Eric: I had just come back from a trip to Provence and was feeling nostalgic for my lost youth when I created this dish. Close your eyes and breathe in the flavors; you'll know what it's like to be me! If your guests are lazy eaters like me, you'll want to shell the mussels for the full “me” experience.
- 1 large zucchini
- 1 large fennel bulb
- 1/4 Preserved Lemon
- 5 cups Nage
- 1 cup Mussel Stock
- ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
- 4 (8-ounce) halibut steaks
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 small shallot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 fresh basil leaves
- 8 oil-cured black olives, pitted and diced small
- ½ fresh lemon
- 4 large, deep dinner plates
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the zucchini lengthwise down the 4 “sides,” taking off all of the green and about 1/2 inch of the white in each of the 4 pieces. Discard the white, inner section. Cut the rest into ½-inch dice. Blanch until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, plunge into ice water, and drain again. Set aside.
2. Take off the outer 2 layers of fennel and save the rest for another use. Trim away any thin, flexible sections near the edge of the fennel. Cut the firm, thick part into ½-inch dice. Blanch as with the zucchini.
3. Scrape all pulp and pith from the preserved lemon and cut the yellow rind into fine julienne. Blanch for 1 minute, refresh in ice water, drain again, and set aside. (The recipe can be made to this point up to several hours ahead.)
4. Put 2 cups of nage and the mussel stock in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the saffron and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
5. Bring 3 cups of nage to a boil in a 10-inch-wide pot. Season both sides of the halibut with salt and pepper. Add the halibut to the pot and adjust the heat so the liquid just simmers. Poach until a metal skewer inserted into the center of the halibut meets only a little resistance, 5 to 6 minutes, and the skewer, when left in the fish for 5 seconds, feels barely warm when touched to your lip. The halibut will be rare (thinner steaks will be ready sooner). Take the steaks out of the liquid as soon as they are done.
6. Meanwhile, put the zucchini, fennel, preserved lemon, tomatoes, and shallot in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the capers and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Just warm the vegetables through, about 2 minutes; do not let them cook further.
7. To serve, cut the 4 basil leaves across into thin strips. Stir the olives into the vegetables and squeeze the ½ lemon over them. Pull the skin off the halibut. Reheat the saffron broth, if necessary. Put the halibut in the center of the plates and arrange the vegetables over and around the steaks. Pour the saffron broth around the halibut. Scatter the basil over and around the fish and serve immediately.
Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, but does not include Preserved Lemon, Nage, or Mussel Stock. For nutritional information on Preserved Lemon, Nage, or Mussel Stock, please follow the links above.