Since we moved to the Danforth East area of Toronto in 2009, I’ve lamented the lack of great places to buy meat and fresh fish. It’s not that there are no butchers or fishmongers in the east end, but they’re few and far between compared to the west end of the city. And you certainly can’t walk into a supermarket on this side of Toronto and buy all your groceries while also having access to an amazing selection of local, organic meats, like you can at Fiesta Farms (a place we love, but which is at the polar opposite end of Toronto from us).
Fortunately, the recent addition of a fishmonger called Hooked on Queen St. E in Leslieville has greatly improved our access to high quality fish and seafood. We’re definitely planning to make this our go-to place for great fish, and we’ll probably do a more in-depth post at some point on the place, its great staff and their focus on sustainable product. In the meantime, definitely check out some of the profiles that others have done.
But back to our first Hooked visit and purchase. I went in one day after work recently looking for a nice, firm-fleshed white fish to go with a salsa verde I was planning to make. A chat with knowledgeable owner Dan Donovan and a quick scan of their selection convinced me that a line-caught B.C. halibut filet was the way to go. The large fish was displayed whole at Hooked, and I liked the fact that they cut it as filets rather than the halibut steaks that seem to be more common, which I find are harder to cook evenly and contain too many pesky bones.
Salsa verde, a.k.a. green sauce, is an herb-based sauce common to many countries. The version I made to go with our fish was closest to the Italian recipe, combining the herbs with anchovy, capers and vinegar (traditional Italian salsa verde recipes also contain garlic, which I left out because I didn’t want it overpowering the taste of the fish). I was initially a bit disappointed with the way the sauce tasted on its own, as it was a touch too tart and I’d probably leave out the Dijon mustard next time to cut down on the tartness and bring out the fresh herbs a bit more. But it ended up pairing perfectly with the moist and slightly sweet tasting halibut, which Jenny and I agreed was probably the best-tasting piece of fish we’ve ever cooked at home.
Pan-seared Halibut with Salsa Verde
2 halibut filet portions
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 TBS red wine vinegar
1/4 C high-quality olive oil
1 large handful of fresh parsley
1 large handful of fresh basil
1 large handful of fresh tarragon
A few mint leaves
Salt and pepper
For the salsa verde:
Chop all herbs and add to food processor along with half the olive oil and all other ingredients. Run the food processor to combine and blend everything, adding more of the olive oil gradually to get the sauce to reach the consistency you want – more oil for a thinner sauce, less for a thicker version. I added the entire 1/4 cup and still ended up with a relatively thick sauce that sat nicely on top of the fish.
For the fish:
Rub a small amount of olive oil on the bottom of a pan, and heat pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes to get it nice and hot. Season fish with salt and pepper and place in hot pan. Cook about four minutes, then flip and cook another three minutes (watch your timing here; it’s way better to slightly undercook good fish than overcook it).
Plate seared halibut filets and top each with a generous serving of salsa verde. Serve with a simple, fresh salad.