In the first version of this dish, I used grilled Caribbean or Pacific “painted” spiny lobster meat in the centers of the big, flat oval dishes on which I presented the soup. Later, in the south of France, I used Mediterranean slipper lobster, then in Sydney and Singapore we used bay lobster or “Balmain bugs.” But whatever the lobster, there were always three American caviars for garnish: golden whitefish from the Great Lakes, paddlefish from Louisiana, and steelhead from the Northwest.
Nowadays I eat the lobsters by themselves, the caviar by itself, and serve this wonderful summer soup with ancho chili-grilled fish salad instead of the lobster. It is delicious, fast, as impressive as the lobster version, and a great deal cheaper.
Since the success of this dish depends on the flavor of the tomatoes, my favorite way to do it is to use three different colors (and flavors) of heirloom varieties—red, green, and yellow—and to garnish the soup with tiny cherry tomatoes, also of different colors. Sometimes, I roll these little tomatoes in orange Sichuan pepper salt before putting them on the plate, and sometimes I just sprinkle that salt all over each of the dishes at the table.
Mix the basil and the oil in a bowl, and spread the mixture on both sides of the fish fillet. Cover and let the fish marinate for an hour in the refrigerator.
Mix the ancho chili puree and sour cream together in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
Peel, seed, and puree the three types of tomatoes one at a time through a food mill. Refrigerate the three purees separately.
Wipe the marinade off the fish, season, and grill or broil until just cooked, 5 to 10 minutes. Flake the fish (
Stem and seed the bell peppers and cut into
Mix each of the tomato purees with a small pinch each of salt and pepper, and whisk
Pour the purees onto chilled large rimmed shallow plates, making whatever pattern you like. Put the fish salad in the center of the plates, and scatter the pepper and cucumber mixture around the plates.
Sprinkle the chives on top of the fish. Serve immediately.
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