Saturday, February 23, 2008

poached halibut with chickpeas & smoked paprika

Poached Halibut with Chickpeas & Smoked Paprika 031

Good morning, sunshine! It seems that spring is already springing out here in Washington. For the first time in months, I woke up to a beautiful, sunny day. Though the frequent Seattle sprinkles don't particularly bother me, I'm quite glad to know the worst of the rainy season is behind us. As I got dressed this morning and planned my day, I was reminded of one of my favorite poems. Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the Thing With Feathers" is a poem that I tend to think of on stormy days, but I find it just as inspiring on bright, sunny ones:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

[I would be remiss if I didn't stop here and thank my high school Honors English teacher, Hope, for assigning this poem to our class one day. I'm tremendously grateful for all that she taught me.]

With warm weather on the way, I'm ready to ditch the heavy comfort food of winter in favor of lighter dishes and more vibrant flavors. This poached halibut was the perfect way to make the transition. The flaked fish and chickpeas provide texture, and the vinegar and smoked paprika give the dish a tangy kick. If need be, you can substitute a few teaspoons of dried parsley for the fresh, like I did. (I don't care for fresh parsley as a garnish.) I halved the recipe and have some leftovers for tomorrow, but I think I'll be sad when this one is gone. However, since it only took 30 minutes to put together, it will be an easy one to make again. Definitely something to look forward to....

Poached Halibut with Chickpeas & Smoked Paprika
Loosely based on a recipe from Williams-Sonoma's Savoring Fish & Shellfish
Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds halibut fillets (or other firm, white fish)
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (directions below)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup white wine vinegar, plus more to taste
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sunflower oil
Salt to taste
18 oil-cured black olives (optional)

Place the halibut in a saute pan with water to cover. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and cook until tender, 10-15 minutes. Transfer halibut to a plate and flake, using two forks). Set aside.

Rinse out and dry the saute pan. Add the olive oil to the pan and warm over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika and saute until the garlic is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the halibut, chickpeas, chopped egg, vinegar, half of the parsley, and sunflower oil. Cook, stirring, until heated through. Season with salt and extra white wine vinegar to taste. Garnish with the olives and remaining parsley and serve.

How to Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
For best results, start with eggs that are at least a few days old. Place them in a single layer in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add cold water to the pot until it covers the eggs by an inch.

Heat the eggs over medium-high heat until the water just begins to boil. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let sit for 12 minutes.

Remove the eggs with slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of ice water. [Alternatively, you can drain the hot water from the pot, refill it with cold water, drain again, and repeat until the eggs have cooled.] Store eggs, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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