I became a fish eater very late in life. I grew up believing fish were smelly and disgusting, mostly because my mom believed that they were smelly and disgusting. The only fish you could find in our house was a can of tuna fish and even that was something treated with the utmost of sanitary conditions. You see, my mom’s disgust for fish stretched so far into her psyche that even the act of making tuna fish sandwiches was strategic and careful. It was a process…
She began by opening the can into the sink, being careful not to let any juices splash on the counter. The water would then be shmushed out until every last drop had been depleted and what remained were incredibly dry flaky tuna clumps. If any of that fishy liquid was left it could tarnish the whole bowl and in some cases would turn her off of the sandwich right then and there. Following its evisceration the tuna got plopped into a large metal mixing bowl and the can was then immediately disposed of in the trash, then the trash would need to be disposed of as well! Next came mayo, celery, and walnuts, some salt and pepper, throw it on a slice of toasted french bread and voila! Tuna sandwich time. Simple, right?
This is what I knew. This fish fear was instilled in me. I grew up believing that fish and all of its constituates were evil and smelly. So it wasn’t until well into my adulthood, well after I stopped my pursuits of vegetarianism –that I began to taste and in fact enjoy fish. Its a staple of my cooking experiments, its something I order when I eat out, and even the smell makes me happy and excited for what’s to come.
Just a block from my house is a great fish shop, clean, super nice, (a little pricey), but so convenient that its worth the extra shekels (did I mention the money here is shekels??). I think the beauty of this place is that it’s my neighborhood seafood stop. Dudi (pronounced like you would think), runs the show and spent many years on a fishing boat – so he knows his seastuff. His guys take good care of their product and will clean whatever you want however you need on the spot. But this place is another rare gem in Tel Aviv. If you try to buy your fish at the Shuk (the outdoor market that runs for several blocks), you will have to pick your fish from a huge platform of fish all lying there, in the sun and heat, exposed to who knows what. A couple of times a day the fish guys there hose down the whole lot and let the fish juices run down the center of the market, making the whole place stink….constantly. Call me crazy but this is not the way I like to buy my fish, its too rugged. Instead I stick with Dudi, he takes good care of his fish, and in turn I feel well taken care of.
When you want to make a yummy fish dish but don’t want to work too hard– do this.
Grab a piece of parchment paper, place the fish skin side down, top with any combination of herbs, citrus, onions, garlic, spices, oils, thinly sliced aromatic vegetables, you get the point. Wrap the fish into a little pouch, seam side up, and toss in a hot oven for 15 minutes or so. The pouch tends to puff up a bit from the steam – its a good signifier that the fish is cooked. Eat with rice or a spicy salad or just with a hunk of bread and remember that you did this all by yourself.
Fish en Papillote (serves 2)
A couple of filet – whatever you can get your hands on, I’m pretty sure the picture is of Tilapia. If you can get your fish person to debone its awful nice to eat without having to worry about those little suckers
1 lemon sliced
2 shallots sliced
2 tablespoons butter
drizzle of olive oil
Handful of chopped herbs, I think I used parsley and mint because those were growing strong in my balcony at the time)
salt and pepper
Preheat to 200 C. Lay out 2 sheets of parchment paper and drizzle olive oil in the center.
Separately lay the fish skin side down and layer with whatever ingredients you decide, salt and pepper as well.
Secure the pouch ( i suggest googling this), I was good at making paper airplanes when I was a kid so i think I fold my pouch a little different every time.
Cook for 15 minutes or so. Open the pouch and dump the contents onto your place, rice, whatever you decide to do. Drink some white wine if you got it.