Spice Mama of the Month - Guest Post

Guest post alert! This one comes from an all around fabulous mommy of two gorgeous girls, one of whom is just starting solids! Priya Giri Desai lives in Wellesley, MA and is a creative genius both inside and outside the kitchen. When not cooking up delicious dinners for the fam and contributing recipes to publications around the country, Priya makes TV shows and films. Her first documentary, Lovesick, is currently in post-production. Backed by a grant from Sundance, a successful Kickstarter program and other awards, this story about love in the time of HIV in India is surely going to move and astound us all. Here, in the most effortless and elegant way, Priya shows us how to cook to impress. A weekday family dinner or weekend BBQ never tasted this good with such little work. Thanks Priya! 

Priya Giri Desai

Last week, in a holiday haze (and more than a little inspired by Spice Spice Baby), I decided to throw a backyard BBQ a mere 24 hours after landing back home from visiting the south of Spain. I did this with a six year-old about to enter kindergarden in two days and a four month-old whose sense of when to sleep seemed solely dictated by when I reached for a sling. Logic be damned when your memories are of fresh, grilled seafood bathed in olive oil, sweet garlic, and smoky pimentón de la Vera (that’s paprika from Spain’s La Vera region). If I couldn’t have it there, I’d have it in my own backyard! And so, with friends we gathered around a platter of simple, beautiful food that can be modified to work as an elegant entrée or a quick, weeknight meal for all ages.


Grilled Fish with Garlic Pimenton Oil 
12 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Fish is a superduperfood and most people don't eat enough of it. Fish is rich in healthful long-chain omega 3 fatty acids which promote heart health and blood vessel function. These magical molecules have also been shown to lower triglycerides, prevent inflammation and help ward off Alzheimers, stroke and depression. Fish also have vitamin D, selenium and excellent quality protein. It's best to choose fish that are lower in mercury especially for kids. Some good options are salmon (lowest in mercury and very rich in omega 3s), flounder (also very low in mercury) and cod, halibut and striped bass (moderate  in mercury). Aim for 2 servings per week - a good measure for a serving is the size of the palm of the eater's hand. 

Serves 4-6, depending on whether it is a main entrée or is served with other dishes as it was at our barbeque.

1 lb. firm white flesh fish with skin on (I used a local striped sea bass that was gleaming at the store, but think of anything along the lines of halibut or snapper.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil (one whose olive flavor you could taste on a piece of bread)
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced paper-thin (this is easily done with a peeler)
½ tsp. pimentón
1 tblsp. chopped flat leaf parsley plus more leaves for garnish
More salt to taste

The fish can be prepared on the grill or baked in the oven (400 F / 200 C for about 30 minutes) in parchment paper. The former option is great for family-style entertaining (and for smokiness if you go so far as to grill it on a wood plank over coals). The latter option is a cinch for weeknights since clean up is quicker than the cooking. Either way, preheat your grill or oven.

Prepare the fish by sprinkling salt and as much pepper as you think the eater can handle. Don’t overdo it since the pimentón will add smokiness. Despite the bold ingredients, this dish is meant to be mild and light. Set the fish aside.

In a small saucepan, add the oil and garlic and warm slowly over medium low heat. The goal here is to poach the garlic in warm, not boiling oil so that it becomes soft and sweet, not frizzled and bitter. This should take about six minutes.

Once the garlic has softened, add the pimentón and continue to cook until the spice blooms, about 10 seconds. The oil will become a lovely dark orange. When you can just smell the pimentón, turn off the heat. Let the mixture cool slightly and then add the chopped parsley. You should smell that fresh scent when the leaves hit the warm oil. A sprinkle of salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) will unite all the flavors. Set that aside while you deal with the fish, either on the grill or in the oven.

Let your cooked fish rest and then plate it. Use a fork to open up the fish slightly to create crevices into which you spoon the oil and garlic pieces. Add cooked or grilled vegetables alongside to complete the meal. Just before serving, drizzle the platter with more oil for color and garnish with more parsley leaves.

Serving Suggestions
For young toddlers, a mash of fish, cooked veg, and a drizzle of the flavored oil will do just fine. Omit black pepper on the fish if needed.

You should end up with more oil than needed, but its uses are endless: to mop up with bread, to drizzle over eggs the next morning, to grill chicken, to mix into a vinaigrette, to roast potatoes, to mix into mayonnaise for an unique aioli…

For a truly summery Spanish experience for adults, make tinto de verano to drink. It’s one part inexpensive red wine (a Rioja is in keeping with the theme), and one part lemon-lime soda cut with club soda to lessen the sweetness. Serve on ice and garnish with a slice of lemon.

Download the recipe here.



Omega-3 fats
Vitamin D
Immune boosting