Eeesh… remember my little rant about Mother Nature not having gotten the Spring-Time Memo yet just two weeks back? Well, you know what they say about the hazards of poking sleeping dragons and other elemental forces… It seems, someone speared that memo with a cattle prod and popped the metaphorical Nature Dragon a good one with it.
Why the dragon metaphor? Well, dragons, when annoyed or spooked, tend to overreact and, without further ado, breathe fire on whomever did the annoying or spooking – and that’s exactly what Mother Nature did to us last weekend. She breathed a hearty belch of 30°C+ weather on us without even as much as a “Oh hi, how do you do”? By now, she’s realized it’s only April, stowed the fire away and settled down a bit again, but the sudden heat-slap did one fine job of whacking me into Summer-gear, with the bits about minimizing stove-time for maximum effect and yumness at dinner as main objectives for the shortest possible time spent in the kitchen – at least for one weekend in Spring~ The first words tugging at my attention-strings when I was trying to figure out our dinner plans for the occasion were “chilled”, “spicy”, “fruity” and “fish” – and that combination immediately led me to one of my favorite summery salad & fish combos, my Spicy, minty, chilled Pomegranate & Watermelon Salad with a quick-seared Monkfish on top.
You know… while I was prepping this one, I realized just how much I actually missed this kind of summer dish, but…! At this point I’m not quite sure whether I’m looking forward to that particular time in mid-summer this dish hails from or not. I suppose, I’m just not ready yet… so many Spring-time goodies still to come~! Anyways, here’s a sneak-peak at what could – and most likely will – end up on the dinner table again on a searing hot day in August. If that’s just ours or your dinner table as well… I’ll leave that up to you guys to decide~ Here’s what you’ll need for 2 healthy dinner-time servings:
The Spicy & Herby Pomegranate Salad
1 Large Bunch of Parsley, leaves picked and sliced into thin ribbons
3 Leafy Sprigs of Mint, sliced into thin ribbons
100g Tinned Chickpeas, thoroughly rinsed and dried off
½ Yellow Bell Pepper, finely diced
2 Spring Onions, white and light green parts only, very finely sliced into ringlets
1 small Pomegranate, seeds of one half, juice of the other – one or two quick pulses of your stick blender and a fine sieve will help with removing the cores of the little gems and ending up with fresh pomegranate “juice”~
100g Watermelon, finely cubed
½ Avocado, finely diced
1 Lemon, Juice of the whole and Zest of ½
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
2 heaped Tsp Harissa Paste
1 Tsp Pomegranate Syrup or Honey
1 Pinch of Hot Chilli Flakes
1 Pinch of Cinnamon
Salt, Pepper & Fleur de Sel to taste
Opt: 100g Wild Herb Salad – for the really hungry ones that, like me, tend to forget how filling chickpeas can be. Or the ones that, like me, sometimes ditch a part of the chickpeas in favor of greens.
Opt: Roasted Almond Slices or Pine Nuts for texture and looks~
1) Place the paste, a generous pinch each of salt, pepper, chillies and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
2) Add the oil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice as well as the pomegranate syrup and whisk the lot into a thick, gooey dressing – it may seem too thick to be called a “dressing” at this stage, but the watermelon and pomegranate seeds should take care of that. In case you don’t trust the ripeness of your watermelon, squeezing out a fresh orange and keeping the juice nearby just in case might make you feel better about the whole thing~
3) Very gently fold in the watermelon cubes and pomegranate seeds and allow them to enjoy their bath for about 30 mins.
4) Fold in the herbs, chickpeas, bell pepper and onions until everything is nicely dotted with the spices contained in the dressing.
5) Cover the bowl with a sheet of clingfilm or a fitting lid and place it in the fridge for another 30-45 mins.
6) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning as well as the consistency of the dressing at this point in case it’s still too thick for comfort. Keep in mind that it’s not supposed to be a runny dressing, though, just a glossy, spicy coat around the colorful bunch in the bowl.
7) Once you’re satisfied, set the salad aside and finish off the fish just before serving.
The Harissa-Coated Monkfish
300g Monkfish Fillets
Alt: Scallops work deliciously well in this scenario, too~
2 Tbsp Almond Flour
1 Tbsp Zatar or Dry Harissa
1 Tsp Baharat
2 Tbsp Clarified Butter
1 Clove of Garlic, bashed
1) Pick up a small bowl, add the flour and the two spice blends and lightly stir the mixture until the components well combined.
2) Grab a second bowl and crack in the egg. Add a pinch of coarse sea salt and whisk it into a smooth eggwash.
3) Fire up a pan on high heat, add the clarified butter and the garlic.
4) Rinse the fillet and pat it dry with paper towels before slicing it into 1-1,5 cm thick slices.
5) Once the garlic starts to sizzle and dance around in the hot ghee, treat your monkfish “medallions” to a salt and pepper shower before turning them over in the spiced flour.
6) Once they’re evenly covered in flour all around, quickly turn them over in the eggwash and immediately set them down into the piping hot pan – careful, the clarified butter might spit the eggwash back your way at this point…
7) Give the pan a gentle shake to keep the fish from sticking to it, then allow the lot to sizzle away for 2-3 mins. A peek beneath one of the pieces should reveal a pretty golden crust.
8) Once that’s the case, flip them all over for another 2 mins on the second side.
Assembling the Dish
1) Divide the optional herb salad leaves onto two plates.
2) Top the leafy beds of with the marinated pomegranate mixture.
3) Sprinkle a couple of almond shaves or pine nuts on top – for the firey ones, another dash of chillies or harissa flakes never hurt, either!
4) Crown the servings with the golden monkfish fillets – sprinkle those with a couple of Fleur de Sel flakes while you’re at the finishing-flourish game – and dig in while the salad’s cold and the fish is still hot!