Halibut with pine nuts and saffron
Fish and fennel like each other. In this recipe, those ingredients, plus wine and saffron, all marry to create a fairly elegant dish for a weeknight meal.
If halibut is too dear, try any good, white-fleshed fish fillet or arctic char that is at least 3/4 inch thick.
Serve with wild rice, or with crusty bread on the side for soaking up the sauce.
Adapted from “The Healthy Hedonist Holidays: A Year of Multi-Cultural, Vegetarian-Friendly Feasts,” by Myra Kornfield (Simon and Schuster, 2007).
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 medium bulb fennel (may substitute 3 to 4 small, flat California fennel bulbs)
1 medium onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound skinless halibut fillet, pin bones removed (may substitute arctic char)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup tomato paste
Pinch saffron threads
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup dried or fresh red currants (may substitute champagne grapes or gooseberries)
Dry-toast the pine nuts in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes, shaking once or twice, until they are golden. Transfer to a small plate.
Trim off the stalks and fronds of the fennel bulb (save some fronds for garnish, if desired). Remove and discard the core and cut the fennel bulb into very thin slices. Peel the onion and cut it in half; place the cut sides down and cut both halves into very thin slices; there should be at least 1 cup of each vegetable.
Add the oil to the same skillet and place over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the fennel and onion have softened and started to brown.
Meanwhile, cut the fish into 4 equal portions and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Combine the water, tomato paste, saffron and wine in a measuring cup, stirring until the paste is thoroughly incorporated. Add to the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high to bring the mixture just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes, uncovered, until the poaching liquid/sauce thickens slightly. Add the currants and place the 4 pieces of fish in the sauce. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 minutes (or longer if the fillets are more than 1 inch thick), until the fish is just opaque, checking occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid to just cover the fish and adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.
Divide the vegetable mixture and sauce among individual plates or wide, shallow bowls, then place a fillet in the center of each plate. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts; garnish with some of the reserved fennel fronds, if desired. Serve immediately.
NUTRITION Per serving: 373 calories, 27 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 22 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 36 mg cholesterol, 179 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber
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