Passover, one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays, began at sundown Monday. As with most other holidays, food plays a big part during the celebration, which starts with the seder.
The seder is a ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The seder customs also include drinking four cups of wine, eating matza and partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate.
One of the foods associated with Passover is gelfite fish, which is poached fish patties or fish balls made from a mixture of ground deboned fish, mostly carp or pike.
Here’s a suggestion to change things up a bit — substituting halibut for the gelfite fish — from Michael Ginor, co-founder of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and chef-owner of Tel Aviv restaurant in Great Neck, N.Y.
Halibut Poached in Tomato-Pepper Sauce
FOR THE PAPRIKE-INFUSED OIL
¾ cup grape seed oil or olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
½ tablespoon hot paprika
½ tablespoon smoked paprika
FOR THE FISH:
1 cup lemon juice
½ cup salt
8 6-ounce halibut steaks
FOR THE SAUCE:
1 bunch chopped coriander, stems included
3 red bell peppers, finely diced
2 onions finely sliced
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 lime, cut into wedges
½ cup cilantro leaves, stems removed, for garnish
A day in advance of serving, combine the grape seed oil and paprikas.
Thoroughly combine the lemon juice and ½ cup salt, and allow the steaks to brine in the liquid for about 1 hour, turning them over after 30 minutes. Rinse the fish in cold water and set aside.
In a large, flat-bottomed pan, spread coriander, bell peppers and onions. Place the tomatoes over them, and place the garlic and fish on the tomatoes. Season everything with the turmeric, white pepper, salt and sugar. Pour cold water over the fish to barely submerge it, cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat so the liquid is at a simmer. Cook until fish is just about to lose its translucence, 20 to 30 minutes.
At this point, uncover the pan, and spoon in the paprika-infused oil, avoiding the paprika that has settled at the bottom of the bowl. Simmer 5 minutes longer. Taste, and adjust salt, if needed. To serve, place a piece of fish on each plate, sauce with stewed vegetables, and garnish with additional cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime.
Yield: Serves 8 as a main course. To serve as an appetizer (it makes an exotic alternative to gefilte fish), halve the recipe and use 4 6-ounce steaks, cutting each one in half before cooking.