This is going to be a lazy post; a quick and dirty one. See this as a public service announcement – a bit stern and to-the-point, but useful. I really do think your life – at least your culinary one – will be better for it.
The impetus for this post came in the form of a Bon Appétit recipe that I came across when looking for something to make with fish. “Mackerel with Cauliflower ‘Couscous’ and Tahini” was one of the first to pop up in my browser, and after glancing at the photo – filled with ruby-coloured pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs, and crispy, silvery mackerel – I knew I’d hit the money. The only issue was sourcing the ingredients – two of my regular fish mongers didn’t have mackerel that week, and the pomegranates at my green grocer were looking a little peaked (to be fair, they’re not exactly in season).
I took Bon Appétit‘s advice and substituted the mackerel for arctic char, a cold water fish that keeps its shape when cooked and whose skin crisps up nicely in the pan. As for a pomegranate seed replacement – I went digging in my crisper and found two beets – one striped, one not – and figured that, at least colour-wise, they might make an acceptable surrogate. I also had a few radishes leftover from the previous week’s market spoils, so I tossed a few in for good measure.
The result was better than I’d expected – the fish was tender, the cauliflower nicely roasted and browned in bits, the raw vegetables were crisp and pretty, and the tahini dressing united the whole thing, lending a silky, nutty hum to it all.
It’s a vibrant, crunchy, creamy dish that won’t make you feel like you’re bursting at the seams after you’ve downed the last forkful. Perfect for the heat. Perfect for summer.
Please dig in.
Arctic Char with Pulsed Cauliflower, Quick-Pickled Beets and Tahini
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 2, with leftovers
- 1 garlic clove finely grated
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
(you will have leftover sauce, which is good – use it on salads and vegetables throughout the week)
Cauliflower and seeds
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 small head cauliflower, cored, cut into large florets
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (in Montreal, I buy mine here)
- 2 small beets
- juice of 1/2 lemon (or splash of white wine vinegar)
Fish and Assembly
- 1 filet of arctic char (or 1-2 whole mackerel, cleaned)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1-2 radishes, thinly sliced
1) Make tahini sauce and the pickled beets: stir garlic, tahini, lemon juice, oil, and ¼ cup water in a small bowl; season with salt. Peel and dice the beets; put in a small mixing bowl and dress with the lemon juice (or vinegar) and season lightly with salt.
2) Cauliflower and seeds: heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high. Working in batches if needed, cook cauliflower, tossing occasionally, until florets are browned in spots but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Reserve skillet.
3) Working in 2 batches, pulse cauliflower in a food processor until the size of rice grains. Transfer back to bowl, toss with lemon juice, and season with salt.
4) Cook pumpkin seeds and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in reserved skillet over medium heat, stirring, until seeds are golden brown, about 1 minute. Season with salt. Toss in a small bowl with sesame and nigella seeds.
5) Mackerel and assembly: heat the 1 Tbsp of olive oil a pan on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, place the fish in the pan, skin-side down; cook 2-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. Remove from pan and let rest for a couple of minutes.
6) Spoon cauliflower onto plates. Remove fillets from fish and place, skin side up, on top. Top with seed mixture, pickled beets, cilantro, radish slices and a sprinkle of salt. Dress with tahini and serve.