Friday, September 21, 2007

Halibut with Capers, Olives and Tomatoes

Halibut [HAL-uh-buht] is a great firm white fish which is only available fresh from late April to September. I highly recommend purchasing some if you see it in your local market during these times. It has a great mild taste without being oily. This fish is native to northern Pacific and Atlantic waters, being most abundant from Oregon to Alaska. They are largest fish from the flat fish family and can grow to be over 8 feet long and weigh over 600 pounds.

Since it is a mild, firm fish it really lends itself to many cooking methods. It can be sautéed, braised, poached, steamed, broiled, baked or grilled. And because of its mild flavor, it really marries well to an abundance of other foods. Culinary Artistry (A.Dorenburg and K.Page) lists these complimentary flavors, bolded items being the best: Artichokes; bacon; basil; butter; cabbage; chives; cucumbers; fennel; garlic; horseradish; leeks; lemon; lime; mangos; mushrooms; mustard seeds; onions; parsley; potatoes; rosemary; saffron; scallions; shallots; shrimp; tarragon; thyme; tomatoes; vinegar; white wine; zucchini.

So you can appreciate how thrilled I was recently when walking through the market spotting fresh halibut at the fish counter. At $14.99/pound, it was an indulgence but worth every penny. Scanning I found this recipe and luckily I had all the ingredients at home. I went into the backyard and picked some fresh tomatoes, plucked a handful of fresh basil leaves then set off making a quick, easy and very tasty dinner. I would recommend trying this recipe, it is delish!

Frozen halibut is available year round. If you wanted to substitute a fresh fish, I would recommend either cod or tilapia. Although neither is as firm as halibut, I believe their mild flavor would be nice with the sauce.

Bon Appétit!

Makes 4 servings.
Bon Appétit April 2004

4 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets
All purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
1 tablespoon drained capers
1/3 cup bottled clam juice
1/4 cup dry white wine

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and sauté until lightly browned and just opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer fish to platter.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet. Add shallots and crushed red pepper; sauté 1 minute. Mix in tomatoes, olives, 1/4 cup basil, and capers. Add clam juice and wine. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 4 minutes. Mix in 1/4 cup basil. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over fish.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

September is National Organics Month

You hear a lot about organic food these days - buy organic produce, organic is better, we should eat organic. I think by now most people realize that organic foods are grown without pesticides, fertilizers or antibiotics. But I do not think most people realize that organic goes past this to include earth-friendly agricultural practices like crop rotation. By continually growing the same crop in the same field, you deplete the land of valuable nutrients. Rotating crops means literally doing just that. A specific crop is only grown on a plot of land and then not grown again for usually three years. In the alternate years, dissimilar crops are grown. This maintains nutrients in the soil and keeps pests and diseases to a minimum. Growing organic produce also is friendly to our water supply. Everything we put on the ground eventually ends up in our water supply. Yes, the earth acts as a natural filter but it can not filter out all the chemicals we add.

For products to carry the organic label, the farm just meet stringent standards. You can recognize organic produce by looking at the produce code. A 9 is placed in front of the conventionally grown code. So for example, the produce code for bananas is 4011 and organic bananas are coded 94011.

Besides reducing your exposure to toxins and heavy metals from the pesticides and fertilizers, organic produce is proven to contain more nutrients than conventionally grown produce. Studies have found that organic produce contains on average more than 50% more vitamins, minerals and flavonoids (antioxidant and cancer preventing properties) than conventionally grown produce. 50% - wow!!

Finally, I believe you can truly taste the difference between organic products and non-organic products. Some of the easiest to taste the difference with, and ones I would recommend, are eggs, chicken and fruit. Start small if you are not already buying organic products. Start by switching to organic eggs or organic carrots. By taking small steps and making slow changes over time, I think it is the easiest way to make lifestyle changes. I like the old Swahili saying: Kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba (bit by bit we feel the pot).