Kona Blue Kampachi & Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini
Last week I got an email with the subject line “Fish for Seafood Lovers!” and at first, I didn’t pay much attention. Lately I’ve gotten sucked in too many times by spam emails cleverly disguising themselves as genuine emails about food and/or cooking. Once I clicked on “Chocolate dreams!” thinking I’d be reading about a box of sweets and I ended up getting an eyeful of something I’d rather not repeat here.
Anyway, after I’d finished my move on Scrabulous (I’ve been playing my friend Nozomi in England for about 2 months and she’s kicking my butt!) I was going through my emails and spotted the Fish Email once again. I gingerly clicked on it and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was from a publicist who was promoting her client, Kona Blue, a Hawaii-based company specializing in kampachi (a type of yellowtail). She offered to send me some kampachi and made sure I understood that I was not obligated to blog about it. I found no reason to deny their request to send me free, sashimi-grade fish, so I wrote her back, gave her my info and told J to keep an eye out for a cold pak via Fed Ex.
A few days later, my seventeen (!) pound box arrived and I ran home to open it; luckily most of the weight was the result of the ice packs included in the box. I pulled out two large kampachi fillets- they were gleaming and gorgeous! I stuck one in the fridge, announced to J that we were having kampachi carpaccio for dinner and sliced off a big chunk which I cut into very thin slices, drizzled with good olive oil and a touch of ponzu, and then garnished with a bit of cilantro and red onion. It was so good that I didn’t even stop to take a photo. Sorry! I was worried that, due to the high fat content, it might taste fishy, but it tasted clean and fresh.
Since J left the next day for a month (insert sad face here), I knew I couldn’t possibly eat the rest of the kampachi the next day so I stuck it in the freezer.
Which brings us to yesterday, when I went on a cooking bender of sorts- baking a massive pan of raspberry shortbread to take to work (more on that later…holy cow it was insanely good), oven roasting some bruised roma tomatoes I’d gotten for a bargain at the Farmer’s Market and chopping, draining, roasting and mixing various ingredients to make Molly’s Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini. It’s kind of ironic that I was cooking so much since my household has shrunk from two to one in J’s long absence, but I guess I just got the urge, and hey- I’ll be taking gourmet brown bag lunches to work in addition to eating some good home cookin’ for dinner. Anyway, I decided to keep on my cooking marathon and moved on to the kamapchi.
Roasted butternut squash
Other salad elements.....
I’d experienced the pure, clean flavor of the fish raw and relatively unadorned; this time I wanted to try it cooked. The website is filled with lots of info on how it’s virtually impossible to overcook it due to its fat content, how versatile it is, etc. Since I already knew that the fish was of a very high quality, I wanted to keep it very simple and let the fish speak for itself. After a sprinkle of good sea salt and pepper, I dredged it lightly in super fine flour and seared it in a pan with a bit of olive oil. The fat from the fish rendered slightly and it was ready in no time. I topped it with a few of the oven roasted tomatoes which I smashed into a chunky salsa and served it with the chickpea/butternut squash salad and some leafy greens.
How was it? Ho-ly-mo-ly. Look, to any detractors who might be snickering that I loved the fish because it was free, I say “Pushaw!” or whatever disgusted sound I could make at you in writing. The kampachi was juicy, tender, meaty and just perfectly moist. Once again, the fat in the fish only added subtle flavor without any cloying fishy taste. I think I actually liked it better cooked since the heat made all of the lovely fish fat melt into the meat in such a nice way, giving it the texture of a good, well marbled salmon. The roasted tomatoes were the perfect tangy/garlicky foil to the pan seared kampachi. It’d tasted just as good if I’d paid a grip for it. Getting it sent to me was the icing on the cake!
The Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini was very good, but the small squash that I’d bought was lacking in sweetness….perhaps signaling the end of the butternut season *sniff.* I’ve eaten more butternut squash this past fall/winter than I’d ever had in my whole life, and it’s quickly become my favorite. I am sooo sorry to see it go, although a peek at some gorgeous sugar snap peas and stacks of sweet Satsuma oranges at the Farmer’s Market already has me dreaming of the next seasonal bounty. Guess I’m fickle with my produce!
Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini