[Warning: political opinions below. If you’re not in the mood, please scroll down to the photos for today’s recipe.]
As a Ukrainian immigrant, I’ve always felt lucky to be an American citizen. No matter how poorly organized our healthcare, how half-baked our higher education or how biased our criminal justice systems may be, living in America comes with a certain degree of safety. Of course, there may still be plenty of racists and misogynists, but at least in recent history we’ve been able to count on a president that is – as a bare minimum – politically correct. In fact, the very definition of this term stems from the government’s obligation to conduct itself in a moral fashion.
As of Friday, this expectation of safety and morality appears to be obliterated. I am in disbelief that basic human rights – like access to healthcare, respect from one’s government, the pursuit of freedom and happiness, or even just the acknowledgement that all lives matter – are once again up for debate. I continue to be shocked that someone so blatantly full of hatred for literally everyone who is not an old white dude has been chosen as America’s president. I can understand why some people may have not been thrilled about Hillary, but to choose Trump as one’s leader instead… that is still hard for me to understand. And to know that lies were already being spewed on the very second day of his administration is… ugh, barf.
The only positive thing I see is that this madness can last at most a couple of years. But what if it turns out to be not so easy to undo? What if it takes us another 50-plus years to go back to where we were before November 8th? This is precisely why it’s so important to continue speaking out, refusing to accept that “it is what it is,” and letting those in power know we are not okay with this.
Now, I realize that TNB is a food blog and you are probably not here for my political commentary, but for the past couple of days I’ve had a yuuuge “WTF” cloud hanging over my head and I can’t keep these thoughts to myself. How have you been handling the last couple of days? What are your feelings about the future?
And now on to the recipe: did you know that eating creamy starchy foods can offer a feeling of comfort (something we could all use a bit of at the moment)? I’ve had “polenta with seared fish + braised greens” on my ‘recipes to make’ list for quite a while now, and since I was recently sent a sample of Australis Barramundi, the timing for this recipe turned out to be perfect.
So what is barramundi? It’s a sustainably-farmed fish native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific region. It’s a white flesh fish with a mild flavor and firm texture that can stand up to a wide variety of flavors and cooking techniques. Barramundi is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and just one serving provides up to 60% of your daily protein needs. If you’re a fan of my site, you probably know that I’m always yapping about eating more plant and less animal proteins. But if the latter is a necessary part of your personal diet, sustainable seafood is undeniably a better choice than land-based livestock – both for human health and that of the planet. (Click here to find out where you can find barramundi near you!)
Thanks to its firm texture, barramundi can be grilled, poached, braised or roasted. I like my seafood prepared as simply as possible to maintain its oceanic flavor, so this barramundi recipe is quickly seared and finished with a squeeze of lemon. As for the polenta, keep in mind that it’s tastiest when eaten immediately. As it cools, it will firm up; if you have any left over, spread it in an even layer in a shallow dish and refrigerate. To reheat, cut the polenta into squares, pan-fry it in a bit of oil and serve it with tomato sauce as a snack or light meal. As for the kale, this sautéing in garlic technique will turn even the biggest kale hater into a believer (feel free to use it for spinach and chard as well). All in all, this is an easy and satisfying weeknight meal to make for those you love, or just your own darn self.
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened cashew milk
- Sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup coarse polenta
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 large garlic cloves, sliced
- Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
- 1 large bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Four 4-ounce filets of Australis Barramundi
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- Combine water and cashew milk in a medium pot. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Add ¼ teaspoon salt. Slowly whisk in the polenta, continuing to whisk for 2-3 minutes until no lumps remain and polenta does not sink to the bottom of the pot when you stop whisking. Reduce the heat down to low and cover tightly with a lid. Cook polenta for 20-30 minutes, stirring and scraping down the sides of the pot frequently, until polenta is thick, creamy and cooked through. Turn heat off and stir in butter. Taste and season with salt, if needed.
- In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add kale. Using tongs, toss the kale in oil to evenly coat the leaves. Cook for 2 minutes, until kale starts to wilt. Then add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan to create steam. Cook the kale for an additional 2 minutes. Turn heat off and drizzle with lemon juice.
- Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a separate large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, gently place the fish in the skillet skin side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes (3 for thinner slices, 4 for thicker), until the skin is browned, then gently flip the fish and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
- To serve, divide the polenta among 4 bowls. Top with kale and seared barramundi. Serve with lemon wedges.