The One and Only Joyce Goldstein

Fish fillets cooked Catalan-style -- with pine nuts. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

For four decades, San Francisco’s Joyce Goldstein has been a cooking teacher, cookbook author, chef and restaurateur.

She introduced us to tapas long before the now-crazed small plates trend existed.

She was making couscous at her restaurant before most people even knew what it was.

Now, she’s hard at work on what will be her 26th book.

And oh, by the way, she just turned 75.

This tiny, bespectacled woman continues to teach us all about cooking, eating and culture. Read all about her in my story in the September issue of Food Arts magazine, in which she is spotlighted as this month’s recipient of its Silver Spoon Award.

Then, enjoy this dish from her book, “Tapas: Sensational Small Plates from Spain” (Chronicle Books).

As Goldstein notes, “Fish in Pine Nut Sauce,” which I spied on, is typical of many Spanish fish dishes in that it features sauces made with nuts. Fillets of firm, white fish are either baked in the oven or cooked on the stovetop in a homestyle, brothy Catalan sauce of tomatoes, green peas, dry white wine, garlic, and sweet paprika that gets its body from ground pine nuts and bread crumbs.

A scattering of whole, toasted pine nuts and fresh chopped parsley goes over the top just before serving.

The only addition I made was a squirt of fresh lemon juice over the top, which I think added a nice pop of acidity to brighten the flavors even more.

Fish in Pine Nut Sauce

(Serves 8 )

1/2 cup pine nuts

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Pinch of saffron threads, warmed and crushed (optional)

1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes

1 cup fish stock or dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillet, cut into 8 pieces (such as cod, sea bass, flounder, etc.)

1 cup English peas, cooked until tender-crisp (optional)

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or mint

Fresh squeezed lemon juice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden, about 8 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool. Transfer 1/4 cup of the toasted nuts to a nut grinder or small food processor and grind or pulse until finely ground.

In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the paprika, garlic, ground pine nuts, bread crumbs, and saffron, if using, and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

In a large frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper, add to the pan, and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Pour the sauce over the fish, add the peas, if using, and simmer until the fish is opaque throughout, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving dish or individual dishes, and garnish with the remaining pine nuts and the parsley. Finally, add a squirt of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Serve at once.

You can skip the step of browning the fish, and instead poach it in the sauce. Or, you can combine the fish and the sauce in a baking dish, making sure the fish is fully covered by the sauce, and bake in a preheated in a 450°F oven until fish is tender, 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pieces. If baking, do not reduce the sauce too much, as some of the liquid will evaporate in the oven.

Wine Recommendations:

Spanish: Chardonnay/blend (Penedès, Tarragona), dry amontillado sherry (Jerez)
Non-Spanish: Rousanne/blend (France, California), Chardonnay (Argentina, New Zealand)

Adapted from a recipe in “Tapas: Sensational Small Plates From Spain” by Joyce Goldstein

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