Yesterday was one of those long, hot summer days — it was 90F (32C) all day long, and even with the air-conditioners running on full blast, it felt intensely humid and hot in our Harlem apartment unless you were sitting directly in front of one. I thought I’d give our 2 1/2 month old baby some air and headed to Central Park with him in the stroller, but was hit by a wall of heat and quickly turned back — not a good day for a little one to be outside! Before I knew it, it was dinnertime; Sean and I didn’t feel like ordering in but we didn’t feel much like cooking either. A classic dilemma, which I’m sure many of you have experienced. With a newborn baby dominating our world, we were clever enough to get our groceries delivered (thanks, FreshDirect) but we didn’t feel like cooking (bad, I know). And because it was so hot, we didn’t feel like eating anything too heavy. It probably sounds like too many constraints and that we’re really picky, but it was just one of those days. Something inside me said “Just make something quick and light since we have a fridge full of food.” And, so I did.
First, other than burgers, one of the fastest things to cook is fish. Sean and I stock up on a great brand of frozen fish and seafood called Orca Bay. All the fish is wild-caught and of the highest quality — it’s great to have on hand for busy weeknights or if you don’t have a reputable fishmonger nearby. As I explained in Welcome, just like many other families, we are focused on we eat and where it comes from, influenced in no small part by the modern wave of books and documentaries ranging from “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” to “Food Inc.” and “Forks Over Knives.” We only eat fish that has been wild-caught through sustainable fishing practices. Yes, it costs more, but we think our health is worth it: each package has 10 oz of fish (usually two good-sized pieces around 5 oz each) and the price ranges from $7 for wild-caught flounder to $13 for wild-caught Alaskan halibut. As I said, totally worth it. I knew we had 2 packages of Orca Bay haddock in the freezer and I knew I could whip up a curry really quickly thanks to my pantry — so I challenged myself to beat the standard delivery time in Manhattan (45 min unless it’s Dominos Pizza, which yes, we do order sometimes).
Second, I found a Goan fish curry recipe on the BBC’s site for the UK magazine OLIVE, which my London-dwelling friend Yasmina loves. Making some minor changes to make it quick, dinner was on the table in 20 minutes because we had leftover basmati rice in the fridge. The fish curry was so simple — onion, ginger, garlic, crushed red chilli, cumin seeds, ground coriander, turmeric, and coconut milk. Even I was amazed at how quickly the haddock absorbed the flavors of the curry after only 3 minutes — it tasted like it had been marinating all day! (a great secret to Indian cooking and a useful trick if you suddenly have guests on your doorstep — Indian spices and herbs do all the work for you).
Weeknight Dinner Saver: Super Fast Fish Curry (adapted)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 large onion (or 2 small onions), chopped
- 2 heaping tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 14 oz can coconut milk, well-shaken
- 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate (I use a brand called Tamcon that I get at the Indian grocer, but if you don’t have it, just substitute with 1 -1.5 teaspoons lime juice/lemon juice/or vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Two 10 oz packages Orca Bay wild-caught haddock, thawed and cut into small-medium-sized pieces
- Fresh cilantro, finely chopped (for garnish before serving; I didn’t have this in the fridge, but usually do)
- Heat oil, red chilli flakes, and cumin seeds in a pan on medium-low heat. As soon as the spices begin to shimmer and move a little, add the chopped onion, increase the heat to medium, and saute until glassy and golden (only 2-3 minutes). Add the ginger-garlic paste and combine well, continuing to cook.
- Add coriander, turmeric, salt, and sugar, and saute for 1 minute.
- Add the coconut milk and tamarind, mix well, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the fish and cook for 3-4 minutes until just cooked (don’t cover pan with a lid).
- Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately with basmati rice.
Recipe adapted from Goan Fish Curry