For me, there is nothing better then curling up with a stack of cookbooks on a rainy Sunday afternoon and planning a fun dinner. But to be honest, this Sunday I didn't curl up with a pile...I just grabbed one-A16 Food + Wine by Nate Appleman + Shelley Lindgren. A16 is an acclaimed restaurant in San Francisco - Nate is the Chef and Shelley is the Wine Director. Unfortunately, I've never actually been or eaten at A16 but I was lucky enough to get their cookbook for Christmas this year (my Dad bought it for me because it, very appropriately, was the most recommended cookbook on Amazon and, if you know my Dad, he loves a good product recommendation - Consumer Reports lawn mowers, New York Times Best Selling novels...oh yeah he knows 'em).
And for the cherry on top, Nate Appleman just won the 2009 James Beard Rising Star Chef (as the JBF website states, the awards are the Oscars of the food world...here is the complete list of winners). Tonight, Nick & I decided on the Braised Halibut with Pistachios, Preserved Meyer Lemon & Capers (as I've said I do eat fish and enjoy it very much). I made a simple side of roasted zucchini & summer squash w/ thyme to accompany the halibut. It was DELICIOUS (easy and, for a "fancy" restaurant recipe, called for very few ingredients).
So first for the side - which can be started ahead (while the fish salts...read below):
Roasted Zucchini & Summer Squash with Fresh Thyme:
2 zucchini, cut into 2" wedges
2 summer squash, cut into 2" wedges
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
Pre-heat oven to 425
Toss wedges veggies with olive oil, salt & pepper
Roast for 15 minutes - then add thyme and toss
Roast for another 15 minutes (or until edges are brown & crisp!)
A16's Braised Halibut with Pistachios, Preserved Meyer Lemon, and Capers:
Serves 6 (I halved everything and it was perfect for the two of us..oink oink)
2 1/2 pounds halibut fillet, divided into 6 (6 1/2-ounce) portions, each about 1" thick
1 cup unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted (all I could find were salted...which was fine)
1 tablespoon salt-packed capers, soaked
2 wedges preserved Meyer lemon, pith and flesh removed, soaked & minced (I just used the "meat" of 2 wedges of standard lemon (cut away skin & white pith)...which was fine (but I'd love to try preserving lemons, A16 has a recipe)).
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
Leaves from 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley (about 2 cups loosely packed)
1 fresh lemon, cut into wedges
Season the fish portions evenly with a few generous pinches of salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. About 30 minutes before serving, remove the fish from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400.
*Oops didn't have enough time to salt & refrigerate for all this time so did it for about 20 minutes (as I prepped and cooked the first leg of the veggies...)
Combine the pistachios, capers, preserved lemon, and chili flakes in a food processor or a mortar. Pulse a few times or crush with a pestle until coarsely blended. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil, or drizzle in the olive oil as you crush the ingredients with the pestle. Add the parsley and pulse a few more times or crush with the pestle just until combined. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt if needed. The fish is seasoned and the capers are salty, so you may not need to add any salt.
*Oops...what's that parsley doing on the table? I forgot to add the parsley but it still tasted really good.
Place the fish in a baking pan and divide the pistachio mixture evenly among the tops, covering each piece and pressing lightly so the topping adheres. Add enough water to the pan - about 1/2 cup - to come halfway up the sides of the fish, and transfer to the oven. Braise the fish for 10- to 15 minutes or until firm and just cooked through.
*Oops...for some reason my oven took at least 20-25 minutes to cook it through.
Using a slotted spatula, transfer the fish portions to a warmed platter. Finish with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with a side of fresh lemon wedges.
*Oops...my platter was not warmed.