For those of you who don’t know, I am, by trade a Savory Chef. Pastry can really get my kitchen twine in a knot. However, since my clients and students continue to ask for dessert and sweet recipes, I’ve had to plug along and hone my skills at creating confectionary charms. I’ve shared a lot of savory dishes with you recently, soups, salsas, whole grain salads, steamed and poached fish, so I’m thinking it’s time to sweeten the pot. I love panna cotta. It is so easy to prepare and can be lifted to new heights with a variety of toppings. A light, creamy and refreshing finish to a heavy meal or one that sustains a meal of lighter fare, you can’t go wrong with this Italian custard. For some reason, I find the outcome of Panna Cotta to be far more reliable than my other luxurious love, Budino.
Season both sides of each fillet with salt and pepper. You can leave the skin on if purchased that way and either eat it or remove it with a sharp, thin knife before serving. We remove ours after cooking, then rough chop it and deep fry the pieces in hot oil. Then we have some delicious cracklin’s to top our fish!
In a large non-stick skillet, over medium heat, add olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. When oil and butter are shimmering and melted, add the fillet to the pan, skin side down first. Don’t move the fish around in the pan, allow skin to become brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Gently turn fish to other side and sear another 2-3 minutes. Remove fillets from pan, cover with tin foil, and allow to rest.
Meanwhile, reduce heat to medium low and add 1 of the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to same skillet. Use wooden spoon or a spatula to scrape off any tasty remnants from bottom of skillet, when you seared the fish. When butter begins to smell slightly nutty, add lemon juice, capers and white wine. Stir together on simmer, for about 2-3 minutes, then whisk in remaining tablespoon butter.
Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper, then add fresh chopped parsley. Plate Zander fillets on individual plates or one platter and pour pan sauce evenly over each.
Those ingredients along with toned triceps and the endurance of an adolescent, male rabbit and his harem in springtime is all it takes to create this simple, almost ethereal dessert.
You may want to warm up before you pick up your whisk. You’ll be whipping up the custard for a while.
Zebra Cakes? No! Those commercially prepared cakes with black and white striped icing are lunchbox treats brought to us by Little Debbie (Not to be confused with me, I’m big Deborah). There are some out there, who are more intimate with the other Zebra Cakes with similar chocolate icing but display a white, squiggly line dancing across the center made by Hostess. Oh, I forgot to mention that creamy filling inside, the best part, but unfortunately we can’t count Zebra Cake as an in-season food. Year round, yes.
I could make an argument for Zwieback, also known as rusk. I had always thought Zwieback was the name of the company who made those crispy, rectangular biscuits, you know, like Kleenex and Saran Wrap. But the retro-looking, yellow box containing the light, toasty, easily digestible crackers are indeed referred to Zwieback and are made by Nabisco. Zwieback , in my opinion is the Scandinavian version of an Italian biscotti. Both these biscuit-cookie-crackers are twice baked, but unlike biscotti, Zwieback are too light to dip into your cup of espresso. They’re more like melba toast in weight and texture, but the small oblong shape is great for teething babies. I gave them to my children as our Mother gave them to us when my brother, sister and I were young. As we sat gnawing on our biscuits, she would spread a light coating of salted butter on a couple of them for herself and enjoyed them along with a cup of tea.
Instead I came up with, Zander , which is in season at the moment . Zander is a type of fish and is as easily prepared as any white, fleshy fish. Zander is more commonly found on dinner tables throughout Britain than here in the U.S. A white oily fresh water fish, that seems to do equally well in brackish waters, is much like our Walleye fish. Zander or Pike Perch, as it’s also known, is a firm yet tender fish with few bones. It’s great in sushi or sashimi but I decided to share a simple pan seared version topped with a buttery, white wine and caper sauce. This is perfect topped with a simple white wine pan sauce, a side of steamed or sautéed zucchini, and a small serving of Pearl couscous seasoned with maybe some fresh, chopped sage or lemon zest and fresh thyme.