As I said here, the American Southwest is not plagued with the winter problems the rest of the country faces from October to April. Regardless of whether we have a warm or a cold year, the States closest to the Mexican border are blessed to have a plentiful supply of tomatoes almost year-round. I am sorry, New York, Boston, Chicago and other parts of the northern United States. I know, it is just not fair…
So when the smitten kitchen cookbook came via Santa this Christmas and I started flipping through the pages, one of the first dishes that caught my eye (and stomach) was a fresh-looking white fish with tomato vinaigrette and tomato salsa. As I read through the post, I discovered that Deb shares my distain for gazpacho. I suspect she is like me and hates to confess this, because there are not many food things I don’t like and/or will not eat. When I tell people I am not enamored with gazpacho, their first response is, Oh, you just haven’t had a good one…Isn’t it possible that I can just not like something? In my opinion, if you are going to eat a combination of room temperature tomatoes, onions and herbs, shouldn’t you just eat salsa? At least then you can have tortilla chips! Sorry gazpacho, but I just don’t see your point.
That being said, I will say I am perfectly happy to consume foods that include gazpacho-like dishes. This number, which Deb says came from a friend as fish is not her favorite thing to eat. In Deb´s words, Without her, this would be a fish-free book. Luckily for us and our stomachs, it is not, and Deb came around to fish with this summery platter of brightness. The dish was the perfect cure to the holiday gut-bomb (See, I told you I would return to less heart-attack-inducing fare shortly). The fish was light and pretty unadulterated and as she calls for halibut, was not fishy at all. The tomato vinaigrette was bright and tangy, and my only complaint about the gazpacho is it lacked a little oomph, which was promptly brought to the table by a quick addition of the drizzle of olive oil and just the most delicate touch of salt. This is definitely what I would label luxurious spa fare, in the best sense of the term – you feel like you are doing your body good without it actually realizing it.
Seared Halibut and Gazpacho Salsa with Tomato Vinaigrette
Because of the simplicity of this dish, good ingredients are a must here. Ripe tomatoes, fresh fish and good quality fruity olive oil will make this dish sing. Time: 30 minutes, Serves 4; Adapted (just here and there) from the smitten kitchen cookbook by Deb Perelman
1 medium tomato, peeled (if desired), seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (100 ml) olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
5 good grinds of pepper, or to taste
Four 6 to 8 ounce halibut filets
Olive oil to coat pan
Kosher salt and pepper
1 pound tomatoes, beefsteak, roma or cherry, seeded and diced
2 small cucumbers (Persian), diced
1 bell pepper, diced
½ small sweet onion, such as Vidalia, diced
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
In a blender or food processor, puree the tomato until smooth. Add sherry vinegar. With the machine running, drizzle olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Bring the halibut to room temperature. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, coat It evenly with olive oil. Once oil is hot, lay fish in the pan (depending on the size of your pan and how much fish you are cooking, you may need to cook this in multiple batches) and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the fish is golden underneath but not sticking to the pan. Carefully flip the fillets. Cook for a few more minutes, until a fork cut through easily and the meat is opaque white and flakey.
Toss salsa ingredients together on a plate. Arrange the halibut of top. Drizzle on the vinaigrette to taste. Serve with additional vinaigrette on the side.