Every time we go out for dinner I always order fish. I love fish, but I have never really been good at cooking fish at home. It seemed my lack of fish cooking skills wasn’t a good enough reason to wait to eat fish so I decided that I had to learn how to cook it at home.
Living on the West Coast we have so much wonderful seafood and fish to choose from. My first decision was what fish to start with. My husband, Howie, likes salmon so that was my first experiment. I “interviewed” Howie to find out how he liked his fish prepared. He said that he liked a good “crust” on it. I thought about it for a while and realized what he was describing was a good sear on the fish. Being from the South, the way you get a good pan sear on anything is with a black cast iron skillet. So off to the fish store to get two salmon fillets.
After a few tries, here is the secret to my pan seared salmon. First I rub each salmon fillet (I usually have the skin removed when I purchase it to reduce amount of oil in the cooking process) with olive oil and give them a liberal sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper. I preheat my oven to about 450 degrees while I heat my cast iron skillet on top of the stove until it is very hot. Once the skillet is very hot, I place the salmon with the seasoned side down and let it cook on the top of the stove for about 2 or 3 minutes and then put it in the oven for about another 10 minutes or so. Depending on if you like your fish cooked through, maybe a more time or little less time if you like it rare inside. This is where some experience comes in because depending on the thickness of the fish, you may need to cook it longer or not quite so long. DO NOT turn the fish during the cooking process – let that wonderful crust develop. This is a great technique for any firm flesh fish such as halibut.
While pan seared fish is good, it needed a little something to give it a restaurant quality dish. What I usually look for when I order fish out is an interesting texture and flavor combination to give the dish that extra something. My friend, Marjorie, sent me a recipe that she found for halibut with summer vegetables. It sounded great so I decided to do my own version which was a tremendous hit with Howie. I hope you enjoy it!
Pan Seared Halibut or Salmon with Summer Vegetables
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 halibut or salmon fillets, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 shallots thinly sliced
6 baby zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1/4 tsp or a little more to taste of ground cumin
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, vinegar and thyme. Arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet cut side up and season with salt and pepper. Bake the tomatoes for 45 minutes, until slightly dried.
In a cast iron skillet, “pan sear” the halibut or salmon as described above.
In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter and cook shallots over moderate heat until they start to slightly brown. Add the zucchini, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice and cumin and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the zucchini is just cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Spoon the zucchini and tomatoes on each plate and place halibut or salmon fillet on top of the vegetables and serve!