Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chomping at the bit

(I’m excited to be doing a CSN product review soon…see below for more about Le Creuset cookware and CSN Stores.)


I am one of those spoiled Californians who, come February, is already wishing for warmer weather and longer days. In some ways, I suppose I’m not a typical Californian in that I love winter and the rain, but by the time Christmas is over, and the dreary January days give way to the unseasonably bright and warm pre-spring days, I am getting happy feet thinking of long afternoons spent on the patio, soaking up the sun, planning what to barbecue for dinner and which rosĂ© would hit the spot. This yen for spring is also what drives me to buy fruit that may not be quite ready for its debut so early in the season.

Last week at the produce stand, I’m pretty sure my eyes bugged out of my head when I spied my favorite variety of pluot, the Dapple Dandy. They were calling my name. I knew better. Pluots don’t show up at the farmer’s markets for another several months. But what did I do? I bought two. Even though they were ripe, they lacked the flavor and sweetness that makes me swoon. Lesson learned, right? Nope…a couple days later, I bought strawberries and blueberries. The blueberries were so tart they made me pucker when I ate them. The strawberries, while definitely not spectacular, had a fighting chance with a little help from some other ingredients.


I had an idea of what I wanted to make with the fruit, inspired by a dish that our friend made at one of her monthly dinner parties. The concept of these dinners is that she will make brand new recipes that she has never tested or tried before. (Personally, I think she is oh-so-brave and extremely confident, because just the thought of making dinner for the masses prior to testing it puts me in a mental state somewhere between anxiety and full-blown panic attack.) The rule is that you give your honest opinion about the dishes, even if it’s to say that you think it’s awful. I’ve yet to come across a single thing she’s made that was anything remotely close to awful; in fact, all her meals are quite tasty. Many dinners ago, she made grilled halibut with strawberry-jalapeno salsa. I must admit that I was a little skeptical at first. A mixture of strawberries, jalapeno, avocado, and all the other typical salsa ingredients; strawberries just didn’t seem to fit in there. But when I tasted it, I knew immediately that they absolutely belonged there. The dish was fantastic, and has been in my head ever since.

With that fruit salsa/fish combination in mind, I pulled out all my not-quite-sweet-enough fruit and went to work to try to get the most out of the flavors, macerating them in an 18-year-old balsamic vinegar mixed with honey and fresh orange juice. Sounds odd, right? Although I was also more than a little skeptical about this combination, the result was actually surprisingly good. (That 18-year balsamic certainly had something to do with it. I could drink it by itself and not be even a little bit ashamed of it. It also almost caused a small kitchen fire, but more on that later.)


Mahi-Mahi with Balsamic Fruit Salsa

4 mahi-mahi fillets
olive oil

Fruit Salsa:
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
3 Clementine oranges, cut into supremes
1/2 cup arugula, rough chopped

Whisk together honey, vinegar, orange juice and pepper in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine strawberries, blueberries, and Clementines. Add vinegar mixture to fruit and let sit while you prepare the fish, giving the fruit time to macerate. Stir in arugula just prior to serving.

Marinade:
fresh orange juice (from 1 orange)
olive oil, about 1/4 cup
honey, several tablespoons
balsamic vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons
orange zest (from 1/2 an orange)
pepper, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon

Mix all ingredients together. (Unfortunately, I didn’t measure the marinade ingredients, so quantities are extremely guesstimated. Make it to taste. You should taste the sweetness of the orange juice, honey and balsamic, but one shouldn’t overpower the other.) Add mahi-mahi and marinate the fish for at least 30 minutes (or up to an hour).

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. When ready to cook, heat olive oil in a stainless steel pan. When hot, sear the fillets on each side for a minute or two, then transfer the pan into the oven for about 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness. The fish should flake apart when done. Spoon salsa over fish and serve.


A word of caution: You may want to be ready for some large flames when you sear the fish. I’m assuming it was the aged balsamic vinegar that caused this, but I was not in any way expecting the explosion that occurred when I put the fish in the pan. I believe there was screaming, and while watching the flames hitting the microwave over the stove, I did what someone does when they aren’t thinking: I grabbed the pan. You know that when you’re flambĂ©ing something, shaking the pan makes the flames spike, right? I quickly put the pan back down. Andy and I kept looking from the stove to each other, silently willing the flames to die down. Febby took the opportunity to lick the floor clean of the splattered oil and sauce in front of the stove, completely nonplussed by the fiery event. Eventually it went out, before Andy could do any harm to our dinner. He told me afterwards that if he could have more easily gotten to the fire extinguisher that is in the very back of the cabinet under the sink, he may have used it. I’m glad he didn’t, since alls well that ends well, but it made us think that perhaps the back of a cabinet behind endless bottles of cleaning supplies may not be the best place for a fire extinguisher.

