Roasted Spanish Mackerel

20130815-200613.jpgI am a huge fan of roasting as a cooking method, but for some reason, I’ve had a mental block about roasting a whole fish. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it’s the head? Yes, most likely, it’s the head. And the bones. I mean, I know how to carve a chicken, but a fish? Uncharted waters, my friends.

Recently, though, I read a post from Locals Seafood about roasting fish that compared it to roasting a chicken in terms of ease and deliciousness. And during our trip to France, where fish is commonly served roasted and whole, we learned firsthand how delicious and moist it can be. So why not give it a try?

This recipe is for roasted whole Spanish mackerel, a sustainable fish commonly caught in North Carolina waters. You can substitute any medium sized fish for this recipe though. It is very simple and incredibly delicious. Stuffing the fish with fresh fennel, onion and citrus gave the fish a nice flavor and made the house smell AMAZING.

How was the experience? Actually, very good! Roasting the fish could not have been easier and the resulting dinner was moist and flavorful. Carving the fish was a little stressful for me, but thankfully Tom fishes frequently and his tips were all I needed to get two large and (mostly) boneless fillets. In the end, a whole fish is also a LOT less expensive than buying fillets–a big plus on our budget!

As for the fish head? Well, that is where our cat, Cosmo, comes in. He was in cat heaven. Yes, kinda gross, but at least it didn’t go waste. You can always ask your seafood person to remove the head for you, if it bothers you–you can also use the head and bones to make a fish stock.

I give this experiment a thumbs up, and we will definitely try it again with other varieties of fish and other types of seasoning. It’s great to expand your horizons and try something new!

Roasted Spanish Mackerel (servings will depend on the size of your fish–we had two servings from one fish)

  • 1 whole Spanish mackerel (about 2 lbs. total)
  • 1/2 bulb of fresh fennel
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 small lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (optional, but it does make cleanup easier).
  3. Place the fish on the baking sheet. Salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. Stuff the cavity with onion, lemon and fennel (as much as will fit).
  4. Rub the outside of the fish with the olive oil (both sides). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.


  1. Roast the fish for 30 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flaky. The timing here will depend on the size of your fish. A larger fish may take up to 45 minutes.
  2. To carve the fish, remove the head and tail and reserve the head for stock (or a lucky kitty). Using a very sharp knife, start at the head end of the fish, insert the knife just above the spine of the fish and run the knife all the way to the tail. Remove the top fillet.


  1. You should see the fish skeleton (see photo). You should be able to pick up the backbone at one end of the fish and remove the skeleton in one piece (this will be of endless coolness if you have small children).
  2. Trim the remaining bottom fillet and plate.
  3. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Pepper Pizza


This pizza is a knife and fork pizza. Or at least a two napkin pizza. It is chock full of late summer goodness, like roasted sweet potato, sweet onions, locally made chorizo sausage, and colorful, fresh bell peppers. This pizza is a meal In itself. I had originally planned to have a salad with dinner, but once I saw how huge the pizza was, I decided to save the salad for another night!

Pizza is one of those incredibly versatile meals that can make the most of whatever you have in the pantry or refrigerator. I’m including my whole wheat crust recipe because it is filling and higher in protein and fiber. You could replace it with whatever crust you like, though. I’m definitely going to make this again during football season!

Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Pepper Pizza (makes 4-6 serving)

  • 1 recipe whole wheat pizza crust (see below)
  • 1 large sweet potato, roasted, with flesh removed from skin (compost the skin)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 bell peppers (I used 1 each of red, yellow and green), washed, seeded and chopped
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (optional)
  • 1 lb. chorizo bulk chorizo sausage
  • 1 cup canned organic black beans
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  1. Prepare the pizza crust and let rise.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. In a 12″ skillet, brown the chorizo sausage over medium heat. Place a strainer over a thick layer of paper towel and pour sausage and drippings into the strainer and set aside.
  4. Return the skillet to the heat, and add the olive oil, onion, garlic and peppers. Stir together and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft and there is no liquid in the pan. Remove pan from heat.
  5. On a lightly greased or flour dusted baking sheet, stretch dough out to make your pizza shape (I prefer square pizzas, but that’s me).
  6. Spread the sweet potato over the crust and sprinkle the drained chorizo over the sweet potato.
  7. Add black beans on top of the sausage, then add the pepper mixture over all.
  8. Cover the vegetables with a generous amount of cheese.
  9. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes.
  10. Cut and serve immediately.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (makes 2 rounds of dough)

