Seasonal eating is dependent upon many things, not the least of which is knowing which season you’re in. It’s not always obvious to me. The calendar promises another few days of summer, but school has been in session for so long that panzanella and frozen pops taste as tired as a yellowed linen shirt. And fall foods don’t make sense until the insufferable humidity finally goes into hibernation.
What I need are transition meals, the culinary equivalent of a light sweater. What I made is an easy, light-ish fish dish that gently foreshadows heartier meals to come.
This recipe calls for a cornucopia of veggies. Start with a saute of onions and celery. Then add tomatoes: either easy breezy canned, or fresh cherry or Roma if your plants are still producing. If you use fresh tomatoes exclusively, simply add an extra 1/2 cup of low-sodium vegetable broth (1 cup total) to the skillet and simmer until they’re soft. A quick run with an immersion blender will transform the tomatoes, onions and celery into a chunky sauce.
Next, nestle your fish into the tomato-y goodness. Choose mild-tasting, boneless, skinless fillets that are sturdy, like halibut or cod, not steaky, like salmon or tuna. If your choices are limited, tilapia is another delicious option, but the fillets may break apart while they simmer.
How long should your fish cook? Skip the rule of thumb, which calls for 10 minutes per inch thickness. Your actual cook time depends upon your cookware and the temperature of your tomato sauce. I used an enameled cast-iron skillet that dispersed the heat evenly and quickly. Since my tomato sauce was rolling at a full simmer, my 2-inch-thick halibut fillets cooked in just 8 minutes. You’ll know your fish is finished when your fillets are opaque and flaky.
You could easily spoon this dish over steamed rice or mashed potatoes. But since the recipe is so veggie-focused, I decided to double down on lower-carb goodness by serving it over a cauliflower puree. All you need is cauliflower: either leftover roasted cauli or fresh florets that have been steamed in the microwave. Once they are cooked until soft, throw the florets and a little broth into a blender or food processor. Puree the cauliflower until it’s the creamy texture of mashed potatoes. Healthy cooking bonus: There’s no need to add fat, since cooked cauliflower offers a naturally buttery flavor.
If you like the idea of lower-carb vegetables, but aren’t of the cauliflower club, you can also serve your tomatoes and fish on a bed of sauteed spinach. During the season of transitions, it’s all good.
Recipe: Tomato-Poached Fish with Cauliflower Puree
1 large head of cauliflower, chopped into small florets
Place the cauliflower florets and 1/2 cup vegetable broth into a covered microwave-safe bowl. Cook in the microwave on high for 8-10 minutes, until very tender. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
Spray a heavy skillet with a tight-fitting lid with cooking spray. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and celery until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and their juices and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the fish to the tomato mixture, cover the skillet with the lid, and cook 8-10 minutes, until the fish turns opaque and flakes.
While the fish cooks, transfer the cauliflower and its cooking broth into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Add the garlic powder and black pepper to the bowl. Puree, pausing to scrape down the sides, until the cauliflower mixture is smooth. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
To serve: Divide the cauliflower puree evenly among four plates. Drizzle the lemon juice over the fish and garnish with parsley. Spoon a helping of fish and sauce over each plate of cauliflower puree. Serves 4.
Per serving: 349 calories (percent of calories from fat, 15), 44 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 54 milligrams cholesterol, 582 milligrams sodium.