The dinner menu that follows proves impressive despite simple ingredients and everyday techniques. It's especially inspiring as we emerge from winter eager for spring vegetables and garden-fresh herbs.
I start dinner by transforming cauliflower, oft considered a boring staple, into a light, whipped side dish. The trick is to boil the cauliflower in plenty of salted water to dissipate the strong cabbage aroma.
Then a quick puree in the blender with sesame oil and canned chick peas to make a kind of hummus. I save some of the tender florets to brown in oil for a golden garnish.
I plan to serve the hummus underneath the roasted fish to absorb any deliciousness.
However, this cauliflower hummus is so good, it's become a favorite dip to serve with crackers or toasted pita chips.
Most fish taste great sitting atop cauliflower this good. I'm partial to meaty fillets, such as wild-caught swordfish, sea bass or halibut.
I usually prefer to grill fish rather than cook it indoors. But a superhot broiler drastically reduces the timeline to dinner.
Simply turn the broiler to high and let it heat. Then turn on the exhaust fan before you slide the fish 6 inches from the heating element.
Serve the relish with toasted pita and a romaine lettuce salad.
Always on the lookout for new vegetables, a crisp, bright bunch of dandelion greens reminds me that spring is imminent. Wild dandelion greens exude bitterness; so I much prefer the organic cultivated selection available at large grocery stores. Sauteed with sweet shallots and a bit of oil, the greens make a vitamin-rich, stunning side to the pale cauliflower and fish entree. I always make extra greens to gently scramble into eggs the next day.
ROASTED FISH WITH LEMON-CHILI RELISH
Prep: 25 minutes; cook: 15 minutes; makes: 4 servings
Boneless skinless chicken cutlets (made by sliced boneless chicken breasts horizontally in half) make a fine substitute for the fish. So do scallops; reduce cooking time to a total of 4 minutes.
4 portions of meaty, boneless fish, such as swordfish, sea bass or halibut, each piece 8 to 10 ounces and 1- to 1 1/4-inches thick
1 teaspoon each, dried: oregano, marjoram
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, allspice, salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon chili relish:
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 small serrano chili, stemmed, halved, seeded, very finely chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Olive oil for drizzling
Lemon cauliflower and garlic hummus, see recipe below
Sauteed dandelion greens with crispy shallots, see recipe below
Rinse fish; pat dry. Mix oregano, marjoram, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Coat fish on all sides with mixture. Let stand at room temperature, about 30 minutes. (Or refrigerate covered for a couple of hours.)
Meanwhile, for lemon-chili relish, mix parsley, chili, lemon zest and juice, garlic and salt in a small bowl.
Heat broiler to high. Place fish on broiler pan or wire rack set over a drip pan. Drizzle fish lightly with olive oil. Broil fish, 6 inches from heat source, turning once, until fish nearly flakes, usually about 8 minutes total.
Divide cauliflower hummus among 4 serving plates. Make a well in center of hummus. Top each with a portion of fish. Spread with 1/4 of the lemon-chili relish. Garnish with sauteed cauliflower and parsley sprigs. Serve with sauteed dandelion greens.
Nutrition per serving: 322 calories, 17 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 129 mg cholesterol, 2 g carbohydrates, 39 g protein, 745 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
LEMON, CAULIFLOWER AND GARLIC HUMMUS
Prep: 20 minutes; cook: 10 minutes; makes: about 3 cups, 4 servings
I use light sesame oil here, not the toasty dark oil I like in stir-fries. Light, fruity olive oil makes a good substitute.
1 large head cauliflower, about 2 pounds, cored (or 24 ounces cauliflower florets)
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo peas (chick peas), drained, rinsed
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons light sesame oil or olive oil
Finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Separate the cauliflower into small florets. You will have about 8 cups. Cook until nearly fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out half of the florets to set aside for garnish. Cook remaining until tender, 2-3 minutes more. Drain.
Puree the tender cauliflower, beans and garlic in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest and juice, and salt. Puree again until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high until hot. Add reserved cauliflower florets (cutting them if necessary into bite-sized pieces). Cook and stir until golden, 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle over puree. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Mixture can be refrigerated covered up to 3 days; let come to room temperature before serving.)
Nutrition per serving: 231 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 845 mg sodium, 5 g fiber
SAUTEED DANDELION GREENS WITH CRISPY SHALLOTS
Prep: 10 minutes; cook: 6 minutes; makes: 4 servings
1 bunch (12 ounces) organic dandelion greens, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large shallots, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt, about
Crushed red pepper flakes
Rinse dandelion greens well. Spin dry or wrap in a clean towel and pat dry.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high until hot. Add shallots; cook until golden, 3-4 minutes. Add greens; cover skillet. Cook over medium-high, 2 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring, until greens are barely wilted, 1-2 minutes more. Season with salt and crushed red pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Nutrition per serving: 112 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 11 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 67 mg sodium, 4 g fiber
INSIDE ROASTED FISH WITH LEMON-CHILI RELISH LEMON, CAULIFLOWER AND GARLIC HUMMUS SAUTEED DANDELION GREENS WITH CRISPY SHALLOTS