Uninvited guests

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

mise en placeFriends:

I have heard it said that a person’s life is comprised of a collection of non-associated moments, experiences and observations. Those moments and experiences become memories and impressions that in the end help to form our personalities and make us who we are.

I have always been an observer. My life in restaurants has afforded me uncountable opportunities to witness my fellow humans in all manner of behaviors. It has been an endless form of entertainment, wonder and, occasionally, befuddlement.

When Claudia and I travel, since we are not beach people, we plant ourselves in the middle of major cities weather notwithstanding. We cover miles a day walking to specific destinations but usually we just wander. As we meander we often find ourselves in places not on our itinerary and in both rewarding and occasionally uncomfortable situations. We hear conversations and see interactions that either become a highlight of our trip or an unsettling memory. Either way, the stimulation is addicting.

It often happens that I do not have to board a plane or drive distances to see or hear something that makes a deep impression. It does not have to be anything exceptional and usually isn’t, it just must spark something in my head and focus my attention.

Yesterday, in the most mundane of places, the locker room of the YMCA, I heard something. It was an interaction between a father and son that I could hear but not see. I don’t know exactly why it held my attention but the room was empty and I could hear them clearly. It stuck with me all day, so after dinner I came into my closet/office and wrote down my impression. Let me share it with you.

I can hear them speak in the other bay behind grey lockers. He was tall enough that I could see the top of his head, braids piled high and tied with colored fabric giving him height.

“Remember what I said?” I heard him say. “You are going to be a big boy today right?” “Yes,” a small voice replied.

I sat on a small stool a meter away, a continent away, eavesdropping.

“Put your shirt in the locker and get yourself ready OK?” He had a deep voice not young, not old just hard to place.

I sit motionless, uninvited to this conversation between a father and son. It’s none of my business I know, but the father’s voice is calm and direct and it has the timbre of both comfort and authority. It holds me.

I hear the boy mumbling almost singing as he removes his clothes naming each one as he stored them away. I sit and listen behind a weakly constructed mirage of privacy. I think that for the first time the boy is dressing himself.

“You ready?” a voice asks, not angry but congratulatory and proud.

I hear the deep baritone then a high-pitched, garbled language as the child stumbles out.

I see a hand. It sits lightly on the boy’s head. It could have been from a giant the size between the two is great, guiding the boy along.

“I am a big boy. I am a big boy.” I hear

It wasn’t much, the entire episode took less than five minutes but for some reason, I could not forget it. For that short time, I was caught up and completely focused. I am not a voyeur, there is a difference, but I wish I knew exactly what it is about certain people or things that charge my imagination.

It’s the same as when Claudia and I are walking down a street, her a camera around her neck, and she abruptly stops. She sees something only she can. Something that lit up a part of her brain and that I have passed without noticing. She focuses, closes the shutter and then later shows us what was in front of our eyes all along.

MELTED LEEKS AND FENNEL WITH LENTILS PEPPERS AND TARRAGON 1People are always telling me they are afraid to cook fish at home, so now it’s time to dispel any long-held fears. If you follow my instructions and keep a good eye on your purchase all will be well and you can confidently go out and buy that professional wire fish spatula.

First: Only buy what is the freshest. Just landed Atlantic Pollock (you have been eating it all your life)  is better than Mahi Mahi caught five days ago in North Carolina, flown to New England and put on ice for another three days. Chefs tip: FAS (frozen at sea) is a good substitute. Freezing is not the issue it’s how its thawed. (out of the package and slowly in the fridge. )

Second: When you get your purchase home, immediately remove it from the package and get the package out of the kitchen. Place the fish on paper towels to dry and put in the fridge.  Now you’re ready.

RECIPE  (serves 4)

1 pound Cod Loin ( Either you or the monger cut the loin into four 4 oz portions)

2 cups packaged dry polenta

4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 1/2 cups black rice ( also known as forbidden rice and available locally )

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 green chili pepper

1 large pomegranate (you can buy pre-packaged seeds )

1 package watercress


1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Oil for cooking

Lay the cod portions out for 10 minutes before cooking so as to get to room temperature. In a bowl, add the polenta and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Set aside and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add the rice. Cook as pasta until done. Drain and set aside.

Fine dice the peppers and set aside.

Cut the pomegranate in half and place in a bowl of cold water. Break the fruit apart with your hands freeing the seeds. Let the seeds go the bottom and let the white paper of the fruit float to the surface. Skim the white skin off the top and drain. Place the seeds on a paper towel to dry.

In a preheated pan add the oil and sauté the peppers for 3-4 minutes.

Add the peppers, pomegranate seeds and parsley to the rice, season with S&P.

Season the fish portions with salt and pepper on both sides and coat with the polenta.

In a preheated pan (preferably a cast iron skillet) add 3 tablespoons of canola or olive oil. When the oil is hot slowly place the fish in the pan away from your body.

Chefs tip: Do not touch the fish. Wait until you see a crust form on the bottom of the fish then remove the pan from the stove and place in the oven for 4 minutes.  Remove from the oven and turn the fish crust side up.

Toss the watercress with EVOO and vinegar.

Serve the Cod over the jeweled rice and top with the watercress. Take a bow, take a  picture.

Questions for Ed? Reach out edandclaud@gmail.com.

About this Author

Edward Aloise

Edward Aloise Previous Co-Owner/ Chef of Republic Cafe and Campo Enoteca and currently the principal in Republic Restaurant Consulting.