So after the excitement, we got to enjoy our dinner, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It all worked. The fruit tasted infinitely better with the help of the balsamic mixture, their natural sweetness being enhanced, and the fish had little hints of the citrus marinade. Together, the fruit salsa and the fish was a nice match. Andy LOVED this dish. My opinion is a little less glowing…it was good, but could probably use some tweaking. At least next time I’ll be ready for the blaze…


In other news, CSN Stores has contacted me about doing a review. If you haven’t checked out the CSN sites, you should. There are tons of great products, with everything from luggage to colorful Le Creuset cookware - all at great prices. Le Creuset is a favorite of mine…their cookware is so easy to use and I look forward to trying something new. Keep an eye out of the review coming soon.

29 comments:

  1. What a great idea! I love the way you combined the fruit with the mahi mahi.

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  2. This dish certainly would make me crave warmer weather!

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  3. Looks and sounds delicious!

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  4. Gorgeous meal. So colorful and healthy. I love all the ingredients of your salsa and it can bring out all the taste of Mahi mahi fillet. Thanks for sharing your great idea.

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  5. The fruit looks so colorful...longing for spring to arrive.

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  6. Love the ingredients in your colourful, yummy looking salsa! It makes a dish extra delicious! Great idea!

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  7. What a fantatic combination of ingredients; looks wonderful as well as very healthy. That salsa would be good on it's own,I sure.
    Rita

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  8. You californians need to come out this way toward the midwest and see what a winter is really like! ;-)
    On a more delicious note, I loooove your salsa - beautiful job!

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  9. What a fabulous salsa! Perfect for seafood...and I could eat it right out of the bowl, too~

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  10. It does sound weird, but I want to try it! Great photos!

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  11. Hi Karen-It's been a while since we commented on each others' blog. I just posted my fish entree post, and I saw yours as well on Foodbuzz. Buzzed it, and now, here I am to let you know that your mahi-mahi dish looks so colorful, flavorful and delicious.
    Great to see you again...have a wonderful Sunday!

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  12. Looks beautiful! We still have snow on the ground, so no produce stands yet...sigh...love the look of that fruit salsa! I am sooooo wishing for spring and summer!!

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  13. OMG, I have almost melted the microwave above our oven too! This story made me laugh.

    Lovely meal...that duirt salsa sounds spectacular.

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  14. The Doberhound licks the floor whenever I fry bacon, which is often :) I think fruit salsas and fish are made for each other!

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  15. Omg, I love this! I absolutely adore balsamic over fruit reminds me of the warmer weather! My mom makes that all the time! I bet this salad was superb with the fish!

    xx,
    Tammy

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  16. This is such a nice and thought out dish. I love the addition of the arugula mixed in with the fruit.

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  17. We bay area gals are spoiled with beautiful weather :)

    These pics looks wonderful and I'd love to hear more about your friend's dinner adventures!

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  18. Your blog is extraordinary! Think I need to follow cause you will inspire me to eat healthy.

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  19. mmm this is my kind of meal!!!I love your salsa with the fruit and balsamic! and paired with salmon! it creates the perfect meal!!! nice dish!!! :)

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  20. I love fruit salsa with fish, and your mahi mahi looks soo good. I'm waiting to buy strawberries here in IL for at least a month, too early. The strawberries look good, smell like strawberries, but they don't taste like strawberries.

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  21. I read this post last night and began running into technical difficulties so I neglected to comment! What a beautiful plate of food and please send me some of that balsamic! YUM!

    Oh...and yes you are spoiled! "Warm temps in February." Pls!!! LOL!

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  22. There's nothing better than fresh fruit from a farmer's market making its way into dinner. This looks fantastic!

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  23. love what you did with the fruits and great combo with the fish yum

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  24. fruit salsa and fish are the perfect combo!! my little bro lives in california, so jealous of your weather..here we are 90, Texas!!

    sweetlife

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  25. Your fruit salsa looks incredibly good! Love it on the fish! And I'm glad everything turned out ok!

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  26. Glad you didn't burn the house down! I can only imagine the shock of the flames! Your description made me laugh though! The salsa looks fabulous. Balsamic, Strawberry and Jalepeno are an awesome flavor combination and I wish more people would use it! I love this over fish!

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  27. Glad that the 18-year-old balsalmic didn't get doused in fire extinguisher. :) What a waste that would be!
    That fruit salsa is making my mouth water for summer too...

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  28. A great fruit salsa! Very colourful and delicious!

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  29. I am so ready for spring to be here! I was just despairing today about the flavor of some fruit that I bought this week. I bet putting it in this salsa would help it nicely. (But I'll be sure to be careful cooking the fish!)

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