes Cycling

In a perfect alignment of the stars (at least for our household), May is both Mediterranean Month  and Bike Month. New York City’s outer boroughs are home to so many great Med ingredients and meals, from Greek Astoria to little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx—and I often get to them by bike. So a celebratory month of riding and eating it will be! 
Recently, I cycled out to Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano in Coney Island, where the coal-oven pizza was definitely “worth a special journey,” as the Michelin guide would have put it. We got a bit grumpy waiting for our pie (we were cycling, we were hungry!) but when the pizza came, all was forgiven—the freshest of fresh tomato sauces and mozzarella, and a crust that would be delicious just on its own. Hard to believe I’ve been in NYC all these years without trying it.
Totonno’s opened on Neptune Avenue in 1924—the little one-storey restaurant looks like the closed-in space between two real buildings—then a fire closed it in March 2009. Lamentations all around, but luckily, it’s back and looking just the same as it must have in the old days—painted tin ceiling, black and white tile floor, a few painted wooden booths, with owner Louise Ciminieri keeping everyone organized (wait outside! sit here!) 
Next up, time for another visit to Sahadis on Atlantic Avenue for hummus and olives. Then maybe I’ll follow the example of Anthos chef Michael Psilakis and head to Titan Foods in Queens to get me some real Greek feta (and more olives). Tanoreen, a Lebanese Mediterranean resto in Bay Ridge, is on my list, too. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe we’ll have to extend this into June…
Getting there (sans bicycle): D, F, N, Q train to Coney Island-Stillwell Av 
Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano
1524 Neptune Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
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