Cooking with the Coolhand: Chilled Cucumber Soup with Heirloom Tomato and Pan Roasted Bluefish

//Check out a guest post by a hometown friend just as food-obsessed as me. Coolhand, let’s just say, my 15 year-old self would be jealous ’cause this dish blows your Chicken Alfredo out of the water.//

Eva asked me to guest-blog so naturally I’ve been sweating it like onions since last Tuesday.  My credentials? A couple years working my way around the kitchen at a high-end Tuscan restaurant and I currently moonlight at a gastro-pub.

I had been wracking my brain for that quintessential summer dish.  Some kind of potato/pasta/corn salad? Burgers with a mountain of toppings?  By Friday I had driven myself somewhat crazy so I called my friend Dan, a harvest manager at Siena Farms, a local farm out in Sudbury, Massachusetts (our hometown) for some inspiration. 

Last night he drops off a crate of Shishito Peppers, Yellow Onions, Persian Cucumbers, Shitake Mushrooms, Japanese Eggplant etc.  I immediately see a chilled cucumber soup in my future.  Just have to orienteer around the cavernous Whole Foods near my apartment and then sharpen some steel. (Note: I added an approximation using more common varieties of the produce brought to me)

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Heirloom Tomato and Pan Roasted Bluefish

(Feeds 6)

 

  • A dozen Persian Cucumbers, peeled and seeded (6-8 English Cucumbers)
  • 8 Shishito Peppers, peeled and seeded (5 Cubanelle or equivalent mild peppers for flavor)
  • 3 big ass cloves of garlic
  • ½ Yellow Onion, Sliced
  • 1 Pinch Red Pepper Flake
  • 1 Tub – 18 oz. Plain Greek Yogurt (Full fat.  This is America.)
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 3 Tbs. Honey
  • 1 Truckasaurus sized lemon (or 1.5 normal sized lemons)
  • 4 Oz. Chicken stock
  • Small handful Mint, chopped
  • Small handful Cilantro, chopped
  • S+P
  • Filet of Bluefish cut into 3-4 oz. square portions
  • 2 Gorgeous Heirloom Tomatoes

For the Soup: The soup is a slam dunk.  Slice up half your peppers, half your garlic and all the onion and toss it in a small pot with the EVOO and the red pepper flake.  Heat on low, sizzling/color/noise are your enemies.  You just want them to steep and give off their flavor to the EVOO.  20-30 min and everything should be soft.  You can stir it from time to time to keep everything coated.

Chunk up the cucumbers, the remaining peppers, slice the rest of the garlic and toss it in your food processor (or a bowl if you have a stick blender (or in batches if you’re a bachelor who lives alone in the city and despite his requests got a Magic Bullet for Christmas).  Add the yogurt, honey, lemon, the steeped onion/garlic/pepper and a solid grip of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

\I’d like to take a moment to talk about the importance of seasoning.  You know why the food from a high end restaurant is better than yours? A bunch of kosher salt, fresh pepper and twice as much butter as the recipe calls for.  Black pepper dust from a tin is like an legless old ninja: it has no kick.  Fresh cracked pepper from a mill ($3.00 in an adjustable grinder at the store!) contains the essential oils and the full flavor you’re looking for.  Kosher salt is used for its consistency and you should generally use 2x as much as what any FoodNetwork recipe tells you\

 Rant over.  Spin up your soup.  Taste it.  Salt will bring out the flavor of the cucumber and peppers.  Does it need more salt? Probably.  Adjust the honey and lemon if need be. Stir in the cilantro and mint and place in the fridge for at least an hour so all the flavors can bro out.  The salt content may need to be adjusted again after it cools.  The flavors won’t pop as much when it’s fridge-cold.

For the Fish: Season the Bluefish, heavily.  Blaze up the heaviest pan you have.  Cast iron preferred.  Dump in just enough yellow oil (canola, veg, corn) to coat and when it’s smoking drop the fish portions in skin side down.  The skin will want to curl up right away so hold down down with your hand for a few seconds to make sure they get a good sear.  After about a minute turn the heat down to medium and let the fish cook through about 75% (until the cooked grey fish has crept up the sides).  Flip over and turn the pan to low.  While this finishes for 2 minutes spoon out your soup and float a slice of tomato in the middle. Gently airlift the fish on top, drizzle with your secret stash of EVOO and garnish with some crusty bread.  For a music pairing, I suggest:

 MinustheBearAbsinthePartyattheFlyHoneyWarehouse

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