Halibut with Antipasta | Cooking with Bells On

Halibut with Antipasta (My Kind of Hassle-Free Meal)

I know we’re still half a month shy of the solstice, but I’m going to go ahead and call it summer. It sure feels like summer here in New York, at least. We’ve had a handful of 80-plus degree days which, despite my Southern upbringing, have taken me by uncomfortable surprise. I ought to be a pro when it comes to dealing with the heat, but damn if it isn’t hard to make me swap my long-sleeves for tank tops. (What can I say, I like to be cozy.) The one thing that I do embrace fully about summer is the unending sunshine. There’s something incredibly freeing about realizing that, yeah, I still have some of the day left at the end of the day! The gift of summer provides hours of sunlit recreation to use to your discretion.

You had better believe me when I say I plan to use those hours. Just this last weekend I rediscovered dusk. Remember dusk? That magical hour when the sun takes its time setting and casts everyone in a shimmering vital glow? Well, I found it in Riverside Park this Memorial Day, and with it found that quintessential summertime feeling in me of never wanting this day to end. This summer I’ll cherish dusk every day from now until October.

I’ll also be using the lengthened afternoon hours to kick my running up a notch. After having too many disappointing runs in a row (and subsequently finding myself so fed up I skipped over a week of sneaker-time), I decided I needed a boost to get my fitness level where I want it to be. Enter New York Road Runners training classes. Twice a week now I’m spending my evenings with the NYRR coaches up in Central Park, working on pacing, hill work, and interval training.

The tricky part of all this sunset-appreciation is figuring out how to fit in time to prepare dinner once the evening fun has come and gone. Delivery is an option, of course, but as I mentioned previously, it’s an option we’re trying to avoid. Leftovers are fair game, so some nights I deliberately cook more than is needed, leaving another couple servings for the following day. The best choice of all is a quick, delicious meal that feels thoughtfully prepared but has only taken a bare minimum of effort on my part to get it on the table.

This recipe is the ace up my sleeve for a meal that fits the bill for that kind of fast but real dinner. Its clever shortcut – utilizing a good antipasta bar – and sealed-up preparation make it applicable to all sorts of cooks: those with an aversion to chopping, or who are making dinner for one, or who want to prep the dish early in the day. Endlessly flexible, this dish works with all sorts of flaky fish – from halibut to sea bass to salmon – and is a great way to use up little bits of vegetables or herbs lurking in the refrigerator. Oh, and in case I had you believing that the simplicity of this dish implies any sort of unspecialness, I present you with this video. Despite its simplicity, there’s a sort of grandeur to the presentation here that makes the dish actually very special. I recommend serving the fish in its packet and unwrapping it at the table so that you can enjoy the steam and its beautiful aroma as it escapes from the bag. Personally, I think evenings when you are frazzled and hurried are when you need a special dinner most of all.

Halibut with Antipasta en Papillote

Serves 1 or more

“En papillote” is a French technique for steaming fish in a parchment bag in the oven. You can prep this fish up to sealing the bag in advance and store it (wrapped in plastic) in the coldest part of your refrigerator before serving.

Ingredients (per person):

4-6 oz halibut

salt and red chile flake

1/4 cup mixed antipasta (marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives, marinated gigante beans, etc)

2 thin lemon slices

parsley or cilantro leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F

Prepare your fish in its “bag”: Tear off a sheet of parchment paper at least 16″ long and fold it in half so that the short edges meet. (You can substitute tin foil for the parchment.) Place the fish near the fold on one half and season it with salt and pepper. Arrange the antipasta around the fish, halving large pieces if desired. Place lemon slices over the fish. Fold the parchment paper over the fish and crimp the two halves of paper together with a series of folds, beginning on one side and layering the folds around to the other. Tuck the last fold under the weight of the fish to keep the bag closed.

Bake: Place the fish in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the fish and peek inside the parchment (careful of hot steam) to check for doneness. The fish should be opaque all the way through and still moist. Serve.

