I grew up in an Eastern European household. Both of my parents cooked peasant food. My mother immigrated to Canada when she was a child, so she also cooks common North American food (mmm...deep fried chicken). My father grew up on a farm in Yugoslavia. So he normally cooked very hearty, stick-to-your-ribs meals.
My favourite was his polenta. My father would get a chunk of uncut bacon from our butcher. He would chop the bacon and cook it in a cast iron skillet. While the bacon cooked, he would make polenta. To the polenta, he would add the cooked bacon, and a handful (or two) of crumbled feta cheese. He would mix this until combined and season to taste with salt and pepper. Then the polenta mixture was poured into the cast iron skillet (with the bacon fat goodness). He would then bake it until golden brown. He always served it by the slice (like a pie) with a dollop of sour cream. I know my quick and dirty description does not do this meal justice. I will say this, if I had to choose a meal to have as my last dinner, this would be it. Hands. Down. No second thoughts. It is THAT good.
Unfortunately, my parents also cooked food that was unappetizing to my brother and I, like head cheese, cow tongue, and brain. They also fried a lot of fish. And I HATED the smell. I don't know what they did to make the fried fish smell the way it did! I don't know if it was the type of fish (fresh perch and cat fish), the batter, the type of oil, or all of the above. When my parents fried fish I would shut myself in my room, stuff towels under my door, and open my window (even if it was -30 degrees Celsius outside). It was THAT bad of a smell. I swore off fish until 2004 when I was forced to eat at Joe's Crab Shack. I decided to stop being irrational and give fish a chance. I had a peanut crusted Mahi Mahi. My first bite was a hallelujah moment. Fish actually tasted good, and more importantly, it didn't smell!
Italian Fish and Veggie Pockets
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
1 lemon, zested
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 1/2 pounds sugar snap peas, stemmed
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 teaspoons olive oil
4 (4-ounce) trout fillets, skinned (or other fish about 1/2-inch thick)
8 thin slices lemon
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl mix together the lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Lay out the 4 sheets of aluminum foil. Place 1/4 of the sugar snap peas, 1/4 of the yellow bell peppers, and 1/4 of the orange bell peppers on each sheet of foil. Over each pile of vegetables drizzle 2 tablespoons of white wine, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and gently toss.
Top each pile of seasoned vegetables with a piece of fish. Sprinkle the fish with some of the reserved lemon zest mixture. Top each fish with 2 slices of lemon.
Fold up the foil into an air-tight packet. Place the foil packets in the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Sprinkle the fish with mint just before serving.