Cumin and cilantro – two of my favorite ingredients that bring big flavor to food. I’ve enjoyed a love affair with cumin ever since I strolled into Pendery’s spice store in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. As I opened the door I walked into a warm, heady aroma of roasting cumin. My love for cumin was sealed with a sniff.
Cilantro, on the other hand, doesn’t envelope you with a strong fragrance that can fill a room. In order to enjoy a whiff, you must bruise a leaf and lean in for the scent.
Not everyone loves cilantro. Those who don’t usually profess a strong dislike and say it tastes like soap. I’ve never met anyone straddling the fence on this – they either love it or hate it.
Cilantro is also known as Chinese parsley because of its frequent use in Asian cooking, especially Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.
Both cumin and cilantro are loved and used extensively in the cooking of Mexico. Cumin is the distinctive flavor in chili powder. And where would a properly made pico de gallo be without the punch of some freshly chopped cilantro?
Cumin-roasted Halibut with Cilantro Sauce and Warm Corn Salad
For timing this dish, I suggest you make the cilantro sauce first, then season the halibut and set it aside while you make the corn salad, which should remain warm while you roast the fish.
1 pound of halibut should serve anywhere from 2-4 people, depending on the heftiness of the rest of your meal.
Ingredients for the Cilantro Sauce:
Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appétit
- Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
- ¼ to ½ fresh jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 large scallions, finely chopped
- 1 heaping tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (Season after processing first 8 ingredients.)
Method for sauce:
- Place first 8 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until you have a smooth, loose-paste consistency. You will need to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
- Remove to a bowl and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
For the Halibut:
- ¾-1 pound fresh halibut filet
- 1 generous teaspoon ground cumin*
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil
* Whenever time allows, I always begin with whole cumin seed and toast it in a dry skillet on top of the stove. I then grind it in a spice grinder, which for me is an electric coffee grinder reserved just for dry spices. Because the scent of the spices linger on and on, I clean the grinder by adding some dry white rice along with some baking soda and give that a good grind. Wipe it clean and it’s fresh and ready to grind again.
- Preheat oven to 450º F.
- Season the top of the filet with the cumin, salt and pepper.
- Spray or drizzle with the olive oil.
- Roast at 450º F until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish registers 120º F. This can take anywhere from 8-10 minutes or longer, depending on the thickness of the filet.
- Let rest for a few minutes under a sheet of aluminum foil, then place on a serving platter and drizzle with some of the cilantro sauce.
Warm Corn Salad Ingredients:
- Kernels from three ears of fresh corn
- 3-4 large scallions
- A large handful of chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 medium-sized red or green bell pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Juice of ½ lime
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Place the corn kernels in a pan of boiling salted water.
- Cook to desired doneness. (Remove a few kernels periodically to taste after cooling.)
- Strain and remove to a bowl containing the scallions, cilantro, and bell pepper.
- Add to butter and stir until it melts and coats the other ingredients.
- Add the lime juice, stir to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve warm alongside the halibut.