I’m tempted not to mention that I’m posting a recipe which requires turning on the oven when we’re in the middle of a heat wave. Perhaps you’ll think I’ve finally lost it.
As I write this, in Bend, OR it’s 86° and rising outside. And with the rest of the Western US in mind, we have it easy. The town where I grew up, Redding, California, has a high today of 106°. And Death Valley, a high of 126° (low of 97°!).
It came in our CSA share this week and, though I know that logic would lean toward charring it on the grill or eating it raw, instead I started to crave this dish. It’s a recipe I came across years ago while thumbing through a Williams Sonoma catalog. We’ve had it a dozen times. Tender halibut, or any firm white fish, perches atop a brothy medley of flavors: salt and brine from green and black olives, tangy sweet orange, the delicate licorice essence of fennel.
If you’ve ever grilled fruit like peaches or pineapple, you know how much direct heat can deepen and intensify their flavor. Roasting does the same. And this combination melds into something greater than the sum of its parts, a cooperation of every flavor enhancing the others.
Have I convinced you yet that this really is a summer dish? What if I also told you that it comes together in about 30 minutes, including prep? So yes, you have to turn on the oven, but just long enough to enjoy an icy cold glass of Pinot Grigio on the patio while you wait.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for finishing
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced as thin as you can (use a mandoline if you like)
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 orange: ends removed and discarded, peel sliced off in 1-inch strips, flesh sliced in ¼-inch rounds (see photo in post)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 halibut fillets, 6 ounces each.
- ½ cup mixed green and black olives (I used kalamata and picholine)
- 1 bay leaf
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, oven proof roasting pan over medium-high heat.
- Add fennel and garlic; cook and stir until softened, about 5 minutes. Add wine and boil for 1 minute. Add orange juice and peel, simmer 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- Season halibut with salt and pepper and place on fennel mixture. Drizzle fillets with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange orange slices and olives on and around the fish. Tuck bay leaf into broth.
- Transfer pan to preheated oven and roast until halibut is opaque throughout, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness.
- Remove and discard bay leaf. Spoon some of the cooking liquid over the fish and drizzle with olive oil.
- Serve immediately.