Talk about food and friendship and Santa Barbara – I had it all last week when ex-Santa Barbarian Patty came to visit from New Hampshire.
Like all dear friends, we easily picked up where we left off and didn’t miss a beat. Patty thirsted for Santa Barbara’s charms and of course, Santa Barbara cooperated. Out and about in the gardens of this fair city our eyes drank in the lush blues spikes of our local Pride of Madeira, the endless sapphire swaths of Ceanothus, and the relaxed clumps of lavender wisteria.
Hitting all of Patty’s favorite destinations, we popped in to the Saturday Farmers Market and gushed over the gorgeous French tulips and anthuriums, headed over to trattoria Via Vai for Patty’s favorite dish, Zuppa di Pesce, and gathered up our Sicilian Easter breakfast goodies at Metropulos (see our post on matzo balls and Easter bunnies). Finally, we headed for the marina and the Santa Barbara Fish Market to get the freshest catch for Patty’s Fish Fry Dinner (my husband’s favorite). We cooked, sang, danced, and laughed our way through the week. Didn’t get nearly enough Patty time – I never do. But she did leave us with a wonderful menu. When summer comes, Patty recommends using an electric skillet and moving the fish fry outside.
Patty’s Fried Fish
Golden and crispy cornmeal crust on the outside and tender and succulent fish on the inside. We couldn’t get enough of this yummy, easy to prepare fish.
2 pounds firm-fleshed fish fillets of your choice, cut into serving pieces (we used halibut)
1 cup cornmeal
Canola oil for frying
Lemon wedges for serving
Fill a flat bowl with water and spread the cornmeal out on a piece of tin foil or parchment. Dip the fish pieces in the water and then in the cornmeal, coating both sides. Place the fish on top of a wire rack and air dry for about 30 minutes. Prepare for draining fish by spreading heavy brown paper bags on a baking sheet.
In a large frying pan, heat 1 ½ to 2 inches of canola oil. Oil is hot enough for frying when bubbles form around a wooden spoon handle placed in the middle of the pan. Fry fish until crispy and brown on one side and then turn only once to brown on the other side. Adjust heat as you cook, being careful not to over brown cornmeal. Time will depend on the thickness of the fish. Fish should feel firm to the spoon. Remove with slotted spoon and place on the brown paper to drain and liberally salt while fish is hot. Serve immediately with lemon wedges or keep warm in a 200 degree oven.
Patty’s Tartar Sauce
We went crazy over this tartar sauce. Beats anything bought in a jar.
1 cup Best Foods Real Mayonnaise (Hellman’s to all you folks east of the Rockies)
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish, well-drained (squeeze liquid out with hands)
1 ½ tablespoons sour gherkin or dill pickle, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, minced
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and drained
Squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice
Dash of paprika
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon onion, minced
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients except the onion. Adjust lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add onion and stir to combine. (Note: to reduce the sharp taste of raw onions, they can be soaked in water for 1 to 2 hours; drain thoroughly before using).
Patty’s Cole Slaw
Prepare to crave this slaw. It’s so simple and delicious and, as Patty pointed out, this is a quick and delicious way to add healthy cruciferous vegetables to your diet.
1/2 head green cabbage
Extra virgin olive oil
White or dark balsamic vinegar
Quarter cabbage and remove core. Using a sharp knife, lay cabbage flat on cutting board and cut into long, thin strips – do not grate. (You can use a mandolin for this). Put cut cabbage in a medium, flat bowl. Add olive oil and salt to taste and toss with your hands, coating the cabbage thoroughly. Add the vinegar to taste and toss again. Cabbage can be made ahead of time, allowing the dressing to soak into cabbage.
For a more robust cole slaw: Add 2 red potatoes, boiled, peeled, and then coarsely chopped. While the potatoes are warm, salt and pepper to taste and add a splash of vinegar. Then add immediately to slaw and toss to combine.
Add 1 cup white beans and 4 slices chopped bacon and toss to combine.