Corvina (Sea Bass) in a Wine and Cream Sauce

We really love fish, I guess after living in Florida for all those years early in our marriage we always expected to have good fresh fish available to us. We were complacent about how lucky we were to be living so close to the sea, with all its wonders. And one day it was all gone, Joe changed jobs and we found ourselves inland, way inland living outside of Atlanta. Yes, you say Atlanta has an abundance of fresh fish all you need to do is go to Atlanta Fish Market or Harry’s Farmers Market and be able to pay for it. You have that right, it is a bit costly. Well to say we were fish deprived would be an understatement. I picked up a package of salmon at Walmart, or tilapia in the freezer section of Publix but it was not the same. Then where did we move, Dolega, Panama. Talk about a desert when it came to fish, even though the ocean was just 20 odd miles away. If I was lucky a truck would come by twice a week, you were at the mercy of the driver when it came to the cost and quality of the fish. I paid $9 a pound for shrimp with the heads on and had to beg him to stop at my house, $5 a pound for almost any fish he had. The big items were Mullet (lisa), Red Snapper (pargo) and Ray (skate). I would use skate and lisa to make a hearty soup along with shrimp if they were available. Making a base using home-made vegetable broth or even better fish broth, tomatoes, carrot, onions and celery . This was the favorite of my neighbors because I made a huge pot and would share with all the families on our street.

This past Sunday morning my two favorite fishmongitas (women that sell fish, I just made that up ja ja) were both short on sea bass (corvina) that was a pun they had short corvina, itty bitty ones not for me. I found that the woman I normally buy my shrimp from had some larger corvina but they were expensive. I bought one for $5 completely cleaned and fileted. They always include the head and bones when you buy a whole fish for making soup but normally I give this to the guardian and either his wife makes sancocho or he feeds it to Bingo his dog, nothing goes to waste.

This is Osvaldo our guardian and Bingo his faithful dog.

Here are most of the ingredients, I cook by the seat of my pants most times adding things as I go along so what is missing from this photo is the cream, salt and pepper.

I know I need a bigger cast iron skillet but this is the largest I could find in Pycca in Libertad.

This is the wine and cream sauce that I poured over the cooked fish.

Just another great meal in paradise, if you don’t mind me saying so.

Sea Bass in White Wine and Cream Sauce

  • 1-2 lbs of sea bass (corvina) cleaned and fileted
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter

In a hot frying pan add the oil and butter. Place the fish that has been lightly sprinkled with S & P in the pan and sauté for about 3-5 minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish. Gently turn fish and turn off heat. The residual heat in the pan should cook the fish completely. While they finish start your sauce.

Wine and Cream Sauce

In a separate pan:

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 T chopped fresh herbs, I used basil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/8 – 1/4 t of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 3 T cream
  • salt optional (taste before adding it may not need it)

Add olive oil to a medium hot frying pan, add garlic and red pepper flakes, sauté gently not to burn either. Add white wine bring to a boil and cook off the alcohol. Allow to reduce for a few  minutes. After the wine has reduced add half the fresh herbs and whisk in the butter. Cook for one minute and add the cream.  Taste for seasoning add salt if necessary. Pour sauce over fish, sprinkle with the balance of the fresh herbs and serve.

Yummy!

Mussels for Lunch Today

This morning I found mussels (mejillones) at the mercado so I snatched up a bag for $1 and hurried home to clean them and get them in the refrigerator.

I am addicted to cooking and garden shows, and so I get most of my ideas from watching folks like Julia Child and Jacques Pippin make cooking look so easy.  Joe downloads anything in these two categories that he can get his hands on. I am currently watching Season 2 of Laura Calder’s French Food at Home series. One of the recent episodes was a show on mussels. I am going to try that recipe –  with my personal changes of course – for our lunch today.

First you need to look at your mussels to be sure they are still alive – no cracked or open shells. If a shell is open, tap it gently to see if it closes. All of the ones I bought were good to go. Clean them well under running water, even used a small veggie brush to take away any sand and removed the beard at this point by pulling downward. Drain and leave in a colander, with a dish underneath, and cover with a damp piece of paper towel and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.

Mussels Steamed in Wine

Ingredients

  • 1 – 2 pounds mussels
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 5-8 peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoon butter
  • A handful chopped fresh basil

Directions

  1. Add the olive oil, bay leaf, shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and peppercorns to a large pot and sauté for a few minutes, be careful not to burn the garlic or shallots. The ingredients should perfume before adding the wine. Bring to a simmer and add the mussels, cover, and steam until they open, 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the mussels to a large serving bowl with a slotted spoon, discarding any that have not opened. Bring the wine to a boil and whisk the butter in, along with half of the basil, cook for one minute and pour over the mussels.  At this point you could also add a few tablespoons of cream but I felt the butter was more than enough flavor for this dish.
  3. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the mussels and serve with thick slices of french bread or any hardy homemade bread.

I use Chilean Clos white wine because it has a screw cap and can be kept in the refrigerator for months and it is still good to use in these type recipes. It is very difficult to find shallots here, I had three small ones from several months back. If you cannot find them you can use spring onions or any onion just for the flavor.

Joe loved every single mussel and sat with a spoon and bread to get every last drop of the liquid. I would say that this recipe was a huge hit at our house and it cost .50 cents per person for the main ingredient. What a deal!

Visited Charapoto Market on Saturday Morning

While visiting in San Clemente, new friends Mary and John took me along on the bus ride to Charapoto’s Mercado. This town does not have a building that houses their mercado. Rather it is set up on several streets leading to the church in town. The bus ride is 20-30 minutes and .35 cents per person. This mercado is only open Saturday and Sundays each week, Sunday being the better day because more vendors are set up.

Strawberries were $1.25 a pound, lomo fino $2.50 a pound, prices of the vegetables seemed to be similar maybe a bit less expensive than what I find down in Playas. Mary bought several bags of fruits and vegetables and I am sure they did not spend over $15 for all of their produce. John said that if you come later in the day on Sunday things are even less expensive.  This is a great market!

San Jacinto Mercado

This is the smallest public mercado that I have seen so far in Ecuador.

It is located a few blocks from the main street and one block off the beach. There were at least three vendors selling several different types of fish including corvina (sea bass), pargo (red snapper) and two different sizes of shrimp one heads on and one without, and calamari. Prices seemed to be what I have found in Playas maybe a bit less with the heads on shrimp going to $3 to $3.50 for medium to large 20-24 to the pound.

I was fascinated to see one man selling fresh from the cow, unpasteurized milk in a plastic bag. He must have a home garden with tomatoes, beans and fresh baby cilantro. He comes to the Mercado to sell his vegetables each day. He looked to be over retirement age and this is probably his only income.

There were a few places with red onions, more tomatoes and I even saw a few beautiful eggplants. Not a huge variety of produce but enough for everyday meals.

One Vendor at the Mercado

Joe told me the pictures I took for my mercado story last week were a bit weak! He meant you really could not see the fruits or vegetables to get a good idea of what was for sale. When I went to my favorite young folks for my frutilla fix this morning I decided to take several more pictures.

Here’s an enlarged view of the prices in the previous photo.

These young folks are here every day of the week with fresh fruits and veggies. The young man speaks a few words of English and they are both very helpful.