Spring Supper

Pan-seared tilefish with lemon, garlic and parsley
Pan-seared tilefish with lemon, garlic and parsley (Photo by Keri White)

As we look to warmer weather, we often crave less-hearty meals and more seasonal ingredients.

Along these lines, I pulled together a deliciously light but still satisfying meal last week with ingredients from the farmers market. In addition to the traditional fresh produce, Headhouse Farmers Market offers fresh fish from a Jersey shore supplier, and I was lucky enough to procure some golden tilefish, a local catch from the waters off Long Beach Island.

On this particular Sunday, I also discovered a new vegetable, which is my latest obsession: choi sum. It is a leafy green sprouting beautiful yellow flowers — when I rinsed it in the colander it looked like a floral bouquet and I was momentarily hesitant to cook it. But I prevailed.

Choi sum is similar to a milder broccoli rabe; it has a hint of bitterness, tempered by a bit of sweetness. I spoke to a friend who hails from East Asia about this new-to-me discovery, and she advised me on how to cook it — she said to sauté it like any leafy green but to add some sweet wine like mirin to the pan. I didn’t have mirin, but port wine worked beautifully.

I had some left over from the dinner, and the surplus delivered a surprisingly delicious topping for homemade margarita pizza the following evening.

If choi sum is not readily available, any sturdy leafy green works with this method — broccoli rabe, kale, collard greens, bok choi, etc.

Pan-Seared Tilefish with Lemon, Garlic and Parsley

Serves 4

This preparation would work with any white fish. I’d generally aim for a firm-fleshed varietal like fluke, bass or cod, but milder fish like sole or flounder would be fine — just cook them for less time and take care in flipping them.

Cooking times will vary depending on the thickness of the fish; my fillets were about ¾-inch thick and cooked for about 10 minutes. For thicker varieties, be sure to lower the heat and slow down the process to ensure even cooking.

The sauce is intoxicating: We dipped bread in it and scooped up every last drop.

  • 1½ pounds tilefish fillets
  • Salt/pepper to season fish
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ stick butter
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped parsley

Melt the butter and sauté the garlic over medium heat in a large skillet until fragrant.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and place it in a skillet. Add the lemon juice.

While the fish cooks, spoon the butter mixture onto the tops of the fish; cover and cook for about 4 minutes. Carefully flip the fish, cover and cook another 4 minutes.

Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley onto the fish, cover and cook another minute or two. The fish should flake easily and be opaque throughout. Serve immediately.

Choi Sum

If you don’t have mirin or port or sherry, mix a tablespoon of honey, molasses, syrup or brown or white sugar with
hot water.

It won’t have the identical flavor, but it will do the trick.

  • 2 bunches choi sum, rinsed well with the bottoms of the tough stems removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, if desired
  • 1 tablespoon mirin or
    port wine

Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic, salt and red pepper, if using. When fragrant, add the greens.

Using tongs, turn the greens over until they are wilted and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

When nearly done, add the wine and stir well. Cook for another minute or two to allow the wine to evaporate and blend.


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