Cooking With Myra: It is never too late to learn
By By Myra Starkey
Aug. 27, 2013 at 3:27 a.m.
Ecuadorian Ceviche with Candied Sweet potatoes
by Chef James Canter
• 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 2 cups water
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
• 1/4 cup celery juice
• 1 Tbsp. kosher or sea salt
• 1 Tbsp. Mirasol yellow pepper paste (can substitute 1 jalapeno seeded and diced
• 1/2 cup finely diced celery
• 1/4 cup diced red onion
• 1/4 cup minced cilantro
• 1 pound boneless, skinless fish, cut into 1/2-inch dice (sea bass, sole, flounder, swordfish)
Combine the sweet potatoes, water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender but still hold their shape. Drain potatoes, reserving the syrup, and cool. Place the potatoes back into the syrup until ready to use.
Combine the lime juice, celery juice, salt, pepper paste, onion and cilantro in a large bowl. Add fish and toss to coat. Marinate for two to three hours for fish to "cook." Spoon into a serving dish or bowls and serve with drained sweet potatoes.
We happened upon Jerra and Buddy at the Mexican restaurant. They were in a booth by the window and both sitting on the same side. I elbowed Taylor and told him how romantic that was. They had just gotten their food and waved us over to join them.
Jerra said they had been fishing the day before and caught lots of redfish. Taylor asked where, and she gave a backhanded wave of some location near St. Joe Island.
In other words, she was not saying. She did offer that they were using mullet chunks. Buddy sort of rolled his eyes and implied that he thought it was more sporting to use artificial lures, but they hadn't caught anything doing that so resorted to the real stuff. Jerra showed us the big stringer of reds on her iPhone. We were impressed.
Taylor and I do not know how to fish worth beans. We have a boat and love to zip around the bay, especially on hot summer days. We even carry a rod and reel on the boat. Fishing involves skill, practice, luck, the right equipment and perhaps mullet chunks. And it is probably helpful if you have a professional fishing guide on your boat.
Sometimes, people just tell fishing stories that are untrue - like that it is easy to catch a great fish. They might say something like they went and bought a fishing pole at Wal-Mart, got some generic lure and threw it in the water and landed a big trout, which they almost lost because they forget to buy a net.
They are either a) lying, b) went to some commercial pond that is stocked with very hungry fish or c) using dead shrimp for bait, and they caught a hardhead catfish and just thought it was a trout.
Taylor and I decided that we were going to try our hand at bay fishing, so we got up early Saturday, bought our fishing licenses and loaded up the boat with our equipment and a bag of ice.
Real fishermen always carry a bag of ice, so we stopped at the bait shop with our bucket, and the nice lady asked us what we wanted. We said bait - whatever she would recommend to catch a big fish.
Taylor inquired if she had any mullet chunks like he was some sort of regular fishing expert. She replied that she didn't but that she heard people were having luck with live mullet and croakers. We got a dozen each, paid and left.
Once in the boat, we zipped across the choppy bay to the backside of the island, where we were certain the fish were bound to be waiting. Taylor was the official bait hooker, so with great effort, he finally caught one of the little sacrificial fish that was to totally commit itself to our efforts. It made a little croaking sound, so we knew it was a croaker and not a mullet.
Actually, we never used any of the mullet because they are so fast, and we could not ever grab one. Anyway, with a firm grip on the wiggly bait, Taylor barbarically readied the hook, and the croaker jumped free and flipped over the side of the boat to his freedom. He chased another one down from the live-well and this time was successful. He cast it out for me to a good spot.
I guess he thinks I don't know how to cast a line - like he forgot that I am from south Louisiana and that fishing there is a common, if not daily, activity. He baited his hook and threw it out over the other side of the boat. Then we waited. I watched my bobber for movement. I felt for a nibble on the line.
Fishing requires patience. In my life as an office manager, I am used to doing something, and then something else happens as a result. There is an action and then a reaction, a cause and then an effect, an order and then a response, a question and then an answer.
In fishing, you can do everything right and throw your baited hook out in the water and then nothing happens. I was sort of expecting that a good fish would successfully bite my hook, and I would reel it in against its great resistance and then put it in my ice chest.
I would repeat that until I had my limit, and then we would go home and clean and eat the fish. It didn't happen like that. Taylor caught one trout that was lower than the legal limit of 15 inches if we stretched it full length, so we let it go.
We did not want to show up at the fish cleaning station with one small trout. What would the real fishermen think? Would they say anything out loud to us like, "Wow, that's quite a catch. You must have been fishing on the backside of the island and using fresh mullet chunks."
It was a beautiful and relaxing morning. The water by Port Aransas was almost clear. The breeze was wonderful. The sky was full of puffy clouds and a few thunderstorms. There were ships, birds and fellow fishermen. No one was asking me to do anything or answer questions. It was very relaxing, and I can't wait to go out again.
I actually got to eat some very delicious seafood the week before. Our good friends, Kim and Jerry, invited us out to the country club for paella. This traditional recipe from Spain was filled with lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels and chorizo sausage. This is a specialty of their new executive chef, James Canter.
Not long after that, my friend, Jerra, invited me and a bunch of friends to a cooking class at the country club put on by Canter. Other than being known for his paella, he owned a South American restaurant in San Francisco and is an expert in that cuisine. About 50 participants sat and listened as Canter talked about foods from Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
He prepared many dishes, and my mouth watered as they were brought to our tables. The Bolivian saltenas (similar to an empanada) were stuffed with olives, raisins, potatoes, beef and spiced with cayenne and oregano.
He also prepared Argentinian red and green chimichurri to serve with grilled beef. My favorite was a ceviche served in a coconut shell on a bed of lentils. The lentils were raw and used as garnish and to keep the coconut half shell upright.
The evening was delicious and ended with Surinamese fried dough balls, which remind me of donuts and were coated with cinnamon and sugar.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.