This dish is inspired by a recent visit to Bar Tartine in San Francisco with my friend Temi. We were celebrating one of her last nights out before Baby Boy #3 makes his entrance. And we stumbled upon an absolute winner - charred tuna with a side of bright yellow cauliflower. I could taste the preserved lemon right away, but it turns out brown butter is the magic sauce - it rounds out the citrus and turmeric and adds this rich, tender texture that will haunt your dreams.
Dinners with Temi are a good luck charm for me. Before the birth of her twins, our pre-baby restaurant ritual inspired one of my favorite pork recipes of all time. I'm thinking Temi needs to have a baby every year!
Keeping up with the mom theme, I tested this recipe last weekend with my sister-in-law Sarah, who is also expecting Baby Boy #3. She was stoked to get a delicious dinner with no cleanup duty. I was stoked when both of my nephews decided that they like fish after tasting halibut for the first time. The sauce verte was less enthusiastically received, but heck, you can't win 'em all!
This recipe works with meaty fish like halibut, salmon, or ahi tuna. The Bar Tartine version featured seared, sliced ahi, and the swiss chard was wrapped around buckwheat in a little packet. My version is a little simpler. The ingredient list seems long, but you'll be surprised at how quickly the whole meal comes together. Especially if you happen to have some homemade citrus vinaigrette lying around. Just throw it in a food processor with some leafy herbs and almonds and boom - sauce verte.
Dedicated to Temi and Sarah - your patience, hard work and awesome attitudes towards motherhood have my deepest respect.
Seared Fish with Sauce Verte, Cauliflower, Preserved Lemon and Chard
Yield: 2-3 main course servings
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 30 min Total Time: 45 min
Cauliflower with Preserved Lemon and Brown Butter
1 small head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 tsp turmeric
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp butter
1/2 preserved lemon, flesh discarded and rind minced fine
1 bunch cilantro, or a mix of cilantro, parsley and mint, roughly chopped
2-3 Tbs cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Tbs red wine or champagne vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
2 Tbs sliced almonds
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch red or rainbow chard, leaves stripped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb meaty fish - halibut, salmon or tuna
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Note: Sauce verte can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight jar in the fridge.
Roast the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 415F. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, turmeric, and 1/2 tsp salt. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread florets across baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes, flipping once. Cauliflower should be tender with moderate browning.
Make sauce verte: Place all ingredients plus a large pinch of salt in a food processor or blender, starting with 2 Tbs olive oil. Blend until a coarse paste forms, adding more olive oil or a splash or water if too thick. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Saute chard, finish cauliflower and cook fish: Chop chard leaves roughly and slice stems. Heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Add stems and cook for 2 minutes. Then add garlic, leaves and a large pinch of salt. Cook til tender, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes longer. Turn off heat and leave in pan until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook til light brown and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer roasted cauliflower, brown butter and preserved lemon into a large bowl and mix gently to combine.
In the same pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp butter over medium-high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper. Turn heat down to medium. For halibut, sear 2-3 minutes per side. For salmon, try 4-5 minutes per side, pending thickness. And for tuna, leave heat at medium-high and sear 1-2 minutes per side. Slice fish into serving pieces and pour over pan juices.
To serve: Give cauliflower once last stir. Place some cauliflower on half the plate, chard on the other. Top with fish and a drizzle of sauce verte. Serve more sauce verte at the table.