The Jew And The Carrot

Shabbat Meals: Snapper Provencal

By Devra Ferst

  • Print
  • Share Share

For most people, the Reading Railroad is a valuable spot on the monopoly board. But Philadelphians will proudly claim it their own. The old terminal, of a 60-mile train line that ran between Philadelphia and Reading (from 1839-1976), has housed The Reading Terminal Market since 1893. Filled with open stalls for butchers, Amish farmers, cheese makers, bakeries and coffee roasters, it is a food lover’s paradise, with endless alleys and indoor streets to explore. It is one of the rare remnants of a generation of markets that were created around the turn of the century by city officials concerned with the public health problems caused by outdoor markets.

Every Friday morning for 30 years some members of my family have visited the Terminal. We shop for groceries, say hello to old friends, sip coffee and munch on croissants from our favorite bakeries. The ritual has become so ingrained, that it might be easy for us to overlook the practical purpose of our trips — to stock up on fresh produce and to pick up our Shabbos fish from Tang at John Yi’s Fish Market. (Fish for Shabbos dinner has long been a family custom.)

Located in the center of the Terminal near Filbert, the market’s mascot — a sculpture of a pig — John Yi’s has always had knowledgeable fishmongers behind its long glass cases. When I was little, Lily was in charge and as I got older, Tang took the helm. Each week, they played a leading role in deciding what we ate for Friday night dinner. “Can I have two pounds of rockfish?” my father might ask. “I think you want the Pompano or bluefish instead,” Tang might say, or “I have shad this week!” They insisted we try their best and freshest selection, often returning to a refrigerated room to carve up a large fish and give our family the choice fillets. Tang in particular has expanded all of our palates and, despite the fact that none of us have ever seen him outside of the Terminal, his presence is always at our Shabbat dinner table.

Having moved away from Philadelphia eight years ago, I miss our Shabbos fish. I have struggled to find a fishmonger as dedicated to the non-restaurant client and providing fish of equal quality. Tang’s fish needs little finishing, particularly in the summer, when only light flavors are needed to enhance the fresh fish — butter, white wine and capers for pan-roasted pompano; olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs for grilled rockfish.

Winter conditions, though, lend themselves well to heartier fish dishes like snapper or salmon Provencal roasted with bright canned tomatoes, salty kalamata olives and briny baby capers — a popular and recurring Shabbos fish preparation in my family. The dish pairs perfectly with simple pastas and greens such as sautéed spinach with lemon. The meal is complete with a dry Italian or French white wine. Snapper Provencal is also a dish I turn to when I return from a New York fish market, sample a sliver of the raw fish, and realize Tang’s presence will not be at my dinner table.

Snapper (or Salmon) Provencal

2 large, de-boned snapper fillets with skin left on or a 1 1/2 lb piece of salmon fillet
2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 large can chef’s cut tomatoes, I recommend Cento brand
1 large handful pitted kalamata olives, sliced
2 tablespoons (or more) drained and squeezed small capers
Fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup white wine
Olive oil
Fresh basil

1) Place oil in a pan over medium heat and add garlic. Sauté until the garlic is fragrant and just starting to brown.

2) Add tomatoes and juices from the can, wine, chopped olives and capers.

3) Crack fresh pepper into the mix and cook, lightly simmering for about 3 minutes, until the sauce starts to come together.

4) Lay fish fillets in a baking pan or large pan coated with olive oil.

5) Cover the fish with the sauce and lightly cover the dish with aluminum foil.

6) Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, if you are cooking snapper and about 25 minutes if you are roasting a thick fillet of salmon. Remove the cover for the last five minutes of cooking. When done, garnish with fresh chopped basil.

Cook’s note: The time, and amount of sauce will change significantly depending upon the thickness of the fish. Check fish about 15 minutes into roasting to gauge your timing.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shabbos Dinner, Shabbat Dinner, Salmon Provencal, Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, John Yi's

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach!
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.