Jul 16 2011

Halibut Is Not In Season

Published by Christine at 1:22 am under Uncategorized

Originally published on March 11, 2011.


Sam had just solved his millionth case in a month, or so it seemed, and he was itching for some serious R&R. That last encounter with the local chief of police had left him unnerved, and he wished he could take back some of the things he’d said and done under pressure. On second thought, calling the old man Shirley Temple and offering him a lollipop for his nerves might not have been the most diplomatic way to express his disagreement, but he had not been in the mood to be sugar and spice, and the chief was just an old bugger. Sleeping Beauty would have been a better moniker anyway, since the old man was obviously living life on this side of narcolepsy. “So much for making friends and influencing people,” he thought.

He had been heading downtown in the early evening traffic when it occurred to him his stomach was crying for help and was threatening a total body shutdown unless it got food right away. As he pulled over and parked by the 1st Avenue Ketchups R Us, he reflected on the fact that he probably had to change his eating habits. He had spent the last three days in the sole company of his anorexic friends Jack Daniels and Joe Camel, and they seemed hell-bent on having him check out of his low-rent life early.

He walked into the diner and sat at the counter where the waitress, a chubby red-head in her late 40s, greeted him with a “Long time no see, Mr. Spade!” so high-pitched that the lights went out for a brief moment. He made a mental note of never coming back, as he had done at least thirty times before, but the lemon pie always won out in the end. He silently cursed his taste buds for their low standards and proceeded to order, when he noticed a pair of shapely legs on the other side of the room. His eyes followed the legs upwards to a well-shaped backside and killer-bee waistline. He was almost afraid to keep going up, and rightfully so. The dark hair and green eyes that completed the package said two things: hot and hotter. The owner of those legs was the kind of dame that could make a dead man talk, and she knew it. Sam placed his order, and sat next to the legs.

“Nice shoes,” he said.

“Nice hat,” she replied.

He probably would have felt better about himself if he’d actually worn a hat, but he wasn’t the kind of guy who would let himself be stopped that easily.

“How’s the grub today?” he asked.

“Same as yesterday,” she answered, this time a little more kindly. “Not too many ways to mess up fat and salt, are there?”

“Not when they end up in your mouth,” he croaked, knowing that kind of half-baked line would probably send him and his dignity back to the other side of the room in a jiffy. She gave him the kind of look she might have saved for a three-legged dog, a mix of pity and disgust, but she didn’t send him packing. They talked for a while, about the food in that joint (“I love me some grease”), about his exceptional ability to cook (a lie), about the general need for fewer squirrels (“bastard nut-eaters”), and about the superiority of Superman over Batman (“Ratman with wings, if you ask me”). He learned she loved kiwis, hot peppers and Rhode Island, and he told her of his penchant for rabbit in wine sauce, “without the rabbit,” and leggy women.

“And with all this, you haven’t told me yet what it is that you do for a living,” he continued.

“I’m an ichthyologist,” she told him.

“Well, I’ve got an itch you can scratch,” he replied.

She was not amused. Still, the evening ended with his extracting a promise from her that she would come to his place the following evening, enticed as she was by the promise of a gourmet meal.

When he got home, Sam poured himself another drink. His mind was reeling from the evening’s encounter, and as he drank he wondered two things: “How on earth am I supposed to get food on the table for this babe?” and “What the hell is an ichthyologist?” Within five minutes, he managed to satisfy his curiosity about the second question and felt significantly more cretinous than usual, until he poured himself another glass, after which he did not care. At the very least, he knew he would be cooking fish the next day, “for the fishologist,” as he called her in his bourbon-induced haze.

A quick phone call the next morning to his ex-partner Walter, now the proud owner of a fashionable downtown restaurant, helped him decide on just the right thing: dinner would be halibut (and nothing but) with a kiwi salsa, and dessert would involve hot legs and absolutely no squirrels. Life was good.

Later that day, as he dejectedly walked home from yet another failed trip to the store, knowing that the green-eyed brunette would now undoubtedly join the list of other killer dames he had not been able to hold on to, all he could think of were the words he’d heard all day from those lousy fishmongers, words he instantly knew had sounded the death knell of leggy desserts: “Halibut is not in season.”


My answer to the guy at the store who said that to me yesterday was: “I’ll have the cod then, please.”


Halibut (or not) with Kiwi Salsa


I hope that silly story made you at least smile. If not, I really need to find another hobby. In all seriousness, I hope you try this recipe. The tartness of the kiwis and the heat of the jalapeño complement the fish exceedingly well, and the whole dish is basically fat-free. Enjoy!


1.5 lb halibut or cod loin
2/3 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1 cup water
sea salt and pepper
3 ripe kiwis
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 Meyer lemon (or 2 limes)

First, pour yourself a glass of wine. Mr. Spade would approve.

Poach the fish: place in an oven safe dish with the wine (or vermouth) and water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover loosely with foil and bake in a 400° oven until done (it will flake easily), about 15 to 20 mn.

Peel and dice kiwis finely, and mix with cilantro, jalapeño and lemon juice.


Those were definitely in season. I only used half of that jalapeño.


Serve with roasted tomatoes or a green salad. Some red quinoa or whole grain couscous would be great too. Serves 4.


As pretty as it is delicious


Fish and fruit are just wonderful together.


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