Soy Marinated Rock Cod

The restaurant smelled a little funky, a mix between the much-needed-to-be-cleaned lobster and crab tanks to the left and Buster's BBQ on my right. It was less of a restaurant to be honest, and more of a 10 seater bar in the middle of an incandescently lit food court, the same "court", you will recall, that my family regularly patronized for frozen yogurt. But this time the trip had nothing to do with dessert. We we were on a sushi mission. I was 7 years old at the time and only knew two things sushi: one was that my Dad loved it and two, that it was special...very special. With my limited knowledge of what lay before me we strolled up to the bar with its two sticks as eating utensils and laminated menus with pictures of brightly colored slabs of fish. As you can imagine my child self was justifiably concerned. I should mention there was a third thing that made this event special, the only thing in fact that kept me from grabbing frozen yogurt for lunch and heading to the car. This outing was just me and my Dad. Such an occurrence had never happened before and looking back I have no idea where my mother and sister were. I now imagine my mother lecturing my father for his lack of one-on-one time with me and him acquiescing with one line, " OK, I'll take her to sushi."

So there we sat at the sushi bar next to a couple that was deeply engaged in their glazed eel. It looked kind of like chicken which helped calm me a bit. "Is this your first time eating sushi?" said the woman, taking a quick swig of sake. I nodded. "You are in for a treat!" My Dad took care of the ordering and I have to give him credit: he started us off with a soft shell crab roll. Simply put, if you want to get a kid to eat something, throw it in a deep fryer! He quickly handed me an inside piece of the roll, fearing I'd be too scared to eat a piece with a large crab leg hanging from it. Though I was unfamiliar with what lay before me I tried to mentally break it down into things I understood. I recognized white rice. Check. The white flaky stuff in the middle kind of looked like the baked fish my mom made. That's cool. I was a bit baffled by the seaweed but that wasn't enough to keep me from cramming the entire piece swiftly into my small child-sized mouth. Imagine stuffed chipmunk cheeks and that was me, trying to keep bits of rice and crab from flying out of my mouth. My first thought was, "I don't think I did this right" which was quickly followed by, "Aw, this is freakin' good!"

First I was hit by the sweet, slightly sour sticky rice then by the crispy fried crab and last by the creamy mayo that brought the entire bite together. Heaven! My eyes rolled back into my head with pure food ecstasy and I soon heard my Dad say with a smirk, "So I guess you like it, huh?" YES, more please! After that first bite I was all in and tasted everything my Dad put in from of me. California roll, eel roll, yellowtail and salmon all made the list. I even tried the salmon eggs and octopus, neither of which I liked but hey, I tried it. The chef was so impressed with the little white girl eating sushi that he gave me a green tea ice cream, on the house. "Good eater!" he praised. "Don't I know it!", my father replied. From that day forward sushi was my favorite food. I loved its clean and fresh taste, how the food was pristinely presented and delivered in bite-sized pieces, and most of all, that it was something my Dad and I could agree upon.

As I got older sushi became my go-to date option. I mean come on, what better way to a free sushi dinner?! It was also helpful in screening potential suitors. If they weren't down for sushi, I was not interested. In retrospect, I wonder what those boys must have thought when I suggested sushi as our first date. Presumptuous, expensive tastes, culinarily-adventurous princess? All I know is that I never got any complains. In fact, I first fell in love over sushi. I had been dating this guy for a month or two and things were going well. I wasn't that into him but he was older and drove a convertible so those improved his score. One night he invited me over for dinner. We had only ever gone out to eat and I kept replaying horror stories from girlfriends about cooking dates gone awry. "Please dear Lord don't let it be Refrigerator Surprise Meat Casserole," I prayed. Much to my delight I walked into his house to find him julienning carrots, cucumbers and fresh ahi tuna. "I like to make sushi at least once a week," he said, staring directly at me. Was this man looking straight into my soul? How did he know my deepest food desires? Well, that was it. I loved him. I had too!! When he ripped my heart out 6 months later I was devastated. "I love you, but I'm not in love with you," was the only answer I received. It took me an entire year to get over him, partly because every time I passed a sushi restaurant I burst into tears.

The revelation came, as many good ones do, in my therapist's office. We were recounting againmy feelings of loss and pain over my lack of a sushi-eating boyfriend when she said, "Is it possible that you don't miss your boyfriend at all but rather are mourning the loss of the attention and connection you never got from your father?" Oh my goodness, thank you Ms. Freud!!! Yes, I had just realized that the only time I'd ever felt connected to my Dad was over sushi and that my ex-boyfriend had become, dare I say it?, the perfect Dad substitute. The realization was simultaneously fantastic and horrific. Fantastic because I was immediately free of any emotions associated with my ex-boyfriend and horrific because I now had to work on my relationship with my father. OY!

Thanks to a heavy stint in therapy and way too much hippie soul searching, things with my Dad are good now. OK, not good, but definitely better. We can talk about work or music and can walk away from an argument without screaming or slamming doors. Most importantly, we no longer need a piece of raw fish to bring us together. Though, it never hurts.

Soy Marinated Rock Cod

Sushi, though delicious, take a decent amount of time to prep. This is my current favorite "de-constructed" sushi inspired dish that comes together in no time. OK, so it's not really sushi since the fish is cooked but it certainly does have similar flavors. Serve it along side rice and toasted nori to make your own open-faced sushi rolls. YUM!

Serves 2-3

3 pieces rock cod or other white fish, about 1 pound total 2-3 tablespoons tamari or shoyu (natural soy sauce) 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar 1 tablespoon honey or brown rice syrup 1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 inch ginger, freshly grated 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the fish from its packaging and dry it with paper towels. Please in an shallow baking dish and set aside.

In a small bowl add the tamari, balsamic vinegar, brown rice vinegar, and honey and whisk together. Add in the minced garlic and grated ginger and combine. Add the marinade to the fish in the baking dish and let sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Remove the fish from the fridge and place it in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the fish is white and flaky. Top with fresh cilantro and serve with a green salad, rice and toasted nori. Enjoy!

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