One of the biggest myths about food writers (and other food professionals) is that we cook dinner every night. I remember my instructors in cooking school revealing how infrequently they cooked at home, explaining that they were eager to try new restaurants, often didn’t have time to prepare their own meals, scavenged food on the job, or — after working with food all day — opted to take a break at night. Although I was dubious then, I can definitely attest to the truth of this statement now.
Sure, sometimes my evening meal might be home-cooked and elegant. This past Wednesday, I seared halibut and paired it with olive mayonnaise and a saute of spinach, bell peppers, and caramelized red onion. Yet, on many a night, my husband and I sit down to something elemental and assembled rather than cooked. This past Thursday, dinner for us was toast with fresh avocado and tomato. It couldn’t have been easier–or more delicious.
Of course, when you go the simple route, the little details make all the difference. Here’s how my last two dinners came together:
1. Wednesday Night: I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F, then halved a thick, one-pound piece of halibut fillet. To ensure crisp skin and prevent curling, I wiped the pieces dry, and scored the skin with a knife. I then seasoned the fish on both sides with salt, pepper, and Aleppo pepper (which can be ordered from www.kalustyans.com). Finally, I coated each side in a light dusting of flour (to aid browning).
Next, I heated a small amount of canola oil in a medium-sized, heavy nonstick pan (nonstick prevents sticking, an issue with fish) over high heat. When the oil was hot, I added the fish and seared the first side until golden brown. Then I turned the fish, and let it cook for another couple of minutes. I transferred it to a baking sheet, topped it with sprigs of fresh thyme, and roasted it for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, I pureed several pitted kalamata olives with some mayonnaise, and prepared the vegetables: I heated some whole garlic cloves in extra virgin olive oil, then added diced red onion and later, some sliced yellow bell peppers (with a bit of salt and pepper). About a minute before serving the fish, I added some spinach leaves (plus more salt and pepper), and wilted the greens. Then, I removed the garlic cloves.
To plate the dish, I squeezed half of a lemon over the fish, then transferred it to two plates. I spooned a dollop of mayo on top of each piece, then spooned the vegetables alongside. Voila: a colorful, healthful, refined, and tasty dinner.
2. Thursday Night: I toasted a slice of my current favorite bread (anything by the company Mestemacher, especially the rye with muesli or the three-grain with rye seeds), then slathered it with some leftover olive mayo, and topped it with slices of fresh, creamy, vibrant-green avocado. Alongside, I placed slices of organic tomato. Then, I sprinkled everything with sel gris (French gray sea salt) and fresh-ground black pepper. Fabulous.