Grilled Fish Gazpacho

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.

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Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh fish fillet (cod, snapper, halibut, striped bass)
  • 1 stem fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili puree
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes (2 red, 2 yellow, 2 green like Zebra)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 12 fresh chive stems, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • Saltand freshly ground black pepper

Method

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 (½-inch pieces) into the bowl with the sour cream, removing any bones. Season and mix well, but without breaking up the fish too much.

Stem and seed the bell peppers and cut into -inch dice. Peel and seed the cucumber and cut into -inch dice. Combine the peppers and cucumber in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, sesame oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Mix and refrigerate (not for more than 10 minutes).

Mix each of the tomato purees with a small pinch each of salt and pepper, and whisk 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil into each puree.

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.

Variations

Instead of the fish fillet, use Spiced crab. Or grill any fish and mix it with one of the flavored mayonnaises.

Three Carrots

February 10, 1994. Oil, spackle, and tar over masonite, 13" x 13". Private collection.

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