A fishy surprise

One of the more important things we’ve learned since starting this blog last fall is that when inspiration strikes, you must obey. And by obey I mean cook, photograph, and blog. Sometimes the inspiration comes in the form of a new idea and sometimes the inspiration comes in the form of greater amberjack filets your husband brings home from work!


This gorg photo of amberjack fish filets from The Fish Society will have to do because in the rush to cook up the unexpected grouper-like fish we forgot to photograph the raw filets. Womp womp womp.

Originally I had planned on the next post coming out at the beginning of next week when we start heading out to the farms. But, then Alfonso made some delicious lentils yesterday morning. THEN he brought home some surprise amberjack fish from work. So, I stayed home on Friday night to document the last couple of day’s worth of delicious eating. I had such big plans no plans at all anyway.  

We’ll start with Alfonso’s lentil stew. Lentil stew, salmorejo, and tortilla de patatas frequently compete for my favorite Spanish dish. As I write this now I realize that all three of those are vegetarian dishes. You can certainly put morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) etc. in your lentil stew (and most do). But I never liked finding funny textured meats in my smooth lentils, so we usually leave that part out. Over the years I’ve come to find out that Spain really does make some delicious veggie friendly dishes. This makes the fact that 2 of my vegetarian study abroad friends (Let’s go back to 2005, guys!) were served 3 beautifully arranged cheese slices -SLICES!- on some lettuce as a substitute for a main, i.e. meat, course during one of our hotel stays an even weirder story.

Back to the lentils.

We eat lentil stew alone, over rice, or as you’ll see later, with fish. Serve with a splash of white wine or champagne vinegar and crunchy French baguette croutons.


Spanish Lentil Stew


1 lb dried small black lentils

1 quart broth (veggie or meat-based is fine)

1 white onion, quartered

2 large carrots, peeled and cut in to 3-4 pieces

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed

1 T+ salt

1.5 t pepper

2 bay leaves

1 large russet potato, peeled and medium diced

white wine vinegar for drizzling

extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

croutons (preferably homemade)

Rinse your lentils under cold water and pick out any small rocks or debris. Place the lentils, broth, 1 quart of water, onions, carrots, garlic, 1 T salt, pepper, and bay leaves in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes. Simmer, slightly covered, for another 15-30 minutes, until the lentils, veggies, and potatoes are tender.

Lower the heat to medium-low and move all the veggies and about 1/6 of the lentils to a blender, leaving the potatoes in the stew. The more lentils you remove, the thicker the final product will be. Blend the mixture until smooth and return to the stew, mixing in. Turn off the heat and serve with a drizzle of each olive oil and vinegar. Top with croutons.

Spanish Lentil Stew
Spanish Lentil Stew

The lentils were already sitting in the fridge when Alfonso called on his way home last night saying, “We’ve got fish!” After asking my normal questions (“Are you bringing it home because it’s going bad and you can’t serve it at the restaurant?” “Does it smell like fish?” “When was this fish actually taken out of the ocean?”) I received some of the best news a foodie can: surprise fresh, local ingredients!

Alfonso’s co-worker went fishing 20 miles off the Charleston coast and came back with the mother load. Everybody got a little piece of ocean freshness! From what I hear it was quite the project at the restaurant, as the whole fish was about 2-3 feet long and hefty. True to form, Alfonso was making fish steaks not two minutes after walking through the door late last night. We put them on ice to cook up this morning before work. True story: sometimes we cook and photograph non-breakfast items in the morning and then have perfectly styled plates covered in plastic wrap waiting for us in the fridge at lunchtime.

Lentils and salmon is a decently common (and delicious!) combination, so we decided to try out a little of the leftover lentils (and the corn from this weekend)with the amberjack.

This meal is EXTREMELY easy, fast, healthy, and delicious.

Seared Amberjack Filet with Creamy Lentils


2 amberjack fish filets (1.5 in. thick), cleaned and skinned

1.5 cups julienned romaine lettuce

2 T favorite salad dressing, preferably homemade (We used an extra lemon-y aioli.)

1/2 cup prepared Spanish Lentil Stew, warmed (see recipe above)

1/4 cup grilled corn off the cob

1/4 tomato, small diced

salt and pepper to taste

high heat oil

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. In an oven safe pan heat enough oil over medium-high heat to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. When heated, salt and pepper the fish filets and place them in the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side, until a nice crust forms. Do not touch the filets until you are ready to flip them as this will disrupt the sear.

Place entire pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the internal temperature reads 140-145°F. Set aside to rest.

Mix the lettuce and dressing and divide between two plates. Top each with 1 fish filet and half of the lentils. Sprinkle half of the tomatoes and corn on each and finish with a pinch of salt to taste.

I think it is important to let your available ingredients guide your cooking. What’s in season is usually what’s on sale, so this weekend try deciding your menu AFTER heading out to get the ingredients! Ask your grocer/farmer/salesperson what is particularly good that day and go from there. See you next week…unless we get another surprise fishy tonight!