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Salsa Verde

Super Salsa Verde

I’ve got a simple little recipe for you today that might just change every meal you eat this week. This super salsa verde is something I whipped up early last week just to use up some withering herbs in the fridge, but I ended up liking it so much that I actually made it two more times over the course of the week.

Ingredients prep

Given that the whole point of a salsa verde like this one is to bring bright, fresh flavor to a dish, you might expect that this would taste best right after it is made. Surprisingly, though, I actually liked the salsa even more the following day, when the grassy herbs had fully infused themselves into the fruity olive oil. So go ahead, make a big batch today and have it ready to go for the rest of the next few days.

Fried egg with salsa verde

Over the course of the week, I experimented with this little condiment in a number of ways. I found that it really added something special to a fried egg, and I loved having it on hand to use as salad dressing. Perhaps my favorite use was as a sauce over a simple piece of white fish; its acidity and vibrant green color really brought to life a bland filet of Dover sole. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of uses for this salsa, too, and I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Super Salsa Verde

Makes about 1 cup

Salsa Verde

I used parsley and mint as the herbs in my salsa verde and I really liked the way they played off each other. Having said that, you could – and should – use whatever herbs are available to you. Replace the parsley with cilantro and experiment with some basil or tarragon in the mix. 

The nuts in the recipe are also fairly interchangeable, so long as you choose something fairly oily (you want a nut that actually feels greasy in your hand). I would certainly have subbed in some delicious Marcona almonds or skinned hazelnuts if I had them around.

Ingredients:

 Parsley, 1 medium handful

Mint, about half as much as the parsley

2-3 garlic cloves

1/4 cup macadamia nuts, chopped

1 heaping tablespoon capers, chopped

1 lemon

Olive oil

Sea salt and red pepper flakes

Stem and chop herbs: Pull the leaves from the stems of the parsley and mint. Gather them together all in one fist and form them into a tight ball. Place this fist on the counter and pull back your fingers to expose your herb ball. Tuck in any bits of herbs that have fallen out, and with your sharpest knife quickly chop the herbs, inching back your fingers as you work through the herbs. This is my tactic for chopping up a pile of herbs, and it works really well. Run your knife through the mess of chopped herbs two or three more times so that you have fine shreds of herbs. Move the herbs to a mixing bowl.

Add in ingredients through lemon: Using a microplane, grate the garlic into the mixing bowl. Add in the nuts and capers. Also using the microplane, zest the lemon whole, then squeeze in the juice from one half. Stir ingredients to combine.

Stir in the olive oil: Slowly begin to add olive oil, stirring the salsa as you stream it in. It is up to you how much oil you want to add. About 1/4 cup should be enough to bring the ingredients together, though you could add more if you want a looser salsa. Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.

Serve or store: Spoon the salsa over anything and everything – it’s really versatile. If not using right away, store in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for no more than three days.

 

I’ll Make My Lunch To Go

I’m blowing up on Instagram. Seriously. Cooking With Bells On officially has, wait for it… nineteen followers. That’s right, of the service’s 200 million odd users, nearly twenty of them (twenty of you) have boldly clicked “Follow” and become pioneers in the Insta’ With Bells On movement.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic here, but I am genuinely surprised by how much I find myself liking this particular social media platform, one which I resisted using for so long. It’s been a few days now that I’ve been posting as Cooking With Bells On’s intrepid iPhone photographer, and in that time I’ve made a special effort to preserve moments I might otherwise allow to pass. I’ve captured evidence of my mid-day cappuccino quests*, sniped images of loitering kitchen appliances, and shot outtakes of my adorable schnauzer in the morning. And I’ve diligently collected photographs of the food coming out of my kitchen, too, because I know that’s what you really want to see.

Screenshot 2014-03-28 11.32.28

Of the food-centric Instagrams I’ve shared, those involving pictures of my daily lunches have accumulated extra attention, with consistent “likes” and responses from my small but dedicated army of followers. Given this attention, I thought I’d go ahead and share with you just what I’ve been making in my kitchen lately for this meal.

