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.