This is a story about how one simple ingredient can lead to a wonderful home dining experience.
We were in Trail recently and, as we like to do, we stopped in at Ferraro Foods to check out its great selection of Italian products. But it was the produce department that first caught my eye. Meyer lemons. I know of Meyer lemons only because they appear in recipes and food shows. My reading suggests they are probably hybrid cross of a lemon with an orange, possibly mandarin, and they are most commonly grown in China. This was the first time I had noticed them in a grocery store.
Meyer lemons were commonly grown in California in the 1940s until it was discovered they were symptom-free carriers of a virus deadly to other fruit trees, so most were torn out as a precaution.
I picked up a package containing a half-dozen lemons, noting that the package also contained a recipe for a marinade that included lots of fresh ginger. My thoughts immediately went to fish, though the marinade would work well with chicken, pork or prawns, too. The store’s frozen fish selection included some nice looking basa fillets and I bought some.
The following day, in a quick interval between American football playoff games, I prepared the marinade. To the juice of three lemons I added some olive oil, water, grated ginger, garlic, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. The marinade went into a Ziploc bag along with the thawed fillets and I returned to the football game.
After two hours I put on to the stovetop some orecchiette pasta that, with its little ear shape, is great for holding sauce. I made another batch of marinade and put in a frying pan to boil while I quartered a pound of white mushrooms and sliced red and yellow peppers, all of which went into the liquid. Meanwhile, the basa fillets were laid out on a parchment paper covered baking tray and put into a 350-degree oven. I let the sauce bubble away to reduce and thicken, all the while imparting the lemon and ginger flavours into the mushrooms and peppers. The cooked and drained pasta was added to the mixture, then I stirred thoroughly before removing from the heat.
The marinated basa was done to perfection (just until it was translucent and flaky, and not a minute more). I plated the meal by laying down a bed of arugula, onto which the fish was placed. The pasta went alongside. From the fridge I took a bottle of wine I had briefly chilled, a Riesling from Wild Goose.
Wild Goose Winery, near Okanagan Falls, has long been a favourite of ours, for white wines in particular. The Kruger family members are passionate about their wines and I think they consistently make as good a Riesling as any winery in the country. On our visit last fall to the new tasting room, we were impressed with the entire lineup of wines, but our purchases were mainly Rieslings.
My selection for our Meyer lemon-influenced dinner was a 2011 Stoney Slope Riesling. It bursts with apple and other fruit flavours, but it was the dry minerality that made it a delight to sip with our dinner. It balanced beautifully with the slight sweetness of the lemon-ginger sauce. This isn’t the first time I’ve said it and it won’t be the last — Riesling is an incredibly versatile wine that probably works with a bigger variety of foods than any other wine varietal.
I honestly don’t remember when I had a better tasting fish dinner and we were both happy to realize that we could look forward to leftovers the next day. And they were just as good.
Meyer lemons, as Martha Stewart, one of their champions, has undoubtedly said over the years, are a good thing.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.