(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 rosé 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
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.
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 flambéing 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.