For dinner last night I made a fish dish that emphasized flavour while delivering healthy eating. I was a little surprised to see that I also had created a romantic dinner that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day: simple to prepare, flavourful, light (i.e., room for a luscious dessert) and pretty to look at. Had I realized, I would have fancied up the table setting and added candles, but even so it felt like a special occasion meal under the low, warm glow of the chandelier and I took a quick photo just before we tucked in.
A few weeks ago, Karen at Back Road Journal, a lovely blog that I follow published a post about Cuban pork with black beans and rice, and it included a mojo sauce to flavour the meat. I had never heard of mojo sauce before (there are always things to learn in the world of food) and the combination of citrus juices, garlic, onion and spices had me intrigued. I kept thinking about this sauce, but haven’t had the right occasion yet to use it on a pork roast. When we were planning our halibut dinner yesterday, my mind immediately made the connection to the mojo sauce. I thought it would be a perfect accompaniment to the mild fish, and I was absolutely right. The flavour was amazing … the combination of three types of citrus was tart and complex, mellowed by the richness of the onions and garlic, and enhanced by the subtle spicing. I foresee endless possibilities for this sauce.
I rarely make fish, probably because it was so supremely unpopular with the offspring when they were growing up; I just ordered it in restaurants instead of preparing my own. Now, however, I’d like to explore using fish more. So, yesterday we put a second mortgage on the house and bought two filets of halibut (I think it was the most expensive fish in the showcase; next time we may use something a little more downmarket, although I have to say the finished product was worth the expenditure). I will definitely include fish on the menu more regularly in future.
While we were out and about doing our Saturday errands, I planned the menu that would showcase the lovely fish: halibut in mojo sauce, rice with red chile and cilantro and roasted asparagus with garlic. For the wine, we enjoyed a Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio with this meal.
(I was just talking to my daughter Jenn, and told her about this Valentine’s Day menu. Her response? ‘Nothing says I love you like fish breath!’ Hey! Not to worry, this meal won’t leave you searching for a breath mint before you get to the canoodling part of the evening.)
Here’s how it all came together.
I used half the amount called for by Karen at Back Road Journal in her recipe for Cuban Pork and adapted some of the methodology to use this as a sauce for the fish instead of a marinade.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, cut in half then thinly sliced
- 1 large clove garlic, sliced thinly lengthwise
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and stir until translucent. Add the seasonings and stir. Add the juices, and simmer. During this time, the onion and garlic will become mellow and infuse their flavour into the juices. Before using, taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Basmati Rice with Red Chile and Cilantro
I wanted to create a rice with a flavour profile complementary to the mojo sauce. I usually use basmati rice because I like the scent and flavour of it. This time I added some tastes that I thought would pay tribute to Cuba. And, it was also important to add colour to the dish.
- 1-3/4 cups water, brought to a boil in a saucepan
- 1 cup basmati rice, well rinsed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 red chile pepper, minced
- a tablespoon or two of finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 bundle asparagus; I like the medium sized ones best but sometimes you can only find the thin ones
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- fresh lemon
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 halibut filets, about 1.5 inches at the thick end
- tablespoon or so of olive oil
- freshly ground pepper
- mojo sauce
- finely chopped fresh cilantro