The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

The Last Fish: Black Cod With Fresh Tomato-Green Chili Pepper Relish

August 24th, 2009 · 4 Comments · Posted in garden, Recipes, Sustainability

A relish from from the garden

A relish fresh from the garden

What’s the difference between a salsa and a relish?

I’m not sure there is any other than the name. The occasion for for this one arose when our friend Ben returned from a trip to New Mexico with an armful of green chilies. I don’t know the variety. He’d just seen them in an open market there where a vendor was roasting them over a wood fire and couldn’t help himself. He had no idea what to do with them other than give them to us.

The peppers are long and narrow, bigger than the typical banana pepper, and moderately hot. You’ll only need two for this particular recipe, which will leave quite a few more for some other invention.

I call this a relish because it is partially cooked. First, remove the stem from the chilies, cut them open and remove the seeds and veins. Then cut them into strips and chop into small dice. Sweat these in olive oil in a moderately hot pan along with a quarter of an onion, also cut into small dice. Season with salt. When the onion begins to soften, add two garlic cloves, finely chopped.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil to remove the skins from two large tomatoes from the garden. I use two of our Mortgage Lifters. We have lots of them ripening on the kitchen counter right now. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 20 seconds, then remove them to a bowl of cold water in the sink. When they are cool enough to handle, the skin should peel away easily with a paring knife. Cut the tomatoes into meadium dice and place in a mixing bowl.

Scrape the onion-chili mix into the tomatoes. Gather a few basil leaves and a few leaves of anise hyssop. Anise hyssop, if you are not familiar, is one uncommon herb I highly recommend for your garden. You rarely see it for sale anywhere, but it is extremely easy to grow and adds a remarkably fresh and vibrant anise flavor to all sorts of dishes. I use it to brighten a green herb sauce. It’s also a great change of pace from basil on fresh tomatoes.

Cut the leaves into a chiffonade and add these to the tomato-chili mix. Season with salt and pepper, some olive oil and sherry vinegar, and toss. The relish will throw off a good deal of liquid, which you may just want to drain into a glass and drink as a cocktail.

Now for the fish. I bought a package of black cod (aka sablefish) fillets at the Harris Teeter’s. They’re from Alaska and rated sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, which is the primary reason we like them. They are a big fish with fairly tender, white flesh. For some reason, we never see them at the seafood counter at Whole Foods. But you can purchase black cod in quantity online. This fish is no relation to the overfished Atlantic cod.

To go with our relish, I cooked the black cod as simply as possible: in a bamboo steamer set in out cast-iron wok. In fact, the fish will cook through in just a few minutes. To test for doneness, plunge the point of a paring knife into the center of one of the fillets then touch it to your lip. It should be just warm–not hot.

After placing the fillets on warm plates, spoon generous helpings of your relish over them. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite white wine.

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  • d

    Ed, I see black cod at our local fishmonger’s store, but at ~twice the price we pay to order it directly (as part of a buying club) from It melts like warm butter in your mouth, just delicious! Your fresh relish looks great and sounds like the perfect complement to this mildly-flavored, special fish!
    Diana Dyer, MS, RD

  • Ed Bruske

    Diana, I love the idea of a buyers’ club for seafood. Otherwise your source is selling 30-pound lots of black cod for $10 per pound. Not a bad price at all. At our house, we are now talking actively about a chest freezer. Purchasing sustainable seafood in bulk from Alaska would be a nice fit.

  • linkmaxbub

    Ed, could those chilies be the highly prized “Hatch chilies” that are so widely available in New Mexico? If so, your friend did you a major favor by bringing those to you. So very delicious, they are.

  • Ed Bruske

    Chef, thank you for that intel. I did a search for photos of Hatch chilies and they do indeed look like mine. And apparently August is the season for them. So unless somebody tells me something different, I’m going with that. Apparently everyone west of the Mississippi already knows and appreciates Hatch chilies. We are happy to be a new member of that club.