Celebrate with a Salad!

Celebrate with a salad… said no bear ever! While National Pride Month in June will see more of us hitting the streets, May’s National Salad Month is still worth a little celebrating.  As spring days warm toward summer our palates crave lighter, fresher, brighter tasting foods and admit it, you kind of love a good salad whether it’s a blue cheese and bacon-topped wedge or one piled high within a fried taco shell. Salads, from a bowl of greens to a hearty Niçoise can be a simple side or a one-dish supper.

Speaking of salads… This past week, a local farm market manager asked if I could cook catfish at my demo. Live. In front of an audience. Now, while I cook a fair amount of fish, I was terrified. Fish is a more delicate protein than chicken or beef and since I get easily distracted while talking to audiences I had images of producing tough, dry, overcooked fish. In front of an audience.

But I forged ahead with developing a recipe. The fish I was asked to cook was Blue Catfish. It was introduced into the Mid-Atlantic’s Chesapeake Bay in the 1970’s and has become invasive. To control the population, groups like the Wide Net Project are encouraging more fishing – and eating – of Blue Catfish. So I crusted the fish with cornmeal and fried it up before cutting it into crouton-sized pieces, serving it over greens tossed in an Old Bay vinaigrette – after all, we are in Mid-Atlantic crab country.

The results in my test kitchen and at the farm market were a delicious success. So here’s the recipe for Crispy Cornmeal-crusted Catfish Crouton salad with Old Bay Vinaigrette. Say that five times fast. Happy National Salad Month and let me know below what your favorite salad is.

Photo: Matt Hocking

Crispy Cornmeal-crusted Catfish Crouton salad with Old Bay Vinaigrette

Serves 6-8

Chef’s note: Fish can buckle and curl over heat so press down on it with your spatula for few seconds.

For fish:

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tbs sweet paprika
  • Cayenne
  • 1 lb fish
  • 6 tbs vegetable oil

For dressing:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs Old Bay
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cups vegetable oil
  • Hot sauce
  • 1/2 lb fresh greens like lettuce or baby spinach

Directions:

In a shallow bowl combine cornmeal and paprika. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.

Pat fish dry with paper towels and dredge in cornmeal mixture.

Warm 2 tbs vegetable oil in a 12” skillet over med-high heat. Add 1/2 of the fish and press down with a spatula until it releases easily. Flip fish and cook through until it flakes easily. Repeat with remaining fish, adding additional vegetable oil if needed.

Make dressing: mash garlic into a paste with coarse salt. Place in a med bowl and whisk together with Old Bay, honey, and vinegar. Season with pepper.

While whisking, drizzle oil into vinegar mixture to form a creamy emulsion. Season to taste with hot sauce. Lightly dress greens.

Chop fish in 1/2” pieces and serve over greens.

 

Jonathan’s cookbooks offer simple recipes prepared with farm and garden-fresh ingredients to share with the people – friends, family and farmers – who make our lives matter.

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Jonathan Bardzik

Jonathan Bardzik

Jonathan Bardzik is a DC-based storyteller, cook, keynote speaker and author of three books inspired by the fresh, seasonal ingredients he finds in the garden and at farm markets. Self taught, Jonathan seeks to inspire home cooks with the belief that life can and should be lived well, something we can do everyday by preparing and sharing simple, delicious food with those we love. Find over 250 recipes and short stories, Jonathan’s schedule of live appearances and his books at JonathanBardzik.com

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