  • 1 pckg. yeast
  • 1 3/4 c. warm water
  • 4 c. whole wheat all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
    1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 5 minutes until completely dissolved and a bit foamy.
    2. In the bowl of a standing mixer (w/dough hook attached), combine flour, salt and olive oil.
    3. While mixer is running on low/med low, add yeast water to the flour in a stream.
    4. Allow mixer to knead dough for about 4 min.
    5. Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 1.5 hours or until doubled in bulk.
    6. Punch down dough and divide into two pieces (we divided it into 3). Each ball will make a pizza. You can freeze half for another time or let each dough ball stand covered for 20 minutes.
    7. Shape and make your pizzas according to the recipe directions.

    Week 33 Budget and Menu

    Where did the summer go? It is hard to believe that we are coming up on fall already! I haven’t had the time to can or freeze nearly what I wanted, but we have a few weeks left of summer produce, so I better get busy! On the horizon–peach salsa, roasted red pepper ketchup, roasted tomato sauce, and barbecue sauce. Yikes!

    This week’s menu uses quite a bit of carry over food from last week, which helps the budget a lot! We ended up eating more sandwiches and random fruit last week, so some of the dishes on this week’s menu might look familiar. We’re starting to bridge over to fallish dishes, but we aren’t quite there yet for full-on autumn foods. Are you noticing a change in your farmers market finds?

    Budget [$95.17]

    The Produce Box (bibb lettuce, bacon, hoop cheese, butterbeans, purple splash tomatoes, peaches, watermelon, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, blueberries): $50.48

    Trader Joes (yogurt, frozen fruit, Ezekiel bread, organic butter): $28.46

    Mae Farm (smoked pork chops): $16.23


    Wednesday–Crock pot barbecue chicken, tossed green salad
    Thursday–Chipotle sweet potato pizza
    Friday–BLT salad
    Saturday–Healthy eggplant parmesan
    Sunday–Butterbeans with bacon, squash & zucchini
    Monday–Smoked maple pork chops over sweet potato grits
    Tuesday–Leftover buffet

    Southern Succotash


    I’ve always loved vegetable mixes, especially that popular mix of corn, carrots and Lima beans called succotash. To me, the three vegetables combined were always more interesting than they were served individually. And then, of course, there is the name “succotash”, which always seemed fun to say, especially if you use your best Sylvester the Cat voice and say “Sufferin’ Succotash.” But I digress.

    This succotash has a lovely, summer Southern flavor based on vegetables that are plentiful here in late summer North Carolina. It is a delicious and vitamin rich side dish, but served on top of organic rice, grits or corn bread, it is also a hearty, vegetarian main dish. This version centers on okra, tomatoes, field peas and onions, all grown within 50 miles. So delicious, so healthy, so summer. Sufferin’? Not hardly–how about celebratin’ succotash?

    Southern Succotash (makes 4 entree portions or 6 side dish portions)

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 sweet, organic onion, peeled and sliced
    • 4 cloves organic garlic, peeled and chopped
    • 1 quart baby okra, washed and trimmed
    • 1 quart cherry tomatoes (we used purple splash)
    • 1 quart pink eye field peas (any field pea or butter bean would work)
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
    1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
    2. Add the onions and sauté until just softened, about 3 minutes.
    3. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
    4. Add the tomatoes and okra. Cook until tomatoes start to release their juices, about 5 minutes.
    5. Stir well and add the fresh field peas and thyme.
    6. Reduce heat , cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until peas are just tender. If mixture becomes dry, add about a half cup of water and continue cooking.

