Thursday, August 23, 2007

Seared Halibut with Potatoes and Tomatoes

"Hey Jason, look! There is an article about an Oklahoma fish restaurant in Gourmet," I said to my husband, the Tulsa boy. "A fish restaurant?" there was a note of skepticism in Jason's voice. It turned out to be well deserved as we found out after reading the article. Gourmet* must have really been scraping the bottom of the barrel with a story about a fish restaurant in Tulsa whose chef/owner doesn't eat fish and where most dishes are deep-fried. Jason didn't sound surprised. "What? Did you expect to find something like New Deal in Oklahoma?" Not really, but I at least expected them to eat the stuff they are selling to their customers. A fishmonger or a fish restaurateur who doesn't eat fish is as ridiculous as a vegetarian butcher.

Luckily, I don't have to buy fish from someone who refuses to eat it. Carl from New Deal is always ready with a recipe he concocted a few days ago or just general advice on what to do with each fish. Sammy and I stopped by his store last week. I don't get to go as often as I used to these days since my schedule is a bit unpredictable, so each trip is a special treat. So many things looked tempting, I was at a loss. The striper was gorgeous, and there was a whole monk tail, and fatty tuna, and whole branzino... The sparkling whole fish and fillets went on and on. But when Carl told me about what he made for dinner the other night, the deal was sealed. He seared halibut in olive oil, then sautéed sliced onions in the same pan, deglazed the pan with white wine, added the ripest local tomatoes he could find and some garlic, and finished the fish by returning it to the pan, covering, and steaming for a few minutes. I was salivating before he even finished with a sprinkle of basil. I got a gorgeous, thick halibut fillet and using his recipe for inspiration, concocted my own "best of New England summer" dish.

I kept the seared halibut, onions, tomatoes, garlic and basil, but substituted the wine and last minute steaming with thinly sliced and crisped potatoes.

Seared Halibut with Potatoes and Tomatoes

Fish substitutions: striped bass, swordfish, mahi-mahi, cod, haddock, sable, and any thick white or cream colored fillets

Serves 2

2 halibut fillets without skin (6 oz each)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large red skinned potatoes, peeled, and sliced thinly with a mandoline
1/2 cup red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
Chopped basil for garnish

Special equipment: cast iron skillet or oven proof non-stick skillet
  1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Dry halibut fillet really well on paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Set a cast iron or oven proof non-stick skillet over high heat. When hot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and wait for it to shimmer. Add the halibut and cook until browned on the first side, 2 minutes. Flip and cook another minute. Take the halibut out of the pan and reserve. Take the pan off heat.
  3. Add onions, potatoes, garlic, and remaining tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Season generously with salt and pepper, mix with tongs and arrange into an even layer. Arrange tomato slices over potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and dot with butter. Roast in the middle of the oven for 18-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender and browned on the bottom. Don't be afraid to burn them. The crispy edges are the best part.
  4. Add the halibut on top of tomatoes and return to the oven for 4 minutes per inch of thickness. To test for doneness, separate the flakes with a fork and look inside. Halibut is done when it is still a bit translucent inside. It will become opaque as it rests. Err on the side of under-cooking as halibut dries out easily.
  5. Sprinkle with basil and serve.
* Unfortunately, I can't find this magazine at the moment (no time to look), and I don't even remember if it was Gourmet or Saveur, so I apologize if I got my facts wrong. Hey, I am a sleep deprived new mom -- I am entitled to a few mistakes in a blog post ;)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Honey Garlic Eggplant Sandwiches

It's been a long time since I've posted anything on Beyond Salmon. Sorry guys. It's not for lack of cooking. I've been cooking a lot lately. But taking pictures and writing recipes is a little tricky when you are trying to take care of a 1 month old. I've also been making more ahead-of-time type of dishes. This way, if Sammy wakes up just as we are about to sit down to dinner, I can always postpone our meal until she is changed and fed with no ill effects.

That's when the honey garlic grilled eggplant recipe came in handy. It is one of the most succulent eggplant dishes and can be served as a side, appetizer, or in a sandwich. It is also one of the most patient ones. No matter how long it sat or what it's currant temperature, it's just yummy.

Last week we got some eggplants from our CSA and I got to make this dish twice. Once as a side to lamb burgers and once as a filling for grilled sandwiches with hummus, zucchini (this preparation works well for zucchini as well), and cheese.

What else has been happening lately? I've been trying to steer our play group in the direction of good food. Sammy and I joined a playgroup at Isis Maternity in Arlington. We meet once a week and then go out for lunch. The first time we ended up in Carberry's because it was convenient. For some reason I just can't warm up to this place. Absolutely nothing that I've tried tastes good. Today was a big improvement. Since the weather was nice, I suggested we take a walk to Blue Ribbon Barbecue. It's about a mile away from Isis, but the food is well worth the hike. To my surprise, people thought it was a great idea. I am often afraid of scaring people with how far I'll go for good food (even with a 1 month old). We had a great time and provided some entertainment for Blue Ribbon employees. They've never seen that many strollers all at one time and one of them asked if he could take a picture of us for his wife. We told him we are giving our children a head start on good BBQ. Just as I was finishing my lunch, Sammy got hungry. She nursed really well this time. Must be something in those burnt ends :)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Gazpacho -- saved by the soup

It's been so unbearably hot here in Boston, that we've been stuck at home eating cold soups. Since I am from Moscow, this hot weather does not sit well with me. You can always put on more clothes when it's cold, but you can only take off so much when it's hot. The good news is that any nasty weather (hot or cold) can be combated with soup, or at least I'd like to think that. As soon as the last bowl of cold borsh disappeared, I made a huge batch of gazpacho to hold us over until the weather gets better and I can consider turning on the stove again.

I can't believe I've had this blog for almost 2 years and never wrote about gazpacho. It is my most requested recipe! The thing is, it's not actually my recipe. I got it from the class I took with Didi Emmons, the chef/owner of Veggie Planet in Harvard Square. It's in her book, Entertaining for a Veggie Planet under the name "Top Dog Gazpacho." I am not big on cookbooks, but this one is really fantastic -- not only are the recipes very creative, they actually work! With other books, I find myself modifying recipes until they are barely recognizable to suit my taste, but this gazpacho, as most of Didi's recipes, is so fabulous that I only made one itsy bitsy little change (sorry I couldn't resist). I don't blanch the corn kernels. In the summer, when I make this soup, the corn is so sweet and delicious, it's best to add it raw to give your soup that extra sweet and juicy crunch.

My Adaptation of Didi Emmons' Gazpacho

Serves 4

1/3 cup whole almonds, skin on (if possible buy them toasted)
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 orange, red, or yellow bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
a generous handful of fresh cilantro (you really can't use too much)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 ears corn
Salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste
  1. If you bought your almonds raw, sorry -- you'll have to preheat the oven. But if the heat it really outrageous, I am sure nothing terrible would happen if you just used raw almonds. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor, process the almonds until finely chopped. Add tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil and pulse until consistency of an oatmeal (almost pureed, but not quite). Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and add to soup.
  4. Add up to 1 cup cold water if the soup is too thick for your liking. Season the gazpacho with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. If you are impatient like me, you can speed up the chilling process by adding ice-cubes to soup instead of water.