Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."

You may or may not know that I am an incurable romantic and an old movie buff. There is nothing I like better than to open a bottle of wine, grab a box of tissues, and pop-in an old romantic movie, like one of my favorites, Casablanca. If you haven't seen this classic film, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a cynical American expat, living in Nazi-occupied Casablanca in 1941. He runs an upscale nightclub and gambling den, known as "Rick's Cafe Americain." Rick secretly has two "letters of transit," which grant the bearers freedom to leave German-control to neutral Portugal. All is well, until one time love, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) shows up with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), previously thought to have died in the war. I won't ruin the story for you, but in the end, out of love, all must make sacrifices for the greater good. No wonder it consistently ranks near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time!

Well, even if you don't see this romantic masterpiece, you can experience the exotic flavors of Morocco, by making Laura Calder's, "Halibut with Brown Butter, Crushed Chickpeas with Olives and Roasted Cumin Carrots." Although the combination of ingredients may seem unusual to some, it is refreshingly unique, surprisingly delicious, and exceedingly romantic, just the kind of thing you would expect at Rick's Cafe Americain! Follow with Ginger, Lemon, and Mint Granita, for the perfect finale!

Halibut with Brown Butter, Crushed Chickpeas with Olives and Roasted Cumin Carrots

Serves 4


For the carrots
8 slender carrots, with tops
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for drizzling

For the chickpeas
1, 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pitted green olives, sliced
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful of chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the halibut
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
4, 4-ounce halibut fillets, skinned and deboned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the carrots
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the carrots lengthwise, leaving a bit of green top attached, for looks. Toss on a baking sheet with the olive oil, crushed cumin seeds, and salt and pepper, to taste. Roast until tender, slightly crinkly, and golden-edged, about 30 minutes, depending on their size.

For the chickpeas
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan, and gently fry the garlic, 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas, salt, and pepper, to taste, to heat through. Crush a bit, here and there, with a potato masher, leaving some chickpeas whole. Remove from the heat, and stir in the olives, parsley, and lemon zest. Add the lemon juice, to taste. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil to moisten, set aside.

For the halibut
Melt the butter in a saucepan, and cook until lightly brown and foaming. Remove from the heat. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan (preferably non-stick) on medium-high heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides and place in the hot pan. Fry for 4 minutes, then gently flip, and cover to finish, 4-6 minutes.

To serve
Spoon a small pile of the crushed chickpeas on each plate. Add the fish and spoon over the brown butter. Top with the roasted carrots. A sprig of parsley finishes it off beautifully!

Recipe adapted from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating, by Laura Calder.

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