Our local fish are a resource that we can no longer take for granted. As a chef coming to Long Island many years ago, I literally fell in love with the seafood surrounding us here. I learned how the season evolved with the bluefish and weakfish coming early, followed by flounder (multiple varieties), striped bass and the cod in midsummer, along with lesser-known species such as blowfish, monkfish, black-fish and black sea bass. Offshore, we were supplied with swordfish and tuna, plus some mako shark. All of these fish are still available, though not always local, but they are threatened by many challenges that need to be addressed.
It’s very hard to picture the North Fork without seafood. Here are some casual ways to use this precious treasure:
For four people, purchase 4 ciabatta rolls, 1/2 pound of bacon, two tomatoes, a head of romaine lettuce and an 8-ounce tuna steak.
Prepare a rub for the tuna by combining 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon each of coarse salt and pepper. Rub this mixture on the tuna and set aside.
For avocado tartar sauce, place in your food processor the flesh of 1 avocado, the juice and zest of 1 lime, 1 chopped shallot, half of a jalapeno pepper, minced, and 2 sweet gherkin pickles. Purée this mixture until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise along with salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare a char-grill and wait until the coals turn white. Spray the tuna with no-stick and grill it rare. Remove from the grill. Cut the rolls in half and brush each with olive oil. Grill them until lightly toasted.
Cook the bacon until just crisp in a cast-iron skillet.
Spread the avocado tartar sauce on the bottom of each roll. Place a leaf of lettuce on top along with two slices of tomato. Put 2 bacon slices on top of the tomato. Slice the cooked tuna into thin diagonal slices. Place 2 of these on top of the bacon and top with the other half of the roll. Repeat for all four rolls and serve.
GRILLED STRIPED BASS TACOS
Season 1 pound of boneless, skinless, striped bass fillet with 1 tablespoon of cHarissa (available at several local shops) spice blend and refrigerate.
Prepare cole slaw by thinly slicing 1 small head of green cabbage and placing it in a bowl. Chop 3 scallions and add to the bowl. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1 teaspoon lime zest and the juice of 2 limes, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add this to the cabbage mixture and thoroughly combine with your hands. Make a corn relish by slicing the kernels off of 3 ears of fresh corn into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup minced red pepper and 1/2 cup minced green pepper along with half of a jalapeno pepper, minced, and 3 chopped scallions. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, a few drops of Tabasco and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar and set aside.
For tomato salsa, chop 2 ripe tomatoes and place them in a bowl. Add half of a jalapeno pepper, minced; 1/4 cup chopped cilantro; 1/4 cup chopped red onion; 1 teaspoon minced garlic; and the juice and zest of 1 lime. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spray the striped bass with no-stick and place it over the hot coals on a char-grill. Cook until it just begins to flake and remove. Brush 12 soft corn tortillas with oil and place on the grill. Cook briefly and remove.
Cut the fish into small pieces and place them in a bowl. Arrange the cole slaw, corn relish and salsa with the fish and the tortillas so that people can assemble them at the table.
OVEN-ROASTED POTATOES AND SWEET POTATOES
Scrub 3 Idaho potatoes under cold water and slice into wedges, leaving the skin on. Scrub and trim 4 sweet potatoes and cut into wedges, leaving the skin on. Combine in a large bowl 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1 tablespoon of cHarissa spice blend. Add the potatoes to this mixture and toss thoroughly.
Lay the potatoes out on a sheet pan, being careful not to crowd them. Put them into a 450-degree oven and roast for 25 minutes. They should be well browned and turning crisp on the outside. Remove and use a thin spatula to lift them off of the sheet pan.