Jim and I celebrated our fourth anniversary this past weekend. It’s the last one before we get hitched and our first-date anniversary falls by the wayside. Sadly, it wasn’t filled with dancing, or wining and dining somewhere fancy, but with a movie that I could hardly sit through because of back pain, and a few ice-packs and a stint on the couch.
But luckily, there’s not much that could deter Jim and me from romance. It’s the reason, really, why we’re marrying this fall. Now, a year’s-running back injury isn’t an aphrodisiac, but lightly pounded sustainably raised organic Scottish salmon, served raw with a sprinkling of chives and Thai basil, and a drizzle of hot oil, can overcome the worst pain if you’re in the right company, landing you both in the romantic spirit.
My love affair with raw seafood rivals (not really) my passion for Jim. Granted, my relationship with raw seafood has more ups and downs than my relationship with Jim. He’s never left me staring into the abyss of a toilet bowl. But, when you find the perfect scallop, buttery and sweet and needing just a sprinkling of kosher salt, a grinding of black pepper, and a few healthy drops of fruity olive oil, you realize that it would be silly to judge all seafood based on a few bad experiences. It helps, though, to go about your seafood seriously.
So, these recipes (if you can call them that) won’t work for everyone. First off, you’ll need to have access to great seafood. It’s not an easy thing. You’ll need a seafood market, or a very trustworthy guy at your local grocery. Even if you go to a stand-alone seafood market, you’ll need to get to know your fishmongers. You’ll need to express your interest in fish. You’ll need them to know you’re serious and you want serious quality. You’ll also need them to like you. And you’ll absolutely need to tell them that you’ll be eating the fish raw.
You may not be able to get sashimi-making fish just when you want it. I almost always give at least one day’s notice. And, for a special occasion, it’s good to give as much notice as possible. Or you can just wait around, ask what’s good each time you go to the market, and drop whatever you’ve got planned whenever your fish monger is really excited about something. When we go to the market, and they hold out a scallop, asking us to try it, beaming from ear to ear, we immediately forget whatever we’d planned to eat that night, and buy some for sashimi (or to barely cook them and serve over a tomato compote). And, I’ll say it again, always be nice to your fish monger. I’ve learned to put away my pride when I step into my favorite fish joints. I’m at their mercy, and I’m rewarded with salmon sashimi, cut from a fatty section, on my anniversary, with my soon-to-be husband feeding it to me with chopsticks. Results may vary, but if you can find yourself some great seafood, I imagine they’ll be nothing short of spectacular.
Organic Scottish Salmon Sashimi
I get my salmon from Metropolitan Seafood in Clinton, New Jersey. You want to make sure it comes from a sustainable farm; otherwise buy wild salmon (it won’t be as fatty, but will still be good).
1 4 oz. center cut piece of salmon, skin off
a small handful of chives
a few leaves of Thai basil
fresh black pepper
kosher salt, preferably David’s brand
fruity, high quality olive oil
dried red chili flakes
Place the salmon on a piece of parchment paper. Cover the salmon with another piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin or other blunt object, tap the salmon until it flattens out. It’s okay if it breaks apart some — you want it to be in bite-size pieces.
Place flattened salmon on a plate. Sprinkle with chives, basil, and a few splashes of soy sauce. Grind on some black pepper and season with salt.
Heat oil with chili flakes in a small saucepan until it is just about to smoke. Drizzle hot oil (without any chili flakes) over salmon, and serve with chopsticks.
Raw Sea Scallops with Olive Oil
Remove the abductor muscle from the side of the scallop if it isn’t already removed. Sit the scallop upright on its side and, with a very sharp pairing knife, cut the scallop lengthwise into thirds. Arrange scallops on a plate in a flower pattern. Sprinkle on a good amount of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and few glugs of olive oil. Serve with chopsticks and some soy sauce on the side.