Dinner For Two, On The Side
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Turmeric Fennel Walnut Stuffed Cod & Orange Anise Kale

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The silence is palpable, interrupted only by a quiet buzzing of insects and the occasional cry of a far off bird. The scent of mown grass and manure waft across the fields, and the gentle breeze causes silent ripples to move towards us and the shore. My peaceful calm shatters as Dad dangles a wriggling worm in front of me; it’s time to bait the hook. I can’t do it. Nope. Impaling even a minuscule and slimy creature isn’t in my repertoire. Not to mention that I’m seven and simply think it’s gross, even if I could do it. Thankfully, Dad gallantly baits my hook, and I’m able to enjoy the fun part of fishing.

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We fished for catfish at the family farm in Tennessee. Now that Scandinavia is home, cod is the fish of the day. Turmeric root has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, among other attributes, and has been used for centuries to treat a number of ailments. I used the powder form for a long time (which is the main ingredient in curry, by the way) until I came across the fresh variety in an organic grocery store a couple years ago. When I tasted the spicy woodiness of the fresh root, I started thinking of ways to use it. In this recipe, the sweetness of the walnuts counters the bitterness of the turmeric, helping to accentuate its more positive notes. I also use fresh turmeric in my Squashed Quinoa Corn Fritters.

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I’ve updated this post from a previous version because I have since been introduced to massaged kale. I first saw it on Yummy Supper, and keep coming back to it for different things. The tang of the dressing provides a delicious contrast to the earthiness of the the turmeric, and you can make it well ahead of time and give your attention to the fish. I also sandwiched the turmeric mixture between two filets, because the chunkiness of it doesn’t lend itself well to actually coating the fish.

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This was my first time deboning a fish, and though I probably left more meat on than I should, overall I consider it a success! I do recommend trying it if you haven’t before; it gives one a remarkable sense of accomplishment. Also, it keeps the fish fresher, and this comes through in the flavor.

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This recipe serves two generously.

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Ingredients

For Fish:
750g (26oz) cod, with bones (without head or tail)
1 tablespoon sunflower oil (or other lightly flavored oil)
1 teaspoon butter
1 dl (scant 1/2 cup) walnuts, finely ground
1 dl (scant 1/2 cup) walnuts, coarsely crushed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly ground in a mortar
1 teaspoon grated or minced fresh turmeric root
For Kale:
75 ml (scant 1/3 cup) olive oil
45 ml (3 tablespoons) fresh blood-orange juice (or other citrus)
15 ml (1 tablespoon) maple syrup
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, lightly crushed
3-4 handfuls chopped kale (about 1 L, or 4 cups, loosely packed)

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Directions

If you have a whole fish, remove the bones. Pat the filets dry with paper towels, and place skin side up on plate. Sprinkle generously with salt, and let sit for about fifteen minutes to let any excess moisture seep out.

Meanwhile, prepare the kale so you can give the cod your undistracted attention. Combine oil, juice, syrup, salt, and anise seeds in a bowl and whisk. Wash and dry the kale, and add to the bowl. Massage the dressing into the kale for 4-5 minutes.

Combine the ground and crushed walnuts, fennel seeds, and grated turmeric root in a bowl, then pinch in the butter until it’s incorporated. The fish should have had enough time to rest now, so pat the filets dry again with paper towels, and flip one fillet over so it is skin side down. Spread the stuffing mixture evenly over this filet, then put the other filet, skin side up, on top. Secure the filet “sandwich” together with kitchen string.

Heat a frying pan over high heat and add the oil and a bit of butter. When it’s just starting to bubble, add the fish. Let the first side get nice and browned by letting it sit, without disturbing it, for 6-7 minutes. Carefully flip it and repeat timing for the other side, lowering the temperature if needed. If it’s opaque and flaky all the way through, it’s done. If not, lower the temperature to prevent burning, and continue cooking.

If you haven’t worked with fresh turmeric before, beware that it stains easily. Wear gloves if you don’t want yellow fingers and avoid porous surfaces!

Serve with white rice, or crusty baguette, if desired. If you’re not into the whole carb thing, steamed asparagus would make a lovely accompaniment!

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