This past Saturday was the opening day of my local farmers market. It is now opened every Saturday for the summer months rather than once every month. To support its grand opening for the season, I visited the market and found some great ingredients to inspire me to make my next dish.
I picked up some beautiful oyster mushrooms. I also bought some skate wing fillets at Pura Vida Fishery at the market. I later went into the city to meet friends and went to Dean and Deluca market down in Soho where I surprisingly found some Fiddlehead Ferns. Fiddlehead Ferns are young unfurled ostrich ferns that are still curled in a tight spiral. These vegetables are usually available only a few weeks in May. The reason why it's called "Fiddlehead" is because the shape of this vegetable resembles the end of a violin. I have been looking to get my hands on these elusive spring vegetables in Union Square Greenmarket for the last month, but every time I get there, they are sold out of them. I thought I could make something with the skate and oyster mushrooms I got earlier at the farmers market. So let the recipe testing begins...
Skate with Fiddlehead Ferns, Oyster Mushroom and Pineapple Herb Pesto - Serves two
2 skate wing fillets (approx. 6 oz each)
Salt and pepper to season
Flour to dredge
3 tbsp of olive oil
Juice of 1/2 of a lime
Fiddlehead Ferns and Oyster Mushrooms
1/2 pound of fiddlehead ferns (if you can't find this, you can substitute with asparagus)
1/2 pound of oyster mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
2 gloves of garlic (slightly crushed)
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Pineapple Herb Pesto
1/4 cup of fresh parsley
1/4 cup of fresh basil
2 tbsp of fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup of fresh pineapple (rough cut to small pieces)
2-3 tbsp of lime juice (juice of 1 lime)
Zest of 1 lime
1/4 to 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
To start, make the sauce ahead of time so it has time to marinate all the ingredients together. Combine all the herbs, pineapple, lime zest and juice in the food processor and process until ingredients are finely chopped. Slowly add the olive oil while puree the rest of the ingredients until thickens and combined, add salt and pepper to adjust seasoning and set aside.
Wash the fiddlehead ferns in water and rinse a few times and be sure to trim off any dry ends. Bring two quarts of water to boil, add enough salt to taste like salt water (this will add flavor to the vegetables). Add fiddlehead to water, let it boil for 2-3 minutes, set up a bowl of ice water. Drain the ferns then immediately shock the vegetables by adding to ice water to keep them from cooking and turning color. Drain and set aside. Heat a small pan medium to high heat, add the garlic to let it infuse the flavor in the oil without burning, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, saute the mushroom until they release its moisture (2-3 minutes) and then add the ferns, season again with a pinch of salt and pepper, add a little oil if necessary as the mushrooms made absorb some of the oil, saute the vegetables for another 2 minutes and keep warm.
Press paper towel onto the skate fillets and dry them to make sure there's no excess moisture before dredging in flour. Season each fillet with salt and pepper. Put a pinch of salt in the flour so it is also seasoned. Dredge the fillets with flour and shake off excess. Heat a large pan in medium to high heat, add the oil and heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Then carefully add each fillet to the pan and use a spatula to gently press down the fillets in the pan to be sure the fillets are laying flat and that they are cooking evenly. Cook the fillets until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes) on the first side. Once you see the first side is cooked and almost cooked through to the side that's facing up (you'll see the edges start to brown), gently flip over to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes. Once the fillets are done, splash some lime juice on top. To plate, place the sauce on the bottom or on the side of the dish, then add the fish and toss the vegetables on top.
Skate has become one of my favorite fish because of its sweet, mild shellfish-like taste. The pineapple herb pesto gives a great flavor and add acidity to the skate. By pan frying the skate, it adds a crisp texture. The fern is sweet with a hint of bitterness. It's always nice to see all the ingredients come together in a dish. Now that the market is open on a regular basis, I hope to find more inspirational ingredients to test more dishes.