Flounder, also known as flatfish or sole because of it shape, is the centerpiece of this week’s recipe. The addition of red peppers, pine nuts, basil, and garlic creates wonderful layers of flavor that complement the flounder’s tender yet firm texture and accent its delicate, almost sweet and nut-like taste.
Remember, when purchasing fresh flounder, it should not smell fishy. The eyes should be bright and clear, the gills should be reddish, and the skin should be lightly coated with a transparent slime—white slime is a definite sign the fish is too old.
If you do not plan to use the fish immediately after purchase, remove it from the package, rinse under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Fish deteriorates when it sits in its own juices so place it on a cake rack in a shallow pan filled with crushed ice. Cover it with wrap and put it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. It will store well this way for up to two days. Whether rinsing or cooking, be sure to handle the fish gently so as not to break the fillets. If it is well-wrapped, it will keep up to two months in the freezer.
The pine nuts provide a unique crunchy-creamy texture. These nuts, which are edible seeds of the pine cone, come from a variety of pines, including the Colorado, the Single-leaf, and the Mexican Pinyon trees.Prized for millennia, they provide iron, and vitamins B1 and E. Toasting brings out their flavor. Interestingly enough, producers must “crack” the cones with heat to get to the nuts, which is why pines thrive after forest fires.
The combination of balsamic vinegar and the stock creates the right balance of moisture and acidity for the fish. Balsamic vinegar has gained considerable popularity in the US over the past couple of decades, although Italians have been enjoying it for about 900 years. This unique vinegar is the produced by boiling down the sweet white Trebbiano grape into a dark syrup and aging it in wooden kegs.
True balsamic is aged from a minimum of 6 months to many years and condensed down by placing it in smaller and smaller kegs. As it ages, moisture evaporates, further concentrating the flavor. Some balsamic has been aged for over 100 years. It has a complex fruity fragrance. Although many believe it is wine vinegar, it is not. Rather it is made from grape pressings that have never been allowed to ferment into wine, giving it its well known flavor.
Using Italian style breadcrumbs enhances the Mediterranean flavor of the recipe, creating a wonderfully unique fish dish that can be enjoyed often.
Flounder with Peppers and Toasted Pine Nuts
– Makes 4 servings.
- 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
- 1 pound flounder fillets
- 2 Tbsp. Italian style bread crumbs
- 2 tsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
- 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp. fresh basil
Toast pine nuts by placing them in a hot skillet and stirring frequently over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Remove from heat and set aside.
Rinse fish and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Dust with breadcrumbs.
In a large skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add fish and let cook for at least 4 minutes until golden on one side. Flip over and cook other side for about 3 minutes until fish is cooked through.
Remove fish from pan and set aside.
Add shallots, garlic, and pepper strips to hot pan and sauté until fragrant and slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.
Add vinegar and stock. Increase heat to high and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes. Pour pepper mixture over the fish.
Top with pine nuts and fresh basil. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 190 calories, 9 g total fat ( 2 g saturated fat), 6 g carbohydrate, 22 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 270 mg sodium.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) www.aicr.org.