Lunch, as I make it for myself, is generally a humble meal, cobbled together of leftover vegetable scraps and pantry staples. I make an effort to make the meal as nourishing as possible, though to tell you the truth this isn’t a difficult task, as the ingredients I like to keep on hand tend to be of the delicious and good-for-you variety anyways. And, while I do savor the time I take to prepare something good in the morning, I never really use more than a few minutes to put it all together. It’s a simple task, though one worth finding delight in.

*I’m on a mission to visit all of the coffee shops listed on the New York Times’ The Scoop app. So far, I’ve checked off 27 (or 35, if you include places I visited but were later retired from the list) out of 112.

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Salmon Avocado Salad (In a Jar) with Endive

Photo Mar 27, 12 20 58 PM

The only real condition I have for making lunch is that I be able to carry the finished product with me in a small jar. Back in the day, this restraint made good sense for a girl carrying her lunch to the office. Now office life is history to me, and the logic for lunch in a jar is kind of gone, too, but for some reason I still prefer to make my meal this way.

This recipe is just a framework for how I make lunch, and you should feel free to get creative with it. Here I used salmon as a protein, though I use canned sardines just as often, and sometimes hard-boiled eggs or leftover chicken instead. I almost always include avocado, which I like for its flavor, texture, and color; but the other vegetables included change depending on the season and what I have in my fridge. Two things you shouldn’t leave out are fresh herbs and citrus. Both play a huge role in brightening the whole thing up, which becomes especially important if you plan on eating several hours after you’ve made the lunch.

A note on home-made mayonnaise: it is totally optional in this dish, but I’ll go ahead and say that I am pro-mayonnaise, especially when it is home-made. I could really geek out over how good this mayonnaise is for you, what with its bounty of egg yolks and healthful oil. But I’m not here to be on a “don’t-fear-fat” soapbox. I do recommend that if you make it, try to use a more non-inflammatory fat, such as MCT oil or macadamia oil, but you could also go the conventional route and use a neutral-tasting oil such as grapeseed or canola oil. You could also use store-bought mayonnaise, but where’s the fun in that? If you decide to omit the mayonnaise (which I often do, anyways), I suggest bulking up the lunch with some salad greens and just using some oil and vinegar as dressing.

Photo Mar 27, 11 55 49 AM

Ingredients:

Mayonnaise, preferably home-made (see recipe below)
Mustard
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup (or more) diced vegetables: golden beet (used here), or: radish, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, carrot, etc.
Salmon, fresh and cooked (leftovers) or canned (I used about 1/4 of a 14.5 oz can here, saving the leftovers for another day’s lunch)
1 tsp fresh herbs, chopped: dill (used here), or: tarragon, basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, etc.
1/2 a lemon, zest reserved (optional)
1 endive, washed and outer leaves removed

Photo Mar 27, 12 02 12 PM

To make lunch in a jar: Stir together a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise with one spoonful of mustard and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper in a small jar. Add the diced vegetables, salmon, herbs, and lemon juice and zest (if using). Mix to combine. Trim bottom inch of the endive to separate leaves. Twist lid onto jar, pack up endives, and head to a park or sunny corner of your office to enjoy.

Home-made Mayonnaise

The miso here is a new addition for me. Miso pretty much makes everything better – saltier and more complex – and I highly suggest using it if you have some around.

Photo Mar 27, 11 21 34 AM

Ingredients:

2 egg yolks
1/4 cup neutral oil: MCT oil (used here) is usually found in the supplements section of the store (or Amazon.com) and has the dual merits of extremely neutral flavor as well as superfood status, or: macadamia oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil.
1 tbsp white miso (optional)
1/2 lemon, or less
Salt

To prepare mayonnaise: Using a blender (or an immersion blender with the jar in which you intend to store the mayonnaise), combine the egg yolks, oil, and white miso. Add lemon and salt to taste. The finished mayonnaise will taste rich, but balanced.