Halibut With Herbed Fennel Butter Sauce and Sweet Peas

4 servings

"When I was visiting my sister in Portland, Oregon, she brought home some fresh halibut and some very early spring peas. This is the dish that resulted, and I think that when fresh peas and delicately flavored halibut meet, it is nothing short of a Pacific Northwest culinary Nirvana.

"This recipe may appear a bit daunting, but it is not really difficult. The trick is to prepare it in stages: 1. Partially cook the peas. 2. Make a fairly basic shallot butter sauce, with lots of ingredients. 3. Cook the fish fillets in a pan. 4. Put 1, 2, and 3 together on a plate.

"I assure you it is well worth the effort for a meal that will wow your guests, and make you feel the consummate chef."

For the peas:

1 cup fresh peas (frozen sweet peas will also work)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon finely chopped fennel fronds

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

For the fish:

1/4 cup olive oil

Four 6-ounce halibut fillets, skin on

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Herbed Fennel Butter Sauce (recipe follows)

Fennel sprigs, optional garnish

Lemon wedges, optional garnish

For the peas: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Save the cooking water from the peas, as you will need it later to briefly reheat them. Drain the peas and set aside.

For the fish: In a saute pan large enough to hold the fillets over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Season the halibut with salt and pepper to taste on both sides. Add the fillets, skin side up, to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn the fillets and cook until the fish is opaque throughout and flakes easily, about 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat.

For the final assembly: While the fish is cooking, reheat the water in which the peas were cooked. While the water is heating, in a large bowl, combine the butter, fennel fronds, lemon juice and salt. Drop the peas into the hot water and heat for 1 minute. Strain the peas, transfer them to the bowl and toss to coat. Set aside.

Place each fillet on a plate, spoon the herb sauce over and around the fillets and arrange the peas around the fish so that some spill into the sauce. If desired, garnish with fennel sprigs and lemon wedges.

Per serving: 685 calories, 39 gm protein, 11 gm carbohydrates, 53 gm fat, 159 mg cholesterol, 25 gm saturated fat, 489 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Herbed Fennel Butter Sauce

4 servings

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1/2 cup minced fennel bulb

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

1 large tomato, cored, seeded and diced

3/4 cup fish stock (homemade or store-bought*)

1/4 cup dry white wine

6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and saute the garlic, shallots, fennel, thyme and tarragon. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often so the vegetables do not brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a small bowl; set aside.

Return the saucepan to medium heat and add the tomato, fish stock and wine. Cook until the volume is reduced by half. Strain the mixture into a bowl and clean the saucepan. Return the strained liquid to the pan along with the cream. Reduce this mixture by half, about 5 minutes. With a whisk, add the remaining butter, a few pieces at a time, stirring constantly. Continue until all the butter is incorporated and it emulsifies. Add the reserved vegetables and stir briefly until warmed. Remove from the heat; set aside in a warm spot until ready to use.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: Frozen fish stock is available at some seafood stores. Perfect Addition frozen fish stock is available at Chevy Chase Market, Dean & DeLuca, Rodman's locations, Snyder's in Silver Spring, Balducci's and Whole Foods Markets.

Per serving: 320 calories, 1 gm protein, 5 gm carbohydrates, 33 gm fat, 97 mg cholesterol, 20 gm saturated fat, 304 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Edie's Gingered Salmon

4 servings

"The gingered marinade for salmon is a staple in San Diego. Edie Greenberg, food writer, cooking instructor and food guru to southern California, says 'everybody' in San Diego uses this marinade 'on everything.' I prefer using wild salmon. It costs a bit more, but tastes better and is even better for you than farm-raised salmon. Better for the environment, too."

Four 6-ounce salmon fillets

Gingered Marinade (recipe follows)

Preheat the broiler. Line the broiler pan with foil.

Place the salmon fillets in the pan. Spoon the marinade over fish and broil until nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes per inch of thickness of fish for medium-rare. If the top of the fish seems to be cooking too quickly, place it in the oven at 350 degrees to finish cooking. Do not overcook.

Per serving: 318 calories, 35 gm protein, 5 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 997 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Gingered Marinade

Makes about 1/2 cup

"I've tried this marinade with tuna, swordfish, shark and moonfish (opah) fillets, and it is fantastic. Depending on the intensity of the ginger flavor you want, adjust the amount of time the marinade interacts with the fish: For example, for a very light taste, simply brush it on; or for a stronger flavor, pour a little of the marinade in a glass or ceramic dish and marinate the fillets for about 10 minutes on each side. I would not allow the fish to rest in the marinade for any longer than 30 minutes."

One 11/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion, green and white parts

1/4 cup soy sauce (not low-sodium)

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Process the ginger in a food processor until finely chopped.

Heat the canola oil in a skillet and add the ginger and scallion. Cook until lightly browned, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and cool. The mixture tends to stick to the pan but will come loose when cooled.

In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sesame oil and mix well. Blend in scallion-ginger mixture. If not using immediately, transfer the mixture to a jar and refrigerate until needed.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 51 calories, 1 gm protein, 3 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 615 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Big Apple Clam Chowder

6 to 8 servings

"It seems Long Island, New York and Manhattan have argued for some time over just who gets credit for developing this recipe. Although some Long Islanders -- who just can't let go -- still refer to the chowder as Long Island Clam Chowder, the rest of the culinary world is in agreement that it is a Big Apple version. The chowder reminds me stylistically of a Maryland vegetable crab soup, with a vegetable soup base flavored with shellfish, and is totally satisfying. I realize that most people prefer a cream-based clam chowder, but I'll wholeheartedly cast my ballot for the vegetable rendition.

"Serve with soda or oyster crackers."

4 cups chopped clams, juice reserved

One 2-inch piece salt pork, rind removed, or 1/4 cup bacon drippings

1 small onion, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 medium carrot, diced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 cups stewed tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes, with their liquid

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

Red hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Drain the clams; reserve both the clams and their liquid. You will need about 6 cups of clam liquid reserved from the chopped clams; if there is not sufficient liquid from the clams, add enough water to the reserved amount to measure 6 cups.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, heat the salt pork until the fat melts or heat the bacon drippings. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the celery, bell pepper, carrot and garlic and saute until slightly softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stewed tomatoes with their juices, reserved clam liquid, oregano and thyme. Cook for about 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Add the clams and gently simmer for 10 minutes longer. Do not overcook the clams or they will toughen. Season with hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Per serving (based on 8): 118 calories, 2 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 7 gm fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 357 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber