Thursday, May 28, 2009

Halibut with Cucumber Salad and Soy-Mustard Dressing

I know that MP is the chef here, but this is what I ate for lunch yesterday:

Seriously. I made this. You may be suitably impressed now.

This recipe comes from Food and Wine magazine and can be found online here. Provided the soy sauce is gluten-free (Bragg Liquid Amino Acids, revolting as it sounds, is a good choice) it's a nice dish for the dietarily challenged.

The key is taking what you have and making the dish your own. The original recipe is for grouper, but I used halibut. I do not have a mandoline and there was no way I was "folding" cucumber slices. (Although you do need to prop the fish up out of the dressing; a short stack of cucumber works, too.) There's a lot of latitude for personal tastes in Dale Gartland's dish, and that's what makes it a good recipe.

Prep time may be the only thing that stops people from making this. The dressing comes together in a snap. Do not fear the specialized ingredients — mirin is a sweetened cooking wine and used in teriyaki sauces (make your own gluten-free version), rice vinegar is a lovely low-acid vinegar for summer dressings, and white vermouth can be substituted for sake. The fish prep was easy. It's the vegetables that are tough.

A food processor with the right blade can crank out the carrot and radish easily. But the shallots, the garlic, the chile... That's some knife work. And cucumbers are essential, but don't do so well in the food processor. Cucumbers are water trapped by sunshine, so you MUST remove the seeds if you do not use a seedless cucumber or you will end up with a soggy wad of pulp. Nope, the veggies will take up most of the prep time. It's worth it.

You may be tempted to skip the sesame seeds and frizzled shallots/garlic. Don't. Pace yourself. Besides, frizzling is fun. In one pan, you can toast the seeds, then frizzle the shallots and garlic, and then use the flavored oil to cook the fish (pat the fish off so it's dry; makes for a better crust).

What is rewarding about Gartland's dish is the contrast of flavors and textures: soft and cool, sweet and crunchy, salty and green. If you skip any of the ingredients, you will undoubtedly make a tasty entrée, but you will miss out on the fun of discovering new combinations with each bite.

There are so many wonderful things in this world to eat. Don't limit yourself.

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