“Sit down, Al,” Carlo said. “We’re having a little nosh.” He set down a long oval loaf of bread on the table, followed by a huge ceramic bowl filled with cut-up wedges of tomatoes, red potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs, coated with some kind of dressing.
“This is ciabatta,” he said, tapping the bread.
“And this is gremolata,” Nina said. She tore off a chunk of bread, dipped it in the dressing and handed it to me. “Lemon, garlic, olive oil and fresh parsley.”
I took a bite and was assaulted by savory flavors, muted by the hot, doughy bread. It was fantastic. Nina scooped potatoes, tomatoes and eggs onto a small plate for me. Her mother handed me a napkin. Carlo was wrestling a bottle and corkscrew. “Who wants wine?”
“Me!” Nina sang, popping a wedge of tomato in her mouth.
“Sure,” I said, with a mouthful of gremolata and a heart plummeting into love.
–Bury my Heart in Cashmere, by Y. Truly, Fishnet Mafia Publications, Brooklyn, NY, 2011.
(Shyly)…I wrote that. About seventeen years ago when I started dating Jeeps, he was living on the Upper East Side on the sixth floor of a sixth-floor walk-up. It was summer and it was the city and I started capturing the little bits of our romance into stories because…that’s just the kind of person I was. Am. Anyway, the kitchen of his apartment was about two feet by four feet, but we did a lot of cooking in that tiny little space. Jeeps had one cookbook: Marion Cunningham’s The Supper Book, which was perfect because the tiny kitchen didn’t evoke big dinners, but it was perfect for supper. One of the recipes from the book that we made a lot that first summer was Eggs, Tomatoes and Potatoes in Gremolata. And when, over the years, I began sewing stories into a larger story and it became a new story with a lot of
sex food in it, I stole borrowed the recipe, and had Nina’s father make it for her new boyfriend, Al.
And they got married. Funny how it happens.
Fast-forward to the present. Jeeps has a bad cold, and I had been planning to make soup for dinner tonight to baby him. But the day started out muggy and got muggier by the hour. I got home from food shopping with soup makings and couldn’t bear the thought of it. A much more summer-like meal was called for and for some reason, I felt like I wanted to make crab cakes. But crab meat had not been on the shopping list and I had no desire to go back out and get some. Tuna cakes could be an alternative but I wondered if could take the same premise and use roughy (which had been on the shopping list). It’s a mild fish, and I thought about using the flavors of gremolata – lemon, garlic and parsley – to jazz it up.
Thus were born…
Poor Man’s Crab Cakes
- 1 lb roughy filets or other white fish
- 2-3 garlic coves, chopped fine
- grated zest of one lemon
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs (plain or seasoned)
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Spray a skillet with non-stick spray and heat over medium. Saute the filets about 3 minutes per side until just opaque.
Let cool and then chop roughly and place in a large bowl. Combine with rest of ingredients and form into small patties. Fry in olive oil, 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges.
These were awesome. Jeeps and I had them over arugula with focaccia and marinated mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. A perfect summer supper. Even for the invalid.