Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grilled Sablefish for a Birthday

This week, Barton Seaver is in Seattle to promote his new book For Cod and Country. It is a lovely book that is divided by seasons and focuses on buying, cooking and eating sustainable seafood. There are techniques to smoke, brine, grill, poach, broil and fillet. It also includes a list of sustainable substitutes for fish that are not readily available. The photos are beautiful and the recipes inspiring. Fish is a favorite in our house and as soon as I looked through this book I knew it was a “must have” for us. I have already marked numerous recipes to try (smoked sable brandade, bluefish with charred green beans and almond aioli, arctic char with blistered cherry tomatoes in garlic oil, spaghetti with mackerel sauce).

I had the pleasure of hearing Barton talk at Blueacre Seafood. Blueacre prepared marvelous appetizers from the cookbook for the evening... what a treat! Barton is a dynamic, engaging speaker and clearly loves his subject. I appreciate his message of sustainability and the value in distinguishing between need and desire, that mindful eating is taking only what we need and not just what we desire. Ultimately, the best way to save the oceans is to eat more vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains... they will nurture us and sustain the fish.

Dinner is a time for joy and reverence. Barton shared a blessing with us that stayed with me; to paraphrase, “Eat with care, eat with joy and eat together.” That speaks to me!

My son, Sam, chose his birthday dinner this week from For Cod and Country. He is an adventurous eater and enjoys trying new fish and veggie dishes. After perusing the book, he decided upon Grilled Sablefish with Shredded Endive and Cherry-Tarragon Salsa. He rounded out the meal with deviled eggs, roasted fingerling potatoes and a green salad (his favorite food). For dessert, he chose decadent banana splits. Don’t worry... he doesn’t take healthy eating to an extreme!

The sablefish combined wonderful textures and tastes. Crisp endive and soft fish, sweet and tangy cherry salsa. I had fresh dill on hand so substituted that for the tarragon. Sam enjoyed a terrific birthday with good food, a Mariners game with his grandparents, birthday wishes from his younger brother who is in Japan for two weeks, and a fun movie (Super 8, an entertaining one to begin the summer season). And we all ate together with care and joy, in the spirit of Barton’s blessing. And Sam loved the sablefish! (As did we all.)

Grilled Sablefish with Shredded Endive and Cherry-Tarragon Salsa
From For Cod and Country
By Barton Seaver
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
2 pints sweet cherries, cut in half and pitted
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
Four 5-ounce portions sablefish fillet
3 heads Belgian endive, bottoms trimmed and cut crosswise into thin strips
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (dill worked nicely, too)

For the salsa, place the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute. Before the shallots are fully softened, add the cherries and toss to combine. Cook until the cherries begin to bleed some of their juices, about 2 minutes. Season generously with salt and add the vinegar. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook until the liquid in the pan reduces to a slightly thick syrup around the cherries, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

For the fish, grill on the barbecue. Barton includes grilling instructions for a charcoal grill, but we have a gas barbecue. I cooked our fillets covered over low heat for about 10 minutes. Sablefish is a flaky fish, so take care in grilling and do not move the fillets.

To serve, divide the shredded endive among 4 plates. Gently reheat the salsa if necessary and add the tarragon. Toss to combine. Gently set the fish on top of the endive and spoon the salsa over the top. Serve immediately.


  1. Thanks for the post...the boyfriend really doesn't like seafood unless it doesn't taste like seafood (???), so probably won't subject him to the recipes, but your review of the book is tempting for use with other friends...and I do love the quote by Barton...thinking that needs to be made into a sign to hang in my dining room!

  2. @Kim
    Oh, you should definitely check the book out, Kim. It also includes salads and pantry staples, and the sauces/sides could be used with different proteins. Hope you're having a terrific long weekend!


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