Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Easy Halibut with Mashed Potatoes in a Fennel, Onion, Marinated Artichoke Heart & Roasted Tomato Sauté

Though you might be hard pressed to discover that we eat fish quite often... given the lack of postings in this space... it is, in fact, the case. And, most often, fish is my personal choice when dining out. It's also what I suggest to our daughters when queried for a "special" dish... something to make for a dinner party, a birthday... or such. Beyond tasting great, it plates beautifully and is super easy and quick to make.

I do, however, have to admit that I'm not really sure it's the fish, itself, that I enjoy so much.

It's really more about how it's dressed. It's one of the few bites that I truly feel needs that complementing morsel of flavor to truly deliver. A great piece of salmon, perfectly cooked, is wonderful. However, I think that same great bite of salmon with a little red pepper coulis is even better!

With halibut, I tend to want a punch of acidity or tartness... like tomatoes, capers, olives, or pesto, for example. That tangy, flavorful pop elevates halibut's relatively mild and delicate sweet flavor. Even if I lean, instead, to a fruit relish with mango and/or pineapple, I'll include a bit of red onion, jalapeño, or the like, to add that bit of zing.

And, with halibut in particular, I really love a flavorful broth or sauce... a lovely little pool of flavor to set it atop. It just works incredibly well.

Fish, itself, doesn't require a lot of "make up" to look and taste great. A simple sprinkle of salt and pepper is usually all that I add. And, most often, I just cook it up on the stove. What I tend to put a bit more thought into is how it will be dressed... these are the flavors of the meal... especially with halibut, as it readily adapts to what it's plated with...

In this serving, it's a simple sauté of fennel, onion, marinated artichoke hearts, and roasted tomatoes. A little sprinkle of salt and pepper, a little pop of white wine, and a touch of vegetable broth... and it's nearly done. Add a dollop of mashed yukon gold potatoes and it's completely dressed... in just about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tomato, Cucumber & Feta Salad

Despite our fickle, unpredictable, learn-to-wear-layers weather that delivers 80 degrees, sunshine and billowy white clouds one day and a low, gray ceiling peppering sprinkles the next, I fight the urge for a steamy bowl of soup and plow ahead with market fare that belies the skies.

This particular salad made its way to our dinner table on Father's Day (along with two surprise visitors that flew in just hours before their dad). It's a simple three-ingredient salad... and it's a favorite.

It's not much of a recipe... not particularly new or unusual... but so quietly unassuming in its simplicity that it is somewhat magical. Some salads of this kind might call for other little elements of flavor... an olive oil, a vinegar, an herb, a sweet touch of sugar, perhaps, or a bright pop of red onion. But not here... it's simply what it says it is.

With tomatoes beginning to come into their own, they need only a sprinkle of salt to release their sweet juices, creating all the "dressing" you'll need. Together with a crisp, crunchy dice of ripe cucumber and a salty pop of feta, it's a perfect, super quick accompaniment to most any summer meal. After a few turns, the feta will begin to break down just a bit, coating everything over with its lovely cheesy bite. No need for any other layers of flavor... it's perfectly good... every time... no matter what temp or seasonal surprise.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chopped Kale Salad

Until about five years ago, I truly hadn't given kale a passing glance. It wasn't a purposeful intent of mine to ignore this leafy green, it simply never called my name.

When I thought about veggies, I made more traditional selections like carrots, asparagus, green beans, and the like. And when I went after salad fixings, it was most often spinach, romaine or butter leaf I was after.

Then, a nutritionist I admired strongly recommended several foods to include in our diet... some that we had already added in (here and there), and a few others that were relatively new to us. Most notable among the mix was kale. This leafy green was at the TOP of her list and, surprisingly, had rarely (if ever) made it into our kitchen.

My first purchase was a tentative selection of lacinato kale... followed by an even greater hesitation in figuring out what to do with it. I simply had no idea of how to prepare it. Figuring it could use a bit of a sweet touch, I lightly sautéed some garlic in a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, added in a heap of chopped kale, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and then some dried cranberries once the kale had wilted down a bit. It was delicious... beautifully subdued from its more robust, raw beginnings and ever so lightly enhanced with the subtle, nutty flavor of the sautéed garlic and the sweet-tart pop of the warmed cranberries.

Over time, I branched out with different pairings. We had it sautéed, roasted and raw. It was plated under fish, set over eggs, popped into soups, and dropped into salads. Eventually it even replaced our morning oatmeal in the form of a "green shake" loaded with fruit, flax, and fiber. And now, instead of just a few torn bits added to spinach, romaine, or butter leaf, its often the main component in our salads.

In this plating its accompanied by a rainbow of raw veggies... chopped radicchio, cauliflower, cabbage, and green onions... plus tomatoes, jicama, cilantro, and bits of fresh orange. Then its lightly dressed with an orange-honey-balsamic vinaigrette.

If I'd known five years ago what I now know about kale... its virtues through versatility... I certainly would have listened a bit more intently each time I passed through the produce aisles... sure that I would have heard my name far, far sooner.