Monday, June 23, 2014

Healthy Halibut Hits the Spot!

                In May we went on a three week road trip, up the east coast, visiting all our children. In between we made stops in Philadelphia and New York City.  I don’t think I have to tell you that we ate very well along the way, with most meals including a glass or two of wine.
               It was not a happy day when we got home and I stepped on the scale.  So I was delighted to realize that spring had come and with it the opening of farmers’ markets. The one closest to me is the Agricenter. Another good sign of spring is that the Paradise Seafood truck is there every week, Wednesday through Saturday. 
                In the barn, I picked up a couple of bunches of lovely Treviso-type kale.  Then I went to the Paradise truck looking for scallops, but Ted the Fish Man had beautiful halibut filets. I couldn’t resist. But then I had to come up with an amusing preparation, easy and tasty of course, but almost equally important, healthy.  Looking through old recipe files, I found this one, an Italian-inspired sauce, perfect for the flavor and texture of halibut.
                I used blood orange flavored olive oil.  This is available in several locations around town. I got mine at Bazaar, in Carriage Crossing, but Mighty Olive, in Laurelwood, will also have it in stock. If you choose to make it with plain olive oil, double the amount of orange zest and you’ll still be very happy with the results.  I have mint flourishing in a pot near my herb garden.  If you don’t, you can use two packages (around one ounce each) from the supermarket, or go to the Winchester or Cordova Farmers Market and get a package with enough for this recipe for around $2.00.
                This sauce can be made a bit ahead, but no more than an hour or so. Because of the acid the mint will turn dark and have a less than pleasant texture. 
                The filets were so lovely that I made 8-ounce servings. After making the side dishes, it was obvious to me that that was going to be too big a serving. After I took the picture you see here, I cut all the servings in half and served them from a platter.  Only one person took seconds.  I suggest a 5- to 6-ounce serving per person.
Later I took the remaining fish, flaked it, and added the remaining sauce, the crumbs left over from the crust preparation and a beaten egg.  I fried up a tiny taste and it was really yummy.  I made croquettes on a baking sheet and froze them.  Sometime soon I will partially thaw them, brown them quickly in a bit of olive oil and put them on top of a salad for a good dinner on a hot summer night.
                For the crumbs, I used French bread slices that I toasted lightly.  That way you’ll get a better golden color for the crumb crust in the short time it takes the fish to bake. I had a container of pistachios on hand. I loved the flavor they added to the crust, but you can substitute almonds, or leave out the nuts entirely and you’ll still love it.
               For our side dishes, I made a rice pilaf and sautéed the kale in a little garlic and olive oil.  They made for a lovely meal…and oh! So healthy!

Pistachio Crusted Halibut with Orange Mint Salsa Verde

For the fish:

3 to 4 1” thick slices toasted baguette
1/3 cup pistachios
2 teaspoons blood orange olive oil
A few leaves of mint
About 1 ½ pounds halibut filet, about 1” thick, cut into four portions

For the sauce:

1/3 cup onion, very finely minced
½ cup blood orange olive oil
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 cup (loosely packed) fresh mint, minced
Orange slices and more mint sprigs for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a food processor, make crumbs from the toasted baguette. Add the pistachios, 2 teaspoons blood orange olive oil and the few leaves of mint. Pulse until nuts are coarsely ground.
Place the halibut skin side down on a well-oiled baking sheet.  Divide the crumbs among them, patting lightly to make them adhere. You may not need all of them.
Combine all the sauce ingredients and whisk together.  Let set for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour for flavors to meld. 
When ready to serve, bake the fish until just barely cooked through, ten to twelve minutes. Put a pool of the sauce on each of four dinner plates.  Remove the fish from the baking sheet with a spatula (most of the skin may stick to the pan). Place on top of the sauce, garnish with orange slices and mint sprigs and serve immediately.  Serves four.


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