Sunday, May 23, 2010

Halibut with a dash of Wasabi

It is a sad reality that most of the commercial fish available in Nova Scotia comes from fish farms. It is not only sad it is despicable. The harm to the local waterways is palpable and terrifying, particularly when you think that these giant fish (over-feeding of soy based products that often feature other less than desirable products) can over take the local ecosystem and new research shows farmed fresh is not healthy. What's a girl to do? Especially when she loves her family, nature and her health? Buy local, sustainable fish, that's what she does. Well, often that means smelt and Mr. can be picky about his fish ... until we discovered Evan's Fresh Seafood. Jimmy is the lovely son-in-law of Evan and he treks all over the mainland, bringing Evan's seafood to the likes of me. I actually had the audacity to ask Jimmy if any of this fish was farmed (there is a certain very popular fish market at North America's oldest farmer's market who peddles farmed fish) and he smirked in a kindly Adam Sandler way and said, "We go out on our boat. We catch fish." That settled it. Evan's Fresh Seafood is officially the only fishermen for us.

I don't think it's any secret that I love aioli and I realized when writing up this recipe that I tend to use aioli with fish. Why? Beyond the obvious delicious factor, aioli (if made properly) is perfectly balanced between a creamy and rich sauce but it lighter so it won't overpower the fish. Also, it is incredibly versatile. I had found a package of powdered wasabi tucked away in the fridge, leftover from a sushi making endeavour and I was also inspired by an episode of Roger Mooking's Everyday Exotic where he made a Coconut "Shake and Bake" for chicken. I planned on barbecuing the halibut I had procured from Evan's the day before so I knew I would not be needing the "shake and bake" crust; instead, I incorporated the general theme of flavours into the dish.

A note on wasabi: The powder has the same capacity to burn the living (expletive) out of your sinuses if you inhale it - just like all those times you dabbed too much on your sushi. I worked in a sushi restaurant (Milamodo! A fantastic and laid back sushi restaurant in Halifax) and watched Steven, our sushi chef, lean as far back as he could, a grimace on his face whenever he mixed the wasabi. This is a man who has been cutting fish for years and if he is leery of wasabi, I hold my breath when using it. Seriously. I very quickly stirred it into the marinade and when crushing the herbs for the aioli I made sure to put it on the bottom so it wouldn't be stirred up too much.

This fish evokes all the sweetness and complex spice of an Asian meal while retaining the rustic feel of Nova Scotia that I love so much. It was light yet filling so it would make a perfect lazy lunch for a sunny day where you sip a cool and crisp white wine; it also came together quickly enough that it makes a full dinner. I served this with lemony fiddleheads my Mr. prepared and a toasted and creamy quinoa. Guess what that makes it? Largely local and super healthy. Bonus.

The Marinade

Bragg soy sauce*
lemon juice - approx. the juice of one fruit
apple cider
2 tbsp. honey
tsp. wasabi

1. Combine equal parts soy sauce and apple cider in a shallow-ish pan (the liquid needs to spread across the bottom of the pan and cover the fish), add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

2. Nestle the fish in and allow the marinade to cover the fish. Refrigerate for up to one half hour. I think I've covered this before: Don't marinate fish for more than 30 minutes as it will break down the flesh of the fish and it will be too mushy.

*A fantastic gluten-free and organic soy sauce - it tastes just like wheaty soy sauce only better because you won't feel like crap after you eat it. They also make a beautiful raw apple cider vinegar that comes with the mother which you would need if you were so inclined to make your own vinegar.

While the fish is marinating you can start throwing together your aioli, play with your kids or do whatever you want. I like to make the aioli in this time (and get the kids to help - if they aren't captivated by the ever sweet Curious George) so it can scoot into the fridge to cool off and allow the flavours to marry.

The Aioli

shredded coconut
coarse salt
fresh mint
3 farm fresh egg yolks
olive oil

1. Crush the herbs, coconut, salt and wasabi in a pestle and mortar. From the picture above I'm sure you can surmise that I use a bowl and the handle of a lemon reamer for my makeshift pestle and mortar. Get creative. I have the world's worst stocked (appliance/gadget-wise) kitchen.

2. Once everything is broken down to a fine paste drop in your egg yolks and begin whisking.

3. Add a drizzle of olive oil at a time. The more oil you add the thicker the aioli will become: Trust me. Careful, olive oil tends to be a strongly flavoured oil and it can easily overpower the delicate flavours.

4. Refrigerate. Just so you know, this is totally inauthentic, but since I like to use unconventional ingredients as opposed to the usual garlic the herbs need the time to meld.

Barbecue your fish on medium-low heat. I like to light my barbecue and let it sit for a good 10 minutes to get it really hot. Plus, you'll have beautiful sear marks on your fish if you do this.

Brush the marinade on top of the fish periodically to retain the moistness in the fish. For the last five minutes of cooking, flip the fish to sear the other side and kill any of the bacteria from the marinade.

To serve: Top with the aioli and enjoy!


  1. Excellent, love these flavor combinations!

  2. Hmmm... thanks for the tip on working with wasabi! Yikes! ;) (however, so delicious, I think I would brave the danger.)

  3. Magic: Thank you, and it's totally up to you how much kick you give it!

    Cilantropist: I'm just spreading the word on the necessary evils of wasabi! It's definitely worth the danger. Oh, and if you ever make homemade sushi and need the wasabi (of course you do!), use hot water to mix. Cold water won't mix properly and it won't release all the flavours.