    Peach Cobbler


    Ohhhhhhhh, this peach cobbler. When Tom sees me coming home with a basket of peaches, he is one happy man. This cobbler is one of our favorite summer desserts. You could substitute another fruit for the peaches, but peach is by far the best. There are probably a million cobbler recipes out there–cobblers take different form in different parts of the U.S. We agree though, that this is the version for us. It is moist and a bit gooey, with a lightly crunchy crust. My version uses unbleached flour and sugar, making it a bit browner and rustic looking, but the taste is all awesomeness! I also use almond milk in place of cow milk, but either work well.

    Ice cream? Absolutely! Pass me some more cobbler…

    Peach Cobbler (makes 6-8 servings)

    1 stick of organic butter
    1 quart fresh, ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
    1 cup self-rising, whole wheat flour
    1 cup organic cane sugar
    1 cup almond milk (or real milk)
    2 tablespoons turbinado or brown sugar
    1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    Ice cream or whipped cream (optional? Not for me)

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    Melt the butter and pour into an 11 x 13 baking dish.
    Add the peach slices on top of the butter.
    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and milk. Pour over the peaches.
    Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon on top.
    Bake for 35-40 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and the cobbler is hot and bubbly.
    Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes.
    Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

    Mediterranean Shrimp and Feta


    Can you tell we love shrimp? A good number of our summer recipes revolve around shrimp and fish, both of which are available fresh from North Carolina waters. Shrimp has had a bad rep for its high cholesterol content, but interestingly, it is high in natural cholesterol and very low in fat. Studies of the effects of shrimp on cholesterol levels have shown that unlike high cholesterol, high fat foods, eating steamed, poached or roasted shrimp do not negatively impact bad cholesterol levels. Great news! Just stay away from the all-you-can-eat fried popcorn shrimp at Golden Corral. Nothing good comes of that.

    This shrimp dish is unbelievably flavorful and fresh, and it comes together in about 30 minutes! The original recipe is an oldie from Southern Living, but I’ve added my own spin to it. We served this over organic rice, but pasta would be great as well.

    Mediterranean Shrimp and Feta (serves 2-3)

    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
    • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, trimmed and sliced
    • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 1 can organic artichoke hearts, halved
    • 4 ounces goat milk feta cheese
    • Juice of one fresh lemon
    • 1/2 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
    • 3 cups cooked organic rice
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil.
    3. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Add to baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
    4. Stir vegetables gently and add shrimp and artichoke hearts. Roast for 10 more minutes.
    5. Combine feta, lemon juice and parsley in a large bowl.
    6. Add cooked shrimp mixture and any pan juices to the feta. Toss well.
    7. Serve over hot rice.

    Week 32 Budget and Menu


    You know that song, “Life in the Fast Lane?” We’ll, I’m definitely not living the boozy, drug life the Eagles sang about, but life sure has gone back into hyper drive. Ellie is back in school, the fall sports season is cranking up, Tom and I are training for our first ever half marathon and we have some family crises to negotiate. So this week, I am planning our meals, but I’m not entirely sure we’ll get to eat them all. We may have some carryover into next week (thank goodness for the freezer!).

    Our budget is way over. Again. That seems so crazy to me because we aren’t even eating much meat and we saved a lot by buying a whole fish to roast instead of fillets. But, there it is. Thankfully, we’ll have some carryover sweet potatoes and maybe tomatoes for next week!

