Stuffed Fish and Pkhali

I’m in Missouri again, visiting my folks as I prepare to set out on a solo road trip mission in search of textile and garment related self education. During my first week here I had the joy of being allowed to fish some private ponds on my Dad’s friend’s land. It was a cooler day than it had been since I’d arrived, but the sun still beamed down, warming the shoulders and calves benevolently as we stood in tall grass casting into ponds that would soon disappear in the drought that has beset the area. Big turtles popped their heads above the water to watch us periodically, and red winged blackbirds chased each other through the branches of some nearby trees which had long since become skeletal. A vulture surveyed us before making his way on, and the calm was so complete that each time a fish splashed in the bucket a few yards from my feet, I nearly jumped.

misery

My dad caught most the fish that day, but we all had decent luck, and in the end we had more than a reasonable pile of crappie and bass. My dad and I cleaned them while my mom made a quick late night repast, and we divvied up the loot. I brined and smoked almost half, some we froze, and the rest I made for dinner the next night.

This recipe is inspired by stuffed fish recipes from France and Germany which usually include bread crumbs and a glut of extra ingredients. I wanted to keep things a little cleaner and less calorically dense, so I omitted many of the more refined ingredients and placed an emphasis on Spinach. With onions, mushrooms and chopped almonds, the flavors are light and fresh. I wish however that I had had access to wild mushrooms, sorrel, nettles and hazelnuts, as I think this dish would really shine with wildcrafted ingredients. If anyone has the chance to try- please send me pictures and let me know if it works!

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The side dish is called Pkhali, and is a traditional salad from Georgia (the Caucasian country, not the American state). It can be made with Spinach to great effect, and allegedly carrot as well…though I have not tried that variation. I did not have pomegranate seeds when I made this meal, but ideally the Pkhali have pomegranate seeds pressed into their tops in floral motifs. They pair excellently with grilled foods, and if smooshed on top of a hamburger patty, do not disappoint.

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Stuffed Crappie (or Bass)

5 Crappie or Bass

1/2 Yellow Onion, sliced thin

6 Crimini Mushrooms, chopped

1 Bunch Spinach, chopped

1/2 Bunch Parsley

1 Handful Almonds, rough chopped

1 tbsp. Butter

White Pepper and Salt to taste

1 Generous pinch of Nutmeg

1 Lemon

Kitchen String

 

Method

Clean your fish and either remove the head or don’t. Using a sharp knife, extend the cut along the stomach cavity to just above the end of the tail, essentially making a taco shell out of the fish.

Chop your mushrooms, and parsley. Thinly slice the onion, and saute these three in butter over medium heat until soft and a noticeable amount of fluid has cooked out. Add white pepper, salt and nutmeg. While they are cooking, rough chop the spinach and almonds.

Removing the mushrooms, onions and parsley from cooking liquid, mix them while still hot in a bowl with the spinach and  almonds.  Slice the lemon into as many rounds as there are fish.

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Lightly salt the inside of each fish and stuff full of the spinach and mushroom mixture.

Truss up the fish and secure a slice of lemon to the outside of each one.

Grill over medium high for around 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt after initially setting on the grill.

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Pkhali

3-4 Beets, quartered and boiled

Juice of 1 lemon

1 large clove of garlic

1 cup of Walnuts

1/2 Bunch of Cilantro

salt to taste

Pomegranate seeds

Method

After Boiling the beets to medium soft, place them aside to cool.

In a large food processor combine all other ingredients and grind until they are a rough paste.

Add the beets and process again until you have a thick, malleable paste, and everything is well mixed in.

Roll into balls the size of a golf ball and press pomegranate seeds on top.

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