I was recently invited by the CA Walnut people to participate in a virtual dinner, where I was to pick a recipe from one of their chef menus, prepare it at home, and then share with my lovely readers the results.
I left it a bit to chance and let my contact person choose the chef for me, which led me down the road to this delicious looking recipe for crusted halibut fillet with arugula pesto by Mike Isabella, a former Top Chef contestant. I hope Chef Mike doesn’t read this, because here is where I confess:
I cannot follow recipes to save my life (thus my famous inability to bake).
I started off really gung ho and ready to tackle the slightly complicated recipe – I mean, come on, I’m supposed to FREEZE the crust, then cut it into shapes to fit my fish fillets. Really? Seriously? Look, I’m no stranger to fine dining and I understand that quite a lot of finicky work and finessing goes into the dishes for Michelin starred dining I do so enjoy – someone near and dear to me uses tweezers to put the finishing touches on his dishes, for pete’s sake – but when it comes to home cooking, I apologize but I’m all about rustic. I can do some things nicely and fancy-them-up for you, and I don’t consider it much extra work, but…
ANYWAY, my point was actually that I WANTED to tackle this recipe the way Chef wrote it. I went to the store with my list in hand, and the halibut just looked… unappetizing. It wasn’t good that day. So I opted for salmon instead, reasoning that I’ve crusted salmon with walnuts in the past and it was good. Then I went to pick up the arugula and both stores that I checked didn’t have any arugula.
Say what the what?
It seemed as though the world were conspiring for me to not prepare the recipe as Chef intended, so I called it a day and went home with my salmon and prepared something similar, but not quite, instead.
Since I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t actually take proper notes. But here’s a vague rundown of what I did:
preheat oven to 350 degrees F
toast 1/4 cup of walnuts
crush garlic Club Crackers with toasted walnuts
brush salmon fillets with mayonnaise (it sounds weird but it’s good, I promise) – make sure pin bones are removed from the salmon!
press walnut/cracker mix onto the salmon until it’s coated
oil a baking sheet or place tin foil on baking sheet and lightly oil the tin foil
place salmon on the sheet, skin side down
bake for about 10 minutes
Simple and delicious, quite tasty. I usually add fresh dill and lemon peel to the crust mixture, and that adds a lot of zip as well. Super tasty, healthy, and easy!
Because I’m such an overachiever though, I also made an endive walnut salad. See, the CA Endive people sent me lots of endives – including a bouquet – for Valentine’s Day, so I needed to use some.
1 red and 1 white head of endives each, sliced into ribbons
Fuji apple, cubed
Bosc pear, cubed
juice of one lemon
In the bottom of a bowl, whisk lemon juice, dijon mustard, olive oil. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to coat; chill for an hour before serving.
The crunch of the walnuts against the slight bitterness of the endives, the acidity of the lemon juice and sweetness of the fruits all really worked nicely together. Very tasty!
So, you’re all like WTF about my recipes and “C’mon Yvo! Give me something I can USE! This post sucks!” well fine! I’m sorry! It was awkward when I came home all pissy because I didn’t have any of the ingredients for the recipe I was trying to make.
BUT… here’s something you can use: Mike Isabella’s cookbook, Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavor, Small Plates! (affiliate link) Yup that’s right! WIN a copy of his cookbook! All you have to do is comment below with what you’d have done in my shoes: cooked the recipe another day when you could get all the right ingredients, cooked something else, or some other creative answer to make me laugh, though the winner will be chosen on Monday, March 11th, 2013, at 3pm EST via random.org.
Prize fulfillment is being handled by Walnuts.org.
Good luck! and happy eating, even if your meal isn’t what you intended!
please note that I received walnuts from CA Walnuts and a copy of the same cookbook as part of my participation, but no monetary compensation, and was not obligated to post about this fun little quirky happening