Grilled Halibut from Chez Panisse Chef David Tanis


Is there a restaurant in California that's more revered than Chez Panisse? We don't think so. And while we're happy to give props to Alice Waters for her role is changing the way people think about food, on the day to day basis it's her talented cooks that make that restaurant what it is. Jean-Pierre Moullé and David Tanis share the job of orchestrating the set multi-course meals in the downstairs restaurant, each of them working for six months at a time. We're thrilled that David Tanis has just published a gorgeous cookbook, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes—with its gorgeous photographs, simple recipes and wonderful tips, it's a must buy. Especially because once we print this recipe, you are going to want more. Speaking of more, you can catch David in action this weekend at Slow Food Nation—on Sunday, he'll be doing a demonstration in the green kitchen at the Taste Pavilions at 8 p.m., followed by a signing of his book from 8:30 to 9 p.m.

Grilled Halibut with Indian Spices and Yellow Tomatoes
Indian spices turn any white fish flavorful—and yellow too.

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
6 cloves
1 tablespoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
8 halibut fillets or steaks, about 6 ounces each

Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 yellow tomatoes, in small wedges
Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)
A handful of mint leaves

In a dry cast-iron pan, toast the cumin, coriander, fennel, and cloves over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind fine. Put the ground spices in a small bowl and add the turmeric and cayenne.

Lay the halibut on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the fish, then massage it in. Cover and refrigerate for up to several hours. Bring the fish to room temperature before cooking.

Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. Grill the halibut over medium coals for
3 minutes per side, until just opaque throughout (the fish can also be cooked under the broiler, baked in a hot oven, or pan-cooked).

Arrange the halibut on a large platter and surround with the yellow tomatoes. Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with salt. Spoon a little yogurt sauce onto each portion and pass the rest at the table. Sliver the mint leaves with a sharp knife and scatter over the platter.  Serves 8

Yogurt sauce
Raita—the classic Indian yogurt sauce—can be spruced up with grated radish, carrot, or cucumber, but I like this  plain version.

3 cups whole-milk yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 serrano chile, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Put the yogurt in a bowl. In a small frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the garlic and let it sizzle, without browning, about 10 seconds or so. Scrape the contents of the pan into the yogurt. Stir in the ginger and chile. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. The sauce will keep in the fridge for a day or two, but it tastes best freshly made. It also makes a good dressing for cucumber salad.

Excerpted from A PLATTER OF FIGS by David Tanis (Artisan Books).
Copyright 2008. Christopher Hirsheimer photographer.