FRIDAY FISH: Pan-Seared Halibut with Tomato-Sweet Pepper Salsa

Shown here with Red Onion-Oregano Potatoes and Cheesy Green beans.

For Hot Cross Buns and Easter brunch ideas, scroll down to bottom under LIFE GOES ON.

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No matter what kind of fish or seafood you’re cooking, there are two basic secrets to its success. #1 Don’t overcook it. #2 You need a great sauce. I mean, think about it. Even everyday sorts of fish or seafood like fried shrimp or fish and chips come with a sauce you just have to have: cocktail sauce for the shrimp and tartar sauce for the fish. Right? This is also true of fish cooked by chefs in upscale restaurants, though the sauces may (or may not) be a tish more sophisticated. Sometimes butter and/or lemon are all that’s called for, as in Sole Meunière, which is not much more than thin and floured sole fillets cooked in–yes– butter and lemon, then sprinkled with, what else? Parsley. Simple is as simple does. And the dish has been top drawer famous forever! No matter the fish, it is often the sauce that counts.

That’s especially true in my quick Friday Fish for this week, Pan-Seared Halibut with Tomato-Sweet Pepper Salsa. Everyone knows pico de gallo and other sorts of Mexican salsas often made with cilantro and jalapeños, but a fresh tomato salsa (salsa only means “sauce”) without those two ingredients and with sweet peppers, tiny ripe tomatoes, parsley, green onions, and lemon, orange, or lime is something different. That difference is smile-worthy because instead of being overwhelmed by large-scale flavors, this mild fillet is enhanced and freshly seasoned by what is almost a baby salad garnish — which takes the dish over the top to my tastebuds.

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50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #35 – Delia Smith

Would you cook with this woman?  Meet Delia Smith.

In North America, we might argue over who taught us to cook.  While Julia really was on tv, I’m sure I learned to cook from a. my mother, b. James Beard, and c. SILVER PALATE.  (We all teach ourselves right in our kitchen, don’t we?)  But in the UK, there’s no question about who taught you to cook; Delia Smith, #35 in Gourmet’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, did.  (photo courtesy BBC)

Way back in the ’70s (was it that far away?), you only had to tune in to the telly to learn how to make pastry (or lots else) with Delia in London or Edinburgh. For grins, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on the video and see what the buzz was about.  Could you bake a blind tart shell after watching that television program? I admit I missed Julia a bit as I watched!

After a couple of false starts as a hairstylist and travel agent, and without much education, Delia began reading cookbooks in the reading room at the British Museum.  Not long after, she was cooking and writing for the Daily Mirror starting in 1969, where she met her husband, Michael Wynn Jones.

Many television episodes, newspaper articles,  books (21 million sold), a website, and even a soccer club later, Delia continues to deliver basic, commonsense, always-trusted cooking advice, recipes, and technique.  She’s so successful at delivering the goods that, within the world marketplace, there’s now something called “The Delia Effect.”  Which means it’ll sell like the proverbial hotcakes, as her stamp on anything makes product fly off the shelves in the UK. Reportedly, egg sales in England rose by 10% after her book How to Cook was published.

Delia’s Complete How to Cook can be ordered through, as can other volumes, though some appear to be more available overseas than here in the States.   Time for a few days in London, I’d say.

 Reading through recipes and trying to decide which to try for this blog, I found no shortage of tasty and wonderful-sounding things to cook.  Oven-Baked Smoked Pancetta and Leek Risotto caught my eye, as did Grilled Venison Steaks with Red Onion, Grape, and Raisin Confit, a selection from Delia’s website under the banner, “What Should You be Cooking This Month?”  There’s also a tab for ingredients and the available recipes to use them.  Special diets, Under 30 minutes, Freezing, and Cooking for One are just a few of the sections you might want to peruse on the site.   I especially enjoyed “Recipe of the Day” and “Competitions.”  At the very bottom are links to lists of recipes like, “French,” “Pasta,” and so on.  While it might not be true, the website has every indication of containing a good portion of her thirty-plus years’ recipes and information, which makes it a treasure trove, to say nothing of a great value.

You could make “Italian Baked Fish” (and who doesn’t want more baked fish recipes) as did I, and give Delia a whirl:

First:  Make a little marinara with mushrooms.

 italian baked fish  serves 4  (recipe courtesy

4 thick pieces of cod or other white fish (MN cooks:  try our Lake Superior white fish here.)
2T olive oil (no need for extra virgin oil)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
1# ripe tomatoes or 400g tin of Italian tomatoes
4 oz (110 g) sliced mushrooms
1 T chopped fresh basil
1 T capers, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
12 black olives (I opted for kalamata.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Start by making a good, thick tomato sauce:  heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Now add the garlic and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a simmering point and cook gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Next add the sliced mushrooms, making sure they are well stirred in.  Simmer for a further few minutes until it looks like a thick sauce.  Lastly, stir in the fresh basil and chopped capers.

