For most American cooks, summer is the season to go into their backyards and fire up the grill. For me, that's never been the case. I don't even own a grill. Nor, as a matter of fact, do I have much of a backyard. Hell, living in San Francisco, I often don't have a summer.
When the weather turns hot, I crave fried food. My first truly hot summer came when I moved to Washington, D.C., for college. While most college students would return home for summer vacation, I always made sure I had some excuse--summer school, internships, jobs-- to stay in D.C. during the hot summer. It turns out I actually thrived in the heat. And so did my stomach. Summer meant crab cakes, fried chicken, french fries, fried green tomatoes, hush puppies.
It wasn't until my trip to Andalucía last summer, though, that I finally found people who truly shared my unabashed enthusiasm for frying. The Andalucían cooks have mastered the art of frying in olive oil like nowhere else. It didn't matter that the thermometer often climbed above 104˚F/40˚C that summer. Nothing dampened their, nor my, desire for our daily dose of perfectly fried fish.
So, in the spirit of Andalucía and for my contribution to this month's theme of Is My Blog Burning, "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying," I present one of my favorite summertime recipes for simply pan-fried, local Petrale sole on top of a "succotash" of stir-fried summer corn and squash (press "continue" for recipe).
Pan-fried Petrale Sole with Succotash of Summer Squash and Corn
(dinner for 2)
For the sole:
2 fillets of petrale sole, 5-6 oz. each, or other local flat fish
sea salt and piment d'espelette (substitute paprika or black pepper)
1 large egg
1 T milk
1c all-purpose flour
3/4 c pure olive oil, enough to fill a frying pan to a depth of 1/4-inch
For the succotash:
2 ears of corn
2 small summer squash
1/4-1/2 of a yellow or red onion
1 clove garlic
few sprigs basil
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
handful of cherry tomatoes
For the gremolata:
2 t parsley, minced
1 t lemon zest, minced
1/4 t garlic, minced
Season the fish generously with salt and a little piment d'espelette (Basque pepper) and set aside (at room temperature, for up to 30 min. or in the refrigerator) while preparing the succotash. Beat egg with milk and place in shallow dish casserole. Place flour in second dish or casserole. These will be used at last minute to "bread" the fish before frying in the oil. Place the oil in a pan, preferably cast iron, big enough to comfortably cook both pieces of the sole at the same time.
To prepare the succotash, use a sharp knife to cut the corn off the cobs. Dice the summer squash and the onion, separately, into pieces approximately the same size as the corn. Mince the garlic. Tear the leaves of the basil into small pieces by hand or cut into chiffonade.
To prepare the gremolata, combine the parley, lemon zest and garlic and mince all together so that it is very fine. Set aside.
With all ingredients now ready, the rest will move very quickly. Heat the fish pan with the oil in it over medium-high heat. Dip the fish fillets in the egg mixture, and let drip to remove excess egg. Then dredge in the flour, again allowing the excess flour to fall off.
Meanwhile, in a wok or large sauté pan over high heat, heat the oil until nearly smoking. Add the onion and stir fry for a minute or two, without letting it burn. Then add the squash, cook for a minute, and then the corn. Continue to stir fry the succotash until the squash is as tender as you would like it and the vegetables are slightly camamelized, approximately 3 more minutes. Season with salt to taste. At the last minute, add the basil and the cherry tomatoes, stir, and turn off the heat.
Once the oil in the fish pan starts to send up tiny whispers of smoke, carefully add the floured fish, presentation side (the prettier side, usually the top) down. You may need to reduce the heat, depending on how thick your fillets are, to prevent burning. When the fillets have turned golden brown, after about 3 minutes, flip over and cook other side another 1-2 minutes, until golden brown and just cooked through.
Spoon succotash onto plates, place fish on top, sprinkle gremolata on top and serve.