This is a light and filling Summertime fish dish. Perfect for the nasty 100+ degree days in your area. Mint, basil, and vinegar keep it fresh... just like your last drop-top fade (in my case, it was before the pandemic).
We love making fish dishes all year-round, but in the Summertime... in the damn Texas heat (107 currently)... we absolutely love a light fish with fresh, citrusy, herby ingredients. In these months, I lovingly refer to Texas as Texass - because I cannot stand the temps. I'm just not built for it, and years of being here haven't made me any more acclimated to the heat.
I'm a risotto lover. From the first time I made it correctly, I knew I had a new kitchen muse. And I didn't, and still don't, care that it's a rich, savory treat that should not have its delivery limited to minimal amounts of butter and cheese. If you don't like that, don't make the damn dish.
BUT - what have we learned from the method of cooking risotto and how can we apply it to different, maybe lighter things, and still be satisfied?
- Start with basic ingredients of dry wine, shallot, and garlic
- Use water or stock (veggie to stay vegan, chicken for more flavor) to flavor the grain
- Use lemon juice to brighten things up
In this dish, we're using Ptitim, a toasted pasta better known as Israeli couscous. It's like a bunch of small beads similar to small tapioca. Now, it doesn't have the starch content of the starchy arborio grain, but it does take on flavor like a champ. And that's why it's a great Summer substitution for risotto. To me, it still has a tummy-filling, satisfying fullness without the heavy richness of a dynomite risotto.
Get to it, then. Yeah?
Fish can be pricey in Austin, so we always look for seasonal sales. This time, we got lucky with a sweet bit of halibut that I knew I couldn't f@*k up. I wanted things light. I wanted things with fresh flavor. And, I wanted a dish I could bring together within an hour.
Cucumbers in the summer... Salt them. Pepper them. Marinate them. Eat them with hummus. Endless options. For this recipe, I wanted something to balance the fish and couscous, so I decided to marinate chopped cucumbers with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and cracked black pepper.
Marinating provides time to flavor the vegetable and draws out excess liquid. The acidity cuts through in such a great way.
As an additional flavorful bit, I had fresh basil and mint plants on hand - the leaves of which are very present but not overpowering elements to the dish as a whole.
Use herbs... honestly what the hell are you doing without them?
For the fish, I kept it basic with sea salt and cracked black pepper. It doesn't need anything else here, and the flavor of the fish is a focus.
I got some great color on this fish, just cooking over medium-high heat with grapeseed oil, which provided just enough texture to everything going on.
Enjoy this one on a hot day with a tasty chardonnay that isn't heavy on the buttery side and be happy for two hours. As for leftovers, there won't be any, so get used to it.
🍽 Hotel Critique
Although this is a bit "one note" color-wise, the flavors are more complex. Cooking the couscous using a risotto method imparts deep flavor into those little bits of joy.
The marinated cucumber cleans things up, and everything paired with the herbs elevates the fresh nature of the dish, especially the mint. Getting a nice sear on the fish is key - it provides a great textural balance, and each flakey bite is delicious.
- It's fun to learn how to apply known techniques to new dishes.
- Couscous was made for boozebooze, so get that wine out.
- Fresh herbs help keep things cool in the Summer.
- Texass Summer temps can kiss my ass.
- Leela can't even walk on concrete right now... wtf?
- Marinate your veg! From cukes to tomatoes and carrots - they're worth your slightly-extra effort.