Luck is a funny thing, because the same circumstance that might appear fortunate to you is a big, fat drag to the next person. So really, if you think about it, luck is a lot more about perspective.
The week before the big Labor Day weekend holiday, we had no concrete plans. We hadn’t even really talked much about it, and Dan and I found ourselves with a nice, long weekend in front of us with nothing to do but house projects. And you know what? We’ve got all of fall for that. I wanted fish and beach and sun. But what were the chances of getting it at this late date, when we may well have been out of luck for nabbing a hotel somewhere for a weekend adventure away. As it turned out, though, fortune was very much on our side.
We found what appeared to be an entire, really promising old house that looked cute from the photos online and it was still for rent for the whole weekend; as it so happened, a couple of good friends also had no plans, and wanted in. Then came the warnings of big ol’ Hurricane Earl heading straight for the area where we were headed, but since we’d already mailed in a deposit and security for the rental, all we could do was hope for the best. Which turned out to be great. Earl did not much more than stomp around like a two year old having a short, fussy temper tantrum before a nap; the house was nothing less than enchanting with a mildly tricked-out, work-a-day kitchen that I fell madly in love with; and the weather after Friday night was, wow, the clearest blue skies and the nicest warming sun rays we could have hoped for.
After long days on the rocky beach, Dan and I and our friends were all craving seafood and more seafood, which we ate with gusto until we all practically grew fins. A night out at a favorite, local fish shack; an afternoon of fish and chips at a hole in the wall overlooking a creek; oysters from the nearby bay on the half shell and local vino; and the best part, an evening spent cooking in that awesome kitchen on the charcoal grill that we found next to the tool shed. We bought mussels, local veggies from a farmstand, hunky, gorgeous swordfish steaks, and I even made that fig tart I mentioned in my last post using fruit I hauled out from my father-in-law’s tree. We sat outside under the stars, spooning and forking and dipping and talking. It was, in the end, the kind of awesome weekend you can’t even try to plan, because it came together in that great, magic way that good cooking weekends with great friends sometimes do.
We were sad to leave yesterday, and even this morning when I woke up I thought for a moment we were still in that pretty little summer house. But I relived it for lunch, thanks to a great recipe from Laurent Tourendel’s new book Fresh from the Market, with some of the leftover swordfish I couldn’t bear to throw out and transported back on ice, along with an eggplant my dad had cut me from his garden before we got on the road last evening. It’s nice when you get summer to linger on just a little bit longer, even if only on your plate.
What did you cook over the holiday weekend?
Bucatini with Swordfish, Eggplant Ragu, and Garlic Breadcrumbs
For the swordfish:
- 6 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb swordfish, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Sea salt
For the eggplant Ragu:
- 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 8 medium Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 2 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 5 fresh thyme sprigs
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the garlic breadcrumbs:
- 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 6 TBSP panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1 TBSP roughly chopped fresh oregano
- 12 oz bucatini pasta
- 1 TBSP finely grated lemon zest
Stir the olive oil, chili powder, coriander, cumin, fennel, smoked paprika, garlic, and black pepper in a medium bowl until well combined. Reserve 1 tablespoon for later use. Add the swordfish to the remaining marinade and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until nearly smoking. Add one-third of the eggplant and sear until dark brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the pan and repeat the process 2 more times with the remaining eggplant and oil. Reduce the heat to medium and return all of the seared eggplant to the pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are soft and becoming translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute until the ragu begin to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of water. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the ragu is thick and the water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until just lightly golden, about 1 minute. Add the panko and toss to coat. Continue to sauté until the panko is toasted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the bucatini and cook until al dente, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Drain the bucatini.
While the pasta is cooking, season the swordfish with salt. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the swordfish along with its marinade and sear the fish on all sides, about 5 minutes. Gently stir the swordfish into the ragu so as not to break the fish.
Divide the bucatini among 6 warm serving plates. Spoon the ragu oer the pasta and drizzle with the reserved 1 tablespoon of marinade. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and garnish with lemon zest.
Laurent’s wine suggestion: Serve with a full-bodied rose that offers flavors of fresh strawberries, raspberries, and hints of summer flowers, like Sola Rosa, Sonoma County, CA.
Amy Zavatto has been writing about wine, spirits, and food for ten years. Her work appears in Imbibe, Gotham, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, among others. She is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bartending and the co-author of The Renaissance Guide to Wine & Food Pairing.