"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Recipes–Grilled Halibut, Curried Spinach, And Spanish Rice

I am putting these three recipes together because I made all three last night for dinner.  Each dish turned out well, and they all worked together.

Halibut can be an expensive fish, but every so often it is worth the few extra dollars.  It is a firm, sweet, flavorful fish which is unlike any other.  I have often grilled rockfish and red snapper and while these fish have the same consistency, they lack halibut’s subtlety and marvelous taste.  The trick, as for any other fish, is to get it fresh – or fresh-frozen, a term which I used to disparage but don’t any longer.  When a fish is fresh-frozen it is super-frozen on the fishing boats and thawed only when it gets to the supermarket. This method of preserving is so good that you can freeze the fish again, thaw it, and barely notice the difference between it and the absolutely fresh, never-been-frozen variety.

In the DC area, I have found Whole Foods to be a good source for this kind of fish; but for the best fish and often that which has never been frozen, I go to the excellent fish market at BLACK SALT on MacArthur Boulevard where they have the widest variety of fish I have found in the metropolitan area – tile fish, cobia, Spanish mackerel, and others.

I have had all of these fish listed below.  You will note that almost all are wild caught:. 

Wild Halibut
Halibut provides a rich mouthful of mild buttery flavor with a hint of sunflower oil.  Best roasted, grilled, or pan-seared.

Wild King Salmon
King Salmon is just that, the King.  With a robust strong salmon flavor this fish is packed full of richness and healthy omegas.  Best roasted, grilled, pan-seared, or smoked.

Wild Sockeye Salmon
Sockeye is leaner than its cousin the king, containing less fat, but not lacking in flavor, with hints of shellfish and leafy greens.  Best sautéed.

Wild Golden Tilefish
Golden Tilefish feed on crustaceans along the bottom of the ocean and their flavor reflects their diet.  Firm flaked, tilefish has a shellfish sweetness and is likened to a robust grouper.  Best pan-roasted or grilled.

Wild Mahi Mahi
Caught in temperate waters around the world, mahi is a firm fleshed fish that has a chicken broth like flavor with citrus notes.  Best pan-roasted or grilled.

Wild Opah
Caught in Hawaii and called ‘salmon of the Gods’, Opah is similar to tuna but with less fat.  Best pan-seared or grilled.

Wild Hake
A cousin to cod, hake offers a meaty alternative.  The flesh is bright white with large meaty flakes and a mild, potato-like flavor.  Best roasted or broiled.

Farmed Rainbow Trout
Cousin to the salmon, trout offer a sweet, mineral-like quality with a mild nutty flavor.  Best pan-roasted, roasted, or broiled.

Wild Bigeye Tuna
Bigeye are line caught from the Atlantic and tend to have a higher fat content than the yellowfin.  We sell #1 grade tuna, which is the highest grade and the grade recommended for sashimi.   Best raw, pan-seared, or grilled.

Wild Atlantic Swordfish
We buy mature swordfish, marker size, from day and short trip boats ensuring that we have the freshest product available.  Best pan-roasted or grilled.

Farmed Artic Char
Similar to Salmon, char is less fatty and more delicate in flavor.  Best sautéed, roasted, or poached.

Wild Triggerfish
Triggerfish are caught along the reefs of the East Coast and have a very distinctive, sweet shellfish flavor.  The texture is meaty and gives a great bite.  Best pan-seared or sautéed.

Wild Domestic Red Snapper
We buy our snappers from rod and reel fishermen off the coast of Florida.  We buy fish that are 4lbs and up ensuring that the fish have reproduced more than once.  Best pan-roasted or sautéed.

Wild John Dory
We buy dory from New Zealand and the North Atlantic.  Dory have an elegant texture and flavors reminiscent of seaweed and shellfish.  Best sautéed or pan-seared.

Wild Fluke Flounder
Fluke flounder is a firmer fleshed flounder that has a good flake and peppery taste. Best sautéed, roasted, and broiled.

