Yesterday, summer felt like it was finally in the air. It was Friday, the beginning of the weekend and in the very early evening I sat on the back steps inspected the cardboard boxes of herbs I had just bought that day. The kids were in the back garden with a couple of friends building some kind of magical wilderness out of grass, sticks and leaves for some little vinyl toys, even managing to get a zip-line up and running!
As I was pottering around the garden trying to figure out where on earth I would squeeze in all I had over-zealously purchased, my neighbor came strolling in wondering if we could get a little “Yard-Time” in. Her way of say “is this a good time to open the bottle of wine I have in my hand and for us to drink it in the garden?” Why not? Before I knew it my sister-in-law had joined us with a bottle of prosecco and another friend, who came to pick up her daughter, decided she could do with a little yard-time also! By the time my husband came home we had a little backyard party going.
One of the plants I bought yesterday was a Stevia Plant. Stevia leaves are naturally sweet and are the new craze in powdered sweeteners in place of cane sugar. When I tasted a leaf at the farm where I was getting my herbs I couldn’t believe how absolutely sweet it was! I just had to grow it and try it out!
Perhaps it would make a good substitute for a sugar cube in a champagne cocktail? (things one thinks about while drinking..) Armed with bitters and a chop stick I did my best to bruise a few leaves in a glass with bitters and then topped it off with sparkling wine – not bad…..
As the evening grew later I figured that dinner would have to be straight-forward and quick. When everyone disbanded I had decided on making fries, roasting asparagus at the same time and frying the catfish I bought yesterday. I hurried through my tasks and we were all tucking in within the hour. I love this kind of food after indulging in a little beverage or two. Maybe it is the nostalgic feeling I get when I douce a french fry (or a chip as I call it) in malted vinegar, remembering the many occasions where I stepped out of a pub and headed straight for a lovely piece of fish and searingly hot, vinegar-y chips!
Making crisp and delicious fries is easy if you follow my fool-proof (no sticking to the pan!) method.
You will need: 6 catfish fillets (or other firm white fish), or 12 fresh eggs (instead of using fish), 12 medium to large yellow/golden potatoes, 1 bunch of asparagus, 6 cups fresh spinach, washed, coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, paprika, fish seasoning, olive oil, vegetable oil. Condiments such as hot sauce, malted vinegar and ketchup.
Preheat oven 450*
1 – Wash and dry potatoes. Slice into thick pieces (3/8″ / 1 cm) and then cut each slice into the same size sticks or fries. Put in a big bowl and add 3 tbs of olive oil and mix together until fries are coated with oil. Add the asparagus and rub a little oil on them also, trying to keep them in their own bunch
2 – Add 3 tbs olive oil to a big baking sheet and place in lower third of preheated oven. Time for 5 minutes at which time the oil and pan will be very hot. Carefully remove from oven and spread fries and asparagus onto sheet in an even layer. Sprinkle everything with 2 tsp coarse salt, several grinds of pepper and 1 tsp of sweet paprika (or hot or smoked paprika if you like?). Place in oven and time for 20 minutes.
3 – Take out of oven and wait for 1 minute before flipping everything. If you have done everything right up to this point your fries should flip with the greatest of ease! Place back in oven and time for 5 more minutes. Take put, remove the asparagus and put on a plate. Put fries back into oven for 10 more minutes. Remove when done and divide onto plates when ready to serve.
4 – When fries have 15 minutes to cook put saute pan on medium to high heat and let it get hot. Add a layer of oil to pan and let it get hot. Season fish with whatever you like or have….Old Bay Seasoning, Creole Fish Seasoning, Celery salt & paprika, salt and pepper??? Fry fish is batches. When you add the fish to pan do not move for 3 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Keep everything warm on a plate as you go. If you are cooking eggs start the frying a little later.
5 – To cook the spinach add a little extra virgin olive oil (1 to 2 tbs) to a big saute pan and turn stove to medium heat. Add a little cayenne pepper flake if you like? Cook until it just begins to wilt. Turn off pan and set aside until ready to serve. I cook the spinach when the fries come out of the oven.