Wednesday, December 30, 2009

cod with orange, avocado and jalapeno salsa

cara cara orange segments, avocado, red onion, jalapeno, cod
i think the mention of a quick dinner
conjures up images of
pasta with jarred sauce or a pat of butter,
tortillas topped with melted cheese and hot beans,
frozen meals that are heated in the microwave.
maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
but, rarely, when you ask someone for a
speedy dinner suggestion, do they offer up fish.
i'm no exception.
i see shrimp and think, peeling and deveining.
i look at mussels and think, cleaning and debearding.
clams - scrubbing,
salmon - pinbones,
monkfish - membranes.

but the truth is, fish and seafood are both very fast:
shrimp (especially when purchased
ready to cook) and scallops
are just a literal flash in the pan,
clams and mussels steam open
in minutes
and fillets of fish?
just as quick.
plus, unlike an unadorned bowl
of pasta or a microwave-melted
quesadilla, you really feel like
you've made a meal to be
proud of.

this classic in our home -
topped with a toss-together
avocado, orange, red onion
and jalapeno salsa -
pops up both
this time of year and in
the summer, for some reason
often taking fall and spring
vacations. i think, though,
it's not too hard to figure out
why that happens.
in the summer, it's hot and we,
like everyone, crave simple, refreshing
dinners that don't take a lot of kitchen time
or a hot oven. in the winter, citrus makes its
huge comeback, filling bin upon bin in the
grocery store and usually somewhere nearby
are avocados, most likely on sale.

the first time i made this recipe,
was several winters ago and i hadn't yet
figured out that mahi-mahi -
the fish originally called for -
is not one of my favorites.
i went to the store to pick up the
two fillets - everything else was already
in my kitchen - cooked them, topped
them with the orange mixture and
realized how good it was.
i also decided that next time,
i would use a different fish.
cara cara and jalapeno
since then, i have made this
crazy easy dinner many, many times,
finally deciding that i love the salsa
over flaky cod, trying all different types
of oranges from navel to blood to at last,
the cara cara that the recipe requests.
at times, i've been lucky enough to find
a red jalapeno, but often i end up using
a readily-available green. i've left out
the lime juice, squeezed in lemon, stirred
in chopped leaves of cilantro and doubled
the fruit. and at this point, i don't look
at a recipe, using whatever i have at home
or if inspiration strikes at the market,
whatever looks good.
cod, searing
i usually prep the oranges,
chop the red onion and the pepper,
combine all three,
season with salt and a touch of pepper
and then move the bowl to the side.
once the fish is searing -
always using a nonstick pan and the
10-minutes per 1-inch of fish rule -
i cube the avocado and add it to
the oranges. by the time i've pulled
down the plates and grabbed the forks
and knives, the fish is beautifully browned.
once topped with generous spoonfuls
of the oranges and avocados,
it's hard to argue with this quick meal.

because really, this is one of those simple
dishes in which the final product is a direct
result of what you put in it. pick up
a juicy, fragrant and sweet orange,
a tender avocado that yields gently to the touch
and a spicy jalapeno - you're good to go.
spoon it over decadently moist piece of
seared fish - you'll never regret it.
cara cara orange, topless
cod with orange, avocado and jalapeno salsa
adapted from bon appetit magazine
the original recipe calls for a cara cara, blood or regular orange, but the appearance of the blood oranges were not for me. if you can find a cara cara - orange on the outside, but pink-hued in the center - grab it: the flesh is very sweet. over time, i've increased the oranges from 1 to 2 and i never bother measuring anything, just using my eyes as a guide. also, i have marinated the fish for 15-20 minutes before cooking it, which is delicious, but i love it simply seasoned with salt and pepper, too.

this time, for a side dish, i used red quinoa that i tossed with a squeeze of lime (plus it got an extra boost from the juices of the orange mixture). i've also served the fish alongside couscous, brown rice or spinach.

2 cara cara or navel oranges
1 quarter small red onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2-1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 fillets cod (about 6 ounces each)
1 avocado (or less)

segment the oranges: using sharp knife, trim top and bottom from oranges. using paring knife, carefully remove peel and white pith from oranges, curving to follow the shape of the oranges. hold orange over a small bowl to catch juices; cut between membranes to remove wedges, placing wedges in bowl as you go (the end goal is to have segments of oranges without membrane or pith attached). once all wedges are removed, i like to squeeze what's left into the bowl to extract any remaining juice.

stir onions, jalapeno and lime juice into bowl; season with salt and pepper.

in large nonstick pan over high heat, heat olive oil 30 seconds. carefully add fillets; cook 10 minutes, turning once (if the fish is thinner than 1-inch, scale down cooking time slightly). transfer fillets to plate.

meanwhile, halve and pit avocados. using sharp knife, score cubes into the avocado halves, going all the way down to the peel. using spoon, scoop out avocado cubes and gently toss with orange mixture.

spoon orange mixture and its juices over fish.

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