June 29, 2022

A la Carte: Thinking Lent (or Passover or Easter)? Then Think Fish

Lee White

Oh my, it may be April 1, as you are reading this. But this column is not about April Fool’s Day but rather two important holidays, which follow in just a couple of weeks—Easter and Passover.

Because the two holidays follow different calendars, rarely do Easter weekend (including Good Friday, Easter Sunday or, that new holiday, Easter Monday) and Passover coincide.

As with most Jewish holidays, Passover with its wonderful dinner, or seder — which can include brisket or turkey, sweet potatoes, matzoh topped with horseradish (which I love) and sometimes macaroons for dessert — begins on the evening before the holiday.

This year the seder begins on April 15 at sundown. The seder is sad in the beginning, but ends with happiness and songs.

Easter begins sadly with Good Friday, the day Jesus died and was entombed, and ends with Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose. After church on Sunday, Christians may choose a festive dinner, often with turkey or ham, rolls and butter, fresh peas (because sometimes, although rarely, the peas sown in mild-March might be ready to pick), rich scalloped potatoes and, if you are lucky, a ricotta cake and fresh berries. 

My daughter has Good Friday and Easter Monday off and is taking the red-eye from California; she will arrive very early Friday. By Friday evening, her eight-day Passover fast means no flour, meaning no bread. Also, over the past few years, she had a few bouts with crab legs and an allergist said it might be best if she stays away from shellfish.

I am not the least bit religious, so I do not avoid bread at Passover or seafood ever.

My daughter, on the other hand, has decided that lobster is okay. So, we may go to Ford’s before sundown, where I will have lobster risotto. She decided that rice is okay at Passover (others disagree) and will enjoy just a taste of lobster and order shrimp. 

The next night we will eat at home with this recipe. This is pretty and delicious for Lent or anytime.

Sear-Roasted Halibut with Tomato and Capers
Adapted from Fine Cooking, volume 93, June-July, 2008

Yield: serves 4

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano (if dried, use only a teaspoon)
1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds thick, skinless halibut fillet (or mild white fish, like cod) cut into 4 even pieces
½ cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I used canola because I was out of EVOO)
2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Position rack in center of oven and heat oven to 450 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes, capers, oregano, vinegar, ½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoons pepper.

In a plate, place flour and the rest of salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour and shake excess flour.

Heat oil in a 12-inch (preferably non-stick) ovenproof skillet over medium high-heat until shimmering hot.

Add fish, evenly spaced and cook without touching until it browns and released easily from the pan (check by gently lifting one of the corners), about 3 minutes.

Flip fish, sprinkle garlic around it, and cook until garlic just starts to brown on some edges, about 30 minutes. Pour the tomato mixture around the fish and transfer skillet to the oven.

Roast until the fish is just firm to the touch and opaque when you pry open a thicker piece with a paring knife, 3 to 6 minutes.

Let fish rest for a couple of minutes and then serve with the tomato mixture spooned over it.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com along with the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.