    Budget [$133.44]

    • La Farm Bakery (bread): $4.50
    • The Produce Box (sweet potatoes, sweet onions, organic cherry tomatoes, okra, pink eye field peas, watermelon, eggplant, mixed peppers, heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella): $46.45
    • Locals Seafood (shrimp, whole Spanish Mackerel): $18.96
    • Homestead Harvest Farm (eggs): $5.00
    • Hillsborough Cheese Company (feta): $4.00
    • Other vendors (peaches, kale): $8.00
    • Trader Joes (Shredded cheese, black beans, lemons, rice, organic chicken, oranges, proscuitto, frozen fruit, almond milk): $46.53


    • Wednesday–Grilled Caprese sandwiches with homemade pickles
    • Thursday–Sweet potato, black bean and chorizo pizza
    • Friday–Roasted tomato and feta shrimp over rice
    • Saturday–Oven roasted fish with field peas, okra and tomatoes
    • Sunday–Citrus chicken with leftover field pea mix
    • Monday–Peach and prosciutto panzanella salad
    • Tuesday–Citrus chicken salad with leftover panzanella

    Grilled Caprese Sandwiches


    I love Caprese salad, with its layers of fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes and brightly flavored basil. It really is the essence of summer. But Caprese salad is hard to eat while hot footing it to a softball practice, so this is Caprese in sandwich form. Grilled. With some smoky prosciutto. And pesto. Yum! Summer on the run!

    Grilled Caprese Sandwiches (makes 1 sandwich)

    • 2 slices fresh bread
    • 1 tablespoon basil pesto
    • 2 slices fresh tomato
    • 1 large slice fresh mozzarella cheese
    • 2 thin slices prosciutto
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    1. Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat.
    2. While butter is melting, assemble the sandwiches by spreading the basil pesto on one side of a slice of bread. Top pesto with tomato, cheese and prosciutto. Add second slice of bread.
    3. When butter stops bubbling. Add the sandwich to the pan, browning one side.
    4. Using a spatula, lift the sandwich up, put the last 1/2 of the butter in the pan and flip the sandwich to brown the other side.
    5. Sandwich is done when the bread is nicely browned and crispy and the cheese is melty.

    Tutorial Tuesday #6–Freezing Produce

    a href=”” target=”_blank”>Whole green beans in a carton.

    I’ve been canning a lot of food lately, trying to make sure we can eat locally all year AND trying to reduce the amount of food we toss into the compost because we can’t eat it fast enough. I have to admit–I love canning. It was scary at first, but I have my own little system now and that makes things more efficient and comfortable. The fact that I haven’t killed anyone with my jam also boosts my confidence significantly 🙂

    But putting up food for the winter months includes freezing and drying foods, too. I still don’t have a deep freeze, but I did manage to put up a LOT of strawberries this spring. Where are they? They have all been eaten–mostly turned into fruit/yogurt smoothies, which we have every morning. It make me realize just how much fruit we plow through each week. ARRGGHH. So, come winter, I will not have strawberries. I am, however, going to try again with peaches, blueberries and blackberries. And I’ll try some vegetables as well. Yesterday while waiting for my marinara sauce to cook, I blanched and froze some summer corn and some green beans. I’m on my way to rebuilding my stock of foods for winter–not that we mind kale, collards and sweet potatoes, but won’t it be nice to have fresh tasting corn as well? As long as we don’t have corn smoothies, I think we’ll be more successful with vegetables!

    Here are some foods that freeze well (some of these surprised me):

    • Corn (blanch, strip from the cob and freeze the kernels)
    • Whole tomatoes (Tip: once frozen, the skins just slip off during thawing)
    • Peaches
    • Kale/collards (cook first)
    • Green beans
    • All berries
    • Peppers
    • Chopped herbs (put them in an ice-cube tray and fill the compartments with olive oil!)
    • Onions (chop them and freeze them in bags in 1 c. portions)


    Summer Field Peas

    I like pretty much all kinds of peas and we here in North Carolina are high into field pea season. If you haven’t tasted home cooked field peas, you really must get in your car NOW and head south. Unlike tender, fragile spring peas, field peas are hearty, soul satisfying and meaty. They are amazing in chili or with collards or just cooked with a ham hock until rich and creamy. I was going to do some research on field peas, when lo’ and behold, I saw this blog. Done and done. This is a great resource about field peas, how to store them for later and how to cook them. Now I just need to buy some ham hock 🙂


    %d bloggers like this: