Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lemon Roasted Halibut with Lentils and Tomatoes

I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way I became a fan of lentils.  When I was a kid there was no way I would eat them - they're suspiciously like a vegetable and they're so brown.  Then there's lentil soup, or what I like to call Brown Glop.  What it took to convert me was the discovery of French green lentils, called Lentils du Puy.  They're about half the size of "normal" lentils, they're not brown, and they don't get mushy when cooked.  Rather, they have a pleasant pop when you eat them. They can often be found in food co-ops and some upscale grocery stores.  Recently I also discovered some beautiful small Umbrian lentils in a specialty food store in California, and some wonderful small black lentils at my local Whole Foods.

Since I also had French green lentils on hand and some normal brown lentils that I accidentally bought a few months ago, I guess that officially makes me Lentil Obsessive. 

I thought I'd show you the difference.  The normal lentils are on top.  On the bottom, left to right, are black, Umbrian and French green lentils.

Lentils have very high nutritional value and are a great source of fiber, iron and protein along with several other nutrients.  All the small lentils have the same great firm texture when cooked and are basically interchangeable in recipes.  I used black lentils in the recipe below, but you could easily use French green lentils instead.  I'll post another recipe in the future where I used the Umbrian lentils in a chicken dish with lemon mustard sauce and spinach. 

OK, enough about lentils.

The other, equally important part of this dish is the halibut.  Halibut has recently displaced salmon as my favorite fish - it has a clean, mild flavor and a great flaky texture with absolutely no fishy taste at all.   The marinade gives it a wonderful lemon flavor with a hint of garlic.  Be careful not to marinate the fish too long - lemon juice is an acid and will literally start to "cook" the delicate fish.  Fair warning - halibut is relatively expensive because it's so popular.  It's worth the time to search out your local fish mongers and compare prices rather than buying at the local grocery store.  Besides, then you're ensured of getting absolutely the freshest fish.

** click here for a printable recipe **

Lemon Roasted Halibut with Lentils and Tomatoes
Serves 4

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about one large lemon)
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 6-oz skinless halibut fillets

1 cup small black or French green lentils
4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup sliced green onions
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

 Lemon wedges for garnish

 In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper until smooth.  Pour the mixture into a sealable plastic bag, add the halibut pieces and coat them thoroughly with the lemon mixture.  Refrigerate for 35 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

While the halibut marinates, place the lentils and water with a large pinch of salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer according to package directions, typically 25 minutes or so (depends on the type of lentils).  Drain and set aside.

After 35 minutes have elapsed, remove the halibut from the marinade and place in an aluminum foil lined rimmed baking sheet.  Roast until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 15 to 18 minutes.

While the fish is roasting, heat the1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes.  Add the green onions, tomatoes, lentils, thyme, and parsley to the pan and stir to combine.  Cook until warmed through, about 1 minute.  Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Divide lentils between plates, place a piece of halibut on each, and garnish with a lemon wedge.


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