Next, season the fish with lemon, salt, and pepper

 Now place the fish in a shallow baking dish or tin, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little lemon juice on each piece.  Next spoon an equal quantity of the sauce on to each piece of fish and arrange a few olives on top.   Cover the dish with foil and bake on a high shelf (in upper 1/3 of oven) for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Serve with new potatoes or brown rice and a tossed green salad.  

Last, top with marinara, and bake.

 I sometimes cook fish right down in a chunky tomato-onion-garlic-etc bath either on top of the stove or in the oven; you might try that idea if it appeals to you.  Here’s my fast snapper in tomato sauce.  Get your vegetables, honey.

Next week, join us when we’ll feature #36, Edna Lewis. “The granddaughter of an emancipated slave, Lewis, another Judith Jones protégée, brought sophisticated Southern dishes into the spotlight.” 

If you’d like to cook a few other gorgeous Delia Smith (or other) meals, click on the blogs of the food bloggers featuring Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food this (or another) week:
Val – More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden, Heather – girlichef, Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney, Jeanette – Healthy Living  Mary – One Perfect Bite, Kathleen – Bake Away with Me, Sue – The View from Great Island Barbara – Movable Feasts , Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen Annie – Most Lovely Things, Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table, Amrita – Beetles Kitchen Escapades
What’s on Alyce’s blog about cooking for one, Dinner Place?

Pork Tenderloin Salad with Berries and Oranges and a Sherry Vinaigrette

 Thanks for stopping by.

just for fun, here’s the early video of Delia teaching pastry-making  in the late ’70s.  courtesy BBC                              Bake a new tart, Alyce

Pico de Gallo Halibut on Warm Rice Salad with Bacon Pintos

Pico de Gallo Halibut on Warm Rice Salad with Bacon Pintos

   Yes, my jeans are tight.  I’m sure they shrank.   Didn’t yours last month?
Whatever–I’m working on lighter meals, like this halibut, to make up for things like whole baked potatoes with butter and sour cream (Did I do that???  I did.) at MacKenzie’s Chop House.
  I’m also working on a series of meals that will use each of a dozen great foods (a la Dana Jabobi’s 12 BEST FOODS COOKBOOK) and do double duty–decrease my waistline and make me tres healthy.  How about you?  You could get in on it, too.
The list of the twelve best foods reads like this:
  1. Broccoli
  2. Black beans
  3. Tomatoes
  4. Salmon
  5. Soy
  6. Sweet potatoes
  7. Oats
  8. Onions
  9. Blueberries
  10. Walnuts
  11. Spinach
  12. Chocolate
We used sweet potatoes in the Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust (last post).  One down.  
Next is tomatoes and tomatoes we have here in abundance with our halibut.  Onions is another and we’ve got onions in two places here.  3 down, folks.  Ok.  Let’s talk fish for the halibut.  Bad joke from the Three Stooges. Yuck, yuck, yuck.
Halibut, well, it’s just an incredible fish.  Meaty, bright, filling, flexible, dependable.   Currently not cheap.   Good with nearly anything.  I had (bad me) frozen two pieces that just weren’t going to get cooked last week.  I also had a quart of pico de gallo (the first I’ve ever bought instead of made) that said, “Use within 14 days of opening.”  (The 14th day was fast approaching.)  It seemed the pico and the fish were meant for one another.  Add to that I had some rice from an old favorite dish (rice with creamed pork tenderloin and mushrooms) that also needed a home and this easy, fresh  mid-week meal was born.

Warm Rice Salad in process.

If you never cooked beans, you don’t know how non-descript they can look in the pot while all the while tasting scrumptious.  Definitely not my photographic skills, right?  And, yes, they take a while at altitude.   They’re good in the microwave, though.  I cooked these earlier in the afternoon so they were very tender by dinner time.  You could choose canned beans, unsalted or drained and rinsed very well indeed.

The beginning of cooking the halibut–salted and peppered, it just goes into a very hot skillet with some olive oil.  Cook it for 4 minutes, turn and throw it into the oven (400 F) for about 6 minutes and it’s done.

Cilantro, tomatoes and avocado for the rice salad.

When the halibut is cooked, pull it out and top with pico de gallo, thus warming the salsa.

Add the rice “salad” to warmed bowls or plates, top with fresh tomatoes, cilantro and avocado and lay the fish w/ salsa on top.  Spoon some beans along side and squeeze fresh lime over all.  Maybe a quick dust of black pepper?  Eat while it’s hot.

