Fish is on the menu three to four nights a week at our house and I am always looking for new and healthy ways to prepare it. This Asian influenced light main course from Fine Cooking is both easy to prepare and delicious enough for company.
Originally the recipe called for halibut, but since it can be quite expensive (over thirty dollars a pound) any mild tasting firm fleshed fish will work. Our choice was grouper but sea bass or cod would also be a good substitute. The recipe begins with a simple but flavorful rub of ginger, garlic, and lemon. A microplane makes it easy to grate all three. Lightly pat this mixture on one side of the fish. The fish is added to a simmering broth that is enhanced with sauteed leeks and lemon juice. Add any additional stock needed to almost cover the fillets. Poaching ensures a moist flavorful fish. Transfer the cooked fish to shallow bowls and keep warm. The spinach, mint and scallions are quickly wilted in the broth. I confess I didn’t use the mint, Joe is not a big fan and I would only use some of the milder mint that we grow.
While the fish is cooking, you will have time to cook the soba noodles. Soba is both the Japanese word for buckwheat and the noodle made with buckwheat flour. They have a delicate texture and a nutty flavor. Soba can also be flavored with everything from green tea to wild yam. Years ago when I was first experimenting with Japanese recipes it took a special trip to the Asian market to find soba, now they are available in most grocery stores. Soba noodles are usually eaten cold, but in this recipe they are great warm for sopping up the broth.
Lemon-Ginger Poached Halibut with Leeks and Spinach
- 2 t finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 t finely grated garlic
- Finely grated zest and the juice of one lemon
- 2 T plus 1 t extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Four 1-inch thick skinless fillets of a firm fleshed white fish (halibut, grouper, sea bass etc.)
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed well and thinly sliced
- 3 c lower salt chicken broth or vegetable broth; more as needed
- Water- to cook the soba noodles
- Soba noodles, a handful or a wrapped portion per per person
- 4 c lightly packed spinach leaves, rinsed
- ¼ c roughly chopped fresh mint
- ¼ c thinly sliced scallions
- In a small bowl, mix the ginger, garlic, lemon zest, 1 tsp of the olive oil, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Pat the mixture evenly over one side of the fish. Put a large pot of water on to cook the noodles, do not add salt to the water. Bring water to a boil.
- In a 10-inch straight sided saute pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute, stirring constantly, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the broth and 1 Tbs. of the lemon juice. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat.
- Arrange the fish lemon-ginger side up in a single layer on top of the leeks. If necessary add more broth until the fillets are almost but not completely submerged. Cover and turn the heat to low. Gently simmer until the fish is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
- While the fish is cooking, add the soba noodles to the boiling water and give them a quick stir so they all go underwater. Cook the noodles uncovered for 6-8 minutes, they should be slightly al dente. Drain the noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water to remove excess starch.
- With a slotted spatula, transfer the fish to shallow bowls and keep warm.
- Add the spinach, mint and scallions to the broth and stir until slightly wilted, about 1 minute.
- Season to taste with more lemon juice, salt and pepper. Ladle the vegetables and broth around the fish, add the noodles to the bowl and serve.