Summer Freshness: Halibut with papaya salsa and heirloom tomato salad

Summer is a foodie’s paradise.  Produce aisles and farmers’ markets alike become Candyland cornucopias.  I can’t seem to get enough of stone fruits, summer squash, and especially ripe juicy heirloom tomatoes, and I fill my basket to the brim with every trip to the market.  Speaking of tomatoes, I recently read a blurb about how the commercial farming industry has eradicated the flavorful tomatoes of old and has literally enslaved tomato pickers.  Tragic.  One of the reasons you’ll spot those familiar tomato trellis thingees in most backyard gardens is because home grown tomatoes taste nothing like store bought.  Home grown tomatoes are lower in sodium, higher in vitamins, and bursting with sweet juiciness, unlike their hard and waxed store-bought distant cousins.  If you’re like me and your thumb hasn’t yet turned green (all I can manage to grow are herbs), then heirloom tomatoes are the answer to bland and rock hard Romas.   When in season, you can find heirloom tomatoes in most decent grocery stores, but they’re not cheap.  They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes and make an elegant summer salad.  I keep my tomato salads simple by picking out a few different colors and slicing them thick.  I drizzle good quality olive oil (not EVOO), and sprinkle course salt (red Hawaiian if you can find it at Trader Joe’s) and fresh cracked pepper on each tomato, then layer the tomato slices with cheese and other toppings.  For this particular heirloom tomato salad I sliced boconccini (mini mozzarella balls) in half along with sliced hot house cucumber for crunch, and home grown basil leaves.  Drizzle a little balsamic reduction on top and you have a fresh colorful tower of tomatoes.  If you want to get even more crafty try layering heirlooms with slices of watermelon, mint, and fresh ricotta cheese, or try them with burrata cheese, melon, prosciutto, and basil.  The combinations are endless.

Heirloom tomato

Heirloom tomato salad makes a perfect first course to fish, and what better way to enjoy another summer treat than to sear off fresh sustainably raised Alaskan Halibut.  You can find fresh (not frozen) Alaskan Halibut, the king of all flat fishes, in the early to mid- summer time.  Halibut works best when seasoned simply with salt and pepper and seared in a hot pan then finished in a hot oven.  Because the fish is mild in flavor, it lends well to tangy fruit salsas with just a little spice.  When Big N’s father came to visit Fin, I served heirloom tomato salad and halibut with papaya mango salsa for a light dinner al fresco.  I served my halibut with sauteed spinach, and for extra punch, I fried up some artichoke hearts.  The meal was a hit.  As was the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc we served with it.  New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, especially those from Marlborough, are known for their tropical notes and our bottle of Whitehaven delivered.  So pairing it with tropical papaya mango salsa was a no-brainer.  It doesn’t get much fresher than this.   Halibut with papaya salsa recipe below.

Halibut with papaya salsa

Halibut with Papaya Salsa

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Meal type Main Dish

Ingredients

  • 4 Halibut fillets (6 oz each)
  • 1 Papaya (ripe)
  • 1 Mango
  • 1 Red Onion (small)
  • 1/2 bunch Cilantro
  • 1-2 Jalapenos (Seeds removed, use to taste)
  • 1 Lime (Juice and zest)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Finely dice fruit and onion. Remove seeds from jalapenos (use gloves) and finely chop jalapenos and cilantro leaves, to taste. Mix ingredients together and add the zest and the juice of the lime. Season with a little salt to bring out the flavors and let that sit while you prepare your fish to allow the flavors to come together.
3. Wash and pat fish dry. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
4. In a heavy bottom pan, add oil (I prefer grape seed but canola or peanut work fine too, olive oil doesn’t have a high enough smoke point). When oil is hot and slides across the pan easily, sear fish on the top side. When you have a nice brown crust, flip fish carefully and immediately put in the oven to finish. The fish is done when a toothpick goes into the center of the fish without any resistance. Depending on thickness, between 8-12 minutes in the oven. You want your fish slightly translucent on the inside so it flakes nicely.
5. Plate fish with fruit salsa on top.
6. I served mine with sauteed spinach and a fried artichoke hearts (drain a jar of unmarinated artichoke hearts with stems attached, season with salt and pepper, coat with flour just before frying and then fry until golden brown, easy!)

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