We often take a few-day-long vacation in the summer to visit family in the Thousand Islands in Northern New York State. This summer, despite the rain that was so persistent across the northeast, while we were there we had a few lovely days that actually felt like summer. This was perfect since we were doing most cooking and entertaining outside. I brought a cucumber, green onion and bean salad made with ingredients from my farm share, we bought local corn from the farm stand across from the little cabin village where we stayed, and we fried up some locally caught fish straight from the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The locally plentiful perch is a small fish, thus the filets are more fish stick-sized. All the more surface area for a bit of crunch and heat, I say. (I actually made the fish twice during our stay – the first time my step-father spent five hours to catch about a pound of edible fish, the second time I picked up a bag of filets from the bait store – no it wasn’t supposed to be used as bait! – for $8.99 for about 2 pounds of fish.) I cut the heat with a homemade tartar sauce. There were local blueberries for dessert, and all was washed down with wine made by my step-father from concord grapes grown on his property in Western New York. Truly a meal made from a variety of local specialties brought together over our humble riverside picnic table.
Cucumber, Bean & Onion Salad
Thinly slice 2 cukes, and about a half cup of green onion (I used my new mandoline for this task!)
Snip and halve about 2 cups of fresh beans – I used half green and half yellow wax varieties
Blanch the beans in boiling water for 3 minutes – drain and move immediately to a bowl of ice water
Mix: 1 cup of vinegar – wine or cider is best – with 1 T local honey (or sugar), salt and pepper to taste. You can also add a T or two of chopped fresh dill, parsley, garlic or any other herb or fresh garden offering to make this dish your own. Combine with the veg and let set at least one hour (a day is even better) and serve cold.
Spicy Cornmeal Battered Perch
Assemble as such:
In one shallow bowl: cup of milk
In another: cup of cornmeal, T cayenne pepper
On a plate: 1 ½ lbs perch filets, salted and peppered
Dunk into the milk, coat with the cornmeal mixture, and then cook in a ½ butter, ½ olive oil mixture (or one or the other) until just firm. We cooked them in foil on the grill, but over medium heat on the stove top would work as well. Note that these are a bit spicy, so cut down the cayenne if you want a milder coating.
Homemade Tartar Sauce
1 cup mayo (I almost made my own with some local eggs and olive oil, but I didn’t have a blender)
1 T chopped fresh dill (from our garden)
1 T capers
2 T chopped pickles (homemade bread and butter pickles made from cukes from the CSA)
1 T pickle juice
celery salt and pepper to taste
Mix together and serve as a nice counter point to the fish