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Sicilian Sweet-Sour Seared Seafood

Serves 3 to 4

* 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 pound fresh halibut, cut 1-inch thick (or salmon, tilapia, or jumbo shrimp)
* 1/2 of a medium red onion, cut into thin slivers
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* A generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
* 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
* 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
* 10 fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Film the bottom of a 10-inch non-stick skillet with olive oil.
Heat over medium-high heat. Have the seafood in 3 or 4 portions. Saute it with the onion, seasoning with salt and black pepper and the hot red pepper, to light golden brown on both sides.

2. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cover, and cook about 8 minutes,
until the seafood is barely firm when pressed, turning once. Remove it to a heated platter and keep warm.

3. Set the pan over high heat. Swirl in half the sugar and half the vinegar. Stir about 30 seconds, scraping up browned bits from the
bottom of the pan. When the liquid is syrupy, blend in the rest of the
sugar and vinegar and simmer a few seconds. Don't let much of the
liquid evaporate. Taste for sweet/tart balance and depth, adding more sugar or vinegar if needed. Simmer another few seconds if necessary. Add the mint and immediately scrape the sauce from the pan over the seafood. Serve hot or warm.


* Use this as a foundation recipe for sautéing any fish cut into
1-inch thick steaks, fillets, or shellfish like jumbo prawns. As long as it is an inch thick, it will cook more or less the same way.
* Beware of peppermint. It can ruin this dish and many others
calling for mint. You want spearmint, which tastes fresh,
somewhat sweet and cool, but without the hard-hitting menthol
punch of peppermint.
* Identify spearmint by its dark green leaves and dark green stems. Buy only perky looking bunches, avoiding anything wilted. Store the bunch, stems down, in a container of water enclosed in a plastic bag and refrigerated. Don't wash it until you're ready to use it. Spearmint will stay fresh a week or so if you change the water each day.

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