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Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Fresh Twist on Fish

Ok. Let me preface by saying that I love me a good fish dish.  Cook it any way you like- fried, sauteed, seared, baked or breaded- and I will gobble it up.  Seriously, mothers around the world would be proud of how well I can clean my plate when it comes to seafood.  Now that its summer and Tyler and I have been focusing on lighter fare to escape the heat, fish has become an excellent (and cheap, if you shop at TJs) staple in our dinner (and sometimes lunch) diets.

But how to keep it interesting?

I came across this fantastic recipe on, and can honestly say I've never tried anything like it.  It is an extremely simple recipe, a quick clean-up (which Tyler likes), and the flavors are new, interesting, and refreshing.  I made this for Sarah last time she came to visit, and I wish I could make it for every house guest I ever have.....but come to think of it, why couldn't I?

Now, if you're not exactly an adventurous cook, you may need to make a quick grocery list before making this dish.  The sides are optional, but I found that red quinoa was a beautiful (and light and healthy!) addition, and counted loosely as a "starch" (I know it's a seed, but it's close enough).  For greens, wilted spinach or mustard greens were delicious- I even tried out a new Thai spinach from the farmers market, which had much bigger leaves than normal spinach and were highlighted with beautiful streaks of purple....nothing like adding some beauty to your meal, especially after you make something like this.  But feel free to use rice, potatoes along with a salad or green long as you have a starch and a veggie to balance it out. (Another hint: It's also DELICIOUS if you pile all those ingredients + fish + sauce on a crispy piece of toasty ciabatta....I'm just sayin'....)

I've made this dish with both halibut and talapia, and I assume it would work with most varieties of white fish. The halibut was a much "meatier" meal, being a heavier fish, and stood up nicely against the spicy sauce, but the talapia was fresh and light and as long as you went a little lighter on the sauce, the subtle flavors were not overpowered.  So in addition to being delicious, this is a very versatile recipe, so good luck and good eats!

Garam Masala Halibut with Spicy Mint-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

1  serrano pepper*, halved**
1/2  cup  fresh cilantro leaves
1/2  cup  chopped green onions
1/4  cup  Greek-style yogurt
4  tsp  low-fat cream cheese
1 1/2  tsp  fresh lemon juice
1/2  tsp  minced peeled fresh ginger
1/8  tsp  salt
1/8  tsp  sugar
1/8  tsp cumin seeds
1  garlic clove, crushed
2  Tbsp  chopped fresh mint
1/2  tsp  garam masala
1/4  tsp  salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4  (6-ounce) skinless halibut fillets (or any white fish you like)
1  Tbsp  olive oil
1  Tbsp butter

*Serranos are notoriously spicy, despite their small size.  I used a whole pepper and had trouble finishing my meal without 2 or 3 beers....I would recommend using HALF a pepper to start- maybe even a quarter if you are a weakling (no judgement).

**Also, if you do not have gloves, use small plastic baggies (sandwich bags work well) to cover your hands whenever handling these peppers. The juice from these babies are brutal, and linger long after you think you've washed it all away.  Contact-lens wearers, I'm talking to YOU.  I'm speaking from experience here, so chop safely, people.

Remove seeds from half the serrano pepper; leave seeds in other half of pepper. Place both pepper halves in a mini food processor and pulse until minced. Add cilantro and next 9 ingredients (through garlic) and process until smooth.  Add mint, and pulse about 5 times (you want the mint to be more chunky than the rest of the ingredients).  Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine garam masala, salt and pepper; sprinkle evenly over both sides of the fish. Add oil and butter to pan; swirl until butter melts. Add fish to pan; cook about 3 minutes on each side (depending on type of fish!) or until desired degree of doneness.

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