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Just for the halibut

November 30, 2009

Mediterranean Halibut (Tilapia)

In the life of every (American) foodie, there comes a time when turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and sandwiches comprised of the same, lose their appeal. In fact, they collectively become personna non grata, as we collectively rebel against anything remotely resembling that holiday meal.

After travelling to Michigan for Thanksgiving (where there were too few vegetables and fruits present), we felt like we needed a good detox.  This is the meal I chose to prepare for us last night. I copied it from the May 2009 edition of Greenwich Magazine, and it was printed there courtesy of Ten Twenty Post Restaurant in Darien, Connecticut.

A note about recipes provided by restaurants and their chefs.  I am leery of them. Seriously. As the owner of a food-based business, I am skeptical of any food-related business that is willing to give away trade secrets. What I learned in the making of this recipe is that it does take some interpretation on the part of the cook (in this case, me).  While not my strong suit (I prefer recipes that are tried and true and reliable), it was fun to push myself a bit to think about how best to achieve the final dish that sounded so good on paper.  I have included my notes in the recipe, so that you might benefit from my trial and error. (Also, I halved this recipe, but my notes will apply to the full recipe as well)

Mediterranean Halibut

4 8-ounce halibut filets (We used tilapia. Turned out great, but a heartier fish would have been nice, too.)
3 T chopped fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley) (Used fresh thyme and parsley from garden. No herbs? Not a deal breaker. Saute with just salt and pepper)
1 cup chopped red, yellow and orange peppers (See below that they call for julienned, actually, not chopped)
1/4 c sliced kalamata olives (More of these wouldn’t hurt)
1/4 c capers (More of these wouldn’t hurt, especially if you have a 2-year-old who mooches yours)
3 T olive oil (watch how you use this; more for the fish, less for sauteing the vegetables or they turn soggy)
4 ounces white wine
8 ounces softened butter (I couldn’t bring myself to use the full amount so I halved this)
4 capellini cakes

Press herbs into halibut and pan-sear until lightly browned on both sides; finish baking in a 375-degree oven (as needed). (My fish didn’t brown, but as soon as I saw it was cooked on each surface, I threw it on a plate into the hot oven. This yielded nicely cooked, moist fish.)

Saute julienned peppers, olives, capers, salt and pepper in olive oil. In a separate pan, reduce white wine and slowly mix in butter, season to taste. (Okay, first, use the olive oil sparingly for the sauteing, or you will find yourself with limp, oily veggies. Use a small amount on high heat to stir-fry, more than saute. Second, “reduce white wine” is maddeningly vague. I over-reduced–by more than half–and ended up with a slightly wine-flavored brown butter mixture. It wasn’t as succulent on the dish as I had hoped. Watch the wine.)

Place warmed capellini cake in center of plate, top with halibut and spoon caper-olive-pepper mix over fish. Finish the plate with spoonfuls of butter sauce.

Capellini Cakes

3 c capellini pasta, blanched (How does one measure capellini in a measuring cup? I broke mine into smaller pieces, but I’ll do you the favor of letting you know that I weighed the end result. I would say 8 oz of capellini here should be plenty.)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c chopped blanched spinach
1/2 t chopped garlic (for the amount of capellini, this seemed light on garlic, so I probably came close to doubling it. Your call, depending upon your love of garlic.)
1 T olive oil (if you end up frying your cakes in batches, reserve half the oil for the second batch)Mix together in a bowl; blanched capellini, beaten eggs, heavy cream, spinach and garlic. (This also begged for the addition of salt, even though I salted the water for the capellini. Maybe just 1/2-1 teaspoon would do.)


Form into cakes (about 1 cup of mixture for each cake) and saute with olive oil in a hot pan four minutes or so each side. (Though this part is very simple, “forming cakes” is a bit of misnomer. I used tongs and grabbed a heap of mixture and formed it into a cake on the hot pan. My husband suggested that if you were looking for symetrical cakes, you could implement the old round cookie cutter/tuna can trick. Put the cutter/can–with both ends cut out–on the hot pan, add the capellini mixture inside. Remove cutter/can when you’re ready to flip and the cake should retain a nearly perfect roundness. I say, who can bother? I’m not catering, I’m feeding the masses here.)

Serves 4


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