by Kate Heyhoe
The 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday until Easter are observed by Christians as Lent, a season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter, and the name is derived from the Old English word for Spring.
In 1563, Queen Elizabeth desired to beef up the English fishing and shipbuilding industries, thereby reducing the price of meat, which was quite dear at the time. So Parliament decreed that Fridays, Saturdays and Wednesdays would be meatless, with penalties ranging from imprisonment to fines, and one woman was even pilloried for "having meat in her tavern during Lent," according to James Trager's The Food Chronology.
Today, we know that fish is healthy for us, filled with omega 3-fatty acids, and I for one don't need threats to make me eat it. In her new book Great Fish, Quick, Leslie Revsin shows us just how uncomplicated a piece of wonderfully prepared fish can be. Simple, quick, no-fuss recipes include health tips and ingredients that are readily available.
This is one of those handy books to pick up when you need a boost of inspiration: you've spontaneously purchased some catfish fillets on special at the market—now what do you do with them? Here's one of Leslie's ideas, which she says works well with red snapper, perch, sole, halibut, or bass fillets.
"This is so simple," she says, "yet the flavors hit all the bases. I like it when the black pepper is somewhat coarsely ground—the little pieces make your mouth glow. Then the lemon juice refreshes your palate and the fresh basil pulls it all together."
Whether you're giving up meat for Lent or just eating fish, Great Fish, Quick deserves a readily accessible place on your cookbook shelf.
Prep & Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Four 7-ounce catfish fillets, each one-half inch thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (preferably coarse ground)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Flour for dredging
4 teaspoons butter
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dry catfish fillets on paper towels if they're damp. Season the fillets on both sides with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, lightly pressing the pepper into the fillets. Drizzle them with a tablespoon of lemon juice, rubbing it in all over, and let the fillets sit for 5-10 minutes, uncovered. In 1 large or 2 small ovenproof skillets, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Dredge catfish fillets in flour and pat off excess. While flouring fillets, raise the heat under the skillets to high and add butter. As soon as the butter has frothed, place the fillets in the pan, round side down. Sauteed until they're deep golden brown on the first side, 4-5 minutes. Turn fillets over and place pan(s) in oven. Cook fillets until they're opaque all the way through, 4-5 minutes more. To check, make a small cut into the thickest part of the fillet. If they're done, remove pan from oven.
To Serve: Place catfish fillets on wan-n dinner plates. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, sprinkle with chopped basil, and serve immediately.
Great Fish, Quick
by Leslie Revsin
308 pages; 1997
Reprinted by permission
This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified January 2007
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