Halibut with Cherry Tomatoes, Squash and Basil, en Papillote

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The growing seasons in the southwest are sort of flip-flopped with those in the the rest of North America. Right now, as most of the country is right in the middle of summer’s bounty with tomatoes, corn, pole beans, eggplants and peaches streaming out of local farms, Arizona’s fields pretty empty – any crops growing are in the early stages, like pumpkins and squash – and most of our “local” produce is shipped in from California. It’s quite sad, because Arizona winters and springs yield beautiful crops and like the rest of the country, farmers markets are everywhere when the season is in full swing. When I come home I make it my business to seek out whatever is local and in season but in the summer, I usually have to go to Whole Foods or some other large chain grocery store to do this as the farmers markets have slim pickings and very little of anything local. On one trip to to Whole Foods the other day I picked up the most beautiful array of mixed and heirloom cherry tomatoes and couldn’t wait to come home to use them. I was surprised to learn they were sourced from a farm in Wilcox, Arizona, the name I am not quite sold on yet – Sunizona – but I am definitely loving their produce and farming ideals

The folks at Sunizona have been growing tomatoes and greens in their greenhouses all year along with a variety of field crops including pumpkins, winter squash, summer squash, & melons that they seed in the summer and harvest in the fall. And their tomatoes? Out of this world. Some where sweet and some were tangy but all were bright-tasting and firm with the right about of burst when I popped them in my mouth. I devoured a whole carton on the way home (good thing I bought three!) and I didn’t even wash them! Bad me. Honestly I would have eaten them all plain if you would have let me, but I had a stack of Bon Appétit magazines waiting for me at home and a quick glance found a recipe that uses a method of cooking called en Papillote, french for “in packets”.

En Papillote cooking allows whatever you are cooking – in this case fish and tomatoes – to cook in their own natural juices and aromas with a few added flavors. All the flavors of the ingredients are heightened and once the process is finished, you already have a light sauce at the bottom of the bag to pour over your halibut. I like this method because it’s kind of like crafts in the kitchen with all the cutting and folding and crimping. This meal would also serve you well after a heavy barbecue or picnic to restore the vitals.

And look out, because I may need to take a trip to Sunizona, if for no other reason than to find out how they came up with the name. 

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Halibut with Cherry Tomatoes, Squash and Basil, en Papillote

My en papillotes turned out a little wonky, so I suggest going to the BA website for a primer. Active time: 20 minutes, inactive time: 10 minutes; serves 4. Adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2012

2 cups very thinly sliced assorted summer squash (such as zucchini, yellow crookneck, and pattypan)

1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots

1/4 cup thinly sliced leeks

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided, plus 1/4 cup basil leaves

20 cherry tomatoes

4 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

4 6-ounce skinless halibut fillets

Place four 14×12″ sheets of parchment paper, or heavy-duty foil if grilling, on a work surface. Divide squash among parchment sheets, arranging on one side of sheet in thin layers. Sprinkle shallots, leeks and sliced basil over, dividing equally. Scatter tomatoes around squash. Place a fish fillet atop each portion. Drizzle 1 tablespoon each olive oil and lemon juice over each packet; season with salt and pepper. 

Fold parchment over mixture and crimp edges tightly to form a sealed packet. DO AHEAD: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Chill. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before continuing.

Preheat oven to 400°. Place packets in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake fish until just cooked through (a toothpick poked through the parchment will slide through fish easily), about 10 minutes. Carefully cut open packets (steam will escape). Garnish with basil leaves. Enjoy!


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