Pico de Gallo Halibut with Warm Rice Salad and Bacon Pintos    serves 2
Beans:   (Follow directions below or use canned, drained and heated beans.)
1/2 # pinto beans (you’ll have  alot left over for huevos or chili)
2 onions, chopped (divided–1 for the pintos and 1 for the rice)
3 cloves garlic, minced (divided–2 for the beans and 1 for the rice)
4 thick-cut pieces of bacon, diced
Fresh ground pepper
Kosher salt 
Warm Rice Salad:
1 T olive oil
(onion and garlic from above)
1 Medium zucchini, diced
1 Yellow squash, diced
2-3 c cooked rice
1/2 c fresh cilantro, divided
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 Avocado, ripe, diced
1 Lime, divided
2 T olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pieces (4-6 oz) fresh or unthawed and patted dry halibut filets
1/2 c pico de gallo, home-made or store-bought 
  1.   BEANS   —  In a 6 qt. kettle, place picked over and cleaned pinto beans and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for an hour.  Drain and replace beans in pot; pour in about 4 qts of water.  Add 1 chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic minced, all of the bacon, the pepper and several drops of Tabasco (or a whole, fresh jalapeno).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours until beans are tender.   While beans cook, check pot regularly and add water if needed.     When done, cover and keep warm  or cool and reheat when needed.  Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.
  2. WARM RICE SALAD —  In a large saute pan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions and squashes.  Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes or so until nearly tender. Stir in garlic and continue to cook until all vegetables are tender.   Add rice, stir, and season well with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with most of the cilantro, saving a little bit for garnish at the end.  Squeeze the juice from half of the lime over the rice and stir.   Turn off heat and cover to keep warm while you cook the fish.   Add the fresh tomato, cilantro and avocado right at serving time.
  3.   HALIBUT  —   Preheat oven to 400 F.  Heat a medium skillet over medium- high heat with 2 T olive oil.  Season fish well with salt and pepper and place skin side up in hot pan.  Do not disturb for 3-4 minutes until well-browned.  Turn fish over and place  skillet in oven for about 6 minutes until fish is firm and flaking.  Remove from oven and spoon salsa on top of each piece.  Let fish sit a minute or so.
  4. TO SERVE:  Spoon rice onto warmed plates or large shallow bowls (pasta bowls are nice) and top with halibut and salsa.   Add the tomato, the avocado and cilantro to the top of the rice.  Spoon some beans to the other side of the rice and fish.  Squeeze the other half of the lime over all of the food in each bowl or plate.  Dust with pepper if you’d like.
  5. Serve immediately while hot.   

What I’m Reading, Listening to, Working at or Doing around the ‘Hood:

Had neighbors for dinner Sunday night at the spur of the  moment.

Enjoyed my husband at home…no travel this week.

Wondered about a job for me..did some work on that.

I’m reading DEVIL’S TRILL by Gerald Elias (I told you that.) and ordered DANSE MACABRE,  too.   Ah, violin mysteries.

 I also picked up, and started, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE.  (I know–you read this in ’03)

I’m still reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD.  Superb.
THE ART OF CURATING WORSHIP by Mark Pierson arrived, but I haven’t started it yet.

The book club book is Isabel Allende’s DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE.  Not yet, either.  Nope, I haven’t begun it.

I taught piano lessons and learned alot.  I let a student choose a piece to work on and it was Bach. 

I did my best to listen to myself playing and singing old standards.  Piano bar retirement plan.  You know those jars that say, “Piano Player’s 401K?”  They’re real.  Put something in them, please.
As I write, I’m listening to Patti Digh’s 37 DAYS, which you can listen to, too, right on her blog of the same name. (Link on my blog)  What would you do if you had 37 days?  Patti travels and speaks…if you can get her.

We watched “Did You Hear What Happened to the Morgans?”  Glad it happened to them, though the bears are here, too-so that wasn’t so funny to me.
I played through/listened to the new Lenten cantata from Pepper Choplin/Lorenz.  Hm.  Jury is out there.

I think I finished washing all of the linens from Christmas.

I’m looking at local hunger issues for and figuring out a series of articles on same. 

There’s a second article about where to drink just a glass of wine in Co. Springs in the works as well.

I played with the dogs every chance I had.

Today–reupping my “Y” membership.

Talked to my daughter on the phone twice and texted back and forth to Jeanne…several times.

Spent a long time on the phone with Sue..,..such a treat.  A treat to have the time and a treat to have Sue.  Prayers here and now for Sue’s father-in-law, in the last stages of cancer in Virginia.   Also praying for friend, C, recovering from surgery.

Kept up with my family via fb.  My nephew is deer hunting and I wish I could get some sausage.  One of my nieces  is on the way to new health after a long New Year’s hospital stay.

Went out for supper at old-time family Italian Luigi’s  to share a pizza and salad with Dave in front of their fireplace.  Listened to his work stuff and was grateful my jobs don’t involve that kind of stuff.  The tough ones for me are getting mah, may, me, moh, mooo right.  Or answering questions like, “I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t sing that hymn this Sunday.  You tell me why?”  I get to help make people happy, healthy and wise as they sing their hearts out or cook yum food for loved ones. 

Nice work if you can get it.

Healthy… yes. 

Thanks, God.
Two-Dog Kitchen


Be well in 2001 as you sing a new song,