Monday, June 7, 2010

a taste of a life

Everyone says Vermont is beautiful, but the scenery still exceeded my expectations. My parents drove around the state on a summer vacation many years ago, and when they returned my Dad said they saw "every shade of green you could imagine." I thought about that as we passed by dense forests and greenish-blue mountains, walked across an overgrown field with patches of aromatic wild thyme underfoot, tromped past ferns and verdant moss on a hiking trail. Those bright, clear days and the company of friends relaxed me more than I even thought was possible.
And there was food, of course.

In a very amusing review of a restaurant in our area, the New York Times' food critic Sam Sifton wrote, "The best restaurants give us a taste of the life we aspire to have." I've been turning that phrase over and over in my mind, and think it applies to good meals in general, not just restaurants. 
On our second night in Vermont, we grilled tilapia tacos on the deck and ate them with sliced avocado and a creamy, cumin-spiked crema. Soul music played softly from an upstairs window, wine was passed around, the air smelled like fresh grass clippings. The fish was perfectly tender, smoky from the grill. Everyone was relaxed, not thinking about work or anything other than the food and people in front of them.

At that moment, I wanted the patio, the grill, the leafy backyard, the house, the absence of traffic, and even the cute puppy underfoot. City living seemed insane. What was I doing with my life? Who needs the hassle? Why couldn't we live--and eat--like this all the time?
As I settled back into real life, I realized I was being irrational. (An eight-hour train ride will do that to you.) Brooklyn is appealing in its own way. For now, I can look at trees from the window of our third-floor apartment and cook fish indoors on a grill pan. My friends may have an adorable house in an idyllic setting full of farmers markets and breweries, but I have 24-hour bodegas, a giant park around the corner, and a calendar booked with dinners, concerts, plans with friends. 

Vacations are are special because they are fleeting, a taste of a different life. But that dinner was the type of meal I want to have all the time, surrounded by people I love, eaten in the quiet, sweet-smelling dusk.

Vermont dinner
Tortilla chips and salsa
Grilled corn on the cob

Tilapia tacos with avocado, tomatoes, red cabbage, and cumin crema

Tilapia tacos
(Serves 4 to 6 people)
2 lbs. tilapia filets

2 limes, juiced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 jalapeno minced

About 4 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Flour or corn tortillas

Cumin crema*

To make a marinade for the fish, put the lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, and olive oil in a large bowl and mix until combined. Place the fish in the bowl and rub the marinade all over. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Heat your grill and cook the fish on both sides until flaky and tender. Serve immediately with tortillas, chopped tomatoes, shredded red cabbage, and sliced avocado.

*To make the crema, combine 1 cup sour cream with the juice of 1 lime, 1 tsp. ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste.


Nathan Hall said...

I just made something similar to your tilapia tacos a few weeks ago, they must be swimming around in the ether.

Something I've been thinking about lately (not that tilapia is seafood, but it's a good segue): do you think people are eating more seafood now on account of the oil spill? Is it a subconscious thing, real fear that we may not have access to fresh seafood soon or some combination of both? I know I've been making and eating a lot more of les fruits de mer than normal.

Judy said...

I've definitely been eating more shrimp since the spill. I feel like either they won't be available or they'll be very, very expensive real soon.

Also I feel like I better take advantage of the beach as much as possible before it's foul and disgusting.

Unknown said...

Your first picture...amazing. The blue and the green. I love the blue skies here but the green doesn't even compare.

Lisa said...

Laura: Yes, mowing the lawn is a pain but I do love the smell of cut grass. I call it a draw. :)

Nathan: Interesting idea. The oil spill has been on my mind but I don't think it's making me buy more seafood. Although we did put away 2 lbs. of mussels last weekend. So maybe?

Judy: Yes, the idea of the beaches being polluted for who knows how long makes me sick. Enjoy it now, I guess.

TB: Thank you! Yes, Florida has the blues, but not quite the same greens.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post and the comments, and
your photos as always. You didn't get to
Ben & Jerry's??

Lisa said...

Anony: Thank you! No, B&J is in a different area, I think. We did eat some really good ice cream at a local place.

Dan said...

There aren't many places better than New England, especially when you need to kick back. I want to go to there ... NOW!

Daniel said...

We did hoover up all the samples at Cabot Cheese (Indian curry cheddar!) and have an awesome muffin at King Arthur Flour. Pretty sweet.


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