When a local fisherman shows up at my door with a fresh halibut, this is the gold standard recipe I reach for. It’s my favourite way to add lots of simple, bright Mediterranean flavour to the firm, meaty whitefish. This dish is spectacular enough for a special occasion but easy enough for a quick weeknight dinner.
Yield: Serves 4
a splash of extra virgin olive oil
4 fresh halibut or other whitefish fillets, 5 to 6 oz (150 to 175 g) each
1-2 sprinkles of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large ripe local tomatoes or one 28 oz (796 mL) can of whole tomatoes
1 minced large onion
4 minced large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of drained capers
1/2 cup of pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup of pitted green olives
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of dried
Preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add a splash of olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin film.
Pat the halibut fillets dry with a piece of paper towel and then lightly season them with salt and pepper.
Carefully place the fillets in the hot oil and sear on both sides, patiently browning them until they are golden brown and beautiful. They don’t have to cook all the way through at this point.
Remove the fillets from the pan and add the remaining ingredients. Bring the tomato mixture to a vigorous simmer, then return the halibut to the pan and lower the heat a bit. Nestle the fillets into the mixture and continue cooking until they are cooked through, just a few minutes longer. Serve the halibut with several generous spoonfuls of the tomato mixture.
This method is excellent for any whitefish: halibut, hake, haddock, sole, cod, flounder or tilapia. Try adding a few large spoonfuls of pesto instead of the oregano. You can easily substitute the zest and juice of a lemon for the balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I like to add a head of chopped fennel to this dish. If you use fresh oregano, save a few sprigs for a garnish.