Halibut with Tomato and Spinach
(Ippoglosso con Pomodori e Spinaci)
Who says elegant has to be difficult?
This exquisite tomato-based dish from my favorite Italian chef, Lidia Bastianich, has just a handful of ingredients, and can be pulled together very quickly. Sure, the halibut will cost you (I paid $20 per pound at Giant Eagle). But for special occasions, the thick, white, flaky fillets with a delicate flavor really deliver. Wonderfully. “Best fish I ever ate,” said my husband.
I used heirloom ’Costoluto Genovese’ tomatoes from my garden instead of plum tomatoes, and also mixed several handfuls of spicy arugula in with the spinach. Fresh tomatoes are best, but good-quality canned tomatoes would work well, too.
Serve with crusty bread for dipping. Any leftover sauce (I had about a cup) would be excellent on pasta.
2 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, halved and cored (about 4 cups)
2 pounds skinless halibut fillet, cut into 2-inch chunks
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
All-purpose flour for dredging
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
6 ounces fresh spinach, trimmed (I used a combination of spinach and arugula)
Put the tomato halves in food processor or blender and process to make a smooth puree. Set aside.
Season halibut with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread flour on plate, and lightly dredge the halibut, tapping off excess.
Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a large skillet and set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add fish and brown on all sides, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Remove fish to a plate and keep warm.
Add sliced garlic to skillet. Let garlic sizzle for a minute, then pour in the tomato puree. Slosh out the food processor’s work bowl with 1 cup hot water, and add that to skillet. Season with peperoncino. Bring to a rapid simmer, and cook until very thick, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Season sauce with remaining teaspoon salt, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Increase heat to high, add the spinach and cook until spinach is just wilted into the sauce, about 3 or 4 minutes. Divide spinach and sauce among plates, and serve the halibut on top.
-- Adapted from “Lidia’s Italy in America” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (Knopf, $35)
For more tomato recipes, check out Thursday’s Food & Flavor or go to www.post-gazette.com/food.