Grilled Halibut

* 1 1/2 lbs. halibut filet (this is the amount I buy for two people)

* 2 tbsp. chopped parsley

* 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

* 1/2 small onion, chopped

* 2 tbsp. olive oil

* freshly ground pepper, salt

- Mix all the spices and olive oil together in a small mixing bowl

- Rub the mix on top of the halibut

- Put under the grill for approximately 25 minutes (time will depend on the thickness of the filet, so start checking at 20 minutes.  The fork should go easily through the flesh of the fish. It will hit resistance if the fish is not cooked enough. DO NOT OVERCOOK!

- Serve

Curried Spinach

This curried spinach recipe is ‘authentic’ because I make it from scratch, using a variety of Indian spices, and cooking with fresh spinach.  You will find that it has much more flavor than the Delhi Dhaba variety which is cooked with frozen, packaged spinach, is swimming in oil, and is often too hot (spicy) to appreciate any vegetable flavor.

* 1 lb. fresh spinach (mix with broccoli rabe if you want a bit of the bitter taste that makes this vegetable special) 

* 3 tbsp. olive oil

* 5 lg. cloves garlic, chopped

* 3 shakes hot pepper flakes

* 5 cardamom seeds, pounded lightly

* 5-8 whole peppercorns

* 2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds, lightly pounded

* 5 whole cloves

* 2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger

* 2 tsp. whole mustard seeds

* 1 tsp. poppy seeds (optional)

* ground pepper, salt

- Heat the oil to very hot (not smoking) in an iron skillet and add the garlic.

When it begins to become golden, immediately turn down the heat, for it will continue to cook a few minutes more since the iron holds heat well.  The trick to the unique, ‘authentic’ taste of this and other Indian curry dishes is the browned garlic taste, but it pays to be very careful, for burnt garlic must be thrown out; and un-browned garlic deprives the dish of the special fragrance of browned garlic

- Add the remaining spices, and sauté for approximately ten minutes over medium-low heat

- Wash the spinach well, and place in a large pot with very little water on the bottom.  You can also use a steamer.  Cook for approximately 10 minutes.  The spinach should be soft (take a bite of stem, and it should be firm, but not resistant) 

You should wash and rinse the spinach at least three times because good, fresh, market spinach is often a bit sandy.  There is nothing worse than a bite of grit, so the extra work is worth it.  Place the spinach in a large pot, fill with water, agitate, then empty the water.  Repeat.

- Drain in a colander, then place on a large wooden cutting board.  Press out the excess water with a potato masher (or the blade of a large, wide knife).  Medium chop.

- Place spinach in the skillet with the spices, turn the heat to high, and sauté for about 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper and serve.

Spanish Rice

This is a classic, simple recipe in which rice is mixed with a rich, spicy tomato sauce. It is good as is; but can also be the basis for a paella in which shrimp, clams, and Andouille sausage are added.

* 1 cup Basmati rice

* 3-4 tbsp. olive oil

* 1/2 lg. can San Marzano tomatoes

* 1/4 can tomato paste

* 1/2 lg. red pepper, chopped

* 1 medium onion, chopped

* 3 bay leaves

* 5 shakes hot pepper flakes (more or less depending on your taste)

* 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped

* 1 cup (approx.) chopped fresh parsley

* 2 tsp. ground cumin

* 2 tsp. sugar

* 1 cup red wine

* 3 cloves

* 10 peppercorns

- Wash and cook the rice.  Foolproof method: 2 cups of water: 1 cup of rice.  Boil water, put in rice, stir with a fork, turn heat down to just above simmer, cook for 23 minutes; then put aside for at least two hours

- Sauté all the above ingredients in the olive oil until all the vegetables are soft and well-cooked 

- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, wine, stir well, and cook for approximately 1-2 hours covered (the last 45 minutes uncovered for evaporation) over very low heat (simmer).  The sauce should be reduced to a thick consistency.

- Add the cold rice and stir well.  Adjust for taste (salt, sugar, cumin, hot pepper), add 5 grindings fresh black pepper; heat and serve

To make a modified paella, steam the shrimp and the clams, sauté the Andouille sausage.  Mix in the sausage and shrimp with the tomato sauce, place the clams on top of the entire mixture, garnish with fresh parsley.  



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